Writing

Football Writing

The Parallel Lives of Bury

From the outside looking in, it all seems absolutely baffling. It's been almost exactly a year since Bury FC was expelled from the EFL, but even now those ultimately responsible for that expulsion are still trying to give CPR to an increasingly foul-smelling cadaver....

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When Common Sense & Self-Preservation Collide

Welcome news, then, from the Premier League today. When five substitutes were first allowed as world football started to emerge from its lockdowns, it felt as though yet another cat had been let out of yet another bag, a viewpoint that seem confirmed when the...

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Arsenal’s Haves & Have Nots

In the 1980s, Friday nights on News At Ten would include a list of companies making redundancies and a list of companies taking on more staff, with the redundancies showing in red and the new jobs in green. The final total was seldom, if ever, in green. It's easy, in...

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Dover Athletic’s High-Risk Stakes

Apocalyptic predictions have been made for lower and non-league football since the start of the pandemic, but the last few months have been quieter than some predicted. There have been fundraisers and there is no question that clubs are undergoing major financial...

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Hearts Ache & Partick Sick

Heart of Midlothian, Partick Thistle and Stranraer fans reacted ‘understandably’ to the confirmation of their relegations to the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) Championship, League One and League Two respectively. This confirmation came from the...

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As Bad As Things Got: Bristol City, 1st February 1982

The early 1980s were a desolate time for English football. Crowds had slumped and revenues had plummeted, though transfer fees continued to shoot up, leaving a large number of clubs living on the breadline. And one club came to symbolise the agony of the era more than...

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An Old Spotted Dog Story

It'll be a while before any football is played there, but Clapton are coming home. The news broke last week that the breakaway club Clapton CFC have been granted the lease to The Old Spotted Dog ground in Forest Gate is welcome for two primary reasons. Firstly, it...

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The EFL, Sheffield Wednesday & A Stretch Too Far

Taken entirely at face value, it looks like a fair punishment. Twelve is a lot of points, and Sheffield Wednesday will pay a price of some sort for it next season, even though we won't know what until the end. But not only does the punishment handed down to Sheffield...

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Newcastle United: After The Hope

After the hope come the recriminations. The collapse of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund's bid to buy Newcastle United was met with an entirely predictable response, inevitable from the moment that the promise of being richer than Croesus was first made to the...

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The Best Football You’ll See On Netflix

Like many - perhaps most - European football fans, my knowledge of South American club football is woefully lacking in substance. The national teams are not an issue. Global televised coverage of the World Cup for substantially more than half a century has seen to...

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Project Restart? Restop It Now

Now that the broadcasters are sated and the clubs can get their money, football can edge away from season 2019/20’s “innovation” laden restart and finish and edge as closer to normality in 2020/21 as the public health situation will allow. No more drinks breaks and...

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Charlton Athletic: From Pillar To Post

In a footballing culture that treats all relegations like the closing act of Romeo & Juliet, it can be difficult to judge whether dropping a division might actually be existentially damaging to a club. Tears will have been shed over the last seven days by...

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The Championship Lives Up & Down To The Hype

For the moment, it's all fun and games. Last night in the EFL Championship brought the last day of the regular season, and the scramble was more desperate than ever. With financial storm clouds now gathering over the entire league, there was an extra edge to clubs...

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Relegation Rumbles On & One, Part Two: The SPFL

Sometimes you wonder why certain lies are told. They fool no-one important. And on 14th July, Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) clubs Heart of Midlothian and Partick Thistle fooled no-one at all. They claimed to be “incredulous” to receive a “Notice of...

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Leeds United: Hope & Love

When the moment finally came, it was without them even having to kick a ball. In truth, the jig was up on Sunday, when a late, late goal from Pablo Hernandez secured a 1-0 win for Leeds United at Swansea City. With West Bromwich Albion faltering and Brentford just a...

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Relegation Rumbles On & On, Part One: Macclesfield Town

I recently wrote that much of English and Scottish league football’s 2019/20 finished ages ago. but that certain clubs seemed reluctant to let it go. Now, it seems that certain clubs (hello, Heart of Midlothian and Partick Thistle) STILL won’t let it go. Meanwhile,...

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Wor Jackie

Viewed from a distance, the veneration being shown this morning to Jack Charlton was quite incredible, and a reflection of both the man himself and the career that he enjoyed within the game. He played almost 700 games over 21 years for a club that became, over that...

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Wigan Athletic: The Plot Thickens

Yesterday was a busy day for Wigan Athletic. Administrator Gerald Krasner confirmed that he'd had expressions of interest in buying the club from twelve different parties, and that he would be sending out Non-Disclosure Agreements for them to sign and return shortly....

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As Bad As Things Got: Norwich City, 8th August 2009

Norwich City have never been much a club for extremes. This is a club of relatively modest ambition which  spent the last half century bobbing between the top two divisions, never quite able to entrench themselves as a top flight club, but at the same time feeling a...

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Wigan Athletic: Well, That Escalated Quickly

In the age of the meme the reflex response is to say, "Well that escalated quickly," but the haste with which the financial collapse of Wigan Athletic has been sprung upon us may tell us a story in itself. Normally, when a football club ends up in administration,...

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Newcastle United & The Premier League’s Impossible Choice

Another month passes, and still the takeover of Newcastle United has yet to be ratified by the Premier League. Most in the media seem of the opinion that it will eventually be approved, though somewhat fewer believe that it should, and all of this feeds into the...

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For Some, Relegation Rumbles On

Much of English and Scottish league football’s 2019/20 finished ages ago. But certain clubs seem reluctant to let it go. Some with better reason than others… It says everything about Macclesfield Town’s miserable season that the happiest conceivable ending in the...

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Rangers: Resolution & Race

Rangers make regular appearances in these pages. And I know that some would say “over-regular.” But I say they appear with regular good reason, given my more-than-occasional focus on football governance and finance. The old Rangers were so bad at both that they died,...

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A Few Words on Liverpool, Because There Have To Be

The final whistle at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night came, appropriately enough, after 96 minutes. After thirty years, Chelsea's 2-1 win against Manchester City handed Liverpool their first English championship since 1990, an extraordinary record in itself now ended...

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As Bad As Things Got: Everton, 7th May 1994

If you ever wanted proof of the emotional pull of football, it can be seen most vividly at Goodison Park on the 7th of May 1994. On that day, Everton played Wimbledon needing a win to avoid relegation from the Premier League. The club were, after Arsenal, the second...

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Football Behind Closed Doors: 1992 Style

“I want to hear silence,” said my grammar school art teacher, Mr Denham, as he struggled to control thirty-two 12-year-old grammar school students with no discernible interest in potato-printing. “You can’t hear silence, sir,” school-mate David Cunningham said,...

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Burnley & The Ugliness

There had been mutterings on Burnley forums yesterday afternoon that a plane was due to fly over The Etihad Stadium last night, but the subject of the message that was due to be attached to the plane was, at the time, unknown. At 8.00 last night, though,there it was....

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The Premier League: The Clinic Reopens

It's back, then, and it's tolerable. In fact, despite my reservations over how I'd feel about this iteration of The Football coming back, I've quite enjoyed it. It would be overstatement to suggest that it feels as though normality is returning. That is a dangerous...

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Football’s Self-Interest Beats Its Health Interest

Any pretence that players’ health was any driver for professional football’s return lies in tatters. The big-money European leagues have cranked into big-money-making gear. But the small-money leagues have given up on season 2019/20. England’s Premier League (EPL)...

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As Bad Things As Things Got: Arsenal, May 1980

It's different with Arsenal, of course. Which year to choose for a club with more than 100 years unbroken in the top flight? How bad can things get? Do you go all the way back to the 1912/13 season, their penultimate under the 'Woolwich' name, when they were relegated...

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Closed Doors & Home Advantage

On a match-by-match basis, there haven't been too many massive surprises since the return of the Bundesliga in Germany a couple of weeks ago. Bayern Munich have kept on winning, including a 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund that leaves them hurtling at full speed towards...

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As Bad As Things Got: Manchester City, 3rd May 1998

Current legal issues with UEFA notwithstanding, the ongoing efforts of the Abu Dhabi United sovereign wealth fund to build an Empire of the Sun around Manchester City aren't going too badly, despite Liverpool's recent successes. They won't win the Premier League this...

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As Bad As Things Got: Tottenham Hotspur, 1977

It could hardly be said that Tottenham Hotspur were in uncharted territory, as the 1976/77 season drew to a close. The club spent all bar two of the twenty years from 1930 to 1950 in the Second Division, and their first Football League Championship in 1951 came at the...

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Celtic’s Nine-In-A-Row: “Which One, Son?”

Former Celtic manager Martin O’Neill once told new Nottingham Forest team-mate and ex-Celtic full-back Tommy Gemmell: “That was some goal in the European Cup final.” To which Gemmell replied “which one, son?” as he scored “some goal,” pinging one in from outside the...

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Match of the Past: In The Deep Midwinter, 19/01/1985

It's just another Saturday in January 1985, but with this being the past, the country is covered in a layer of snow and it's been an effort to get some matches on. Match Of The Day is focused on a First Division match between Chelsea and Arsenal, the only match in...

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Rangers’ Row About Nine-In-A-Row

On Monday, the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) board made the long-inevitable decisions to end its Premiership season and award clear leaders Celtic their ninth title in-a-row. The title was earned on the pitch, as second-placed Rangers were 13 points...

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As Bad As Things Got: Liverpool, 1959

There wasn't supposed to be much on in Worcester, that afternoon. The 15th of January 1959 was a Thursday, the city's early closing day, and under normal circumstances the city centre would have been very quiet. The FA Cup, however, had something to say about that....

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As Bad As Things Got: Derby County, 1984

It's time for a new series, here on 200%. As there's no football on at the moment, everybody's peering back into the past for stories from the days when it was safe to stand within six feet of another human being. Rather than eulogising, though, we're going to be...

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Southend United’s Groundhog Season

Even diehard fans of the film “Groundhog Day” would be watching events surrounding League One (for now) Southend United and thinking “Not AGAIN!” It is hard to know if on-or-off-field matters were worse during Blues’ season just suspended. They have long-needed...

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The Broadcasting Past is a Foreign Country

...they do things different there. The recent cessation of football has taken a lot of us into the game's archives, and for Dave Hearn, the style of the broadcasting has turned out as interesting as the football itself. This set him thinking about changes in our...

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Quiz Time: The 200% Top Fifty

So, every Wednesday night on our football Slack, we hold a quiz with fifty questions, and last night it was my turn to set the questions. The scores weren't particularly high, so I figured it would be fair to throw them open to the world. There are five rounds in...

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WatchAlong: Match of the Day – 7th January 1989

Good evening, lovelies, and welcome to another brief Covid-19 experiment. We've done the 50 greatest goal posts of all-time, tried to get our heads round what the football might look like when it comes back, and even introduced a new podcast series on old football...

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Scottish Football’s Season Finish, Part 2

So. Farewell. Then. Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) season, below the Premiership. The SPFL resolution to end the season finally passed almost exactly a week since it was proposed. But bitterness remains after the fraught vote process. Well, some anyway...

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