Category: Latest

Will Injuries Take The Shine Off Dortmund vs Bayern?

European Champions Bayern Munich and runner’s up Borussia Dortmund meet for their first league encounter since the Champions League Final at Wembley, last May. While treble winners, Bayern remain the traditional powerhouse on the German game, Dortmund under coach Jürgen Klopp have won two of the last three domestic titles. Klopp has assembled one of the most watchable group of players in Europe and become the catalyst in a furious debate on Twitter as to the true meaning of the term “football hipster.” Needless to say this match is highly anticipated in Germany and beyond. However, while Dortmund have the home advantage they will have to face Pep Guardiola’s team without their entire first choice defense. Going without midfielder İlkay Gündoğan and right back Łukasz Piszczek for most of the season, so far, has been difficult but not impossible to manage. However the injury situation took a turn for the worse when one of their central defenders damaged a cruciate knee ligament a couple of weeks ago at Wolfsburg. Then things took turn for the even worse with the other central defender, Mats Hummels did his ankle in during his second half turn at Wembley against England on Tuesday. He’s out until January. How would Oscar Wilde have put it? “To lose one centre back may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two is a right pain in the arse.”...

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Why Are Some People Getting So Angry About The Ballon D’Or?

In the parallel universe which professional football inhabits, some of the normal rules of life simply do not apply. There is such a thing as a free lunch if you’re name is Sepp Blatter, time can stand still if you’re Sir Alex Ferguson, and for just about everybody, winning is everything. Of course, in terms of league championships and cups, there’s something to that argument. Football has been professionalised for one hundred and thirty years now, and if you’re paying somebody to do a job for you, then it is understandable that some sort of return on your investment becomes important. From a supporter’s point of view, whilst shrugging your shoulders at a defeat rather than running to your favoured social media outlet to issue death threats to the chairman, the manager and a man whose name rhymes with that of the referee is an admirable personality trait, there are only so many times that watching your team get easily beaten in front of rapidly diminishing attendances can be a little, well, wearing. So winning is important, and we mostly accept that. There are times, however, when that lust for gold plated trinkets and – perhaps more importantly, in this day and age – the plum sponsorship deals that come with them becomes a little undignified. The Ballon D’Or is one of football’s less important trophies. It is, dare...

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Football On The Box – From The North: Granada

The news that ITV will be losing live coverage of the Champions League from the start of the 2015/16 season is a bitter blow to a company that was once the great innovator in terms of the development of football as a medium of entertainment in this country. Coming, as it does, on top of the end of FA Cup coverage on the channel in the near future, only a handful of England matches per year and the possibility of a Champions League highlights package, perhaps now is approriate time to look back at the frankly odd musical history of one of the former network’s biggest and most powerful regions. The ITV franchise round of 1968 saw its biggest shake-up since the introduction of a commercial channel thirteen years earlier. Granada Television, who had been the weekday broadcasters to the vast “North of England” region found themselves losing out geographically with the creation of a new region. The consolation was that they would now be broadcasting from their studios Manchester seven days a week, and this meant that sports output – traditionally a preserve of the weekends at that time – would have to be increased. Commentator Barry Davies was brought over from ABC Weekend Television and a new weekly programme called, with a sort of blunt authorativeness that came to be associated with the company, “Football”. The title...

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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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