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On a chastening November day at Wembley in 1953, any outdated and misguided ideas about English preeminence in the football world were cruelly banished by the cherry-shirted Magical Magyars of Hungary.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 →
The monochrome format betrays the age of the film. A five year old girl is featured, centre screen. She looks at the camera.
A voice asks, “What does your daddy do?”
“Plays football,” she whispers, almost apologetically in reply.
“Who for?” she’s asked.
“Everton,” is the quiet reply
“Is he good?” The questioner goes on.
Yes,” she replies.
“What’s his name?” The gentle voice enquires.
The young girl smiles shyly. “Alex Young,” she says.
The sequence is the opening part of Ken Loach’s film entitled ‘The Golden Vision’. Released in 1968, it a tells of a group of Everton fans, their lifestyle and devotion to the club, spliced with film of Everton players, and a particular insight into Alex Young, the man whose nickname gave the film its title.
For many football fans, there’s a player who epitomises their club. There’ll be a consensus, unspoken but no less fervent for that, about him. He’s the player that you refer to in respectful tones. Not because he was the best player. It’s often the case that he may not have been; nor necessarily the top scorer or the inspirational skipper, but the player that did things as they should be done. He played the way you want all your players to play, and his attitude was the same. If you were a footballer, it’s how you’d be. For many Everton fans of a particular vintage, that player would be Alex Young. Continue reading →
The private lives of footballers are often the stuff of Sunday scandal sheets. On-field saints become off-field sinners, indulging in nefarious liaisons and the sorts of spending habits that reflect the old maxim of youth having more money than sense. Such are the impressions so often presented to the public by the behaviour of many Premier League players. There are, of course, some that defy such stereotyping, have a normal family life and somehow enjoy their wealth and good fortune without courting the notoriety apparently so thoughtlessly sought by many others.
It is unusual to hear of such things though, as ‘man goes home and does good things’ is hardly going to fill the voracious appetites of the less salubrious pack of news hounds – and perhaps it shouldn’t. After all, living life below the tabloid radar, and avoiding the harsh, negative glare of the public spotlight should hardly be a cause for celebration. After all, it’s what most of the population do all of the time, but just with a lot less resources. Sometimes however, there’s a story that should be told for the right reasons. Sometimes a footballer becomes more of a person; more of a human being. He becomes a player in a conflict far more important than any played out on a football field. Sometimes he can use his fame for enormous good. Sometimes you simply have to give credit where credit’s due. Continue reading →
“In football, unlike bullfighting, there is no death. In football no one dies; no one gets killed.” The tragic story of Andres Escobar.
Nacional Medellin defender and Colombia international Andres Escobar Saldariaga was once asked by Gonzalo Medina, a compatriot and journalist why he liked football. In an answer that proved to be chillingly inaccurate, the articulate Escobar replied that, “This sport illustrates the close relationship between life and the game. In football, unlike bullfighting, there is no death. In football no one dies; no one gets killed. It’s more about the fun of it, about enjoying.”
On 23rd June 1994, during the World Cup tournament in the USA, Escobar was playing for the highly-fancied Colombians against the hosts in their second group game. Following a qualifying tournament of 26 matches wherein they had been beaten on only a single occasion, culminating in a glorious 5-0 victory against Argentina in Buenos Aires, Francisco Maturana’s squad had even been tipped by the great Pele as genuine contenders to win the tournament. After losing their initial encounter to a Gheorghe Hagi-inspired Romania, the South Americans were strongly fancied to win and get their campaign back on track. Continue reading →
A while ago, I was invited to submit a guest article to the ‘grumpyoldfan’ website looking at a Hero of Youth. Here’s what I came up with:
I know this may make me sound like some curmudgeonly old moaner, locked into the past but casting my mind back around five decades or so, there was of course no computer games and kids’ TV lasted for a mere hour before the six o’clock news. Plus, if you had no interest in ‘sticky-back plastic’ or empty washing-up liquid bottles, such things could be of limited interest anyway. There was therefore little else to do other than go outside and play with a ball. Cricket in the summer – well sometimes, but overwhelmingly, football. Continue reading →
It may seem like a relatively new phenomenon, but it’s not really, perhaps entering the norm when once it was deemed to be solely the modus operandi of adherents to the more muscular and robust approach to football, eschewed and sneered at by self-appointed sophisticates. No, not the professiona Continue reading →
OK, here’s a quick quiz question. Name the striker with the best goal-scoring record this calendar year – and I’ll give you five guesses. Cristiano Ronaldo, you say. No. What about Messi. Well, no. He’s scored most goals, but his goals per game ratio is far inferior. Aguero? Nope. Costa. Nope. last guess. What about Ibrahimovich then? Er, no. I’m afraid not. I know what you’re thinking, but no, this isn’t a trick. I’m not looking for the name of a player from the third division of the Albanian league. This guy plys his trade in the Bundesliga, but he doesn’t play for Bayern Munich. Give up Currently, Europe’s most prolific striker plays for Wolfsburg and goes by the name of Bas Dost. 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 →
The curtain-raiser for the new season was halfway through and Manchester City had eased into a comfortable 2-0 lead, with every prospect of denying their cross-city rivals from Old Trafford any chance of a sniff of comeback. During the break however, Sir Alex Ferguson, perhaps considering there was little to lose, decided to throw a young Tom Cleverley into the fray for the second period. When the referee brought the game to an end, United had turned the tables and won 3-2, with the young midfielder, fresh from a season-long loan period at Wigan Athletic the star turn.
Probably much to the annoyance of SkySports Jim White, and despite many claims that there were “lots of things happening” transfer deadline was more dead duck than dead exciting. For Tottenham’s Togolese striker, Emmanuel Adebayor however, it must have been more frustrating than for even the hyped-up, yellow-tied, Mr White. Continue reading →