Tag Archives: Champions League

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…

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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.”

Once Upon a Time in Barcelona…

I haven’t played football in about three years. I love football. Even when I want to hate it I can’t look away.

Yesterday I arranged a game at the park for next weekend with a few of my friends. This re-ignited my football fever, and I spent the rest of the day watching clips of the best football moments from my childhood.

To mark my ‘comeback’ I’m looking back at one of the greatest all-time comebacks…

1998/1999 was my first season as a dedicated football fan, and one of its final games is still probably the best game I’ve ever seen.

I am not a Manchester United fan, but my brother is. So I watched every game of Man Utd’s 1999 Chapions League Campaign.

The Champions League is like a World Cup tournament for the best club teams in Europe. In 1999 to qualify as an English team you either had to win the Premier League or the FA Cup. Arsenal won both in ’98, so the second spot went to the team who came second in the league— Man Utd.

But first they had to qualify. All the second spot teams played each other to keep the riff raff out— like Polish league runners up LK Lodz. The 1999 Champions League final is one of the best games in the history of football. Man Utd’s campaign started off with the most boring sporting spectacle I’ve ever seen (and I’ve watched Curling…) It wasn’t just a 0-0 draw, it was a game in which nothing exciting happened at all. I have it on video.

They narrowly progressed to the group stage, I don’t remember anything other than the game against the Austrian champions Sturm Graz. I remember this because Sturm Graz played at the brilliantly named Arnold Schwarzenegger-Stadium. They’ve re-named it now, because like most NFL teams the stadium sold sponsorship rights.

On FIFA 2000 I beat Sturm Graz 126-0. Back in the PS One days you could actually play 90 minute games. So that’s what I did. Every time Graz kicked off I’d charge forward with the tackle, make a run, pass wide to Beckham or Giggs and then square it for Solskjaer to fire home. Sometimes it’d go slightly off plan and someone else would end up with the finish, but 116 times out of 126 Solskjaer was there with the finish.

Anyway: The final. It was exciting. Manchester United were on course to win three major trophies in 1999: the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League. A football grand slam. It was an incredible team. And back then the majority of the team had been playing for United since they turned professional. Only a handful of players had been at United less than a year.

The team they were up against was German, a natural footballing rivalry. Bayern Munich had already been United. On top of this United had lost both their central midfielders, Pauls Scholes and the captain, Roy Keane who had scored two goals in the semi-final, but picked up too many yellow cards.

Five minutes in and the Germans score from a free kick. The free kick is conceded by Ronny Johnson, who my brother has hated all season, for no reason. Mario Basler swings at the ball, it deflects off a United player and bounces past a helpless Peter Schmiechel. 

89 minutes into the game and it’s still 1-0 to the German side. The United manager has brought on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham as a last resort.

United go on what looks to be a last ditch attack, but a low cross is blocked easily for a corner.

There is a mighty roar from the crowd: one last chance.

The engraver has already engraved ‘Baye’ onto the trophy.

‘’Can manchester united score?’’ asks the commentator emphatically. ‘’They always score.’’

David Beckham lines up the corner and swings it in. The ball is loose in the box. Ryan Giggs swings the ball low towards goal. Teddy Sheringham directs it into the bottom corner. It’s 1-1. Veteran German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn lies flat on his arse limply appealing for offside.

Three minutes of injury time are signalled.

Bayern Munich come within inches of robbing it.

United come forward again, the ball is belted out for a corner.

Another roar from the crowd.

Beckham swings in another corner.

Tedding Sheringham gets a head to it. Solskjaer does little more than poke his foot out to meet it.

The ball flies into the roof of the net.

This was one of the final games of my first season as a football fan, and it’s one of the greatest comebacks of all time.