Soccer AM/MW - the home of lively and humorous discussion from the Football and Non Leagues

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Talking Points - January

What the lads have been discussing at the start of 2010:

Beyond Irvine
Lakes on Preston's decision to replace Alan Irvine with Darren Ferguson. Could the good times be about to come to Deepdale?

Kettles facing the final whistle?
As Kettering's chairman stands aside, Turls reports on the threat to the club's future.

He fought the Laws and the Laws won
Turls discusses the merits of Doncaster boss Sean O'Driscoll - overlooked for the Burnley job in favour of Brian Laws. Nobes looks too at giving Football League managers a chance in the top flight.

A Change of Hart
Nobes on why Queens Park Rangers's trigger-happy owner is in danger of putting potential young managers off joining them.

The Managerial Hall of Blame
After Paul Hart's dismissal as manager of QPR - the fifth sacking of his career - Nobes gives a rundown of the top ten sacked managers in the Football League.

Soft Spots
The lads look at some of the other teams in the football pyramid whose results they like to look out for and some of the reasons behind having a football 'soft spot.'

Hard Spots
After looking at teams they have soft spots for, the lads discuss the reasoning behind some of the dislikes they have for certain other football teams. Maybe give this one a miss if you're a Blackpool fan...

After the Freeze
After the prolonged wintry weather, Tu
rls assesses the drastic nature of how fixture cancellations can dictate Non League teams' fortunes.

The Crystal Malaise
As Championship club Crystal Palace enter adminstration and suffer a ten point penalty the lads discuss the Eagles's plight and punishing clubs for poor bookkeeping.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Prediction League Week 26

Lakes continued his attempt to narrow the gap on Nobes and Turls in the Prediction League with four points from last week's matches.

However, he's still got ground to make up and has another opportunity with all three sides in action this weekend, including Forest in an East Midlands derby.

As ever, three points are at stake for correctly predicting a scoreline, one point is scored when the right result is forecast.

Derby County vs. Nottingham Forest

Lakes: Derby County 0-2 Forest
Derby County 1-2 Forest
Derby County 1-3 Forest

Preston North End vs. Ipswich Town

Lakes: PNE 2-1 Ipswich Town
PNE 1-1 Ipswich Town
PNE 1-1 Ipswich Town

Kendal Town vs. Boston United

Kendal Town 0-1 Skyrockets
Kendal Town 1-2 Skyrockets
Kendal Town 0-2 Skyrockets

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Crystal Malaise

As Crystal Palace enter administration the lads discuss the club's predicament, finance in football, and whether points deductions are the fairest treatment.

I think the first thing I'd have to say is I hate to see administration happen for the fans of a club.

Having experienced it with my own club, it's a horribly uncertain time and certainly puts things into perspective.

I've met some really sound Palace fans over the years too, so I certainly hope they pull through.

Turls: Agreed. I've always said that I'd never wish administration on any club - even Manchester United - because, as you said, it does create an uncertain time and there are always fears that the club could slowly slide out of existence.

Nobes: Having said that though, it is only fair to clubs who run themselves properly that, if a side is irresponsible, then they are punished for it on the pitch by virtue of a points deduction.

Lakes: I think you're right, in a business which is all about money it seems only fair that teams get hit where it hurts - in the moneybag knackers.

Turls: I think it appears to be the only legitimate punishment for a club. Can you think of another way to punish financial mismanagement?

No, and it also seems that the authorities are now, rightly, getting tougher on sides about when the points deductions are implemented.

They're trying to make sure it does have the maximum effect on a team's chances to win promotion or avoid relegation.

Before, teams were getting around it and exploiting the loopholes - Stockport cleverly did so last season after securing safety, although they're now suffering the consequences this season.

Turls: It's a tough situation for the Football League because they have to punish the club for letting the situation get that bad but at the same time, a ten point deduction means that it puts the club in even more trouble.

Boss Neil Warnock is unhappy with Palace's entry into adminstration

Nobes: Yes, for Palace it's thrown them from a play-off campaign into a relegation battle - the ultimate punishment, and hopefully another warning to clubs to get their house in order or the same will happen to them.

Lakes: There will be some who say of course that the players don't deserve this. That is alright to an extent - but let's not forget they're all overpaid anyway.

Turls: Speaking of players, the administration decision couldn't have come at a worse time for Palace because Victor Moses, the man who seems destined to go on a do great things looked like he was going to make a big money move during this window.

Nobes: Yes, Forest and West Brom apparently rumoured to be interested in him. I guess they might have to let him go for less now?

Turls: A shedload of clubs appeared to be interested and they seemed like they were going to cash in for over £5m.

When you consider though that when Wimbledon went into financial meltdown, the administrators came in and looked to offload players, including Nigel Reo-Coker, who went for £500,000.

It would appear that they will be looking to sell him to the first person who tables a decent offer. Could be Barcelona but it could be West Brom as well.

Palace should be ok to avoid the drop, although it depends what happens from now until February 1

Lakes: It's all made Warnock moan again, which always makes me laugh.

I think Palace will do alright though because, as much as I hate him, I know he's good at motivating players and getting them to dig in.

Palace's star asset Victor Moses is expected to bring in some much needed revenue

Nobes: That's true, if anyone can help create a siege mentality and get his players to battle through this, then Warnock is the guy.

Lakes: I reckon they'll be pushing for upper mid-table, which will be a bitter pill for their fans to swallow as they'll know that might have been enough to secure a play-off spot come the end of the season.

I remember that season Palace were 22nd at Christmas and ended up in the play-offs though, so anything can still happen.

I think the biggest worry is you know that Palace won't be the last and another club will have the same happen to them just around the corner.

You do wonder whether it will actually take a club going to the wall to get football clubs to wake up.

It's happened in Non League more recently, but not since the early 90s in the Football League around the time of the last recession.

It may not be too far away.

Big Match Preview

League Two
Bury vs. Rochdale
Monday February 1, 19:45, Gigg Lane

Few games in League Two have been bigger this season and when fourth-placed Bury host near neighbours, and runaway leaders, Rochdale, more than local bragging rights will be at stake.

Dale, beaten in the play-offs in the last two seasons, have been in scintilating form as they have stormed to the top of the basement division this term.

Keith Hill's side have a ten point lead at the summit, and a goal difference of +33 dwarves any other in the league. Their 13 match unbeaten run has left the Spotland outfit looking on course for a first promotion since 1969.

However, their 36-year spell in the lowest tier of the Football League could be set to end in title winning glory, and a win on Monday evening would complete a double over their Lancashire rivals.

Dale's success has been built on an abundance of attacking options with strikers Chris O'Grady and Chris Dagnall notching 15 and 14 goals respectively so far this term.

With young talent like Joe Thompson, and the bargain summer recruit of centre half Craig Dawson, the attractive football and skill of Hill's side has unsurprisingly caught the attention of bigger clubs

The club are determined to resist offers for Dawson though and, having sold Will Buckley to Watford this week, the rest of the squad should be kept together to finally deliver the most anticipated of all promotions.

All of which means that local rivals Bury will be desperate to put a spanner in the works of Dale's promotion charge, as well as further their own hopes for elevation from the basement division.

Shakers boss Alan Knill is mounting another promotion campaign

Like their neighbours, the Shakers were losers in the end of season play-offs last May, and appeared to suffer a hangover as they got off to a slow start this campaign.

Six points from their opening seven games was not the start fans had been expecting, however, Alan Knill's men have only lost three games since.

And, after winning their last three matches - including a win at high-flying Bournemouth, the Shakers rose into the automatic promotion places for the first time this season, before slipping to fourth in midweek.

Their form at Gigg Lane has also improved - unbeaten in eight, including six wins. It's a marked improvement from their opening four games - all lost without scoring.

Most pleasing to Knill will be the fact his side's improvement has come without the services of injured striker Andy Bishop, last season's top marksmen, with the form of forwards Ryan Lowe and Mike Jones covering his loss.

It promises to be a highly entertaining clash therefore between two sides in top-form, and with great attacking talent on show.

Dale are flying and should certainly secure promotion and probably the League Two title this season, but perhaps they're due a loss?

It can often be the way too that local rivals always seem to prove a stumbling block - even for the very best sides - and Bury just might be that to Rochdale.

Nobes' Prediction: Bury 2 Rochdale 1

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

After the Freeze

With the wintry freeze over the past month disrupting football up and down the country, Turls looks at where the postponements can have the greatest effect - Non League.

Non-league football will always have a place in my heart.

I remember countless occasions where my dad, my brother, and yours truly would plot our way across the Midlands to visit a non-league ground and watch 90 minutes of exciting action.

Sure we may have got wet and lost more times than I care to remember but that was the joy of it all.

Now that the snow has finally gone, football has been allowed to seep its way back into the lives of many, but it got me thinking about how Non League teams can have long periods without playing a match.

I did a bit of research and came across some interesting results.

"I'd rather have points on the board than games in hand," was a saying I found myself repeating not too long ago and nowhere does this ring as true than in Non League football.

Thanks to various cup runs and postponements, clubs in the same league can find themselves having a lot of games in hand on the teams above them.

Let's just take a quick glance at the Combined Counties league shall we?

Badshot Lea have played 15 games this season. Pretty paltry return for a season that is well past Christmas.

They find themselves sitting comfortably in mid-table. However, if they were to win every game in hand, then they would go top of the table. Not only that but they would also be eight points clear of the team that is currently top.

At the other end, Hanworth Villa are languishing in the nether regions of the league but are 11 points clear of the bottom.

Villa look comfy but when you consider that they have played 26 games, this points advantage seems less impressive. If the teams below them win the games in hand, Hanworth are bottom and out of reach. Unlucky chaps.

Badshot have played 11 games less than Hanworth. Imagine that in the Championship. QPR look like they're having an average season but they've got 11 games in hand on their promotion rivals.

It does come back to the point about games in hand/points on the board. There is only a slim chance Badshot will win their games in hand - especially when you consider that they will have to play midweek from now until the rest of the season.

After all, let's not forget that most of the players are plumbers/bankers/slackers by trade. Hanworth will therefore sleep a little easier in the knowledge that their relegation rivals are unlikely to win their games.

This research got me thinking even more.

Looking at the Midland Alliance League I realised that Bridgenorth had gone 42 days since they had last played in the league. However, they have still played five more games than Biddulph!

Now I may have lost you at some point along the way but if you're still with us then you have to agree that Non League football is a fascinating beast. And if you don't agree, you probably think that football began in 1992.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prediction League Week 25 continued

Two predictable games saw all the lads gather two points from the weekend's action. Both Forest and Preston are in action in midweek though, so there are more points to be picked up.

Nottingham Forest vs. QPR

Lakes: Forest 2-0 QPR
Nobes: Forest 2-1 QPR
Turls: Forest 2-0 QPR

Peterborough United vs. Preston North End

Peterborough United 0-2 PNE
Peterborough United 1-1 PNE
Peterborough United 1-0 PNE

Monday, January 25, 2010

Big Match Review - Sheff Wed 2 Peterborough 1

Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Peterborough United
Saturday January 23, Hillsborough, (Att: 24,882)

Wednesday made it three wins out of three under new boss Alan Irvine as Marcus Tudgay's brace held off troubled Peterborough in their relegation six pointer.

The home side, boosted by their recent victories, started on the front foot and were unfortunate not to take the lead when Darren Potter's shot from outside the area was deflected onto the bar.

Posh responded immediately with Reuben Reid's header from a corner bouncing off the top off Lee Grant's bar in the Wednesday goal.

And it was from another corner that the Owls went close again - this time United keeper Joe Lewis tipping over Darren Purse's header from Michael Gray's flag kick.

However, from the following corner Irvine's men did take the lead - Tudgay flicking the ball in at the near post past Lewis at the end of the first half.

The same player almost doubled the home team's advantage at the start of the second period but saw his effort cleared off the line by a Posh defender before a shot from Gray was similarly thwarted.

He was to extend Wednesday's lead mid-way through the second-45
though. Another corner, this time finding the former-Derby man at the back post, to simply head past the hapless Lewis.

The Cambridgeshire outfit responded though, and only an expert save by Grant from Scott Griffith's low drive maintained the home team's lead.

However, Mark Cooper's side did pull one back with a quarter of an hour remaining. After Wednesday failed to clear the ball from their area the ball broke to Jack Livermore to sweep the ball home.

Despite Peterborough's late bombardment though, the Owls hung on to deliver victory for Irvine on his Hillsborough debut.

However, while Wednesday move up to 20th in the table, the result leaves Posh nine points from safety at the bottom and staring relegation in the face.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Nobes' Trivia Question 12

As well as the mix of debate and entertainment, here at Soccer AM/MW we like to keep your brain working.

To that extent, every fortnight Nobes sets a football trivia poser for you to think over. Here's his latest.

Championship: Preston North End
League One: ?
League Two: Rochdale

Find the link and the missing club.

Nobes will reveal the solution on February 5.

Prediction League Week 25

It was a dramatic conclusion to Week 24 in the Soccer AM/MW prediction league as Turls re-established a three point lead at the summit.

However, the biggest winner was Lakes who, courtesy of Reading's last minute consolation at Forest, robbed Nobes of three points and bagged maximum spoils himself.

He's now just five points behind Nobes after registering his first spot-on prediction for a mammoth 12 weeks! Is this the start of Lakes's recovery?

Onto the next round, and Preston are in cup action, Boston in the league, and Forest have a weekend off.

Preston North End vs. Chelsea

PNE 0-5 Chelsea
PNE 1-3 Chelsea
PNE 0-4 Chelsea

Boston United vs. Durham City

Lakes: Skyrockets 2-0 Durham City
Skyrockets 3-0 Durham City
Skyrockets 3-0 Durham City

Nobes' Trivia Question 11 - solution

A couple of weeks ago we asked whether you knew which Football League ground Nobes was visiting whilst on his travels as we played...


We told you:

This ground opened in the 1890s and is believed to be the lowest ground above sea level in the Football League.

Wolves were the visitors when this club recorded its biggest attendance at their ground. However, this ground isn't in the town the club represent.

One of the stands at this ground also shares its name with a card game.

Did you get the right answer? He was at Grimsby Town's Blundell Park.

The ground is actually located in Cleethorpes, a bit further down from Grimsby on the Lincolnshire coast, and includes a stand called the Pontoon Stand - like the card game.

Well done if you solved where Nobes was this time. And he'll be back with another trivia poser for you soon.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hard Spots

Following on from yesterday's discussion of teams the lads have soft spots for, they now discuss the sides they have a bit of a dislike for.

Again, these could be for historical reasons, for incidents involving their team or just for some bizarre reason smacking of bitterness and jealousy.

Whatever it is, there are clubs that, even when your own team lose, seeing they have lost just makes you a little bit happier.


Torquay United

I honestly don't know why I don't like them, but every time I see that Torquay have lost - and it seems to be more common these days - I find myself internally celebrating.

I have absolutely no reason to reason to hate them - I have never been to Plainmoor, never seen them play away from home and never seen them on TV.

Whenever I meet a Gull, which is very rare, I instantly deem you to be a pillock. I apologise to all Torquay fans because I'm sure you're all a pleasant bunch of faithful fans - but I loathe your club.

Wycombe Wanderers

I despise the Chairboys. I think hatred started when Roy Essandoh scored to knock Leicester out of the FA Cup many moons ago. I hated the coverage his seemingly unique 'Teletext transfer' got - although I do love Teletext RIP.

My hatred evolved thanks to a certain University student, I won't name him, but every time I see Wycombe I think of Ian Murray Baker's smug, ridiculous face and I pray for a Chairboy defeat.

Sheffield United

This hatred is pretty justified. The club that will always be associated with Neil Warnock, in my eyes anyway, and is a club that I will hate until my dying days.

The real hatred started after Forest had been dumped out of the Championship play-offs by the Blades and it has escalated from then. Warnock always had a comment to make about Forest and he is an idiot.

Add in the fact that Chris Morgan plays for them - the man who nearly killed Iain Hume - and you've got a reciple for hatred.


Peterborough United

How is it possible not to dislike a jumped up club from a small Fenland city who only achieved their place in the Championship by spending gazillions of pounds?

Throw in the fact that it was done under the management of Darren Ferguson - the son of the biggest fool - yes even moreso than the man Warnock - to ever grace the beautiful game, and there's no excuse to like Posh.

I don't like sugar-daddied clubs as a rule, but Peterborough always will be a small League One outfit and the sooner they return there the better.


Similarly to Turls and Torquay, I don't really have anything against Gillingham, but I just don't like them. They don't do anything for me.

I think part of it is down to that stupid temporary stand behind one goal - it looks silly and I don't like it. They're a non-descript club from the South East, I've never been to Kent, and have no desire to either. The chairman, Paul Scally, comes across as a bit of a fool too.

Having said that though, I'll be eternally grateful for their collapse in that classic play-off final against Manchester City which was one of the most exciting finishes to a football match I've ever listened to.

Accrington Stanley

Sorry, I know everyone loves them, but I don't buy into the whole love-in.

Don't get me wrong, I was delighted they staved off going out of business but it was strange they managed to do it without selling any players or letting some go and they're not challenging for the play-offs.

There's also a personal reason - the season we were relegated they played an ineligible player and were deducted no points. Things might have worked out differently.

Then one of their fans wrote a piece in a local paper relishing in our demise, despite the fact it was threatening my club's existence. He should have known better.

Add in their loudmouth manager, tinpot ground without a roof on the away end, and, despite being in the county of pies, not providing a vegetarian pie option - well, I'm allowed to not like them.


Leeds United

I hate Leeds. I see them as the Manchester United of the lower leagues.

They don't deserve to come back to the upper echelons of the Football League after their shady cash-splashing. Not to mention that they've always been a dirty side.
Dirty Leeds.


I hate the Tangerines — need I say more?

That bunch of ballsacks down the M55 don't even deserve a reason - except for the fact that they're a bunch of spazzy donkeys.

Blackburn Rovers

I know these aren't a Football League club but hopefully they will be soon.

I hate Rovers partly for the same reason as I hate Leeds and partly due to the local rivalry.

Jack Walker took thousands of fans away from Preston in the form of glory-hunters and I hate them for that.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Soft Spots

They say that, in football, you pick a team and stick with it through thick and thin, or thin and thinner, in most cases.

However, as well as having a main team, most football fans tend to have a 'soft spot' or two for other sides. Teams whose results they will look out for and, unless they're playing their club, will hope they do well.

These 'soft spots' could have developed for the strangest and smallest reasons, but nevertheless, they exist. Here, the Soccer AM/MW lads discuss their football soft spots.


Macclesfield Town

Not a lot of reasoning behind my liking of the Silkmen. However, when they got promoted to the Football League back in the 1996/7 season I was there to see their promotion sealing victory.

I can't remember who they played or what the score was but Macc romped home comfortably and the stadium was in party mood from start to finish. A streaker took to the pitch in the second half and this just added to the memory.


What's not to love about Rochdale? The Spotland club are utterly adorable - sorry for the patronising tone but they are. Having sat in the basement division for nearly 1000 years, everyone who has a soul has to have a soft spot for Dale.

I have no reason to like the, but I find myself heartily encouraging them to win promotion. I was heartbroken when they lost in the play-offs. This year is the year - trust me.

Lincoln City

Ah, the Imperial Imps. I am always impressed when I see Lincoln impose themselves on a team of impudent rascals. I love the Imps because of one event.

The Soccer AM/MW team decided to watch every play-off game during our second year at uni. When Lincoln were in action we found ourselves in The Ship in Preston - once rumoured to be a location in the filming of the next James Bond movie.

Lakes and I instantly started to support Lincoln just to wind up Skyrocket Nobes. It was a great day full of drinking, terrible Imp puns, using the word 'Imp' at every opportunity, and a smoking hot Lincoln fan sat behind us. Juice?


Carlisle United

The ultimate experts in brinkmanship. The Cumbrians must be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the league - always being involved in promotion fights or relegation battles - and they always have to do things the hard way.

It's drama all the way with Carlisle and the Jimmy Glass tale is the stuff of football legend. Plus, I love trips to Brunton Park, it's a great old stadium with real character, and it sells great pies too.

Norwich City

Norwich is a bit of a default and uninspiring choice. I've got strong family links to East Anglia and they're Canaries fans, so I like to see City doing well.

Norfolk is a much maligned place, but it's a lovely county and it's great when such a rural area has a top flight club mixing it with the big boys. Norwich also have such a distinctive kit and a tradition of playing attractive football too.

Preston North End

This is an obvious choice. I think part of having a soft spot is being able to identify with a club. I lived in Preston for three years, it's a city I love, the people are great, and North End are a club with rich history.

I love Deepdale as a ground, I admire how they constantly overachieve, and Billy Davies used to manage him and he's awesome. To be honest, I have a soft spot for most of the Lancashire clubs, but Preston more than any.


Nottingham Forest

I don't know why but I've always admired the Tricky Trees. They're a good, old club. They play in that lovely, bold red and have a great tradition without ever being arrogant about it.

Plus, they were the home of the mighty Brian Clough, who I respect more than almost anyone in football.


The Royals are a new favourite since I moved down south and become a posh git.

I particularly like the fact that they are sponsored by Waitrose, which reminds me of nibbling on crudités and kicking back with a bucket of oysters.

I'd imagine a day in the directors' boxes at Reading involve being fed fresh fish and having your balls tickled by concubines.


My old home town of sorts - I lived on the border between Morecambe and Lancaster for a good few years.

I always look out for their results and I'm glad they're doing alright for themselves in the Football League.

And tomorrow the lads talk about the clubs they have a bit of a dislike for in a feature we're unimaginatively calling 'Hard Spots.'

Big Match Preview

Sheffield Wednesday vs. Peterborough United
Saturday January 23, 15:00, Hillsborough

Two Championship strugglers meet in a crucial six pointer in South Yorkshire this weekend as new Sheffield Wednesday manager Alan Irvine takes charge of his first home game.

Irvine, who was surprisingly dismissed by Preston at the end of December, took over at Hillsborough 10 days later to join a Wednesday team languishing in the bottom three.

It that was drop into the relegation zone which saw the Owls part company with Brian Laws before turning to Irvine who help lead their battle against the drop to League One.

And the 51-year-old got off to the perfect start with a 2-1 win at local rivals Barnsley at the weekend - the club's first win in three months - followed by victory at Blackpool by the same scoreline on Tuesday night.

Wednesday's struggles this season have come as a surprise though. Last season's top half finish was supposed to be followed by a push for the play-offs, but things haven't gone according to plan as they lie 21st.

However, Irvine can still call upon the services of the likes of forwards Marcus Tudgay and Jermaine Johnson and in Lee Grant the Owls have one of the top keepers in the division.

If Wednesday are in need of points though, opponents Peterborough require a win even more than their hosts with Mark Cooper's side currently rock bottom of the Championship.

Irvine and Cooper have taken over clubs in relegation danger

Cooper, who replaced Darren Ferguson as boss at London Road in November, has managed just a single win in his nine league games at Posh to date - a 2-1 victory over Watford.

Last weekend they slumped to a poor 3-0 home defeat to Derby, a result which leaves them a full five points adrift of safety.

Posh, promoted as runners-up from League One last season, are also the only side in the division yet to record an away win - so will be up against it in the Steel City.

Just four draws in their 12 away fixtures sum up what has a struggling season of transition for the Cambridgeshire outfit who have found the step-up in quality too big.

However, on their day they have the quality going forwards to trouble any side - as shown in their recent fightback from 4-0 down to draw with Cardiff.

Should the likes of Aaron McLean, George Boyd, and Craig Mackail-Smith find their shooting boots then United have the firepower to trouble Irvine's men this weekend.

A new manager usually has a honeymoon period though, and Wednesday should be buoyant after their victories at Oakwell and Bloomfield Road. It's a game Peterborough really can't afford to lose, but they might just.

Nobes' Prediction: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Peterborough United 0