Category: Latest

Saints Put To The Sword by Rampant Stags

Absence, we are often told, makes the heart grow fonder. It’s been a little over ten years since I last lived in St Albans and I’d seldom had cause to visit my former home over the course of the intervening decade. Perhaps it is this emotional gap that helped this city, the first true stop north on a journey from London, feel sprightlier to me than it might otherwise have done. On the other hand, though, perhaps something else has been going on there. The market now seems to specialise in artisan foods, the town centre was bustling in a way that many high streets have stopped doing so in recent years. The handsome cathedral building, which once seemed to be in a perpetual state of renovation, now seems to be finally clear of scaffolding. Even the Odeon cinema, which once stood derelict as a tribute to the seemingly irresistible onward march of the out of town mall, is now being renovated to reopen. The smell of affluence hangs heavy in the air. As if to prove the absolute failure of trickle-down as an economic theory, little of this wealth has ever found its way to Clarence Park, the leafy, historic, yet oddly unsatisfactory home of St Albans City Football Club. There has always been a strong irony to the fact that the football club in one of the...

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The 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Cup Final

The best tournaments are won either by the best team or the best story. So the 2013 World Under-17s Cup was bound to feature in the “best” column, regardless of the result of the final. Nigeria were eventually so far and away the best team that it almost seems churlish to criticise their triumphalism towards the end of their 3-0 win over Mexico. Boys will be boys, I suppose. But there seemed little need for goalkeeper Dele Alampasu to prostrate himself before the ball, taunting the Mexican forward who had been the target of another overhit pass. Three minutes earlier, he might as well have been flat on the floor for all the chance he had of reaching an Ivan Ochoa header after Mexico’s best move of the match. And had Ochoa’s header flashed just inside the post rather than a yard outside it, Nigeria would have been 2-1 ahead of a rejuvenated Mexico team who had not been playing at all badly to that point. A goal then would have set up a fascinating climax to what had been an excellent final for an hour, dropping in standard only when the Mexicans added fatigue to dispirit, having dominated possession only to seem destined to be well beaten. They were well beaten in the end, thanks to Nigerian captain’s rocket-launched sidefoot from an 81st-minute free-kick on the edge of the...

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Hull City Supporters Make Their Voices Heard

Football clubs have always, in the main, been run as fiefdoms. From the late Victorian era and the likes of John Houlding at Liverpool through to his obvious descendents, such as Doug Ellis and Ken Bates, there has always been an element of ‘my way or the highway’ about club owners, but in the twenty-first century, when we demand greater transparency, in particular with regard to clubs being run for the benefit of their supporters, examples of true autocracy have a tendency to look all the more jarring. Indeed, perhaps the only thing more jarring than this is the sight of those who accept the edicts of those who are richers and betters – which seems destined to become this century’s equivalent of ‘elders and betters’ – without question. Over the last couple of seasons, this sort of absolute rule has made something of a return in professional football after a few years on the wane, most notably at Cardiff City, where an entire soap opera could be based upon a combination of what we know for sure and conjecture which doesn’t sound as ridiculous as it should do. There remains a protest at Cardiff City, of course, against the debasement of the club’s identity and about the increasingly freakish rumours concerning the actions those running the club, but the sheer white noise that comes with merely being in...

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O’Neill & Keane – The Dream Team?

Adrian Chiles looked pleased as he was introducing ITV’s Champions League coverage in San Sebastian on Tuesday, stood alongside Ireland’s new management team, Martin O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane. He was even confident/brave enough to liken them to “Laurel and Hardy,” with Keane stood well within arms-reach (Lee Dixon offered “dumb and dumber”, which was braver/dafter still). Chiles will almost certainly be bidding a farewell of sorts to charmless pundit Keane, now that the Corkman has decided that being Ireland’s assistant manager is a better bet than watching England scuff their way through qualifying campaigns. Keane will, of course, show the commitment to his new role that he’s so publicly and combatively demanded of others in Ireland’s set-up. So Keane will not emulate Gordon Strachan, who currently combines ITV punditry with managing Scotland. Unless Keane is some sort of hypocrite. And anyone reading Keane: My Autobiography, written about a 30-year-old Keane, while Roy was raging about “how many books (Ferguson) has written now” will know that he doesn’t do hypocrisy. To some of us, Keane as Ireland’s number two (a description with more than one meaning) is a price worth paying for O’Neill becoming Ireland’s number one. The actual price that the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) have paid is another matter, of course. Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli’s contracts were negotiated in 2008 at the fag-end of Ireland’s...

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The I-Spy Book Of The FA Cup First Round

The weekend of the First Round of the FA Cup is a familiar enough date in the football calendar to have spawned any number of tropes to have sprung over the years. Every year, the same narrative is written, one of plucky minnows and giants such as, say, Burton Albion or Fleetwood Town. Now, we here at 200% are as guilty of indulging in this as anybody else, but we feel that this qualifies us to introduce this fun game* with some fantastic prizes to be won**, so tighten the lid on your thermos flasks, put that magazine about diesel rolling stock of the 1970s down for a moment, and come join us for our game of FA Cup First Round I-Spy. *Game probably not that much fun. **There are no prizes, unless you count the grudging admiration of your peers, and you may not even receive that. Oversized Tin Foil FA Cup: Footballers are usually understood to be unlikely to trouble Mensa too much, but the PFA can at least console itself with the knowledge that, so far as we are aware, there are no recorded instances of a player mistaking an oversized tin foil FA Cup for the real thing and supposing that his team has been given a bye to a final which is inexplicably being held in Stevenage rather than at Wembley. The tin foil...

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