Archive for the 'Footy' Category

Michael Jackson, bent spoons and football

Yes, it really has been a fortnight since the last blog post. Apologies – I’m not neglecting this place, it’s just the starting a new job thing is obviously taking up a fair bit of my time. Plus it’s sunny outside, there were family visits and a day of cricket to be watched as well. None of which make for convenient blogging time.

Anyway, in the meantime Michael Jackson passed away. He was actually, for a brief period of time, a director of Exeter City FC. Along with Darth Vader. I really wish I was making this up, but I’m not. I’ve told the whole bizarre and somewhat depressing tale over at Soccerlens.

Plus, over at twofootedtackle.com, we also did a slimmed down summer podcast. Listen and laugh at our woeful Confederations Cup predictions and marvel that nothing has happened on the transfer front in a week. That’s so not news it’s almost news.

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Franchising and football

I find the whole thing fascinating: how the MLS currently operates, why the MK Dons (aka Franchise FC) are so hated. And the rest. So I did me a Soccerlens post on the subject.

The comments are also really interesting and informative, and I inadvertently upset Dagenham fans, which, reading back, is fairly obvious why.

Obligatory occasional Ebbsfleet article

Ever since MyFootballClub announced they were taking over Ebbsfleet United, I’ve kept tabs on the situation at Stonebridge Road.

Now that they’ve hit a crunch time in their history, with rival clubs bidding for their star players, I thought it was about time for another Soccerlens piece on them.

This is the news and this is why we did it

One of the joys of the web is it opens up the thinking process behind news values decisions to, well, everyone.

Take the Birmingham Mail’s exclusive letter from Gareth Barry to Aston Villa fans, for instance. The Mail didn’t post it up until after lunch, despite it being an exclusive and something, I imagine, that would have sent a fair amount of traffic in their direction.

Like Joanna Geary, I would have assumed it was a bit of a missed opportunity for the paper. But then the editor, Steve Dyson, enters into the comments and explains exactly why they held back.

Having read his explanation – and the amount of publicity they got out of the letter – I can see his reasons. And I can’t blame him either. It’s one of the few times you can make a convincing argument for holding back from publishing online. Then again you could also say the increased traffic would have been worth it. But would they have got the credit? It’s a fascinating debate.

But I do like that Steve took the time to enter into the comments and explain the paper’s thought process. Ok, it probably helps that Joanna is an ex-employee, but then her blog is quite widely-read in the industry, so it makes sense to get involved.

The more readers can understand editorial decisions, the closer the bond they have with the paper, and that can only increase if journalists will take a bit of time now and then to chat about it.

Ok, it doesn’t make sense to actively hunt down every comment about every article (although there are probably some journalists who do this), but the odd comment on the odd relevant blog, even if it’s negative, goes a long way. In the old days, the blogger would have probably got a rather stern email instead of a comment.

If traditional media is to survive in these choppy waters, we all need to befollowing Steve’s lead and having conversations like this across the web,

End of season elsewhere

So, the final twofootedtackle podcast of the season is now online. It seemed only fitting that we got John Stanton, the guest on our first podcast, back into the studio, and he didn’t disappoint. Among the topics covered were the FA Cup, England Internationals, MLS, Champions League, Gareth Barry, managerial changes and, um, cricket (well, the Ashes are coming up).

We will be doing occasional podcasts over the summer but we’re taking a bit of a break for the time being to let us charge our batteries.

Then I’ve also put my two pence forward at Soccerlens on what changes should be made to the FA Cup, Champions League and UEFA Cup.

It’s already got accused of hateration from an Arsenal fan…

Total football

When Brian Clough brought the phrase ‘the beautiful game’ into common usage, he would have probably rarely applied it to many Champions League games of recent years. Tense, defensively-minded tactics and meaningless group games have long been the order of the day, but this season has been different, and crowned by one of the most complete displays from a team in a modern major final.

Barcelona perhaps needed a little bit of help from the referee to get to the final, but there was no doubting their class in Rome. Fans are used to leaving games speechless, but rarely because they struggle to find superlatives that do the winning team justice. Tonight, Barcelona turned in one of those performances.

Granted, they needed an early goal to settle their nerves and were helped by poor defending and goalkeeping from United. But what followed them was a masterclass in how to win a game.

The Catalans defence, missing three first-choice players and making do with a holding midfielder at centre-half and a centre-half at right back were imperious, only twice giving United the space to fashion chances, both of which the English side wasted. Puyol, at right-back, was magnificent, keeping both Ronaldo and Rooney quiet and bombing up the wing like a man half his age.

In the centre, Xavi and Iniesta were sublime. Every move, every chance inevitably came through these two. No ball was wasted and no matter how tight the space was, the pass could always be found. Some of the interplay in the centre of the park was a joy to watch and they could well have bettered that goal by Cambiasso for Argentina against Serbia, such was the build up and crispness of the passing.

Up front, Henry rolled back the years, Messi weaved his magic and Eto’o was, well, Eto’o. He scored in a European cup final, he did his job, he’s still not as good as the statistics may suggest this season, but he deserved his medal tonight.

The second goal was a thing of beauty. Yes, the defence went awol, but Xavi’s cross was pinpoint perfect and Messi’s leap and header was exquisite. How a man of 5 foot 7 could leap that high and put that amount of direction on the ball is beyond me.

Then again, Manchester United were poor, with only Rooney and Park trying to make anything of the game. But let’s not dwell on that. Barcelona could have been playing anybody tonight, and I’d be lavishing praise on them (and given they’ve thumped both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich this season, this result isn’t entirely surprising).

It’s rare that I’ll sit down on here and shower superlatives (or otherwise) on a team that isn’t Exeter, but Barcelona blew me away tonight. That they managed such a performance in the Champions League final is even more impressive.

And this post isn’t intended as United bashing. I’m strangely indifferent to the team. They’re the least objectionable of the Big Four, they play nice football and have one of the best players in the world in Wayne Rooney playing for them. And they were ws abject as Barcelona were superb tonight.

Truthfully, anybody could have supplied the opposition tonight and I’d still have been blown away by that performance. I’ve got no interest in poking fun at United (if it were Plymouth…), just in praising Barcelona for one of the greatest team performances I’ve ever witnessed.

I’m not sure if it quite comes close to Exeter City at Oxford United in the Conference play-off final second leg in 2007 though.

Anyway, if you want a bit more football, there’s the twofootedtackle podcast, largely taken up with dissecting Newcastle United’s corpse, plus a bit of chat on the Bundesliga. And there’s more mulling over the Magpies from me at Soccerlens.

I promise I will largely shut up about football on here now. At least for the next two months.

More Gary stuff elsewhere

You know what? I can be complementary about Exeter’s rivals. Over at Soccerlens, I’ve done a bit of a ‘well done’ to Torquay for getting promotion [1] out of the Blue Square Premier. I’m actually quite happy to see them back in the league, and chuffed for their centre-half, Chris Todd. He’s one of the nicest men in football and has battled back against Leukaemia this year to become a Wembley winner.

Then there’s the twofootedtackle podcast, with myself, Chris Nee and Kate Clarke, where we pick our Premier League team of the year, predict who’ll drop down to the Championship, chat MLS, share tips for poaching eggs, and have a quick chinwag with Bobby Zamora.

And then the longer Pulitzer-winning [2] version of the interview with BZ can be found at Soccerlens.

[1] If this were Argyle it would, naturally, be a slightly different story. Assuming I even bothered to write it.

[2] May be a lie.


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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com