Sunday, February 28, 2010

One of the big talking points of this weekend has of course been the tackle by Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross on Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey, which left the young Gunner with a broken leg.

Having watched the incident a few times now, I would still argue that the tackle didn't necessarily merit a red card, never mind the vilification that Shawcross has received from the likes of Arsene Wenger after the event.

There is not doubt at all in my mind that Shawcross had no intent with the tackle. It was mistimed. Nothing more, nothing less.

If you look at stills of Ramsey just before the contact, his leg and ankle are already badly bent as he went for the ball. Any contact from a certain angle at that point would have been likely to have resulted in the same ending.

Yes, it's a shame for the young player. yes, it's a shame that Arsenal have to suffer that again. But it's nothing for Wenger to get on his high horse about.

Hopefully Shawcross won't be branded the villain of the piece and attract constant boos wherever he now plays.

It's unmerited and he was clearly upset by the incident. Sadly, I think both innocent parties will come off badly in this.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The big story in England today, if you go by the media, wasn't the battle of the big spenders of Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, but whether another Bridge, Wayne, would shake hands with John Terry before, during or after the game.

The attention Wayne Bridge has had thrust upon him in recent weeks is scandalous and he has handled himself superbly in it all.

For a player trying to restart his career after injury, all the shit that scumbag Terry has foisted upon him with his cheating off-field actions is disgraceful.

Good on Bridge for not shaking hands with Terry today. It would have been nice if none of the City players had to be honest. With bookies offering 11/10 on for there to be no handshake, you do have to start questioning just why this story has been allowed to run to this point.

Hopefully the matter will now have a line drawn under it and Bridge can get on with his career.

And to the Chelsea fans who booed Bridge today, the innocent party in all of this, shame on you. You're no better than your tosser of a captain. You deserve each other.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Every day, things seem to look that little bit worse for Portsmouth FC.

Their joy at beating fierce local rivals Southampton on Saturday, in what was a scintillating cup tie in a red hot atmosphere, seems to have been short lived.

Given a one week stay of execution from a winding up order last week (the date now being set as March 1st), and already on their fourth (soon to be fifth?) set of owners for the season, their debts are huge, players have been paid late four times so far this season and they sit well adrift at the foot of the Premiership table.

The latest twist in their saga came today, when the Club asked the FA to allow them to sell some players outside of the transfer window to raise some cash.

With FIFA setting the transfer window rules it would appear that the FA will have no way to grant their request, plus it would set a dangerous precedent for others. It's just another example of how serious their plight is though.

How a Club can fall from grace (FA Cup winners not even two years ago) to such a perilous state is not only alarming, but a serious wake up call to many, especially those fans who just want their clubs to buy their way to success.

Is a small run of success really worth not having your team to cheer on till your dying day?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We ended up catching tonight's Champions League match up between Bayern Munich and Fiorentina. It seemed to interest us a lot more than watching Arsenal yet again.

If you haven't seen the game, then try and catch some extended highlights, if only to see a horrendous refereeing display that completely ruined the match.

A string of questionable decisions marred what was an entertaining game and certainly shaped the outcome of the first leg.

Dubious offsides given and not given, tackles and challenges which should have seen red and didn't and saw red but shouldn't. That was the story of the match.

If we're seeing the elite of European Club football on a worldwide stage, then it would be nice if we could get top quality officials to match.

Sure everybody can have an off day or make the odd wrong decision, but this game truly beggared belief.

And I thought I'd seen some shocking refereeing at East Fife games in my time. You live and learn!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Long time readers of this blog will know that we're not exactly huge fans of the European Champions League. Maybe it's the small team mentality we have but whatever it is, it usually fails to excite us big time.

For once though, we're looking forward to what should be some cracking games in the first knockout round.

Tonight's AC Milan - Man United game looked to be the stand out tie of the round and although good in stages, it wasn't the absolute cracker we expected. By finishing 3-2 though, the second leg is sure to be explosive.

Just a shame that UEFA have decided to split the fixtures up over two weeks, which I'm assuming is to try and allow maximum television coverage and exposure.

Like so many other things with the whole competition, it just devalues what used to be a cracking European Champions Cup.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Part of the magic of the FA Cup is watching the minnows in the early rounds and then cheering on whatever small clubs are left in the later ones.

There's been some great Cup runs from the smaller and less fashionable Clubs for quite a few seasons now.

This weekend's fifth round matches maybe weren't the most exciting ones of late, but the Crystal Palace-Aston Villa tie this afternoon was an absolute cracker and summed up what the competition is all about.

With the season Palace have had, you can't grudge them a good Cup run and the chance to make some much needed cash.

It all looked so good for them. Two goals up and in the ascendancy, they ended up drawing 2-2 after Villa's Stiliyan Petrov netted the equaliser for the Premiership side with just three minutes remaining.

Palace must feel that they just can't get a break just now. Docked ten points for going into administration and plunged from fighting for a spot in the promotion playoffs to trying to stave off relegation in one fell swoop.

Let's hope they can go through in the replay. Their fans certainly deserve it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

With Alloa Athletic surprisingly taking over the reigns as Scottish Second Division league leaders, as those around them seemingly fall apart, not a lot was expected from East Fife in today's match at Recreation Park.

And not a lot came out of it.

Going down to a goal in each half from ex Fife player Stuart Noble, the result has left East Fife in 8th place and a distant nine points off the promotion playoffs, that realistically we want to avoid anyway.

More concerning is that we just cant seem to string a decent set of results together to pull us away from the relegation play off spot either.

Now sitting just five points clear of Arbroath, who recorded a 2-0 win against bottom side Clyde today, next Saturday's match against the Smokies is now huge.

A win and we can at least stop looking over our shoulders for a few games at least. A defeat and we could be in the serious shit.

It's matches like this that show the appetite of a squad. Let's just hope they go into the game with empty stomachs.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The 21st Winter Olympics start in Vancouver tomorrow. Not much football related to report from that I know.

With the winter we've had in Scotland this year and with the huge amount of games disrupted by the weather, it's quite ironic that Vancouver is having record winter temperatures.

The city has recorded it's highest temperatures in over a century and there is a severe lack of snow in one of the main mountain venues at Cypress Mountain.

They've had to ship in snow from elsewhere! I'm sure we could have lent a hand in Scotland with that.

With more snow and fixutre disruption forecast in Scotland, if situations like this continue then we might see a turnaround in the sporting calender. Hell, we might even be able to host our own Winter Olympics one year whilst finally getting to enjoy summer football.

Of course, for that to happen, we'd also need to have a summer!

Just a final comment on the Olympics. Try and catch the opening ceremony tomorrow if you can. I was lucky enough to be able to attend one of the dress rehearsals for it this weekend and it is truly spectacular.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Being a fan of a lower league side, you often feel like you're in your own little world when you watch the big teams battle it out on TV.

It all seems so different and in particular a different fan mentality to what we're used to and one I sometimes just don't get.

Watching the Arsenal-Liverpool game tonight, it's hard not to reflect on what we keep being told is a disappointing season for both sides. A season that goes from "crisis" to "crisis" for each Club.

What a load of bollocks!

If being in the top four in one of the top leagues in the world and battling not just for third spot but also Champions League football next season is a crisis, then give me one of those crisis clubs any day of the week.

Listening to Gunners and Reds fans on radio phone-ins, bemoaning their team's terrible plight, it's laughable.

Get out there and see some real Clubs in crisis. Go talk to the fans of teams like Portsmouth, Crystal Palace and Darlington. See if you get any sympathy from them for maybe not finishing third this year and having to settle for fourth and not making as many millions as the season before.

It must be hard to have to expect success every season and be disappointed at every little bit of failure. How can you enjoy your football?

Give me the lower leagues any time.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

After mentioning all the wrangling about the USL and NASL in yesterday's Vancouver Whitecaps fixtures article, a couple of you were intrigued by what I meant and also the resurfacing of a blast from the past in the NASL name. Well let's take this opportunity to try and explain a little for everyone outside of North America who reads this blog - and that's most of you!!!

We all complain about the league our team is in. A lot of fans think there is a lot of fault with the Scottish Football League and improvements need to be made from the top to the bottom of the set up. I’m sure even SPL and Premiership fans have reason to criticise those leagues.

We complain about a lot. The fixtures, the repetitiveness of teams we play, the lack of competition, the gulf between rich and poor, the stifling of young talent. I could go on and I’m sure you could to.

What can you do it about though? You can’t exactly say “stuff that, let’s just set up our own league and run things for ourselves”. Well….it turns out you can and that’s exactly what eight USL clubs in North America have done (under their Team Owners Association guise).

For those unfamiliar with the North American football set-up (have you not read this blog over the last year?!), the MLS is the main league (Major League Soccer, Beckham and all that razzamatazz). There is a second tier though, the USL (United Soccer League), who have no connection with the MLS and run/ran their own two league system along with an excellent under 23 league and a woman’s league.

Teams from both the MLS and USL can compete against each other in the US Open Cup and the Canadian Voyageurs Cup. The winners of both can represent their country in the Concacaf Champions League. Confused? Well you haven’t even read the half of it!

The USL was recently sold and the new owners didn’t please a number of the team owners, who had also tried to buy the league themselves. To many, myself included, the USL had been the better of the two leagues and run more akin to the kind of proper league we’re used to in Scotland and Europe.

The MLS has too many stupid Americanisms like salary caps, no single league table but divisions, lack of opportunities for clubs to develop their own young players and the fact that the League own the players contracts.

The USL wasn’t faultless, far from it. The fixtures were a joke with clubs sometimes playing three matches in four days and going weeks without a home game. The refereeing was questionable at times, there was no relegation and promotion between USL1 and USL2 and nearly every club seemed to make the end of season playoffs.

It seemed like the TOA had had enough and decided that the new league ownership was the chance to start afresh, quitting the USL and setting up their own league, setting their own rules and structure based on what the clubs themselves wanted and not league bigwigs. It was very much a fan pleasing move.

In a masterstroke of publicity, the TOA christened their new league the North American Soccer League, bringing back all the memories and glamour from North America’s first attempt at a proper league with the NASL in the 1970’s. A time which saw the likes of Pele, Beckenbauer and our own Willie Johnston gracing pitches all across the continent.

The new NASL soon had 9 members, including Vancouver Whitecaps who want to keep a development team playing competitively when they join the MLS next year. There was even talk that the MLS would recognise the new league as their second division but this seems to have just been idle speculation. The USL looked like a spent force but then came the legal action.

The disharmony between the two factions had been brewing for months. After the new USL owners took over, the TOA stated they wanted more say on how the league was run. This was refused. The TOA teams announced their decision to quit and the USL responded by terminating the contracts of the players in teams that wanted to leave and that weren’t in the still continuing season’s playoffs. They had to reverse this action when told they weren’t allowed to do that!

After the season finished, an ever increasingly hostile war of words continued, with the USL saying that some clubs joining the NASL were still under contract with them.

For the new NASL to become a working reality though, they had to be sanctioned by a FIFA recognised governing body and at the end of last year the United States Soccer Federation announced that they wouldn’t do that with the NASL. Furthermore, they also refused to sanction the USL saying that neither league had what they considered to be a minimum of 8 "viable" teams and cities and ordered both parties to get together and sort something out or there would be no sanctioned league for any of the teams to play in for the 2010 season.

The result has been a compromise clearly worked out through gritted teeth. For this coming season only there will be two 6 team divisions - a NASL one and an USL one, with some NASL teams being lent to the USL side for this season only. There will be interleague play and playoffs featuring the top teams from each division. The USSF will oversee everything and at first all other details were very sketchy. So much so in fact that the Whitecaps press release stated that "League details including rules, match schedule, television rights, and other important operational issues will be announced in the near future". You know the vital stuff!

What it all means is that at least the teams have some meaningful games to play in next season and the fans have some football to watch. It’s all been a bit of a mess though and I was sure that the two factions wouldn't be able to agree on the operational issues either, but they did and the fixtures list was published yesterday.

So next time you’re complaining about the SFL, remember you can do something about it and branch out on your own. It’s just a very messy process but one which will only benefit football, your team and your footballing season as the end result.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The fixtures for the 2010 season finally came out for the Vancouver Whitecaps today. In their last season in the "lower level" of the USL/NASL, it's the usual ragtag batch of fixtures, with some highpoints, some low points and some scratching your head at points ahead.

One of the big complaints from fans about the USL (and one of the reasons many were happy to see the NASL breakaway league formed) was their ridiculous fixture scheduling. Despite this being the Caps final season with a senior team USL connection, it wouldn't be the same if we weren't left unhappy about the fixtures laid out for the season ahead.

The Caps thirty fixture season kicks off at home to new boys NSC Minnesota Stars on April 11th and winds up with what is sure to be an explosive encounter against Portland Timbers on October 2nd.

Vancouver's home games will see them have ten weekend fixtures, split evenly between Saturday and Sunday matches, two games on a Wednesday, two on a Thursday and just one Friday night match.

The latter is particularly disappointing, as the Friday night matches in recent seasons have had some of the best atmospheres and I know were a particular favourite choice for myself.

Kick off times have yet to be confirmed, but hopefully we won't have too many kid friendly and atmosphere sapping afternoon Sunday kick offs.

Looking at Vancouver's fixtures as a whole, a lot of the horrendous aspects of previous USL campaigns have gone. There are no more back to back or two games in three days scenarios that blighted the fixture lists of the past and for that not only the fans, but the players, will be truly happy. There are a few two games in four days situations but that's no different to leagues elsewhere in the world.

Some other disappointing aspects of the fixtures are no home games for a month between June 9th and July 8th, failing to cash in on the football buzz that will hit the city during the World Cup. Five away games fill that void instead.

The Southsiders had been hoping for a weekend trip over the water to Victoria on May 8th to see the Caps PDL side take on the Highlanders. Those plans have unfortunately been scuppered by the senior side taking on Crystal Palace Baltimore (yes, that's their real name!) at home that night instead. With the USL having fingers in both League's pies, you'd think they might take such matters into account in an attempt to grow the game and the rivalry between the two sides (Vancouver will most likely be keeping a PDL side even after they join the MLS).

The Portland Timbers games were the ones I was most looking forward to seeing on the calendar. With it being the only realistic away trips possible in the season, a Thursday night game and the Saturday before the July 4th festivities in the States, with all the traffic and border problems that that entails, was not quite what was hoped for, but I'm looking forward to returning down there to wonderful atmosphere at PGE Park.

The end of season contest between the Caps and Timbers at Swangard, with the Cascadia Cup possibly at stake, is a cracking way to end the regular season and set up the three weeks of play off football thereafter.

Despite all the moans, at least it's exciting that the fixtures are out now and as someone pointed out, at least we have a season to watch now after all the wrangling.

No matter all the good and bad points of it all, the only thing that matters is that kick off is only 62 days away and I for one can't wait for it all to get underway.

C'mon the Caps!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Craig Levein will have known it was never going to be an easy baptism for him as Scotland manager, but the draw for the 2012 European Championships have left the new Scotland boss and the team with what looks like a mountain to climb for qualification.

The draw took place in Warsaw in Poland today and the Scots find themselves in a group alongside reigning champions Spain, the dangerous Czech Republic, a team we always seem to strugle with in Lithuania and minnows Liechtenstein.

It's not exactly a draw to fill you with much optimism, arguably pitting Scotland against the most dangerous teams in both Pots 1 and 2.

With the top team automatically qualifying from each of the nine groups, Spain are clearly odds on favourites to take that spot for the Championships in Poland and Ukraine in two years time.

With six groups of six and three groups of five (including Scotland's Group I), the best second placed team will also advance from the groups, with the remaining eight second placed sides battling it out in the playoffs for qualification.

As usual, the mismatched group numbers will mean that those finishing second in groups of six teams will have their points against the bottom side in the group discounted from their tallies when it comes to those in the frame for who is the best placed runner up.

We don't want to be too doom and gloom before the qualification campaign even begins, as qualification is still very possible. We have no idea what kind of side Levein will send out or how they will play. We may yet be surprised. As much as we dislike the guy, he has done well at many, but not all, of the teams he has managed.

The Czech Republic are also not the force that they used to be. They were a formiddable force a few years back, but their squad have aged. Since their collapse against Turkey in the group stages of the last Euros in 2008, they have struggled. They not only failed to make this year's World Cup in South Africa, but they didn't even make the playoffs for the second placed team, finishing in third place and just one point above Northern Ireland in fourth.

They are very beatable and qualification, or at least a playoff spot, is very achievable.

A lot of course will depend what Scotland will turn up for the campaign. Will it be the brave performances that we saw against the likes of Italy and France in the last qualification campaign for the European Championships, that saw us just miss out, or will it be more of what we saw under George Burley?

I personally think we will see an improvement. We may also find that it's the games against Lithuania and not the Czechs that are going to hold the key to our chances of qualification.

Typical Scotland though. Always having to do it the hard way.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

It seems like no time at all since East Fife kick started their season with a fine 3-0 victory against Dumbarton at the Sons Bayview look-a-likey stadium.

Not only was this a comprehensive win, it was also a mighty fine performance and showed us what the team are capable of doing, but incapable of stringing together for a run of games.

Of course it only seems like no time at all because we've had endless games postponed with the weather. It was eight weeks ago.

Two draws and a victory have followed in that time for the Fife before we ended up facing Dumbarton once again today.

It looked like the season had turned around, the confidence was building and we were slowly closing in on a playoff spot whilst those around us were either faltering or not playing. Just when it looked like all this though, we come crashing back down to earth with a 3-2 defeat by the Sons, primarily as the result of a shocking first half defensive display.

Two goals from player boss Stevie Crawford couldn't drag us out of this one and we couldn't turn the constant second half pressure into any more goals.

Disappointing.

The defeat saw us leapfrogged by three teams and drop back down to third bottom of the Scottish Second Division, albeit still eight points clear of the relegation playoff spot.

Sure it's frustrasting but as long as we don't go down this season I don't mind too much. Just as long as we are setting the base for the future and blooding our youngsters, which we're not doing fully just now.

The Second Division this season is mighty poor. A decent team would have taken it by the scruff of the neck and had promotion assured by March. Cowdenbeath showed how bad it is by storming to the top with an underprepared team built upon a Third Division campaign. Top marks to them. They took their opportunity, although are starting to show signs of falling apart at the moment.

Any team that goes up from our division this season is coming straight back down again and I don't want that for the Fife. I'd rather stay in the Second and give up on derbies with the Rovers and the Pars.

Look at Stirling Albion today in the Scottish Cup. Third place in the Second Division against second placed Ross County from the First Division. Result - a monumental 9-0 thrashing for the Binos by the highland side. Woah!

Dunfermline have already demolished Stenny 7-1 earlier in that competition, albeit the result was wiped out for ineligible players.

It all just goes to show the gulf at the moment between the middle two divisions. It's not only scary, it's very depressing.

East Fife have to take the rest of the season to rebuild with our youth. Not farm them out to Junior sides like we've just done, but to let them get valuable first team experience. We need to lose the dead wood and underperformers.

I don't even want to get into the playoffs. The resultant season that would follow any current promotion doesn't bare thinking about.

If we want to have any decent and optimistic future though, then this season is the season to start the ball rolling. Let's hope we take the opportunity.

Friday, February 5, 2010

As regular readers of this blog will know, we're big fans of Danny Baker here and in particular his current Saturday morning radio show on BBC 5 Live (you can find out more about it and listen HERE).

On last Saturday's show there was a fantastic call from a guy called Glen, the contents of which we'd love you all to recreate at football grounds the length and breadth of not only the country, but all over the world!

A few years back when Morecambe were in the Conference, Glen and his mates decided to do a prank PA announcement on their friend Stevie Downs. Nothing too major. It was his 40th birthday so they got the tannoy guy to read an announcement saying "Happy 50th". Not that we'd do something like that and keep it going on the forum, eh Hoss?!!

Well the idea tickled the guys and having been to Morecambe for an East Fife pre-season game against Trimpell FC, you certainly do need something to keep you entertained if you're from there.

They then hatched a plan to get announcement done for their friend at every away match that season and as the season progressed their friend Stevie was congratulated for such things as completing the Inca Trail, passing his driving test at the 11th attempt, having a short film nominated for an Oscar and returning from a polar expedition. They also got him proposing to a fictional long term girlfriend called Shelley Webber, a name made up from the surnames of two former players.

The PA announcers, none of whom knew what was afoot, all willingly obliged with the announcements and even though Stevie wasn't at all the games, his mates held up a mobile phone so he could here them.

Genius stuff!

At the end of the season, the gang made an apology to all of the PA announcers via the non league newspaper and that was the end of their shenanigans.

It may have been the end of theirs but I'm with Danny's campaign to get this going all over.

Wouldn't be the first time such things have taken place at an East Fife game. I remember being through at East Stirling when an announcement was made for someone, whose identity we'll protect (for now!), congratulating him on his vasectomy the day before. Wouldn't have been too bad if his father in law hadn't been at the game with him and hadn't known anything about it. Ah, the hilarity that ensued for everyone except this mysterious stranger!

So let's see what announcements we can get for Fife fans for the rest of the season (and all the fans of other teams reading this too). If you can capture any on camera then send them in to us and we'll have them on the AFTN website for posterity.

I can just sense certain guys hatching their plans already!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Vancouver Whitecaps fans finally had some confirmed fixtures to look forward to for this coming North American season.

Although the NASL/USL League fixtures are still overdue and eagerly awaited, a press conference this morning announced the fixtures for the 2010 Nutrilite Canadian Championship.

The coveted CONCACAF Champions League spot at stake, along with increased rivalries and the stink that surrounded last season's final game debacle, should set the scene for the 2010 version of the Voyageurs Cup to be the best and most competitive yet.

This year's Championship will take place over six consecutive Wednesday nights from late April to early June, with each of the games getting covered live by Rogers Sportsnet - a first for the tournament and a sure sign that it has really whet the appetite of the general Canadian football loving public.

I know that these are the games that I look forward to most each season. Even when the Whitecaps go MLS next year, the Voyageurs Cup games will still be the ones that hold the most appeal to me personally.

There's nothing like a Cup game to get the juices flowing and midweek, night-time games are all the more special. Looking back on my football watching life so far, many of my happiest memories have occurred in such surroundings and I hope many more yet to come.

The opening match of the tournament sees east coast rivals Toronto FC and Montreal Impact battle it out at TFC's BMO Field on April 28th.

Vancouver Whitecaps enter the fray on May 5th and our first two games of the competition will be on the home soil of Swangard Stadium, scene of last season's heroics which we all hope to see repeated.

The folding Frenchies of Montreal come a calling on the 5th, with TFC making the visit two week's later in what could, by that stage of the competition, be a pivotal match in deciding the final outcome.

The schedule has both good and bad points from a Vancouver fans point of view.

The chance to get our two home games in first, should hopefully see Swangard become a fortress, bringing us six points and a healthy halfway point. If that happens then the rest of the tournament is in our own hands and we play the final two games of the competition on May 26th at Montreal's Stade Saputo and June 2nd at BMO Field, Toronto.

We'll know what we have to do to get the job done and dusted and we won't have to suffer the danger of the Impact adding to their reputation of being Canada's shame by disrespecting their fans, the competition and Canadian football.

One disappointing aspect of the fixtures is that with the tournament now being in it's third year in this format, it was thought that Vancouver would host the final game, with Toronto and Montreal having had that honour in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Clearly not! As we mentioned above, this might actually work more in the Caps favour anyway.

The 2010 Voyaguers Cup will be Vancouver's last chance to take on Toronto FC as underdogs from a lower league set up. It's clearly a position the fans relish and the players rise to the occasion for. In the previous two years, the Caps record against TFC is played four, won two, drew one, lost one, being unbeaten at Swangard Stadium.

More of the same this year? Let's hope so. I'm counting down the days already!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Football fans are strange on many levels, some would say. I mean we're a passionate lot, but very fickle at the same time. We love teams and things, sometimes for no sensical reason, and we hate others for the same reason.

Leeds United are one of those teams that we love to hate here at AFTN (there are many, many others!!!).

Why though? Well, We don't really know. We just do!

Watching tonight's FA Cup replay against Tottenham Hotspur, it should have been a given for a fan of a lower league Club that I'd want to cheer on the underdogs. Division 1 v Premiership. It should have been a no brainer, except I still find it hard to want Leeds to do well.

Whether it's because I still don't think of them as a "smaller" Club or the fact that I love to see them suffer for their self-imposed financial stupidity that got them in the mess that they are in in the first place. It's hard to say.

I just have this dislike of them for some reason.

They have a lot of Scottish fans, a result of their Scottish player invasion that brought them so much of their success in the early 70's. I was just too young to latch on to all of this thankfully - going down the West Ham route myself instead (no one can still tell me why!).

I just remember them trying to buy success and the implosion that deservedly followed.

Have their fans been punished enough though?

You have to admire the Leeds support and take your hats off to them for standing by their side as they dropped through the Leagues and time after time have failed in the playoffs to rise back up them again. They have shown loyalty that many other Clubs that have gone into freefall would have dearly loved to see amongst their own support.

The Leeds fans at Elland Road tonight were tremendous, generating a support and noise that merited double the amount of fans that they had packed in. They really do still have a Premier League fanbase and ground.

It was inspiring I have to admit but sadly, for them, it wasn't enough to see their team go through, with Leeds deservedly falling 3-1 to Spurs in the end, despite a full hearted performance from their players.

This still looks like being Leeds season though, barring a cataclysmic collapse, and they will be that one step closer to a return to the top flight. Simon Grayson has certainly put together an exciting team to watch, with a full blooded attacking philosophy and never say die attitude (clearly shown with their 97th minute penalty equaliser against Spurs in the original cup tie).

It's still hard to want them to do well though!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The African Nations Cup wrapped up at the weekend.

Maybe it was just the initial excitement, or the fact that so many East Fife games had been postponed and it was just good to see football again, but whatever it was, as the tournament went on, the excitement dipped and, for me at least, the tournament ended with more of a whimper than a bang.

Sure the Egypt-Algeria semi final game was explosive, with three Algerian sending offs, but by the time that Egypt wrapped up their record breaking third straight title I'd stopped watching the live matches several games before.

Congrats to Egypt though. They're such passionate football fans in the country.

One of my lasting memories of being in Cairo, isn't going to see the Sphinx or the pyramids, but the fact that my wearing of an East Fife top brought so much interest from the locals and many weird and wonderful offers of a swap for it.

It's a shame that Egypt won't be gracing the World Cup stage in South Africa in the summer.

The big thing to come out of the tournament for me though was how really poor a lot of the defences and especially goalkeepers are for the teams that did make it to the World Cup Finals.

Ghana, Algeria and Nigeria may have all made the semi final stages of the African Nations Cup, but there were some horror shows on display from all three of them, along with Cameroon.

There's so many of us waiting for that first African winner of the tournament and with it being on home turf, many thought this could be the year. On the showings and defensive frailties on display in the African Nations Cup though, that winner isn't going to be coming any time soon.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The European transfer window closed today and there was very little of real excitement, despite the column inches and web space devoted to it by some.

It was a bit of a wash out and a let down to be honest.

Some seemed a bit too obsessed with what Michael Owen might be doing or going and for the BBC, who had a live blog on proceedings, it was hard for them to do much except report on rumours and idle speculation, most of which came to nothing of course - but hey they had hours of time to kill and fill!

Celtic seem to have been at the centre of a lot of it and are losing players to old boss Gordon Strachan at Middlesborough at an alarming rate! Scott McDonald's gone now and I have to say that although I knew he was a big Celtic fan, I never really saw Robbie Keane going there from Spurs.

Maybe my distance away from things has seen that one slip by me, but it surprised me none the less.

From an East Fife point of view, it's been very disappointing that it appears we haven't snapped anyone up in the window.

There is a chance that we have and it just hasn't been reported yet. We can't expect the Club to keep us updated. After all they only have two official websites!

So maybe there will be a surprise tomorrow, as we definitely need a strike partner for Paul McManus and one with a decent scoring record too - no more untried kids please.

With a number of players finding themselves released or without clubs, maybe there is still hope that we can add to our squad. Let's hope so.
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