From Simon & Garfunkel in South London to Rock, Paper, Scissors in Germany

The heartbeat of the Crystal Palace fanbase that is ultras group the Holmesdale Fanatics have been at it again. As if the South-Londonisation (or a word to that effect) of Bob Marley and Little Peggy March wasn’t enough, they’ve now gone back to the 60s and adopted top folk duo Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs Robinson’ for use on the terraces. It’s a memorable little ditty and is surprisingly powerful too. Certain to become a classic anthem at Selhurst Park before doubtless spreading around the rest of the country.

Here’s Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs Robinson’, followed by the Holmesdale Fanatics’ revamped version and altered lyrics. You even get the bonus of some dancing junior Eagles:

So here’s to you,
The Famous Red n Blue,
Selhurst loves you more than you will know,
Woah woah woah.
We’ll fight for you,
The famous Red n Blue,
The Palace boys are with you when you play,
Hey hey hey!
Lalalalalalalala

Coming to a ground near you.

*

Bayern Munich have sensationally hit 20 (twenty) goals in just seven days. Having beaten relegation-troubled Hoffenheim 7-1 seven days ago, they stormed into the Champions League semi-finals hitting another seven against FC Basel, and finished the week with a measly half dozen versus Hertha Berlin. Mario Gomez got 8 of the 20, with Arjen Robben grabbing 7 of them.

Wining by loads was getting a bit too boring for the Bavarians though, as they decided to spice up their game against Hertha Berlin with a quick game of the classic rock, paper, scissors.

Maybe they’ll be getting the Trivial Pursuit out for their next game at Borussia Monchengladblach.

 

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The Four Year Plan: Four Star Viewing

In four years, we will be playing AC Milan in the Champions League’. Was the extraordinary statement made by QPR co-owner Flavio Briatore at the press conference announcing his and fellow co-owner Bernie Ecclestone’s acquirement of the club. Little did he know that in four years, rather than swapping fashion advice with the Milan big-wigs, a film would be released revealing the circus regime he governed over for four years as chief Coco the Clown.

The new behind the scenes fly-on-the-wall documentary covering the previous four turbulent and tempestuous years at QPR, The Four Year Plan is scintillating viewing.  Despite the humour (there are several genuine laugh out loud moments; often provided by the Godfather of the movie, Flavio Briatore), the 96 minutes run-time is a chilling example of just how things can turn out when some egotistical billionaires turn up to buy your club, and try to make it theirs.

The film commences following Flavio Briatore’s, Bernie Ecclestone’s and Lakshmi Mittal’s takeover of the club in the Summer of 2007. It is Briatore and Mittal’s son-in-law, Amit Bhatia who have the lead roles, alongside the chairman Gianni Paladini. There are cameos present from no less than six (seven if you’re counting Flavio) managers, including the suave Portuguese Paolo Sousa and the, well, not so suave Yorkshire-bred Neil Warnock. The film largely follows the aforementioned characters, interspersed with footage from QPR games. The reactions to these games are great viewing, particularly from Briatore. A win, and he is responsible. Anything but that, and the manager is shit, the players are shit, his half-time prawn sandwich is shit and his new Prada shades are shit.

What is evident throughout the film, and goes some way to explaining the turnaround in QPR’s eventual success, is the contrast between Amit Bhatia and Flavio Briatore. Bhatia is a boyhood fan of QPR, as well as being a successful young businessman. This is reflected in his actions throughout, and he comes across well; from bonding with the fans immediately after an away defeat to Birmingham (whilst Briatore is running back to his helicopter, along with throwing spitting his dummy out), to hanging out in the executive bar after the home games with a bottle of beer; he is to the club, and the fans, everything that Briatore isn’t. What is particularly impressive is how he parents the irksome toddler that is Flavio Briatore. The moment where he commands Briatore to either shut up, or go away during a match after Briatore has continuously castigated the entire team, manager, and fans throughout the game is a victorious moment and is great to see, especially when Briatore is stunned into silence. What shines through most with Bhatia though, is the love he has for the club, and it is this love which is integral to him outliving Briatore. To Briatore, QPR is nothing more than an expensive plaything (which he aims to make a ‘boutique’ club). To Bhatia, QPR is to him what it is to the most ardent of Rangers: a club closer to the heart, than the wallet.

There are so many sackings of managers that it becomes a sort of running gag. Paolo Sousa and his assistant being called into Briatore’s office is enough the viewer needs to see to know what his fate will be. Flavio simply doesn’t do ‘little chats’ in his office without uttering Sir Alan Sugar’s favourite two words.

The business meetings are a fascinating insight into the ins and outs of running a football club and the troublesome attempts to balance the books. One suggested solution to cutting costs is to replace the current bouquet of flowers placed in each executive box on match days, to just the one flower. An estimated saving of £120 each home game, leading to £2,760 more at the end of the season to secure that striker that would carry the team to promotion. Yes, really.

However, despite the shocking behind the scenes content, can we really be so surprised at it? It simply tells us what the QPR fans have been shouting from the rooftops for the last four years. Indeed, we do see the fans’ general air of frustration displayed in the film. Fans chanting against Briatore leads to a bad-blooded confrontation between him and a QPR fan following a game. The interaction and relationship that Briatore has, or ever did have, with the fans is a world away from that of Amit Bhatia’s.

Despite this, the fact that Briatore’s name was actually sung from the Loftus Road terraces immediately after the takeover represents the fickle, and at times, naïve nature of football fans. ‘Gi Gi deCanio! Bernie and Flavio!’ was the hymn sung religiously by the R’s fans, as they were revelling in their club’s new found wealth-at an FA Cup game with Chelsea, owned by Russian richman Roman Abramovich the QPR fans had much fun in flashing £20 notes at their Chelsea counterparts. It is true that the Ecclestone-Briatore duo had saved QPR from administration, and for that they should be respected and yes, perhaps lauded on the terraces. But in the days of such football uncertainty, where many a fan wishes upon a star for ‘a rich Arab’ to takeover their club, perhaps this story will be one that serves as a warning for those who do so-it not only can all go wrong, but it probably will.

But The Four Year Plan is not the complete story. The final season may feel like it, where following Briatore’s departure from a hands-on role at the club, the documentary descends from a vital piece of viewing for any football fan to something more representing a piece of club propaganda or a season review DVD, and QPR secure promotion to the Premier League. Happily ever after?

That is what QPR fans must have thought, but promotion to the Premier League only served for the second coming of Mr. Briatore and the very large rise of ticket prices to make Loftus Road one of the most expensive grounds in the country. Fans’ fustrations were further increased when there was a lack of any obvious player investment. This led to Amit Bhatia stepping down from the board, and it felt as though Briatore had not read the script to this sensational Hollywood story.

However, like pretty much all films, there was to be a happy ending. Tony Fernandes represented the light at the end of the tunnel for QPR fans in leading a takeover, and finally Briatore and Ecclestone were driven out of the club. They now have no ownership or involvement of it at all, and Bhatia has been restored to the board. The story is yet over on the pitch, as QPR continue to battle against relegation from the Premier League but what they do have now is a stable ownership and a bright future. Though perhaps what is more important is what they don’t have; namely Flavio Briatore and Gianni Palidini.

The Four Year Plan; unmissable for a QPR supporter; and worth staying up late for on a Sunday night for a football fan. Captivating and enthralling, with enough dark humour to keep it entertaining and not as insipid as a Panorama documentary. Expect your mind to wander for the last half hour, only for the points deduction side-plot to reignite interest. It is flawed in that it is missing the final chapter to the story. But if there is one football documentary to watch this year, it is this.

The Four Year Plan will be broadcast on BBC2, Sunday 4th March at 23:15.

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How Do You Solve A Problem Like Engerland?

With John Terry’s demotion followed by Fabio Capello’s resignation bringing about a premature national team meltdown, it’s high time to both bemoan what has gone before as well as look to the future and subsequent world domination.  I’ve drawn up some ideas which the FA and co. would be wise to follow if their objective is to conquer the world, just like back in glorious ’66. Oh, the golden days…

Sort Out The Gaffer

 Contrary to popular belief, Harry isn’t the man for the job. He may well be a triffic manager. He would get Joe ‘Coley’ Cole back in the team. He would get along fantastically with the media (just don’t call him a ‘wheeler dealer’). No doubt he would even rustle up an English birth certificate for Gary Bale from Kingston Upon Thames with his dodgy contacts. But the potential sight of Jamie Redknapp sat in the Wembley dugout with a nice M&S cashmere sweater is a sight too abhorrent to bear. Literally.

So, who does that leave? Big Sam has ambitions of managing Real Madrid or Inter Milan but I’m sure he’d settle for the England post. His flowing football and natural good looks would put England on a shining pedestal for teams worldwide to follow. That Lionel Messi character could learn a lot from Kevin Davies. And hey, we’d be in for a treat on Twitter. I can see it already: ‘Just off the phone to FA, and you’ll never believe your third bollock, I’ve got the fucking job. Won’t have much time to peel my sweaty ballbag off the leather sofa this Summer.#offtotheeuros #vaselinepacked’.

'Greeny told me the Polish girls will go crazy for my teapot impression.'

No, I can see why he wouldn’t be the best choice. You can’t tweet over 140 characters anyway. But there isn’t really much of a choice when the next best candidate is the currently jobless Mike Bassett, ex-England manager. What a mess his last reign was. Calling players Vauxhall Astras or Aston Martin DB9s depending on their performances; an official World Cup song with Atomic Kitten; and flaming sambuccas. Perfect.

Do What England Do Best

That means blood, sweat, and tears. Some good old-fashioned proper English grit and determination. We don’t need no pretty football from those Brazilians: get the ball from A, to Z, to the back of the onion bag. Get in!

Make The Right Team Selection

There’ve been some selection shockers in the past . Think Walcott in ‘06, Steve Guppy in ’99, think Michael bloody Ricketts in ’02. Hopefully past mistakes won’t be repeated. If we’re real about this winning the World Cup lark, then Robert Green, Kevin Nolan, Freddie Sears, Frank Nouble…and any other West Ham player eligible for England ought to be on the plane to Poland & Ukraine. West Ham won us the World Cup almost half a century ago, and will bring success to the national team once again.

Bassett will have to deal with the issue of international retirement. There’s a few players in the wilderness at the moment that could play a pivotal role in football coming home. Amongst these include the Ginger Ninja, and somewhat bizarrely national footballing luminaries Scott Carson and Luke Young. But the man the new gaffer’s skills of persuasion will really be put to the test with is none other than Emile Heskey. It is true that Aston Villa fans were in despair last month when it emerged that dear Emile was not in fact African, and as such would still be able to feature in much of Villa’s games during the African Cup of Nations. Another cool Heskey fact is that he wears a t-shirt underneath his top every game, ready to unveil when he scores. It reads ‘Free Mandela’.

'I've only gone and missed the toilet again!'

For years, he’s been lauded as the man who got the best out of Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen respectively. ‘No he doesn’t score goals, but what he brings to the team makes him worth his place. Rooney/Owen/Insert young English striking prodigy here wouldn’t score half the goals they do without him.’ Alas, with Rooney’s suspension in the group stages coupled with Owen’s decrepit state and no new faces on the scene, it’s now time for Heskey to get the best out of Jay Bothroyd.

Manage The Pressure

 Too often we’ve seen the slogan ‘England Expects’ plastered all over the country, alongside captions like ‘Hopes Of A Nation’ or my personal favourite, which appeared in The Sun prior to the 2010 World Cup: ‘England. Algeria. Slovenia. Yanks.’

This time around for the Euros, the best (only) appropriate group-themed acronym is ‘France. Ukraine. Sweden. England.’ Hopefully this isn’t related to Wayne Rooney’s fast fuse, or a foreshadowing of the final standings. Alternatively, I could pretend that I work for The Sun and be really clever: France. Ukraine. Cockneys. Kingdom of Sweden.

Really clever. Heh.

The England squad undoubtedly feel the effects of the pressure that is often heaped upon them by both the supporters and the press, often reflected in score-lines and swearing rants at the camera. Who was it that mentioned Roo’s fuse earlier?

What we really need is to approach the major tournaments with about as much confidence as we do the Eurovision Song Contest. At the end of the day, the blokes representing the country on the football pitch are probably just as talented as memorable English Eurovision acts such as Scooch or Andy Abraham.  Remember them? No, didn’t think so.

In fact, let’s go the full Eurovision-monty and get Andrew Lloyd Webber in on the act.

He’ll know how to solve a problem like Engerland.

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The Crystal Palace is Burning Down…Part 3

As you will have read in two previous articles (here and here), way back in August 2011 the Crystal Palace board announced their intention to change the club crest. However following a negative response from the general fan base, the proposed transformation of the club crest took a back-burner. But in mid-January, a vote for the new crest was announced. Two of the crests previously released had been altered (the designers attempting the impossible-polishing a turd), whilst two new crests were introduced. Supporters were asked to submit their top three crests.

What is interesting is that in the press release announcing the forthcoming vote, it was stated that the vote would not be an ultimate one and the choice of the fans would not necessarily be that of which would represent the club going forward. Fair enough, you might say: CPFC2010 are the ones who have put their money into the club, and they are the ones who own it, after all. But it does draw questions which have to be asked of the board, particularly why organise a vote if it is not to produce a meaningful result? It could be argued that it is a pensive move which can accurately canvas the ideas of all fans; but a just as plausible theory is that the board’s choice conflicts with that of the fans, and what the board wants, the board will get; with the smokescreen of a vote appeasing any potential protesters.

Without further ado, here are the refurbished, and in the cases of E and F, newly created designs:

One of two options which haven’t been edited since the last infamous crest launch. As a result it sadly retains its similarity to an infant’s spawn of the Spurs crest. Although compared to the others, it does possess a strong chance of winning.

This is an interesting one, because if chosen will come alongside a brand new club slogan too*: ‘Give me a C! Give me an R! Give me a Y! Give me an S! Give me a T! (you get the picture)…Go! Go! Eagles!’

*Not entirely true.

This option represents the rebirth of the previous option C, which been ripped up, sent to the scrap heap and replaced with a newer, better version. Newer, better? Yes, you heard correctly (just think how shit it must have been beforehand). This crest offers much with its retro feel and the colour scheme is just as scintillating as eagle at the centre is awe-inspiring. I’d make a good second-hand car salesman, wouldn’t I?

Luckily I don’t have to try too hard with this one. It was so perfect already that no change has been deemed necessary; it remains a very ferocious pigeon pecking on half a dartboard.

This crest is an entirely new option, and it is the option which seems to be the large majority of fans’ number one choice. It does have its merits, but the fragile eagle and circular outline mean something is just not quite right about it.

And we finally reach the last of our venerated potential crests. This time we have a rather military-looking eagle lodged upon a Lego building blocks replication of the Crystal Palace. The eagle would be more fitting on a Pokémon card than a football shirt.

*

There we have it. One of the six above will soon be chosen as the new Crystal Palace crest. I’m finding it hard to pick a winner from the six losers above, but it will probably be one of A, B, or E. E seems to be the pick of the fans, with B a favourite in the boardroom. But might the A be a suitable compromise and pip both to the prize?

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Aaron Ramsey: Wanted For Murder

This is the poster that is currently being circulated by law-enforcement agencies across the nation. It comes after Aaron ‘Rambo’ Ramsey’s fourth victim, Whitney Houston was found dead in her Los Angeles hotel room. People are advised not to approach directly approach the subject-although he has weak aerial ability and a dodgy left foot-he is still lethal, and very much at large, as shown on the weekend.

*

No worries, Arsenal fans. The aforementioned poster I can confirm, is not in fact currently being cirulated by law-enforcement agencies across the nation. But suspicions have been aroused following Whitney Houston’s death earlier this morning after this curious sequence of events over the past 6 months:

  • May 1st 2011. Aaron Ramsey scores in the 1-0 victory over Manchester United. The next day, Osama Bin Laden dies, ‘apparently’ being killed by US troops in Pakistan.
  • October 2nd 2011. Aaron Ramsey scores in the 2-1 loss against Tottenham Hotspur. Within 3 days, Steve Jobs dies, seemingly losing a decade-long battle with pancreatic cancer.
  • October 19th 2011. Aaron Ramsey scores in the 1-0 win versus Marseille. Less than 24 hours later, video footage of Muammar Gadaffi being shot and killed by Libyan insurgents emerges.
  • February 11th 2012. Aaron Ramsey scores in the 2-1 win against Sunderland. No less than 3 hours pass before his next victim  another body is discovered, this time it is that of Whitney Houston. Cause of death uncertified.

What do these events tell us? Well, the first thing we can draw from them is that details of what actually caused these well-publicised deaths are sketchy to say the least. We all know how corrupt, I mean, unreliable, new emanating from Pakistan can be, along with the USA’s questionable past concerning similar ‘propaganda’ techniques. Steve Jobs was clearly too great a man to succumb to cancer; I mean this is the man that created the legend that is Wall-E for Christ’s sake.

It also appears that if, as suspected, Aaron Ramsey is indeed the perpetrator of these attacks, then the context in which he scores his fateful goals does have some relevance. Grabbing the only goal of the match knocks out a World’s Most Wanted figure pretty quickly, whilst scoring a goal in a victory for Arsenal will only cause harm to one of the most famous singers of generations. Meanwhile, a consolation goal in a defeat will often take a longer amount of time to get through the world system, with Ramsey’s goal in the loss to Tottenham taking 3 days to have an effect on Steve Jobs.

It is desired that this unremarkable coincidence is just that. The fact that Aaron Ramsey did not score the weekend preceding Kim Jong-Il’s death in December adds hope to this thought. For the meantime, the man that they call ‘Rambo’ is not wanted for murder. But when he next scores, a host of big names are sure to be sleeping uneasily.

N.B. On The Futbol in no way endorses a manhunt for Aaron Ramsey. There is not a £10,000 bounty for his capture.

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On The Futbol is back!

Hey guys.

Hopefully (or not), my hiatus from On The Futbol has not gone unnoticed by yourself. It’s now been over three months since my last published article, and we’ve now got through an entire one twelfth of 2012 without one! So, following the first snowfall of the year (in England-and Algeria-at least), what better time to post the first of many articles in 2012.

There’s lots to look forward to this year. On an international viewpoint, the European Championships in Poland & Ukraine can’t come soon enough, nor can the 2012 London Olympic Games (where there’ll be representation from Team GB for the first time in almost fifty years). In Spain, it looks like the best player and best team in the world won’t be winning their national league as The Special One continues to split the Madridista’s support, whilst the African Cup of Nations will be drawing to a close in a matter of days, with untraditional African heavyweights Mali and the Chipolopolo of Zambia still in with a shout of springing a surprise and upsetting the power balance of African football.

Closer to home, the Npower Championship is looking closer than ever-just 3 points separate 4th placed Birmingham from 10th placed Brighton-and in League One, the two Sheffield teams continue to battle it out for promotion alongside other big teams such as Huddersfield ‘Alan Lee’ Town and Charlton Athletic. Plymouth, despite the financial instability that has rocked the club for much of the last three years, are still battling valiantly against the drop into non-League football, whilst in a similar vein the coastal town of Portsmouth are fighting to stay afloat. In the Premiership, the relegation battle is hotting up. QPR have got some great deals in the January sales, and that tough Glaswegian Steve Kean is still in a job, and is still probably being given complementary chicken meals from the Blackburn owners. Norwich’s and Swansea’s impressive seasons to date have been refreshing to see, flying the flag of the Football League high in the Premier League and showing that you can play ‘Arsenal’ football without being as defensively deficient or self-implosive as the real Arsenal.

The League Cup has almost reached its climax and the final will be competed between Liverpool and Cardiff City on the 26th of February. Half of the clubs in the semi-finals being Football League may serve as a gentle reminder to the spoon-fed masses that a world does indeed exist outside the Premiership, and also go some way to showing that the ‘magic of the cup’, of which it seems has already undergone its own funeral and bidded farewell to the world, still remains. With the top two clubs in the country (and in Manchester) both out of the FA Cup, this year represents a great opportunity for another team to really take advantage of their absence; be that plucky Stevenage, or Martin O’Neill’s rejuvenated Sunderland side.

Of course, there is more to football than just what happens on the pitch. Gary Speed’s and Nigel Doughty’s respective deaths pay credence to this fact, and do remind us that sometimes, just sometimes, there are more important things in life than this sport within which we make our vows and devote so much time towards.

Besides these tragedies, other issues have come to light recently, namely racism and homophobia; issues just as rife in society, but when seen in isolation with such a global sport as football, have a spotlight thrust upon them (and rightly so). In both racial incidents that have occurred in English football recently, not many parties have emerged with any real credit; Suarez’ “Evra’s mates call him it” excuse was just as lame as John “I have a black friend, honest guv’!” Terry, with Liverpool and Fabulously Awfello Capello being incorrigible in their public backing of the two accused.

Finally, 2012 represents the start of a ten-year countdown to the already much maligned Qatar World Cup in 2022. I recently visited the country, and you can look forward to a forthcoming article about the future hosting of the World Cup there in the near future, hopefully including an interview with a senior official from the Qatari World Cup bid.

That’s all for now. Once again, thanks for reading, and a happy belated New Year. You know it’s late when even Chinese New Year’s been and gone and it’s nearer to Pancake Day than New Year’s Day. Mais, c’est la vie.

Hope to see you throughout the year.

James.

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The 72 Unite

www.the72unite.co.uk

We are ‘the 72 unite’, made up of fans from the Football League are angered by, and at a loss to explain, the news today that the proposed legislative changes to the existing academy systems have been voted in favour of.

In the current financial climate with the divide between rich and poor widening on a daily basis, Modern Football continues to be an exaggerated version of the overall global picture. THE RICH CONTINUE TO GET RICHER, WHILE THE POOR SUFFER.

Lower league football is dying, starved by Premier League greed and excess. Attendances are down, and clubs will soon cease to exist, unable to balance the books to survive let-alone compete with the elite.

The lifeblood of Football League clubs are their successful academy systems, some of which have supported and sustained clubs for many years, producing local, homegrown talent representative of the area and fanbase. Today’s ruling cuts this essential lifeblood at the arteries and will signal the death knoll, the final nail in the coffin for the survival of Professional Football outside the Premier League.

In response we are calling for action from EVERY FAN at EVERY MATCH on Saturday 29th October 2011 to UNITE, rise-up and fight for the very existence of their clubs. It’s NOW OR NEVER we must met the Premier League and FA know we will not be trampled on.

EVERY FAN, EVERY GAME – BOYCOTT FIRST FIVE MINUTES TO DRAW ATTENTION TO THIS AND SHOW THE STRENGTH OF OPPOSITION TO PROPOSALS

 

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