Month: November 2011

City & United’s Misadventures In Europe Do Not Constitute A Crisis

Both of the Manchester clubs came unstuck in Europe last night. The Champions League campaigns of both Manchester City and Manchester United was certainly been amongst the biggest curios of the start of this season. Imperious and already pulling clear of the pack in the league, they have been broadly misfiring in their midweek matches, and last night they stumbled again against opposition that they might have expected to beat comfortably in previous seasons. At Old Trafford, the gift to Benfica of Phil Jones’ early own goal in front of the Stretford End wasn’t enough secure the Portuguese side all three points, but it was enough to send Alex Ferguson – whose feathers were ruffled to a sufficient extent for him to call early time on a post-match press conference last night – home with something to think about. The good news for Manchester United is that their destiny remains in their own hands, and the task for their final match – to travel to Switzerland and avoid defeat in their final group match against Basel – should be comfortably achievable. There can, however, be no accounting for nerves and the tension of an occasion such as this, and Basel may be able to raise themselves to a performance of the calibre that will be required to beat opponents of the pedigree of Manchester United. Their sky blue rivals...

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A Brief History Of England False Dawns: Part 2

Last week, in the wake of England’s heroic (cough) win against Spain at Wembley in what can only be described as the friendly international to end all friendly internationals, we took a look at a few matches from their past in which the national team had managed to pluck a result from somewhere against a decent team, but failed to capitalise upon it. In the first episode of this series, we took you up to a win against the world champions – at the time, Argentina – and briefly explained how, just a few weeks later, the same team managed to stink the European Championships out in Italy with the only flourish coming from a travelling support intent on smashing up anything that it managed to come across. This evening it’s time for part two of this series, which focusses on the last three decades of English mediocrity. 16 June 1982 – Bilbao – England 3 France Background: Following their early exit at the 1980 European Championships, England, now managed by the avuncular Ron Greenwood, were charged with the job of qualifying for the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain. With the tournament now having been expanded to twenty-four teams, qualification should have been a little easier, but Greenwood’s team still only managed to scramble their way through, losing three of their eight qualifying matches – to Switzerland, Norway...

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Match Of The Week 4: Stourbridge 2-0 Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth Argyle’s season goes from bad to worse, as they were knocked out of the FA Cup First Round by Southern League Premier Division side Stourbridge. Goals from Paul McCone and Sean Evans gave the Glassboys a well deserved victory, and the chance to face League One Stevenage in eleven days time. Unlike the game at Home Park ten days ago, the replay was a much quieter affair, with the first twenty minutes being an exercise in both teams finding their feet. The Pilgrims controlled most of the possession, with player-manager Carl Fletcher and Onismor Bhasera being Plymouth’s standout players, however, they created little. However, when Stourbridge had possession, playmaker Sean Geddes used the time and space he was given by Argyle to find his range with left-winger Sean Evans and centre-forward Ryan Rowe his favoured targets – and it would be these three players that have the Argyle defence the most problems. However, in the 21st minute saw the game’s first chance, with a centre from Evans finding Rowe who forced an excellent save from Plymouth keeper Jake Cole. Twelve minutes later came the biggest talking point, and possibly the most pivotal moment of the game. Plymouth right-back Paul Bignot had his right leg kicked from under him by Evans, and with Bignot on the ground, Evans stood over the Pilgrim, and Bignot lashed out weakly with his...

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Match Of The Week 3: Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Aston Villa

With seven wins from eight games and twenty-two points from a possible twenty-four, the sun is rising over the white and navy blue corner of North London at the moment. This evening’s match against Aston Villa was one at which Tottenham Hotspur might, in other years, have chosen to fluff their lines, and Spurs supporters are rather over-familiar with their club’s predilection for getting to the point of achievement before contriving to find a way to allow it to slip through their hands. Tonight, though, they ambled through a weak Aston Villa performance with two first half goals from Emmanuel Adebayor, a player who has rapidly becoming an essential on Harry Redknapp’s team-sheet, but the final score-line was one which barely reflected the home side’s dominance. In some respects, White Hart Lane was built for evenings like this, with its high, gaunt stands almost visibly moving to the noise of the crowd as the players pick each other through a thin sheen of mist below. The home crowd didn’t have to wait very long for something to lift their mood. After just over eleven minutes, Aaron Lennon, an impish presence on the wing, skipped to the byline and crossed from the right for Adebayor, but the striker headed narrowly wide. If Adebayor was still adjusting his sights, he didn’t have to wait very long for a second chance. Three...

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AFC Bournemouth: There’s Something About Eddie

It was a minor exchange among ‘readers’ comments’ in Bournemouth’s Daily Echo newspaper. But it summed up much about AFC Bournemouth under current chairman Eddie Mitchell. The exchange concerned the relationship between parent company, AFC Bournemouth Limited, and a company set up by Mitchell, AFCB’s then-largest individual shareholder, called Black Label Events (BLE), which runs catering and conferencing at Bournemouth’s Seward Stadium. One reader believed they were separate entities and that Bournemouth wasn’t “entitled to any profit” from BLE. “The way I read it,” another said, “isn’t (Mitchell) saying the opposite?” You could almost envisage Mitchell hanging up his “Mission Accomplished” banner. Property developer Mitchell’s disingenuousness has peppered his chairmanship of the club, and he came to national attention in September with behaviour which even FIFA President Sepp Blatter might have considered “a bit crass.” At a September the first fans’ forum, he told a dissenting supporter to “go and support Southampton.” And after Bournemouth’s 3-0 home defeat to Chesterfield nine days later, he took to the pitch, microphone in hand, to offer some (tired and) emotional suggestions to fans chanting for his departure. Events immediately surrounding these rants were expertly covered by Ian King at the time, but things had been brewing for ages. And post-rant events have provided more intrigue, and more trademark Mitchell disingenuousness. Since becoming chairman, in June 2009, Mitchell has carefully chosen his words,...

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