Chelsea v Ajax – the spectacle that nobody wanted to end

BACK IN 1970, one of the most captivating games of an outstanding World Cup, Italy’s 4-3 win over West Germany, was so exciting that the final whistle left you disappointed that the match had ended after 120 pulsating minutes. The same feeling was evident at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea and Ajax shared eight goals on an evening that reminded the near-40,000 crowd that the UEFA … Continue reading Chelsea v Ajax – the spectacle that nobody wanted to end

Ajax’s stock continues to rise, despite player losses

AJAX’s renaissance last season was always going to be short-lived as Europe’s big clubs were waiting in the wings for their chance to pounce on the best players. Those hung up on presentism expressed their surprise that a team from the Netherlands could compete with the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus, even though the Dutch have provided more European champion clubs than Spain and … Continue reading Ajax’s stock continues to rise, despite player losses

Ajax show they’re still potent

EVERYBODY expected Ajax’s renaissance in 2018-19 would come to a shuddering halt as they started to lose their key players to Europe’s elite band of clubs. When Ajax were beaten in the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League, thanks to a heartbreakingly late goal, the conclusion was that an exciting young team had probably lost its chance of immortality. Ajax certainly lost two of their … Continue reading Ajax show they’re still potent

72 Classic: Lessons from Europe for English football

AT the start of 1971-72, England’s football fraternity was still clinging to the idea that the nation was a major power in the game. The 1970 World Cup defeat at the hands of West Germany was mostly seen as an aberration and partly attributable to the rustiness of poor old Peter Bonetti, the outstanding Chelsea goalkeeper. There was little suggestion that perhaps the English method … Continue reading 72 Classic: Lessons from Europe for English football

For Ajax, it could be 1974 revisited

THE UEFA Champions League knockout stages never disappoint – they represent the very best football in the world, more engaging than the World Cup, more exciting than the Premier and more dramatic than an episode of Line of Duty. Where else can ecstasy turn to agony, grown men openly weep, higher orders get called upon and TV pundits abandon all decorum and reserve? The competition … Continue reading For Ajax, it could be 1974 revisited

Cold water from the continent: The Champions League first legs

FOR Premier League advocates, the first legs of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals must have been a huge disappointment. The chances of an all-England final look very remote now, although those that enthuse over the essence of European club competitions will be thankful – there is nothing so anti-climatic than a European final between two clubs from the same country. The smart money, however, is … Continue reading Cold water from the continent: The Champions League first legs

Scene it, won it, got the eco t-shirt

WHEN is a young player not a young player? Raheem Sterling, aged 24, 49 caps for England and over 300 first-class appearances. Surely, a young player is, first of all, somebody who is on the way up, still growing and potential-rich. Given there are currently a batch of players who are indeed in the ascendancy, the PFA giving it to Sterling suggests a lack of … Continue reading Scene it, won it, got the eco t-shirt

A throwback to unpredictable days: Ajax’s marvellous Italian job

THE neutral observer could be forgiven for believing Ajax Amsterdam had already enjoyed their moment in the sun with their spectacular victory against Real Madrid. Underdogs rarely have more than one day and when up against a team that includes the UEFA Champions League’s resident expert, Cristiano Ronaldo, it would be easy to assume that Juventus would march comfortably through to the semi-finals. Ahead of … Continue reading A throwback to unpredictable days: Ajax’s marvellous Italian job

Great teams take the treble chance

SURPRISINGLY, only eight teams have managed to win a comparable trio of competitions, although many have gone close. Some of this select group have been built around outstanding individuals, such as Lionel Messi and Ajax’s Johan Cruyff, while others – like Celtic in 1967 –  were founded on the team ethic. Inevitable comparisons will be made about “who is the greatest?”, but it’s an impossible … Continue reading Great teams take the treble chance

Another brick in the wall – Ajax’s Turin task

WHILE Ajax’s stunning victory against Real Madrid was a major upset, it was also a welcome reminder that unpredictability, if you scratch the surface deep enough, can still be found in modern football. The romantics would love to see Ajax rekindle the fires of European Cups past – let’s not forget Amsterdam’s finest have won the competition more times than Manchester United, Juventus and Inter … Continue reading Another brick in the wall – Ajax’s Turin task

The empire collapses

AND SO, the end of a remarkable run, four UEFA Champions League titles in five years. For most of the current season, the signs of Real Madrid’s decline have been evident in Spain, a lack lustre domestic campaign that has seen them dispose of two coaches and bring back Zinedine Zidane, an indication that Real, like so many clubs, seek the security of a comfort … Continue reading The empire collapses

72 Classic: Clough, Allison, Keegan and co. – why it was special

MALCOLM Allison, one of the pivotal figures of the 1970s, once said that the period between 1967 and 1972 was one of British football’s golden ages. Anyone who lived through that half decade of action will doubtless recall some outstanding players and personalities, memorable teams and the outlandish fashion and hairstyles of the age. This was, after all, a period that desperately clung to the … Continue reading 72 Classic: Clough, Allison, Keegan and co. – why it was special