61 fouls – the story of triumph over an ideology

IN NOVEMBER 1934, England met World Champions Italy in London in a game that has forever been known as “The Battle of Highbury”. This tag was no accident, however, for whatever was going to happen on that gloomy afternoon in North London, a football match was always going to become a theatre of war. On the road to war Europe in the 1930s was an … Continue reading 61 fouls – the story of triumph over an ideology

Why we all should treasure football’s urban roots

FOOTBALL is a sport that flourished during the industrial revolution, especially the professional game, so naturally, stadiums sprung up in red-bricked back streets, on the fringes of mill towns and close to mines, factories and railways. The vision of the working class community trudging to the game, flat caps screwed onto heads, turned-up collar and woollen scarf protecting the supporters from the elements, is one … Continue reading Why we all should treasure football’s urban roots

Opium for the masses – the cost of Premier addiction

IF football is a supply and demand industry in England, then on first glance it appears to be working. Crowds in the Premier League are at their highest level since the 1950s and some clubs have waiting lists for season tickets that stretch back years and years. True, there is an argument that “modern football” is pricing people, notably the traditional working-class out of the … Continue reading Opium for the masses – the cost of Premier addiction

England’s 1,000 – it hasn’t always been grand

BBC RADIO FIVE has selected its all-time England XI and the results are, perhaps predictably, a little influenced by “presentism”. This is what makes the fun exercise of picking “best ever” teams somewhat flawed – the past is often so deeply buried that the merits of ancient players often get forgotten. You’ve also got to consider that different eras create contrasting styles of football and … Continue reading England’s 1,000 – it hasn’t always been grand

When Saturday Comes – why we should help the trailblazer

BACK in the 1980s, football was in a miserable place. Plagued by hooliganism, supporters taken for granted, falling crowds, a poor product on the pitch and dreadful spectating conditions. From catering to care, the industry was a second-rate pastime followed by people who were almost embarrassed to admit they watched football on a regular basis. What’s more the government didn’t like football and with each … Continue reading When Saturday Comes – why we should help the trailblazer

1915: When football seemed unimportant

IT HAS been known down the years as “The Khaki Final”, owing to the vast number of soldiers in military uniform watching the game. While the event is well known, the outcome of the match has been largely overlooked in history. Many people will struggle to name the two finalists: Sheffield United and Chelsea. But this game, coming at the end of the 1914-15 season, … Continue reading 1915: When football seemed unimportant

In praise of the simple vimpel

WE ALL love bringing a souvenir back from our travels, from snow globes to sombreros, the British have always overloaded their suitcases with objet d’art or tat from their travels. Look carefully in your own home, is there any evidence of a life spent in airport lounges and beaches on the Med? From my own perspective, I cannot claim to be immune from this addiction … Continue reading In praise of the simple vimpel

New town football – successful, after all

STEVENAGE and Crawley Town are both members of the Football League, albeit the lowest division. Neither are what you might call “traditional” clubs, although football in Stevenage dates back to 1894 and Crawley 1896. When the game was in its infancy as an organised sport, they were merely amateur concerns in the south of England, unable to be truly competitive with the rise of industrial … Continue reading New town football – successful, after all

Dressing up in costumes, playing silly games: The football experience

WE ALL like to think that football is more than just 22-28 young men kicking an object around an oblong field – if only because it elevates our interest beyond obsession to something that is more deep and meaningful! Journalists fantasise, marketing and advertising folk commercialise, romantics eulogise and academics intellectualise the importance of the game. Most of all, the people running, playing and promoting … Continue reading Dressing up in costumes, playing silly games: The football experience

CV-risky jobs: Managing an elite club

MANCHESTER UNITED are going through what amounts to something of an identity crisis. The astonishingly high standards set during the Ferguson era meant that whatever followed him would be an anti-climax, but the club has made a series of poor judgement calls, partly in desperation to return to winning ways – and that means league titles – and partly because of the need to maintain … Continue reading CV-risky jobs: Managing an elite club

Is it unfair to ask football to entertain and be held to task?

WE LIVE in interesting times. This is often a phrase used to disguise crisis, restrain panic and, invariably, to paint a picture that, despite the rising tide of discontent, “everything’s ok”. Translated, “interesting” means “we are in the deep do-do”. It’s a sentence we’ve heard many times since 2008 and is frequently used in the world of politics, economics and, of course, football. “Interesting times” … Continue reading Is it unfair to ask football to entertain and be held to task?

Mexico ‘70: Peter Bonetti and England’s capitulation

CHELSEA’S Peter Bonetti was a fine goalkeeper: agile, occasionally flashy, brave and consistent. But for World Cup winner Gordon Banks, he would have won more than his seven England caps – and this was in an age when decent English-born custodians came off the production line like Ford Cortinas. Unfortunately for Bonetti, he will be remembered by fans from most clubs for one career-defining and … Continue reading Mexico ‘70: Peter Bonetti and England’s capitulation