Friday, December 31, 2010

The last few months, commitments elsewhere have meant that this blog hasn't had the attention it was getting when I first started it.

This has disappointed me, so a decision had to be made to improve this situation and by stepping away from some other interests that were taking up too much of my time, I can now give my full attention once again on getting the blog done on a, hopefully, almost daily basis.

We're going to give the blog a makeover for 2011 as well. A new look. A sleeker design, but still in the AFTN livery of course.

No promises that it will be a daily football blog anymore and just reporting on anything and everything to have something to write will no longer be the order of the day.

If we have the desire and passion to write about things on any given day then we will. Some days may have two or three entries now and not tied down to the one a day regime I'd enforced before.

We're also going to backdate some posts and finally bring everyone up to speed with my snow disrupted travels in November.

2011 is also going to be an exciting year for other areas of AFTN.

The trusty old website (www.aftn.co.uk) will finally be getting the v.3 makeover we've been promising, we're going to launch a new sister site (www.aftn.ca) to focus on all things Vancouver Whitecaps, and we're also going to relaunch an AFTN Canada blog to focus on various issues and news on that side of the Atlantic.

So bear with us, thanks for your continued support and everyone at AFTN Towers wishes all our readers, no matter what team you support, a happy and healthy 2011.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Well it's been in the planning stage for what seems like months now, but I'm finally flying home to Scotland today for a couple of weeks, with the aim of seeing as many football matches as possible in that time.

If things go according to plan, although the long range weather forecast ain't looking too cheery at this stage, I should be taking in 5 or 6 games on the trip, with games at East Fife, Cray Wanderers, Metropolitan Police or Crawley, Ayr United or Glenrothes Juniors, AFC Wimbledon and maybe a.n. other if the fixtures fairy is good to me and the weather gods even more so. Had to rule out Kingstonian at home due to some commitments elsewhere sadly, but hey, 5 or 6 games ain't bad going.

It's funny, when I lived in the UK, the thought of having a footballing holiday or groundhopping excursions never really entered my thoughts. Now, as an exile, I can't get enough and with my growing love of the non league scene in the last few years, I really regret not having seen more grounds and teams when I had the chance.

I've been to a lot of Highland League grounds and northern English non league clubs following the Fife pre-season for all these years and in Scottish Cup games, but I really should have made the effort to take in more. I've been up to Wick, I should try and get down to Cornwall too.

It's hard of course when you are following your own team week in, week out, home and away. Now that I am this exile though, I'm determined to chalk up more grounds, more teams, more leagues and love every minute of watching real football in the process.

First up though is my old haunt of Bayview and East Fife's Scottish Cup Third Round tie against Forfar Athletic. Not been to a Fife home game since April 2008 and I can't wait.

Looking forward to seeing all my old muckers and hopefully cheering the Fife on to a glamour Fourth Round tie. Then my football travels can really begin.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

They were undoubtedly dancing in the streets around Wimbledon and Kingsmeadow this evening.

Franchise FC went crashing out of their FA Cup First Round replay at home to Stevenage, saving Dons fans the heartbreak and anguish of having to "welcome" the club killers to their new home in the second round.

Although some Dons fans were relishing the prospect of putting one over on the club that forced them to start from scratch again, many, if not most, were dreading the potential day.

The best option for them was for Stevenage to win their replay against MK. The second best, that AFC Wimbledon lost theirs to Ebbsfleet.

Thanks to a Darius Charles late late equaliser for Stevenage in normal time and Mathias Doumbe's penalty shoot-out miss for the Franchise, option 1 came in.

It wasn't an exciting match to watch on the whole and it looked like Milton Keynes would indeed be advancing to the possible showdown after Lewis Guy put them into the lead four minutes after the interval.

Darius Charles became an instant Wimbledon hero though when he bundled home the Stevenage equaliser five minutes into stoppage time to send fans of the non league side, and another non league side not that far away, into raptures.

MK had the chance to win the shootout when it was tied at 4-4 but Chris Day in the Stevenage goal brilliantly saved from Peter Leven and the Franchise eventually crashed out 7-6 on spot kicks.

So a huge sigh of relief for all connected with AFC Wimbledon, as a potential meeting with the club that they don't even want to acknowledge exists is put off for another season.

All the Dons have to do now is to make sure that they keep their focus and win their replay at Ebbsfleet to keep their own FA Cup dream alive.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Airdire United are scum. Let's get that out of the way first.

They killed Clydebank FC to save their asses. They seem to avoid relegation due to many series of unfortunate events. They have some of the worst supporters in the Scottish lower leagues.

They've managed to sink to new lows though. I didn't really think that was possible.

Have a look below at the cover from their programme for Saturday's game against fellow club killers Livingston.

This was their special Rememberance Day cover with "Lest We Forget" emblazened on it.

Notice anything unusual about the picture? Yup, that's right, it's of Nazi soldiers!

I know it was clearly a genuine mistake, unless some neantherthal Union Jack waving Section B Nazi skinhead has infiltrated their programme now, but seriously, FFS how can you let that one slip through. As soon as I saw the picture I knew it was Nazi soldiers.

They're being crucified in the press for it and have apologised profusely. Their Chairman seems mortified. Honest mistake guvner and all that and I do feel sorry for the poor numpty that let that go through but still, what fuckwits. Having the phrase "Supporting Our Heroes" under the picture of the Nazi troops just added to the embarassment of it all.

On the plus side, that's one less programme that East Fife need to worry about for "Programme of the Year!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Watching East Fife from afar isn't easy. Mind you, watching them first hand isn't at the best of times either.

Waking up this morning to find your team two goals up, the opposition reduced to ten men and only minutes remaining is a nice feeling.

Checking back in moments later to find your team has then somehow managed to draw 2-2 just gets your weekend off to the worse possible start. At least I didn't have to leave the comfort of my living room to suffer the anger and anguish of the defeat.

It's no revelation that our defence has been shocking at times this season but to squander a two goal lead to ten men with three minutes remaining has to go down as a new low.

The Fife fans who made the hellishly long journey north should have their expenses reimbursed.

Seemingly coasting after goals from Kurtis Byrne and Craig Johnstone, either side of the Blue Toon's Paul Emslie receiving his marching orders ten minutes into the second half, East Fife managed to blow it big time.

John Robertson and Gordon Durie must be wondering just what the hell they've gotten themselves in to.

Full marks to ten man Peterhead for the spirited fightback though. Martin Bavidge's 87th minute strike must have seemed like scant consolation for an afternoon to forget, after East Fife had dominated without taking their chances and killing the game off.

Stuart Anderson's 35 yard screamer in the final minute though was just something else on all levels.

Michael Brown had no chance with the shot. I don't think any goalkeeper would have to be fair. It should never have come to this of course.

So we're back to the inconsistancy that cost us so dear both last season and so far this one too. Robbo needs to get some of his contacts going to plug these holes and get us some players that can also take the chances afforded to them. With two former internationals at the helm, surely that can only lead to good things in the player department.

Of course they still then have to play as a committed, cohesive and hungry team. That's where our big gap is currently.

Well at least I'll get to see the next two games up close and personal. What the hell is going to lie in store for me? Cup glory? Taking Ayr to the races? Or just a belated Halloween horror show.

We know to expect the unexpected as East Fife fans. That doesn't make it more palatable though.

C'mon the Fife.

FINAL SCORE: Peterhead 2 - 2 East Fife

EAST FIFE: Brown, Durie, Campbell, Smart, Ovenstone, Linn, Sloan, Muir, Johnstone, Hislop, Byrne (Crawford 76) [Subs Not Used: Collier, Murdoch, Young, Tansey]

ATT: 594

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Joey Barton is back in the news again and as we've come to expect from the player, it's not for good reasons.

Watching "Match of the Day" last night, I couldn't quite believe what I saw Barton doing to Blackburn's Morten Gamst Pedersen. So I watched the numerous replays and each time you found yourself asking "was he really that fucking stupid?".

And of course, yes he was.

I'm sure you'll all have seen it in it's horrible glory by now.

Barton's punch into Pedersen's chest wasn't the worst thing you'll ever see on the football pitch but it was certainly one of the most unsavoury. From the look on his face (red mist if ever you'll see it), to the punch itself, to his pleading of ignorance immediately afterwards (open hand slap my ass). It all just left a horrible taste in your mouth.

How many times can he get away with being a thug before he's stopped from playing top flight football, either by managers or the FA? A three game ban is hardly going to have a huge life changing effect on the player.

Of course he's come out and apologised, at least being man enough to admit what he's done now:

"I hold my hands up, I reacted badly to the situation on Wednesday night and I deeply regret it.

"I have been working very hard to keep that side of my game under control and I think it has showed in the way I have been able to get on and enjoy my football this season.".

How many more times will he trot this out though and how many more chances will he get.

He's a disgrace. Plain and simple. Balance that with Pedersen, whose reaction to the media after the match was class personified.

Not a phrase you're ever likely to hear in the context of Barton.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I often get asked why I'm more fascinated in lower league and non league football than say the Premiership.

When football fans find out that I'm Scottish, the inevitable question follows.

"Which team do you support?"
"East Fife"
(Pause)
"No, I mean Celtic or Rangers?"

The conversation Scots all over the world will have no doubt endured.

To those that are fans of the "big" teams, it's quite unfathomable to them that you don't really support one of them and that you can get any real joy from watching football on a freezing cold night, in piss poor facilities and featuring players that even some of their relatives would find it hard to recognise.

I'm sure many of the FC United of Manchester fans felt like this when they were at Old Trafford for years before discovering the joys of lower league football. I'm sure many of them wish they'd discovered these joys a little bit earlier in life.

If you're living in a non traditional footballing country like the US or Canada, that bafflement becomes even greater.

Frankly, people think you're mad.

Having watched this evening's Manchester derby between United and City, I would have to ask who the mad one is.

As mentioned before in this blog, and as has happened on so many occasions now, the big game you were all hyped up and looking forward to watching was a huge letdown.

In fact it was more than that. It was pish and negative pish at that.

Where was the passion? The commitment? The flying tackles and flying bodies? The justification of the huge admission fees the fans paid and the wages the players are picking up?

Not at the City of Manchester Stadium anyway. Man City's starting line up cost £170 million to assemble. United's cost £113 million. You'd never have known.

I'd rather have been able to watch a game like last night's Johnstone's Paint Trophy match at Adams Park between Wycombe Wanderers and Bristol Rovers. A nine goal thriller.

Yup, give me lower level football any day of the week after what I saw tonight. I wonder when others will start to get wise?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It was hardly a surprise when it was announced today that the possible FA Cup tie between AFC Wimbledon and Franchise FC will be ITV's pick for their televised second round match on November 27th.

The media interest has been enormous, even though the possibility of Ebbsfleet v Stevenage still hangs large. No one's going to let that prospect get in the way of a good story after all and The Wombles first round replay at Ebbsfleet will be shown live by ESPN.

For many that were too young to take in the debacle or just wonder what all the fuss is about MK Dons, read this post from "poultog", a member for over 4 years on the Franchise FC forum "The MooCamp":

"dont know about anyone else but this tie has really caught my interest and whetted the appetite once again. things were getting really stale and i was beginning to doubt my interest in the club...i was getting to the stage where i could take it or leave it."

Ah the classless Franchise fans and to think a Club died for these assholes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yesterday's FA Cup ties produced some good shocks, some spectacular goals and some fanatstic goalkeeping exploits (Dover's goalie was on fire!).

The headlines in Monday's papers though are more likely to come from a tie in today's second round draw, as the fourth matchup out of the hat threw up the possibility of AFC Wimbledon hosting the club killing evil that is Milton Keynes.

Both sides have to win their respective replays against Ebbsfleet United and Stevenage for this to happen, but the mouthwatering prospect of the FA Cup grudge match of all time is a very real possibility, although I do fancy Stevenage to turn over Franchise FC in the replay.

The offical AFC Wimbledon website was quick to react to the draw:

"Depending on the outcome of two replays, we have been drawn against Milton Keynes in the FA Cup 2nd round to be played on 27 November.

Most people know the way that Milton Keynes obtained their football club. It was wrong then and it is still wrong now, which makes this fixture very painful for us. However, when we entered the FA Cup we understood that this might happen and we will go about our business professionally and complete the fixture. But we would have preferred that it hadn’t happened. We have no further comment to make at the moment.".

A very classy statement from a very classy Club. We should expect nothing less.

As a Wimbledon fan and Dons Trust member I can't wait for the possible match up and the fact that it's happening when I'm back in the UK excites me no end. I'll be at the Dons game v Luton a few days later, so if there's any chance of getting a ticket for the Cup game as well, I'll be there in a shot if I can. Will even miss East Fife away to Ayr if need be!

But that's my view of the situation. I'm an East Fife first and foremost and not only am I an exile now, my main support of the Club only came after AFC were formed in 2002. I've followed their fortunes from the start and their support of our campaign to oust Derrick Brown as Chairman at East Fife was very welcome (they even ran a two page feature on our plight in their programme).

I'm not a dyed in the wool Wimbledon fan though. I didn't watch the team win the FA Amateur Cup in 1963 then rise up the non league ladder and take the Football League by storm. I wasn't at Wembley to see them complete their ultimate triumph in winning the FA Cup in 1988 (although I did cheer them on from the comfort of my living room!). I didn't see my Club basically die before my eyes like the true fans of Wimbledon FC did. I didn't have that heartache of losing my love and my home and having to rebuild my life from scratch.

I can only imagine what it must have been like for the Dons fans at that time. The idea that someone could buy East Fife, move them to the new town of East Kilbride and call them EK Fifers is mind boggling if you look at it that way (thanks to The Russian for that analogy on the AFTN forum).

Football fans the world over were appalled by what happened, many will never set foot in Milton Keynes or give Franchise FC a single penny. Many have been appalled that the FA included Milton Keynes in their potential venues for their 2018 World Cup bid. That in itself is enough reason for it to fail for me.

The real Wimbledon fans view the prospect of playing the team that put them through all that heartache as sickening and unpalatable. Many don't even want to acknowledge the existence of Franchise FC let alone play them. Now they have to.

There was a brilliant article on When Saturday Comes earlier this month, explaining why any game against Milton Keynes is really the nightmare scenario for long time Wimbledon fans. You can read the piece HERE.

It was bound to happen at some point, as it will surely only be a matter of time before Wimbledon are a League Club once again, but it doesn't make it any easier for the hardcore Dons fans.

It's great that the game is going to be at Kingsmeadow though. At least the home tie gives the Wimbledon fans the chance to see the game live, as very few would have made the trip to franchiseland. The risk of violence and anger spilling over too far is also reduced a little but the hostility will still be clearly there.

Public attention will also be raised to what happened once again. There will be a whole generation that will have no idea about the relationship between the two sides and why we must never let such a thing happen again.

It may be the potentially mouthwatering tie of the round for the casual fans and neutrals but for those that lived through all that heartache, it brings it all to the forefront once again. Although it will never truly be that far away.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New East Fife manager John Robertson has notched his first win as boss at Bayview in his second match in charge, in what was a very assured and positive team performance.

Last week's 4-1 debacle away to Dumbarton, that saw East Fife finish the game with 9 men, was quickly brushed aside and it was a thumping by the same scoreline that was handed out to Alloa Athletic at Bayview this afternoon.

Things started brightly when Bobby Linn hit a 30 yard curler after 16 minutes to give the home side the lead at the break. Fears were there of another collapse though after losing the lead when Scott Walker hit the equaliser five minutes into the second period.

Any fears were unfounded though when East Fife took over and Steve Hislop fired us back into the lead on 55 minutes. A brace from Robert Sloan completed the rout and it was happy faces all around Bayview. A rare site at times so far this season.

What was also good to see was the reception that ex boss Stevie Crawford got when he came on as a sub late on. As "there's only one Stevie Crawford" echoed around lower Methil, it must have been reassuring to the ex gaffer that the fans were still on his side and hadn't wanted him to leave the post so soon and with work still for him to do.

Not many managers would have the guts to stay on as a player after resigning. Stevie is a class act.

The win has given the Fife 12 points from 12 games with a goal difference of zero in the topsy turvy start to the season. It also moved them up to 7th place and with a firm rebuilding strategy beginning to take shape we may still have some promotion playoff matches to look forward to in May.

C'mon the Fife.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I love the early rounds of the FA Cup.

I'm looking forward to all of this weekend's action and have been following the tournament from quite an early stage this season for a change, which has been a wonderful breath of fresh air.

The Cup loses a bit for me usually around the fifth round when most of the smaller clubs have gone out and the moneymen basically take over. It's been great to have unfashionable and non Premiership teams make the final in recent seasons both sides of the border. Keeps part of the top flight game fresh and interesting.

A lot is made of the romanticism of the FA Cup, so I won't go down that well trodden path. It's real passion, real commitment, real football and what the game should be all about it in these early rounds.

You're not going to get much of a better example of that than in tonight's epic encounter between League One side Rochdale and FC United of Manchester from the Evostick Northern Premier League.

95 places and five tiers of the English football pyramid seperated the two teams but watching the game you would never have known.

I've followed FCUM's fortunes with interest since they founded, surprising seeing as how much I despise Manchester United. It's a feel good, success story. The kind that you don't see too much of in these depressing times in football, where every week seems to see another Club in money troubles, administration or going out of business altogether.

It's also two fingers up to the money men and overseas buyers that are slowly killing the modern game, basically eliminating all bar a few clubs from success at the top. The message is simple. Kill our club or change it beyond recognition and we'll go and set up another one that is not only more fun but one which you actually feel like a real part of and not simply a commodity.

The fans that shunned their old love, or worship at another church as has been a chosen analogy of many, have shown the true spirit of the game as they rise up the levels. The sheer ecstasy shown on the faces of the FCUM support this evening was a joy to behold. It was enough to make even a man with a glass eye shed a tear.

They've worked hard to get where they are and deserve every minute of their success.

The atmosphere at Spotland for the tie was incredible. I don't think the FCUM fans were quiet for a second and that includes pre match and half time. It was electric as the commentators like to tell us. This time that came across very loud and clear. The singing, the bouncing, the flares, even the pitch invasions were TV gold.

Despite being under intense early Rochdale pressure, with the Dale having an excellent penalty claim for handball waved away, FCUM fought back and when Nicky Platt put the non league side ahead on 42 minutes you sensed you were watching something special. An apt description also for Jake Cotterill's screamer that put the visitors two up four minutes into the second half.

Rochdale fought back and two set piece headers looked like being FCUM's downfall, as the League One side tied proceedings up with twelve minutes remaining.

A replay at Gigg Lane was looking on the cards, with both sides seeming tired towards the end. It was a proposition that had me licking my lips to be honest but Michael Norton's controversial goal four minutes into stoppage time saw the Evostick side through to round two.

Norton clearly kicked the ball out of the hands of Dale keeper Josh Lillis, but only certain angles of the TV replay showed this so you can't blame the referee for giving the goal and it shouldn't take any shine off FCUM's victory. It's a real shame that Rochdale were on the end of it though as they are a Club I admire and who I've been rooting for last season and this. Hopefully this will let them follow that old cliche of concentrating on the League as Dale in the Championship would be the joy that their long suffering supporters deserve.

As an AFC Wimbledon fan, and Dons Trust member, it's been great to see both them and FC United of Manchester flourish in recent seasons. Both fan owned, the 2010/2011 campaign is shaping up to be one of the most memorable for both teams short histories.

Let's hope that the Dons can match their northern counterparts achievement in reaching the second round.

The dream ties of AFC Wimbledon v MK Dons and FC United of Manchester United still remain possibilities and that's what the FA Cup is all about.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

For many years now football fans in the UK have argued that the game has forgotten it's roots. It was the sport of the working class and was priced accordingly so that young, old and everyone inbetween could get along on a Saturday and see their heroes.

Then things changed.

Football became fashionable. Spurred on by the success of fanzines, television companies embraced the fan culture. Comedians like Baddiel and Skinner became household names with their televisual equivalent to the fans printed tomes. Footballers became celebrities and the game the new rock and roll.

The Premiership exploded into the nation's consciousness, then came big names, the more corporate side of the game, the hike in ticket prices, the pricing of ordinary fans out of the market and the money men running and ruining the game across Europe.

Football is almost unrecognisable from the sport that gave me hours of pleasure as a little boy in Fife.

But that's the UK. As an exile living in a country now where football struggles for column inches alongside college sports and curling, I was under the impression that I was back in the heart of proper football with my support of Vancouver Whitecaps FC. A club with values and a true understanding of how important ordinary fans are to the games growth in Canada and throughout North America.

The Caps as an organisation seem to have their head screwed on when it comes to footballing matters on the park. As they prepare for their debut season in Major League Soccer next year, the enthusiasm amongst the small, but hardcore, supporters of the current Division 2 level side grows by the day, with announcements of management, players and plans for the step up to the "big league". It's an exciting time to be a Whitecaps fan.

Or at least it was. Now it's just become an angry time as the Club seem keen to show that although they get it ON the pitch, OFF it, they haven't a clue.

The Caps announced their season ticket prices today for their inaugural MLS season and whether it's greed, ignorance or just sheer stupidity, they seem to have scored a massive own goal before a MLS ball has even been kicked.

Vancouver is a football city (or market as the ad men would like you to call it). It always has been since the Caps made their way into the NASL in 1974. When the team won the 1979 Soccer Bowl in New York, over 100,000 fans lined the street to welcome their heroes home and the Whitecaps were the hottest ticket in town.

Times may have changed with football in North America but the passion for the game in the city of Vancouver is still huge, with 15,000 $50 season ticket deposits being snapped up and crowds of over 20,000 expected for the Whitecaps first MLS season.

You have to wonder though just how many of these deposit holders will actually be converting their deposits into full season ticket packages now that the pricing of them has been released.

To say the prices are a shock to the Southsiders supporters group is an understatement. Fuck knows how the rest of the the Vancouver public will greet them. You know, the ones that don't live and breathe football. The ones that will cite hockey's Canucks or the throwball Lions as their main team in the city.

The Caps advertised ticket prices from $319. They have honoured this with approximately 10% of these tickets available in shitty corner seats. Many will have put down season ticket deposits expecting to be paying this amount, especially in any designated supporters section. The more realistic amongst the support expected to be paying a bit more.

Yes, a bit more. Not hundreds more.

The next pricing tier is a very small number at $418, followed by the behind the goal supporters section tickets at $494. Fancy a seat along the touchlines? Try forking out up to $969 for that privilege. You then have to add on a 12% sales tax on top of these and then a service charge as well. They are amongst the highest in the whole of the MLS and for a club that hasn't even kicked a ball in anger yet, that's just plain crazy no matter what spin you put on it.

The package is for 17 MLS home games and two Canadian Championship games. No playoffs. No friendlies. No seemingly added bonus at all in fact.

Fucking scandalous in these recession hit times and whoever came up with these final prices in the Whitecaps front office needs to take a good, long hard look at themselves.

The Club will argue that they are not a normal new MLS Club. They are successful in other Leagues throughout the years, they have history, they have a current fanbase, they plan to be amongst the best in the World.

To reach that latter goal they obviously need to go with top players. They don't come cheap, especially those in their prime. They do need money for this, that I accept, but I would have thought that their recent mega money deals with Bell and Bank of Montreal would have gone a long way towards that. I'm sure both corporate giants won't like the prospect of them sponsoring a team with many empty seats dotted around the stadium or unhappy fans.

At these prices the Whitecaps will also have to have instant success otherwise renewals will be a very hard sell and the prices hard to justify.

Now they may be marketing geniuses and sell the bulk of tickets at these prices. I personally will eat humble pie if they do this with no struggle whatsoever. They'll be lucky to get 10-12,000 season ticket holders at those prices though in my opinion and part of me hopes they do fail as they need a fucking wake up call and a kick back not only into reality but into the world of proper football not fantasy football.

It would appear that it's some of the most loyal fans that have been shafted in the process. The Vancouver Southsiders supporters group has been a key asset to the Whitecaps organisation in the last couple of years.

That group has created the only football atmosphere at their current ground, taken part in advertising campaigns for the Club, have earned the media's ear and been the best promotional tool the Whitecaps have in their arsenal for attracting proper football fans.

The Euro ex-pats who sneer at the Caps current level may just give MLS a look in when they see that there are fans in Vancouver bringing a European flair to the terraces and it's not just soccer mums and family friendly sections sucking the life out of the atmosphere. Not that I expect to see too many families come out to watch the MLS Caps at those prices of course.

How has the Southsiders loyalty been repaid? By more than doubling the amount that the group currently pay for their D2 season tickets, charging the third pricing tier when the second would have been barely more palatable and giving them one of the worst views they could have of the game for that money. Behind the goal, through the net was the view the fans wanted to cheer their boys on to victory - just not at those prices.

The new Vancouver supporters section in MLS will now be the costliest of any other team's supporters section in the entire league and in many cases, hugely so. That's what loyalty gets you apparently in Canada.

To put this into context with other MLS clubs we need to compare and most certainly contrast the $565 that's expected to be shelled out for the Vancouver supporters section (all fees included there).

The other new Club for 2011, Portland Timbers, have looked after their fanatical Timbers Army with a cost of $360 for their season tickets and group branding of their section. The Whitecaps other Cascadian rivals, Seattle Sounders with their ECS supporters group, have upped their prices to $436 for newbies and those who have just held season tickets for one year. Those who have been in from the start get it for $351.

Beckham's crowd in LA pay between $400 and $500 but also get 5 bonus matches as part of their package, but Thierry Henry's faithful in the New York supporters section pay only $320. Last year's expansion team in Philadelphia charge their supporters section $275, San Jose $204, Chivas USA $180, Colorado $180 and Dallas $170. The successful DC United are more to the top end at $460 but at least you get a jersey included for that price.

In fact from what I can see, apart from narrowly at Kansas City, EVERY other MLS club rewards their loyal and most fanatical fans with the lowest prices in the supporters section.

For a front office that seemed for so long to "get it" their actions smack of an organisation that is no different from the football clubs that many despise in England and elsewhere in Europe. The ones who forget what creates a proper football atmosphere is football fans. Supporters, not attendees.

It would seem that even in Canada, a country far from being described as a footballing hotbed, and in the MLS, a league which let's face it is a fucking joke with very low standard players, "top" names that have had their day and so many unfootball-like regulations in place, money still seems to be the god for those in charge.

Vancouver Whitecaps have set their stall out that they want to be one of the world's top 25 football clubs. Sadly, it would appear that they've gone for a top 5 club pricing structure and it's a structure that will rule out many of the ordinary supporters. The ones that could really make a difference, that could create an atmosphere to rival elsewhere in the League and the world and most importantly, help grow the game of football in Canada and North America.

Shame.

Football the world over it appears is no longer the domain of the working man.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Many apologies to everyone for AFTN basically having October off.

It's been a busy time for us here at AFTN Towers and unfortunately something had to give so we thought better to have a little break than to do a half assed effort.

Normal service of daily blogging will resume this month, along with some blogs we did and but didn't post in October.

Thanks for bearing with us.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ah Scotland. What are we to do with you?

A 3-2 loss to World Cup and defending European champions Spain at Hampden tonight showed everyone just how wrong Craig Levein got things on Friday night in the Czech Republic.

I don't think we need to say any more about the Prague debacle itself. Tonight at least some pride was restored to our nation's reputation.

Battling back from two goals down, at a point when you worried that the floodgates had just opened, to tie the Spanish maestros was a moment that will long live in the memories of those at Hampden tonight. And the thing is, we deservedly got back in to it by playing some nice flowing, attacking football.

We may have lost the game to a badly defended and marked Spanish third goal, but we certainly left the game with our heads held high.

Who would have realistically thought that we would be disappointed at not getting at least a point against Spain?

Of course, the burning question at the end of it all is one that's going to be asked time and time again in the next day or so. If we can play like that against Spain, what was with all that pish against the Czechs?

As we said on Friday, we actually have some not bad players at the moment. They wouldn't be playing at the levels that they are if they were.

So what's wrong? What can fix it? Does anyone at the SFA actually have any of these answers? Sadly it looks like another campaign to forget and it's hardly underway.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A few weeks ago we brought you the video of the unfortunate FAR Rabat goalkeeper Khalid Askri and his penalty shootout blunder where he allowed a saved penalty to spin back into the net whilst he was celebrating.

Well, us and thousands upon thousands of other websites, shows and emails around the world!

Poor Khalid. Unwanted infamy and attention and he's only gone and made another blunder, which this time seems to proved to be too much for him.

After the mistake he decides enough is enough, rips his shirt off and subs himself off, disappearing up the tunnel quicker than you can say viral video.

You have to feel sorry for him and just hope that his mental state stays strong enough for him to get over it and continue in the game:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The draw for the second round of the Scottish Cup was made today at the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park. The sixteen ties gives us the prospect of at least seven non league teams entering the hat for the Third Round draw, when East Fife will enter this year's competition.

My tie of the round is the potential cracker between Bo'ness United and Queens Park. I fancy the Junior side to spring a wee shock there against the Spiders.

There's the possibility that 14 non league teams could be awaiting East Fife, with only two all Third Division ties coming out of the hat.

With that in mind, coupled with the fact that I'll be taking in the Fife's Third Round match on November 20th, here's hoping for a cracking away day and not the winner of Montrose v Arbroath, a trip to Forfar or a home tie.

So what would be our dream trip here at AFTN come November?

If Wick Academy can overcome Whitehill Welfare then a trip to the far north would be a fantastic weekend away. Myself and SoC spent some fun times there for a pre season friendly many moons ago

Of course a trip to any of the Highland League sides would be nice, especially the ones we've not been to before like Deveronvale, Inverurie or Golspie Sutherland. In fact, forget Wick. Golspie are my new choice!

If we can't get any of them, then a trip to something "exotic" like Aberdeen Junior side Sunnybank would be interesting. Or the chance to travel to pastures new in St Cuthbert Wanderers or Wigtown and Bladnoch would be equally as fantastic.

I'm getting quite excited at the thought. Let's hope I'm not cursing the draw in a few weeks time! Please, on this rarity of occasions, give us a cracker.

The full second round draw is:

Deveronvale or Inverurie Loco Works v Dalbeattie Star
Forres Mechanics v East Stirlingshire
Newton Stewart or Preston Athletic v Annan Athletic
Clyde v Berwick Rangers
Wigtown & Bladnoch v Buckie Thistle
Beith v Glasgow University
Rothes or Nairn County v Cove Rangers
Keith v Spartans
Stranraer v Fraserburgh or St Cuthbert Wanderers
Bo'ness United v Queen's Park
Whitehill Welfare v Wick Academy
Golspie Sutherland or Fort William v Huntly or Girvan
Montrose v Arbroath
Edinburgh City v Threave Rovers
Albion Rovers v Sunnybank
Elgin City v Edinburgh University or Brora Rangers

(Ties are to be played on Saturday October 23rd).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I spent a very pleasant few hours yesterday indulging myself in my non league football obsession.

First up was the live game between York City and Darlington in the Blue Square Premier. Not a classic, but it was football to watch! I watched the second half with the sound down so that I could catch the latest episode of the Non League Football Show live.

Towards the end of that though I made the switch to live internet radio commentary of the FA Cup Second Qualifying Round replay at Kingsmeadow between Kingstonian and Margate, which had gone in to extra time tied at one apiece.

What a great decision that proved to be and yes, you could say I could do with getting out more!!

We've taken an interest in Kingstonian for a wee while now at AFTN and plan to take in one of their matches in November on our footballing travels we have planned.

Their game last night went to penalties and what an exciting shoot out that was to listen to. The first five penalties were scored, the next five missed, Kingstonian went through 3-2 and then there was a rammy in the middle to round things off! Great stuff.

What was also great stuff was the actual commentary itself. I'd gone on to the Kingstonian official website in what I'd thought would be the faint hope of finding some kind of audio commentary. They had live text but no audio as I thought. I then thought I'd check out the official Margate website and success!

Margate have a tremendous set up. They have Gate Radio, which is Margate FC's own official internet based radio station. Available exclusively via the club's official website, they aim to bring supporters full match commentary from all Margate's home games and selected away games, where facilities allow. The commentary from each live game is recorded and made available via the website for supporters to listen to on demand. They also provide post match reaction through interviews with management and players and other news from club officials.

It's cracking stuff from the Ryman Premier League side, especially when you consider that they have home crowds of around the three or four hundred most weeks, so they're not catering to the masses. The commentator is also very enjoyable to listen to, unlike some we have to endure on our televisions each week.

The whole thing got me thinking about how great it would be for us exiles, and those closer to home that can't make the games, if East Fife had something similar.

We finally got East Fife TV up and running last season and this term that has gone from strength to strength and has been fantastic so far.

If we could take this further and offer live radio commentary of our home and away games (assuming that the SFL's archaic legislation allows for such a thing), then I would be in heaven, as would many others.

Obviously a lot hinges on someone wanting to volunteer to doing this and for us to be allowed to do it, but it's an exciting prospect, to me at least!

Whether this is something that the Trust can look in to in association with the local colleges, I don't know, but as a member I'll be raising the idea to find out.

If a Club the size of Margate can have such a fantastic set up, then hopefully we can do the same. Who knows, it may give us a whole host of new, far flung fans from around the world cheering on the mighty Black and Gold.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It doesn't take a lot to tickle my funny bone at times. Watching tonight's Blue Square Premier game between York City and Darlington provided me with much amusement every time York's Michael Gash was announced on the ball.

What a fantastic name to have for opposition fans and aptly, his performance this evening was as gash as his name suggested.

Now for those reading this, especially those outside of the UK, who don't know what's funny about this, well the word gash has two slang meanings. It can mean being rubbish ("he's playing gash tonight") and it can also mean a woman's vagina ("she had a smelly gash").

For a footballer to have the name Gash is getting right up there with Celtic's Brazilian flop Rafael Scheidt.

It's just the kind of name that is prime for ripping the piss out of for ninety minutes. As I said, simple things for simple mind and add to that the fact that it wasn't the most exciting game in the world to watch!

Anyway it gave us the idea to come up with a team of hilarious names for one of our Friday Fun posts, so let us know your nominations for the team in the comments section below.

I think we'll be hard pressed though to beat my all time favourite player that I've gotten to shout abuse at in person. Step forward Minnesota Stars forward Devin Del Do.

The poor bastard certainly gave us some of the chants of the season in the Vancouver Whitecaps Southside.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Was listening to Off The Ball on iPlayer during the week and they were talking about this McGlashan sketch from the wonderful old Channel 4 show Absolutely. It features the character McGlashan, the anti English Scottish nationalist, and his views on England's easy draws in World Cup group.

I checked out some of the other stuff again on You Tube. Forgot how funny this show was. Must get some of the DVDs. Enjoy:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Premier Sports television deal to air the Blue Square Premier is now well under way.

There's been four live games so far and it's been pretty enjoyable stuff for a fan of the non league scene like myself. Also, as a Dons fan and Trust member, it's been great to see two AFC Wimbledon games live, including tonight's cracker at home to big spenders Crawley Town.

The deal hasn't been without it's teething problems. There's been a number of fans upset at a multitude of things including the choice of games and teams shown, the fact that the channel is only available on the Sky platform, but mostly because of the short notice at moving games to midweek nights, disrupting many pre booked travel plans.

Wimbledon were fantastic in putting on free coaches to Luton for their rearranged game last Friday. Fans of other clubs haven't been so lucky. With the late signing of the deal, this disruption has been pretty much unavoidable and with the announcement of the schedule up to the end of 2010 now, hopefully fans can now get their travel all booked up in advance to secure the best deals.

I was pleased that they didn't move the Wimbledon-Luton game at Kingsmeadow on November 30th, as I'd booked part of my trip home around that game and couldn't have made any rearranged date.

For the hardcore fans that have found themselves out of pocket, they are rightly pissed off and it's hard for them to see exactly how much the League will benefit from the exposure. It's great for exiles like myself, but we're not the ones that should really matter at the end of the day.

Tonight's game was great entertainment in the second half, with Wimbledon pressing hard to overturn a 1-0 half time deficit. I took the day off work to watch it and was jumping around my living room at the two late goals that saw Wimbledon take the three points and jump back to the top of the Blue Square Premier table.

The win knocked Crawley off the top and thankfully so. They have adopted an "everyone hates us attitude" this season and they're right to do so, as everyone does. It's not even just the big bucks they're spending. Their management team and fans are a pretty obnoxious bunch. It would be delightful to see them fail this season.

It's maybe not as slick football as you'll find in the Premier, but it's great to see it back on our television screens. The deal and the channel may still have some kinks to iron out but their gameday coverage has been on the whole excellent.

As a lower level football fan, give me this any day over the Champions League.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The 8th Homeless Football World Cup kicked off in Rio de Janeiro yesterday and Scotland have made a tremendous unbeaten start to the competition, beating Hungary 9-7 on Sunday and Namibia 8-2 and the Netherlands 7-5 today.

The competition is partly the brainchild of one of the founders of the Big Issue in Scotland, Mel Young, and the first tournament was held in 2003 in Graz, Austria and was won by the hosts.

Scotland's record in the World Cup ain't too shabby, winning the 2007 event in Copenhagen, Denmark and also notching three fourth place finishes, along with hosting the 2005 tournament in Edinburgh.

Hopes are high for the team in this year's tournament and they've made the perfect start so far.

It's a great tournament and has really made a difference to the players who have taken part in it over the years.

After the inaugural tournament in 2003, 31 of the 141 players who had taken part were in regular employment and off the streets one year later.

Following the event in Edinburgh in 2005, it's been recorded that 77% of the players involved "significantly changed their lives forever moving into jobs, education and training, coming off drugs and alcohol, finding homes and renewing relationships with their families". A fantastic figure.

Homelessness is a problem that blights so many of the big cities around the world today. I see it first hand every day in my own city and with my line of work. The tournament was originally conceived as a way to have a way of uniting people from different cultures and to actively encourage them to work together and make a difference. Nothing does that better than football. It's the world's game and the world's unifier.

To be eligible for the Homeless World Cup you need to be over 16; have been homeless at some point after the previous year's World Cup; or make your main living income as a streetpaper vendor; or be an asylum seekers who desn't have have positive asylum status or a work permit.

Matches are played on a court, street soccer style, and are 4 a side, including a goalie, with rolling subs and two seven minute halves.

The 2010 tournament runs from September 19th to 26th and features 43 national mens teams split into 8 groups (and 12 womens teams split into two groups). The Scots are in Group H and will complete their group games against Belgium tomorrow.

You can follow all the action, including some videos of the games, on the official Homeless World Cup website.

So head along there and give the lads your support and hopefully bring a second World Cup trophy back to Scotland.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Last season saw East Fife derailed by inconsistancy and conceding what seemed at times like a constant stream of late goals.

Six games into the 2010/11 campaign and it seems that old habits really do die hard, although on this occasion some horrific officiating played a huge hand in proceedings to create one of those games that will pop up in Fife quiz questions for future generations.

Defeat to a stoppage time goal for the second week on the trot was hard enough to take in itself. To lose 3-2 to a hat trick of penalties from Ayr United's Mark Roberts though was another matter entirely.

The game, which saw four penalties awarded, two red cards shown and five bookings, was described by the BBC match report as being an "ill-tempered game", but this couldn't have been further from the truth.

There was hardly a bad tackle in it and both sides were punished from some really poor officiating.

Ayr took the lead in the 13th minute when a penalty was awarded for a very dubious shirt pull in the box. This was cancelled out by East Fife's own penalty award on the day after Lloyd Young was fouled three times in the box. Only one penalty could be given and Robert Sloan duly dispatched the equaliser on 27 minutes.

This spurred on the Fife and they had their best spell of the game, justly taking the lead when Kurtis Byrne netted from close range.

The turning point came a minute before the break when Bobby Linn was adjudged to be the last man when he brought down an Ayr player in the box. What the hell he was doing back there as the last man and not a defender is another argument. The Boaby saw red and Ayr saw level terms when Roberts converted penalty number two.

The Fife's brave second half rear guard action looked to have secured a well deserved and confidence boosting point before referee McDermott wanted to hog the after match talking points (for that read strong abuse from the Fife faithful) and awarded Ayr their third penalty of the afternoon in the final seconds or regulation time.

The award was another strange one after Jonny Smart appeared to clear the ball cleanly whilst under pressure from Roberts. With no-one appealing for anything the ref pointed to the spot and Roberts hit home his hat-trick.

You would think he would have been happy with that but he then went on to prove that he is in fact a complete dickhead. Looking to timewaste and take the ball, the Fife's Stuart Cargill had other ideas. Roberts then aimed a kick and punch at the Fife player and saw red for violent conduct. What a fucking fud.

The final whistle came to a chorus of boos and East Fife fans struggled to comprehend what the hell had just happened out there.

The thing is, East Fife didn't actually play all that badly. They were outplayed in the second due to Ayr's numerical advantage but they had held their own in the first 45. To hold out for pretty much the whole second half with ten men, and under constant Ayr pressure, was a big boost for the defence that has looked shaky at times.

Some players now seem to have been posted missing and the gaffer leaving himself out of the team seesm to be having a detrimental effect. It shouldn't considering his age and that of those that should be capable of filling his void, but that is becoming more evident with each game.

Still 30 games to go, so no major panic stations yet. Considering league leaders Livingston are next and their reserve side just destroyed a strong Fife reserve side 7-0 midweek, coupled with our poor away form, next weekend could very well end up being a horror show.

C'mon the Fife.

FINAL SCORE: East Fife 1 - 0 Ayr United (Ayr win 3-1 on penalties)

EAST FIFE: Brown, Muir, S Campbell, Murdoch, Durie, Johnstone (Deland 78), Young, Sloan, Byrne (Cargill 81), Hislop (Smart 60), Linn [Subs Not Used: Baillie, Tansey]

ATT: 664

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I've always known my life revolved around football. I've always known it took up a lot of my days, but since leaving Scotland it's become even more so!

I was amazed when I first moved to pastures new that there was more live football on my TV screen than I got in the UK. So many games, so many Leagues from around the world, so little time.

This season I just seem to have immersed myself in football more than ever before and even trying to keep this daily blog up to date has sometimes proved a struggle.

There's been all the live Premiership and Football League games in glorious HD on my TV. Add to this Champions League, Cup games, MLS, highlights shows and finding time for much else, like work and a wife, can prove difficult!

The fantastic new SFL highlights package and East Fife TV has to be included as well.

Then we have catching up with downloads of Match of the Day, the Football League Show, Soccer AM, Sportscene and radio shows like Off The Ball, The Danny Baker Show and The Non League Football Show.

I've had to drop some things like Goals on Sunday, to make room for Premier Sports new Blue Sqaure Premier coverage. I'm not getting time to write as much for the East Fife programme either unfortunately.

Then there's actually going to watch live games as well, doing a second blog for a supporters group and acting a Director of Communications for their committee.

Phew!

So apologies if this daily football blog sometimes misses the odd day here and there as has happened a couple of times this year.

It's either that, become unemployed or divorce!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I've become quite obsessed with non league football the last few years, as regular readers of this blog will know!

It's been scary to see how many Clubs in the lower end of the football pyramid go out of business, whereas the big ones in the football league get reprieve after reprieve.

Whether the courts would like to wind up all of them but know there would be outrage with clubs with a lot of fans like Portsmouth or Crystal Palace, I don't know, but the smaller ones certainly don't seem to get the same chance to sort things out as others.

Probably all just perception of course because we don't know all of the financial ins and outs of every club. There is also the fact that bigger clubs, with a larger fanbase and more income coming through the turnstiles every week, may have a better chance of turning things around and at least finding a new buyer.

Whatever is behind it all, it's the fans of the non league teams that suffer greatly at the end of the day.

Blue Square North side Ilkeston Town joined the list of sides being wound up last week when, after a two minute hearing, the court registrar said she felt the Club was "plainly insolvent" and the final compulsory winding up order was issued.

With all the debts being occurred by football clubs in recent years, it's understandable that patience will run out from the courts and HMRC (who are usually the main creditor and as we've said before why do so many Clubs let this known expense go unpaid?). When you find out that Ilkeston Town were wound up for a debt of just £50,000, it's even more shocking and a huge warning to others.

Ilkeston had just sold a player for £20,000 and were planning on using that towards the bill, with the rest being paid off at £1000 per month, but HMRC pushed on with the order.

Seeing that the day before Sheffield Wednesday managed to avoid being wound up, despite having an unpaid tax bill of a staggering £1.1 million, then something just seems plain wrong.

As we said earlier, we haven't seen all the books of Ilkeston Town, so a lot is unknown, but from face value, it certainly does seem to be one rule for the big boys and one for the rest.

Fans of Ilkeston Town hope to relaunch the Club further down the pyramid. Good luck to them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I knew it was too good to last. Exciting, attacking games in the Champions League.

What can you say about tonight's UEFA Champions League match up at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Rangers? Nothing very complimentary, that's for sure.

It's a good, and unexpected, point for the Scottish Champions but man oh man, that was a point won by anti-football. Not that Man United were very much better. They clearly underestimated how hard it would be to break down fortress orange.

You could argue that it's a damn site better than anything the end result other Scottish clubs have got from their European travels this season, but if that's the best that Scottish football can throw up then maybe we should just take a few years off and actually work on building the game back up to acceptable levels domestically first.

With the national team struggling to find their goalscoring touch in recent games, it would appear that a (for once) very Scottish Rangers side seem to have the same troubles.

Whatever happened to that good old fashioned Scottish striker from not even that so many years ago? You know the one. He could actually score goals.

Where are today's and the next generation's Ally McCoist, Charlie Nicholas, Steve Archibald, Joe Jordan? What are we doing wrong?

I honestly thought a couple of years ago that Kris Boyd would be that man, but I think his move to Middlesborough and his recent Scotland performances have found him out in that regard.

Let's just hope that somewhere out there, there's some 15 or 16 year olds that we don't know the name of yet that will drag us out of this depressing mire and move us forward. Scotland and Scottish clubs need proven goalscorers more than ever before.

I wonder if it's too late to try and get Super Ally back in shape?

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's been quite the week for late goals. Some good, some bad.

Scotland's 97th minute winner against Liechenstein saw us celebrate in the moment like we'd actually qualified for the Euro 2012 Finals.

Everton's two goal stoppage time fight back against Man United was some of the best five minutes of football you'll see in the Premiership this season, in terms of excitement.

Then we had East Fife's loss up at Forfar to a 94th minute goal, but the less we say about that again the better.

Lots of games worth staying till the end of, yet time and time again some fans decide to leave early and miss all the action.

It's just desserts for their lack of faith and funny as fuck when you hear their "sad" tales, but you have to ask the question why do so many fans bugger off early.

A good mate of mine missed Scotland's dramatic winner when he left Hampden in disgust. Fud! A lot of Everton fans left before injury time when their side was 3-1 down. Bigger fuds.

Why do that to yourself? Is it really that important to try and beat the crowds and the traffic out of the car park? Surely you knew the game was going to last till that particular time, so you shouldn't have anywhere else to go.

Sure occasionally you may have to be somewhere else unavoidably. The only two games I remember ever leaving early were hastily arranged midweek games that clashed with two concerts I had tickets for. Even then I stayed till as very late as I could and missed the start of the gigs.

I think some fans just get into that routine of 'must leave early to beat the traffic', especially fans at the top clubs.

Barring a pressing emergency though, how can any fan leave a match when it's delicately poised? It's baffling to me.

Maybe there should be a "full ninety minutes (plus stoppage time)" campaign to draw attention to their foolishness. I think Danny Baker's just the man for that one!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's not been a cracking week and a bit footballwise, so we thought we'd cheer you all up with some Sunday Fun and one of the most bizarre penalties you'll ever see.

The action comes from a penalty shoot-out in the Kings Cup between Maghreb Fez and FAR Rebat on September 9th:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Another Saturday, another away match for the Fife, another goalfest and at the end of it all, another pointless exercise.

It all looked like being so different when Kurtis Byrne fired the Fife into a 14th minute lead and we went in at half time looking pretty comfortable.

What we didn't know at that point was that the turning point of the match happened at the 33 minute mark, when Stewart Murdoch was forced off injured and was replaced by John Ovenstone.

East Fife's defensive frailities have been there for all to see this season, but the signs have also been there that a Murdoch/Jonny Smart pairing at the back were starting to click and be a lot tighter.

Losing Murdoch seemed to send the defence into shambles mode and the man to exploit that was ex Fife hitman Chris Templeman.

As is so often the case with the Fife, a player who turned out to be useless for us, gets a new lease of life (and waistline by the looks of it) at another club and comes back to haunt us.

Temps did this in style with a second half hat trick, tieing the game up after 54 with his first, before volleying the home side into the lead with thirteen minutes to go.

When John Ovenstone headed the Fife back level with just four minutes to go, it looked like a fair share of the points would be the end result. That's even how some stations reported the final result!

Sadly for East Fife though, Temps wasn't finished yet and hit the Loons' winner with basically the last kick of the game, four minutes into stoppage time.

Another heartbreaking late loss that we saw so many of last season. Let's hope we're not going down that road again and let's hope we get the albatross of not getting anything away from home off our necks soon.

We're just going to have to accept that it's going to be a high scoring season for us at both ends. As someone joked on the forum, maybe we'll be the first team to both score and concede a hundred goals in a season. It's starting to look that way!

Back at fortress Bayview next week though. Let's hope for some more points from home and a bit more hunger and fight to boot as that was severely lacking in today's second half performance.

C'mon the Fife.

EAST FIFE: Brown, Muir, Durie, Smart, Murdoch (Ovenstone 33), Young, Sloan, Johnstone (Tansey 79), Linn, Byrne, Hislop (S Campbell 82) [Subs Not Used: Baillie, Cargill]

ATT: 590

Friday, September 10, 2010

The way that recent tournament draws have gone, you could be forgiven for thinking that someone at UEFA really had it in for Scotland.

Whilst England always seem to get easy groups, the Scots have had it tough and usually against either World Cup winners, European Championship winners or both.

After the Under 21's fanastic victory over Austria on Tuesday evening, I wouldn't have been surprised to see Scotland drawn against Spain in the playoffs.

With Scotland in Pot A as a seeded team, the tantalising prospect of England was also there, but they got what is, on paper at least, a fairly easy tie against Romania.

Scotland were drawn fifth out of Pot A and placed second in the tie, meaning that they would be at home for the vital second leg of the playoff. Just what we could have wanted.

Of all the teams in Pot B, I would have loved us to get Belarus or Iceland. Belarus would have given us the possibility of one of those dreaded eastern European travel disasters right enough.

As it turned out, I think we got the best draw possible for us - Iceland!

With the first leg in chillsville and the return leg in Scotland, we have an excellent chance of qualifying for next year's Championship in Denmark.

The ties will be played between October 8th and 12th. Hopefully the lads get a huge turnout to cheer them on to that very rare thing in Scottish football these days - a spot in some finals.

Good luck guys. We're behind you all the way. Do us proud.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

In amongst all the doom and gloom coming from Scotland's shocking performance against Liechenstein last night, let's hope that the brilliant performance from the Under 21's at Pittodrie is not lost in it all.

Going into the last group game of the UEFA Under 21 Championship Qualifiers, Scotland knew that only a win against Austria would see them progress to the playoffs and when the visitors took the lead after just ten minutes, things looked bleak for Billy Stark's side.

However, in the other big Scottish fightback of the night, the young charges tied the game up on the half hour mark, before sending the 2,064 fans in attendance into raptures when Chris Maguire hit a 20 yard screamer into the top corner in the final minute.

It was a brave and spirited fightback and sees the Scots top the group and go into Friday's playoff draw as a seeded team. It also throws up the mouthwatering prospect of a two legged playoff against unseeded England next month.

Next year's Championship will be held in Denmark and it would be a huge boost for the Scottish game if the under 21 lads could make it to the finals.

Scottish football badly needs some good news story and hopefully the uner 21s can deliver and get the fans out in force to see it.

If the senior team continues to play the way they are, then perhaps Craig Levein should look at moving some of the younger guys into the senior mix. It might give some of our more established overpaid flops the kick up the arse they badly need.

Well done to all the under 21 guys. You did Scotland proud.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Principality of Liechenstein. Population 35,789. Fifa world football ranking 141. UEFA ranking 50 and one of the teams you could rightly regard as minnows in the world of football these days.

As we know, there are fewer and fewer of them these days - or so we keep being told by the media. It would appear that Scotland, 41st in the FIFA rankings and 23rd in UEFA, are doing their damndest to get down there amongst them.

There were 37,050 fans at Hampden Park tonight. More than the population of Liechenstein itself. I don't think any of them, not even the Liechenstein fans amongst them, expected the events that unfolded this evening to take place.

In the end, Scotland avoided what could easily have been classed as our most embarrassing ever result at international level, but they made hard work of it.

Forget Peru, Iran and Costa Rica. Those results would have been nothing compared to a loss, or even a draw, at home to the whipping boys of Liechenstein. At least those results happened in the World Cup where the sides had beat the best in front of them to be there in the first place.

Even that embarrassing 2-2 draw in the Faroes years ago would have been better than dropping points to Liechenstein. At least that was away from home.

When Stephen McManus brilliantly rose to head home the winner in the seventh minute of stoppage time, the relief around Hampden, and of Scottish fans the world over, was clear to see. A 2-1 win secured and Scotland amazingly top the group!

How did it even get to that stage?

The first half was dire. Scotland threatened little, Liechenstein grew in confidence and had chances as Scotland allowed them to break 3 on 3 at times. The best Scotland had to offer was a cleverly worked corner just before the break.

So scoreless at the half, but even as the team trooped off to more boos than Liechenstein's "God Save The Queen" soundalike national anthem received at the start, you felt it was just going to be a matter of time and if Scotland could break the deadlock early it would be a comfortable 3-0 or 4-0 victory.

Maybe in days of old when Scotland actually had a team and a home record that put the fear into the opposition. Not now.

Before many at Hampden were even seated for the second period, Liechenstein's 36 year old captain Mario Frick curled a beautiful goal from the edge of the box past Allan McGregor and into the top corner of the Scottish goal for a shock lead after 46 minutes.

Now, Liechtenstein have on occasions pulled off some shock results. A 2004 2-2 draw in a qualifier against Portugal is right up there when it comes to their best ever result, as is their 3-0 win over Iceland in 2007. Beating Scotland at Hampden would arguably go down as their best ever though.

The way the Scots were playing, it didn't look like we were going to have an easy route back and when Kenny Miller volleyed home after 63 minutes, it was almost unexpected.

As Liechenstein wasted time and fouled for their lives, Scotland just couldn't find a way through and Liechenstein had a few breaks and chances themselves to seal a shock win as we got a bit sloppy at the back.

The tackle on Alan Hutton near the end was a shocker though and he was lucky not to have a broken leg after that. No booking as the Ukranian ref lost complete control of the match.

With five minutes of stoppage time signalled, somehow the clueless ref found a couple more minutes on top and for that we can only be grateful, as McManus salvaged a small modicum of pride and kept our already faint hopes of Euro 2012 qualification alive.

What was most worrying about tonight performance, wasn't the result, wasn't that we let a minnow score on us and defended poorly. No, what is really frightening is that that was probably the best Scotland team that Craig Levein could have put out there tonight.

When you saw the starting line up there wouldn't have been many complaints. Very attack minded, with all the Tartan Army favourites there. That is the best it's going to get for Scotland right now and that performance was what we got from them.

So who was at fault? The players for not performing? The manager for not getting the best out of them? Although let's be honest here, the latter is a very poor argument. As much as I'm not a Craig Levein fan, he did nothing wrong. He put out his best team, who even if all eleven of them had off days, should have won this match comfortably. It was the players who let us down tonight. End of.

Maybe we really should just admit to ourselves that we are currently not good enough at international level and it's going to be years and take a complete overhaul of the game in Scotland to get back to an acceptable level again. A level that actually sees us qualify for tournaments once more.

We're well of that pace and an embarrassment to the legends of the past.

Of course, we'll go on now and beat Spain at Hampden next month. Aye, that'll be fucking right! They're going to destroy us.

Scotland. We love you so much. Why must you break our hearts so often abd what is it going to take to finally make the powers that be have a good, long hard look at themselves and the game in the country and make the changes that are needed?

If they don't, we're going to be minnows ourselves.

Monday, September 6, 2010

When the News of the World broke their cricket fixing scandal story last weekend, no-one immediately reading the allegations would have thought that it would have ended up causing chaos in football and in the Rymans League Premier Division.
Sadly for Croydon Athletic, their owner, Mazhar Majeed, is also an agent for some players on the Pakistan cricket team and has been arrested and bailed in connection with the claims and a subsequent investigation into money laundering at the football club has left Croydon Athletic in crisis.

Croydon are a relatively new club in footballing terms in their current form. Founded in 1986 when Wandsworth FC and Norwood FC merged, the club were known as Wandsworth and Norwood until they changed their name to Croydon Athletic in 1990 but their history can be traced back over 50 years with the original merged clubs.

After years of playing in the London Spartan League and the lower reaches of the Isthmian League, Majeed bought Croydon Athletic in 2008. At the time, and in the period following, it looked like a case of a benefactor with a love of the game buying into a small non league club but having lofty ambitions to take them to the top. That is after all, an element of the attraction of the non league pyramid for some.

Players were signed and rumours soon followed that top wages were being paid in a bid to take Croydon up the non league ladder. The Club won the Isthmian League Division One South last season by seven points over a Folkestone Invicta side that had had ten points deducted for going into insolvency and their goal difference of plus 53 led to high hopes for the side in this season' Rymans Isthmian League Premier.

The promotion of the club had attracted snipers that they'd only earned it through paying for it, but that undermined all the good work that manager Tim O'Shea and the players had put in to the campaign to deliver the title in a very competitive league.

The money laundering allegations though in the last week have plunged the Club into crisis and it is hard to see how they will be able to continue in their current form.

Wages have apparently not been paid in August and after Saturday's 3-1 defeat at home to Concord Rangers, manager Tim O'Shea and his assistant Neil Smith made an emotional farewell to the Croydon fans and left the Club, as apparently did the entire first team squad, although the latter has not been confirmed.


The video makes sad viewing whether you're a fan of Croydon Athletic or non league football in general.

The whole situation is an alarming warning to all non league and lower league clubs of the dangers involved with the wrong owners in place or relying too heavily on the funds of one man.

We all saw the highs and the lows at East Fife in the brief Willie Gray era at Bayview. A Championship win is fantastic but the aftermath of having to meet huge wage bills when Willie left could have crippled the club beyond repair. Thankfully we saw this through and have the great memories of that 2007/08 Championship winning season.

A completely different and more serious scenario at Croydon Athletic I know, but their fans don't look like they're going to have the same luxury and the Club have postponed their next two league fixtures and withdrawn from their FA Cup tie next Sunday against friends of AFTN, Kingstonian.

As a football club, Croydon had a great set up going, with a reserve team, juniors and an academy all going strong. It can only be hoped that something can be salvaged for the Club and the fans, even if that means starting afresh down the non league ladder.

It's looking bleak for them though but hopefully they can pull through.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

East Fife's dreams of a first national Cup competition semi final spot for 56 years were shattered at Palmerston today by a rampant Queen of the South side in today's Alba Challenge Cup Quarter Final.

The 5-0 scoreline flattered the First Division side, who were on the back foot for most of the first half but they grew in confidence after the first goal and there was no looking back after their second shortly after the start of the second half.

The Fife faithful had been dreaming of their first national semi final since the 1954 League Cup defeat to Motherwell thwarted their attempts to land an unprecedented fourth League Cup trophy win.

It was not to be though, but things could have been so different if East Fife had turned their early domination into a goal or two.

All that good early work counted for nothing though when Paul Burns hit home from close range after 32 minutes and when he added his, and Queens', second two minutes after half time things started to look bleak for the Fife.

When East Fife sub John Ovenstone headed into his own net for the home side's third, there was no way back.

Queens confidence grew and as they relaxed and knocked the ball around, Burns got his hat trick with another close range knock in with eleven minutes remaining.

The home side went nap in the final minute when Bob Harris scored from a free kick and although Fife goalie Michael Brown's positioning was questionable, it didn't really matter.

So a 5-0 final and what a difference a week makes after last Saturday's demolition of Peterhead at Bayview. Still, we're still leading 6-5 in the results for the past eight days.

Back to the bread and butter stuff next week, with a trip to Station Park to take on Forfar. Sure that matters a lot more, but a Cup semi final and possibly final would have been braw.

Although we shipped five today, the defence didn't look all that bad. Two thrashings to higher league opposition so far this season shows the gulf between the top First and the Second Division teams just now. We did beat Stirling though but they're shit and we were at home.

And there we seem to have our current problems in a nutshell. We can't seem to win away and are still looking for our first away win, or even point, this season. Hopefully that will change up at Forfar in a week's time.

Let's hope so. C'mon the Fife.

EAST FIFE: Brown, Muir, Smart, Murdoch, Durie, Linn, Byrne, Sloan (Cargill 74), Johnstone (Ovenstone 57), Hislop (Crawford 79), Young [Subs Not Used: Baillie, Deland]

ATT: 1,751

Friday, September 3, 2010

Scotland kicked off their Euro 2012 qualification campaign this evening with a nervy 90 minutes in Kaunas against Lithuania.

In a group where we're pitched in against World champions Spain, a second placed finish and a spot in the playoffs is the position that we realistically have to deliver. Anything less can only be viewed as a massive failure.

For Craig Levein, it was his first competitive statement of intent to the Scotland fans and the rest of the group as to what kind of Scotland team we are going to see under the new national team boss.

It would appear that apart from looking a bit better organised, not a lot has changed. The rest of the group aren't exactly going to be shaking in their boots.

The first half provided very few nerve jangling breaks from the home side, none more so than when David Weir was felled off the ball, allowing Saulius Mikoliunas to run on goal and force Allan McGregor into a sprawling save.

That was against the run of play though and the home side looked to pose little danger apart from on counter attacks, especially if Scotland over committed themselves forward as the match went on. Scotland were the far more dominant side and looking dangerous at spells, but ultimately lacking quality and decent support for Kenny Miller.

I can't really remember seeing a half of football when a team was happy enough to commit so many fouls and free kicks on the edge of their box, but that seemed to be Lithuania's tactics. Maybe they knew that the quality of Scotland's set pieces would be woefully poor.

If they could only have taken a couple of these chances, a more relaxed second half would have been in store. If ever there was a game when James McFadden, who was on the bench, could have had a stormer it was this.

So scoreless at the half and the fear was still there that this could be yet another diasterous start to a qualifying campaign. A draw wouldn't be the end of the world but would make things tougher than they needed to be. A defeat would be a killer blow right from the off and hard to recover from.

Scotland started the second half fantastically but again just seemed to lack that vital bit of quality that could turn the game. Lithuania started to come into the game more and were breaking quickly, especially on the left, but still happy to concede free kicks and swamp Scottish attackers en masse.

A few good chances for Scotland were ruefully missed, Kenny Miller missed a great one which he should have buried, and it was starting to look obvious that we were going to have another blank display when so much more was hoped for and expected.

And so it came to pass.

A point from the first away game, against a team very much there for the taking, isn't great. We can only hope that the Czechs stutter there as well and we dominate the qualifying campaign in our Hampden matches. It might not even matter. We're fighting for a playoff spot where every single point lost can be vital. That's two gone already, so even a second placed finish might mean nothing.

Plus points were the organisation and strength of the defence and some of the midfield work, but we so badly need some quality, especially in the striking department. An Ally McCoist style poacher who can pounce and bury the few chances that we get.

Our set piece work from free kicks and corners is shockingly bad for the international level.

It's hard to admit that we just don't have the quality in our squad currently. At least they can bounce back with a win on Tuesday against Liechenstein to hopefully bolster the confidence, especially of our strikers.

New boss, new regime, same old Scotland. Disappointing stuff.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fifa have thankfully stepped into the farce surrounding the possibility of Everton's Mikel Arteta playing for England.

The result being, er, no, of course the Spaniard isn't English FFS.

Things were bad enough when big Jack put together an Irish team full of English and Scots players through all that grandparent nonsense, but all of this citizenship stuff just makes a mockery of international football.

I know countries like France and Switzerland have benefitted for years from bizarre citizenship rules and even the German team at this year's work Cup was full of Polish and other nationalities, but just because other countries are doing this it doesn't make it right.

The Home Nation countries have this "gentleman's agreement" re eligibility that is behind the rest of the world. Sure we may be missing a trick here, but I'd rather have it that way.

As it stands just now, to qualify for Scotland (or England, Wales or Northern Ireland), a player must either have been born in the country, have a parent or grandparent born in the country or have spent five years in education in the country before the age of 18.

That's why there's so many English accents around the Scottish camp just now.

I'm perfectly fine with the parental part. I know that if I had a kid (please shoot me if I'm ever that fucking stupid btw!) and I still wasn't living in Scotland, I'd want him to play for Scotland and not any other country I was living in.

I can just about accept the grandparent rule because so many people find themselves having to move for work or a better life these day. The whole education thing is ridiculous though on the one hand but on the other, if a kid has come from a war torn country for example and found a better life in Scotland and is proud to pull on a Scottish jersey and play for the cause then that's good enough to me.

Having a grown man suddenly change his country's allegiance isn't acceptable though.

It's not to do with passion. I'm sure some people will be more passionate than all those assholes that turn their back on the country just because they fall out with a particular manager. It just shouldn't happen.

Craig Levein has stated that he would like to see the "gentleman's agreement" updated so that we could catch up with the rest of the world. I say that it's not perfect as it is, but it's the most acceptable in my eyes when it comes to the stretching that it already does.

I know we all want to see Scotland become a Finals regular again, but I'm not prepared to have that at any cost.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's not often we'll use the words "sensible decision" when it comes to talking about football authorities or governing bodies.

Fair play to UEFA though who have announced that they are banning the annoying as hell vuvuzela from all UEFA-sanctioned games such as Euro 2012 qualifiers and Champions League games, with immediate effect.

It's a victory for those who want to see proper football culture and the ability to hear actual chanting at our games in Scotland and in Europe and not endure 90 minutes of a fad that people have seen on TV and is very cultural to the African market.

A UEFA statement said, "The move was taken for reasons related to Europe's football culture and tradition. Uefa feels that the instrument's use would not be appropriate in Europe where a continuous loud background noise would be emphasised."

UEFA added that "in the specific context of South Africa, the vuvuzela adds a touch of local flavour and folklore" but it then went on to make it clear they felt they were out of place at European games. "The magic of football consists of the two-way exchange of emotions between the pitch and the stands, where the public can transmit a full range of feelings to the players. UEFA is of the view that the vuvuzelas would completely change the atmosphere, drowning supporter emotions and detracting from the experience of the game."

Great news. Let's hope that all the domestic clubs follow suit.

All this means some swarming wasp free sounding Euro 2012 qualifers on Friday. Just in time for us all to hear the England fans chanting for "Fabio out" against Bulgaria.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When My Football Club launched in August 2007 it had many grand ideas that attracted football fans the world over.

The aim of owning an English club side and having an active participation in the day to day affairs excited many. Three years on though and many are disillusioned.

The fact is though that they shouldn't be.

I was almost tempted to take part in the experiment myself, opting instead to continue to give my money to the East Fife Supporters Trust and the AFC Wimbledon Dons Trust. To me, supporters trusts are the ONLY way forward for football fans to have an active voice in established football clubs.

And there lies the key to this whole situation.

When many joined MYFC I think it was on the hope that the scheme would purchase an existing Football League Club and preferably a big name.

It was originally hoped to attract 50,000 members to MYFC. Initial interest registered garnered just over this and by the time that paid membership started to be taken, the scheme hit a high of around 31,000 members. According to Wikipedia membership is now down to around 4,000.

Part of the reason for this decline can be put down to natural loss of interest amongst the punters but another big reason is probably due to the fact that MYFC ended up buying a non league football club in Ebbsfleet United. Not a name or scenario to excite thousands of people worldwide, although one that would make someone like myself a lot more interested.

The other thing that put many off was the actual involvement in the day to day decisions of running the club weren't what many had hoped. They couldn't pick the team basically.

As if that was likely to happen at any top level football club, even the top level non league ones.

For schemes like this to really thrive, and even let the paying members pick the team, you need to start a club from scratch. You can't buy into an existing club and expect the existing board and fans to let a bunch of strangers around the world tell you how things should be done. No manager in their right mind would also take such a job if he had no say on team selection.

Members of MYFC need to accept that. Many didn't and haven't continued membership.

When an existing club is bought what you have to remember first and foremost is the existing fan base. They are the lifeblood of the club and it's them, not a bunch of anonymous members who should be listened to and that why Supporters Trusts are the only way to go in cases like this.

This week's BBC Non League Football Show ran an interesting documentary on the whole My Football Club phenomena (from 38 minutes in). The good times and bad and the logistics and realities of it all. Well worth a listen, especially Ebbsfleet manager Liam Daish's thoughts on it all.

For those that do want more hands on ownership, especially if picking the team appeals to your senses of "real" fantasy football, then the way to go is for newly established clubs that have set up solely under MYFC type schemes and the very low level established ones that have gone down that route. There's a few out there.

I would point you towards AFC Hull though.

AFC Hull currently play at level 10 of the English non league pyramid (14 in Football League terms) in the East Riding Amateur League Premier Division, having won the First Division in their first ever season in 2008/09.

I've just become an owner and best of all, it's entirely free to join up at present.

It's a long way to go to the top, but it would be one hell of an interesting ride to get there.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Craig Burley made a very interesting comment yesterday during the Celtic and Motherwell game on ESPN. Well there has to be a first time for everything!

Celtic have used 14 different nationalities so far in this young season and only have one player (Scott Brown) in Craig Levein's squad for the forthcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers against Lithuania and Liechtenstein.

It's a point that can be very open to debate, but is this really a bad thing for the Scottish national team?

Growing up, it was felt that if you didn't play for either of the Old Firm your chances of getting in to the Scottish national team were greatly reduced. Looking at Levein's 26 man squad, this is certainly far from being the current situation.

It's hard to think that West Brom, Wolves and Blackpool have more players in the Scottish squad this time around than Celtic. You could argue that they're playing in the top flight of English football, which is a damn sight better than the top flight in Scotland. But then you just have to look and see that there's even more players from a Welsh team in the squad, with Championship side Cardiff having two players listed.

Changed days indeed, although the other half of the Old Firm, Rangers, do still have eight players in the squad.

There's a couple of ways to look at all this.

Looking at the Rangers situation, it's great for the national team that they have so many players in the squad who will play regularly with each other, know each others game and hopefully gel all that quicker.

I hate praising Rangers at the best of times, but well done to them for not only looking at Scottish talent, but for actually using it as well. It doesn't seem to have done them any harm domestically.

Celtic on the other hand are struggling like hell and you could certainly argue that such a mish mash of nationalities doesn't help their cause.

For years though, the Old Firm have killed up and coming Scottish talent, signing any Scottish players that shows promise in the SPL (and lower leagues) to take away even further any possible element of competition in our domestic game.

Celtic's plundering of Hibs in recent years has been appalling and is still continuing with the signing of Irish striker Anthony Stokes. Both Old Firm sides have done it to Hearts, Aberdeen and numerous other clubs as well.

And what invariably happens to these players? They're stuck on the bench or the reserves, have few appearances as foreign players get picked ahead of them, get farmed out on loan and then sold or released again without making an impact and to the detriment of their careers, their valuable formative years wasted.

I personally feel that it's no bad thing that there's only one Celtic player in the squad. I want to see our top Scottish players playing at the top level to help us out internationally and like it or not, that's in the English Premiership.

When you look at our best Scottish international sides (especially those in the 1970's), they came about when our top players were playing for top level sides like Leeds United and Liverpool.

Sure they might not be playing for the top, top level sides in England but then how many English stars are at Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United? 35% of our current squad are currently playing in the Premiership. This has to be good for the Scottish national team if not the Scottish domestic game.

If one Old Firm side is dominating domestically when it comes to the Scottish talent pool then so be it. It's for the good of the game and the players developments. Keep as many of them together as you can and then let the better ones play higher level.

Only 42% of the current squad are playing in the joke that is top flight Scottish football. I think this can only help us. Will it? Well we'll soon find out, starting in Lithuania on Friday.

C'mon Scotland. Do us proud.
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