A splendid international Friday Mailbox. Let’s maintain that standard for this afternoon, shall we? So send your missives to firstname.lastname@example.org
Strangest places you’ve played football
Okay, to pass the teeth-grinding boredom of the international break, let’s hear some stories about strangest place you have ever played (or watched) a soccer game.
I’ll start you off with a challenge to beat this: I went to US federal prison and scored.
It was during my NASL career in the early 1990s – that’s the “North Alabama Soccer League,” just so we are clear.
“NASL” was an amateur league with teams from across Alabama, including Birmingham, Anniston, (location of USA’s entire WMD sarin nerve gas repository at the time), Huntsville, (home of Von Braun and the Saturn 5)….and Talladega AL, mostly known as the cathedral of NASCAR racing…but which is also home to Talladega Federal Penitentiary.
Well, the Talladega Federal Prison fielded a prisoner’s side in our league. Unsurprisingly, there were never home-and-away ties, what with the “special contracts” the inmates were on.
So Spring of 1991, on a Sunday morning, our 11s side, Vestavia Sports, hopped into a few cars and made the short, hungover trip from Birmingham to ‘Dega’s Big House. We arrived at the prison, went through metal detectors, multiple check points, and fielded questions from wary security personnel – probably less hassle overall than one might endure going to the average Millwall fixture…
Most of our players had played university level or maybe a bit of semi-pro ball, but the prison team were no slouches either. Among their talent were South American drug dealers, an IRA gun-runner (nice fella), and a massive African, ex-pro center forward from the original Orlando Lions.
When we got onto the pitch, immediately a cadre of “away support” inmates were cheering for us – that was cool. The game played in a positive spirit, cleanly, and second half with the score level at 1-1, a ball found my feet at the top of the box and I dinked in the game winner.
Going to federal prison and scoring – all without shower and soap – that’s my story. What’s your weirdest game experience as a player or spectator?
(Oh, and for a bonus, during the match, a very nice $100 football from our team’s kit ended up in the barbed wire fencing surrounding the prison pitch. We asked how we could retrieve it. A kindly guard smiled, pointed to towers manned with sharpshooters, and said, “unless you want to be shot, you’ll have to get an act of Congress to get that ball.” If you know anything about the US Congress…well, that was 1991, and we’re still waiting to get our ball back.)
Russell, Birmingham, AL [handcuffs, not brackets]
Top four defence, bottom three attack
Friday’s ‘work’ challenge: What level is each part of your team?
GK – Relegation form (and that’s kind)
DF – Top 6 and maybe top 4 with Van Dijk on form
MF – Top 6 defensively (Romeu is a beast) but mid table obscurity otherwise, apparently they produce chances but no-one scores them…
FW – Relegation form ( can’t get goals for love nor money and throwing Shane Long on is never the answer)
Overall then it’s a pretty dysfunctional team, though with some easy to fix problems. If only we had been like this last year and the board had a whole transfer window to resolve it. Oh wait…
Tom Saints (I miss Graziano Pellè and goals like this)
A note of caution
Peter, Andalucia, makes quite an interesting point around having players who have tasted international success in the squad potentially alleviating the “England-ness” of the senior squad come crunch time at a major tournament. I don’t disagree that success breeds success (although recently Argentina have been pretty successful at youth level and seem to contrive to lose senior finals at every opportunity); however, my slight contention is that the players mentioned in the mail were hardly serial losers being picked from perennially losing teams. Beckham and Scholes are two of the most successful footballers of all time, Owen won the Ballon Dor, Gerrard carried the weight of Liverpool for 20 years winning an unlikely Champions League and Lampard is the most prolific midfielder in the history of the world (or something).
These players weren’t crumbling at major tournaments because they didn’t know how to win under pressure. I actually think that generation were quite unlucky in most of their tournament exits, which were usually against teams that would go on to do well. The main problem was that the expectation was so high that even a loss to the eventual finalists was deemed as a serious failure, exacerbated by a media frothing at the mouth to apportion blame for said failure.
Some of the more recent teams have been a combination of poorly managed and less talented. I haven’t seen any of the youth teams, but I’d hazard a guess if they were more talented than previous generations they’d be playing first team football at club level already. And if Southgate is your answer to improving the management team then I think you’re doomed to a perpetuity of averageness.
But hey, at least Malky f***ing Mackay isn’t your new gaffer.
Alex, (De Bruyne best player in the league just now. The horse is rubbish though.) Ayr
I wholeheartedly agree with Z that this revisionist rhetoric on Brendan Rodgers is ludicrous. I guess it isn’t that surprising in a week that has seen Moyes given his 4th Premier League club to manage despite never actually being successful at any of his prior 3, that the question would be asked about other such failures being recalled to the big time. Any sensible chairman should look past him in my opinion for the following reasons:
Firstly, Rodgers looking good at the moment is a symptom of Scottish football not his genius. He manages a Premier team in League 1. Admittedly he does this job successfully and you can only beat what’s in front of you but it isn’t a measure of his ability outright.
Secondly, in his most successful season he had the quartet of Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling and Gerrard playing at a good level. In the case of Suarez, one of the world greats at arguably his peak. Look at the amount of goals and assists he did in that period and he didn’t even play for the whole season. Any manger would have done pretty well with these and as Z mentions, a less arrogant manager might have got the 7 points needed in that season and not gone all out against Chelsea.
Thirdly, he spent £291m in his time at the helm. This included bringing Benteke to the team despite stating he didnt believe in physical styles of football, buying Balotelli believing he could change him, buying Markovic for £20m, buying Lovren having not played Agger, buying Mignolet and pushing out Reina… I could go on.
Fourth, in his last season he increasingly appeared to have no tactical idea whatsoever. Playing Benteke with no wingers, playing Can and Sterling as right backs, playing possession football with no cutting edge, oh and of course, letting in tons of goals with that defence.
Of course some of these things haven’t changed and Klopp hasn’t fixed some of these things but then again he hasn’t spent £291m has he? I certainly know who I would want in charge of a club and it isn’t Rodgers.
Get off Jose’s back
Matt Stead said this in a piece he wrote yesterday, “The latest reports claim he [Jose] will have to endure the ignominy of selling players before he adds to a squad he has already spent over £290million assembling.” He then went on a rant explaining how ManUtd under Jose are exceedingly poor than Pep’s City.
Its very easy for people to quote the amount of money that Jose has used to build this United side. But the fact is the money does not narrate the entire story. Its quite ludicrous, unfair, unfaithful and deceptive to compare apples to oranges.
City have spent more than United, £400.4 million compare that to United’s 290 million. Everyone seems to have amnesia about this.
City has brought in 17 new players, that’s a team plus 2 sets of substitutes and one to spare. Compare that to United’s 7 and keep in mind that 2 of those signings are suffering longterm injuries. This too is forgotten and not talked about.
If we have to use money to determine rank in the premier league, then I think City and United are in the positions they should be in right now. If we have to use the number of players that a Club has bought, City and United are in the positions they should be.
What am asking is simple. Stop being D*cks and give Jose and United some space to breathe, it’s not too much to ask is it?
Elvince Ager, Nairobi.
Gregory Whitehead LFC in one email has managed to sum up why so many people have a distaste for Liverpool fans. Yes Roy didn’t have the best of times at Liverpool these things happen. But actually just how unaware is Gregory of other clubs?
Hodgson is loved and respected by Baggies fans. He turned us into a solid top flight club something that Champions League winning Manager Roberto Di Metteo couldn’t do. Nor could club legend Bryan Robson or the champagne football of Tony Mowbray. Compared to the Pulis tactics Roy’s had a little more flair though were still pragmatic. So actually Gregory, Roy Hodgson is one of the most popular managers in English football at the Hawthorns. I also believe he is much loved at Fulham.
As for his time with England the players were and still are such a shower I don’t think it even really counts.
The vitriol shown by Liverpool fans towards a talented and real gentleman of the game is a stain on the reputation of the club.
Ben The Baggie
Have the people moaning about Joe Hart being in goal not watched his performance for West Ham against Crystal Palace? He made 4 or 5 very very good saves and was the reason that West Ham didn’t get beaten convincingly. Contrast that with the Leicester goal that went straight through Jack Butland and the performances of Jordan Pickford and it doesn’t leave you with much option.
I appreciate he comes across as a bit of a chest beating tool sometimes…
In response to Neil (I’m aware Rose was injured, but Southgate started the, ‘he needs to have played to be picked’ rhetoric…) Over here – Not sure where you got your figures from Neil but a quick perusal of the Premier League website shows the minutes played in the League (not League Cup or Europe) for each of the players you mention;
Jack Wilshere – 25
Danny Rose – 89
Jake Livermore – 792
Jack Cork – 990
Ruben Loftus Cheek – 541
Joe Gomez – 721
Therein lies the answer. Plus Wilshere is hugely overrated, one good game as a teenager and everyone still raves about it. Did you actually watch him for Bournemouth last season?
Mark Jones, LFC, Liverpool
Changing the rules
I’d be very much against the rule from Simeon (WeAreTottenhamTv) Daniel that says 0-0 deserves no points. While we all want entertaining football it shouldn’t be at the expense of the integrity of the game. Playing for a draw is perfectly acceptable for the smaller teams. You can’t tell me that if Burnley go away to city and keep a clean sheet, they deserve nothing. This would only favour the big teams as smaller sides would be forced to attack, at their peril. If teams like Burnley, Palace, Man United or Swansea want to try and shut up shop away from home, that’s their right. It’s up to the bigger teams to break them down.
Mike, LFC, Dubai
…8 conclusions regarding the email from Simeone Daniel:
– At it’s core, almost all football is attack v defence. This is not a peculiarity of the EPL, nor is it recent, despite both assertions being made early in the mail.
– Simeone suggests defence is a by-product of attack. Interesting but flawed as I’d say neither is a by-product, but if pushed to choose it’s closer to being the other way around. Build from the back, firstly don’t be exposed to concede and then from that base formulate a plan to attack.
– Not scoring is not a failure at all. Perhaps in the case of two highly talented, well matched teams a 0-0 might be a disappointing result, but it’s not necessarily a failure. The author seems to want a binary win/lose world where the nuance of the continuum of success is a big part of the beauty. There are 4-0 wins that could be argued as less successful than a 1-0, there are draws that are greater achievements than wins, and some losses, while accumulating no points, can give a team momentum or belief. Win/Draw/Lose doesn’t really cover it, so how could Win/Lose do it?
– Not scoring and not being scored against when you’re playing a side way beyond your level is a huge success. Amazing logic to see it any other way.
– Or are you saying only 0-0 gets 0 points? So a score draw gets each team a point? That’s going to result in some extreme bus-parking when one team really doesn’t need a point and the other team absolutely does. Surely this will bring even more of your dreaded attack v defence matches, especially late in the season when I’m guessing you’re wanting even more attacking, more cheerleaders and more fireworks.
– Simeone gives us a masterclass in wrong when he writes ‘0-0 is literally like a loss’. It is literally like a draw.
– Grinding out a 0-0 suggests these games of lesser value in some way. If you want free scoring, choose another sport to watch. A 0-0 can be the epitome of the sport as both sides can’t quite outwit or outplay the other.
– The ‘barrage’ of games with teams looking for 0-0 has only eventuated 9 times in 107 games this season. That must be an intensely annoying 8.4% of matches to inspire the mail.
All the best.
Dr Oyvind, Earth.
…In response to Simeon (WeAreTottenhamTv) Daniel’s email, while I don’t think it’s a good idea to award zero points for a 0-0, could I suggest an alternative? Eggchasing gives a bonus point if a team manages to score four tries in a game. Why not emulate this and award a bonus point in football for every three goals scored by a single team, in addition to what you would normally receive for a win/draw/loss.
So if you draw 3-3, each team gets two points. If you lose 4-3, you get one point. Win 3-0, you get four points.
Essentially reward goals. While you would see the occasional excellent game which is very low scoring, in general more goals = more entertainment. Awarding points for more goals seems logical, and it has worked in other sports. So it’ll never happen, right?
…In reply to Simeon (WeAreTottenhamTV ) Daniel with his suggestion that a 0-0 should be treated as a loss, I disagree. It’s a change in the format of the game so would never happen.
However in lieu of doing my actual job, I’ve been thinking up alternative ideas:
Draw third or quarter of the pitch lines. No offsides if the ball is played from beyond that line. That means that teams sitting on the edge of their own box have a lot more to worry about, making defending much harder, but doesn’t particularly encourage lumping it up front as using the half way line for this would.
Chance of that happening:
-1/10. It’s a rule change to the game rather than the league so would presumably require the IFAB to agree to it.
Four points for a win. This has form, as pre-1981, teams used to get two points for a win. The extra point made draws less beneficial. This apparently worked, would increasing the tally to four for a win work even better, or would we face the law of diminishing returns?
If also adopted in the Champions league it would remove the mantra of win at home, draw away. More money for UEFA as games potentially become more exciting.
Chance of that happening:
0/10. It’s a change the PL can presumably make unilaterally, but it has the downside of changing something. Bottom of the table teams would vote against as it would reduce the effective number of points they are likely to extract from non-relegation-candidates.
Chance of that happening:
11/10. It’s football, isn’t it Jeff. We don’t like change.
Matt (Spinal Tap fan and pessimistic United fan who wants the rules to force Jose to attack, because nothing else has worked)
Speedos at City
The Jacksonville Jaguars have got a couple of mini swimming pools high up in the stands where you can watch the action in your trunks whilst splashing around in warm water drinking a cold beer possibly with some bikini clad lovelies. Granted, Florida’s climate is more suitable for this than Manchester or London but I think Spurs and City have chosen the wrong “ultimate match viewing experience” in going with this Tunnel Club thing at the Etihad and White Hart Lane 2.0.
Imagine turning up to the Etihad on a balmy spring evening in May for a Champions league semi final with your swimming trunks and not much else. Or for a 4th round (insert whatever name of drink is sponsoring it now) cup against Sunderland on a chilly October night.
Surely more fun than sitting in a corporate box with a load of suits eating prawn sandwiches whilst listening to a sales pitch by your host.
Pining for Rafa
I like Jurgen Klopp. He seems really nice. And very suited to the club. But no matter what I do I can’t help but pine for the days of Rafa. I know it ended badly and there were exterior forces at work, but I only remember the good times. Anyway, Rafa left, and along with him went the great hope of the club. It hasn’t been the same since. Sure, we had the brief flirtation with Brendan Rodgers, but as most people figured the title challenging form was too good to last. No, Brendan seems like a mere distraction in the grand scheme of things. And now we have Klopp. He seems so right for the club but there’s still that part of me that’s not sure. I keep thinking back to the days of Rafa, regular Champion’s League semi-finals, trophies, a solid defence, and even though it ended so badly, I want it to happen again.
This is all a metaphor obviously. In reality my wife left me years ago, took the kids, I had a rebound which seemed nice for a bit, eventually met a new person who seems perfect for me, but I still find myself thinking of Rafa. I mean Alice. Even though I know she was bad for Liverpool. I mean me.
Which footballer are you?
I’m guessing that most of F365’s readers have at some point imagined themselves as a professional footballer. So in your imagination, what kind of footballer are you? A traditional centre-forward? An elegant fullback? A hard man in the middle of the park? And what real-life footballer would you most resemble?
In my dreams I’m a small, agile, technically adept defensive midfielder, who commits few fouls and gets only a couple of yellow cards per year. A precise tackler, but someone who does the job mostly through reading the game. A reliable short passer, can occasionally send one over the top. Scores a goal every five years or so. Not a star, but a decent player for a team that wants to be midtable. As close as one can get to a one-club man.
So basically, I’m Leon Britton. Who are you?
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA