Hamilton prove you don’t need money for success
“Streetwise” Accies top of Premiership
29 October ~ Those who believe clubs should work within their means might find Saturday’s Scottish headlines darkly symbolic. Hours after it was revealed that Newcastle owner Mike Ashley was bankrolling Rangers, Hamilton Academical – thrifty, modest and focused on their community – lost their clean-sheet record and second game of the season, at Dundee. However, Accies remain top of the Premiership while Rangers struggle to escape the second tier. Those expecting Hamilton’s bubble to burst might anticipate confirmation from Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final at Aberdeen. But Accies thrive on low expectations.
Lens relying on youth as Mammadov money dries up
First Ligue 1 club to field six under-21s
28 October ~ The starting line-up that Lens named at Toulouse in Ligue 1 last Friday night contained four 19-year-olds and two 20-year-olds. By doing so, the Sang et Or (blood and golds) became the first Ligue 1 club to field half-a-dozen players aged under 21 since Montpellier in 2003. Lens’ youth and inexperience made their 2-0 victory all the more impressive. In goal, Valentin Belon (19) was making his first-team debut. Six-foot-six-inch central defender Abdoul Ba (20) was making his first start. So was centre-forward Baptiste Guillaume, whose build and gait occasionally recall Tony Cascarino in his 1980s Millwall pomp.
Kidderminster's UKIP advert divides fanbase
Right-wing party pay for hoarding
27 October ~ Conference Premier side Kidderminster Harriers attracted unwanted attention last week after agreeing to advertise the local UKIP Wyre Forest branch on a hoarding at their Aggborough ground. The decision has reportedly led to the resignation of the Kidderminster Harriers Independent Supporters Trust's press officer and a number of sponsors and supporters considering a boycott. In response, the club released a statement stressing they were politically neutral, had commercial links with other parties and “regard the support from UKIP locally in exactly the same way”.
Shot-shy Portsmouth still trust Andy Awford
Visit high-flying Shrewsbury today
25 October ~ When Portsmouth turn up at fifth-placed Shrewsbury tomorrow, travelling fans will be wondering about the team’s formation as much as their form. After a promising start propelled Andy Awford’s newly debt-free Pompey charges among the League Two front runners early on, things have rather stalled of late. The midweek 3-2 victory over Stevenage brought much-needed relief; a first win in six league outings delivering on the promise of a response from Awford after a dispiritingly shot-shy showing at Bury last weekend.
Cattermole key to Sunderland bouncing back
Mackems must move on from Southampton
25 October ~ A week ago, Sunderland were in unfamiliar territory. Following the calamitous start to last term and the defensive frailties that plagued the team, Gus Poyet’s men now appeared rather sound at the back. Having conceded a mere seven goals in as many opening games, only last Saturday’s opponents Southampton boasted a better record. How things change. As will need little recounting, Sunderland promptly shipped eight without reply, their joint-heaviest ever defeat.
Cotterill wins over fans with “mature” Bristol City
Manager has changed previous focus on youth
24 October ~ A year ago this weekend, Bristol City won at Carlisle. It was their first league victory of the season and took the club off the bottom of the League One table. It was actually their first league win in 22 attempts, spread across seven months, two seasons and two divisions. By the end of November, Sean O’Driscoll had been dismissed as manager. This weekend Bristol City travel to Barnsley having not been defeated in 14 league outings so far this season, the unbeaten run stretches to 20 league games as the side have not lost since the end of March.
Request for fans to donate old shirts to refugees
Football Supporters Europe initiative
23 October ~ Football Supporters Europe (FSE) have launched a campaign asking fans to donate their old shirts and other clothing to help refugees from conflict regions. The initiative is called “Second Fan Shirt” and they are looking for shirts, scarves, blankets, training clothes, hats and many other items which are no longer of use to supporters but could make a difference to the lives of refugees around the world. FSE are also looking for people to help organise the collection of these items locally. The Football Supporters Federation have more information on how you can help.
Europa League mystery beats Champions League
UEFA’s second competition is more interesting
23 October ~ Roma v Bayern Munich on Tuesday was largely how UEFA imagined it when streamlining three European knockout tournaments into two midweek leagues: the world’s best players cutting loose in a showpiece stadium, in a glamorous city, surrounded by 65,000 fans paying top prices; one of a series of games televised live across the continent over two nights to maximise broadcasting revenue, electronic pitch-side hoardings advertising a coterie of high-end sponsors.
A century in the Highland League book on sale
The history of Nairn County
22 October ~ A book marking the centenary of Nairn County has been released. The History of Nairn County FC: 100 Years in the Highland League traces the origins of football in the town of Nairn in the north of Scotland all the way through to the modern day successes of Nairn County, who play in the fifth tier of Scottish football. All proceeds from sales will go to the Nairn County Supporters Ground Improvements Fund, a fan-lead fundraising group who are raising cash to replace the ageing standing enclosure at Station Park. Since the launch of the group at the start of 2013, over £60,000 has been raised. The book is available here.
Labour release details of plan to put fans in power
Party release details of new policies
22 October ~ Labour have released details of how they intend to implement their proposals for fan power in football. Jon Cruddas, co-ordinator of the Labour Party Policy Review, says that the process would involve passing new laws which would make it legally enforceable that the supporters’ trust would be able to appoint members of their club’s board of directors. They would also use an umbrella body to make sure the supporters’ trusts themselves were properly run, while offering training to fans before they take up positions on the board. More details of Labour’s plans can be found here.
CSKA Moscow fans start campaign against racism
Supporters want to change reputation of club
21 October ~ Ahead of their team’s Champions League home match against Manchester City, which will be played behind closed doors, some CSKA Moscow fans have set up an initiative to change public opinion of their club. UEFA closed the Russian club’s stadium for three matches after repeated racist behaviour by their supporters. Now a social media campaign, organised around the hashtag #CSKAFansAgainstRacism, aims to promote a welcoming environment inside the stadium and among fans. FARE have more information on the group.
Cross-border nostalgia for Slovan v Sparta in Europe
But Slovakian team having a chaotic season
20 October ~ Slovan Bratislava v Sparta Prague may not be the most glamorous of Thursday's Europa League matches, but it evokes its fair share of nostalgia. The two most successful clubs in Slovakia and the Czech Republic respectively are, after all, meeting in a competitive fixture for the first time since 1992-93, the final season of the federal Czechoslovak league. Sparta generally held the edge over Slovan in the federal era, winning 21 titles to the Bratislava club's eight.
Wallchart shows clubs with major European honours
Posters are hand-printed
19 October ~ After the success of their 2013-14 Football League and Premier League map, Doing The 92 have launched a European version for the current season. It includes the winners of all the major European club honours plotted on a large map of the continent, with kit colours and a representation of each trophy won. It also shows which country’s teams have had the most success since the launch of the European Cup was launched in 1955. Each poster is hand printed on high-quality paper to avoid fading. The posters are available for £15, plus £6.50 postage and packing in the UK.
Hitchin fighting to save historic Top Field ground
Landowners want it redeveloped
19 October ~ Hitchin Town are fighting to stay at their Top Field ground after plans were submitted to turn it into a superstore. The club have played there since their foundation in 1928, though football has been played on the land since the 1800s. On October 8 a meeting was held in which club members called for residents to support their battle. The land is owned by the Cow Commoners Trust, who are backing its redevelopment. Hitchin chief executive Andy Melvin said: “We believe if a superstore is built here it will be the death of the town. We also believe if they relocate us it will be the death of the football club.” Save HTFC has more details.
MP criticises government’s grassroots response
Petition has received 15,000 signatures so far
18 October ~ MP David Crausby has expressed his disappointment following the Government’s response to his petition, which calls for the Premier League to give 7.5 per cent of its broadcasting rights income to developing community facilities. The petition, which has received 15,000 signatures so far, was relaunched in July. Crausby said: “One year on from my first petition the Government have shown that they aren’t even considering the issues that have been raised despite the concerns of thousands of people all across the country.” More information about the campaign can be found here, and you can sign the petition here.
First League player killed in the First World War
Larrett Roebuck played for Huddersfield Town
18 October ~ Today is the 100th anniversary of the death of Larrett Roebuck, the first player from the Football League to be killed in the First World War. Roebuck joined Huddersfield in March 1913 and the left-back made his debut on January 3, 1914. He played 19 games for the club, the last one a 1-0 victory against Leicester Fosse. He signed a new contract but as a reservist Roebuck was called up in August 1914. Six months after his final Huddersfield match Roebuck was declared missing in action near Beaucamps-Ligny and eventually presumed dead. The Western Front Association have more information on the life of Larrett Roebuck.
When Jock Stein's Hibernian beat Real Madrid
Fifty years since famous friendly
17 October ~ Last weekend Hibernian drew 0-0 at home with part-time Dumbarton in Scotland's second division. Fifty years ago, in October 1964, life was much better for Hibs fans. Jock Stein was their manager, they had some of the most exciting young players in the country and they beat Real Madrid. Stein was in charge at Easter Road for just a year, squeezed between his first managerial post – when he'd transformed Dunfermline from provincial also-rans to European overachievers – and his famous reign at Celtic.
AC Milan want European places for past glories
League form should be ignored for "prestige"
16 October ~ In the 1990s AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi complained that it did not make economic sense that the European season of top clubs such as his Milan could be over by the beginning of November, or even earlier. Those were still the days of European competitions with straight knockout rounds and no seedings. So, in 1988-89, Napoli found themselves up against Real Madrid in the first round and promptly went out, a fate which also befell Inter two years later against the much more modest Malmo.
Albania go to Serbia with focus everywhere but pitch
Tension over countries' first ever meeting
14 October ~ If it were another game – against Finland or Greece, perhaps – there would be mild surprise if the crowd exceeded 10,000. There certainly would not be the 3,500 armed policemen expected outside Partizan Stadium this evening, and nor would the newspapers be stoking up story after story about busloads of visiting supporters that included at least one "terrorist". And if it were another game, there might not be the sinking feeling associated with knowing that it would take an extraordinary outcome for football to make the biggest headlines.
Coventry fear a tenant's life as Wasps take over Ricoh
Questions over why City couldn't buy ground
14 October ~ The prospect had been circulating for some time, but the news that Coventry City Council were about to finalise a deal to sell the Ricoh Arena, "home" of Coventry City FC, to Wasps RFC caused a little consternation among Sky Blues fans and indeed the football club themselves. As the council met to discuss the deal, the club’s owners – hedge fund Sisu – and a number of fans groups pleaded with the council to delay approval in the hope of heading it off. Fat chance.
Anti-discrimination events held across Europe
FARE activities spread across two weeks
12 October ~ Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) are holding more than 2,000 activities over the next two weeks as path of a message against discrimination and exclusion. Players such as Didier Drogba, Andrea Pirlo and André Schürrle are supporting the campaign, which will include film festivals, debates, stadium choreographies and educational events. The activities will focus on issues like the rise of far-right groups across Europe, the situation of refugees and asylum seekers, and LGBT rights in eastern Europe.
New club to support Homeless World Cup
Lifetime membership costs £30
11 October ~ A new supporters' club for the Homeless World Cup has been launched ahead of the International Street Soccer Tournament, which will begin in Santiago, Chile on October 18. The competition has been successful in transforming the lives of people who take part, with over 80 per cent returning to full-time accommodation, education and employment after competing. A lifetime membership to the new supporters' club will cost £30 and help provide additional revenue and launch more street football project around the world. More information on how to sign up can be found here.
On the subject...
Poland believe time is ripe for first win over Germany
World champions have an injury crisis
10 October ~ Geographic proximity and shared history mean that meetings between Germany and Poland are eagerly anticipated. Although historic enemies, the countries have become increasingly close allies in recent years but this contemporary chumminess will not diminish Poland's hopes of downing the world champions when they visit Warsaw this weekend. It would be wrong to ever describe Poles as genuinely hopeful about their national team's chances, but there is a quiet optimism about Saturday's meeting.
Euro 2016 rekindles Hungary v Romania rivalry
Teams also met in 2014 World Cup qualifying
9 October ~ Romania found themselves pitted against some familiar opposition when the draw for the Euro 2016 qualifiers was made. Greece, who beat them in the recent play-offs for the 2014 World Cup, were one, but of more interest to most people in this part of the world was the rematch with Hungary – who they play on Saturday. There is no great deep-rooted footballing rivalry between the teams, but there is an intense historical national one between the two countries.
Scotland's Tartan Army can be patriotic without politics
First national team match since referendum
8 October ~ When Georgia arrive in Glasgow this Saturday, the fallout from September's independence referendum will mean more to many Scotland fans than Euro 2016 qualifying points. The Scotland support could never match the recent emoting of politicians but has long been regarded as the voice of raw Scottish nationalism. The encouragingly narrow defeat for the Yes campaign may therefore have echoed the national team's 2-1 loss at World Champions Germany last month. But the Scottish Football Association is not the SNP.
On the subject...
"Fans for Diversity" event to be held in London
Hosted by FSF and Kick It Out
7 October ~ The Football Supporters' Federation and Kick It Out are jointly hosting a Fans for Diversity event in London on Wednesday, October 22. The evening will give supporters a chance to discuss racism and how they can challenge it in a modern context, focused on how to tackle isolated incidents. There will be a panel, including FSF diversity and campaigns manager Anwar Uddin and Kick It Out education and development manager Troy Townsend, taking questions from the audience. More information is available on the FSF site.
Short-term culture holding Palermo back in Serie A
Chairman must learn from past mistakes
7 October ~ Palermo have collected just three points from a possible 18 so far this season, and coach Giuseppe Iachini is under huge pressure. That may seem harsh considering Palermo are a newly promoted side and the campaign is just six games old, but the track record of the club's notoriously volatile chairman Maurizio Zamparini suggests Iachini's sacking is a real possibility. Since buying Palermo in 2002, he has made 27 managerial appointments, including five in the space of seven months last year and Francesco Guidolin on four separate occasions.
Slow start to Mark Palios's new era at Tranmere
Business in good hands but results poor
4 October ~ Talk of a new dawn often signifies some hope for the future. Eleven games in to the season, the dawn of the Mark Palios era at Tranmere Rovers is still looking distinctly murky. Despite laudable announcements from the boardroom, six defeats in those opening games have left the club floundering in our lowest league position since the bleak days of the mid 1980s; a hangover, it seems, from 2013-14's woeful climax which was capped with only our second relegation in 35 years.
Blackpool fans organise walk-out protest
Premier League money not reinvested
3 October ~ The Blackpool Supporters' Trust have organised a protest against their club's onwers during the televised match against Cardiff City tonight. Blackpool are bottom of the Championship and their fans feel the money from their Premier League season has not been properly invested back into the club. The Trust are asking stay-away fans to turn up and the protest will involve releasing thousands of black balloons, as well as holding up banners and staging a walk-out in the 53rd minute of the match, representing the year they won the FA Cup. There is more information on the Football Supporters' Federation website.
On the subject...
Conference set up for an exciting and open season
Money doesn't look like buying promotion
2 October ~ Thirteen games into the season and the Conference is beginning to take shape. Unusually, given the recent trend of financial basket cases and clubs on a downward spiral dropping into non-League and then struggling, last season's relegated teams – Torquay United and Bristol Rovers – are both in the hunt for automatic promotion. Both Rovers and the Gulls are in as good health as a team that's just been relegated to non-League can be and this has been reflected by their results so far.
Mixed Russian reaction to racism and Samba's ban
Defender suspended for reacting to chants
1 October ~ Last weekend during a Moscow derby, Dinamo defender Chris Samba was the target of monkey chants from some Torpedo fans. After initially reporting the incident to the match officials, Samba reacted by showing his middle finger to the Torpedo fans. He did not return to the pitch in the second half. The Russian Football Union have closed part of Torpedo's stadium for one match but given Samba a two-game suspension for the gesture, though UK reports do not take into account reaction from supporters in Russia. Saul Pope has collated a range of responses from message boards and newspaper comment sections.
Dumbarton and Alloa progress impresses
Building steadily in shadow of bigger rivals
30 September ~ Scotland's second tier was often the country's most exciting division even before this season's invasion by floundering heavyweights. Yet Rangers, Hearts and Hibs have already dropped points to the SPFL Championship's two part-time clubs: Dumbarton hosted Alloa on Saturday after both made major announcements regarding their stadiums. While unlikely to knock Liverpool's Anfield expansion off Sky Sports News, the Championship's "cannon fodder" are exceeding their modest ambitions. Those Scottish institutions embarrassed by reduced circumstances should pay attention.
Portsmouth debt-free two years ahead of schedule
Community-owned club paid off £7m
29 September ~ Portsmouth have announced that they are now debt free, just 18 months after becoming community-owned and two years ahead of schedule. The club have paid off £7 million and wiped out legacy debts from the previous administrations – including payments to players such as Tal Ben Haim, as well as Portsmouth City Council and four foreign clubs. Chief executive Mark Catlin said: "We are at ground zero now. This club was in a crater and we are out of that now with foundations built… It is important we stay under the microscope and cannot allow ourselves to go to that level again." The Portsmouth News has the full story.
On the subject...
Bolton should heed Derby's team-building example
Teams meet in the Championship today
27 September ~ Bolton Wanderers and Derby County go into this afternoon's game at the Macron Stadium after contrasting openings to their respective Championship campaigns, but there are similarities between the two sides that the home fans would do well to observe. Derby sit just off the early pace set by leaders Nottingham Forest having lost just once in their opening eight games, while Bolton take up an increasingly familiar position on the fringes of the bottom three after collecting just five points from a possible 18.
Concacaf Champions League struggling
DC United v Tauro example of problems faced
26 September ~ "Road to FIFA Club World Cup" reads one of the ad hoardings in DC United's Robert F Kennedy Stadium. This is a useful reminder to the tiny crowd that has made the effort to come out on a wet, autumnal night for a Concacaf Champions League group game against Tauro FC of Panama. If it weren't for this potential goal of a December 2015 date in Tokyo against the likes of Barcelona or Bayern Munich, then a reasonable question would be: "What's the point?"
Stuart Gray lifts dark clouds from Sheffield Wednesday
Owls face Man City in League Cup tonight
24 September ~ It's only seven years since Sheffield Wednesday took a Manchester City team containing Joey Barton to an FA Cup third round replay. That was probably the best Owls team since relegation from the Premier League and a lot has changed since, on both sides of the Pennines. City have added some billionaire owners, two League titles and a few cups while Wednesday are have just about clawed their way back to the same position after another stint in League One and a brush with financial meltdown. Yet Owls fans can go into tonight's League Cup third round tie optimistic that they can make an impact at the Etihad.
Union Berlin fans protest Red Bull’s Leipzig control
Supporters stand in silence for 15 minutes
23 September ~ For the first 15 minutes of Union Berlin's match on Sunday their fans, mostly wearing black, stood in silence. It was a protest at the ownership of their opponents, RB Leipzig, who are run by Red Bull. The Union fans also held up a banner reading "Football culture dies in Leipzig", making the point that clubs should not become marketing tools for companies but instead need "participation, faithfulness, terracing, emotions, pro bono work, financial fair play, tradition, transparency, passion, stories and independence". The Union In Englisch blog has details of the protest, as well as the strategy behind Red Bull's campaign.
Villa's low expectations return despite good start
Weekend defeat had feeling of inevitable
22 September ~ "Hope is a dangerous thing," the wise old convict tells his struggling fellow inmate in The Shawshank Redemption. "Hope can drive a man insane." Failing to heed his advice, Tim Robbins' character insists on swimming away through a pipe filled with human excrement in a thunderstorm, losing his favourite rock hammer and abandoning a steady job in the prison library for an uncertain future in the Mexican hospitality sector. Which all goes to show that some people won't be told.
How did football affect the Scottish referendum?
Voters faced many questions
20 September ~ So the scare stories about Berwick Rangers queuing for hours at border posts to keep playing in the SPFL can stop. Fifty-five per cent of voters in Scotland have said they want to stay in the UK. But did football affect the result of the referendum? Did Scotland’s favourite pastime tip the balance away from independence? Westminster’s big hitters might have felt that the kilted Scotland fans proudly frolicking in Trafalgar Square’s fountain before the England friendly last August confirmed their casual assumptions about Scottish identity and Yes voters’ motivations.
WSC survey results: who do you like and dislike?
“Big” clubs not popular
September 19 ~ Since 1997 we have been measuring, via the WSC survey, readers’ liking or disliking of 24 clubs ranging in size from Cowdenbeath to Real Madrid. We have posed the same question of the same list of clubs in 1997,1999, 2004 and 2014, merely asking for a tick in either the like or dislike column or leaving blank if no opinion either way. You have probably waited long enough to find out what, if anything, we have learned. The 24 clubs can be reasonably divided into two equal groups of clubs with "international” or “local" appeal.
On the subject...
Wales forced to cap young players early or lose them
Harry Wilson now country's youngest full international
18 September ~ As Wales fans are well aware, the eternal problem for small football nations is strength in depth. You might be blessed with an abundance of talented midfielders but lack any suitable centre-backs. Maybe you can cobble together a solid side, but when injuries and suspensions kick in, the understudies are not up to scratch. If that is not bad enough, holding on to your best youngsters is now becoming a constant battle.
Yellow kits aren't first choice but do hold power
Colour not heavily used as home shirt
17 September ~ In 2014-15, yellow away strips are rife. Carlisle, Barnsley, Coventry, Southend and Plymouth Argyle – every league corner of England suddenly has a yellow change shirt. Did kit manufacturers anticipate a Brazil triumph this summer? Perhaps they're designed to confuse opponents by melding with the hi-viz jackets of police and stewards. What's certain is their popularity confirms the dearth of yellow home strips in England's top four divisions.
On the subject...
Portugal need a manager as Paulo Bento finally departs
Lucky to survive World Cup
16 September ~ After an absurd start to the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign – a 1-0 home defeat to Albania, 60 places below Portugal in the FIFA rankings – the national team coach Paulo Bento and the Portuguese football federation (FPF) ended a four-year relationship that was supposed to last for another two years. Bento stepped in to replace Carlos Queiroz in 2010 when qualification for Euro 2012 was looking uncertain. He got the team to Poland/Ukraine via the play-offs and saw them through to the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual winners Spain on penalties.
Hull City fans pressing for the removal of Assem Allam
Owner’s questionable claims
15 September ~ Although the stand-off between Assem Allam and Hull City supporters has existed for over a year now, tonight's game against West Ham United, in front of the Sky cameras, is likely to feature the first instance of supporters calling for the owner to go. At a one-man press conference this week, Allam reopened a series of old wounds that proved he had learned nothing, heard nothing and still cares for nothing to do with his club's history, and the reaction has been fierce. It remains a strange relationship.
David Whyte's goals remembered fondly
Striker died at the age of 43
14 September ~ I got a late-night text from a fellow Charlton fan on Tuesday to say they'd heard that David Whyte had died. I found no confirmation on his Wikipedia page and went to sleep hoping that it hadn't happened. Around 11am the next day, the club put out their official announcement of Whyte's death. Tributes quickly came in on Twitter. Stan Collymore said: "Just heard of the death of David Whyte, a team-mate at Palace. Devastating news, a very sad loss." Meanwhile Mark Bright added: "Very saddened to hear my former team mate has died. Such silky skills and a dry sense of humour."
Riga remains despite "broken" relationship
Blackpool manager and chairman in dispute
13 September ~ Last weekend the murmurs coming out of Bloomfield Road seemed to strongly suggest that José Riga would be leaving Blackpool after only five league games in charge, to be replaced by Owen Coyle. For one reason or another, the Coyle deal fell through and attention then turned to Burton Albion's Gary Rowett, who met with chairman Karl Oyston on Tuesday before deciding against a move to the seaside. Since then, silence has descended. Despite being so publicly undermined, Riga has continued to take training this week and no communication has been forthcoming from the club.
On the subject...
Swansea reaping benefits of sticking to principles
Garry Monk latest successful manager
13 September ~ Tipped for relegation by some before the start of the season, Swansea City go into today's match at Chelsea in second place on goal difference behind their opponents. Garry Monk, winner of the Premier League Manager of the Month for August, is the latest in a shrewd line of managerial appointments. While Roberto Martínez and Brendan Rodgers are the obvious successes, previous managers Kenny Jackett, Paulo Souza and Michael Laudrup have all contributed to Swansea's progress. Key to his appointment is that Monk has been a player under each with the lessons learned apparently paying off.
Leeds need experience and confidence in new manager
Owner Massimo Cellino quick to fire coaches
12 September ~ Earlier this week, the Football League's chief executive Shaun Harvey (who happens to be an ex-employee of Leeds) called for the Italian authorities to reveal the full written judgement of the tax evasion conviction of the club's owner Massimo Cellino earlier this year. Meanwhile, a replacement for former coach Dave Hockaday still hasn't been found. The former Forest Green manager was unceremoniously sacked just six games into the new season and the only surprise to fans was that he lasted that long.
On the subject...
Financial Fair Play to hit Championship clubs hard
Disputes over fines going to charity or teams
10 September ~ Up to half of the clubs in the Championship could fail to meet the new Financial Fair Play criteria. That is the estimate by Trevor Watkins, a lawyer specialising in football finance and a former chairman of AFC Bournemouth. Watkins was speaking at the Soccerex conference on the business side of football in Manchester on Tuesday. His view was countered by Football League chief executive officer Shaun Harvey, who suggested that the number would be lower once clubs take into account adjustments for certain types of spending.
On the subject...
Chester v Wrexham "bubble match" unfair on fans
Restrictions treat all supporters as criminals
9 September ~ A petition has been launched asking authorities not to impose a "bubble match" on travelling fans for the cross-border derby between Chester and Wrexham on September 22. The travel restrictions mean that Wrexham fans will have to leave at 5.45pm for an 8pm kick-off, despite the journey normally taking 20 minutes. The policing for the match will also be disproportionate and has been increasing in recent years – one officer for every 19 fans, compared to one for every 190 at the Manchester derby – despite no rising trend of disorder at the fixture. More information and how to sign the petition can be found here.
Foreign imports aren't damaging England's chances
Country’s sporting talent spread too thinly
8 September ~ Roy Hodgson has promised that England will qualify for Euro 2016 ahead of their qualifier against Switzerland, while also appearing to get his excuses in early if they don't: too many foreign players in the Premier League. Prompted by Danny Welbeck's move from Manchester United to Arsenal and Tom Cleverley's season-long loan to Aston Villa, Hodgson bemoaned the influx of players from abroad, claiming that it limits the opportunities available to homegrown talent and stunts their development.
On the subject...
Transfer window underlines AC Milan's decline
Key players sold and no spending power
7 September ~ Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi once aimed to have the best team in the world. Throughout his tenure, players the standard of Andriy Shevchenko, Marco van Basten and Kaká became the norm for the Rossoneri but with this summer bringing (among others) Fernando Torres, Alex and Jérémy Ménez, Milanisti are showing their displeasure by staying away; only 15,000 season tickets have been sold for the coming campaign. "I think it was absolutely an important transfer campaign," said Milan chief Adriano Galliani after the 2014 mercato closed.
On the subject...
O’Neill safe but Northern Ireland don't expect much
Manager has just one win in two years
6 September ~ Even the most optimistic Northern Ireland fans have to admit that prospects of qualifying for Euro 2016 – which begins with a game in Hungary tomorrow – are slight. Despite more places being up for grabs and some creditable recent displays against opposition such as Portugal, Israel and Russia, one win during Michael O'Neill's two-year managerial reign is a damning statistic. The prevailing view tends to be that O'Neill can't be expected to do more with what he has available and the decision to renew his contract after the World Cup qualifiers provoked little controversy or even surprise.
Premier League's record spending ignores fans again
Joint statement from supporters' trusts
5 September ~ A record £835 million was spent on players by Premier League clubs in this summer's transfer window, while Richard Scudamore says that "economically we've got 20 of the world's top 50 clubs now". Meanwhile, as a joint statement from the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust, the Aston Villa Supporters' Trust, Leicester's Foxes Trust, Everton's Blue Union and Liverpool's Spirit of Shankly points out, only £200,000 was set aside per club for "away fan initiatives". The groups want fans to come together and force the clubs, authorities, broadcasters, sponsors and partners to act, making football more affordable to all supporters. The full statement can be read here.
Time for Scotland to lose "underdog" tag and qualify
England efficiency should be the model
5 September ~ An element of the Scottish character has recently been discovered just in time for the referendum; our progressive liberalism and love of social justice. While this notional nation of do-gooders dispensing charity and kind thoughts wherever they go may be hard to spot in reality, it is a more concrete element of our identity I fear. In the unlikely event of a Euro 2016 qualifying victory over Germany on Sunday, our desire to be plucky underdogs could seriously undermine our best chance of qualifying for an international tournament for the first time since 1998.
Coventry returning home but it's unclear for how long
Host Gillingham at the Ricoh on Friday night
4 September ~ Just over a week ago Coventry City's League One fixture against Gillingham was set to be another sparsely attended "home" game played at Northampton Town's Sixfields ground. The Sky Blues have since announced that they have reached an agreement to return to the Ricoh Arena. This has seen the match moved to Friday night for live television coverage, queues form around the block at the club's ticket office and an outpouring of emotion from supporters.
On the subject...
St Johnstone's Palestine flag fine disproportionate
UEFA's rules not clear enough
3 September ~ Flags of all sorts are a common sight inside football grounds, but in the eyes of UEFA some are more acceptable than others. St Johnstone this week became the latest club to be hit by a hefty fine after a Palestinian flag appeared in their home crowd during a Europa League qualifier against Spartak Trnava on July 31. This prompted a €18,000 (£14,350) penalty for the Scottish Cup winners, who were charged with breaking UEFA's Disciplinary Regulations on Order and Security.
Fifth Non-League Day focuses on important institutions
Event takes place this weekend
2 September ~ Non-League Day, the campaign to promote semi-professional and amateur football, returns for a fifth consecutive season this Saturday. Although initially founded to channel supporters of Premier League and Championship clubs to their local non-League club by virtue of there being a "blank" post-international weekend, the event has evolved over the last two seasons to be more inclusive. In the past, some of the more geographically isolated non-League clubs have argued that with no big sides on their doorstep, the event had no relevance. To a large extent these were valid criticisms, which is why the focus has shifted.
Celtic's financial prudence cost Champions League
Lack of squad investment harmed chances
1 September ~ Two years ago Celtic beat Barcelona in the Champions League and finished above Benfica and Spartak Moscow in their group. This season their defeat in the qualifying round by NK Maribor from Slovenia sparked a fan protest against the board's failure to invest in the squad. After manager Neil Lennon left the club at the end of last season, the board replaced him with 38-year-old Ronny Deila. As a manager in Norway, Deila had won Stromsgodset's first league title in 43 years, while playing an attacking game, but he was untested at a higher level
Ángel di María won't restore Man Utd’s fear factor
Burnley can take advantage at Turf Moor
30 August ~ Some weeks back, when the Premier League's computer spat out the fixtures for the new campaign, it looked as if Louis van Gaal's introduction to English football was destined to be the smoothest of glides and the softest of landings. Swansea, Sunderland, Burnley, Leicester, QPR, West Ham: the way looked tantalisingly clear for Manchester United and their much-garlanded new manager to immediately put the horrors of 2013-14 behind them and build on their impressive performances during pre-season.
Roma expected to prop up Serie A as allure fades
Fiorentina, Juventus could also challenge
29 August ~ Earlier this week it was finally confirmed that Italy had slipped below Portugal in UEFA's country coefficient rankings. We'd all been waiting for this one for some time; that the news arrived on the eve of a new Serie A season capped off another summer of missed opportunities and futile handwringing. The national team's abject showing in Brazil, the death of Napoli fan Ciro Esposito after he was shot during disturbances before last season's Coppa Italia final, the leaving of more young native talent and the appointment of a hapless septuagenarian as the head of the country's FA.
Football Writing Festival to be held in Manchester
Event runs for a week in September
28 August ~ The first Manchester Football Writing Festival will take place between September 4-12 at venues across the city, in association with the National Football Museum. The even will begin with a live edition of the Guardian's Football Weekly podcast at the Royal Northern College of Music before featuring talks on football memoirs, novels and analytics. Many prominent football writers will be in attendance, including Sid Lowe, Graham Hunter, Jonathan Wilson, Michael Calvin and Matt Dickinson. More details and tickets can be found here.
Rangers' recovery in danger of flatlining under McCoist
Concern for fans over performances
26 August ~ Ally McCoist's current Rangers team, like everything at the club, are either acclimatising slowly to their only season in Scotland's second tier or are about to flatline. Performances in the first five games varied. Supporters' groups pushing for boardroom influence have boycotted season ticket sales. Directors, currently organising a "Fan Board", are hawking devalued shares to cover the shortfall. Anything less than a comfortable, stock exchange-pleasing win over Queen's Park in the League Cup first round tonight could force McCoist out. But dwindling crowds are weakening the board's mandate to sack him.
Liverpool's revolution must match Man City's evolution
Last season's top two meet at Etihad tonight
25 August ~ It seems likely that fans of Manchester City and Liverpool will approach tonight's Premier League clash in stark contrast to the way they left their previous league encounter in April. A 3-2 win at Anfield left Liverpool on a high: with only four games left the elusive title was in their grasp and a sensational run of form had left their fans exuberant and full of expectation. City, meanwhile, skulked away with the resignation that it wasn't going to be their year. Neither set of fans envisaged the impending dramas to come.
James Alexander Gordon on reading classified results
24 August ~ The broadcaster James Alexander Gordon died this week. He had read the football results on BBC radio for 40 years before retiring last year. In WSC 60 (February 1992) Harry Pearson met him – and even discovered what he wore when doing his job
For over 18 years now, James Alexander Gordon has read the classified football results on Sports Report. His voice, with its immaculate enunciation and sternly stressed syllables, is as much a part of British Saturday tea-time as the jaunty rumpity-tum-tee-tum music which precedes it, Battenberg cake and meat paste sandwiches.
First World War women's match to be recreated
Commemorating Coventry's munitions factory workers
23 August ~ A match recreating a game played during the First World War between women from Coventry's munitions factories will take place this at 2pm on Bank Holiday Monday. Coventry City Ladies FC play the match at the Butts Park Arena and will be wearing First World War era kit with the names of the original players printed on their backs. The match is part of a project called "No Game for Girls", which seeks to tell the untold story of women's football during the War. More information on the background to the match can be found here.
New app to find non-League games near you
Includes levels one to four of pyramid
23 August ~ A new app has been launched that shows the nearest non-League matches to the user for any day of the 2014-15 season. The app, currently available for iPhone or iPads only and includes lists for steps one to four of the non-League pyramid, encompassing 12 leagues. It means you can easily find non-League matches going on around you on any given day of the season and also has information on each club. It is available from iTunes and costs 69p.
On the subject...
La Liga's "other 17" struggle as spending gap widens
Real Madrid and Barcelona to reassert dominance over Atlético
22 August ~ Diego Simeone, coach of reigning La Liga champions Atlético Madrid, was in typically sharp form as he spoke this week about Spanish Supercopa opponents Real Madrid. "With €95 million [£76m] we have signed nine players," Simeone said. "Real Madrid have signed two players for €95 million. That is the difference." He had a point, even if his sums were actually wrong. Real's two new galacticos James Rodríguez and Toni Kroos cost a combined €105m, while a further €10m was spent on goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Hull City enjoying joining in with European adventures
Face tough test against KSC Lokeren
21 August ~ Hull City's Europe League tie at KSC Lokeren has been deemed too unexciting for ITV's thrill-packed Thursday night schedule. But for those of us who spent a chunk of their 1970s and 1980s childhoods surreptitiously listening to other British clubs' adventures in Europe on a crackly transistor radio secreted under the bedcovers, a trip to a rickety old stadium in Belgium is an almost unimaginable delight. Hull spent most of those decades bumbling round the lower divisions between bankruptcies. Consequently, their ticket allocation for the first leg in Flanders sold out rapidly.
Australia's FFA Cup closes divides between clubs
Competition modelled on English FA Cup
20 August ~ The FA Cup may have lost a good deal of its credibility in England in the past couple of decades, but it's still thought of fondly in Australia, where for many years the final was the only English domestic game screened live on TV. But when Football Federation Australia (FFA) finally achieved its long-awaited goal of a national knockout competition, that residual affection was much less relevant than the pressing need to breach the gaping and often fractious divide between the A-League and the semi-professional state leagues below.
On the subject...
Crystal Palace right to put finances over Tony Pulis
Two administrations still haunt the Eagles
19 August ~ "Who needs a manager?" sung the Crystal Palace fans at the Emirates on Saturday after new signing Brede Hangeland put is in the lead at Arsenal. However mischievously sung, and however tempting a managerless scenario for us might be, Tony Pulis had barely left before the unseemly scramble to replace him had begun. It was reported that over 30 applications had been received within 12 hours. Co-chairman Steve Parish apparently claimed that the board had a successor in mind with significant experience in the Premier League as both a player and manager. All while the aftershocks of Pulis's departure were still being felt.
Italian teams wait to hear which division they start in
New structure and kick-off times for Lega Pro
18 August ~ The Italian professional leagues are due to kick off on August 29 and yet apart from Serie A we still do not know their final composition, even though the fixture lists have been published. This is because when cash-strapped Siena were excluded from Serie B it was decided not to replace them, but to continue with 21 clubs as part of a plan to reduce this league to 20 clubs as soon as possible. However, orders have gone out that Serie B must revert to 22 clubs, and so now the question is who will take Siena's place.
On the subject...
Newcastle Utd unsure of their target for the season
Limited striking options
17 August ~ Only at kick-off this afternoon will we discover which Newcastle team turns up for their first game of the season. One is the side that was sixth and only three points behind eventual runners-up Liverpool on Boxing Day last season. The other is the one that failed to score in 13 of the last 20 games, losing 14. Alan Pardew seems unsure on what to expect, too. Only two weeks ago he expressed hope Newcastle could challenge as closely as possible for the top four. Then in the week leading up to the opening Premier League fixtures he stated achieving a final tally of 48 points, one less than last year's, would be a good season.
On the subject...
Unrest at West Ham despite a successful summer
Owners and manager at odds
16 August ~ If the health and wellbeing of a club at the start of the season can be judged by their work in the transfer market over the summer then West Ham should be approaching today’s game against Tottenham Hotspur and the season as a whole with confidence. The signing of Ecuador World Cup star Enner Valencia has been accompanied by the arrival of two promising youngsters from the Championship – Aaron Cresswell and Diego Poyet – plus striker Mauro Zarate, midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate and Carl Jenkinson on a season-long loan from Arsenal.
When Carlisle Utd were the top team in the country
Won their first three games in 1974-75
14 August ~ Newly promoted teams often do well in the first weeks of the season, occasionally leading the table in the first few games. One such occasion happened on August 24, 1974, to Carlisle United. For the club to even get to the top division at all was described by Bill Shankly as "the greatest feat in the history of the game" when interviewed ahead of the FA Cup final between Liverpool and Newcastle, which was played a day after Carlisle had clinched promotion. He would know, having started his managerial career at the club in 1949 and struggled with limited resources and its remote location.
On the subject...
WSC columnist Harry Pearson launches new blog
Collection of writing from last 30 years
13 August ~ Long-time WSC contributor and current columnist Harry Pearson has set up a blog, collecting his writing over the past 30 years. It is being added to twice and week and includes pieces for not just WSC but the Guardian and various other newspapers, websites, fanzines and the occasional glossy lifestyle magazines. Harry's writing has always focused on the "unsung people in rough places where the PA plays Sex on the Beach in the coal-scented February fog". You can read The First Thirty Years Are The Worst here.
On the subject...
Fans to march on Premier League for cheaper tickets
FSF organise protest for Thursday
12 August ~ Hundreds of fans will march on the headquarters of the Premier League and Football League this Thursday to demand cheaper ticket prices throughout the game. The march will be led by the Football Supporters’ Federation, with fans saying that clubs should use their huge revenues from TV and sponsorship to lower prices for both home and away supporters. Fans will gather at Marble Arch from 1pm and leave for Gloucester Place at 2pm, where a delegation of supporters will meet with the football authorities. For more details visit the FSF website.
There's always last year ~ Premier League 2013-14
What WSC contributors got right and wrong
12 August ~ "For once, saying top three feels wildly optimistic," said Manchester United contributor Joyce Woolridge in preview of the 2013-14 Premier League season, following David Moyes's appointment as manager. "Where did Everton finish last season? Top seven?" The rest of the top division's contributors didn't agree, predicting they would lose their title but still finish second. Joyce – though she might not have been happy about it – was right, as they struggled to cope with the retirement of Alex Ferguson and finished outside the European places.
On the subject...
Salisbury launch attack on FA after ownership chaos
Club's board refused entry to Wembley hearing
11 August ~ Salisbury City have responded to being demoted from the Conference in the only way they know how – in a statement that lets the FA have it with both barrels. It begins by saying that the club is being "monumentally stitched up by the FA and Conference", and they fear this will lead to the winding up of the football club. Salisbury were demoted to the next level Conference South in July for not paying off debts. As a result, they've lost a string of players and staff.
Wolves pin hopes on momentum not "bomb squad"
Face Norwich at Molineux today
10 August ~ The acrimony of Wolves' previous match in the Championship feels an awful long time ago. That was the day in May 2013 when the club's relegation was confirmed at Brighton, Roger Johnson couldn't even give his shirt away and Jamie O'Hara was derided by both sets of supporters. Tellingly, only two players who featured there will be in the team to face Norwich on Sunday. Kenny Jackett's steadfast refusal to reintegrate the so-called "bomb squad" – a group of highly paid players training separately from the rest – is well-documented.
Germany international dominance continues with youth
Under-19s win European Championship
9 August ~ For the second time this summer, an international tournament ended with Germany holding aloft the trophy. Just as the World Cup triumph in Brazil was the culmination of more than a decade of planning, victory in the European Under-19 Championship suggested the future may be just as bright as the present.
On the subject...
Charlton are not the crisis-club many are suggesting
New owners putting long-term plans in place
9 August ~ One thing that all Charlton fans can agree on as we start the season is that the pitch at the Valley has been transformed – visiting teams can expect a carpet rather than a swamp. However, with the opening game away at Brentford, not even that single point of consensus will be relevant. Charlton supporters are not so much divided as clueless. So much has changed this year – new owner, two new head coaches (Jose Riga was replaced by the Belgian Bob Peeters at the end of last season), a mass exodus of players and a hatful of new recruits mostly new to English football.
There's always last year ~ Championship 2013-14
What WSC contributors got right and wrong
8 August ~ While Leicester were widely expected to be challenging at the top of the Championship in 2013-14 – though not run away with the title – their fellow automatically promoted club surprised virtually everyone. Burnley were predicted to finish 17th but had a superb season under Sean Dyche to earn second place. It even caught fan Kevin Clarke off guard, who was concerned about the Clarets' "very unbalanced" squad.
Luton Town back in the League and aiming higher
Key player losses have not quelled optimism
8 August ~ Not that much seems to have changed in the five years since Luton Town were last in League Two, although Manish Bhasin will now be able to name-check yet another of Steve Claridge's ex-clubs on the Football League Show (a short and unhappy experience for player and club alike back in 1992). If you've got to make the trip to Carlisle from southern England, you may as well do it on a sunny August Saturday, and Hatters fans will be out in force tomorrow with confidence that last season's record-breaking form will continue.
On the subject...
There's always last year ~ League One 2013-14
What WSC contributors got right and wrong
8 August ~ Wolves lived up to the expectation of League One's contributors in 2013-14, and exceeded Adam Bate's who said: "The last time the club slipped from the top flight t the third tier in the 1980s we plunged all the way to Division Four, so it would be nice to stop the rot." That they did, staying in the top three from the third game and leading from March, ending on 103 points. Below them Brentford contributor Chris Dean was desperate to avoid "another go at the dreaded play-offs" and got his wish as they held off their rivals to gain the second automatic promotion place.
There's always last year ~ League Two 2013-14
What WSC contributors got right and wrong
7 August ~ While the rest of the League Two contributors were expecting Portsmouth to top the table in 2013-14, their own supporter Leon Tricker had different ideas. "Although the club is in good hands now we're still far from stable. I'll be happy just to avoid another relegation." That looked far from certain in March, as three defeats in a row left Pompey in 22nd, two points outside the relegation zone. A run of five wins in a row made them safe and they eventually finished 13th.
There's always last year ~ Scottish Premier 2013-14
What WSC contributors got right and wrong
7 August ~ "There should be a UN investigation if Celtic fail to win the League again," said supporter and WSC contributor Graham McColl before the the 2013-14 season. Every other Scottish Premiership contributor agreed and they duly won their third title in a row with only one defeat all season. The predictions were also correct for the rest of the top four, with Motherwell pipping Aberdeen to second place and Dundee United finishing fourth.
On the subject...
Collecting live goals by World Cup final scorers
As close as some people get to the real thing
6 August ~ Unless you're a startlingly healthy 95-year-old millionaire, seeing live goals by players who've scored in the World Cup final is not a doable list and therefore unworthy of obsessive attention. Yet, after this summer's final, I felt denied. Three participants in July's Argentina v Germany decider had scored in games I'd previously attended. Germany's Mario Götze, who netted the only goal at the Maracanã, wasn't one of them. My collection is stuck at four. But then I did see them all in Glasgow.
Celtic Nation dream over as Frank Lynch pulls out
Carlisle club now struggling for players
5 August ~ The Carlisle area seems to attract ambitious businessmen seeking to launch a footballing fairytale – Michael Knighton and John Courtenay each tried at Carlisle United, and a few miles north Brooks Mileson took Gretna into the SPL and a short European campaign. The latest episode in this seemingly ongoing series has been the rise and fall of Celtic Nation, the Carlisle based Northern League Division One club whose very existence now hangs by a thread a few days before the start of the season in which they should have been favourites for the title.
On the subject...
Grondona's Argentina legacy of low quality and violence
AFA president died last week
4 August ~ Julio Grondona often said that when he eventually left his position as president of the Argentinian Football Association (AFA): "They'll have to carry me out feet first." On Wednesday, after 35 controversial years in charge of the organisation, that prediction finally came to pass when doctors confirmed his death from heart complications at the age of 82. In 1979, when Grondona took charge, no previous AFA president had lasted longer than three years in the position.
Palestine team improving despite region's problems
Qualified for Asian Cup for first time
2 August ~ At the end of May Palestine beat the Philippines 1-0 in the AFC Challenge Cup final, a tournament for "emerging countries" set up by the Asian Football Confederation. Their victory, sealed by a 59th-minute goal by Ashraf Nu'man (see highlights video), means they will compete in the 2015 Asian Cup, which begins in January, for the first time in their history. Palestine almost reached the same competition in 2006, prompting Gavin Willacy in WSC 237 to examine the problems they have playing at all, given the difficulties of putting on a simple training camp.
Portsmouth's largest crowd-funding in UK football
Hope to own academy pitches for first time
1 August ~ Portsmouth are asking supporters to help them raise £250,000 so they can own their academy training pitches for the first time in their history. The campaign has so far received plenty of support from outside the club, including Gianluca Vialli, Paolo Rossi as well as former players Jamie Ashdown and John Sullivan. If successful it will be the largest crowd-funding project for a football club in the UK. They currently have ten days left to raise the final £75,000 and you can find more details here.
FIFA failed to tackle ticket touting at the World Cup
Ray Whelan arrest not only incident in Brazil
19 July ~ When all eyes were on the decisive stages of the World Cup the uncovering of an illegal ticket sale scheme by Brazilian police threatened to tarnish FIFA's image once more. The arrest of Match Services executive director Ray Whelan on July 7 for his alleged role in the scheme brought matters uncomfortably close to home, since the company handles sales of premium tickets, accommodation and hospitality packages for FIFA. With Whelan staying at the Copacabana Palace Hotel that also hosted top executives from FIFA, the scandal could hardly have been more awkward.
Germany's World Cup win vindicates new style
Via Uli Hesse on ESPN
16 July ~ Since Germany won the World Cup on Sunday there have been plenty of people around the world questioning what it means for the country as a whole. It was their first World Cup win as a reunified Germany and done with a young, multicultural team. Yet Uli Hesse, author of Tor! The story of German football, has noted for ESPN that Germany long became comfortable with its new identity. Instead their Brazil 2014 success is purely a vindication of their new football style, having proved their critics wrong.
Brazil's inquest must go to very top after humiliation
Entire federation needs new people and ideas
14 July ~ The immediate response was every bit as memorable as the shock and awe that sparked it. Shame, disgrace, humiliation howled the front cover of the Rio daily O Globo in the wake of Brazil's staggering 7-1 defeat to Germany. Those sentiments were echoed in bars and living rooms throughout the country as a nation struggled to recover its breath, let alone make sense of the carnage. Another daily, Folha de São Paulo, called it the "Mineiraço", a none-too-pointed reference to the Seleção's 1950 defeat to Uruguay.
Argentina ready for World Cup pandemonium
Much-criticised team have earned their praise
13 July ~ Just how much euphoria can a nation take? Since reaching the World Cup final, their first since 1990, Argentina are making a good stab at testing the limits. This may have been the least productive week in decades - while some decide to drive three days north to Brazil at the last minute, others spent endless hours on the internet discussing the chances of winning. Maxi Rodríguez’s decisive penalty in the semi-final shootout not only took the country to the World Cup final, but also into total pandemonium.
Third-place play-offs crucial to ending World Cup
Derided match has a history of records
12 July ~ This evening Brazil and Holland meet in a match neither wants to contest. The World Cup third-place play-off is often regarded as an annoyance. Many pair it with the opening ceremony as one of the tournament's necessary evils. Yet this fixture has provided the setting for some of the records, drama and spectacular goals intrinsic to World Cup history. It's been the historic pinnacle for some nations, has sealed a few individual reputations and, after four hectic weeks capped two years of qualifying, it's a nice contemplative pause.
How European magazines saw the World Cup ~ 2
Views from France, Sweden and Germany
11 July ~ In part two of our look at how other football magazines around Europe have viewed the 2014 World Cup, we hear from France, Sweden and Germany. Ali Farhat of So Foot isn't sold on the idea of referees using the vanishing spray for free-kicks and feels Cameroon were the biggest let-down of the tournament. Jesper Högstrom from Offside compares Uruguay's antics to those of children but was impressed with the standard of goalkeeping while Christoph Biermann from 11 Freunde just felt sorry for Brazil's players during their semi-final thrashing.
Mexico left with pride and regret in World Cup fallout
El Tri failed to reach quarter-finals again
10 July ~ Mexico's fans and players have a lot to be proud of but also plenty of regrets when reviewing the World Cup. The team bowed out at the same stage as they had in the previous five tournaments so that wasn't a surprise in itself, but they had never been so close to reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since 1986. Only five minutes separated them, and they weren't able to deliver. It was even more painful because they had already improve hugely – only a few months ago it was almost unconceivable that El Tri could be leading a world power in a last 16 match.
How European magazines saw the 2014 World Cup
Part One: Switzerland, Spain and Austria
10 July ~ As the 2014 World Cup comes to its climax with a final between Germany and Argentina this weekend we asked football magazines from around Europe to give their opinions on the tournament. From their favourite moment and worst team to the most impressive "unknown" player, reactions to Brazil's 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany, whether England's poor showing was a surprise and who their country ended up supporting, here are the first three sets of answers – from Zwölf of Switzerland, Panenka in Spain and Austria's Ballesterer.
US are World Cup regulars and should expect more
It's time Americans changed their attitude
9 July ~ This has been going on a long time. And I'm tired. That was my first thought as I settled in to watch the US play Belgium. It's an odd mental state, I'll give you, since most everyone else in the World-Cup-qualifying world has been enduring these ups and downs their whole lives. Maybe that's my problem. I'm a convert. We always expect more and usually get less. For me, this long journey began in 1990. I was in New York, the US team were in Italy at the World Cup for the first time in four decades and the matches were on Ted Turner's TNT, tape delayed, edited for commercials, a mess.
Sad Brazilians photo blog, plus Piers Morgan's prediction
9 July ~ After the host nation's 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany last night, there are plenty of pictures of sad Brazilians around. This Tumblr blog has collected quite a few of the best together.
"Liberated" Brazil need fresh approach for semi-final
Still hope despite Neymar loss
8 July ~ Brazil returns to Belo Horizonte tonight for a semi-final encounter with Germany – only the countries' second meeting at a World Cup, the other being in the 2002 final. Without suspended captain Thiago Silva and the injured Neymar Brazil will not be favourites against opponents looking for an eighth World Cup final appearance. The loss of talisman Neymar has prompted a nationwide lament from players, public and media alike, although more optimistic voices note that his impact in the last two games was modest – hence providing a chance to reshape the team's approach and liberating them from "Neymar dependency".
Emotional outbursts help players cope with pressure
Views of World Cup displays not helpful
7 July ~ World Cups make players cry – and vice versa. Yet much of the "emotion" displayed during Brazil 2014 could be more accurately described as emoting. David Luiz's wide-eyed screaming of the Brazilian national anthem; Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas prostrating himself before the Almighty during penalty shootouts. To us dour northern Europeans it's mawkish at best, downright cynical at worst. Yet Brazil remain on course for the final, Costa Rica are the sensation of the tournament and England's staid psychology contributed to an early exit. Perhaps it's better to ride a World Cup's wave of emotions than internally combust.
Costa Rica goes crazy for the "team of migrants"
Ticos fancy their chances against Holland
5 July ~ The Ticos were a surprise package at Italia 90, making it through to the last 16 from a group that also contained Brazil, Scotland and Sweden, but this time people in Costa Rica are celebrating like never before: "We can't hide it, it's an incredible feeling," said president Luis Guillermo Solís. As with any Concacaf team earning a place at the World Cup expectations were not high, and results in the run-up to the tournament were hardly encouraging. Which means every game in Brazil has been a baffling delight for Costa Ricans.