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

Halftime is an elusive period for football fans because for a long time, whatever happened inside the hallowed dressing room stayed in there. But times have changed, and fans can now glimpse into pep talks given by managers to get back into the game. 

Some dressing room talks stand out for inspiring the biggest comebacks, while others are bizarre. These team talks show why you should never cash out at half time even if your team is trailing. Before the game and even at halftime, you can find the best odds and promotions at this site

The following are some of the most unusual dressing room talks that stand out in history.

1. Toulouse Manager Saves the Team From Relegation

Toulouse manager Pascal Dupraz delivered a rousing speech as the French Ligue 1 soccer club was hanging on a thread and had only one game to survive. Dupraz knew he had to do something special to keep the team up and this led to his passionate speech, which included video messages of players’ loved ones showing their support for the club. Some players couldn’t hold back tears and as the game started, there was renewed vigour from the team. 

The team twice came back from behind to beat Angers and save themselves from the ignominy of dropping to the lower tier football. It was a fete many fans and football analysts could not have expected from the team, but the manager’s script worked magic. 

2. Sven Goran-Eriksson World Cup Halftime Uninspiring Talk

When a football team falls behind, the players expect some excoriating from the coach. This is what the England players expected from Sven Goran-Eriksson as the team time trailed Brazil at the 2002 World Cup. However, players later claimed Sven’s pep talk was flat and there was nothing motivational about it. 

In fact, Gareth Southgate who is now England’s boss said they expected the inspiring spirit of Winston Churchill when walking into the dressing room but got the lacklustre speech of Iain Duncan-Smith. The talk was low on morale and it’s not surprising that England lost 2-1 to Brazil in that quarter-final match.

3. Phil Brown’s Public Dressing Down

When your team is down 4-0 at half-time, you have every right as a manager to be angry. It’s easy to understand how Phil Brown the Hull City Manager felt when his team showed no fighting spirit against Man City on Boxing Day 2008. 

To turn things around, the manager conducted part of his half-time talk on the pitch in the full glare of the crowd and cameras. If the manager thought this would turn things around, it didn’t and the team lost 5-1. Some players later said they felt disrespected, embarrassed, and unappreciated.

4. John Sitton Sacks Player on the Spot

You hardly hear a football manager criticise his players during halftime, but John Sitton wasn’t no ordinary manager.  During Leyton Orient’s 1994/95 season, the team had cameras following them for the Channel 4 documentary. 

It seemed like a brilliant decision to market the club, but it also gave fans a closer look at their team and manager. Clips of Sitton unleashing fury upon his players have become stuff of legend. In a game against Blackpool, Sitton the co-manager sacked defender Terry Howard at half-time. This was the turning point for the manager as fans turned against him. 

5. Alex Ferguson 3-Word Speech

Lads, it’s Tottenham.” When it came to inspiring dressing room talks, the former Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson has a reputation. But even for him, there were days he went for the unusual like when the Red Devils played against Tottenham Hotspur. The Manchester team had a tough time against a team they normally beat at home. 

During halftime, Ferguson walked into the dressing room and instead of launching into a tirade, he simply said ““Lads, it’s Tottenham.” This according to Roy Keane who played under Ferguson for a 12-and-a-half year spell was all the team needed to get back into the game.

6. The Masseur Steps in For Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho is a hand-on manager and one of the best at that. As the 2013/14 Premier League title race and Chelsea tried to upset Manchester City, you would have thought Mourinho would go hard on his players at halftime. Instead, Billy McCulloch the team masseur took over the half-time speech and Chelsea beat the hitherto unbeaten Manchester City and moved level on points.

Football is always full of drama, both on-field and off-field. Dressing room talks form part of the fun and these are just a few examples of pep talks that stand out for being weird.

For a football fan, nothing can dim the fun in the beautiful game. Well, some football kits have made fans cringe over the years because of how atrocious they look. It’s true the kits might not affect the game, but for fans, these ugly kits became a distraction. This is one reason some of the most popular football teams listen to their fans’ in the design of their kits. 

But even with the worst football kits, you can still leverage the strengths of your team. https://www.newbettingoffers.co.uk/ offer the best sites and promotions when it comes to football betting. You might not be able to find odds for the worst football kits of the year but you can find odds for teams to win matches, leagues and more. 

Check out from the following list if your team once wore the worst football kit.

1. Jorge Campos (Mexico) 1994 World Cup

To say that Jorge Campos was colourful would be an understatement. The Mexican goalkeeper always went to great lengths to stand out from the rest of the field. But it was in the 1994 World Cup that he wore possibly the wildest shirt designs ever worn on the pitch. The shirt designed by the player and produced by Umbro takes the honours for the worst kit ever.

2. Cameroon Kit 2004

Cameroon had earlier created some buzz in the 2002 World Cup with their sleeveless kit, and in 2004, they went a step further with a one-piece. The Puma kits once kit was revolutionary, but it was also impractical for a sport such as football.

Of course, FIFA was up in arms and tried to force Cameroon to change the kit. Some members of the team such as Samuel Eto wore the onesie. For their defiance, FIFA hit the team with a fine and lost some points for their 2006 World Cup qualifications.  

3. Birmingham City Home Kit (1992-93)

Fans describe this infamous Birmingham City ‘Jelly Bean’ kit as the most horrific thing they ever saw, and they’re right. The hideous blue became stuff of comic and even today, the polka dot shirt was the product of the Kumar brothers who managed the team back then.

4. Notts County Away Kit (1994-95)

Notts County’s plaid kit remains one of the biggest mysteries in modern football. Why would a team choose such a terrible shirt design? 

5. Arsenal FC Away Kit (1991-92)

Arsenal’s home kits are always a delight to look at, but the away kits are another story. The worst of away kits comes from the 1991-92 season. The Adidas produced kit is atrocious, with diagonal lines in all shades all over the shirt and short. 

6. Aston Villa Goalkeeper Kit (1993-95)

What’s the easiest way to trick your opponents as a goalkeeper? Wear the ugliest jersey and confuse the strikers. This seemed to have been the motivation by Aston Villa from 93-95. This seemed to work because Aston Villa picked two league cups during the jersey’s three seasons.

7. Athletic Bilbao 2004-05 Kit

To mark the club’s 100-year anniversary, Athletic Bilbao decided on a unique shirt. The idea was to evoke a blood splatter but what Basque artist Dario Urzay managed looked more of a ketchup splatter.it was unfortunate that the team had to wear the kit for the entire season. 

8. Hull City Home Kit (1992-93)

If Hull City were to wear this kit today, it is likely most fans would boo and walk out. The designer took the Tiger’s nickname and tried to etch it on their kit as tiger stripes. The result was a football kit that looked more like a joke. The third division team wore the kit for two seasons.

9. David Seaman’s 1996 Kit

David Seaman’s infamously awful kit could sum up one of the worst Euro campaigns by the home team. Maybe the kit’s designer and producer wanted to speak his mind about the quality of football the team would deliver. 

The funny patch-work-style jersey made Seaman recognisable, and even after England’s all-time rivals Germany, bundled them out by the goalkeeper remained etched in fans’ minds. 

10. Norwich City Home Kit (92-94)

The Canaries’ love for their famous yellow-and-green colours took a bad turn when the kit design didn’t work in 1992.  What came out was more like bird excretion, and the kit got this unfortunate name from fans and commentators. 

But this kit also marked a glorious period for the canaries, with greats such as Chris Sutton and Robert Fleck donning the ugly kit. For a keen fan, it looked like some pigeons had invaded the team’s dressing room just before the match. 

Even in the new age of innovative football technology, football teams still spring nasty surprises with their kit designs. As a football fan, you just have to sit back and enjoy the ugliness of such kits as you enjoy the actual game on the field. 

There is presently a lot of controversy regarding away fans in Premier League matches. The proposal to stop away fans from attending matches in this and the next season has caused a lot of storm among other stakeholders.

Based on this report by 90 Minutes, away fans are important to football in more ways than we can see. Fans are eager to resume attending matches, but due to coronavirus restrictions, authorities still have the power to control who can attend live matches.

Some teams, too, excel because they have a massive fan base. Premier League teams are constantly competing for the attention of the masses because the league is a lot more than just football. Teams with more away fans are known to have a more stable and predictable performance than those without.

Looking at the numbers, here are the away fans rankings for teams in the Premier League.

1. Manchester United Has the Widest Away Fan Base

Manchester United takes the crown as the team with the largest and most wide-reaching fanbase in the Premier League. For a long time, the team has attracted the attention of a young generation of football lovers. At its peak in 2012, Manchester United boasted of over 650 million fans.
Today, the team claims to have 1.6 billion fans globally. Whether this is true or not, the team has maintained a good name and a performance to match to warrant the support it receives. To prove it, the Manchester United brand has commercial partners in over 70 countries around the world.

2. Newcastle United Has the Best Away Fans

Manchester United may boast of having the numbers in away fans, but Newcastle boasts of their loyalty. Time and again, the team has not shied away from crediting the support of the fans they receive for their exemplary performance.

Newcastle has proven that away fans can really have an impact on the result of games. Take this into consideration when you are placing your bets. You can find the best betting sites for your sports betting over at https://www.sbo.net/best-betting-sites/.

A new football fan cannot go wrong following and supporting Newcastle. The team has made history for engineering ways to make their games more accessible to fans during times of hardship.

3. The Blues Colour Every Stadium they Play in Blue

Roman Abramovich’s intimidating squad of mega-rich footballers worship and eat football. The boys in blue have grown to become one of the most popular clubs for football lovers to follow. Chelsea has had impressive achievements since the Abromovich’s takeover in 2003. This has made it more attractive to fans and enabled them to find the best talent from around the world. Looking at the lineup of the blues over the years– Hernan Crespo, Michael Ballack, Samuel Eto’o, – the team did well in finding diverse talent to build a team with a global face.

4. Liverpool Never Walk Alone

Liverpool has won more trophies in the last ten years than most other teams on this list. The Merseyside club is rich not only in trophies but in the number of fans that swear by their games as well. Liverpool and the red brand colour are one of the most easily recognisable football team in the world.
It is true to say Liverpool has slumped in performance over the past couple of years. The football arena, in general, has been tough and the competition in the field stiff. However, the fans of Liverpool can rest easy and patiently knowing they never walk alone.

5. Fans’ Love for Arsenal is Beyond Science

Many naysayers predicted that Arsenal would lose its massive global fan base after Wenger’s exit. They were wrong. The team is bigger and younger than ever and the gunners remain among the richest teams in the world. Arsenal adopted and perfected a simple business model: win the love and win the game. Its fans bet on it even when the odds are not in their favour. The North London club may have remained dry since 2005, but they have somehow managed to balance their books and win over hearts over time.
Whether Arsenal fans look forward to lifting the trophy at the end of the season or it will be another disappointing year is a debate for another day.

Final thoughts

There is a good reason why there is heated debate on whether to allow away fans to attend Premier League matches. These supporters have a direct and predictable effect on a team’s performance. Elite clubs spend a fortune to market themselves as worthy clubs to support for this reason. These five teams appear to be getting the most love in the Premier League.

Etihad Stadium

In football, there are always some away trips that players and fans dread. It may be to a bogey team that always wins, one of the top sides in England or because there of the atmosphere generated by the bigger home crowd.

Somehow these games are tough to be the visitors in. Based on a mix of recent stats and reputation, here we take a look at the toughest away grounds to play at right in the Premier League or Championship right now.

Etihad Stadium

You have to go back to 2016 for the last time than Manchester City lost more than a couple of Premier League games at home. In fact, since Pep Guardiola took over that summer, they have lost just five matches at the Etihad in the competition. That is a formidable record indeed.

Defeats in other competitions, both domestic and continental, have been and far between for Man City too. Guardiola’s style of play is key to making this an away nightmare for opposition players and travelling fans in equal measure. City have dominated up until this season, and their form at Etihad plays its part.

Elland Road

Elland Road

Leeds United have a very vocal fanbase, and you know about it if you’ve ever been in the away end at Elland Road. Currently coached by the maverick ex-Argentina boss Marcelo Bielsa, the Yorkshire side play high tempo, high octane football which puts any visiting team under wave after wave of pressure.

It has been more than 15 years now since Leeds were last in the Premier League, they look like finally getting back to the promised land. That means big games at Elland Road in 2020-21 like renewing their fierce rivalry with Manchester United.

Anfield

Liverpool have won all of their Premier League home games in the current season and no wonder, as they are champions of English football for the first time in 30 years. Roared on by the famous Kop inhabited by the most passionate of Reds fans, Anfield is a daunting place to go for any away team or supporters right now.

They last lost a home Premier League game in April 2017, so have gone well over three years without tasting defeat on Merseyside in the competition. Talk about a fortress. Despite that, the 888sport Premier League odds favour former champions Man City to regain the title from Jurgen Klopp’s crew next season.

The Den

Millwall has a reputation for being hostile for visiting sides. As home crowds go, The Den is populated by partisan Lions fans, and the often-abrasive playing style of their team makes this a thoroughly uncomfortable experience for the club occupying the away dressing room.

It’s typical for a Millwall side to have a bustling centre forward with good aerial ability that harries the opposition from the front. Think Neil Harris, Lee Gregory or Matt Smith. Lions fans expect their strikers to put themselves about but don’t be deceived; there can be silk as well as steel in their teams.

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!

Old Trafford

England is the home of football. The game was first played in the country and it has the oldest Football Association in the world. Although only one of the original teams that founded the FA is still in existence today, England still has some of the world’s oldest football clubs.

It is the national sport, with millions of fans attending matches in person and watching on TV every week. In addition to the transport, snacks, entry tickets, and hospitality that gets spent attending games, the sport generates millions of pounds for the economy each week through fans placing bets on football matches.

Having the oldest clubs also means that many of England’s stadiums are over 100 years old. While they’ve been expanded, upgraded, and had new stands built, many of them have managed to retain their original character.

This heritage means that supporters visiting English football grounds, both in the Premier League and the EFL, have a fantastic experience.

Here are some of the best football grounds you can visit in England.

Everton – Goodison Park

Built in 1892 after Everton fell out with the landlord of their former ground, Anfield, Goodison Park remains the club’s home today. Looking at aerial photos of the club, many are shocked at how close it is to their former stadium that now hosts Liverpool home games.

It has a capacity of 39,572 fans in its all-seater configuration. That’s around half of its biggest capacity, though: during a Merseyside derby on 18th September 1948, 78,299 crammed into the ground.

The club got an absolute bargain for its original construction, spending just £3,000. Even when you account for inflation over the last 128 years, it still only cost £384,000 which pales in comparison to the tens of millions spent on stadiums today.

Everton won’t be at Goodison Park for too much longer, though. The club has been working on plans to build a new stadium for over a decade, and after a few failed attempts it has finally found a suitable solution.

Chelsea – Stamford Bridge

Chelsea’s home ground is even older than Goodison Park. Opened initially in 1877, Stamford Bridge was a multi-discipline athletics centre and it didn’t actually welcome Chelsea Football Club until 1905.

Today it can hold a maximum capacity of just under 42,000 spectators, putting it in the top 10 biggest stadiums in the Premier League.

It’s undergone redevelopment a few times, the first time in 1904 to prepare for the arrival of football at the site. The most recent renovations were completed in 1998, adding roofs to all the spectator areas, removing old greyhound tracks, and complying with the recommendations of the Taylor Report.

There had been plans to further upgrade works, but the planning permission to build a 60,000-capacity facility at a cost of £1 billion expired in early 2020, meaning we’re unlikely to see the plans be realised.

Wembley Stadium

Wembley

If England is the home of football, Wembley is the home of English football. The original structure was built back in 1923, with its iconic twin towers overlooking fans as they walked up to the daunting stone structure.

These were demolished in the early 2000’s to allow for an entirely new Wembley Stadium to be constructed on the site.

It is the largest stadium in the country with a 90,000 seater capacity. In addition to hosting football games, Wembley sees a whole host of other sports take place, including rugby, boxing, athletics and American football.

It was built at a cost of £789 million but would cost more than £1 billion if it were constructed today, making it one of the country’s most expensive stadiums too.

Its size, iconic arch, and history create a fantastic atmosphere. It’s a place that every English football fan should visit at least once in their lives. Since it hosts the final of the FA Cup and other competitions each year, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make the pilgrimage.

Liverpool – Anfield

Originally built for their local rivals, Everton, Anfield is home to Liverpool Football Club. The first football ground on the site was owned by John Houlding, but a dispute arose between him and the Everton committee. No solution was found so Everton moved and build a stadium on the other side of the park.

Houlding was left with a football ground that didn’t have anyone to play in it, so he founded Liverpool.

Although the site has seen multiple redevelopments and additions over the years, it remains one of the oldest in the country, having first opened in 1884. There are several memorials outside the stadium: the Paisley Gateway and the Shankly Gates stand outside as tributes to two of the club’s most successful managers. Meanwhile, the Hillsborough memorial which has an eternal flame can be next to 96 Avenue.

Today, Anfield has maximum capacity of 53,394, and it regularly reaches this limit at present thanks to the strong performance of the club.

Manchester United – Old Trafford

There are few stadiums more daunting for the away team than Old Trafford. In their heyday, United were a formidable force wherever they played, but their home was a fortress that few teams could conquer.

With a capacity of almost 75,000, it’s the second biggest in the country, behind only Wembley. Standing either side of the pitch, the North and south stands are named in the honour of former United giants Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson. The club’s address also includes a tribute to a former legend, “Sir Matt Busby Way” was named after one of the club’s most successful managers.

In addition to the dominant role the stadium played in Premier League titles during the 1990s and early 2000s, Old Trafford has seen plenty of other action. It hosted football matches during the 2012 Olympic Games, and some matches when England hosted the World Cup and European Championship in 1966 and 1996.

All these clubs have more than a century of history, and while some of the original structures may have been replaced, the history of each venue lives on, creating a fantastic away game experience.

Yes, articles like this one usually appear at the end of a 38-game season of Premier League football. Still, we are experiencing extraordinary times, and there isn’t much football to talk about at this moment. Anyway, now that we have had almost 80% of a Premier League season and some cracking away days, we thought it might be fun to look at some of the best performances on the road this season.

Manchester City 0-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers – 6th October 2019

This result was seen as shocking at the time, allowing Liverpool to open up an eight-point gap in the title race. But, in truth, City had made a stuttering start to the season and Wolves were the perfect side to dole out the punishment. Capitalising on City’s defensive mistakes, Adama Traore scored two late goals to secure Wolves’ first top-flight away win over City in 40 years. While Traore grabbed the headlines, Willy Boly was the hero for Wolves – an absolute rock in the centre of defence.

Southampton 0-9 Leicester City – 25th October 2019

The most emphatic away win in Premier League history, and a fitting way to pay tribute on the anniversary of the death of Leicester’s chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. Leicester were aided by Ryan Bertrand’s sending off. But, make no mistake, Southampton would have lost this had they 15 men on the pitch. The high-point of a brilliant season for Leicester City, who were cut to odds-on for a top 4 spot in the EPL 2019-2020 odds by mansionbet.com. For Saints, it was a blessing in disguise. The defeat caused manager Ralph Hasenhuttl to change tactics, and a much-improved Southampton soon climbed out of the relegation zone. Indeed, Saints righted the wrong by beating Leicester at the King Power in January.

 

Manchester City 1-2 Manchester United – 7th December 2019

As we saw with Wolves above, travelling to Manchester City and getting a result was a little easier this season than in previous ones. However, this was a tactical battle during which the much-maligned Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got one over on the imperious Pep Guardiola. United put on a counter-attacking masterclass, with the pace and guile of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial terrorising the Man City defence. Sure, United rode their luck at times, but it could have been worse for City. A blueprint for an away performance against a supposedly superior home side.

Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Newcastle United – 25th August 2019

This early-season game was the polar opposite to the accomplished performances mentioned so far in this list. However, Newcastle’s battling 1-0 victory over Tottenham merits inclusion for the way the Newcastle players gave every ounce of sweat to the cause. It wasn’t pretty, but the Magpies gave a lift to boss Steve Bruce, handing him a first win as Newcastle boss, and leaving Mauricio Pochettino struggling for answers. Joelinton got his first goal for the club, but Paul Dummett was the main man in defence, deflecting everything Spurs could throw at Newcastle.

Leicester City 0-4 Liverpool – 26th December 2019 

Due to the fact Liverpool had been away at the World Club Cup, many thought the title race could tighten with a Leicester victory on Boxing Day. Alas, Liverpool poured scorn on that suggestion by demolishing their closest rivals in their own backyard. The Reds were superb, and they could have been up by three or four at half-time instead of just one solitary goal. However, their superiority showed in the second half, as Firmino, Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner found the net. Liverpool moved 13 points clear in the title race.

 

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.