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The Only Way is Ivory

What happens when you take an average Essex Sunday league team, give them a bit of professional coaching and a bit of inspiration from Ray Wilkins? Well, the people at Nivea decided to find out – The Football Express was kindly invited along to find out how the project is coming along.

‘The Great Football Experiment’: Nivea’s idea is a simple one in principal: after a competition, one lucky team won the right to receive coaching from qualified FA coaches, some spanking new equipment and the advice of some experts in the game – including Ray Wilkins.

Ivory FC and their mentor, Ray Wilkins

That team were Ivory FC – representatives of a Billericay nightspot and a somewhat run-of-the-mill Sunday league playing in a local Essex division (not even the top tier of their district). So, after a gruelling pre-season regime and the continued training from experienced heads, how are they getting along?
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Rodrigo Palacio – A jewel in the eye of a storm

This week saw the culmination of Gian Piero Gasperini’s short spell in charge of Inter, a dismal 3-1 loss at newly-promoted Novara being the final nudge into the abyss for a man already teetering on the precipice. In stark contrast, the Genoa side he left behind have had a fine start to the new campaign- one of their best ever, in fact. The season is still young, but i Rossoblu have yet to lose and have been impressive in attack, displaying some swift and incisive forward play.

Genoa's man of the moment

Genoa's man of the moment

A key cog in their offensive unit is Argentine striker/wide-man Rodrigo Palacio. With an electric turn of pace and ability to run endlessly, he has been a mainstay of a Genoa side that has changed personnel at an alarming rate since his arrival for a fee of around €5m two years ago. Usually deployed as a supporting striker, either as one of a pair or wide in a three-pronged attack, Palacio’s goalscoring record is unremarkable, but his assists and work rate have proved essential at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

He was courted by Inter during the transfer window, but did not link up with his former boss despite the interest; an ideal fit for Gasperini’s much derided 3-4-3 system, could Rodrigo have protected, or at least prolonged, his old manager’s tenure?
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Hakuna Matata #8: When the Champions League was for Champions

Another fine entry in our Hakuna Matata series. The Football Express’ own Matthew Campbell harks back to the infancy of the Champions League.

As a poor young boy without Sky, my opportunities for catching a live game were somewhat limited to the odd domestic cup tie and The Sunday Match: just about enough to keep me going, but not exactly hitting the heights and showing the cream of top talent I yearned to see (although it was a fantastic novelty to see my football coach David Holdsworth on the telly on a Sunday afternoon). But in the 94-95 season I became aware of this thing called the “Champions League”.

A young Ajax side captured the 1994-5 Champions League trophy, as well as the imagination of millions watching

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Ghana v Brazil – a lesson in dangerous organisation by Fulham FC

On Monday evening, I sojourned down to Craven Cottage for the international fixture between Brazil and Ghana – the wet weather refused to dampen my spirits as I anticipated an exciting match. However, the scenes that greeted me upon arriving at the Cottage and what subsequently unfolded drenched my enthusiasm, despite the rain having abated.
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English Premier League Preview – 2011/12

A new season is upon us, no one actually enjoyed pre season did they? When trying to determine in some kind of Nostradamus-style way what we are expecting to see in the English Premier League this season, we’ve gone a bit Derren Brown and enlisted the help of some great journalists, bloggers and fans in. We tried asking them for lottery numbers too, but that was a pound we won’t be seeing again.

Let’s get straight into things and introduce the cast:

Neil Jones (@NeilJonesEcho) – Sports reporter for the Liverpool Daily Post & ECHO and tweets predominantly about clubs based in and around Merseyside.

Matthew Campbell (@mattc236) – Writes for The Football Express, focusing mainly on English football – the Championship to be a little more precise.

Matt Furniss (@Matt_Furniss) – Matt is part of a wonderful team at Opta, and for his sins he’s a Watford fan as well.

Chris Allen (@KingPuck) – A passionate Arsenal fan.

Ryan Keaney (@TheFtblProject) – The Football Project is a site that covers World football and includes a recently started podcast that you may wish to cast your attention toward.

Rocco Cammisola (@rcammisola) – Editor and writer for this fair site, you’ll also find him tweeting about Serie A-D. Searching out obscure stories from deep in the Italian leagues, trying too hard to be a hipster.

Simon Walsh (@RokerReport) – Simon is one of the lead editors for Roker Report, the ultimate source for all things Sunderland related. For rumours, analysis and a wonderful podcast all based around the North Eastern club, Roker Report should be your first port of call.

George Ogier (@george_ogier) – Lives the dream country life, a spurs fan who writes about football and boxing. You can read his works at his blog here and follow him on twitter.

Matthias Kaarud (@MathiasKaarud) – A 19 year old Norwegian tweeter, and Manchester United fan.

Charlie Anderson (@CAndersonFtbl) – Charlier possesses a true rapier wit and near faultless knowledge of Scandinavian football. For more Scandinavian gems, check out his own dear blog

Mike Grady (@MikeGrady87) -Senior Writer for Channel 4 Paralympics and a freelance football writer.

Those were the formalities, now on to the predictions…
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Championship Preview 2011-12

“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true”

Friday 5th August, 19:45, The KC Stadium in Hull.

This is where the Championship season gets underway, thus beginning a long and arduous 46-game journey for all the clubs, which they can only hope will end in the promised land of the Premier League come next May. But only a mere 3 of the 24 clubs will be granted access through those hallowed gates and drink in the utopian nectar of the top flight; for the remainder, the dream must remain only a dream, one they pray the failure to fulfil  is not compounded by relegation into the abyss of League One. And with this in mind, The Football Express takes a turn to look at the season ahead in one of the most unpredictable and competitive leagues in the world.

Teams will hope to follow in Swansea's footsteps

From the outset, it should be made clear that this is not a comprehensive club-by-club guide. Some teams merit more discussion than others, some may get no mention at all. The focus of the article is on the battle for promotion and the fight to stave off relegation; a handful of teams (in your writer’s opinion) will be troubled by neither much and as such may not be written of in this piece extensively or at all.
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Hakuna Matata #2: Remembering Ray

Continuing our Hakuna Matata series, Matthew Campbell puts pen to paper and phalanges to keyboard to reminisce about the 1994 World Cup – an unexpected theme appears to be developing here. Pull up a chair, grab an iced bun and pour yourself a nice tall glass of nostalgia.

The summer of 1994 was a big one: Yemen engaged in a civil war; O.J. Simpson was accused of murder and famously spent a day on the run; the New York Rangers won their first Stanley Cup since 1940. Yes, these great events and more occurred, but I was oblivious. Because the summer of 1994 was a big one: I was hitting the great age of 7, and come September would be moving to the Junior school; we were moving house; and the 1994 World Cup was being played in the United States of America.

1994 is the first year I really remember football-wise and, having enjoyed the domestic season, the spectre of an international summer tournament was looming. Aided by a wall chart and avidly collecting stickers to fill my Panini album, I was imbued with excitement for the summer of “soccer” ahead. Due to the absence of the England team, all my support was given to the Republic of Ireland (being Irish on my mother’s side).
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