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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A (very selective) review of the year

Oh boy...

It was most refreshing to see 2013 become the year in which football finally started to move away from the hysteria over managerial movements, controversial on- and off-pitch incidents, minute scrutiny on even the tiniest perceived slight or indiscretion, ridiculous transfer fees and generally threatening to disappear forever up one of those particular proverbial arseholes at any given moment. EXCEPT THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN, DID IT.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Second (manager of the) season syndrome

'This is going to be a piece of pi- oh'

Following the undignified scenes at the weekend (we haven’t heard ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’ sung with such venom since a Christmas party we were at a couple of years ago), it was good of Tim Sherwood to prove that the new dawn at Spurs is going to look suspiciously like the dusk that preceded it. SHERWOOD OUT!

Friday, 6 December 2013

A Load of Balls

World cupping

It’s perhaps one of football’s greater ironies that FIFA spend a great deal of time trying to make the game produce more goals and excitement to the general detriment of draws, only to spend an inordinate amount of other people’s time and money on one that is so pointless and overblown that from an initial level of anticipation at the start, viewers are forced into to a general state of torpor and indifference by the close. A bit like this paragraph.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Rob’s Magic Shoes

Another remarkable shoe story

Adam Bushby (AB) 

The unusual events described in this chronicle occurred last Saturday in Angel, north London. I’d arranged to meet Rob MacDonald (co-editor of Magic Spongers) outside Highbury & Islington tube and then we walked up to the Craft Beer Co on White Lion Street. Although it’s always nice to go out for a drink, we’d ostensibly met to talk about our new book (Falling for football: The teams that shaped our obsession, publication date: soon). As we did so, my eyes fell on Rob’s shoes. “Are they your new maroon and black shoes that you got free from JD Sports?” I asked. “Maroon?” he asked incredulously. “They’re black.” They weren’t black. They were maroon and black.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Shape of Things to Come

'Two plus two equals HARRY FOR ENGLAND'

More bewildering news from the world of autobiographical serialisation as the greatest-manager-England-never-had-but-still-may-have-and-most-likely-still-will-end-up-with-at-some-point decided to follow such luminary commentators as Gary Lineker and, ahem us, in putting the boot into the FA for not being able to run the country properly, or something.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Bad Cover Version

'They'll never know it's me.'

Fernando Torres looked at the screen, baffled. He blew out his cheeks, bemused. On the TV, a slow-motion replay showed him barging through the Manchester United defence, like a barge, before poking a shot past Edwin van der Sar and sprinting off on the lush Wembley turf, having just won the 2007 FA Cup for Chelsea in extra time.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Hart Knock Life

'Anyone going to tackle him?'

When this blog was very young and trying to be a serious collection of articles about what was, at that time, still a serious sport, it was very de riguer to fly in the face of widely-received wisdom to appear distinct. Well, never ones to be more than three years behind a developing trend that everyone else has already milked into oblivion and pastiche (watch out for our book, coming soon, by the way), here we are with a treatise on the reasons that Joe Hart is NOT overrated, despite the fact that a) he is, b) he’s been pretty poor for two years with the exception of a good game against Dortmund last season, c) we’ve variously read that the England manager has ‘misgivings’ about his form (doubtless following the shipping of TWO goals to Scotland), d) that he ‘flapped’ at not one but two corners against Cardiff on Sunday, and e) like all footballers, he just is.

Friday, 16 August 2013

The Premier League's REAL big two

'Jake f*cking WHO?'
It might feel a bit 'same shit, different year', but there are changes afoot for the ways in which pundits will be boring you to tears this season. And it might even be an improvement. Dan Clark looks forward to the return of the Premier League.

The scene is set: ‘Here we go, here we go, here we go’ will be heard from the comfort of my living room couch this weekend as the sun rises on yet another glorious new Premier League season. And of course this new 24/7/nine-month festival of football will all be delivered in crisp high definition with every angle covered, the best up-to-the-minute reaction and all the talking points covered. At least that’s the Sky Sports version.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Man, I've not heard anything about Jose Mourinho for a whi- OH WAIT

The quietest man in football

If anyone was in any doubt who the ladies and gentlemen of the fourth estate’s favourite football manager is, doubt thee no longer. Suffice to say it’s not Harry Redknapp, not any more. Suffice it also to say that the manager in question is all too aware of his illustrious standing among the nation’s sport scribblers and doesn’t so much shy away from the limelight as pour some paraffin on his head, stick a fuse in his ear and run towards it making rude comments about its mother.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Never Mind The Bollocks

"Yes, I WILL be doing this every week."

Close season transfer speculation/gossip/bullshit, for me, reached its zenith in the (probably balmy) summer of 1996. When my peers and I were young enough not to know better and had yet to be infected by pessimism, especially as England had come desperately close to their first final of my lifetime until that ultimate of bastards Andreas Moller snatched away the dream in a way only a bastard of German heritage can.

Friday, 24 May 2013


"More of the same lads."

A swing of David Beckham’s (RIP) right boot, a flash of Alan Shearer’s not-as-bald-or-boring-back-then forehead and that was that. England one goal, Germany no goals. GERMANY KEINE ZIELE! And so a delirious nation decamped from the pubs they were watching in to… erm, some more pubs to sing inappropriate songs about German aircraft and Lothar Matthäus’ parentage, celebrate England’s victory over the arch enemy and make bold predictions about the destination of the Euro 2000 trophy, before going home to re-enact the match on their brand new Playstation 2 (one for you there, research fans).

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Through The Looking Glass

"The watch comes with the job son."

Mulleted bunder-inducer and Hannah Montana’s dad, aka Billy Ray Cyrus, may well have unwittingly (or otherwise) foretold the average Manchester United fan’s reaction to the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson with his 1992 smash hit ‘Achey Breaky Heart’. Not so much with the lines ‘you can tell my arms to go back to the farm’, of course, but with the iconic chorus. Because it seems to me that, understandably, there’s a numbness and something of a denial, certainly afflicting United fans of my age (rapidly approaching 30) who have known nothing but a Fergie-filled world.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Award's In The Bag

"By my calculations, we are only about £100m away..."

This week, Roberto Mancini moved into what was surely an unassailable position as front-runner for manager of the season and overwhelming favourite for best manager in England.

Mancini’s plucky Manchester City, second place in the Premier League and a mere 16 spots and 34 points above the trapdoor relegation zone, defeated Champions-elect Manchester United, an achievement matched (as indicated by Mancini before the game) by precisely no team ever before, with the exception of Everton, Spurs and Norwich earlier in the season. An award hasn’t been this sewn up since Lionel Messi stitched the Ballon d’Or to his face in 2009.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

This Be The Curse

"We should have defended deeper!"

“England let you down.” Roy Keane’s blunt assessment of England’s shortcomings against Montenegro last night struck a chord. Because that’s precisely what England do. Always. Even when, aged roughly 18, you have recalibrated your expectations to match the reality that England are no better than a quarter final side in the tournaments they do manage to qualify for. In short, England manager hands on misery to England manager; England fan hands on misery to England fan.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

'I may well have peaked.'
Two men. Two very different career paths. Here's Spongers regular Dan Forman on a talent who may not have been as wasted as most would lead you to believe.

Nicolas Anelka? Under the beanie hat, is that you on the bench at Celtic Park? I thought you were in China? I thought your career was effectively over, notwithstanding the still-very-large pay cheque. But now you're back? At Juventus? In the Champions League big time live on ITV. How had I missed this news? In my personal fantasy football career I am Nicolas Anelka. And I had thought my personal fantasy football career was over too - because it never contained any kind of pay cheque.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Flogging A Dead Totti

We don't know where to start with this.

Using footballers to flog stuff is not a new tactic. Who can forget the time joga bonito came to a stuffy airport and inspired a generation of kids to buy Nike kit and start having kickarounds in the departure lounge?* Brilliant stuff. However, it’s pretty rare for an advertiser to get it bang on the money like this, especially when it comes to recreating football and making it look decent (MARS), even when using actual footballers (PEPSI).

Friday, 15 February 2013

A Jolly Good Football Match

"This header's going to get more coverage than Welbeck's even though it's arguably not as good."

We’ve been documenting the decline and shortcomings of ‘modern football’ and its saturation coverage until we’re bluer in the face than a freezing Smurf, so it was refreshing to take in that rarest of spectacles this week: an enjoyable football match. With European ties scarce between Real Madrid and Manchester United in recent years, and those that have occurred remembered fondly – particularly for exhibitions of skill and goalscoring by Ronaldo, Redondo, Beckham et al – it was pretty difficult for any of the usual trumpeting narratives of revenge, vendettas or rivalries to penetrate what looked like an absolute classic from the moment the balls came out of the bag.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


"So wise so young, they say, do never live long."

Plantagenet line-leader Richard the Third of England has confirmed his availability for England duty as the national side prepare to face Brazil at Wembley. Third, last seen disappearing beneath a crowd of defenders at the notoriously feisty Bosworth Field on a wet and windy Tuesday night in 1485, declared himself ‘fit and raring to go’ having been confirmed as the skeleton dug up from a social services car park in Leicester in September.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Avoiding The Unavoidable – The Story So Far... [Part 1 of 2]

Not a two-footed tackle in sight

With dissatisfaction at the plight of the Premier League and its gaudy bells and whistles growing, one man took a stand. And so far, he doesn't regret it. We welcome back James Longhurst, who charts a Premier League-less existence.

I think it was a combination of getting older, fatherhood and the ever growing dignity chasm between football and other sports that led me to take a season off from the Premier League.

Actually, I think it was exclusively the dignity chasm.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Pardew's Dilemma

"Pssst, pssst. Take it easy lads. We want to lose this one so we can focus on the league and then re-qualify next year to then focus on the le...."

Newcastle have been consistently outfought in recent weeks, particularly against Brighton and Reading, and have been so lacklustre – for example in the goalless draw against Norwich – that pundits like poor Phil Thompson, covering the game for Soccer Saturday, was essentially on suicide watch by half time. However, one of their number who at least seems to have the stomach for a fight is Alan Pardew.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

B****** G***

Talk about this. Lots.

The moment ballboys jumped the shark, by Magic Spongers regularJohn Dobson

Something happened.
Here, look at the thing.
Look at it from the reverse angle.
Look at it in slow motion.
Look at it in super slo-mo.
Look at it frame-by-frame.
Isn't it shocking?
Now look in real time again.
Then zoom in.
The thing is terrible!
More after these commercials.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Two (Feet)'s Kompany

Two feet. Ball. Get over it.

 There’s tackling and there’s tackling. Or something. Here’s Magic Spongers regular Dan Forman on tackling. 

Firstly a disclaimer: I'm an Arsenal fan. So if you want to dismiss this as myopic sour grapes, that's fine, I couldn't give a toss because ANYONE WHO DISAGREES WITH ME IS AN IDIOT. As is ANYONE WHO SUPPORTS ANOTHER CLUB. That's how we do debate about football these days right?

Monday, 14 January 2013


Carrick: Strictly NOT a box-to-box midfielder, since 1999.

If one was asked to compile a list of European football’s most successful passers at present, the king of the metrognomes at Barcelona would surely top most of those compilations. Behind Xavi, who next then? Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta surely wouldn’t be too far behind. Maybe Xabi Alonso? The ageing magician Andre Pirlo, too; surely he’d make an appearance. But let’s look closer to home.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Excess Flaggage

"This is going to work out REALLY well."

God knows what Chelsea fans must be thinking about the Belfast flag protests but going on past form, we’d imagine it would be something approaching incandescence. Because, like Rafa Benitez, the Belfast City Council has a very blasé opinion of flags. And like rioting morons, some Chelsea fans have decided the best form of opposition is going down the ‘nasty’ route.