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December issue available now online and in store

The new WSC is out now available from all good newsagents or to order now from the WSC shop with free UK delivery.

Newcastle United: Sportswashing at St James' Park | What it means for one supporter
Bury AFC: Fan-owned club make progress

Manchester derby in the WSL | Covid and coaching | Decline of football commentary | Southend United in crisis | Notts County: On their way back? & In praise of Neil Warnock | Stockholm's other clubs | The FA Cup first round | Mesut Özil backs South Asian players | ID card debate in Portugal | Supporting asylum seekers in Croatia | Boldmere St Michaels v Worcester City | Corinthian-Casuals' Youth Cup journey | Focus on Joe Royle | Heyday of the Highland League

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Bad reputation Newcastle United takeover
At the start of 2020, when news broke that a Saudi-funded takeover of Newcastle United was close, a voice from outside football’s echo chamber spoke out. Hatice Cengiz was the fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and critic who was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, murdered and dismembered. Cengiz had waited for him to return outside. Ever since, she had campaigned for justice for Khashoggi. Even though she had little interest in football, she believed the takeover had one goal: rehabilitating the image of Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the man who the CIA believes ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

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Ryhope Colliery Welfare 1-2 Bury AFC Lancashire visitors victorious in FA Vase
On a train to Sunderland so crowded I feel I should have asked the Northern Rail ticket-seller for a “return to lockdown with a senior railcard, please”, Charlton fans heading for the Stadium of Light sing about the locals’ lack of personal hygiene and basic washing facilities, before finishing with a medley of anti-Millwall songs and a chant of “We saw you crying on Netflix”. Inside the homely ground – a happily familiar Step Five mix of corrugated iron, larchlap, whiteboard signage and Portakabins – there’s cheerful, bustling activity. This is the Colliers’ biggest home game since 1967, when an FA Cup first round tie with Workington drew an improbable 4,000 crowd. There’ll be nowhere near that many today, but visitors Bury AFC have brought media – three or four fold-out picnic tables by the entrance are occupied by Lancastrian journalists and a local radio commentary team.

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Seize the day FA Cup first round
Like an iceberg, the bulk of the FA Cup’s mass exists below its surface, well out of sight of the columnists speculating about its future demise. A total of 637 non-League teams entered this year’s competition, chasing just 32 qualifying spots for the first round proper. A Squid Game without the deaths, and with the chance to be patronised by Mark Pougatch up for grabs rather than 45.6 billion Won. But even for those clubs who do make the first round, the joy can prove to be no more than a fleeting 90-minute footnote in their history.

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Route one Neil Warnock's Notts County
During my four decades supporting Notts County, it has never been dull. As has been well documented, we are rarely mid-table. The two highest points, when we reached the top flight, were contrasts in aesthetics. Jimmy Sirrel’s promotion team in 1980-81 were pleasing on the eye, Neil Warnock’s ten years later were “direct”. But the latter was arguably more formative on how we have judged things since. The team was transformed through spirit, graft and pragmatism, with the grass grown longer in the corners so it would hold up from a long ball. The success that yielded has often come to mind when subsequent Notts managers have tried to make progress with a purist approach.

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Newcastle United photo via Colorsport, Ryhope Colliery Welfare v Bury AFC photo by Paul Thompson/WSC Photos, FA Cup photo via Getty Images, Neil Warnock photo via Getty Images


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