A View From The Stands

Football is a game of opinions. The stories that dominate the back pages of the newspaper are often the topic of conversation on social media and in pubs up and down the country.

A View From The Stands gives everyone the opportunity to have their opinion on the beautiful game published. Whether you’re an established writer, a budding sports journalist or just a fan with a strong view, we want to hear from you.

You can email your opinion piece to info@awaygames.co.uk

This has been a great year for football. With the World Cup in Qatar approaching, not only have we had all of the usual league matches and tournaments, there has also been the excitement of the qualifying matches.

Most of the drama this year has centred on Liverpool and Manchester City’s race for the title. For a while it seemed like City would easily win it, but Liverpool clawed their way back into contention and it has been neck and neck ever since. There is even the chance that Liverpool could pull off the first quadruple in history – winning the EPL, the UEFA Champions League, the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup.

But obviously these aren’t the only two teams in the league. The EPL as a whole has seen tons of incredible moments — and some major lows — during the 2021-22 season. Grab a pint and a pie and settle in, here are our top picks for the highlights of the football year so far.

1.   Tottenham Hotspur shock win at the Etihad against Manchester City

No one predicted the 3-2 Spurs win at the Etihad, least of all the Manchester City players and Pep Guardiola. Spurs had had a rough start to their season as Harry Kane was off his game and they struggled to find their rhythm. It was also a dramatic win, with the deciding goal coming during the 95th minute.

If Spurs hadn’t beat Manchester City, we probably wouldn’t have had the exciting title race that we’ve had this season. Obviously, that wasn’t what inspired the Spurs side to play as hard as they did, but Liverpool fans are grateful either way.

2.   Liverpool beating Manchester United 5-0 at Old Trafford

A match that ends 5-0 can feel cruel when it’s a team at the top of the table dominating a team facing relegation. However, when it’s two of the best teams in the EPL, it’s just crazy to see. When Liverpool faced Manchester United at Old Trafford, it was predicted to be a fairly close match. Liverpool’s utter domination, including a signature Salah hat trick, was a lesson in why Liverpool are one of the top teams in the EPL.

Matches like this make you wish you had money riding on the outcome. An already impressive showing becomes even more rewarding when you’ve bet on the winner. If you want to make a wager on upcoming matches, consider consulting a list of online bookmakers. That way you can get the best odds with the convenience of not having to go to a betting shop.

3.   Purchase of Newcastle United

This next highlight happened off the pitch. In October, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, completed their purchase of Newcastle United. This sudden influx of wealth means that the club now has the potential to invest heavily in talented players. After a few years, it is likely this takeover will lead to the Magpies being perched at the top of the table.

More importantly, however, this event brought the reality of sportswashing to the attention of the general public. It created discussion and raised the question of whether or not it is possible to still support a club when the owners are complicit in human rights violations.

4.   Return of Ronaldo

Though he’s nearing the end of his career, Cristiano Ronaldo is still considered one of the greatest players in the world. As the season opened, Ronaldo was with Juventus and unhappy. A transfer deal with Manchester City fell through and at the very last minute it was announced that the Portuguese star would be returning to his old club, Manchester United.

It was at Manchester United from 2003-2009 that Ronaldo had first made a name for himself. His return to the club was a huge win for fans and also a nice way for one of the great players to come full circle in his career.

5.   Christian Eriksen playing for Brentford

Our last highlight of the season is the return of Christian Eriksen to the pitch. On 31 January, Eriksen signed a contract with Brentford. His return to playing is a true testament to the resiliency and determination of the human spirit. During the Euro 2020 match between Denmark and Finland, Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field.

His recovery and work to return to the pitch were noted by Brentford. Their faith in the attacking midfielder was rewarded when he contributed the second goal in the Bees historic win against Chelsea.

You know how it is – you get up in the morning, you’ve got your bag of cans ready, your best togs on and you can’t wait to get out on the road. Whether it’s on the train or on a coach, the trip down there is one of the best parts of the day. While it might not be the same for everyone, here’s a quick look at our favourite customs when it comes to getting started on an away day.

Have a quick flutter

Look, it’s not for everyone, but if there is one thing that adds a bit of drama to the day, it’s putting a few Accas on. That feeling when you come out of the ground to see you only need another goal in the Luton game to win a grand. You know that even if your team loses today, you might still be onto a winner. It’s not even about winning, half the time – it’s about adding some extra hope to your day. There are plenty of quality sportsbooks and casinos out there that will let you have a little bet, so all you need to do is pick the right one for you and you’ll be ready to get out there.

Being dressed for it

Forget the stereotypes, not everyone wears Stone Island, you know, but getting yourself kitted out is a big part of the day. Whether you’re going to Wolves or you’re going to Brighton, you want to look your best. So that means spending a bit of time on it. You might get prepared for it the day before. You know you’re probably going to need something warm as well. A few cans might warm you up as the day goes on, but English weather is cold at the best of times, so put on something with a bit of warmth to it.

You have a quick mess with your hair and it’s time to get yourself in the mood for the journey.

Get to the meeting point

Whether you’re going on the train or by coach, you have to meet somewhere. It goes without saying that the train is probably the best way to experience an away day. You can spread out a bit more, you’re more likely to be able to get a drink and it’s normally faster. The only real downside is that it can be a bit expensive if you have to travel a fair distance. Getting a few chants out and really getting into the mood for the game is exactly what the journey is about.

That’s not to say the coach is a bad trip. More often than not, the coach offers a lot more convenience than a train. You can stop off at a few places for something to eat and drink, pretty much whenever you want. There’s no need to make connections on the way. You’re not going to miss any stops if you have a sneaky sleep, either. Added to the fact that there’s no danger of being forced to stand for the whole journey, the coach has plenty of positives going for it.

Making your way into the town

This is when things really start to get pumping. Walking to the ground with everyone, throwing out your top songs. Taking over a pub, filling up their till and emptying their beer taps. All of this is part of the away day journey. There’s nothing better than being with the rest of your away day group before a game, really going over what you expect from the day. You might get escorted by the police to the ground these days, but there are no laws against singing while you do it. Sing your hearts out, let the other team know you’re there.

All of it builds up to getting into the ground. Once you’re there, it’s time to make sure the lads on the pitch know what you’ve been through to get there. There’s nothing better than outsinging the opposition on their home patch. Make sure you’re loud and make as much noise as possible. This is exactly what an away day is all about.

Once it’s all over, you make the trip back home. It’s either a long trip or a short one, depending on the result. No matter what happened, you’ll be ready for it all again next week. And no matter what anyone says, it’s pretty easy to get into the mood for an away day – as soon as you wake up, you’ll be in the mood for it.

Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 7: December 2020

Having coasted to the Premier League title in 2019/20, the following campaign hasn’t been so comfortable for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. A 7-2 humiliation at the hands of Aston Villa marked the lowest point but, in a difficult season, there was one clear highlight.

Crystal Palace are known for making it difficult for visiting teams, but the Eagles had no answer to a Liverpool side that romped to a 7-0 victory. New signing Takumi Minamino began the avalanche on three minutes with his first, and so far, only league goal for the Reds. Sadio Mane doubled the advantage 32 minutes later before Roberto Firmino put the game beyond doubt just before half time.

Firmino and Jordan Henderson made it 5-0 before the 70-minute mark. Klopp had even been able to keep prolific striker Mohamed Salah in reserve but, when he introduced him from the subs’ bench late on, the Egyptian added a double to complete the scoring.

With Liverpool in a tight battle for the top four, it could all come down to goal difference so this game could be very significant. There are two Champions League places remaining and the Reds are third favourites in football betting online markets to grab a slot. Chelsea and Leicester City are ahead of them, but this 7-0 thrashing of Palace could yet see Liverpool make the top four.

 

Southampton 0 Leicester City 9: October 2019

Three teams have scored nine goals in a match in the history of the Premier League but only one has done it away from home. Not only is Leicester’s 9-0 demolition of Southampton a record for the Premier League, it’s also the biggest away victory in any English topflight match.

In all of the games covered to this point, key strikers have been influential and that’s the case here. Leicester’s Jamie Vardy led the destruction with a hat-trick which was completed from the penalty spot in second half injury time.

Ben Chilwell had opened the scoring on ten minutes before Youri Tielemans added a second, 17 minutes later. The game was also remarkable for the fact that two Foxes players recorded a hat-trick. Ayoze Perez added a third on 19 minutes before completing his own treble in the second half. The scoresheet is completed by an 85th minute strike from Leicester midfielder James Maddison.

Southampton were humiliated and they would go on to set an unwanted record in the following campaign. A 9-0 defeat at Manchester United saw the Saints become the first club to ever lose by this scoreline in consecutive seasons.

 

Manchester United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 6: October 2020

While this result is not exactly the biggest away win of the Premier League era, it’s a significant scoreline which is notable for the quality of the home side. Few teams travel to Old Trafford and come away with three points so Spurs fans would have been shocked by the magnitude of this outcome.

Like Southampton a season earlier, United had also gone down to ten men when Anthony Martial was dismissed in the first half. It was also a remarkable game because Tottenham had gone behind when Bruno Fernandes opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the first minute.

By half time, Spurs were 4-1 up thanks to goals from Tanguy Ndombele, Harry Kane and a brace from Son Heung-Min. Kane and Serge Aurier added the finishing touches in the second period.

Manchester United are rarely humbled but they were very much second best in this dramatic encounter.

 

Nottingham Forest 1 Manchester United 8: February 1999

Until Leicester demolished Southampton, this match held the record for the biggest away win in the Premier League and the mark stood for over 20 years. Nottingham Forest were struggling as a top flight side at this point and visiting Manchester United took full advantage.

Another record was set as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored four times after coming off the bench – the most by a substitute. The rout was completed by Andrew Cole and Dwight Yorke who both scored twice.

 

All of these games will take some beating but there are some free scoring sides in the topflight, who will be looking to get on the list in the future.

 

 

The curtain has come down on another Premier League season, with Manchester City coasting to the title. Pep Guardiola’s men have claimed a trophy which has been destined for the Etihad for several months.

Like all good champions, City’s away form has been key in getting them over the line. The club has secured many points on the road and they’ve previously been involved in one of the most emphatic Premier League away wins of all time.

Watford 0 Manchester City 6: September 2017

Manchester City’s thumping win over Watford at Vicarage Road was significant for more than one reason. The emphatic victory took the Citizens back to the summit of the Premier League while it handed the home side their biggest ever defeat in the topflight.

The Hornets were stung by a hat-trick from Sergio Aguero while goals from Gabriel Jesus, Nicholas Otamendi and Raheem Sterling completed the rout. Aguero’s treble took him closer to City’s all-time goal scoring record which he would eventually surpass.

Having beaten Feyenoord 4-0 in the Champions League earlier in the same week, City enjoyed a rampant period. With Watford having already kept three clean sheets at that stage of the campaign, the victory was even more impressive.

 

Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 7: December 2020

Having coasted to the Premier League title in 2019/20, the following campaign hasn’t been so comfortable for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. A 7-2 humiliation at the hands of Aston Villa marked the lowest point but, in a difficult season, there was one clear highlight.

Crystal Palace are known for making it difficult for visiting teams, but the Eagles had no answer to a Liverpool side that romped to a 7-0 victory. New signing Takumi Minamino began the avalanche on three minutes with his first, and so far, only league goal for the Reds. Sadio Mane doubled the advantage 32 minutes later before Roberto Firmino put the game beyond doubt just before half time.

Firmino and Jordan Henderson made it 5-0 before the 70-minute mark. Klopp had even been able to keep prolific striker Mohamed Salah in reserve but, when he introduced him from the subs’ bench late on, the Egyptian added a double to complete the scoring.

With Liverpool in a tight battle for the top four, it could all come down to goal difference so this game could be very significant. There are two Champions League places remaining and the Reds are third favourites in football betting online markets to grab a slot. Chelsea and Leicester City are ahead of them, but this 7-0 thrashing of Palace could yet see Liverpool make the top four.

 

Southampton 0 Leicester City 9: October 2019

Three teams have scored nine goals in a match in the history of the Premier League but only one has done it away from home. Not only is Leicester’s 9-0 demolition of Southampton a record for the Premier League, it’s also the biggest away victory in any English topflight match.

In all of the games covered to this point, key strikers have been influential and that’s the case here. Leicester’s Jamie Vardy led the destruction with a hat-trick which was completed from the penalty spot in second half injury time.

Ben Chilwell had opened the scoring on ten minutes before Youri Tielemans added a second, 17 minutes later. The game was also remarkable for the fact that two Foxes players recorded a hat-trick. Ayoze Perez added a third on 19 minutes before completing his own treble in the second half. The scoresheet is completed by an 85th minute strike from Leicester midfielder James Maddison.

Southampton were humiliated and they would go on to set an unwanted record in the following campaign. A 9-0 defeat at Manchester United saw the Saints become the first club to ever lose by this scoreline in consecutive seasons.

 

Manchester United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 6: October 2020

While this result is not exactly the biggest away win of the Premier League era, it’s a significant scoreline which is notable for the quality of the home side. Few teams travel to Old Trafford and come away with three points so Spurs fans would have been shocked by the magnitude of this outcome.

Like Southampton a season earlier, United had also gone down to ten men when Anthony Martial was dismissed in the first half. It was also a remarkable game because Tottenham had gone behind when Bruno Fernandes opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the first minute.

By half time, Spurs were 4-1 up thanks to goals from Tanguy Ndombele, Harry Kane and a brace from Son Heung-Min. Kane and Serge Aurier added the finishing touches in the second period.

Manchester United are rarely humbled but they were very much second best in this dramatic encounter.

 

Nottingham Forest 1 Manchester United 8: February 1999

Until Leicester demolished Southampton, this match held the record for the biggest away win in the Premier League and the mark stood for over 20 years. Nottingham Forest were struggling as a top flight side at this point and visiting Manchester United took full advantage.

Another record was set as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored four times after coming off the bench – the most by a substitute. The rout was completed by Andrew Cole and Dwight Yorke who both scored twice.

 

All of these games will take some beating but there are some free scoring sides in the topflight, who will be looking to get on the list in the future.

 

 

Football is a sensational sport that is embedded in the history and culture of countries around the world. When footballers take to the pitch, they are representing not only their teams, but the countries they are from. Naturally, football fans can be intensely passionate about this sport. For those that love to travel and experience a different culture, what better way than to visit a foreign football stadium for a match? Here are some stadiums that you must consider.

Old Trafford, Manchester, England:

When it comes to England’s history of European and major league titles, fans often refer to it as a lifetime of near-misses. Regardless of the country’s heartbreaking past, it is filled with numerous talented clubs and legions of superfans. It’s a competition in itself to declare one club’s fans the most passionate in England or one stadium above all the rest.

However, most English football fans would agree that Old Trafford certainly has its place in history cemented. As the home of Manchester United, it is one of the most well-known stadiums in the world. On the day of a match, Old Trafford is electric with the energy that Manchester fans bring. These are some of the most passionate football fans that you will find anywhere in the world.

Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain:

Nou Camp

Camp Nou is the home of the prosperous Barcelona football club and it is the largest stadium in Europe, seating almost 100,000 screaming fans. It first opened in 1957, and since then there have been countless historic moments like the 1999 Champions League finals, and opening day of the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

Of course, if the history isn’t enough to draw you in, the spirit and intensity of a Barcelona home match certainly will. There’s nothing like having 100,000 roaring fans together in one place. Barcelona fans are known for their signature song “Barcelona ale” which is sung during every match and that is just one of their many chants. Outside the stadium is a festival in itself, with countless fans singing and dancing as they make their way to the match.

Anfield, Liverpool, England:

Of course, we couldn’t just include one English stadium on this list. Liverpool’s own Anfield is another stadium that you must visit. Luckily, we have a detailed away guide for Liverpool that will help you get ready for a match here if you have never been in town before. With just 50,000 seats, it may not be the largest stadium around but fans here are known to be especially passionate about their home team and show their support at every match.

Liverpool sets itself apart from other clubs by numerous traditions and symbols that they rally around. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is their famous saying, meaning that Liverpool fans always come out to attend matches together. Liverpool fans are known for their creative chants, and you will certainly never hear a dull one as they replace the lyrics of popular songs with their own. Most home games are spirited affairs, and more than likely Liverpool will win at home. This is certainly one stadium trip you cannot pass up.

Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany:

Allianz Arena

The Allianz Arena in Munich is a truly gorgeous one-of-a-kind stadium that is worth a visit just for the tour. It’s a large stadium with 75,000 seats, but it’s really the exterior and not the interior that will leave you mesmerized. The Allianz Arena is coated with inflated ETFE plastic panels, making it the only stadium in the world that can fully change colour. Its vibrant red glow is the most famous facade and matches Bayern’s club colours.

Of course, a beautiful stadium would not be enough to draw a crowd every week. Luckily, Allianz Arena is home to the sensational Bayern Munich football club. This club has legions of fans worldwide and is beloved in its home city. The fans here are quite used to winning, and thus every home game is a high-energy event. If you attend a match here, you are assured to see flags flying, chanting, and non-stop cheering from start to finish.

Etihad Stadium

There has been a lot of scrutiny, particularly from statisticians, as to how the dynamics have changed in football without fans in the stadium. We know that down the years, playing home and away has always carried a sense of significance. It’s tough to play against a team with tens of thousands of fans roaring them on. We know that it is a difference-maker. Would Liverpool, for example, have lost six consecutive games at Anfield had the Kop been packed to the rafters? You’d have to say, probably not.

The truth is, though, that away results have only partially improved since fans have been locked out of stadiums. One study by Soccer Stats showed that, in the Premier League, away wins went from 32% of all matches to just shy of 40%. But while that increase in away results might look small, it is still significant. And the same trends have been shown in La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga – so it’s not some fluke of the Premier League.

But which teams have mastered away form in empty stadiums? Below we list the top raiders from the Premier League down to the National League. Please note that data is from the beginning of the season to 12th April.

Premier League: Manchester City

2.40 pts per away game

A lot has been made of Manchester United’s impressive away record (23 games unbeaten), and the Red Devils are on course to match Arsenal’s all-time Premier League unbeaten away record (27 games). However, it is City who boast the best away form in the Premier League. United’s run has had too many draws, whereas City have picked up 11 wins, 3 draws and 1 defeat in 15 games. That’s why City are betting favourites for the Premier League title, and United are fighting it out with the rest for second place.

Championship: Norwich City

2.14 pts per away game

The Championship is tough, and you are not going to go through a full season without getting a bloody nose or two on the road. But the Canaries have been largely excellent – except for a little rough patch around early February. They are unbeaten away since 5th February (2-0 vs Swansea) and completely deserve to take their place in the Premier League next season.

League One: Sunderland

2.0 pts per away game

The first team on this list not on the top of the table at the time of writing, although Sunderland’s uptick in form means they might be by the end of the season. League One has been fascinating this season, with the lead changing hands at several points. Hull are currently top, but have a narrowly worse (1.90 pts) record on the road than the Mackems.

Stadium of Light

League Two: Cheltenham

1.75 pts per away game

Back at the top of the table now, and Cheltenham Town look nailed on for promotion to League One next season. One of the keys to Cheltenham’s success is not just the away form, but the fact they have been able to take points from their direct rivals in away games. The Robins have lost just once on the road to teams in the top half of League Two, a fact that has kept them in the hunt for the title all season.

National League: Sutton United

2.0 pts per away game

Sutton United sit second – one point behind Hartlepool – in the National League, but they have four games in hand over their rivals. Sutton’s away performances have been impressive, although 3rd-placed Torquay (1.88 pts per away game) haven’t been far off. Torquay, Hartlepool and Sutton will lead the chase for promotions to the football league, but it is Sutton, who have not been beaten since January, who look to be in the driving seat.

 

Every punter’s dream is winning big from betting, but the truth is that many of them never manage to achieve that. We’ve analysed the most significant football bets of all time, and we’ve figured out that there is more than just luck when it comes to making successful bets. Getting consistent wins from sports betting requires skills, like intuition and thorough knowledge of the game.

Looking for inspiration for your next successful bet? Below, you can find out the most memorable football bet winnings of all time:

1.   George Wood earned £116,000 on a PSG bet

George Wood was an avid gambler, who spent over £17,000 on football bets, before winning a small wager of £5.05, which brought him a great win of £116,000. He successfully predicted the victory of Paris Saint-Germain over Marseille. At that time, PSG was somewhat of an underdog, so the odds of them winning were quite high.

2.   Peter Edwards predicted the future and won £125,000

Harry Wilson became a professional football player at the young age of 16. Little did he know that 15 years prior, his grandfather Peter Edwards bet £50 that his grandson would become a successful football player in Wales. Wilson didn’t disappoint his grandfather and turned out to be a very talented footballer, bringing his family joy and an extra £125,000 in their account.

3.   An unknown player earned £272,000 after placing a £2.50 wager

An anonymous gambler earned £272,000 in an accumulator bet after Barcelona scored a last-minute decisive goal, which resulted in a draw with Athletico Bilbao. The unknown player only made a small bet of £2.50, so the outcome was quite impressive.

4.   Mick Gibbs accumulates £500,000 from a 30p bet

Mick Gibbs, a roofer from Staffordshire in England, has an excellent eye for winning accumulator bets. He became a legend in the sports betting community after earning a fortune from predicting football games. His first considerable win was in 1999 after he guessed nine football games from various European countries on a £2.50 wager, which earned him £157k.

Even though his victory might seem like a dream for many, Mick didn’t stop there. In 2001, he predicted the winners of 15 football matches on a 30p bet and received odds of 1 to 1,666,666. While the results of the first 14 games turned out to be exactly as he predicted, the last game was a little tricky. It was a Champions League game in which Bayern needed to beat Valencia, which ended in penalties. Luckily, Valencia’s defender, Mauricio Pellegrino, missed his last shot, which made Gibbs £500,000 richer.

5.   Anonymous punter bet 80p and won £585.000

The highest accumulator bet won was made through William Hill casino by a Maltese punter on 19 matches with odds of 1 to 683,738. All the predictions he made turned out to be correct, finishing with Liverpool beating Chelsea just a few minutes before the end of the game. Glen Johnson was the one who scored the decisive goal, bringing £585.000 to the anonymous punter.

6.   An unknown gambler won £650,000 on a £100 bet

The highest accumulator football bet ever was made by an unknown gambler who had a simple strategy. He placed his wagers on the teams that were expected to lose, which offered him a 6500x multiplier. To everyone’s surprise, all his predictions turned out to be correct, and he collected £650,000, which is the biggest bet ever won on football.

The bottom line

All the bets mentioned above were made with a minimal amount, and most of the winners weren’t even professional punters. As you can see, anyone can get consistent winnings from gambling, as long as they get a little bit lucky. However, making strategic decisions might increase your odds even more in the long run.

Not a fan of sports betting? That’s alright! There are plenty of other casino games that require skill to be successful, like blackjack or poker. Thus, learning the blackjack strategy or knowing how to read people’s facial expressions are must-haves if you’re looking to get consistent gambling revenue from table games. Good luck!

The magic of the FA Cup is one that many football fans talk about extremely fondly. The oldest cup competition in Europe has had so many magical moments and for the neutral many fantastic upsets along its way. When we talk about the domestic cups now in England it seems like it is an opportunity for the clubs in the Premier League and even the top teams in the Championship to rotate the squad and have a look at players perhaps on the outskirts of the first team squad or promising youngsters coming through the ranks. What has happened to teams attacking the cup, wanting to bring the prestige of winning a trophy and medals to add to the history of the clubs or players wanting to count the medal collection when they retire rather than the money in the bank.

The FA Cup 3rd round matches took place all over the weekend and all at various times, this for one has took away from fans, punters and the media interest from covering these games. TV Rights have taken the air of enthusiasm away from people at this stage of the competition. Show the matches yes, but why have a handful of games early on the Saturday, more at 3 o’clock, then another handful alongside the televised match later on in the afternoon. This makes it much harder for fans to keep up to date with all the scores that are happening on the Saturday and Sunday.

​Supporters of some Premier League clubs must watch their team when it comes to the FA Cup with a sense of disappointment and confusion. The money in the Premier League is extortionately high which allows even clubs who struggle with relegation and with mid table ambitions to have extremely large squads, this in turn has managers using the competition as a springboard to give some squad players minutes on the pitch, and to almost see how far the fringe players can get them before introducing the more established, the starting eleven players into the team in a hope to win the competition.

When it came to this weekend with 3rd round games, there was 4 Premier League clubs that made a swift exit from the competition, 2 clubs that are in a relegation fight, Fulham and Huddersfield, 1 team from playing another Premier League club in Bournemouth, and Leicester City who have no worries of relegation as they sit 7th in the Premier League. With Newcastle who historically do not emphasise a cup run and Southampton both being taken to replays. The major question for fans of Bournemouth and Leicester should be why we were not fielding are strongest possible line-ups, or at least several more of the ‘better’ players. Bournemouth are coming off the back of a very poor festive period, and this would have been a massive opportunity to gain momentum and a cup run would have brought the confidence back among the players. Leicester were guilty of the same approach in the Carabao Cup defeat at the hands of Manchester City, making a host a changes and despite drawing the game if they had attacked the competition, playing the likes of Maddison from the start they could have potentially been playing Burton in the semi-final of the competition.

​The clubs in the Premier League now are focused on what can bring in the most money, staying in the Premier League is obviously worth more in the long term than success in the FA Cup, but what about spirit and getting confidence among the players, Fulham especially had a fantastic opportunity to push on and build a platform for positive results, now after getting beat by league 2 Oldham at home the club will be a real downer, fans wondering if they have enough to really make a fight to stay in the Premier division. The fans of Newcastle need a lift, something to feel positive about in terms of the season ahead; they now face an extremely difficult fixture at Ewood Park against a Blackburn team that should have knocked the Magpies out of the competition completely, yet again. The fans of these clubs need to feel the optimism at the clubs, in the cup you need a bit of luck to get far, and get the right draws, but who is to say if a Newcastle drew a top six team that the top six team play a full strength eleven? Then there is a perfect opportunity to progress to the latter stages of the competition.

​The giant killings of the FA Cup is what draws the most anticipation and has the historic memories for most when we talk about the prestige of the FA Cup. The atmosphere last night at Rodney Parade from the start there was a sense of we can win this, Newport fully deserved their victory over previous Premier League winners Leicester City. The talk about the quality of some of the players was relentless, and then we remember these are league 2 footballers earning considerably less than even the back-up Leicester City players. Barnet beating high flying Sheffield United of the Championship is a result looking at the weekend results that must be considered a giant killing, and the boos around Bramall Lane at the final whistle showed the fans displeasure of the lacklustre display on such an occasion, especially knowing the history the club has with the competition. These results still happen, last season saw Lincoln City then of the National League put out a Burnley team that were flying high in the Premier League.

These lower league clubs put so much into the competition, even in the qualifying rounds that it can be hard to see clubs using the cup as an experiment tool. The lure of testing themselves against the best clubs in the country, managers wanting to show their own credentials against perhaps managers that they look up to. The TV money should they get it and from progressing is obviously fantastic for them, but watching that Newport performance against Leicester, a club who would benefit greatly from the money they will receive, the players looked like they wanted to showcase their ability, they played with a fight, a hunger to work together and show their fans that they care for the club. That is what can be great about these cups in the cup, fans who do not follow or watch lower league games can become familiar with the players, almost find a second club, where they enjoying watching them, can become embroiled with this and want to feel a part of it, all these factors can enlighten and enhance clubs from the bottom tiers.

Previous clubs among the Premier League have shown what can be done in the competition, should they take it seriously and try and have a go at winning the competition. In 2008 Harry Redknapp won the cup with his Portsmouth team, Wigan in 2013 beat the odds to overcome an extremely strong Manchester City team to lift the trophy. Only 3 teams in the last twenty five years have had the glory of winning the FA Cup outside of the top six in the Premier League, the other team was Everton back in 1995. The top clubs Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City have all tasted success during this time, teams wanting to have extra success, so they make the FA Cup a priority of the team once they reach the latter stages of the competition. Everton should be one of the clubs looking to use the cup this year as a platform to build on in terms of winning a trophy. The feel good factor at the club would be enormous, especially after the last few years which has seen many Everton fans become disgruntled at the club they support. The debate of finishing in the top four or winning the FA Cup, what is more important to Tottenham Hotspurs? Well they should finish in the top four this season given their current position , but how good was it to see Mauricio Pochettino line up with Son Heung-min, Dele Alli and Harry Kane coming off the bench at Prenton Park, a real sign that he is in a trophy hunt this season.

The FA Cup is one that needs to be reviewed, not in terms of what the FA can change with it but by clubs among the Premier League and how they prioritise it. Could they integrate a system that would stop clubs making wholesale changes to line-ups? We want to still have the moments of giant killing in the competition, so getting rid of replays is not the answer especially for the clubs lower down in the divisions who can benefit greatly from the financial gain. As a fan it would be great to see everybody taking the competition seriously and looking forward to FA Cup weekends rather than almost turning a blind eye to this. Having the majority of games on the Saturday 3 o’clock kick off time would bring back an atmosphere, with obviously a few televised games along the way.

MONEY, money, money, It’s a rich man’s world.

No, I’m not still harping on about Scudamore’s bonus. Why of course, it’s UEFA this time and the inception of a new European competition. They seem to have a thing for these at the minute. Europa League 2.

No, this is not a joke. It’s real and it’s coming live to you on Thursday nights from 2021.

How will it work? Will this spell the end of European football as we know?

Apparently, it will, in fact, do the opposite. UEFA claim to have listened to clubs in the region and say it will make European football more inclusive, with no fewer than 32 countries being guaranteed group stage football in both Europa League and Europa League 2.

Here’s the plan. The Champions League format will not change and every country’s champion will still enter it. However, only teams from the 15 top-ranked countries will go into the Europa League (Europa League 1, I think?) group stages or qualifiers, meaning sides from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, will be dumped down into the third-rate competition – Europa League 2.

Meanwhile, champions from these countries will still get their play-off ties to qualify for the Europa League, and failing that, UEL2, as it is now branded. So that’s three bites at the cherry for European football. Hmmm.

UEL2 and UEL will have the same format, with eight groups of four teams in both competitions. The winners will progress to the last 16. Here’s where it gets interesting though. Teams finishing second in the UEL2 group will face play-offs against teams finishing third in the UEL groups.

The winners of Europa League 2 will qualify for the Europa League, just as the UEL winners are granted automatic entry into the Champions League.

Easy, no? So what’s the problem? The smokescreen of inclusivity. UEFA has admitted a shake-up of European competition has been needed for some time now but this competition is probably not the best way to do it.

In a throwback to the days of the Cup Winners Cup and the Intertoto Cup, UEFA’s return to three midweek competitions serves only to isolate the plucky Icelanders or Faroese from their dates with the big clubs.

A format which allows only clubs from the 15 top-ranked nations takes away the David vs Goliath ties and instead relegates the minnows even further from a dream match against the Barcelonas and Bayern Munichs of our continental game.

Sure, things needed to change. Many supporters have called for the Champions League to return its original structure. A knockout competition solely for champions. Two-legged ties. No ranking or seeding system. Give the champions of Luxembourg their opportunity to face Real Madrid. None of this protection.

Yes, we might end up with the odd drubbing or two in the earlier stages but how do the smaller clubs progress and grow stronger if the quality of the sides they face is limited.

You also find the joy of gaining access to European competition watered down and what will it mean to a side like Burnley or Crystal Palace if they one, qualify for the UEL, but are then dropped into UEL2 after finishing third in their group?

Well, it would mean a potentially easier route to a European final against the lesser ranked countries but it means a hell of a lot of football and a limited level of competition. Such glory days await us all.

Burnley are currently suffering the consequences of their success. Having finished seventh in the Premier League last season they were rewarded with a place in the UEL second qualifying round. Their competitive season started on July 26 and after six European ties, the Turf Moor outfit crashed out of the competition in the play-off round to Olympiacos.

And having one of the smallest squads in the top flight, Sean Dyche’s men sit 19th in the league with just two wins to their name. Success. Many would say quite the opposite.

With the money earned by finishing higher in the Premier League more of an incentive than the potential cash cow UEL2 proffers (still to be confirmed), sides will be doing their best to avoid European football, especially if the proposed 3.30pm kick-off times are anything to go by.

While these will be limited, of course, it shuns fans once again. How many supporters will be leaving work early to get to a game when there’s a 3.30pm kick-off on a Thursday afternoon?

This is another way for UEFA to rake in money. Their moneybag elite clubs are protected from trips to the smaller nations, unless of course they fail in the Europa League and get handed a 3,000-mile round trip to Astana in the Europa League 2 play-off round.

It remains to be seen whether fans will get behind this concept but while UEFA head of competitions Giorgio Marchetti says there will be no losers, I cannot agree.

The stronger clubs from associations 16-55 will certainly benefit in the UEL2 but will be robbed of their fairytale excursions and I for one, in case you haven’t grasped it yet, am not a fan.

Watch this space.

HOW harmful can a handshake be you might ask? When it’s golden and worth £5m it certainly raises the blood pressure somewhat.

Many businesses across the UK have a tradition to offer someone a golden handshake – a contribution given to a retiring employee after many years of service.

So, what then is the problem with the Premier League doing the same for outgoing executive chairman Richard Scudamore you might ask? Let’s get into the details.

FIVE MILLION POUNDS? That’s at least 5,000,000 reasons why it’s not right just there. Premier League clubs have been asked to foot the bill, a staggering £250,000 from each club – some of whom are in only their second or third campaign in Scudamore’s domestic super league.

Couldn’t this money be used for grassroots football or even contributed to the rising numbers of homeless people and shelters in the cities these clubs are based?

Who is Richard Scudamore and why the need for such a hefty exit bonus? I’m pretty sure Britain won’t get anything near that when Theresa (May) and Co drag us kicking and screaming from the EU in March.

It was in 1999 that Scudamore joined the Premier League and he became executive chairman in June 2014. It is fair to say he’s done a good job. TV rights have skyrocketed during his time at the helm, from an estimated £670m to a mind-blowing £5.14bn.

After 19 years though, with a reported wage of £2.5m per season, is a two-year salary payment too much? Most firms would tend to offer a two- or three-month salary bonus. So, in simple terms, Yes. It’s too much.

The announcement has been met with anger among supporters, while initially five of the league’s 20 clubs said they wouldn’t pay up. By the end of the week, all 20 had coughed up.

And as the domestic game returned on Saturday, it was Liverpool fans who led the protests during their 3-0 victory at Watford.

The banners read: ’11,662 Premier League season tickets. 56,180 weekly shops for food banks. Scudamore’s £5,000,000. Greed.’
And that says it all. 56,180 weekly shops. Homelessness in our country is at an all-time high. Reports claim no fewer than one person in every 200 in Britain in 2018, with London seeing numbers of one in 53, Birmingham one in 73 and Manchester one in 135. Five million pounds. What could that money do?

So what exactly did the Premier League or FA contribute? Sweet FA you could say. If they were so pleased with his services, wasn’t it for them to make this payment? I know when an ex-employer of mine was dishing out redundancies and farewell gifts, John, Steve nor Diane from the copy room were not asked to contribute, so why can’t the Premier League take from their own coffers?

The gap between the Premier League and the English Football League has been growing since its inception in 1992. Fans are being messed around with surging ticket prices, TV deals see matches that have been scheduled for Saturday afternoon for four months, suddenly swapped to a Monday night and generally, fans have had enough.

The supporters are not sat in an ivory tower with the means to throw an extra £30 – if you find the best bargain – at another train so they can attend their beloved side. They are the everyday man, many of whom are towing the breadline, who has to ask his boss if he can leave the office at 2pm to get the train down to London for a Newcastle United away match on a Monday evening.

Critics will say, watch it on TV. But not everyone can afford to do that either. Pay over the odds for a subscription to see your team on the box four times in the season while the top six feature in every second match? No thanks.

I don’t actually have a problem with Scudamore getting a parting gift. It’s the amount I have a problem with. Grassroots football has been crying out for support for many years. Premier League clubs claim to use up all their budgets, without having any excess? But when one of the clubs’ chairmen puts it before a vote, all 20 can just magic £250,000 out of thin air? OK then.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these top-flight clubs do a lot of work in the community but many, myself included, see it as a two-fingered salute to everyone outside football’s top table.

Just this weekend a Kendal Town FC sponsor made a plea in their matchday programme for supporters to return, claiming difficult times lay ahead as fewer people turn up to games. They are grassroots. They are your local team. A meeting will be held in the New Year for supporters to bring their ideas forward in a bid to revive the club and take it forward.

It is the same the country over. More and more clubs are struggling. Non-league sides dropping out of the game. Once-strong football league hopefuls, now withering away in the tenth and 11th tiers of British football. Something has to change.

The golden handshake sums up the type of incessant back-slapping that has been all too familiar since the Premier League got going. Kudos to Scudamore for how he has developed the Premier League on a global stage, but in doing so, the everyday football fan is being priced out of the game.

What will they do when they have no supporters in the ground for the games. It is time the FA, Premier League and football clubs around the country sit up and take note of their supporters. More and more people are turning their backs on football and if the big wigs don’t listen there won’t be a league for them to bury their treasure in.