Match of The Doy – The 100th post

Well here we are, the 100th post in the blog that is known as Match of The Doy. It started three years ago though as Strictly 442, playing on the popular tv show and the old school formation. The name change in fact came via a couple of work colleagues. I’d have liked to have reached 100 posts sooner, but external issues such as my depression often got in the way of my writing.

The game of football is something that I have always enjoyed and knowing that I’d never get to be a footballer or a journalist, blogging would be the best alternative. I could write about what I wanted regarding the game however long or however short and at my own pace. I haven’t though written every post in the blog. I have been fortunate to have guest bloggers in the form of Dan Raywood on a number of occasions and Victoria Sharkey on a lesser note. Dan has more often shared his thoughts on Spurs related stuff together with the post reflecting on matters elsewhere.

Not only guest posts, but I have had the pleasure to have some Q&A posts with the Portsmouth CEO Mark Catlin, thanks to Liam Earley and Gay Gooners and Pride In Football’s Joe White. This came through another good friend and the previously mentioned Victoria Sharkey. The idea of the Q&A session posts were to find out more about the off the pitch stuff that happens in the game. I look forward to adding more as and when I can.

This season has seen me take on the predictions game for the Premier League. It has to say the least been an interesting path. Not so many accurate scores as I would have liked but the end results have often been chalked up more. Given that Watford and Burnley have been giving as good as they have got, they are hot on the heels on a top ten spot.

This year I had the idea of the Flashback 40 which was to share posts relating to my growing up over the years. It hasn’t always gone to plan, but you should look out for the France 98 retro review. This was one of my favourite World Cups and I have made slow progress but almost completed the group stage review. I thought it would be a good idea to look at each group….I do like giving myself a challenge. Thankfully though it will be completed for this year especially as I will be finishing work on the 14th December for the year, so no excuses.

So what does Match of The Doy look like for the next 100 posts? Well more of what you have seen already and other stuff, more from Dan Raywood and hopefully other guest bloggers joining the fray. Whatever happens though, it will be fun and interesting, so thanks for reading and keep on following.

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Week 5 – Premier Predictions

Having  predicted one perfect result and six results last week, it seems things could be on the way up prediction wise, if only my fantasy football team in my own league was as effective, but anyhow, we head to a fifth week. Yes its week five of Premier League fixtures and my birthday in 18 days god forbid.

Anyway enough waffling and lets get to the subject.

  1. Bournemouth 2-1 Brighton.          Cherries net their first win of campaign
  2. Crystal Palace 0-2 Southampton. New boss  but Saints take points
  3. Huddersfield  1-1 Leicester.          Honours even as Huddersfield bounce back
  4. Liverpool        3-0 Burnley.             Liverpool return to winning ways
  5. Newcastle Utd  1-1 Stoke City        Toon held at home as Stoke draw again
  6. Watford           1-2 Man City           First defeat for Hornets as City edge win
  7. West Brom      2-0 West Ham         Woes for the Hammers as WBA roll on
  8. Tottenham      2-0 Swansea            Spurs follow CL win with PL Wembley win
  9. Chelsea            2-0 Arsenal              Arsenal take a point at the Bridge.
  10. Man Utd          3-0 Everton              Back to back defeats for Blues as Utd stroll

Two into one – Chase for the Champions League

With both Arsenal and Manchester City both winning their games in hand, the chase for the final two Champions League spots looks like going from three into two to two into one. As it currently stands, Manchester City have all but  sealed their Champions League in third with on 78 points and a goal difference of plus 36, fourth place sees Liverpool on 73 and plus 33 together with Arsenal on 72 points and plus 31 goal difference.

After a roller coaster season for the three sides, City look odds on to finish third. Only Liverpool can overtake the Manchester club should City lose to away to Watford. Say a 1-0 defeat for Man City and a Liverpool win of 3-0 and its City drop down into fourth. It wouldn’t matter on the Arsenal result unless the Gunners give the home fans some joy and spank the toffees 4-0, which would then Arsenal would go into the Champions League and Man City finish fifth. How interesting would that be to see.

Realistically Manchester City should finish the game Sunday knowing that they can put their feet up with regards to Champions League football. The only thing they need to worry about is if they say for example 4-4 and Liverpool win 4-1. In these set of circumstances you would see a playoff match at a neutral ground.  The likelihood of that though is very slim. I imagine though should that happen, come Sunday evening there would be a large number of nervous Liverpool and City fans.

For Liverpool, it is Champions League playoff if they win. Should they draw or lose to Middlesbrough, not only will it be typical of the season, but all eyes will be on the Emirates hoping that their neighbours Everton can do them a favour. Should Liverpool lose and Arsenal draw, then that is when it becomes interesting. Should Liverpool lose 2-1 and Arsenal win 2-1 then both teams would have a record of 76-44 and plus 32. Under the Premier League rules, this would require a play off to distinguish who would finish in 4th and 5th place. Im sure neither team would want to go through a play off given their post season activities. As a Liverpool fan like others, I doubt there will be much hunger for 90 minutes at a neutral ground. I guess the same for Arsenal fans.

Not since 1989 when Arsenal won at Anfield to take the title, have either Liverpool or Arsenal gone to the wire in deciding league placings. Personally I dont want to relive that moment any time soon.

The not so beautiful game – The treatment of Sulley Muntari

Yet again football in Italy has failed to properly deal with the racism issue. This time Pescara midfield Sulley Muntari was the victim in a Serie A game between his club Pescara and Cagliari. Having received abuse, the Ghanian and former Portsmouth player went over to the fans who he had identified as those ones shouting racist chants. Having confronted the racists, I chose not to call them fans as decent football supporters don’t result to such levels, Muntari spoke to the referee. Thinking that the referee would deal with the matter, he was surprised to be on the receiving end of a yellow card. What was he given the yellow card for? dissent. I mean come on, if a player gets punished for reporting racism to a match official, then we are in trouble. Naturally the player walked off the pitch letting the game carry on.

It is appalling but yet not surprising to see the Italian FA failing to deal with the racism problem once more. We have seen time and time again that the racism problem raises its dirty head once more. Another example of failure to deal with racism is the treatment of Mario Ballotelli. The football enigma has been often a victim to the disgusting racism with the n word and monkey taunts. On one occasion was seen to be crying whilst on the bench having been on the receiving end of abuse. The response by his manager, Clarence Seerdorf and his players? Nothing to do with racism, but his passion for the game causing him to get upset.

What it needs is for a ban of some sort by either UEFA or FIFA on the Italian Football Association to make them realise that they need to take things more seriously. Handing out fines will simply not do.

Chase for The Championship – Down to the wire?

With Brighton winning away in London on the Friday and Newcastle United losing on the Saturday, it saw the two teams swap places as they aim for glory. It was the seagulls third win in six days and looks enough to keep them in the automatic promotion spots, but as we have seen, nothing is quite guaranteed. For Friday’s game it looked like it could fizzle out in to a draw that would have quite suited their rivals Newcastle.

Glenn Murray had bagged his 21st of the season and his goals going on in the final few games will prove crucial to the South Coast outfit’s promotion chances. Chances were few and far between either of the clubs (eight out of twenty eight combined) but sometimes you just need to convert the ones you take and two out of three for Brighton was enough.

For Newcastle United, their day was the opposite. They were up against it playing Sheffield Wednesday who themselves aiming for a play off spot. It didn’t get any better after 29 minutes when they lost their star striker Dwight Gayle. Despite having the more shots and possession, Rafa Benitez’s men showed that stats don’t count for nothing. Like the game at Loftus Road, it was one of second half showing. A goal on hour and one ten minutes later had most certainly secured the points for the Owls, even though Jonjo Shelvey had netted for Newcastle close to the end.

Huddersfield who are currently third, may have a game in hand but they have a ten point deficit and it could very well be the Easter weekend fixtures that seal the automatic promotion or see oportunities still open. Huddersfield host Preston on Friday and travel to Derby County on the Monday. Two top ten teams battling for position more than anything as they seem too far back in hoping for a playoff spot but for Huddersfield automatic promotion is the feint hope they have whilst they look to cement their playoff spot. Seven points separate Huddersfield and Derby County so points will be crucial come this weekend.

Brighton face Wolves on Good Friday and host Wigan on Easter Monday whilst Newcastle host another promotion chaser in the form of Leeds United and struggling Ipswich. Brighton should be the happier of the two clubs come Tuesday morning as they should take six points, whilst Newcastle United may find themselves only picking up four, especially if they are without their top scorer Dwight Gayle.

Reading, who are a point behind Huddersfield will be hoping to reclaim third spot, which for a number of weeks was their home. Their last game was one to forget as they went crashing to a 7-1 defeat away to Norwich City. Their run in though gives them hope for securing a playoff spot, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest break up the two games against relegation favourites Wigan and doomed Rotherham. Whilst Nottingham Forest find themselves at the wrong end of the table, they should be safe from the drop.

Having had a bad start to the season, Leeds United are doing their bit to make sure they have a playoff hope and a return to the top flight once more. They though have a marginally easier run in. Apart from the trip to Newcastle on Good Friday and a home game against promotion rivals Norwich City at the end of April, it’s a case of the strugglers. Of course though never understimate the strugglers. They will have all to play for and will no doubt not have a care in the world with regards to who is challenging for the title or chasing a play off place.

Fulham who lie just outside the playoff spots by two points will be hoping that their recent good form will keep them moving higher and into the playoff spots although for the West London club, it will be a little more trickier journey. Fulham travel to Norwich on Good Friday whilst hosting Villa on the Monday. Fellow promotion chasers Huddersfield, who will have their own place to secure host Fulham in the penultimate game whilst a game against midtable Brentford brings their season to a close.

It’s going to be quite close and exciting for fans of the top six seven although for Brighton given their position, they will be the more happier. A top two spot for them is definitely going to happen, it’s just down to whether they or Newcastle have the bottle to go the stay the course. Newcastle with the experience and leadership of Rafa Benitez should guide them to another championship trophy and return to the Premier League.

Playoffs? well that’s where the fun starts and although the current spot takers are Huddersfield, Reading Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday, I think one of the later could find themselves losing out to Fulham.

World Cup to 48 – No thanks

 So the reality of an expanded World Cup moves ever closer. FIFA voted on Tuesday 10th January for a 48 nations in 2026. If you thought Russia and Qatar being handed the World Cup Finals was a crazy idea, then expanding to 48 seems one step too far. Of course it will all be about making it more profitable and making more money. It is all very well making things profitable if the actual product improves. Sadly it is very unlikely that the football will improve. The  reality is that the teams from Europe and South America will continue to dominate whilst African nations keep their toes dipped in the pool as it were. It is very unlikely that other than Japan, South Korea or Australia,the Asian teams or even those from Oceania (should they qualify) will be nothing more than adding numbers to the loss column. There were five options available for the member nations to vote for but it seems

  • Keep The Existing Structure
  • Expand to 40 ( 8 Groups of 5)
  • Expand to 40 (10 Groups of 4)
  • Expand to 48 (16 Groups of 3)
  • Expand to 48 (Opening 32 play off round)

As you can see there are five options. The first one is the if it aint broke dont fix it option, you then have the increase to 40, this was an idea that the former UEFA man Michel Platini had suggested, which could have been bearable and then finally the 48 option.

It is one thing to make the World Cup bigger but to choose the most ridiculous option of 16 groups of three is just bordering on pointless and with two going through. The last time the World Cup finals saw groups of three was when Spain hosted the World Cup in 1982. Back then it saw just the group winners make it into the next round. That idea seemed to have been quickly thrown away as the following World Cup finals format returned to group then knockout rounds. If the idea of three team groups was a bad idea then, why in gods name does anyone think it’s going to be better in 2026. I guess in the post Qatar fall out anything might seem bearable.

The Scottish FA seem to support it, I guess anything that enhances their chances of qualifying can only seem good. That said they dont seem to be able to make headway in a group that contains Slovenia, Slovakia and Lithuania. I guess though anything that keeps the Scot’s somewhat happy. The not so happy people included the European Club Association, who opposed it and called it regrettable and merely for political reasons. The Spanish La Liga are also against it.

There may not be any reversal in the decision, but one can only hope that before the competition has reached it’s centenary year, the tournament may have seen its enjoyment tarnished.

Behind The Scenes – Q&A with Portsmouth FC CEO Mark Catlin

Following my Q&A session with friend and Portsmouth FC Security team member Liam Earley, I was fortunate to be able to have a Q&A session with CEO of the Year and Portsmouth CEO Mark Catlin. This is how it went.

1) You grew up supporting West Ham, who were your idols at West Ham and did you ever dream of playing for the Hammers yourself?

Trevor Brooking was and still is my greatest football idol. Alan Devonshire followed and he was also a great player. I think every lad dreams of playing for their home town’ club, but I realised pretty early on in life that whilst I had a lot of enthusiasm, I wasn’t good enough to make it as a professional footballer!

2) Before becoming CEO of Portsmouth, you were Commercial Director at Bury FC, how did that come about and what was your best moment?

I was contacted by Bury FC following a successful spell running a Spanish football club. At the time they were struggling financially in L2 and I came in following a Sky Sports documentary showing how well the club I was running in Spain was doing. We (the Board) subsequently managed to clear all debt and turn Bury FC into profit. My best moment was then achieving promotion, that was a great day!

3) You had to resign from Bury FC, how hard was that to do and did you wish things could have been different?

I didn’t ‘have’ to resign from Bury FC and everyone at the club tried to get me to change my mind, I just felt the journey had gone as far as it could and at the time my own businesses were missing my involvement. Over the following months that changed and I decided to look for another football challenge which came in the guise of working with supporters in trying to save PFC from liquidation.

4)When Portsmouth had its financial troubles, from a football fans point of view, I was disappointed at the possibility of a club going under, how did you feel?

As an outsider at the time exactly the same, hence why I offered my services voluntarily to try and save the club from extinction!

5)A club will never die all the whilst it has its fans and with the Portsmouth Supporters Trust, how proud are you at the clubs situation

Extremely proud as its the culmination of a lot of hard work from a lot of passionate, honest and extremely loyal supporters.

6) Portsmouth currently lay in fourth, do you feel the club are in a better place to finish in a promotion challenging position.

I think we are in a great position and despite some inconsistent results will once again be challenging for promotion this season.

7) Taking it back to your boyhood club briefly, West Ham took up residence at the Olympic Stadium, did you ever think that it was the right decision given the problems  with segregation?

Tough one to answer, and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I always thought that moving to a stadium that was not a dedicated football one, was always going to cause issues.

8) The EFL trophy, now from the very start when they expanded it, very few fans thought it was a good idea, shown by the low attendances, do you think the Football League will come to their senses and revert back to how it should be.

I hope so, this was always ‘sold’ to clubs as being a trial and its clearly not worked. The big debate will be do we carry on with the competition full stop!

9) Portsmouth and eleven other clubs were fined for not fielding full strength teams in the competition. Do you think that these will be overturned and would any of the clubs threaten to boycott the competition next season.

You cannot boycott any competitions as an EFL club member, but you can field a team you wish and that was the decision taken by us as a club, even though we were fully aware of the penalties we would face. I do not believe that our fines will be overturned.

10) You recently won CEO at the Football Business Awards, you dedicated it to everyone at the club, it must have been a proud moment having seen the club rise from where it was. What plans do you have for the club in the coming future?

It was a hugely proud moment for me to collect the award on behalf of the club, and it says a lot about how far we have come, however we have to now look to the future and that will involve taking some tough decisions on future investment and the direction we wish to go. What league we see ourselves in will set the bar as to the investment we will need and what that may or may not do to our ownership structure. The higher we set the bar the more money it will take!
An interesting insight into the CEO of Portsmouth covering his boyhood times all the way to winning the CEO award and thoughts on the EFL trophy debacle.