Category: Latest

Eusebio & The 1968 European Cup Final

There was a time when it was a sport rather than a merely a business. The scene was Wembley Stadium, on the twenty-ninth of May 1968. In Czechoslovakia, the Prague Spring was in full effect. Just a few weeks previously, Dr Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated in Memphis, whilst both Paris and London groaned under the weight of student protest against the establishment and the Vietnam war. A global summer of political tumult lay ahead. Professional football, meanwhile, trundled on, but serendipity had ensured that this year’s European Cup final would be played in London, at the venue which, less than two years earlier, had played host to the host nation winning the World Cup. And now, for the first time, an English club would be playing in the final of this competition. The benefit of hindsight might now allow us to believe that there was something written in the stars which determined that Manchester United would win the 1968 European Cup. This year was, after all, the tenth anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster, which had torn a gaping hole in one of the finest European club sides of the era and has since provided football historians with one of its great ‘what if’ questions – how close might the Busby Babes have coming to becoming the champions of Europe had death not intervened so cruelly...

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“Person”(s) Of The Year 2013… “Charlotte Fakeovers”

As 2013 was such a rubbish year for football governance and finance, who better to be football’s “man” of it than someone called Charlotte, who told a tale of financial skullduggery and subterfuge and whose real identity, or possibly identities, remain concealed? Mark Murphy thinks “no-one.” The phrase “internet phenomenon” is, granted, clichéd journalese. And I would hesitate to use it about a Twitter account whose origin and veracity remained shrouded in mystery (especially outside Scotland), for its seven months in and out of cyberspace. However, “Charlotte Fakeovers” was such a phenomenon… definitely the best of 2013 at summarising modern football businesses’ ills. Ad worthy of examination, now that “she” claims “my work is done and I’ve cashed in,” regardless of whether the Rangers-related material (s)he published was genuine (probably), genuinely obtained (probably not) or the work of an exceptionally febrile imagination. Project “Charlotte” was the codename for a bid fronted by English businessman Andrew Ellis to buy Rangers from David Murray in 2010 – Murray’s business HQ being in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square. The negotiations broke down and Ellis’s lasting Rangers legacy was to introduce Craig Whyte to the club. Ellis has since apologised… profusely. In May, CF started posting comments on the Scottish Football Monitor (TSFM), website set up “to cast a questioning and watchful eye on Scottish Football officialdom and the compliant mainstream media.” But although they...

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Of Snow, Wind, Rain, Ice & Men

We’re well past the initial point at which the weather has started to play merry havoc with the football season, and it was most likely this – a rash of cancellations following the latest round of storms and high winds – combined with New Year’s Day hangovers which combined to give BT Sport a record high television audience for its live match last week between Luton Town and Barnet at Kenilworth Road. An audience of almost 350,000 people tuned into watch the Conference Premier match, a figure that represents a plenty decent return for the fifth level of the English League system and which hints at the possibility that rumours of the death of all football in England below the Premier League continue to be somewhat exaggerated – for now, at least. Still, though, it would be nice to think that the size of the television audience for this match might not have completely been for prosaic reasons such as those outlined above. There was something magnificently joyful about about watching twenty-two players splashing around on a pitch that resembled an ice skating rink after a power cut, coming to terms with the fact that gravity can have a most curious effect when water gets factored into the equation. The quicker thinking players soon realised that on such a pitch, the best way the deliver the ball forward is...

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There Are No Prizes: The 200% End Of 2013 Awards

It’s the time of year when handing out awards for things that have happened to people and organisations over the previous twelve months or so comes into vogue, and even though the football season somewhat inconveniently doesn’t pay too much attention to the machinations of the Gregorian calendar, we’re going to give it a go anyway. (For those of you that are interested in such things, my review of 2013 can be found here – it was written a couple of weeks ago, but I don’t think that an enormous amount has changed since then, apart from Manchester United starting to win matches) But anyway, I’m usually pretty uncomfortable in a tuxedo and tie, all the more so when I’m dressed like this in a room on my own with my cat staring at me as if I’m on the precipice of a nervous breakdown, so… on with the show! Team Of The Year: Leyton Orient – To build a winning team is one thing. To build a winning team on a shoestring budget is another. To transform a team that looked likely to struggle against relegation into challengers for promotion is a mighty achievement indeed. At the end of October last year, Leyton Orient FC was in twentieth place in League One, just one spot above the relegation places in that division, but just six defeats in the...

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Beautiful Bastards: Hannover 96 Under Mirko Slomka

Nearly four years after taking over as coach of Hannover 96 in January 2010, Mirko Slomka has been fired. Despite their parlous league position Slomka leaves the 96ers in a better place that when he arrived and presided over one of the most successful periods in their history. Under his guidance, this traditionally mid-table club finished as high as fourth place in the Bundesliga, played in two Europa League campaigns and developed a playing style that, at its peak, was fast, powerful and with devastating effect. Slomka took over a squad that was in bits during the 2009/10 season....

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