THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Ian Plenderleith shows us websites from the top of the football hierachy, to the bottom.

There is no end of general football sites saturated from the top down with Premier this and that, but one website with the courage to eschew the tedium of big boy coverage is League Matters, which describes itself as the independent and dedicated guide to league football. And by that it means the Football League.

It boasts a fine features section with well researched and intelligent articles on the progress of the anti-racist Kick It Out ­campaign, the effects of greedy ownership on smaller clubs, and the pros and cons of the LDV Vans Trophy. Also worth reading is the comment section, especially the piece picking an England squad from Football League players, while you can find comprehensive profiles, with statistics, of every player and manager across the three divisions. It is a ­little earnest and the layout is uniform, but those are minor quibbles.

Covering the football league and far below, Groundtastic is the website of the magazine of the same name, a publication which is probably justified in labelling itself the only national football grounds magazine in the UK. Head straight for the photo ­section where, if you’re the kind of fan who gets a thrill at the thought of going to an obscure ground for the first time, you may delight at Felixstowe Port & Town’s cricket pavilion, Stanley United’s pitch-side house, which appears to have dugouts in its front garden, and the scruffy charms of weed-pocked terracing at places like Yoker Athletic FC in Clydebank.

Click on Grand Schemes to follow projects either planned (Man City), already built (Bolton), optimistically proposed (Southend), or stadia which have become mere sketched fantasies in the eyes of the planners and the home fans – Plymouth’s 23,000 capacity Tradium, for example, so christened because it was going to be a trade centre too. With a name like that, you have to be happy it’s stayed pinned to the drawing board. Then get nostalgic by checking out the magazine’s Postcards (which you can buy at the site), commemorating grounds either demolished, derelict or prior to redevelopment. Just the thing for busy groundhoppers to mail back home while on their travels (Mum, hope you enjoy this view of Braintree Town’s main stand, circa 1963. Please send more sandwiches and a new anorak zip).

From the sublime to the plain sad at Groundtastic follow the link to Danbury Mint, purveyors of football stadium replicas, for proof that the limits to pointless, overpriced merchandising have not yet been reached. Still, at least it’s a ­solution for all those Manchester United fans who can’t afford the 600-mile round trip to see their favourite side – they can now buy what looks like one of those cakes you might get at a six-year-old’s birthday party, beneath which reads the text: “This superb hand-crafted and hand-painted replica of Old Trafford is set upon a handsome wooden plinth and comes complete with the club badge, nameplate and a Certificate of Authenticity.”

Authentic? Surely for it to be authentic this must then be the actual stadium. For just under £74! Someone should tell Michael Knighton.

From WSC 170 April 2001. What was happening this month

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