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Day: September 6, 2011

Middlesbrough’s Close Encounter With Bankruptcy Revisited

The Insolvency Act of 1986 was enacted on the twenty-fifth of July of that year, and its ramifications would come to change the face of English football, through the introduction of Company Voluntary Arrangements. Prior to the introduction of this law – which was introduced by the government in a bid to entice more entrepreneurial activity in companies with the aim of allowing insolvent companies to trade their way out of insolvency – an insolvent company’s only routes out from serious financial difficulties were liquidation or a winding-up order, and the last club to fall foul of this state of affairs was Middlesbrough, whose financial travails overshadowed the start of the 1986/87 season. It was a series events which threatened the existence of the club, and it ended, at Ayresome Park, with home match in Division Three against Bury, twenty-five years ago today. The club’s difficulties can be traced to two matters – one quite specific, and one more general. On the one hand, relegation from the First Division at the end of the 1981/82 season hit the club hard. On the other, the more general malaise that English football suffered during the early 1980s had an effect on attendances and, without the sort of sponsorship and television deals that sustain clubs these days, therefore revenues. The appointment of Malcolm Allison as manager in 1982 hardly helped matters. Allison...

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Match Of The Midweek: England 1-0 Wales

There are empty seats at Wembley this evening. The FA’s hyperbolic per-match ticket advertising for this match may have made inferences to this being the match that everybody wants to see, but the fact that the advertisements were on display anywhere at all told its own story. There are red dots pock-marking the background at the national stadium this evening, betraying the feeling that this match is more of a tussle than a battle of Britain. Perhaps the perceived gulf between the two teams makes a difference – England are currently ranked fourth in the FIFA World Rankings, whilst Wales are nestled uncomfortably between Haiti and Grenada in one hundred and seventeenth place, make of that what you wish – but perhaps we should be looking at a ticket pricing policy that never seems likely to be popular with the economy being rumoured to be set to tank again as being one of major causes of the apathy surrounding this match. At the end of last week, England overcame a potentially tricky trip to Sofia with a critic-silencingly thorough display against Bulgaria, and the icing on the cake of their highly successful evening came with the news that Wales had done them a massive favour by beating Montenegro in the group’s other match that evening. Those two results combined mean that a win this evening will put England on...

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Flaking Out the SPL

Typically the quality of a pie, whether savoury and sweet, tends to be judged first on the crust. After all, this is the first thing you see before considering purchasing a pie, the contents of which might never be fully known until you take that first bite. A crust appearing soggy, doughy, and rather bland usually sees the pie being passed over in lieu of the pie with a beautiful, flaky crust that suggests an artisan’s hand has touched what will surely be a delectable edible. The same can be said of football, where judgement passed on the upper crust of a nation’s clubs tends to colour perceptions on those just below. The English Premiership is the best in the world in part because Sky Sport tells us so but also because that league’s top clubs consistently advance deep in the later stages of Champions League competitions. La Liga draws attention for its top two sides doing the same and doing so with the flair of some of the best players in world football populating their squadsheets. Bundesliga’s crust might seem a bit thin, with only Bayern Munich a regular participant among Europe’s best, but the occasional strong side comes along additionally, capturing just enough attention to compel us to take a bite. Another essential part of a good pie, though, is the filling, which is why even if...

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The Tropic Of Ruislip: An Afternoon Out With Wealdstone FC

For our very last Non-League Day related story, David Bauckham travelled up to Middlesex for the Ryman League Premier Division match between Wealdstone and Bury Town. I was once asked by someone to explain this “football pyramid thing” that I kept banging on about and it was only then, as a follower of non-League football for many years, that it dawned on me that there are many football fans out there who have little or no idea that the Pyramid even exists, let alone what it is all about. These will invariably be supporters of clubs at the apex of the Pyramid, in other words Premier League and Championship clubs. For example ask the average Manchester United or Chelsea fan about the Isthmian League and they will look at you as if you’ve just grown another head. These were the very fans at whom Non League Day was aimed. Although the analogy of the pyramid is a good one, it rather gives the impression that the whole structure is clearly visible, just like the Egyptian pyramids. The truth however, is that this pyramid is covered in dense overgrowth, with only the top – Premier and Football League – sticking out. Therefore it is necessary to hack away that overgrowth and expose the non-League that lies beneath. A further analogy might be a well-kept garden in summer. It’s all too...

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