Monday, October 30, 2006

Footy Book Review

It's been my good fortune recently to pick up four new books on different aspects of football nostalgia which, although small, are no less interesting to read.

I thought I'd tell you about them as they'd make a jolly good Christmas present for football fans of a certain age - that is if you don't steal them away to keep in your own collection first!

Studs!: The Greatest Retro Football Annual the World Has Ever Seen
By Barney Ronay
Amazon UK Price: £5.99

Anyone here used to buy Shoot magazine when they were younger? I certainly did - mainly for the big glossy team pictures that adorned the centre pages every week. I used to delicately detach them from the staples and stick them up on my bedroom wall, a habit which lasted all the way up to, ooh, last Tuesday, I should think.

Anyway, enough of my personal hell. Shoot magazine was the ideal comic for youngsters everywhere back in the 1970's and 80's. It featured the latest football news, big pin-up photos of all the big stars as well as interesting articles looking at their private lives away from the bright lights of stardom.

Looking back, it was all a bit limp and cheesy, but that was surely the one thing that was good about it. If you want to find out how limp and cheesy, you have two options: 1) Buy some old copies of Shoot which are still available via eBay (more of which on another blog post), or 2) Buy Studs, a new book by Barney Ronay which compiles the best bits from nearly 20 years of the classic footy weekly.

In this book, you can find out just what was going through Bobby Moore's mind when he was arrested for stealing that bracelet in Bogota, the person that Alan Hansen most wanted to meet when he was playing for Liverpool (and no, it wasn't the club's defensive skills coach) and what went on in an average day in the life of George Best.

Not only that, but there's all the regular features that kept us occupied every week, such as You Are The Ref and the all-important quiz page. If all that isn't enough, you can marvel at the hairstyles and erratically trimmed moustaches that were rampant in the game back in days of yore, so if a bit of happy memory-jogging is the sort of thing you like, you'll do far worse than putting this in your Amazon UK shopping basket.

Flick to Kick: An Illustrated History of Subbuteo
By Daniel Tatarsky
Amazon UK Price: £6.39

If I wasn't reading Shoot magazine as a kid, I was probably playing Subbuteo. The table football game that no-one ever played on a table was perfect for those wet Sunday afternoons when you wouldn't dare pull on a pair of boots and play football in the park.

As mentioned previously on SPAOTP, Subbuteo was the ideal combination of a collecting hobby and a game that was dead easy to play. All you needed was a pitch, a couple of teams and enough space in your bedroom to use both.

Subbuteo has a long and interesting history, starting off in the days when players were made of cardboard, through to its heyday in the 1970's when World Championships were played and sales were at their peak, even going through to the the 21st century when its existence looked to be virtually at an end due to lack of interest.

Author Daniel Tatarsky goes to great lengths to tell us about the game's creator and the many years of development that Subbuteo endured. There are lots of excellent photos to illustrate the story including some of that show how the Subbuteo brand even ventured into other sports such as cricket, rugby and angling (don't ask).

For anyone like me that used to play the game, this is a great book that fills in the gaps of Subbuteo's history that you were blissfully unaware of as a kid. Informative and entertaining in equal parts.

True Colours 2: Football Kits from 1980 to the Present Day
By John Devlin
Amazon UK Price: £9.89

Next up is True Colours 2, a book which, like it's predecessor, devotes itself to documenting the many and varied football strips worn by club and country alike from the 1980's through to the present day.

It's amazing how many fans are so interested in footy kits. When you think about it, they're just bits of fabric that help distinguish one set of players from the other, but therein lies the fascination. Over the many decades that the game's been played, every team has adopted it's own colours and designs resulting in a greater following from the fans through a stronger sense of identity.

To that end, John Devlin has skilfully put together a second book full of kits - 20-odd years worth for each team - which this time features the main teams from the lower divisions. After the success of book 1 which did the same for those teams in last season's Premiership, this one repeats the formula by not only showing the kits but also analysing the trends and reasoning behind the strips worn by each team.

As an added bonus, this book also shows the outfits worn by the five 'home' nations since the 1970's, so if you want to know when Scotland favoured a bit of tartan on their backs or when Wales showed off the biggest dragon since St George was a lad, this'll tell you everything.

Another fantastic book for all you kit lovers and a perfect accompaniment to the first edition, which is still available.

Swap Yer: The Wonderful World Of Football Cards And Sticker Albums
By Rob Jovanovic
Amazon UK Price: £7.19

Finally we have a book that should make former devotees of Panini stickers and collector cards break out in a broad smile. Rob Jovanovic tells us how the self-adhesive stickers of today developed out of a need to sell more cigarettes at the end of the 18th century to become the multi-million pound business that it is today.

It's a fascinating book which makes you realise just how long people have been striving to complete their sets of football player pictures. The cards given away with cigarettes 100 years ago were printed in black and white and were rather formal by today's standards, but as printing techniques improved, so did the quality and diversity of the images.

We see how the 1970 World Cup was used to kick-start Panini's long and illustrious place in football sticker history and how those little sticks of pink bubble gum played such a vital part in Topps' collector card range. There's also the chance to giggle mischievously at the frankly ridiculous hairstyles of yesteryear, just as you can with the 'Studs' book.

As with all the other titles featured above, this book is well-researched, well-written and packed full of pictures to maximise your enjoyment. No football nostalgist should be without it!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Its a funny old... lottery

Tonights “Euro Millions” jackpot is a ‘colossal’ £75m.

Just imagine what you could do with that amount of money. According to Middlesborough valuations you could buy SIX Stewart Downings. Do you see how easy it is to waste such fortunes?

If you are having help picking the winning numbers, here’s a scientific approach we have adopted at SPAOTP, using this weekends football matches to assist us.

‘Winning Numbers’
2 – The amount of goals Middlesborough will score.
3 – The amount of goals Middlesborough will concede.
14 – The amount of formations used by Rafa Benitez in the match against Aston Villa.
28 – The amount of ‘incidents’ Arsene Wenger doesn’t see in the game against Everton.
33 – The minute Chelsea take a 1-0 lead against Sheffield United.

‘Lucky Stars’
1 – Jens Lehman – saves a penalty against Everton.
3 – Alan Pardew will be thanking his ‘Lucky Stars’ as West Ham pick up 3 points against Blackburn.

There you go. Enjoy the £75 million, wont you?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It's a funny old... Cup

Written by Kedge

Yesterday I was full of the joys of spring as my local side, the Mighty Blues (Southend United) had won away to Leeds United in the 3rd Round of the Carling Cup. This joy was just slightly diminished when I realised that my favourite team Manchester United’s match against Crewe was only being shown on Sky Sports. I’ve switched from Sky to cable and no longer have a subscription to Sky Sports. Then this morning, joy of joys, I find that the 4th round draw has paired Southend and Man U together with a tie at Roots Hall. My first thought was “Got to get tickets for this!”

Then I thought, “OK… Where does my allegiance lie? With my local club or with the big boys from 200 miles away?” And the answer was instant! I want Southend to win. No two ways about it. My local club comes first. That’s the way it has to be. My first experience of live football (watching, not playing) was at Roots Hall. I followed them throughout my childhood and into adolescence, and despite my passion for Man U, when it comes to the crunch, it can only be Southend that I will be cheering for.

On a lighter side, Chris was regaling us with the words from Monty Python’s ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’, and last night’s local paper had coverage of West Ham’s defeat. They cover all the Hammers’ matches as they consider them to be the local ‘top flight’ side. They certainly took Chris’s words to heart with the headline:

‘Hammers Lose Again (but at least they scored a goal)’

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


How easy it is to take for granted something which holds great significance for us. Things that we see every day so often fade from view because we don't look at them with the necessary sense of perspective.

Such is the case for our local parks. In every town in every corner of Britain, you'll find a green space providing a home to a few trees, some grass and any number of further embellishments that make it unique from the one down the road, the one across town or the one you've never seen in a completely different area altogether.

For those of us that grew up living and breathing every moment of our lives high on the joy that football gave us, the local park was the best place to go to kick a ball around and live the dream that we, too, were the superstars of our day. That vast expanse of grass long vacated by sunbather and dog-walker alike was like having our very own Wembley to play on for the day. No cuts or grazes here - this was the lush surface that repaid the love we had for it with the sort of safeness that no concrete pavement could provide.

Better still if the grass had just been cut by the Council Parks Department. That unique smell drew you in the moment you passed the vandalised 'Welcome' sign by the gates. With ball in hand, your stride lengthened ever so slightly as you made your way to that place where you always played - your pitch. The ball would be tossed in the air and as it fell again, the inevitable volley would come as it was kicked high onto the big green, followed by an excited run in pursuit of it.

I remember so many happy days playing football with my friends in the park. While others would use a pile of old coats as goalposts, we had the luxury of two young trees spaced (ideally) the right distance apart to constitute a goal frame, albeit without the cross-bar. One of us would elect to go in goal first - often me - and everyone else would play outfield.

And off they'd go. A series of passes would neatly and tentatively be made from one to the other, waiting for the moment when someone would fashion a set-up move that resulted in a final flourishing shot or header towards the expectant keeper. Goals weren't scored as often as we'd like, but when they did arrive, they were usually greeted with a disproportionately gleeful celebration that sent the keeper on his way to fetch the ball that was by now half way to the other side of the park.

Sadly for the goalie, this long walk to retrieve the ball became the bain of our afternoon. Only the promise of an occasional spectacular save made the job worthwhile, but for the greater part it was a diet of tedium and tree-gazing as the wait for another shot went on.

But at least they were lovely trees. We'd sometimes sit under them when the weather became too hot or too wet, our backs propped by the huge, rippled trunk. We'd stop to rest and catch our breath, taking a while to finish off our drinks and talk about all kinds of unimportant things. Big willow trees, they were, yet their shadow never seemed to fall on us as we played football in our collective boyhood idyll.

We'd carry on playing, but by now our legs were growing tired and weary and the chance to score that one last memorable goal gradually diminished like the sun which so often warmed our backs. By unanimous vote, we'd eventually call it a day, pick up our things and go, walking slowly home with the satisfaction that we'd performed as well as any multi-million pound player could ever hope to.

All a distant memory, and yet the park where you used to play is more than likely still there, still retaining a modest, silent beauty, silent as people pass it by as though it wasn't even there.

It deserves more respect than that. Parks are responsible for so many of the happy memories we hold, so let's celebrate them for what they are and what they've given us. If you get the chance, pay a visit to your old park, or if not, go and make use of the park round the corner from where you live.

It's a privilege to have such a wonderful resource on our doorsteps, so make sure yours doesn't get taken for granted.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A legend in the making...

Written by Kedge

So what was going on at the weekend in the Premiership? That's the question on everyone's lips. Well I can reveal all. Having done a little bit of snooping around (you know the kind of things I mean - looking in dustbins, reading the Sport on Sunday, talking to the odd looney and if all else fails, making it up) it seems that Jermaine Defore has suddenly realised that he has as much charisma as Steve Davis or the guy in the Mr Muscle ads.

In order to do something about it, he (apparently) is looking for a suitable nickname. After all, the sporting world is full of guys with catchy names:

Phil "The Power" Taylor
Steve "Interesting" Davis (OK, so that doesn’t really work)
Norman "Bites yer Legs" Hunter
Ron "Chopper" Harris
David "Butter Fingers" James (maybe another not-so-good example)
Arsene "I didn't see it" Wenger
David "Bender" Beckham (sorry, that should have read "Bend It")
Stuart "Psycho" Pearce
Ben "Forearm Smash" Thatcher

So now I can introduce to you...

The one...

The only...

The amazing...

Jermaine "Nibbles yer Nipples" Defoe.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Stadium Madness

I dunno. I go away for three days to refresh my brain and sharpen my keen football-writing skills, and what happens? Everyone goes stadium crazy.

First of all, I here that new Aston Villa owner, Randy Lerner, intends to rake in yet more money for the club by allowing a company to sponsor the name of its ground. But fear not - Lerner has said that the history and heritage of the club will be retained in any change to the name of their stadium. Apparently an early suggestion for a new title has proved controversial - it's 'Villa Park'.

I'm thinking we could see some highly commercial deals being done here. Maybe the team could be renamed Aston Martin and get them to play their games at PolyVilla Park?

Then there's the fight for the London 2012 stadium in Stratford, East London. Several clubs have been sniffing around looking to purchase the venue once its primary purpose has elapsed, but Tottenham Hotspur have now declared they're pulling out of such a move as "all grounds with a [running] track have a poor atmosphere, attendances are down and clubs say moving there was a mistake." What nonsense - it never did Brighton & Hove Albion any harm when they moved to the Withdean Stadium - or at least that's what the 1,740 miserable fans at their last home match told us.

Apparently West Ham United are now in "serious negotiations" to make it their new home - a move backed by both parties attempting a multi-millionaire takeover of the club. Speaking as a fan of the Hammers myself, I think it will be a lot more accessible for large crowds than Upton Park currently is, but it has to be said that the 'running track / atmosphere' issue is something that has to be given serious consideration.

And apparently the Football Association have reached a conclusion in its talks with Multiplex, the engineering company that won the contract to build the new Wembley Stadium, which means the Australian company will now be paid the outstanding money its due and the stadium will be finished in time for next year's FA Cup Final. Well isn't that marvellous. Instead of telling them they wouldn't get a penny unless the damn thing was finished by Christmas like anyone with any pride in it's national stadium would have done, they tell them everything will be OK and 'by the way, just carry on as before - no rush lads'.

Impressive it may look as you drive along the North Circular Road and very nice it may look when it's completely finished, but surely this must teach any discerning football association around the world one simple lesson? That is if you're planning to build a venue like this, you surely must employ builders that come from the same country as that which you're building the stadium for. That way they'll have so much inherent pride in the national team they support, they'll be only to keen to get the job done well and promptly. Or am I being too simplistic about the issue?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Obscure Kits From British Football History #2

Today's 'Obscure Kit' is an absolute belter. Very little is known about it, other than the fact that it was worn as a third strip by Birmingham City in 1974.

I could say that it was a commemorative strip to mark the 30th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, but that would be a lie. I think. That said, it does have a distinctly German feel about it, given the fact that it features the Bundesflagge running at 90 degrees down the full length of the shirt.

It's quite a daring design, one would have to say, but not to everyone's taste. Me personally, I quite like it. You could only seriously get away with wearing something so colourful as a third strip these days, but let's face it, if you're going to have one, you might as well rip up the rule book and do something daring.

Birmingham City are no strangers to quirky kit designs. A few years ago they had an away kit of red and white stripes which looked, from a distance, like a Tesco carrier bag, plus there was the blue home shirt with white flecks that gave the impression that their players were part-time pigeon feeders in Trafallgar Square.

This one from 1974, though, tops the lot. The fact that it has gone unnoticed for so long is a testament to its acceptance in football history and it's use of strong colours makes a great case for designers everywhere to be bold and unshackled in their creations.

And not only that, but it also keeps alive the hope that one day all kits will be based on national flags of countries around the world.

(Our thanks go to John Devlin at True Colours Football Kits for giving us kind permission to use the above kit design image.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A night to forget

Oh dear.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

England lost 2-0 to Croatia last night. Scotland lost 2-0 to Ukraine.

Not good. You're quite possibly feeling a bit down in the dumps about it all, but let me just say this as I try and raise your spirits.

Some things in life are bad, they can really make you mad. Other things just make you swear and curse. When you're chewing on life's gristle, don't grumble - give a whistle, and this'll help things turn out for the best...


Always look on the bright side of life (do-doo, do-do do-do do-do), always look on the light side of life (do-doo, do-do do-do do-do)...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Seven Shades of... Euro 2008

Last Saturday was a bad one for Wales and the Republic of Ireland. The Welsh conceded five goals at home to Slovakia in their Euro 2008 qualifier and the Irish let in five, too, against the mighty... Cyprus.

At least the two coaches, Steve Staunton and John Toshack, can now claim to be kindred spirits as they share a quiet pint of arsenic down the pub, but maybe they have more in common with each other than they realise?

Using the theory that there's only seven degrees of separation between any two unconnected things, let's try and make a monumentally spurious link between these two under-achieving managerial giants...

Steve Staunton
is the former player and current coach of the Republic of Ireland who scored direct from a corner kick in a 1993 match against Northern Ireland, just like

Artim Sakiri
who did the same for Macedonia against England in October 2002. Sakiri spent two years playing for West Bromwich Albion between 2003 and 2005 where his manager was

Bryan Robson
who in October 1981 became the most expensive footballer in Britain when Manchester United signed him for £1.5 million. The previous holder of the record was

Andy Gray
who was bought by Wolves from Aston Villa in 1979 for £1,469,000. Gray was the PFA Young Player of the Year in 1977, a title won the following year by

Peter Shilton
whose flawed attempt to make “the perfect save” allowed Poland to score against England in a 1973 World Cup qualifier and consequently stop them from reaching the 1974 World Cup Finals. His opposite number that night was

Jan Tomaszewski
the goalkeeper labelled “a clown” by Brian Clough but had the last laugh due to his heroic performance in the 1-1 draw with England, a result matched in a World Cup qualifier earlier that year by Wales, whose goal was scored by

John Toshack
The current Welsh team manager and someone who knows what it’s like for his team to be well and truly spanked in a major tournament qualifying match. See top of list for alternatives in this category.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Only a game...?

A colleague of mine is a big fan of those football management games you can play on your computer. The other day he told me that a new version of the market leader, Football Manager, is about to come out, and that a tempting 'pre-release' edition was now available to download and try out.

Now those kind of games aren't really my thing, but I do accept how thorough and realistic they've become over the years. This became particularly apparent when he told me that on the pre-release version of the game, he took charge of West Ham United and bought Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, the Argentinian duo recently signed by the Hammers.

After a few weeks of the season had passed, he was informed by the game that both Tevez and Mascherano had put in transfer requests because they were 'having trouble settling down in the area'.

He ended up putting both on the transfer list, Tevez eventually moving on to Valencia for £11 million and Mascherano going to "some other European club" for around half that.

It just might happen, and if it does, you'll be wanting to know that Football Manager 2007 is available from October 20th via all major outlets including Amazon UK, HMV and WHSmith, priced around £24.99.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Euro 2008 Round-Up

Sweeping aside the aberration that was England’s performance against Macedonia, let’s take in all the news from around the groups in Saturday’s Euro 2008 qualifiers:

In Group A, Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice and Chelsea’s Ricardo Carvalho got the other in Portugal’s 3-0 over Azerbaijan. It was their first win of the campaign after drawing away to Finland last month, but top spot in the group goes to Serbia who inflicted a 1-0 defeat of Belgium to remain unbeaten after three games.

All the headlines in the Sunday papers were squarely focused on Group B where Scotland secured their third straight win of the competition against World Cup finalists France. The Scots put in a disciplined and heroic performance at Hampden Park that was topped off by a Gary Caldwell goal midway through the second half. It was the first time France had been beaten in a major tournament qualifying match since 1999 and they’ll go into their next match away to Ukraine on Wednesday with a genuine belief that they can reach the Finals in 2008 after such an impressive start.

Scotland will no doubt also be buoyed by the news that Italy picked up their first win at home to the Ukrainians at the weekend, thanks to two goals from Oddi and Toni. The Italians now face Georgia away from home on Wednesday while France play host to the Faroe Islands.

Group C has turned into a three-horse race as Greece beat group leaders Norway 1-0 and Turkey beat Hungary away by the same score. Norway, Turkey and Greece all now have six points and though the Norwegians are ahead on goal difference, Turkey and Greece have a game in hand over them with two wins out of two so far.

In Group D, the Czech Republic put seven past San Marino to add to the thirteen that Germany scored against them last month. The Czechs have now won all three of their games so far and lead the group, but Slovakia joined the Germans on six points after an emphatic 5-1 win away to Wales. It was the worst home defeat for the Welsh since a 7-1 home loss to England in 1908, and a win in their next match at home to Cyprus on Wednesday will now be seen as essential if they’re to salvage any hopes of qualifying from a strong group.

Cyprus themselves will think they’re in with a chance of qualifying after a remarkable 5-2 win at home to Ireland. Richard Dunne was sent off late on in what was the worst result in a competitive match for the Irish since a 7-0 defeat to Austria in 1971. They next face the Czechs and will hope that they too can upset the form books in order to belatedly kick-start their Euro 2008 campaign.

OK, here goes. Group E was no stranger to eyebrow-raising results as England failed to defeat the Macedonians at home and Israel battled to a 1-1 draw away to Russia. Croatia picked up their first win with a 7-0 thrashing of Andorra and await the visit of England on Wednesday.

England’s inability to supply the likes of Crouch and Rooney with scoring chances was offset by the (at times) seven- and eight-man defence of the visitors, but it was again the overall quality of the passing that let England down. The ‘Bring Back Beckham’ campaign strengthens apace, but of more concern to most people will be the absence of Steven Gerrard against the Russians who was booked for a second consecutive match.

The team to watch in Group F is clearly Sweden who picked up an excellent 2-0 win over Spain at the weekend. They now have a maximum nine points from three games while their opponents languish in fifth place having picked up only three. Spain must now be reeling after losing to Northern Ireland in their last match, but even Denmark were unable to break down the Ulstermen on Saturday as both teams settled for a point after their 0-0 draw.

Finally, as expected, Group G is headed by Holland and Romania, but Holland stay in second on goal difference following their hard-fought 1-1 draw away to Bulgaria. Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie headed the equaliser for the Dutch after Martin Petrov had given the home side the lead on twelve minutes. Romania stayed ahead of Holland at the top of the group after a 3-1 home win against Belarus. They’ll be keeping a close eye on Holland’s midweek game against Albania as they next see action away to the Dutch in March.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Name That Mascot

Way back in May 2006 we told you the sorry tale of Goleo VI, the mascot for the 2006 World Cup Finals that brought nothing but bankruptcy to his marketing company. Well now it's the turn of the 2008 European Championships to adopt a mascot, and I don't know how to tell you this, but you've just missed out on your chance to name it. I know - you must be feeling bitter, angry and frustrated.

I say 'it' - actually there's two of them, for those wonderful designers have created a pair of cartoon characters, both representing Austria and Switzerland, the co-hosts. The characters take the form of two masked boys, both sporting haircuts that bear an uncanny resemblance to an alpine mountain range (naturally enough). They wear red and white football kits featuring the numbers 20 and 08 (2008 - geddit?) and look like a cross between Sonic the Hedgehog and Dennis the Menace.

Had you visitied recently, you'd have noticed that our two budding stars were the subject of a public vote to decide what their names should be ahead of the big competition. Three choices were available - Zagi and Zigi, Trix and Flix or Flitz and Bitz. I personally wanted to be able to enter my own option - Fitz and Startz - but sadly I was unable to.

Actually it's a tricky job trying to name mascots as is already being discovered by UEFA. One of the options mentioned above, Zigi means 'cigarette' in Switzerland which completely goes against the clean-air-breathing home of Phil Collins and Peter Ustinov. Maybe we should just call them Lambert and Butler and have done with it?

Got any suggestions that are better than the ones UEFA offered? Leave us a comment and tell us!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

When the Pools Panel just won't do...

I read with interest that Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, has expressed his dissatisfaction at the way penalty shoot-outs settle drawn matches. Hmmm. That’s a worry. When Herr Blatter opens his mouth, one of the following usually happens:

(a) the laws of football are changed
(b) someone gets offended, or
(c) he inserts one of his feet.

Sepp Blatter is no stranger to controversy. In 2006 he proclaimed that 'football was a man's game and women should only play if they wore skimpy shorts.' OK, controversial he may be, but I think you’ll agree he’s not completely insane.

So what are we to do with the penalty shoot-out system and what alternatives could we embrace?

Perhaps we should turn to America, a country known to be intolerant of sporting events that end in a draw. Back in the days of the old North American Soccer League, a ‘Shootout’ would ensue whereby the kicker would run towards the goal from 35 yards out and have 5 seconds to stick the ball in the back of the net.

It meant the audience would see a variety of creative and entertaining approaches used to beat the keeper, like the one used by Hugo Sanchez whereby he'd flip the ball 20 yards up into the air before volleying it goalwards. Some players preferred to dribble around the keeper while others would shoot from a long way out, but whatever technique was used, it was regularly good fun to watch from a spectator’s point of view.

Some say that penalty shoot-outs don’t work because the onus is on one player from either team to settle the result, whereas football by its very nature is a team game. Why not, then, use the method favoured by some where, during the extra time period, one player from either team is withdrawn from the pitch every few minutes. With the growing space that would occur on the pitch, surely there'd be more chance of a goal being scored?

Maybe, but I think this would be a messy system to enforce. I think it could be made simpler by making the teams withdraw six players each at half-time in extra time. Or simpler yet, make both teams play extra time without their goalkeepers and prevent outfield players from entering the six-yard box? That would no doubt see a dearth of ambitious long-range shots, one of which would be bound to go in. A great system, especially if your name’s Xavi Alonso.

Once upon a time, replays were used to find a winner to a tied match, but this is a lengthy, drawn out method which as rightfully been dropped in the modern era. The FA Cup has, on occasions, seen a tie settled after as many as six replays, but even the use of one is seen as too many these days.

Maybe the amount of goals scored by teams in previous rounds should be taken into account? Well, maybe not. Though this at first seems like a good way to encourage teams to score more goals in all matches, it doesn’t, of course, allow for the occasional thrashing dished out by a big team over a lesser one.

So that would appear to be all the options under consideration then... except one. In World Cups and European matches from the black-and-white era, it wasn’t uncommon for the winner of a drawn game to be decided by the referee tossing a coin at the end of the game. Now how refreshingly simple that would be. Teams would try and score more goals for fear of losing the toss (should it be needed) and no time-consuming, elaborate system would need to be used either.

Perfect - in fact it’s just the sort of crazy, bizarre system that a man like Sepp Blatter would wholeheartedly approve of.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Quick on the draw...

As you know, I’m a Spurs fan, and today saw the draw for the group stages of the WAFER Cup.

To be honest, I feel Spurs have been placed in a tough group but it could have been a lot worse. Away to Besiktas, home to Club Brugge, away to Bayer Leverkusen and finally home to Dinamo Bucuresti isn’t the easiest of passages to the next round, but unless you are ranked amongst the top seeds you cant really expect an easy ride.

Then again, try telling that to Newcastle. They were amongst the top seeds, but they have drawn some difficult teams. Home to Celta Vigo and Fenerbache, away to Palermo and Eintracht Frankfurt. Not pleasant. Palermo, of course, beat West Ham over 2 legs in the previous round, so it will be interesting to see how Newcastle fair against them.

Rangers have a relatively straight forward task as they take on Auxerre, Partizan Belgrade, Livorno and Maccabi Haifa, and you’d have to fancy Blackburn’s chances too, as they will take on Feyenoord, Basle, Wisla Krakow and some girl named Nancy.

P Belgrade
Maccabi Haifa

Bayer Leverkusen
Club Brugge
Dinamo Bucharest

AZ Alkmaar
Slovan Liberec


Wisla Krakow

Sparta Prague
Austria Wien
Zulte Waregem

Paris St Germain
Rapid Bucharest
Hapoel Tel Aviv
Mlada Boleslav

Celta Vigo
Eintracht Frankfurt

The group stage runs from 19 October to 14 December before the competition closes down until 14 February, when the knockout phase begins.

Top 3 teams from each group qualify for the next round.

Monday, October 02, 2006


You know how it is when you're running a blog site and you want to be able to delete any comments people make that are duplications or perhaps a little unsavoury? Well maybe you don't, but anyway... those nice people at provide a facility for us blogmeisters to 'moderate user comments' which means you can delete people's comments as and where necessary.

Fine, but it also means that when people like you, our fine visitors, reply to one of our articles, it goes into a holding area waiting to be approved before it gets published to the blog. And who has the sole ability to approve the comments prior to publication? Me.


That means that for the last 10 days, any comments you've posted with us have been waiting for the green light to be published offline, and they've been stuck there as a result of my stupidity. Bugger.

What can I say except 'sorry'? I humbly apologise for my mistake, but if it's any consolation it's all been sorted now and your recent comments have finally gone onto the appropriate posts on the blog. To save you time looking for them, check out the following articles:

As you were... :-)


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