Although the European Cup is the the preeminent competition for club football, and participation in it is regarded akin to a ‘coming out party’ as a top club for any who secures it, British clubs’ relationship with European competition was not always anything like fully committed. Continue reading →
So said, Luiz Felipe Scolari, as he contemplated how a defeat, so unexpected, so demoralising, so contrary to the established order of things, would surely blight his career and reputation for evermore.
Pitted against the Hondurans in the quarter-final of the Copa America of 2001, Brazil would already have been planning their semi-final strategy ahead of the game. After all, Brazil were, in most people’s eyes, the stand-out squad at the tournament. In contrast, Honduras had only been invited to join the other teams in Colombia at the last minute – in fact the last seconds of the last minute – following Argentina’s late withdrawal. Consequently, they had precious little preparation time and their squad was shorn of a number of key players still engaged in domestic matters. Last minute guests to the party, they were under-prepared, under-manned and – as it turned out to Brazil’s cost – underestimated. Just how late the Hondurans’ invite to the party popped through their letterbox can be illustrated by a brief resume of the events prior to the tournament. Continue reading →
There’s a certain type of wisdom that only comes with age and the experience; of seeing many things; by observing quietly and absorbing; by understanding. Sitting in the suburb of Santa Úrsula in Mexico City, the Estadio Azteca is not only an imposing architectural edifice, it can also boast a rich history of hosting some of the most celebrated matches in the history of international football. Being the first venue to host two World Cup Finals, it’s fair to say that the old stadium has witnessed a fair bit of the ‘beautiful game’ with some of the rarest of talents ever to grace the international arena treading its turf. When the Azteca speaks of greatness therefore, it’s done with the authority of age and experience. It’s beholding on us all to listen. Continue reading →
In his book ‘A matter of Life and Death: A History of Football in 100 Quotations’ The Telegraph’s columnist Jim White quotes former Scotland manager Ally MacLeod as saying, “You can mark down 25 June 1978 as the day Scottish football conquers the world.” As was later to be harshly proven, it didn’t quite turn out that way. The tale of Scotland’s venture to South America for the World Cup Finals has gone down in infamy, and if the epithet of ‘pantomime’ that many have sought to label the Tartan Army’s travails in Argentina with is appropriate, many would also be keen to cast MacLeod in the role of the piece’s villain.
Is that too harsh a judgement though? Yes, there was massive hype, and yes, there was even bigger disappointment as the whole edifice came crumbling down, but is it right that the blame for the whole sorry episode should be laid at MacLeod’s door? Was he some buffoon-like character, full of bluster and blunder, or merely an innocent abroad, a patriot wrapped up in the hopes of a nation when Scottish football was at a high-water mark, promoted ahead of his ability, for who the fates turned their faces against at the moment of truth? Continue reading →
It’s probably the most famous club game in the history of football. The 1960 European Cup Final, played at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. You know the one. It was the game when the might of Real Madrid secured their fifth successive title as Champions of Europe under new manager Miguel Munoz. The former Bernabeu midfielder had joined the club on 13th April 1960, just over a month ahead of the final. He would be at the helm of Los Blancos for almost 14 years, winning nine La Liga titles, twice triumphing in the Copa del Rey and landing two European Cups, as well as one Intercontinental Cup. It was the game when legendary striker Alfredo Di Stefano struck a hat-trick, but was outgunned by the ‘Galloping Major’ Ferenc Puskas who netted four times. It was the game when legends were born. It was the game when a crowd of some 127,621 officially attended the game, but for years afterwards, many more would have claimed to have done so. Everyone wanted to say that they were there at the game where Real Madrid received their coronation as the best club side on the planet.
Whenever you start writing an article about a fairly timeless issue, there’s always a chance of a little added piquancy if something brings what would otherwise be a bit of a retrospective, into the current arena. The Jimmy Seed Stand at Charlton’s The Valley ground had always struck me as a bit of a strange name. Who was – or is – Jimmy Seed? Despite having a passion about football for over fifty years now, I have to confess that I knew nothing of the eponymous Mr Seed. To be honest, that alone was enough to tweak my interest, so I set to work on a bit of research.
It was whilst combing through the internet and a number of reference books that I found out that the Jimmy Seed Stand was currently making the news around the SE7 area just south of the Thames in London. When researching clubs, fan blogs are often a useful source of information and, when looking at the popular and passionate ‘Voice of The Valley’ site, I noticed an article dated 24th January saying that the stand in question was under threat from a proposed redevelopment. Continue reading →
Football folklore is replete with tales of unfancied teams fighting back in the face of seemingly overwhelming adversity, recovering from an apparently inevitable defeat to down one of the giants of the game, when a last minute goal gets a team through a difficult match that seemed to be pointing to elimination, when the opposition fails to convert any of the first three penalties in a shoot-out or when a team comes back after losing an opening game to unexpectedly qualify from a group stage of the biggest tournament in the world. Other tales may speak of seemingly hopeless situations when unforeseen results conspire to offer a chance that had surely been extinguished, when last minute goals work wonders and unexpectedly transform successive matches, when winning goals are created and scored by players who really shoudn’t have been on the pitch or when a giant stumbles and lets the little guy through; when the most unexpected of events happen again, and again, and again. Some tales have such a feature, some have a two or three, but very few have all of them. The story of Bulgaria’s ‘American Dream’ at the 1994 World Cup and the strange combination of results and events off the park that conspired to get them there however, is one of them. Continue reading →
For regular readers, you’ll note very quickly that this isn’t the usual sort of blog that I post. A week or so ago however, my first book was published, and I wanted to take this opportunity to mention it, and briefly describe its contents.
Entitled ‘I Don’t even Smoke!’ I’ve subtitled it as ‘A brief history of life, love and football through blue-tinted glass. Oh yes, and a cigar.’ It basically relates how the ‘beautiful game’ has payed a part in my life at various key moments, and the influence it has had on me.
A brief description I was asked to write relates:
“Football has always been a strong element in my life. From very early days, right through six decades of being in love with the beautiful game, it has touched the most important moments for me. Of life and of love. For me, football is not just the background music though. It’s a strident theme tune; at one and the same time both alluring and demanding, strident and compelling. It’s that song you can’t get out of your head, not least because you don’t want to.
If you’re looking for a real-life read about life, love and football, please forgive me for recommending this book to you. It’s at sometimes sad, at others funny – at least I hope so! – but always honest. As a Chelsea fan, I freely acknowledge its leaning towards the blue, but that’s just because my experiences are tinted with that colour. Chelsea fans would probably be able to identify with most of the events and emotions I experienced, but even if you’re attached to another club, I’m sure you’ll feel an empathy with the way the ‘beautiful game’ paints pictures in your life. Enjoy!”
The book is available on Amazon, and here’s a link to the page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dont-Even-Smoke-football-blue-tinted/dp/1522944729/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454238134&sr=1-1&keywords=all+blue+daze. Alternatively, go to amazon, and merely search ‘All Blue Daze.’ The book is priced at a mere £3,89, which i hope shows that I haven’t done this for the money, but merely as I had a story that I wanted to share.
If you’d like to purchase a copy, I would offer you my thanks, but as a reader of my blog, you’re certainly due that anyway.
The fortunes of football clubs inevitably wax and wane over the years; some erratically, others less so. Promotions, relegations glory and despair are the spices that combine to produce the fare enjoyed, or endured, usually in fairly unequal proportions by staff, players and fans across the world. With such unpredictable trajectories, it’s perhaps inevitable that when some collide and their paths cross, a bond is formed that outlasts the initial contact. Some kind of familial link is established that as their roads depart and disappear over distant horizons, stays firm, drawing them back together again. Continue reading →
Following the dismissal of Jose Mourinho from the hot seat at Chelsea, one of the names mentioned as a the long-term replacement is Diego Simeone, currently managing Atletico Madrid in La Liga. There’s a relationship already in place between the two clubs with players moving between them. Could El Cholo be the next one to move from the Vicente Calderon to Stamford Bridge? If the Bookies are right it could well be the case. There is however, something special in the fit between the Simeone and Atleti. It’s something that just works; something that may not be transferable. It’s something I experienced earlier this year. Continue reading →