Football Cynic
Getting in where it hurts
Football Cynic

The Sort of Ultimate FootballCynic Quiz for those with time on their hands No.9

It's been a long time since the last quiz, but it's back! Which is the odd man out and why?

Bayern Munich 9 Manchester United 0

FootballCynic: So, that was quite a demoralising defeat tonight.
Mr Moyes: We’re disappointed. At 1-0, we had a couple of good chances and felt some decisions went against us, but that’s football.
FootballCynic: Your team looked a rabble at the end of the game and didn’t look good enough for this standard.
Mr Moyes: The players gave their all tonight. The defeat was entirely my fault. I’ve got a good squad of players here and at 2-0, we might have got back into the game and had a very different night.
FootballCynic: You mean you might have lost 9-1.
Mr Moyes: Well, a goal can change a game and I think you will have seen a different game if Cleverley hadn’t accidentally tied his boot laces together and fallen over as he was about to score.
FootballCynic: The second half was a bit of drubbing though.
Mr Moyes: As I said the boys battled hard, worked hard at our game plan and felt sure the fifth was at least a yard offside
FootballCynic: You are now out of Europe and have no chance of retaining your title. Is it worth playing the remaining games?
Mr Moyes: We’ve got a good squad here that work hard and we will fighting for three points in each one of the league games.
FootballCynic: What’s the prospects for next season? Can you guarantee that you will bring success back to Old Trafford?
Mr Moyes: We’ve got a good squad of players and I’ll be working hard to get the results that we demand and the high standards a good squad players will be working hard to get the results that a high standard of good squads fighting for three points will demand in a tough league with a good squad of hard working players.

 

Nothing ordinary about Alderney

FootballCynic’s travels took him to the beautiful island of Alderney in the Channel Islands recently. It’s nothing like the money driven islands of Jersey and Guernsey. Indeed, with 1900 residents, nothing much happens.

In one of Alderney’s pubs, FootballCynic asked the local farmer about the weather prospects. The 30 minute reply seemed to focus on the fact that it might be warm or it might be cold and it might be windy or, on the other hand, it might not be.

The conversation soon turned to football as another local joined the farmer. FootballCynic could not resist asking about Alderney Football Club, particularly as the ground has a perfect location. Then, a thought struck FootballCynic. If there is only one pitch on the island, who do they play? Or, is it like the San Siro where two or more teams share the ground? FootballCynic wasn’t thinking 80,000 crowds and huge rivalry, by the way.

Getting a direct answer from the farmer who was now moving quickly to his third pint was not easy. It transpires that each year Alderney take part in a three way tournament, called the Muratti Vase Cup, a curious name. Is it a vase or a cup?

As Alderney are the poor relation in both income per capita and football standards, Jersey and Guernsey get byes to the final alternate years, meaning that Alderney would have to win two games to win the vase-shape cup.

Alderney have, shall we say, struggled to say the least. Their last win in the tournament was a 1-0 win over Guernsey in 1920, the only win in the competition. However, Alderney has recorded an international win over Saare County (an Estonian island) and a draw with Sealand, a kind of platform off the coast of Felixstowe. Defeats to the Falkland Islands, Greenland, Isle of Wight, Orkney and others mean that in their history they have P107, W2 D1 L104 F53 A523.

And, Manchester United fans think they are suffering.


 

I resign. You can't. You're fired.

In the way that tsunami was a word few people knew before the, er, tsunami, the quenelle is a word that few people knew before Anelka’s quenelle.

The FA has suspended Anelka, but Anelka announced on social media that he felt he could not rejoin his team mates after the suspension. He stated "Following discussions between the club and myself, certain conditions have been set for me to rejoin the group, which I can't accept”. He announced that “with immediate effect”, he was terminating his contract.

West Bromwich Albion reacted by declaring that his termination was illegal. Therefore, they have sacked him for gross misconduct. Now, is it just FootballCynic’s ignorance of the legal process, but surely this amounts to the same thing? Perhaps, the West Bromwich Albion board now expect Anelka to respond by saying “Well, I’m not going then if you sack me”.

It seems a strange business and a distraction from the business West Bromwich Albion have in hand as they face Swansea City this weekend and a potential drop into the bottom three.

It’s not for FootballCynic to judge the rights and wrongs of the case, but maybe we need John Torode as Wikipedia describes a quenelle as a creamed fish or meat dish, sometimes combined with breadcrumbs. Anyway, does anyone really like Anelka? Will he find a seventh English club to play for?


 

Nowhere to Hyde

There’s nothing more ignominious than playing in a senior league and being relegated in mid-March. However, that is the fate that awaits Hyde in the Conference if they fail to draw at Alfreton Town on Tuesday night. A defeat means that they will be relegated. Indeed, in their 36 league games they have recorded 29 defeats, conceding 96 goals.

Hyde have had a topsy turvy recent history. When faced with bankruptcy recently, local “friends”, Manchester City stepped in and rescued the club – on one condition, the club was painted sky blue rather than red. Selling their soul? Come on. Even FootballCynic would wear a Manchester United shirt if he was given enough money.

Still, it’s not all bad news. Hyde describes itself on its website as “Tameside's No.1 football team” and “Everyone's second football team” and claims that “36K twitter followers can't be wrong”. Well, staff at FootballCynic HQ think they can be wrong, but, hey, there’s good news at hand – after beating New Mills 4-3, they are in the Manchester Premier Cup Final for the first time since 2008. We wonder if Manchester United or Manchester City enter that. Or, do Manchester City lend a hand as long as the Hyde manager wears a light blue tracksuit?

The Club, known as The Tigers, might, of course, benefit from being renamed Hyde Tigers and, if 36K followers can’t be wrong, we wonder why the The Tiger Kitty Lottery only pays out £200.

Still, in adversity, FootballCynic will be rooting for Hyde as they tackle Alfreton Town and start a late surge for survival.

The Hyde back four pose for photos with their wives.

 

Hokey Cokey

Woah the Hull kee cokie
Woah the Hull kee cokie
Woah the Hull kee cokie
Knees bent, headbutt, ra ra ra


 

Red mist

FootballCynic enjoyed the first 35 minutes of the Arsenal v Bayern Munich contest. FootballCynic should add that he is not an Arsenal supporter. He just wanted to see two of the more attractive teams on the planet play a game of football. It was an exciting game. Everything you could hope for unless you were an Arsenal fan or a German who thinks that Germans never miss penalties.

Herr Kroos then put through a decent ball through for the much loved Robben. Szczesny came out clipped Robben, who had his right foot higher than a high jumper’s foot, and the rest is history. Red card and 10 playing 11.

Szczesny was just doing his job – trying to stop a goal in a fair way. If he had arrived 0.25 seconds sooner, he would have got kicked in the head by Robben. Was there any malicious intent? No. Should it have been a penalty? Yes. So what’s the problem? Well, it then became the most boring game ever seen as Arsenal were forced to defend against a top quality side. It was no longer a football spectacle – and, in fact, it was highly predictable.

The red card seemed ridiculous. Was Szczesny at fault? Was Robben a cheat? Was the referee at fault? The answer is no to all of these questions even though the misguided Arsenal booed Robben for the rest of the game. Some might argue that the referee could have used his discretion, but that would have ruled out his chances of getting to referee the big games again. The fault lies with the football rule makers at FIFA.

Perhaps, it is time to learn from rugby. Why not a penalty goal? 1-0 to Bayern and then everyone can get on with a decent game of football. It really doesn’t seem to make sense that, if you excuse the arithmetic inaccuracies, that a red card given against a goalkeeper in the first minute for a Szczesny type foul should be 90 times worse than one in the last minute.

Rugby also has a sensible rule that disputed decisions mean that the kick is moved ten yards nearer to the opponents' goal. That would stop the teams that whinge.

Still, apparently it makes the game better and fairer. Perhaps, it’s time for managers to spin a wheel of misfortune every 15 minutes so that a random player can be sent off. Now, that would be entertaining.

Rant over.

Cups, revenge and tribute bands

FootballCynic likes live music, but has never had any time for tribute bands. Tribute bands have to have a name that is a feeble pun on the original band’s name. FootballCynic’s only memory of seeing a tribute band was a chance viewing of a band called “U2 Too Two” who played with all the passion of U2 themselves, but sadly with about one ninetieth of their skill. Why they were called "U2 Too Two" was a little bewildering unless they were a tribute act for a band called U2 Too that were a tribute band of U2.

For football teams, the top teams typically field a side that might be called a tribute act. They even do it in the FA Cup. Where things are different is that the clubs play under the same name rather than having a feeble pun. Manky United, Tottenham and Eggs or Neverton would be more suitable when they play Northampton Town at home.

Of course, the FA Cup is now getting down to “business end” as Gary Lineker would call it. The 5th round games gave Arsenal and Manchester City to turn round recent defeats in the league at the hands of Liverpool and Chelsea respectively. As everyone was proclaiming Jose Mourinho’s astute tactics made him a mastermind as they grabbed a 1-0 league win at Man City, the glory didn’t last long. Presumably, our national leader, Mr Gerrard, will be humming “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” on the coach back to Anfield.



Hoping to punch above their weight

It’s been an interesting time at Evostik Division One South club, Goole, recently. First of all, Goole’s Karl Colley was sent off during a hefty defeat to Coalville Town. On his way from the pitch, Colley confronted a Coalville Town supporter and has been dubbed “Goole’s Cantona”, partly, it seems, as the attack took place on the 19th anniversary of Eric’s little fracas in South London.

Colley has been sacked by the club and manager, David Holdsworth, has also left the club. The unsavoury incident, which took place at the inappropriately named Victoria Pleasure Ground, is now being investigated by the FA.

The new manager is a professional boxer – Curtis Woodhouse. He might well consider the goings on as a blow to the club and any action by the FA to be below the belt. However, he is likely to come out fighting and will hope that when the bell goes for the end of the season that Goole will be higher than their current 14th position.

Below, Colley is captured joining the spectators at Goole v Coalville Town. It looks like he might be just a spectator from now on.




Can Mata take a penalty?

It’s Sunderland who have spoilt the mouthwatering prospect of a day at Wembley when both halves of Manchester come to the metropolis. Or, more accurately, when the sky blues of Manchester and the reds from Malaysia, Turkey, China, Basingstoke and Chipping Norton head to Wembley.

Not only have Manchester United forgotten how to win games, but they have seem to have gotten, as an American MU-supporting friend of mine would say, a morbid fear of taking penalties. Indeed, the same friend once referred to a clumsy challenge by Vidic in the penalty area as a “potential penal offence”, which, you have to agree, is strange way of wording it.

The final is going to be a bit like Manchester City’s last visit to Wemberlee – for Wigan Athletic, just read Sunderland. At the end of the day, no one will care much. The game will turn up on Sunday 2nd March and aside from supporters of the two participants, the only way most people will work out that it is taking place is if they notice that the two clubs are not playing a league game. What’s more, if Manchester City win, even the biggest anorak will have trouble remembering the score in five years’ time unless it is a weird score like 11-2. FootballCynic wonders whether the League Cup should stop at the semi final (pronounced like sem-eye by my American friend) stage – the build-up is fun for some of the smaller clubs as they sneak wins over Premiership youth squads, but by the time you get to the final – well, there’s no fun to be had.

Four’s Kompany, Six is a Crowd

I quite like Vincent Kompany. Or, to be more precise, he seems a decent chap and is a good footballer. It’s not as though we are on first name terms or anything. He would know me simply as FootballCynic.

It’s all very well being optimistic but Vince, as he probably ask me to call him, thinks that it is only a matter of time before Manchester City win the quadruple. Taking a 6-0 lead to West Ham, Vinny and his chums will be confident of playing in one final this season. And, to be fair, they are knocking in an average of four goals per game at home. But, to claim a quadruple when the mighty Barcelona stand in the way of a Champions League win? Aargh, but then Kompy comes up with a get out – it might may not be this generation but it will happen at Manchester City. So, if FootballCynic lives to, say, 100, he is never going to know whether Kompo will be right or not.

This leads on to the most cups a team could win in a season. Let’s take Hartlepool, for example. Presumably, if they won the FA Cup, that would propel them into the Europa Cup the following year. This could mean that in the next season they could then win the League 1 or League 2 title, the FA Cup again, the League Cup, the Europa League, the Charity Shield (or whatever it is called nowadays) and the Johnstones Paint Trophy. Now, that’s a sextuple, Vin. And, to be honest, Vincey, that would be even more impressive even though he has probably never heard of the Johnstones Paint Trophy.

So, Hartlepool fans, the search is on. Is there a Hartlepool fan out there, who thinks that they will win the sextuple some day?

Below, Vincent Kompany bets his shirt on Manchester City to get the quadruple.


Duckworth Lewis to come to football?

The goal line technology that arrived on the scene for this season’s Premiership has all been a bit of a damp squib. The FA must have hoped that there would be several close calls, particularly in live crucial matches, but the reality is that it has been all quiet on the western front.

Alan Pardew was this week’s raging manager after Tiote’s goal was disallowed because a keeper's view may have been partially blocked by a player in an offside position. Surely, a student could write a computer program to calculate this. Apparently, he was moved to swear at Pellegrini as they trooped off for half time oranges. Perhaps, the mistake that has been made is that the technology has been brought in for what is, in practice, a rare, if major incident - whether a ball crossed the line or not.

The fear is that games will become too “stop-start” if technology is extended and spoil the entertainment. So, let’s take some action – get everyone used to “stop-start” and stop unnecessary stops. Here’s FootballCynic’s five point plan:

• Taking the ball towards the corner flag is like stopping the game. Therefore, it should be legal to kick or push any player shielding the ball within 10 yards of the corner flag. Use of offensive weapons should not be allowed.

• Stop managers running down the clock by irritating substitutions. 3 minutes should be added on for each player that is substituted by a winning team in the last 15 minutes of a game.

• Video technology should be used where there is a disputed throw-in. An incomprehensible system rather like cricket’s Duckworth Lewis formula could be used to calculate the likely true winner of the throw adjusting the result if the microphone picks up an excessive appeal by a player.

• When a player goes down injured, a team of eight – four medics and four police officers – should run onto the pitch, cordon off the area and allow play to continue around it. Any player entering the cordoned off area or passing a ball into the area would be yellow carded.

• Walls for free kicks should be assembled within a maximum of 10 seconds. Referees would trigger the 10 second warning by pressing a button in their pocket. After 10 seconds a siren would automatically sound indicating the kick could be taken. Spectators could join in the countdown to add to excitement. A bit of urgency and the sight of lumbering centre forwards sprinting back would add to the entertainment. Any player within 10 yards of the ball after 10 seconds will be yellow carded and sent to stand by the nearest corner flag while the free kick is taken. The offender or offenders could be kicked while standing at the corner flag in line with the first recommendation. This would give spectators the fascinating possibility of having two action points on the pitch.

Over to you, Sepp. What are your thoughts on this?

AFC Telford need an elephant up front

FootballCynic decided to give up beer until 2015 as his New Year’s resolution. In fact, a phone call from a friend in Shropshire meant that he didn’t notice the time and it wasn’t until about 20.25 on January 1st that FootballCynic had his first beer of the year.

This leads us into the football giants of Shropshire, AFC Telford United. If AFC Telford United had a 2013 New Year’s resolution to be top of the Conference North, they were only a day late as they hit the top yesterday thanks to a thrilling 5-3 home win over local rivals, Hednesford Town. The Bucks, as they are known, are in good form as they strive to reach the Conference.

A visit to the club’s website is interesting. The club’s motto is “Numquam obliviscere”, which for non-Latin scholars, means “Never forget”. Strange, then, that if you have forgotten your password to the member’s area of their website that you only have to click on “click here”. Or, does it just tell you to “never forget”?

Having beaten high-flying Hednesford Town, January brings tricky away games at highly-placed Altrincham and second-place North Ferriby United. Whether AFC Telford United can get back to the Conference where they were in their previous incarnation and a step nearer their county rivals at Shrewsbury Town remains to be seen. Maybe, they just need an elephant up front so that they never forget. 

Full of Christmas spirit

Boldmere St Michaels and Bugbrooke St Michaels are two special teams. They are the only teams in the country that contain all the letters of Christmas. Sadly, the wonderfully named Meltis Corinthians which also have all the letters of Christmas folded a couple of years ago.

The only league sides that manage 8 of the 9 letters are Manchester City, Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion – and, you could argue that they have all the letters of Christmas; they just need a second ‘s’. You could also argue that Manchester City and Manchester United are better than West Bromwich Albion as they have no 'L' (Ooh, sorry).

Of course, in this festive season, there are a few clubs with none of the letters of Christmas. They are Ellwood, Foley, Goole, Knowle, Loxwood, Odd Down and OUP. In the Football League, Bury and Burnley are least festive teams.
Below: The rehearsal for the Christmas festivities at Boldmere St Michaels, it would seem.
 

Do you need football on Christmas Day?

Serious football fans will, of course, need a live game on Christmas Day to keep them happy. There’s an interesting selection of games to travel to on Christmas Day this year.

For international football, you might fancy travelling to the hub of world football to watch Qatar take on Palestine. You never know, Sepp Blatter might there to have lunch with his friends.

Further afield, you might be tempted to a game between Azam Tigers and Red Lions in the depths of Malawi or the almost unpronounceable Mponela who play the Scottish sounding Blantyre United.

In Pakistan, you can see Karachi Electric play the catchily named WAPDA, which sounds more like a new variant of the Gangnam dance style.

However, if the budget stretches to a trip to Belize, it is hard to stop yourself heading to see Police United play Freedom Fighters in what could be an explosive encounter.

For those in a hurry on Boxing Day for some live football, you will have to wait until 12.00 when Coventry City kick off against Peterborough and Cambridge United face Braintree Town.

Below: WAPDA players stop to discuss whether the man playing in the hole has taken his role too seriously.

Knill by mouth

So, who is the most talked about manager on the Internet? In terms of hits when you carry out a Google search, the winner by some margin is Stoke City manager, Mark Hughes, but more of him later. Of course, it was Sir Alex Ferguson prior to his retirement. Indeed, his replacement, David Moyes would probably settle for a league position in line with the number of Google hits he has as he currently sits in third place behind Jose Mourinho.

Arsene Wenger sits in fourth place with, perhaps surprisingly, Tony Pulis, Steve Clarke and Chris Hughton behind him.

As for Mark Hughes being the winner, he is cheating really as there are several other well known Mark Hughes characters in the world.

And, you may wonder, who is bottom of the table for Google hits. By a considerable margin, it’s the new Fulham boss, Rene Meulensomething. If you want to find out everything about the Dutchman you would only have to read 67000 webpages whereas the man next to bottom, Sam Allardyce, has 347000 hits.

To add insult to injury, word of mouth means that Alan Knill, manager of basement club, Torquay United, has more hits than Meulensomething. Below, Alan Knill, who is better known than Rene Meulensomething, entertains the crowd with his version of “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts”.

It's plucky little time

FootballCynic’s Road to Wembley continues with an 8th round tie between two teams that begin with the same two letters and end with the same two letters – Stevenage versus plucky little Stourbridge. It’s that point in the FA Cup where the lesser club often gets saddled with the label ‘plucky little’, particularly if they lose by less than five goals.

Indeed, it could happen to Stevenage themselves in a later round. If they go to Old Trafford and lose 3-0 without having a shot at goal; they will still be described as ‘plucky little Stevenage’.

This is the eighth round of the FA Cup and it’s one step away from a potential clash with one of the top teams. The tables are being turned on Stevenage to some extent. It’s not long ago that as a non-league club, they faced mighty Birmingham City in the 3rd round proper of the Cup. Two years ago, they took Tottenham Hotspur to a replay with one of those plucky performances.

Whether the Glassboys can pull off a shock at Stevenage remains to be seen.

FootballCynic’s Road to Wembley:

Extra Prelim Darlington Railway Athletic 1 Newton Aycliffe 5
Prelim Newton Aycliffe 3 Spennymoor Town 3
Prelim Spennymoor Town 3 Newton Aycliffe 0
1st Qual Spennymoor Town 0 Lancaster City 1
2nd Qual Curzon Ashton 0 Lancaster City 0
2nd Qual Lancaster City 1 Curzon Ashton 2
3rd Qual Stourbridge 3 Curzon Ashton 0
4th Qual Workington 1 Stourbridge 3
1st Round Stourbridge 4 Biggleswade Town 1

Shots on target

FootballCynic was briefly on his own in a pub in London last week. Nothing too remarkable about that. Needless to say, the local drunk thought I needed some company. “What’s your favourite actress?” he asked. Being no film buff, FootballCynic started thinking about famous actresses, but was relieved that the drunk quickly became distracted as a rotund gentleman entered the pub. The drunk took his umbrella and gunned down the innocent looking rotund gentleman from about 10 yards – by gunned down, FootballCynic was not witnessing a horrific murder – his umbrella was “the gun”.

He soon came back to FootballCynic. He had thankfully forgotten all about the favourite actress question. Now, he asked where FootballCynic lived. Rather than give a full postal address, a vague answer was given. This was not good enough. “Where exactly?” he pressed. Once again, the pressure was quickly off as a young couple came through the door. Sure enough, they were mercilessly gunned down.

This time, he returned back to FootballCynic quickly and asked “Would I fry mould?” It’s always a mistake to ask for a better explanation. “Fry mould”, he repeated. Pointing at his watch, he repeated once more, but with slightly more clarity “Would you buy gold?” The question was a strange one, but, once again, two young ladies entered at the right time to prevent the need to answer. Once again, they were gunned down – curiously, one smiled, the other jumped back and briefly looked wounded.

It was now clear that each person coming into the pub was going to be gunned down by my new friend. Then, a man came in wearing a Manchester United. What ensued is not for the squeamish. Not only did he gun the man down, but he moved towards him with a machete and swished wildly. Luckily, “the machete” was a rolled up newspaper as the bemused Manchester United fan pushed past him to get his beer.

FootballCynic has never really liked Manchester United much, to be honest, but that all changed this week. FootballCynic spent one evening in Germany this week and in a pub watched Bayer Leverkusen being destroyed by Sir David’s red and white army. The look on the Germans’ faces as the 5th goal went in was priceless. FootballCynic may even have made an involuntary cheer as the goal went in. And then, to a man, they looked at me as they saw me watching them suffer. It was a wet night. For a moment, they all seemed to take their umbrellas and take aim at me. FootballCynic must remember to take a rolled up newspaper with him next time, so that he has some defence.

Scunthorpe confirm that fans can come dressed as squirrels

Whilst managers of football clubs have blamed referees, bad luck and 101 other things for failure, Alan Knill in his Scunthorpe days made the mistake of blaming a squirrel.

After an accident where a squirrel got caught in the spokes of his bicycle, Alan Knill said "I came off my bike at 20-whatever miles an hour, an ambulance was called and everything – I could have died. I'm worrying every night about football, about this, about that, I could have been dead on Monday”. The squirrel sadly died.

It was a bad patch for The Iron and Scunthorpe fans haven’t forgotten those days. Tomorrow, Alan Knill returns to Scunthorpe as manager of Torquay United. After one fan posted a question on the club’s website asking whether he would be turned away if he dressed as a squirrel, the club confirmed that he would not be told to leave even though they advised against it.

Now, of course, there is a mad scramble for squirrel costumes in Scunthorpe as many fans want to join the merry throng.


Will the real FootballCynic stand up?

Now, of course, any self-respecting football fan is fully aware of footballcynic.com and its vast empire. However, it has started to concern FootballCynic that there are some other, rather poor, imitations around.

So, this article is to warn you about the impostors. First of all, there is another Footballcynic blog, which claims to be “bringing you the most cynical view of football on the web”. Well, hardly, we feel at the real FootballCynic HQ. The blog has one post from two years ago with a feature of Harry Redknapp (picture used at bottom). You are invited to “Ask me anything”, but FootballCynic’s question has never been answered.

Even more curiously, there is a footballcynic blog which is published entirely in Thai. This is curious. I wonder who understands this - ทุกคนเกลียดพระราชวังคริสตัล

Next, we come to two non-football websites. They would probably prefer that this website was called www.soccercynic.com, but let’s face it, American football is a minority sport. And, hey, guess what? One of these American football cynic’s last posted in 2007 – his or her last comment was “I will attempt to follow up on that thought in a future post”. Six years later, we are all still waiting with baited breath – or not, I suspect. The other American football cynic seems to have disappeared recently, realising that he really shouldn’t compete with the real FootballCynic.

Finally, we come to an individual who posted regularly on the BBC website in the run up to the last General Election. This politically active person may has views, but he is an impostor posting under the name of Footballcynic. Now, this guy seemed fanatically pro-Cameron. You do wonder if it was David Cameron posting under a pseudonym.

Mister Donut: get out your wonga

Walking through Manila airport today, I saw a respectable looking gentleman wearing a t-shirt bearing the name of the local leading doughnut chain, Mister Donut. FootballCynic is not sure that he would wear a t-shirt bearing the legend “Mister Donut” unless a charity was to benefit substantially.

In a similar part of the world, it has always seemed fascinating that Koreans wear t-shirts with slogans that have no meaning – or, if they do, the meaning is far too deep to understand, especially if your native language is Korean. Things like “Mirrors change life”, “Butterfly humility”, “Love frees wood” or what someone presumably thought was a clever play on words “Except the accept”. No, you are right – accept is not a noun. Trying to justify each phrase is good mental challenge as you walk through downtown Seoul.

Of course, Mister Donut – or, rather, the respectable gentleman in Manila – is not alone as footballers wear things on their shirts. Crystal Palace used to take a lot of stick for having ‘Virgin’ on their shirts and there always seemed something wrong when Lee Sharpe of Manchester United had ‘Sharpe’ on the back of his shirt and ‘Sharp’ on the front. Since then, it is well known that when AIG sponsored Manchester United, the sponsor wasn’t a failing American company but simply stood for ‘Alex is God’. Whether DIG will appear on the front of their shirts in the future remains to be seen.

This year, as FootballCynic reported , Mr Cisse was not too happy with Wonga.com appearing on the front of his shirt, but the offer of a loan by the sponsors at only 5000% APR probably solved that one. There have been some strange ones over the years. Brighton & Hove Albion were relegated with ‘Nobo’ appearing on the shirts while AC Milan struggled with ‘Pooh’ on their shirts.

It’s all part of the game now, of course and slightly less annoying than those ads that move round the side of the pitch. Surely, it’s time for Mister Donut to put a few thousands into sponsoring a Premiership club.

League Two crowd-pullers

You do wonder if it went something like this:

“Steven, are we doing much this weekend?”
“Well, I’ve got an international friendly with Chile at Wembley”.
“Oh, is that all? The kids need some news shoes and we need to replace the broken ironing board because your Livepool shirt looked a bit creased on telly last week because I ironed it on the floor”.
“OK, I’ll give Woy a ring. My calf is a bit sore.”
“Stop calling him, Woy, you’ll say it to his face one day”.

So, Chile came to Wembley and won against a team that the more casual supporter of football might ask “Who’s he?” It’s, of course, all part of the World Cup warm up where you lose meaningless games that no one cares about before you lose meaningful games at which expectations are high. I suppose it was no better in France where Parisians spent Friday night crying into their glasses of wine as Ukraine opened up a two goal lead on les Bleus in their World Cup play off.

At international break weekends, supporters of the top 44 clubs are at a loose end and finding a fascinating fixture is hard. FootballCynic’s eye scanned down to League 2 where the 1988 FA Cup winners play the 2008 Cup winners. Wimbledon v Portsmouth will be played in front of a few thousand people, no doubt. Portsmouth's 2008 victory was against Cardiff City. It’s hardly a game that sticks in the memory – the scoreline was a forgettable 1-0, but curiously it was played in front of the biggest FA Cup Final attendance since Wimbledon’s win in 1988. Yes, 89,874 witnessed Portsmouth v Cardiff, marginally more than Chelsea v Manchester United in 2007 when 89,826 attended. The Wimbledon final had 98,203 people in attendance and before that the crowd was 90,000, 92,000, 98,000 or 100,000. There must have been a man on security stopping the 100,001th person from entering the ground in those days.

So, forget about England’s lamentable performance and depressed Parisians, let’s see how the Cup winners get on this weekend.

Biggles adventures

My ex-wife is Scottish. It wasn’t unusual to go to family gathering and to be told how bad the English were by some distant relative. Sure enough, at one party a drunken relative lurches up to me and burbles a few Glaswegian words that could have meant anything. As soon as I start to reply, politely asking him to repeat himself, he interrupts (and I translate here) “Och, you’re ***** English. I hate the ***** English. I hate all of them”. It’s tempting to move on as you do at parties with one of those awkward sideway movements, but he grabs me with an arm round the neck which is close to a headlock but one just point down the scale towards a friendly arm round the neck. “I ***** hate the English”, he confides in me. I really have got the gist of what he is trying to tell me by now, except that he is ready to surprise me. He lurches - with my head, of course - and continues “except for the people of Biggleswade. They are the finest people in the world”. Further explanation seems to focus on the fact that he spent the war years in Biggleswade and it seems that the locals were good at providing some hooch that would fry the brains in later years yet retain strength in the arms for headlocks.

So, in FootballCynic’s Road to Wembley, our friends from Stourbridge face the only decent English folk, the good burghers of Biggleswade Town – and we’re not talking McDonalds employees here – well, not necessarily.

The encounter is between two teams that compete in the Southern League Premier Division – Stourbridge are placed 5th and Biggleswade Town are 14th. The teams come from towns of 11 letters and, arguably, both towns are ones that you could put a dot on a map with some accuracy but not with precision. If you are to believe the Biggleswade Town website, the clubs are separated by a distance of 113.1 apart and if you left Biggleswade Town's ground at 12.45 you could still be at Stourbridge’s ground with 5 minutes to spare.

It’s going to be a close game and a replay may be needed to sort this one out. If it needs a replay to see who gets one step away from the chance to meet Manchester United, Stourbridge fans can look forward to the dance floor at Biggleswade Town with the pool table in the middle – and some local hooch, no doubt. Below, Biggleswade Town’s players celebrate their win in the previous round against Canvey Island.

All or nothing

What has happened to football? It’s easy to say that owners are unreasonable in giving managers a matter of weeks to be successful. It might seem as though they go off to the golf club to discuss the manager’s future as soon as there is a draw following a defeat. Indeed, there are only seven managers who have held their post more than three years.

But are the fans any better? Hardly. A win has the forum of most clubs ringing with phrases such as ‘I am really proud of the lads tonight’ whereas a narrow defeat brings out shrieks for the manager’s head, the use of wrong tactics/substitutions, the need for more cash etc. etc.

Take that leading Arsenal blog, Redacted_Gunner, authored by someone who calls himself goonerverse (yes, it’s lower case). Just nine months ago, Redacted_Gunner was campaigning to see the back of Arsene Wenger (see below). Less than 3 months ago, after a defeat on the first of the season Redacted_Gunner proudly posted a picture of Wenger with a circle around his head and a diagonal red line through the circle. Guess what now? The joys of being ‘proud to be a gooner to wear an arsenal shirt with pride” echo through the badly written blog.

Is Mr goonerverse (yes, it’s lower case) atypical or do “you stand by your team that is what you do as a fan” as Mr goonerverse belatedly dared to suggest two weeks ago.

No, there is no leeway, no margin for error, no allowance for an off day, no acceptance that things don’t always go to plan, no comprehension that planning may extend to more than a couple of weeks.

It’s a little harsh picking on Mr goonerverse, of course, as there are thousands of others up and down the country like him. Thankfully, there are fewer the further you go down the football pyramid. What is not in doubt is that Arsenal are deservedly top of the Premiership at the moment and gained a first class result in Dortmund last night.

Whether Arsene Wenger has a blog with a picture of Mr gunnerverse (yes, it’s lower case) with a red circle round it and red line through it, we just don’t know. Perhaps, he’s too busy looking for another job. You wouldn’t blame him. Of course, if Manchester United beat Arsenal on Sunday, there’s no doubt that Wenger should go and that the players are just an overpaid bunch of idiots that should all be transfer listed. Isn’t that right, Mr goonerverse (yes, it really is lower case).


Verification Control Document

When a club has a 17 point lead at the top of the table by the end of October, it’s hard not to be very impressed. What’s more, when the club name is just 3 initials, the average punter may have no idea where the club comes from or indeed what the initials in that club name might stand for.

So, when you learn that VCD Athletic are top of the Ryman North, the first thing is to find out what VCD stands for. Online searches for abbreviations suggest many things – Video Compact Disk, Value Change Dump, Vapour Compression Distillation, Very Convenient Diversion, Verification Control Document or, even, Viet Cong Division. Well, FootballCynic can tell you that it stands for Vickers Crayford and Dartford, the team originating from the Kentish aviation factory.

With 43 points out a possible 45, VCD Athletic’s only setback was an early draw against Needham Market. Along with Chatham Town and Erith & Belverdere, VCD Athletic have to cross the Thames for 21 of their 23 away games.

As to whether VCD Athletic are title certainties, the club’s forum is full of chat. Paul Young, who presumably shares the love of the common people, posts that he has cautious optimism and feels that VCD Athletic are as good as anyone. Cheshunt supporter, John Fruitbat, admits that he was the gobby git, but wishes VCD Athletic well – until, they meet again – it’s not clear whether he was a player or supporter.

So, in the word of Paul Young, every time you go away….it seems to be another win! Good luck to the Celtic-like hoops from North Kent!

Below: Travelling VCD Athletic fans at Enfield Town.

Uppies or Downies for Stourbridge?

FootballCynic’s Road to Wembley has meant the end of the road for each club that he has followed. Stourbridge, who conquered Curzon Ashton in Round 6 or what our friends at the FA call Fourth Qualifying Round, today head towards Scotland to face Workington. It’s the round where non-league sides are just one game away from a dream visit to Portsmouth, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield United or even Accrington Stanley.

Workington, of course, is renowned for its sport. It is fascinatingly home to the Uppies and Downies, a form of medieval football. The ball used is 21 inches in diameter and made from four pieces of cow leather. Workington is also home to a rugby league team – you can still hear Eddie Waring distinctively saying “and Work-ing-ton Town are trying an up and under” - but the football team in Workington has had mixed fortunes.

After joining the Football League in 1951 to replace New Brighton, Workington’s highest placing came in 1966 when they finished 5th in Division 3 (or League 1 for those under 25). However, 11 years later, Workington fell out of the Football League and were replaced by Wimbledon. During their 26 years of league football, they were managed by Bill Shankly and Keith Burkinshaw, but they are now led by Darren Edmondson, who has managed the club for 6 years.

Stourbridge will find Workington a tough place to go and predicts that it will be more of “Downie” for Stourbridge rather than an “Uppie”. FootballCynic predicts a 2-1 win to The Reds from Workington and a long 220 mile trip home for Stourbridge – a distance only surpassed by Barrow’s reverse drive south down the M6 and beyond to Brackley Town.

Below: Stourbridge will be need to be well prepared for a game of Uppies and Downies.

Name games

This evening Elfsborg played Esbjerg in the once-called UEFAilures Cup, which has cheerily been renamed The Ropey League. Germans would have hoped for an 11-11 draw to match the never forgotten East Fife v Forfar result. But there’s far more to salivate over.

Iceland have performed admirably to be just a play off win away from qualifying for the World Cup finals. Their opponents are Croatia and FootballCynic will be cheering the boys on. The reason? Well, after the European groups saw Turkey and Hungary drawn together, how good would it be if Iceland and Chile could be in the same group in Brazil?

Below, Icelandic folk prepare for the visit of Croatia.

You're next, Poland

Well, that 4-1 win over Montenegro (or Macedonia as the BBC headlines would have it) showed those buffoons at FIFA. How dare they rank England in 17th place after such an easy win? And, what’s more, we have a new hero, Andros Townsend, named man of the match by, er, Mr A. Townsend.

We have a new hero now, so we can start to build up this team as potential winners of next year’s World Cup. It’s no more than an inconvenience that we have to play 65th ranked Poland on Tuesday for the party to begin.

In a week where column inches have been used on the rights and wrongs of hurrying to get Adnan Januzaj (not an easy name to type) in a shirt bearing three lions, we should perhaps see if we can arrange for Branko Boskovic to play for every opposing team instead. Wasn’t it a fine own goal to take the pressure off our boys? It was arguably eclipsed by the worst set piece free kick ever soon afterwards by the Montenegrins (yes, that is typed correctly).

As for whether Januzaj (still not an easy name to type) will play for England or one of the other 27 countries bidding for his services, it remains to be seen. It also begs the question ‘why can’t there be a simple transfer system?’ so that Roy can just sign who he wants. It would stop all these silly arguments and avoid excitable comments from people like Billy Stark who thinks it is outrageous that Januzaj (it doesn’t get any easier to type) should play for England.

You’re next, Poland. And, we expect Andros to score at least three.


Serbians get excited about Curzon Ashton’s FA Cup visit to Stourbridge

First there was Darlington Railway Athletic, then Newton Aycliffe followed by Spennymoor Town, who in turn lost to Lancaster City who lost to Curzon Ashton. FootballCynic has brought failure to each club that he has followed in this season’s FA Cup. So, the question everyone is asking is “Will Curzon Ashton survive the curse?”

Today, in Round 5, Curzon Ashton travel to Stourbridge. We will probably offend the good fans of each club, but let’s say it – it is almost Birmingham plays Manchester. And, for those with short memories, it’s only two weeks since Birmingham completed the double over Manchester when Aston Villa beat Man City 3-2 and West Bromwich Albion lost 2-1 at Manchester United.

Will the FootballCynic curse mean the end of Curzon Ashton’s dreams of Wembley when they head south today? Well, maybe you might think, but then we discover the Nige Farnworth is on the road to Wembley too and he has witnessed three successful outings for Curzon Ashton. So, Nige and FootballCynic are now on the same path come what may.

On Nige’s website, The Giant Killing Adventure Blog there are plenty of facts. The most interesting seems to be that there have been 21 page views in Serbia. Does this mean that Curzon Ashton have a fan base in Serbia? We need to know.

As for the picture, this is the first picture that comes up if you google ‘Serbia Stourbridge’. It comes with the intriguing title ‘Giraffe and Jackal ears exercise’. It makes you want to know more really.

King for a day

If Lancaster City fans think that it is unlucky to play against a team with a Z in its name, they may be doomed as they play Curzon Ashton in FA Cup Second Qualifying Round today – or, Round 4 as we like to call it. Curzon Ashton are the only club competing in this year’s FA Cup with a Z in their name – and we don’t count teams from Zomerzet.

So far, FootballCynic’s ‘adopted team’ has fallen at the first hurdle, so can Lancaster City, conquerors Curzon Ashton, have come up through the local leagues since they were formed in 1963 from two clubs, Curzon Road and Ashton Amateurs.

It will be a tight game. The two teams play in the North Premier Division One North. Both times are placed at the top with Curzon Ashton in first place and Lancaster City in fourth place. Could this be our first drawn FA Cup tie on our route to Wembley? FootballCynic predicts a 1-1 draw.

Curzon Ashton run successful youth and ladies teams – the ladies face Leicester City in their next fixture – the Leicester City ladies, we assume. Emma King, who plays for the ladies was interviewed for shekicks.net recently. She supports Manchester United, she would most like to meet Cristiano Ronaldo but would like to play in the same team as Javier Hernandez. She describes herself as fast, strong and determined, which is what Curzon Ashton's men will need to be against Lancaster City today.

Below, the determined Emma.

Winter catarrh

An email dropped into Sepp Blatter’s inbox a little while after the 2022 World Cup was awarded to Qatar which simply read “Do you know it’s about 50 degrees in Qatar in the summer?” Sepp simply replied “Is it really?”, so we are told.

The NHS defines catarrh as an excessive build-up of thick phlegm or mucus in an airway or cavity of the body. Will the proposed World Cup in Qatar prove equally uncomfortable for Sepp?

FIFA is considering moving the 2022 World Cup to January. So now as Europe is in the grip of a winter, our boys, if they qualify, may have to dig their car out of two feet of snow to get to the airport to play in a country that is scarcely known for its football.

Qatar are currently ranked a surprisingly high 108th out of 209 ahead of heavyweights such as Lithuania and Latvia. Obviously, FIFA is trying to encourage football in an outpost but why didn’t they go the whole hog? Surely, it should be awarded to the joint lowest rank countries – Bhutan, San Marino and Turks and Caicos Islands. Indeed, there is a likelihood that Euro 2020 will be scattered around 10 or more European cities, so a World Cup scattered across the world would be even more fun.

Sepp Blatter has, of course, checked that the stadia used in Qatar are up to standard. Lonely Planet describes Doha as the dullest city in the region, but Sepp was impressed by the state of the art facilities at the stadium where the final will be held (see below).

The Lost City

In a crowded pub, it would be easy to mistake someone saying Lancaster City won at Spennymoor Town in the Cup yesterday as “Manchester City won at Spennymoor Town in the Cup yesterday”. Well, be assured the expensive Sky Blues did not play in a cup tie yesterday, least of all against the FA Vase holders from Spennymoor Town.

FootballCynic continues his FA Cup ‘Road to Wembley’ following victors in ties starting from the first team out of the hat – Darlington Railway Athletic. It’s not been a successful time for FootballCynic’s followed club. Darlington Railway Athletic lost to Newton Aycliffe, who in turn lost to Spennymoor Town and now Spennymoor Town have perished at the hands of Lancaster City.

So, this was the third round of FA Cup ties, which the FA confusingly name the ‘First Qualifying Round’ with a purse of £3,000 for the winners of ties in this round.

You might think that teams with City in their name should not be playing at this stage, but could you name the six cities that had already been eliminated before this round? Lancaster City now move on to the fourth round (or ‘Second Qualifying Round’ if you must) and need to win three more games to have the chance to play a league club.

Lancaster City are unbeaten this season and will look forward to Monday’s draw for the next round. The club’s nickname is The Dolly Blues which doesn’t necessarily strike fear into opponents, but they do play at a ground called The Giant Axe (picture below), which sounds more threatening. Can Lancaster City be the first team that succeeds on FootballCynic’s ‘Road to Wembley’?

Oh, and the cities that didn’t even make this round – they are Ely City, Canterbury City, Chichester City (as a result of 8-1 defeat at home to Hook & Chessington United), Durham City, Salford City and Guildford City.

Tiger tiger burning bright

Next season, the Premier League may have a team with an animal in its name for the first time as Hull City become Hull City Tigers or, perhaps, just Hull Tigers.

Of course, cricket has beaten football in this move as county teams have adopted an extra name for the trendier one day game. There are now counties which have Eagles, Hawks, Sharks, Foxes, Panthers and Bears in their name. Rugby league also made the change as we now have Rhinos, Bulls, Wolves, Wildcats and Tigers.

So, is this the start of a big change in football? Will we soon be seeing Manchester Aardvarks playing in the Premiership?

Looking around the non-league scene, only two teams stick out – London Maccabi Lions and London Tigers. After that, there are a few examples of animals you might find in a zoo. Camelford, Bearsted and Ottery St Mary are as close as you come.

Impressively, there are 5 non-league teams that contain the word ‘otter’ - Potter Street, Totternhoe, Otterbourne, Potters Bar Town and Ottery St Mary. This seems to be more than any other animal. ‘Ape’ comes a poor second and, surprisingly, the only team containing the word ‘cat’ is Hurraby Catholic Club. Leatherhead may contain a rhea, but there a few animals in football, it would seem.

Will the Hull Tigers change be the first of many? FootballCynic hopes not. Indeed, he will register his displeasure by barring all references to Hull Tigers on this website from now on. Of course, Wolverhampton Wanderers' fans will be feeling that they deserve a mention, but there is not an animal called a wolve and the club is not called Wolferhampton Wanderers.Football just doesn’t need baboons, weasels, bears or antelopes.

Below: Do you remember when Hull City just dressed like tigers in 1993? 

All square at Newton Aycliffe

FootballCynic continues to follow the road to Wembley with Newton Aycliffe, conquerors of Darlington Railway Athletic in the Extra Preliminary round. This weekend, the second round of cup ties were played. This is the Preliminary Round, although supporters of the top clubs might think of this round as round minus seven as Newton Aycliffe will need to win seven more game to have the chance to play at Old Trafford.

The prize money for this round is £1,925 for the winners – roughly what Gareth Bale earns in 15 minutes if you assume he works a 35-hour week. Newton Aycliffe entertained Spennymoor Town. The Moors raced into a 2-0 lead after 25 minutes – it was like the Alamo according to one fan, but poor defence and two cracking goals meant that it ended 3-3 with a replay at Spennymoor Town on Wednesday.

The reaction on the forums of the two clubs was vastly different. Moors’ fans thought they had let it slip and need to put it right in the replay. Newton Aycliffe’s fans did not feel the need to comment. The only post on their forum was in October 2011 when someone asked the question whether anyone posted scores of games on the forum. Well, we’ve answered that one.

Below: Spennymoor show off their new away strip which appeared for the first time at Newton Aycliffe. The team bus doesn't look too comfortable.
 

It's giving me a headache

The sponsors of the different leagues make interesting reading. In the Football League, SkyBet has muscled in as sponsors of the old Divisions 2 to 4. SkyBet sounds a bit ugly, but it’s better than the Wonga Championship, I suppose.

In the lower leagues, there are some good local sponsors – The Windsor Foodservice Central Midlands League and David Wilson Homes Gloucestershire County League hardly roll off the tongue, but what the heck. The Lock Stock Welsh Alliance League is outside of FootballCynic’s jurisdiction, but presumably Vinnie Jones still plays in this league.

However, the most unpleasantly named league has to be the Conference Premier, South and North leagues. After being sponsored the Blue Square Bet leagues, they have now become the shorter but head splitting Skrill Conference. Skrill? Why Skrill? It’s a cross between ‘screech’ and ‘shrill’ neither of which are pleasant. Indeed, when looking at the results in the newspaper, just seeing the word Skrill gives you a headache.

If you want some help with what Skrill means, just take a look at the www.urbandictionary.com website. It defines Skirll as money, dough, short for skrilla as in “I bet I could get hella skrill for all that shit I jacked last week”. Needless to say, Skrill, the company, are another way to move money about the world. Two aspirin tablets, please.

FA in confusion - a rocky road to Wembley

Well, FootballCynic was following the successive winners of the FA Cup tie between Darlington Railway Athletic and Newton Aycliffe, the first tie out of the hat in this year’s FA Cup. It looked to be a tough tie for Darlington Railway Athletic in this local derby – the teams are only a short ride apart on the number 7 bus.

As FootballCynic searched for the result on Saturday evening, a shock was revealed – a 4-2 win for Darlington Railway Athletic. The FA’s FA Cup results page announced the score as did a number of websites that take their feed from this source, including the French website, www.footmercato.net, which announced that the game ‘Terminé’ 4-2 on Samedi 17 août 2013 – kick off, of course, at 16:00. Disappointingly, Footmercato declared that it was the Extra Preliminary Round in English.

Today, FootballCynic went to Darlington Railway Athletic’s own website to see what the locals were saying. Sadly, FootballCynic’s post on their forum three weeks ago inviting predictions had been met without reply. Clearly, no cup fever at Darlington Railway Athletic. No one had commented on the game either. Was no one interested or does playing in the shadow of the former league team, Darlington, make the club of little interest?

And then, out of the corner of FootballCynic’s eye, a tickertape type message appears ‘Newton Aycliffe dump RA out of FA Cup’. Looking further on their website, it appears that the score was 5-1 to Newton Aycliffe – an attendance of 82 is mentioned. More searching is needed but most websites are broadcasting a 4-2 home win until the Northern Echo has a full match report of a 5-1 win. The report tells us of a goal from 75 yards by Newton Aycliffe ‘keeper, Dan Molyneux and includes the quip from Newton Aycliffe supremo, Allan Oliver, who joked that “Danny picked his spot from 75 yards out!”

So, assuming the FA is wrong, it means that Newton Aycliffe are just 12 more wins from a Cup Final appearance at Wembley. Their next opponents, if you trust the FA website, are Spennymoor Town at home, the club which are current holders of the FA Vase. Just two weeks to wait for the Newton Aycliffe v Spennymoor Town tie.

Moy Story

So, Mr Moyes is covering his backside already by claiming that his club have been stitched up with an unusually difficult start to the season. Unless FootballCynic is missing something, surely this means that Manchester United have an unusually easy stage later in the season.

Moyes clearly doesn’t understand randomness. And, are those games so terrible? The five game Moyes is referring to are as follows: Swansea (A), Chelsea (H), Liverpool (A), Crystal Palace (H), Man City (A). One of the games is at home against arguably the weakest team, Crystal Palace, the club that came up through the play offs. And are away games at Liverpool without Suarez and Swansea particularly tough games? Manchester United won at Swansea last season.

Looking back, in 2004-05 season, Everton’s first five games were Arsenal (H), Crystal Palace (A), West Brom (H), Manchester United (A), Man City (A). This is a fixture list that looks remarkably similar in standard. Did Mr Moyes suggest that Everton’s fixtures had been fixed then?

I am afraid, Mr Moyes, you have already taken a healthy lead in the Whinger of the Year Award for the 2013-14 season. Or, is he just getting ready for the press who will be on his back if Manchester United slip up in their first five games. Perhaps, the pressure will be on after that when the next five unusually easy fixtures have been ‘fixed’ by the Premier League as West Bromwich Albion (H), Sunderland (A), Southampton (H), Stoke City (H), Fulham (A). Anything less than 15 points from those five games looks like failure at FootballlCynic HQ.

And, we're off

Well, the season has started, but hardly with a bang unless you are a supporter of Wigan Athletic or Leyton Orient – and, let’s face it, not many people are. The Football League tried to make it more exciting by launching their season with the oldest club playing at the oldest ground on Friday night when Sheffield United played Notts County. But did anyone notice the score excluding loyalists of these clubs?

It didn’t seem like a proper start to the season though. Of course, the millions around the world, who support Manchester United, would agree, but they would be missing the point as usual (“You mean there are other divisions below the Premier?”). There were no non-League games and the better sporting papers that print the results of these games in a microscopic font were left to fill their column inches with the thoughts of Harry Redknapp and others.

With no non-League results to peruse, we are all left to worry about whether Gareth Bale’s price tag will rise even further than £100 million. It’s hard to understand the fuss over the transfer fee. Only last Friday a friendly Nigerian man sent FootballCynic an email telling him that his uncle was Gareth Bale’s agent and that the transfer fee to Tottenham Hotspur was really only £5 million. The other £95 million had been deposited in his uncle’s bank account, but his uncle had unfortunately died in a car crash, presumably caused by trying to send emails while driving a vehicle at high speed. FootballCynic was flattered to be asked to help the Nigerian gentleman, but it seemed wrong to take a cut of Mr Bale’s money.

FootballCynic then does not feel the football season has started yet. The games so far are like friendly matches with points awarded. Stand by now for an exhilarating programme of League Cup games when the club chairman asks the tea lady if her son fancies a game rather than risking the professionals who have important league games following four days later. Below, Sheffield United a few years ago


Papiss Cisse dispute resolved

News is reaching FootballCynic HQ that Papiss Cisse’s objection to wearing a Newcastle United shirt with the Wonga logo on the front has been resolved.

It is understood that in training Cisse had tried to run with his arms covering the logo of the club’s new sponsors at all times. He had already tried to do this last season as he was embarrassed to wear a shirt that had the word ‘Virgin’ on it (see below).

The matter seems to be resolved as the club is allowing him to stick a cardboard letter ‘K’ over the ‘G’ of Wonga. This has been accepted by Papiss as he is said to love chocolate. Also, a Wonga spokesman is believed to have told the press that Wonga has offered Papiss a cut-price loan from the usual 5833% APR to 4712% APR.


George, Cambridge, steals headlines

Hundreds of journalists crowded outside Cambridge United’s training ground this week to greet the new arrivals. Journalists were heard to be muttering that “we must respect their privacy” as they tried to get sight of a new arrival.

For this week, the headlines are awash with news about nine new signings at Cambridge United. Director of Football, Jez George, has proclaimed that “there will be more hits than misses” in the new crop. One of those players may go on to be the King of the Abbey Stadium.

For the new arrival, it will be a life of Money: Richard Money, to be precise, who is manager of the club
.

FootballCynic's road to Wembley

Thanks to FootballCynic’s unrelenting campaign the FA Cup will be played after the last Premier League game of the 2013-14 football season. We can all build up to the big day and get ready to sing ‘Abide with Me’ focused on just two teams.

To celebrate the fact that the FA bowed to FootballCynic’s pressure, FootballCynic will follow the FA Cup through every round of the competition which starts on Friday 16 August when Flackwell Heath take on Binfield in the Extra Preliminary Round.

In fact, 370 balls went into a very big velvet bag so that the first round of the competition could take place as there are 370 teams competing in the so called Extra Preliminary Round. Of course, the pedants amongst you may point out that the Extra Preliminary is played on a regional basis so all 370 balls would not be needed at once and, indeed, there is no evidence that a velvet bag or even balls are used for this early stage of the tournament.

It’s highly unlikely, to be honest, that a big name like Gary Lineker or, even, someone like Steve Claridge was anywhere near the velvet bag to draw the balls. In fact, it could have been arranged by two FA suits over a bottle of claret one lunchtime.

What appears to be unarguable though is that the first team of the hat, bag or whatever was Darlington Railway Athletic who are to play hosts to Newton Aycliffe. The clubs are just a few miles apart, both play in the Northern League with RAFC, as they are known, one division below their rivals.

There’s no big build up on their website yet. Perhaps, the pre-season friendly defeat to Sunderland RCA has dampened enthusiasm, but on 17 August, everyone at Darlington RAFC will be dreaming of Wembley.

FootballCynic will be following the winners of this tie into the next round and continuing to follow each subsequent winner right through to the Final. And, FootballCynic is waiting to hear what the locals think having joined their forum. More to follow……

The PSF match day experience

FootballCynic took himself to a PSF yesterday. A PSF used to be called PFM, a public friendly match. Nowadays, they are called PSF, standing for pre-season friendly rather than its rarer cousin, a MSF (a mid-season friendly). A post-season friendly is also presumably called a PSF, which is a bit confusing really.

Anyhow, that’s enough rambling. It was one of those typical PSFs where the home side is a non-league team that is ready to face a nearby professional club. The teams that FootballCynic saw are immaterial because most of these games go the same way.

The professional team knocks the ball about while the non-league scampers around trying to get a touch of the ball. The score is usually 5-0, although, sometimes, it can get silly when 8-0 or even 10-0 results are found. The professional team will usually change the whole team at half time, something that didn’t happen in PFM days. In PFM days, two or three unknowns might come on for the last ten minutes wearing unnumbered shirts, but now it’s a new team at half time.

There aren’t any crunching tackles. The professional team doesn’t need to make any lunging tackles – indeed, it would seem totally wrong if they did. The non-league team can’t get near enough to their mega-rich opponents to make that crunching tackle. Occasionally, a lumbering non-league defender will be too slow to change direction and commit a trip or body check as a nippy professional striker tries to turn quickly, but it’s generally harmless and, if it’s not, there’s a lot of complaining from the flattened nippy striker.

Of course, there is one unwritten rule – the non-league team must not score and, if they do score, it must be a late consolation goal. In the unlikely event of the non-league team scoring first, everything changes. Crunching tackles on weedy non-league wingers are then allowed until a healthy winning margin is in place.

PSFs are not like their predecessors, the PFM, in one other way. You no longer see a programme with A.N.Other in it. Who was this A.N.Other that featured for many teams yet never played in a league game? FootballCynic knows for a fact that he had a brother also called A.N.Other, a silly birth-time mistake by Mr & Mrs Other, as he can recall his team fielding both of them in the same game.

The game yesterday was a typical, modern PSF - a comfortable margin for the professional team, generous applause for the plucky non-League team from the outnumbering visiting supporters and no crunching tackles. The visiting fans warmed up for the season ahead with one chorus “We forgot that you were here”, but it was mild taunting by league standards.

Was it enjoyable? Of course, it was. It was a fine sunny day, the beer wasn’t undrinkable and supplied by the highest bidder and the pies looked edible. Home and visiting supporters shared jokes. Do we need anything other than PSFs?

Confabulations Cup, Pasta and Wine

The Confederations Cup has finished and Spain no longer rules the world. England can be proud of the fact that they drew with the unofficial world champions, Brazil, but it seems that the FIFA random number generator has moved England down to a world ranking of 15th having been 3rd recently.

It means that England languish behind Ivory Coast and Bosnia-Herzegovina and just above Switzerland and, probably, the Seychelles.

Meanwhile, Brazil is in 9th place and Scotland has leapt 24 places to 50th, presumably because they have now found eleven professionals to fill the side now. Colombia’s drug barons have presumably infiltrated FIFA as they are now ranked 3rd. Recent world champions, France, are struggling down in 23rd place.

The joint bottom place is shared by Anguilla, Bhutan, San Marino and Turks and Caicos Islands, which should be a good test for any budding geography student. Try it.

FootballCynic can’t explain the formula used. He did, however, enjoy a three pasta dinner with a glass of Shiraz in acknowledgement of a Europa League game this week. Fortunately, the meal didn’t follow the score of Shiraz 3 Tre Penne 0 – otherwise, it would presumably have meant three glasses of Shiraz and no three pasta dinner. And OK, the team was Shirak not Shiraz.

Football League in match fixing scandal

For football fans, it’s a lean time. At the pub, you can discuss all the transfer rumours or wonder why Tahiti are playing Spain in a competitive fixture just 9 hours and 4 minutes before it is officially midsummer. You even go over old ground such as moaning about Luis Suarez or old chestnuts like the England team being pathetic, but there’s not much that is new.

Well, this week we had one event that made the lives of football fans more interesting – the announcement of the league fixtures. But once you’ve got the fixtures of your favourite team, it soon becomes uninteresting. You might look up the first and last games, check when there is a nice away fixture at the seaside or when your club plays its deadliest rivals, but as you scan down the list, it’s just a list of the teams in the same division – and you remember how boring some of these games look.

The FA, however, shattered one illusion this year. We all know that pairs of teams like Manchester United and Manchester City, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United do not play at home at the same time, but there was always been the illusion that someone like Carol Smillie presses a button and the fixtures come flying out of a computer at Wembley, Lytham St Annes or maybe even in China. Not so. This year certain games were pre-determined so that old clubs could face each other on the first day of the season. This can’t be fair. Why can’t Yeovil Town play Bolton Wanderers if that’s what the computer decides?

This is clearly match-fixing at the highest level. The fixed fixtures are: Burnley v Bolton Wanderers, Derby County v Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End v Wolves, Sheffield United v Notts County, Newport County v Accrington Stanley and Rochdale v Hartlepool United.
 

The Ropey League saves the day

Although England will be coming home from the UEFA Under 21 Championships after their game with Israel on Tuesday, the Final will not take place until Tuesday 18th June.

Of course, in the Republic of Ireland, the likes of Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers are in full swing right now, but for most of Europe that day is the end of the 2012-13 season.

So, what are we supposed to do as we await the next competitive fixture? Well, do not panic as the 1st qualifying round of the Europa League starts on Thursday 4th July and while Americans celebrate Independence Day, Europeans can celebrate the start of the new season.

The draw does not take place until a mere 10 days before the games, which must have a few club secretaries using Google or atlases to locate their forthcoming opponents. Mouthwatering ties such as Suduva Marijampole v Rudar Pljevlja or, perhaps, Mladost Podgorica v Differdange 03 could be taking place in just a few weeks’ time. And, which team will the team that sound like ‘Carrier Bag’ (Qarabag) play, we wonder?

Unfortunately, you may have to point your satellite dish in a different to get some live football as the English clubs do not appear until the third qualifying round on 1st August. And, when we say English, it will be Swansea City masquerading as an English club.

For dream games in these qualifying rounds, you might hope that Hibernians of Malta face Hibernian from Edinburgh or Hodd play Honka. Strangely, the 5th best in the Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur, join the tournament before Championship side, Wigan Athletic.

It really doesn’t seem too long to wait really, does it? Below: Swansea may be off to Hodd’s ground.

Floored judgement by FA

It has been a sticky season for Thurrock. The club, sponsored by Direct Flooring, have just been walked all over by the FA. Having escaped relegation by a single point, the FA has docked Thurrock three points for fielding a suspended player.

The player in question is Joel Barnett, who made two appearances for Thurrock, including one win. The crime is that Joel was under suspension for an unpaid £16 fine with a disbanded Yorkshire Sunday League team.

As the £16 fine was unpaid, Barnett was what the Thurrock Gazette describe as “sine died”, which sounds more like the death of an unfortunate maths teacher.

The three points’ deduction means that Thurrock are relegated from the Ryman Premier while the boys from Carshalton Athletic will get a reprieve.

The press secretary, Tony Flood, at Thurrock seems to be leaving office with all guns blazing. He tweeted "The @rymanleaguenews [Ryman League] are a ******* disgrace. I will release a lot more on this over the next two days."

On the ball as ever, the Thurrock Gazette found one fan to give his opinion. “What a joke” opined fan, Dave Sorenson.

It does all seem very tough on Thurrock. Would this have happened to a club like West Ham United, for example?

Below, the FA also force Thurrock to sell all their grass.

Congratulations and goodbye

Success in a career is something many aspire to. FootballCynic is proud to say that from humble beginnings, year on year success has brought about the huge FootballCynic Empire that now exists.

As for football managers, is success a good thing? Did Nigel Pearson send his troops out against Watford with the hidden message “Look, lads, take it easy, I want to be in a job for the whole of next season”?

You would have thought winning the Champions League, the Premiership, the FA Cup, gaining an automatic promotion place in the Championship, winning the League Two title or getting into the Football League would ensure that the Chairman would give a manager the benefit of the doubt in the next campaign.

However, the managers winning all of these 2011-12 titles have gone before the end of this season. Di Matteo (Chelsea), Mancini (Man City), McDermott (Reading), Adkins (Southampton), Di Canio (Swindon), Mellon (Fleetwood Town) and Mills (York City) all failed to see out the 2012-13 season; Di Canio was the only one to walk. Indeed, Chris Powell of Charlton Athletic is the only surviving 2011-12 title winner.

Of the twelve managers of relegated clubs, only Paul Tisdale at Exeter City remains in his job. So, will Pearson still be Leicester City manager at the end of next season as they hover around the promotion or play off places? Below: Pearson is asked whether he wanted to be at Wembley for the play off final.

The real cup final

On Monday 27th May, the season comes to a grand finale, the Championship play-off final takes place at Wembley to see whether Watford or Crystal Palace join the elite albeit it for one season probably.

Long gone are the days when the FA Cup Final was played out one week after the last set of league fixtures. If there is a chorus of ‘Abide with Me’, no one knows about it and, of course, there is no chance to see the fans of the competing teams take part in an It’s a Knock Out special.

For those that didn’t realise, the FA Cup Final has been played already. It was better than it might have been as the underdogs, Wigan Athletic, won. It kicked off at 5.15pm, so that everyone was able to watch the game and The Voice on TV back to back even if the game went to penalties.

Now, of course, Wigan Athletic play their ‘real’ cup final when they travel to Arsenal tonight. A draw might help a bit in their relegation fight, but they really need a win. Their prize for winning the FA Cup was a piffling £1.8 million whereas the prize for staying in the Premiership is a cut of the £3 billion TV deal, which, with a pocket calculator that can’t handle so many digits, sounds like a lot of money.

And then we will have to wait to see whether the elite will have to travel to Watford or Croydon next season? Surely, the fans would have preferred a seaside trip to Brighton. What’s curious is that the Championship champions and the play off winners get a cup whereas second-placed Hull City get no silverware. That seems a bit unfair even if the Hull players can start their holidays already.

East Brighton & Hove Albion

FootballCynic has always had a problem with clubs that have ampersands in their name. Indeed, clubs such as Dagenham & Redbridge would have commas and ampersands in their name if the forming parts of Dagenham, Redbridge Forest, Ilford, Leytonstone and Walthamstow Avenue were all included in their current name.

If there’s an exception, perhaps it is Brighton & Hove Albion. If you walk between Brighton and Hove, there are no signs shouting ‘Welcome to Hove’ or ‘Welcome to Brighton’. There are no obvious borders and, what’s more, it is the city of Brighton & Hove; Brighton is not a city.

Now, the team Whitehawk may not be a team that many people know. Indeed, it would be easy to assume that they play in the North East of England against teams like Bishop Auckland or Spennymoor Town. However, Whitehawk is a suburb of Brighton & Hove and their team has just won promotion from the Ryman Premier to the Conference South. This is some achievement.

Whitehawk has decided to change its name, so that no one ever thinks again that they should be playing Bishop Auckland or Spennymoor Town. They plan to rename themselves as Brighton City. Now, this is a step too far surely. As they are to the east of the city of Brighton & Hove, it would make sense that they are called East Brighton & Hove City – not Brighton City, which does not exist.

All we can assume at FootballCynic HQ is that they have heard that ampersands are a bad thing.

Two megabytes

Liverpool spokesman, Den Tiste, was quick to play down the Suarez incident with Ivanovic. At a press conference, he stated “I think we will need to chew this one over, but we are not afraid to bite the bullet. We are aware that the FA may show its teeth”.

It is the second time that Suarez has been involved in such an incident. “We will go through the video footage with a fine tooth comb” explained Tiste. The PFA has responded by saying that it would not remove plaque if he was Footballer of the Year; he would have to go to the dentist like anyone else.

The game ended with Suarez snapping up a late chance to draw 2-2 with Chelsea.

It has been confirmed that Suarez was seen outside the Chelsea dressing room barking aggressively at Ivanovic after the game. The Uruguayan had to be restrained. “His bark is worse than his bite” explained Tiste.