Category: Latest

The Tactics Tank, Episode One: Manchester United vs Fulham

If all you’ve been doing of late has been going to matches every weekend, it may have passed you by that there is now a single, unified way in which we should watch association football which is a bit like looking at an Excel spreadsheet made by somebody that has taken too many magic mushrooms. Never ones to miss out upon the opportunity to leap aboard a passing bandwagon, we sent our tactical guru Pete Brooksbank to Old Trafford to watch yesterday’s match between Manchester United and Fulham. Unfortunately, however, he got drunk on the train, fell asleep, woke up in Carlisle and wrote this, based on what he thinks he read about it all on Twitter, instead. It was in a rare moment of sober clarity during a career curtailed by heavy drinking and excessive drug-taking that the erratic Bolivian coach Luis Revilla once observed: “Sometimes, the only way to win a football match is to not play a match at all.” The words may have been snarled nearly twenty years ago from tobacco-ravaged lungs in the smoggy offices of Nacional Potosi, but they were to prove oddly prophetic, as that was exactly the strategy deployed by Fulham at Old Trafford yesterday afternoon during an ignominious 90 minutes of EPL soccer that will surely rank as perhaps David Moyes’ lowest game as a coach. The statistics tell one story...

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It’s Turning Ugly At Hamburg

Last Wednesday, about 400 Hamburg fans march to the club’s training ground as a demonstration of support for the beleaguered squad who had lost five games in a row, a run that saw the club descend to second from bottom of the Bundesliga. Hamburg have never been relegated from the first division and they were founder members when the league was formed in 1963. After that show of solidarity from the fans, a new wave of optimism briefly engulfed the club ahead of last Saturday’s game at home to Hertha Berlin. After the game the crowd assembled outside the...

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Six Of The Worst: Football’s Failed Rule Change Experiments

The way that the game is played might have changed, but the rules of football, both on and off the pitch, have proved to be remarkably resilient to change over the years. Although there have certainly been significant changes to the game over the course of the last three or four decades or so – the introduction of the backpass rule, for example, or changes to the offside rule to favour attacking players – these tweaks have seldom fundamentally altered the experience of watching a match. Advisors, however, do not guarantee their future livelihoods from everything staying the same in perpetuity, and so it is that, from time to time, some well-meaning soul or other will suggest a refinement to the laws or administrative rules of the game with the intention of refining it for a modern audience. Much of the time these changes end up in the bin, but every once in a while one a league administrator will have a brainwave which causes him to think that that he might just have thought of something that will completely revolutionise the game or impress some FIFA mandarin or other to such an extent that they convince some poor souls to give it a run out for a few weeks, or sometimes even longer. With this in mind – and bearing in mind that these people still walk amongst...

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Peter Pannu Is *Still* Considerably Richer Than You

I do appear to have invoked plenty of memories “for those of a certain age” in recent articles. And I’m about to do so again.  In January 1979, the then Prime Minister James Callaghan returned from a summit in Guadeloupe to a Britain entering its infamous “winter of discontent.” Rubbish was left uncollected and the dead unburied thanks to various trade unions “holding the country to ransom” (copyright: every right-wing national newspaper – i.e. all of them except the Mirror). Callaghan tried to play down suggestions of “mounting chaos” and create an impression of a leader in control when he faced the press at Heathrow Airport. This attitude was ridiculed and condemned as out of touch by the waiting press pack. And the Sun newspaper, as predictably then as it would be now, led the way with its headline the following day: “Crisis, what crisis?” Birmingham City’s forever-acting chairman Peter Pannu produced his own version of “crisis, what crisis?” this week. Leaving Wednesday’s Extraordinary General Meeting of Blues’ parent company, Birmingham International Holdings (BIH) in Hong Kong, Pannu was asked by BBC reporter Juliana Liu how the EGM would affect Blues’ future after “all the troubles the club has faced?” He replied: “What troubles?” City, it seemed to momentarily slip his mind, have been gradually sliding down English club football’s pyramid over the last three years, losing millions of...

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Hamlet Under The Hammer, Again

With a unique name, a history that includes winning the FA Amateur Cup on four occasions, and distinctive pink and blue colours, Dulwich Hamlet Football Club is one of the most idiosyncratic presences in English football. But after a little more than one hundred and twenty years of existence, one of London’s best-known non-league clubs is, despite success on the pitch that has taken it to the summit of the Ryman League Premier Division as this season approaches its closing stages, facing a battle to save itself against a backdrop of unpaid bills and intrigue over a property deal that may – or may not – take the club to a new home at the Greendale Playing Fields, just yards from the its current Champion Hill home. The convoluted story of how this came to be is one that ultimately stretches back almost a quarter of a century. Non-league football in England suffered a downturn in its fortunes from the middle of the 1960s on, and the formerly amateur clubs of London and the south-east were hit harder than most. With grounds built to house crowds several times the number of people that they were now attracting which were both expensive to maintain and, perhaps even more significantly, housed on prime real estate land, the list of clubs that were forced into oblivion or to sell up and hope...

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