Sporting and Estoril Praia surprise is Primeira Liga
22 April ~ Easter Sunday saw Benfica claim their 33rd league title (Porto have 27, Sporting 18) with a 2-0 win over struggling Olhanense in front of 64,000 at the Luz in Lisbon. Club president Luís Filipe Vieira dedicated the title to the supporters – according to a UEFA report published last week, 47 per cent of Portuguese fans are Benfiquistas, while there are reputedly six million around the world – and to the two Benfica legends that passed away recently: Eusébio and Mário Coluna. Coach Jorge Jesus in turn thanked Vieira for showing faith in him.
23 April ~ The Latvian folk tale, The Three Doves, tells of three white doves that belonged to a poor farmer in the beautiful but impoverished region of Smiltene. The three doves sense, somehow, that their master is very poor and determine to help him. The first dove decides to fly and fly until he finds a financial advisor offering a free start-up consultation. He returns two months later, exhausted and unsuccessful. The second dove thought it wasn't really their problem but the third dove rose with the sun one morning and flew into the poor farmer's window repeatedly until the man finally awoke. Read more
22 April ~ David Moyes has been sacked as Manchester United manager just ten months after succeeding Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford. When he was appointed the BBC's pundits all had their say, with Alan Hansen hailing him as "the perfect choice" while Gary Lineker said it was "a great choice for Manchester United, probably not a very good choice for Everton". You can watch the full video here.
21 April ~ Division One debutants Ipswich sealed the title with a 2-0 defeat of Aston Villa in their last match. Ray Crawford, who got two goals against Arsenal, was top scorer with 33; only five other Ipswich players scored at all with Crawford's strike partner Ted Philips getting 28. Ipswich boss Alf Ramsey took the England job that summer and full-back Billy Baxter was the one player remaining from this squad when Bobby Robson took over as manager seven years later.
20 April ~ Liverpool travel to Carrow Road today hoping to move a step closer to their first League title since 1990. A decade earlier Liverpool went to a Norwich City team unbeaten at home all season with the aim of defending their crown from the challenge of Manchester United. In a thrilling match that included a David Fairclough hat-trick, Norwich took the lead and twice came from behind to make it 3-3, the Canaries' third goal being a stunning volley from Justin Fashanu, before succumbing 5-3 in the final few minutes. Liverpool went on to win the title by two points.
May issue available in stores and online
The new WSC is out now, in all good newsagents or dispatched on the day of order from the WSC shop.
- The Messi phenomenon
- Fans unite over Hillsborough
- Bayern: a problem for Germany?
- World Cup shirt frenzy in Brazil
- Players must stop not celebrating
- Newport County's revival
FA Amateur Cup final, 1967
18 April ~ Crowds at the final of the FA Amateur Cup (from 1974 the FA Vase) weren't quite what they had been in the 1950s, when five successive finals pulled in capacity 100,000 gates. But a three-quarters full Wembley stadium was 30,000 higher than the previous year's attendance, when Wealdstone had beaten Hendon. Perhaps the public imagination was ignited by the match-up between a storied amateur team such as Enfield FC – yet to lift this trophy for the first time – and an up-and-coming club from a Merseyside satellite town whose players were on average 20 years old.
16 April ~ Several countries have launched official songs for the World Cup. Here's Mexico's. You'll understand why it has more "dislikes" than "likes".
by John McDermott
In many ways John McDermott's book is the archetypal lower-league autobiography. You have contractual wrangles and several relegations shot through with moments of glory, laddish hijinks on pre-season tours of Scandinavia, a touching sense of wonder when the player crosses paths with his contemporaries from the Premier League and transcription from interview tapes with a minimum of editorial effort. Rather than leave for a new club every chapter, though, McDermott spends all of his 21-year, 750-match career with Grimsby Town. Read more
The Justin Fashanu story
How much is there left to say about a man of whom so much has already been said? This biography of Justin Fashanu will certainly not be the last. The sleeve notes of Nick Baker's Forbidden Forward promise more detail than ever before and to identify "those who are to blame for his untimely death". Read more
The Weserstadion is the 42,500-capacity home of Werder Bremen in Germany. The stadium is situated on the north bank of the Weser River and surrounded by parkland but was turned down as a host venue for the 2006 World Cup.
Improving young locals, imports and coaching
22 April ~ In the last minute of added time in the last regular game of the A-League season, Alessandro del Piero flicked a through-ball past William Gallas for Richard Garcia to give Sydney FC a barely deserved 2-1 win over Perth Glory. The win secured Sydney's place in the final play-offs – a low bar given that the top six qualify in a ten-team league – and left Perth with the familiar feeling of failure in eighth place. It was a short-lived glimpse of success for Sydney, as they were eliminated at the first hurdle the next week, but the identity of the three players and the fate of their teams tells you something about where the A-League is up to.
Lambert's two closest assistants suspended
19 April ~ This is the fourth season in a row that Aston Villa have haunted their followers with the threat of relegation, the limp surrender 1-0 at Crystal Palace last Saturday being the fourth straight loss in another stop-start season. For every glorious win over the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, there have been multiple let downs at Villa Park as a season-record ten visitors, most recently Fulham (2-1) and Stoke (4-1), so far have left with all three points, not to mention home defeats in both cup competitions.
Championship play-off contenders
18 April ~ It was 25 years ago, almost to this very day, that Reading played Wigan at Elm Park in the old Division Three. A crowd of just 3,800 stood in a sombre silence in memory of the Hillsborough disaster four days earlier. So much has changed: Elm Park, Springfield Park, the name "Division Three" itself, all gone. Back then Wigan v Reading had a decidedly lower division feel to it. Now it's a fixture that has taken place in all four divisions as both clubs have been companions in progress. Each have benefited from the paternalistic rule of "local" chairmen, Dave Whelan and John Madejski, and multi-purpose stadiums built in the 1990s.
Cherries flying high in Championship
17 April ~ A run of just one loss in 11 games has seen Bournemouth just two points from a play-off place in the Championship. Despite Neil Warnock suggesting on the Football League Show that the Cherries had run out of steam after their disappointing 1-1 draw away at Yeovil last Saturday, fans are still hopeful that the team will prove him wrong. A bottom-half finish clear of relegation was the target at the season's start but the fantastic form since beating fellow Championship new boys Doncaster 5-0 on March 1 has seen Bournemouth rocket up the table.
Conference demands change
16 April ~ Football, according to David Goldblatt, the author of The Ball Is Round, has to bear the weight of ethical visions of what the world might be like. Talk about "the beautiful game" is loose and hackneyed, because no one who watches Bristol Rovers every week would pretend that football always looks that way. Goldblatt is more concerned with the potential for beauty and for that, football urgently needs profound and far-reaching reforms, as he said when he delivered the keynote address last week at Hofstra University’s intriguing conference on Soccer as the Beautiful Game: Football’s Artistry, Identity and Politics.
5pm is too late
15 April ~ The Magic of the Cup – we're all feeling it in Hull. Progress to the final for the first time in the club's long and less than illustrious history hasn't been easy, and such is the lack of respect the competition has had for us over our lifespans, we've expected it to end at every hurdle. But now we're in the final. Of course, with that comes an array of logistical, practical and financial strains. The FA has decreed that just 25,000 tickets will go to the two clubs. This has left indignant Arsenal fans asking why 20,000 of their own season passholders can't attend the game.
Retirement is difficult
14 April ~ I was bringing in the shopping on a Saturday afternoon in the rain when I heard someone cry out in pain. This was followed by lots of angry shouting and several blasts of a whistle. There was no mistaking the sound – it was a football match, sent on the breeze from the football fields of the local school. Standing on my driveway, with several carrier bags of shopping in each hand, I was catapulted into the action. I could picture the victim. No doubt a winger – often passengers in poor conditions, shinpads the size of tape cassettes, framed high up his shin by several layers of electrical tape wrapped around his socks.
Second semi-final, 4.07pm
13 April ~ Sheffield United head to Wembley today for their fourth FA Cup semi-final in recent times. The three previous matches have seen slim margins of defeat. There was a devastating 2-1 extra-time loss in the all-Sheffield semi-final of 1993 and 1-0 defeats at Old Trafford to Newcastle in 1998 and Arsenal five years later, both when the Blades were a Championship side. In the last 40 years, 41 clubs have played in a major cup final and that number will increase by one today whether it is the Blades or opponents Hull City.
Gradual overhaul pays dividends
12 April ~ Seven points clear of fourth place with just five games to go, even Rochdale manager Keith Hill has started to talk about promotion. For most of a remarkably successful season Hill has urged caution as his young squad competes with what he describes as the “money teams” in League Two. Now he reckons that two more wins will be enough. Getting one of those wins at Mansfield today won’t be easy. The Stags were on a terrible run when they lost 3-0 at Spotland on Boxing Day but they have only lost four of 19 games since and still have an outside chance of reaching the play-offs.