Category: Latest

Northern Lights: The Sudden Ascent Of The Iceland National Football Team

Those amongst us who had sleptwalked their way through the UEFA qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil might have been forgiven for not quite picking up on the full implications of such a story, but perhaps the big surprise of the group stages anywhere in the world came right here in Europe, where Iceland has qualified for the play-offs for a place at next summer’s jamboree. Last Tuesday evening the streets of Rekjavik fell silent as the Iceland national team took on a challenge that it has never faced before. A win in Oslo against Norway would have been enough to guarantee the team a place in the play-offs regardless of anything that happened elsewhere, but a draw would also have been enough should Slovenia not better their result in their match against Switzerland. As things turned out, Iceland were a little dependent on the munificence of others to reach their place in the play-offs. They drew one-all in Oslo, but the Swiss – who had already comfortably qualified for the finals and will be one of the top seeded nations when the draw for them is made – did them a favour by beating Slovenia by a single goal in Berne, meaning that Iceland would go on to take part in the play-offs for a place in Brazil. And this afternoon the Icelandic Football Association,...

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Back To The Eighties: 1980/81, Part Nine – Liverpool Brave The Sunderland Snow

We’re almost at the end of November 1980 in our story of the 1980/81 football season, and this morning we kick off with four matches from the last week of that month. We start with the UEFA Cup match between Ipswich Town and the Polish club Widzew Lodz from Portman Road, a macth which eneded in an extremely comfortable win for the home team, before going on to three matches from the following weekend’s First Division fixtures. First up is a match from Roker Park between Sunderland and the champions, Liverpool. Sunderland had been promoted at the end of the previous season and went into the match in fourteenth place in the table, while Liverpool had dropped to third place in the table behing the two clubs who would come to define much of the remainder of the seaosn in this division, Aston Villa and Ipswich Town. Our second match comes from the middle of the First Division, between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion. Spurs went into the match in mid-table in the division, apparently unable to fnd any consistency in their performances, especially away from home, whilst West Bromwich Albion went into the match in fifth place and with every chance of achieving European football by the end of the season. The final match comes from the wrong end of the First Division table. Crystal Palace had...

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The Republic of Ireland: International Football As Tragi-Comedy

Appearances can deceive greatly. On Sunday, I watched my team – who have had such a good start to the season that they are starting to becomeperennially known as “high-flying Kingstonian” – beat Ryman League strugglers Thamesmead Town by a largely expected margin of 4-1. The Thamesmead goalkeeper, the delightfully-named Bob Budd, was responsible for the score. The score not being 8-1 (EIGHT-BLOODY-ONE!!), that is. As I sub-edit the Non-League Paper’s Ryman League Premier Division page, not only am I responsible for all those crap headlines (“Bury buried,” “Rocks rocked” etc…) but I was also ready for Budd’s terrific display of shot-stopping. His name featured heavily in Mead match reports, and not just from Mead’s own NLP reporter. So his athletic tendency to get in the way of goalbound shots and headers was less disconcerting to me than to many other Ks fans who might have clocked a scruffily-attired keeper and thought, “no wonder they’re bottom,” although, it must be added that despite the combination of terrific goalkeeper and relegation candidature, Mead looked a mid-way decent side. Budd was dressed like a Ray Clemence tribute-act, as in the yellow-shirted keeper who shared England duties with Peter Shilton throughout the mid-to-late 1970s. Budd’s yellow shirt looked faded and fractionally too big for him, giving the unfair impression of a Sunday league goalkeeper. And I thought of Budd when I first...

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Back To The Eighties: 1980/81, Part Eight – West Ham United’s Revival Continues

“At a time when so many clubs are suffering from falling attendances West Ham can actually boast that average gates are higher at Upton Park this season,” says Match Of The Day’s commentator Alan Parry prior to West Ham United’s home Division Two match against struggling Grimsby Town on the eighth of November 1980, “and the loyalty of West Ham’s supporters is a reflection of the team’s success.” And well they might. The club had been relegated from the First Division at the end of the 1977/78 season, but despite not having been able to bounce straight back into the top flight, West Ham United won the FA Cup in 1980 against Arsenal thanks to a single headed goal from Trevor Brooking, and the club went into this match in second place in the table, just behind leaders Notts County. Our other two matches feature somewhat briefer highlights of two matches from the First Division. The cameras of Southern Television were at The Dell to see Southampton play Ipswich Town in what was probably the most entertaining single match of the entire weekend, while finally we have the chance to see a few minutes filmed footage of the match between Leicester City and a Manchester City side that was starting to settle following the appointment of John Bond, who had come into the club a few weeks later to...

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Spacemonkeygate: Or, How To Create An Omnishambles Within Twenty-Four Hours

If only, we might pause to reflect, he had used the name ‘Laika’ instead. At least that way around we might have been spared the acres and acres of coverage that we have been subjected to since around about half past ten last night. There is, in a perverse way, almost something comforting about something relating to the England national football team being plunged back into CRISIS via a combination of, depending on who you believe, anything up to three or four different sources. The previous twenty-four hours of relative serenity had all been most un-English, and at least we can probably all agree that, whether this is a non-story or not, at least abnormal service has been restored. The planets are back in alignment, or, to put it another way, the circus is back in town. To try – and merely typing these words is enough to make the heart simultaneously sink towards the stomach and leap to the throat – and make some sort of sense of this story, we should probably have a go at sorting the wheat from the chaff, because there’s a lot of white noise out there at the moment.. So, what probably does matter in terms of this story, and what probably doesn’t? Things That Probably Don’t Matter The joke itself wasn’t that funny: Well, it should be perfectly self-evident to anybody...

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