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Thursday, 23 December 2010

O Come All Ye Platefuls

Like people in all walks of life, footballers come in different shapes and sizes. If you wanted to classify them into types, you can normally stretch to something amounting to ‘nippy winger’, ‘commanding centre-back’, ‘powerful striker’ and ‘midfield terrier’. All are valid classifications. One other type though, is a bit more cult than all the others, inspiring affection and comedy in equal degree. At this festive time of indulgence, and given the evisceration of Levante’s Sergio Ballesteros on Twitter, we tip our caps to the ‘fat lad’ – a man who in Magic Spongers terms, is just as much brilliant shiny apples as he is stupid smelly onions.

Web Of Deceit

"Am I allowed to go back to Liverpool now?"

Spurs season ticket holder Hugh Lindley makes his debut for Magic Spongers

Official football club websites fascinate me. Getting the ‘official line’ on any controversial story is usually as fascinatingly false as the seemingly implausible scandals pedalled in newspapers are true. On club websites, journalists are routinely derided as liars, stirrers and heathens – before their stories invariably turn out to be true.

Monday, 20 December 2010

A Few Good (Football) Men

"I BET my stock can fall further than yours in three years"

So the Premier League is getting a winter break after all. Well, almost. While the snow goes about clearing the traditional and ludicrously busy Christmas fixture list quicker than we can clear a table at an awards ceremony, a couple of the weekend’s top-flight matches were at least salvaged. Unfortunately, they were both rubbish, which only served to suggest that if there is to be a seasonal break on these shores, it shouldn’t necessarily be from furiously practising football.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Yuletide Slog

Are titles won at Christmas? The short answer is: ‘Only if you are Manchester United or Chelsea (and even then it isn’t guaranteed).’ Flying in the face of our usual ‘high on rant, low on fact’ content of late, here is some actual, real-life analysis: Since the Premier League’s inception in 1992/3, there have been nine separate occasions when the table was topped by a club other than Manchester United and Chelsea at Christmas. Yet only once in that time has the side looking down on the rest on Christmas Day – Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn side of 1994-95 – gone on to take the title.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Ashley Gets Gun, Trains On Foot


I think we all know where this one’s going. If any proof were needed that Mike Ashley is… well, a cock, we got it today. I’ve tried to think of a good reason for showing Chris Hughton the door at St. James’s Park and for the life of me, I can’t. All that this decision will ensure is that at Newcastle’s next home game (v Liverpool on December 11th), Ashley is about as welcome as an onion in a bag of apples. Do you hear that, Mike Ashley? YOU FUCKING ONION.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Beeb Fucks Everything Up For Everyone Especially The Kids

Despite the cold snap outside and the hour and a half commute I felt cheery this morning. Chipper even. Nothing warms a Magic Sponger’s cockles like a surge of righteous indignation as misplaced as a Sergio Ramos tackle on Lionel Messi. And so it began when I got to my desk. Never mind going to the Guardian’s website, they’ll only reaffirm my own opinions and who wants that? No. I first went, with not a little glee, to see what Ian ‘Mr England’ Wright made of yesterday’s proceedings in Zurich. True to form, absolute fucking goldmine. I could already hear the chants of ‘its too easy’ ringing in my ears, but that’s the point. Ghost written or not, Wrighty’s comments are so wide of the mark as to make a Qatari striker look deadly.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Very Wrong Stuff

We don’t enjoy all this ranting and raving, you know. Bushby’s already got notoriously high blood pressure. But sometimes it is absolutely necessary. It would have been really nice to write a celebration of Barcelona’s masterclass in El Clasico, or an excitable review of the FA Cup draw, which is sending York to Bolton in January. Unfortunately, though, Panorama broadcast a programme about corruption in FIFA, and the Sun shat itself.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Industrial Refolution

*Honorary northerner and fellow York City fan Alex Moore makes his Magic Spongers debut with an impassioned support of the man with the whistle who may or may not be of dubious parentage.

The more I think about it, the more I love the idea of referees going on strike. They are like slaves, constantly belittled by their masters and endlessly derided in public. The ugly face of an otherwise beautiful game. Never respected, and NEVER given a voice of their own. Until now. So fuck you Neil Lennon. Fuck you Steve Bruce. And fuck you Tony Pulis.

Sir Alex’s ROOney ROOse PROOves ROOmarkable

"How many times do I have to say SORRY"

While all the talk before the United-Rangers game centred on speculation regarding the type of reception Wayne Rooney would get, was I the only one to doff my imaginary hat at the way Sir Alex Ferguson has dealt with this situation from start to finish? When Sir Alex persuaded the Glazers to put their hands deep into their moth-infested (and possibly empty) pockets to keep Rooney at Old Trafford, I would imagine he sold it to them thus: “I want him to rot in the reserves for his insolence if I’m to tell the truth. But I tell you what we’ll do. Offer him what Stretford wants. Give him the £250k a week. Give him a get-out clause.”

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Champions League, You're Having A Laugh

'No, I don't know what happened to that unicorn'

Well bugger me, it’s the Champions League this week. AGAIN. Where are we up to at the moment? Oh, it’s the penultimate group games. Well, that could be exciting – maybe Real haven’t qualified ye- oh no, never mind. Maybe United-Rangers will be a mouth-watering contest, as surely United need to go and get a win to be sure of- oh no, no they don’t. What about a real continental fixture? Maybe if Panathanaikos get something off Barcelona at home it’ll make things diffi-, oh no, Barca’s last game is at the Camp Nou against a team with no wins. Well they still want to win their group of cour- NO. NO THEY DON’T. NO ONE CARES.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Foster Makes St Andrews Home

As we all know, it doesn’t take a lot for Didier Drogba to prostrate himself on the turf in the penalty area, arms aloft, looking beseechingly at the referee like a dog that’s just shat in his kitchen and can’t work out why the newspaper’s being rolled up. On this occasion, midway through Chelsea’s game with Birmingham City, he hadn’t been shoved, kicked or pushed. He just couldn’t believe he hadn’t scored.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Magic Spongers Are The Prats In Hats

My attention has been drawn to the The Sun's latest back page offering and by jingo, it's a little belter. I'd just like to say The Sun gets it absolutely spot on yet again. Congratulations to Paul Jiggins for his hilarious riposte. Here's to The Sun. And here's to Paul Jiggins. The bastions of good sense and reasoned response. AMEN THE SUN. And Paul Jiggins. In your FACE Magic Spongers. Or should I say, Magic Shits. Mark Bright

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Prats Identified - Hats in Post

The FUTURE of England

We’re up on the Mount again, get ready for the sermon everyone. We wouldn’t have had to do this if Gareth bloody Southgate had kept his mouth shut at half time. But he didn’t, did he. Or if the Sun hadn’t thought it hilarious to lead on the back page today with ‘Prat in a hat’. But they did, didn’t they. It is with a beleaguering sense of déjà vu that we find ourselves taking issue with imbeciles who don’t understand the game. Or at least understand it in some utterly warped parallel universe kind of way where England are placed sixth in the Fifa world rankings. Oh shit, THEY ARE.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Essien Absence Exposes Chelsea

For the majority of the 2010-11 season, Chelsea have resembled a well-oiled machine – a well-oiled steamroller, to be precise. Opening with six straight league wins and 21 goals led most to predict that the title was already over and that we might as well go back to patronising Blackpool, slagging off the Premier League for being processional rather than professional, and not knowing quite what to make of the fact that Andy Carroll lives with Kevin Nolan.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Diddly Squad

"My squad is 'this' big. So FUCK OFF"

Magic Spongers doesn’t often identify with Premier League managers, but in Ian Holloway, we appear to have found a kindred spirit. Holloway has a particularly aesthetic football philosophy; we love to see football played the ‘right way’. Holloway has a thick regional accent; we are staunch Northerners. We both know, deep down, that we’re probably going to win more friends than matches. And most importantly, Holloway has been known to rail against the establishment like a bearded West Country Dixy Chick, and if there’s one thing we love, it’s a good rant (and we are more than a bit partial to the old Dixie Chicks too).

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A Fight For The OK Carroll

In the same week the front page of the News of the World screamed ‘COKE AND ORGY SHAME’, the back pages were heralding a new dawn for the English centre forward. Central to both these stories was the slightly controversial Newcastle striker Andy Carroll. That the NOTW article was a non-story will come as no surprise – ‘young, rich, single man has sex with young woman and denies taking cocaine,’ being the gist. But it isn’t this that concerns me. What concerns me is Joey Barton clambering onto the ‘Carroll for England’ bandwagon (and presumably furthering his own case, which is stronger) and urging Fabio Capello to dispense with his penchant for ‘goody two-shoes’ players. Would these ‘goody two-shoes’ be the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, Joey?

Do Believe The Hype

Times in Manchester, they are a-changing. Sir Alex Ferguson has never before had to entertain the fact that his neighbours are not only getting ideas above their station, but are capable of finishing the season there too. Manchester City were never supposed to have the resources for such heady achievement and the belief among their supporters, as increasingly ludicrous names and fees are bandied about each week, will only be boosted by the concern (financial and sporting) engulfing United’s. With three great spectacles and one dramatic Paul Scholes late show last season, we should anticipate another classic. Manchester derbies are back with a vengeance.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Bright Spark Talks Utter Bollocks

Here at Magic Spongers, we’ve never been ones to shirk the challenge of launching a stream of invective at anyone/thing we feel needs a dressing down, John Sitton-style. Well my attention was drawn to an article Mark Bright wrote for the Metro earlier in the week and the hair dryer is going to well and truly come out as a result.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Goodwill Hunting

Goodwill towards clubs tends to ebb and flow. The outpouring of cheer that greeted Portsmouth’s FA Cup triumph in 2008 and their fleeting European campaign was soon replaced with astonishment and incredulity over the club’s mismanagement and overstretching of its resources. Pompey have since been held up as an irresponsible example of club ownership, an exhibit of the trappings of trying to build on Premier League status, reckless proponents of spending beyond your means and ultimately, as they slid down the Premier League the following season, a bit of a joke.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Rafa's Cracking Luck

Almost exactly a year ago, before this blog was even so much as a twinkle in its fathers’ eyes, I wrote this article for When Saturday Comes about Rafael Benitez. Assuming you don’t read it – I don’t know, maybe you’re a disillusioned Liverpool fan, maybe you just don’t like Spanish people – the gist of it is this: Benitez is great when he inherits a side. When he starts buying players, things invariably go tits up.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Di Matteo says No no to yo-yo

Saturday October 23, 4.45pm. The Premier League table already paints a familiar picture, even in its relatively youthful stage. Chelsea top... United second … West Brom fourth… HANG ON A MINUTE. Fourth? Nine games in? THE West Brom? Now, Roberto Di Matteo would be the first to remind you of the folly of getting carried away but then again, he is as likeable and modest a character you are likely to encounter in the Premier League. And West Brom’s early season achievements are there for all to see – victory at the Emirates and a draw at Old Trafford the obvious highlights; unbeaten in five at The Hawthorns, and since the end of August in the league.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The League of Extraordinary Inconsistency

Just over a week ago, Macclesfield were 2-0 down at home to Oxford United and the referee had just blown for half time. About an hour later, they were celebrating a 3-2 win. Just over a week later, by contrast, the Silkmen were on the receiving end of a defeat – an abject one at that – in arguably the most winnable of their recent fixtures, away at Barnet.

Barnet had lost their last two matches, while Macc were playing well on the road. A lot of people point to Saturday’s result being indicative of the competitiveness of League Two – an argument often extended to lower league football, where there are no bankrolled behemoths and for some reason, spending big is just as likely to guarantee you a 10-point deduction as it is a promotion.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Sacking Of York

At first glance, my club, York City, are the same as many others at the more unglamorous reaches of the football pyramid. Money, as ever, is tight – to be expected when your average attendance is 2,386 and you’re in the conference. But the finances at Bootham Crescent (‘Crescent’ no longer preceded by Kit Kat, thankfully) are not as clear cut as one might imagine.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Big-Time Charlie

Before the start of Blackpool’s incredible dalliance with fame and fortune in the Premier League, Ian Holloway intimated that his side were going to have to play like world champions Spain to keep their heads above water. In Charlie Adam, the Blackpool manager seems to have found his very own orchestrator, his puppeteer, his Xavi.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Can Hodgson Ride The Merseyslide?

Roy Hodgson leans towards his deputy Sammy Lee, his face creased with tension, brow sticky, stomach uneasy: “Sammy, what the fuck do we do? How do we change it? Who can we bring on?” Lee, a man who has spent his life in the game, is nonplussed. “I don’t know boss. We have nothing. We can’t change it.” Hodgson, growing increasingly worried, darts a look left and then right. He eyes up those sat on the benches next to him. He is trying to get the measure of the situation, while trying frantically to calm his nerves. It wasn’t like this at the Cottage, he thinks. “David, get stripped lad,” he says. Hodgson exchanges glances with Lee. His side are 2-0 down to their local rivals and his only chance at changing the game is by throwing on David Ngog. Hodgson, resigned to his fate, shrinks back into his chair, eyes wide, face creased with tension, brow sticky, stomach uneasy.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Show Me The Money

Football can be a cruel mistress. Everyone knows this. But there is one man for whom football is never testy. Never hard work. Ever eager to whisper sweet nothings into his ear. That man is Sven Goran Eriksson, the recently appointed Leicester City manager. These days I almost expect Pudsey the Bear to chaperone Sven around, so often does the man get his hands on one of those gigantic cheques. How does he do it? It seems quite incredible to many that he manages to get work, time and time again. Is this too harsh a judgement? Let’s assess…

Thursday, 14 October 2010

'Arry's Mad

No, this isn’t an article about a ‘90s children’s programme about a gobshite parrot. If you wanted a reason, one massive reason, a reason so glaringly obvious it is about as subtle as a kick to the bollocks, that Harry Redknapp should NEVER EVER get the England job, please read his 'dissection' of England's latest game. And because the Sun didn’t attach a ‘Jingoistic Bullshit Warning’, we probably should.

WARNING: THIS is jingoistic bullshit.

Actually, it does explain a lot. Not about England v Montenegro, admittedly, but mindless drivel of such a stellar ilk goes a long way towards illustrating why Spurs have no Plan B besides juggling centre-backs and chucking on Roman Pavlyuchenko when the going gets ropey.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

A Nation In Stagnation

'What time you getting back tonight mate?'

In the aftermath of England’s World Cup exit, the Guardian opined that: “The tactics creaked as painfully as the veterans and Fabio Capello's ponderous 4-4-2 would have made players lumber even if they still had a spring in their step”. How easily Kevin McCarra could have been writing about last night. Seven points from nine is not an unmitigated disaster for the English, but such was the despondency this morning that you’d think the team had been insipidly knocked out of a major tournament all over again.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Czech Mate For Levein

Partisan Alert: Fresh from banging his head against a wall for 48 hours, Rob has finally found the words to mouth off about Scotland's lack of ambition in Prague.

Another qualifier Scotland aimed to get something from; another chastening experience. When the final whistle blew in Prague on Friday night, the only man being sent homeward tae think again was Craig Levein.

Hopefully, his first act was to sack whoever provided him with the video of the Czechs against the Netherlands in 2004, given that he had obviously watched that team rather than its current incarnation. You can imagine him turning to Peter Houston: ‘That Nedved is some player isn’t he? And Poborsky’s quick. AND WHO IS THAT GIANT? Jan Koller? Jesus Christ. With him and Milan Baros they could score at ANY MOMENT’. There’s only one thing for it, he must have concluded. We MUST play without a striker. Otherwise we’re going to get thumped by a team who WEREN’T EVEN AT THE LAST WORLD CUP.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Obituary: The English Striker

Its a been a long while coming. Michael Ricketts. Andy Johnson. Dave Nugent. Emile Heskey. But now, after years of terminal illness, the English striker is officially dead.

The only solace we at Magicspongers can take from Don Fabio's selection of Kev 'what a massive cunt' Davies is that our Great Leader is following our somewhat tongue in cheek blueprint for English football posted a few weeks back on these fair pages. If you can't play football, don't let them play football. The oldest trick in the book. Utterly depressing. Adam Bushby

Monday, 20 September 2010

A Room With A Swan

A few months ago, I wrote about my lack of time for the ‘Betfair front room’. I didn’t like it. The saving grace though, if any, was that at least the morons would be punished for their inane opinions by losing money, albeit someone else’s, and getting rinsed, albeit by other actors (yes, they were actors, because one of them turned up in Luther on a regular basis, much to my amazement. And disgust).

Friday, 17 September 2010

The Reinvention of Ronaldo?

If you had a checklist of 'allegations levelled at Cristiano Ronaldo' (in a football sense), you'd normally be able to put a tick next to each one over the course of 90 minutes. Preening? Check. Too many stepovers? Check. Free-kicks? Check. Outrageous (and pointless) long-range shooting? Check. Other, more complimentary attributes (pace, aerial prowess, goalscoring record) are also identifiable more often than not.

Not against Ajax though. Even the favourite slight of his most fervent detractors, that of the Portuguese as a flat-track bully, seemed some way off the mark. Ronaldo wasn't necessarily bad against Ajax – he linked well as part of the triumvirate behind Gonzalo Higuain – but he was different somehow. Identity crisis, or the hand of Jose Mourinho?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Hleb Today, Gone Tomorrow

It’s been a difficult couple of years for Alexander Hleb. Just 36 appearances (most as a sub), no goals and a season on loan at Stuttgart indicate that all has not gone to plan for the Belarusian at the Camp Nou since July 2008. It’s a dramatic fall from form and first-choice status at the Emirates. What happened?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Hero to Villain

I was personally disappointed to hear criticism from some corners when it was announced that Houllier was stepping into the breach at Villa Park. Unfairly, sentences about the Frenchman will always be tagged with the names Salif Diao and El-Hadji Diouf. This judgement is unduly harsh if you look at the squad he inherited, the funds he was given to work with and the facilities he had to work in. He signed some duds, yes, but what about Hyypia and Hamann, McAllister and Riise? Look at what, by contrast, Rafael Benitez inherited: state-of-the-art training facilities and back-room setup; a youth training academy to rival any in Europe; and a squad of decent footballers, decent enough that they won the Champion’s League within 12 months. A couple of Spaniards aside, the whole of that triumphant team were ‘Houllier’ players and the revamped foundations at Anfield are part of his legacy.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Wigan-a Stay Up

When you’ve conceded 10 goals in your first two games of the season, the immediate solution that almost certainly doesn’t spring to mind is, ‘let’s go and sign an attacking midfielder and a striker’. Not, that is, unless you’re Roberto Martinez.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Macc For Good

Five years ago, Macclesfield drilled Stockport 6-0 at Moss Rose. They finished near the bottom of the league, despite contesting a playoff semi-final the season before. With the most recent Cheshire derby yielding a very different outcome – and Macc failing to finish much higher in all the seasons since – Kat Norris highlights the tribulations of supporting perennial underachievers.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Putting the ‘Professional’ in ‘Professional Footballer’

There is an awful lot wrong with the game these days. I’ve been a football fan for only twenty years now and I already find myself daydreaming about times passed; traditions long gone, the way things used to be. Simple things like cigarettes, beer and Bovril that created the smell of a match day. Away days at grounds where you were genuinely a little bit scared of the raucous home support. The rivers of piss streaming down the terrace that marked the start of the second half. Good times.

Monday, 6 September 2010

No Tragedy For Hamlet At Dulwich

Unless you’ve been living in a cave or driving through a really long tunnel recently, you’ll know that Saturday, what with the international break, saw the brilliant Non-League Day concept come to fruition. And after the steady stream of publicity over the last few weeks, it appears to have been a success. Gates were up, anecdotally at least, and instead of watching millionaires kicking each other and falling over theatrically for 90 minutes, we got to see life at the wider wedge of football’s pyramid.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Non-League Leaders

A lot of people I’ve spoken to so far this season can’t remember the last time they went to a ‘live game’ of football. Most will be either just about to, in the middle of, or recently finished watching a ‘live game’ – on the telly – but this doesn’t seem to count. ‘I would go, but you know, it’s impossible to get tickets’. Ah, the Premier League – making fans watch telly since 1992.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Hot-Headed Baker Burns Coventry

Millwall have started the season very well. Though I am yet to work out at what stage the nation’s league tables cease to be ‘embryonic’ – what are they now, foetal? – three wins from four for Kenny Jackett’s side leave them sitting in fourth. And nine points from 12 is decent form in anyone’s book.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Ireland’s Industry; That Is What We Are

If you’re lucky enough to follow Magic Spongers on Twitter (advantageous as the inexplicable ravings are restricted to 140-characters), you’ll know that I watched the second half of Aston Villa’s tie with Rapid Vienna with interest. For some reason, you got the impression an implosion was coming, and it duly arrived, making Kevin MacDonald’s side the dodgiest villa I’ve seen in Europe since my post A-levels holiday to Tenerife.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Some Like It Scot

If you’d asked us at the end of last season about the summer’s activity in the transfer market – and had we been feeling particularly facetious – we’d have probably said something along the lines of: ‘Oh, City will pay £30mn for any English midfielders going, as well as second-tier European footballers, United will be so bereft of funds they’ll get a homeless man in on the cheap and Gordon Strachan will answer everyone’s question about how the SPL would fare in England by signing 12 more players from Rangers and Celtic’.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Good Times At Goodison?

Mikel Arteta – Spanish or English? Well let’s be honest, he’s about as English as Manuel Almunia; who is as English as Antonio Banderas playing a Spanish waiter in a Spanish re-make of Fawlty Towers.

England captain Steven Gerrard said recently of the Everton midfielder, “I'd certainly love nothing better than to see Mikel Arteta available for England. You want to play with the best players, and if it makes the England squad better, of course I'd like to see it”. As an Englishman, extremely disappointed in my national team, I would find it hard to argue against his inclusion in the next squad; something we have already fore-fronted on the blog. And you have only to ask any Everton fan what the guile of their number 8 means to them. Now fully fit, he could make the difference to Everton’s season.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Keeping Wolves from the (Trap)door

PARTISAN ALERT – While most of us spend our time trying to keep them out, Drew Kearns explains why this year, the Wolves themselves have battened down the hatches and barricaded themselves inside Molineux with 1,057 sandbags, copies of every Premier League table since 1992, some loo roll and a healthy dose of belief.

It lurks in dressing rooms up and down the country, hiding in lockers, behind mirrors, inside showers, beneath piles of dirty kit. Always ready to strike and claim a new victim. Ready for its name to be cited as the reason for heartbreak, heartache and fortunes lost. Its malevolent presence is a source of constant fear for those who otherwise appear so sage and safe. This year I am concerning myself with this painful disease; this infection of our beautiful game. It is of course second-season syndrome, and I am a Wolverhampton Wanderers supporter.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Bigger Pitchure

This plastic pitch stuff is a right old bru-ha-ha, isn’t it? ‘It’s not an excuse’, harrumphed Harry Redknapp, before going on the claim that at least four of his elite, highly-paid, professional sportsmen ‘couldn’t handle’ playing on what was essentially a soft flat carpet. I’ve heard all about the ramifications of artificial pitches for the knees of Ledley King and Tom Huddlestone, but then I’ve also been hearing about how hard and unforgiving ‘these new grass pitches’ are for the last five years. Surely spraying gallons of water over any pitch before kick-off makes them reasonably dangerous too?

Monday, 16 August 2010

Boothroyd Enjoys Platt-itudes On Watford Return

This season, our aim is to actually get round some of the London grounds (we do live here, after all), given that last season, with the same intention, we made it to a total of maybe three. After Stevenage last week, this week it's the return of Aidy Boothroyd to Vicarage Road.

'I don't think it'll be that bad,' said the Watford fan in the pub of their reaction to Aidy Boothroyd, as the former Hornets manager returned to Vicarage Road with Coventry City. 'There might be some tutting', he added thoughtfully. 'That or some folks opening their thermos more aggressively than normal'.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Moving On Up

Stevenage celebrate promotion

Watching Macclesfield play at Stevenage last weekend I was struck by a couple of things. The first was that it is very difficult to achieve things in a game of football (like attacking) when the ball spends seven minutes of every ten either in the air or out of play. The other was that it was almost universally agreed before kick-off that the sides promoted from the Conference, Stevenage and Oxford, would ‘do well this year’, with the only justification being that ‘promoted teams always do well’.

A 2-2 draw for the Silkmen was received well by most of the Macclesfield faithful. An 89th minute equaliser was hard to swallow, but again, the opinion prevailed that we would have taken a point before the game. Even Gary Simpson, speaking after the match, reckoned that, “We battled hard away from home against a side who I still believe will be one of the front runners this season.”

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Blackpool All At Sea

‘We are starting 20 million miles behind (everyone else)’, sighed Ian Holloway in July, with the slightly desperate air of a man who has been juggling red apples and red onions for a while and now that it’s come to the moment he has to take a bite from one of them, is struggling to tell the difference. And Blackpool, with just one signing so far this summer and few seemingly in the pipeline, could be forgiven for feeling the same way.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Let's All Have A Xisco

Magic Spongers’ new boy Alex Bingle looks at returning Premier League big boys Newcastle United in the sort of new-boy-on-returning-big-boy encounter normally reserved for sprog-bashing day at boarding school.

The Toon Army; football’s believers, the legion of dreamers. It started again with Kevin Keegan’s revolution and is yet to abate. They are one of the biggest clubs in England: big stadium, big support and (until recently) big money signings. You can’t really argue that Newcastle United are not a major player in Premier League folklore unless, of course, you move in Mackem-biased football fraternities. Counting the likes of Andy Cole, Les Ferdinand, Peter Beardsley, David Ginola and Alan Shearer among their alumni and with a passionate fan base and atmosphere to match, St. James’ Park will still be an intimidating venue this season.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Like Blues In A China Shop

In the summers between football seasons, most of us do similar stuff: go on holiday; enjoy beer gardens; pretend we don't care about transfer speculation when in fact we love it; and try not to read too much in to pre-season friendlies. This summer though, I've been doing none of that, because I've been trying in vain to work out exactly what the fuck is going on at Manchester City.

With their opening Premier League fixture now under two weeks away, City have a senior squad of 38. This is quite a lot, but it's not unheard of, especially when you consider Rafael Benitez’s small village of a squad (62 players). However, it shows no signs of shrinking, regardless of the number of players that will miss out on the 25-man Premier League squad Roberto Mancini will have to compile by the end of August. Even then though, having a few players who are 'bit-part' isn't THAT unusual. What IS unusual is when you career around the world buying players you don't need for money they aren't worth. I bet they haven't even bought a longer bench. Where's Joleon Lescott going to sit?