THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

A selection of WSC contributors give their opinions on the past year

icon arsechelsBest
Not since the days when Frank Sidebottom frequented Altrincham home matches has there been a club mascot as brilliantly odd as Kingsley, the David Shrigley creation revealed at Partick Thistle in June. Some called Shrigley’s creation terrifying, yet its expression captures perfectly the mixture of anger and confusion on the face of the average manager when reacting to a dubious offside decision. Who needs lions or bears or dinosaurs?

Worst 
The ongoing fall-out between Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston and the club’s supporters. It’s hard to believe that it’s only five-and-a-half years since they won promotion to the Premier League; their descent since then has been depressing. The pitch invasion that forced May’s match against Huddersfield to be abandoned was a desperate cry from fans who have suffered enough.
Mike Whalley 


Best
The sight of top FIFA executives being led out of a luxury hotel in Zurich shrouded in police blankets, at last. It gives us some hope that the game might change even though there’s a distinct lack of a fan-centred challenge candidate. How does one apply?

Worst 
Reading wasting a late chance at 1-1 in the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, our first semi-final for 88 years. Surely even we’d have beaten Aston Villa in the final.
Roger Titford


Best
While Chelsea's late 2015 problems have been most amusing, it is great to see more unpredictability in football. It's no longer a shock when Leicester, Stoke and Crystal Palace annoy the big boys and the media are slowly getting over their "Big Four” fixation.

Worst
Watching the League One final day as my team almost snatched relegation from the jaws of near certain safety. Losing at home to Bradford, Crewe would still stay up barring a series of unlikely results but when Colchester took the lead against Preston with ten minutes to go, the Alex were going down. I celebrated Coventry's late winner against Crawley (which helped make us safe) like a World Cup win but I'd really like to avoid such drama this season.
Jonathan Paxton


Best
Michel Platini has had a brilliant year. Brilliant idea to expand the Euro finals to 24 teams. Truly uplifting to see countries such as Iceland and Albania, along with Wales and Northern Ireland, qualify for Euro 2016. Not only did it ease the pain of Scotland’s biennial miserable failure but also gives next summer’s tournament a genuinely refreshing dimension. But brilliant too to see the spotlight has finally begun to be shone with some intensity on some of Platini’s – along with Sepp Blatter and a lengthy cast of chancers at FIFA – more questionable activities. May the arrest warrants continue to descend like ticker tape at a Cup final winners’ presentation. 

Worst
Football catering, have we lost the will to complain? There is something truly amoral about the profit margins most clubs try to make on something as mundane as a cup of stewed tea nowadays. Charging £2 for a cuppa? Blimey, the price of a single Tetley teabag is barely 2p. Still it’s nice to know that this must leave lots of headroom to pay the catering kiosk staff the living wage eh folks?
Archie MacGregor


Best
Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs' bit of Victorian-style philanthropy in Manchester, allowing the temporary occupation of the empty former Stock Exchange while it awaits redevelopment. That 1-1 draw with Leicester is also starting to look like a highlight.

Worst
Louis van Gaal's Christmas also turning Dickensian. The ghost of Jacob Mourinho clanks his chains as a warning that possession is not nine tenths of the footballing law. Meanwhile the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in the dreams of many Manchester United fans hands in his notice at Bayern. Tiny Pea casts away his crutch to score for fun in Germany and even Ryan Cratchitt, subdued assistant, is not quite on message during the defeat by Norwich.
Joyce Woolridge


Best
An aspect of the Jamie Vardy record saga appealed to me. Not the breaking of any particular record – if you hang around long enough they will all go some time. No, the bit for me was the almost universal realisation that there is a football history that precedes the formation of the Premier League – stand up Jimmy Dunne and Stan Mortensen.

Worst
The worst aspect of the FIFA pantomime has been the behaviour of the major sponsors. First, having turned their gaze away from what was clearly wrong at FIFA they attempted to take some kind of moral stance by applying pressure for change. But worse was my realisation that their motivation was rather more fear of contagion, the potential compromise of their brands, than any concern for the game. (Perhaps this should be my most naive moment of the year.)
Brian Simpson


Best
Seeing FC United of Manchester lift the Northern Premier League Premier Division title after four successive play-off defeats, coupled with a move to their new home at Moston. While undoubtedly a divisive club, their egalitarian community-centric model should act as a blueprint for others, regardless of ownership status. Whether football’s deep-rooted greed and egocentrism would ever allow it, is another matter.

Worst 
Cambridge City Council’s decision to  commemorate the “Cambridge Rules” at Parker’s Piece – a patch of common land considered by many to be the birthplace of codified football – with a large granite block. Having eschewed options such as a giant Subbuteo player, the winning design will be symbolically split across worldwide locations, “to reflect the key role that Cambridge played in the development of modern football and the way the Cambridge Rules travelled across the globe”. Proving that when it comes to celebrating the game’s birth, depictions of its early pioneers or cultural icons are no substitute for a monolithic rock.
Mike Bayly 


Best 
Only losing 2-0 to Celtic in February’s League Cup semi-final. Yup – 2015 was just that bad for Rangers. Subsequent progress, on and off the pitch, remains unsubstantiated but this was solid confirmation we don’t have much domestic ground to make up, and that our support – magnificent that day – now does perspective.

Worst
Scotland being the one home nation not at Euro 2016 despite two draws with Poland, three goals against Germany and four points off the Republic of Ireland. Matt Ritchie’s unnecessary foul; Polish free-kick; hits post: Robert Lewandowski… 20 years without finals football.
Alex Anderson


Best
Attorney General Loretta E Lynch, standing in a Brooklyn federal court room on 27 May, reading out charges of racketeering, money laundering conspiracies and wire fraud against FIFA, was magnificent drama, worthy of an HBO box set. Sepp Blatter's downfall continues to be a binge-watching treat.

Worst
Members of the Clapton Ultras being attacked by a far-right group before a game at Thamesmead was a depressing reminder that they, and many like-minded supporters around the country, face a far more serious threat than being trolled as hipsters by some bitter pensions adviser.
Matthew Barker 


Best
The Women’s World Cup in Canada. Not only was it impeccably organised, but it was often a genuinely thrilling showcase for the women’s game: tons of good goals, plenty of competitive oomph and none of the shameful playacting that blights every major tournament in men’s football. Plus, of course, England were outstanding.

Worst
While I’m all too aware that there are a lot more important things to get het up about (the dispiriting extent of the corruptive culture at FIFA, shameful ticket prices in the Premier League, Alex Ferguson’s blanket refusal to just stay away for good), what really grates is the escalating trend for celebrating a goal by pointing both index fingers and face to the sky in a default heavenly gesture. Not only is it unnecessary and vainglorious, it's also bloody annoying. So stop it.
Rob Hughes 


Best 
Some of the football Lyon played during the first half of the year was a joy to behold. With an ideal starting XI containing half-a-dozen top-class youth products, they were a reminder that France's academies remain among the finest in the world. Much of the media narrative that accompanied the side's exciting emergence was inaccurate, however: far from being part of president Jean-Michel Aulas' masterplan, such reliance on youth was a choice by default, as the club had simply run out of money after overspending in previous seasons.

Worst
This complaint could have been made at any point over the past decade, but it remains true: virtually nothing of note happens in the opening 20 minutes of far too many Ligue 1 matches. If teams attacked matches with greater intensity from the first whistle, then it would make for a far more appealing spectacle. It is also remarkable that the practice of kicking the ball out of play when a player goes down injured is encouraged by virtually everybody in the French game at every level, from youth-team coaches, to fans, referees and senior players. This leads to – surprise, surprise – players on sides that happen to be in the lead going down repeatedly in the final ten minutes of matches to waste time. Avoiding serious injury is important, of course it is – but can we hand back some of the decision-making in these situations to the referees and assistants, please?
James Eastham


Best 
Aside from the delight of witnessing Arjen Robben throw a typical tantrum for getting a yellow card for diving while playing for Bayern Munich at Eintracht Frankfurt, the best moment was provided by the dawn FIFA arrests in Zurich in late May. It was a rare day when the news was a non-stop joy to follow.

Worst
With the exception of the latter stages, the Women's World Cup was a big disappointment thanks to the expanded 24-team format. Staging 36 games just to reduce the tournament to the 16 teams it should have been to start with is the apogee of malfeasant football administration. We'll see the same at the unnecessarily bloated Euros this summer.
Ian Plenderleith

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