Category: Latest

Bundesliga Week 15 Round Up – The Oncoming Storm

The Weserstadion, home of Werder Bremen, sits by the bank of the River Weser and with the threat of an oncoming storm possibly flooding the river there was a chance that their match against Bayern Munich may have to be postponed. As it happened, Werder were hit by an oncoming storm of a more metaphorical type and I am not referring to Doctor Who. Even the good Doctor is likely to need more than a sonic screwdriver and impeccable sense of timing in order to see off Pep Guardiola’s Bayern who are as relentless as a Dalek invasion force in an especially bad mood. The champions exterminated Werder with a ruthless 7-0 win. Franck Ribéry, who scored two, assisted one and set up Werder’s Assani Lukimya for his own goal which got the party started, was probably Bayern’s best player on day. However the entire team could have claimed that accolade and this was the kind of performance where Bayern demonstrated how far above their contemporaries they really are. It was players vs gentlemen. At their best, Bayern are a fusion of the pace and power team of last season’s treble winning side under Jupp Heynkes and Guardiola’s high possession pull the opposition around until they fall apart Barcelona style. They never give the opposition a break and stretched Werder to such an extent that by the end of...

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England’s World Cup Draw Should Demonstrate Their Limitations

At least, we might reflect, expectations had already been lowered to such an extent that there can barely be anybody left on the face of the entire planet who believes in any seriousness that England will win the World Cup in Brazil next summer. It’s not a matter of being fatalist or of showing false modesty. The evidence has been right there before our very eyes for a considerable amount of time, and England supporters now making their plans for the tournament next summer can do so with a carefree attitude, finally freed of the last vestiges of that old albatross called Expectation. As if having perhaps their most mediocre squad of players in living memory wasn’t enough to recalibrate the expectations of those who have never quite gotten to grips with the fact that those pesky foreigners are now considerably better at playing association football than the English themselves are, the prospect of a difficult drawin difficult conditions now awaits. Of course, it’s not quite that simple. The overwhelming majority of England supporters and well-wishers have long watched their national team’s matches through the gaps between their fingers, whilst accusations of “English arrogance” frequently come from those who are desperate for the English to live down to their expectations of them, with very little other supporting evidence other than the worst excesses of the tabloid press and what...

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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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