2010 Web awards

Our web awards focus on the best footballing blogs, fanzines and websites. Ian Plenderleith gives his view on why each is worthy the accolade

It’s that time of year when we finally say something nice about what’s on the internet, and the 2010 Web Awards focus on what may be considered classic fanzine virtues – independence, originality, wit and selfless involvement in a game that seems intent on distancing itself from a fanbase whose cash it wants and needs, but which in many corners still stubbornly refuses to sink into the passive role of slavish devotee. Our by-no-means comprehensive selection of sites, some of them consistent enough to be held over from last year’s awards, reflects the necessity of a watchful ethical eye, the redemption of satire and an increasing awareness of the need to analyse the game’s business side. The web may be clogged with bothersome ads, unhinged anger and celebrities masquerading as columnists, but there’s resistance too. Support your team, but support too the many voices of sanity who still care that teetering crises contrast daily with high-spend lunacy.

Quality gold
Run Of Play continues to develop into an eye-catching blog where you might typically find repros of ancient football postcards, a serialised novel set in the 1920s about Brooklyn Asylum FC, or a piece on the moral quandary of signing Marlon King. Sample quote, on why many still want to view Wayne Rooney as a spud-faced stripling: “You could make the case that what’s holding him back – injury; constantly having to adapt to different positional responsibilities – is disconcertingly grown-up for a player we’re more comfortable imagining as a permanent teenager.”

Two Hundred Per Cent keeps a timely, watchful eye on basket-case clubs, summarising all the salient points for those of us too baffled to keep track on a daily basis. Shit-Shot Mungo is the best football cartoon series ever, while match reports are regular and compelling. Sample quote: “Woking may be three divisions below Brighton, but their players are all footballers, all paid to play football to some extent. Woking raised their game in the first match and Brighton were below par. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to force a surprise.”

Cod Almighty is still by far and away the best individual team site with its persistently brilliant gallows humour, poetry and insight on a daily basis. Cod only knows how they keep it up, but this is the model to follow for all club webzines. Sample quote: “I don’t think any of us really believe Town and the Conference are in for just one brief night of passion, do we? We’re not looking at wham, bam, thank you Altrincham. Grimsby Town Football Club is broken, and it’ll take a lot to fix.”

Quality silver
Zonal Marking is a must-read site now that seeming knowledgeable about football tactics has become more important than being good in bed. Headline of the year with Redknapp proves he’s a decent tactician, even if he doesn’t want to be. Sample quote: “Man City’s first-half dominance was all about passing around Fulham. 257 passes to Fulham’s 141 tells the story, and the extra man in midfield was a key feature.” Thanks goodness someone’s counting.

HTFC World has been producing brilliantly illustrated match reports on Huddersfield Town for well over a decade, and a recent upgrade to animation has only accentuated its unstintingly scathing commentaries. A Yorkshire football version of South Park. Everyone’s fair game – referees, opponents, home players, and even the bloke who draws the mascot cartoons in the match programme. And that’s exactly how it should be.
This year’s favoured photographic site is Centre Circle Publishing , a delightfully massive range of galleries covering David Bauckham’s non-League travels. Who could ever tire of pictures of old blokes in peaked caps watching Dorking Town, and pallid, gangly lads lurching through mud at Leyton FC? Match reports are largely eschewed in favour of potted histories and weird facts, such as the right of local farmers to run their herds over Hitchin Town’s ground once a year. Sample quote: make up your own. Something like: “Bloody ‘ell, eight quid to watch this shit.”

Quality bronze
The Ball Is Round is one of the better sites documenting travels to places like Lincoln Moorlands Railway FC, SV Spakenburg or Sliema Wanderers, aided by some decent photography. There’s relief from the road with musings on great Subbuteo memorabilia, or the worst places in Europe to host football, which gratifyingly include Paris and Barcelona. Sample quote, from a visit to Minsk: “Six hours before the match, having only been in the city for a few hours we were so bored that we ended up back in the hotel, drinking something called Splotz, watching snooker on TV with German commentary.”

In Bed With Maradona is a burgeoning bloggers’ collective reporting from all kinds of countries on all kinds of issues. These include depression and homophobia in football, where next for the Uruguay national team, the historical relationship between France and Senegal and Dion Dublin’s new percussion instrument – the Dube. Sample quote: “When you think Sudan, you think, disease. Extremism. Guns. Hunger. War. Partly true, but like everywhere else in Africa, the Kush love their football too.”

Football Economy has a new, ad link-dominated layout I’m not mad about, but once you access the core of Wyn Grant’s consistently excellent economic news and analyis you can overlook the triviality of presentation. Like it or not, football’s a serious and dirty business, and we need diligent writers like Grant to tell us why, say, the latest Swiss league reform could be a monopolistic move towards abolishing relegation. Sample quote:  “The latest club in trouble is Redditch, who need a £30,000 cash injection to secure their immediate future.” Often dry, but sobering and informative.
Honorable mentions
Salut! Sunderland salutsunderland.com
Balanced, articulate SAFC blog.

A Football Report afootballreport.com
Smart, young and global – one to watch.

The Swiss Ramble swissramble.blogspot.com
More detailed breakdowns of football and finance.

Play The Game playthegame.org
Ethical watchdog in equal parts both depressing and inspiring.

From WSC 287 January 2011