Edit – Blog Updated: Now with added Normalisation!
Who among us hasn’t tried to invent ever more ingenius ways of doing ANYTHING other than what we’re actually paid to do during the daily grind? Who among us hasn’t spent time fulfilling amazing feats of procastination and trying to work out how much money we’ve been paid during the time we’ve spent not working while at work? Who among us hasn’t spent time looking up statistics to find out who the Football League’s most tiresome fans are? Well, I’m probably the only one who’s done the latter.
Inspired by a tweet from Bournemouth fan Narrow The Angle (author of the excellent blog of the same name) I decided to investigate who the Football League’s most devestatingly dull fans were. The premise, as inspired by NarrowTheAngle, was that fans of clubs who come onto your team’s message board with the following post are incredibly dull:
Hi, <insert generic team> fan in peace … <Insert generic usually patronising statement/question about your club>.
It’s the “…fan in peace” bit which is irrationally irritating. Mostly because it’s quite clear you’re “in peace”, you tool. When you’re not in peace your post begins:
Hahaha your team is shit loool!!!1!!11!! <My team> ftw. My team pwned your team. You is loserz lol.
These posts mostly appear in the school holidays; funny that. Besides, we invariably know that our team is shit. We have to watch that dross every week. We don’t need some armchair-supporting, FIFA 11-playing, X-Box Live-subscribing wazzock telling us what we already know about our teams!
So, I enlisted the help of the Google to help me find out the most boring fans in the Football League based on the number of times a fan of that club had said “…fan in peace”. The experiment was quite simple: Google the exact phrase (using quotation marks) searching for different fans by club name and nickname. E.g. searching for “Crystal Palace fan in peace”, “Palace fan in peace”, “Eagles fan in peace” and “CPFC fan in peace”. The results were ‘normalised’ by dividing the number of Google Results by the average attendance of the club, and multiplying by 10,000 (to get a whole number). This way, big clubs won’t artificially be top. If you’re bored of this blog already, stop reading now. It doesn’t get anymore interesting than this.
This highly scientific method yielded took about eight hours of work time and yielded some interesting results. We’ll look at it by league:
Championship: By far and away the most boring fans were Leeds fans, having said “Leeds fan here in peace (or derivatives thereof) nearly 18,000 times and with a score of nearly 7000 on the boring scale. The next most dull were Forest fans, with nearly 8,000 utterances of the deadly dull phrase and a score of 3,500. The least dull fans were Burnley and Millwall, who only mentioned the phrase 10 times, though with Millwall not exactly renouned for turning up “in peace”, that might explain it. Given the number of fans they have, Pompey only turning up “in peace” 19 times on the Interweb was surprising.
League One: Again, there’s a runaway leader, and with nearly 9,000 uses, Sheffield Wednesday fans are the most likely to come onto your message board in peace. Even accounting for their large fan base (and therefore normalisation), they’re still top. Thank god there’s no Sheffield Wednesday Band smiley on message boards, otherwise I’d have to pemanantly log off. Honorable mentions to Brighton (who, despite their small attendance, feature highly due to the normalisation process), Southampton and Posh. Carlisle and Colchester United (8) are the most likely to stick to their own message forums and not turn up in “peace” asking how your manager is doing. Mostly because, in Colchester’s case, they’re too busy losing their own managers to care.
League Two: Oxford United take the accolade of most tedious fans in League Two. 430 times we’ve had “Oxford fan in peace” on message fora. Bradford, Torquay and Gillingham were up there with most tiresome fans. In Gillingham’s case, it’s most probably because of our fans’ reputation of being a bunch of moody-gold wearing pikeys (I just sold my soverign ring to webuyyourgold.com) so we need to disarm opposing fans before lurching into banal football chat. Honorable mentions to Accrington Stanley (who are they?) and Macclesfield Town with no utterances of the soporiphic phrase anywhere on the Internet. My guess is that they haven’t yet discovered
fire the Internet in these cosmopolitan towns of the North.
Summary: The most tedious and patronising fans of the football league are fans of Leeds (who knew?), Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton and Oxford, whilst Gillingham fans are pikeys, Accrington Stanley is still in the 1970s and Millwall fans are not peace-loving hippies.
Of course, with teams with larger fan bases featuring prominantly, it renders these surveys moot. But then, this was more a blog about my procastinatin than a serious look at the most dull football fans anyway (we all know that Charlton fans win that accolade anyway, right?).
Boring fans, a boring blog post. It’s Friday and I’m unmotivated.
PS – if anyone would like a copy of the spreadsheet I compiled this data on, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, follow me on Twitter: @halftimewhistle.
As opined eloquently by @Therealfacup, last night’s victory by Blue Square Premier side over Crawley in the FA Cup third round was possible the country’s least favourite giant killing ever. Even @Nonleagueshow was torn between supporting the non leaguers and lambasting their new-found wealth. Others, less eloquently just hoped for Crawley to go bust. Some said this wasn’t a giant killing due to the money Crawley had spent, with some journalists stating that Crawley were a League One side in all but name.
But this was, frankly nonsense, and a look at the two team’s starting XI reveals all:
Crawley Starting XI: Of the 11 who started for Crawley, only 4 commanded a fee. Depending on reports, the total transfer fees spent on Crawley’s starting XI was between £270K and £320K. Huge money for Conference sides, but not huge compared to Derby. Of the starting XI, only two players played at a higer level than League Two last season: Sergio Torres who played 9 games in the Championship before being loaned out to League Two Lincoln, and Michel Kuipers who started as first choice for League One Brighton, before being dropped around February. Five of the starting XI played at Conference level or lower and the rest of the league two players who were picked up on free transfers were released by their clubs following contract expiry.
We can imagine that Crawley are probably paying their players a decent wage, but it would be mere speculation to try to compare wages. The player’s car park generally consists of Ford Focuses and the likes, with the exception of Pablo Mills who I’m informed drives a rather flash motor.
Derby Starting XI: Four of Derby’s starting XI were free transfers and one, goalscorer Miles Addison, came through the youth ranks. Of the six who commanded fees, Savage was the highest at £1.5m, and the combined transfer fee total of Derby’s players was £4.125m. Only two players played at a lower level than the Championship last season: John Brayford and James Bailey, each player signed from Crewe for more than double Crawley’s record transfer fee.
Make no mistake: this was a giant killing, pure and simple, and that is before we consider the fact that three divisions and 63 places separate the two sides.
Crawley, a League One Side in Name: To say that Crawley are a League One side in all but name is baffling. Top scorer Matt Tubbs has only ever scored one goal in the football league, during a loan spell at Bournemouth. Rock at the back Kyle McFadzean was playing for Blue Square North side Alfreton Town last season. Right winger Scott Nielson has been successful at Hertford Town, Ware and Cambridge City, but most Bradford fans would agree he wasn’t a success for them. Craig McAllister can best be described as a non-league journeymen, having taken in a host of clubs from Eastleigh to Stevenage, Woking to Grays. Right back Glenn Wilson doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page! If that isn’t an indication of the paucity of a player, I don’t know what is.
Of course this is sprinkled with seasoned football league campaigners; Sergio Torres was a coup for the club and Pablo Mills is well recognised through spells at Derby and Rotherham. And it would be remiss of me not to mention record signing Richard Brodie. Costing an alleged £250,000 to £275,000 (a figure the club deny, but were not allowed to quote the exact figure by York), Brodie hasn’t had the most successful season to date and is far from automatic choice. He came off the bench against Altrincham to score two wonderful goals, one of which was Messi-esque as he danced through three defenders, put the keeper on his arse before nonchenantly knocking the ball in. Luton fans hate him for an alleged incident with a ball boy and overuse of his elbows in the play off match against York. But he’s not started regularly, which is startling for a player commanding such a high fee in the Premier League.
Crawley Fans: There have been lots of sneering comments about Crawley’s attendances and away fans. Comments like “money can’t buy you fans” and “top of the league and they still can’t sell out” rankle slightly, because there are obvious answers here. Unlike Luton Town, Darlington and York City, Crawley have never been in the football league. And on fan base, AFC Wimbledon might as well have been. Crawley have always been a non-league side, have seen their side decimated by financial mismanagement over the years (oh the irony) and the disastrous era of the crooked Majeed era which nearly spelt the end of Crawley.
No, money doesn’t buy you fans, but I wouldn’t want it to either. And as for comments from one Luton fan asking where the fans at last night’s game were every week, every club gets a bumper attendance for big games, Luton are no different. Just over 10,000 turned up to watch their game against Liverpool in the cup a few years ago. Their average attendance this season has been around 6,000 – a very good attendance for this division, but you see my point. Similarly, York don’t take the away following that went to Bolton every week. For the big games, everyone makes the effort, and this is true of all clubs.
Financial Injection: Yes Crawley have had a massive financial injection and have spent sums beyond what any other Conference club could do. Even more than most League Two clubs. And probably even more than a fair few League One clubs.
But they are owned by local businessman Bruce Winfield along with Sue Carter. Winfield, a Crawley local and Crawley fan, has procured investment from other parties who are not, we are told, looking for a return on their money, at least not through football ventures. It’s likely that, as Crawley’s success continues, so too does their off-the field commercial revenue, and it is likely that it is here that investors will look to claw back any money. Besides, with TV money from two televised games, coupled with bumper attendences from those games, Crawley’s coffers have already recouped a decent chunk of money from their outlays this season, with the FA Cup money being somewhere between £500K and £750K. Wishing a club bust (always a sign of terrible bitterness) is not going to make a club fall down the drain.
Steve Evans: I think this is the reason most people hate Crawley. The man is an odious toad, a repulsive twat, a crook, a fraudster and the man who is largely responsible for Boston’s stunning demise. With over 20 matches worth of touchline bans, he’s an outspoken tool. The thing is, most Crawley fans recognise this. He’s an embarassment to the club and frequently causes fans to cringe. E.g. his comments about Man City and the resulting grovelling apology from the Crawley board. Or his comments about Nigel Clough slating Crawley (which he didn’t) which ended with him labelling Cambridge and Forest Green Rovers as average Conference clubs, whilst Crawley were something special.
Trust me, Crawley fans recognise that the man is toe-curlingly embarassing. You won’t find many Conference managers who are second in the league with games in hand and into the fourth round of the FA Cup that don’t have the full backing of the fans, but then Steve Evans isn’t most managers. And every time he mentions “project promotion” a little piece of me dies.
The Non League Show, the Real FA Cup and other purveyors of FA Cup romance, magic, cliches and dramas should be under no doubts that this was a giant killing worthy of the name. Having a twat as a manager doesn’t change that, having a small hard core fan base doesn’t change that, spending more than your league rivals doesn’t change that and, after Crawley’s history, they should have their moment of glory while it lasts.
Crawley v Derby Preview
Down in deepest darkest West Sussex in an area known affectionately as “Creepy Crawley” by some (and a “shithole” by others less enamoured with the town’s offerings) the town of Crawley is gearing up for a big clash against Derby County and Robbie Savage in tonight’s FA Cup 3rd round clash at the Broadfield stadium, the second time Crawley have been shown live on ESPN in this competition.
It’s an unusual tie in many respects. Crawley, termed the Man City of the Blue Square Premier for their spending exploits are not the plucky underdogs we normally expect to see, skint, stuggling in the league, with the whole country hoping for a mighty upset. Having spent sums of money even many League One teams can only dream of, and with a manager largely hated in football, not too many neutrals will be hoping for a Crawley win tonight. With Crawley’s player wages reportedly on a par with some Championship clubs (claims refuted by those at the club), and players who chose to join Crawley ahead of League One clubs, Crawley, while not expected to win, are not ‘plucky’ underdogs. More, ‘flash’ underdogs.
Cards on the table time: I like Crawley. I actually quite like the town (well, parts of it…the exit mostly), and I like the club which I’ve been visiting on and off since I first moved to Crawley 8 years ago. So I will stand up for Crawley. They have spent large sums of money, but this money has been a massive help for teams like York (£275K for Richard Brodie) and Salisbury (£75K for top scorer Matt Tubbs). Not only that, but Crawley have insisted on paying all the money in one lump sum within seven days of the transfer to help avoid recurring debts. This has no doubt been of huge benefit for the receiving clubs.
It’s harder to stick up for Steve Evans, an outspoken manager and a gobshite who’s caused more trouble to the FA than Neil Warnock, accruing more than 20 games worth of touchline bans in his career, as well as a suspended prison sentence for fraud while manager of Boston. So, I won’t stick up for him.
Crawley Town fans must be delighted with the way things have gone, not least because it’s presumably nice to start the league on 0 points and not worry about further points deductions throughout the season. And having been hours away from doing a Chester City or Halifax and going hours out of existence, the team who have been in administration twice should feel lucky to have this injection of cash from a rich fan of the team.
And that’s another thing that’s nice about Crawley’s position. This isn’t an Arab consortium, or US business men who are ploughing money into the club, but a co-ownership made up of Crawley local man Bruce Winfield, a Crawley fan, and Sue Carter who between them have drummed up enough investment to put the club right, and none of the people who have put money in expect to see their money back, according to Winfield, so Crawley are relatively free of the fear that investors might ask for money back, plunging the club into financial peril.
Formed over 114 years ago, they had the nickname ‘The Red Devils’ before Man United adopted it, and their club badge bears more than a passing resemblance to the Old Trafford club. And the similarities don’t end there with most Man United fans coming from Sussex too. Narf.
On to the game, and incredibly bookies are offering odds as miserly as EVENS for a Derby County win. Crawley beat Swindon Town in a replay at the County Ground with many Swindon fans remarking that that was the most comprehensively they have seen their team beaten at home for a while. With a pitch battered by frost, rain, snow and non-league defenders in recent weeks, Derby might struggle to maintain their fluid passing game, but the pitch is a great leveller as they say and Crawley too will be impacted by this. A Derby win should be expected here, regardless of Crawley Town’s success in previous rounds, but they will have to be on form to achieve a win here.
Former Brighton keeper Michel Kuipers is perhaps the weak link in the side, although former Derby stalwart Pablo Mills, as good as he is, is prone to believing he is Zidane on the ball, putting his side in trouble when the intricate through-ball inevitably doesn’t come off. Scott Neilson on the right wing will be eager to show that he can cut it against higher opposition after his disappointing spell at Bradford and Sergio Torres will be a menace throughout. Expect Robbie Savage (now that he’s finally allowed in the ground) to work to nullify the threat posed by the effervescent Torres.
With this being close to a sell-out, the atmosphere should be good for the ESPN viewers watching the game, and hopefully this will lead to a good game all round. And in the build-up to the game, we’ve learned that the BBC’s Dan Walker is a Crawley Town fan, so that’s nice. I’ve got my ticket in a safe place ready for the big match: it’s Gatwick Airport v East Midlands Airport, Dan Walker v Robbie Savage, Crawley Town v Derby County, and you can catch my match report tomorrow over at the Real FA Cup site.
How many tweets make a twat?
Henry Winter actually made a relatively interesting point this morning on Twitter. I know, it was a momentous occasion, but perhaps not up there with the #wherewereyouwhenhenryresponded tweets, which occurred after that famous day when Henry Winter finally responded to a Tweet.
Winter opined that it was only a matter of time before the PFA and clubs seek to censor their players on Twitter. And he has a point. There have been some corkers on Twitter from players who clearly need to revisit their media training. And Winter is also right that this would be a massive shame as many footballers are very interesting. His comments were in light of Ryan Babel posting a picture of Howard Red (Ed – haha, this was a genuine typo, but I’m leaving it in there!) dressed in a Man United shirt, displaying impressive Photoshop skills.
We had Darren Bent telling Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy to “stop fucking around” for not letting him move to Sunderland, which resulted in a £120,000 fine – almost £10,000 per character. Even without the venting, @DB11TT is an interesting follow, if only because he’s batshit crazy, as his TweetPics are testament to.
More recently we’ve had some crackers: Glen Johnson blasted Paul Merson, saying that comments from “alcoholic drug abusers” aren’t really going to upset him, and calling him a clown. People have had their opinion on him but I’d rather listen to Glen Johnson saying what he actually thinks than sit through another banal Michael Owen interview where his media training just shines through, even where his personality doesn’t.
Twitter Twat of the year has to go to Aldershot’s Marvin Morgan. The alliteratively named forward took exception to fans booing their team. His tweet “I hope you all die” to Aldershot fans after the game showing them what he thought. Er, overreacting much? Particularly bad timing given the death of a club stalwart the day before.
It’s not just rants though. Newcastle’s Jose Enrique annoyed Alan Pardew by tweeting that he was injured and would miss the next league game; a fact that Pardew had hoped to keep secret from the opposition. Pardew obviously hadn’t taken into account the fact that said opposition was Tottenham Hotspur managed by Harry “I’m not a faaaackin’ Wheeler-Dealer” Redknapp whose tactics famously consist of “get out there and faaackin run about a bit you caaants”.
It’s not all bad though. We have the Stephen Fry of football Tweeters in @RobbieSavage8 (followers: a healthy 129,000) whose love-in/bitch fest with @rioferdy5 is as odd as it is, at times, amusing. He takes a lot of shit from the usual idiot football fans who love nothing more than a pantomime villain, but he’s as happy to dish it out as receive it. If Crawley can beat Derby in the FA Cup tonight (preview available now), it will be interesting to follow Savage’s Tweets.
I hope Henry Winter is wrong, but I suspect he is right in this, and more footballers will have their Tweeting rights taken away from them. It’ll be a shame because for every Darren Byfield and Aaron Lescott (snoooooooooooze), there’s a Kevin Davies (@kevindaviesbwfc) or Matt Lawrence (@mattyjlawrence) who are actually interesting to follow (and hey, they even converse with you).
I’m now off Tweet to everyone who reads my blog that I hope they all die.
What makes a big club? There is no magic equation to working out which is a big club and which isn’t but certainly most people consider that to consider a club as a “big club”, the club needs to have most of the following elements:
On 5 Live this week Lawrie Sanchez suggested that Liverpool are not currently a big club, which, unsurprisingly, fellow guest John Aldridge reacted to with incredulity. In my opinion, Sanchez was just trolling, possibly looking for a reaction, but that doesn’t mean he was wholly wrong. His reasons for Liverpool no longer being a big club were: No recent success – they hadn’t won the Premier League since football began in 1992, and hadn’t won any trophy for five years. In fact, the year they won the Champions League they actually lost 17 games in all competitions. Fair point, though they did reach to cup finals and finish second in the league in the last five years, but Sanchez’s point is valid on that respect. He claimed that Liverpool won the Champions League “by default” which was less understandable as it was anything but.
He also claimed that Liverpool’s support is dwindling, based on recent attendances, which are down, but at a time of year when many people were facing problems with the weather. He did say that they could be proud of their history, etc, which, with 18 titles and 5 European Cup victories, they can be.
Aldridge countered that Liverpool were a “massive club. A massive, massive club” who had just “lost their way”… well that’s me convinced. Sanchez retorted that Liverpool fans needed to be more realistic, and he’s certainly correct in that respect. I mentioned John Aldridge, so by law I have to post this:
Let’s be clear: both were making ludicrous points to back up their opinion which were, in themselves, valid. I’m no fan of Liverpool, but they satisfy enough of the above criteria to be considered a big club still, albeit one that’s on a massive and steep decline. If they weren’t a big club, I don’t think we’d all be so interested in their cataclysmic descent to the West Ham end of the table. But Liverpool aren’t a “massive” club. They can’t compete with City’s spending power, they can’t compete with Man United’s recent success, they can’t compete with Man United’s support, or possibly even the support level of other British clubs like Celtic, and their squad isn’t up to the standards of the likes of Spurs. They certainly aren’t in the hunt for any trophies this season and as for being able to attract big name players, that’s not certain. Joe Cole was a big capture in the summer, regardless of his form since. But how many of the bigger stars want to stay? It’s not known.
But, their reputation is big enough that I can see them turning it around in a few years – it is their history which they can trade on, and only their history. Woy probably hasn’t been good enough, although Anfield never really gave him a chance to be fair, but with a different manager (not King Kenny for what it’s worth), and different players, they might be able to break into the top 5 again. It’ll be difficult with the emergence of Spurs as a genuine force in English football though.
But Liverpool fans need to be more realistic, listening to phone-ins and reading message forums they seem to feel they are entitled to a top four finish every season, but based on what? A particularly cringe-worthy comment on one forum was “He [Rafa Benitez] understood what this club is all about. He understood what loving LFC was all about. He understood that we ARE different from other fans … [descends into more drivel]. No chance, Liverpool fans aren’t special, they’re the same as fans of any other club: some intelligent some (usually the majority) are morons. This chap was clearly in the latter category. Comedy article of the week has to go to this beauty from a chap who is just gagging to hate Woy Hodgson. There are some quotes in there which show Hodgson in a bad light, definitely, but many of them the author is just trying to hate Hodgson: e.g: Hodgson chose not to play Torres on the advice of his medical staff: OMFG Hodgson doesn’t even pick teh team!!!1!!11! LOLZ.
In summary, Liverpool probably aren’t currently a big club, though with their history and the appeal of the club, they probably will be in the future. So for non-Liverpool fans we can watch with glee as a big club bounces around from humiliating defeat to humbling losses, featuring cack left-backs, managers with 1950s cockney accents, heroin-addled centre halves and a large dose of humble pie. Enjoy it while it lasts, it won’t be forever (probably).
It took less than a week for someone to surpass the buffoonery necessary to award a World Cup to Quatar (population: 1.5 million), but just when Newcastle were becoming a respectable club, staying out of the limelight while quietly picking up decent results, Mike Ashley stepped up to remind us that he is the ringmaster of a circus of shit.
That sounds harsh, and this is by no means a criticism of the Newcastle team, who’ve played very well this season picking up some good results, having recently thrashed Sunderland in the derby and picking up a point against Chelsea with no centre halves. Nor is it a criticism of their fans, who appear to have learnt the art of managing expectations. No longer are they demanding Top 4 finishes and big name signings. Calmly going about their business Newcastle are a steady 11th in the league.
And so it came to pass that Mike Ashley, who’s biggest achievement at Newcastle has been downing a pint of generic piss within 5 seconds, decided to sack the man who won the Championship last season, got them up to midtable this term and thrashed Sunderland 5-1 having spent a grand total of two and a half beans and some pocket fluff this summer.
Has Kinnear recovered from
being a cunt his heart attack yet? Ashley has stated that Newcastle are looking for a manager with more experience and with around 600 games under his belt it would be hilarious if Ashley reinstated the prize cockney-sounding Irish twat. Though not so hilarious, one suspects, for Newcastle fans who I doubt would relish seeing JK (managed: 26. Won: 5) back at the helm.
Currently Alan Pardew – victim of another slightly odd sacking earlier this season – is the bookies’ favourite to replace Hughton*. A man who, after all, was sacked from League One Southampton could be deemed by Mashley to be the man do take Newcastle up to…what, Europa League places? Champions League qualification? The title? Which leads on to the next point.
What exactly were Newcastle’s aspirations for this season? I think that with their new sense of realism, Newcastle fans are actually quite happy with a mid table finish – consolidation being a good thing, before potentially kicking on and improving year on year. It does beg the question of quite what Mashley wanted to achieve this season.
The situation is almost laughable enough to make me want Newcastle to be relegated this season. Almost. In fairness, I don’t think the Newcastle fans deserve it – it’s horrible to a fan of a club that’s pretty much a laughing stock thanks to the man in charge – but if they do end up slipping down the table, the one comfort will be knowing that Mike Ashley has proved himself to be a tit almighty once again.
* Although as we write it looks like the Big Man (Martin Jol) has resigned from Ajax so could well be on his way to Newcastle. As someone said to me earlier, Newcastle had to have someone specifically lined up to take over the role to sack Hughton at this point in the season.
It’s either a brave or foolhardy man who blogs in support of under-pressure Fabio Capello on the eve of an England game which some portions of the press appear to be practically gagging for England to fail in. But, having been on the verge of publishing some expletive-laden blogs aimed at the Messrs Winter, Custis (either one), Ashton and Woolnough for a couple of weeks, it’s time to blog about Capello and his relationship with some sections of the press. So foolhardy it is then.
For a number of weeks, Custis, Ashton and Winter and their own little Axis of Evil have been finding any excuse to criticise Capello. A major criticism has been his English. While he is heavily accented (“my players are wery tie-red”), his English is fine, and perfectly understandable. There is no indication from the players that they have any problem understanding him. I don’t honestly think it’s xenophobia (after all, they can barely keep their cocks away from Mourinho, Hiddink, Ancelotti and others), but it’s certainly lazy tabloid journalism.
In his press conference earlier this week, one of the first questions put to him was “Fabio, how important is it to win against Bulgaria?” What kind of question was that? The journalism industry is, as we’re always told, extremely competitive and excruciatingly hard to get into. Is it? Is it really? Not on the evidence of that question it’s not. At least Gordon Strachan treats such questions with the disdain they deserve, and I’d have loved Capello to answer: “er, it’s not that important in all honesty. I’m planning to qualify via the play-offs, so losing to Bulgaria and Switzerland is all part of my master plan”, before cackling manically, staring at Shaun Custis while making a slit throat gesture and jabbering something to his assistant in Italian.
Football 365 recently sent an excellent open letter to the Sun in response to the Sun’s article calling Capello “gormless” and a “jackass” for not picking Jack Wilshire in the England squad (total starts for Arsenal in the league: 2). Reading the letter reveals a lot about the hypocrisy of the hacks. I recall some sections of the media seeming to think that England would win the world cup on the basis that the players wore ties at dinner and called the manager Mr Capello. Now it appears he’s too strict, too authoritarian. Winter and Custis remarked on 5 Live recently that none of the players had any smiles on their faces during their recent training session, and this was attributed to Capello’s man-management. Anyone else remember the furore in the media when some England players dared to smile shortly after exit from South Africa?
While it’s clear that Capello is wanted out by the Axis of Evil, they’ve yet to offer any viable alternatives. Stuart Pearce, Sam Allardyce, Harry Redknapp and Roy Hodgson have been put forward as English candidates and while none are terrible managers none, with the exception of Hodgson, can match the experience and success that Fabio Capello has reached. And they’ve all made it fairly clear that Johnny Foreigner isn’t wanted, so it’s pointless extolling the virtues of Guus Hiddink, et al.
Of course they are just spewing out what people want to hear and unfortunately it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: Hacks think fans want Capello out; hacks get on Capello’s back; fans read articles and agree; fans want Capello out. But then the majority of football fans are idiots. *Whooooosh* there goes my readership…
Finally, this isn’t particularly a defence of Capello. More, it’s a statement of frustration with lazy and tired journalism. Rather than haranguing the manager and preaching from behind the barricades of foresight (not one journo criticised Capello for taking the players to Austria at the time they were there, but now they all think it was plainly obvious from the outset that it was a bad idea), it would be nice to see some cutting and insightful commentary.
Martin Samuel was a bastion of sensibility this week. His article, Show Respect – Fabio Is No Clown is worth reading, and I would suggest it takes a brave hack to stand up against the loudest and most vocal red top hacks (yes Winter, you’re in that bracket too).
Frantically racing up the M1 to clinch a last-minute deal with a much coveted striker. Feverish excitement around the country as fans wait the latest news on who their club has signed with bated breath. Managers faxing details of their signing through to the FA at the last minute on a balmy March day. How we remember Transfer Deadline Days of yore. How we miss their outdated and outmoded practices which sadly no longer remain.
Except, that is, the practice of sending faxes. It appears the FA are stuck in a perennial state of 1993 where modems are the stuff of science fiction, shell suits are fashionable, 2 Unlimited are setting the world alight with their soporific lyrics and fax machines are considered must-haves among the more technologically-aware corporations. Strange to think that in 2010, the Football Association insists that all communications are sent via fax rather than via emails. This includes faxing details of impending transfers and requesting press passes to various footballing events hosted by the FA.
And frankly the communication preferences of the Football Association are slightly less dull than the goings on of the summer transfer deadline day of 2010, no matter what Sky Sports News will have you believe. With the season already around three weeks old, most clubs will have completed the majority of their transfer dealings in time for the start of the season. A couple of mildly intriguing deals may go through today, but the days of football fans being glued to the Teletext in the hope of receiving some interesting news is long gone.
It’s not so much the lack of transfer activity itself which leads to the banality of the whole affair, it’s more the fact that you cannot move for news sites providing minute-by-minute countdowns until the minute when the transfer window “SLAMS” (it’s never shut quietly or gently) shut. A quick look at the Transfer Clockwatch on Skysports.com reveals such nuggets as MK Dons releasing a player on a free transfer, Barcelona’s Seydou Keita signing a new contract (which would appear to be the very opposite of transfer news) and speculation regarding Middlesbrough preparing a “beat-the-deadline swoop” for a Celtic midfielder. The last bit of news adding weight to the theory that Gordon Strachan is moving Celtic and Rangers to the English leagues player by player.
It’s not so much the mind-numbingness of the news on offer, it’s that much of it isn’t news at all. Players who might possibly could be may be considering a proposed move to a club isn’t news. It’s pub talk. Without the beer. But then, after a deadline day that gave us Tevez and Mascherano moving to West Ham, could any deadline day possibly live up to those heights? I’m afraid Marcus Bent joining Wolves on loan just doesn’t cut it, no matter how much the Yellow Ticker of Importance tries to tell us on Sky Sports News.
The Half-time Whistle was invited to an entertaining evening of football at Dulwich Hamlet with The Real FA Cup yesterday and, in an increasingly depressing football world, it was a breath of fresh air. The match was a Ryman League Division One South match against Kent side Whitstable. As a part-time Gillingham fan, I have a soft spot for Dulwich Hamlet having started the careers of former Gillingham favourites Carl Asaba, Marlon King, Chris Dickson and Simeon Jackson. I was pleased to see that Dulwich’s current squad contained one Kevin James, formerly of Gillingham, Nottingham Forest and a few other clubs.
Match entry was less than two pints of beer if you’re in London and the South East, and less than a small flat if you live in the North East. At £6 I thought that was eminently reasonable. The Real FA Cup told us that they’d been charged £10 for a pre-season friendly at Sutton United this season. £10! Sutton United!! A friendly!!! It does strike me that football prices in this country are perhaps too much. My local Blue Square Premier club charges £14 for standing on the terraces. I can’t help but feel that if a few pounds was knocked off that price, they would see more people through the gates, boosting attendance, maximising enjoyment, increasing the likelihood of fans coming back.
If you’re a football geek you’ll like the ground. With one main stand along the side, a small stand the other side, and no stands behind either goal, it’s a great opportunity to walk around the pitch and serenely take in the game. Pint of beer in hand. Oh, and you can smoke too. It’s almost like a higher civilization. Why can I hear the Hovis music right now?
Having just reminisced about a bygone era of football, I should point out that the first half was shit. The dullest half I’ve seen live in a long time, and I couldn’t help but think I could be at home watching Sky Sports’ coverage of the Carling Cup second round in the comfort of my living room.
At half-time we went to the bar in the ground which – get this Premier League fans – has a nice view over the pitch!! Yes, at this level we’re trusted to have our beer “in sight of the pitch” (banned in the Premier League and Football League) and you know what? I didn’t once get an urge to start chucking things on the pitch and cause mayhem (maybe a little bit, but that’s more a statement on me rather than being in sight of the pitch with a beer in hand).
The second half was much more entertaining, and Kevin James came on as sub which cheered me up no end. I saw Kevin James score a few years ago when he came on as a late sub against Watford, a nicely taken goal. Before this match, Kevin James – a forward – had scored 7 goals in 10 years of football which means, as the Real FA Cup pointed out, that I had seen 15% of his career goals before this match. He looked brilliant in flashes and looked average in others. It was interesting to think that he had played in front of maybe 25,000 for Forest in the Championship and was now playing in front of maybe 150 in the Ryman Division One. There’s no real explanation for this drop and he didn’t look massively out of place in either league to be honest.
I noticed that he has an infeasibly high-pitched voice. Which is another great thing about football at this level: being able to hear the players. When one Dulwich player tried an intricate through ball which didn’t come off, the left winger screamed “WHAT THE FUUUUUCK?!?!” which was just perfect. Being able to hear a player call the referee a cunt is part of what football is all about. It’s what Tony Adams and David Ellery tried to bring us all those years ago.
Also, stood right behind the goal, we were able to hear the beautiful “pfssshhhhh” sound as the ball hits the back of the net and rolls down it. Beautiful, and we both decided that that sound, along with a ball thumping a crossbar, are among the most satisfying sounds in football.
It was an entertaining evening and the quality of the players made for an entertaining match. Three players stood out: commanding centre back Francis Duku who is built like a cross between Kenwyne Jones and Micah Richards, and with the haircut of a Brent Sancho. An absolute monster centre back, and he caused loads of problems at corners, too. Nyren Clunis, described on the Dulwich Hamlet website as “frighteningly fast”, really was. Scored a decent goal and looked dangerous all game long. And, of course, Kevin James who also scored and looked quality most of the time. And, having seen him score, I’ve now witnessed 25% of his career goals.
While the quality was high, I foundright-back Jordan Wilson’s contribution quite amusing. A non-contested drop ball was awarded for Wilson to hoof back to the keeper. He controlled the ball and it promptly ran out of play for a throw-on. Probably he wished he wasn’t wearing a pair of bright blue boots after that.
Finally, we particularly enjoyed the following tannoy announcement during the first half: “would the children in the right-corner of the ground with the football, please leave the steward alone”. Three ten year old boys kicking a football near a steward looked round. Maybe you had to be there, but it was highly entertaining.