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Day: May 28, 2011

The 2011 UEFA Champions League Final: Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United

Manchester United and Barcelona at Wembley, then. These are two clubs whose European histories have become interwoven with each other as well as this venue. When Manchester United became the first English club to win the European Cup, they did so at Wembley in 1968. Twenty-four years later, Barcelona won it for the first time at the same venue. A year earlier, they had played each other in the final of the European Cup Winners Cup final, in a match that Manchester United won – another step in the rehabilitation of the club that, at the time, had not won its domestic league in over twenty years. With their place at the head of the Premier League hegemony established, confirmation of their ascendency in European football came at Camp Nou, and two years ago Barcelona swatted them aside in the final of this very competition. The capital of England, then, is hosting the biggest club match of the season and no stone has been left unturned in the pursuit of a cliche to match the event. Guardsmen wearing busbys stomp from the pitch as the players come out, Barcelona in red and blue and Manchester United in that peculiar white and black change kit reminiscent of the sort of thing that a Sunday League team might have worn during the late 1990s. Appearances, however, can be deceptive, and Manchester...

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The Twohundredpercent Play-Off Jamboree: Stevenage 1-0 Torquay United

Somebody hasn’t been smiling on the football authorities at the end of this season. The one year that the play-offs have to be moved from London to Manchester – and this, for the record is not a comment on whether the current volume of matches that are being played at Wembley is anything like a good thing – ends up being the year in which the majority of clubs that would have been playing there would likely have preferred to have been playing in London instead. So it is that Stevenage FC and Torquay United make the long trip north for this afternoon’s League Two play-off final this afternoon. Not only overshone by the spectre of this evening’s clash of the titans at Wembley, the notion that providence is only aided by a major road accident on the M6, which holds coachloads of supporters up on their way to the match. A little common sense prevails, though, and kick-off is delayed by fifteen minutes to allow them to take their places. Needle can come from the strangest places, and there is a history between Stevenage and Torquay United. In 1996, Torquay United finished bottom of the the Football League, but were spared relegation because Stevenage – who had won the Football Conference at the same time – hadn’t brought their ground up to scratch. Stevenage’s owner Victor Green, however,...

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Cup Football, Through The Prism Of The Hampshire Senior Cup

Earlier this month, Neil Cotton visited the Hampshire Senior Cup final, and used the match as an opportunity to reflect upon the peculiar pleasures of cup football in general. It’s almost customary to refer to romance when it comes to cup competitions. There’s just something about the winner takes all simplicity which makes for Roy of the Rovers style story-lines. For ninety minutes there is only one stage, no need for transistors to be glued to ears, or complex stadium mathematics of the ‘if they draw and we win by at least two’ variety; The scene set for one moment, one moment of pure brilliance, to define the game and seal the result. Its no wonder every kid kicking a ball, whether a grass pitch, or a concrete playground, is replaying their own internal commentary of scoring the last-gasp winner in the cup final. Sometimes though it feels as if all this insistence on romance is overdone Even that most venerable of cup competitions the FA cup seems somehow contrived when it speaks of its romantic side. Take the perennial role of ‘plucky underdog.’ This season Crawley Town seemed a rather ill fit for the role, but the need for the narrative of the cup to be preserved seemed to override concerns over well known past events, mystery backers and transfer budgets which dwarfed many ‘bigger’ teams. Reality it...

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Time For Dundee To Prove That Lessons Have Been Learned

Many congratulations to everyone connected with the new regime at Dundee, who came out of administration earlier this month. Any misgivings about the CVA came to naught, HMRC declined to lodge any objections, and administrator Bryan Jackson has now passed on control to the new regime. The club has been saved from extinction by the hard work of – and money raised by – the Supporters Society and the local business consortium, and members from these two strands of the buy out now make up the club’s new board. For all the criticisms of the club over the past year – and I’ve made some myself and stand by them – this has been a terrific effort for which everyone involved is due much credit. Hopefully their talk of sustainability and transparency will be genuine this time, and there will be no danger of any such trouble looming for a third occasion. On the field at least, they do have grounds for optimism. The team responded to administration during the season by going on a 23 game unbeaten run, and although some of that team will be leaving, a number of the key players have already re-signed for next season (now that the transfer embargo has been lifted). Perhaps more importantly, manager Barry Smith has signed a new, longer term contract. Smith, remember, was appointed post-administration following the redundancies...

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