Sep 03

Much as I approve of

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Much as I approve of Tim’s outrage at people insisting there is only one way to play the game, and ignoring his own (no doubt ironic) final normative statement, I have to say that I disagree with a lot of what he says.

Tim would be one of very few people in these parts who has probably watched more football well away from the highest levels than I have – I’ve been a Bristol Rovers supporter since the ’60s, and we’ve never looked remotely like pushing towards the top divisions – and I can’t agree that there’s nothing more boring than ineffective dribbles and fruitless trickery. Obviously there is nothing that gives me greater pleasure than a Gas goal, but shoving in adjectives like the ones I used there makes this no comparison with a goal for your team.

A fairer comparison would be setting that useless fannying around against seeing another aimless long ball lumped forward at your lumbering centre forward, with possession lost in the next second for the umpteenth time that game. Or comparing the thrills of seeing a long ball flicked on for the second striker to whack it in with the thrill AND aesthetic delight at seeing a beautifully worked move lead to a goal. I know which I prefer to see from both pairs of events.

This was inspired, incidentally, by watching Celtic tonight in the Champions’ League. The goal that finally put them ahead, deservedly so after a tremendous performance against Lyon, came as the culmination of a move involving 24 passes, the TV tells me, including a gorgeous flicked ball to Larsson who provided a great cross for the young Irishman Miller. I was more thrilled by that than any other Celtic goal I can ever remember seeing.

I guess my fussiness rather vanishes when it’s my team, and I’ll happily take what works, but most of what I watch is on TV, and it’s nearly all games where I am more or less neutral (excepting English teams in Europe, and the very rare Sky or cup appearance for Rovers), so effectiveness is really not a big criterion for me.

The push for promotion.

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The push for promotion.

Today I was promoted. This good news was conveyed to me by the Big Boss in our department. I work with my back turned to the room and he padded up behind me just as I was looking at the Charlton Atheltic Women’s Football Club Site, which was a tiny touch embarrassing.

Looks like CAWAFC is the place to be right now, though. My belief that football should be played with a hostile snarl on its face is well-documented, and I think it may have found a new home. The Guardian report of their match against Doncaster Belles suggests that they know how to play the game hard, and not in the playground push-and-shove Arsenal ‘ Man U way which caused so much ridiculous recent hand-wringing. Rather, a 22-player scrap, headbutts, the works.

The return fixture in the middle of November looks like it might be a plum tie to start watching the women’s game. Bromley here we come!

Adam Hart-Davies is not the first person you would expect to find on a sports blog

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Adam Hart-Davies is not the first person you would expect to find on a sports blog. Unless you take recreational cycling in flurorescent shorts meant for someone twenty years your junior as a sport. Nevertheless, last night (late, post pub) there was a chopped up segment on his programme What The Victorians Did For Us. And last night what they did for us was invent sport.

The sports highlighted were the Eton Wall Game, tennis and football – which was called soccer much to my wincing. I am not so sure of the direct line from the Eton Wall Game to the invention of football, the reasoning was that public school games were so parochial and rubbish that an association (look out, we’ll see that word again) of ex students got together and invented rules. Now I can see why the Eton Wall Game got on people’s nerves, it is basically a big ruck against a brick wall, where liberal sanding of an opponents face agin the mortar is perfectly legal. But this posh reclamation of what is fundamentally one of the simplest games invented by man tries to give football proper gentlemanly rules. What about those big games that take over entire towns up north and are really useful for Newsround to lead with when the lead item in the Six O’Clock News is a particularly nasty kiddie murder?

As entertaining as Hart-Davies loony uncle inventor act is, he did not convince me that tennis was invented because suddenly we had machines that could flatten grass and rubber balls. There was far too much faith in invention causation. People fanny around, even in sports. The Victorians weren’t sitting on their arse in Wimbledon waiting for a rubber ball and a roller to be invented. No, they were playing croquet – a game which is a lot more fun to play than tennis if you ask me.

Sep 03

Good old Theo Foley.

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Good old Theo Foley. I like Theo and he likes Exeter so I like him even more. What a good egg, speaking at a dinner in aid of the Supporters’ Trust. Well done him.

Oh ‘ hold on! What’s that at the bottom of the article? He’s praising old-time ECFC patriarch and Great Man Frank Broome. Mr. Broome, says Theo, ‘wasn’t one of these managers who insisted on you just lumping it up in the air’ He knew how the game should be played.’

I am sick to the back teeth of hearing how there’s only one way to play football properly, to watch football properly or to enjoy football. There are lots of ways to play football, lots of ways to make teams with varying talents work best together. And now I have to say it: I LIKE THE LONG BALL. There, I’ve said it. There is no less fashionable opinion in footy just now. Everyone seems to agree that a passing game is the only set of tactics to keep people interested, has some kind of moral superiority.

And there is some tiny truth there. There’s probably nothing better than watching a side full of brilliant players knocking the ball around in outrageous and imaginative ways, bamboozling oppositions and amazing spectators. But in English football at the moment there are maybe three sides who can play that sort of football, and I’m tempted to say that the true number is rather closer to one. The rest are try-hards who have the odd day, perhaps the odd season of inspiration and the rest of the time are simply not good enough to sustain the perception and accuracy needed to play that game properly.

The worst thing in football is ineffectiveness. You can whine about the long ball game being boring all you like but there’s nothing that bores me more than some idiot half-talented player going on some mazy dribble which leads precisely nowhere, expecting us to be impressed with the silky skills which end up with the ball being planted firmly into touch. It’s infuriating. I hate games being mired in the arrogance of would-be maestros trying to find intricate patterns through overcrowded midfields, in search of the killer pass which won’t come. I want my team to win. I want to see them score.

I don’t want games of football to be Corinthian battles between two sides to determine who has the greater array of talents judged by objective criteria. I love to see tight teams of hard-working players outfighting, out-running and out thinking unimaginative white-booted buffoons who think another few Cruyff turns will save the day. I love the thrill of seeing a fantastic long ball up the channels, unsettling and upsetting cultured defenders and I love to see the game move really quickly, the ball pinging up to the head of the big lad and the keeper left with no chance.

I’m not saying that the long-ball game should be played to the exclusion of all others, but I am saying that we could do without the snobbery, that there are lots of ways to enjoy and lots of things to enjoy. Excitement, effectiveness, end-to-end football. That’s how the game should be played.

Sep 03

I don’t agree with this proposal to dock points;

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I don’t agree with this proposal to dock points; it seems to be based on a false premise. The idea is that teams won’t recklessly overspend and run the risk of insolvency proceedings being needed if they know it will really hurt them. So far, so obvious.But there’s a crucial flaw here – it assumes that the people making the decisions regarding spending actually give a stuff about potential negative effects.

Recent history demonstrates that a great many clubs have been brought to the edge of extinction by owners who didn’t; they asset-stripped the clubs of their land, they signed contracts and subsidised them to the hilt, then withdrew the funding making administration the only option (if that; the people themselves who created the mess have long since buggered off by this point and generally don’t care whether the club lives or dies). Yet it is exactly these people who are entrusted with following these rules. Can you see the flaw yet?

Quick quiz question: Which if these heinous crimes has been subject to a displinary hearing by the game’s authorites leading to action being taken?

Burning down a stand in an insurance fraud
Hiving the ground off for a personal profit of several million based on evicting the club and building houses instead
Saying that asylum seekers should be sent home unless they were good at sport
Using the wrong toilet at half-time

The Football League catch up

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The Football League catch up with the Conference but is it too little too late, it’s hardly going to help the teams that were stiffed as Leicester went into administration last year and still kept their team together to bounce back up into the premiership.

Menace To Society

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Menace To Society

Another of the small consolations of relegation to the Conference was Burton Upon Trent. A Mecca of sorts for the consumer of bitter, I’ve never been. I learned to drink beer through the good offices of Messrs Bass Worthington (or was it Bass Charrington? I was never able to work out the difference). I have long thought of the home of Bass as the home of a little piece of me, or ‘ more properly – a distressingly large piece of me. City were scheduled to play there on Saturday October 4th, a perfect opportunity for a pre-birthday day out.

What has happened to my plan to visit the rolling hills and (reputedly) divine boozers of Derbyshire? The Police have decided that it will be much better to hold the match on the Friday evening, plainly a move to encourage the barbarous horde of Exeter fans to absent themselves. Happily, we haven’t had any trouble so far this season and I can think of no reason why any should start now. It seems a shame that our day trip has been spoiled. Maybe I don’t know the full story. I’m in no mood to go off on a diatribe against the Derbyshire Constabulary.

But I hope they get Cardiff in the Cup.

Sep 03

I’ve read that the original story in early editions of The Sun

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I’ve read that the original story in early editions of The Sun said (allegedly, natch…) ‘Bonkers Bruno locked up’ but after complaints from mental health support groups changed it to ‘Sad Bruno in mental home’. The caption under the picture was said to say ‘Bruno – Nut’ but this was changed to ‘Bruno – National hero’. I have no idea whether this is true but I merely add it as a postscript to the earlier post on this this subject.

BrunoWatch Continues

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BrunoWatch Continues: the Evening Standard‘s headline today is “TEN POLICEMEN RESTRAIN SAD BRUNO”. Now, come on lads, “sad” wasn’t actually the word you were looking for, was it? But of course it was – two days into the latest celebrity rubberneck and “sad” has become new official code for the m-word. The headlines look a little absurd but you know the readers know exactly what they mean.

City were on the Telly

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City were on the Telly. It’s a rare thing that my lot get shown live on the box (it’s happened I think five times ever) and it’s not something most Exeter fans relish. We have a proud tradition of failing to impress when the live TV cameras are in attendance. Only the cruel would suggest that we have a tradition of failing to impress in general.

So for the home game versus Dagenham and Redbridge (D&R are a Tesco bag team – blue and white stripes ‘ and thus more or less automatically loathsome, but that’s another story), the Exeter Exiles chose to meet for the occasion in a moderately salubrious Westminster bar called Base One. How the assembled fifty of us cheered when City won, and scored, that early penalty, which also resulted in a D&R player being dismissed, and how the bar’s other clientele looked confused. All seemed set fair. And we blew it. We failed to capitalise. We didn’t have the imagination to break them down or for that matter to keep them out. The game dribbled to an uninteresting 1-1.

And as misplaced pass followed hopeless flick-on I realised that I didn’t know what to do. If I’d been watching a team I didn’t much care about I’d have drifted off into other conversations. If I’d been at the game I could have vented at the linesman or the other team or life in general but it seemed daft to be shouting at the screen in that way.

I suppose you TV footy enthusiasts, you armchair season ticket holders, have developed ways to deal with it when your team lets you down. What on earth do you do? Switch off the TV? Leave the pub and go and do something more entertaining? Rage against the big screen? I was left cracking the odd glum joke and feeling unable to tear myself away. Most uncomfortable.