Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'm getting worried.

For the second time in less than a week I found myself cheering on Manchester United in a game of football.

First it was against Man City on Wednesday night and then against Arsenal today. That's just not right!

Unfortunately faced with all the little things that have pissed me off with every Club at the top end of the Premiership in recent years (Aston Villa aside - I'm sure they'll join that club one day!), I don't think I've been left with an option and it doesn't sit comfortably!!!

Chelsea and Man City I detest for their moneybags stature. Every time they win a trophy, a pure football angel dies.

Those clubs also have players like Michael Ballack and Craig Bellamy, who just have faces you want to smack and attitudes that equally annoy.

Liverpool I've hated since my childhood days when they were the team that everyone at school wanted to follow and not Man United. Times may change but deep seated childhood hatred won't!

Arsenal, as we've metnioned before in this blog, were a team I used to admire but years of Wenger's attitudes and comments have finally ground me down. Their players antics, such as Eduardo's Champions League diving, have also contributed to my every increasing dislike of them.

There's no one left except for Man United in the "big five". They play good football, have a Scot as a boss and believe in developing youth.

It may feel like siding with the devil, for a West Ham fan like myself, but it seems the best choice of all!

Man, I do need help!!!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

It seems to be the case that no matter in what part of the world you look, the governing football bodies the world over give the appearance of being clueless.

Step forward the latest candidates, The Confederation of African Football (CAF).

Everyone was shocked at the terror attack that took place on the Togo team bus before this year's African Nations Cup started in Angola.

With two people killed, and others injured, it seemed that everybody understood Togo's decision to head home from the tournament to mourn. Everybody that is except the CAF, who today banned Togo from taking part in the next two African Nations Cup tournaments, fining them $50,000 at the same time.

It's a truely shocking and unbelievable decision, which Togo will appeal and that has left their government rightly fuming and threatening legal action.

The CAF are citing government interference in the game, whilst at the same time showing coldness I don't think I can think of a worse example of in all my years of following football.

FIFA are disgracefully keeping silent on the matter.

There's so many things wrong with this situation. At a time like this when the families of the dead are more important than the game, football ends up the big loser.

The CAF should be ashamed of themselves.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What would the World Cup be without those dreadful world cup songs. There may be some classics like BA Robertson's "We Have A Dream" song for Scotland (the best World Cup song EVER!), but on the whole, no matter what the country, they usually suck.

The press went into overdrive recently when the English FA announced that there would be no official England world cup tune this time around, to the joy of music lovers everywhere.

At the Loaded Lafta awards the other night though, Frank Skinner admitted that he would be interested into writing a follow up to the now over-used "Three Lions".

As England haters, even we at AFTN have to admit that "Three Lions" was a quality football anthem and one that has remarkably stood the test of the time and still sounds as fresh today as when you first heard it for Euro 96.

It's going to be a hard tune for Skinner, Baddiel and Brodie to top but it will certainly be worth hearing if they can.

Just in case the guys are struggling for material, we thought we'd remind them of AFTN "Three Lions" remix which we coined a few years back now. Just for inspiration for them you understand.

You can read our efforts HERE. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

With 133 days left until the World Cup begins in South Africa, it would seem that not as much of the world is going to descend on the country as would have been expected.

FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke has come out and admitted that the tournament is likely to attract less than half of the expected number of foreign fans.

The official line is that fans have found too few flights to meet demand, but a nod was also given to the safety fears of many.

Flights are certainly not as great in numbers as to say Germany four years ago and the length and sheer price of many flights is putting people off.

The safety aspect is what would worry me, although being a Scotland fan it's not exactly something we've had to give too much thought to! As we've mentioned before, watching Louis Theroux's documentary on crime in Johannesburg just over a year ago was enough to put me off visiting the South Africa for life.

The whole Togo incident in Angola (although many miles away) won't have helped and an English company was criticised recently for selling body armour for fans to protect themselves, which could be adorned with your country's flag!

What all this probably will means is less excitement and less rivalry coming from the terraces (and probably less fighting off it, which will be good) and more of those bloody horns.

Don't expect to see empty seats too often though, as nearly two million tickets have been sold so far - mostly to South Africans.

If any readers are planning on heading down for the finals then get in touch. We'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

After a pretty lacklustre first half, the second 45 minutes of tonight's all Manchester English League Cup semi final second leg tie exploded into life.

It was a cracking second half and I still find it strange to be cheering on Man United in any competition, never mind this one. You can't let the moneybag sides get their wicked way with the game though.

United deserved their 4-3 aggregate victory but of course one of the main talking points is going to be what happened off the pitch.

Now we'll just get this out of the way first. We don't condone fans throwing coins, bottles or any other missiles onto the pitch or at the players. It's wrong, gives the game a bad name, can do serious injury, etc, etc, blah blah blah.

Wasn't it great to see that little tosser Craig Bellamy smacked with what was presumably a coin though! There's some players you would just enjoy seeing that happen to and Bellamy is one for me. Chelsea's Michael Ballack is another and Raith's Gregory Tade, ex of Stranraer, a third that instantly springs to my mind. There will be many more!

I won't go as far as to say it's a pity that one of the bottles didn't smack him as well. That would just be wrong!

Even when the coin did hit him though, he went down like a ton of bricks had hit him. Must have been one hell of a big coin/object. I can only begin to imagine how he'd have reacted if one of the bottles had hit. Remarkable recovery powers as well, although if I had been the ref I'd have booked him for pushing me out of the way when enquiring if he was ok.

The lingering question for me from the incident though was how the hell does someone manage to get a glass bottle into the game? When I think of the hassles I've had taking flags and cameras into some grounds, you have to laugh.

Actually when you think of Bellamy's smacked puss you have to laugh as well. Happy days!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

After Owen Coyle's decision a few weeks back to leave Burnley for pastures of old at Bolton, one of our most anticipated ties for the remainder of the season was when the two Lancashire sides would clash again on league business. Tonight was that night.

Having met at Turf Moor just after Christmas, where the teams played out a 1-1 draw, Coyle would no doubt have been thankful that the first time he came up against his former team would be at his new Reebok home. That should have given him a much less hostile reception, but with 5,000 travelling fans making the journey to Bolton, this wasn't to prove to be the case.

With Coyle worshipped at Burnley, and the man almost single handedly behind their meteoric rise to the top flight, I had wondered what kind of reception he would get from the travelling Burnley fans. It wasn't that long ago after all that the Burnley fans were everywhere with their "Coyle Is God" signs.

Would they give him respect and applause for what he had done for the Club or could there be no forgiveness for what they viewed as being stabbed in the back by the lure of cash?

Within seconds of seeing the game, you were left in no doubt as to what the Burnley fans felt. A crescendo of boos from the travelling support at Coyle's appearance, followed by "Judas" chants throughout the game and a selection of banners conveying feelings such as "Never Forgotten, Never Forgiven". There was hate and feelings of betrayal in the air.

The Bolton fans on the other hand rubbed more salt in the claret and blue wounds with their "Owen Coyle's Blue and White Army" chants.

It's a hard situation to comment on rationally. Us football fans are a fickle lot, sometimes giving the impression of short memories. Managers and players who were once cherished and loved by all, soon become hate figures and loathed for what the fans deem as a slight on them and shaming their Club. After all, no one man is bigger than the beloved Club we support.

On many occasions, the initial period of hate fades into respect, wonderful memories and acknowledgement and reverement of the manager/player for what they have given to their side over the years and for all the glory, achievements and committment they gave.

As an outsider and non passionate football fan looking in on the Burnley/Coyle situation you may wonder how fans could have such short memories and be so unappreciative of what Coyle did for the Club. As a fan though, you fully understand. It shouldn't really be the case, but you get it totally. You also have to factor in that to all intense and purposes it was sideways move for Coyle, so what was really behind his decision to go?

It made me think of how East Fife fans reacted when Davie Clarke decided to leave us for Falkirk in 1987. A Club servant since 1968, as first a player and then a manager. He single handedly rebuilt the Club, restored pride and success and just fell short on the last day of the season in trying to get us into the Scottish Premier Division.

When he left near the end of the 86/87 season (February to be exact) to go to Brockville and try and prevent Falkirk from relegation (the side that had just pipped us for promotion), it wasn't a full hate on like with Coyle but there was a lot of anger and resentment at Clarke for going. It was then made worse when he raided our side for players.

I remember running a cartoon in AFTN when we first started off branding him a traitor to the East Fife cause. After all, his departure left us, through no real fault of his, with the abysmal Gavin Murray regime - a man who almost single handedly destroyed what Clarke had spent years building.

When Clarke did manage to save the Bairns from relegation, there were few of a black and gold persuasion that felt really happy for him.

Now Clarke is revered and rightly worhsipped for what he achieved and we are forever in his debt and gratitude for what he gave East Fife. The passing of time does wonders to fans opinions and I'm sure that this is what Owen Coyle will find and he deserves to get all the plaudits he should get to be honest.

Coyle still holds Burnley dearly, as his after match comments show and his decision to go towards and applaud the travelling support after the final whistle was clearly from the heart, but not well received.

It was a hostile reception and night for Coyle, as he watched his new side run out 1-0 winners in a less than inspiring game.

The win took Bolton out of the bottom three and plunged Burnley into it and into real trouble.

Owen Coyle had almost talismanic qualities for Burnley. His departure has left a huge hole and it's seemingly growing increasingly more likely that the Clarets are not going to be able to recover from it.

We'd love Burnley to stay up. Their style of play deserves it and it's what fans of smaller clubs UK wide would love to see. It would be a victory for the little guy.

Without Coyle though, they're going to struggle big time and perhaps that realisation is behind some of the hatred directed at Coyle.

It's certainly looking bleak at Turf Moor for the remainder of the season.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I can't remember when it first started but I do know that I've been arranging my life around football and other sporting fixtures for more years than I can obviously remember.

It's frustrating as hell at the moment then waiting for Vancouver Whitecaps 2010 schedule to come out.

With all the legal wranglings about what league the Caps would be playing in this year, the result has been that trying to sort out the season's fixtures has been pushed back further than usual.

And thus my holiday plans - much to my wife's chagrin.

Fixtures in North America are just strange anyway, or at least the way they come out.

With so many teams not owning the actual stadiums they play in, the result is that teams often don't have control over what takes place at their "home" stadium.

The MLS have released the initial batch of their fixtures, up to the first game into week 4. Further fixtures are to follow. Not ideal for fans wanting to try and plan away trips.

Between things like this and the horrendous fixture congestion that the USL enforced onto it's teams, maybe it's time that I decide to plan football around life.

Only jesting of course. That's never going to happen!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The tie we were most looking forward to from this weekend's FA Cup match ups was the visit of Premier League side Fulham to Second Division Accrington Stanley yesterday.

As regular readers of this blog may know, we have a huge soft spot for Stanley here at AFTN. We love stories of teams in general coming back after premature demises and fighting their way not only just back to existing but up the league ladders.

We'd watched Accrington's progress up the English pyramid for a few seasons before they finally restored the famous name to League status once again, after a long 44 years away. They also played two pre-season friendlies up at East Fife, meaning many of us Fife fans have followed their progress for a while.

If anyone didn't have a soft spot for the Club, you only had to watch the fantastic six part documentary "Accrington Stanley, Exactly" to fall in the love with the unfashionable club. Cash strapped but with such loyal dedication from those running the side and the small band of fans following them every week. It's something that fans of clubs like East Fife, and all other small clubs across the land, could really relate to.

The original Accrington Stanley, of which the current club are technically a whole different entity, resigned from the Football League mid season in 1962 and went into liquidation four years later. They were a side who had never climbed out of the bottom tier of League football in their four decades as a League side. Even before Stanley existed in that name in 1891, Accrington FC were founder members of the English Football League in 1888, so football in the small town has a long history.

The current Stanley came into being in 1968. They've showed huge fight in coming back from almost going bust for a second time, managing to rally football supporters throughout the UK to help them pay off a big tax bill earlier this season, with many fans of other Clubs turning up to support them at the matches they strategically put on on Friday nights.

With their future secured once again, the team have quietly gone about working their way up the English Second Division this season and John Coleman continues to do wonders at the Club. He's been at the helm for coming up to 11 years now and each season he has taken Stanley to a higher league position than the season before. Not many managers can claim that feat and when you consider the low budget he has been working on, it's truly amazing.

The reward for all their trials and tribulations this season was a plum fourth round home tie against a Fulham side that have impressed in the Premiership at times this year.

It's all you could want from an FA Cup tie. The game had the biggest placing difference between all the sides in the fourth round ties, with 70 places seperating the two sides in the English league set up. It was also played on a pitch that resembled a ploughed farmer's field, in misty conditions, and at a ground where the loud home crowd were on top of the players wherever they ran.

Total leveller. Total romance. Totally what makes football exciting to a lower league fan like myself and what makes the FA Cup the best Club competition in the world. You can keep your rich moneybag teams and overpaid players in the Champions League as far as we're concerned. This is real football.

It was a fantastic match and Accrington did themselves and the lower leagues proud.

Stanley had dominated proceedings when Eric Nevland nudged the Londoners into an undeserved lead after 21 minutes. So many teams would have been disheartened but Stanley hit back four minutes later and Michael Symes sent the packed Crown Ground into raptures.

Darren Kempson's dismissal for a second bookable offence four minutes before half time probably killed off the chances of a huge Cup shock there and then. Although they bravely took the game to Fulham at the start of the second half, when Damien Duff scored for the Premiership side on the hour mark that was pretty much going to be that. Zoltan Gera added a third with nine minutes left after Stanley pushed forward for an equaliser and the final 3-1 scoreline certainly didn't tell the story of the game and flattered a very poor Fulham performance.

Accrington dominated for long spells and if the casual observer looked in you would have struggled to know which side was the Premier league one, never mind which one had the extra man.

There's still some hopes of Cup shocks for the rest of the tournament though, as once again the FA Cup proves to be the most engaging and enthralling of all the club Cup competitions around the world. Just what makes it keep all this magic after all these years? If only you could bottle it.

Oh for the Scottish one to garner the same excitement and interest and equally an oh for the chance to watch something similar in Canada. Maybe one day both of these things will happen but I won't be holding my breath!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Last night was an important one for football fans in Vancouver as the Southsiders supporters section became an organised body for the first time in the group's existance.

From humble beginnings at the end of the last decade, when they were formed in the beer garden to be Vancouver's "weapons of mass distraction", the Southsiders have grown to become one of the best fans sections in North America with regards to the noise generated in relation to the numbers in attendance, the variety of the songbook and the fun to be had.

The group has grown organically over the last ten years into the Southside being the must stand place for many attending Vancouver Whitecaps games at Swangard Stadium.

What was missing from the Southsiders though was actual organisation and at times the group were more of a ragtag band than a well oiled machine. All that will soon change as after a couple of organisational meetings, the group has now appointed it's first committee and set it's first fee structure.

The move has been a necessity for the Southsiders. With Vancouver Whitecaps set to join the MLS in 2011, the group could soon find itself growing in numbers by over 1000% very quickly.

Supporting football in North America is very much a minority past-time and all the supporters group should be applauded. Toronto and Seattle have set the bar high since they joined the big show and when Portland's Timbers Army (by far and away the most impressive supporters section in the US) join with Vancouver next year, they're going to hit the MLS with a bang.

What the Southsiders have, that TFC and the Sounders haven't, is a firm base to make the move with. Passionate fans, with a proud tradition and history. Although small in numbers at present, taking the step to organise now should see them in a better position than those previously mentioned when it comes to make the step up. It all makes for some very exciting times for the hardcore fans in the city.

Research into some of the US groups have revealed nothing more than soccermom friendly, ra-ra-ra style supporters and that's what's killing the game on the continent. Football in North America is badly needing some rivalry and some real hatred and animosity simmering at ALL clubs.

As a proud member of the Southsiders, I want to see the group become one of the most respected in the MLS, if not THE best. I want to see us hated by the rest (jealousy and all that) and the Caps to be the team that everyone hates and wants to beat. The Man United of North America. The Leeds United of Canada.

It's up to us to grow now. To grow as a group. To grow the sport in the city. To grow the meaning of what it is to be a football fan of the proper shaped ball variety. To grow the understanding of why football is the best sport to attend live in the world.

Last night's meeting certainly set all the foundations for that and the Club clearly appreciate our efferts judging by the impressive turnout after our meeting by players and officials from the Caps.

It's exciting times in Vancouver these days and not just because the Olympics are coming!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Scottish football hasn't really had too far to look for embarrassment this season. It's been a case of "what will it be this week" more often than not.

This week, it's the fact that Dunfermline, thrown of the Scottish Cup just days ago, have won their appeal and are back in it.

For those that don't know about the details, you can find them in our earlier blog post HERE.

Dunfermline were rightly thrown out of the competition but, much to the SFA's amazement, an independent panel, the so called Emergency Committee, resintated them in the competition and fined them 30,000 pounds instead.

The Pars now have a chance to replay their match against Stenhousemuir and reclaim their money spinning tie against Celtic, which will please Sky TV I'm sure.

It's farcical. You've either broken the rules or you haven't.

I know we harp on about this a lot on this blog, but someone really has to take the governing bodies in Scotland by the scruff of the neck, before we lose any credibility we may have left.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

*** The original version of today’s blog was previously written for our column in last Saturday’s East Fife programme, so apologies to those of you who have already read it. We just wanted to share the sentiment of it to a wider audience too ***

Being a football fan isn’t easy. There’s highs, there’s lows, there’s absolute heartbreaks. I wouldn’t have it any other way! What makes a fan, what type of fan are you and are you a fan of football or a football team fan?

A common debate it would seem on AFTN, and other football forums around the world, is what constitutes you being a “real” fan. It’s something that really annoys the hell out of me to be honest! Who has a right to question another fan’s way of supporting their club?

The reason for my annoyance is that we all support our team in our own way. Not everyone can make it to every match. I know I can’t these days! Some can’t afford to travel away. Some can’t even afford to go to all the home matches in the current financial climate. Some just choose not to go but watch the scores at home. Ah that long chastised armchair supporter.

Then there’s the longevity factor. I’ve read people questioning someone’s fan status because they’ve only been watching their team for a year or two or some similar short period of time. If they’re committed to the Fife cause (or whatever team they support) and their only concern is for them to do well, then so what?

We should be all for attracting new fans, not frightening them away and with football being in the dire state it is these days, every fan and every fan’s opinion merits equal validity in my opinion.

Does booing your team make you a real fan? Does it make you detrimental to the cause and the greater good or have you paid your money and you’re entitled to applaud or criticise in whatever vocal way you choose? I know I’ve certainly booed the team off the pitch over the years. I’m sure most fans have. Does that make me or you any less of a fan?

The thing which got me thinking about all of this was something I read on a non East Fife related football club forum. One poster had a list of four or five teams that he supported around the world in his signature. On an occasion when one of his posts dared to disagree with another poster, someone who had supported this particular team and had lived in the team’s home city for a lot longer, the response he got was curt, hostile and questioned his commitment to the team and the validity of his viewpoint as he was a newbie. It also questioned whether he was a “real” fan as he purported to support more than one team.

The original poster in question had lived all over the world and had watched football in many places, growing attachments to teams the world over in the process. He was what I would call a fan of football. Myself, I consider to be a football fan, in that I follow my team and my country. If that was all the football I ever got to watch then I could quite happily live with that as that’s what I care about most.

Growing up I always thought you could only have your one team, your one true love. Finding myself transported to the other side of the world at the moment I’ve found out that this isn’t in fact the case. You can have really really strong attachments to another team, another love, without feeling that it’s a bad thing. The great thing about it is that the two lovers will never meet so you won’t have to take sides!!

It’s a hard life being a football fan. I didn’t know there were so many rules we were meant to follow to be that “real” fan!

As we move into this new year and new decade, all that’s important is that we all get behind East Fife, Vancouver Whitecaps or whatever team you support. Let’s be a bit more tolerant of each others views. After all we all want the same thing - a successful football club.

Belated Happy New Year everyone. Let’s hope 2010 is a cracker for the Fife and the Caps.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Finally some good news coming out from Upton Park for West Ham fans all over the world. Well, partly good news.

The takeover of the Club by David Sullivan and David Gold is one of the few seemingly positives stories coming out of the Club for a while now. Their 50% shareholding is very welcome, as both are football men through and through who clearly want the best for the Hammers and are West Ham fans.

Their press conference yesterday though (you can watch some of it HERE) revealed some horrendous facts about the scale of the Hammers debt and it's pretty shocking stuff.

Despite the new owners, the Hammers debt still stands at over 100 million pounds, nearer 110, 40 million of which is owed to other Clubs (including Sheffield United after the relegation debacle a few seasons ago).

This is bad enough but some of the other fine details of the debts and finances leaves you wondering how a Club like West Ham can get into such a mess.

They've already borrowed on 70% of NEXT season's season tickets income and 60% on the season after that. They have also received around 70% of shirt sponsorship money for up to three years in advance. It's unbelievable.

Bearing this in mind, and what debt that has still left, the hands of the management are in a bind for several years to come it would seem, although both new owners have said the immediate priority is not to sell any of the existing squad.

They better hope that the Club can survive the Premiership drop this season or I fear for the immediate future as not only will they miss out on the Premiership cash cow (parachute payments won't do that much), there will be a big chunk missing from what most Clubs can look forward to bringing in on a season to season basis.

It's refreshing and reassuring that Sullivan and Gold have been so frank about the situation and what the fans need to hear just now. No point in finding out about all this mess when it's too late and coming as a complete bolt from the blue.

Looking to the immediate future, despite the new owners best intentions, it's hard to see the Club not continuing to be a selling club and losing all their best young players for a while to come.

First thing is to steady the ship though and hopefully avoid the drop. I still think they can do it and if that can be achieved then hopefully under Sullivan and Gold we can see the Club go from strength to strength and possibly even in a brand spanking new Olympic Stadium as well.

When a top team like this is in such a mess, it just makes you wonder what some of the other, less successful Clubs are going through that we don't know about yet.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's a shame that the League Cup has been so devalued in both Scotland and especially England for what seems like most of the last few years.

As a proud East Fife supporter, whose team won the Scottish League Cup three times in the late 40's and early 50's, it saddens me to see under strength sides fielded and an overall lack of general excitement in the competition. It's a shame it's thought of more of an inconvenience rather than a Cup with a lot of history.

Of course the football authorities don't help themselves with regards to this at times and one such example is making the English semi finals over two legs.

Now I'm an advocate of two legged semis and finals on some occasions. The USL playoffs being a good example where I was pleased they made the decision to play both the semi finals and the final over two legs.

For a competition played on a continent the size of North America, with teams so widespread, it makes total sense. In England with no such geographical worries and such a congested schedule, not so much.

This season's English League Cup semi finals are such a diverse mixed bag. You have Aston Villa and Blackburn which doesn't excite and the Manchester derby which more than makes up for it.

Tonight's first leg between the Manchester rivals was another rip roaring affair and although it's beautifully set up for a second leg cracker at Old Trafford, you can't help but think how much better it would all have been over just the one leg, winner takes all.

The League Cup competition certainly needs a revamp on both sides of the border and one day we'll hopefully see it's proud history mean something once again.

Monday, January 18, 2010

One of the most pleasing aspects of the Premiership games at the weekend was the decision by referee Andre Marriner to give Everton a penalty against Man City for a blatant shirt pull by Micah Richards on Louis Saha.

The pull couldn't have been more visible, starting outside the box, continuing into it and clearly disrupting Saha's chances of getting on to the end of a long ball. No doubt that it was a penalty, unless you're City's Roberto Mancini watching on from the sidelines of course.

What was most surprising about the incident was that a penalty (or indeed any foul) was called on the shirt pull in the first place. It's a blight that has been too rife in the game in recent seasons. The amount of shirt pulling seen during USL games last seasons, especially at corners, was unbelievable. The vast majority of which were either not seen or not called.

It pisses me off no end.

A similar incident happened in the Wolves-Wigan game, with another penalty being given after a shirt pull by Wolves' Richard Stearman in the box. This incident also resulted in a second yellow card for Stearman, deserved for stupidity if nothing else.

I don't for one minute believe that these two calls being punished will lead to any sort of immediate reduction in such incidents, but at least if refs keep calling them and teams keep losing goals due to them, then maybe, ever so slowly, something can be done to remove or at least reduce this blight from the game.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Since East Fife's 2008 pre season Irish tour, I know a few of us have kept an eye out for the results of Newry City. It's one of the fun things about pre season tours and home matchups, in that you develop a glancing interest in a variety of weird and widespread teams like Newry, Durham and Accrington Stanley, to name a few of late.

For those who weren't familiar with the name of Newry City, well they might be now after what happened in yesterday's Irish Cup match between themselves and Larne.

With eight minutes left and Newry seemingly set to advance to the next round thanks to their 2-1 lead, all hell broke loose!

Larne saw two players sent off within seconds of each other, before punches were thrown amongst the management and subs on the touchline and Larne manager Paul Millar was sent off.

Further fighting continued, players were chased around the pitch, lots of punches were thrown and it resembled an impromptu boxing bill before referee Raymond Crangle decided that enough was enough and abandoned the match!

Well we're always looking for more fight from players so there's no complaints from us! Maybe we should get football to go the way of ice hockey and encourage some punch ups to get the crowd and players into dull games.

It will be interesting to see what the Irish FA will make of all this and whether there will be a replay or whether both teams will be kicked out of the competition and hit with huge fines.

Exciting stuff but sadly no video footage appears to exist of what happened, although someone, somewhere must have something on their mobiles and can maybe upload it whilst enjoying a toffee crisp.

In the meantime, we do have the commentary from Radio Ulster from what went on. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Match Report: East Fife v Cowdenbeath (Scottish 2nd Division)

What do East Fife have to do to win a derby match these days? Our record in Fife derbies in the last 20 years is horrendous and those stats continued today.

Off the top of my head, and it's some stats that I need to actually check the facts for cos it's bugging me, I think it's about two derby wins in that time against either Dunfermline, Raith Rovers or Cowdenbeath in a competitive game that isn't the Fife Cup!

Today seemed to be the day we'd get a derby win, but Gareth Wardlaws goal three minutes from time gave the Cowdung a share of the spoils in an entertaining four goal encounter.

With the weather decimating East Fife's fixtures, it was good to get back playing again and the black and gold had hoped to build on their promising display against Dumbarton the last time they were able to take to the pitch.

Starved of live football action, and with commendable reduced admission prices, a healthy crowd of 864 went along to Bayview Stadium this afternoon. Well, as healthy as any crowd featuring people from Cowdenbeath could be.

When Bobby Linn rose to head home and open the scoring for the Fife after 15 minutes, things were looking promising that the derby day drought would end, but a Wardlaw equaliser for Cowden after 37 minutes and a horrendous penalty miss from top Fife's top scorer Paul McManus saw the sides go in level at the break.

It was a really entertaining second half, with both sides looking capable of getting the winner, and the Bayview faithful thought that Lloyd Young had wrapped the three points up for the Fife with nine minutes remaining. And he should have, but Wardlaw's 18 yard strike broke Fife hearts and kept the League leaders on top of the division.

Another disappointing derby day ending and yet another late goal conceded. Barring the SFL deciding to make games over just 85 minutes, it seems our season's struggles are going to continue into the New Year.

Ah well, maybe next time that elusive derby win will return. At least it was good to have a Fife game to report on once again.

C'mon the Fife.

FINAL SCORE: East Fife 2 - 2 Cowdenbeath

Friday, January 15, 2010

What's more annoying for you sitting at home? Those bloody horns at games in Africa, like this weeks African Nations Cup and the Confederations Cup before it, or that fucking bell that goes non stop at Fratton Park for Portsmouth matches.

It's a toss up. Both are annoying as hell when you're trying to watch a game at home.

Long time readers of the blog will know from last year's Confederations Cup in South Africa just how much the non stop sound of the blowing of horns annoyed us. It's like having a never ending swarm of bees in your head.

I know it's a traditional and cultural thing in Africa but shut the fuck up please. The World Cup is going to be weeks of unbearable horns, day after day, week after week.

Whilst watching one of the African Nations Cup matches the other day, my wife was commenting on how annoying the horns were and they were driving her up the wall and she had to leave the room. As pleasing a thought as this might be to many, who might be planning on buying their own horns now, I advised her she might want to book a 6 week vacation around June for her own sanity in that case.

As annoying as the horns are, that awful non stop bell ringing at Portsmouth games takes the annoyance award.

It's got to the point now that that's all I can focus on during Pompey games and I've made the decision to not watch any games, live or highlights, from Fratton Park. I just can't stand it and my TV is too expensive to smash to bits, which is what the bell ringing makes me want to do. Oh - so - very - much.

All this noise just makes you glad in a way that the atmosphere at Bayview Stadium is like a morgue and you can hear a pin drop. At least you don't go home with a pounding headache or tinnitus.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The eyecatching result of the Scottish Cup Fourth Round matches, that have so far been able to have been played, was Dunfermline Athletic's 7-1 demolition of Stenhousemuir.

As Cup ties go, it was a pretty comprehensive result.

Unfortunately for Dunfermline though, the win looks like it will count for nothing and it will be Stenhousemuir who will advance into the Fifth Round and a possible money spinning tie at home to Celtic.

The SFA today kicked the Pars out of this season's competition for fielding an ineligible player in substitute Calum Woods, whose ban from the competition had carried over from last season.

At first glance the expulsion seems a bit harsh and over the top. Woods after all only came on when the scoreline was already 4-0 and the outcome of the match looked to have already been settled (fans of Mali and Peterborough may disagree that this would have been the case!). Past breaches of this rule has led to fines and replayed matches.

Further examination of the case though reveals a number of offences on the day in question and the SFA were left with no alternative we feel but to kick Dunfermline out of the competition.

Apart from playing Woods, there were three other offences. The players ages were not listed on the teamsheet and a rule of the competition is that each club must have two under 21 players on the bench. When this was pointed out to the Pars they changed their team and teamsheet (two seperate offences) but as this was less than an hour before kick off, they should have forfeited one of their subs and only listed four and not five.

A complete administrative shambles and whatever way you look at it, a catalogue of punishable errors.

As for who is to blame, most of the blame has to fall on the Club. Each Scottish Club gets sent a list of suspended players each week of the season. Woods was on all 26 of those issued this season! Surely the player must have known he was banned and could have said something. Is the onus on both the Club and the player to know what's going on? I would say so.

Either way, an appeal is pending but I don't feel that Dunfermline have a leg to stand on and they will be left rueing the fact that the cash strapped Club have missed out on a capacity crowd and lucrative TV money from a match against Celtic.

I would guess the team sheets will be getting checked a bit more thoroughly at East End Park from now on.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Following on from yesterday's blog about late goals, what another cracking finish we had tonight in the Liverpool-Reading FA Cup Third Round replay.

From the viewpoint of a fan of a smaller club (and a Liverpool hater!), thankfully this time the late late show was from the underdogs.

Reading showed tremendous spirit to fightback at Anfield and tie the game up three minutes into stoppage time. It was what their second half performance deserved and it was great to see the Championship side cause the shock with their winner in extra time.

It was a joyous example of the late goal we were talking about yesterday and Gylfi Sigurdsson's penalty was sheer class and so calm under the pressure keg circumstances. Not bad for a 20 year old!

Out of the Champions League, struggling in the Premiership and now out of the FA Cup at the earliest stage for over fifty years, Rafael Benitez's coat now must be on the shoogliest of shoogly hooks.

That aside, well done to Reading. Chalk another one up for the little guys.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Football can be a cruel mistress. That's one of the many reasons we all love to watch it.

There can be many heartbreaking things in the game and one of them is certainly losing to a last gasp goal.

Late goals and especially injury time winners are always hard to take. It's bad enough when it's a league game, as East Fife can testify to many times so far this season. When it's a Cup game though, and especially one when you're playing higher league opposition, is especially devastating.

Whether it be a late goal that knocks you out of the Cup, or prevents you going to a replay or extra time, or one of the cruelest of all, the goal that stops you pulling off a huge Cup shock and you then go on to lose the replay, they're all heartbreaking moments that stick with you for the rest of your footballing memories.

Tonight's FA Cup Third Round replay between Championship side Coventry City and cash woe Premiership club Portsmouth will be one of those games that will have Sky Blues fans talking about the what might have been possibilities for many a year. It also brought a lot of my own horrible memories flooding back!

On paper, and in the current climate, Coventry beating a struggling Pompey side isn't the biggest FA Cup shock you're likely to see these days, but it still merits mention of a bona fide shock.

Coventry came so close and suffered the late goal heartbreak mentioned above not once, but twice in the match. Looking a sure bet to pull of that shock 1-0 win, a bizarre "what on earth did you do that for" own goal moment saw Pompey equalise in the 90th minute of normal time to force an extra half hour. Then with the game seemingly going to penalties to decide the tie, some horrendous marking saw Portsmouth claw victory from the jaws of defeat with the winning goal in injury time of extra time. Unbelievable Jeff I could almost here Kammy saying.

A terrible moment for Coventry and a terrible moment for me as well, as all those horrible memories of Saturday 26th January 1991 came flooding back.

The East Fife fans reading this will know right away what I'm talking about but for the others amongst you, it was the Scottish Cup Third Round tie between Second Division East Fife and Premier side Dundee United.

In front of a packed Bayview Park, East Fife had unexpectedly taken the lead against their bigger name opposition. Another famous Fife giantkilling shock seemed on the cards as East Fife never looked in trouble after going ahead. Referee Don McVicar had a different method of timekeeping from everyone else that day and added on SEVEN minutes of injury time, in a game in which there had hardly been any stoppages (I will admit to a little Fife timewasting near the end but nowhere near that much!).

The East Fife defence finally cracked a full six minutes into injury time, allowing United to equalise. I don't want to overuse the description but this was truly heartbreaking. I can still remember whistling for full time, with all those around me, and the stunned silence that fell across the ground after the goal went in. I've never been in a ground that's gone so quiet, so quickly and all at once (bar the jubilant United fans of course).

It had been a brave and battling performance and East Fife, wearing a change strip of Brazil kits as a confidence booster, went on to lose the replay after extra time, after again taking the lead with a wonder volley from Stuart Wilson that I can still replay in my head today.

So Coventry fans, I can feel your pain tonight and it's not something you'll forget but you just have to move onwards and upwards.

The horrible twist of the injury time goal that can cause both despair and scenes of jubilation in equal measure at opposite ends of the stadium. If you have your own memories of such occasions then please share them with us.

Monday, January 11, 2010

When a player is in the zone, it's a joy to watch him play and Carlos Tevez is certainly such a player at the moment.

The Argentinian hitman has almost single handedly revived Man City's flagging Premiership hopes, so much so in fact that even new boss Roberto Mancini has been talking up the Blues chances of not only grabbing a Champions League place, but of the Premiership title itself.

I've long been an admirer of Tevez and as a West Ham fan will forever be grateful for his contribution in saving the Hammers from relegation in that infamous season.

His hat trick for City against Blackburn this evening saw him on a one man seek and destroying mission and must make Sir Alex question his judgement for once in letting him go across the city.

It's still hard to get enthusiastic about the moneybags of City doing well. I still hope they fail, fall flat on their rich faces and don't even make Europe (still a possibility with how tight the Premiership is right now).

That said, it's hard not to enjoy and be impressed by a talent like Tevez. If only he'd stayed a Hammer.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

We're not going to turn the blog over to days of endless coverage on the African Nations Cup, but we just had to do another post about tournament after today's opening match.

The tournament has begun still tinged with the sadness surrounding the Togo team (who decided not to stay after all and flew back home), but thankfully matters can now be focussed with events on the pitch and hopefully no further terror incidents off it.

With such despondency abounding, what the tournament really needed was to get off to a flying start with a match to remember and have football fans around the world talking about the African Nations Cup for all the right reasons.

The CAF couldn't have asked for more than the cracker served up by hosts Angola and Mali.

It wasn't looking that way for most of the match. By 79 minutes and the hosts four goals to the good, it had a rather unfair blow out written all over it. Unfair due to the fact that Mali had played well despite what the scoreline suggested.

The final 11 minutes and 4 of stoppage time saw probably the best comeback and turnaround I have seen in a match. Even better than Liverpool's Champions League heroics in 2005 against AC Milan, but perhaps with less at stake.

Mali stunned Angola with a four goal comeback, two of them in injury time, to see the game end 4-4 and you can almost be certain that just one extra minute of play would have seen the Malians complete an amazing victory. That's how bad the Angolans collapse was.

It was tremendous, never say die spirited fightback from Mali that gives hope to fans the world over that it's never over till it is over!

My wife found it funny as I got more and more excited watching the game. She doesn't get football at the best of times, but me getting all worked up over an African game really puzzles her!

When Mali drew it back to 4-3 I'd shouted through to her about what a comeback I was watching and when they tied it seconds later, she was in hysterics at my excited scream of "oooooohhhhhh they've done it".

It's weird how a game between two teams you care little about can get you so worked up. That's football though. That's why I love it and if the African Nations Cup can serve up some more action like this on a daily basis, it's going to be a great January!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Football was so long the game of the masses. The working man's game and also the working man's escape.

An escape from reality in a way, whether it be your work, your homelife or just the little things that get you down.

To many it still is. When you talk to people as to why they sing and chant and swear their heads off at the football, it's a release. You leave your "real" world behind just for those few magical moments you share with your buddies and your team. It makes all the hassles at work seem forgotten when you can use your hard earned cash for a day at the match.

It's not always a bed of roses. There's anguish involved and sometimes disasters, literally (Ibrox, Hillsborough and many more).

When you switch the TV on these days, it's pretty depressing stuff. My wife won't watch the news. It's not that she doesn't want to know what's going on, but because it's all doom and gloom. You struggle to find happy stories at all in some bulletins.

We live in a world of terror. Executed terror attacks, thwarted terror attacks and the media building up the fear of terror attacks.

Sport, and football in particular, is no longer immune from such atrocities as yesterdays attack on the Togo national team in Togo shows. The working man's one last quiet place is no more.

Other sports have been hit recently of course and there's talk of countries withdrawing from the Commonwealth Games later this year in India for fear of terror attacks. I don't know why though, but football always seemed save to me. I guess the recent attack on the Algerian bus in Egypt was a precurser to what was going to follow on the continent, except the Togo incident had nothing to do with misplaced football fervour.

The Togo team seem to have been in the wrong place in the wrong time but in the world we live in today and with football being the global religion that it is, I fear that this won't be the last terror attack to hit the game in the next wee while.

My hearts go out to the Togo players. What should have been the pinnacle of some of their footballing lives has been shattered. They will undoubtedly have the world behind them as they have made the brave decision to carry on in the tournament as a tribute to those who died and as a defiant stand against the terrorists that won't let ordinary people have ordinary lives.

We salute you. Terror must never win.

Friday, January 8, 2010

We'd been quite looking forward to the African Nations Cup starting on Monday.

It was a chance to see some live football actually being played and that mythical glowing orb in the sky at the same time.

The football world was shaken today though with the news that the Togo team bus had been subjected to a terror attack as they entered into Angola.

African football has been plagued by bad incidents, bad press and disasters over the years but this has taken things to another level altogether.

It's time's like this that make us realise it's just a game and that we're dealing with human beings and their real lives here.

With news being sketchy so far, but some fatalities being confirmed, it will be hard to see how Togo and their players will be in a fit state of mind to take part in the tournament.

Their withdrawal and ongoing security concerns might put the whole tournament in jeopardy and you couldn't blame other countries and players for heading home.

It's such a volatile continent that obvious questions surrounding possible security fears at the World Cup in South Africa in June will be raised by many. Having watched a Louis Theroux documentary on crime in Johannesburg not that long back, you certainly wouldn't have got me to head over to watch Scotland in the finals (I know, fat chance we'd be there!).

At the moment we can only be assured that nothing similar will happen there. In the meantime, our thoughts are with the Togo team and their families.

Even football it seems can't escape the world of terror we live in today.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

With no football to occupy us for weeks, you'd think it would be all quiet on the Bayview front at the moment, but apparently not so.

Depending on what newspaper you read and what quote East Fife Chairman Sid Collumbine has apparently given that paper, East Fife's future is either exactly the same as it was or we could go bust.

It's been a truly baffling two days that, quite frankly, raises questions about how suitable Sid Collumbine and the rest of the current East Fife board are for running the football club.

Yesterday the Daily Record (later picked up by STV) ran a story that the SFA were witholding East Fife's winter payment due to a continuing dispute regarding the court cases that East Fife/Kevin Fotheringham lost in their racist comment/player banning incident of last season.

The court of session awarded the SFA 15,000 pounds in costs for the failed action brought about by East Fife/Kevin Fotheringham. We're having to list both parties like this as it is still unclear whether it was the Club or the player thay brought forward the action. Both say the other.

The SFA say East Fife and they want their money. East Fife say not and won't pay up. The result is that the SFA are refusing to hand over the winter payment until this is settled. Confused yet?

I have to say that I personally think that the SFA are morally right in their stance. If you were owed money by a party and you also owed them money back, would you not cancel out the transactions this way? We don't know exactly what the winter payment amount is but if rumours and rough calculations are to be believed, it may be exactly what the SFA are owed.

It's insane.

Add to all this confusion, the Record quoted Collumbine as saying that the Club could go bust without this winter payment due to not having gate receipts for the past four weeks due to the weather (ignoring we only actually had one scheduled home match in that period).

Today's Courier though quoted Collumbine as saying that the Club would certainly not be anywhere near going to the wall over this issue.

So all this begs the question what the hell is going on? Did Collumbine give both quotes? If so, does he actually have any idea what he's saying to the media and why was he allowed to worry the fans like this? Maybe it was just quiet media day.

Either way, it's not the first time of late the Club's board can be question as to their suitabliity for purpose.

The sooner the Trust can buy out the Club then hopefully we can have a Board that actually instills some confidence in the fans because it's clear just now that current one doesn't do that.

As to the money issues, well we're no further forward and looking at who runs East Fife and the SFA, I wouldn't expect that situation to change any time soon.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The managerial merry-go-round certainly shows no sign of easing up. We tipped Gary Megson to get the boot from Bolton last week, just the day before he did.

As soon as Megson went and Burnley's Owen Coyle was linked to the job, I couldn't believe it though.

Yes, there was the history of him with Wanderers, but he had done so much at Burnley that why would he want to walk away from Turf Moor now? He was a god there. He could have got anything he wanted in the town. Well, anything that is except for a decent transfer budget it seems.

All the speculation has pointed to Coyle being unhappy with the restrictions on him for strengthening the Burnley squad. That, in addition to what will no doubt be a whopping pay increase, has taken him to the Reebok and I have to admit he's taken only some of my admiration and respect for him along with him.

I've rated him so highly for years now. I see him as a natural candidate for Scotland national team boss down the line. Hell, I even remember shouting abuse at him at old Bayview when he played against the Fife all those years ago. He always took it well.

He said not that long ago that he had a job to do at Burnley that he wanted to see through. That's why the Celtic and Scotland jobs weren't for him at that time.

I hate to think that money has made him give up on what he has built at Burnley. He'd made that club an inspiration to fans of all small, unfashionable teams the land over.

Coyle's legacy will live on forever at Turf Moor. I just hope he doesn't tarnish his personal reputation with failure and the stench of money talking. I don't want to see him fail but if it boiled down to him going down or Burnely, then I have my claret and blue scarf waving all the way.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

With the weather taking it's crippling toll on fixtures across the UK, it was good to see some sense being shown tonight in the postponement of matches not because the pitch was unplayable, but by putting the fans safety first, before TV deals.

Some of the recent games I've watched have been played in horrendous conditions and to half empty stadiums as a result.

Who cares if the pitch is fine, what about the poors sods in the stands losing feeling in their toes and cheeks (all varieties)? It's been shocking to see.

Then you have the announcement towards the end of Saturday's FA Cup tie between Sunderland and Barrow that the Barrow fans would have to go some long winded way home due to snow closing the roads they would have gone on (cue much cheering from the classless Mackems). Surely that could have been predicted and the match called off to prevent the fans from risking their lives just to get home from a game of football?

Maybe common sense has finally hit home. As much as I love football and have watched it in all kinds of conditions and temperatures, there's no way I'd be venturing out on those roads.

With the matches that have taken place in snowstorms though, the one question that stands out though is what the hell happened to the orange ball?

Football in the snow can be great, but without an orange ball it just loses that excitement and makes you realise that you're idiotically paying money to watch a white ball in a snowdrift.

Bring back orange!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The New Year is already just a few days old but football has got that spring in my step and feeling good about the year to come and the FA Cup has had a big part to play in that.

I can't remember the FA Cup being played right after the New Year. Obviously it will have, but it just seems all so soon but all the better for it.

The festive fixtures are always a great way to unwind during the holidays but to cap it off, especially for those off work and school for the whole time, with FA Cup Third Round action, with giantkiller possibilities galore, makes it all the better as far as I'm concerned.

The World Cup has obviously dictated this earlier scheduling but I hope they keep it going forward as it's set 2010 off to a great start.

There were some great games over the weekend, some disappointments (West Ham blowing their lead against Arsenal) and of course a shock or two.

It's hard for me to think of Leeds beating Man United as being the kind of giantkilling shock to match those of say Hereford and Wrexham of years gone by. Their recent successes at the top level are still to fresh in my mind and I remember growing up hearing about the Scottish invasion in the early 70's at Elland Road. Shockeroonie it was though and well deserved as well.

Maybe the Scottish Cup will, for once, add some excitement and shocks this coming Saturday (weather permitting!). I'm looking forward to seeing how Irvine Meadow and Inverurie Locos get on.

It's going to be a good year. I can sense it!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

We get on the backs of the Old Firm often enough in the blog, and rightly so. There's so much wrong with both teams, and Rangers in particular, but credit where credit is due - today they served up a cracker.

Or rather Celtic served up an amazing attacking performance that couldn't get through Rangers' amazing defensive one.

It was a fast paced, full blooded match up as expected and I've still no idea how Rangers managed to get away from Parkhead with a point.

It certainly showed the doubters what the Old Firm derby can be about if you strip away the bigotry, but keep the rivalry hatred.

The SPL has served up some fantastic games this year and some spectacular goals. With the challenge of Hibs and Dundee United now seemingly fading, let's just hope that the Old Firm can keep up this excitement for the rest of their games this season and we go into a last day decider again.

It was certainly a fine start to the new decade.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

We'll finish our retrospective posts today with a personal look back at the decade that was the noughties.

It's been an amazing ten years looking back. Some lows, but mostly highs and plenty of fine memories.

It seems to have flown by. Was it really ten years ago we were all talking about Y2K and the end of computers as we knew them? Of course, the last ten years has completely changed computers and technology beyond almost all recognition.

When the year 2000 started, little did I think I'd be married and living on the other side of the world by the end of the decade. I left a lot of really good friends behind at Bayview but they're not forgotten and I've met some fantastic guys in the Southside in Vancouver that have made my move and new team and surroundings fantastic and fun. I feel very lucky.

AFTN finally made the transition from printed media to web content in 2003 and we haven't looked back since. We've had over 6 years online now and our website and forum has now grown into a blog, twitter and a You Tube channel. We written for the award winning East Fife programme and had stuff featured in magazines and newspapers across the world. Who knows where the next ten years might take us.

I've been at some unforgettable matches and witnessed some unforgettable moments.

East Fife winning promotion with a last minute goal at home to Queens Park on May 10th 2003, Third Division East Fife putting out Premier St Mirren in the League Cup, East Fife lifting their first Championship trophy in 60 years and being there to see it, Vancouver Whitecaps winning the 2008 USL Championship on home turf in my first season watching them, the 2009 USL playoff series between Vancouver and Portland. They're my highlights.

Favourite goal would have to be Kenny Deuchar's promotion clincher in the 2003 match mentioned above, closely followed by Craig O'Reilly's wonder strike that saw us put out St Mirren in the match also mentioned above. The fact I caught that goal on video is still my personal highlight of everything I've done with AFTN!

The villain of the decade has to be Derrick Brown who made myself and the other militant Fife fans miss watching our beloved team for the greater good. We toppled his Chairmanship and possibly saved the Club in the process. We certainly wouldn't have had that Championship under his reign.

Other villains would be the surrender monkeys of Montreal in what we've well documented happened against TFC in June 2009 and the scum behind Milton Keynes Dons who put Wimbleson out of business only to create the success story of the decade AFC Wimbledon in the process. Long live the Wombles.

My own biggest regret of the decade is not being able to go to Firs Park on March 15th 2008 to witness the day that East Fife won their first Championship since 1948. But I was part of that journey and I was there at the end for the trophy presentation and that's all that matters.

It's been a good decade for me and for AFTN. To the friends we've made, thank you for being part of my life. To the future, whatever it may hold in store, let's just hope that the next ten years will see AFTN, East Fife, Vancouver Whitecaps and the Scottish National team go from strength to strength.

It's teen time!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010 to all our readers the world over.

We did our own personal round up of 2009 yesterday, depressing stuff that it was, so we thought we'd lighten the mood a little by looking at the highs and some lows of the last year awards style.

THE AFTN MATCH OF 2009:

Just talking about matches attended here and all the contenders are Vancouver Whitecaps related. The Puerto Rico match in the thunderstorm from hell in July holds memorable sway for non footballing reasons, but we can't look past the amazing game that was the USL Semi Final second leg in Portland between the Timbers and the Caps. A pulsating 3-3 tie that saw the Caps advance to the final 4-3 on aggregate. It was perhaps the most exciting game I've ever attended.


THE AFTN AWAY TRIP OF 2009:

Not a lot to pick from but the trip we made down to Portland in August will long live with us. Presenting the Cascadia Cup on the pitch to the Timbers fans after the game was just unbelievable and the hospitality and welcome we got down there was how football should be and a credit to the Timbers Army.


AFTN'S FAVOURITE NEW GROUND:

Only two new grounds clocked up this year, but the hands down winner is AFC Wimbledon's Cherry Red Records Stadium. Just walking in to the place in November filled us with joy. It's a proper football ground, none of that legoland nonsense. It's how football was meant to be and should be. I can't wait for a return visit this year.


THE PLAYER WHO HAS IMPRESSED AFTN THE MOST:

This might be a surprise to some but we've been mightily impressed with Aston Villa's Richard Dunne. He's been phenomenal since his move from Man City just before the transfer window. Moneybags City might be rueing letting him go now with their defensive frailities. His passion and commitment to the claret and blue cause has been a joy to watch so far this season.


VILLAINS OF 2009:

The surrender monkeys of the Montreal Impact for their capitulation that let TFC steal the Canadian Championship, and the Concacaf Champions League place that went with it. Je Me Souviens. May you never make the MLS and rot in hell in backruptcy. Still at least we have a real hatred now going forward.


DICKHEAD OF 2009:

Like most years I really can't see past David Beckham.


STORY THAT'S GIVEN US THE MOST JOY:

Burnley taking the Premiership by the scruff of the neck. Long may it continue.



Tomorrow, our awards of the decade past!
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