Saturday, July 31, 2010

We warned about getting too carried away about our pre-season form and last week's win against Brechin. We didn't quite see us coming down with such a thump and quite so quickly.

Today's 4-1 defeat at Raith in the first round of the League Cup hurt in so many ways.

The first half performance was, by all accounts, one of the worst performances many had ever seen from an East Fife team. And that's saying something, we've seen some shit in our time! Our Raith hoodoo of 23 years continues, a lot of the good work in building up the players' confidence pre-season will have been undone and I lost twenty quid in backing them to do the business. Clearly some of us never learn.

Not having been at the game, I don't want to comment too much on it, although if you haven't seen it or just want to see it again, you HAVE to check out Bobby Linn's fantastic free-kick for us. Possibly the only positive to take from things.

What has been alarming to read on the AFTN Forum is the reaction of some of the fans after the game.

Calls for Stevie Crawford to go certainly wasn't what I was expecting to read after just our second game of the season. There's been criticism of Paul Tansey and Craig Johnstone as being unfit to wear the jersey from some fans with a short memory that most were singing their praises last week. Same with Crawford's contribution as a player.

It's been depressing to read. I honestly can't think of being in a position where I'd walk out of a game after thirty minutes but when a real Fife hardcore fan says that, it does make you wonder what was going on. I'm not one for blind loyalty but that's pushing it a bit in my opinion.

Everyone needs to calm down. One game does not a season make. Whether in a good way or a bad way.

Craw had a difficult first season. This time he has assembled his own squad, on a reduced budget, but one which has shown very promising signs in pre-season. This time he can be judged and fall on his sword if need be, but to do it right now is ridiculous.

If by the end of August it's looking like the same disappointing season as last year, then maybe questions can start to be asked.

The League kicks off next week against Airdrie. Now isn't the time to get on the players backs, call for the manager's head or infighting between the fans.

Everyone should know by now that you don't support East Fife for the glory. It's for the love. We need to see some passion and commitment on the pitch to keep the love affair alive of course and I think the squad that Stevie has put together this season is an exciting one and one which will have us talking about the team for all the right reasons.

Hopefully they'll show us this and we'll see it in full flow next Saturday. C'mon the Fife.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Diego Maradona's departure as manager of the Argentine national team was starting to look almost inevitable and so it has sadly come to pass.

As soon as he came out and said that if there was no defensive coach Oscar Ruggeri in his backroom team, then he would be walk, you knew his coat was on a shoogly peg. Despite there being an initial four year contract on the table for the 49 year old, the Argentinian hero's contract has now officially not been renewed.

It's a shame he's gone. His spell in charge may have looked like it was going to end up as a bit of a trainwreck at times. Many of us will remember the horror show that was Argentina's 6-1 qualifying defeat in Bolivia. He pulled them through though and had my money riding on them to take home the spoils in South Africa until the pesky Germans ruined all that.

What Maradona had though, and what is missing with so many top flight managers, especially those in the English Premiership, was passion and enthusiasm. He wore his heart on his sleeve. He celebrated his team's goals with an explosion of joy, akin to him scoring it himself. He actually showed he had a personality.

Sure he was also as crazy as a loon and you didn't know what he would do or say next, but that unpredictability just added to his charm. When he said he was going to streak through Buenos Aires if Argentina won the World Cup, you believed him!

I'm sick of turning my television on every week and seeing and hearing the dour faced Arsene Wenger or the miserable floppy jowls of Carlo Ancelotti. You can never tell if they're bursting with joy or if their dog's just been run over.

As a West Ham fan, I hate the fact that we have Avram Grant in charge now, a man who regularly demonstrates the personality of a pallbearer. Still I guess if he can get us winning I can put up with that.

When did it become the norm that football managers are to be morose, sullen individuals that have the bleakness of a Dickens character? Some of them give the impression that a lobotomy was part of the interview process. They should all be made to watch Brian Clough's numerous studio appearances in the 70's for how it should be done.

Thankfully we have the likes of Ian Holloway and Jose Mourinho, that can add passion and humour into the job. They're few and far between these days it would seem. In fact, I invite readers to comment below as to who we should be actively watching out for around the world this season to cheer us up a little.

The game needs the likes of Diego Maradona in a managerial position. Hopefully we seem him back in such a role soon. Vancouver Whitecaps will be announcing their MLS manager soon. Maybe he can be tempted to annoy a whole new continent!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's a bit of a quiet day again in the world of summer football, so I thought we'd post this video that's been doing the rounds this week.

If you haven't seen it already, it's a fantastic goal celebration from a match in Iceland between Stjarnan and Fylkir. I'm sure the people of Iceland are pleased that folk around the world are talking about them for something that isn't a banking crisis or a volcanic explosion!

Be nice to see Bobby Linn and the boys come up with this or something even better at Starks Park on Saturday in the Cup. This being Scotland and Scottish referees though, he'd probably find himself booked for enjoying himself mind you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

There is a common misconception amongst many in the UK, especially in the media, that there isn't a passion for the game of football in North America. Proper football that is of course and not the throwball variety.

From what I've seen first hand in Canada and the US, this is far from being the case and in a lot of places, some of the passion, enthusiasm, commitment and noise shown by the fans would put many supports in the UK to shame.

Vancouver's Southsiders, Portland's Timbers Army and Chicago's Section 8 are some of the most impressive ones around. If anyone questions the passion for the game on the continent, then they need to speak to some of these guys and that's just what's happening.

Sure, football is still very much a minority sport there, that struggles to get the media attention and respect that it deserves. There are some big names in sporting media in the States in particular that will put the boot in on every given opportunity.

Jim Rome springs to mind instantly. For those unfamiliar with him, he hosts America's "premiere sports radio talk show". He is a man that bizarrely, to me at least, commands respect but I find him almost impossible to listen to. I've never listened to a man that takes such long pauses in the air between sentences. He also hates football with a passion and clearly doesn't get it. He's a knob basically. Your atypical loudmouth American broadcaster.

Elsewhere in the media though, amongst those that do "get it", interest in football and fans is certainly growing and the World Cup this year has peaked interest.

Bars that were usually gridiron, hockey or baseball havens, became fully fledged football pubs. Lots of businesses had their stores bedecked in team flags and were catering towards the football loving public. Restaurants offered special football menus for fans wanting to watch the games.

Add to this thousands of people gathering in special viewing areas to watch games across the continent and it was great to see.

The media were keen to speak to football fans. I found myself doing interviews with two major radio stations to talk about the World Cup, the Whitecaps and just chew the fat about football in general. Other fans were on other radio stations, television and newspapers from east to west.

The interest has been maintained after the World Cup as well.

In Vancouver last week, one of the main newspapers, The Province, had their monthly footballing Goal section devoted entirely to a fans issue. 12 pages devoted to covering Vancouver Whitecaps Southsiders supporters group, of which I'm proud to be a part of.

It showcased the diversity of the group in terms of ages, backgrounds, ethnicity and more. It also let the Vancouver public know that football fans are just like them, just not afraid to show their passion, sing, chant and swear and not the hooligans and trouble makers they expect.

Maybe it's just that football fans are considered something unique, strange or different in North America. Can't see any of the big Scottish papers running something similar.

With Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers joining Major League Soccer next year and taking their fans with them, these football mad cities are going to have a huge snowball in interest in both the Clubs and the fans. The Southside and the TA sections will clearly be the place to be in their respective cities.

This will then have a knock on effect elsewhere in the League, just as when Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders and their fans had when they joined. Seattle in particular has seen the Sounders become a major player in the town, pushing aside the struggling Seahawks NFL and Mariners baseball teams in the process. Football has brought a sporting buzz back to the city.

When you add in players like Thierry Henry now plying his trade in the MLS with New York and interest seemingly at an all time high, this might just be the breakthrough the game needs to finally lift it up that level, respect and popularity that football fans throughout North America have been long waiting for.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Since it's a quiet day news wise, we thought we'd just use the blog today for some shameless self promotion!

We've finally got round to properly launching AFTN on FACEBOOK.

We set the group up towards the end of last year and didn't really mention it to anyone, but thought we should probably do something with it now. Thanks to the few of you that had already found us!

We want to make it the home for all East Fife fans on Facebook, but we also hope that fans of all teams, especially those with an interest in lower league Scottish football, will come and join in the fun.

The aim is to keep you up to date quickly with the latest Fife news, as well as links to newspaper and website articles about the club, general tidbits, funs photos and videos and a lot more.

So come and join us HERE.

Also don't forget about AFTN's YOU TUBE and TWITTER sites as well.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ah, there's nothing like the start of another football season. The League campaign may not get underway for another two weeks but the first round of the Alba Challenge Cup kicked off this afternoon.

And what a game for East Fife to start their 2010/11 campaign! Seven goals, two sendings off, two penalties (one missed, one scored), extra time, a last minute winner, the potential goal of the season already and the crossbar saving Brechin on three occasions. Incredible stuff and not just for a season opener.

There could have been more goals, more penalties and more sending offs, but we'll make do with what we got! There were some cracking goals along the way and I can't wait to see how all this action is going to be condensed into a short highlights package on the East Fife official website. Could be a long un, so dig out the popcorn.

East Fife went into the game with high hopes, buoyed by their pre-season goalscoring form. So did Brechin though and it was the two form teams who met at Bayview this afternoon and they showed why they had that tag.

The Fife faithful were starting to wonder whether they'd got their hopes up a little bit too soon by half time though. Brechin went in to the interval one up after Rory McAllister had shot City into a 27th minute lead in what was a pretty uneventful first half.

The remaining 75 minutes more than made up for that though.

Bobby Linn, who has been in sensational pre-season form, spurned the chance to put the Fife back on level terms when his penalty was saved by Brechin keeper Craig Nelson. Linn couldn't put away the rebound either and the Glebe Park side had a lucky escape.

It wasn't to last long though and City keeper Nelson saw red moments later when he gave away a penalty which this time Robert Sloan duly tucked away past the sub keeper Scott and into the bottom left hand corner.

East Fife pressed for the winner and everyone thought it had come three minutes from normal time when gaffer Stevie Crawford, ran at the Brechin defence and saw his effort go in off the bottom left hand post for 2-1 and seemingly game over.

Neil Janczyk had other ideas though and tied the game up once again straight from kick off with a thumping low long ranger that somehow beat Fife goalie Michael Brown from about 35 yards out.

Scott Durie put the Fife ahead 3 minutes into extra time with what will possibly already be our goal of the season, a long range across goal looper from 25 yards out. The lead lasted eight minutes before ten man Brechin equalised again through Ewan Moyes when he ran on to a through ball and neatly lobbed the ball over Brown in the Fife goal.

East Fife were then reduced by a man themselves three minutes later when sub Lee Bryce was shown a harsh straight red for retaliation, after a pretty innocuous incident off the ball.

The game looked like it could now go either way, with McAllister having proved a real handful to the Fife defence all afternoon. East Fife's penalty record in Cup games isn't the best over the years but that's how it looked like it was going to be settled until the Boaby made his mark.

With a minute of extra time remaining Bobby Linn ran through but was hauled down in what should have been a red card, but only a free kick was given to the left of the box. That didn't matter though as up stepped King Boaby to hit a low free kick through the mass of players and into the net for the winner and send the Fife fans into raptures.

4-3 final score and what a cracker.

East Fife played pretty well on the whole, with Paul Tansey the Fife man of the match, closely followed by Craig Johnstone. Considering we were missing three probable starters that wasn't too shabby. It's also nice to make the second round of the Challenge Cup for once.

The final's going to be when I'm over, so.... Ah, we can but dream.

Although it's great to get a win, we shouldn't get too carried away. At least, not just yet!

If we must look at some down sides, we struggled to kill off Brechin and make the most of the one man advantage. As someone on the AFTN Forum said, our defence was looking a little "frightening" at times. We're shipping goals in every game, no matter the quality of the opposition. We could be in for a bit of a Kevin Keegan season and as long as we score one more than we concede then who cares?!

FINAL SCORE: East Fife 4 - 3 Brechin City (AET)

EAST FIFE: M. Brown, Durie, Deland, Muir, Ovenstone, Murdoch, Linn, Johnstone (Bryce 90), Crawford, Sloan, Tansey (Cargill 84) Subs Not Used: Smart, R. Brown & Baillie

ATT: 417

Friday, July 23, 2010

Another video clip for this week's Friday Fun section.

It's an oldie from the Bundesliga match between Hertha Berlin and Hamburg on September 20th 2009 last year.

I was just reading about this in an old When Saturday Comes the other week. No idea how I never heard about it at the time, but as with Robert Green's howler in the World Cup, it's always a good idea to dig out goalkeeping blunders. They always put a smile on your face.

This isn't so much a blunder, as just mind blowing stupidity.

Hertha goalkeeper Sascha Burchert had come on for the injured starting keeper Timo Ochs. In the 38th minute he makes an error of judgement when trying to head clear from the edge of his box. Hey it happens. You just make sure you don't do it again. But then, just over a minute later...

It starts at 1 minute 23 seconds into the video. Enjoy!:



Hamburg's David Jarolim and Ze Roberto were the players to take advantage of Burcherts' error. I wonder if he still has that particular move in his locker.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On June 16th, when I wrote of my plans to undetake a mini football marathon, I didn't think I'd have to wait over a whole month for the final set of fixtures to come out to allow me to get all my planning done.

Thankfully though, the Ryman/Isthmian League Division One fixtures came out yesterday and I could pretty much complete the final pieces of my jigsaw!

As I mentioned before, it's something I'd thought of doing for a while, but for reasons known only to my own idiocy, I've decided to wait until I've left the UK to do some football travelling and take in some great clubs and grounds, especially non league and lower league ones.

My plans for seeing Blackpool at home in the Premiership or a nice trip to Accrington Stanley have been scuppered by the pesky fixtures computer. As were trips to Newport County and Salisbury City. Still, I have some cracking visits lined up.

For anyone interested, and I know, why would you be (!), here's my plans for November.

I'm going to fly back into Scotland on November 19th, just in time to take in East Fife's first foray into this season's Scottish Cup. Where that Third Round tie will take me, who knows. Let's just hope it's not a home game or a trip to Brechin, Arbroath or Forfar. Or Montrose again like last year's horrowshow. I so want a nice jaunt to the Highlands or to one of the Junior teams that have made it through.

So hopefully after my nice Highland break, I'm going to fly down to London and make a return trip to Kingsmeadow. Not to see my AFC Wimbledon this time, but the other occupants of the stadium, Kingstonian FC, as they take on Hendon in the Ryman League Premier Division.

The next two days should see London full of Champions League fervour, so obviously I'm planning on avoiding that like the plague and my attentions will still be focussed on the Ryman League.

I'm really looking forward to Tuesday 23rd November and my first trip to Hayes Lane to see the second oldest football club in the world - Cray Wanderers FC.

The Wands are celebrating their 150th anniversary this season (more on that tomorrow) and are rewarded with the team playing at their highest level in the team's long and proud history. I'll be taking in their game against Tonbridge Angels in a Ryman Premier Division match up and it's probably the game I'm most looking forward to on my travels (depending on who the Fife get in the Cup of course).

The following evening, I'm moving down into the Ryman League First Division North to see another Club with a long history, Grays Athletic.

The club were formed in 1890 but have been in turmoil the last few months. They resigned from the Blue Square Premier earlier this year and were due to play in the Ryman League Premier Division. This was not approved and it looked like they were going to end up in the Essex senior league before a groundsharing deal with East Thurrock United has allowed them to take their place in the First Division for this season, a three division relegation it will work out.

The reason that the groundsharing deal was needed was due to the owner of their current stadium, the New Recreation Ground, not renewing their lease. Terrbily sad, as this has been the Club's home since 1906. I'm disappointed to not be seeing them there and a rarity these days of a classic old ground, but obviously nowhere near as much as the Grays fans who have lost their spiritual home in such a horrible way.

It will be good to see them play anywhere really with all that's happened. They're currently managed by ex West Ham legend Julian Dicks, but with the demotions, I'm not too sure he'll still be manager by the time I go and see them.

It's back up to Scotland to see the Fife take on Ayr United at Somerset Park three days later, then I'm hoping to try and get to a FA Cup game on the Sunday somewhere in the north of England, before heading back down to London on the last day of November to see an absolute cracker - AFC Wimbledon v Luton Town in the Conference.

A nice end to my trip and it's one that can't come soon enough.

Six, possibly seven, games in eleven days. Excellent. Roll on November!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

East Fife wrapped up their 2010 pre-season last night with a 2-2 draw against Dundee United at Bayview, finishing their pre-season unbeaten in the process.

It's been one of the best pre-seasons I can remember. Not just for the results and the goals tally, but the all round performances to a man and has fair put a spring in my step for the season ahead - something I wasn't expecting a few weeks ago!

With the Fife's 2010/11 season getting underway against Brechin City on Saturday in the Challenge Cup, we're really looking forward to seeing what the season has in store.

The last two pre-season games saw draws with young uns from two SPL sides, Hearts being the others on Saturday, but last night we also held our own with a second string side out there.

Watching from afar, it seems we have the midfield and attack ticking over nicely, but there are still some concerns that we aren't strong enough at the back. Recruiting Stuart Murdoch on loan again from Belle and Sebastian, sorry, Falkirk, should help to plug any holes there though.

The strength of the depth of our squad can also maybe be questioned, but hopefully we won't have too many injuries too early to test this out.

Now I could have come up with who my ideal starting eleven would be from what I've read, but better to go with someone who's been at the pre-season games, so we asked AFTN co-editor KotS to do the honours.

His own personal choice of a starting eleven would be:

Brown
Muir / Smart / Ovenstone / Deland
Crawford / Young / S. Murdoch / Tansey
Linn
Hislop

But what he feels Stevie Crawford may go with is:

Brown
Durie / Smart / S. Murdoch / Deland
Young / Muir / Sloan / Ovenstone
Linn
Hislop


What's your views? Share them here or on the AFTN Forum.

Can the guys turn their pre-season form into a strong start to the League and the Cup campaigns? That's now the big question.

Brechin will be a tough proposition and have been banging the goals in themselves in pre-season.

Roll on Saturday. Then we can all find out!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On May 5th, following a violence filled weekend in English football, we blogged about the Boreham Wood-Kingstonian Ryman League Premier Division Play-off Final.

The match saw a Boreham Wood thug come on the pitch and punch Kingstonian captain Francis Duku in the face, when the game was scoreless. With the visitors shaken, Boreham Wood soon took the lead and then added a second when Kingstonian were forced to push forward to look for an equaliser.

Boreham Wood's fans have a history of thuggery and Kingstonian immediately launched an appeal, seeking either a replay or Boreham Wood to be denyed promotion. It was always unlikely to succeed unfortunately, as the FA don't show a lot of bottle in this regards at the best of times.

Kingstonian finally received a reply to their appeal today. An unacceptable two and a half months after the incident took place. Here's what they received from the FA:

Further to your letter dates 3rd May to Tarik Shamel, I write to advise you that the Football Association has conducted a full investigation into the incidents reported in your letter and the match referee's report.

The FA has taken into account Boreham Wood FC's preparations and planning for the above match, noting that the club deployed 14 stewards and that police officers were also present in the ground.

We have noted that the offender who assaulted the Kingstonian player was arrested by police and has been banned by Boreham Wood FC for life. Further, that after the incident, police and stewards were sent to the area where the assault occurred to show a presence and no further incident occurred.

In the light of the experience at this match, The FA has given some operational advice for Boreham Wood FC to consider when stating a promotion play-off final or similar high-profile match.

As part of our investigation, The FA has also viewed the club's CCTV video footage of the alleged incident with the Kingstonian coach driver and does not see any case to answer on that incident.

After a full review of the facts in this case, The FA has decided not to take any further action in this matter. Boreham Wood FC have been advised that we may have to consider disciplinary action against the club if further reports of spectator misconduct should be received.

Yours sincerely,
Chris Whalley
Senior Manager, Stadia Safety and Security



The FA has clearly shat out of taking a stand here against a club with a fanbase with a history of trouble.

They're probably thinking that with it being small, non league sides that no-one will really give a toss but that's why we want to play our part in highlighting their pitiful attitude and response. By waiting so long to respond to the appeal, nothing else could happen with regards to replaying the match but I would have expected some punishment, whether financial, in points or status, for Boreham Wood.

What message does this give out? That it's ok for a fan to come on the pitch and potentially influence the outcome of a game? If this happened in the Premiership I'm sure we'd have seen a different response and wouldn't have waited over two months for it.

It's totally unacceptable that Boreham Wood get away from this situation without any punishment at all. It will be interesting to see Kingstonian's official response to the pathetic appeal response. They've acted with class throughout the whole proceedings so far.

The FA have clearly lived up to their initials here. The real justice in all of this is if Kingstonian can get promoted to the Conference South this season and pass Boreham Wood on their way down as they do it.

Hopefully they can. I'm hoping to take in the K's game against Hendon on November 22nd on my planned football travels. Would be nice to see them at the top of the table.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Eight days after the 2010 World Cup Finals bid farewell, the World's attention is now being focussed on the 2018 and 2022 Finals. Or at least Fifa's attentions are.

Fifa's inspectors arrived in Japan today in their first visit of a whirlwind tour to inspect the stadiums, facilities and infrastructures of the nine bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals.

The nine bids are made up from 11 countries across the globe, with two joint bids for hosting in there. The final decisions will be announced in Zurich on December 2nd.

With Brazil being the only official bidders to host the 2014 Finals, after Columbia withdrew their bid and Argentina's one never materialised, they will become the fifth country to host the Finals for a second time, following in the footsteps of Mexico, Italy, France and Germany.

Brazil hosted the 1950 Finals, finishing runners up to Uruguay who won their second title. The 2014 Finals though will be a much bigger affair and it amazes me that the country wants to go to the expense of hosting both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Hopefully they know what they're doing and as long as the football is a success, I'm not too fussed about the latter!

There has been a lot more interest in hosting the 2018 and 2022 Finals. 2010 and 2014 will have seen the southern hemisphere host two consecutive World Cups for the first time and as such, Europe is the continent favoured to host the 2018 Finals, with the 2022 ones seemingly up for grabs.

In fact four of the five bids for 2018 are from Europe, with only the US hoping to take it elsewhere.

The inspecting delegates will spend three days with each bidder, commencing with Japan this week, before moving to South Korea and Australia later this month. August will see visits to the joint bidders of Holland and Belgium, Russia, England and the other joint bidders of Spain and Portugal. September will see the final visits to the US and Qatar.

With Fifa's rotational policy in effect, if Europe is selected to host the 2018 Finals then the US will look to host in 2022, as they are bidding for both. Japan, South Korea, Australia and Qatar are only looking towards 2022 and all the non winning 2018 European bids would automatically be eliminated.

There's some tough decisions to be be made. I would much rather see countries who have not hosted before get a chance. In saying that though, there can be little doubt that both England and the US would put on a terrific tournament, in first class surroundings if given the nod for a second time.

I'm also not a big fan of joint bids. If I was going to the tournament, I would much rather just navigate my way around one country and see as many games as possible, as opposed to having to worry about border control and customs. As a EU country passport holder this doesn't matter too much for me obviously with the open borders, so if there were to be any joint bids, Europe makes a lot more sense than some other places in the world. It would also take away one of the European qualifying spots though, which can hit a country like Scotland hard. We struggle enough with what spots there are already!

Taking all this into account, this should leave Russia as my choice for 2018, but I can't see them being able to put on a more successful tournament than England, so despite my second time reservations, I have to give the English the nod for 2018, but only on the condition that they drop Milton Keynes from their list of host stadia.

2022 is a whole other matter. It would be just plain wrong to give either Japan or South Korea the Finals so soon after their last joint hosting. The US can put forward a strong case. It would be 28 years since they hosted it. I was there and it was fantastic. There are now plenty of soccer specific stadium built around the country, but most of them don't have the necessary capacities for hosting World Cup matches, so their bid is mostly made up of NFL and college gridiron stadiums.

Qatar is an interesting bid. They are clearly the money bid but it's hard to justify how giving the Finals to a rich country of around 1.3 million people can help build the game there and in the arab world. The potential horrendous heat issues should hopefully see this bid ruled out.

For me, 2022 should be all about Australia. They deserve their chance and it would be the last great continent to finally get to host the Finals. A winning bid for the Aussies would be a great boost to their A League and to football through Oceania. The potential costs to the country and the fact that none of their bid stadiums are primarily football venues is a concern, but they still get my nod.

I'd love to see Uruguay host the 2030 Finals but I'm not sure they will get the chance or even want it. It would just be nice to make a nod to the first Finals a hundred years on. And who knows who'll be hosting when Scotland win the thing in 2034!

For the ones that are in the balance just now though, my main hope is that FIFA make the right decisions based on footballing reasons and that money and other seedier aspects don't come in to it. I'm sure we can all trust them in that regards!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Setanta Sports (remember them UK readers!) made a big announcement in Canada today. They're going to be launching a HD channel on August 1st. This is huge for the game in North America.

I know from talking to various friends across the globe, that, for some, the jury is still out for them when it comes to HD TV. They see it as just a money making ploy, but to them I have to say, you're missing out big time! Having had HD for about 15 months now, I can't speak highly enough about it. It really is a must have and once you have it and see it, you'll never want to go back to standard definition games again. Especially when the quality of your SD channels from your provider is piss poor to start with!

In fact, that's the big problem now for me. Having spent the last few weeks watching all the World Cup games in glorious HD, I don't want to watch my games on TV any other way. It just won't cut it for me. I want that crystal clear quality and not the crap pixelated view that the current Setanta Sports for example gives off in Canada. They've definitely made the right move there to cash in on all the World Cup viewers at this time. Having watch a lot of games on it, you got better internet streams than some of their broadcasts.

The thought of now having all my Premiership, Championship, SPL, FA Cup games and way more in glorious HD is very exciting. It's going to work best though for the League One and Two games. That's what you really want to see in HD. All the lower league and even non league stuff. Real football in real surroundings (well some real surroundings still). You can almost smell the deep heat.

I'm sure smellyvision will come at some point in the future. I mean we're starting to have 3D now. That I really don't see the point of. If you want 3D football, get off your arse and go and watch it live and in person.

All I need now is my East Fife highlights in HD and I'll be a very happy chappy.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

With the World Cup fast becoming a distant memory, we're back with our traditional summer footballing fare on our television screens - Masters football.

As I've mentioned before in the blog, I've been slow to fully appreciate the fun of the whole Masters footie that's filled our summer screens the last few years. Initially I saw it as just tv filler, but as more of the bigger names that you grew up watching come on board every year and the players get younger and even more competitive, it's become something I even look forward to and enjoy in the summer months of football free UK action on our screens now.

There could be some cracking names taking part in it in years to come - if they want to. Who knows we could see Giggsy pulling on a Man United Master jersey at some point in the immediate future. That's if the whole tournament lasts that long.

With a slight delay to the schedule so that it didn't get lost in the World Cup football fest, the 2010 tournament is back on track this weekend with the Northern Masters today and the Northwestern one tomorrow.

But wait a minute there. Wtf? The Northern Masters now includes the three big northeast teams (Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesborough), along with Carlisle United of all teams and now Celtic and Rangers.

Yup. For this year at least, the Scottish Masters is no more and we're lumped in with "the north".

The crowd today was one of the worst I've seen for a Masters in recent years. Lots of empty seats and little wonder. No matter how keen you are, it's a lot to expect fans to travel from Glasgow to Newcastle to watch what's on display.

There's been a few empty seats at the two Masters so far this year, but nothing like this. Is this a sign that the Masters has had it's day? Are people now getting bored with it? There's certainly been a lack of great star drawing power this year. Maybe it's just needing a revamp but the future could be looking bleak.

That said, I'm still holding out hope that someone will pick up my idea from last year of a Fife Masters. I still feel we could draw the numbers, get a good summer buzz going in Fife and who knows, maybe even revitalise the Masters format itself.

Fingers crossed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

You know it's a quiet news day when sites are still talking about the World Cup's aquatic star, Paul the Psychic Octopus.

You also know how bad the World Cup was itself that he became such a centre of attention.

Latest news is that the German aquarium that hosts the eight legged witch, the Oberhausen Sea Life centre, has turned down a transfer request for Paul from Madrid Zoo.

Did the powers that be in Madrid not learn anything from last season's dismal performance by Real? You can't just go and buy success. Whether it be two legged or eight!

The Germans have turned the request down though before Paul could put ink to paper.

They've gone mad for the cephalopod in Spain since his semi final prediction saw him bite the hand that fed him mussels and then predicted that everyone would be bored shitless watching Spain win the final.

When a town makes him an honourary citizen and he has a festival named after him though then you really do need to call things to a halt. He's just a fucking octopus, albeit one that would put Asian bookmaking rings to shame.

It would never happen in Scotland.

If he'd tipped us, the only celebration he'd be part of is one with a poke of chips after being deep fried.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Being lazy today and just posting a link to the goals from last night's win for East Fife over Dunfermline.

Some fine goals in there and a great all round performance (and shocking defending by the Pars) that deserves a wider audience.

The highlights are now up on one of East Fife's official sites (don't ask why we have more than one. I have no idea!) and you can view them HERE.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Well it's three days now since the World Cup finished. How soon we forget as the attention turns to the 2010/11 season ahead.

From an international footballing viewpoint though, all the attention is now on the qualifying campaign for Euro 2012 in Poland and the Ukraine, which gets underway in earnest for Scotland on September 3rd with one of those ties we dread, an away trip to Lithuania, kicking things off.

And I'm feeling more optimistic than usual!

With Scotland being drawn in Group I (seriously, how many groups are we going to start having for qualifying in the future) and one of the groups of just five teams, I think we have a real chance of making at least the playoffs this time around and then it's the luck of the not very fair draw.

Now, the Euros haven't been kind to Scotland over the years, with just two qualifcations in 1992 and 1996. It seems so long ago because it was.

We missed out in 2000 when we were drawn against the previous tournament's runners up, the Czech Republic, who still had their team of a generation and went unbeaten in the qualifying. Then missed out on qualification through the playoffs to England of all teams, losing 2-1, scoring the last 'proper' goal at the old Wembley in the process. I was at Hampden for that first leg and the atmosphere was the most electric football crowd I've ever been in.

The 2004 campaign saw us drawn with the 2002 World Cup runners up, Germany. We suffered a disasterous, no, nightmarish, opening draw away in the Faroes before getting our asses in gear, facing the Dutch in the playoffs, raising everyone's hopes with a 1-0 first leg win and then being trounced six zip in Amsterdam. That's the Scotland way!

The 2008 qualifying campaign saw even more misfortune with our group when we were matched up against not only the 2006 World Cup winners Italy, but also in a bizarre twist of fate, the runners up too, France in Group B. Despite those odds, the lads battled so bravely and just missed out by two points. It's much overused, but those guys were true Bravehearts that campaign.

And now our qualifying jinx has struck again as we face Spain, the current Euro and World Cup Champions. What's the odds of that happening again and what the fuck did we do to annoy the draw gods in the first place?

Lithuania, Liechtenstein and the Czechs hold no fear for me though. Being in a group of five and having the 149th ranked FIFA team as whipping boys will help us no end.

Then of course, there's the small obstacle of the Spanish to overcome, but you know what, I think we can hold our own against them from what we've seen the past month and no I haven't gone crazy from spending so many hours of late watching the google box.

Sure they're classy, they're passy but they're certainly not a goalscoring machine to fear. I think the Netherlands did us a big favour on Sunday by showing us how to play against the new World Champions. Forget flair, forget trying to outpass them and keep possession, as we're not going to do that, what we need to do is to upset their rhythm. Throw them off their game with some tough tackling. We need a Billy Bremner type figure to step forward and kick them off the park.

It's not going to be pretty. Hell, maybe it's not even football. But it's the Scottish way and I think we can have a real chance against them if we do that. Let them dictate the game and we'll fall. Don't give them a minute to gather their thoughts and a team has a chance and if any team can play like that, it's Scotland.

So the Dutch may have lost the plot and the game on Sunday but they may have shown us a glimmer of hope in the process. Whether it works or not, we'll have to wait until the first game at Hampden on October 12th to find out.

I'm really looking forward to this qualification campaign. It can't start soon enough for me. Maybe we should all start to make some Polish friends and brush up on the language.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

East Fife's fine pre season goalscoring form continued tonight, with Dunfermline Athletic becoming the latest team to suffer a rout from the on form Fifers.

This evening's 4-1 demolition of their local rivals could have been a lot more, as the black and gold created countless chances. The win doesn't quite make up for last season's 7-1 drubbing by the Pars, but it's certainly made us feel a lot better about the coming season ahead.

What was more comforting than the scoreline was the domination of the game by East Fife against a pretty strong Dunfermline side that included what will surely be many of their first team regulars this season.

In all my years of watching us, I can't recollect a better and more productive pre-season. Three games, 16 goals scored and 8 of them by Bobby Linn. That's the same as Spain scored then entire World Cup!

I dunno why the Boaby was so off his game last season but he's certainly back with a bang. He was Man of the Match tonight, closely followed by another very impressive performance from Scott Durie who had two dangerous players in Joe Cardle and David Graham in his pocket for most of the night.

Feet on the ground though. Obviously it's very early days and a 5-1 win against Edinburgh United and a 7-1 win against Selkirk maybe aren't great comparisons for taking on the strengths of say Livingston, but tonight's win against the Pars showed a team that is working hard and get their just rewards.

The Craw has put together a very impressive unit so far, so hats off to him. This is his first real chance to assemble his own team and the early signs are impressive. We've been criticised for the height of our team in recent seasons and this time we have a much smaller and much younger squad. Maybe that's where we've been going wrong all these years. There's certainly a hunger in amongst the entire team.

Can we take this forward into League business though? Even get a win finally against the Rovers in the Cup? Maybe those title odds of 25/1 are starting to look pretty generous! Worth a wee tenner on us I'd say as stranger things have happened!

Realistically though, my goal is still for us to avoid the bottom two spots and show improvement on last year. Playoffs would be an added bonus and then once you're in there, anything can happen.

We can still dream though!

Monday, July 12, 2010

It doesn't seem like a month ago that it all started, but that's it all over for another four years and everyone's lives can get back to a bit or normality.

I'm sure the cold turkey aspect will kick in at some stage this week, but at least sleeping and work patterns can get back to a bit of normality and my wife and dog will get to see me again.

It's not been a classic World Cup, and when people look back at the 2010 version, there's not going to be a lot of classic highlights that instantly spring to mind. No one team shone above all others, no one player will be looked back upon in the same way as say Mario Kempes, Diego Maradona or Zinedine Zidane have been in the past. There was far too much caution being shown in games and not too many breathtaking games that you wouldn't mind sticking on to watch again in the cold and dark winter months.

A lot of the most memorable moments will be remembered for the wrong reasons: Robert Green's wonderful blunder, Frank Lampard's non goal, the Luis Suarez red card handball on the line. We didn't even get to see either Diego Maradona or Paraguay supermodel Larissa Riquelme running naked through their hometown streets.

Even the final itself was a bit of a letdown, but it always had the potential to be that way if the Dutch didn't get an early goal. It was Spain's passing and possession game against the Netherlands rough house tactics. What happened to Holland's attacking flair from earlier in the tournament I don't know. It can't all have been down to the Spanish putting their gas at a peep. The most skillful team on the day deservedly won and thus ends Spain's nearly men status and for the Dutch the World Cup trophy sees them not so much as Netherlands but Neverneverlands.

England's Howard Webb had a mare in the middle and should have sent off more than the one player he did. The players certainly didn't help him but for a man who always gives that air of wanting to be the real centre of attention in a match, it played right into his hands.

So now that it's all over, who and what stood out for us at AFTN as the "Best of" the 2010 finals:

PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT:

Holland's Wesley Sneijder was their big helping hand in them getting to the final. Outstanding throughout, a final goal would have capped a tremendous tournament. He also bagged me a shitload of points in my Sky Sports Fantasy Team. Uruguay's Diego Forlan was a close second for me.


TOURNAMENT BEST XI:

I'm going for a 4-3-3 formation with...

GK - Iker Cassilas (Spain); D - Sergio Ramos (Spain), Carles Puyol (Spain), Lucio (Brazil), Phillip Lahm (Germany); MF - Wesley Sneijder (Holland), Andres Iniesta (Spain), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany); F - David Villa (Spain), Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Thomas Muller (Germany)


MATCH OF THE TOURNAMENT:

Not a lot of standouts it has to be said, but for the sheer drama of the last 20 minutes or so, I'm going with the 3-2 Group F game between Slovakia and Italy. It had me on the edge of my seat and not a lot else did this time around, apart from the close of the Uruguay-Ghana game.


GOAL OF THE TOURNAMENT:

David Villa's goal to put Spain one nil up against Honduras in the Group H game on June 21st. Archie Gemillesque!


MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT:

Luis Suarez's handball on the line in the final seconds of Uruguay's game against Ghana. As sickening as it was for the Africans to miss the penalty and thus go out, I still hold the feeling that Suarez is a hero to his countrymen and women.


HERO OF THE TOURNAMENT:

Has to go to another Uruguayan, step forward linesman Mauricio Espinosa, who shall always be a hero in Scotland for his actions in England's defeat to Germany. We salute you sir!


REFEREE OF THE TOURNAMENT:

The guy we've been banging on about from the start, Uzebkistan's Ravshan Irmatov, who we still feel should have got the final. Will be interesting to see how his career possibilities open up after his performances in South Africa.


So that's my thoughts. Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts and selections in the comments section.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

As the World Cup draws to a close, I'd like to thank you for reading "View From The WC". It might surprise you to know that only the best stuff makes it in and that there are things which get dropped. Yeah really, there's stuff that's worse than the stuff that's used!

In this brief outtakes edition, we make you appreciate that however bad it's been, it could have been worse.

Four weeks have passed and I never did subject you to the one about the Indomitable Lions being watched back home in Yaounde by people in Cameroon Bars. I resisted speculating whether Japan would drop Honda meaning a recall for Toyota (oh, they've all been recalled already). Did an Octopus called Paul really keep predicting winners and would he be so clever if the games were played over two legs (and six arms)?

And, as the Japanese coach Takeshi Okada pledged to quit after the Finals to become a farmer, the question was whether he would still have to work around calf injuries?

A particularly bad line about FIFA fat-cat Michel Platini's collapse in a restaurant the other night got kicked. It was a convoluted reference to Raoul Moat with Platini hearing that Moat was finished, thinking they'd said the Moet was finished and passing out in panic. Thank goodness you were spared, huh?

The question of which was more full of air - the Jabulani or Jim Beglin - went unasked, and even the alternative take on the poem "Just Passing By" from VftWC #8 was subject to editing, losing a line which reflected on the working ladies and other features of the South African World Cup – 'vuvuzelas and vulva sellers' it went – I know, I know!

So, for any of you who think the whole thing is the biggest waste of time since England practiced penalties before the Germany game, just remember - it could have been a lot worse.

However, one question remains. What about the stuff that got edited from this edition? The stuff that was too bad to even see the light of day in the edition about the stuff that was too bad to see the light of day? Yep, there was some of that as well. And that really was bad! And, if you don’t believe me, ask GoF – or the therapist he’s now paying for.

Enjoy the final.


The Undisputed

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's been too long since we heard the phrase "and Durie scores for East Fife".

The Bayview legend, and AFTN All Time XI Post 70's team striker, Gordon Durie was banging the goals in for the Fife in my first ever season watching the club. When he made the move over the Forth to join Hibs in 1984, I was gutted. That was probably my first realisation that East Fife were a selling club and my footballing innocence was gone forever.

Jukebox went on to play for Chelsea, Spurs, Rangers and Hearts, along with 43 international caps for Scotland, but his 26 goals in 81 East Fife appearances are what we hold most dear here at AFTN.

His time at Bayview still hold a fond place in Gordon's heart and he spoke emotionally about his time at the CLub at the All Time Greats dinner a wee while back.

But now we have Durie Mk II and he's on the scoresheet already!

When Scott Durie joined East Fife last week it brought back all the good memories of his dad in the black and gold and if he's even a half of the player his dad was for us then we'll have a good un.

The Scotland under 19 capped right back was released by Rangers in the summer and he's not had a bad start to his East Fife career, making a goal on his debut in the 5-1 friendly win against Edinburgh United on Wednesday night and following that up today by getting a goal in the 7-1 drubbing of Selkirk.

After a slow start to the squad rebuilding this summer, East Fife are putting together quite an exciting team of young talent, of which Scott Durie will have a big role to play.

Twelve goals in two friendly games, albeit against low opposition, might mean that this season isn't going to be quite as bad as I feared!

Friday, July 9, 2010

For today's Friday Fun segment, here's a clip of a pitch invasion from last night's match between Vancouver Whitecaps and AC St Louis at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby.

At first I thought that Fernando Torres had invaded the pitch but the speed and ability to head towards the goal made me realise otherwise.

It takes a lot to get past the Whitecaps keeper, Jay Nolly. "You'll never beat Jay Nolly" as the Southsiders sang:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

With all the World Cup shenanigans going on at the moment, we didn't have a moment to report the 'sad' demise of Claude Anelka's latest managerial appointment towards the end of last month. So since we've been following his progress for you in the blog, we thought we'd bring you up to date with what's been happening.

One of AFTN's favourite figures of fun, Claude Anelka managed to last longer at AC St Louis than he did at Raith Rovers and also managed to make much less of a cock up of proceedings in the process.

On June 24th, the NASL club announced that "Claude Anelka finalized an agreement to cease his responsibility as head coach" and with that Claude the Fraud left another struggling club in his wake.

Claude left St Louis just ten games into their inaugural NASL season and left them not just sitting well adrift their NASL conference, but the entire USSF Division 2 as a whole, with just 7 points to their name.

As we reported before, Anelka's record at Raith Rovers was shocking, managing just one solitary point in eight games.

His record at St Louis saw him gain his first win as manager (for which we at AFTN were gutted!), in fact he managed two in his ten leagues games in charge. His first came five matches into his reign, a 1-0 win against Baltimore thanks to a first minute goal, and his last came five games later in his last league game in charge, with a shock win away to Puerto Rico Islanders on June 12th.

Anelka's departure ironically came when he actually had the team winning. In fact they were on a three match winning streak, for not only did they win that League match in Puerto Rico, they also recorded a 1-0 win away to PDL side Des Moines Menace in the First Round of the US Open Cup on June 15th and followed that up a week later with a 1-0 win away to fellow USSF-D2 side Minnesota.

That win set up a trip to LA to take on a David Beckhamless Galaxy side. A trip Claude was not to make as he was "relieved of coaching duties" two days after taking his team through.

Very bizarre circumstances to sack an albeit struggling manager just as he seems to be turning his side around. Very little has been written about the full reasons behind Claude's departure, but gone he is, taking away part of AFTN's fun for when St Louis come a calling to our Vancouver Whitecaps this evening.

Initial reports suggested that the St Louis players weren't happy with Anelka's training sessions and game management. His removal, along with the other matters detailed in the report, may well secure a footballing future for AC St Louis after all. Things were looking bleak, so good luck to them.

Claude's deaprture came just five days after his more successful footballing brother Nicolas was sent packing from the French squad at the World Cup. That wasn't a good week for the Anelka household.

Claude Anelka went to St Louis with the feeling that he deserved another chance to run a football club (no the 'i' isn't missing). He got it. He failed again. Will he get another one? Stranger things have happened.

So a fond farewell Claude and just for one final time...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Well there's going to be a new name on the World Cup trophy come Sunday. This is a pleasing fact at least in an otherwise pretty disappointing 2010 Finals.

The Netherlands or Spain will battle it out on Sunday to become the 8th country to be crowned World Champions in the tournament's eighty year history. Paul the psychic Octopus was right!

There couldn't have been two more contrasting semi finals either.

Yesterday, Holland and Uruguay fought out a five goal thriller, with spectacular goals and late drama. The Dutch deserved to go through and have a pretty strong and seemingly rare cohesive unit in full flow just at the right time.

Today was a snoozefest. Literally for me, as I crashed out on the couch for a spell during the first half.

Spain basically passed their way to victory, dominating possession yet looking rather uninspiring in front of goal, whilst the rampant Germans we've seen throughout the tournament so far failed to show up. It was such a cagey and conservative affair at times, with all the top striking talent on display being shown how to do it by central defender Carles Puyol.

It's almost criminal to think that a team than can only score 7 goals throughout the entire tournament can make it to the final, but that's just what the Spanish have done.

Both referees that handled the semi finals did an excellent job. Today's ref, Hungarian Gabor Eros, did well despite having to deal with some tough simulation calls. Yesterday's ref, Uzbekistan's Ravshan Irmatov, is my ref of the tournament, which I've said here from a very early stage. He can't be blamed for the borderline offside Dutch goal and I'd love to see him get the final.

Hopefully we get a final in Johannesburg on Sunday that's worth the global audience it's going to attract. There's not been a lot of standout moments and games so far for me and we need the final to be a cracker to help us forget all about that and all the bad things and think fondly on 2010 when we look back in years to come.

I can't see Spain suddenly going gung ho though. The pressure on them to deliver their first ever World Cup trophy will be huge. They've finally not let their country's expectations down and are aiming to be the first European Champions to bring home the world prize since West Germany in 1974.

The Dutch will just go for it though from the off and we so need an early goal to avoid another game like today's.

If the Dutch sit back and allow Spain to pass the ball around then I think we'll be looking at a narrow Spanish victory. I don't think this will be the case though and I fully expect to see the town painted orangj come Sunday evening.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I'm sure a lot of you out there are salivating at the prospect of the two World Cup semis, particularly the Germany-Spain one. I have to say that I find them a less than exciting proposition.

That's not because I think they'll be bad affairs in terms of the football on offer, far from it. It's just more to do with the fact that I couldn't really give a toss either way about any of the teams that are still left in the tournament.

I have no interest in Spain, Germany or Holland. I have no interest in any of their domestic leagues, their players or anything else about them. Never have done, unless they've been playing England. I neither love, nor hate them, and thus, can't muster much enthusiasm about the games or their prospects of lifting the trophy.

I could just sit back and enjoy the games as a neutral, but that's not fun to me! I'm more a football fan than a fan of football. I want to have someone to cheer for.

That leaves Uruguay. As the underdogs of the four and the surprise semi finalists, I'd usually be backing them to go all the way.

In some ways I am.

There's the historic aspect of them winning the first World Cup and not receiving the credit they deserve for their displays. I'm currently reading the excellent "Four Weeks In Montevideo" by Hyder Jawad that documents the 1930 tournament. It's recommended reading and shows the passion of the country as a true full blooded football nation and the disrespect they were shown by many 80 years ago. That has me on their side this time around.

Then there's the fact that they have the most exciting strikeforce in this year's tournament in Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez. They're a joy to watch at times and like I said last week, I don't blame Suarez for Ghana's exit and see him as a hero to his country.

Going against that though there's their infamous playacting and dirtyness. I still remember Mexico 86 and that shameful performance from them that put Scotland out. Maybe I shouldn't still hold grudges as it was a long time ago and ultimately Scotland fucked it up for themselves in the end by being unable to score. It's hard though! They still go down like a brick's hit them at the slightest thing.

They've done well to get to the semis but it's hard to see past the Dutch at this stage. I picked them to get to the final from the start (albeit against Argentina) and nothing is making me change that opinion.

Who'll they'll play is the interesting one. Before the tournament I'd have taken Spain. The way they've been playing though, it's hard to see past Germany.

Paul the psychic Octopus is going for Spain though, so maybe I should put my money on them after all. He is seldom wrong and did back the Germans to dump out England.

It's still not going to make me care about the final or who wins though. If only some minnows had swum to the top.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

To many people's surprise, the normally intransigent Sepp Blatter seems to have done a sudden U-turn of sorts regarding the possible use of goal-line technology. We've been investigating this and our sources tell us that he was simply unclear before on how it would all work. As soon as someone explained that all they had to do was put chips in the balls, he said that this would be no problem as McDonalds are one of the World Cup sponsors and they could easily supply them.

***

While Sepp doesn't come over as the brightest whatsit in the thingy sometimes, the "Biggest Dumbasses of the Finals" award surely goes to those supporters who, when they're sitting in the stadium watching the game, suddenly realise their noggin is up on the big screen in glorious close-up, and who then think it makes sense to react to this by getting all excited, giving a huge glaikit smile and stand up, whereupon they completely remove themselves from the picture anyway. Duh.

***

The Germans who won 4-0 against Argentina yesterday, showing they can't just hammer easy teams, have generously donated 500 footballs to the local townships. A spokesman for one of the townships said, "It's very kind of them but we've got loads – we've had folk outside the stadium waiting for free-kicks to be taken."

***

Well, it would have been great scheduling, wouldn't it. On ITV tonight, a programme called "Gazza's Tears", reflecting on the 1990 World Cup semi-final between England and Germany. This was obviously scheduled weeks ago as part of the build-up to the mighty England appearing in the semi-finals this coming week. Bad luck then ITV. It's just, well, they went home weeks ago.

***

Speaking of semi-finals, there's apparently been some sort of tennis tournament going in the background for the last fortnight. Some "British" guy called Andy Murray was seemingly doing quite well until David Beckham turned up and jinxed him as he had the English squad, and out he went. "Andy Murray blew his semi", the papers reported. Clever trick. Actually, if I could do that there'd be little reason to ever leave the house again.


The Undisputed

Saturday, July 3, 2010

As I mentioned earlier this week in the blog, I've been lucky enough to set my work schedule around the World Cup fixtures. It's been great. I've managed to see every game in full so far apart from the last quarter final today.

An unavoidable work commitment meant that I just couldn't get away to watch the Spain v Paraguay game live and what a game that turned out that I missed!

This year's World Cup hasn't been a classic. The top players have underperformed. The minnows have caused a few shocks but nowhere near on the grand scale as I had hoped. It's been the same old, same old nations getting through to the latter stages on the whole. Some games don't even merit the old favourite "like watching paint dry" comparison (how bad was Paraguay v Japan the other day?!). Then to cap it all off, my tip for the title, Argentina, crashed out in spectacular style this afternoon, sending my bets and World Cup pools over a cliff to their doom.

For all these downsides, it's still been riveting viewing of course. For every Paraguay-Japan, there's a Paraguay-Spain. Bizarre the same nation can feature in such extremes but there you have it.

When I'd discovered that this was to be the game I wouldn't be able to sit down and watch live, I wasn't too fussed. I'd expected a dull, yet comprehensive, Spanish victory. Far from it, bar the result. Today's game was pulsating stuff. Two missed penalties, one scored penalty re-taken, dubious offsides, dubious encroachments both given and not and late drama.

Not to worry anyway as I was recording it. All set to watch as soon as I got home. I just had to avoid the result. Shouldn't have been too hard being in an environment where most couldn't give a toss about the World Cup and those that did were either way too busy or unable to find a way of getting the result.

But there's always one person. One person that has to spoil things. One person who doesn't quite get football. Why are these people on the planet? In my case I met two of them today.

The first encounter came as I knew the game was reaching it's final quarter of an hour. I'd done well to avoid any mention of the game, never mind any hint of a score. Then she arrived. Someone who had never shown any interest in football, but who seemed to have been drawn in to the magic of the World Cup, so she's not all bad.

"Sorry I'm a little late" she said. "I was just watching the Spain game". I knew I had to get in quick and cut such talk off right away. "Don't tell me anything about the game, I'm recording it to watch later and don't want to spoil it" I quickly piped up. She started to continue forcing me to quickly emphasise "DON'T TELL ME THE SCORE"!

"Oh ok" she said disappointed, at not being able to share what she knew. "I can't tell you the score anyway as there hasn't been any goals yet" she added in all innocence. Sigh.

I mean, what the fuck? How stupid do you have to be to realise that that in itself is a scoreline?

Pulling out what little hair I have left, I removed myself from her company and then managed to avoid any inclination of what had transpired in the game, clueless as to who had got through to the semis.

At least I had until five minutes before the end of the work day when this other stupid cow proceeded to walk into our back office as we were packing up and all set to go home and declare to no-one in particular "so that's Germany and Spain gone through today then".

Seriously, I could have punched her fucking lights out there and then!

These people don't just get football, they don't get sport. They don't get the passion of sports fans and the importance of the games to us. I'm also sure that some of them also just don't get life.

To use an old fave phrase of mine, if I was king, these fuckers would most definitely be amongst the first against the wall.

At least I have Tuesday and Wednesday off to enjoy the semi finals without any interuptions or spoilers. Just a pity that I don't actually care who wins it now from the countries left.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The African World Cup dream is over for another tournament and in the cruellest of ways.

There can't have been many neutrals watching today's second quarter final that didn't feel sympathy for the Black Stars.

You can argue that neither team had really done enough to win the match in the 120 minutes but Ghana's extra time last second penalty miss by Asamoah Gyan was heartbreaking for the players, the nation and the continent.

You'd have put your money on him converting it. Two penalties already converted in the Finals, best player in a Ghana shirt in the tournament and the chance to have his team become the first ever African semi finalists.

His miss and the two other Ghana misses in the subsequent penalty shoot out that gave Uruguay the 4-2 shoot out win won't be the main talking points of the match though.

Instead, FIFA now have another item to add to the list of things that MUST change in the game. Technology and diving are already high up there. I'd add in the stupid rule of players being booked for celebrating and removing their shirts. Now the big question is, why should a team that deliberately cheat not subsequently be penalised?

Don't get me wrong, if I'd have been in Luis Suarez's shoes I'd have done the exact same thing. I don't blame him one bit. He's a hero to his country. He had nothing to lose as the ball was going in. There wouldn't have been time for Uruguay to do anything, so it was worth the risk that Ghana would miss the penalty or their keeper would save it. The gamble paid off big time and his team are in their first World Cup semi final for 30 years. Well done. If that was a Scottish player that had done that, I'd have been proud.

It's not right though. There should be a rule change that allows deliberate handballs on the line like that to be awarded as a goal. The player should still be sent off for deliberate handball, but the oppostion should not be penalised twice by then having a penalty not converted.

It would be one of the easiest rules to change. It would be one that could be applied worldwide, no matter what level of the game, as FIFA are always keen to point out they need to make such changes.

It's too late for Ghana, but perhaps it's not too late for the next team to go out in such cruel and controversial fashion.

Another headache for the FIFA bigwigs. They're going to be very busy men post tournament.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

This year's World Cup has been a bit different for me. It's the first time that I'll have watched the entire tournament outside of the UK, on this occasion in Canada.

Having headed over to the States for the 94 tournament, I saw the group stages there but was back home in time for the second round matches.

It's been weird this time round but something I'll have to get used to.

For starters, my body clock is now a bit messed up and it's going to take a bit of getting back into my old swing of things! Having games starting at 4.30am, 7am and 11.30 am isn't the best on one hand, but great on the other as I've managed to work my whole work schedule around it and apart from just a handful of games, I've been able to see most of them in the comfort of my own armchair and big TV. You can't beat watching the games in your pants! It is weird though having your World Cup viewing for the day over by early afternoon. Kinda takes away the fun of having the guys round as well. Or maybe that's just me in my pants that does that.

The whole TV aspect itself has been different this time around as well, as it's my first World Cup in HD. It's been great but that's mainly because my provider's non HD channels are getting worst quality all the time. I wonder why. It has been great viewing though, at least picture quality wisem if not all the quality of matches, but I don't think my 2014 one will be viewed in 3D, unless I make the trip to Brazil in person!

I miss my interactive red button so much though. I totally took Sky's coverage and gizmos for granted. What I'd give to have them back now and the highlights and goals on the BBC red button stream. We don't really appreciate how far ahead in coverage of football that we are in the UK.

It's been nice to not have the English studio pundits bleating on endlessly, although I do have to admit to downloading the highlights to see the faces of them after England failed miserably once again. The downside to that though is that I actually miss having the banter and studio analysis and post match interviews. Not all the time, but particularly in shock and controversial games.

We've been getting no interviews and the action cuts back to brief and annoying studio blathering (yes, more annoying that Alan Shearer). The reason for that being that we have one of the most irritating bastards I've ever had the misfortune to have to mute on my tv - Nigel Reed.

Reed is an English pundit, very much in the old style, and with an accent that just sounds so unlike ANY English accent I've ever heard in my puff and sounds like he should be wrestling in the WWE. Or maybe it's just that I wish his head was being piledriven into the canvas time and time again.

What has been great to see is how a country that isn't even in the World Cup and isn't thought of by some as a footballing hotbed embraces the tournament so much. With such an immigrant population, people's heritages are coming out to the fore, cars are flying so many different competing countries (some with the Canadian flag as well) and the pubs are packed.

I've had so many people have discussions about who I think are going to win the World Cup. Then when I ask them back, they reply they don't know anything about football but knowing that I do, they just wanted to talk about it. It's great and probably explains why I've done one radio interview about the tournament so far, with another planned for next week. People just love talking about the World Cup.

So many workplaces, clubs and others are running World Cup pools as well. I don't seem to be winning any of them though. What's up with that! Just wait till the Argies do the business next Sunday though.

With only eight games now left, what are we all meant to do when it ends?!

I don't know where I'll be for the 2014 World Cup. Hopefully in Brazil cheering on Scotland, but if not, my armchair is always welcoming to my pants.
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