Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Football in Scotland seems to be at a crossroads at the moment. Whereas before the two big Glasgow teams could compete financially with a medium tier English Premier League club, with the Edinburgh clubs bubbling under, that has all changed. Celtic's major signing this summer was a £2.4m striker from Scunthorpe United - and indeed he is one of the better players in the squad - while Rangers have been penniless and looking for a buyer for some months, although the Champions have bucked the Scottish trend by actually competing in Europe this season.
Unfortunately this lack of glamour is being reflected on the pitch. The game I watched last weekend was reminiscent of a mid-tier Championship match. Celtic had only themselves to blame for not scooping up all three points thanks to a combination of slack finishing and incredible goalkeeping. That's not to say they completely dominated Dundee United, they were just the better team with the better chances. When the Tangerines equalised in the 94th minute from a cross from a soft free-kick, the only silver lining is that I had given my dad a betting slip with the correct score on it - a 9/1 shot.
Celtic Park is a big stadium, which has yet to lose all its character through modernisation. However it would be quiet, very quiet, without the club's self-styled ultra groups - the only banner I could see was the Green Brigade, but there are others - who fill the ground with atmosphere from the little south west corner. Conducted by two drummers, the pocket of fans (probably no more than 800 in a stadium of 60,000) sang, danced, jumped and swayed in a style reminiscent of the Basle fans last December for near enough the whole 90 minutes. The game was far better for their input. However the swaying was stopped after about 20 minutes by killjoy stewards, so the fans had to make do with just jumping instead.
Meanwhile we were sat in quasi-corporate seats and behind us sat a couple of rows of older Celtic fans, but being Scottish they were incredibly belligerent and often amusing with it. It was like being sat in front of two rows populated by Scottish relatives of Waldorf and Statler. They bemoaned the lack of singing from in front of them, despite the fact that not one of them could be bothered to sing themselves. There were lots of tongue in cheek references to the help Rangers got from the referee in the earlier match against Kilmarnock, where they won 3-2 thanks to two penalties and a red card (all justified - this time).
The standard of refereeing in this game was no worse than any English game though and I certainly didn't hear any fans cursing the ref any more than what would be deemed usual at any other match. It's an odd situation that the match between these two teams last month has now sparked a referee strike this weekend and it's something that the Celtic hierarchy has got to take some responsibility for by claiming conspiracy. This has given the brain dead minority of fans the opportunity to harass football officials at home and work - leading to enough safety concerns from the Scottish Referee's Union to go on strike.
But, in the same way as Melda Dreep being hit by a dropped ice cream cone eventually led to the loss of 900 million lives in the Apocalypse War (keep up non-Judge Dredd fans), the whole thing could have been averted if Dougie McDonald had simply told Neil Lennon that he reversed the decision to give Celtic a penalty because he had changed his mind. Instead, no doubt looking to avoid a Northern Irish tirade, he told a little fib that put the onus on the linesman. Instead the linesman resigned, understandably disgusted at being scapegoated, and the Mexican stand off between Celtic and the SFA on the issue is threatening to undermine the whole game in Scotland.
Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
A chance to impress his former employees and the football viewing nation with his new-look Fulham team was squandered by Mark Hughes - who seems to be suffering from a lack of ideas as to how to play this current squad.
Jarrod commented: "It was dreadful! Absolutely… Reminded me of the Fulham from the relegation battle. City had so much time and space in the middle and you could have driven a truck through our defence…
Having said that, 4-1 is probably quite flattering for Fulham… A more attacking, adventurous outfit would have put 6/7 in the net! We held our own after half time, but that is probably more to do with City taking the foot off the gas…"
When pressed on whether there was any good points, he replied: "They were the good points! How about we only let in 4 goals? No one got injured? Don’t think that we had a winner anywhere on the pitch… We spent half the afternoon playing long balls into Johnson (who surprisingly didn’t when them). We had a bright 10 minutes at the start of the second half where we camped in City’s box but were unable to score. They then went to the other end, won a corner and scored a goal. But anything in the half is pretty much irrelevant."
Nicky was equally gloomy: "It was a bad game, one of the worst I have witnessed in a while. Ref looked to have bottled [a decision] on elbows and the like also! Looked to be a obvious elbow about 5 minutes from the end in the city box think it was Gera that was on the ball. The ref wouldn't even acknowledge it. Haven't watched any replays though so might not have been as clear as it looked."
She added: "Saturday is now a massive game!"
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
A rip roaring, end to end first 15 minutes descended into sloppy passages of play from both sides, with the odd half chance rewarding any coherent moves. Then Villa stepped up the game a little on 40 minutes and a moment after Schwarzer saved well from Delfonso cutting in from the left - Albrighton did the same from a sumptuous long pass that caught Salcido completely out of position and the young winger put Villa ahead.
Then after the break, with a tidy lead in their back pockets, the Villa midfield went into overdrive, snapping the heels of Fulham players whenever they were in possession and only allowing Hughes to pass it out or Schwarzer to boot the ball upfield in the vague direction of Zoltan Gera's head.
The youthful and impressive Villa midfield didn't look like tiring and most of the long balls were just bouncing off Richard Dunne's bonce, so Hughes tried something different by bringing AJ on. Unfortunately the long balls continued. In fairness, Johnson did fashion a couple of chances but fluffed the best one by failing to bring the ball under control when trying to go around Friedel.
During this non-dangerous pressure period, Villa were playing on the attack and had Agbonlahor been playing he would have been filling his boots in the disagreeable way he did during this fixture last season. But Ashley Young proved slightly less deadly and kept Fulham in it.
I barely celebrated the equaliser when it came. It was just so ridiculous a thing to happen. It certainly didn't look like it was going to happen when Duff shoved Young over near his own corner two minutes into injury time. Duff's experience won a free kick down the other end of the pitch, in what felt like the sixth minute of four minutes added on. Murphy floated it over, it kind of hit Hangeland and seemed to rest in the net with no-one really reacting. The goal was all the more odd considering that some parts of the Hammy End were getting ready to boo the team off.
An old Villa supporting friend had come along from Newquay to this game and was sat in the Putney End. The conclusion to the match was magnified threefold for the poor bugger given that his other half had bought him the tickets for his birthday and I had given him a betting slip for the correct score of Fulham 0-1 Aston Villa. He found something to enjoy in the day though - it was only the second time he'd been able to see his team play. I remember once when we were living together in Preston he was trying to get someone to go and watch Villa at Ewood Park with him, but couldn't get a partner in crime. He was mightily glad he missed that match as Blackburn routed them 5-0.
Thursday, 4 November 2010
This little film about being a Fulham fan was just linked on the Offal. It's probably well known among Fulham fans, but it's the first time I've seen it. It really is quite funny and endearing and considering it was made in 2003 the proclamation that the team were going to be Kings of Europe was almost prescient.
Directior Greg Cuttwell's notes:
Directior Greg Cuttwell's notes:
Fingers X'd, shot on DV Cam, is a surreal comedy about two football fans, Dan and Craig, the like of which are seen and heard every weekend at football grounds all over England, Europe and indeed Worldwide. Devoted to their beloved club - Fulham F.C. - for both of them life is football and football is life. Every thought, every deed relates to their team and with Fulham on the up, life has never been so good.
As a performance piece, having a thorough rehearsal period, to enable the actors to be comfortable and familiar with the material before going in front of the camera, was vital in making this film. Four days of rehearsal were followed by a five day shoot. The shoot consisted in the main of long takes which enabled the performances to flourish in many contrasting locations, with good pieces being looked for within each take to then put together like a jigsaw in the edit.
A lot of fun was had by the small amount of people involved in making Fingers X'd, both in production and post production, the aim being to produce a light hearted, irreverent, character study, in spoken word and song, of two men typical of millions whom any audience will either recognise, know personally, or may even be themselves.