The latter half of the 1980s was a time of great turmoil for Middlesbrough Football Club. As the 1985-86 season was drawing to a conclusion, financial matters had become so stretched that a loan of £30,000 from the Professional Footballers’ Association was the only way that the club could cover the wages for April. Unsurprisingly, the denouement of that season saw relegation, and Middlesbrough were sent down to the third tier of English football. But worse was to follow.
During the summer, with no games, and reduced revenue, the club was forced to call in the liquidators. Shortly afterwards, with padlocks adorning the rusting gates of the tired and dilapidated Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough Football Club was officially wound up. The Thatcher years had seen a decimation of industry in the region, with traditional jobs sacrificed on the altar of monetarist dogma and intransigence. Many regions suffered. The north-east suffered more than most, and the fate of the Middlesbrough’s football club seemed to be a microcosm for the travails of the 174,000 or so habitants living on south bank of the Tees. Continue reading →
“You have just seen the Premier League champions today!” So said Sir John Hall, purring with pleasure, speaking to a Sky Sports interviewer. It was 20th October 1996, and his Newcastle United team, under the charismatic guidance of Kevin Keegan, had just delivered the sort of spanking to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United the like of which the irascible Scot’s team were far more used to handing out rather than enduring. Geordie joy was fulsome, and they feasted on it. Sad to say though, for that passionate band of fans, it wasn’t the herald of a new dawn, it was the last flaring from the embers of a dying dream. 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 →
Until October last year, mention the name of Slavisa Jokanovic to any English football fan, and you’ll probably have received a fairly blank expression in return. Mention it to a Chelsea fan of any vintage at all, and you’ll probably get a wry smile, and a nod of fairly unqualified contempt. Continue reading →
It’s surely one of the greatest unofficial accolades that the game has to offer. No-one votes for it, not the press, not other players, not even the fans. Someone somewhere suggests it, and off it trots merrily making its way through the highways and byways of ‘football talk’. Eventually, it’s travelled the length and breadth of the football community, by common assent it becomes accepted as part of the lexicon of football. I’m talking about having an element of the game named after you. There’s the Panenka penalty, the Cruyff turn, the Makelele role and even Fergie time, to name but a few of the uncontentious – well, fairy uncontentious anyway – ones. Now, another nom de guerre may be seeking to elbow its way into the language of football. At the moment, there’s only the merest whisper of it being circulated. Isn’t that how it always begins though? Continue reading →
Over the last five years, Chelsea have been one of the top powers in English football. The West London club became European Champions in 20012, won the Premier League in 2010, adding the FA Cup to claim the domestic double, and won the old pot again in 2012. They also won the Europa League in 2013, and having already secured this season’s League Cup, look are odds on to win the league again. It’s all pretty impressive, but certainly not dominant. Despite the absence of any recent home-grown talent in Jose Mourinho’s the first choice eleven, the same cannot be said for the club’s youth team, across the same period. Continue reading →
Back at the turn of the year, SkyBet rated Derby County head coach and former England boss, Steve McClaren, at 16/1 to take over at Newcastle United this summer. When Alan Pardew decamped to Crystal Palace to be the South London club’s second coming of Tony Pulis, it left a gap at St James Park that John Carver, for all his earnest endevours, never looked likely to fill in the long term. Other betting sites had MacClaren as far out as 22/1 to become the Magpies’ boss. If you took those odds you may well be sitting in the pound seats now, as currently, some bookies make the former Wembley umbrella salesman as short as 4/6. 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 →
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 →