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A Football Ballad: The Wellingboro Cup

A Football Ballad: The Wellingboro Cup

Confusing Victorian newspaper reports make it difficult to know if the Wellingborough Cup was a real cup competition or merely a name for the games that took place between Reading and Swindon in the late 19th Century.

This poem was published in the Reading Observer on the 5th December 1896 and details Reading’s 2-0 victory over Swindon Town at Elm Park. Swindon had beaten Reading 4-1 only a few weeks before so were clearly expecting to turn over their hosts once more.

Like many sports journalists of their era they link Reading to biscuits, their nickname being the Biscuitmen due to the large Huntley & Palmer biscuit factory that dominated the town.

The ballad was signed off M. so the identity of the poet is unknown.

A FOOTBALL BALLAD
THE WELLINGBORO’ CUP

When Swindon journeyed up
For the Wellingborough Cup
The hopes they entertained were far from small
Of a re-invite to sup
On some biscuits broken up,
but they didn’t, didn’t, didn’t, after all

On the splendid Reading ground,
With an eager crowd around,
The Swindon ‘lads’ did face the local men
And each combination found
That the other’s play was sound,
Tho’ they tried, and tried, and tried, and tried.

And the friendly fight was waged
While a chilling caster raged
Which blew and cut such capers with the sphere
That, howe’er the shots were gauged
It was hard to get them “caged,”
And the minders had a lighter task to clear.

When the cheerers-on of Reading,
In some “whispers,” wide and spreading,
Said “Reading, Reading, Reading, show our skill!”
How their forwards, neatly threading
Thro’ the Swindon ranks and heading
Did strive, and try, and struggle, with a will!

Thus in turn each team the other,
Their opponents, tried to smother,
Till Hadley scored for Reading number one,
And “Georgie” got another
Just to match his football brother,
And then, and there, and so, the “Town” were done!

When the Soton cracks arrive
In our busy Berkshire hive,
How the folks will flock to see, from far and near!
For Reading the will strive
To a greater win contrive
And they’ll do it, do it, do it, never fear!

For, when Swindon journeyed up,
In the Wellingborough Cup,
The hopes they entertained were rather tall,
Of a sitting down to sup
On some biscuits broken up,
Yet they didn’t, didn’t, didn’t, after all!

From the excellent British Newspaper Archive.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2018 in Poetry/Fiction

 

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An introduction to women’s football


I did something that I’d never done before last week. I attended women’s football matches.

Women’s football has lagged behind the men’s game for decades. The fifty year FA directive that saw womens teams banned from using men’s football grounds was only lifted in the early 70s and the women’s game has never recovered to the pre-war days of 50,000 crowds at Goodison Park

Recently however, the game has seen a bit of a renaissance with the formation of a national league (the FA WSL) and the coverage of women’s football, especially the English national side, has increased over the past few years.

Women’s clubs at the top of the game in England are linked to already established Premier League and Football League sides, but they generally play at non-league stadia (to accommodate the sort of attendances they are likely to attract). Arsenal Ladies play at Borehamwood, Liverpool play at Widnes and Birmingham Ladies play at Sutton Coldfield. On Wednesday evening of last week I travelled to Staines Town to see Chelsea Ladies play Millwall Lionesses in a Continental Cup match.

Chelsea Ladies 4 Millwall Lionesses 0, WSL Continental Cup @ Staines Town

It didn’t take too long to see that Chelsea were a step above in class over Millwall. Not unsurprising considering Chelsea are in WSL1 whilst Millwall play in WSL2. The Lionesses struggled with the crisp passing of Chelsea, but held on valiantly until England international Eni Aluko – one of the few players I actually recognised – broke the deadlock. This opening goal settled Chelsea down, and apart from a few dangerous set pieces, Millwall barely troubled Chelsea’s Chilean goalkeeper Christiane Endler.

Not many kids to entertain on a school night

Not many kids to entertain on a school night

 

Despite the crowd being less than 200, the atmosphere inside the ground is very different to a non-league match with a similar attendance. That’s both unsurprising and perhaps even encouraging. But, it’s quite difficult to fully understand who this game is actually being promoted to. Is it being promoted towards Chelsea FC fans who can no longer afford to attend games at Stamford Bridge (entry is set at a very reasonable £5 and £1 for children)? Or is it the demographic being aimed at young children (a disconsolate looking Bridget, Stamford’s sister I’m told, walked slowly around the pitch during the match). I was very confused to see two 14 year old lads at the game until the second half when I saw the larger group of 14 year old girls giggling amongst themselves.

As far as I can surmise, WSL sits in a strange netherworld in the footballing galaxy. The games are played at non-league stadia, using famous club names, in front of low crowds, the programmes they produce are glossy, thin and expensive (£2) but Chelsea (for example) still use Staines Town’s corner flags. I also saw, for the first time, a player make a referee blush by making a rude comment. Normally the referee would ‘banter’ back at the player, but he was a bit taken aback by the Chelsea player’s remark…

 

 

Reading Women vs Arsenal Ladies, WSL Continental Cup @ Farnborough FC

If Chelsea playing at Staines feels odd, then Reading playing in Hampshire, 24 miles away from the Madejski Stadium feels even stranger.The crowd at Farnborough was around double that at Staines the previous evening. Bolstered by some rowdy Arsenal fans, and some rather optimistic Arsenal fanzine sellers there were approximately 400 in attendance for this tie.

WSL2 side Reading fared much better than Milwall had managed against WSL1 opposition the previous night and went ahead when the diminutive Fran Kirby flicked the ball with the outside of her right foot, past Japanese World Cup winner Yukari Kinga, ran onto the loose ball and slotted past the Arsenal keeper to put Reading 1-0 up. It was a magnificent goal and ranks as one of the best I’ve seen live this season.

Reading celebrate their win over Arsenal

Reading celebrate their win over Arsenal

 

Kirby was a thorn in the side of Arsenal all game, and eventually proved to be the difference between the sides. A bit of trickery in the box left Arsenal defender Casey Stoney on her arse and the eventual shot from a Reading striker was parried away only for Lauren Bruton to finish well. Kirby’s excellent performances have seen her deservedly called up to the England squad for the first time.

What’s quite refreshing about the women’s game is that players generally have a lot more time on the ball. It means that rather than rush a pass, or hitting it long, they normally have time to pick out a pass to a team-mate. It leads to some very attractive football. The two WSL games I’ve witnessed have seen far more attractive passing football than I’ve seen at many games this season (if passing football is your thing of course!).

 

 

WSL is a fantastic opportunity to see some footballers playing at the peak of their sport. I’ve seen World Cup winners, England internationals, players from afar afield as Chile and Belgium and Wales. In the 90’s British football fans were drawn towards Serie A by the allure of watching Paul Gascgoine at Lazio, many still watch Italian football, hopefully fans will be pulled into women’s football by Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City and will stay because of the quality of football show. WSL is certainly going to become a part of my own football calendar.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Women's football

 

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Premier League: Doing the double over other clubs


If a club wins both the home fixture and the away fixture during a league season then they are said to have “done the double” over that side. In the Premier League during the 2012/2013 season 16 of the 20 sides did the double over a rival.

The following lists show the teams that each club in the Premier League managed to do the double against.

====

10

  • Manchester United: Southampton, Sunderland, Stoke City, QPR, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Fulham, Wigan Athletic, Reading and Liverpool.

7

  • Chelsea: Sunderland, Stoke City, Aston Villa, Norwich City, Everton, Wigan Athletic and Arsenal.

6

  • Arsenal: QPR, Newcastle United, West Brom, West Ham, Wigan Athletic and Reading.
  • Manchester City: Newcastle United, Aston Villa, West Brom, Fulham, Wigan Athletic and Reading.
  • Tottenham Hotspur: Southampton, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Swansea City, West Ham and Reading.

4

  • Liverpool: QPR, Norwich City, Fulham and Wigan Athletic.
  • West Brom: Southampton, Sunderland, QPR and Liverpool.

3

  • Swansea City: QPR, Newcastle United and Wigan Athletic.

2

  • Aston Villa: Sunderland and Reading.
  • Southampton: Aston Villa and Reading.

1

  • Everton: West Ham.
  • Fulham: West Brom.
  • Sunderland: Wigan Athletic,
  • Stoke City: QPR.
  • Newcastle United: QPR.
  • Wigan Athletic: Reading

0

  • Norwich City: None.
  • QPR: None.
  • Reading: None.
  • West Ham: None.

====

Of the three relegated sides Wigan Athletic were the only team who managed to win home and away against another club (Wigan did the double over fellow relegated side Reading).

Four sides in the Premier League did not lose home and away to another club. Those sides were Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Manchester United. Nine clubs did the double over eventual FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Club, Statistics

 

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Alliterative Footballers in the Premier League, Championship, League One and League Two


A list of footballers who have played in the Premier League, Championship, League One or League Two this season with their first name beginning with the same letter as their surname. Please let me know if you are aware of any others.

  • Adebayo Akinfenwa (Northampton Town)
  • Adebayo Azeez (Wycombe Wanderers & Leyton Orient)
  • Ahmed Abdulla (Barnet)
  • Akwasi Asante (Shrewsbury Town)
  • Ali Al Habsi (Wigan Athletic)
  • Almen Abdi (Watford)
  • Andreas Arestidou (Morecambe)
  • Andrey Arshavin (Arsenal)
  • Antolín Alcáraz (Wigan Athletic)
  • Barry Bannan (Aston Villa)
  • Bartosz Bialkowski (Notts County)
  • Billy Bodin (Torquay United)
  • Brian Barry-Murphy (Rochdale)
  • Chris Cohen (Nottingham Forest)
  • Christopher Chantler (Carlisle United)
  • Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa)
  • Clarke Carlisle (York City & Northampton Town)
  • Conor Clifford (Portsmouth & Crawley Town)
  • Courtney Cameron (Rotherham United)
  • Craig Cathcart (Blackpool)
  • Craig Clay (Chesterfield)
  • Craig Conway (Cardiff Dragons)
  • Craig Curran (Rochdale)
  • Cyrus Christie (Coventry Dragons)
  • Damien Delaney (Crystal Palace & Ipswich Town)
  • Danny Drinkwater (Leicester City)
  • Darryl Duffy (Cheltenham Town)
  • David Davis (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
  • David De Gea (Manchester United)
  • David Dunn (Blackburn Rovers)
  • Diego De Girolamo (Sheffield United)
  • Donervon Daniels (Tranmere Rovers)
  • Dorian Dervite (Charlton Athletic)
  • Ethan Ebanks-Landell (Bury)
  • Frank Fielding (Derby County)
  • Gábor Gyepes (Portsmouth)
  • Gaël Givet (Blackburn Rovers)
  • Gary Gardner (Aston Villa)
  • Gianluca Gracco (Dagenham & Redbridge)
  • Gordon Greer (Brighton & Hove Albion)
  • Harry Hooman (Cheltenham Town)
  • Heidar Helguson (Cardiff Dragons)
  • Jake Jervis (Portsmouth, Tranmere Rovers, Carlisle United & Birmingham City)
  • Jake Jones (Walsall)
  • Jamie Jones (Leyton Orient)
  • Jermaine Jenas (Nottingham Forest & Queens Park Rangers)
  • Jermaine Johnson (Sheffield Wednesday)
  • Joe Jacobson (Shrewsbury Town)
  • Johnnie Jackson (Charlton Athletic)
  • Jussi Jääskeläinen (West Ham United)
  • Kei Kamara (Norwich City)
  • Keith Keane (Preston North End)
  • Leon Legge (Gillingham & Brentford)
  • Leroy Lita (Sheffield Wednesday & Birmingham City)
  • Marcus Marshall (Bury)
  • Mark Molesley (Exeter City & Plymouth Argyle)
  • Marko Marin (Chelsea)
  • Marvin Morgan (Shrewsbury Town)
  • Mathieu Manset (Carlisle United)
  • Matt Mitchel-King (AFC Wimbledon)
  • Matthew McClure (Wycombe Wanderers)
  • Matthew Mills (Bolton Wanderers)
  • Michael Morrison (Charlton Athletic)
  • Modibo Maïga (West Ham United)
  • Nyron Nosworthy (Watford)
  • Olanrewaju Oyebanjo (York City)
  • Osayamen Osawe (Accrington Stanley)
  • Oulwasanmi Odelusi (Bolton Wanderers)
  • Paul Parry (Shrewsbury Town)
  • Pavel Pogrebnyak (Reading)
  • Phil Picken (Bury)
  • Richard Ravenhill (Bradford City)
  • Robbie Rogers (Stevenage)
  • Sam Saunders (Brentford)
  • Sam Slocombe (Scunthorpe United)
  • Sam Sodje (Portsmouth)
  • Scott Shearer (Rotherham United)
  • Scott Sinclair (Manchester City)
  • Sean Scannell (Huddersfield Town)
  • Sean St. Ledger (Leicester City & Millwall)
  • Stéphane Sessègnon (Sunderland)
  • Steve Sidwell (Fulham)
  • Steve Simonsen (Preston North End)
  • Steven Schumacher (Bury)
 
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Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Alliteration XI, Club

 

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Premier League table for the 2012 calendar year


Manchester United were the club who picked up the most Premier League points during 2012. They are followed by their city rivals Manchester City who despite losing the same number of games as United, couldn’t convert many of their draws to wins.

prem2012final

Interestingly Everton picked up more points than both Chelsea and Arsenal during 2012 though this may have something to do with the fact that Everton played more games than both Chelsea and Arsenal during the year. Additionally the contrast between Everton and their neighbours across Stanley Park is stark. Liverpool only won 11 out of their 38 games in 2012. The only two sides who weren’t relegated or promoted during 2012 with a lower points tally than Liverpool were Aston Villa and QPR.

For more statistics related to the 2012 calendar year including stats from the Football League, take a look at the ever excellent Sporting Intelligence.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Club, Statistics

 

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Premier League 2011/2012 to 2012/2013 player changes

Premier League 2011/2012 to 2012/2013 player changes

The close season is traditionally a time where clubs jettison their weak players, replacing them with footballers with the skill to take the club one step further, whether that be to qualify or European competition or avoid another year’s relegation struggle. With that in mind I thought it would be interesting to see which clubs decided a wholesale change would be preferable to keeping faith with the players who toiled their way through the 2011/2012 season.

I took the line-ups from the last day’s action of  the twenty Premier League sides of the 2011/2012 season (this includes West Ham, Southampton and Reading’s last Championship game of the season) and compared these line-ups with the opening day of this year’s Premier League season (2012/2013). The headline figure from this process is that 40% of all players who started the first game of the 2012/2013 season did not start in the last game of the 2011/2012 season (or if they did, it was for a different football club). Obviously this 40% is not entirely made up of new signings as it also includes players who were on the squads of their current teams last season but for whatever reason (be that injury or not being selected) did not start the game.

TEN

Of the twenty current Premier League clubs no club fielded an identical line-up between the end of last season and the start of this season. However, two clubs made only one change. These two clubs were Everton and Manchester City who fielded ten players on the last day of the 2011/2012 season that also started in the club’s opening fixture this season. The only difference between the Everton XI against Newcastle United in 2011/2012 and their opening day side that started (and defeated) Manchester United is that Sylvian Distin started against Manchester United. Interestingly Distin did play against Newcastle in 2011/2012 when he came on as a substitute for Hetinga. We weren’t to know it at the time but between the minutes of ’70 and ’74 the team Everton had on the field against Newcastle United would be the identical eleven that would start the season against Manchester United over three months later. It’s perhaps ironic (if you enjoy using the term loosely, or incorrectly) that the only change in Manchester City‘s starting line-up for their opening day 3-2 victory over Southampton to their last day win against QPR was the inclusion of Everton’s (another club who enjoy making few changes) Jack Rodwell (a replacement for Gareth Barry).

NINE

Two clubs who enjoyed successful seasons in 2011/2012 also made very few changes. Wigan Athletic and Newcastle United only made two changes between the end of last season and the beginning of this. Wigan Athletic brought in new signing Ivan Ramis and burly centre-half Alvaro Alcaraz whilst Alan Pardew also made defensive changes with Danny Simpson and Steve Taylor joining the starting XI. Of all the Premier League clubs it’s only Everton and Newcastle United that fielded starting elevens on the opening day of the 2012/2013 season who were also contracted to the club in the previous season.

EIGHT

Tottenham HotspurReading and Stoke City all started eight players who started last season’s finale. The three clubs had differing reasons for their trio of changes. Spurs were under a new manager in Andre Villas-Boas who was trying to put his own stamp on the side with new signing Gylfi Sigurdsson starting alongside Jermaine Defoe in attack. The Biscuitmen, promoted under Brian McDermott last season, fielded three new signings in Chris Gunter, Danny Guthrie and Pavel Pogrebnyak who they hope will help keep them in the division. Finally Stoke City in an attempt to consolidate their presence in the Premier League started with Marc Wilson, Asmir Begovic and Michael Kightly, none started The Potters’ final game of the 2011/2012 season.

SEVEN

Sunderland, Southampton, Swansea City and West Ham United began the season with seven of the eleven who began the last game of the previous season. Notable signings for these sides included Swansea’s Michu and Chico who have made impacts for differing reasons in the opening weeks of the season for their goalscoring and red card exploits. Similarly to Reading, Saints have signed players they feel are good enough to keep them in the division, both Jay Rodriguez and Nathaniel Clyne started in their opening 2012/2013 fixture. Martin O’Neil has started his first full season as Sunderland boss and fielded new signing Carlos Cuellar in the Rokerites’ (no I didn’t get the memo) first match of the season.

SIX

2011/2012 Premier League runners-up Manchester United fielded five players on the opening day who didn’t start the last game of the previous seaosn. These included the injured Tom Cleverley and Nemanja Vidic as well as new signing Shinji Kigawa. Other clubs who featured five different players were Fulham, Norwich City and West Brom.

FIVE

QPR and Liverpool were the two sides that fielded five players for the last game of the 2011/2012 season who also started the 2012/2013 season. QPR’s slapdash signings have led to the likes of Fabio,  Ji-Sung Park, Robert Green and confused Julian Hoilett playing for the London club whilst Liverpool’s new boss Brendan Rodgers has brought the likes of Joe Allen and Fabio Borini to Anfield.

FOUR

The four Arsenal players to survive from the last game of last season were Gervinho, Wojciech Szczesny, Thomas Vermaelen and Carl Jenkinson. The seven players who started this season were Santiago Cazorla, Abou Diaby, Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Kieran Gibbs. Podolski and Carzola were the two new signings for the north-London club. The other five players were already on the books at Arsenal.

THREE

Only three of Chelsea‘s line-up for the final game of the 2011/2012 season started this season’s opener. This can largely be explained by the fact that Roberto di Matteo was resting a lot of his star men in preparation for the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich. I think it’s fair to say that this tactic worked as his Chelsea side were victorious in a penalty shoout-out after a gruelling period of extra-time. For the record, the three Chelsea players who played in last season’s last game and this season’s opener were Ryan Bertrand, captain-fantastic John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic.

The other side who only had three players to achieve the feat were Aston Villa. I think this case is a little less surprising than most. Villa sacked their manager Alex McLeish in the summer, replacing him with Norwich boss Paul Lambert. Despite replacing a Scotsman with a Scotsman it appears Lambert has his own ideas on how he wants Aston Villa to play. The only three players who started in McLeish’s last game and Lambert’s first were Stephen Ireland. Ciaran Clark and Shay Given.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Club, Featured

 

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CHAMPIONSHIP 2011/2012 SEASON REVIEW WORD CLOUDS

CHAMPIONSHIP 2011/2012 SEASON REVIEW WORD CLOUDS

With the new season upon us we at Spirit of Mirko are continuing our retrospective on the 2011/2012 season. Following on from our Premier League word-clouds we’ve now constructed twenty-four clouds that represent each Championship club’s season via the words used in their respective BBC match reports.

If you wish to use one of these images for your own site, then feel free. Just ensure you set up a link to this page and also give full credit to tagxedo (the wonderful site that these images were created in).

Barnsley

Barnsley

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Statistics

 

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Foreign players in the Championship 2011/2012


Of the 699 players who appeared for Championship clubs during the 2011/2012 season 387 were English. As you’d expect the other nations from the British Isles also featured heavily with (and no, this isn’t a joke) 52 Scotsmen, 50 Irishmen, 28 Welshmen and 19 Northern Irishmen.

The table below shows data on each of the twenty-four clubs in the Championship and the nationalities who played during the 2011/2012 season. The columns are as follows, Nats: number of nationalities used, Plyrs: total number of players used, Eng: Englishmen used (Sco, Wal, NI, Ire self-explanatory). %Eng is the percentage of the total number of players used who are English whilst %B&I is the percentage of players used who are from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. Whilst I understand that Ireland is a foreign country I feel that this metric is useful as players from the Republic of Ireland have been integral parts of squads in the football pyramid for many years.

Championship nationalities 2011/2012

Championship nationalities 2011/2012

Relegated Portsmouth are the side that can most adequately be labelled as the division’s “foreign-legion”, though it has to be said that the term “foreign legion” exited the football lexicon a few years ago. I think it dropped out of common usage at the same time that the goalkeepers union was finally disbanded.

Doncaster Rovers’ (Willie McKay inspired) policy of recruiting anything that moved during the second half of last season leaves them having used the most players in the division (41). Play-off semi finalists Birmingham City used the fewest players having only used 22 during the season. It’s a real credit to the Blues as they also had a gruelling (and very fun) sojourn in the Europa League to navigate.

Peterborough United fielded the highest percentage of English players (79%) but it was Barnsley who used the most (28). In fact the only player that Barnsley used who originated outside of the British Isles was Ricardo Vaz Te, and he signed for West Ham during the January transfer window.

Blackpool used the most Scottish players (7), Crystal Palace used the most Welshmen (4), Burnley were the club who fielded the most Northern Irish players (5) whilst Palace and Ipswich Town fielded the most Irishmen (5).

In 2011/2012 an incredible sixty-seven different countries were represented in the Championship. They were Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Iceland, Brazil, Netherlands, Denmark, Nigeria, Republic of Ireland, Norway, Spain, Senegal, Grenada, Zimbabwe, Portugal, Trinidad &Tobago, France, Mali, Slovakia, Malta, Jamaica, Slovenia, Serbia, Ghana, South Africa, DR Congo, Finland, Australia, Cote d’Ivoire, Bulgaria, Japan, Latvia, Poland, Israel, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Antigua and Barbuda, Curaoao, Czech Republic, Malawi, Morocco, Guadeloupe, Chile, Comoros, Argentina, Cameroon, Algeria, United States, Belgium, Estonia, Honduras, Hungary, Barbados, Switzerland, Fiji, Canada, Mexico, Croatia, Italy, New Zealand, Turkey, Austria, Sweden, Germany and Burundi.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Statistics

 

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Championship Champions 2011: Reading


The following tables show the number of points earned by teams during 2011.

It’s very tight at the top of the Championship table for 2011. Reading have the best points average yet it’s Middlesbrough who picked up more points during the year. Both these sides are closely followed by Cardiff City who finish the year having picked up 82 points, an identical tally to Reading. It might be slightly controversial as Boro picked up more points during 2011, but I feel the trophy should be awarded to Reading who achieved their points tally playing one fewer matches than Middlesbrough.

Forest’s struggles are emphasised in the table below. Despite qualifying for the playoffs in 2010/2011 they find themselves languishing in the bottom half of this table. Three managers in 2011 tell its own story for the Midlands club. It’s Doncaster Rovers who end the calendar year rock bottom; no other side lost as many Championship games during the calendar year.

Championship: Calendar Year 2011 (sorted by average points per game)

Championship: Calendar Year 2011 (sorted by average points per game)

The following table includes all sides that spent any time in the Championship during the 2011 calendar year. It’s Southampton who end the year on top of the table (in average points per game terms). The south-coast club picked up an incredible 105 points during 2011 (58 in League One, and 47 in the Championship).

Championship: Calendar Year 2011 (sorted by average points per game)

Championship: Calendar Year 2011 (sorted by average points per game)

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Club, Statistics

 

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Lost nicknames of the Football League


Football has a habit of re-writing history. If it isn’t trotting out statistics with the prefix “since the Premier League began”, then it’s defining a relatively arbitrary cut-off point of “post-war”. Despite these handy devices it has not stopped Manchester United supporters claiming superiority over Liverpool with their 19 titles (first title won in 1908), one ahead of Liverpool’s 18 (first one won in 1921).

When Manchester United won their first league title over 100 years ago the landscape of the English game was very different. United had only been wearing their now famous red kit for six short years (having changed from white in 1902), whilst Liverpool’s regular home strip featured white shorts rather than the now familiar red (the club only changed to all red in the mid 60s). Whilst many of the kits that teams wore in the early part of the 20th Century would be familiar to many football fans today, a lot of the nicknames probably wouldn’t.

One of the most intriguing cases can be seen in Sheffield. Both Wednesday and United were known as “The Blades”, due to the city’s association with steel, United were often called the Cutlers in the early days. It was only when Wednesday made the move across the city to Hillsborough and the Owlerton district that the distinction between the Blades (United) and the Owls (Wednesday) was made.

Throughout the twentieth century clubs have changed, adapted or dumped altogether previous nicknames. The above set of cards was released as part of a set in 1933 by Ogden Cigarettes. It featured fifty different football clubs from the Football League, each card displaying a visual representation of the club’s nickname. This set of Ogden’s Cigarettes Football Nicknames can normally be bought on ebay for about a fiver. It’s likely to be a reproduction set but it’s well worth the outlay as it offers a marvellous insight into 1930s football.

Whilst many know Sunderland as the Black Cats these days it hasn’t always been like that. For much of the 20th Century Sunderland were known as the Rokerites (a reference to their home ground Roker Park) and it was only on moving to the Stadium of Light that they reverted back to their old nickname. Manchester City‘s recent rise to the higher echelons of the Premier League have almost made the requirement for a nickname redundant (in the same way that Alan Green feels everyone should know when he says ‘United’ that he means Manchester United, not Newcastle the same can almost be said for City). Say the word “City” to most football fans and they’ll almost certainly think you mean Manchester (City). However, look in any edition of the Rothmans Football Yearbook and you’ll see that Manchester City’s official nickame is the Citizens. In fact, most clubs with the appellation “City” have been called the Citizens in print at some point or another.

I thought it important to include New Brighton in this list, a club that sadly folded not many years after these cards were produced. They were a club from Merseyside and played their games at Sandheys Park in Rake Lane (which explains their nickname The Rakers). One of their neighbouring clubs Liverpool are also displayed above. They were once known as the Mariners due to the city’s maritime past, but that moniker has long been forgotten and the club are more likely to be referred to as “The Reds” these days. As for Birmingham City‘s nickname, well, the club were once called “Small Heath” and their nickname was the Heathens – and the less said about the depiction the better, I think…

What’s particularly interesting about this set of cigarette cards is that the narrative of each card often mentions that clubs are “depicted as” something rather than nicknames; clubs were often featured in newspapers as cartoons. Blackburn Rovers, according to the narrative on the back of the card, were depicted as a highwayman – indicating how they would often “hold up” their opponents. The Crystal Palace card shows a Glazier. Before the club took on the moniker of The Eagles they were known as the Glaziers, an obvious nod to “the big glass house”, Crystal Palace. Luton Town are known to many today as the Hatters, but in the 1930s they were widely referred to as the Straw Hatters in honour of one of the town’s major industries. They even featured a Straw Plaiter on their badge during this period. The Bristol City card depicts the club as a baby as the club were known as the “Bristol Babes” at the time, unfortunately as the years wore on they took on Robins as their name and in recent years have even toyed with the boorish Cydermen as a nickname.

Whilst many fans are currently bemoaning the money involved in the modern game, The Premier League, Carlos Tevez, EPPP and a variety of football ills there is one that remains in my mind as the greatest injustice and tragedy of them all. It is that in the 1970s Reading Football Club changed their nickname from the Biscuitmen (or Biscuiteers) to the Royals. This affront to decency took place when Huntley & Palmers closed their biscuit factory in Reading. The football club wasting no time in forgetting their history changed their nickname to the Royals due to some dubious link between Berkshire and the Royal family. This insult to football has led to an entire generation of headline writers to miss out on such beauties as “Reading crumble as opposition take the biscuit”. It is a loss that the football family has had to bare for over 40 years.

 

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Club

 

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