Europe

It would be unimaginable in the Premier League, but in League 1 a promoted side are challenging at the top. James Eastham reports

French football fans must have wondered what the fuss was about when Birmingham City went on a 12-match unbeaten run from October to January. In Ligue 1, there’s a newly promoted club challenging for the championship.

Johanna Breen explains a battle of names, colours and mascots following the bankruptcy of one of Prague's most popular clubs

Observers of the Czech Republic’s Gambrinus Liga will have noticed that two clubs in the Czech league’s top division lay claim to remarkably similar green kangaroo logos and both go by the name of Bohemians.

As supporter initiatives gain popularity across Europe, plans are afoot for one of Italy's biggest clubs. Vanda Wilcox explains

Not a season goes by in Italy without a handful of clubs going bust, and a big name or a glorious history are no protection, as Napoli, Parma and Fiorentina can all testify. Serie A is struggling to retain players and prestige in the face of increasing Spanish and English competition and debts are growing out of control. Now fans are trying to organise a new model of ownership, azionariato popolare (popular shareholding) – an Italian version of supporters’ trusts. Assistance has already been offered by Supporters Direct Europe, the UEFA-funded group which aims to promote good governance and sustainability in clubs across Europe.

A Hamburg club is rising quickly through the regional divisions thanks to a highly professional outlook. Matt Nation feels the need to defend his choice of Saturday afternoon entertainment

A classmate of mine once turned up to school on a Monday morning sporting a pair of sideburns. Although not quite in the family-butcher class, they were bushy enough to attract the attention of the PE teacher, who immediately went up to Mutton Chops, grabbed the offending whiskers, said “You’re too young to have sideburns” and lifted the owner six inches off the ground.

A change of attitudes in Italy could provide some useful lessons for football's oldest tournament. Matthew Barker explains

Much has been made in the press recently about falling attendances in the FA Cup, with concerned reports warning that the grand old competition is on the wane, its status increasingly devalued as an unloved irritant for clubs who prize the Premier League above all else. The temptation is to draw a parallel with its continental counterparts, the Coppa Italia and Copa del Rey.

John Chapman looks at how enduring financial problems have finally bankrupted a top-flight Belgian club

The francophone Belgian city of Mouscron is close to both the country’s border with France and the linguistic boundary with Dutch-speaking Flanders. Its football club, Royal Excelsior Mouscron, has drawn fans from all three communities. Entering the First Division in 1996, Mouscron never challenged for the title but introduced some useful players, most notably the Mpenza brothers, Émile and Mbo.

Most of the controversy in the Portuguese season so far has happened on the sidelines. Phil Town reports

It’s been a vintage season for punch-ups in Portuguese football, with tunnels featuring strongly. In October, Benfica’s top-scoring Paraguayan striker Óscar Cardozo and Sporting Braga’s Brazilian defender André Leone were sent off at half time at Braga and subsequently suspended after the referee reported that they had been having a go at each other in the tunnel.

For two clubs in north-east Italy relegation from Serie A was just the start of the problems. Gavin Willacy saw the trouble unfold

If Sheffield Wednesday, Reading or Ipswich get relegated from the Championship in May, their fans would be safe in assuming that the beleaguered club will kick off next season in League One. And if Southampton stay in the third division, you can at least expect them to be on the starting line again come August.

Once famous for their success in Europe, Celta Vigo have suffered a dramatic reversal of fortunes. James Calder explains

Few areas in Spain are feeling the effects of the economic crisis more keenly than Galicia, its remote north-western corner. As companies go to the wall and the region’s dwindling number of workers try to make ends meet on salaries among the lowest in the country, its football clubs find themselves in an equally parlous state. Fourth-tier Ciudad de Santiago have just gone bust, unable even to pay their laundry bills, and Deportivo La Coruña and Celta Vigo, who were trading blows at the top of La Liga not so long ago, are beset by deep-rooted financial problems.

Itay Goder reports on John Gregory's move to manage Maccabi Nazareth

“I don’t drink whisky. Never. Ever. Under no circumstance. I’ve been in Nazareth three weeks now and I drink whisky every day.” So said John Gregory reflecting on the pressure of his new job as coach of Maccabi Nazareth in the Israeli Premier League.

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