THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

From some WSC contributors

icon yaybooBest ~ For sheer individual brilliance, I could watch Tim Cahill's goal against Holland in the World Cup on loop, but for a moment that reminded me how football can be special, it has to be Portsmouth v Exeter at the tail end of last season. A fantastic atmosphere and game of football, and for the final half an hour Exeter fans kept up a near non-stop tribute to the late Adam Stansfield that the Pompey fans applauded. Sure, we lost but it's moments like that which remind you why you love the game.

Worst ~ If ever you needed an example of the unpleasant, myopic, self-absorbed, morally askew bubble football regularly inhabits then the Ched Evans furore was a perfect example. Thoroughly depressing in every single way. Gary Andrews

Best ~ After an 11-hour round-England drive in mid-August, I managed to arrive at the Hive for Barnet v Lincoln a few minutes before kick-off. The hours of tension that had built up behind the wheel on a summer’s Saturday were unleashed in ecstasy at two early Lincoln goals in an absolute belter of a game. City held on to win 2-1. “Top of the League? You’re having a laugh!” we sang at the Barnet fans. We’re not laughing now, but it was a blood-rush of fun for an hour or two.

Worst ~ The selective publication of FIFA’s likely non-report into ethical transgressions surrounding the conduct of its executive committee during the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. It was no less depressing for the predictability of the lack of thoroughness or transparency in the report, its publication and the bidding process itself. Ian Plenderleith

Best ~ I think Algeria’s performance in the World Cup stands out for me. Pace, skill and attacking intent took them further than I had expected. Most strikingly, there was a humility that stood in stark contrast to the hubris surrounding England. However much they might protest that Roy Hodgson had tried to lower expectations, I think as a group they thought they would do well.

Worst ~ To have my naivety so cruelly exposed. I thought not even Blatter could escape from criticism if there was a proper examination of the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Assuming Michael Garcia did an honest job, Blatter just played his joker – sit on the report. How dumb am I? Brian Simpson

Best ~ The new sense of realism that left Roy Hodgson relatively unmolested after the World Cup.

Worst ~ Mario Balotelli, of all people, scoring the classic English far-post header for Italy against England in the World Cup. Talk about being beaten at your own game – and has he scored since? Roger Titford

Best ~ Two one-twos, a nutmeg, a backheel and a curler into the Republic of Ireland’s net. My view from Celtic Park’s main stand looked straight down the sights of the Shaun Maloney shot which finished the short-corner move. You knew he’d scored the moment his right foot connected. You knew it was the winner because, even in an epic Euro 2016 qualifying group, Gordon Strachan has made Scotland contenders again.

Worst ~ Paying cash for my Ibrox season ticket. No credit card company would touch Rangers and I waited until the eve of the season, hoping that if we started our Championship fixtures the SPFL rather than our shady owners would ensure we completed them. No queue, no proper ticket office; just a desolate Portakabin and my 31 tenners for a signed blank ticket stub. Traditionally the most hopeful time of the year, it now felt grubby. Alex Anderson

Best ~ Divock Origi’s goal against Russia for Belgium at the World Cup. Since moving to Lille in 2011 I’d watched him on a variety of windswept, artificial pitches – usually alongside another hardy 50 supporters or so, plus mums and dads – playing for Lille’s Under-17s and Under-19s as he worked his way through their youth academy. Seeing him drive the ball into the net for Belgium on the biggest stage of all almost gave me a paternalistic glow.

Worst ~ Reading about the match-fixing scandal that hit France’s Ligue 2 towards the end of the year. Investigations are ongoing, but it was a pretty dismal end to what had been a fabulous 12 months for the division – the highlight being that Lens managed to attract an incredible average home attendance of 31,016 en route to promotion last May. James Eastham

Best ~ Gareth Bale’s last-minute winning solo goal for Real Madrid in April’s Copa del Rey final takes some beating. But Atlético Madrid defender Diego Godin managed to do so with his flying header to win last season’s La Liga title on the final day. Atlético started as 1000/1 outsiders to break the Real Madrid/Barcelona stranglehold. Although not quite the “Robin Hood” types they can claim to be, their dogged consistency, tremendous force of will and the odd piece of set-piece skulduggery, was really impressive. That exemplary centre-back Godin was the man to clinch it, with a header from a corner at the Nou Camp, was perfect.

Worst ~ The death of Javier Romero Taboada in pre-organised violence between Atlético Madrid and Deportivo La Coruña ultras before their La Liga game in early December was shocking for many reasons. The incident itself, with the 43-year-old beaten with an iron bar before being thrown in the icy river Manzanares, was sickening. Much of the reaction afterwards, with club officials, local police and government figures all looking to avoid any blame, was also hard to take. Dermot Corrigan

Best ~ On a personal level, it’d be Luton’s return to the Football League five years after the authorities cheated us out of it. For a specific moment, either a routine 3-0 win over Mansfield in November, simply because it was our first routine win back in League Two and feeling like we belonged there. Or the celebrations after our final home game of the season, when young midfielder Matt Robinson proved our team could even make rapping look easy with a surprisingly decent version of Kanye West’s Testify, reworded to reflect the Hatters’ season.

Worst ~ Any time I saw a report with the word “FIFA” in the headline. From Roy Keane whinging about money in his otherwise fascinating autobiography to the grim details of Ched Evans’ return to training and Malky Mackay’s appointment at Wigan, it feels as if British football is enduring some kind of entropy, an increasing collapse with possible end-points popping up at least once a month. But they fall short of the sheer relentlessness of FIFA’s dictatorship. Nobody needs to have it pointed out again just how vile Sepp Blatter is except, it seems, everyone else in power at FIFA. John Earls

Best ~ Watching a large chunk of the World Cup in New York bars reconnected me with international football after a good few decades of general indifference. I even found myself being high-fived after Clint Dempsey scored the US opener against Ghana. That’s never happened before. Not ever.

Worst ~ At the risk of sounding fantastically naive, the whole Malky Mackay horror show really did depress the crap out of me. Matthew Barker

Best ~ The international game continues to face multi-faceted attack, not least from those in charge of it, but while we await its final degradation it supplied many of the year's brighter moments. From the best World Cup for 20 years – with Brazil’s 7-1 defeat to Germany the global jaw-dropper – to the large turnout for the women's friendly at Wembley, and the unexpectedly perky start to Euro 2016 qualifying, courtesy of the performances of Scotland and Wales in particular, despite a format almost designed to ensure tedium.

Worst ~ The bad guys won all three play-off finals in May, but I must turn inward to focus on the most painful of them all: the piercing pain of seeing the best Leyton Orient team in more than 30 years losing on penalties to Steve Evans's Rotherham after being 2-0 up then ahead in the shootout has still not subsided. And the team and club have been in chaos ever since this defeat was followed by a lavish Italian energy-magnate takeover that has promised big but delivered only a rapid turnover of managers, much confusion, limp defeats and a relegation dogfight. Tom Davies

Best ~ There are five seconds left in Atalanta’s last home game of 2013-14. They are drawing 1-1 with Milan. Nothing hangs on the game. Giulio Migliaccio rolls a short pass to Franco Brienza, who has hardly made any impact since he joined Atalanta in January 2013. Thirty yards out, he delivers a curling shot that we can see, from more than 100 yards away, is going to end up in the top corner. The crowd, or most of it, bursts into rapturous applause. They have just seen a season to remember end with a rare moment of exquisite beauty. I doubt whether a better goal was scored in Serie A last season.

Worst ~ Leaving aside the fatal shooting of Napoli fan Ciro Esposito by a neo-fascist Roma supporter in May, it has to be the street violence that followed Atalanta’s home game with Roma on November 22. Warnings that trouble was brewing were ignored but then, after the incidents, restrictions were imposed on Atalanta fans without the Tessera del Tifoso (fan card), as well as a three-month blanket ban on fans wishing to travel to away matches. As Atalanta’s ultras, who refuse to sign up to the tessera, never travel away, the ban has hit the innocent. The whole incident encapsulates why football violence is still common in Italy. Punitive action instead of preventive, and a kneejerk, populist reaction that hits the wrong target. Richard Mason

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