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13 June ~ Northern Ireland’s opening Group B match with Poland was a game that had been 30 years in the making. In the end what ensued was a defensively solid performance but one lacking in attacking vigour and a disappointing defeat. It would be churlish indeed to say anything other than “hard luck, lads” but there is undoubtedly a sense that a change in approach will now be required.
13 June ~ Slovakia coach Jan Kozak will take no comfort in the fact, but his team‘s 2-1 defeat to Wales in Bordeaux has enhanced his reputation as a man of wise words. As soon as the draw for the final stages was made last November, Kozak said he was happy enough to be in a group with England and Russia but that Wales were the fourth seeds he really hadn’t wanted.
10 June ~ They say France has ground to a standstill, but there was little sign of that as commuters poured out of Gare Lille Flandres into the June sunshine this morning. Strikes continue to take place across the country as part of the CGT union’s widespread protests against the controversial loi travail, which would change working conditions in the country – but you would never have guessed it from the number of people wandering down Rue du Molinel into offices in the usual manner or enjoying their morning cafés on the pavement terraces.
7 June ~ John Gaustad, the founder of the influential bookshop Sportspages, died over the weekend. The first Sportspages was opened on Caxton Walk, just off Charing Cross Road, in London in 1985 and became hugely important in the rise of sports literature, offering fans and journalists a dedicated place to go to find writing about football. The shop was also one of the early stockists of WSC, as well as many other fanzines at that time. Gaustad went on to co-found the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award in 1989 and opened a second branch of the shop in Manchester in 1992.
6 June ~ Feethams was home to Darlington between 1883 and 2003, when the club moved to the new Darlington Arena on the outskirts of the city. The ground, which had a capacity of around 8,500, was demolished in 2006.
5 June ~ On May 19 the Football League put forward proposals to reorganise the domestic system into five divisions of 20 teams from the 2019-20 season. The League claim that clubs would not be financially worse off despite having fewer games, while it would also help to ease fixture congestion. The suggestions received a mixed response from both those running and supporting clubs in the divisions that would be affected. Now Supporters Direct are asking their members’ opinions on the proposals – you can take the survey here.
4 June ~ Twenty-five years ago Hansa Rostock won the last-ever East German cup final, but that wasn’t the end of football in the GDR. After the German reunification, East German teams were distributed into the West German league pyramid. When the Bundesliga was formed in 1963 the clubs were admitted base on a ranking calculated over the previous 12 years, yet for the teams in the GDR’s Oberliga, it came down to how they performed over just one season.
2 June ~ Brian McDermott’s sacking by Reading last week came as a surprise to some but the Tilehurst End blog argue that it is just the latest sign that the owners do not have a coherent strategy for the football club. Instead, the blog suggests that the consortium in charge of Reading are more interested in the Madjeski Stadium’s potential as an “enabling development” for the surrounding Royal Elm Park. “You can be sure that without the property development opportunities afforded to them the Thai owners – who have a background in property development – would not be interested in Reading FC,” the blog says.
1 June ~ Liverpool v Milan in 2005 then 2007; Manchester United v Barcelona in 2009 and 2011; then, on Saturday, Real Madrid defeated Atlético Madrid in the Champions League final for the second time in three years. UEFA competition has become a boring fait accompli, yet I still love the European Cup final. A marathon of cynical commercial tat, including some of the preening participants, it remains the most genuinely heavyweight fixture in club football – and an unmissable date with the television.
We are pleased to announce the return of the annual WSC writers' competition, in memory of contributor David Wangerin. Entrants are invited to submit an article of between 800 and 1,500 words, about any aspect of the 2019-20 football season. The award was David's idea and he requested that it should only be open to amateur writers, ie those who don't make their living from writing. The closing date for submissions is Wednesday, May 27, 2020.