THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Ian Plenderleith takes a look at the latest football wesbites 

Now that the phrase “for the fans by the fans” has become a cliche mostly peddled by money-backed websites looking to cash in by feigning crush-barrier credibility, it’s pleasing to note that From The Terrace, one of the few sites that genuinely fits the much-abused phrase, has recently revamped, expanded and improved.

With such a broad swath of contributors there are inevitable slumps and peaks in quality, but the content of FTT is, in general, thickly spread and widely varied, and most commentaries and reports are well-informed, passionate and original.

For fervour, read Brighton fan Jackie Mooney on her side’s Third Division title: “The pure joy of the Albion’s success is, for me, the best thrill since childbirth.” For innovation, take on board Craig Ellyard’s suggestion – given that the play-offs ­provide so much drama, let the clubs placed third to tenth in the Premiership stage a knockout competition for the final Champions League place. (If a team finishing third can be “champions”, then surely so can a team finishing tenth.)

And for sarky, rather than ­vindictive, attempts at humour, swallow your pride and visit the feisty Manchester United section to read the catty jealousy ­underneath headlines such as “Scousers win another phony ­treble” (in case you’re wondering, it’s “phony” because they didn’t win the league or beat Bayern Munich, the latter having been achieved in some style by Man United this season).

There are regular feedback columns, providing fans with a platform for dissent, and a forum promising passionate but reasoned debate, rather than the “childish abuse” that dominates a million other message boards, while the book reviews give a gratifying thumbs-down to the latest hoolie-tomes.

Another recently developed site is the online home of World Soccer magazine, a key cyber-address for those looking for genuine global news coverage. Although much of the site only provides tasters of the print version’s interviews and features, the news section not only monitors up-to-date football happenings, but provides clearly written background features on topics such as the collapse of FIFA’s marketing company ISL.

The site also focuses on statistics, with at-a-glance lowdowns on all the major domestic leagues and international tournaments (although the explanation of who qualifies for the World Cup from Africa is confusing and inaccurate). However, as far as latest results go, you might as well wait by your letter-box .

Football News is another microsite, but as well as covering the UK professional game, it goes a few steps lower than most by offering individual leagues at any level the chance to post results, reports and tables, an opportunity exploited to the full by footballers all the way down to the Kettering Weetabix Youth League. A valuable service to all those who’ve previously had to rely on photocopied league tables that are four weeks out of date.

Even more grass roots, and promising to be funnier, is Park Life, a site for Saturday and Sunday park league players that is shaping up for a full launch next season. Any site that prints a query to the online ref asking what the game’s laws dictate when his team’s goalie gets hit in the “love spuds” gets my vote.

From WSC 173 July 2001. What was happening this month

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