Football and the military: An uncomfortable alignment

IT SEEMS impossible to avoid some form of military presence when any major football event is taking place. Whether it is a game old cock rattling a tin or somebody dressed in khaki bringing a trophy onto the pitch, there seems to be a deep desire to attach the game to Britain’s armed forces. Football continues to be used as an opportunity for mass engagement, … Continue reading Football and the military: An uncomfortable alignment

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

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

The Champions League and the preservation of elitism

SINCE THE European Cup was introduced in 1955, there have been 22 different winners of the competition. This list includes some of Europe’s biggest names as well as some unlikely champions. The last “new” winner was Chelsea in 2012, and equally telling, the last team from outside the accepted top 20 most powerful clubs was Porto in 2004. It has gradually become a closed shop. … Continue reading The Champions League and the preservation of elitism

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

Commentary Box: Why we grudgingly tolerate international breaks

NO MATTER how well Gareth Southgate’s team performs and how much good progress was made in the 2018 World Cup, many football fans still find international break weekends tedious and an unwelcome distraction. Southgate and his immediate predecessors got what England managers, going way back as far as Sir Alf Ramsey and Don Revie, wanted – a decent preparation period for important international matches. I … Continue reading Commentary Box: Why we grudgingly tolerate international breaks

Recalling Scotland’s “Wee Blue Devils” of 1928

IRONICALLY, two of England’s most documented and discussed games happen to be defeats – Hungary’s win in 1953 and two and a half decades earlier, England 1 Scotland 5. The Scots have never forgotten how they humbled their fierce rivals at Wembley in 1928 and the defeat stands alongside other defining moments in history when the English have had their noses blooded by the tartan hordes. … Continue reading Recalling Scotland’s “Wee Blue Devils” of 1928

All hyped up: Italia ‘90

WE ALL look to the influences of our childhood or formative years as being the “best of times”. The things that informed our thinking, philosophy, social position, relationships and work ethos act as benchmarks later in life. The exception is fashion, where we all cringe at what we used to wear, mainly because what was de rigeur for a teenager will never be acceptable for … Continue reading All hyped up: Italia ‘90

Just how strong is the Premier?

THERE may be four English teams in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, but judging by the first few months of the 2018-19 season, the concept of a “league within a league” is well and truly embedded in the Premier. This might just be the season that the Premier picks up the Champions League, especially as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona are … Continue reading Just how strong is the Premier?

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

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

Peter Bonetti and death in the afternoon

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 Peter Bonetti and death in the afternoon