Saturday, 31 May 2008


Apologies for the recent lack of activity on this here blog but I have been busy. Recently there has been a lot of talk in football about the percieved lack of discipline shown by players towards officials.

The men in black have always been in the firing line because, lets face it, there always be someone left unhappy with their performance after any given game.

With so much money in the game and the win at all costs attitude of the sport, is it any wonder players and managers will try and get into the referees head as they try to find any advantage whatsoever.

But how far is too far? Over the last few weeks I have been investigating whether referees in football get enough respect.


Wednesday, 21 May 2008


Champions League pre-match news.

Last night, it looked as though Ashley Cole might miss the game because of this...

Now, far be it from me to wallow in the misery of others but if he is deemed unfit to play then you have to say that Karma works in wonderous ways.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


Every so often a football match comes around which can either make or break a player. A chance to filter the men from the boys. A time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Last night provided one such occasion...

A week ago saw my Monday evening Power League 5 aside team, HEARTLESS CREW FC spectacularly end our winning run and with it the chance to complete a 'PERFECT' Season. Going into the game we proudly boasted the quite remarkable record of 11 wins, No draws and no defeats with just 3 games left to play. The Championship and promotion were in the bag and all we had left was the amazing record to chance. We were up against second placed OUT OF BREATH who we had already trounced 17-11 in the reverse fixture. Unfortunately, history was not repeat itself as we, the five heroic warriors (with no subs might I add) bravely battled but unfortunately succumbed to a late onslaught from the opposition; conceding 3 goals in the last 2 minutes to lose 12-10.

Needless to say, we were devastated. The 134 Bus journey was a sombre one that night. Barely a word was exchanged as we lamented our loss.

All week the defeat played on my mind. Losing is not something I've ever learnt to do well. All the ifs, buts, ands or maybes were going through my mind as I would try and complete the most simple of tasks. All I could think about was the '0' from our losses column in the league table was gone forever.

I was distracted from my life. Defeat had been agonizing. It was almost getting too much to bear...

Then it dawned on me. It was gone. It was in the past. What was important now was not to lose again! The real test of a man is not about whether you lose, it's about how you react to that loss. It was time let go of the past, strap up my shinpad and get back out on the pitch!

I had some football to play....

We were back in Barnet. A week on from the scene of our crushing defeat. On this night, we would be facing THE UNTOUCHABLES. Let the battle commence...

The opposition barely proved a challenge and were dispatched with ease. We ran out 22-9 winners with yours truly grabbing a hat-trick which included a cheeky back-heel which outwitted the goalkeeper with Sun Tzu-like execution! The Heartless Crew were back!

Once again, we went into battle light in numbers. The team was ravaged by injuries and for the second week running, the five warriors to the pitch to face laden with substitutes to chop and change their side with. But like true soldiers, we overcame this handicap to reign supreme.

What this week showed was our mental strength; our ability to bounce back and triumph in the face of adversity.


Joey Barton could do with taking a leaf out of our book.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

The Rise and Fall of Parma FC

Channel 4’s Italian football coverage during the mid nineties was a phenomenon. The Premiership Genration’s alternative on a Sunday afternoon (or for those without Sky) was to tune in to James Richardson coming live from Venice, Milan, Rome or Turin as he introduced the weekend’s big game.

On Saturday mornings Richardson would present Gazzetta, Football Italia’s MOTD equivalent. Once again in some glamorous location, JR would be sat at some swanky cafe with a sexy looking ice cream or cappuccino that you bet your life doesn’t taste like the crap at Starbucks while the beautiful people of Italy did their thing in the background.

Fundamentally, the setting served as an allegory for the sport. While in England football was all about the blood and guts, hell for leather, all heart and no skills and various other clichés, our Italian cousins were all about the flair and skill which we could only look upon in awe.

Serie A was Europe’s top league at the end of the last century. Italian teams had all the money, the world’s best players and were contesting (read: winning) European finals on a regular basis.

In recent years all this has changed thanks to a) the explosion of the premier league over here and b) Italy’s massive corruption scandals.

In any event, back then, Lazio vs. AC Milan was a far more enticing prospect than Oldham vs. Wimbledon.

The influence of Calcio wasn't just about screaming GOLAZZO at the top of your lungs after lashing one into the top corner at lucnhtime when forced to play footy with a tennis ball. Alongside our favoured English side, every kid had an Italian side they would ‘support’ for the sake of variation. My team was not the dominant Juventus, the incredible Milan, or even Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne’s Lazio.

No, as a typical sucker for the underdog, my team was Parma.

Based in the Emilia-Romagna region in the north of Italy, the name is more often associated with the ham than the football club.

Parma FC doesn’t have much of a history and are not as famous as their more illustrious Serie A rivals. In fact, ‘AC’ Parma was only promoted to Italy’s top division for the first time in 1990 thanks mostly to Lire upon Lire of investment from parent company and dairy giant Parmalat.

My love affair began when the club won the now defunct European cup winners cup at Wembley stadium in 1993 – beating Belgian side Antwerp 3-1. They also beat AC Milan in the European Super Cup but were unable to successfully defend the ECWC when they lost the 1994 final 1-0 against Arsenal in Copenhagen.

Parma’s reputation had already been established with the likes of Faustino Asprilla, Gianfranco Zola and Thomas Brolin (when he wasn’t so fat) under the guidance of Nevio Scala, the club went on to win the UEFA Cup in 1995 beating Juventus 2-1 on aggregate. They also reached the Copa Italia final that year but Juve were to have their revenge winning 3-0 over two legs.

When Carlo Ancelotti replaced Scala in 1996, Parma came within a whisker of the 1997 Serie A title – ultimately losing out by just a couple of points.

More Italian Cup and UEFA cup success over the next few years were to follow but it wasn’t just trophies that cemented Parma’s reputation as one of Italy’s top clubs. The players that have been in and out of the revolving door that is the Ennio Tardini reads like a who’s who of footballing greats of the last decade. Aside from the aforementioned Zola et al, Hristo Stoichcov, Fabio Cannavro, Ariel Ortega, Juan Sebastian Veron, Hernan Crespo, Lillian Thuram, Adriano, Roberto Mussi, Hakan Suker, Adrian Mutu and the World’s most expensive goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon have all donned the Traditional white (or blue and yellow hooped) shirt.

Parma always found it hard to hold on to these stars and without the prestige and history of the likes of Inter or Fiorentina; players rarely showed any sort of loyalty and would often get itchy feet; using the club as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Parma was nothing more than the world’s most glamorous selling club.

Then came the Parmalat fraud scandal of 2003. The dairy company’s outrageous financial mismanagement and insolvency meant that, as an asset of company, AC Parma was screwed financially.

As the club fought for its very existence, big names and big contracts were scarce in Parma. In much the same way players had no loyalty to the club, there were no rich benefactors willing to bail them out. Parma was a small club punching above its weight. When Fiorentina suffered similar collapse some years back, they bounced back almost instantly and after today, will compete in next season’s Champion’s League competition. Unlike Parma, the Florence side had the stature, support and backing to make sure they wouldn’t stay down for long.

The last few years have seen some stability return at board level but not enough of a backing to see the club hit the heights of the last decade. The team has been battling against the dreaded drop for the past few years and today, finally, their fate was sealed following a 2-0 home defeat to Inter Milan which also handed the Nerazzurri the title.

A sad occasion for everyone who remembers the glory days.

Like WCW, The Spice Girls, The Super NES and other things popular in the 1990s, Parma’s 15 minutes are up. Serie B football is on the agenda for the foreseeable future and only time will tell if we will ever see Gialloblu rubbing shoulders with Italy’s big boys again.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Fleet Like A Butterfly...

In continuing the theme that football exists outside the premier league/champions league, I feel it necessary to congratulate Ebbsfleet United on winning the FA trophy this weekend after beating Torquay United 1-0.

Following the club’s name change from Gravesend & Northfleet, the Blue Square side were not expected to make much of an impact on proceedings in the league. Pottering on nicely with no-one outside their patch really giving a monkey’s about them.

However, Ebbsfleet hit the headlines last autumn when it was announced that they would be taken over/owned by a fan-run website whose members would be voting on key decisions concerning the club (Including, somewhat controversially, the possibility of picking the team ahead of First team coach Liam Daish - a idea still up in the air).

The game itself was a fairly unspectacular affair with Chris McPhee grabbing the only goal just before half time having seen his penalty saved earlier in the match.

Victory for The Fleet took place in front of over 40,000 fans and in the eyes of many, is a fairytale-like ending to a truly remarkable season for the Kent based club.

Considering the takeover and the circumstances surrounding it, some would say a real blow has been struck for fan power in an increasingly commercially dominated game.

Cynics questioned whether this would prove to be a good idea in the long term but you try telling that to the fans who were at Wembley on Saturday!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

The Ibyss Vodcast 03/05/2008

In today's vodcast, I discuss the topsy-turvy world of Championship football as it enters it's final round of fixtures for this season.


Thursday, 1 May 2008

Full English? Not For Me, Thanks.

I’m sorry but I’m thoroughly underwhelmed by this prospect of an all-English Champions league final. We are being told that this is somehow the greatest thing since sliced bread. I for one am not as thrilled as I supposedly should be and I’m not the only one.

Amongst the entire furore, it’s not lost on me, and I’m sure others will agree, that the two ‘English’ sides competing are the two most disliked football teams in the country. Outside of Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford, would anyone really be happy to see either of these sides lift the coveted trophy?

It’s no secret to anyone who follows the beautiful game that CSKA Fulham would be nowhere without their sugar daddy and to seethe fruit of his labours triumph in his native Russia in a few weeks will produce the kind of irony likely to induce vomiting amongst the watching world.

In all fairness, CSKA – normally the Lords of anti-football – did produce somewhat of a classic against Liverpool during extra time to go through last night. However, let’s not let the final result mask the fact that over 90 minutes, it was the fourth draw between the two sides in 5 games this season.

A victory for The Salford Bay Rowdies on the other hand will spawn no end of sycophantic praise for the team and manager alike. While there is no doubting that Taggart is great manager and has a CV overloaded with success and his team play some sublime football at times – both legs of the semi final being the noteworthy exception – they are a deplorable, arrogant bunch who believe not only that they have a God-given right to success but also consider themselves above the law. See ‘Sir’s’ incomprehensible rantings last Saturday as a case in point.

No-one want to see a team like that succeed.

A moment of magic from Paul Scholes took them through but that aside, the Rowdies were comprehensively outplayed by a visibly unconfident Barcelona side who still managed to outplay their conquerors over both games.

But we are told that because the two teams are from England we should be happy. How can we be happy when we know there is no possibility that they can’t both lose?
Supporting an English club in Europe in a concept lost on me. It seems like something of a bygone era when there were very few clubs in European competition. Back then, it was something important to back a team who really represented the nation against Europe’s finest. The rare triumphs during the nineties were something most of the nation could get behind.

Nowadays the money-machine that is the Champion’s League is more like a watered down version of the old European Cup. Back then, it was a true test of how the best in Europe faired against one another. In the modern era you can finish as low as 4th and have a chance to win the big cup.

How can you support the team representing England when four different teams are doing their best to outdo each other?

Is it really a victory for English football if CSKA or the Rowdies win the trophy by beating one another? Also, explain to me how that is a triumph over Europe? Had Liverpool made the final, they would have done so having not faced a ‘European’ side since the first knock-out stage.

Me? Unpatriotic? Please!

In the final we have one side that are owned by Americans, managed by a Scot, whose best player is Portuguese taking on a Russian owned, Israeli managed team whose top player is from the Ivory Coast. Might I also add their kit is made by a German firm and their sponsor is from Japan! Hardly striking a blow for English football.

Once again, I’m sure I am not alone. Fans of the other 90-odd clubs in the English league surely don’t give a monkey’s about two of ‘our own’ in the final. How does that benefit anyone aside from the two sides involved? They’re the only ones who reap any sort of financial benefit and the gap between rich and poor gets ever wider. This final does nothing for the likes Doncaster Rovers, Ipswich Town, Rochdale or Hull City.

Finally, the amount of trouble in Moscow on that fateful May evening doesn’t even bare thinking about. The CSKA mob’s reputation has been well-documented for years and the Rowdies fans are hardly angels themselves. Add that to the expected heavy-handed treatment from the Russian police and undoubted ticketless fans who will try and get into the Luzhniki stadium and you have a recipe for disaster.

Ironically enough, this so-called great occasion for English football could very well see the kind of crowd trouble we all fear and ultimately may lead to UEFA imposing some kind of sanctions against English clubs. They can’t be too pleased about our clubs monopolising their competitions and will find any excuse to prevent it from continuing.