Between the Lines

"Of all unimportant subjects, football is the most important" – Pope John Paul II

Archive for March, 2009

But whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away

Posted by hakanrylander on March 24, 2009

In a previous post I claimed that the global recession has, so far, had surprisingly little impact at the top level of English football. Move down a few steps on the ladder, however, and a rather different picture emerges. Lower-league and non-league clubs are increasingly feeling the pinch, and some reports even claim that as many as six clubs in League 1 and League 2 could go into administration within the next few weeks. Stockport County is one of the clubs believed to be on the brink of administration, with large debts to the Inland Revenue.

There are two main reasons why these clubs are more vulnerable to a general economic downturn than Manchester United, Arsenal et al. Firstly, lower-league and non-league football doesn’t appeal to a world-wide audience, making clubs more dependent on revenue in Britain where the downturn is more severe than in most other countries. Secondly, smaller clubs typically do not have the long contracts with sponsors and broadcasters that help soften the blow for the big clubs. According to the chairman of Merthyr Tydfil revenue from sponsorship and other sources has fallen from £9,000 a week to less than £1,000. A drop of about 90 percent!

To make matters worse attendances at matches are decreasing. Among the 18 clubs remaining in League 2 since last season the average attendance has dropped by 7,0 percent this season according to official statistics and Between the Lines calculations. The worst hit are Morecambe (-29,6%), Chester (-25,6) and Darlington (-23,0). Darlington announced its insolvency a few weeks ago, and is believed to be £5m in debt. Only four clubs; Bury, Brentford, Rochdale and Wycombe, have increased their average attendance. This is a negative sign even if it doesn’t necessarily mean that gate receipts have dropped as some clubs might have increased ticket prices. In combination with decreasing sponsorship, falling attendances is a serious problem for those clubs that have built too expensive squads and stadiums.

Financial problems at lower-league and non-league clubs are of course not unheard of, and I couldn’t say for sure that the present situation is much worse than normal. Still, the indications are that the recession is beginning to cause some serious damage among smaller clubs.

Thanks to twohundredpercent.net and footballeconomy.com for enlightening me on this subject.

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Posted in Financial | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Some say thy fault is youth

Posted by hakanrylander on March 22, 2009

Since our defeat against Fulham I’ve read numerous comments from United fans in different forums claiming that the sending-off of Wayne Rooney was an absolute disgrace. This is of course nonsense. Rooney deserved his red card, and his second bookable offence was as clear a yellow card as you’re likely to see.

United were awarded a free-kick that Ryan Giggs took quickly and played the ball to Rooney. But the ref, correctly, ordered the free-kick to be retaken from the right spot. This caused Rooney to see red and he, clearly in anger, hurled the ball in the general direction of the ref. If this was merely an attempt to get the game restarted with a minimum of delay it would have been a better idea to throw the ball towards a team-mate.

So the problem is not with Phil Dowd but with Wayne Rooney. His temper is supposed to be an important part of his game, but in this case it means that he misses the game against Villa that has suddenly taken on a new importance. Sir Alex probably sees quite a lot of himself in Rooney, I’m not sure whether this gives him the necessary insight or just means that he doesn’t see the problem.

Finally, a bit of credit to Fulham who totally dominated United in the first half, even before Scholes’ red card.

Posted in Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Such stuff as dreams are made on

Posted by hakanrylander on March 20, 2009

Quarter-finals:

  • A. Villareal – Arsenal
  • B. Manchester United – Porto
  • C. Liverpool – Chelsea
  • D. Barcelona – Bayern Munich

Semi-finals:

  • Winner of game A – Winner of game B
  • Winner of game C – Winner of game D

This draw is perfect.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The game is on again

Posted by hakanrylander on March 19, 2009

The draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League takes place tomorrow. Most United-fans will hope that we’re drawn against either Porto or Villareal who appear to be the weakest sides, even though the prospect of another couple of scoreless draws against Villareal isn’t too exciting. This is how I rank our seven potential opponents, starting with the one I would most prefer to meet in the quarter-final:

  1. Porto
  2. Villareal
  3. Arsenal
  4. Bayern
  5. Chelsea
  6. Liverpool
  7. Barcelona

Posted in Previews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Hints on good taste in gardening

Posted by hakanrylander on March 19, 2009

Gary Neville appears to be breaking new ground in inventive gardening. Not all in the best taste, I’m afraid.

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Time to grow up, Sir Alex!

Posted by hakanrylander on March 17, 2009

Make no mistake about it, Sir Alex Ferguson is a great manager. But at times I would really appreciate it if he could be a little more graceful in defeat. We were well and truly beaten by Liverpool but Ferguson chose to blame Sky for unfair scheduling and refused to talk to reporters from Sky Sports.

Kevin Eason of The Times puts it like this: “Sir Alex Ferguson’s answer to trouble appears similar to the average 13-year-old girl who has been given a rollicking by her parents. He runs to his room, slams the door behind him and refuses to speak a word.”

Spot on.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Professor reveals the perfect spot-kick

Posted by hakanrylander on March 13, 2009

With the aid of high definition cameras behind the goals Professor Tim Cable at Liverpool John Moores University has studied all penalties in the CL last season and the PL this season to pinpoint the perfect technique for taking winning spot-kicks.

His findings are, well, less than sensational. To ensure a 100% scoring rate you need to follow these guidelines:

-The ball needs to cross the goal line at exactly 0,5m below the crossbar and 0,5m inside the post.

-The ball needs to be kicked at a speed greater than 65mph.

-This requires a run-up of 5/6 steps.

-The striker needs to commence his run-up from the edge of the 18-yard line with an angle of approach of 20-30 degrees to the ball.

If I understand this correctly, the professor has found that you’re likely to score if you hit the ball hard into the top corner. Which makes sense, I suppose. But I don’t comprehend why he needed high definition cameras to find this out.

But professor Cable certainly has some sound advice for penalty takers looking to improve: practice.

Posted in Academic | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

United 2 – Inter 0: O ye of little faith

Posted by hakanrylander on March 12, 2009

The headline is firmly directed at yours truly. As you know I was very nervous ahead of this game, but it took less than four minutes for Nemanja Vidic to make me wonder what the * I was worrying about. For the remaining 86 minutes I enjoyed another very solid European performance from United. A special mention to Wayne Rooney for his wonderful double act of skilful creator and tenacious destroyer.

We now enter the part of the season when the big games come thick and fast. Next is what promises to be a cracking (sorry, Rafa) tie against Liverpool at Old Trafford on Saturday.

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United – Inter: What’s past is prologue

Posted by hakanrylander on March 9, 2009

Over the last few months United have put themselves in a great position. The World Club Championship and the Carling Cup are in the bag,  Chelsea and Liverpool are seven points and a game in hand adrift in the PL and Everton await in the semi-final of the FA-cup.  The quintuple is within sight, if not reach. And still I’m nervous!

For all the success so far it feels as though Wednesday’s game against Inter could somehow make or break the season. It would be a bitter disappointment to get knocked out of the CL at this stage. But in a one-off game anything could happen, and what’s already occured this season merely sets the scene for the really important stuff. What’s past is prologue.

I have to admit that I don’t particularly fancy facing Mourinho and Ibrahimovic at this stage. Ibrahimovic was less than impressive in the first leg, but certainly has the quality to make that all-important away-goal out of nothing. And no other manager has anything near Mourinho’s record against Sir Alex.

The team and substitutions against Fulham at the weekend, when Giggs, Ronaldo and Berbatov were rested, gave some strong indications as to the starting line-up against Inter. Provided that Rio is fit my choice would be: Van der Sar; O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo, Carrick, Giggs, Park; Rooney, Berbatov.

Posted in Previews | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Four penalties and a breakthrough

Posted by hakanrylander on March 2, 2009

The Carling Cup is perhaps not the most prestigious trophy in world football, but it was still a very satisfying win if not a great performance. In the end the game was won by United’s coolness in the penalty shoot-out, and the decisive factor was experience of high-pressure situations. All four United players who took the penalties (Giggs, Tevez, Ronaldo and Anderson) faced the same task in Moscow nine months ago. Yesterday must have felt like a Sunday League shoot-out by comparison.

Two players stood out. Ben Foster delivered a breakthrough performance that won him the Man-of-the-match award in front of Fabio Capello. If he (Foster, that is) can stay clear of injuries, and get a few more games for United, it surely won’t be long before he plays for England again. After all, the competition for places isn’t terrifying. My personal MotM-award goes to Rio Ferdinand.

I applaud Fergson’s decision to play some of the youngsters and fringe players in this final, but it was obvious that both Welbeck and Gibson were out of their depths. More worrying was the slack defending that allowed Aaron Lennon lots of space that he used to good effect. The main culprit was Nani. There is no way that Lennon would have been able to shine so brightly if Park Ji-Sung had played in left midfield as he would have provided a lot more support for Evra.

Meanwhile in the PL, Liverpool, Villa and Arsenal all dropped points. Not a bad weekend, really.

Posted in Match Reports | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »