While I have ideas, and find my eyes straining at spreadsheets (lovely things, but frustrating sometimes) I thought I’d do a little something off the cuff to give you a bit of an insight into how I see football; ranging from my specialist subject (and hello to any Huddersfield Town fans reading – I’ve covered something like this back in my HTAFCInNumbers days) to things I only see every now and then. Following the 30 days meme we’ve seen on Facebook, Twitter et al, here’s my 30 days of Football on the one page; divided into Huddersfield Town, Club Football and International Football. I’d love to get some feedback on this – be it people posting their own versions, or commenting on mine. Its certainly possible that things have slipped my mind, or – as so often – that more recent events have clouded my judgement over the longer held truths.
1 – Your favourite match.
A 2-5 victory at Crewe in which Marcus Stewart scored twice and had everything. One of those rare days where, as a Huddersfield fan, everything went right, and everything felt possible.
I don’t think I’ve ever enthused about a game as much as I did Barcelona’s 5-0 victory against Madrid a couple of seasons back – they were utterly unplayable that day and it was a delight to see.
From what I’ve seen, though I have seen it all, Brazil v. France in 1982 was a titanic slugging match between the world’s heavyweights.
2 – Your least favourite match.
The 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford to Peterborough the other year was heart-rending stuff; but there’s been far worse experiences. Nothing will ever touch Birmingham in 2001; and I wasn’t even there.
Bury 1-1 Oxford Utd, 2006. Never in the fields of football has so little incident been packed into so much time. It was AWFUL.
Brazil 0p-0 Italy, 1994. Never in the fields of football has so little incident been packed into so much time; and my favourite player ended up the villain, too.
3 – A match that makes you happy.
Huddersfield 0p-0 Sheffield Utd, 2012. I would say more relief than joy, particularly at the end, but that was the game.
I’m no Liverpool fan, but my memories of their victory in Istanbul are all positive ones, though seem to be spread around five or six different venues. Even as a neutral, that was a long night.
Greece 1-0 Russia, 2012. That was brilliant. The stubborn, niggly Greeks holding firm against the flair-y, flamboyant, fancied Russians (and scoring one of the most obvious goals of the championships. Eat that.
4 – A match that makes you sad.
Accrington 1-0 Huddersfield Town. This game was remarkable in its sadness – I’ve talked at length about it. It was a real low ebb for me.
I find Manchester Utd v. Liverpool games remarkably difficult to watch because of off the field issues, there’s so much bile and bitterness between the two.
This game hasn’t happened yet, and may yet not. Didier Drogba needs to win the Cup of Nations. If he doesn’t, the game in which his last chance ebbs away will be the most interminably moving thing to see.
5 – A match that reminds you of someone.
This is pretty difficult. I’ve been to loads of games, but most of them with the same people. So, I think, I’ll go with Brentford 0-4 Huddersfield Town, and pick the group of Brentford fans (to any reading, hello!) who saw me afterwards in great spirits, friendly, and not – at least outwardly – resentful, which, to be honest, having just lost 0-4 you might have expected. Really made me feel welcome, and really confirmed my love of both their club (Brentford and I go back a fair way), and the lower leagues in general.
I remember, vividly, talking to my Grandad about a Valencia v. Manchester Utd game one time I visited a few years ago. We had completely different opinions on it but I always appreciated his take on matches being so opposite to my own. It was the last game we ever talked about.
Any game Brazil played in the 1970 World Cup reminds me of Sir Bobby Robson; for reasons I outlined before, seeing Jairzinho makes me think of Sir Bobby. Its not a bad thing, by any means.
6 – A match that reminds you of somewhere.
Macclesfield T 0-0 Huddersfield T – not so much of a place as the M60, and particularly, a broken down car with an ‘incident’ sign flashing at the side of the road.
Juventus 3-0 Palermo – Reminds me of Ristoritaly in Turin, when we sat down to our meal with the game on in the background, only for our waiter to be paying at least equal, and perhaps possibly more, attention to the Bianconeri than to our meal – though it was a lovely meal.
Italy 2-1 Germany – continuing the theme of Italian waiting staff paying more attention to a game; our Italian in Rochester was particularly understaffed for this game – though there was a really good atmosphere, perhaps inspired by Italy winning.
7 – A song that reminds you of a certain match.
Mike and the Mechanics – Over My Shoulder – Sheffield Utd 2-1 Huddersfield Town, 1996.
Actually, no. Abide With Me is the Cup Final song. Every time I hear it, I think of the Cup Final – generally a late 80s one – and whoever is singing it.
Uncertain. Will think for a while, and see if anything comes to mind for these two.
8 – A player who scored your favourite ever goal.
Chris Billy comes close, and Alex Smithies’ was glorious, but of course Danny Schofield is the man. Magic Danny, how I miss your occasional meandering genius.
Zinedine Zidane. Glasgow. 2001.
It would be difficult for me to claim anything other than the goal that begat my name – Marco van Basten; Holland v. USSR, 1988.
9 – A player who made the biggest ever howler.
Prudhoe! Prudhoe! Prudhoe! Ah, Mark Prudhoe, a goalkeeper who sliced a ball so badly as to take it from the edge of his six yard box into his own goal. Football as tragic comedy. For Stoke.
I seem to remember Chris Brass doing a volleyed clearance against his own head and into the goal, but I also vaguely remember a Liverpool player scoring an own goal from around 20 yards in the late 80s. My mind may be playing tricks on me, though. I picture a right-back.
Chris Iwelumo’s miss while playing for Scotland still plays through my head from time to time and I still can’t quite understand how he missed it.
10 – A match that made you (almost) fall asleep.
Huddersfield Town 0-0 Southend Utd – 1995/96.
Bury 1-1 Oxford 2006 – see above, except add the wintry temperatures and £20 entrance fee.
I really like both Paraguay and Greece, so I obviously don’t get bored with International Football. That said. Any England game since 2002.
11 – A player from your favourite team.
Current – an on-form Jack Hunt; Past – 2002/03 – Danny Schofield.
Current – Rolando Bianchi; Past – 1940s – Valentino Mazzola.
Current – Karagounis; Past – Younger Karagounis. Past? That’s cruel.
12 – A player from your least favourite team.
Current – Luciano Becchio; Past – Alan Smith.
Current – Bacary Sagna; Past – Cesc Fabregas.
Current – Robin van Persie; Past – Edgar Davids.
13 – A team that is a guilty pleasure.
I like Bradford. I like them doing well. I’d happily have them finish one place below Huddersfield every year.
The current guise of Juventus I also like, despite knowing how much I dislike them. This even without Del Piero.
Uruguay. There’s something nasty about them that I still get a perverse pleasure from.
14 – A team no-one would expect you to love
Wycombe Wanderers – particularly under Gary Waddock.
I gained something of a fondness for the Corsican teams off a friend of mine – Bastia, Ajaccio…there’s something stubborn about them there to be applauded.
Greece can be a difficult proposition to love, believe me.
15 – A player that inspires you.
If Alan Lee can be a professional footballer, then anyone can do anything.
All those who came through their club’s youth system and stayed there, in spite of anything. Matt Le Tissier, Del Piero, Francesco Totti…
Jair. The original Jair. I wrote his Wikipedia page, you know.
16 – A player that you used to love but now hate
I really don’t think there’s any ex-Huddersfield players I hate. A lot of them I don’t think were particularly good, but I don’t hate them for it.
I don’t really ‘hate’ any players. I lose respect for a lot of them; Cesc, Samir Nasri (particularly Nasri, actually).
Players? None. People are doing the best for their country, so why should I hate them for that?
17 – A player your team are constantly linked to.
Kevin Phillips. Always Kevin Phillips.
Not really a reader of random transfer speculation, so I don’t know. Marseille are always linked with players leaving, generally to Spurs or Newcastle.
18 – A player you wished your club had signed.
So many…so many. Mickael Forsell very nearly joined, he’d have been great. Actually, no. We know exactly who. Ron Yeats. If Bill Shankly was allowed to sign Ron Yeats, the world could have been our oyster.
Zinedine Zidane promised to play for Marseille. He never did. Zizou.
19 – A favourite chant
David Cowling did! David Cowling did! Who put the ball in the bastards net? David Cowling did.
You may have noticed on Twitter, but of current chants, I’m torn between two. One for sound, one for reasoning. Swansea’s Hymns and Arias makes the hairs on my neck stand on end, but Norwich’s ‘Simon Lappin, King of Spain’ is a true wonder for its simplicity.
Fratelli d’Italia, as sung by Gianluigi Buffon.
20 – A player you’d love to punch when you’re angry.
Jack Hunt can be really frustrating sometimes but I wouldn’t want to punch him.
Fabien Barthez. I wouldn’t even have to be angry. Though if I needed to be, I could just watch a highlights reel of his in advance.
It would be interesting to see how Rivaldo reacted to actually being hit.
21 – Your favourite player before your lifetime.
What I’ve read about Clem Stephenson suggests he would be entirely my kind of player – the ‘passes sweet as stolen kisses’ sounds both glorious and completely of its time.
Valentino Mazzola, I think. He was the Grande Torino made man. Honourable mention here to Jaguare, the former Marseille goalkeeper; if anyone knows any more about him than I do (and you may well) feel free to get in touch.
I think I can say Jair again here.
22 – A game you’d love to play in.
Not a game that was won, because that wouldn’t do any good. It would be one we lost. Probably a pivotal one that was so utterly disheartening as to render a season depressing. The 0-4 at Macclesfield in 2003 would fit the bill, and I could meet Chris Priest, too.
Any FA Cup First Round tie. I’d love to be part of the FA Cup First Round – I wouldn’t like to ruin a team, though, so someone who could win without me (or would lose anyway).
The joy of Cameroon beating Argentina in 1990 would be really something to behold, but ending with 9 men was tricky; I think it would be brilliant fun.
23 – A manager you want as your best man at your wedding
If only Huddersfield had had a charismatic, flamboyant manager who left the club and went on to achieve as much success as was thought humanly possible at a club who became a giant of the English game with him at the helm. Pipe down, Herbert, I’m talking about Shankly.
Having read the interview with him in the Blizzard recently, I’m firmly of the opinion that I could listen to Zdenek Zeman talking for as long as his voice would hold out. If I happen to have been married beforehand, then so be it.
I can’t think of a manager I’d like to speak more at any wedding than Sir Bobby Robson.
24 – A manager that you want to speak at your funeral
I wouldn’t hear it so I’d want as many people to be as annoyed as possible by it. Neil Warnock or Steve Bruce? Warnock or Bruce? Hmmm. Warnock. Big Neil.
Avoiding glib ‘extra time’ Sir Alex Ferguson gags, I can’t imagine any manager more fitting for funereal speaking than Avram Grant, but I think Mick McCarthy would be even better, actually. Big Mick.
For the flip side of both of those, there’s a voice that, no matter what had happened, would be lovely to hear talking warmly about a loved one, even if he got my name wrong and fell asleep beforehand. Step up, Big Jack.
25 – A player/manager that makes you laugh.
After the ‘Great Escape’ season, Huddersfield Town released a video. There was a segment wherein they were naming the tunnels and asked Marcus Stewart to think of a name. There’s a clip where he was asked to think of a man’s name and, where other players have been saying their own names, Marcus looked puzzled and said ‘No, I can’t think of one’. That made me laugh.
I’m torn on Ian Holloway. Sometimes I think he’s really funny, sometimes I think its just to take attention off his team. In the spirit of the latter being a good tactic of easing pressure, I think I can say him.
No longer an international player, but Giorgios Karagounis was. It was the passion of the man. He carried the weight of Greece with him in every pass, tackle and run and reacted thus when things didn’t turn out as planned.
– Your favourite football ground
Gresty Road holds many happy memories as an away ground.
I’ve been to a fair few non-Huddersfield Town games, but the ground I’ve most enjoyed visiting is no longer in use, and sits in the southern end of Turin – the Filadelfia. One day I’d love to go back and see a game there.
Some years ago I made two of my friends sit on a train for about 45 minutes effectively wasting an hour and a half just to visit the Olympic Stadium in Berlin – it was well, well worth the trip, because it was a wonderful stadium and this before the renovation of 2006.
– A player you wish you could be.
Huddersfield-born goalkeeper playing for his home-town club? Alex Smithies, come on down.
I wish I could play like Charlie George, because there’s nobody else like Charlie George. With a body swerve, a wriggle and a hop, he’s through the defence and he’ll never ever stop. I play like Charlie when he’s on the ball, ‘cos he’s the best, the very best of them all, and Charlie is his name.
The players who carry their country’s hopes. The faces on the billboards, the names on the shirts, the national heroes. The Shevchenkos, the Drogbas, the Bests…these are the players I would love to be. These are the ones whose brilliance begets only frustration, for whom tournaments dangle like grapes above Tantalus, before they burst, (occasionally) into a flame of glory to burn more brightly than a magnesium sun only to be extinguished by those who dare not dream of such a victory, by those who know better. By Italy, probably.
– A player that you look at wonder how they made it.
So many of them. So, so many of them. James Hand’s Wikipedia page while he was in the League of Ireland suggests he was one of the less deserving members of a Huddersfield Town squad, but I think Craig Whitington is the name you want here.
I’ve watched the lower leagues quite a lot during my time, and there’s lots of players you see rocking up with different clubs that don’t seem to have any perceptible talent. Leo Fortune-West became one of those, but he was pretty good. One that stands out was Mark McCammon, but I thought that long ago, and he scored a 30 yard volley against us at Doncaster, so he obviously had something.
Stephane Guivarc’h could not have been even the eighth best French striker in 1998. Sorry, he wasn’t even top 20.
– A player from your childhood.
Simon Baldry felt like he’d be playing for Town forever. Thankfully, he wasn’t. Actually, bless him, he was alright, and is wicked at masters football.
First Ray Wilkins, then Trevor Sinclair.
– The best away day.
Any trip to Orient or Brentford, I think, can fit this bill comfortably, but I think I’ll take Brentford. Good people, proper football ground, good beer, proper football team, and a nice trip out there on the tube.
Standing on the terraces of Bootham Crescent as Dagenham and Redbridge were at York, then realising we were in the Dagenham end, and having to sheepishly make our way round, was one to remember. I think my favourite away day overall was Arsenal at Blackburn in the Cup. Arsenal dominated the whole game only to lose it right at the death. The Arsenal fans were crestfallen. I was not.
International game away from home? Well, I stood in the Marseille end at Bolton once, and we were part of a small Red Bull Salzburg contingent at Ewood Park once. Both those games were somewhat lacking in thrill, but I think I enjoyed being French more than Austrian.