Clubs

Gillingham are bound to be the losers, regardless of the outcome, if the case between ex-manager Tony Pulis and chairman Paul Scally ends up going to court. Haydn Parry explains why

Gillingham are currently enjoying something of a golden age. The past five years have seen two promotions, an FA Cup quarter-final, three Premiership scalps and a £3.5 million renovation of Priestfield. This season, the club had maintained a healthy midtable position in the First Division, but there’s now a guaranteed nailbiting climax to come.

Piers Pennington  takes on the mysteries of the Didcot triangle, with three teams that lurk around the periphery of the big time

Look at a map of England, go left from London and you’ll come across a footballing desert stretching across Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Somerset. Only three oases of league football offer succour to the parched lower division journeyman and many a camel towards the end of its career has found refreshment in Oxford, Reading or Swindon. In the middle of the three lies Didcot, the railway junction which links them, and this has persuaded some to call this area the Didcot Triangle.

Ian Plenderleith looks back to the late 1970s, when Lincolnshire buzzed with football enthusiasm – for Nottingham Forest

Where is Lincolnshire? It’s the second biggest county in England after Yorkshire, but you’d be sur­prised how few people know the answer. Even some of the people who actually live there. A similar sense of bafflement can be seen etched on the face of anyone who might be asked the following: name three pro­fessional football clubs in Lin­coln­shire? And what have they ever won?

None of Devon's three clubs can claim glorious, trophy-laden histories, yet one seems to attract more than its fair share of attention, says Nick House

Some years ago, Harry Pearson wrote a wonderful book about football in the north east of England. By calling it The Far Corner he unwittingly paid a compliment to football west of Taunton Deane services by not labelling Devon as English football’s outpost. Unfortunately, others continue to do so, portraying Devon football fans as wretched individuals who spend Saturdays travelling to Old Trafford courtesy of Taw and Torridge Coaches.

Everton takeover hits difficulties. Neil Wolstenholme reports

A year has passed since Bill Kenwright an­nounced his consortium, True Blue Hold­ings, had reached agreement to acquire Peter John­son’s 68 per cent stake in Everton for a knockdown £20 million. Joy was unconfined as Ever­ton, in­spired by Don Hutch­­ison, routed Sun­der­land 5-0 on Boxing Day at a sold-out Goodison Park.

Stockport County fans thwart Maine Road move. Dave Espley explains

The saga started with a press conference called by Stockport County chairman Bren­dan El­wood at the end of November. Open-mouthed local journalists were told that the board – without having consulted the fans, of course – were thinking of applying to Manchester City Council to take over Maine Road when Ci­ty moved to the new Commonwealth sta­dium in 2003.

Tottenham wasted ten years under the stewardship of Alan Sugar, says Adam Powley. But there is no guarantee his successors will be any better

It says something about the sentimentality of football fans that when Alan Sugar called it quits at White Hart Lane, Spurs supporters were in conciliatory mood. Having finally seen the man so long identified with the club’s decline speak in such an apparently convincing manner about his “sad failure”, many felt a tinge of regret at his decision. Even Save Our Spurs, the pressure group most readily identified with opposition to Sugar, paid generous tribute to his tenure at the club.

As Ipswich revel in their role as the nation's sweethearts and Norwich flounder, Gavin Barber reflects on their sudden change of fortunes

What were you doing on August 22? If you are an Ips­­­wich fan, you were probably wat­ch­­­­­­­­­ing a thril­ling draw with Man­­­ches­ter United. If you sup­port Norwich, you were most likely searching for a rea­son to miss your team’s 0-0 draw with Bournemouth in the Worthington Cup. This stark illustration of the current disparity between the two teams didn’t go unnoticed by either set of supporters. Since then, of course, Ipswich’s astounding Premiership form and City’s further struggles have only made it more marked.

Peterborough have the money and the ground, Cambridge have reached greater heights on the pitch. Simon Knott surveys the state of rivalry in the fenlands

Down in the Fen country things are stirring, as Cambridgeshire’s two League clubs face up to the post-Bosman world. And about time. Just as Cambridge’s ground is an object of ridicule for Boro fans, so Peterborough’s lack of achievement raises a hearty guffaw down at the Abbey Stadium. Despite several solid cash injections over the years and aspirations in abundance, Posh have never been able to live their dreams, and it has been galling for Boro fans to witness Cambridge’s league and cup exploits over the past ten years or so. For the Cambridge faithful, the Abbey has been a cross to bear for longer than that. But planning permission for redevelopment has at last been obtained, and work should begin in the summer.

A look back at the fortunes of five East Anglian clubs

Glory Years From 1971, when Colchester beat Leeds, to 1993, when Norwich beat Bayern Munich, the east of England was a foot­ball hotspot. Unlike Ipswich’s freak 1962 title win – they went down two years later– success was widespread and lasting. Ipswich and Norwich won three cups between 1978 and 1985, and Town were twice league runners-up. Outside Ips­wich the peaks came later, when Cambridge (1992), Norwich (1993) and Peterborough (1993) all achieved their highest league position, City got to two FA Cup semis and Cam­bridge twice reached the sixth round. Even Colchester won the Con­ference and FA Trophy (1992), though admittedly they had to be relegated first.

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