The Champions League can throw up some strange results and incredible performances, but for delivering on the unexpected, the tournament across the 2011-12 season would surely take some beating. Big clubs, flickered then failed. Others got off the floor and prospered. When the chips were down though, hardly anything seemed to go with expectations. Continue reading →
Buckets of cold water, wet pitches and floodlights – How Wolverhampton Wanderers rescued English football and forged the European Cup in the Black Country.
On a chastening November day at Wembley in 1953, any outdated and misguided ideas about English preeminence in the football world were cruelly banished by the cherry-shirted Magical Magyars of Hungary. Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis, Nandor Hideguti and their compatriots comprising a team that would go almost a decade with just a single defeat recorded against them – albeit in the World Cup Final of 1954 – delivered the sort of sobering wake up call akin to being doused with bucketful of cold water after a long and particularly intoxicating night on the tiles. Continue reading →
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 →
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.
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 →
In sport, especially within the often wildly unpredictable world of football, there is rarely anything like a guaranteed winning bet. The Europa League Final on 14th May 2014 was however, probably as close to being a ‘dead cert’ as almost anything ever is when the ‘beautiful game’ is involved. Bet on Sevilla to beat Benfica and lift the trophy, was the call. It’s as close to being brass in the bank as any bet can ever be. Honestly! Would I lie to you? On paper it appeared to be a close contest. Both clubs had enjoyed a reasonably successful season, and had deservedly reached the showpiece final in Turin. That was as may be, but it didn’t mean backing Sevilla wasn’t a good money shot. Continue reading →
It’s that moment. Through on the goalkeeper; one on one. Everything else is still and a second seems to take a minute to runs its brief course. The delicious agony of the instant, standing on the precipice of a moment that will result in acclaim or opprobrium fills pumps the adrenalin up to maximum levels. No time for breath. No time for consideration. Action is required. Anticipate the relief rapidly turning into adulation. Fear the agony and the anger chasing it. There’s pressure. There’s real pressure. Then again, there’s Real pressure. Continue reading →
Blogs, on most subjects, tend to be full of the writer espousing his theories on the issues of the day, and I guess that’s particularly true with football articles, where everyone has an opinion. So, this time, I thought I’d take a different track and ask a few questions instead, whilst at the same time requesting a few changes of headgear!
Firstly, here’s a question with a complicated, or perhaps more accurately, a diverse set of answers. ‘What’s more important to a football club, money or glory, profits or pots, brass or silverware?’ If you’re reading this – and I hope you are, otherwise I’m simply talking to myself – you’re probably a fan of a particular club and will have opted for the latter of the options in each of the three queries offered. Now however, just for a lark, take off your fan’s hat, and instead don the headgear of a club owner, or a CEO having to answer to an owner. To further illustrate the picture, let’s imagine the owner in question isn’t a Sheikh Mansoor or Roman Abramovich who bought clubs merely to indulge rather expensive hobbies. So, with your new hat on, let’s consider the question again. I know what you’re thinking. Winning trophies creates more wealth, therefore you can have both. Ah, you see, this is why I framed the question as I did. For clarity however, I’m going to rephrase it slightly. As an owner or a CEO having to report to an owner, would you rather have made £3million profit and won the Carling Cup, or £8million, and finished with an empty trophy cabinet? Come on, now. We all know the answer if we’re being honest don’t we?
Nobody likes losing and, as with banging your head against a brick wall, the best thing you can say about it, is that it’s nice when it stops. Like some love-lorn teenage boy returning yet again from the bright lights of the coolest disco in town without having landed a dance with the best-looking girls, Arsene Wenger now appears to be lowering his sights from the Champions League, to the Europa League, the school disco of European club football. Perhaps Arsenal could be belle of the ball there. Some may call it a realistic assessment, Arsenal fans may well have a different description for it. Continue reading →
Around nine years ago or so, I was on holiday in Sitges, just outside Barcelona. As is my wont at such times, I was sitting outside a bar with a cold beer whilst the wife had gone off shopping. Relaxing in the Catalan sunshine, I was reading – well reading may be too strong a word, but my fractured Spanish just allows me to understand every third word or so, so I can grasp the essence of the story – a copy of ‘Sport’, a local newspaper that covers football, and predominantly FC Barcelona. Continue reading →