Category: Latest

Where Does The Buck Stop At Old Trafford At The Moment?

Upon reflection, it wasn’t so much the fact of Manchester United’s two home defeats in the space of four days as the manner of them. At almost any pont in the last twenty-one years or so, Manchester United would have swatted the likes of Everton and Newcastle United aside in the manner of an elephant dealing with a troublesome mosquito but the last few days have been different. It’s difficult to remember more toothless back-to-back performances by a Manchester United team in recent years, and if supporters of the club might have been able to chalk last week’s loss against Everton down as being a bad day at the office which ended with being struck firmly on the jaw by the visitors, this afternoon’s Manchester United performance was even more difficult to find mitigating circumstances for. Yohan Cabaye’s goal for Newcastle United at Old Trafford today came with a third of the match left to play, but United offered practically nothing in response to this. There was no tension as the clock ran down, none of the sense of inevitability that would hang over a match when Manchester United were encamped around a penalty area, pushing and prodding for a late goal. The spell that hung over Old Trafford for so many years has, it has felt over the last few days, been broken. Away teams no longer arrive...

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Snatch Of The Day

That money dominates all other considerations in twenty-first century professional football is a fact that has become so ubiquitous that to repeat it yet again feels almost superfluous. Yet the evidence is all around us. It’s in the desperation of some owners to rebrand their clubs to appeal to the mirage that is the infinite riches of the far east. It’s in the apparent attempted circumvention of Financial Fair Play rules by some clubs as governing bodies try to rein in their spending. And above all else, it’s in the attention lavished upon the agreement of each new television contract. The box in the corner of your living room is now professional football’s single biggest motivator. Although now frequently considered to be something of a dying medium in many respects, television still acts to football clubs as a lightbulb does to a moth, entrancing and revolting with the twin promises of round the clock coverage and riches to fritter away on scale previously unseen. It wasn’t always like this, of course, There was a time when the number of domestic matches to be shown live on the television could be counted comfortably on the fingers of one hand. In England, the authorities were reluctant to allow the television cameras inside grounds at all. On top of their innate conservatism, there was a genuine fear on the part of those...

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The FA Cup Second Round: Death Or Glory

Kingstonian’s recent FA Cup record, a dictionary definition of ‘dismal’, has instigated a little ritual in the Non-League Paper offices where I work on Saturday evenings as a sub-editor. “Could you do an FA Cup page, Mark?” my boss will ask. And if it is any time after the second qualifying round, I will feign some sort of visual or audible surprise that the competition “is still going.” It was not always this way. While Ks and the second qualifying round are increasingly distant cousins, there was a time, not so long ago, when the second round proper was a regular, genuine prospect. And we actually made it twice, in 1994 and 2000. For non-league teams’ fans, the second round draw presents mixed emotions. Once their team has made the competition proper, most fans would probably want a home draw against a top Division One side, or an away trip to a slightly fallen giant in a Premier League ground (e.g.: Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield United).  In the second round, though, a home tie against fellow non-leaguers is a way more enticing prospect, coming as it does with a real opportunity to reach the third round, be paired with a Premier League team’s second string and make a shedload of cash from the 40% share of the gate… er… I mean, sample the true “magic of the FA Cup.” Yet...

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No Speedy Resolution To The Ricoh Arena Dispute

After a brief wobble over the course of last week, Coventry City got back to form on Saturday afternoon with a three-one win in Milton Keynes in a match watched by an astonishing seven thousand travelling supporters. The love, for now, is still there, even if this may not be quite as readily apparent from the attendances that the club has been managing at its home away from home in Northampton, where less than two thousand people turned out last Tuesday night’s three-nil home loss at the hands of Rotherham United. This evening, however, any prospect of the club returning from its self-imposed exile thirty-five miles from home seem further away than ever following an accumulation of recent events. At the end of last week, the club’s owners won their appeal against the dismissal of their application for a judicial review of the financial arrangements made at the start of this year involving stadium owners ACL and Coventry City Council. Whether this was much of a victory for the club’s owners comes down, as so much else in this story does, to which side of the divide upon which you stand. On the one hand, this was not necessarily expected result for the club’s solicitors to achieve, especially when we consider how emphatic the original judge had been in dismissing this claim. On the other, however, this is hardly...

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Match Fixing Allegations Return To The Non-League Game

It’s a curious dichotomy that when a big story breaks in non-league – and we’re talking the serious stuff here, not the “look at these poor amateur footballers and their crazy 50 fans” stories – that the larger news outlets are unsure how to cover it. Is this serious news, the kind that requires hand-wringing and pontificating for days on end, or something to be dismissed after a day because it doesn’t fit the wider news agenda? The response to the Telegraph’s scoop on match fixing and the subject in general has followed this exact pattern. From one corner, it’s only non-league – and not even professional clubs at that – so who cares if there’s a few brown envelopes exchanging hands? In the other, this shows just how awful the game of football has become and Something Must Be Done. But while media interest may have dropped a little when it became clear this didn’t involve football league clubs, there’s no doubt these are very serious allegations that need to be investigated further. The Conference Premier and North / South appears to be the focus of the investigation and while there are plenty of part-time clubs in the division, there’s also a large number of fully professional teams. If the integrity of these matches is put in doubt this throws into question of promotions across the entire pyramid,...

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