Author Archives: onestepovertoomany

About onestepovertoomany

Currently write for www.footballpubcast.co.uk about Football in general, and for www.redflagflyinghigh.com about Manchester United. Whilst I'm a United supporter I try and keep my blogs as impartial as possible and I hope that most people who know me on Twitter would testify to that (you can follow me @elhaydo). Have been playing and loving football for about 20 years now, haven't ever been very good. Have been compared to Darren Fletcher and Park Ji Sung in terms of lack of ability but plenty of effort. Also enjoy plenty of other sports as well as talking about the usual things that make people tick, food, drink, films, music and the one thing we will never truly understand - the fairer sex.

Love and Hate – defining emotions of a football fan

 Today marks the 22nd anniversary of one of the most tragic days in Sporting history. 96 sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, fathers, uncles and cousins, not to mention friends and soul mates were killed trying to do what they loved: attend a football match. On a day when we are paying our respects to those who lost somebody in that tragedy I couldn’t help but think that moments like that can, and should be able to unite everyone. But somehow, and as a Manchester United fan I’m ashamed to say that some of my “kind” have been guilty of this, events like this are used as part of sick jokes and chants.

Needless to say Manchester United fans aren’t the only ones, and they will point to the chants of “Munich” and the sick plane crash jokes visited upon them because of the tragic part of the club’s history. The intention of this article isn’t to try and single out one group of supporters, or start a row over “who started it” because frankly that would be almost as pathetic as the chants themselves. Nor am I looking to say that because some supporters of a club do it, then they all do. That’s clearly not the case. Every club has idiot supporters. Every single club. For me the difficulty comes in understanding where all that hatred comes from. Because you’d have to imagine that only a bitter, bitter hatred would drive people to behave the way that they often do.

For some people it seems, being a fan of one club means that you have to hate another. You have to hate that club, its players, what it stands for, its history, its managers and especially that club’s fans. My Great Uncle is fromGlasgowand supports Rangers. He once told me that my Great Aunt wasn’t his first love. In fact his first love had been a holiday romance that ended the second his father found out that her father was a Celtic supporter. As this story was told to me by my Great Uncle I just find it intriguing how much one person can dislike another football club. Had it been my Great Grandfather telling me I’d be asking all sorts of existential questions like “If my Great, Great Grandfather wasn’t so anti-Celtic would I have been born?”, and considering I was seven at the time I heard this story I’d have preferred to be contemplating which stick would float faster under a bridge.

Personally I don’t think hate is a particularly healthy emotion, especially not based on a fan’s colours. There are exceptions of course, if you are a Roman General and a corrupt Emperor tries to have you killed, but you escape and hope to have your revenge, be it in this life, or the next, then hate will help you to achieve this. But that hate may also drive you to your own death, so be careful.

So, for me, with hate not a viable option, we’re left with another, far more fun, far more healthy option: Rivalry.

Friendly Rivalry is one of the truly great things about sport. Before banter was bastardised first by Robbie Savage and then by Richard Keys it’s the word I would use to describe the playful digs, the mocking of poor results, worse signings and underachievement of your rivals.Derbymatches (as in local derbies, notDerbyCountymatches) mean that much more because of the stick you could get at work. Personally I look out for the results of my friend’s teams, not just because their results could affect the league position of my club, but because I want to be able to give them stick if they lose. But never at any point do I find myself hoping that they crash and burn, that they get relegated or go into administration, that their best players get injured.

So where does healthy rivalry stop, and hate begin? Where is the line in all of this? Are you less of a fan if you want a rival to win a particular game, not because it benefits your team, but because theirs deserves to win? They’re questions that people will have differing opinions on, but for me, being a football fan is about wanting the best for my team, whilst enjoying watching, talking about and joking about the game. IfChelseaare pushing Manchester United close for the title, I’ll want them to lose. Not because I hate their fans or their club, but because it means Manchester United will be closer to winning. IfChelseaare playing Liverpool and aLiverpoolwin would mean that United get closer to the title, then by Thor I want Luis Suarez to pull John Terry’s pants down. But if the reverse was true I’d want Frank Lampard to start scoring for fun again. That’s the case even though historically Manchester United has a far, far greater rivalry withLiverpool. It’s one of those rivalries that in so many cases really does go past the line and into hatred, except I knew for certain that I don’t go past that line in 2005 when Liverpool played AC Milan inIstanbul.

As a Manchester United fan I was fairly amused with the first half. AC Milan 3 – 0Liverpool. It looked like being one of the great spankings of football history. Considering I had tolerated days of gloating about the number of European Cups Liverpool had won and would go onto win it felt pretty good to know that I’d be able to pay back that gloating with some smug looks of my own. I wouldn’t actually say anything, that would be harsh, I’d just look, and they’d know from that look that I knew that they knew that I knew. That would be enough. But thenLiverpoolbrought on a midfielder with some positional sense, giving Gerrard licence to do what he had been doing anyway and run about doing what he wanted. Except with Hamann on it wasn’t costing his team the game, in fact it seemed to be helping them get back into it. Alonso was at his majestic best and from 3-0 it became 3-1 and suddenly, the underdog lover in me somehow did the unthinkable and started cheeringLiverpool. By the time the equaliser threw in I was high fiving theLiverpoolfan next to me. By the time penalties came along I knewLiverpoolwere going to win. A team with Igor Biscan was going to win the European Cup in a comeback that would eclipse that famous night inBarcelona. At that point my emotions became a little mixed. Would AC Milan winning on penalties count as a counter comeback? Tough to say, but somehow my desire for aLiverpoolwin held and so did their nerve. They won and I genuinely was delighted for their fans. But instantly I reminded myself “it’s a hell of a comeback, but it’s no Treble”. I’m lucky that at the tender age of 14 I saw my idols do the unthinkable and go from losing to winning in the space of a minute. The final minute at that. Had it not been for that game, who knows if I would have felt so magnanimous aboutLiverpool’s triumph?

Those are my thoughts on rivalry and on a very famous night for one of my club’s most bitter rivals. As my thoughts are often as trustworthy as a married footballer in a whorehouse I decided to ask an assortment of football fans how they felt about some of the most glorious moments in their rival’s recent history and their responses are listed below.

Lewis, – aka @beathelastman on Twitter is a blogger of the highest quality and if you don’t already follow him, you should, even if he knows nothing about Batistuta and I refuse to let that go.

 

I admire Man Utd. I really do. I was raised in a scouse household (Liverpool Dad, Evertonian Mum) But in SAF they have an incredible manager who, whilst he can irritate at times has the right to act (in my opinion) bigger than the club. The 99 final was an incredible game and an incredible adrenaline high. I was only 10 and that was the first season I’d really paid attention to Football and memories of watching Utd win everything was all I knew growing up. Did it annoy me that Utd were winning, yes. Is that the reason I ‘hate’ Utd, no. The rivalry is there because…well because we’re two proud historic clubs – I don’t think it’s more complicated than that.

 

 

For me success is neither here nor there as a reason to like or dislike a club or me. It comes down to small fickle things – personnel (I dislike Utd more for G Nev than anything else), playing style, disrespectful comments that sort of thing.  

 

Simon Pilkington – editor of www.talkingsports.co.uk and @simonpilkington on Twitter

 

My thoughts on the CL final in 99′. if you need something more in depth then let me know:

 

My everlasting memories of the 1999 Champions League final were completely bittersweet – at 17 years old I was lucky enough to have seen an English side blast their way through the competition and win in dramatic circumstances to beat, of all teams, the Germans in the beautiful footballing arena that is Camp Nou. However the fact it was Manchester Utd, just securing the treble, and with it, bragging rights over all domestic fans along the way, left a very bitter taste.

 

As a Liverpool fan too young to remember any of the 4 European Cups that we’d already won and the 2005 victory still 6 years away, it wasn’t hard to realise that what Utd had achieved was special. In fact, despite watching numerous replays of our previous victories, it wasn’t until 2005 and the sheer utter ecstatic joy that I felt, that I realised how Utd fans must have felt. If you take away the rivalry, you can’t begrudge any football fan that feeling.

 

At the time though it was tough to take. I was half wishing the ref would blow his whistle, then when Sheringham scored, I was hoping for leg-sapping extra time but bizarrely when Solskjaer scored the winner there was apart of me that was happy for them. Maybe it was the fact that Solskjaer was one of those rare ocurrences – a Utd player I actually liked and respected – or maybe it was that it fit the Utd stereotype of scoring late, late injury-time winners. Most likely it was that is was an excellent game of football with a phenomenal climax that epitomised everything I love about this sport.

 

I’m not bitter, not bitter at all, we can elave that for the Everton fans; however, it was no Istanbul, was it?!

 

Robert Marrs – author of the fantastic http://leftbackinthechangingroom.blogspot.com as well as being @MarrsioFootball on Twitter.

 

In 1999

 

 

At the time I was furious. As soon as United scored their first goal, I knew instantly that they would go on to win the game and do so in normal time. That United team always did – I’d seen it so often.

 

It seemed like an utter robbery because it was an utter robbery. Bayern Munchen had dominated the game but hadn’t killed it off. I was so furious I threw a cup of coffee at the wall.

 

As a youngster, at points, I probably hated United more than I liked Liverpool. Odd but that’s teenage football fandom for you.

 

In 2011

 

 

I don’t mind so much. United lucked out but the team, in hindsight, probably just about deserved a European Cup around that time. They were a far finer side than many winners that have followed.

 

Simon, Rob and Lewis are clearlyLiverpoolfans and they give a great example of why I couldn’t ever hate somebody just because of their club – these guys are great writers and if I were to ignore them purely because of their club then it would be my loss, not theirs.

Tome Obaro – otherwise known as @ACMilandrew is quite clearly a Milan fan, and he’s a funny one at that. Joe Jordan would have been more worried about him than he was about Gattuso

 

Personally I’ve always loathed Inter but without too much venom.I enjoyed when they lost with childish glee.I’d enjoyed Massimo Moratti buying a plethora of expensive forwards over the years and still failed to win  the league.Enjoyed getting Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo from them and sending over duds like Francesco Coco and Umit Davala.We were obviously more successful than our neighbours and it didnt seem like changing.Then Calciopoli happened.Milan Fiorentina Lazio and Juventus were all weakened by bans and points deductions.Inter automatically assumed a position of power.They got a title handed to them  thereby breaking their long league drought and they just took off from there.From being 4 Scudetti ahead they now had 1 more than we did.Was still able to wave our 07 CL victory in their faces but it just wasn’t the same.

 

 

 

Watched last year’s CL final.frankly didnt care what an Inter victory did for Italy European co efficents.Wanted them and their smug preening coach to be thumped into oblivion.Didnt happen off course and was gutted but hey an least thats one arena we’re miles ahead of them…for now.The fact a former Milan player and coach is now managing them has ratched up the rivalry a notch.Victory on Saturday would be an absolute delight but trumping them to this Scudetto would be so much sweeter.

 

 

I guess the conclusion for me would be that everyone is going to feel slightly differently, and as long as you aren’t resorting to the kinds of disgusting chants that we sometimes hear, then there’s no real problem, it’s just a personal thing. I guess for me, it doesn’t matter who the team is, if they put in a great performance, if they overcome adversity, then I’m a sucker for it.

If anyone has read this and wants to contribute to the blog by describing their feelings on it, be it a rival club’s successes, failures, or even if you just have some comments on the blog then please post away, it makes the blog look more popular.


The Spanish, the media and Scholes

 

Has the recognition of Paul Scholes’ brilliance in recent seasons been aided by the all-conquering, ball retaining magic of Xavi, Iniesta and the rest of the Spanish team who Internationally, and in the case of several of the players for – for Barcelona, got the World purring?

This may sound like a nonsense question. Many people will say that Paul Scholes has always been appreciated. Well for me, that doesn’t quite ring true. I remember Scholes being shifted out to the left of midfield for England to accommodate the Lampard and Gerrard ‘partnership’. I also remember all the calls for him to retire in 2005/2006 when he developed an eye problem that saw several games pass him by.

Fast forward 3 years and those who were complaining that he had lost his ability to move from box to box, that he no longer had the predatory instincts that saw him arrive late into the box to slam in a pile driver were praising the brilliance of his touch, the fact that he always seems to have time on the ball and the fact that his pass completion often shows a greater percentage of accuracy than DNA testing.

The players who were deemed superior to Scholes, the Gerrard’s and Lampards, are suddenly being criticised for not having the kind of vision or passing range that their Spanish contemporaries posses. It’s been noted that Scholes is the only player of his generation that can bear comparison with Xavi.

So has it taken Xavi’s brilliance, the ball retention of Barcelona and Spain to make people appreciate Scholes?

The appreciation of players by the media that makes the most noise – TV – seems to be driven by the flavour of the week, or at least the year. They go with what they deem to be the popular opinion and it takes overwhelming evidence of anything to the contrary to make them change their opinion. The fact that the deep lying playmaker is constantly referred to as “playing the Makelele role” in this country gives a fair indication of how far behind we can be.

In 2005 goals suddenly disappeared from Paul Scholes game. After scoring 20 in 2002/2003 and then 14 and 12 in the 2 years that followed he has yet to get into double figures since. With Gerrard and Lampard scoring for fun and other midfielders getting in on the action the ratings dropped for Scholes. He was past his best. He’d lost it. United needed a new, box to box midfielder with the legs to cover the distance.  Now however there seems to be more of an appreciation of the way that he makes United tick. The way he can help to retain the ball when others would give it away. People have started to see that having a midfielder who can charge an extra 2km over the course of the game isn’t much good if he has a pass completion of 70% and is consistently making the wrong choices. Goals are important, of course they are, and they win games. But if the team is scoring them and the team is winning, then does it matter if you have a central midfield dynamo scoring 20 a season? For me it doesn’t matter one little bit.

It doesn’t matter to Barcelona either. Or Spain. The player that makes both of those teams tick is Xavi Hernandez, a player with metronomic passing, the ultimate one-two machine. Xavi is a graduate of La Masia and grew up watching his current club manager, Pep Guardiola, when he was running the midfield for Cruyff’s great Barcelona side (Another example of the deep lying playmaker existing before Makelele).  Some of Xavi’s quotes in always articulate and insightful interviews show the admiration that he has for Scholes :

“In the last 15 to 20 years the best central midfielder that I have seen — the most complete — is Scholes. I have spoken with Xabi Alonso about this many times. Scholes is a spectacular player who has everything.”

“He can play the final pass, he can score, he is strong, he never gets knocked off the ball and he doesn’t give possession away. If he had been Spanish then maybe he would have been valued more.”

The final comment is the one that strikes me the most. Gerrard and Lampard are very good players, they really are, that they score 20 goals a season on such a frequent basis is fantastic. It’s just nice to see that with recognition of Spain’s undoubted brilliance is now coming recognition that there’s more to playing central midfield than being a cross country runner who can shoot. This recognition came too late for the international careers of Hoddle and Scholes, but thankfully just in time for Jack Wilshire.

If Paul Scholes actually cared about the compliments and the accolades he might thank Xavi and co for the recognition that he is now receiving by association. But as a student of the game he might go a bit further back, and thank Cruyff, the man who brought Total Football to Ajax and focussed all of his efforts on La Masia, on producing a huge chunk of the World and European Champions and almost all of the ‘Best Club side in the World’. But Scholes doesn’t really care about accolades and compliments, he’s quite happy just doing his thing. In fact, if you told him what Xavi had said, if you told him that he was still one of the best midfielders in the league, he’d shrug shyly and try to move the conversation away from him and onto anything else.

The fact that he’s so self deprecating just makes it all the better. Watching youtube videos of Scholes from a few years ago makes me go a little bit weak at the knees, but watching him effortlessly keep the ball now, I don’t even mind that the goals have gone; it’s just a pleasure to watch.


Post Match Respect

Managers are getting in more and more trouble for post match comments. In some cases rightly so. Questioning the impartiality or integrity of a referee is clearly not acceptable. Questioning a decision and the competency of an official after an incredibly poor decision falls under what Sir Alex Ferguson would call “fair comment”.  Except, that doesn’t necessarily seem to be the way that the FA see it. The indications are that criticism of referees is disrespectful.

This, to me is wrong. As a Manchester United fan I obviously have a massive amount of respect for the manager, one of the defining reasons for our success, but do I think he’s right in every decision that he makes? Is it disrespectful for me to question one of his decisions?

Personally I think the main problem in the situation is the way that managers are interviewed. Now in some cases managers make premeditated statements to the press before a game in an attempt to psychologically influence a referee. This is something I’d like to see stopped. But when a manager is interviewed straight after a game as part of their obligations to the media, they are basically being asked what they think about a controversial decision minutes after an emotional rollercoaster that decides their employment future and the success of their team. It’s hard to imagine them taking a controversial decision well. I know that if I had to field questions from Garth Crooks I’d be heading for a secure room in the specially designed Balotelli wing at Strangeways.  

These aren’t people who applied for their job on the basis of a career in TV. These are people whose expertise is football management. Of course the TV companies, who basically pay the bills, have every right to expect an interview. But do they want a heat of the moment outburst, lasting two minutes because the manager wants to get the hell out of there, and which then results in touch-line bans and token slaps on the wrist? Or would they like to have an agreement where the manager sits down later on, for a proper interview to discuss the real talking points of the game, why they made certain selections, what tactical considerations went into the game, why they changed things the way they did and if those changes had the expected impacts. Football fans in this country pay more than any other for the privelidge of watching their team, both at the match stadiums and also on TV, so for that money maybe they are entitled to a little transparency, a chance to see their manager’s brains picked about how the game unfolded. Maybe that could lead to a new era of tactical understanding in this country. Fans growing up aware that formations matter. That some players are better suited to certain situations than others, even if they aren’t as fast or as strong. It’s idealistic, but why not?

This way of doing things wouldn’t be so reactionary, but it would certainly improve the quality of understanding, and the depth of coverage that Sky, ESPN, ITV and the BBC provide. Those of us slating the simplistic punditry would have our thirst for tactical discussion and insight quenched, and those who aren’t that bothered can simply rely on Jamie Redknapp to say “that was a shocking, shocking decision to be fair” or “Frank’s done well there, I think there’s contact, you’ve got to hand it to the ref, that was a top, top decision”. Because Jamie Redknapp has seen the replay. The manager hasn’t. For once, he’s probably the best qualified to comment on it.

The problem at the moment is that managers are expected to give a considered, reflective response to questions about controversial issues, before they’ve had time to reflect or consider the issues. I have no doubt that some of the things said in the heat of the moment are later on regretted, because managers understand that referees do a difficult job. Sir Alex Ferguson himself has said that he wouldn’t want to do the job. I think that given a few hours to cool down, consider the season as a whole, the way that decisions have gone for your team, and against them, and then take into account the fact that the referee has made the decision that he believes is correct then a manager is going to be annoyed, but he’s less likely to lash out. He may point out that the decision is incorrect, that the referees deserve to be given the tools to do their job to the best of their abilities. Tools that other sports already have. Things like technology. Because football isn’t played with jumpers for goal posts at the top level. It’s a multi billion £ industry and yet it lags behind Tennis, Cricket and Rugby to name but 3 when it comes to providing officials with the necessary help.

Until Blatter is ousted, or has the decency to go, then the problem of technology may never be addressed properly. But if it can’t, and referees continue to be human, and fallible, then perhaps managers need to be given chance to lower their blood pressure before saying something they regret. Because the alternative is that they can resort to answering every question “no comment”, leaving post match interviews to the club press officer – who has had media training, or even worse they could just sarcastically answer “Ohh yes, I thought the referee was fantastic today. I fully respect him, his linesmen, the fourth official and especially the FA”. That would end up making a mockery of the situation, because the thing is the officials really are doing a decent job, for very little appreciation. The best they can usually hope for is abuse. I hope we don’t ever have a manager charged by the FA for sarcasm, because a £50,000 fine for your tone of voice is quite simply ridiculous.


Gameplan

I guess the first post on this new blog should be something of a mission statement, an introduction to who I am, what I’m about and what you can expect from me.

I love good football, I love entertaining football, and I hate clichés and lazyness, both from players, and from journalists and observers.

I’ve been a Manchester United fan for almost 20 years, picking my team not on my proximity to Manchester (I live near Bath) but because the other kids in the park supported Manchester United and I didn’t have a team. After 20 years of some unbelievable highs, and very few lows (and even those are comparitive) I look back on that day in the park and think how different it could have been if I’d befriended the Villa fan first, not the United fan.

I love to see great defending, often as much as great attacking. A goal line clearance often as good as a jinking solo run. My first experiences of Football were playing 3 a side and road to World cup in the park with my mates. A diving header at the back post is, was and always will be the coolest way to score a goal as a result of an awful lot of well rehearsed moves involving playing the ball out wide, running for the back post shouting “HARTSON” and then launching myself at a diving header.

Last ditch sliding tackles look fantastic, 60 yard passes onto a sixpense make the crowd go wild, but usually it’s the players who you don’t notice who make a team tick. It’s usually when they don’t play and everything goes a bit pear shaped that you do notice them. I’m a champion of the underdog. Often I’ll like a player simply because I feel he is unfairly slated, pigeon holed or stereotyped.

To me the Great sides are exactly that because they can do everything well. Ajax of the 70s were the original Total Football team and changed everything. Barcelona now are sensational, but anyone who thinks that they are the first team to marry fantastic attacking talent with constant pressure all over the pitch is missing out on one of the great teams of all time and really needs to take a look at Cruyff and co.

At times I enjoy watching Arsenal play. But mostly they frustrate me. I actually prefer to watch Spurs play. They play with a pace and naievety that I love to see. Bale howeve r is a bandwaggon that people really need to get off, he’s fast and direct, and that’s exciting, but he’s not even the best player at Spurs, let alone the World. Modric pulls so many strings it’s unbelievable and would instantly fit into any team. 

Players who have influenced me the most in terms of my love of the game are, in no particular order: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, John Hartson, Dennis Bergkamp, Roy Keane, Eric Cantona, Steve Bruce, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Rivaldo, Xavi, Paul Scholes, Del Piero, Ryan Giggs, Cruyff, Zico, Paulo Maldini, Gabriel Batistuta, Peter Schmeichel and Ronaldo.

I think teams need balance, that fans need patience, and that Football Manager has given too many people misguided ideas of creating dream team lineups. Teams need players who will put in a shift just as much as they need players who can change a match. Flair players are fantastic, they’re inspirational, they do things that make you jump up and shout, they make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. But they need the unsung heroes to be able to do that, just as the workers and the grafters need the magician to pull the rabit out of the hat sometimes. Balance is the key and when fans slate players like Michael Carrick I find myself thinking back to the dawn of the Galactico era, when Claude Makele was sold for not being glamourous enough. Fans need to take into account the role that a player has been given, and assess performances against that. If a player is sticking in front of the back four rather than running box to box, chances are it’s because he’s been told to, not because he’s lazy.

Twitter has changed the way that I look at Football completely. I used to chat about football with a few mates in the pub, watch Match of the Day on TV and read about football in the paper. Now there are millions of people looking to talk about the same things, with the same passion and a huge amount of knowledge. Some of the bloggers out there amaze me with their ability to provide insight and humour on a level that a lot of journalists should aspire to. These guys aren’t just churning up the same old transfer stories, they’re giving personal accounts of great footballing moments, new variations on classic encounters, the stories behind Football off of the beaten track and match previews and reports of a quality that blows me away, all for free, and all way before the papers hit the shops. If you’re on Twitter, give it a look, my username is @elhaydo and if you follow the people that I follow you’ll be in for a treat.

For now, that’s about about all I’ve got to offer by way of a summary, there’ll be more posts to follow obviously, and hopefully this gives a bit of an insight into me, and what makes me tick.


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