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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

On Gary Neville and Forgiveness

Gary Neville kisses a badge and the world shits itself

Adam Bushby hates Gary Neville. Or does he?

Let me make something absolutely clear. I am not seeking the forgiveness of Gary Neville. If anything, this piece is about applying some fundamental rules of the New Testament to football and, perhaps more specifically, how these rules relate to someone who I once hated. ‘Hated’ of course in the ‘footballing sense’, which is to say ‘dislike severely’, but not ‘to wish sudden death upon’. Hate in a vacuum, if you will. With the hatred dissipating Monday Night Football by Monday Night Football, something curious happened in December 2011. I learned to forgive Gary Neville.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Runs #5: Sheffield Wednesday 1974-76

Assigning two men to 'not look at the ball' against Man United was a bad start

Over to Chris Ledger from the outstanding Obscure Football. Read this, then go there.

During a football season, there’s a point when certain statistics start to become interesting. A player’s first goal or appearance of the season may sound banal in August, but in March or April its intriguing quality tells a story about that player. However, there’s also the reoccurring statistic of a team failing to win away from home all season.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Runs #4: Macclesfield Town and the Ince Effect

"HOW MANY defeats?"

Over to Spongers' own Rob MacDonald, who couldn't even manage to stick to the blueprint and just write about one run.

The joy in supporting a team that seldom achieves is rarely the accolades or silver pots. It’s the sublime and often accidental skill, the flashes of inspiration amid the darkness and brutality of potato patch pitches and lower league football; the fleeting moments when the impossible dream seems almost possible.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Runs #3: Arsenal's Invincibles (and the fundamental nature of humanity)

Some might-have-beens, May 2004

Over to the ever-superb Dan Forman (@dannyforman) for a look at Arsenal's Invincibles and the very fabric of fandom...

What does it say about the mindset of the modern football fan that I felt slightly flat at Highbury on 15 May 2004? My team had just completed an unbeaten league season, an extraordinary sporting accomplishment by any standard. Perhaps it hadn't "sunk in yet". Perhaps it was so unusual that it was too hard to comprehend. But perhaps [insert pompous cod psychoanalysis here], football can never make us truly happy.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Runs #2: Jon Dahl Tomasson 1997-98

Presumably not scoring a goal here

For the second in our 'Runs' series, it's over to Michael Hudson (@DolphinHotel) of the rather exceptional Accidental Groundhopper - and it's Jon Dahl Tomasson's spectacular bad luck / loss of form that gets the treatment. 

Jon Dahl Tomasson played for Stuttgart and Villarreal, won a Champions League medal with AC Milan, netted a record-equalling 52 goals in 112 appearances for the Danish national side, finished among the top scorers in both the 2002 World Cup and 2004 European Championships, and hit the goal that took the UEFA Cup to Feyenoord. He also, as football commentators never tired of reminding us, played one season at Newcastle United. Where he was absolutely shit.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A Tale of Two Centre Halves


Though one series has ended and another since begun, this corker from Sam Macrory deserves your undivided attention.

Two decades ago, two schoolboys from East London lined up together in a youth football team and swept all before them. Just three months apart, the older boy played centre half and the younger in midfield.

The former was tipped for greatness from the start, and soon left Senrab FC to sign for a Premier League club, where he was fast-tracked into the first team at just 19 years old.

Friday, 25 November 2011

The Runs #1: York City 2003-4

Chris Brass presumably enjoying the first four games of the season

We have a confession to make, Rob and I. We've got lazier in our old age so series are easier to do than write proper articles. So, true to form, here is Spongers' own Adam Bushby kicking off our new series with a quite remarkable winless streak. 

The 2003/4 season in England is best remembered for Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’. Thirty-eight games unbeaten and a Premier League title. Twenty six wins and 12 draws. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s impressive, if in an obvious way. But I tell you what is more impressive. Gaining just 16 points between November 22 and the end of the season. Sixteen points. (Clamouring from soapbox) SIXTEEN. From 27 games, between end-November and May. I tell you what is more impressive even than that. Not winning a game from January 10 to the end of the season. NOT ONE. And these things happened that very season at the other end of the pyramid.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A Run For All Seasons

Jordan 'Rhodes of Goals' Rhodes

Quite a big thing managed to sneak under the radar this week, presumably as the radar itself was either straining to measure superluminal neutrinos, or joining the rest of the football universe in providing repeated shots of England’s Brave John Terry either falling over or looking contrite. What was happening, in actual fact, was that Huddersfield Town were putting the finishing touches to the most unlikely run since Adam Bushby went for a run.* A shining and magical apple obscured by all the oniony inadequacies of Super Sunday and Gary Neville’s David Luiz/Playstation joke. Well, no longer.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

What If? #5 Everton in the 80s

The fifth installment of our What If? series sees Spongers' own Adam Bushby look at the impact the five-year European ban had on the great Everton side.

After convening for an emergency session in Switzerland on June 2 1985, Uefa chiefs issued a statement that would have immediate and lasting consequences: English clubs were banned from Europe, indefinitely. At Goodison Park in particular, home as it was of reigning First Division champions Everton, the news was greeted with anger and dismay. Following the tragic events a few days earlier at the crumbling Heysel Stadium in Brussels, the sentiment was pretty much universal; enough was enough. Thirty nine Juventus fans went to a football match that day and never came back. The European showpiece between Liverpool and the Bianconeri will forever be remembered for events that happened in the stands, rather than on the pitch, and set in motion much-needed introspection as an English disease threatened to become a Europe-engulfing epidemic.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

No Spain, No Gain

We give up lads, you can have it

The FA, who can always be relied upon to completely miss a trick, abjectly failed to take advantage of some joint marketing potential last month, scheduling England’s friendly with Spain for Saturday (which is in November) and not for the weekend of Halloween (which wasn’t). You can’t help but get the feeling that a festival now associated with horror and scary stuff would suit the World Cup winners, because quite frankly, their squad is downright terrifying.

Monday, 31 October 2011

What If? Scotland's 1960s

Jim Baxter becomes an 'unofficial World Champion'

Over to Magic Spongers' Rob MacDonald to lament the many and varied 'What Ifs' of Scotland's very own golden generation...

A famous anecdote about the Rangers midfielder Jim Baxter on international duty reads thus: As others bustled and clattered around the room he was, unusually, a study in concentration. He tapped the studs on the heel of his right boot idly, and exhaled slowly. The volume of the shouts, the barks, the back slapping increased. In the far corner, Denis Law was so flushed with intent it looked like he might explode. ‘Jim’, a voice said, over the cacophony of Celtic camaraderie. ‘Jim’, it said again. ‘You should warm up. It is England after all’.

Baxter lowered the pages of his Racing Post, and stretched his left leg out in front of him. He stretched his right leg,languid and disinterested. To the casual observer, the Racing Post exercise would have appeared the most strenuous of the three. He raised his eyes.

‘That’s me warmed up’.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

What If? #3 Wales: World Cup '58

Head like a traction engine

We've kept you waiting a week for the next installment of our What If? series. And you'll be glad we did. Here's the ever-superb Andi Thomas of Twisted Blood on a forgotten Welsh golden generation.

Sometimes, a word or phrase acquires, through association, a kind of toxicity. Though it may come from humble or well-meaning beginnings, and it may seem innocent when considered abstractly, it is failure that corrupts. So Francis Jeffers, by flopping at Arsenal, forever poisoned “fox in the box”. No chairman would dare propose that his club “live the dream”, thanks to Peter Ridsdale. The allure of Ruud Gullit’s “sexy football” was washed away during the Derby in the Rain. And, perhaps most vexed of all, the disappointed trudge from the fields of South Africa finally put paid, once and for all, to the hollow braggadocio of Adam Crozier’s “golden generation”.

Friday, 14 October 2011

What If? #2 Cantona Hadn't Signed For Manchester United

Eric Cantona at Leeds in... '93?
Two Uniteds. Two sleeping giants. One enigmatic Frenchman. Magic Spongers welcomes Dan Forman whose parallel universe-centred debut is an absolute belter*

November 1992, Alex Ferguson's office. The phone rings.

"Alex, it's Martin. Listen, Leeds are on the line again. Howard Wilkinson wants to speak to you."

"Did he say what about? It better not be bloody Irwin again."

"No but he's very keen apparently. You're not going to sell him Denis Irwin are you?"
"No chance. But put him through. There's something I've been thinking about asking him anyway...

"Howard, how are you?"

Monday, 10 October 2011

What If? #1 Yugoslavia: Euro '92

Zvonmir Boban kicks himself into football folklore (he could play a bit too...)

In something of a coup for these fair pages, we've snapped up someone who actually knows what they are talking about and/or doesn't have to rant to get his point across. Ladies and gentlemen, to kick off a new series, here's Richard Hall on the Yugoslavia side that could/would have won Euro '92...

If you can, cast your mind back 20 years. To a time when English football had been dominated by Merseyside, not Manchester; when we got our news from teletext, not twitter; and when governments were contemplating crisis not among the banks, but in the Balkans.

Friday, 7 October 2011

A Very English Upset

"I'm quite good you know."

So here we are again. Another English qualifying campaign is set to come to a close and you could be forgiven for thinking that this had been the case a month ago with England’s 1-0 victory over the Welsh. Never ones for particularly long memories, most of the talk spewing forth from the frothing mouths of the English media collective seems to have centred on Wayne Rooney’s dad or Phil Jones’ debut. But England underestimate Montenegro at their peril.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Joo's A Crowd

"Get Wayne Bridge on if you're desperate you fuckers."

“A man is known by the company he keeps,” goes the old adage. No less true in these cynical times is the fact that behind every greedy footballer is a greedy agent. When Sir Alex Ferguson launched into a diatribe about the shady middle men cluttering up the game at the turn of the year, the context was that a few months previous, his club’s most prized asset Wayne Rooney had come within a transplanted hair’s breadth of leaving for their city rivals. As well as Rooney, the player’s agent Paul Stretford came in for criticism from Sir Alex. Diplomatically calling Stretford’s influence ‘bad advice’, one winces when imagining what the Scot said about him behind closed doors.

Thursday, 29 September 2011



It’s been two years since goal line assistant referees – those blokes that stand on the byline on one side of the goal like the kid in school who isn’t allowed to join in – were first trialled in the Europa League. It’s a testament to their complete ineffectiveness that we didn’t even notice their assimilation into Champions League fixtures until Danny Welbeck argued with one on Tuesday night. The reason for this argument? Not a penalty decision, or an incorrectly awarded goal kick. The ball went out of play by a fraction. Or did it? Apparently, by virtue of being right next to the ball, the human eye is impervious to slight of foot and fractional error. Yeah, right.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

All Change On the Continent

In amassing a collective 32 points and scoring a total of 41 goals between, the Manchester clubs have been the Premier League’s dominant forces thus far. If you don’t count Newcastle. But while all and sundry can only foresee the title race involving two Mancunian horses, it has been a little more difficult to translate such swagger onto the European stage, on which England’s current finest have thus far amassed a measly three points and five goals.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

A Tale Of Two Owens

'If I can... just... get...the... *TWANG*'

Much like being on a night out with Magic Spongers, the prevailing attitude towards the third round of the Carling Cup among the so-called ‘big clubs’ often appears to be sniffy indifference; something to be endured and survived with as little serious investment of energy as possible. In the last few years, certainly, this has meant throwing bit-part and reserve players into the mix and tailoring a post-match response around how much potential they’ve got or how it was good experience but priorities lie elsewhere, really. ‘No disrespect to the lads that have come in’, one might say, completely disrespecting the lads that have come in.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Overworked And Underpaid

"I'm poor... SO POOR"

Rumour has it that when he was a child, Rob's parents considered selling their house to Niall Quinn. Luckily, that friendship has stood the test of time (and career trajectory) and 'Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman' - as he is affectionately known in the MacDonald household - was able to provide Magic Spongers with what REALLY happened at the Stadium of Light over the weekend.

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Generation Game

"Frank Lampard never played for Milan... golden generation my arse."

*Disclaimer. Some or all of what follows may be completely fictional and not represent in any way, shape or form the beliefs of Magic Spongers.

When Spandau Ballet wrote their seminal hit ‘Gold’ in 1983 about the so-called golden generation of Trevor Francis, Tony Woodcock, Luther Blisset, Paul Mariner et al, the fanfare was short-lived as England failed to qualify for the European Championships a year later. Though the song would live on in chain pubs across the land on Saturday nights, the golden generation proved to be of pyrite persuasion, shining brightly in the April sun in a 2-0 victory over Hungary, before succumbing to the talents of Michael Laudrup and Jesper Olsen at Wembley in September ’84 and ultimately petering out.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Oligarchs and Question Marks

"Well this sucks"

Somewhere in the Mediterranean last night, a Russian billionaire strode on to the deck of his $1bn super-yacht clad only in a towel and angrily shook his fist at the moon. ‘Marquee!’, he shouted at the inky sky. ‘Fucking MARQUEEEEEEE!’.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, a wiry Portuguese with more tattoos than a man could realistically ever need walked into the largest marquee ever erected in West London; nay, the world, and felt pretty fucking small. ‘Don’t worry’, a weary Spanish voice assured him from somewhere underneath an enormous price tag. ‘It’s probably for the best’.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Caught Knapping

Redknapp: making like-for-like changes since 1983

Unless you were drunk, buried or temporarily without a head this weekend, you’ll know that the only scoreline anyone wants to talk about is Manchester 13-3 North London. More specifically, topics on lips principally include Manchester United’s youth-driven greatness, Manchester City’s money-driven potential greatness and Arsene Wenger’s selling-driven former greatness.

Monday, 22 August 2011

A Return To Civilisation

"Wide son! GET IT WIDE"

It’s all getting a bit frenetic in the middle of the park. The winger battles to keep control under pressure, and by way of a lucky deflection manages to find his full back, who fizzes it in at the feet of his number 6, under pressure almost the instant the ball gets to him. It’s niggly in there. The ball breaks to his midfield partner, who, without looking up, drives it out first-time towards the full back on the opposite flank, in relative acres of space. Appreciative applause ripples around the ground.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Reflections On The First Day Of The Season: Part Two

'If only I'd won those first eight games'

Disclaimer: This isn't really about the first day of the season. Rob went off-message. That's just how we roll.

It’s always nice to see football back. It’s always nice to feel the flush of expectation on the first day, whether it’s over the fact that York might get promoted, Macc might finish somewhere that doesn’t end in ‘teenth’ or relegation and life will stop shitting on us long enough to let one, just ONE, of the £680 accumulators we routinely put on actually come in.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Reflections On The First Day Of The Season: Part 1

It's taken us almost a week to respond to the fact that the season is now up and running but we've woken up from our slumber. Adam Bushby gives his thoughts on a stolen afternoon in Kent. 

I remember the date vividly. Probably because it was less than a week ago and my short-term memory is pretty much fit for purpose. August 13. And I can tell you exactly where I was. I was stood towards the corner flag, in the away end of the Stonebridge Road ground eating a burger. I heard a booming Yorkshire voice, spliced with bile bellow: “And you can take your fucking chewing gum out an all linesman. Take your fucking gum out and start doing your fucking job.” After I heard this abuse, I smiled. ‘Why is this bloke so bothered about the linesman’s chewing gum?’, I pondered. I was watching York City v Ebbsfleet in the Blue Square Premier League, it was 15 minutes in, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. A new season has started. And I’m hooked.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A Skype Conversation About Rangers

Mussolini gestures to Celtic fans

In the absence of writing any 'proper' articles, Bushby and MacDonald take a trip down memory lane.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Samey Season


With our record-breaking* Dickheads series out of the way, it’s time to get back to our pastiched, holier-than-thou, tiradey ways. At least there is some recognition on our behalf here, that we are pseudo pub know-it-alls. But a mission statement for the new season was needed all the same. To kick off this season’s coverage, it is probably apt that we begin with a meditation on how shit the Premier League is.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Dickheads #13 - Arsene Wenger

What the hell just happened?

Closing this series, it's a welcome back to Magic Spongers for Drew Kearns, on a mission to make you spit your Friday brew all over your keyboard with this tirade about the Professor...

Dickheads. The world is full of them. When confronted with one such being I usually respond by placing them ‘on the list’. And the list is long. Louis Walsh, Daniel O’Donnell, Piers Morgan, H from Steps, George Lucas, Cliff Richard, Kim Bauer are but a few luminaries present. Unfortunately, the world of football is just like the real world and also full of dickheads: Glenn Hoddle, John McGinley, Robbie Savage and Bolton’s Lofty the Lion mascot all rest in the football volume of the list. But one name stands out above them all. Family, friends and people I’ve stood next to in the queue at Tesco will know where I’m heading with this. If there is one thing I hate in football today, it has to be Arsene Wenger, Arsenal manager and luminary dickhead. As the wife pointed out this season while watching the Gunners’ FA cup game against Manchester United: “Not even Spurs fans hate Wenger as much as you do”. This is very true. I shall attempt to explain.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Dickheads #12 - Luis Suarez

Dream destroyer

While neutrals everywhere cried into their beer, one man went into Pantomime villain mode and another man has never forgiven him. Please give a warm welcome to Magic Spongers to Jonny Sharples who can be followed here.

It was Friday, July 2 2011 and I sat at home in a knock-off Ghana shirt bought from the side of the road in Accra. I was swearing quite a lot. A hell of a lot. I was angry, I was upset and I'm not even Ghanaian. I can only imagine how much a native of the country feels about him but me? I hate Luis Suarez.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Blooper Mario


So Mario Balotelli’s unhappy is he? What a massive shame. What a change from his normal sunny disposition, too. Truth be told, you wouldn’t think he had many reasons to be unhappy. Admittedly, he has attached what appears to be a strip of Velcro to his head, so maybe he’s unhappy about that. No? Maybe he’s unhappy because the press won’t get off his back, or because someone left kippers in his Maserati. Maybe it’s because he’s been done for parking offences 27 times. Maybe it’s because he just can’t park at all and he needs to use those mother/baby spaces at Asda.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Dickheads #11 - Defensive Midfielders

That sort of player?

Another day, another dickheads piece and another Magic Spongers debutant. Here's James Tyler of the fantastic Unprofessional Foul who can also be found on Twitter, where you should follow him, now.

Ever been at the seaside and watched a bully crush a child's sandcastle? Feels awful, doesn't it? It's cruel and crude, but the real disaster is when the ocean comes and washes the crime scene away. In this tepid analogy, we've all built plenty of castles and seen them rudely destroyed, and it never gets easier.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Dickheads #10 - Roy Keane

"Stick it up your bollocks, Mick"

Over to Ian Walsh of the rather excellent Touchline Views, WHO IS A MAN UNITED FAN ALRIGHT SO DON'T EVEN START WITH US.

Before I begin, a little preamble. When I mooted the idea of choosing Roy Keane for this series it seemed to cause hysteria among a couple of Manchester United fans (the club I also support). But then, I’m not one to pander to the demands of others and have no shame or remorse in saying that Roy Keane is a dickhead of the highest order.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

This Be The Curse

"He fucking IS better than Ngog" 

In some sort of shite exclusive, the poetic ramblings of Adam Bushby and Rob MacDonald (because we were bored at work).

This Be The Curse

They fuck you up, do Yeovil and Hull.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They tempt you with their lascivious pull

And then concede at quarter to.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Dickheads #9 - Kevin Muscat

Getting somewhere near the ball for a change

To kick off this week of Dickheads, it's over to Chris Lines of Narrow the Angle. Shouldn't be many dissenting voices on this one...

I’ve no beef with hardmen in football. Occasional moments of brawn and skulduggery give the game a juicy bit of edge. If you play the ball then there’s nothing too wrong with being fairly physical, provided you’re not jeopardising the safety of your opponent. But there’s reasonable force and then there’s downright dangerous.

Kevin Muscat is not just a hard player, he’s an absolute animal. A snarling, ticking time bomb of a man, seemingly hell bent on raging against anyone and anything that crosses his path. Innocuous incidents can be enough to cause the red mist to descend (and in Muscat’s mind, the forecast is usually for heavy fog and the horizon a shade of deep rouge). A tricky winger giving him the slip, somebody fouling him a little bit, a raised eyebrow – in certain games you can see it coming. And then it’s just a case of how soon somebody is going to get horribly clattered into.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Dickheads #8 - ITV's Punditry Team

Pure evil

Here's the other, slightly better half of Magic Spongers, Adam Bushby, on his more-than-just-an-aversion to three men on channel three...

"[Watching him is] like being stuck in the buffet car of a slow-moving train with a Toby jug that has miraculously discovered the power of speech… A talking Toby jug full of steaming hot piss.” Comedian Stewart Lee on Adrian Chiles.

I am 27. I earn an average wage only made average by the overtime I put in. I would say I am slightly better than average looking; women would disagree.

Adrian Chiles is 44. He earns £1m a year, which is above average. He is below average in terms of looks because he looks like a potato that a child of below average intelligence has drawn a face on.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Dickheads #7 - Alan Shearer

'Hands up if you're a dickhead'

After Greg's Crazy Gang piece caused such a furore in south west London last week, we thought we'd piss off the north east this time. Welcome to Magic Spongers Mr Ryan Hubbard, who can be found at the excellent Ryan Hubbard's Modern Football and on Twitter.

I'm not really a man who hates people. I'll generally try to be nice to everyone I meet; even Nottingham Forest fans. Sometimes. But occasionally there are some people who get right on my tits. Wayne Rooney, Neil Warnock and Jedward to name a few; they all have the ability to do my nut right in - but I can cope with their minor dickheadedness. However, there is one man who stands hair, head, shoulders and, as Ramon Vega found out, elbows above the rest. Alan Shearer is the biggest dickhead I have ever had the misfortune of seeing. It has nothing to do with the fact he's a Newcastle legend; there are legends at Leicester too. And Newcastle is definitely one of the friendliest places that I've had the pleasure to visit. But there are many, many reasons why I reckon Alan Shearer is a dickhead.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Dickheads #6 - The Crazy Gang

Greg Theoharis of Dispatches From A Football Sofa makes his debut for Magic Spongers and as Jamie Redknapp would say "he's literally had a stormer". Here's why the Crazy Gang weren't loveable rogues at all...

“If God had wanted us to play football in the sky, He’d have put grass up there” – Brian Clough

Trawling through the channels the other day, I happened upon a vintage episode of ‘Gladiators’. I was immediately transported to a time, pre-pub age, when my Saturday evenings revolved around the steroid-pumping sweatfest being sandwiched between the twin guilty pleasures of Baywatch and Blind Date. So, paralysed by nostalgia I ended up watching. I’d forgotten. Oh had I forgotten. Because just as the commercial break came around, that cacophonous, mangled, ridiculous cry emanated from a man who quite unreservedly and unashamedly deserves the title of ‘dickhead’. John Fashanu. “A-wooooooo-gaaaaa!” From that point on, my day was ruined, consumed with memories of that vile period in the late ‘80s through to the mid-‘90s, otherwise labelled ‘The Crazy Gang Era’. Allow me to repeat. Dickheads.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Dickheads #5 - Diego Maradona

'Music loud, and women warm, I've been kicked around since I was born'

A warm welcome to Jake Harrison, whose distate for Diego has NOTHING to do with 'that goal against England', alright?

When I was growing up, there was always one name, one footballer in particular that really riled my Dad. This man’s name, when mentioned, was always accompanied with the word “cheat” – along with other, more colourful phrases – so I pretty much grew up thinking that this man was the footballing equivalent of Satan.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Dickheads #4 - People who wave at television cameras at football matches

A pair of dickheads

He's one of the best things to happen to football since Brian Barwick's Root and Branch. And he works for us. Ladies and Gentleman, the ever-excellent Andi Thomas of Twisted Blood fame.

What you are about to read runs counter to almost everything I hold dear, not only in football but in life. If I have any kind of creed, or overarching principle, it is that you shouldn't judge something, or someone, without first making at least some kind of attempt to understand the context. Obviously, this needn't be much effort – it doesn't take long to get a decent grasp on whether somebody's a twat or not – but it should be some, and it certainly shouldn't be done on the basis of a momentary television shot. Indeed, I've written about it at length elsewhere.

But with that in mind …

... anybody who waves at a television camera while they're at a football match is a dickhead.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Dickheads #3 - Arsenal; Or The Axis of Evil


Rob was so angry when he wrote this that he doesn't remember half of it. Like the Incredible Hulk, but not green, muscular or remotely moral.

About 10 years ago, give or take, Arsenal ruined English football forever. That may seem unfair, but I don’t care, because this isn’t a piece about rational appraisals of footballers. This is a piece about wholly irrational hatred and more specifically, the fact that the Arsenal back four of Winterburn, Adams, Keown and Dixon or as I shall refer to them from here on in, the Axis of Evil, are dickheads.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Dickheads #2 - Sky Sports News, Transfer Deadline Day


A warm welcome back to Magic Spongers for Dave Hartrick, who takes up the baton of rage and fury and smashes Jim White firmly over the head with it.

Firstly, let me make something very clear, I genuinely love Sky Sports News - it soundtracks at least three quarters of my day every day.


For two days a year it’s absolutely unbearable.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Dickheads #1 - Graeme Souness


Welcome, fans of edgy and angry ranting, to Magic Spongers' new series, creatively entitled 'Dickheads'. Hate someone? Yeah? Good. This is the place for you. First to take the torch of fury for a run round the block is our friend Alex Bingle.

Being a teenager is full of traumas you wouldn’t wish upon anyone, or so I am told by Glee and Dawson’s Creek. Why can’t they just tell the truth: that we are (or were) simply young, pubescent and constantly horny? Do they ever portray how football can make you more miserable than any break up from your girlfriend of two weeks simply because her feelings have changed? Do they ever mention how Manchester United were doing their best to ruin my life back in 1991 (and still are) just because they are Total Bastards?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

War and Pearce

The results are in. The Root and Branch is officially over and luckily for Magic Spongers, it has achieved absolutely fuck all. Stuart Pearce gave us a glimpse into the future of English football at the very top level on Sunday. And it is marvellous, we have to say. "When you have reached pass number five, punt it long. You will then not see the ball for two minutes. In this time, show passion and pride; the Bulldog Spirit if you will. Get ball back. Repeat".

The Barcelona way of playing is, of course, impossible to replicate. That's why Juan Mata and Javi Martinez, of Valencia and Athletic Bilbao respectively, looked so much like their English counterpa... oh.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The English Patience

You can’t hear it in the car park. You poke your head around the door to the club shop, but nothing. Through the sliding glass doors and into reception, you can’t hear it. Going up the stairs and into the bowels of the stadium, slowly a dull thudding starts to play on the eardrums. Along the corridor, it’s now clearly in earshot. Past the gym and along to the manager’s office, a repeating bang-bang-bang, of forehead on wood, is clearly audible. Through the door and the manager is sitting there, Premier League scout opposite, looking exasperated.

“I don’t understand”, the manager says. “He’s a kid who’s hardly ever played for the national team, who’s never played in the Champions League, who doesn’t have any medals, who’s never moved clubs so has no sell-on clauses and who hasn’t played 100 club games in his career yet. And he’s worth MORE than £10m?” “But boss”, the scout says, exhaling with the air of a man about to attempt to explain the finer points of physics to an intellectually reticent monkey – this isn’t going to make sense, but it’s fundamental truth – “he’s English.”

Monday, 6 June 2011

Managerial Merry-Go-Round

Silly season is here again, says Drew Kearns. But it's not just the players taking the bloody piss...

June 2nd 2011. Remember this date when you pull on that new replica shirt in August as it was the day silly season started this year. With Mark ‘Sparky’ Hughes resigning/leaving/quitting/gardening/not renewing his contract at Fulham, the bi-annual merry-go round begins. January flirts with the idea of mass movement in the world of football, but even with the introduction of the winter transfer window it doesn’t hold a yellow ticker to the beast that is the summer months - a barren wasteland for all football fans where rumour, gossip and inaccuracies grow like wildflowers.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Euro Revision #5: Manchester United v Real Madrid 2003

It's part five, which means handing over to In Bed With Maradona's Dave Hartrick...

Manchester United 4-3 Real Madrid, April 23 2003

The problem with the Champions League is that until the latter stages there are far too many mismatches. Every year the draw comes through for the groups and all we can look forward to until the next round is Barcelona waltzing through six games in which they’ll never be required to shift in to top gear. Yes, we love the Caligula style orgy of football as up to eight games are screened for us to red button to and from, but in reality, for every shock there’s 30 games that equate to a little kid swinging punches but being held at arms length by a teenager.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Euro Revision #4: Liverpool v Chelsea 2005

Pure evil

...and here's the other half of Magic Spongers Adam Bushby

Liverpool 1 v 0 Chelsea: Champions League semi final 2nd leg, May 2005

Mine is a tale of heroes and villains. I’m looking at YOU Ľuboš Micheľ with your stupid squiggly bits on the letters of your name. “Why do you mock this poor man so savagely?” I hear you all ask. I’ll tell you, I sneer, in a really smarmy kind of way. Ľuboš Micheľ is a former professional referee. Ľuboš Micheľ was in fact ranked the world’s second best referee in 2006. Ľuboš Micheľ was the man in charge of the second leg of Liverpool v Chelsea and ruined it for everyone by not sending off Petr Cech in the fourth minute of the match and consequently awarding Liverpool a penalty, which, I think I’m correct in saying, Steven Gerrard would have placed to the left of substitute goalkeeper Carlos Cudicini and thus provide the catalyst for the largest win the Champions League semi-final stage had ever seen. Bear with me.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Euro Revision #3: Manchester United v Barcelona 1994

Lee Sharpe receives his first England cap. A proud day.

Over to Magic Spongers' very own Rob MacDonald...

Manchester United 2-2 Barcelona: Champions League Group Stages, October 19 1994

When I was very young, I was in Cub Scouts and we got to a Cup Final. 4th Wilmslow v 1st Lindow I think it was. As a boy it was a confusing time – why was this game different? How would I feel if we lost? How would I feel if we won? What the fuck are those numbers for? (To this day I’ve seen neither hide nor hair of 2nd or 3rd Wilmslow, though I remember 1st, 4th, 5th AND 6th. Did 2nd or 3rd Wilmslow even exist? What? Why not?).

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Euro Revision #2: Deportivo la Coruna v AC Milan

Please give a very warm welcome to Surreal Football’s Ethan Dean-Richards, who makes one beautiful clusterfuck of a debut for Magic Spongers in the second part of our Champions League mini-series. He can also be found here @SurrealFootball.

Milan 4-1 Deportivo & Deportivo 4-0 Milan, Quarter Finals, April 2004

It’s traditional, I’m told, to do some research on the game that you’re writing about, before you write about it. I’ve also heard that looking for a second time at the context in which your piece will be placed – the series, if you will – is advisable, because who wants to spend an hour – alright, fifteen minutes – tapping out exactly the wrong sort of thing? On both of these counts, as in all other things, I'm an innovator – a maverick.