Friday, March 30, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #5

Foot-in-mouth Syndrome
12 Ill-Thought-Out Utterances By British Football Commentators and Pundits

1. "Well Clive, it's all about the two 'M's - movement and positioning." (Ron Atkinson, ITV)

2. "For those of you watching in black and white, Spurs are in the all-yellow strip." (John Motson, BBC)

3. "You need at least eight or nine men in a ten-man wall." (Mark Lawrenson, BBC)

4. "An inch or two either side of the post and that would have been a goal." (Dave Bassett)

5. "Neil Baker is standing on the touchline with his hands in his tracksuit bottoms scratching his head." (Chris Kamara, Sky Sports)

6. "Keith Gillespie just lacks a bit of inconsistency" (Graeme Le Saux, BBC)

7. "With news of Scotland's 0-0 victory over Holland..." (Scottish Television presenter)

8. "They've tasted the other side of the coin on so many occasions." (Andy Townsend)

9. "We haven't had the rub of the dice." (Sir Bobby Robson)

10. "There's a real international flavour to this World Cup." (Jimmy Armfield, BBC Radio Five Live)

11. "Ian Pearce... has limped off with what looks like a shoulder injury." (Tony Cottee)

12. "Matches don't come any bigger than FA Cup quarter-finals" (Neil Warnock, BBC Radio 5 Live)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Penalties to settle matches?

Guest writer: Kedge

Some daft beggar recently suggested that penalties should be used to decide the outcome of matches. Great if you’re the manager of France, Italy, Portugal, or even Nigeria. That’s because your players will get all the penalty practice they need. Apart from Lampoon and maybe one of the Charlton Bents, no other Englishman gets to take them, let alone finding a team with five English players.

So rather than changing the game, why not change the points system?

How about 3 for a win, 1 for a draw and a point per goal scored and minus 1 for a goal conceded?

On that basis the current table would look like this:

Then I thought, why not bring discipline into the equation? Yellow cards count as -1, red as -2.

So the new table looks like this:

Not a lot changes, but I think it confirms that West Ham are doomed and Blackburn need to do something about their disciplinary record or they’ll be in trouble as well.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Beating Georgia Makes Scotland World Champions

Guest writer: Flicktokick

Now I know what you are thinking; Italy are the Official World Champions and you could perhaps claim some spurious right to proclaim yourselves unofficial World Champions by beating them, but simply being top of their qualifying group doesn’t cut the mustard and neither does saying ‘France beat Italy and we beat France’. Of course you're right, but that isn’t the root of Scotland’s claim to the title.

No, Scotland can claim the title based on a system dating back to the very first international match played out between Scotland and England at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in November 1872. That game ended in a draw, but at Kennington Oval in March of the following year England beat Scotland 4-2 and as the only two international teams of the time, England could naturally be seen as the first Unofficial World Champions.

From that date, following a system akin to boxing, where every game the holder of the title plays is seen as a defence of the crown, the path of the unofficial championship can be charted.

At the conclusion of qualifying for Germany 2006 Uruguay were the incumbents and having failed to qualify, the unofficial title was not up for grabs.

Instead, the title changed hands when Georgia beat Uruguay in a friendly in November 2006, and as a subsequent draw kept the championship in Georgian hands, Craig Beattie’s last gasp winner on Saturday gave Scotland their first claim on the throne since the Law and Baxter inspired triumph forty years ago.

So onto tonight and a chance for Italy to unify the unofficial and official titles for the first time since France managed the feat in 1998. Of course there is the chance that Scotland will retain the crown, we certainly have the track record. The records show that although we are second in number of times we have won the crown (England are one up on that score), Scotland has defended it more successfully than any other.

And you can keep track of who the Unofficial Football World Champions are at any time by visiting

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Premiership Managers XI

Early last week, like us, you may have read Jose Mourinho's latest excuse as to why Chelsea are not going to win the Premiership this season. The excuse this week was due to the "amount of injuries, especially within the defence". Mourinho went on to say that at one point he himself almost had to play as a central defender.

That got us at Some People are on the Pitch thinking - if the Premiership managers had a football team, who would be in the starting eleven and why?

Well if you've been thinking the same (unlikely, we know) then wonder no more. After much deliberation, we give you, what we think is the best Premiership Managers XI along with the sound 'logic' of our 'thought process'.

[Based on a 4-4-2 system]

Glenn Roeder - Goalkeeper: As Bob Wilson once said, "You have to be crazy to be a goalkeeper". So who better than the cheeky funster himself, Mr Roeder. This laugh a minute, cheeky young pup from the other side of Toon will be a sure-fire hit with the crowds.

Neil Warnock - Right Back: Right Back into the Championship, with any luck. It's time for Neil to put his money where his mouth is, but he will only moan that "it's not easy playing with your wallet down the back of your shorts" and then blame the referee.

Sam Allardyce - Centre Back: The big lad from Bolton will suit this role perfectly. His gameplan will be to try and nullify the skill of the opposition, and at the earliest opportunity, hoof the ball forward to the strikers and ball boys.

Gareth Southgate - Centre Back: Tall... intelligent... doesn't take penalties.

Stuart Pearce - Left Back: Not so tall... not so intelligent... doesn't take penalties.

Alex Ferguson - Defensive Midfield: We're hoping he can protect the back four the same way he defends his players from the media and FA.

Arsene Wenger - Right Winger: Or should that be 'Right Whinger'? The 'not-so-gallant' Frenchman will enjoy taking on the opposition's defenders. In fact, he'll take on all-comers, including the referee and FA. There is a question mark over his eyesight however, as he often misses the most important incidents. A bright future in refereeing awaits.

Rafael Benitez - Midfield Playmaker: A bit of Spanish flair and intelligence in midfield won't go amiss in this team. Unfortunately not so hot in domestic games, but we're sure he'll come into his own on the continent.

Alan Pardew - Free role behind the front two: Very good at switching sides (i.e. 'of the Thames'), so he should be at his best here. Also very good at making it up as he goes along.

Mark Hughes - Forward: The former Old Trafford legend would be in his element here, and that's got to be better than being in Blackburn.

Jose Mourinho - Forward: In fact very forward when it comes to expressing his opinions. Sometimes feels everyone is against him in this cruel, cruel world, so he should be good at playing upfront on his own if needed. A word of caution, however: he is the owner of the match ball and liable to throw a strop and take it home at any moment.

Not even Abramovich and all his millions could buy a such a talented squad.

Israel v England: Comment

Unlike many people, I was rather inspired by the England performance I saw on Saturday night. It was refreshing, free-flowing and attacking football which understandably gave our opponents something of a problem to deal with from start to finish.

Sadly the game I was watching was a repeat of England's 1-1 draw with Switzerland in Euro 96. I'd already suffered the hour-and-a-half of tedium that was England's Euro 2008 qualifier against Israel earlier in the evening, but as luck would have it something altogether more entertaining came along shortly afterwards on ESPN Classic to lift my spirits.

The difference between the way England played in the two games was instantly noticeable. During the 0-0 draw in Tel Aviv, Steve McLaren's men appeared to spend most of the time playing the ball from side to side, left to right, not really knowing what to do with it next.

At Wembley during the opening game of Euro 96, Terry Venables men had only one thing in mind when they were in possession of the ball - forward movement. It really was a joy to watch, and although they didn't succeed with every attack, the sheer fact that they were constantly and purposefully driving at the Swiss was inspiration enough.

Unfortunately the current England side have plunged into some kind of mental fog. Barely anyone seems to know how to penetrate the opposition's defence, and anyone who is lucid enough to detect the problem hasn't the physical skill to do anything about it.

Work your way through Venables' squad list eleven years ago and skill was rife throughout. In front of David Seaman in goal was the gritty, no-nonsense Stuart Pearce and Tony Adams in defence. The midfield had the sublime mixture Paul Ince's aggression, the gifted Paul Gascoigne and the talented David Platt and Darren Anderton. Up front, who could ask for more than Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham - two strikers you could practically bet your house on scoring if given half a chance.

If the ball ever dared reach the front men on Saturday, who did England have to instil hope of an imminent goal? Andy Johnson - replaced by Jermaine Defoe, neither of which have been prolific of late - and Wayne Rooney whose form has been, well... let's just say 'inconsistent' in recent times.

But we all know that the current side does have some talented individuals in it. One only needs mention Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand to be reminded of that. So where does all the underachievement stem from - the way the players are playing, or the instructions the players are trying to interpret?

The feedback coming from one or two of the players is that it's their own incapability which is letting the side down, not the manager's, but what if that was caused by a distinct lack of confidence in him? That surely makes McLaren just as accountable to England's current demise?

If that were true, the answer would naturally be to replace him with someone else, but I for one get the impression that the FA want to get their money's worth out of McLaren before showing him the door, even if it does mean a failure to qualify for Euro 2008.

But hey - look on the bright side: if McLaren does get the sack, the FA might promote his right-hand man to take over the job. I've heard he's got a bit of experience where this kind of thing's concerned...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Brainstorm: Football problems solved

In our new series, we at SPAOTP will attempt to take some of the bigger problems and issues of the modern game and solve them on behalf of those most affected.

It may take a lot of time and no small amount of 'thinking outside the box' to find the answer, but we think it’ll be worth it as we strive to make football a better game for everyone.

Today’s problem was highlighted by Mr Chris Coleman, manager of Premiership football club Fulham. He’s frustrated because his team have only played two games in the last four weeks and thinks the fixture list is a “nonsense”. He says:

"The fixtures amaze me because at the start of the season you play three games in the first week, then towards the end of the season when the players are fighting fit, you have a two-week break and we've got just two games in a month."

So let’s see: there’s only a couple of months left of the Premiership season, and Chris Coleman’s team are finding they’ve got a lot of time on their hands. Why would that be?

Well we at SPAOTP have sat down to brainstorm the situation, and we think we have the answer.

The clue is in the word ‘March’. You see back in September, Fulham played their first game of the 2006/07 League Cup against Wycombe Wanderers and lost 2-1, thereby eliminating them from the competition. Then just five weeks ago in February, Fulham crashed out in the fifth round of this season’s FA Cup after a 4-0 home defeat to Tottenham.

All of which means that Chris Coleman’s side now find themselves in March 2007 with only Premiership fixtures left to play, and even some of those are at risk of postponement as their more successful opponents are still involved in the FA Cup or European competition.

Our answer to the problem for Mr Coleman, is this then: Manage your team so they play better and reach the latter stages of cup competitions. This will in turn provide a steady supply of fixtures right the way through to the end of May.

Next time on Brainstorm: Glenn Roeder asks why his Newcastle United side have so many games to play at this time of the season. Until next time, goodbye…

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Euro 2008 Qualifiers: Preview

Today sees the next 'double header' of matches begin in the Euro 2008 qualifying competition, so let's review what's happened so far and what might happen over the next week or so.

Group A
Finland have made the best start in Group A but they could end the day in third place as Serbia travel to Kazakhstan and Poland play host to Azerbaijan. Both teams are just one point behind the Finns, but Serbia have the all-important game in hand over both of them. That said, Finland have already won in Poland 3-1 back in September and Serbia have already beaten Belgium.

Portugal and Belgium are already four points behind Finland but things aren’t set to improve for either of them any time soon. After playing each other today, Portugal travel to Serbia next Wednesday and Belgium don’t play at all.

Group B
The ‘Group of Death’ is giving the Scots little to be fearful about so far. They top the group ahead of France despite having an inferior goal difference. Scotland’s 1-0 victory over the French in October earned them first place but they’ve since lost 2-0 to Ukraine and seen Alex McLeish take over the managerial reins from Walter Smith.

Today, Scotland travel to Georgia who have already lost 3-0 at home to the French so McLeish’s men will be aiming to inflict a similar score on them today. Elsewhere, France travel to Lithuania while third-placed Italy must wait until Wednesday for their next match, at home to the Scots.

The world champions haven’t made the most confident start to their campaign, drawing 1-1 at home to Lithuania before losing 3-1 away to France, but they may have turned the corner after a hard-earned 2-0 win at home to Ukraine, who are fourth.

Ukraine could be in third place or higher by the end of the week as they have two comparatively easy fixtures to come – a trip to the Faroe Islands today and a home match against Lithuania during the week.

Group C
Turkey and Greece have an almost identical record at the top of Group C at the moment. Both teams won all three of their opening games and are yet to concede a goal, which makes today’s match between the two in Athens all the more interesting.

The reigning European champions made a tentative start, but their 1-0 win at home to third-placed Norway in October could be an indicator of who the stronger team is in Group C. It’ll be interesting to see how Turkey get on when they play the Norwegians at home on Wednesday while the Greeks visit Malta on the same day.

Group D
Group D, like Group C, sees the top two fighting it out against each other today. Germany and the Czech Republic both have ten points from a possible twelve, although there’s no doubt who has the superior goal difference after Germany’s 13-0 victory over San Marino last year.

Strangely, both teams have slipped up against weaker opposition than themselves. The Czech Republic were the first to drop points after a draw in Dublin, but the Germans failed to make the most of the advantage when they drew 1-1 away to Cyprus. The winner of today’s game will regain the advantage again, so it would seem, but Germany don’t have a match on Wednesday while the Czechs go to Cyprus themselves.

Three points behind the leaders (but having played an extra game) are the Republic of Ireland who today play host to Wales at Croke Park. Both teams have made faltering starts and don’t appear to be in a position to stop the top two in their tracks. The Irish only grabbed a winner away to San Marino in the dying seconds of their last match while Wales have already taken a 5-1 home beating against Slovakia.

Group E
England have it all to do since slipping to third place in their group. A recent loss of form will need to be reversed away to Israel today before the virtual formality of a win in Andorra follows on Wednesday.

After a 5-0 win in their first match at home to the Andorrans and a 1-0 win away to Macedonia, England failed to score in either of the next two. That will give group leaders Croatia one less thing to worry about as they welcome Macedonia to their own ground today.

The Croatians have won three of their first four matches, only dropping points in the 0-0 draw away to Russia that opened their campaign. Russia today travel to Estonia looking to bridge the two point gap they trail by, but like Croatia they play just once this week.

As for Israel – on seven points with England and Macedonia – they’ll also be playing Estonia in their Wednesday game in Tel Aviv.

Group F
Sweden are the clear leaders in Group F. They have a five point lead ahead of second-placed Denmark who have two games in hand on them. The Swedes have made an impressive start, winning all four of their games – one of which was a 2-0 victory at home to Spain.

The sense of achievement from that result was somewhat diminished, however, when Northern Ireland beat the Spanish 3-2 at home in the previous fixture. That goes some way to explaining why Lawrie Sanchez’s team are currently third in the group while Spain find themselves behind Latvia in fifth and change may not yet be imminent.

Spain today face Denmark for the first time in the competition while Northern Ireland go to Liechtenstein, and with Latvia visiting the tiny principality on Wednesday, Spain may yet have to wait for their rise up the table even if they do beat Iceland on the same day.

Denmark sit out the Wednesday fixtures, but they’ll be keeping an eye on Sweden’s trip to Belfast the same day to find out where they stand ahead of the next round of games in June.

Northern Ireland‘s great start came only after defeat at home to Iceland in their first game. The win against Spain, a hard-fought goalless draw away to Denmark and a 1-0 over Latvia has since given them their best chance to qualify for a major championship for twenty years.

Group G
The Netherlands lead a three way fight for first place in Group G. Their perfect start was brought to an end after a 1-1 draw away to nearest challengers Bulgaria last October though Bulgaria have also drawn 2-2 away to Romania who are in third.

An interesting match should ensue today as the Netherlands play host to Romania while Wednesday’s games see the top three all playing weaker opposition – Bulgaria playing at home to Albania, Romania awaiting the visit of Luxembourg and the Netherlands playing Slovenia for the first time.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #4

Mauving on up...
12 Football Teams From Around the World That Wear Purple, Mauve or Violet Shirts When Playing At Home

1. Arges Pitesti (Romania)
2. Defensor Sporting (Uruguay)
3. Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica)
4. Fiorentina (Italy)
5. Fovu Baham (Cameroon)
6. Germinal Beerschot (Belgium)
7. Hakoah Ramat Gan (Israel)
8. NK Pula (Croatia)
9. Perth Glory (Australia)
10. Provincial Electricity (Thailand)
11. Real Potosi (Bolivia)
12. Sanfrecce Hiroshima (Japan)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Basque Country: A Short History Lesson

The Basque Country is a paradox whichever way you look at it. It's landscape so plain yet somehow beautifully inspiring, it's people so warm and friendly yet fiercely determined in their struggle for independence. A country that doesn't exist in the eyes of the international community yet populated by people from two countries that do.

The Basque Country is indeed an enigma, but not by choice. Covering an area of approximately 42,000 square kilometres of southern France and northern Spain, its identity and culture have been suppressed by years of ignorance on the part of the French and Spanish governments. Their refusal to grant the Basques full independence shows a lack of understanding of who they are and where they've come from.

The history books show that Basque tribes came to prominence long before Roman times and as their settlements converged, they formed a community which today numbers over three million people.

But any ambitions they may have held to fly the red, white and green flag over their land were soon extinguished. The marauding armies of the French Revolution in the north and a series of civil wars in the south left the Basque Country in disarray.

The Ikurriña (Basque flag)

It meant that towns like Biarritz and Bayonne were swallowed up into the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region of France and Bilbao and San Sebastian were consumed by the Biscay region of Spain.

The identity, language and spirit of the Basque people were stifled into a shadow of their former selves. Their future, you might think, looked bleak. Their history and development may have appeared to be all but over, yet the Basque Country is still very much alive and kicking to this day.

The Basques are more determined than ever to hold onto their heritage and their place in modern society is certainly assured thanks to their people who have excelled in art, culture and sports - none more so than in the game of football.

So many recognisable names from today's game come from the Basque Country. Xabi Alonso (Liverpool), Ivan Campo (Bolton), Asier del Horno (Valencia) and Mikel Arteta (Everton) are all Basques. Look further into the past and more great names come to light: Luis Arconada, Joseba Etxeberría, Bixente Lizarazu, Gaizka Mendieta, Andoni Zubizarreta... the list goes on.

Some of the world's best-known clubs are also from the Basque Country. Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Osasuna and Alavés are all regular participants in La Liga with Atheletic Bilbao employing a Basque-only player selection process out of choice.

And the Basque Country isn't without its own national team either. The Euskadi XI has played matches since 1915 and even played in the Mexican League (which they won in 1939) but it's only been since 1979 that they've had more regular outings against opposition from around the world. In their last game back in May 2006, the Basques played hosts to John Toshack's Wales team, losing in the end to a solitary Ryan Giggs goal despite being technically the superior side.

It's therefore such a shame that we fail to see the Basque Country playing in the European Championships or the World Cup alongside the other great teams we've come to admire. They deserve the chance to show us who they are as one people, not as a nation split forcibly into two. By being strong and staying true to their cause, the Basques have shown they have the character needed to thrive in the game of football and beyond.

Monday, March 19, 2007

12 months is a long time in Football...

Around this time last year, the FA confirmed that Sven Goran Erikson would be replaced as coach of the England National football team. Naturally, the question of who to replace him with was on every England fans mind, along with a second dilemma.

After most of the paying public decided that they were taken for a ride be Sven, the next question was "Should we have another foreign coach, or an Englishmen?" The overhelming concensus was to select an English manager - but who?

Alan Pardew, fairly new to management at newly promoted West Ham? Alan Curbishley, who had magnificently managed to win nothing at Charlton in his 50 year spell? Manchester City's Stuart Pearce, another newbie, who embodies the bulldog spirit that most fans like to see - hence his nickname 'Psycho'? It's either that or he looks like Norman Bates. How about 'Big' Sam Allardyce of Bolton? Big by name...

As we all know, Middlesborough's Steve McLaren got the job, not long after an embarassing defeat at Arsenal. His UEFA Cup run must have swung it.

So a year on, how have the other 'challengers' faired?

Well Alan Pardew may have the 'honour' of managing two of the clubs relegated in the same season. Things went the way of the pear after the FA Cup Final and he was sacked. Thanks to the Woolwich Ferry, he soon found himself at the 'Family Club' - aka Charlton - who's league position was worse than that the club he had just left. West Ham are currently 19th in the table, Charlton 18th - and both are in with a good chance of winning a trip to clubs such as Plymouth, Stoke and Ipswich next season.

Alan Curbishley, who left Charlton in the summer, was Pardew's replacement at West Ham. After a succesful first game against Manchester United, he then managed to carry on where Alan Pardew left off. To be fair, he did even better, managing to take West Ham to the foot of the Premiership at one point.

Stuart Pearce's time at Man City is up. Well, it will be at the end of the season. Flirting with relegation isnt winning the punters over in the blue part of Manchester. In fact, before the recent game against Chelsea, some fans were asking for Kevin Keegan back. Christ, you know things are bad when you want the tactically inept to replace your current manager.

That leaves Big Samuel of Bolton, and for once we have a CV that isnt littered with talk of relegation. Bolton currently sit in fifth place in the Premiership and you cant really say its a fluke either. They arent exactly new to the higher realms of the league table as in the past 3 seasons they have finished 8th, 6th and 8th. Not exactly jaw dropping statistics, but then again, they arent a one season wonder either.

So a year on, its still Sam Allardyce who has the best record, including that of the current England Managers. Even then, however, it still strikes me as being the best of a bad bunch.

With that in mind, would you begrudge another foreign coach of the England team?

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #3

Food for thought
20 Answers Given by British Football Players of the Late 1970's / Early 1980's to the Question 'What's Your Favourite Food?' During Their Interviews With 'Shoot!' Magazine

1. Larry Lloyd (Nottingham Forest, 1979): 'Spaghetti Bolognese and whitebait.'
2. Peter Borota (Chelsea, 1981): 'All fish.'
3. Paul Barron (Crystal Palace, 1980): 'Chicken and fruit.'
4. Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool, 1980): 'Anything cooked by my wife.'
5. Tony Coton (Manchester City, 1980): 'Anything of my mother's.'
6. Archie Gemmill (Birmingham City, 1980): 'Anything with garlic.'
7. Steve Sims (Leicester City, 1977): 'Pizza, banana splits.'
8. Ivan Golac (Southampton, 1979): 'Moussaka and sarma.'
9. Graham Rix (Arsenal, 1980): 'Home-made steak and kidney pie.'
10. Lee Chapman (Stoke City, 1981): 'Lasagne and salad.'
11. Mark Dennis (Birmingham City, 1980): 'Baked beans, steak and chips.'
12. Derek Statham (WBA, 1978): 'Steak and chips.'
12. Phil Boyer (Southampton, 1980): 'Seafood and steak.'
13. Alan Sunderland (Arsenal, 1978): 'Pork, steak, continental food.'
14. Glenn Roeder (QPR, 1978): 'Fillet steak.'
15. Peter Taylor (Tottenham, 1976): 'Fillet steak and salad.'
16. Trevor Francis (Birmingham, 1977): 'Fillet steak Rossini'
17. Arthur Graham (Leeds United, 1979): 'Steak.'
18. Michael Robinson (Manchester City, 1979):
19. Tony Currie (QPR, 1980):
20. Alan Kennedy (Liverpool, 1978): 'I like anything.'

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Walter Smith Effect

Hearty congratulations to Scotland who, it was announced today, have risen four places to 16th in this month's FIFA World Rankings.

Nothing particularly grand to note there, you may think, but when former manager Walter Smith was in charge two years ago, Scotland were languishing in 88th position. In just two years, Scotland have improved to the tune of 72 positions, and that, we think, is pretty incredible.

The big question mark for Scotland fans is that since their side last played in October 2006, Walter Smith has left his post to return to the manager's role at Rangers. He's since been replaced by Alex McLeish who, like Smith, has enjoyed some success at Rangers but must now prove he can be just as big a hit in charge of the national side too.

McLeish's first big test will be the double-header of Euro 2008 qualifiers coming up at the end of March 2007 when Scotland play hosts to Georgia and travel away to Italy. The Scots lead qualifying group B on goal difference ahead of France after three games so a good start has been made, but can the former Aberdeen defender keep up the good work put in by his predecessor?

Keep checking the FIFA World Rankings list to find out...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Yes Sir, No Sir...

Great Britain is a funny old place. We have a head of state, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who, when her mood takes her, gives a knighthood to a small selection of people born within her Commonwealth.

In modern-day terms, being made a Knight is a sign that you have achieved something extra-special - that you have done something few other people have done to elevate the stature of the Queen's realm.

If you're a male and you've been given a knighthood, you're allowed to put the word 'Sir' in front of your name, like 'Sir Paul McCartney', 'Sir Elton John' or 'Sir Robbie Williams'. (OK, so that last one was made up...) It's therefore a title that demands great respect among those people that know you or know of you, but you don't have to be alive to qualify for one. If you're unfortunate enough to have died at any given time in the past, those that survive you can apply for a posthumous title to be decreed as a belated way of showing how important you were to Queen and Country.

And it's exactly that process which is capturing the imagination of a few large pockets of football fans in Britain as we speak. It all started a few years ago when a bunch of Tottenham Hotspur supporters began a campaign to get an honorary knighthood awarded to Bill Nicholson, Tottenham's manager between 1958 and 1974.

Nicholson's achievements at the North London club are many. He helped them win the FA Cup three times, the League Championship once, the European Cup Winners' Cup once and the UEFA Cup once and also re-wrote the record books as Spurs became the first team of the modern era to win the English 'double' of FA Cup and League in one season in 1961.

It was arguably the greatest period in Spurs' history, and yet despite a long campaign to make him 'Sir Bill Nicholson' posthumously, its objective is yet to be reached. Knighthoods, it seems, are not so easy to come by.

Despite such a frustrating trend being set by this exercise, two more campaigns have begun recently to give other iconic British football managers from the past their rightful place in British history.

Bob Paisley led Liverpool football club for nine years from 1974 and in that time steered them to six League titles, three League Cups, one UEFA Cup, one European Super Cup and most significantly of all, three European Cups. Many British MPs have signed a House of Commons motion to gain Paisley a knighthood eleven years after his death, and a government e-petition has seen almost 45,000 members of the public support them in a similar vein.

North of the border, Jock Stein, the man who helped Celtic become the first British team to win the European Cup in 1967, is also being recommended for the same honour by two Labour MPs. As well as the European Cup, Jock Stein's Celtic side also won ten Scottish league titles, nine Scottish Cups and six Scottish League Cups, but are his achievements likely to be overlooked just as Bill Nicholson's have been thus far? Will fans of Bob Paisley become the latest in a long line of disappointed football fans who just want to repay the happiness their idol gave them so many years ago?

And as another government e-petition is launched to gain Brian Clough, European Cup-winning manager of Nottingham Forest, a posthumous knighthood, are campaigns like this being cheapened by their sheer proliferation?

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was awarded a knighthood thanks to the abundance of silverware he brought to the club, including one European Cup, one European Cup Winners' Cup, eight FA Premiership titles and five FA Cups. Maybe it takes this much to earn a football manager in Britain a knighthood, but why not treat each club and their successes in proportion accordingly?

The answer: there'd be a tidal wave of petitions flying around from supporters everywhere asking for their hero to be given the royal seal of approval, and that's simply counter-productive whichever way you look at it.

There is, however, another way - another method that can be used to ensure the managerial greats from your team's history are locked in the hearts and the minds of its fans forever.

We're not talking about entry into a football Hall of Fame. We're not talking about a bronze statue outside your team's stadium.

All you need to do is to tell your children about the Paisleys, the Steins, the Nicholsons and the Cloughs that your team played under, and if you have no children, tell somebody else's children. Tell them about the joy they gave you and the way your team played when they were in charge. Tell them how much of a difference they made to your team and the transformation they brought about while they were there.

Those children will grow up with a great respect for the icons you enthused about, and they'll go on to tell their children and their children's children. Legends don't have to be knighted, just remembered, so forget signing petitions - just keep their memory alive when you support your team.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Visitor Map

Allow us a moment of self-indulgence if you will. Now that SPAOTP is becoming popular with more and more people around the world, we thought it was time to bring together this fine community of friends in pictorial form.

To that end, we've created the Some People Are On The Pitch Visitor Map.

It's our way of saying 'thank you' for stopping by to visit us and to say how much we really value your interest in our site. It's also a way for us to track who you are, where you're from and what your blog site is (if you have one).

So what, or more to the point 'who' are the little yellow dots on our map? They are:

Name: EmmaJ and Portman
Location: London, England

Name: Kedge
Location: Southend-on-Sea, England

Name: Keir Husband
Location: London, England
Blog: The Red Planet Blog

Name: Ian
Location: Brighton, England
Blog: Twohundredpercent

Name: Footie Bird
Location: Phildaelphia, USA
Blog: Footie Bird

Name: Thomas Dunmore
Location: Chicago, USA
Blog: If This Is Football

Name: James Pang
Location: Singapore City, Singapore
Blog: The Red Cauldron

Name: Bob Kellett
Location: Portland, USA
Blog: The Offside

Name: David Keyes
Location: Washington, USA
Blog: Culture of Soccer

Name: Linda
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Blog: The Beautiful Game

Name: Marius Dragomir
Location: Craiova, Romania
Blog: Ratonbox

Want to be included on our list? Then leave us a comment and tell us - we look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #2

The Name Game
16 Football Clubs With Amusing and Peculiar Names From Around the World

1. Joe Public FC (Trinidad and Tobago)
2. Take Care Tigers (Guam)
3. Full Monty (Anguilla)
4. FC KooTeePee (Finland)
5. Missiles FC (Gabon)
6. Ethiopian Coffee (Ethiopia)
7. Prime Minister's Office FC (Laos)
8. Finance and Revenue (Myanmar)
9. Wongosport (Gabon)
10. School Boys (Lesotho)
11. Mighty Blackpool (Sierra Leone)
12. East End Connections (British Virgin Islands)
13. Eleven Men In Flight (Swaziland)
14. & 15. Shooting Stars (Nigeria & Zimbabwe)
16. Silver Shattas (Guyana)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A decent idea worth disconsidering

Here's an interesting idea: Portsmouth goalkeeper David James has this week publicly suggested football players could give money back to the fans if they put in a bad performance. He reasons that all those fans travelling hither and yon across the country watching their teams playing away from home in all weathers deserve some form of financial reimbursement if their team play a stinker.

The idea came to mind as he travelled home on the coach with his team-mates after a heavy defeat away to Blackburn. When put to them, he found they supported the idea more than he realised. Giving money back to the supporter's club would appear to be the way forward, then... but could it work?

The first thing to consider is how to exactly quantify a bad performance. Could a performance be considered bad if a team loses due of a couple of poor goalkeeping errors, or through one or two players being sent off? Could it even be calculated with the use of the comprehensive statistical systems currently employed in the Premiership, each player's rating being reduced because of few tackles being made or low numbers of accurate passes?

One might even consider that a team could under-perform if their coach makes bad tactical decisions or buys a poor player to bolster the squad.

It seems like an idea that's doomed to failure, so is it worth pursuing? Surely if you buy a ticket to a match, you're entering a contract to be entertained but not necessarily to be given a peak performance?

And what if you support a lower-league side? Could you reasonably ask for superlative achievement week in, week out? Some Premiership fans wouldn't, and the only way you could feasilbly demand it is to ensure they're first part of a twelve-team 'Super Premiership' or some such elitist movement.

Maybe punishing players in the pocket would encourage them to pull together in order to play better. It's an old-fashioned system known as 'team work'. The idea is that you avoid playing badly in isolation by employing a dynamic new approach called 'playing well for each other.'

Just a minute - aren't they supposed to do that already? I seem to have lost sight of that small fact, and it pains me to say it but I think David James has too...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Lesson #324 in "Time Killing" : Predict the Final Table...

So there I was (am) bored on a Sunday afternoon, when I stroll across the BBC's very own Final Premiership Table Predictor extravaganza roadshow webpage [see link below].

After entering a series of binary scores (1 if i think they will win, 0 if i dont and 0-0 for a draw), I pressed the update button and low and behold... somehow Chelsea win the league.

I dont know if this is a default piece of coding to the webpage or not but it suprised me to be honest. Also other things worthy of note :- Three London clubs for the drop even though Charlton escape the drop on the final day as Fulham couldnt get that much needed away win at the Riverside stadium.

Remember where you read it first ;-)

Here's my Final Table, but please feel free to follow rule #324 at work by following this link [Go on... click me... you know you want too...] and posting your findings back here on SPAOTP. I'm off to the bookies...

  1. Chelsea 93
  2. Man U 92
  3. Liverpool 78
  4. Arsenal 77
  5. Bolton 62
  6. Everton 59
  7. Tottenham 59
  8. Aston Villa 57
  9. Blackburn 54
  10. Newcastle 53
  11. Reading 52
  12. Portsmouth 50
  13. Middlesboro 46
  14. Wigan 39
  15. Sheff Utd 38
  16. Man City 35
  17. Charlton 35
  18. Fulham 34
  19. West Ham 24
  20. Watford 21

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #1

Your name here...
Eleven Names You Used To See On Pitchside Advertising Boards in British Football Thirty-Odd Years Ago or So

1. National Girobank
2. Mornflake Oats
3. Bic Razor
4. Talbot (cars)
5. Bush Colour TV
6. Rizla
7. Visionhire
8. Daily Mirror
9. Kingsonic
10. Schreiber
11. Gillette Contour

Anyone got anymore to add to the list? Leave us a comment and tell us!


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