Posts Tagged ‘ Premier League ’

Turf Wars: A History of London Football

Turf Wars: A History of London Football

This book went on my wish list and moved to the top of the pile when a copy ended up in my hands thanks to a huge Chelsea supporter.

The premise of the book is daunting as is stated in the title: A History of London Football. The author is very comprehensive, taking the reader from the early days of the pre-cursors of the Football League in the 19th century all the way to the 2015/16 season. There are even clubs in there that I had never heard of before.

I have to admit that the book can be a little dry at times. Covering over a 125 years of football is a big ask. Besides the nomadic nature of most clubs in the early, the book touches on key moments, either of a club’s location or success on the pitch. The first two-thirds or so would take multiple readings for me as I am not as familiar with those times but the last section of the 90s to the most recent seasons was really interesting.

Not a book for everyone. I might have focused more on the big teams, but if you want an expansive history of football played in London, this is the book for you.

——

For more book review, check out my Recommended Reading page.

Advertisements

Manchester United Change/Third Shirts 2001/02

sport-graphics-2002_749696a

Manchester United entered the 2001/02 season as the three time defending Premier League Champions but Sir Alex was already in the process of building his next team. The club added Ruud van Nistelrooy, who scored 36 goals in his first season and would go on to even bigger things the following year, Juan Sebastián Verón and Laurent Blanc with Jaap Stam leaving during the summer and Jesper Blomqvist, Denis Irwin, Ronny Johnsen, Raimond van der Gouw, Dwight Yorke, and Andy Cole gone from the club by the following season.

wiltord

Another league title was not on the cards as poor results in November and December saw the Red Devils in ninth. Results would turn around but Arsenal would eventually win the league and the Double with Manchester United finishing third behind Liverpool.

Bayer Laverkusen's Oliver Neuville

No joy was found in the cups either as Manchester United lost to Arsenal in the Third Round of the League Cup and to Middlesbrough in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup. Bayer Leverkusen knocked out Sir Alex’s men in the Semi-Finals of the Champions League on away goals.

Of note this season were two notable comebacks.

Manchester United overturned a 3-0 deficit away at Spurs in the league.

The Red Devils also rescued a Third Round FA Cup tie at Villa Park with a remarkable three goals in the final 15 minutes to advance 3-2.

manchester_united_2001-2002-change

manchester_united_2001-2002-third

The change and third shirts for this season produced an interesting choice from kit manufacturers Umbro. Per Historical Football Kits:

United were one of the leading clubs that attracted considerable criticism for exploiting the replica kit market and in 2001, Umbro came up wih a novel response, creating the first reversible shirt. These were white on one side and metallic gold when turned inside out, so supporters had both away and third shirts in one purchase. The players had separate white and gold sets which were not reversible.

becks

The change shirt saw a white chest with black sleeves and panels down the torso. Narrow white trim accent the sleeve from the armpit to the cuff. The shirt used a V neck with a collar, and gold trim was used on the collar and chest. White shorts and socks were used when needed and kept the design element around the rib cage going down most of the shorts.

giggs

Gold had not used for Manchester United’s kits previously and has not used since, with the yellow shirts of the early 70s being the closest in color. The gold change shirt was in essence a reversed out version of the white shirt, with the same collar, a narrow black band on the sleeves going all the way to the collar, and the black shorts and socks were the same as the change strip. This kit was only worn three times during the season, twice at Arsenal and for United’s away game to Olympiakos in the Champions League.

Besides the design, there are also little touches all over the shirt. Let’s start with the badge, with black replacing the red background of the standard badge and gold instead of yellow for the lettering and trim.

badge

Above the badge is the commemorative mark for the 100th anniversary of the name change from Newton Heath to Manchester United.

100-yr-mark

The inside neck has another mark to celebrate 100 years along with the Umbro wordmark.

centenary-screen-printOn the front of the shirt is hologram which signifies the authenticity of the shirt, while on the back hem of the change shirt is an element that Umbro used during the early 2000s–the kit life span.

authentic-hologram

time-stamp

(images courtesy of pryoboy blog)

Everything on the white side is embroidered while the gold side uses screen printing.
me-3

While the shirt is heavy due to it being reversible, this is one of my favorites, particularly the white change shirt. The celebratory basis for the shirt is significant as well and glad I pulled the trigger on the long sleeve version all those years ago.

——

Resources for this post:

——

Check out more posts on kits from clubs and countries around the world on the Strip Club page. And yes. It’s safe for work.

Walking Through the Storm

300x300_11115700

Walking Through the Storm

Liverpool fan Ken Kendra came back on the SoccerNomad pod to update listeners on his book Walking Through the Storm, which chronicles the 2015-2016 season for the Reds.

Learn more about his project at his website and facebook and follow him on twitter @walking_storm. Check out the LFC Raleigh website and on twitter @LFCRaleigh. LFC Atlanta is online and on twitter @LFCAtlanta.

——

Thanks for listening! You can also subscribe via iTunes and please leave a rating and review. Follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Fan Experiences in England and the United States

Paul Gerald is a self described soccer nut and is working on a  book, An American’s Guide to Soccer in England, which he plans to have his book out in the summer of 2017. He has been on the SoccerNomad podcast to talk about his trips.

After our last chat he shared some similarities and differences between being a soccer fan in England and the United States.

I have been fortunate enough to see experiences in my soccer life of late: going to more than 35 games in England and seeing my beloved Portland Timbers win the MLS Cup in person.

The latter was a magical night at the end of a magical run and gave me a taste of Major League Soccer away days. The former is part of research for a book, a sort of travel and cultural guide to the English game

Here a couple of comparisons of the fan experience in each country:

Stadium Locations

In the US, many stadiums are on the edge of town and/or were originally built for American football. There are exceptions – all three Pacific Northwest stadiums, for example – but other places like Kansas City’s Sporting Park are between an outlet mall and a racetrack, and RFK Stadium in DC was original built as a multi sport facility in the 1960s and abandoned by the Redskins years ago, for good reason.

056199a9-36b4-42f1-8ba4-3c612dd6ca4f

In England, most stadiums are smack in the middle of town. Chelsea, for example, are one of the great clubs in the world, with a cabinet full of trophies. But their stadium, the sparkling 42,000-seat Stamford Bridge, is about a two-minute walk from a tube station in a busy neighborhood in West London. The same is true for Liverpool, Everton, Newcastle, and many others.

Some of the newer grounds are rather stale and on the edge of town (Stoke and West Ham, for example), but I give the advantage here to England.

Stadium Size

059c9614-dd09-478d-9a7d-f6e67e97ded5

Here there is some similarity, except for MLS sides who play in giant stadiums made for the NFL. The biggest club stadium in England is Old Trafford, home of Manchester United, with about 75,000 seats. The next five biggest are between 50,000 and 60,000, and after No. 10 it’s all under 40,000. In the Premier League they get as small as 20,000 at Swansea City and 11,000 (!) at Bournemouth.

The average purpose-built MLS stadium is around 20,000. So we’ll call this one a draw.

Weather

The vast majority of seats in English stadiums are covered – as they need to be, since the season runs from August to May and at least half of that is rain with temps in the 30s and 40s. In the US, we have the sense to play in the summer and sit in the sun. Advantage MLS.

Local Rivalries

My Timbers have the league’s most heated rivalry with Seattle, which is “only” 170 miles away. For comparison, Liverpool and Everton are one mile from each other. Queens Park Rangers and Fulham, two bitter West London rivals, are three miles apart. You could walk to those two and Chelsea in a total of six miles. It goes on and on. Big advantage England.

Away Fans

By rule, but not always in practice, away fans are supposed to get 10% of tickets to an English match, and up to three times that for a Cup tie. This means that throughout the Premier League, and in many lower league games, there are generally thousands of away fans singing their guts out the whole game. The biggest I saw was 9,000 Sunderland fans at Manchester United.

Look what they did when they scored a late goal in that game.

At the vast majority of MLS games, the best that can be hoped for are pockets of away fans, and away goals are met with a weird, eerie silence. Advantage England.

Distraction Action

Before games in England you get a lot of announcements and ads on the big screen – if the stadium has one, and most do. And there’s an on-field announcer whom everyone ignores. During the game? Nothing. They won’t even show a replay if it will piss anybody off. And I know of one club, Crystal Palace, that has a dance team.

In the US, you get some sponsorship messages here and there, but it’s much better than the nonsense at an NBA or NFL game. English people love that stuff, by the way; they think it’s like going to a circus. For soccer, though, we’ll call this one a draw.

Singing and Chanting

Near as I can tell, MLS culture is pretty much an adoption of English culture, all the way to the point of people wearing scarves to a game in 90-degree weather. There’s plenty of singing in both places, but from what I have seen, MLS severely lacks two things: spontaneity and player-specific songs. There are also very few opening game anthems in the US, which we need to work on.

Here’s 57,000 West Ham fans sing “Blowing Bubbles,” East London accent and all, at their new home stadium.

Slight advantage: England.

Eating and Drinking

fa1bb43c-5d5b-4fc5-9124-40250a9c8449

My favorite thing to tell English people is that not only can we drink inside an American stadium, there are people walking around to sell you beer! They absolutely cannot believe this. Ever since about 1990, when they started cracking down on hooligan culture, it is against English law to consume alcohol while you can see a soccer pitch – even in a suite. They also have no concept of what tailgating is, but they think it sounds utterly amazing and can’t wait to get over here and try it out.

Big, big advantage to the USA here.

Fan Behavior

The biggest misconception about English fans is that they are all hooligans. In fact, in 35 or so games I’ve been to, I have felt uncomfortable exactly twice: When I wore my Fulham colors outside Sheffield’s Bramhall Lane after a tense draw (lesson learned) and the time I naively wore a red jacket to a game at Everton (bigger lesson learned).

Still, I give the advantage to the Yanks here. The level of obscenity and abuse (at their own team, most of the time) is really over the top at English grounds – one reason that almost all have a family-friendly area. In the US, except for maybe a few of the derbies, fans mix together well, and everybody really seems out to have a good time.

One big disadvantage to MLS, though: I cannot believe how many American fans talk during the game and get up to walk around. Neither of these happen during the game in England, except when people beat the rush to the beer stand before halftime. It is all about watching, and knowing, the game.

Taken as a whole, seeing soccer in England reminds me of going to college football games in the South when I was a kid: It was mostly local teams with lots of fans there, TV and in-game distraction didn’t get in the way, and the stadiums felt cozy and intense. The English are in the slow process of replacing their old grounds and losing some of that atmosphere, but for now, and for my money, there’s no better sporting experience in the world than heading down to an English ground for a Saturday afternoon kickoff, with scarves and songs flying. I hope to run into you there sometime.

Check out my website, EnglishSoccerGuide.com, and follow along on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for reading. For MLS and EPL fans, what have your experiences been? Let us know in the comments below.

Liverpool Away Shirt 1998/99

 

heggem

In the late 90s Liverpool were on a run of four consecutive top four finishes, but a good start to the 1998/99 season soon dissipated and December saw the Reds in 12th. They would eventually finish 7th and outside the European places. The Reds didn’t find much success in the cups, losing at the second hurdle in both the League and FA Cups. Spurs eliminated Liverpool from the League Cup and Liverpool’s encounter with Manchester United at the end of January has gone down in United folklore, with the Red Devils turning the match around in the dying minutes on their way to the Treble. Celta Vigo knocked out Liverpool in the Third Round of the UEFA Cup.

fowler011

The following season, Liverpool began to reshape the squad and finished 4th. After a poor start to the season, the Reds had a stretch from October to April where they only lost twice in the league. There was no cup glory as Southampton beat Liverpool at the Dell in the Third Round of the League Cup and Blackburn sent LFC packing in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup.

evans-houllierThis was an era of transition for the club, as Roy Evans left in November of 1998 to be replaced by Gérard Houllier, who would stay with the club for almost six years. The playing staff turned over as well with McAteer and Harkness leaving in 1998, followed by McManaman, Jones, and Ince in 1999. Berger, Song, Friedel, Heskey, Hyypiä, Henchoz and Hamann came in to lead the club forward.

liverpool_1892-1896-change

LFC Change Kit 1892-1896

liverpool_1966-ajax

LFC Change Kit for Ajax match in 1966

As for the kit, white was the color of LFC’s first away strip and was used almost exclusively until the 1980s, with the exception being a red yoke kit in the early 1900s and vertically striped shirts used from 1911-1921. Yellow was introduced as a third shirt in the 1960s and eventually added to the change strip palette in 1982. After almost a ten year absence the white change shirt reappeared for the 1998/99 season. The kit would be rolled over as a third strip for the following season.

liverpool_1998-1999-change

LFC Change Kit 1998/99 and Third Kit 1999/00

The strip was manufactured by Reebok, who had the contract from 1996 to 2006 and featured a white shirt, black shorts and white socks, pretty much the standard template from the 1930s to the 1980s. The shirt was very clean with red bands edged in black down the sleeves and a white overlapped v-neck collar with black and red trim. The shorts continued the red band and the white socks had a hint of red and black on the turnovers and featured a red Reebok logo on the shin. I also found an all white version in my research which echoed the change strip from 1985/86.

Also of note was the club badge. There are several great sources on the history of the Liverpool badge (Design Football and Ajjam is a Red) and this particular shirt had the badge inside of a large oval. The club returned to more of a shield in following incarnations.

As a Manchester United fan, you may be wondering why I had a shirt from the most hated of rivals. A friend of mine picked it up at TJ Maxx and gave it to me not knowing football history. This was the only Reebok jersey I ever owned, and it was light and breathable. I actually kind of liked it but eventually the shirt was given to Goodwill as to not tarnish my United collection.

Let me know what you think about the shirt. If you’re a Liverpool fan, chime in about memories from those years.

——

Special thanks

——
Read the rest of my Strip Club posts here and follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Liverpool v Manchester United

300x300_11738163

SoccerNomad podcast: Liverpool v Manchester United

I joined supporters of Liverpool and Manchester United to watch the big game at Anfield. After meeting at Fado Midtown, home of the Atlanta Manchester United Supporters Club, we marched into Meehan’s downtown to settle in at the LFC Atlanta bar. A tense and exciting 90 minutes followed with the match ending in a 0-0 draw. I was able to interview several fans from each side and get updates on the each supporter group, memories from previous matches and thoughts on the teams thus far. Thanks to both groups for their time and a great atmosphere.

Find out more about Atlanta Manchester United Supporters Club and LFC Atlanta.

Atlanta Manchester United Supporters Club

LFC Atlanta

  • Website
  • Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat           @LFCAtlanta

——

Thanks for listening! You can also subscribe via iTunes and please leave a rating and review. Follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Invincible: Inside Arsenal’s Unbeaten 2003-2004 Season

invincible

Invincible: Inside Arsenal’s Unbeaten 2003-2004 Season, Amy Lawrence

The unbeaten league season from Arsenal during the 2003/04 season was a truly remarkable achievement by a remarkable group of players, and Amy Lawrence’s book did an amazing job of capturing that season. She utilized two things that help structure and add depth to the book.

One, she put not only that season but Arsenal Football Club into context. The Gunners were a much different organization in the years following the remarkable league championships of 1989 and 1991 and the transition from George Graham’s 1-0 to the Arsenal to Arsene Wenger’s continental, artistic Arsenal is quite the story. Wenger changed the identity of the club and Lawrence highlighted some of the elements of that change. Plus that season was part of a bigger Arsenal story. The Double of 2002 was followed by a disappointing campaign which left the players, staff and fans unsatisfied and the club looked to push on.

Two, Lawrence used an interesting approach to her book. Rather than a strict pattern of each game and result in chronological order, she identified key attributes of the team and explored the development and impact of leadership, culture, and so on. Players and staff were open with their memories and reflections from that time period and these gave real insight into the mood and environment of a team on a mission. The book ends with an extended one and one interview with Wenger and a recap of what happened to the players in the following ten years. The Wenger interview was particularly compelling due to his philosophy toward management and the game.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read due to the quality of the writing, the insight and the appreciation of the Invincible season. Full access to the team and club gave this book a intimacy that would have been severely lacking had it just been a recap of the 2003/04 season. Worth a read whether you’re a Gunner or not.