It’s not all bad is it? When its good in football there has to be bad?

When it comes to the England national team of recent, there has been much justifiable criticism of the squad. Believe it or not though England are top of their European Championship Qualifying group. Whilst they may have maximum points, it would seem many of their performances would make watching paint dry as a more popular alternative. England under Roy Hodgson is a tiresome affair, but to be fair the question is “Are things really that bad?” Would we rather see England play dynamic entertaining football and make a Steve McLaren era pigs ear of it all, or would we rather see results ground out and qualification claimed and a trip to the competition finals. Ultimately in a dream world, we ould like to see both but of course we know that isn’t going to happen anytime soon especially with Roy Hodgson in charge.

Some people might say that England should be top and unbeaten, given the other nations in the group. If that were the case, Portugal would not have lost at home to Albania, Poland would not have scored a 2-0 win over Germany, Spain would not have lost to Slovakia, Iceland would not have beaten the Netherlands and Liechtenstein and the Faroe Isles would not have scored victories. This is the thing England may not be steamrolling the opposition in every game, but that is not how it works. It is though England and as England fans, we expect the team to deliver.

Of course it’s not just the international scene that sees disappointment and under achievement. Club level is very much the same. Unless you are a Chelsea or a Southampton fan, the season has probably not been so brilliant. If you are an Arsenal, Man United or Liverpool fan, you are probably thinking that the season really needs to start otherwise its a long haul to May. Saying that though, yet again the words Manchester City and manager sack threat are being aired in the media. The defending Premier League champions may not be firing on all cylinders just yet, but they could be doing far worse than they are. For Man United it was the great new era and the Mighty Reds were meant to be all-conquering under the management of Louis Van Gaal. After a mass spend of £150 million, they have yet to set the world a light. It is true that they have suffered a number of injuries, but it seems a far cry from when United could just replace like for like and it would be business as usual.

Liverpool’s post Suarez and summer spending season seems to have gone not quite according to plan. After last seasons better than expected finish, things looked promising but as some players try to gel, Daniel Sturridge is being hit with injury after injury in what looks like keeping him out till the new year. After the slow and disappointing start, there has been talk from some fans of wanting Rodgers out. Even the Press have printed stories linking with the return of Rafa Benitez to Anfield, purely on what seems because he wants to be closer to his family who still remain in Liverpool. The current owners dont appear to those that will make knee jerk decisions just like that. I guess it must be a relief to many that chairman and club owners were not as ruthless back in the 80’s as they are now, otherwise Sir Alex Ferguson may never have led United to the success he did as well as receiving the knighthood.

Then of course you have Arsenal, they surprised everyone by buying early in the summer. It seemed that the Gunners might be one of the front runners in the title challenge but their season has started slowly and some what disappointingly. We have though become used to Arsenal’s slow starts to the season, but I think that this season will not be the same as previous.

Whatever happens this season, in the words of Jimmy Greaves “It’s a funny old game”.

The FA Cup: Where dreams can come true.

So the FA Cup first round kicked off again on Friday 7th November and what a way to kick off with a cup upset. Warrington Town of the Northern Premier League played host to League Two Exeter City. Whilst many might have dreamed before kick off of a place in round two, the huge gap between them and the visitors could only mean one thing for the part timers. Of course though the FA Cup is all about living the dream. There would be many a time when down the park we’d play out our own versions of the FA Cup dreaming that one day we’d walk those famous steps to lift the trophy. It would remain a dream, but a dream never dies.

It was a solitary goal after seven minutes from Craig Robinson, whose day job is a plasterer. Exeter threw all they could at the minnows, but they just couldn’t break the hosts down. The League Two side even had a shot cleared off the line as they searched for a goal to at least take the game to a replay, but it wasnt to be and a famous upset was complete.

Warrington Town would certainly not be the only club looking to upset the odds, it would seem that many clubs would be hoping for a home tie against some of the remaining lower league sides in round two.

Kent side Dover Athletic who had been recently struggling in the Conference, faced visitors in the form of League Two side Morecambe who are tenth in their league. On paper it should have been an away win the north-west club in the bag for the second round draw. Of course we all know that football isnt played on paper and usual rules of results, don’t always go the way they should. Like in the Warrington game it was a solitary goal that came between the two sides, albeit this time just before the end of the first half. Dover now make their third appearance in five years in the second round.

Chester were not ones to miss out on the fun either. The Conference side travelled to Southend United. The team that featured John Rooney, the younger brother of Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, were certainly not frightened to go forward and attack. The North West side went a goal up after five minutes,  but this time it would not be the only goal. Southend levelled later on in the first half with a penalty. The visitors wanted more and although they would only manage nine shots on goal, five of those would be on target and a second one would hit the back of the net. Had it not been for some efforts cleared off the line, it could have been much worse for the home side. The end result would be a 2-1 win for the conference side.

As if the Saturday shocks were not enough, there were more on the Sunday. Northern Premier League side Blyth Spartans knocked out Conference side Altrincham with a thumping 4-1 win. An early goal seemed to be the key once more and having gone 2-0 up after an hour and the slim hopes that the visitors had following a 72nd minute goal, were soon to be dashe as Blyth netted two more in the last 6 minutes of the game.

Not to be outdone on the Cup upset stage, were Worcester City, Having knocked out Liverpool in the third round of the 1958-59 FA Cup, they would be adding yet another scalp. This time in the form of Coventry City, who themselves had been famously knocked out by Sutton United years back. The home side it seemed, were in no mood to help themselves and in the first half saw them down to ten men. The City goalkeeper Lee Burge, was sent packing after an incident with a Worcester striker. Coventry City, who won the Cup in 1987, will be hoping their season can turn around as they are three points off the relegation zone.

Non league Aldershot Town will go to a replay after almost scoring a victory at Portsmouth. The visitors who were not afraid to go forward, had a total of seventeen shots on goal. Maybe a bit more luck and they may have not needed a replay. Aldershot will no doubt be looking to cause a Cup upset on home soil against another former FA Cup winner.

Kent’s county town club Maidstone United will see an FA Cup first after they drew 0-0 away to league two Stevenage. The Replay at Maidstone will take place on a 3G pitch. United will look to try and get some advantage from that. With the Football League voting against it, the FA Cup will be the only place you will get to see a 3G pitch this season.

When we see some of the Premier League sides put out weaker sides in the FA Cup, some people say has the cup lost its charm? Well Im sure that the players of Warrington, Blyth Spartans and the other cup giantkillers will all have something to say about that.