Forest Green Rovers and another way

FOOTBALL IS, in many ways, a one dimensional game – its simplicity, its demographic and its popular appeal make it ideal for the masses. Regardless of the number of causes the industry attaches itself to, the essence of football remains entertainment for the people, the creation of loyalty and allegiance and, ultimately, forlorn expectation. Traditionally, we have associated the game with grimy back streets, smoking … Continue reading Forest Green Rovers and another way

With Lampard, it may be different

REMEMBER when Chelsea went left-field and hired André Villas-Boas, the 35 year-old Porto head coach? It was meant to be bold, innovative and – with absence making the heart grow fonder for the man who brought two league titles to the club – a Mourinho-lite appointment. It all turned sour and inexperience, over-expectation and tactical confusion led to AVB out of work in mid-February 2012. … Continue reading With Lampard, it may be different

2019-20: Look to the Midlands for the element of surprise

SINCE the second world war, the Midlands have provided the Football League/Premier League champions six times, the last occasion being Leicester’s triumph in 2016. From 1992-93, when the Premier was launched, only 11 times has the region had a top six club. Last season, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City finished seventh and ninth respectively, decent placings but still way behind the top six. However, if … Continue reading 2019-20: Look to the Midlands for the element of surprise

Has non-league sold its soul?

IN RECENT years, non-league football has promoted itself as “real” and the game for local communities. Some clubs have embraced causes, have lent their hand to political movements and have championed inclusiveness. In particular, the drive to build the next generation of fans – a vitally important element given the audience of this level of the game – has rightly placed emphasis on youth development, … Continue reading Has non-league sold its soul?

Behind the scenes in small-time football

I DISCOVERED what non-league football was all about in, of all places, a gentleman’s urinal. It was 1991 and I had been involved with Hitchin Town of the Isthmian League for just a few weeks when a club “worthie” of many years leaned over and whispered: “The thing is, my friend, we don’t take kindly to outsiders. Just remember that.” This elderly fellow, who had … Continue reading Behind the scenes in small-time football

Chelsea and Lampard – where’s the biggest risk?

REMEMBER when Chelsea went left-field and hired André Villas-Boas, the 35 year-old Porto head coach? It was meant to be bold, innovative and – with absence making the heart grow fonder for the man who brought two league titles to the club – a Mourinho-lite appointment. It all turned sour and inexperience, over-expectation and tactical confusion led to AVB out of work in mid-February 2012. … Continue reading Chelsea and Lampard – where’s the biggest risk?

The Non-League 100: Wealdstone 1984-85, the first double winners

IN an age when former Football League clubs proliferate the top division of non-league, it is often forgotten that the first non-league team to perform the hallowed “double” of National League and FA Trophy was a relatively humble outfit from the Middlesex conurbation, Wealdstone. Wealdstone, the club that nurtured the talents of players like Stuart Pearce and Vinnie Jones, were beneficiaries of a novel points … Continue reading The Non-League 100: Wealdstone 1984-85, the first double winners

Mindful of the gap: The Premier’s class problem

THE Premier League title race was exciting, make no mistake, but the cushion between Manchester City and Liverpool and the rest of the division was embarrassingly huge. Chelsea finished third, quite remarkable given the inconsistent season they endured, and the mixed reviews of their banker-turned-coach Maurizio Sarri, but in truth, the points difference between Liverpool and Chelsea was a fair reflection of the gulf between … Continue reading Mindful of the gap: The Premier’s class problem

River-Cottage-Football: Fog on the Thames

NEWCASTLE UNITED’s fans are incredible. Just consider the club’s honours list: last trophy of any significance, 1969; most recent FA Cup triumph, 1955; last league title, 1927. They haven’t had much to cheer about, but they are intensely loyal, passionate and mostly, very well behaved considering that the river Tyne, in football terms, has been very foggy for years. At Fulham, they were signing their … Continue reading River-Cottage-Football: Fog on the Thames

Remake/remodel – United’s task in hand

MANCHESTER did not have a good Champions League this past week, with both City and United tumbling out of the competition. While City’s exit was harsh in many ways, United got no more than they deserved against a Barcelona team that was far too good for Ole Gunar Solksjaer’s charges. The gulf in class was huge, making Solksjaer’s comment, “there’s work to be done” one … Continue reading Remake/remodel – United’s task in hand

City and the dangerous pursuit of excellence

REMEMBER Leeds United in 1970? They were chasing a treble and ended with nothing. They finished in second place in the league, runners-up in the FA Cup final and lost in the “Battle of Britain” against Celtic over two legs in the European Cup semi-final. They were worn-out, heart-broken and stressed – above all, they were potless. Leeds had a relatively small squad with 12 … Continue reading City and the dangerous pursuit of excellence

Club of the Month: Cray Valley Paper Mills

THE FA VASE final in May will be between Chertsey Town and Cray Valley Paper Mills. There’s not a Northern League team in sight! Chertsey have flown a lot higher in the past, but Cray Valley PM are not a club that many non-league fans will have come across. The name, for a start, harks back to the days of works teams and indeed, the … Continue reading Club of the Month: Cray Valley Paper Mills

River-Cottage-Football: Where it all went horribly wrong

MY year at Craven Cottage didn’t work out as planned on two counts. First of all, I was taken ill in Japan in November and my trips to Craven Cottage were curtailed for a couple of months while I recovered, and then after a setback in early March, I was again prevented from returning to my seat in the Hammersmith End. Secondly, after eagerly awaiting … Continue reading River-Cottage-Football: Where it all went horribly wrong