Category Archives: Blog

The Summer Of Punishment

By Anthony Pope

Yes so it appears that the most specialist of occasions has arrived on our calendar again this month. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or Scotland these past few weeks it’s been hard to get away from the build up to the 19th World Cup Finals. I myself, like any respectable and decent Englishmen will be putting my hand on who’s ever broken metatarsal is on the front page, donning plastic St.George’s flags to an automobile and sending death threats to whichever South American official is to blame for our heroic quarter final exit. As our boys do battle out in South Africa a nation will once again hold it’s breath as yet another golden generation flatter to deceive at yet another major competition.

Of course this time around we pin our hopes not on the majestic right boot of our talismanic captain nor will it be on a blubbering flawed genius but instead it’ll be The Godfather himself, Fabio Capello. The burden of reasonability lies squarely on the Italians’ shoulders, good luck my friend, good luck. The disciplinarian has banished the ghosts of Super Steve‘s and El Tel‘s orchestra of managerial buffoonery and appears to have assembled a side who have half a chance at winning the bloody thing.

At this moment in time there are two distinct set of England fans, those convinced that this year is the year, England’s name is on the trophy, it’s a cast iron guarantee, come July 11th Stevie Gerrard will be hoisting the trophy and come July 13th we’ll be reunited with Sir Stephen Warnock, Sir Robert Green and Sir Emile Heskey. On the other hand there will be a fair proportion of doom mongers who think we’ve got about as much chance as John Terry and Wayne Bridge settling their differences and starting a Jedward tribute band. I tend to change from day to day, normally depending on which inspirational advert I’ve seen on the tele, once Kit Kat have finished telling me to cross my fingers and Carlsberg have given probably the best team talk in the world I’m fully convinced that Glen Johnson vs. Lionel Messi is an even contest and we’ll end all those years of hurt we keep singing about.

Talking of songs I’m bitterly disappointed that there will be no official World Cup anthem this year as Fabio ’If your late I’m taking 3 of your fingers” Capello has banned it, which quite frankly has robbed us of the potential of Shaun Wright Phillips’ rapping. I see this almost on par with the injustice the Irish must feel after Thierry Henry’s handball, now that Sean St.Ledger won’t be at this years World Cup I feel it’s hardly worth watching. The only question that reminds is who will join the elite group of Chris Waddle, Gareth Southgate, David Batty and Darius Vassell of having to trudge back to the half way line after sending England crashing out as back home England weeps into their Stellas.

Personally I reckon it’ll be Michael Carrick or Aaron Lennon, there’s something about them that just screams “I’m gonna crumble under the pressure and scuff it.” I feel bad ending my first blog entry on such a negative note before a summer of optimism and expectation so I’ll end by saying that England have just as good a chance as anyone, Rooney could shine as Gazza did in Italia 90’, that Gerrard can boss the midfield like Robson and Ince before him, John Terry can inspire the heart of the defence like Moore or Butcher and that on their day they have the ability to beat the Spanish, Argies, Germans, Brazillians and the French and finally bring football back home and win the World Cup.

But they probably won’t.

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The Best Week Ever?

By James D. Irwin

I live a sad, solitary and fairly empty existence. And that’s why all ‘The Best Week Ever’ has to include are a few football results going in my teams favour.

I support both Tottenham Hotspur and Swindon Town, because until recently one dose of disappointment a season wasn’t quite enough for me. (If you’re wondering, Spurs are the ‘family team’ but I was born in Swindon (don’t hold it against me)).

On Wednesday Spurs somehow managed to beat the mis-managed millionaire supergroup that is Man City, the footballing equivalent of The Eagles only less popular and slightly less shit, and stumble like an uninvited drunken guest turning up at the sophisticated party that is the Champions League.

At the time I was busying myself at a friends house drinking Stella Artois and £1.50 wine whilst watching the fantastic Troll 2 because I’d convinced myself that Spurs would lose if I followed the score. This stems mostly from the game against Arsenal, where the bloody Gunners pulled one back as soon as I turned the radio on.

I texted home shortly before full time to learn that Crouch had scored a late goal and that my father was dancing in the kitchen. I’ve never known of my father dancing in almost twenty-one years of being alive. I ended up passing out either through total surprise or due to far too much £1.50 wine. Maybe a bit of a both.

Meanwhile Swindon Town are almost certainly in the play-offs. And with quite a good chance of going all the way— although I am expecting a spectacular level of ineptitude, or bad luck akin to Andy Gurney’s missed penalty against Brighton a few years back, or Paul Robinson’s unexpected header for Leeds— the first of his two career goals.

So far this week has been pretty great, both as a fan of two traditonal underachieving football clubs and as a person. It’s been such a good week on a personal level that I’ve only eaten one pack of Jammie Dodgers all week. With a barbecue to look forward to this weekend I’m looking at this as probably the best seven days of 2010.

However, there is one more day of the football season to go, a day in which the best week of 2010 could elevate itself to the greatest week of ALL TIME. And it just hinges on a few football scores.

WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN

Swindon gain automatic promotion with a highly unlikey series of events:

First, ninth placed Bristol Rovers— local rivals with literally nothing to play for— will have to beat Leeds away. Then Swindon, an inconsistent side on the road, have to overcome Millwall— a strong side at home.

Then in the Premiership Chelsea would have to lose at Wigan with Man United beating Stoke and thus depriving Jon Terry’s rag tag group of millionaire adulturers and morons of another Premiership title.

Finally Spurs would have to see off Burnley (and this is Spurs, we lost to Wolves. Twice), whilst Fulham’s B Team/Youth squad somehow overcome Arsenal. In any other year this would be more than possible, but somehow Fulham have stumbled into a major European cup final and are resting their players with good reason. It’s a shame, because it’s a pretty weak Arsenal side (hell, they lost to Spurs a few weeks ago…)

Personally, I would be content with any one of those scenarios happening. If two occur I’ll be ecstatic. But I need the whole lot for this weekend to be The Best Week Of All Time.

Frustratingly, if Spurs had won either of those games against Wolves we would actually be third already.

Of course, it is possible for Tottenham to finish third if Fulham simply hold Arsenal to a draw. All we have to do is get three points at Burnley to tie with Arsenal, as long as we overcome the Goal Difference. And to do that all we need to do is better our goal tally against Wigan and put eleven clear goals past Burnley…

Strange Rumblings in Iceland

By David S. Wills

Iceland – the land of the suffix –sson – has famously never qualified for a World Cup, never succeeded in any European completion at national or club level, and has Eidur Gudjohnsen as its only successful player in a long and embarrassing history.

Handball is the national sport, and that’s hardly conducive to a good footballing environment. If “god” had meant for Icelandic people to play handball he wouldn’t have made it so cold they had to wear mittens.

Next to handball comes some kind of medieval wrestling. According to Wikipedia, this sport is a combination of waltzing and chess.

Some even doubt Iceland is a part of Europe. Tucked away up there beyond even the Scottish Isles, Iceland is the part of the map covered by the pin. It’s the tiny Canada of Europe, if anything.

Iceland has numerous embassies around the United Kingdom, where impoverished chavs can exchange drug-stained British currency for a range of frozen goods, including oven chips and fish fingers.

So with this air of failure permanently wrapped around otherwise frigid island nation, you can hardly imagine their rage when once again the sporting season draws to a close without a mention of any Icelandic achievements.

The Champions League is once again reaching its dying stages without a single team from north of the liable-to-be-raped-by-a-polar-bear line. The World Cup is coming and even North Korea has found eleven unstarved players to field.

Worse, Liverpool – who’ve signed three Icelandic players in their history – have managed to somehow scramble into the semi-finals of the Europa League, and is not taking their 16 yr old Icelandic “talent” Kristjan Emilsson with them.

So what did Iceland do?

They erupted a giant fucking volcano, grounding all flights in Europe, causing $200 million of revenue loss each day for several days, and forcing football teams across Europe to travel by train like a bunch of 19th century romantic novel protagonists.

According to my source in Reykjavik, Heyant Mysson, “Iceland is willing to erupt another volcano if FIFA won’t grant us an invitation to the World Cup.”

A Question Of Support

By James D. Irwin

I’m off to the Country Ground on monday to watch Swindon Town begin the inevitable implosion of their promotion hopes. Embarassingly it’s only my second game of the season— although I’m already two up on every season since I became a football fan.

Swindon were my second team up until a few months ago. Since the 1998 World Cup it’s always been a fervent support/constant disappointment of hanging on any and every piece of news to come out of White Hart Lane, and then checking the Swindon score if I can remember.

But here’s the thing: even though Spurs are having one of their best seasons in years and one win away from the FA Cup Final I’m almost bored and disinterested in them. Perhaps it’s the fact that having been a fan of the team for over a decade I know that we’ll almost certainly throw the fourth Champions League position away and then all the best players will join Man United.

But I don’t think so.

Because when I was at school surrounded by friends (oh, alright: people), all of whom followed Premier League sides. The Football League was ignored by television, brushed into a small half a page section in most newspapers and thus not given much thought to by us young fans. This is despite the fact that my best friends at school also supported their lower league home town clubs Plymouth and Oldham.

I also lived on the other side of the country from Swindon, which meant actually going to games was only possible if we visited old family friends during the football season. This happened twice, so until recently my only experiences of seeing Swindon  were a 2-0 victory over Crewe in 1998, and then more recently a victory over Chesterfield where it was so cold I almost got frostbite and Sam Parkin scored before he left us and got everything he deserved. Bastard.

Apparently when I was three years old my dad took me to see the 1993 Promotion Parade celebrating Swindon reaching the Premier League. It was the last time Swindon really had anything to celebrate since getting back into League One a few years ago.

But how the times have changed. The BBC now has a Football League highlights show featuring the ever charismatic pairing of Manish Bhasin and Steve Claridge. If I stay up after Match of the Day and sit through forty minutes of Championship coverage I can catch a brief ninety second glimpse of the mighty Robins.

I also moved to Winchester, twenty minutes from Southampton and an hour from Swindon. This has two benefits: firstly, going to see Swindon at home is no longer merely ‘do-able’, but actually quite easy. Secondly, many of my new friends are Southampton fans, so almost all of our football conversation is focused on League One.

Everything has sort of reversed, and I go straight to the League One scores to see if Swindon have lost it yet, or if I can make fun of my Saints following friends. I’m off to Swindon for the first time in about five years and I was making plans to attend the last game of the season, until I remembered it was an away trip to Millwall…

It’s something that has happened to me in other sports as well. I love cricket, American football and rugby union when they’re on TV regularly, but if I can’t watch it I don’t really give a toss about it. For example, I got hooked on cricket in 2005 and ended up watching pretty much every day of every test. But then it went to Sky, and I didn’t have Sky, so I lost interest until 2008 when my parents got Sky. Because we had Sky I could watch American football each weekend, and again I was hooked on it. It’s a sport that has very vocal detractors in this country, and whilst nowhere near as good as proper football it is an enjoyable game to watch. But then I moved to university, and cable access is far too much for a student. And thus I paid little attention to the last season until the Super Bowl, which is shown on terrestrial.

It’s just a fact that it’s easier to be a fervent supporter of a team if you watch them play, or even have some sort of media coverage. Why? Because that’s what being a supporter is all about, it’s about willing your team on, cheering/shouting in frustration with every kick of the ball and experiencing the highs and lows of the season. That’s the joy of it, sharing the experience with other fans. It’s impossible to experience that by going on Teletext at five pm and glancing at a list of numbers.

has anyone else had this experience? Are there sports or teams you’d be far more passionate about if you could see them love or on television more regularly?

I mean, Premier League football is shown around the world, and Premier League teams have mass global followings. Would Parma, for example, have more English fans if Serie A was broadcast here regularly, or even if they brought back Football Italia  to Channel 4? Nobody ever shouts ‘Golaccio!’ when they score anymore (Golaccio is a made up word which is roughly translated as ‘goaltastic.) Would soccer be more popular in the US if it aired our top teams?

In the 1980s American Football became hugely popular in Britain. Is it really a coincidence that this surge in popularity occured at the same time that American Football was broadcast on British television, and seen a steep decline in popularity since it stopped being broadcast on terrestrial free-to-air channels?

Watching sport is the essence of being a fan in any field. I’m excited for next season, not because I think Swindon are going to do particularly well (especially if we make the Championship), but because I know I’m going to be there for every moment of it, and that I can attend at least ten home games, and either Pompey or Southampton away…