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Carlos Alberto

Carlos Alberto, former captain of Brazil and scorer of that goal in the 1970 World Cup final, sadly has died.

The goal, which summed up that team – and perhaps Brazilian football as a whole – came after a brilliant sequence of dribbling and passing which culminated in Pele’s pass, apparently rolled to no-one, but perfectly timed for Carlos Alberto to gallop into the frame and thump the ball past Enrico Albertosi. Sublime.

The only drawback of the clip below is that it isn’t accompanied by Kenneth Wolstenholme‘s BBC TV commentary, where about halfway through it he said, “This is sheer delightful football!” more iconic to me than his other well remembered phrase “They think it’s all over.”

A reminder of a simpler, freer, less monetarily compromised time:-

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Carlos Alberto “Capita” Torres: 17/7/1944 – 25/10/2016. So it goes.

Football and the Bible

There is only one football team named in the bible.

Such is the claim anyway.

The relevant quote comes from Matthew 12.42:-

“The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it:”

Notch one up for Dumfries’s finest.

In my present reading, Walter Scott’s The Heart of Mid-Lothian (which itself by way of a dance hall provided the name for another football team,) there is much talk of religion and quotation from the Bible. An explanatory note had this reference from Proverbs 17.3 which casts doubt on the declaration in the first paragraph of this post:-

“The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold; but the Lord trieth the hearts.”

Granted the relevant noun would need to be capitalised to make the abbreviation truly apposite but then so does the QoS one. At any rate I’m sure many Jambos (see nicknames in the link’s sidebar) would concur with the sentiment.

‘Tis Fifty Years Since

If you peruse Radio 2’s schedule for today you will find an unusual item at 14.50.

World Cup ’66 Live.

(If you listen to Radio 2 you may also have heard the trailers for this being aired hourly since about the end of April – or does it just seem like that?)

Guys. I know it’s been fifty years and your only major trophy win is not likely to be repeated any time soon. But it’s not as if it hasn’t been mentioned at all in the interim.

Don’t you think it’s maybe time you got over it?

After today might we possibly have a moratorium on the whole business? Please?

What?

Thought not.

Summer Football

Way back in the dim mists of time the world was a simpler place and football did not dominate the calendar. World Cup finals were 16 teams large and the European Championship only had four qualifiers until it expanded to eight teams in 1980.

In Scotland the football season started on the second Saturday in August and finished on the last Saturday in April.

I thought it was pushing it when the season began edging into July to accommodate the Challenge Cup and altered League Cup format.

Today though is the 16th of July. The schools have barely broken up for the summer. Yet the Sons have a first game of the official season at Station Park, Forfar, in yet another alteration to the League Cup. It barely seemed the old season had ended when pre-season games began.

The squad manager Stevie Aitken has collected seems a little thin. The League Cup looks on paper to be not too daunting but I have no idea how we will fare against the three lower division sides in our group. (I expect to be beaten by Dundee.)

The league is a different matter. Already it looks tough. We’ll be relying on another full-time side to be rubbish (as Livingston were last season) to avoid the relegation play-offs and even then we’d have to finish above Ayr United, by no means a given.

How long we can continue to defy gravity I don’t know. This may be the season we don’t.

Portugal 0-0 France (1-0 aet)

Euro 2016, Final, Stade de France, 10/7/16.

So. It wasn’t to be Germanic hegemony after all.

Neither was it to be French triumph.

Like a lot of the knockout matches this was a spectacularly dull game but it suggested one thing to me. Portugal are a better team without Cristiano Ronaldo in it than with him. I felt much the same about Liverpool in the latter stages of Steven Gerrard’s time with them. It seemed to me the rest of the Liverpool players were looking too much to Gerrard, giving way to him or allowing him to have the ball when they were in better positions to do something with it. So too with Ronaldo and Portugal. Throughout the tournament (though perhaps not the 3-3 draw with Hungary which I missed as I was watching the Iceland-Austria game) there was something about the way they played with him on the pitch that rendered them less effective as an attacking force. His hogging of all the free kicks with no fruitful result whatsoever was almost laughable. Okay, he did score that header against Wales and scuffed the assist for Nani’s toe-poke in that game but otherwise there was little end product and he seemed to get in the way at times. With him not available others stepped up to the plate – particularly Eder who I doubt would have made it onto the pitch if Ronaldo hadn’t been injured.

Football. It’s a funny old game.

Exit. (England 1-2 Iceland)

Euro 2016, Round of 16, Stade de Nice, 27/6/16.

It’s hard not to think that there’s some sort of karma about this result. After England voting to leave the EU (loosely referred to as Europe) its football team has just departed Europe unwillingly.

The commentator on ITV called it a humiliation and also used the word embarrassment. The unspoken assumption (though it was all but articulated) was that England should always be beating Iceland.

Well; to anyone who had watched Iceland’s group games this was no surprise. Iceland are supremely well organised, the players know what they’re supposed to be doing and play for the team and each other. They drew with Portugal and group winners Hungary and then beat Austria, well fancied before the tournament began. If that wasn’t sufficient warning as to what to expect what would be? Using words such as embarrassment and humiliation is extremely disrespectful to a group of players who work their socks off and have no little ability. I expect France will also find it hard to break them down in the next round.

Iceland know their limitations and strengths, and play to them; as a team. The same was true of Italy earlier in what was a magnificent team performance against Spain.

In this respect it is also hard to resist the temptation to remark that English football commentators have an inflated idea of the worth of their country’s footballers based on club performances. Just reflect, not one of those players is good enough to play for an overseas team. They appear effective at club level only because they are surrounded by foreign players who make them look good. And the clubs of the league they play in have not made too much of a splash in the so-called Champions League of late. (OK, Liverpool made the final of the Europa League this season but that was mostly due to foreigners, manager included.)

England’s most penetrative player tonight was an 18 year old who was only brought on to the pitch when it was far too late and has in any case not yet had the enthusiasm and any latent talent knocked out of him by unwarranted expectation.

New Cup, New Laws

I see from the club website that the Challenge Cup has been given a revamp so that it will now include more Scottish clubs from outwith the SPFL, top division under 20 sides and even clubs from Wales and Northern Ireland. The format looks like a right dog’s dinner.

I note that Tier 2 clubs won’t be joining till Round 3. It won’t make any difference to us. We always lose in it anyway. (I doubt being seeded will alter that at all.)

What concerns me most is the inclusion of the top division under 20s sides. This feels like the thin end of a wedge that will eventually see them allowed to play in the lower leagues. I know similar provision happens in Spain etc with reserve teams but the Scottish scene has unique characteristics that make me uncomfortable at the thought.

Edited to add. I just took in the fact that the draw will be regionalised. Fat chance of me getting to a a game then. (But maybe we’ll be in the North for that too.)

There have also been changes to the laws of the game. We’ll need to see how those work out.

Rangers 2-3 Hibernian

Scottish Cup Final, Hampden Park, 21/5/2106

And so the long running saga of Hibs not winning the Cup has ended. Well, I did suggest this might happen.

Looking at the chances created and shots saved you have to say the result was the correct one. But it did look like Hibs had Hibsed it when they went 2-1 down. Rangers didn’t press their advantage though. Maybe they Rangersed it.

The Things You Miss When You’re Away

As I’ve been away I only caught up with the news of the demotion of East Stirlingshire from the SPFL late yesterday.

61 years in the SFL/SPFL gone in a flash. It’s sad for them but they’ve been living on fumes for seasons on end now. It was always most likely that it would be the Shire that would be the first to fall victim to the play-off system.

Congratulations, though, to Edinburgh City. The role of third (or fourth) largest football side in Edinburgh has been taken in the past by St Bernard’s (defunct since World War 2) and Leith Athletic (demised 1955, reconstituted 1996 and as a senior team in 2008.) As those statistics suggest, surviving in the shadow of Hearts and Hibs is not easy.

Then there is the case of Meadowbank Thistle (Ferranti Thistle as was) admitted to the Scottish Football League in 1974 but weren’t satisfied with the sizes of crowds they were attracting in the capital and decamped to Livingston in 1995.

Speaking of Hibs, I see they managed to muck things up again. Hibsing it indeed. Then again they’ll probably win the Cup Final now and so put to an end the longest running “will this be the year” saga in Scottish football.

Leicester City’s fairy tale first top level title made the news in The Netherlands – as elsewhere I suspect. There was a newspaper article there about the length of time previous winners of their country’s football championship had been waiting to win it again. Schalke 04 topped the list at well over 20,000 days with Tottenham Hotspur second (also over 20,000 days.) Liverpool were about eighth on the list. I can just about make out some Dutch but a list is no problem.

I also divined from a radio report on the way back up that Roberto Martinez had lost the Everton job, paying the price for not getting enough out of a talented group of players. (An alternative possibility is that those players aren’t quite as good as their reputations would have them.)

And then there was the Scottish Parliament election, where the SNP paid the price of winning too many constituency seats and Labour actually did come second in the percentage vote in that element but not in the regional lists. We had voted by post before we left.

Time’s Ravages

On Match of the Day a few weeks ago the commentator on Leicester City’s game mentioned that seven years ago Danny Drinkwater (I think) had been turning out for Leicester against Stockport County in the third tier and now he was at the top of the Premiership, remarking what a contrast that was.

I thought, wait a minute, it’s not just Leicester whose fortunes have changed.

In that season Leicester won League One and began the journey back to the big time whereas Stockport County ended it 18th, partly due to a ten point deduction for going into administration.

The next season Stockport finished dead bottom and went down to League Two. (Norwich City won League One that season: yo-yoing up and down the divisions is second nature to some.) The season after that Stockport completed their descent through the Football League by also finishing bottom – of League Two – and so to relegation out of it.

Two more seasons and they even fell out of the Conference into the Conference North. This is the sixth tier of English football, a regionalised league, where they remain, 11th as I write. (Despite this regionalisation in its lower reaches the Conference is now called the National League.)

Football can be a cruel sport.

Notwithstanding this tale of woe Stockport have what on the face of it seems an unlikely fame in China once even having a Chinese team named after them. As that article reminds us at one time Stockport County were the second biggest team in the Manchester area, lording it over Manchester City.

They still manage to attract crowds of over 3000 to their Edgeley Park Ground (image from the link above):-

Edgeley Park

While researching this post I came across this Football League Fourth Divison (as it then was) top four from season 1966-7:-

1. Stockport County P 46 W 26 D 12 L 8 F 69 A 42 GA 1.643 Pts 64
2. Southport P 46 W 23 D 13 L 10 F 69 A 42 GA 1.643 Pts 59
3. Barrow P 46 W 24 D 11 L 11 F 76 A 54 GA 1.407 Pts 59
4. Tranmere Rovers P 46 W 22 D 14 L 10 F 66 A 43 GA 1.535 Pts 58

(For my younger readers the GA statistic is for goal average, the precursor to goal difference for separating clubs equal on points – for which in those days there were only two for a win. It’s an interesting quirk that the top two here had identical goal scoring and conceding records but Stockport had won three more games.)

Admittedly it’s forty-nine years on but all four of these clubs are now plying their trade outside the Football League, albeit in Tranmere’s case only for this 2015-16 season. Barrow and Southport have in their time also fallen to the sixth tier – more than once – but have managed to climb back up to the fifth level again.

Maybe Stockport can do so too some time. Whether they can ever outdo Manchester City again is more doubtful.

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