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Hakuna Matata #10: Peter Shilton and the cult of the replica

By Matt McMahon

Italia ’90 is the first World Cup I can remember, I watched a lot of the football and I remember being allowed to stay up late for the England games, I completed my World Cup wall chart immaculately, detailing every scorer and completing all the group tables.

Shilton's experience provided solidity to England at Italia '90

Shilton's experience provided solidity to England at Italia '90

Unfortunately being only 9 years old it’s the extra peripheral stuff I remember more clearly. Our school ran a competition to design a World Cup poster. I didn’t win, I have never won anything to do with art, I’m not blessed in that department, but I remember a selection of the best ones being in the corridors for the entire build up and throughout the world cup. This should be introduced in my office during major sporting events, I plan to pin up an Olympic planner in my office next summer so everyone can stand around it and plan their evening’s TV viewing.
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Hakuna Matata #6: European Nations ’80 Italy 1-0 England

By Giancarlo Rinaldi

Not every child gets to see their father rolling around the living room floor with his two brothers. To the outsider, it might have looked like a fight that had got out of control as three grown men writhed around on the carpet. But what looked like aggression was actually ecstasy.

Marco Tardelli: Hero of the night

Marco Tardelli: Hero of the night

This was what growing up was like for me. There were not that many football games on television, even fewer involving Italian teams. So when the Azzurri played at a major championships it was a real occasion. A time for family, food and a few bottles of wine.
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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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Hakuna Matata #4: A new dawn – England v Poland ’86

By Chris King

In a bedroom, in North West London, an 11 year old boy is woken by the light of a new day. The thin material of his curtains no match for the glare of the rising summer’s sun. In later years it will take him an age to rise from his bed; forever hitting the snooze button on his alarm – praying for five more minutes peace before the horrors of the daytime resume. But now, at such a tender age; he is up in an instant – resuming his intergalactic battle with figurines and transformable characters. All under the watchful eye of heroes – both fictional (superman wall paper) and sporting (an A1 poster of Glenn Hoddle).

At first glances it appears to be a normal, everyday morning – but on closer inspection, there is something different about his room today. As his head raises with the swooping motion of arm and robot in disguise, the boy notices an old, used envelope propped up against the mirror above his drawers. He moves closer to inspect the envelope, trying to guess what reason it had to be there? He could see there was nothing inside it – ripped as it was, with such haste so as to leave just one side intact.
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Hakuna Matata #3: Out on the stairs

Italia ’90 was remembered by some for few goals and Pavarotti’s rendition of Nessun Dorma, but for Richard Pye from Headers and Volleys it also bore the stain of early bedtimes and sneaking down on the stairs. He continues our Hakuna Matata series here.

In the summer of 1990, our old brown, battered TV shone a beam of light into my world. Italia ’90. With it came my first taste of dashed hopes, but also the birth of my understanding as to why indeed this game was so ‘beautiful’.

Gazza's tears

As the tournament and England progressed, I had become obsessed with the team of David Platt, Gary Lineker and of course, Paul Gascoigne. Wanting to be just like them I’d be in the street with my partners in crime Gav and Graham, desperately trying to replicate Platt’s hooking volley, or Lineker’s ducking runs to near and far posts, attempting to latch onto the crosses of Waddle and Barnes. In reality, the only move I was able to repeat turned out to be Gazza’s semi-final tears.

When England were knocked out by West Germany, my dad threw his mug of tea at the wall and I, sat on my haunches in the middle of the sofa, was not really sure what had happened. Dad had explained to me that whilst we certainly hadn’t lost, West Germany had somehow contrived to win because Waddle and Stuart Pearce had messed up their penalties. And so the waterworks began for the first time. Being past my bed-time, I was consoled and put to bed with the comforting reassurance “it’s alright boy, there’s another World Cup in four years”. If only I’d known I’d probably still be crying now.
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International Friendlies – 5 things we learnt

For all of the hot air that surrounds the “unnecessary” non-competitive international breaks, there is far more we are able to garner when coaches use these occasions properly. Below are a few points regarding the few things the England and Italy coaches may have learnt on Wednesday evening.

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Blackpool deserved more against a fortunate City

This afternoon I had the pleasure of sitting down to watch a full Blackpool match for the first time this season: I did not think that it would an enjoyable experience, but it was. A thoroughly entertaining match, very open, packed full of chances and (controversial) incidents. Blackpool have exceeded the expectations of many this season; fully expected to be the whipping boys of the league, they currently sit in a commendable 10th position and have more than held their own over the course of the opening eight games.

From an explosive 4-0 opening win at Wigan to a historical (and amusing) win at Anfield, they’ve given a good account of themselves and shown that, thus far, they have what it takes to mix it with the big boys. Maybe they can’t quite mix it with the biggest kids in the playground on a consistent basis just yet, as maulings at the hands of Arsenal and Chelsea testify, but what is impressive that they did not let the beatings affect them- they picked themselves up and soldiered on. And they’re doing all this with a squad of unremarkable players, several who probably draw cries of “Who?” from fans each week as their names are read out at grounds around the country.

Poor side on paper

On paper, Blackpool should not have a chance; their team is made up of players who have plied the vast majority of their trade outside the Premier League up until this season. Goalscorer today Marlon Harewood is their most experienced topflight player, but he hardly has a glittering goalscoring record at the top level (although it is somewhat better than fellow striker Brett Ormerod’s 11 in three seasons with Southampton), yet he’s already on 3 for the season from only 6 appearances. DJ Campbell seemed to have shown in his time at Birmingham that he was not Premier League quality, but he, like some of his teammates (defenders Evatt and Crainey, to name two), has been given a second chance when it seemed like his opportunity had passed. Several of the team, such as the impressive goalkeeper Matt Gilks, midfielder David Vaughan and forward Luke Varney, have never played in the top tier at all. Luke Varney has been one of the revelations of the season (for me, at least); he was a below average Championship stirker, who got relegated when on loan at Sheffield Wednesday last year; but Ian Holloway took a chance and loaned him from Derby, and it appears to be paying off. Today he was a constant threat- quick, alert, and a menace to the Man City defence. Charlie Adam is another who has never played in the top division of England; he was distributing the ball today like he was the Scottish Andrea Pirlo.

The thing that impresses me most about Blackpool, and what made the game so pleasing to watch, is that they actually try to play football; they don’t stick 10 men behind the ball and send it long to a target man. It’s a brave approach, more risk inherent, one might say, but in all likelihood they’ll be the under-pressure underdog in most of the games they play so might as well have a go at what is, on paper at least, a superior opposition. The results so far suggest this approach is paying dividends. Credit has to go to Ian Holloway for turning them into a Premiership side, something that did not seem likely when he took over. Blackpool snuck into the last playoff spot on the penultimate weekend of last season (after an incredibly boring Swansea side the place away) and then overcame the odds once more to conquer Nottingham Forest and then Cardiff in the playoffs.

Today, they nearly overcame the odds again against Manchester City, and perhaps they would have done was it not for some questionable officiating. They only have themselves to blame for not being ahead in the first place- DJ Campbell’s tame effort, slipping the ball wide of the post with only Hart to beat after some excellent work by Varney, being the most prominent example of Blackpool’s profligacy in front of goal. And when they finally did make the breakthrough, Gary Taylor- Fletcher’s strike was ruled out somewhat harshly for an offside. If I understand the rule correctly, then this may well have been the right decision on a technical level; Grandin was offside and went for the ball and thus became active, even though he didn’t touch it. However, like the Huddlestone-Gallas issue on Saturday, I think this had no bearing on the outcome so could have been allowed to let slide; a case of “letter of the law vs. spirite of the law”, if you like. However, if Blackpool thought that was harsh, then worse was yet to come: Tevez’s opening goal was clearly offside. They felt hard done by again for his second, claiming a foul on Evatt in the build up; I think Evatt was fouled, but Man City had a decent claim for a freekick themselves immediately prior to him getting the ball- the challenge on Bridge did not look entirely legitimate. There could be no complaints about the third though, a stunning individual effort from David Silva, the introduction of whom changed the game.

Manchester City’s attitude

Just a quick word on Manchester City; they managed to pick up three points again despite not playing particularly well and were assisted by some questionable officiating. They are definite title contenders, but will need to play better if they want to stay in the race. Emmanuel Adebayor was, quite frankly, rubbish; lazy and disinterested, you’d expect someone who gets a rare start to put in the effort and try to impress, and he did not. Mancini favours a defence first approach, as shown by use of the two holding players, and there is no place in his XI for someone who is not prepared to pull their weight- I doubt Adebayor will be at City for much longer.

The difference when Silva was introduced was remarkable- City suddenly became inventive and dangerous. I do think Mancini needs to take more risks; going to somewhere like Blackpool with two defensive midfielders is rather negative. It’s fine to play like that against Chelsea or United where there is a greater need for defensive numbers, but against the lesser lights City should be coming out and looking to attack. (Although who knows how much havoc Charlie Adam would have wreaked had he been allowed even more attacking scope!) I think one of De Jong/Barry (much preferably De Jong) along with Milner +1 (ideally Silva) would be a better midfield approach; using two holding players invites the weaker teams to have a go as they’re under less pressure and Blackpool nearly (arguably should have) got something from the game with their attacking play.

Final word

Blackpool were hot favourites to finish rockbottom of the league, but if they keep playing like they have been they’ve got a very good chance of staying up, which hopefully they will take and we’ll be treated to more Sunday afternoons like this one.

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