Love the One You’re With – Dan Raywood blog


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In 1977 -Reds joy & Lillywhite gloom

So 1977 saw the reds of Liverpool and Manchester claim the League and  FA Cup and Liverpool successful in the European Cup. Liverpool had in fact retained the League title. Liverpool had  battled in a three way title challenge with Ipswich Town and Manchester City, who would finish second. It was also Liverpool’s tenth league title and a new record.

The FA Cup that saw the final between Liverpool and Manchester United, had seen United along the way avenge their Wembley defeat against Southampton the season before. Liverpool in the Semi Final faced their Merseyside neighbours Everton. A 2-2 draw at Maine Road meant a replay at Goodi. It was definitely a case of the blues for the hosts as Liverpool stormed to a 3-0 win.

It was double misery for Tottenham as not only they ended up finishing bottom and relegated, they also went out in the third round to second division Cardiff City.

The 1976-77 had seen the introduction of yellow and red cards and a change from goal average to goal difference. The change to goal difference was designed to encourage more goals scoring.

International football saw a disappointing run of summer games for England compounded by Don Revie’s controversial resignation as he went off to manage in the Emirates. It was also the yeat that saw the famous scenes at Wembley where Scottish fans invaded the pitch and break the goal posts.

 1977 saw the beginning of the rise of Wimbledon, who were elected into the fourth division. Having seen a successful run in non league football, they were rewarded with League football participation and for the Dons, life in the league was about to get interesting and in ten years time it would become even more special.

It was soon time for a new season and newly promoted Nottingham Forest were making themselves known as they topped the table at the end of the first month. Other promoted sides, Birmingham City and West Ham both started winless.

Newcastle were in all sorts of trouble, bottom of the table, they found themselves sacking their manager Richard Dinnis who had also criticised the club chairman.

International misery for England once more as they failed to qualify for the 1978 World Cup, making it an absence of eight years for the 1966 winners.

Finally it was big transfers as Kenny Dalglish became the most expensive player signed from a British club when he moves from Celtic to Liverpool. The price was 440,000. Pricey for the Scotsman, not sure whether it would work out though for the defending champions…..

Well that’s all for now on the opening Flashback 40 series. Be sure to check out more.

FA Cup rolls on – Fourth Qualifying round

As the season speeds towards the middle of October, that can mean only one thing in domestic cup competitions, the last of the qualifying rounds are here and the draw for the First Round proper takes place on Monday evening.

This Saturday saw sixty four teams battle it out for a place in the first round where they can have a chance of joining other small teams in football giantkilling folklore, noticeably in this round we see former Football League clubs hoping to earn more cash too. Teams like Wrexham, Tranmere, Stockport County, Torquay all looking to get a chance to knock out former league rivals. Tranmere went down 2-1 to Barrow, Wrexham drew whilst Stockport and Torquay both made it into the bag.

Seven games found themselves finishing level. Teams such as Margate, Hemel Hempstead Town and Curzon Ashton look for replay victories and money spinning ties.Some teams stamped their authority in reaching the first round. Dover Athletic, Brackley Town scored 5-0 wins away whilst Eastleigh & Kidderminster thumped their opposition 6-0.

Mixed fortunes for Lincoln as United went out to Spennymoor Town, but City travel to Guiseley. Stamford looked to cause an upset as they hosted Wrexham, they came from behind to earn a replay at the Racecourse Ground and an even bigger upset.

A reasonably good day for Kent clubs in the FA Cup, Dover, Maidstone Utd (3-1 Billericay) and Dartford (3-0 Tonbridge), not so good for Ebsfleet who went down 2-1 to Merstham.

Premier League clubs – Change for success

After England’s disappointly embarrassing exit to Iceland at Euro 2016,there was much debate as to what should happen next. Whilst appointing Sam Allardyce definitely wasn’t one of them, many looked towards the Premier League itself and what could be done club wise in order to boost England’s chances.

One of the common lines is that Premier League teams more games (cue the well they get paid enough comments). Domestically a Premier League club will play 38 games, six games in the FA Cup minimum not including replays, which could add three extra games. Something to note though is this seasons FA Cup quarter finals will be decided on the day instead of the usual replay. This apparently a mixture of keeping the interest and helping to reduce the fixture list for clubs, especially when games have often been squeezed into some busy schedules. Of course there is then the league cup. For teams not in Europe there is one less game, that could add a possible seven games. Recently though some clubs have rested first team players in the earlier ties. On the subject of clubs in Europe depending on where you qualify, take Manchester City for example, that could add another fifteen ties. An English club could end up playing over sixty games.

Naturally if you expect a team and/or player to feature in over sixty games a season and before a major tournament, something is going to have to give. This of course is not the whole excuse for England’s poor performance, but fitness and the likelihood of burnout is likely to have a key affect.

So how do we deal with the issue. There are a couple that are obvious ones that will reduce the amount of games a team/player will compete in. Reduce the Premier League to eighteen clubs. Whilst the league would only lose two games per team, it would go a way to reduce the fixture pile up for the latter part of the season. This would especially be the case when the FA Cup third round springs into place and the likelihood of replays enter the fray and the frantic rearranging of fixtures.

Reducing the Premier League fixtures would enable the Premier League clubs and players to have the Christmas period off. Just because they earn mega millions, doesnt mean that they cant have the festive period off, they should be entitled just as much as everyone else. This could appeal to the non football lovers who wouldnt have to put up with football through the Christmas period. It might though not appeal greatly to the fans who like the traditional festive football programme. For me the idea of no footy over the Christmas period would be a hard one especially with no Boxing Day Match of The Day to look forward to. It will be one that no doubt splits opinion. The season wouldn’t be shortened either as two of the midweek rounds of Premier League fixtures would be moved to the weekend. This again would also reduce the fixture list pile up as the season heads towards the final weeks.

It isnt just the league of course. There are the Cup competitions, the FA and League Cup. The FA Cup doesnt see the top flight clubs enter until round three, this takes off one lot of pressure to a point. Some might say that the FA should abolish the idea of replays full stop. Seeing that the competition has seen the reduction to one replay, what difference would it make if all games were to be completed on the day. It might help the fixtures even further. For me though that would take away a lot from the FA Cup. There is nothing more exciting than seeing an FA Cup replay and a Cup upset and not only that, the smaller clubs would lose out on possible extra revenue. As mentioned earlier, the 2016-17 FA Cup would see no replays in the Quarter Finals.

Then of course there is the League Cup which has seen it drop way down the list of the leading Premier League clubs priority list. Many would rather not enter it if they didnt have to and to an extent would rather field mixtures of reserves and youth. Sometimes though that can still see the club progress far in the competition if you have a good combination of youth talent and reserves.

There are many ways that the Premier League could deal with this, first off would be for Premier League clubs to withdraw from the competition, that though may not be a straight forward way. A vote would possibly be split with the majority of clubs voting to remain in the competition as another opportunity to win a piece of silverware. Of course though there could be a compromise of teams that dont want to take part being able to withdraw. If though the Premier League clubs voted to leave, this would leave twenty club spaces to fill. The League could either restructure the competition or even elect to invite twenty National League clubs into the competition. There could also be the option of every season Premier League clubs invited to take part or not.

If Premier League clubs were to withdraw, what would happen to the Europa League spot that the League Cup has? Would UEFA withdraw that spot or as more recently with many of the League Cup winners coming from the top eight, would it just remain with the Premier League. It will be certainly interesting to see.

Whether these plans would work is something that would be interesting to see, but introducing the National League teams to the competition couldn’t do any real harm to its future.

On This Day 28 January – A look at what happened on this day in football through the years.

It was always cricket that fans would hope would bring the early end to a possible humiliating defeat, but on 28 January 1961, it was football and Luton Town fans that would be praying for rain and hoping the gods would intervene in an FA Cup tie against Manchester City. Luton fans would be more than happy as a young Denis Law bagged all six goals as City lead 6-2 only to see the game abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch after 69 minutes. Not only would the smile be wiped from Law’s face, but in the rescheduled game and despite scoring, City would end up losing 3-1.

It would be a double blow for Dens Law as the Scotsman would miss out on finishing out as FA Cup top scorer in the 20th century. Law would finish on 41 goals three behind Welshman and former Liverpool striker Ian Rush who would finish on 44 FA Cup goals. Those scrubbed off six goals would have seen Law finish with 47 goals and the FA Cup top scorer.

28th January 2014 saw Anfield play host to the Merseyside derby. Liverpool strolled to a thumping 4-0 win having taken a 3-0 lead after 35 minutes. It was two from Daniel Sturridge that sent the Reds on the way after Gerrard opened up the scoring. This win would help keep the red side of Merseyside keep in touch with the title race.

From top of the world to mid-table in league one in 26 years – The debut of Dan Raywood

Last weekend saw Spurs (my team, you’ll see me write about them primarily) play Coventry City in the third round of the FA cup. For the well remembered and stattos among you, or failing that those of you who read Saturday’s sport sections will recall, this was a replay of the 1987 final.
It was watching the side of Hoddle, Waddle, Ardiles, Gough and Allen that swung me into following Spurs that day. You may feel that it is strange to choose the losing side and stick with them, but that is what I did and 26 years on, I am still with them. Although there has been some tough times, mainly called the 1990s, supporting Spurs is a joy. Most people like them as a second team, we play attractive football and have a reputation of having classy players: Gascoigne, Ginola, Defoe, Modric, Bale.
However for Coventry, history has not served them so well. A famous exit in 1989 to Sutton United has been followed by relegation and financial issues, to the point that Saturday’s match was probably seen as an unwinnable cash-cow. The 3-0 win, with goals from Dempsey and Bale, seemed pretty academic from my Soccer Saturday standpoint. It also saw the return of Scott Parker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto to the first team but what was an academic win for Spurs was probably the biggest match of the season for our opponents.
Times do change – look at the demise of Bradford City, Sheffield United and many others in the championship, but if there was a gulf of quality in 1987, it’s now an ocean in 2013. It’s not that I feel sorry for Coventry, they were one of the clubs that had the new stadium and having attended a match during Chris Coleman’s reign, a very nice one it is too. However this undoing is all too common now and while many clubs ‘need an Abrahamovic’, Coventry have been better served than many others, and need to realise where things went wrong post-1987.

However I will not lie about it, I don’t have a lot of love for Coventry. They had a touch of the Wimbledon about them and in the way Arsenal fans still dislike York City and Wrexham, losing in such a style does hurt. So in a way, this does serve as some sort of recompense for me as a Spurs fan, and I hope the future is brighter from here on for the Sky Blues.

Cup draws and Giant killing glory

A week apart we see Cup dynamics and draws take shape. Last week it was the FA Cup Third round draw, that brought dreams of giant killing for several clubs together with moneys pinning tv opportunities. Then yesterday it was the Champions League and Europa League draws. Another road to glory as well as fallout for those finishing third in their respective Champions League groups and then thrown into the Europa League.

On a personal note, even though it now gives qualification to the following seasons Champions League, I have never understood why the teams that finish third in their Champions League group find themselves parachuted into the Europa League. Surely if a team isn’t good enough to finish in the top two and qualify for the knockout stages, why should it be rewarded with another opportunity of glory, especially as now the winners of the Europa League will qualify for the following seasons Champions League

Back to the FA Cup though and last Monday we saw the draw for the third round and the big boys enter the draw. I would imagine like most Premier League club fans, the thought of being drawn against another Premier League rival so early in the competition would bring brief sighs and the shaking of heads. Then of course for some teams the idea of being on the other end of a giant killing would be something far from wanted.

The draw though did produce some plum ties for giant killing. AFC Wimbledon not only got a home draw against Liverpool, but their tie was selected for live BBC coverage. Conference side Dover Athletic found themselves in a great position for a chance to knock out a Premier League team. They were drawn at home to Crystal Palace. For them on top of Premier League opposition, they will be on a BT sport.

Blyth Spartans, who overcame Hartlepool United, were rewarded with a home tie against Birmingham City. Having showed no fear in their visit to Hartlepool, they will no doubt be rubbing their hands with glee at the chance of another FA Cup upset.

Conference side Southport face a tougher challenge in their bid to make the fourth round. They will have to overcome Derby County, who are doing well in the Championship. Of course though it’s a whole different mindset when it comes to the Cup. If you dont win or get a replay, there are no second chances, there’s no bounce back next week etc.

The full FA Cup fixture list can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/fa-cup/fixtures.

The FA Cup wasn’t the only draw to take place, yesterday saw the Champions League and Europa League knockout stage draws take place. The remaining English sides had mixed draws. Premier League Champions Manchester City found themselves with the toughest draw after being paired with Barcelona. Barcelona are not the invincible team they once were although I would imagine that City would have to go real far to knock the Spaniards out. Chelsea find themselves with a tricky draw against high-flying Paris Saint Germain. The French wont be pushovers and they will be coming face to face with David Luiz for the first time since he left Chelsea back in the Summer. The London club have only lost once so far this season and PSG will be looking to increase the number of defeats suffered.

The remaining English club in the Champions League, were Arsenal. Their fans might well be thinking that they could make the final if the draw continues in this manner. Monaco who are currently sixth in the French League will be hoping themselves that they can progress to the next round after avoiding the big guns as well. Arsenal will consider themselves the favourites having had the more trickier group to get through.

The Europa League sees a contingent of English teams together with Celtic representing Scotland in the first knock out stage. Celtic will play Inter Milan in what will be a repeat of the 1967 European Cup final. The final of course which saw the first British club to win the European competition. The Italians will be hoping to have improved in the league by the time they face Celtic. The team managed by Roberto Mancini find themselves lying in twelfth and sixteen points from the top spot, may find this as their only route to European football next season if things don’t pick up. Another two sides facing each other in European competition once more are Liverpool and Besiktas. The Turkish team will be hoping that they avoid a repeat of their last visit to Anfield, when they were on the receiving end of an 8-0 thrashing. Given Liverpool’s season so far and that of Besiktas, it is very unlikely that history will be repeating itself in such grand scale. The other English representatives, Everton and Tottenham, find themselves facing opposition for the first time in their history (competitive that is). The blue half of Merseyside face Swiss club FC Young Boys and Tottenham taking on Fiorentina, who are eighth in Serie A. Given that a top four finish for either Everton, Spurs or Liverpool would be unlikely, the much maligned Europa League would be the best opportunity for the English trio to qualify for next seasons Champions League.

The full Europa League draw can be found here http://www1.skysports.com/football/competitions/europa-league/fixtures