False promises, Sacrifice and the Greater good: How Lower League Scotland is Surviving.

By Cameron Deacon – @Cam_Deacon21 interviews Airdrie Director Of Football Stuart Millar.

Last week I wrote a piece about how the SPFL needed to take reconstruction seriously, I did a lot of research into the topic and offered up the potential solutions. I thought it was a good piece. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realise was that I like so many others was falling into the trap of forgetting that Scotland is not made up of two football teams. I spoke about the impact that Celtic and Rangers are having on any chances of reconstruction, but I forgot the whole purpose to why I was writing the piece. The whole topic of reconstruction became apparent to me when I heard about how lower league Scottish football clubs had no choice but to vote to end the season, despite league positioning, because without the money they would get for finishing the season a number of clubs could and would die.

Luckily for me the error of my ways was pointed out to me by none other than the Director of Football at Airdrieonians F.C and Ex-player Stuart Millar. But with his criticism came an opportunity, Stuart has been working at one of the clubs who have been most effected by the season ending. In 3rd place with only five points between them and 1st, Airdrie still had to play both 1st placed Raith Rovers and 2nd place Falkirk and as one of the best performing away sides in League 1 they were confident that they could’ve moved further up the table. With this in mind I got in touch with Stuart if he was happy to give some insight into what life had been like in the last few month for lower league clubs and he was more than happy to help. So after I had originally given him the wrong phone number I eventually got to speak to Stuart about his view on what has happened over the past few month and what I realised very quickly was that the spirit of most teams below the SPFL was that they must act for the greater good of the sport.

“The whole nation had been effected by COVID-19 virus and in football terms we think we are above health and medical advice; football has its own identity. But sometimes you have to think beyond that and think for the greater good. In Scotland, a huge amount of the clubs are semi-professional and the fact was that we could not afford the testing that would eventually come in to allow clubs to play was a big factor. But from Airdrie’s point of view we were very reluctant to end the league, we have one of the best sports scientists in the country with John McMenemy and we were ready to go the full season, with promising fixtures ahead”

Stuart mentioned how Airdrie really believed that they had goals set out that they could achieve and with all the preparation that they had done, promotion was a real possibility, so when the play-offs were taken away the club knew that they were dammed to League 1, so then why did the club vote to end the season?

“We couldn’t make it null and void Cameron, it’s a shame for the supporters, it’s a shame for those who witnessed a last minute goal at Falkirk to win the game, it’s a shame for a striker who has scored 15 goals (Dale Carrick) because that would have all been wiped away. Then there were the financial difficulties so that was never going to be an option.

So, we were asked to end the League as it was, and we reluctantly agreed. You know people talk about only thinking for yourself and self-interests, we weren’t like that. We thought about the greater good of Scottish football”

Thinking about the greater good seems to be a theme with Airdrie who on so many levels seem to be thinking about those other than themselves. Of course they are not alone but as I got to discover later, they haven’t been selling season tickets because they don’t want to sell false promises to their fans when they don’t know when or how football is going to re-start. 

Yet it is false promises which Airdrie, and the rest of the country, were sold upon.

“We were told that league reconstruction would be looked upon very favourably, because it has been the same set up here for a long long time and everyone is board with the four games a season. Let’s get back to playing twice as season home and away.

So, we get told that league reconstruction would be looked upon very favourably, so we decided to vote to end the league, so we sacrificed for Raith (Rovers) would win the league. So, we then entered into league reconstruction talks and there was a number of meetings but to be honest it never really got off the ground.” 

So it would seem that one of the key factors as to why some clubs voted the way they did was because they thought that it would result in league reconstruction and therefore they might all end up benefiting them at the end of the day. So why when lower league clubs with so much to gain are voting for the greater good of Scotland, why is it that the talks never really started?

“The Premier League teams had decided no. They were going to be struggling financially so don’t want to increase the size of the league, that’s why the suggestion of a 16 team league will not happen, because then the money is divided between 16 and each of the top teams ends up getting less. So at the moment they came to conclusion that they couldn’t afford to give more clubs a share of the pie”

In these difficult times you could almost forgive sides for not wanting to lose more money and yet it feels as though many teams have been betrayed, this point in the conversation lead us back to what I said at the start. Thinking about the rest of Scotland outside the Premiership, they are not the only league in Scotland and yet all reconstruction talks seem centred around it. So, with them so unwilling to change, a proposal which Airdrie put forward, seemed like the perfect solution.

“We wanted 20 teams in the Championship, no-one was going to get disadvantaged by it. Even Stranraer, who were getting relegated, they had only won two games of 27 all season and I know they’re my former club and I spent five years there. But you don’t know if they are going to win or lose their final eight games. But the season was not completed, and they shouldn’t have been disadvantaged, as Hearts shouldn’t have been disadvantaged, as Partick Thistle shouldn’t.” 

Airdrie’s proposal was simple, a 20 team second tier, making the SFL a three-tier league. Hearts don’t get relegated with Dundee United and Inverness both promoted to the Premiership. Top two sides from League 2 get promoted to the new 20 teams second tier and Kelty Hearts and Brora Rangers brought in from the Lowland and Highland Leagues respectively. Seems simple enough, a revamp in the Heart of Scottish football and no team is punished. But in reality, is it actually possible? I put this question to Stuart and he really does think it’s possible, however he is worried about League 2 because as he beautifully put it…

“Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas! 

Let’s be honest the League 2 sides are scared of the Highland League and Lowland League teams coming in. Kelty, Brora Rangers, East Kilbride, Bonnyrigg RCFC all have great resources and great support, if you look at the top two clubs in League 2 it was the two newest clubs in the league. Cove Rangers and Edinburgh City. So, they have come in and had an impact, so who is to say that others won’t come in and do the same and nobody wants a situation where they could fall out the league. In my view the simple way to resolve that is you have a League 1, League 2 and a League 3, it’s simple! Why not have a Scottish League 3 where you no-longer need to drop out of the league altogether and instead incorporate those teams into a League format?”

It does make sense and this is coming from a man with over 40 years’ experience in Scottish football and was a player when one of the biggest reconstructions of all time took place back in 1975 when the Premiership dropped from 18 teams to 10! And as Stuart went on to point out, since then there has been several changes but as for the rest of Scotland’s leagues it has been as you were. So maybe it is time to change focus.

I then went on to talk about what it was actually like in the last few months, how the club was coping, what they have had to do and how it is going to affect them in the future.

Well the stadium had to close down, the players have had to go away and train on their own and do what they need to do. It’s been a ghost town, but the furlough has been a godsend to be honest. And I think every club would agree with that. We as a club didn’t come out and say we have furlough this person because we felt that it is a private matter between the club and the employee and I understand that fans want to know what is going on but their is a lot which should be kept behind closed doors. So Airdrie kept most things behind closed doors.

But naturally it has been a very difficult time, especially in a recruitment point of view, because all you are able to do is express an interest in a particular player but you can’t say you want to sign them because they immediately look for wages. But we are not in a position to do that with no income coming into the club.

But I amazed at how well clubs (In league 1 and 2) are coping with it right now to be honest. I am hoping in longer term that everything gets resolved, but I just hope it is a wakeup call for all clubs. The I was an assistant manager at Stranraer we were playing against Gretna and we all know what happened to them. We need to be sensible and cautious and most clubs are, but you are still seeing some players and some agents acting as if nothing has happened? They need to get into the real world

I’ve been telling the young players who have been let go by the club. If they get offered a senior contract, then they just need to take it! It’s not about money now it’s about getting a contact”

In relation to not selling season tickets like many clubs are across the UK, the answer which Stuart gave was very straight forward.

“We have a terrific board of directors at Airdrie but most importantly we are realistic. If things speed up and get better faster than thought, then great but we don’t know what is going to happen in the world. We believe, and time will tell if we are doing the right thing but, that you must think beyond the actually football and the sport and think about what is happening in the world.”  

Finally, I asked Stuart what he thought the future was for Scottish football.

“Firstly, I think Scottish football is very durable, we will always survive. We always stick by each other and that’s just the Scottish mentality. That said League reconstruction does need to happen. With regards to the lower leagues we need to introduce the pyramid system. England have got it with the national leagues and so on, but we must develop some sort of pathway. I think we need something where the winners of the Highland and Lowland Leagues are automatically promoted, you know you shouldn’t need to have a playoff against the bottom team. If you have won a league within the pyramid system, then you should automatically be promoted. But for a start we need to extend League 2, but the whole system needs a shake up and our proposal for the 20-team championship would be ideal. We need that bit of freshness, let’s have two games a season. But I’m sure all clubs will survive. Local communities will work together with these clubs to make sure of that, because as long as we have a team to support that is the most important thing.”

I couldn’t have ended it better myself. As much as Scottish football does need a revamp what you can be sure of is that the football will go on. Local football teams mean so much to so many local communities that as long as a ball is being kicked, whether that be in a 10, 12, 16 or 20 team leagues, they will not care. And as long as clubs work together, accept that not everyone can be appeased and work for the greater good of all Scottish Football then there is no reason why it can’t emerge from this pandemic even stronger than it was before.

I also have to say a massive thank you to Stuart for speaking to me and offering his opinions and knowledge. It was a great learning experience to me which also reminded me of the importance and reason why I love Scottish football. It is the passion and the drive of those who love football within their small communities that makes Scottish Football tick and not just the scale and the money at the top.

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Willie on the Wing – An extract from Willie Morgan’s incredible book

Order a signed copy of the book today by emailing gaynormorgan@mac.com

I AM Willie Morgan. I played for the biggest club in the world, I was the first footballer to have his own fan club, I took the No.7 shirt off George Best and I played in the best-ever Scotland side.

So what do most people ask me about? Tommy Docherty suing me. Yes, that’s right, Docherty sued Granada TV and me for libel and it nearly broke me – financially and mentally.

I had been invited to appear on Kick Off, which was a football chat show broadcast in the north west on Granada on Friday nights. So in I went and Gerald Sinstadt asked who was the best manager I had worked for.

I said I had played for the best and worst, the best being Sir Matt Busby and the worst being Docherty. I said Docherty was the worst manager there had ever been.

A couple of weeks later I got a letter from Granada’s solicitors telling me solicitors acting on behalf of Docherty intended to sue for libel.

We treated it as a bit of a joke and expected it to all go away. But it went on and on as letters passed to and from
solicitor to solicitor. At no point did I see Docherty or have any direct communication with him.

We had to collect testimonials from the likes of Denis Law, Paddy Crerand, Jim Holton, Lou Macari and other people connected to the club. They all gave their honest opinion about Docherty and his managerial style.

We eventually got a date for the court case at the Old Bailey and I had to go down to see my barrister, John Wilpshire.

As part of my defence, I was making 29 allegations against Docherty in order to prove my case.

My QC was deadly serious when he said to me: “These accusations are serious. If you lose, and there is a very good chance you might, it could be very expensive. You’ll be wiped out and probably lose your house.

“However, I am fully confident that as soon as his team see the evidence we have, and the statements we will produce, they’ll drop it.”

So you can imagine my surprise when, two weeks later, I was called back down to London to see Wilpshire. His face told me all I needed to know even before he spoke. On the first morning of the trial he told me: “I am going to question Mr Docherty and every time he lies, I want you to give a little tug on my gown.”

After half-an-hour the gown had nearly been pulled off it had been tugged so many times.

Docherty was laughing, cracking gags, spinning yarns like he didn’t have a care in the world.

Next my QC went over Docherty’s evidence, pointing out all the inaccuracies and contradictions.

He was brilliant and I could see the colour drain from Docherty’s face. This went on for about two hours then my barrister suddenly looked at Tommy and, after hearing his contradictory account regarding his treatment of Denis Law, said: “You told a pack of lies to the jury about this, didn’t you?”

Docherty seemed to shrug his shoulders and said: “Yes, it turned out this way, yes.”

It was incredible. On the third day, Docherty’s barrister said his client was dropping the case.

The ordeal is one of the worst times in my life and the stress on my family was incredible. But it was worth it in the end.

The Willie Morgan show is exclusive to Football CFB. You can ask Willie questions by getting in touch with us via twitter @FootballCFB or by email at footballcfb@gmail.com

So Close, Yet So Far…

By Adibir Singh – @adi_sza

With the dust finally settled on the 2019-20 Bundesliga season, we look back at a title race that was one of the most thrilling in recent years. Germany’s two crown princes- Dortmund and Leipzig- were out to dethrone the resident Kings of German football Bayern Munchen. Ultimately coming up short, we focus on how the two sides put on a serious challenge for the title and what cost them much coveted silverware.

Bayern were crowned Champions for a record 8th time in a row- overcoming their early season setbacks under Niko Kovac. Kovac’s form was seen as lacklustre by the heavyweights that make up the Bayern board- and Hansi Flick was handed the reigns following a resounding 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Borussia Dortmund were the favourites to push Bayern all the way again this season- on the back of an 18-19 campaign which saw them finish just two points behind them. Coach Lucien Favre brought in plenty of talent with the likes of Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt to bolster the attack, and Nico Schulz in defence- on the back of his splendid season with Hoffenheim.

Bayern’s season started in tumultuous fashion- dropping points in 3 of their first 7 games. Dortmund were the team everyone expected to capitalise on the misfortunes in Bavaria- but instead it was RB Leipzig who took the lead with a superb run of form. 

Julian Nagelsmann’s side had made their own notable signings in the summer window- bringing in Christopher Nkunku from PSG and Spaniard Dani Olmo for €19.00m from Zagreb- and fans were eager to see how this would help them better a 3rd place finish from the previous year and close a 12 point gap on Bayern. 

Leipzig started their season off in scintillating form- 4 wins in their first 5 games- including taking points off Bayern propelled them to the top of the table- a point clear of Dortmund in second place. This run was quickly dismantled by Schalke- beating ‘Die Roten Bullen’ 3-1 and undoing all of Nagelsmann’s early hard work. Leipzig failed to win their next three games as well- dropping all the way to 6th place after Matchday 9.

Dortmund on the other hand were replicating their form from last year, and not in a positive way. The same inconsistencies that hampered their title hopes were at the fore once again- notching just 3 wins from their first 7 games. Languishing in 8th place, Matchday 8 brought the challenge of surprise leaders Mönchengladbach- but Dortmund got over the line with a hard fought 1-0 win. 

4 points from 6 against Schalke and Wolfsburg took BVB up into second- but with a chance to go top of the table they had to beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena- which was no easy task irrespective of how mediocre a season Bayern were having. Dortmund were humbled by a newly rejuvenated Bayern under Flick- losing 4-0, dropping the Ruhr side back down to sixth place. Their momentum was evidently hampered after collecting just one point from six in their next two games. 

Matchday 10 was a historic one for Leipzig- demolishing Mainz with 8 unanswered goals- star man Timo Werner bagged 3 goals and 3 assists in a standout performance to push his side into second place. They then went on to win their next 5 games in a row- the best form they would produce throughout the season and go back into the top spot. 

Dortmund responded to this by scoring 9 goals against Dusseldorf and Mainz- setting up a tasty encounter for the two in-form sides in Leipzig and themselves for Matchday 16. The clash did not disappoint- ending in a free flowing 3-3 draw, but also highlighting how fragile the two sides were defensively. 

Leipzig ended Matchday 17 as the ‘Herbstmeister” or halfway champions- a first in their history and the sides form looked promising. But the new year brought the Bayern side back to life, who were on the rise with six wins on the trot- overtaking the herd and finally coming into the familiar territory of first place on Matchday 20.

A mere 3 points separated first from fourth place, and there was another big clash in the title race when Leipzig travelled to Munich to face Bayern on Matchday 21. A 0-0 draw did little good to Leipzig who trailed Bayern by just a point, in second.

January saw Dortmund bring in the most sought after striker in Europe- Erling Haaland- to their side, as well as a surprise signing of Emre Can to sure up the midfield department. Haaland’s impact was immediate- scoring three on his debut. 

However, Bayern were relentless after their 6-1 victory against Bremen, and really stepped on the gas to go on a 13 game unbeaten run before meeting Dortmund in Matchday 28. Dortmund were trailing their rivals in an all too familiar situation by 4 points. 

A home win against the Bavarians would put Dortmund just a point behind them- but a world class goal by Joshua Kimmich was the nail in the coffin for Dortmund’s title hopes. A 7 point lead for Flick’s side seemed an almost unassailable lead. 

Leipzig were victims of their own demise- trailing the leaders by 9 points after four draws in seven games which completely blew them out of the title race. Their only hope to try and salvage their domestic season was to try and push for a second place finish, ahead of Dortmund. 

FC Bayern would go on to stretch their unbeaten run to 19 games- winning 18 of those- and secure another record breaking title win. Dortmund and Leipzig faced each other on Matchday 33 with second place to play for- and the Black and Yellows made easy work of brushing aside the Leipzig challenge- albeit still finishing a disappointing 13 points behind the Meisterschale winners. 

Where did it go wrong?

Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund seemed to have no problem in attack all season. A formidable line up of attackers in Reus, Sancho, Brandt and Haaland never failed to deliver- but it was at the other end of the pitch where they had all the problems. Favre favoured a 3 at the back system for majority of the campaign- with full backs Guerreiro and Hakimi playing as the wing-backs in a five man midfield. 

Their games against bottom sides Paderborn and Bremen were perfect examples of this frailty. Being 3 goals down at halftime against Paderborn had alarm bells ringing for Favre- who relied on Schulz and Weigl in a back four- but to no avail. The ever-reliant attack saved Favre’s blushes by clawing back three goals- but the problems were much deeper and needed sorting out quickly.

The manager ruthlessly changed his formation and personnel- deploying Raphaël Guerreiro and dropping Nico Schulz for his sub-par performances. The teams performances improved but the vulnerability in defence was still visible- and easily exploited even by the weakest of opposition.

RB Leipzig

Leipzig had a similar problem at the back. The attack was clicking perfectly through the midfield pairing of Laimer, Demme and Sabitzer who helped Werner and Nkunku wreak havoc on defences. 

The defence that had conceded the fewest goals the previous year, didn’t come close to matching that feat when it mattered most. 37 goals conceded, and letting the opposition score first in crucial games ultimately caught up to the side in their hunt for the title- evident in games against Leverkusen, Freiburg and Hertha Berlin. 

Nagelsmann’s side performed extremely well in Europe throughout the campaign- and fatigue from midweek European games could have been a factor for a comparably inexperienced squad in their run in. 

The Silver Lining

Both sides had plenty to smile about throughout the campaign-

Dortmund saw their young superstars rise to the occasion- Jadon Sancho was the outright star- collecting 17 goals and 17 assists in a remarkable season. His link up play with teen sensation Haaland was a sight to behold- the Norwegian with 16 goal contributions in 15 games proving his moneys worth. 17 year-old Gio Reyna also broke into the team, and slowly established himself as a rotational first-teamer in just his first top flight season. 

Raphaël Guerreiro was another player that surprised fans and pundits alike- completely pushing Schulz out of the side and proving to be one of the most reliable players in the squad both defensively and with his goal contributions. 

Leipzig on the other hand were almost single handedly winning games because of their unstoppable German striker Timo Werner. His 28 goals were bettered only by Lewandowski at Bayern (surprise, surprise). 

Defender Dayot Upamecano caught the eye of suitors from around the world with his 

world class displays- something you wouldn’t expect from a 21 year-old in such a highly competitive league. It wouldn’t shock anyone if a bigger European club came for his signature in the coming transfer window. 

Christopher Nkunku had a stellar campaign as well- 5 goals and 15 assists put his numbers up with the best in the league, that too in his debut season. He quickly established himself as a first team starter and has left PSG wondering what they potentially missed out on.

2020 Vision

Borussia Dortmund

Achraf Hakimi’s departure will disappoint a lot of BVB faithful- having had a fantastic campaign and a telepathic understanding with Sancho on the right hand side. Thomas Meunier was brought in on a free transfer as an efficient replacement- and one that was needed especially since back up right-back Marcel Schmelzer has undergone surgery on his knee.

Jude Bellingham is on the verge of signing for BVB from Birmingham City- the midfielder being touted as another promising talent to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Sancho. 

More defensive recruitments are required by Dortmund if they want to reach the benchmark set by Bayern. An aging Hummels and injury-prone Akanji are not the recipe for success if results are to go by. 

Next season may be Favre’s last chance to show that his side are the real deal- and finally deliver a title after eight long years.

RB Leipzig

Timo Werner’s move to Chelsea is going to give Nagelsmann and his staff a headache to replace his phenomenal goal tally- but new signing Here-chan Hwang, signed from sister club Salzburg might just be the solution. Just like Dortmund, they need defensive stability to reach an even higher level of competition- and obtaining the signature of Benjamin Henrichs at right-back is just the type of move they need. 

Nagelsmann’s swift style of play has caught the eye of football fans around the world- but the final few pieces of the jigsaw are missing in defence to truly see the best of the German’s tactical prowess. Holding onto and developing key players like Upamecano are just as crucial as new signings if this side wants to fight for titles in the coming years. 

They say defence wins you titles and that is exactly where these two sides will look to invest and improve for next season. Bayern have also added marquee signings such as Leroy Sane to their ranks- and aren’t resting on their laurels despite the clear gulf in class between them and the rest of the league.

If this year is anything to go by- the 2020/21 Bundesliga campaign is going to be even bigger and even better. Keep your eyes peeled on the league that never fails to disappoint!

Crowds at games should start from the bottom

By John Bleasdale – @JBleasdsle81

THE number of new cases and deaths from Coronavirus are falling and more restrictions are being eased by the Scottish Government. After months being stuck indoors and not going for exercise further than the local park, it’s music to everyone’s ears that they can go to other households again as well as go to the shops, albeit taking precautions and maintaining social distancing.

As more restrictions become relaxed, the urge for crowds to come back to Scottish Football is increasing. Whilst the Government have, so far, been firm that nobody should expect to go back to stadiums anytime soon, Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen have began planning for reduced crowds at their respective stadiums, with Celtic having plans for 30,000 at Celtic Park and Aberdeen allowing 7,500 into Pittodrie (Rangers figures are not known at this point).

By the time the Premiership kicks off on 1 August, barring any potential delay caused by the SPFL v Hearts and Partick Thistle case, it will have been almost five months since football in this country was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans have been resorted to watching repeats of old matches to pass the time as they wait to find out when they can go to watch their side again.

But is it the right time to start letting fans into stadiums again?

Personally, if Scottish Football is going to start letting spectators attend matches again whilst maintaining social distance, it would be better to start at a smaller scale than at Celtic Park, Ibrox or Pittodrie. Whilst you can argue that a 50% reduced crowd could be spread out across those stadiums to maintain social distancing, getting into the grounds in the first place still possesses the same issues that maximum capacity has. You will still have people queuing to get into the ground and that will be difficult to manage in itself. Then there’s implementing a one way system to get people to their seats and managing inevitable queues for food and drink. Clubs will no doubt have plans in place to contain these issues, but it won’t be easy.

Rather than managing crowds of 7,500, 25,000 or 30,000, why not start at clubs in League One, League Two or the Scottish Women’s Premier League? Most clubs at that level don’t have crowds in their thousands and are in more need of their income than the Old Firm and Aberdeen, so starting there their and seeingsee that it can be done safely with the social distancing measures in place makes sense.

For example, Clyde’s average attendance last season was 964 and their Broadwood Stadium holds over 8,000. Normally, they only open the Main Stand, which is a 3,000 capacity. You could easily have a reduced crowd of, for example, 600 fans and ensure they are spaced around that stand to reduce the risk of any infection being spread. In League Two, Albion Rovers had an average attendance of 300 in their 1572 capacity Cliftonhill. That is manageable to maintain at social distance whilst bringing in much needed income to a club that has required donations from a Just Giving page to get them through this prolonged period of no football caused by the pandemic. If these events can be staged safely at those numbers, then look at the bigger crowds after a few weeks and gradually build things up.

The main problem with starting in the lower leagues is that their season doesn’t kick off until 17 October with a reduced 27 game campaign. Well, why not have these clubs arrange friendlies with one another or non-league clubs to get people along? The players could do with building up their match sharpness, fans are desperate to get back to games and the clubs could do with some income. Starting with crowds of under 500 would be a safer way of easing fans back in than 7,500 at Pittodrie, 25,000 at Ibrox and 30,000 at Celtic Park.

At least the League One and Two clubs have a start date, unlike the Women’s Premier League sides. Since their League was curtailed after one game, there has been no word on when they are resuming their season, or if they are changing from their traditional summer football season to the winter in line with the men’s. Quite frankly, the lack of information and media coverage has been disgraceful and the women deserve better.

Whilst the directors of the men’s sides have been embroiled in a childish internet spat for the last four months, the Women’s clubs have had to sit and wait whilst their League gets ignored. Given how much their National Team has progressed in the last ten years, it is disgraceful how the media has given them next to zero coverage through this pandemic. Don’t forget, Glasgow City have a rearranged Champions League tie against Wolfsburg to play. Their task is already hard enough without having to go into the game on the back of having zero match sharpness behind them, whilst the Germans have already resumed their season. A gesture from James Anderson to fund their trip, including COVID-19 testing, is a welcome boost for the side worrying about whether/not they’d be able to fly to Spain in the first place, but they need to get back to playing to stand any chance of causing an upset.

For City and the rest of the Women’s sides, there’s no reason why they cannot resume competitive football, and playing in front of reduced, socially distant crowds will help. It’s time the governing bodies gave their game some attention, and that the media gavegive them more exposure to push for their football season to restart.

The desire for getting fans back to games is high and the thought of football without fans is almost unthinkable, you only have to look at the Premier League and Championship to see that games are almost unappealing in empty stadiums. With our clubs more dependent on fans coming through the gate than TV money, the need is greater. However, it must be done safely in order to help Scotland maintain the progress being made in suppressing the virus. We don’t want to be back to square one and being in lockdown for another 12 weeks, so let’s gradually build our way back up rather than have tens of thousands descending on grounds straightway.

As much as I’d love to get back to Pittodrie at some point, or to Hampden for the Scotland v Israel Euro 2020 playoff in October, it’s got to be safe to do so and that the risk of the virus being spread is significantly reduced. Whilst the signs are encouraging, we also can’t get complacent as we’re currently seeing down south. Let smaller crowds go to the clubs who desperately need the income first before opening the turnstiles at the bigger clubs, then hopefully our grounds will be back to normal.

Hearts and Thistle charge is right but the timing from the SFA is abysmal

By John Bleasdale – @JBleasdale81

ANOTHER day, another twist in the end of season row, another statement. Yep, this is the new norm in Scottish Football!

Yesterday, the SFA decided to serve a notice of complaint to Hearts and Partick Thistle for breaching Rule 78 where no club can take a matter to court without going through their Arbitration process first. Hearts and Partick retaliated in typically bullish fashion with a statement saying they were “incredulous” at learning of the charge.

With the arbitration process in place to review the clubs appeal on the SPFL’s decision to end the 2019/20 season, which saw both sides and Stranraer relegated, it’s yet another twist to a saga that has been ongoing since the start of April, and could drag on well into the start of the new season.

The first thing that springs regarding the charge is why now? We have known since 15 June that Hearts were taking the matter to court after the last reconstruction vote went against them, with Partick joining them the following day. That’s a full month wasted, and eleven days since the courts effectively reminded the two clubs to follow the SFA protocol. What have the SFA been doing in this time? To serve this notice just six days before the deadline for the two clubs to get their evidence to them is just baffling! This should’ve been done within a week of Hearts lodging court action, or even within a day or two of the judge’s results. Once again, the reputation of the SFA is under the spotlight.

What should be clear though is that the charge is CORRECT. Hearts and Partick should’ve taken their grievance with them before going through the courts. Quite simply, they abused the process, and the judge reminded them of this. They might well have reason to have no faith in the SFA overturning the SPFL decision, but that was no reason to go above them. The fact the courts made this point says it all. As for the statement, why are they acting surprised to get this charge? Yes the timing is questionable, but using fancy words in a statement does not hide away from the fact that they broke the rules in this instance. Whilst they have good reason to be angry at how their 2019/20 fate was decided, it does not excuse them trying to bypass the SFA.

In addition, they are questioning why Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers are asking their fellow clubs for assistance in funding a legal battle. Well, this is where hypocrisy and inconsistency comes into play! They started off by saying their legal action was against the SPFL, which is the 42 clubs, but then made it perfectly clear that they thought that those respective clubs promotions should be scrapped in favour of their survival. Now they are upset that the clubs are asking fellow members to fund the legal fight, claiming that the issue was against the league. Make your mind up! Even if the dispute is against the league, clubs are going to be funding that anyway because the SPFL is made up of the 42 clubs, which Hearts and Partick are a part of. If their issue is against the league and not individual clubs, why bring them into the argument?

What should be pointed out though is that all of this could’ve been avoided had Neil Doncaster, on the same day he announced plans to end the season, should’ve had a contingency plan that rewarded the sides in promotion positions and not penalise the sides at the bottom of the table. They also should’ve given clubs 28 days to submit their vote, which legally was the case, instead of the 48 hour deadline which kicked off this farce. Instead of showing leadership by making a proposal of 14-10-10-10, which only came in at the eleventh hour, he passed ownership of reconstruction to Ann Budge, who made it clear from the outset that she was only interested in a temporary solution.

This whole episode has been by far the biggest embarrassment on Scottish Football, which is saying something given the 1980 Scottish Cup Final riots, the Boozegate affair of 2009 and the National Teams performance at the 1978 World Cup. Owners, Chairmen and Chairwomen, Chief Executive’s and Directors with a wealth of experience, business acumen and education, have behaved like petty school kids with their childish statements. Very few clubs have conducted themselves with any dignity whatsoever by getting involved in public slanging matches. From the SPFL board right through to League Two, they have shamed our game at a time where togetherness is more paramount as our clubs strive to get through the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. And they want a sponsor to pour millions of pounds into our game?

Who knows what the SFA arbitration will conclude after their investigation and what Hearts and Partick choose to do next. One thing for certain is that this debate is far from over, and the timing of the charge could not have been more badly timed.

Why the SPFL must take reconstruction seriously

By Cameron Deacon – @Cam_Deacon21

The other day I saw a table that showed per head Scottish football is the most highly attended league in Europe. For a second, I was taken a-back and assumed that what I was seeing was a fabrication of numbers or a twisting of facts, but then when I thought about it, I wasn’t surprised at all. Scottish football fans are some of the most passionate in the world, I wouldn’t be surprised if a group of lads playing Kerby drew an attendance. The beating hearts of so many communities, whether they be cities in the belt or towns in the highlands, rely on their football team not to succeed but just to exist. The struggle of lockdown and football’s shutdown has brought out that passion its multitudes. Whether that be volunteers coming down to help their teams, players taking cuts in wage and season tickets being sold in swarms for a season very much under the cover of doubt.

Something that has emerged from what was originally chaos is the conversation of reconstruction. To this point in time it seems as though any chance of reconstruction is close to none, with the new five year TV deal already in place and four ‘Old Firms’ a part of that deal the little chance of change may be nothing more than that, little. However, what the conversation did show, other than self-centred ideals and downright incompetence,  is that most Scottish football fans are tired. They are tired of false promises, they are tired of ridiculous suggestions, they are tired of being left out and they are tired of the current set up.

 Scottish football is on a knife edge, not in the sense that it is in any sort of danger but, in the sense that even the slightest disruption to the current standard potentially threatens to throw everything in the SPFL into disarray. There are 42 sides in the SPFL and unfortunately the current system benefits two. Take a guess at who that might be.  And yet if it not for the success of Celtic and Rangers then all other Scottish teams would suffer as a result. A leagues brand appeal rests on its UEFA coefficient ranking. A ranking given to each country based off performance in Europe which then dictates how many teams from your country get European qualification. Celtic and Rangers have done well in recent years and back in February raised Scotland to 14th in the rankings, all but securing two Champions League qualification spots. This in turn raises Scottish footballs appeal meaning more potentially money for the teams within it. This means that if there was a change in structure which helped to benefit the rest of the teams in the country, Celtic and Rangers could be weakened, perform worse in Europe, and then end up damaging the rest of Scotland as a result.

Yet it is because of this very fact that the fans in Scotland are fed up, they feel shackled by the minority. I went onto one of the biggest Scottish football fan groups on Facebook and asked its members “Are you happy with the current set up in Scottish football?” The response I got was decisive. Almost everyone said “No” and the few who replied with “Yes” were of the belief that “As long as they (TV broadcasters) insist on four Glasgow derbies, change will never happen”. There is without a doubt an almost overarching sense of depression from all fans outside Rangers and Celtic when it comes to structure. Everyone wants change but they are withdrawn to the fact that it will never happen. Compounded by the suggestions from the Hearts board of temporary change to only save themselves, in a time where real reconstruction could have helped everyone, has made its possibility even less foreseeable.

Scotland has some of the most committed and most dedicated fans in the world and a failure to make any adjustments soon is going to lead to fans just giving up, and only then once SPFL starts noticing a loss in revenue as standards begin to slip will they decide to take action. So, what is it the fans want?

From the same group I got a lot of answers to that question and it seems that there are two overarching suggestions with the foundation of both being ‘more teams!’. The first and certainly more feasible option is the 14-10-10-10 suggestion which was put forward in the last few months but only as a temporary measure. The reason it is most feasible is because realistically nobody loses, there would be no relegation, only promotion and two teams would be brought up from the lowland and highland leagues. The issue with this is it doesn’t actually change anything, there would still almost certainly be a split (Which seems to be something everyone is against) and the only difference would be the addition of two sides to the Premiership, the rest of SFL would remain exactly the same.

The change that the majority wants and would lead to significant change is 16-16-12. A thirty-game season everyone plays only twice and there would be no need for a split. It would also mean a greater variety of teams to play in lower leagues and the complete removal of the fourth tier and the possible integration of the highlands and lowlands divisions. The fact is in a country with only 42 league sides a four-tier system is just ridiculous. As one man replied “I have watched my team play in a 10 team league now for over a decade and its turgid”, every team in Scotland and their fans are having to suffer because ultimately Sky want four Glasgow derbies. This means it is less entertaining, less exciting, and downright monotonous. Hearts will most likely come straight back up next season because they are almost guaranteed stacks of points because they can and will do the quadruple of several sides. Bigger leagues make it more competitive, more exciting, increases variation but most importantly it closes the gap on Celtic and Rangers. And this leads to the final question, is it actually possible?

Yes. Is the answer because it has happened before, and it can happen again. But ultimately money talks. In the 1960’s the league noticed that crowds were beginning to drop and had dropped by nearly half a million that decade and because of that reconstruction talks were not just a suggestion but a necessity. But the change which was made then was too dramatic, dropping and 18 team top tier down to 10! After that there was period of nine years between 1986 and 95 where the leagues changed size three times.

This continued until the modern system started in 2000. 20 years of this system, the longest time without change since the beginning of the last century! Football has changed an awful lot in that time, the exponential increase in value and an increase in the media’s grasp over the game means that any change would be difficult, but from my point of view it is more than necessary.

Instead of clubs throwing the idea about for their own selfish needs, suggesting snap temporary changes, there needs to be a serious discussion about the welfare of the league and Scottish football at club and International level. A discussion that ends in blueprints being penned for the end of that following season. Clubs cannot be put to a vote when they know how the outcome effects their team voting a season in advance not only makes it more exciting, but it means the votes are meaningful.

If the SPFL wait too long and wait until they are forced into change through drops in attendance and loss in revenue, then the decision that they make will be rash and it will not benefit anyone. It will, as was the case back in 1960’s, be change for the sake of change and could end up hurting more than it helps. There is a real opportunity in Scotland to make the leagues competitive and exciting once again and I really hope that people see that, before it is too late.

Manchester United and Leeds United – A Rivalry Revived

By Michael Burney – @BurneyRed

One of the most heated rivalries in English football will be renewed next season after a lengthy absence on the pitch. With Leeds United’s impending promotion back to the Premier League, it’s worth noting that the last League meeting between Manchester United and Leeds United occurred way back in February 2004 at Old Trafford. It was a 1-1 draw, with an Alan Smith equaliser for the Yorkshiremen. 

That Summer, Smith would cross the Pennines and sign for bitter rivals United, which soured his relationship with the Elland Road faithful. Those tears shed on the pitch at the Reebok Stadium, as Leeds’ demotion to the Football League was confirmed, were thus labelled crocodile tears and only added to the animosity between the two sets of supporters.

It’s been a long 16 years for everyone connected with Leeds United. Following relegation from the Premier League in 2004, the financial mess in which they found themselves only manifested in further disappointment. The defeat in the 2006 Championship Playoff Final to Aidy Boothroyd’s Watford was as close as they have come to returning to the big time, until now.

Being relegated to League One and struggling to find their way back into the Championship only added to the misery. Another Play Off Final defeat, this time to Doncaster in the League One showpiece, only brought more doom and gloom to a club that no longer owned their own stadium and training ground. With several takeovers and false dawns along the way, Leeds did get back into the second tier under Simon Grayson. At the end of last season they imploded under current maverick manager Marcelo Bielsa culminating in the Championship Play Off Semi Final defeat against Frank Lampard’s Derby County.

All of this disappointment though for a club the size of Leeds United will be forgotten about once they are playing their first game back in the Premier League. An exciting, vibrant, young, energetic side under Bielsa won’t just settle for survival. They will want to push on and take some big scalps along the way, none more so than that of hated rivals Manchester United.

The rivalry goes way back, especially during the 1960s when both Matt Busby’s United and Don Revie’s Leeds were challenging for and winning honours. This intensified the rivalry between the clubs and the cities. The whole ‘War of the Roses’ analogy also comes into play and the Johnny Giles saga is a case in point, with the Irishman coming through the ranks at Old Trafford, but becoming a cub legend in Revie’s conquering Leeds side.

The image of Denis Law and Jack Charlton fighting during an FA Cup Semi Final between the sides in 1965 showed the passion and aggression not only of the football at that time but also between the two clubs. The late 60’s and 70’s were the most successful period in Leeds’s history with domestic and European honours but they also lost in the finals of both the European Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup during the 70s. In 1968, Matt Busby’s United became the first English team to win the European Cup, and this is something Revies side was unable to match.

Between 1982 and 1990, however, there were no fixtures between the two clubs with Leeds being relegated to the old Second Division. With the Yorkshiremen having sold two of their best players to United in Gordon McQueen and Joe Jordan before the end of the 1970s, the animosity only grew during the absence of this fixture.

With United looking certain to end their long wait for another top flight title in 1992, the congested fixture list led to the reds blowing the League, with Leeds capitalising and winning the last League title before the formation of the Premier League. In that side was ex-United player Gordon Strachan who captained the team and soon to be Manchester United legend Eric Cantona.

A major theme of this rivalry has been the players that have represented both clubs. The list is long with Johnny Giles, Joe Jordan, Gordon McQueen, Dennis Irwin, Gordon Strachan, Eric Cantona, Rio Ferdinand and Alan Smith notable names. It would be fair to say that United have had the better of this, which again has led to much resentment from Elland Road.The hugely successful years United enjoyed under Sir Alex Ferguson came at a time when Leeds had a young, exciting team which ultimately didn’t win anything and then suffered the financial meltdown and firesale which culminated in their spectacular demise.

Off the pitch the rivalry between the two sets of supporters has always been intense. There was the famous banner unfurled by the travelling Reds at Elland Road making reference to the two Leeds fans stabbed to death in Istanbul before a European game with Galatasaray in 2000. There have also been regular taunts referencing the Munich Air Disaster over the years from Leeds supporters, and this type of heated atmosphere between the clubs will most likely be rekindled when they meet again for the first time following Leeds’return to the big time.

The last two meetings between the clubs have been in the FA Cup and League Cups with Jermaine Beckford settling the FA Cup 3rd Round tie back in 2010  winning the game for the then League One side and Michael Owen scoring twice for United in a 3-0 win at Elland Road in September 2011 in the League Cup. These games showed once again the passion of the supporters and hatred between the two clubs, but will be nothing compared to when three points will be on the lineonce again.

As much as United supporters have revelled in the demise of the once mighty Leeds United, and as much as they would like Leeds to continue to struggle, most will be looking forward to renewing the rivalry. Having Leeds back in the Premier League will add an added edge and spice to the league which will have the supporters of both clubs, and the wider football community eagerly awaiting the first renewed encounter.

TOP FOUR RACE IS GOING DOWN TO THE WIRE – TOP SPOT PREDICTIONS

By Nora Calder – @NoraUtd

When the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned Manchester City’s two-year Champions League ban, they tightened up the Top Four race and sent rival fans into a frenzy. Some fans felt the Financial Fair Play regulations had become farcical, whilst others were simply disappointed at the prospect of their team finishing fifth and not qualifying for the Champions League.

With Liverpool having run off with their first Premier League title in over 30 years, it seems only fair that football fans will have excitement until the last day of the season as the race for Top Four is set to go down to the wire.  

Anything can happen in football, especially the Premier League, we’ve taken a look at who is still in the race and how they may fair up in their remaining fixtures.

Data from OPTA © 2020 

Chelsea

Remaining fixtures

Norwich (H)

Liverpool (A) 

Wolves (H) 

Record since restart: 4W, 0D, 2L

In Frank Lampard’s first season at Chelsea, we’ve seen the best and worst of what his squad has to offer. Their recent win over Manchester City was a strong statement of intent but they soon fell at a lower hurdle, suffering a 3-2 defeat at the hands of relegation battlers West Ham.  

The Chelsea defence will be low on confidence having been played off the park by Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United who have defied the odds in being serious contenders for Europa League football next season. Lampard is counting on his attacking threats like in-form Willian and Pulisic who can break down the sturdiest of defences. 

A win over an already relegated Norwich is a must for Chelsea. The real challenge is getting past a Liverpool side focused on raising their points tally and Wolves who are battling for European football.  

Our top points prediction for Chelsea is 66 pts.

Leicester City

Remaining fixtures

Sheffield United (H) 

Tottenham (H)

Manchester United (A)

Record since restart: 1W, 3D, 2L

Brendan Rodgers Foxes came back from the restart serious challengers for Top Four, though their form has since raised legitimate doubts as to whether they have the mentality to capitalise on their current position.

Leicester fans haven’t mourned the loss of Harry Maguire this season with Caglar Soyuncu stepping in to do a solid defensive job, the Turkish international lost his cool in their recent 4-1 thrashing to Bournemouth, kicking out at Callum Wilson as he attempted to retrieve the ball. The defender will now miss the last 3 games of the season. 

Even with a prolific goal-scorer like Jamie Vardy leading their attack, Leicester have perhaps the toughest end to the season in their battle for Top Four. Sheffield United are not to be underestimated and will pose a huge challenge, setting the tone for their next game against an unpredictable Spurs. The final test against Manchester United could be the decider.  

Our top points prediction for Leicester is 63 pts.

Manchester United

Remaining fixtures

Crystal Palace (A) 

West Ham (H) 

Leicester (A) 

Record since restart: 4W, 2D, 0L

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are on an 18-game unbeaten run, their front 3 are sending shivers down the spines of opposing defences but a dogged Southampton side took the wind from their sails in a recent 2-2 draw at Old Trafford. The Red Devil’s couldn’t withstand the sustained pressure from the Saints who earned an injury time equaliser. 

A maximum point return would guarantee a Champions League spot and United undoubtedly have winnable fixtures. Fans are anxiously awaiting news on left-back Luke Shaw who picked up an ankle injury in their recent draw. Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba have shown they can create the chances needed for United to climb the table 

With their fate in their own hands, we’re in for a tantalising end to the season. United’s Top Four hopes likely rest on their final game of the season, away at The King Power Stadium.   

Our top points prediction for Manchester United is 66 pts.

Our top 4 prediction

Predicted Top Four 

1.       Liverpool 

2.       Manchester City 

3.       Manchester United 

4. Chelsea

An open letter to Clive Tyldesley

By Callum McFadden

I interviewed Clive a few weeks ago and he was courteous, passionate and looking forward to the future.

I can’t believe he has been replaced. I thought he may have been winding down but to hear that he is not makes them decision more baffling.

This is an open letter to Clive: the voice of the Champions League for me growing up.

Dear Clive,

I am deeply shocked and upset by your news today. I honestly thought when the news came out that you were stepping back voluntarily. From Barcelona to Istanbul you’ve been the voice of European football in my lifetime.

Your nuggets of advice on Instagram, on YouTube and on our recent interview have helped me enormously.

I wish you every success and I repeat what I said on our interview you are the voice of football for me. You are the voice of the champions league for me and if I can help in any way please let me know.

You are a living legend of broadcasting and football in this country.

Stay strong, stay safe and keep commentating as the game would be far worse off without you.

Football CFB.

Listen to our interview with Clive here – https://anchor.fm/footballcfb/episodes/The-art-of-commentary-with-Clive-Tyldesley-eemvau

AV40 – Celebrating Villa’s golden age

Work is progressing very well on the Aston Villa 40th Anniversary Tribute Book and the contributions from Dennis Mortimer and the members of the Championship winning squad from 1980/81 has been very much appreciated.

The response to the book has been very encouraging with over 300 pre-orders for the Collector’s Edition – personally signed by 11 players from the Championship winning squad – received in the first two weeks of our announcement.

The closing date for Match Day sponsorship pages and for names to be included on the Subscribers Tribute pages in the book has been extended to Friday 31 July 2020 –only 3 weeks away!

The official launch of the book – subject to Government Covid 19 restrictions – will be on Thursday 22 August 20 and further details will be available closer to the date.

To order your copy today go to https://av40tribute.com/

CFB View: What Manchester United need this summer

Liverpool – Champions of Europe – 2019. Liverpool – Champions of England – 2020.

Manchester United – Champions of Europe – 2008. Manchester United – Champions of England – 2013.

Those statements are damning on a club who are one of the biggest clubs in the world. United claim to have 659 million via Kantar – a market research company who assessed the clubs worldwide reach. To have their main rivals overtake them in such dramatic fashion is deeply concerning.

Replacing Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to be an incredibly difficult task as I and my others would acknowledge. Journalist Mark Ogden broke the story that Sir Alex was retiring in 2013 and since then he can’t believe just how the club have stumbled from year to year without ever looking like seriously challenging for the games biggest honours. Listen to Mark discuss the post Fergie years on CFB here – https://anchor.fm/footballcfb/episodes/Manchester-United-The-post-Sir-Alex-years-with—-Mark-Ogden-earrqt

The main concern many have for United including myself is the lack of concern that the hierarchy seem to have when watching the clubs biggest rivals – Man City and Liverpool – win the games biggest honours while United battle for ‘top 4’.

A club the size of Manchester United should never be content with just qualifying for champions league as in my view what’s the point of seeing qualification as a massive step forward if you have no chance or no real desire to compete and win it.

United have won the European Cup in 1968, 1999 and 2008.

For me to compete at the highest level United need to address three key positions in their starting 11 as well as improve the strength and depth in the squad as a whole. The positions that concern me at this moment in time are centre half, left back and right midfield.

Alessio Romagnoli

Firstly, a centre half is badly needed at the club as Harry Maguire needs a centre back partner with pace and composure on the ball to aid United in building from the back. Two players that would fit the bill for me would be Alessio Romagnoli of AC Milan or Nathan Akè of Bournemouth we both players are left footed, comfortable on the ball and would compliment Maguire far more than Lindelof does at this moment in time.

Alex Telles

Next up has to be a left back with pace and the courage to reach the byline and hit crosses for Martial and the clubs other forward players. Luke Shaw can still be a good squad player but for me United can’t challenge with him starting week in week out as he isn’t great with one to one battles and he just doesn’t have the pace required to be an elite fullback.

I recently interviewed Portuguese football expert Aaron Barton and he revealed that Porto may need to sell a few players at a reduced rate to raise finance due to the impact of the current pandemic. With that in mind I’d be placing a bid for Alex Telles. A Brazilian left back in his peak years with pace and ability to match he’d be a definite upgrade on Shaw.

Jadon Sancho

Last but by no means least, United simply have to address the right hand side of midfield and there can only be one man to fill that void: Jadon Sancho. Explosive pace and trickery, an eye for goal and a regular assist maker he would make this United side instantly improve and he simply has to be the priority for the club in this summer transfer window because if United want to compete again at the top level then signing players like Sancho, Telles and Romagnoli has to be the standard of player that Olè and his staff are targeting.

The club doesn’t have time for another Maguire or Bruno type saga. The time to act is now and failure to do so at all this summer would be nothing short of the board being criminally negligent in relation to the future of the club.

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In action recording at CFB HQ. Hopefully one day I can achieve my dream of working in broadcasting full time.

CFB View: In 2020 there is no excuse for clubs not fully integrating their Woman’s teams

The 2019 Scottish women’s World Cup side provided the nation with moments of sheer joy. From the successful qualification to almost 20,000 packing out Hampden for the friendly against Jamaica as well as the games at the World Cup themselves – they did our nation very proud.

Let me be honest and open. The game against Jamaica was the first woman’s football match I had attended. I won’t lie going through high school there was a toxic atmosphere towards the woman’s game and I was guilty of writing it off without even watching a game out of nothing but ignorance and unwillingness not to follow the crowd. I am ashamed of that in hindsight but it was the attitude I held at that time and I want to be open about that and admit that I’m ashamed of it in retrospect.

However, I have to say since attending the game at Hampden last year as part of my role in education I was mesmerised by the positive ball playing style of our national team and the skill and class of Erin Cuthbert and the rest of the team. I have since followed woman’s football with a keen interest and having spoken to Laura Montgomery at Glasgow City, it’s clear that there are great minds behind the clubs in the game.

However, it frustrates me that some clubs who have woman’s teams don’t fully integrate them into their structure and ensure that every side has full access to the clubs facilities – most notably the training ground. I’ve spoken to a range of people within the game across the U.K. and many express dismay at the lack of integration especially when it comes to the use of facilities.

It is 2020 and the lack of integration is unacceptable to me. Therefore, my proposal is very simple. I would call on the FA and the SFA to impose the following rule: for senior clubs to have a recognised woman’s team that can enter the top competitions in their respective countries then they must have fully integrated access into the facilities that the club has and be fully supported by the club financially and in terms of equal access.

As for me you can’t have a woman’s team in name alone. That simply isn’t good enough and isn’t progressive enough for the millions of woman and young girls out there who love the game and see football as a realistic career path.

Cynics will argue that the viewing figures and the interest isn’t there but in my view that’s due to a lack of coverage and the respect the game gets from certain elements of the media and from certain clubs hosting sides in name only.

This has to change and it has to change NOW. For the good of the game as a whole and crucially for the young girls who aspire to be the next Erin Cuthbert. Anything less is doing them and our nation a great disservice.

3 signings Manchester United should make this summer

Dale has joined CFB and will be producing new content in written form and in podcast form too.

As someone whose job consists of covering every bit of Manchester United news that makes the internet, every day I stumble across several players who are linked with a move to Old Trafford.

You realise some of these links are bullsh*t and you try to reach out to connected people to add some clarity to what fans are being fed. 

Trust me, it’s not easy in this age of social media. Any Twitter user can dress up their account to come across as an established journalist – but dig deep enough and you’ll quickly see if they are worth their salt.

I’m not claiming to have any insider knowledge writing this piece, but I wanted to send Callum an article to help with the launch of his exclusive show with Willie Morgan. 

I think this ties in nicely as we approach the transfer window in such uncertain times.

United would be doing well to sign three players this summer and I’m trying to be realistic. We need goals but even if we secure deals for the three players listed below, I don’t think the Reds are ready to challenge for the title yet – but we should run close.

Jadon Sancho

Prior to the pandemic, I was optimistic about United landing Sancho. Hopefully they’ve done enough work and the player is eager to join. If he kicks up a fuss or Dortmund lower their demands, the England international would give United a much needed spark from the right flank. Sancho will bring goals which make him a worthwhile investment at £80–100m.

Florentino Luis

United need a defensive midfielder and from what I’ve seen of Florentino, who is nicknamed ‘The Octopus’, he‘s full of energy. We have to be realistic and reports suggest the Portugal U-21 international could leave AC Milan for £20m – £100m less than his buyout clause (contract runs until 2024). He’s not as good as Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Party but he’s young, has lots it potential and Sancho is bound to take up a large chunk of the transfer kitty.

Jack Grealish 

If Aston Villa go down and Grealish is available at a massively reduced price to what we was reported earlier this year (£80m), it would be a shame to miss out. He’s quality and would help fill United’s attack with creativity. 

I’ve had to leave out of a centre-back but my reasoning is United have improved defensively this season, and I’m hoping Axel Tuanzebe can steer clear of injuries next season. He has been so unlucky and it’s frustrating to think he’d make a better partner for Harry Maguire than Víctor Lindelof.
Dale O’Donnell, Editor In Chief Stretty News and Strettycast host
Finalist for Best Club Content Creator @ The Football Blogging Awards 2019

5 players who could be on the move

This summer will see the transfer window become a buyers market rather than a sellers market. In that case who are the 5 players CFB thinks will be on the move?

1. Timo Werner – it’s only a matter of time before Timo Werner leaves Leipzig with the expectation that Chelsea have secured a deal to sign him. At £49 million he represents value for money compared to previous transfers such as £76 million for Kepa…

2. Jack Grealish – for me any deal for Grealish will depend on Villa’s premier league status. If they go down I have no doubts that Grealish will be sold to balance the books however given the current climate if they stay up, I think Villa might just get one more season from their talisman.

3. Jesse Lingard – the time has come for Lingard to move on from Manchester United. A move abroad would give him the fresh start he so desperately needs in light of negative media coverage in the U.K.

4. Jadon Sancho – if a club pay the £100 million that Dortmund want he’ll leave the club. For me Manchester United will pay this amount to ensure they don’t miss out on the player who is their top target.

5. Adam Lallana – A free agent at the end of the season for me a move to Leicester under Brendan Rodgers would make the most sense for both parties. I would be shocked if this move didn’t happen.

CFB announcement: An exclusive partnership with Los Angeles based BTP Media

Football CFB is delighted to announce a new distribution partnership with the Beyond The Pitch media network that will see Football CFB content reach a large North American audience.

The partnership will see co-promotion of Football CFB and BTP podcasts, exciting joint projects and exclusive content. Callum McFadden will also join BTP as one of the networks three hosts along with Phil Brown and Martin Wallwork.

The first joint project will be co-produced show called ‘The Global Football Show’ that will be co-hosted by Phil and Callum.

Football CFB founder Callum McFadden stated: “I am delighted to team up with Phil Brown and BTP media as not only will it allow CFB to reach an American audience but it will also enable both of us to produce unique content now and in the future.”

Beyond the Pitch founder Phil Brown added: “The growth of Football CFB in Europe has been meteoric and reminds me of the growth that BTP had in the US when we founded in 2010. Since then we have become an established and leading source of media in the US and Asia and to team up with a leading European content producer in CFB is very exciting.”

Check out all CFB content here – https://anchor.fm/footballCFB

Check out all BTP content here – https://soundcloud.com/btpmedia

CFB View: It’s time for the return of John Hughes

John Hughes joins CFB on Thursday.

John Hughes – Scottish Cup winning manager.

It’s scary how quickly football can forget. Yogi led Inverness to 3rd in the top flight of Scottish football, won the Scottish cup and got them into European qualifiers for the first time in their history. Yet at the moment he is out of work and has been for a few years now. That can’t be right in my opinion.

It all started for Hughes when he was appointed manager of Falkirk in 2003 (initially with Owen Coyle as co manager). During his six years in charge, he guided Falkirk to promotion to the SPL and established them in the top flight (a division the club hasn’t been since) and a Scottish Cup Final during his time in charge. He managed future stars Kasper Schmeichell, Tim Krul and Scott Arfield as well as managing players with big reputations such as Jackie McNamara, Neil McCann, Steven Pressley and of course Russell Latapy.

Then in 2009, he left Falkirk for his boyhood club Hibs and set about playing an exciting brand of attacking football that saw the club finish 4th in the SPL and qualify for Europe. However, an itchy trigger finger by Rod Petrie saw him leave the club by mutual consent after sixteen months.

Hughes was appointed manager of Livingston in February 2012, but left in November to take over at English club Hartlepool United before Hughes returned to SPL football when he was appointed manager of Inverness Caledonian Thistle in December 2013.

What he achieved at Inverness was nothing short of remarkable. He led the club to their first major silverware in May 2015 by winning the Scottish Cup (ironically against former club Falkirk), two top six finishes (including a 3rd place finish) and of course who could forget their first foray into European football. A job even more remarkable in my mind when you consider where Inverness are now in the Scottish Championship.

Sure, detractors of Hughes will point to his brief stint at Raith Rovers that resulted in the club being relegated to League One. However, when you consider the club hadn’t won a game since October by the time he arrived in February, he was hardly the disaster that certain elements of the media would have you believe.

What I admire about John is his style of football and his personality. He wants to play free flowing attacking football and loves to share in the joy of the beautiful game every time you hear him speak. That, in addition to his CV of success with Falkirk, Inverness and relative success at Hibs make him someone I think is more than deserving of a place in Scottish football. Clubs like St Johnstone wouldn’t go wrong by appointing John and only time will tell if he gets the return that he wants but in my view his time will come again. We need more managers like John Hughes in Scottish football if we want to watch expansive football and witness the technical development of the next generation.

My best 11: The best 11 in football history according to CFB

Who would be in the world’s best ever XI?

For me it took many hours and many days to think about who would get in mine.

After arguing with myself about the players that had to be in; here is the CFB best ever 11.

Who would be in your 11? Comment below 👇

My Top 10 Morton Heroes

1. Derek Lilley – a truly classy player. A joy to watch even in his twilight years. My dad’s favourite of the 90s as well!

2. Andy McLaren – standing in the cow shed with my dad watching him score directly from a corner was a true wow moment for me growing up. What a player!

3. Peter Weatherson – what a player! Goals from everywhere he played on the pitch and seeing him in the 9-1 game vs Forfar is one of my best days watching football.

4. Jim McAlister – a legend as a player and a legend as a person. Always has time for fans and I loved watching him as tricky winger with the number 11 shirt up to now as a central midfielder and the club captain. I hope he stays at the club long term in a coaching role.

5. Chris Millar – a legend of the club. Classy on the ball and to go to win the Scottish cup sums up his talent.

6. Chris Templeman – the goals against Kilmarnock are my favourite memory of going to Cappielow with dad. What a player when he was in the mood.

7. Alan Mahood – only got to see Alan when he was a veteran but boy could he play. Wish I got to watch him at his peak but what a player!

8. Stewart Greacen – what a captain and what a character! Mr Morton during his time with the club.

9. Scott Bannerman – controversial to put him in ahead of Alex Williams but he was my personal favourite and my first real Morton hero as a kid!

10. Michael Tidser – what a player. Technically superb and I just wish he had stayed at the club as I miss watching him week in week out at Cappielow.

My Top 10 Footballing Heroes

1. Henrik Larsson – the best player I’ve ever had the joy of watching over a prolonged period live. I cried my eyes out at his testimonial. What a career.

2. Matt Le Tissier – the most naturally gifted English player I’ve ever seen. When I played the game as a kid I tried to play like Matt with long passes being the thing my game was remembered for. They just don’t make them like him anymore.

3. Paul Scholes – the best passer of a ball I’ve ever seen live. Never made a bad pass. Dictated the tempo of games at the highest level. How United could do with a player like him today.

4. Cristiano Ronaldo – watching him develop through the years at United and then achieve what he has since United is just incredible. Messi is an incredible player too and arguably the best ever but I just loved watching United and Ronaldo in their pomp.

5. Zinedine Zidane – footballing perfection. Glided through games with ease regardless of opposition. Classy classy player.

6. Andreas Iniesta – technically a joy to watch. I am so happy he scored the winner in the World Cup final of 2010 as it couldn’t have happened to a more likeable player. The best central midfielder of my lifetime.

7. Shunsuke Nakamura – his free kicks were scarily good. Scored the winner against Man Utd at Celtic park on my 11th birthday which was one of the best nights of my life. Wow.

8. Dimitar Berbatov – The closed I’ve seen to Matt Le Tissier. Effortless, classy beyond belief and a joy to watch.

9. Roy Keane – whenever the word captain is mentioned Keane is the image that comes to mind. The ultimate premier league player in the early 2000’s and a great watch on tv as a pundit too.

10. Gary Neville – the best right back of the premier league era and the best pundit on tv covering football today. Gutted it never worked out for him in management but I see him as United’s chief executive one day.

The CFB view: it simply can’t be business as usual after this crisis.

‘Newcastle willing to pay Mauricio Pochettino £19 million per season’ according to Sky Sports.

Great money if you can get it. However, it has to be said whoever is leaking such information surely has to realise that at this moment such obscene wages and figures are not what the footballing public wants to hear.

Right now, thousands of people are dying in the UK and across the world due to the current pandemic including many frontline NHS workers. The same NHS workers who are VASTLY underpaid and under appreciated by those in the corridors of power.

That brings me to the crux of my point. Many football fans in the UK will work in the NHS, have used it in the past at a time of need or know someone working in the NHS. At this moment, they are risking their own lives to save the lives of others.

The appreciation from the public for them and their work as well as the work of other – in my opinion also undervalued – key workers such as carers, the men and woman who collect and empty our rubbish, retail staff in supermarkets, bus drivers, postmen and women, etc is now being appreciated as shown with the Thursday night clap of appreciation.

Furthermore, it is estimated that 4 million people may be unemployed in the aftermath of this unprecedented situation – I myself could very well be one of them to be honest. This is where football has to come in and set an example.

Sure, we all miss the joy and the thrill of attending football, admiring the skills of the worlds best and of course the sheer jubilation of watching our team score a goal but in light of the pain that this crisis has caused not only emotionally with the loss of loved ones but also financially; does football really think that the yellow tie culture of which club can spend – or in many cases WASTE – the most money is going to be as appealing as if once was? The answer is obvious, it simply won’t be.

We have watched our society revert to old school community values such as checking in on our neighbours, looking out for everyone and appreciating one another and the true heroes of our society.

Therefore, if football and those involved within it are as smart as they are portrayed to be, they’ll understand and realise that they too have a part to play in society once the game returns and that at this moment the obscene capitalist cash chase simply will put people off the game rather than attract them back to it as when this crisis is over things will never be the same again.

We have all had time to think about what we truly value in our lives and what we want to put right when this crisis is over. I just hope the powers at be within the game realise this and fully play their part rather then risk losing so many of the games biggest admirers by alienating them from the game they so dearly cherish.

Follow me on twitter @Football_CFB

Football: the beautiful game. What the game means to me in photos.

Football is the most amazing game in the world. To me it’s such a massive part of my life and it is my obsession. I just can’t get enough of the game whether that is the elite level, non league level or grassroots level.

Here is what the game means to me in photos.

It all started with jumpers for goalposts. Playing football with jumpers for goalposts with my cousin Jack.
From jumpers for goalposts to playing for various boys club teams: St Andrews, AKFC and Gourock United under the watchful eye of manager David Clark
Playing in the park or around my back garden everyday when when I played boys club was part of daily life
Going to Celtic park with my cousins and family friends and going to Cappielow with Dad was the upbringing I had.
I’ve been lucky to have been to Old Trafford many time over the years with my school on a trip, with dad, my friends and my fiancée Mary-Ann. Here is when I did the tour with a questionable haircut…
I love touring football stadiums and watching matches in new and different places whenever I can.

From playing the game, following the game as a fan, going on many stadium tour around the UK and now running my very own football podcast: Football CFB. Starting CFB has now given me the absolute privilege of interviewing those within football whom I greatly admire and even share a press box with them.

My dream is to work in football one day as I live and breathe the game. However, even if my dream somehow fades or fails then one thing is for sure: my love for the game will never wane as it’s the greatest the game in the world.

EXCLUSIVE: Rhyl Football Club on the brink – surely the football family can help in some way.

Football without the fans is nothing. The famous Jock Stein quote that resonates with every fan across any level in football.

Sadly due to the COVID-19, there is no football at the moment and when it returns there will be no fans there to watch (so the government warned today). Without vital match day income smaller clubs are unable to survive and in Wales one of the countries most successful clubs Rhyl Football Club are in grave danger due to this situation.

In a Football CFB exclusive I spoke senior members of the football club who told me exactly how stark the situation is for the club.

Rhyl Football Club is over 140 years old, they have played at the Belle Vue ground for over 100 years.
One of the most successful North Wales football clubs (winning (inc Welsh premier league winners 2003/4 and 2009/9), they have represented Welsh football in Europe 6 times lastly in 2009/10 playing FK Partizan.

Currently playing in tier 2 of the Welsh footballing pyramid, the club has a full boys academy and u19s team in addition to the mens first team alongside ladies and girls teams.

The club have 4 years left on the ground lease – rent commercially overpriced and increasing year on year as some similar clubs are paying peppercorn lease to their local councils of around £100 rent per year – Rhyl are paying nearly £24,000.

The clubs fixed costs don’t go away not including inflation and they are close to £5k without the variable running costs on top leading them to needing well over £100k for a full season and requiring £24k to guarantee the lease for a season up front.

The club have had only two competitive games in the last 10 weeks initially due to bad weather impacting income badly then the Coronavirus has given the club the perfect storm with no signs of income for potentially months yet.

The big issue for Rhyl is that they won’t be able to use the ground during the 6 weeks from what’s normally the end of the season mid April until the end of May when they they normally would host many fundraising events and tournaments at the ground on the pitch that fund a good chunk of the next season. This period in known commercially as the clubs ‘golden month’ as its when the club bring in the most money in the year.

To quote a senior members of the club ‘We always knew this issues with the ground was coming over the remaining 4 years left on the lease as we shared the issue with the ground and finances transparency in December at a supporter open meeting but….

The issue has been brought forward by the Coronavirus however we at the club are also really conscious that there has to be a priority focus on health and lives ahead of football.

We are also conscious that when football returns most games may be played behind closed doors and we will still have to incur costs to host them. Grants will support but will be no where near enough to the money we need, then on top there will be potential impacts to businesses who will reduce and threaten some or all of our much needed sponsorship, fundraising will become difficult and games may not start until September or later – so no guarantees at all on income during 2020 – we have to bills and rent to guarantee for 12 months now.

We have approached the Welsh Footballing Association who have told us they are not in a position to support or help us other than a small loan as long as could guarantee it, which would be difficult as we don’t own the ground or have anything to guarantee against.’

Another club source also stated that the Rhyl Fans Association have been amazing along with other volunteers in trying to raise funds – we must have the best supporters in North Wales and they are now accepting that they may have to consider a Phoenix club as the town is too big and footballing history too rich not to.

So far, the Club has received multiple enquiries from a number of parties interested in possible investment / sponsorship of the Club but these have either failed the required due diligence or fallen away when they realise there is nothing to invest in.

Worryingly, the club state that they are now at the end of the road unless there is something that comes out of the blue as they have to discuss and consider the unpalatable unthinkable option of entering liquidation.

The club told CFB that we will issue a further news release will be issued on any outcomes arising.

Football CFB with… Steve Evans

Trust me DO NOT MISS THIS!

We discuss multiple promotion wins, working at @crawleytown, @OfficialRUFC, @LUFC, @mansfieldtownfc, @theposhofficial and now @TheGillsFC with some great stories told in Steve’s usual funny style.

A great man & a great guest!

Tune in here – https://anchor.fm/footballCFB/episodes/CFB-with—-Steve-Evans-ecqnv1

Fan Ownership in Football – The future of our game?

“Football without the fans is nothing.” – Jock Stein.

Morton fans celebrating a crucial goal – credit to @GBRphotos

Football without the fans is nothing. A statement that resonates with fans of the game all across the world. Forget TV money. Forget sponsorship deals. Forget the hyperbole of the transfer window and the fees that follow players and managers around. At the end of any given day, it is the fans that matter in our game. Without fans, there would be no game.

I recently wrote an article about the worry I had for many clubs in the UK out-with the Premier League’s financial monopoly. The examples I used to highlight my concern were Bury and Macclesfield.

Macclesfield Town football club founded in 1874. Bury Football Club founded in 1885. The Premier League founded in 1992.

Two historic footballing institutions: Macclesfield –  formed by volunteers enthused by both rugby and football in their town and Bury – formed local footballing enthusiasts with links to church football with the aim of creating clubs that a community could follow and support for generations to come. The other – The Premier League – a modern phenomenon founded by television executives and elite club chairman and chief executives with the aim of maximising financial rewards from television to aid the progression of the beautiful game.

Fast forward 145 years since the formation of Macclesfield, 134 years since the formation of Bury and 28 years since the dawn of the premier league and football has reached what feels like a cautionary time. 28 years in the premier league has 20 clubs within it who share the spoils of £5.14bn of income from television alone. The EFL on the other hand has just agreed a £595 million tv deal to be shared between 72 clubs over the next 5 years. With such a cataclysmic gulf in finance and marketability of EFL clubs compared to their fellow English – albeit world renowned Premier League – clubs, it is no real surprise that the reality and future for fans of football league clubs compared with those of the premier league paint a stark contrast.

Bury football club were expelled from the English football league due to financial complexities in 2019 and go into the new 2020/21 – whenever that will eventually be – having formed a phoenix club – Bury AFC – who are will play in the tenth tier of English football after applying to join North West Counties Football League. Meanwhile, Macclesfield plagued by financial worries in recent years languish towards the relegation zone in the Football League with concerns over what relegation could mean for them.

So what is the way forward for clubs well outside the elite and the holy grail of guaranteed millions even for finishing bottom? For me in the case of many clubs competing in the tiers below the elite the answer in has to be some form of fan ownership.

The two examples close to my heart are Chester Football Club and Greenock Morton Football Club.

Chester FC are fully fan owned by the fans group City Fans United. I am a part owner of the club through my membership of City Fans United as I like many other followers of Chester contribute at least £12 a year for membership of CFU which in turn grants us voting rights at the club, access to important board/club meetings and crucially a say in the day to day running and future of the football club.

To quote City Fans United “Chester Football Club is founded upon the Club motto, ‘Our City… Our Community… Our Club…’ Having a club that is a cornerstone of our community is of paramount importance. This not only includes working with local schools but also embracing the local footballing community and reaching out to the wider community.”

This sense of community has seen the club rise from the ashes of the old Chester City FC to become a sustainable club currently in National League North with aspirations of returning to the Football League in the years to come.

Greenock Morton on the other hand are not a fan owned club. However, that may change in the future due to the work of an independent fan-led group called ‘Morton Club Together’ that works in partnership with the football club. They formed in 2019 and their vision is ‘to contribute to the delivery of a viable, sustainable, successful Greenock Morton Football Club into the long term future, both on and off the park, for and with the Morton community.’

So far they’ve been a success in the sense that they’ve now got over 400 members contributing financially to back their vision and in partnership with the club they now contribute just over £7,000 per month to the clubs wage budget. This is something that has been acknowledged by the club on numerous occasions – namely in the case of new signings and contractual renewal agreements for players currently at the club – therefore, it is clear that the relationship between the club and MCT is strong and united.

Ultimately, the aim of MCT is to make fan ownership of Morton a reality. However, it may also – unintentionally – have shown another way in which football can became sustainable outside of the elite – through a hybrid ownership model.

Rather than have an all encompassing owner who runs the club on their terms, is a structure that fans can have a credible voice in as well as a financial stake in the way forward? Time will tell of course. However, it is my personal view that fans need to have far more of say in their football clubs whether that be through direct fan ownership, a hybrid model of both a benefactor working in partnership with a fans group or by having members of a supporters trust on the board with the duty of representing fans and reporting back to them on all key matters to ensure transparency in how their football club has been run.

What Chester Football Club means to me – Rio Doherty

Chester Football Club – Official Website

Chester FC means a lot, an awful lot to me. If you were to sink a knife into me then there would be quite a high chance that blue blood would trickle out, because Chester is truly my lifeblood.

Chester Football Club – Official Website » Ryan Lloyd rejoins on loan

It all started on a dreary, damp Novembers afternoon back in 2010 against Skelmersdale United, in what was our first season as a reformed club.

My dad, who has been a supporter since the early 1970’s, took me to my first game that day, and ever since then I have caught the bug of going every week. Winning 4-0 obviously was a major factor in that hook, even though we have experienced worse since. In resonance to my dad, I am jealous of him in a way because I often kick myself due to the fact I missed the good old days of the 70’s and 80’s. I really do wish I was around in those days because I often hear stories from him (and other fellow Chester supporters) about the famous five in the sixties, the night that little old Chester put the mighty Leeds United to the sword in our run to the semi finals of the League Cup in the mid-70’s, our promotion to the old Third Division, amongst a whole host of other memories.

Memories of Chester FC's Sealand Road stadium - Cheshire Live

The music was also brilliant in those times too, and that’s all I listen to nowadays as I can’t stand today’s modern day stuff at all. Also, I am very envious of our old Sealand Road home as of course I have the misfortune of not visiting there. To be honest I think our current ground is quite nice, but it’s the location that lets it down a lot.

Sealand Road | Chester City | Lost British Football Grounds
Deva Stadium - Wikipedia

Sealand Road was a lovely old-school ground close to the Deva heartland, and sadly there aren’t many of those knocking around now, especially with the likes of York City, Brentford, and Boston United all moving into new stadiums in the near future.

Anyway, enough about what could have been, and more about what has been. In 2015 I got given my first season ticket, and from then on I attended Chester matches more regularly. Funnily enough, my season ticket wasn’t put to much use as halfway through that campaign a steward offered me a role as a ball boy (where I got in for free anyway), which over the years certainly produced its moments.

Along with going to every home game I got dragged along to the odd away game too, with my first being a miserable 2-0 defeat at Tranmere Rovers on a humid Septembers afternoon. My second was some six months later in a huge relegation six pointer in Yorkshire (at Guiseley). On the subject of Yorkshire, I was all set to watch us play FC Halifax Town away in the FA Trophy a month earlier, but having just arrived into the town centre we had to divert back due to a very late postponement. That Guiseley game though had everything. In monsoon conditions, it certainly was a late Easter cracker as the goals lashed in, with Tom Shaw saving our blushes in the 92rd minute to keep our survival hopes alive by snatching a dramatic 3-3 draw.

Guiseley AFC 3 Chester FC 3: Dave Powell's verdict - Cheshire Live

From 2017 onwards I have gradually upped my away day tally, as ever since then I have only missed a handful of matches. From Barrow to Newquay, and from Gateshead to Torquay (and all points in between), I have been to an array of places that I otherwise probably would never hear of. You just can’t beat going to a random town 200 miles away to watch a game of football with your fellow mates or family, as that’s what it is all about. Meanwhile, in January 2018 I set-up my own YouTube channel which started off with me vlogging Chester FC matches, and I love it as I want to pursue a career in sports media when I am older. It started off with me just recording the games, but since then I now upload a match preview for every match, have compiled ‘Goal Of The Month’ competitions, and now do a ‘Chester FC Digest’ series where I talk about all things Chester.

Rio Doherty on Twitter: "It's matchday! @ChesterFC entertain ...

I don’t only do these videos for the benefit of myself though, because I also do it for the benefit of fellow Chester FC supporters, which is the perk of my relationship with them. Also, it enables exiles from far away to keep updated with our club and to sample what a matchday is like via the atmosphere, etc. Last January I parted ways with ball boying to allow me to sit back and watch the action from the terraces, but to also take up a new role as our club mascot, Lupus. Again, that brought its moments with a particular standout being at half time on a scorching August Bank Holiday Monday against Hereford FC. In front of our then-biggest crowd, it was only typical me for Lupus’ head to fly off from a football striking my head right in front of a packed Harry Mac, to frighten plenty of children alike. What a way to expose me as the mascot!

A few months ago I passed Lupus onto somebody else, although I still volunteer in our club shop for an hour on a matchday, in a role I have been doing since July 2018. I just love being a Chester supporter, volunteer, and a co-owner as I have had some fantastic memories in my ten years as a supporter, and have forged some brilliant connections with plenty of fellow supporters, volunteers, and players too! The beauty of supporting a lower league club is that you make friendships with people forever in an environment that you all have the same passion for, and as I touched on before the players also mix in too. Would you get players in the Premier League knowing your name off by heart? Absolutely not!

Chester FC Fans' Jury: Do the Blues have what it takes for ...

I have had one or two disagreements and tough moments with the odd person, but we all do and with us being very tight-knit we just get on with it and forget it in a hurry. I absolutely cannot wait to see what the future for Chester FC is, and I will firmly play a part in it, as well as many others, and can’t wait to be supporting and volunteering here for many decades to come.

We are a family, a blue and white one! Chester FC means a lot, an awful lot to me.

Chester Football Club – Official Website » WATCH | Swettenham ...

Football CFB – An honest reflection

Today is the first and only time I’ve ever felt like giving up on my dream once and for all. All I ever want to do with football CFB and as a person in life is help others and promote positivity. Football is my life and promoting #FootballForGood is what I love doing more than most things in life. My platform is a space for anyone involved within the game to talk about their experiences without worrying about being pigeonholed into a headline.

Today many see my actions in relation to helping out in my local community as selfish, self centred and an attempt at stealing a job. Anyone who knows me can testify that isn’t me and I would never wilfully intend to cause harm to others.

I started CFB as its my dream to work in football because it’s the game I’ve loved all my life and always will love. Whether the game is a Champions League final, a Lowland League title decider, a local boys club teams dead rubber fixture or a junior game I’ll be watching and I’ll be passionately wanting to see the best game possible.

The feedback so far from players, managers, fans, agents and followers has been absolutely incredible and you have no idea how much it means to me.

Photos

A message from a high profile club owner in the UK.
The support I’ve had from a high profile manager within the game. This means the world to me – more than you could ever know.

I have a very thick skin contrary to what you might think however there are certain sections of social media and the online community who never stop to think about the power of their words. Never stop to think about the mental well-being of others. To them it’s just banter, a charade, an expression of view behind an anonymous name. To those impacted it’s detrimentally mentally, it’s draining, it sends anxious thoughts into your mind that disturb you. Always the first to comment without knowing the full facts or intentions behind any given situation.

I don’t ask to be liked, I don’t ask to be followed, I don’t ask to even be tolerated in any great way, all I ask is to be respected. Mentally, I’ve had my ups and downs. I still struggle from time to time and on days like this I feel like the worst human being in the world. Utterly worthless and pointless if the truth be told.

For me, when you are asked a question about helping out in life, the automatic answer is to say yes. To see the good in an opportunity to help rather than the cynicism is what I’ve always done – always been guilty of doing you might throw back at me. Upon reflection, I can understand an element of that cynicism but I can assure you that anything I do in life is for the right reasons.

That’s not me claiming to be perfect or a saint. I am not. I’ve made mistakes – lots of them – and I’ll continue to make mistakes because I’m a human being. This year we witnessed the horribly sad passing of Caroline Flack. A woman who made mistakes like all of us have, a woman vilified without the chance to speak and tell her side of the story. A woman who decided the only way to deal with the pressure was to take her own life.

This started the #BeKind movement. Sadly, that movement lasted nothing more than a nanosecond as has been shown since and most recently when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was taken into intensive care. Let me be clear, I do not support Mr Johnson’s politics or his party – never have and never will – however on a human level I wish him, his pregnant partner Carrie and family my thoughts and prayers as I wish him well in making a full receiver from his illness. Common human decency should always prevail.

So please, rather than always seeing life in the cynical, cancel culture point of view try and be kind. You have no idea the weight that your words carry.

Life is wonderful, it’s full of joy, humour, more than a few idiosyncrasies and long way that continue. I love my girlfriend Mary-Ann, my friends, my family, my football teams, my associates charities, running CFB and life itself dearly. Please be kind and please try and see the good in what people are trying to achieve.

Stay safe, stay positive, look after one another and God bless the NHS staff, the cleaners, the delivery drives and everyone else working to ensure society can function. Those people are the real heroes in life and they deserve all the recognition in the world. Take care and be kind.

Callum.

The evolution of the football shirt number

Maradona

By Old School Football – @OSFShop

We delve in to the numbers game, when they first appeared and why the football shirt and the number on the back are now inextricably linked.

Numbers on football shirts were first worn in professional games in 1928 when Arsenal took on Sheffield Wednesday at Highbury. When first introduced the numbering was simply a 1 to 11 configuration representing the 2-3-5 formation of a players position on the pitch.

It wasn’t until the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland that football shirt numbers were worn for the duration of a competition, again using the traditional system with number 1 as the goalkeeper up to number 11 left midfield or wing.

Legend has it that the, at the time unknown, 17 year-old Brazilian, Pele was assigned his, now famous, number 10 by a FIFA administrator.  Just before the World Cup of 1958, when submitting their team, the Brazilian officials simply forgot to attach a number to each player, hence it was left to an administrator to do so.  This is also the reason why the goalkeeper, Gilmar was given the number 3

World Cup 1974 LogoGradually over the ensuing years the 1-11 format was abandoned. During the 1974 World Cup, Argentina decided to number their players alphabetically according to their surname with the exception of the goalkeepers who were given 1, 12 and 21.

This continued for two subsequent World Cups, however in 1978 the keeper was included in the alphabetical line up, hence the Argentinian goalkeeper, Ubaldo Fillol, wore number 12 in 1974, 5 in 1978 and 7 in 1982!  

MaradonaInterestingly this system was disrupted for one player during the 1982 World Cup when Diego Maradona who, alphabetically should have been wearing the number 12, but expressed his strong preference for the number 10!

But it was only at the start of the 1993/94 English Premier League season that squad numbers became the rule and with the ever changing formations creating new roles in football, numbering has become a more and more fluid affair ever since.

Although numbers can help referees and fans distinguish between players on the pitch, their evolution means that, in some cases they are now chosen to send a message or deliver a deeper meaning.

AppieOne example is the squad number 34 which has been adopted by Justin Kluivert, Philippe Sandler, Amin Younes and Kevin Diks in tribute to Appbelhak Nouri.

Nouri, a promising young Ajax player, collapsed during a pre-season friendly and was left with severe brain damage. His fellow teams mates now wear the number 34 at their new clubs to show their continued support for him.

Lucy Staniforth Wears Number 37 at Birmingham City FCLucy Staniforth the Birmingham City and England midfielder chose the number 37 in tribute to her brother, again a promising young player, who died after turning to drink and drugs to self-medicate when arthritis curtailed his football career.

Alvaro Morata, the Spanish forward, changed his number whilst at Chelsea from 9 to 29 when his twin boys were born on the 29th July.  Giafranco Buffon also elected to change his 77_retro_footballnumber.  Not without controversy, whilst at Parma he went from number 1 to number 88, said to signify four balls, to number 77, the year of his birth.

Tommy_oar_wearing_121Socceroos’, Tommy Oar was unable to choose his favoured 11 so plumped for 121 as it represented 11 x 11. 

And the desire to wear a certain number can impact heavily on the game. West Ham’s Paulo Futre refused to wear the number 

Paulo_Futre16 shirt he was handed and, when given an ultimatum by Harry Redknapp, he chose to leave before the match had even begun. Shortly afterwards lawyers were brought in to negotiate the number 10 and he got the number he wanted!

Then there are the ‘modifiers’, those players who choose a number but change it in some way to reflect another meaning.

Zamorano credit Dan_The_Football_Man @Dan_TFMIn the case of Zamorano’s shirt at Inter Milan this involved the use of a plus sign. Originally number 9 he gave this number up to Ronaldo and went for 18 instead but modified it with the addition of an addition! With this in place the 1+8 became 9 again.

Infamous keeper and vegan footballer, Carlos Roa, also chose to use a mathmatical symbol to convert his 13 in to a 1.3  Previously known for his strong, Seventh Day Adventist, religious beliefs, when asked about it Roa is said to have explained that the point, placed between the numbers 1 and 3, represents Jesus and the Most Holy Trinity.

Other number changes tend to involve one off events or publicity campaigns.

Steven Gerrard and James Beattie donned 08, during the Merseyside Derby of March 2006, to celebrate Liverpool being awarded the European Capital of Culture for 2008.

Usain_Bolt_9.58Brazilian international superstar, Neymar Jnr wore the numbers 100 and 200 to commemorate his 100th and 200th matches for Santos and Usain Bolt wears 9.58 – his 100 meter world record time – when he plays in the Unicef World XI for Soccer Aid matches.

Number_10Meanwhile some numbers are ‘retired’ by a football team to honour a particularly outstanding player such as the number 6 worn by West Ham’s Bobby Moore, the 14 shirt donned by Ajax’s Johan Cruyff and Paulo Maldini’s number 3 at AC Milan.  The same is true of the infamous 10, retired by Napoli, to respect the tremendous influence Maradona had on the club.   

Del Piero on the other hand, refused the Juventus board’s offer to retire his number 10 stating that “I’ve really had so much that I would never want it to be retired, this way, every child can dream one day of wearing it.”

With number 12 often being the number of the fans, some clubs, such as Portsmouth FC, Dynamo Kiev and Bayern Munich have even retired that in order to pay tribute to the loyalty of their followers.

In Spain however retired numbers are curtailed by the one to twenty-five rule, meaning that there’s only 25 for any squad to choose from.

You can customise your http://www.oldschoolfootball.co.uk retro, football T shirts with any number you wish by clicking the customising tab in the product listing. Choose a number, and a name if you wish, and just add to checkout.

And if you want to know more about the shirt numbers game take a look at www.squadnumbers.com   Dennis Hurley, a football shirt number enthusiast, has taken the subject to a whole new level with his rather niche but totally fascinating website.

Join the conversation on Twitter too.  Follow us @OSFshop and hear more about shirt numbers and follow @Football_CFB for truly unique football content.

Would you like to go back to the more traditional assignment or do you like the stories behind players numbers and why they choose them?

The World’s First Football Club

Sheffield FC

An article by Old School Football @OSFShop

On the 24th October 1857 the world’s first football club, Sheffield F.C. was created. The two founding members, William Prest and Nathanial Crestwick, team-mates at the local cricket club, were looking to stay fit during the winter months and football proved the perfect pursuit. Arsenal was founded 15 years later in 1886, with Manchester United created in 1878.

Sheffield F.C. joined the Football Association in 1863, but remained an amateur side when the FA allowed professional football in 1885. They reached the F.A. Cup quarter finals in 1874, 1876 and 1878 and were Football Association Amateur Cup Winners 1904 

Since 1999 Richard Tims has masterminded Sheffield Football Club’s revival, moving their home ground to the Coach and Horses Stadium in Dronfield. And in 2003 they founded a women’s team, something Man. Utd. only managed to make a priority this year!

In 2004, the club received the FIFA Order of Merit for their ‘historic importance and contribution’, an honour bestowed on only two clubs, with the other being Real Madrid. And in 2007, when the club celebrated their 150-year anniversary, Pele attended a non-league friendly against Inter-Milan.

They are currently playing in a non-league Senior Division with opponents like Cleethorpes Town and Ilkeston.

Many of the rules and innovations that the club implemented back in the 1800’s, including free kicks and corners, are still in use today.

Sheffield FC