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Month: February 2012

Scott Parker Versus The World

We live in polarised times. Rather than opening people up to new worlds and new experiences, the internet has allowed us to retreat into tiny enclaves of people who feel the same as we do and draw up the barricades. There is little room for subtlety or nuance in our debates any more, since the only voices to get themselves lifted above the background hum of noise are the most extreme from either end. So it was that last night’s friendly match between a patchwork England side and an ominously strong looking Netherlands side was unlikely to be seen for what it was – a curiously unique experiment in which a team is thrown together under the watchful eye of a manager of whom expectations could hardly have been any lower than they were and with a captain for whom even starting international has previously been a rare treat rather than a birth-right. The scale ahead of whoever takes England through to the European Championships was made perfectly clear last night, though. An experienced Dutch team seemed to move out of second gear twice in the entire match. The first time they did this, they scored twice inside sixty seconds, and the second time saw them snatch a winning goal at the very end of the match. Between these goals, England had shown an admirable resolve in pulling themselves...

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Aston Villa’s Financial Performance Reflects An Inert Season

The haste with which football clubs dispose of their managers has been discussed in depth on here before. It has long been a peculiarity of this particular sport that managerial positions have been treated so frivolously by clubs, and the folly of doing so has been shown up in fairly strong terms over the last couple of days with the release of Aston Villa’s disastrous financial results for last year. Aston Villa has been, by tradition, a reasonably well-run club and is a club with the potential to challenge near the top end of the table. Over the last two seasons, however, a sense of torpor has come to hang over Villa Park and the feeling is starting to grow that this is a club that is in decline at the moment, both on the pitch and off. There was little cause for optimism on the part of the club from the figures released yesterday.  Aston Villa lost £54m in the year from the first of June 2010 to the thirty-first of May 2011, a worsening in performance of 42% when compared with the year before while the club’s owner, Randy Lerner, has himself put £25m into the club over the last two years. What crumbs of comfort that Villa supporters could take from it all was a small increase in turnover – to £92m – a reduction in bank debt to £8.3m and a...

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European Championship Stories: 1984 – Le Veritable Roi Michel

They’ve been playing for one hundred and nineteen minutes on this balmy Mediterranean evening at le Stade Velodrome in Marseille and nothing, so far, has been able to separate the two teams. France, who sailed through the group stages of the 1984 European Championships, have surprisingly met their match in Portugal, who, prior to this summer, have not reached the finals of a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup. The two sides are locked together at two goals apiece, with a heroic performance from the Portuguese goalkeeper Manuel Bento having kept them at bay. For France, who just two years earlier had lost the first ever penalty shoot-out in a World Cup finals match to West Germany, a repeat beckons. Jean Tigana, the elegant midfielder who makes up one quarter of le carré magique, the “magic square” that is the engine room of this team’s success, collects the ball just inside the Portugal half of the pitch. He attempts a through-ball but a desperate lunge intercepts his pass. Tigana, however, has continued his forward momentum and picks the ball up again, and with one final burst of energy heads towards the right-hand touchline with it. Once there, he pulls the ball back, across the face of goal. It’s not a perfect pass, but it is enough to beat Bento’s dive. On the edge of the six yard area...

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The Continuing Adventures Of Chairman Eddie Of Bournemouth

For most of us, the idea of drinking alcohol whilst at work would be to stretch the imagination just a little too far. The days of long, boozy lunches in the pub and afternoons spent trying desperately to stay awake are very much a thing of the past, and our productivity is, if we are honest with ourselves, all the better for it. For those that own the means of production, however, there often seems to be a different set of rules. Those that own a company have the licence – subject to any waves of bad publicity that may come with such behaviour – to do as they please, and the extent to which status is used as a fig leaf for pretty disgraceful behaviour remains higher than it ever should do in anything approaching a civilised country. All of which brings us back to Eddie Mitchell, the chairman of AFC Bournemouth, who has found himself back in the headlines following further eccentric behaviour during his club’s home match against Milton Keynes Dons. At half-time during this match – with his side already trailing by a single goal – that the wife of the Russian co-owner Maxim Demin was allowed to give part of the half-time team talk to the players. After the match – which ended, perhaps unsurprisingly, in a defeat thanks to that first half goal – Mitchell was...

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Mungo S04E07

With our ultimate hero Mungo McCrackas now in space ready and waiting to take part in the first ever extraterrestrial Premier League match, the powers that be have thoughtfully provided him with some teammates. A heady mix of grit, artistry, wisdom and a keen understanding of the laws of physics ensue. Will Mungo manage to integrate into this new squad? And will we finally discover definitively whether or not some of The Greatest League On Earth™’s best talent really could start a fight in a vacuum? All will be revealed, plus pies. David Squires drew this with his own...

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