GAME OF THE PEOPLE is heading for its sixth anniversary. We’ve had an excellent year, winning more awards, partnering with some interesting people, contributing to a number of newspapers, magazines and websites and working with experts in the football industry. We’ve also travelled a lot – Leipzig, Stockholm, Tokyo, Reykjavik, Prague, Austria and Copenhagen. It has been a great year.
Looking back on 2017, here are our top six articles of the year – a very subjective view, of course.
The Pied Piper of Billericay
THEY strode, both young and old, along Tye Common Road, heading for Billericay Town’s Blunts Wall Road ground. Queues were building outside the turnstiles, parking was restricted and the bar, which bears the club slogan of “#together we sail as one” on its exterior was packed. There was a real buzz about the place, almost a carnival atmosphere. And, of course, there was the Billericay Town mural, a bold, brassy depiction of what the club is now all about.
State of Play: Charlton Athletic
NO LONDON football club has lost as much support as Charlton Athletic over the past decade. Discontent fans and decline on the field of play have been accompanied by a 52% drop in match attendances at The Valley. Not even a progressive approach to ticketing has been able to prevent crowds falling to their lowest level since 1997. And the stress shows little sign of easing-up on the people who follow a club that has been part of the London football scene since 1905.
Real Cool Traders: The Cowley brothers
Lincoln City have restored faith in the creaking old FA Cup and although we don’t associate the Imps with non-league, they have given the game outside the Football League a big boost. Lincoln could win the National League and also lift the FA Trophy. Add to that their monumental FA Cup run and they are already making a bid for team of the year. And they owe much of their success to the Cowley brothers.
Paradise Lost…but we’ll never forget Cruyff, Eusebio and their pals
CLUBS like Ajax and Benfica once created some of the most exciting teams we have ever seen. Today, their names still carry enormous weight, but they have been pushed into the shadows by clubs gorging on TV broadcasting fees and the rewards of globalisation. Only 22 clubs have won the European Cup/Champions League, but of those clubs, only four or five could currently claim to be equipped to win it again: Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Barcelona. This season’s competition, along with the previous four, have been won by teams from this group. We are in the age of the uber club, a band that includes the aforementioned names and another group of pretenders that, at the moment, involves Atletico Madrid, Paris St. Germain, the leading English clubs and, at a push, Borussia Dortmund.
Leipzig contra mundum
A MAN wearing a VFB Leipzig hat and a Lokomotive scarf walked through the centre of town with just a little air of defiance. It was matchday at the Red Bull Arena and the bars and restaurants were gradually filling up with RB Leipzig fans grabbing a pre-match meal or beer. The Lokomotive fan was not interested in the pre-match build-up, however, for as far as his kind are concerned, there is only one proper football club in Germany’s fastest growing city. He might give Chemie due respect, but they are plying their amateur trade in the Oberliga. Like many fans of the team from the Probstheida end of the city, he probably believes Lokomotive represents the heart and soul of Leipzig football.
Playboys v Smartboys
ANYONE who has attended a “sportsman’s evening” featuring footballers from the 1970s will be familiar with the script: laddish dialogue, tales of drink, women and gambling, blue jokes and so on and so forth. Sometimes, it’s not worth meeting your heroes, men you might have only seen on Match of the Day or in the tabloid press. After a while, stories of how “I once pissed in the FA Cup”, or “at half-time I had a leggy blond” become tiresome and certainly out of sync with today’s narrative.