The best football writing of 2012

2012 has been a great year for football writing, quasi football writing and anti-football writing. Here are just some of the best examples I’ve read in the last 12 months. Some may have more literary merit than others, but all are great for different reasons. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Has the transfer market become self aware? by Andi Thomas for The FCF –

Muamba: underneath the sensationalism is a genuinely positive story for football, at last by Michael Moruzzi for Regista Blog

AFC Wimbledon: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart by Jamie Cutteridge for The Real FA Cup

Rafa’s Chelsea: A Journal by Rob Brown for The Carvalho Peninsula

Coming up for air by Charlie Anderson for The Carvalho Peninsula

12 ways in which Fulham are ace by Max Grieve for Magic Spongers –

The Danger of Mob Mentality by Ally Moncrieff for Balls, Boobs and Blow

Robin van POINTLESS by Magic Spongers

#34 – Emmanuel Frimpong by The 100 Worst People on Twitter

Nobody wins QPR ping-pong tournament by John Foster for Four Four Two

Gary Neville’s punditry is the best, but others need to raise their game by Michael Cox for The Guardian

Antisemitic chants are sickening – and West Ham fans must show they care by Jacob Steinberg for The Guardian –

The Trial Of John T by Greg Theoharis for Dispatches from a Football Sofa ­

Scott Murray on Cesar Luis Menotti’s Triumph by Surreal Football

An idiot’s guide to the Ballon d’Or shortlist by Tom Adams for Eurosport

New advert for the Premier League is actually a terrible ‘advert for the Premier League’by Nick Dunmore for Fisted Away

Paul Jewell and the further decline of Ipswich Town – by Gavin Barber for The Two Unfortunates

Manchester United And Liverpool, Still Suffering From Their 2009 Hangover by Callum Hamilton for SB Nation

Return of the rascal king by John McGee for Bring me the head of Keith Mincher

Soccer under the Swastika: Football’s forgotten Holocaust victims by Kieran Dodds for In Bed With Maradona

The whistleblower left out in the cold by James Horncastle for Eurosport

2016-17: The Season in Review by Rob Langham for The Two Unfortunates

My First Game for Manchester United by Robin van Persie’s inner child for Ruud Gullit Sitting on a Shed

Why ‘Vile’ Football Can Look Olympics In The Face by Jack Howes for The Daisy Cutter

The Last Championsby Juliet Jacques for The New Statesman


Links for 15/01/11

Konrad Warzycha and John Rooney – What’s in a Name? by me at Footy Matters – a look at the pressures associated with following a famous footballing relative into the game

The MLS SuperDraft: A Crowded Playground of Opportunity by me at Footy Matters – a discussion of the SuperDraft system, BASEketball and Freddy Adu

Chelsea’s First Black Footballer: Paul Canoville on Why Black and Blue Didn’t Mix by Danny Gipson at Footy Matters – an intriguing interview with a player who has gone through more than most over the course of his life and his football career

The Revolution Must Be Televised Part II by Juliet Jacques at In Bed With Maradona – A follow up on Juliet’s recent piece on football broadcasting

How the Stone Roses Stopped the Hooligans by Chris Ledger at In Bed With Maradona – Acid house, drugs and 90s football: An eye-opening read

Adams Breaks New Footballing – and Diplomatic – Territory by James Appell at The Football Ramble – What connects Wikileaks with professional football? An assessment of the power structure in the Azeri game

Richard Offiong: The Sun Goeth Down by John McGee at Bring Me the Head of Keith Mincher – Carlisle United, Ernest Hemingway and the depressing decline of a once-promising football career


The best things in life are free

So, the transfer window has closed and the 20 Premier League teams are stuck with the players they have. Or are they?

There are plenty of players yet to find a club after being released in the summer, and they are all free to sign for any club who will take them.

In the past there have been plenty of Premier League managers willing to take a punt on cast-offs from across Europe, with some experiencing more success than others. For every Peter Lovenkrands there is a Mario Jardel, and for every Stephen Carr there is a Mineiro.

To show the wealth of talent available on a free, I have constructed a team of players still on the market. I would not be surprised to see certain top-flight managers take a punt on one or two of the following eleven.

Goalkeeper – Dida

For all his propensity to drop a clanger, Dida remains capable of doing a job in the top flight. After all, you don’t win 91 caps for Brazil without having some talent.

Behind the occasional (and often comical) mistake lies a ‘keeper with phenomenal shot-stopping ability. While his reflexes may not be quite what they used to be, the 36-year old could provide useful cover at a number of different clubs.

Right-back – Ricardo Rocha

There is little doubt that Portsmouth would have kept hold of Rocha if they could afford his wages, and it is something of a surprise that no club has snapped him up so far.

Impressive during Pompey’s run to the FA Cup final last season, the versatile Portuguese defender put a disappointing spell at Tottenham behind him to prove he has what it takes to succeed in England. I would not be surprised to see former Portsmouth boss Avram Grant bring him to West Ham in the near future.

Left-back – Max Tonetto

Italian international Tonetto has played European football for two clubs, and might be best remembered by English fans for missing the decisive penalty as Roma were knocked out of the 2008/09 Champions League by Arsenal.

The versatile 35-year-old is as comfortable on the wing as he is at left-back, and he could prove a valuable asset to a number of sides.

Centre-back – Danny Shittu

Shittu might not have played any club football for over a year, but any doubts about his fitness were extinguished when he played all 270 minutes of Nigeria’s World Cup campaign.

The former Bolton man has bags of Premier League experience, and may feel he is still capable of playing at the highest level. However at the very least he could do a job for any Championship club, and it is a little baffling that no club has come in for him as of yet.

Centre-back – Jay DeMerit

Another World Cup regular, Demerit will want to sort out his future quickly to ensure he remains in USA coach Bob Bradley’s plans.

While offers from the MLS and England’s Championship are likely to be forthcoming, the 30-year-old may want one last hurrah in one of Europe’s top leagues before he hangs up his boots.

Right midfield – Yildiray Basturk

Turkish midfielder Basturk hardly set the world alight in his short spell with Blackburn Rovers, but on his day he is practically unplayable.

The versatile playmaker, while not the hardest worker, has impeccable close control and bags of skill, as evidenced by his contribution to the great Leverkusen team alongside such illustrious names as Ballack and Ze Roberto.

Left midfield – Jacek Krzynowek

Plenty of clubs could do with owning a player of Krzynowek’s ability, even if he is the wrong side of 30.

The Polish winger is skilful and has a powerful shot, which he demonstrated against Real Madrid in a Champions League tie a few years ago. While he may have lost a bit of pace, Krzynowek is still capable of pulling a rabbit out of the hat from time to time.

Central midfield – Arnold Bruggink

After beginning his career as a striker, Bruggink has found a new niche for himself in an attacking midfield role.

The former Dutch international has carved a successful career for himself, first in his homeland, then in Mallorca, and most recently in the Bundesliga with Hannover. With an eye for a pass and an even greater eye for a goal, the former FC Twente prodigy may wish to extend his career in a fourth country.

Central midfield – Ruben Baraja

Plenty of clubs are in need of a midfield enforcer, and there are few available who do that job better than Baraja.

After captaining Valencia for much of his 10-year spell, the Spaniard opted to leave the Mestalla this summer. Injury problems have limited his involvement in recent years, but Baraja has never been one to rely on pace, and he could well have another year or two at the top.

Forward – Julio Cruz

A regular goalscorer in Argentina, Holland and Italy, the former Inter striker is without a club after being released by Lazio at the end of last season.

The powerful Argentine frontman has 22 caps for the Albiceleste, the last coming in 2008, and he played twice for Jose Pekerman’s side in the 2006 World Cup.

Forward – Guille Franco

Despite an impressive 2009/10 campaign with West Ham, Mexico international Franco once again finds himself without a club after being released as part of the Irons’ cost-cutting operation.

The Argentine-born frontman endeared himself to the Upton Park faithful with his tireless efforts, and has a knack for scoring vital goals. Any young striker could benefit from watching Franco go about his game.

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And we’re back…

Less than one month after Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup trophy, the new football season is upon us.

After a quick break from chastising world class players and scattering tumbleweed-inducing puns like bread in a duckpond, Mark Lawrenson returned to the commentary box for Leeds United against Derby County, a Premier League fixture not that long ago. The victory for Nigel Clough’s unfancied visitors was just one of a number of talking points in an entertaining opening weekend for the football league.

It is of course ridiculous to attempt to read too much into one round of games, but a few things can be taken from a weekend which saw the Championship and Leagues 1 and 2 match the England squad announcement in the excitement stakes.

Adel Taarabt

Queens Park Rangers, now free from the shackles of intrusive former chairman Flavio Briatore, sit atop the Championship table after a flattering 4-0 win over a lacklustre Barnsley side. Of course you can only beat what is put out in front of you, and Neil Warnock’s team did that in some style, with million pound man Adel Taarabt running the show. Any suggestion that the Moroccan might rest on his laurels after securing a permanent contract at Loftus Road were put to bed as he showed more glimpses of the form which saw him star for parts of last season.

Pre-season title favourites Middlesbrough were less impressive, however. Opponents Ipswich, who had to wait until late October for their first win of the last campaign, showed no signs of lying down after Scott McDonald’s first-half opener. Goals from Tommy Smith, Tamas Priskin and Jon Stead gave Boro manager Gordon Strachan plenty to think about, although it is surely only a matter of time before new signings such as Kris Boyd and Kevin Thomson manage to gel in a team which finished last season strongly. A new goalkeeper to replace seemingly Liverpool-bound Brad Jones may help too, with error-prone Danny Coyne possibly not up to first-team duties for the whole season.

Nigel Pearson

While Middlesbrough and QPR have dipped into the transfer market, demonstrating a financial clout unmatched by many of their rivals, several teams might argue their best signing is their new manager. Something of a managerial merry-go-round saw no fewer than seven clubs installing new bosses since April. While no chairman will admit to being disappointed with their new appointment, few are likely to be happier than Hull’s Adam Pearson. His namesake Nigel worked wonders at Leicester City before moving into the hotseat at the KC Stadium, and the Tigers already look far removed from the despondent team which left the Premier League with a whimper in May. If John Bostock’s debut goal is anything to go by, Hull fans have cause to be excited about the new campaign once more.

Away from the Championship, there were a couple of surprise results. Alan Pardew’s Southampton side, almost everyone’s tip for automatic promotion from League 1, slipped to defeat at home to Plymouth Argyle, led by former Saints boss Peter Reid. The division looks considerably weaker than last season, with the three teams relegated from the Championship far from certainties for promotion and last season’s high-flyers Swindon and Charlton weakened by the loss of key players, but on the strength of this weekend’s results it looks as though pundits may have underestimated certain sides.

Kyel Reid

Peterborough frontman George Boyd was expected by some to leave London Road over the summer, but his return from a loan spell with Nottingham Forest has allowed the attacking triumvirate of Boyd, Aaron McLean and Craig Mackail-Smith to pick up where it left off in the Posh’s promotion campaign of two years ago. Equally, the loss of Jonjo Shelvey to Liverpool and Lloyd Sam to Leeds may not hinder Charlton’s promotion push as much as first thought, with former West Ham wide-man Kyel Reid and lower-league goal machine Pawel Abbott threatening to combine to great effect.

The big story in League 2 was Stevenage Borough’s league debut, and a 2-2 draw with Macclesfield will keep their fans happy for the time being. In a very open division, emphasised by much-fancied Bradford City slumping to a 3-1 defeat at Shrewsbury, it is hard to single out anyone as outright promotion candidates. However one thing which is certain is that a prolific striker goes a long way towards helping a side secure promotion from this division, and Rotherham’s Adam le Fondre demonstrated once again why he is likely to be playing at a higher level soon, be it with the Millers or with someone else. Among the sides who may already have concerns are Barnet, who stayed up by the skin of their teeth last season and may be without marquee signing Steve Kabba for some time after the former Watford and Sheffield United man suffered a nasty-looking injury in the Bees’ defeat at Chesterfield.

As a footnote to the football league action, Manchester United beat Chelsea 3-1 in the Community Shield, with new signing Javier Hernandez getting on the scoresheet on his domestic debut. Chicharito is one of a number of new players looking to light up the Premier League when it gets underway next week, although established names like Paul Scholes demonstrated today they still have a part to play.