In off the bar: the sound of glory

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Remarkably, some people decided not to spend Monday night watching Hull City v West HaIf. Granted, there were times in the first half that shook my sense of purpose to its core. What choices had a I made that led me to this point, watching Stephen Quinn competing with Mark Noble on a Monday evening, and trying to care who won?

And then Enner Valencia thumped one in off the bar, and I was immediately at peace once again. Any appraisal of this goal would conclude that it was a decent hit; a shot that crashes in off the wood work is automatically elevated above a good proportion of other goals. But, if it’s accompanied by a good THWACK sound, it becomes hall of fame material

The sound of ball twatting against post or bar on its way into the net is one of the best sounds in football. It represents something unstoppable, and Valencia’s goal was just that, a fizzer that exploded off his boot with minimal warning.

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The joy of being a big fish in a small pond

Lee TrundleWhen god was dolling out physical attributes like speed, agility, balance or just a basic coordination of limbs, some of us missed out. For us lesser gifted souls, having a kickabout with some infants is this the closest we’ll get to being really good at football. Goading five year olds into tackles they cannot possibly win, adding a bit of commentary, “oh he’s still going, they can’t stop him, this is sensational!”, and finally, taunting the keeper by performing the worst and most deliberate step over ever. Of course, this is the only time someone like me would dare attempt a moment of flair;  if I tried it on a fives pitch with my mates I’d suffer such a swift and brutal humiliation that I wouldn’t feel confident playing a simple pass for weeks. Playing football with massively inferior opponents is therefore great. Being a big fish in a small pond might seem unambitious. But, on the other hand, why expose your talents to their limitations if you don’t have to? Better to ply your trade at level were you can thrive. Clearly some professionals agreed.

Lee Trundle

In my mind, the lower league showboater is one of the finest and most important characters in the game. If you’re going to play at a s**t level, you may as well live out your fantasies and be fawned over by your public. In recent years no one has shown more dedication to this role than the magnificently named Lee Trundle. We hadn’t seen swagger like this since Ricky Otto played a pass with the outside of his boot at Southend. Soccer AM’s Showboat segment gave Trundle a stage, and he intended to occupy it for as long as possible, reportedly calling the show himself to alert them to his latest highlights. Watching Trundle’s clips it was hard to imagine his repertoire of five-a-side skills would have been anything other than useless at a higher level, but in League One and Two, he was Ronaldinho combined with Zidane. If a simple pass would suffice, Trundle would deliver it as some sort of no-look flicked back-heel. This is the hall-mark of the lower league fantasista – a devotion to pointless flair. Trundle did try to make a step up when he signined for Bristol City in the Championship, but the goals and, more importantly, the Soccer AM highlights, dried up. His legacy is an important warning to all aspiring Football League Francesco Tottis – stay in the shallow end.

 

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Watford: losing their identity?

The football journalist Michael Calvin believes Watford has lost its identity under the ownership of Giampaolo Pozzo, and has made a point of saying this whenever the club is attracting media attention. When Watford’s manager, Beppe Sannino, resigned from the club yesterday, this is how Calvin responded.

But, what does that even mean? A football club’s identity is a pretty nebulous concept, and when challenged to explain what he meant:

I like Calvin, but this is complete bollocks. The Watford Observer’s report on Sannino’s sacking highlighted the owners’ concerns with Sannino’s training methods, and his relationship with the players. I don’t think he failed because he couldn’t grasp that the club was important to the local community. Watford fans liked Sannino, and he liked them. The connection was as much as you expect from any manager in modern football – he wasn’t in the pub pulling pints, but he spoke about the fans in every interview, he always acknowledged and thanked them.

In terms of being a community club, there’s no evidence that Watford’s reputation here has suffered under the Pozzo’s ownership. The club continues to send first team pros to events at schools around the town and surrounding area, and the pre-season open day is extremely popular with younger fans and families, who get to mingle with the players. Nothing remarkable, granted, but the club does seem to have a presence beyond the stadium.

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A pig in a Palmeiras shirt

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I was feeling a bit down, back at work after a total washout on Bank Holiday Monday, and it’s still raining… and then I saw this guy.

 

 

 

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Are Leeds United still a big club?

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Leeds are not a club that seem to win much support from the neutrals (if such a group exist). They’re one of the old school villains of football, and fans who have no real reason to dislike Leeds still seem to turn against them, because they’re Leeds, dirty Leeds! But, this pantomime hatred suggests Leeds have an enduring status in English football. Surely, only a club that mattered would be reviled in such a way. Whenever you read or hear anything about Leeds, it often includes the suggestion that they belong in the Premier League, or even that they have ‘rightful place’ there.  You might think that a decade of football in the second and third tier would dampen the aspirations a little, but this is Yorkshire and it doesn’t work like that. The question is, having bottomed out in League One, are Leeds still a big club?

For those of us who’ve been hanging out in the Championship for a while, it’s always satisfying when a big fish gets caught by relegation from the Premier League. It gives you something extra to look forward to when the fixtures are released. Leeds were definitely a big club when they came down; they had been in the Premier League since it was founded, had Champions League experience, and a 40,000 capacity stadium. And, get this – according to Wikipedia – when the East Stand opened in 1992-93 it was the “largest cantilever stand in the world”. Bow down! Leeds in the Championship definitely felt odd at first, and it must have been even weirder in League One. But, that was ten years ago, and things change.

When Nottingham Forest were relegated in 1993 that was also big deal – they had been one of the better teams in England for the past decade and a half, and it was unthinkable that they were no longer good enough for the top. I was delighted, though, because it meant they’d be coming to face Watford at Vicarage Road. Twenty years later they’re regular opponents, and I’m disappointed if we don’t take any points from them. This is a team that won the European Cup, twice! I still consider it one of the bigger fixtures in the League, but to many younger fans Forest’s history won’t mean anything, just like Preston North End’s means nothing to me.  The same is starting to apply to Leeds, they’ve been away for too long. To illustrate the point, Fulham (13), Bolton (13), and Middlesbrough(14) have all spent more time in the Premier League than Leeds (12).

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