The Copa del Rey final promises a great deal this term, as the sub plots alone make for an intriguing battle where there is more on the line than just the famous trophy. Barcelona will look to salvage a disappointing season and send off their much loved manager with a trophy, whereas Bilbao will look to make up for their disappointing Europa League defeat to Atletico Madrid.
Bilbao and Barcelona are historically the two most successful sides in this competition with 23 and 25 wins respectively. However Athletic, winners of the first ever Copa del Rey, has not won the trophy since Javier Clemente’s aggressive 1980’s side lifted the trophy in ‘84.
The sides last met in the 2009 final where Barcelona prevailed with ease, 4 goals to 1, with Yaya Toure’s equalising wonder goal worth re-watching again alone.
The game will be hosted in the Spanish capital, at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderón stadium, a venue which adds another layer of intrigue to this clash of the two municipalities. Barcelona is the capital of the fiercely proud Catalan region and Bilbao is the capital of the Basque country, both regions which claim a degree of independence from mainland Spain and its federal capital Madrid. Bilbao’s independence even stretches to the football club, with the famous cantera policy of only fielding players who have grown up in, or more recently have family ties to the region.
Barcelona have certainly had the tougher route to the final, narrowly beating Real Madrid in the quarter-finals and then Valencia in the semis, 3-1 over two legs. Bilbao alternatively faced Segunda Division B side Mirandes in the semi finals, comfortably winning 8-3 on aggregate over the two legs.
Athletic’s recent form has been sketchy and is reflected in their La Liga position, marooned in mid-table as a consequence of the cantera policy, meaning the small but talented squad can struggle when fatigue and injuries set in, or if top scorer Fernando Llorente is not at the races.
Bielsa admitted personal failure following his sides hugely disappointing Europa League final against Atletico. Yes, Radamel Falcao was in a ruthless mood, and most teams would have struggled to deal with the Colombian in that mood. Nevertheless, Bielsa admits that he played into Atletico’s hands, saying “We wanted to play a certain way but we didn’t create the ideal scenario for this, our opponents managed to turn the scenario into one which suited the way in which they aspired to play.” Tiredness and a lack of cutting edge in forward areas made for a lethargic display which, if replicated against Barcelona will certainly end in another runners up medal for the side from Bilbao.
Barcelona has uncharacteristically suffered from a similar malaise this season though. Without the goals of David Villa the onus has fallen too often on Lionel Messi, with little support coming from his teammates. The gap between Llorente and Messi and their team mates are huge, Messi with 50 to Alexis Sanchez’s 12 league goals this season and Llorente’s 17 to Susaeta’s 6.
Bilbao were soundly beaten by Real Madrid on May 2 to allow Madrid to lift the title. Defensive lapses, such as a comically silly handball early in the game from Javi Martinez which was let off by a similarly stupid (and arrogant) penalty kick from Ronaldo, led to a comfortable 3-0 canter to victory for Real. Athletic followed this up with a 0-0 draw with Getafe, finishing a poor run of three results which started with a 2-0 defeat to relegation candidates Real Zaragoza.
The two finalists league battles this season ended 2-2, with a late Messi goal salvaging a point for Barcelona, and a 2-0 home win for Barca against a Leones side without key players Llorente, Iker Muniain, Ander Hererra and Fernando Amorebieta, but in which they managed to keep Barcelona’s share of the ball to a relatively paltry 55%.
Marcelo Bielsa will have to quickly turn things around if he is to avoid a huge double disappointment after he has established Bilbao, and himself, as global favourites this year. The team has drawn wide support in this country in recent months after strong showings against Manchester United, where Llorente was inspired, and for a more ‘English’ style of play than the Barcelona model, which the national team so attempts to replicate. The maverick Bielsa has been rewarded for this mix of dogged determination and some sumptuous build up play by links to the vacant Chelsea post and with Barcelona, before Tito Vilanova was awarded the role.
Bielsa’s side will need to show some British grit and determination to hold out Barcelona and will no doubt look to Roberto Di Matteo and Chelsea’s recent Champions League heroics as a model for success. Indeed a dogged defensive display and counter attacking through the pacey Munian, Susaeta and midfield duo of Ander Hererra and Oscar de Marcos will possibly be the favoured approach from Bielsa. However for this to work will require a Didier Drogba like effort from star target man Llorente, who must hold up the ball and finish off the moves if his side are to hoist the trophy that Sergio Ramos dropped off a bus last year.
Barca on the other hand have regrouped following the double disappointment of the Champions League exit to Chelsea and relinquishing of their La Liga title to Real Madrid by grouping around outbound manager Pep Guardiola by beating rivals Espanyol 4-0. Barcelona’s recent run of three games could not contrast more with Bilbao’s, notching three wins with an aggregate score of 15-1 over Rayo, Malaga and Espanyol respectively.
The Catalan club will be keen to make amends after losing a fiery final to Madrid last season, where a heroic performance from Iker Casillas should act as inspiration for Bilbao’s Gorka Iraizoz, who was in magnificent form against Madrid despite conceding three goals.
Athletic play Barcelona at 2100 UK time on Friday May 25th
Chelsea are currently preparing for their biggest game since the heartbreaking penalty shoot out loss to Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League final. This year they must travel to Germany and defeat Bayern Munich at their home ground, the Allianz Arena, if they are to lift the trophy they all crave so badly. Roberto Di Matteo faces the biggest game of his managerial career bar none, and will be hard at work fine tuning his approach to the game already, but here are Scott Carey’s thoughts on what the FA Cup holders must do if they are to lift the big eared trophy on Saturday night:
1. Contain Mario Gomez
Chelsea are missing their influential captain and strongest defender in the form of John Terry following his idiotic red card for kneeing Alexis Sanchez in the semi-final and have only two, semi-fit, very young centre backs to step into the heart of defence for the final. Chelsea will hope that Gary Cahill is fit, and brave, enough to step into Terry’s shoes, and his main task will be to mark the dangerous German international Mario Gomez out of the game.
Cahill is the better physically equipped to deal with the threat of Gomez than his potential defensive partner David Luiz on Saturday. Leaving Cahill to nullify Gomez will allow Luiz to do what he does best, roam around the back cutting out threats and mopping up around him. With a lack of really dangerous breaking midfielders (Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger are hugely talented but won’t predominantly be playing high up behind Gomez, however if Thomas Muller plays there will certainly be a dual threat to contend with and John Obi Mikel will be required) Chelsea will hope that taking Gomez out of the game will allow the full backs to do the next thing on this list…
2. Restrict the wingers
Bayern Munich are blessed with two of the finest wingers in the game today. Chelsea will be all too aware of the threat Arjen Robben poses cutting in from the right. Chelsea are well equipped to deal with the flying Dutchman in the form of world-class left back Ashley Cole, who will know what Robben wants to do and will back himself to contain the threat in what is undoubtedly THE key battle of the evening, followed closely by Cahill v Gomez and Boateng v Drogba (which I am coming to).
On the other flank, if he plays, Jose Bosingwa will have to deal with the more unpredictable Franck Ribery. The tricky Frenchman is a different player to Robben in that he has more tricks in his locker and is more prone to roaming, a dangerous modus operandi against Bosingwa, who can be liable of lapses of concentration. Bosingwa is good against pacey wingers, he has shown this against Gareth Bale on a few occasions, but the more subtle approach of Ribery could undo Chelsea.
3. Win the midfield battle
Yes it’s a footballing cliche, but with Jupp Heynckes and Roberto Di Matteo expected to play the same 4-2-3-1 formations they have deployed much of the season expect the game to be tight. The two target men will need to win their individual battles and the key battleground will be out on the flanks. Both teams will want to dominate possession, Bayern especially as they are on home soil and will probably play higher than Chelsea.
When you get two matching systems it is vital to dominate the centre of the pitch and this battle will be intriguing come Saturday night. The most likely match ups will be Schweinsteiger and his German international teammate Toni Kroos v the resurgent John Obi Mikel and Frank Lampard. This promises to be quite a tight match up, with both teams relying on Schweinsteiger and Lampard to pull the strings in the middle and both oppositions keen to restrict the time and space to allow this. This, like all the battles to be had on Saturday, is one that Chelsea can win, but I for one simply cannot call it.
4. Pick the right wingers
Strangely enough the flanks have become Chelsea’s weakest area of the last couple of seasons. Gone are the days of Robben and Damien Duff terrorising the opposition. Now Di Matteo has to select between the four options of Florent Malouda (a doubt for the game), Daniel Sturridge, Salomon Kalou and Fernando Torres to operate either side of Didier Drogba, with Juan Mata expected to take up a key central role behind the big Ivorian. Arguably Chelsea’s biggest loss for this tie is Brazilian Ramires, whose injection of pace and guile, as well as some key finishes, have helped them achieve an effective counter-attacking game.
Di Matteo must select wisely here, the temptation to go all out with the goal threats of Sturridge and Torres is an option, however the tracking back that Malouda and Kalou offer may be just as necessary against the attacking threats of the Bayern full-backs and the aforementioned danger men Robben and Ribery. For me Kalou is the obvious but unpopular choice as he offers a bit of both. My money is on Torres taking up the opposite flank, but this one is down to Robbie.
5. Unleash the Drog
Anyone who has seen the recent Avengers Assemble film could see Di Matteo channelling Captain America in his pre-game team talk. Captain America, while tactically assembling his army for the film’s final battle scene carefully instructs each member of his ranks, before reaching the Incredible Hulk whom he tells simply to do what he does best: “smash.”
Di Matteo needs Didier Drogba to be at his unplayable best against a weakened Bayern backline if he is to get anything from the game. Chelsea will be hoping for no more subtlety in Drogba’s approach than that of the giant green Hulk as he looks to smash his way through the German defences.
Bayern will be a side demoralised after a hugely dissapointing 5-2 German cup final loss to Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund are officially the best team in Germany at the moment but to put five past Bayern was a great achievement, and one that Chelsea can take heart from. In particular the performance from Dortmund’s lone Polish striker Robert Lewandowski, who bagged a hat trick, will spur on Didier Drogba.
Lewandowski benefited from some superb service by Japanese attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa against a Bayern side that don’t operate with a strict holding midfielder, a weakness Chelsea may look to exploit through their talented playmaker Juan Mata on Saturday. Bayern had their full roster of defenders available against Dortmund and still ended up conceding five goals, Chelsea will hope they can replicate this by taking their chances in Munich.
In his column for the Daily Mail today Martin Samuel highlights Drogba’s unplayable streak. At his best, and so often in the big games, Drogba’s physical approach can wreak havoc. Bayern are without German international Holger Badstuber for the final and will most likely deploy a holding midfielder in his place, probably Ukrainian Anatoliy Tymoshchuk if Belgian heavyweight Daniel Van Buyten isn’t fit in time.
Drogba is coming to the end of his Chelsea contract but has been in devastating form at the back end of this season, turning in two such ‘unplayable’ performances, firstly making Tottenham’s William Gallas look foolish in his side’s 5-1 win and then again against Martin Skrtel, no wimp, in a triumphant FA Cup final. Drogba will prove a handful for any defender on his day but will need to remain cool and composed and not let the occasion get to him, this could be his last chance.
6. Stay cool
And on that note Chelsea as a side must stay cool and composed. The ‘disgrace’ of Tom Henning Ovrebo against Barcelona in 2009 and the heartbreak and tears of John Terry’s penalty miss in Moscow in 2008 mean this is an emotional game for all involved, especially the old guard of Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Drogba for whom this may be their last chance at elite European glory.
Decisions may not go their way and the home crowd in Munich will be deafening, but if they can stay focused and get at Bayern this is a battle they can win. Be calm my jangling nerves.
Bosingwa – G. Cahill – David Luiz – A.Cole
Mikel – Lampard
Torres – Mata – Kalou
Rafinha- Jerome Boateng – Tymoshchuk – Lahm
Schweinsteiger – Kroos
Robben – Muller – Ribery
By Scott Carey
This stop frame animation made by a friend of mine is ludicrously good. Check it out.
It is a concept of the modern world that needs no explaining: every human being has bestowed upon them a name, a label by which the other members of their tribe can identify them.
It serves as a sign to the world, “I’m Dr Pasty-Smasher Omlette” (a genuine example of a 2010 name change by deed poll in the UK) is a representation of you, and although conventionally one has no choice over their moniker, it’s pretty much with you for life.
But in football, a name seems like so much more. Increasingly in the modern game (spit) it’s a brand – sorry, CR7? Give over – whereas previously it was just a kid’s way of picking their favourite player. As a young, naïve chap, I enjoyed watching Tony Yeboah. There was something about his name that was poetic, like Daniel Amokachi’s and even Danny Cadamarteri’s, which kept me following their careers even until now (Cadamarteri is currently at Huddersfield FYI).
I think it’s one of the things I’d always loved about Crystal Palace, being named after an extravagant landmark seemed far more interesting than sticking Albion on the end of whatever cess pit you were from, and we had our fair share of good player names too. They ranged from the cold-war-secret-agent-esque Itzik Zohar to the painfully British Wesley Foderingham, with Kagisho Dikgacoi filed in the ‘requires excessive lingual gymnastics’ section.
There are, of course, many players named after other players. As well as that Cameroonian Leo Messi, there is a Brazilian named Michel Platini (who plies his trade in Bulgaria) and even Chelsea legend *ahem* Maniche was named after Benfica’s hero of the 1980′s Michael Manniche. While there is a nostalgic romance to these, painting men as walking homages to idols of the past, this respectful practice is tarnished by its evil cousin, the modern re-naming. While naming your child Alfio, after the defensive linchpin in Racing Club de Avellaneda’s 1967 Intercontinental Cup win, might seem a nice tribute, someone, somewhere is filling out a deed poll form to change their name to Wayne Rooney (fifteen people did this in 2010, as well as five David Beckhams) and single-handedly destroying society.
I knew that in attempting to pick my own favourite I would struggle to whittle down the list. For every fluid and rhythmical name like Siyanda Xulu or Knowledge Musonda, there are the glorious forename/surname antitheses like James Rodriguez – pronounced ham-ess, and named after James Bond – or Macnelly Torres.
Unable to pick a favourite, I enlisted the help of some of my favourite writers to furnish this piece with some sense:
Rory Smith, The Times
There are certain footballers’ names which stand out, whether for an inherent poetry (Siyabonga Nomvethe), a childish glee (Waldo Ponce, Quim), a comic inappropriateness (Danny Invincibile), a fine literary tradition (Ricky van Wolfswinkel) or sheer madness (Zimbabwean players, passim). But my favourite, for no real reason other than the sheer bathos, is Alan. Just Alan. You could be the most lavishly gifted player in the world, a Brazilian striker of unmatched verve and imagination and skill, but can you ever be taken seriously with the name Alan? What sort of Brazilian looks at a kid and thinks: “Yep, he’s an Alan”? I don’t know, but it makes me smile every time I see it.
Michael Cox, Zonal Marking & The Guardian
In my view, there’s a simple formula for a great footballer name. The first part of the surname should represent what they do on the pitch, the second part should be a stereotypical ending according to their nationality. Therefore, Serginho, a Brazilian wing-back who surged up and down the line, gets top marks. APOEL’s Ivan Trickovski, a Yugoslavian-born winger who can be extravagant when trying to beat an opponent, is another good example. Marc Crosas really should have been a winger. And since you ask, in my days as a central midfielder in Surrey’s youth leagues, yes, I was responsible for many defensive cock-ups
Iain Macintosh, The New Paper (Singapore)
Call me childish, many have, but I still can’t stop giggling whenever I hear Blackburn striker David Goodwillie’s name over the tannoy. There’s something so beautifully functional about it. It’s not a great willy. It’s a good willy. Sturdy. No awkward bends. And yet, the twisted genius of Kermit Erasmus is a moniker I cherish even more. The reckless juxtaposition of the Dutch Renaissance man and the singing green frog is something that should have earned Mr and Mrs Erasmus some kind of civic award. But nothing, nothing in this world, will ever beat the majesty of Stefan Kuntz, a name so gloriously and so publicly mispronounced by John Motson in 1996. God knows, I love the German people, but just for once, with the greatest footballing disappointment of my life on the horizon, it felt like Motty was on the money.
David Cartlidge, Freelance
My favourite player name, without a doubt, goes to Miguel Ángel de las Cuevas of Sporting Gijón. There’s no bias here, as Sporting are my team, it’s just the simple fact it’s the smoothest name around. For a start, it’s in five parts, and few names sound better rolling off a Spanish mother tounge. Although, they leave out ‘Ángel’ in commentary etc. Now, running Spanish names through Google Translate can be a fun process: we have Juan Mata, aka John Kill, and Iago Aspas, Iago Blades. The king is De Las Cuevas though, who becomes known as the incredible Miguel of the caves. Too cool. He’s one of the few Sporting players actually capable of playing football too.
Rupert Fryer, Fox Sports
Alan Kardec – Brazilians have always taken a more interesting approach than us unadventurous Europeans when it comes to naming their offspring. Often electing to adopt the name of a famous person they’re particularly fond of, they also frequently reinterpret they way in which the given name should be spelt. Benfica’s Alan Kardec de Souza Pereira Junior was named in homage to the French spiritualist Allan Kardec, whose beliefs that true enlightenment could only be achieved through communication with the souls of the dead proved popular amongst certain groups of Brazilian society.
The pick of your suggestions:
@martinlaurence7 – Excellent Walaza
@Vitu_E – Sixto Peralta
@Wanchope_Dickov - Ziguy Badibanga
@GoonerPatrick – Hobbit Bermudez
Valderramarama is back after a busy period, and first up is a brief look at potentially the next big thing to come out of Chivas…
Fierro was part of the Mexico squad which won the U17 World Cup on home turf last year and certainly made an impression in front of visiting scouts. The 17-year-old, who has already made eight appearances for his club, Chivas Guadalajara, impressed at the U17 World Cup by netting four goals and creating two goals in seven games, finishing as their top scorer for the tournament.
At just 5ft 9, Fierro is your typical Sergio Aguero-style forward. He may not be the tallest of strikers but knows how to use his body to keep the ball and has his fair share of headed goal has tremendous pace and close control, but the intriguing attribute about him is his willingness to drop deep and carry the ball.
His finishing is his top attribute though and being a striker, you need a decent strike conversion rate. Give Fierro a chance and you can almost guarantee he’ll test the opposition keeper. You only have to ask France, who he terrorised during the 3-2 Quarter-Final win in the tournament, setting up the opener before scoring the winner in the second -half. See Fierro’s involvment in the 2-1 win over France in action here.
He struck a formidable partnership with Liverpool’s Marco Bueno during the tournament and it’s his movement between the lines of the defence which allows him to get into goalscoring positions.
Obviously, due to Fierro’s nationality and club, the comparisons between himself and Javier Hernandez are inevitable. But Fierro is more well-rounded than the Man Utd striker, coming deep to get the ball and dribbling with it, whereas ‘Chicharito’ prefers to play with the ‘fox-in-the-box’ mentality.
Although many pundits have tipped him for a move, the general opinion is that Fierro is happy playing at his local club and the media believe he should wait before moving to Europe. He is currently being courted by the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Inter Milan, but it would seem that if Man Utd showed an interest, he would be more inclined to join his compatriot Hernandez at Old Trafford.
And if Fierro can continue his impressive scoring form, there’s no reason why he couldn’t go on to become a top player, perhaps even emulating Hernandez’s acheivements.
curse: A solemn utterance to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something.
Football is a superstitious game. Be it wearing the same shirt to a game after you won last week, never changing a winning team or entering the field of play backwards a-la Daniel Sturridge.
We try to make sense of football because it is so hard to make sense of. The game is organised chaos at its absolute best, and this is why we love it. The irrational theories, superstitions and day to day conjecture that surround the game are what make it so great. As rational human beings we like to try and explain away these phenomena as much as we buy into them but some just seem to defy explanation and really get inside the head of football fans.
One such ‘curse’ that has really caught the eye as of late is that of the Chelsea number 9. Stretching back to the days of Tony Cascarino in 1993 a whole host of number 9s have tried and failed to establish themselves as Stamford Bridge favourites (for a full run down of the trials and tribulations of the modern day Chelsea number 9 visit the Football Supernova). So, is the Chelsea number 9 shirt really cursed or do these players just sink under the burden of history (and money) that the shirt represents?
Fernando Torres may be suffering from a significant bout of existential and professional doubt. His case of ‘the yips’ has left him unable to hit the target let alone execute with the sort of composure he was capable of at Atletico and Liverpool. His touch has deserted him and the goals that made him famous have gone too. So is the lack of confidence that is so often cited the problem with Torres, or is there something more sinister a foot? Could it be possible that Fernando Torres and the Chelsea number 9 really are cursed?
Theory number 1 –
Perhaps the jilted Liverpool fans, so consumed by the sense of abandonment that followed the departure of their favourite Spaniard, banded together and invoked the cosmos to strike down Torres in all of his future endeavours. I imagine this invocation to look like a heartfelt rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone but performed in a darkened room, all holding hands in a circle but altering the lyrics to You’ll Never Score Again.
Theory number 2 –
A jealous kit man at Chelsea HQ, so incensed by the realisation that these preening prima donna’s, ginger haired midfielders and Khalid Boulharouz could make in a week what he does in a year that he cursed the shirt, stitching his bitterness into the very lining, so that no no.9 would ever succeed at the club again.
N.B This disgruntled kit man must have arrived soon after the departure of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, but we are getting to him.
Theory number 3 –
The last great number 9 at Chelsea Football Club scored so many goals, was so vastly popular and adored that there was no room left for another 9 to take his place (false or not) and so the once magical shirt lost its power forever more. However this theory does not lie true with the counter example at St James’s Park of the Newcastle number 9 shirt, a magical item of clothing which imbues its every wearer with the ability to score goals, be it the great Alan Shearer to Andy Carroll and Papiss Demba Cissé.
Discounted theories include that Fernando’s flowing blonde locks, Samson like, were the source of his goal scoring power and that when he died it brown this power was lost. However the return of the blonde hair has done nothing for his fortunes. Also the theory that he is in fact “half a boy and half a girl” is yet to be proved but was also an accusation that was in place during his glory days at Liverpool.
Whatever the case, curse or confidence crisis, the sight of this video is still able to have even the most ardent sceptic questioning whether there is in fact a curse on the Chelsea number 9, Chelsea fans, look away now:
By Scott Carey
Way back in 2007 when I first started writing about football one site that provided much inspiration was Pitch Invasion by Tom Dunmore, an Englishman who lives in Chicago, whose aim was cover perspectives missed by the mainstream media, with a focus on supporter culture, the history of football, women’s football, photography and the political and economic aspects of the sport. It was a website that I looked at often in my early days of trying to write about football and I often wondered when my own words would appear on its hallowed pages.
However over time as I have wasted my hours on football forums and trying to keep three separate blogs going I have visited Pitch Invasion less and less and that’s why I was extremely pleased when I heard that there would be a “The Very Best of Pitch Invasion” book coming out. This would be my chance to catch up on all the essays that I had missed out on over the years.
The idea of compiling posts from a website into a book is an interesting concept in itself but I am pleased to say it works as these are not merely 750 word opinion pieces, of which I am responsible for many, but these are what I would call essays – detailed examinations of the topics alluded to earlier. The book is divided into five sections, which are Fandom, History, Culture, Life and Activism and that in itself is a clever way of grouping what is an extremely diverse range of writings from a variety of authors and without these sections the book could have become extremely incoherent and lacking in direction.
The first section although entitled “Fandom” focuses much of its attention on the rivalry between the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders in the MLS and with much of the early part of the book there is a strong emphasis in relation to American football. Mark Inness’ three part essay about the fortunes of Japanese side Omiya Ardija, who live in the rather large shadow of their close neighbours Urawa Reds, is a delight although it could have quite easily been combined into one piece for the book as Dunmore appears to have wanted to maintain a sort of a homage to how it first appeared on the website.
As with opening section there is again an emphasis on the American football scene in the “History” section including essays from Dunmore and Peter Wilt, which provide an enlightening insight into the troubled history of football in the United States. As an Australian football fan there is much we can learn from our American counterparts and these essays are definitely well worth a read. My favourite piece in this section would have to be Dunmore’s own essay on Ydnekatchew Tessema, an Ethiopian footballer who progressed from the national team to coaching it to being co-founder of CAF to being its president for fifteen years. That piece alone illustrates the joy of Pitch Invasion for me; giving me an insight into something I knew absolutely nothing about.
The book’s third section is dedicated to “Culture” and the first four essays are dedicated to the songs that fans sing at games and this makes it for me the most enjoyable section of the book as it takes a look at the other side of football. It also features Brian Phillips, editor of the brilliant Run of Play and whose twitter feed has me constantly in stitches, who takes a look at history of what he describes as one of the strangest supporters songs in football – “Goodnight, Irene” and its relationship to Bristol Rovers. Alex Usher’s rough guide to football in print, although a little out of date now, is also a must read for anyone wanting to get into the world of football books.
“Life” is the title of the fourth section of the book and Dunmore in his introduction describes it as connecting loss, hope and the commercialisation of sport. Although it featured some excellent writing from the likes of Bobby Brandon, Jennifer Doyle and the aforementioned Peter Wilt as well as Dunmore, for me was probably the weakest section of the book. Unlike the other sections it didn’t seem to quite gel and maybe People maybe have been a more appropriate title.
The fifth and final section is entitled “Activism” and deals in most part with football in England and more specifically the role of Supporter Trusts with Gary Andrews excellent four part essay on the Trust Movement being the highlight. Like Mike Inness’ earlier three part effort I also felt this could have been combined into one large essay without losing any of its impact. Also providing a great insight was Shay Goulb, chair of the Israeli National Sports organisation, who highlights the efforts and problems faced by Israeli football fans as they look to pay a more active role in their nation’s football clubs.
Overall however I think the “Very Best of Pitch Invasion” is an invaluable addition to the ever growing world of football literature and could very well point to a new direction for football writing especially and it many ways Pitch Invasion was/still is a forerunner to publications such as The Blizzard. With that in mind I look forward to the next edition of the “Very Best of Pitch Invasion” and you never know, my name may make in there.