Thursday, December 31, 2009

Well it's soon going to be goodbye 2009, hello a new decade.

As all publications have that unwritten must do rule, it's time for us to look back and give a personal review of the year.

It's been a year of achievement for AFTN, if not our teams. Finally getting a blog going, growing the website and forum, being part of an award winning matchday programme and soon to launch our Canadian sister website, it's been a busy time.

For our beloved teams, it hasn't been so good.

East Fife have struggled and show no signs of stopping this for the foreseeable future.

Hope had been high at the start of last season of building on the success of our first Championship in 60 years. By the start of this year we'd soon realised that it wasn't going to be built upon and in fact all the good work of the previous season looked like being undone. We lost our Chairman and with it his money and the money of his contacts, we lost our manager who was playing terrible football, we lost all hope of promotion or even reaching the playoffs. It was a shambles.

A new manager and new younger faces on the pitch couldn't stop the slide and the horrible inconsistancy of our performances week in, week out is driving fans mad.

As we leave a bad year, we can only hope the new one will bring out the best in the team and we're not left in a relegation dogfight, or worse still, back in the basement. The other nightmare scenario is that we are the only Fife team not to be in Division One next season.

On the other side of the pond, Vancouver Whitecaps had inconsistancy themselves. Poor results and infighting left them struggling to make the playoffs, or that's how it looked midseason. An amazing turnaround and some amazing games saw them reach their second successive Championship game but back to back Championships couldn;t be returned and it was all left a bit flat come the season end.

Now, facing the uncertainty of what League they'll play in next season, looking back on the Caps season is still overshadowed by Frog-gate, aka the Canadian Championship debacle, but let's save that for tomorrow.

Scotland failed to impress on the national stage and another World Cup will pass us by. I'm starting to forget what it's like to follow them in a worldwide tournament. The Scottish game needs taken by the scruff of the neck and rebuilt from the bottom up. Whether that will happen or not under new boss Craig Levein is anyone's guess.

So that's our personal take on 2009 summed up. Depressing to read, more depressing to type! It's not a year we'll miss, so let's just sweep it under the carper and wait for the bells to hopefully ring in a cracking decade of joy and success.

Happy New Year everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

With Craig Levein now officially instilled as the new Scotland manager, it didn't take long for the cockroaches to come scuttling out from their dark places (Ibrox as others may know it) and seek to reignite their international careers.

You could have put a lot of money on Kris Boyd having a change of heart and making himself available once again to play for Scotland.

Having fallen out with previous boss Craig Burley over the time he was spending on the bench, Boyd threw a strop, took his ball home with him and announced his retirement from the international scene that barely knew he was even there.

Has he matured now? Is there any guarantee he won't do it again if Levein keeps him on the bench?

Know one knows, not even Boyd himself. His game has certainly matured. Five goals in a game, becoming the SPL's all time top scorer and some assured performances of late. Has he matured himself as a man?

There's no denying that the Scotland national team badly need some top class strikers. Is Boyd really that though? He hadn't done it for Scotland before and he's hardly set the heather alight for Rangers in Europe.

Should we forgive and forget and not just cut our nose off to spite our face?

Out of the three disgraced players (the other horrible Huns being Allan McGregor and Barry Ferguson), Boyd is the only one I would grudgingly welcome back. The others can go to hell and stay there for letting their country and their fans down.

If Boyd can show the maturity to not run away again if he is kept on the bench or doesn't like decisions made, then I'm for giving him a second chance. If he blows it, then it will be him who will look back on his career in years to come full of regret.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This evening's Premiership basement battle between Bolton Wanderers and Hull City, in particular the second half, was actually a game which lived up to that oft used phrase of a pulsating game.

The Tigers fightback from two goals down to claim a valuable point was great entertainment and much better than the top four battle between Aston Villa and Liverpool that was also on this evening.

When Hull went two down, it looked like Phil Brown may be facing questions surrounding his future once more, but after their ferocious comeback, and some key decisions gone awry, Gary Megson is now looking favourite to be the next Premiership manager to face the chop.

If Hull can manage to stay up for another season against the odds, it will be a tremendous achievement and if they can just get the talismanic Jimmy Bullard fit and keep him that way, then I'd completely back them to do this.

With so much at stake and so many teams still looking like realistic contenders for the drop if they string a run of poor results together, the rest of the 2009/2010 season is sure to serve up week after week of games like this from those at the bottom end of the table. It could be the tightest and most exciting finish yet and I can't wait!

Monday, December 28, 2009

If you have the Christmas and New Year period off work or school, then the feast of football on your TV screen is a joy to behold.

Maybe it's the blanket coverage of games, but this year seems to have non stop action for the armchair couch potato. Couple this with the darts being on as well and well, it's hard to really leave the house.

I guess this makes it hard for fans that want to attend games but can't be dragged away from their TV screens. Bad for the clubs, bad for you health!

With the Premiership, Championship and SPL all being delicately poised as well then it's just added to the excitement and the enjoyment in the games on offer.

To me, that's Christmas. Games galore, other sports galore, festive specials of fave shows likes Soccer AM and Soccer Saturday and too much munching away on snacks and chocolate.

Thanks heavens I have a dog so that I have to be forced to go out that front door before the first week of January!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

This season's English Premiership is one of the best so far in terms of teams with a realistic chance of the title, finishing in the top four and avoiding relegation.

At the top end of the table, Chelsea's stuttering of late has probably made it a three horse title race between themselves, Man United and Arsenal.

In years gone by, Arsenal would have easily been the team that would have had my support to land the title. This season though, their whining, arguing, hassling of refs and cheating and diving escapades have totally switched me off them. No matter how skillful the likes of Fabregas might be, I've had my fill of them.

To my mind they are now no better on the pitch than Chelski in all the negative stuff they bring to the English game.

With Man United being, well, Man United, it would be great to have a title contender to finally support that don't make your blood boil.

Moneybags City are a non starter and their recent behaviour with Mark Hughes cemented that fact. I just can't bring myself to cheer for Spurs either and my hatred of Liverpool dates back to the late 70's when everyone at my school were gloryhunters and wore the red colours, when West Ham were, and always will be, my English team.

That only leaves Aston Villa and thankfully I have no irrational hatred of them that I can bring to mind, so that's my choice of top teams in England to root for this season.

They may not have a chance of landing the actual title right now, but if they can break into that top four Champions League spot then I'll be raising my glass to them come May.

Maybe one day, in what currently seems like the very distant future, I can cheer on my own claret and blue team of choice to be that team to make it into the Champions League and there'll be bubbles blowing everywhere in the process.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

With the festive football programme in Scotland decimated by the weather, we thought we'd turn our thoughts to bygone days, when matches were commonplace on Christmas Day itself, not just Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

If you were to think of football matches at Christmas, unless you are of a certain age, then you'd just think of the Boxing Day games. If pushed to Christmas Day matches you may just think of the famous World War One kickabout in 1915, Paul McCartney, Pipes of Peace and all that.

As we said though, matches on December 25th were commonplace up to I think the late 1970's for East Fife anyway. If Christmas Day fell on a Saturday then the Fife were in action.

"The Bayview", the East Fife programme, produced some cracking covers for the Christmas and New Year games in the 1970's. If you pick up a copy of the programme for East Fife's recently postponed match against Brechin on December 19th, you can see a selection of them that we put together.

One of our particular favourites came from the match against Motherwell on Christmas Day 1971. The cover is to the left. 4,119 fans turned out to watch a 1-1 draw that day, putting aside their turkey and crackers for 90 minutes of Black and Gold Christmas entertainment.

Terrible really for the players and the fans looking back and you'd hope that that would be unthinkabke nowadays. Although the NFL did have a game yesterday which is what got us thinking about all this in the first place.

With the way things are going mind you, I wouldn't be surprised if at some point in the not too distant future, we get at least one Premiership game on Christmas Day.

Friday, December 25, 2009

AFTN would like to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Hopefully you all got some great football related gifts and had a great time.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In a way it's a godsend, but East Fife's 2009 was brought to a footballing end today when an early postponement of their boxing day match at Arbroath has left us with no game now till January 2nd 2010.

If the weather keeps up the way it is, the chance of this match going ahead may also be slim, which would leave the Fife with an unexpected one month winter break and it may have come at the perfect time.

Sure we could have built on the 3-0 demolition at Dumbarton two weeks ago but the way the games have been going we need to regroup and make sure that 2010 doesn't become a relegation year.

This year's festive calendar was a shocker anyway. Two away games, one them miles away at Peterhead was not what would be at the top, middle or anywhere not at the bottom of fans wishlists.

How the SFL can hand any club two away games in these financially tight times is a mystery. Every Club should have been guaranteed at least one potentially bumper holiday crowd.

As it's turned out no one seems to be getting anything but it's still a point of principal.

Let's hope the players have a great time this holiday season and come back fully refreshed next and raring to give their all for those black and gold jerseys.

They've no excuses now!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We've not been a fan of Mark Hughes during his time at Man City.

He came across at times as arrogant and a bit if a bully in his dealings with things like the Joleon Lescott transfer.

It was fun to see the moneybags of City "struggle" and record draw after draw.

That said, his sacking on Saturday night was shocking.

He's moved the team forward. He's built a squad that will realistically take time to gel and the rewards could be seen next season, not this. In recent games, possibly defence apart, they were looking like they could be a strong force to be reckoned with and serious top four contenders.

There were always going to be rumours about his tenure but to be sacked just after securing a hard fought win and for his replacement to have been lined up to take over right away is a disgrace.

It's one of the things that's wrong with the game today. There's little patience. Instant rewards have to be seen for the huge financial investment these guys are putting in and that isn't always possible.

The pressure on huge must have been immense. You can only imagine how he must have felt on Saturday pre, during and post match.

It's no way to treat a human being never mind a football manager.

Who'd really want to manage in the top flight these days. It can only shorten their lives!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The announcement of Craig Levein as the new Scotland boss is imminent.

Once the financial settlement with Dundee United has been agreed, Levein will take the reigns as national team boss before Christmas.

It's mixed emotions from us here at AFTN. On the one hand we do recognise that he is one of the more successful of the younger crop of Scottish managers at the moment and he has done excellent work at Dundee United. On the other, we still remember him as the tosser he was when he managed Cowdenbeath in the late 90s and his team's cheating performances against us.

He's not a man that most of the East Fife fans hold any esteem for whatsoever. Maybe we should forget the past and move on, but it's hard. To many it is a case of once a wanker, always a wanker.

Taking all of that out of the equation and trying to look at it from a balanced perspective, we still have to question his appointment.

He failed miserably in the only "big team" job he has had, whilst at Leicester City. He is also young and ambitious and the danger is always going to be there that he does what Walter Smith and Alex McLeish have done before him and leave the national team in the lurch when the lure of club football and the big bucks come a calling.

He does the have the ability and capacity to shake things up in the Scottish game though and that can only be good. He has never been afraid to speak his mind in the past and if he can continue to do this and take the Scottish game by the scruff of the neck that it needs then he may grudgingly earn our support.

AFTN personally has wanted Hearts to fail when he was there and Dundee United to fail at the present moment. It will be hard to back a Scotland team that he leads but we're going to have to try and put that behind us for the success of the national team is all that is important in all of this.

He better succeed and not leave the team in limbo, for if he does we'll be right at the front of the queue clambering for his resignation. In the meantime, welcome to the job Craig!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Whether you're still looking for that Christmas gift for your football loving friend, want to give some hints for a present for yourself or are looking for a way to spend some of your Christmas gift cash, then one book which is deserving of a place in your post Christmas bookshelf this year is the latest from that staple of football magazines, When Saturday Comes - "Up Front - WSC Covers From Two Decades That Changed Football".

The sensible way to start a magazine is to collect a few people with some of the relevant skills: writing, editing, photography, design, marketing, accounts. When Saturday Comes did not begin the sensible way. Instead, they decided the crisis facing football was so deep, and what they had to say so urgent, that they should publish first and acquire the skills later. "Up Front" is proof of this and we say that in a good way!

The book brings together nearly 100 WSC covers from 1986 to 2009, allowing you to trace a monumental period in the history of the game with the help of Maxwell, Thatcher, Venables, Pelé, Maradona and a number of mascots.

Magazine covers, especially those of fanzine style publications like WSC, are vital to draw the casual reader in and then hook them for longevity once they see the contents inside. WSC has always managed to do this with wit and satire to the fore.

We at AFTN always tried to do something similar in our printed fanzine days, but barring a few occasions (our John McCarthy hostage cover being our particular, and I know a few readers, fave), we never quite reached the humourous heights of When Saturday Comes.

"Up Front" is an excellent 100 page WSC book of cover art and costs 6.99. For those of you in the UK, you can pick a copy up at WH Smith. If you want to avoid the crowds or live outside of the UK, then you can pick up a copy at the When Saturday Comes website HERE.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Whilst watching yesterday's Premiership match between Arsenal and Hull, the subject for today's blog leapt out at me - or maybe I should say leapt out of the goal.

One of my (many!) bugbears in football at the moment is the rule surrounding goalkeepers and penalties.

Penalty kicks have changed so much since I started watching football. It's great that the goalie can move around on the goal-line more now. It's not so great that the kicker can stop his run-up now.

The rule that the goalkeeper has to stay on his line is the rule causing me to shout at my tv screen or matchday official the most these days though.

It's not the rule itself. That I wholeheartedly agree in, as where does the movement off the line end otherwise? No, the problem I have is with the linesman, assistant linesman, clueless man who can't seem to see what's going on in front of him, call him what you wish.

How many times do we see the replay of a penalty kick which the keeper has saved and the keeper is way off his line, with the lino looking on just a few feet away from the action? How difficult is it to spot?

It really drives me crazy and yesterday's spot kick by Arsenal at the Emirates was yet another example.

What is the point in having that rule, and having someone particularly watching out for it, if it's not going to be enforced EVERY time?

You then have a situation, like in today's match at Upton Park between West Ham and Chelsea, where encroachment into the box by the attacking players causes a penalty to be bizarrely taken three times (don't even get me start on whether it was in fact a Chelski penalty!).

Refs pick up on this, admittedly rarely, which is harder to spot and doesn't really make much difference as to whether the kick is converted or not, but the thing that can with a goalie just gets glibly ignored.

So come on linos use your eyes and stop this farce now.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I think it's the Irish comedian Ed Byrne that has a routine about Alanis Morisette's song Ironic and about how someone needs to tell her the actual meaning of the word as she goes on to list one non ironic thing after another.

I just always think about that whenever someone says, or I think, that something's ironic.

Why am I going on about this? Well something ironic did happen today with East Fife's match with Brechin City.

The Club proudly announced on AFTN at 10.12am that the game at Bayview was definitely on after the groundstaff had passed the pitch playable.

As game after game in Scotland was called off, we were left as the only game on in the Second Division. A prospect which meant a win would see us move into 5th and we could possibly move into the play off positions by the end of the year.

Then came the bombshell at 1.25pm on AFTN that the game was called off by the referee, despite both teams, management and directors deeming the pitch perfectly playable.

East Fife then proceeded to play a practice match in which the ball seemed to be running with no problem.

The late call off obviously was a pisser for the Brechin fans who had made the semi-long journey down in not the best of weather and their main bus was nearly at the ground when the postponement was announced.

Thankfully fans check AFTN regularly as all the media outlets still had the game as being on an hour later. So we do provide a service apart from being a home to the moaners!

The irony in all this was that our AFTN Blog in today's programme was all about how annoying and frustrating late call offs and abandonments were for the fans and how things need to be seriously done to prevent such incidents happening with the amazing frequency that they still do.

Maybe someone should have let the referee read the programme before inspecting the pitch.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Some weeks a story comes along that has you chortling away for days. This week was one of those weeks and made for our Friday Fun feature.

The story comes out of Peru and features footballer Carlos "Kukin" Flores, who was caught running naked through the streets by Peruvian police.

The midfielder, who plays for Inti Gas Deportes, told police that he was being chased by a ghost and trying to evade it. He eventually admitted that this was not the case and that he had been "engaging with dirty ladies".

The lie was invented to try and deceive his wife! She didn't believe him!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

For me, the big joy of this season's English Premiership has been watching Burnley.

The passion on the pitch, on the touchline and in the stands is uplifting, motivational and and inspiration to fans of unfashionable teams everywhere.

I had the chance to take in Burnley v Aston Villa last month and was really torn between that and going to Cumbernauld to see East Fife play Clyde. As crazy as I'm sure many of you will think I am, I chose the latter. Hey, the Fife are my team and my soul, you can't miss that!

I hope to take in a game at Burnley sometime soon though. The atmosphere at Turf Moor is electric.

The founder members of the English Leagues deserve all the plaudits they've been earning and getting this season. I still remember how close they came to dropping out of the leagues altogether a few years back.

The turnaround has been tremendous and in Owen Coyle they surely have a Scotland national team manager of the future (shame it can't be now!).

If we could bottle what they have there right now (even with the dodgy away form), I buy a ton and sent it up Bayview way.

Last night's game against Arsenal was a cracker. They weren't afraid to attack their so called bigger opponents. Let's hope they avoid the drop and are staples in the Premiership for many seasons to come.

Would be nice when I do eventualy make my trip to Turf Moor!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I like when the English Premiership has midweek fixtures. I dunno why but they just seem more exciting. Maybe it's because there's not that mass of television coverage we were going on about yesterday.

This week's action didn't disappoint on the whole.

Just when it looked like Chelsea were human after all and could be pegged back, they and Man United seem to have now made it back into a two horse race.

The other two Champions League spots are going to make for what looks like one of the most exciting Premiership seasons for many a year.

Who knows how that one is going to pan out.

At the other end though, I have serious fears now for my West Ham. It's looking grimmer by the week. They have the players that shouldn't see them relegated but someone maybe needs to get them to believe that.

The Bolton defeat was hard to watch, hard to stomach. That was a must win game this early in the season. The fact that they didn't, coupled with the way they lost it, makes the next month vital or it could be season over already.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Whilst reading some old East Fife programmes from the 70's and 80's, it tickled me to read about the excitement generated by the fact that the forthcoming Scotland international was to be broadcast on TV or the disappointment when it was announced that due to contractual problems no live coverage would be on the goggle box.

In these days of over saturation and wall to wall blanket coverage of seemingly every league around the world, it's easy to forget that it wasn't always like that.

I remember growing up in Scotland when we just had the three TV channels to choose from. Seeing any football on my small screen was a joy and something to be looked forward to, along with the chance to sit down and spend some time with my grandad.

The commentary was shocking looking back. The coverage not just as bad, but not far off. No instant replays from half a dozen angles back then.

It really was exciting when you found out that the Scotland international was going to be shown live.

Now we're jaded. We put the game on in the background and that's if we even watch it at all. Maybe this week's Uruguayan match up isn't exciting us. We can always download the highlights later or watch East Fife's highlights on our team's website.

Times have changed for the better for sure but sometimes I do feel they've gone that little bit too far. I wonder what my grandad would make of it all.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Over the last couple of weeks we've had a humourous look at some of the unwritten rules of the game (see Blog posts Here and Here).

Whereas these rules are funny, sometimes verging on the ridiculous, so are some of the actual rules we have in the game today.

With the Canadian Football (throwball) League welcoming rule change suggestions from fans each year, and often implementing some, it's a shame FIFA don't do the same.

We could go on ad nauseum about goal-line technology, extra officials, extra time changes, dissent, diving etc etc.

The one that's really got our goat for the last few seasons though is that of being booked for celebrating.

It's ridiculous - plain and simple.

I can understand a player being booked if his celebration involves inciting the opposition fans, ala Adebayor earlier this season, but when a player is just enjoying his goal moment with his own supporters then give the guy a break.

So what if he's whipped his shirt off? So what if he's being hugged by the crowd?

What's wrong with showing joy and raw emotion? I guess you'd need to ask FIFA.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

With so many foreign footballers in the Uk these days and so many with maybe not the best English, this was bound to happen sometime.

Having lived near Dundee, this is a mild accent for him to try and understand. Good luck to him trying to get by!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Match Report: Dumbarton v East Fife (Scottish Div 2)

It's getting a bit boring now. Whether you want to describe it as a rollercoaster of a season or a bit stop/start, it's just hard to try and make it seem interesting and different every week.

East Fife recorded a 3-0 win today, with a fine performance and the last two terrible games are nearly a distant memory - until the next loss I'm sure.

The win keeps East Fife third bottom but only three points of the last playoff spot in fourth.

Dumbarton hasn't proved to be a particulalry happy hunting ground for East Fife for years now. Both their previous ground of Boghead and their current Strathclyde Homes Stadium has far too unhappy memories for me than I care to share and that includes the heavy handed security we've had to endure at the latter.

Today though, the only thing that looked like it might stop the Fife juggernaut was the fog, but thankfully it didn't get too dense before we dispatched the Sons with what was a pretty controlled and assured performance.

Fife boss Stevie Crawford wasn't afriad to ring the changes with new signing Steven Campbell and one month Dundee United loan signing Keith Watson coming in to shore up the defence. With another loanee, Mark Ridgers returing to Hearts (where he was on the bench today), Michael Brown returned between the sticks and the defensive changes seemed to do the trick with the first clean sheet for a few weeks.

Watson, in particular, looked sharp and he linked up well with Lloyd Young after 37 minutes to make the first goal, gleefully dispatched by the ever reliable Paul McManus to give the Fife a deserved half time lead.

Jonny Smart got his name back on the Fife scoresheet eight minutes into the second half to double the Fife advantage with the goal of the afternoon, a spectacular overhead kick.

It took until the last minute for East Fife to add a third but it was worth the wait, with David Muir putting away Paul Sludden's dangerous cross.

The result was the pre Christmas cheer that the Fife faithful were looking for, but it's important that we build on this and not continue with our win one, lose one season so far.

We're still in both a promising position and a mess! That's going to be the league till May I think. To be honest, I'm just looking for avoiding relegation. I don't want us to go up as we're not in a position as a Club to handle this and it would be an unmitigated disaster and actually destroy all the work that's been getting done with youth and trying to get the numbers back up.

We'll just have to see where we go to now though. This time next week it might be all doom and gloom again, so we should really enjoy this result to the fullest!

C'mon the Fife.

FINAL SCORE: Dumbarton 0 - 3 East Fife

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two weeks ago we featured the "Unwritten Rules Of The Game" thread that has been featured on the AFTN Forum.

Here's some other contributions from our Forum guys...

- Ibrox will always start to empty after about 75 minutes, win lose or draw.
(Must be for the long bus/ferry journeys back home.)

- From a throw in, players must throw the ball high in the air and forward usually with a 40-60 chance of winning/retaining possession - instead of just throwing it 5 yards back to the feet of a teammate and taking it from there.

- Corners must be 'in-swingers' and must never swing out to meet the attackers oncoming head to maximise power and also to make it more diffiult for the opposition's defence to get a touch on the ball.

- Most foul throws must be ignored or not acted upon by referees in the modern game.

- Linesman must not adhere to the 'whole ball must be over the line to be out' rule.

- A player running up to take a penalty must be a signal for all players standing outside the area to run forward well into the box by the time the penalty taker strikes the ball.

- A free kick wall must rarely be 10 actual yards back from the ball.

- Teams who have been unsuccessful in launching the ball forward and not getting on the end of any of them for the majority of a game must think that this can't be the case, are simply unlucky and must keep doing this for rest of the 90 minutes regardless.

- When a player breaks both his opponents legs in a tackle from behind the referee must award a direct free kick unless the guilty player immediately points at the ball and blatantly lies that he touched the ball first.

- If the ball strikes a player and goes out for a throw in, the player must either:
a) raise their left arm
b) attempt to take the resultant throw in
c) make a verbal claim to linesman or referee that the throw in should be awarded in his favour.

- When taking a corner the player must place the ball just outside the quadrent,toget that critical 1/4 inch advantage.

- No player may ever take a free kick without first touching the ball with their hands. Even if it has been placed in exactly the right place, they need to pick it up and put it back down before they are allowed to kick it (keepers do this even if their side is losing in injury time- the defender puts the ball down and instead of just kicking the f*cking thing, they pick it up, put it straight back down, then punt it forwards)

- Substitute goalkeepers must wear their gloves whilst sitting on the bench, despite the fact their chances of getting on are relatively miniscule.

- Both playing and substitute goalkeepers must keep their gloves on when collecting medals at a cup final, thereby minimising the risk of dropping any silverware

- When commentating on a game you must stick with what you said even if slo mo proves otherwise

- Predominantly left footed players have a cultured left foot, you never hear of a cultured right foot though

- If the ball is nearing the goal-line and rolling out for a bye kick, defenders have the right to inflict greivious bodily harm on any opponent within 5 yards of the ball.These same defenders can also obstruct sunlight from reaching the planet if the opponent has any chance of getting near to the ball!

- If the ball strikes you on the hand anywhere on the pitch, it is always a free kick. But if you are inside your own penalty area, it has to have been deliberate, otherwise the award of a penalty is deemed 'harsh'

Keep them coming...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No one quite does drama off the football pitch these days like the South Americans.

Check out the action below from a crunch last game of the season relegation decider between Coritiba and Fluminense.

With just a point seperating the two sides, defeat for either would see them getting relegated to Brazil's Serie B - which would be a disaster for a world famous club like Fluminense.

The 1-1 draw that was played out spared their blushes but left the home side fans raging and relegated in their centenary year.

The scenes that followed are amazing to watch on a number of counts. There's the seeming lack of police numbers initially against a very large and hostile crowd, the officials getting involved, the ferocity of the hooliganism and the amazing fact (from what I could glean from translating the You Tube page) that no one seems to have been arrested!

Roll on the World Cup there in 2014! Never going to be a dull moment!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The number of abandoned ties throughout the UK in recent weeks has been surprisingly growing.

Whether it be for waterlogged pitches, snow or fog, to have your team's match abandoned at any point during the 90 minutes is a tough call to stomach, especially if you've travelled significantly to get there - not to mention if your team is winning!

The row rumbling on between Dundee United and Rangers at the moment, over their abandoned game on November 1st, has seen a rise in the verbal hostilities but has left both sets of fans stuck in the middle.

The game was rightly abandoned at half time, with the pitch in a shocking state and the ball not moving freely. At the time, there were little complaints, even though Rangers were winning 1-0.

With the match now being played again next Tuesday, and taking on increased significance in the SPL standings, the big question now is whether fans at the original game should be asked to shell out again to watch the second attempt at playing the match.

Dundee United are charging half price admission, to cover the administration costs of putting the match back on (costs such as policing, stewarding and other matchday staff). Rangers are adamant that the original agreement was that if fans held on to their original ticket stubs they would get in free.

This is a claim that United refute and they went a stage further and described Rangers Chief Executive Michael Bain's comments about the issue as "disgraceful".

You can see both sides of the argument. Clubs these days are cash starved and policing costs in particular can be crippling to some clubs. On the other hand, fans are equally cash starved in these recession hit times, especially coming up to Christmas, and those having to travel to Tannadice for a second time are already out of pocket for additional travelling expenses.

There is no easy solution and we feel that by charging half price admission then you have the best compromise available. For all Rangers huffing and puffing and what feels like token gestures and a stance to please their fans, it would have been interesting to see what the Glasgow side would have done in the same circumstances.

United will probably still take a hit as there is unlikely to be a capacity attendance and the fans will at least save a little, but as usual, the fans are caught in the crossfire and will still be out of pocket by the end of it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

With four of the UEFA Champions League groups wrapping up their action today, the tie of the round before kick off, proved to be the tie of the round after it as well.

Any match up involving heavyweights Juventus and Bayern Munich promises to throw up something special, but when you add the winner takes group advancement scenario into account, it was a mouthwatering prospect.

The Germans produced one of the performances of the tournament so far to trounce their Italian hosts 4-1, with a dominant second half performance in particular taking them through.

It was a joy to watch some free flowing, end to end action in the competition and it was also good for the tournament to see at least one Italian side eliminated.

We were facing the proposition of four Italian, three English and three Spanish sides making up the final 16. Losing one from that mix doesn't exactly shake things up drastically but at least it helps and who knows, maybe by this time tomorrow we might have lost another if Rubin Kazan can pull off a shock win.

We can but hope.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The World Cup draw and the resultant chinwagging aftermath hasn't even had time to die down but already the new strips for next year's World Cup are being released.

There's a good selection of some HERE. It's not been confirmed that these are definitely the strips to be worn in South Africa but it's certainly looking more than likely.

Of those already on display, the German one is really smart, but my favourite by a country mile is the Russian one.

Pity they won't be at the finals come June now, but maybe we can stand the chance of picking some tops up pretty cheap.

When you look at all of these wonderful new concoctions, it does make you wonder why Scotland seem to come out with some hideous creations most of the time.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

This season is shaping up to be the best SPL season ever.

The Hibs and Dundee United challenge is still going strong and if United can win their game in hand against Rangers then we will have an unbelievable situation of two points seperating the top four.

It's what we've all been wanting for years, serious challengers to the old firm, and it's important for the game that they can keep it going into the new year.

The bottom six is also tights as a gnat's chuff. There's five points between them and if Falkirk can string any sort of results together then the split will be fascinating.

That said, Falkirk certainly look to be the weakest side of all in the league.

With all the bad news and terrible performances we've seen in the Scottish game of late, this is the season we need to instill some sort of pride in our national sport. The rugger boys have already been making calls in the press for their funny shaped balls to take over.

The Hamilton-Hearts game today was full of passion and fire both on and off the pitch. More of the same please. Right up till May.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

East Fife stayed third bottom of the Scottish Second Division today and two points of the bottom spot after a truly woeful performance against Alloa Athletic today.

Alloa ran out 2-0 winners but a missed penalty and some excellent saves from Mark Ridgers kept the scoreline down in an afternoon to forget for the Fifers.

Coming after last week's Scottish Cup defeat to the official worst league side in Scotland, the fans expected the team to come out and make a statement.

They did that but not what we were looking for.

The midfield is non existant with no one seemingly able to take the game by the scruff of the neck, the defence is all over the place and lacking stability and Paul Sludden is clearly out of his depth and not the strike partner the hard working and long suffering Paul McManus is desperately needing.

If these performances don't turn around soon then the team is destined for a return to the division we spent so long trying to get out of with no real hope of getting back out of it any time soon.

Depressing times.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I don't know why I thought it would be any different. Every four years I look forward to the World Cup draw and every four years I forget it's like watching paint dry and stretched out for much longer than it needs to be.

Today's draw in South Africa lacked any real drama, fireworks or razzamatazz. No real complaints from me re the latter, as you don't need that anyway. We just want to see the matchups as soon as possible.

As usual, I found myself drifting away and only really paying full attention when it came to finalising the final pot.

As for the actual details of the draw itself, well I'm sure the journalists will be pleased to have something they are already referring to as a "group of death" in Group G. It didn't take them long to christen it that after the draw was complete, but Brazil should be comfortable qualifiers and I would say any group with North Korea in it can't exactly be called a difficult group. Sure it will be an interesting battle between Portugal and the Ivory Coast for the second qualifying spot but that's the case in pretty much all of the groups - there's pretty much a standout favourite and two others battling for that second place.

In my opinion, the real group of death is Group D. I can really see Germany struggling to get out of that if Australia, Ghana and one of my tips as the dark horses, Ghana, all play to their strengths.

The rest of the groups hardly excite.

England look to have a piss easy group again, although their second round match up against the second place team from Group D could be an interesting one for them. I was really pleased when they got the USA, as that was what I felt to be the toughest for them from that pot. It could all have been so different for them if the Ivory Coast had been stuck in their Group C instead of going to Brazil's group, due to the bizarre geographical stipulations FIFA had imposed.

I was going to be cheering on Slovenia anyway due to AFTNs ties with them in the past. Moreso now!

The hosts have a chance to make it through, and keep local interest going, if they play like they did in the Confederation Cup in the summer, but South Africa v Mexico isn't the most glamourous tournament opener we've ever had.

With Scotland's lack of qualification becoming a regular occurance these days, we've become pretty used to picking other teams to cheer on.

We've always been taken with watching Cameroon and once again they'll be getting our support, along with the Aussies and Kiwis and Slovenia and yeah we'll say it, anyone that plays England.

The anticipation of the week's build up to the draw wasn't repaid with what was the result. I'm sure we can expect the odd shock, the odd defensive boring performance by the South Americans and eastern European qualifiers and the usual names to go into the last 16.

By the looks of what we have so far, that seems to be when next year's tournament will really kick off and start to generate some excitement. All the same, I still can't wait for it to start.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

When FIFA announced their seedings and pots for tomorrow’s World Cup draw, it was both pretty much unexpected but equally disappointing at the same time.

The top 8 seeded teams are a little surprising, with England ousting France as a seed. In saying that, both are former winners but England’s qualification campaign was tremendous whereas France’s was full of despair and controversies. I’m

I’m not against seeding the top eight, as past performances in the tournament and qualifying should be rewarded, but by seeding the rest of the teams it takes away from some interesting encounters that could be thrown up and diminishes the chances of some of the lesser nations to advance.

I’d much prefer to see a free for all for the remaining 24 teams.

Lumping the African and South American teams together does certainly make it tougher for the remaining European sides, something FIFA no doubt would be keen to happen to keep the rest of the world’s delegates happy.

Putting Asia, Oceania and Concacaf together will no doubt throw up at least one “group of death”, with whoever ends up with the US or Mexico in their group.

These groupings though deprive us of some potentially great matches and upsets. Sadly there’ll be no North Korea-USA match up for a billion audience at home, at least not in this round, and no North-South Korean hostilities either.

It should still be an interesting draw though and hopefully the pot separation won’t take away from some genuinely tough groups and some cracking tight matches to look forward to.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's all about Fifa this week it seems!

The governing body announced today that they had decided against the use of extra officials at next year's World Cup.

Although disappointing, there were encouraging signs that Fifa do acknowledge that something has to be done to help officiating in the game and soon.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter had discussed the matter with the executive committee and although they turned down the introduction of extra officials or the use of technology just now, Blatter commented after the meeting that "the committee was of the opinion that we are at a crossroads. Where shall we go with refereeing in the future?".

Further research is felt to be needed before rushing into any decision and a full inquiry will be undertaken.

I'm all for this as long as they come up with the right conclusions and recommendations at the end of it.

It may come too late for South Africa next June but if they can get something, anything better in place sooner rather than later then perhaps we can actually start talking about the real action on the pitch for a change.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In a follow up to yesterday's blog, FIFA and Sepp Blatter rejected Ireland's request to be added as the 33rd team in next year's World Cup Finals.

Not really a big surprise there (did anyone really think they would seriously consider it?) but the Irish have been left fuming at how FIFA handled the announcement of their request, indicating that they made them a laughing stock.

With the way things have gone with this debacle, it's hard to see who the real laughing stocks are but FIFA certainly haven't covered themselves in any glory with it all.

Whether this will be the end of it or whether the Irish will look to the courts now is anybody's guess. In light of how FIFA have been dealing with Chile after one of their domestic clubs (Rangers) were going to take the Chilean FA to court over their recent demotion, Ireland would be advised to steer well clear of such actions.

Chile were threatened with being kicked out of the World Cup if court cases were started as FIFA frown on such things (how they felt when Livingston went to court with the SFA in the summer we don't know).

It's alright having FIFA as the governing body of football but apparently they see themselves as the all conquering lawmakers. The question now should be, who should govern FIFA?
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