The Best Football Writing of 2014

2014 saw some awful football writing. I mean, truly awful. The sort of stuff that brings shame to the already lowly art of clickbait, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

But this year has also seen some fantastic work by a number of writers, both professional and amateur, serious and satirical, and here are some of the best:


Why Football is Too Tolerant of Anti-Semitism by Darren Richman (@DarrenRichman) for FourFourTwo

How to Make Football Better by Ally Moncrieff (@AllOrNothingMag) for BetsOfMates

Are Football Clubs Thinking Enough About Social Media? by Alex Stewart (@AFHStewart) for Huffington Post

Football, Globalization, and the Dutchman from Japan by Elko Born (@Elko_B) for The False Nine

How to Enjoy the Premier League Without Being a Dick by Callum Hamilton (@Callum_TH) for VICE Sports

Scotland Unites in Support of Divisive Figure Fernando Ricksen by Peter McVitie (@PeterMcVitie) for BeNeFoot


Why David Moyes Cannot Save Himself at Manchester United by Rob Brown (@robbro7)

Martin Demichelis is Pellegrini’s Bad Lieutenant by Oscar Rickett (@oscarrickettnow) for VICE Sports

Wayne Rooney – The Lost Boy Wonder by Callum Hamilton for SBNation

The Changing Language of Football by Rob Brown

Anelka Suspension: 5 Games Feels Far too Few by Andi Thomas (@andi_thomas) for SBNation


Reading Deadspin? Allow a Former MLS Player to Convince You Otherwise by Bobby Warshaw (@bwarshaw14) for Deadspin

A Curious Website Launch by Caroline Hatwell (@hatwell) for Typical City

A Monument to Losing: The Importance of World Cup Heartbreak by Zack Goldman (@thatdamnyank) for A Football Report


Steve Evans: Football Manager. Convicted Criminal by Ian King (@twoht) for Two Hundred Percent

Lewis Emanuel: Talent, Torment and Armed Robbery by Jamie Allen (@plymkrprss) for In Bed With Maradona

World Cup: 25 Stunning Moments…Number 10 by Rob Smyth (@robsmyth76) for The Guardian

‘Your Fight is Our Strength’ a Fitting Legacy to Tito Vilanova by Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) for The Guardian

#Weareallmonkeys: Can a Picture of a Banana Fight Racism by Jude Wanga (@judeinlondon) for Independent Voices

Piermario Morosini – 2012 by Alex Stewart for Football’s Fallen

Your Heroes are Human: On FIFPro’s Mental Illness Study by Zito Madu (@Phaetonv2) for SBNation


The True Story of Steve Snow, USMNT World Cup Hero Who Never Was by Nick Firchau (@nickfirchau) for

Helena Costa to Clermont – A New Era? by Philippa Booth (@Philby1976) for French Football Weekly

Luis Suarez’s Redemption? Sport Needs a Political Conscience by Shane Thomas (@tokenbg) for Media Diversified

Golden Opportunities by Callum Hamilton and Andi Thomas for SBNation

Bari in their Hearts by Dominic Bliss (@theinsidelefty) for The Inside Left


Diamonds in the Rough by Brian Phillips (@runofplay) for Grantland

World Cup 2014: We’ve Got to Start Somewhere by Max Grieve (@maxjgri) for Vertigo

Brazil 2014 is the World Cup We’ve Been Waiting For by Greg Johnson (@gregianjohnson) for VICE Sports

This is Not the Bosnia You Were Looking For by Kirsten Schlewitz (@KDS_Football) for SBNation

World Cup 2014: ITV Preview Belgium v Algeria by James Dutton (@jrgdutton) and Greg Johnson for The False Nine


Hunting White Elephants in Manaus by Andi Thomas for SBNation

The Moving, Tragic and Very Brazilian Story of the Late Jorge Selaron by Reda Maher (@Reda_Maher_LDN) for Eurosport

1982: Why Brazil v Italy Was One of Football’s Greatest Ever Matches by Tim Lewis for Esquire

The Day Football Saved Lives by Michael Calvin (@calvinbook) for The Independent

Ze Carlos: From Selling Watermelons to World Cup Semi-Final by Charlie Pulling (@clonmacart) for WorldSoccer


FIFA? PES? Against Modern Football Games by Ally Moncrieff for The False Nine

Letting the Monsters In by Ruud Gullit Sitting on a Shed (@RGSOAS)

This is Football’s Tipping Point by Michael Calvin for The Independent


Transfer Window Should Know Its Place by Iain Macintosh (@iainmacintosh) for ESPNFC

Brian Clough Was Charming, Disarming and Had His Own Set of Rules by Daniel Taylor (@DTGuardian) for The Guardian)

A Club Transformed: Supporting Reading FC by Rob Langham (@thetwounfortunates) for The Inside Left

Atletico Madrid: Thank You For Bringing the Aggro Back by Rob Smyth for Eurosport

Clarity of Vision by Alex Stewart for The Upright

Red Bull and RB Leipzig: Money Gives You Wings by Daniel Storey (@DanielStorey85) for Football365

Partizan Belgrade Banner Highlights a Problem That is Not Going Away by Igor Mladenovic (@Mladenovic) for The Guardian

The FourFourTwo Preview: Newcastle vs Hull by Huw Davies (@thehuwdavies) for FourFourTwo


No Good Reason Not to Try the Rooney Rule by Nick Miller (@NickMiller79) for Football365

False Memories and Football Opinions by Billy MacFarlane (@BillyMacfarlane) for The False Nine

The Problem with Ched Evans Returning to Football by Jude Wanga for Football Fanzone

Mario Balotelli and the Lessons of Liverpool Past by James Dutton for The False Nine


The Brilliant Youth Football Idea That UEFA Took On and Killed by Ian Herbert (@ianherbs) for The Independent

Yaya Toure, Loss, and Treating Players Like Robots by Daniel Storey for Football365

Yaya Toure and the Stereotyping of African Players by Seb Stafford-Bloor (@premleagueowl) for The Premier League Owl

Football: More than a Man’s Sport by Alex Stewart for The False Nine

The Malky Mackay Texts, Dave Whelan, the FA and How Football is Losing the Fight Against Discrimination by Jonathan Fadugba for JustFootball

How Football Unlocked the Heart of a Boy with Autism by James Masters (@masters_jamesD) for CNN

Ched Evans Should Not Be Allowed to Return to the Sheffield United Football Pitch by Mollie Goodfellow (@mollie_writes) for Indy Voices



Golden Goal – Fabio Grosso for Italy v Germany by Nick Miller for The Guardian

The Velvet Revolution by Elko Born for The Blizzard

Almost Mute: Why Angel Correa Deserves His Wings by Rob Brown for In Bed With Maradona

So You’ve Been Nutmegged… by Zito Madu for SBNation



Premier League Team of the Year 2013-14



Like this, but good, here’s my alternative team of the year. It’s inevitably worse, less witty and more tiresome than yours, but I don’t care.


Goalkeeper – Heurelho Gomes

It takes some effort to go from being first choice for your club and a squad mainstay for your country to playing back-up to a 42-year-old back-up keeper and losing out to Toronto’s number one on the international stage. Many would have struggled to pull it off, but Gomes has that never-say-die attitude needed to keep Richard Wright out of the starting XI.


Right-back – Ryan Taylor

“But Ryan Taylor left Newcastle ages ago, he’s probably retired, or playing in MLS or something. Actually it’s probably Australia. There’s a Newcastle there too, right? He can’t still be in the Premier League, right?” Wrong. He’s still there despite injuries restricting him to three games in the last two seasons, which itself is probably more than you’d thought he’d played. See, this is educational.


Centre-back – Garry Monk

A few weeks ago, when Ryan Giggs took over as Manchester United player-manager, people wracked their brains to try and think of the last person to fill that role at a Premier League club. Either they didn’t realise that Monk was still registered as a player for Swansea, or they didn’t care. Probably the latter in fairness.


Centre-back – Antolín Alcaraz

It takes a special kind of defender to see his teammates overachieving and deciding “I’ll do something about that”. Step forward Antolín Alcaraz. Clearly distraught by his contribution to Wigan’s survival in 2012, the Paraguayan sought to redress the balance by sabotaging new club Everton’s pursuit of Champions League football.


Left-back – Florian Marange

Sometimes when you join a new club you expect it to take a while to be given a game. However you probably rarely expect your new manager to make you ineligible for Premier League games. When Ian Holloway can’t even think of a woodland animal analogy when criticising you, you know it’s bad. Thankfully things have improved in the new year, as Marange has realised his name is an anagram of ‘Granola Fireman’.


Central midfield – Abou Diaby

Forget that meaningless Koscielny and Mertesacker stat, Arsenal have a 100% record this season in games where Abou Diaby has been named in the matchday squad. If he’d been fit the whole season then they’d have 111 points – you can’t argue with cold hard numbers like that.


Central midfield – Jonas Gutiérrez

He might have only made five league appearances this season, but the man’s Twitter game puts sees him lock down a midfield berth. A mesmerising blend of dog photos, Bon Jovi lyrics and so much more, El Galgo puts us all to shame.


Right midfield – Sylvain Marveaux (captain)

Not going to lie, I’ve only included him here so I can use the line ‘Captain Marveaux’.


Left midfield – Iago Aspas

Just look at him. The focus. The precision. The drive. And then this.


Striker – Jordan Bowery

Apparently a real person, with skin and bones and Premier League appearances and everything. He’s yet to live up to the illustrious career of his father, who scored one goal in a prolific 10-game spell for Team Hawaii in the 70s (this is actually true).


Striker – Moussa Dembélé

When we look back on Fulham’s season, we will remember two things: The first is Rene Meulensteen’s attempt at a Schrödingeresque teamsheet against Manchester United (I’m at least 70% sure Muamer Tanković isn’t real, or at the very least he’s part of an inside joke shared by only Meulensteen, Chris Morris and the Stonecutters).

Second is Martin Jol’s decision to pre-empt his sacking by calling upon Football Manager regens as early as November. In much the same way that Swansea tried to trick their fans into thinking Jordi Gómez hadn’t left by signing Jordi López, Jol fasttracked Dembélé into the first team despite him being nine years younger than his recently departed namesake, not to mention a different nationality and a different position. Did it work? See for yourself.

How El Diego saved West Ham


At 6.30pm on Sunday January 12, 2014, a repeat of Mrs Brown’s Boys was interrupted to the delight of millions. The BBC cut to East London where David Sullivan was sat behind a desk, his face hanging solemnly like a novelty Ray Winstone nodding dog.

Speculation immediately began to gather on social media. It had been rumoured that defeat at Cardiff was the last straw for West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, and that he had merged with his clothes, shoes and dinner to form one glutinous, sausagey mess. Club spokeschild Jack Sullivan promised “Big news. No, really big, none of that Roger Johnson bollocks”. The nation waited with baited breath.

The co-owner of the club gauged the prevailing atmosphere, discarded a notepad full of inappropriate and probably racist ‘mood-lightening’ jokes, and cut to the chase. Gone was the world’s 13th-best paid manager (yeah, seriously) and replacing him was none other than Diego Maradona.

“Diego was the obvious choice,” Sullivan Sr. lied. “Everyone in the country already hates us, especially after Karren Brady got given a CBE. I mean what the shit was that about.”

“I’m standing right here,” Brady interrupted.

“Fuck you, I stand by it,” Sullivan continued. “So anyway, we’re in the rare situation where we can test out whether two wrongs actually make a right.”

Stunned into near-silence, the press turned their attentions to El Diego. Why had he chosen this job above any others? Speaking through an interpreter who looked suspiciously like Mauricio Pochettino, the new manager spoke of West Ham’s strong tradition of Argentines.

“Carlos Tevez is still well respected here,” began the interpreter, “and Javier Mascherano was an able backup to world-class midfielders like Hayden Mullins and Nigel Reo-Coker. Then there was Lionel Scaloni, erm, Mauricio Taricco…psst, help me out here guys…was Walter Lopez Argentinean or Uruguayan? How about Pablo Barrera? Mexican? Really? Actually that explains a lot…”

Having successfully bored the watching public into not caring about what he had to say, Maradona set about his task, bringing in Diego Milito on loan until the end of the season. Also, in a controversial move, he swapped Kevin Nolan for an ocelot and 30 copies of Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge. Fans rejoiced at the news.

The impact was immediate. Enjoying the famed new manager bounce, the Irons beat Newcastle 3-2 in Maradona’s first name in charge. Visiting manager Alan Pardew was furious, claiming a “Premier League conspiracy” and bringing up the previous season’s defeat to Paolo di Canio’s Sunderland.

“It’s unfair that we have to play these teams before the players realise how much of an assclown the manager is,” Pardew complained. Though he said “arseclown” rather than “assclown”, which doesn’t work quite as well.

After a 9-2 aggregate defeat to ManchesterCity, more signings arrived. Goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri was coaxed out of retirement to replace Jussi Jääskeläinen, with the manager under the mistaken impression that you had to “replace all the letters, like in Scrabble”.

The strikeforce was bolstered further with the arrival of Garry O’Connor and Adrian Mutu, while former West Ham winger Shaun Newton also returned to the club. The manager spoke particularly highly of Newton’s “supply line”, before giggling to himself and scratching his nose.

Another player to make his return to Upton Park was Rio Ferdinand, though only on loan as the coaching staff admitted to not being sure about him.

Results from then on in were mixed. Milito ruptured his Achilles tendon scoring a late winner against Swansea, but an improvised centre-back pairing of Roger Johnson and a fit-again Andy Carroll (“he’s good in the air”, Maradona insisted) saw the club enter May just outside the relegation places, only for disaster to strike ahead of the penultimate fixture against Spurs.

Concerned about the North London club’s late-season form, David Sullivan looked to poison the opposition’s pre-match lasagne on the basis that no one would be stupid enough to suspect West Ham of doing the same thing twice. Jääskeläinen, by now sleeping rough on the streets of Newham, was promised a new contract if he injected the Spurs’ hotel’s supply of parmesan cheese with ricin, however he didn’t count on one thing – Tim Sherwood’s aversion to any cheese other than mild cheddar.

Sherwood denied his team a hot meal, insisting they prepare for the game with wine gums and pre-sliced ham straight from the packet, but that was still enough to help them see off a West Ham team who had been out on the piss the night before on the assumption that they just needed to turn up.

That meant a point was needed away at Manchester City in the final game, and with minutes left it looked like that was beyond Maradona’s side, with thunderbolt from the recalled Scott Sinclair sealing the title and wrapping up the winger’s place in the England squad for the World Cup.

However with the clock ticking down, Carroll headed clear a City corner and Newton gathered the loose ball. He sped down the line (geddit) and drove a high cross (ok I’ll stop now) into the box. It went over the head of Mutu but at the back post the ocelot was waiting to leap like, well, an ocelot I guess, and head the ball into the back of the net.

The crowd went wild, and Maradona sprinted onto the pitch to embrace the goalscorer, receiving a near-fatal mauling in the process.

After the game, Neil Warnock, manager of relegated West Bromwich Albion, called a press conference in which he went off on a tirade about the signing of the final-day goalscorer, pointing to an obscure FA rule which he claimed could be seen to forbid cross-species transfers. However the league ruled in West Ham’s favour and they lived to fight another day.

So that’s the story of how Diego Maradona saved West Ham. For more tales like this, you’re probably best writing one yourself. It’s bound to be quicker than getting me to come up with another one.

4. Captain Phillips


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

Help, I’m turning into Patrick Vieira

Is Abou Diaby really that similar to his fellow French international?

Monday morning started much like any other. I’d been interviewed for this week’s Arsenal programme trying to wind up Sir Alex Ferguson with mind games. I was meant to be copying Jose Mourinho in 2004. But it seems my aim backfired, spectacularly.

The four comments shouted from car windows and posted on Twitter all said the same thing – I’d been transformed into none other than Patrick Vieira. “All you need is to get rid of that ridiculous facial hair”, said Cesc Fabregas, with no hint of irony. “What’s happened to you: the bald head, the long legs, the disappointing goalscoring record?” shouted Pat Rice from the dugout. “Great Shatner’s Ghost!” Lassana Diarra wrote on my Facebook wall.

Wow indeed, if I have morphed into Vieira then at least I’m not the new Remi Garde. Patrick is a great athlete and Arsenal fans love him. At least he’s not a laughing stock like Jermaine Pennant, or ginger like Ray Parlour.

He is not too horsey like Martin Keown, nor is he impossibly, off-puttingly Dutch. He is hard-working, I can sniff his bald-headed ambition.

I hadn’t realised it before, but we are shockingly alike in our approach to football. We both want nice things. We want to escape our ordinary past (his, growing up in Senegal. Mine, having everyone on Soccer Saturday call me Abu Dhabi). So yes, I might have Patrick’s baldness and hatred for Manchester United, but do we really look alike? Have I unwittingly copied his style of being lanky and black and playing for Arsenal?

I had thought I was much more attack-minded than Patrick Vieira. I play my best football in the final third, and haven’t made a clean, sliding tackle in my own area since 2008. I have repeatedly criticised him for not scoring enough goals. He is resolutely world-class, whereas I occupy the murky waters of reserve team games alongside Lukas Fabianski and Sebastien Squillaci.

But his ubiquity, the way that any black player of a similar build is called ‘The New Vieira’, means people like me and Steven Nzonzi are compared to him without even realising it. But there is a dangerous side to the fact that we want to play like Patrick Vieira. Being in the public eye means the need to commit stupid, mistimed fouls. He’s better than I am, and knows how to tackle, but why is his enviable aggression so worrying?

I’d never been sent off in my career before seeing him, but impressionable young men like me, those not protected by referees or footballing ability, say ‘I want to look like that’ and feel the need to go straight through Gretar Steinsson with their studs up.

The problem is that Patrick’s ability is so effortless that Arsene Wenger thinks it’s attainable. If even an intelligent French international like me can be seduced, what hope is there for Paul Pogba? Yes, copy Patrick’s athleticism and leadership, but please leave the mindless aggression and unrealistic targets to me. I still have an awful lot to learn.

Wenger: Hanging on for Grim Death

Making his début for Pele Confidential, Rich Ward looks at what might lie ahead for the beleaguered Arsenal manager.


Red cards, injuries, dropped points, bans, fines and players heading out the exit. For Arsène Wenger and his Arsenal team, it is proving a very ominous start to the new season – certainly not what Arsenal fans want to be seeing after six trophy-less years. However, even the most cynical among them would surely not have predicted the total humiliation they suffered at the hands of Manchester United.

Their worst drubbing since the 19th century strongly underlined the championship winning potential of the new-look United and, with Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea all finding their feet after transitional periods, Arsène Wenger is facing a difficult task just to get in to the Champions League qualifying spots, let alone win something.

This is a damning indictment of how far Arsenal’s stock has fallen in recent years and, surely, a clear sign that fresh insight is needed at the Emirates. While Wenger’s long time foe Alex Ferguson shows a remarkable ability to keep regenerating his side to win championships – mixing new blood with experience – Arsenal have seen early-noughties domination dissolve into end-of-decade stagnation.

The fans have been told to keep the faith by Cesc Fàbregas, but his words sound pretty hollow given that he has just jumped ship to Barcelona. However, his sentiments are echoed by Alex Ferguson – who has criticised the media for turning on Wenger – and pundits like Alan Hansen.

 Frankly though, compared to the “no trophies and you’re  out” policy of Roman Ambramovich at Chelsea, Wenger has  already been given a generous amount of time to improve  the situation – and the scramble for signatures on deadline  day certainly looked like the desperate moves of a man who  knows his time is nearly up.

While inbound players such as Mikel Arteta look good on  paper, if they don’t have an immediate and necessary impact following the international break, whatever the protestations from fellow professionals, the Frenchman will be saying au revoir to the Emirates.