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Not every title is won with money

Monday, May 21, 2012

By Paul Frederickson
The last few weeks have been wonderful for English teams. Manchester City won this season's English Premier League and in the past weekend Chelsea won the coveted UEFA Champion's League. Both are remarkable achievements but in the midst of their celebrations some people are stating that the teams only won their titles due to previously unheard of sums of money. Is there a chance that small teams can still make an impact in the world of football? A team in Israel's Premier League is proving that there is still romance and hope for smaller teams.

On the 2 April 2012, IIroni Kiryat Shmona secured their maiden title win with a 0–0 draw against league giants Hapoel Tel Aviv. Remarkably, IIroni Kiryat Shmona, won the title with five games to go. It is an even bigger achievement when you consider the history of the club.

The club has been in existence for 12 years, been promoted, relegated and promoted again through the ranks of Israel's football ranks to ultimately win the country's highest football honor. They are not a small club who has wealthy benefactors, nor are they are hugely followed team whose supporters drive large income streams through the club. They come from a town of 21,000 people and play in a stadium with a maximum capacity of 5,500 fans. A bare minimum squad of 26 has reached the pinnacle of domestic football and will now play in the qualifying stages of the UEFA Champions League. In a city more accustomed to missile attacks as one of the most northern of Israel's cities, Ironi Kiryat Shmona are now making fireworks of their own. Now those fireworks will have the chance to enter Europe's biggest football scene.

The biggest of Israel's clubs, Maccabi Haifa FC, Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Beitar Jerusalem FC have been confounded by IIroni Kiryat Shmona's success. With a dramatically smaller budget, playing group and staff IIroni Kiryat Shmona have become the little club who could. In the club's early days, and perhaps with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC owner Izzy Sheratzky suggested, "When I founded the club I said that one day we would reach the Champions League," His light-hearted suggestion is now a dawning reality.



Their fans put their success down to one thing, a lack of ego in the squad. A simple but effective ethos that many small clubs would, it could be suggested, be looking to emulate.







You're up then you're down, you're in then you're out!

Monday, May 14, 2012

By Paul Frederickson

One of the the most captivating and endearing traditions of the English Premier League is the final day. The one day of the season where dreams of winning the title or perhaps qualifying for European competitions is mixed with the dread of relegation for some supporters. Hearts beat faster, nails are chewed to the quick and the drama is enhanced with all teams kicking off at the same time meaning that radios are listened to and whispers of other scorelines become a roar.



The final day of the 2011/12 season was one for the ages, teams changed positions, titles were won and lost and fans from all over the world were glued to the on field action from their stadium seats, television and computer screens as well as radio broadcasts. Let's look back at four team's fortunes on of the most dramatic final days for many years.
At the top of the league it was the battle of Manchester with both teams on the same amount of points but Manchester City holding a decisive +8 goal difference over their rivals.
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Manchester City 86 points (+63 goal difference) vs Queens Park Rangers at home.

Manchester United 86 points (+55 goal difference) vs Sunderland away.
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At the bottom of the league there was one more relegation spot to avoid and two candidates desperate to avoid the drop.
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Bolton Wanderers  35 points (-31 goal difference) vs Stoke City away.

Queens Park Rangers 37 points (-22 goal difference) vs Manchester City away.
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Final day timeline

12' Jonathon Walters scores for Stoke against Bolton.

Stoke City 1 v Bolton Wanderers 0

Manchester City 0 v Queens Park Rangers 0

Sunderland 0 v Manchester United 0

Bolton Wanderers 35 points (-32 goal difference)     18th in the relegation spot.

Queens Park Rangers 37 points (-22 goal difference) 17th and safe.

Manchester City 86 points (+63 goal difference)   Nervously atop the league.

Manchester United 86 points (+55 goal difference) Pushing for the first goal.

20' Wayne Rooney scores for Manchester United.

Stoke City 1 v Bolton Wanderers 0

Manchester City 0 v Queens Park Rangers 0

Sunderland 0 v Manchester United 1

Bolton Wanderers 35 points (-32 goal difference) 18th in the relegation spot.

Queens Park Rangers 37 points (-22 goal difference) 17th and safe.

Manchester City 86 points (+63 goal difference)  Their crowds bays for a goal as word gets around that United are leading Sunderland.

Manchester United 89 points (+56 goal difference) The hope of a 20th title is 70m minutes away.

39' Mark Davies scores for Bolton and Pablo Zabaleta scores for Manchester City.

Stoke City 1 v Bolton Wanderers 1

Manchester City 1 v Queens Park Rangers 0

Sunderland 0 v Manchester United 1

Bolton Wanderers 36 points (-31 goal difference) 18th in the relegation spot but a chance to win and climb to safety.

Queens Park Rangers 37 points (-23 goal difference) 17th and still safe at this stage. Hoping for a Stoke win and/or equaliser against Manchester City.

Manchester City 89 points (+64 goal difference)   City regains the league lead.

Manchester United 89 points (+56 goal difference) United concentrate on their own slim lead knowing that they must at least win their own game first.

45' Kevin Davies fires Bolton into the lead against Stoke.

Stoke City 1 v Bolton Wanderers 2

Manchester City 1 v Queens Park Rangers 0

Sunderland 0 v Manchester United 1

Bolton Wanderers 38 points (-30 goal difference) 17th and the great escape music and chants resonate at half-time.

Queens Park Rangers 37 points (-23 goal difference) Half-time is a time of despair, away to Manchester City and still hoping for their own team or Stoke to revive their hopes.

Manchester City 89 points (+64 goal difference) City maintains the league lead.

Manchester United 89 points (+56 goal difference) United hold a slender half-time lead.

51' Cisse scores for Queens Park Rangers.

Stoke City 1 v Bolton Wanderers 2

Manchester City 1 v Queens Park Rangers 1

Sunderland 0 v Manchester United 1

Bolton Wanderers 38 points (-30 goal difference) 17th with a point lead over QPR.

Queens Park Rangers 37 points (-22 goal difference) 18th and a chance to keep their fate in their own hands.

Manchester City 87 points (+63 goal difference) City have a fight on their hands as the 44 year drought hangs over the heads of the City faithful.

Manchester United 89 points (+56 goal difference) United cannot believe they can still win the league.

55' Joey Barton's brain fade and straight red leaves QPR down to 10 men.


66' Jamie Mackie's header puts QPR into the lead against Manchester City!

Stoke City 1 v Bolton Wanderers 2

Manchester City 1 v Queens Park Rangers 2

Sunderland 0 v Manchester United 1

Bolton Wanderers 38 points (-30 goal difference) 17th with a point lead over QPR.

Queens Park Rangers 40 points (-21 goal difference) 17th and not needing to keep an eye or ear on the Bolton match.

Manchester City 86 points (+62 goal difference) City fans memories of past failures are now prominent.

Manchester United 89 points (+56 goal difference) United now have one hand on the trophy.

77' Jonathon Walters converts a penalty to equalise for Stoke.

Stoke City 2 v Bolton Wanderers 2

Manchester City 1 v Queens Park Rangers 2

Sunderland 0 v Manchester United 1

Bolton Wanderers 36 points (-31 goal difference) 18th and back where they started at the beginning of play.

Queens Park Rangers 40 points (-21 goal difference) 17th and not needing to keep an eye or ear on the Bolton match.

Manchester City 86 points (+62 goal difference) City fans memories of past failures are still prominent.

Manchester United 89 points (+56 goal difference) United now have one hand on the trophy and are listening to the result at the Etihad stadium.

91' FT at two of the games:
Stoke City 2 v Bolton Wanderers 2   Bolton are relegated, Queens Park Rangers are safe.
Sunderland 0 v Manchester United 1 United are champions unless City can conjure two late miracle goals deep into extra time.

92' Dzeko scores from a point blank header to give desperate City fans the cruelest slivers of hope.

Manchester City 87 points (+63 goal difference) City fans can barely watch, urging their team for one last effort as the title slips away with every second.

Manchester United 89 points (+56 goal difference) United fans world-wide are praying for a final whistle to blow at the Etihad stadium.

94' The son-in-law of one of the world's greatest ever players drifts into the right side of the penalty box and rifles a shot across Kenny's outstretched right hand and with less than a minute to go Manchester City are the Champions of the English Premier League!

Bolton Wanderers 36 points (-31 goal difference) 18th and relegated. They were safe and then relegated in a roller coaster and ultimately disappointing afternoon.

Queens Park Rangers 37 points (-23 goal difference) Relegated, and then beating the Champions in waiting, ending in a defeat but more importantly Stoke's equaliser kept them in the premiership.

Manchester City 89 points (+64 goal difference) City fans will celebrate for years to come in an afternoon that would have damaged many of their hearts, nails and bleeding lips.

Manchester United 89 points (+56 goal difference) United and Ferguson fought to the end but now have to wait at least one more season for the historic 20th title.


What a day! A day that could not have been scripted with much more drama in mind!
The kind of day that sums up every feeling that the wonderful game of football evokes.



Congratulations to the new English Premiership League winners, Manchester City!

Aston Villa's season of woe is not a one season travesty!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

By Paul Frederickson  
Aston Villa look likely to stay in the EPL for next season after a barely deserved draw against a ten man Tottenham team with other results also going their way. Unless the unlikely happens, Aston Villa losing and Bolton winning next weekend's game whilst making up a 17 goal differential the Birmingham based club will retain their premiership status. What has gone wrong for one of England's bigger teams? Could financial security could be one of the major factors in the fall of Aston Villa?
McLeish looking up the ladder.
Aston Villa have not won a title since the dawn of the Premier League but they have come close on one occasion and flirted with the top five for more years than they have flirted with relegation. Their support is solid and they have seen a plethora of talented players, Gareth Barry and Ashley Young to name two, progress to bigger and more successful organisations. In therein lies the true standing of Aston Villa, this generations feeder club to the likes of the Manchester giants.

In early June 2011, Aston Villa appointed manager Alex McLeish from  newly relegated and bitter rivals Birmingham City after unsuccessfully seeking the services of Wigan Athletic's Roberto Martinez. It would be easy to easy to lay the blame of Aston Villa's horror season solely on the manager instead of the owners, after all Martinez's Wigan are only two points above the struggling Villa team. Martinez's decision may have had a two fold benefit; he is seen as loyal for staying at Wigan whilst appearing to be pre-cognitive in his decision not to take the helm at Villa. The rationale of signing McLeish has not been espoused but would appear to be based on monetary factors; firstly that the club could afford him, secondly that he could afford to accept the restrictions that have been placed upon him by the owners of the club. Aston Villa is a selling club, its flirtation with the higher echelons of the Premiership have become jealous mutterings.

Yes, injuries have played a significant part in the demise of Villa's season but they paint over the significant cracks of a lack of funds, a squad that is far too short to survive the rigors of a torrid and physical English Premiership League season. This has been evident for several seasons with Aston Villa falling away significantly after the Christmas periods. This will not likely change as Aston Villa's American owner, Randy Lerner, owns clubs that lose a minimum of money whilst making little impact on the competitions that they inhabit. In his ten year ownership of the Cleveland Browns, since inheriting the team from his father, they have barely reached a 40% win rate in a competition that has both a salary cap and draft concessions for badly performing teams.

Perhaps it is the expectations of Aston Villa supporters that need to be lowered, survival in the English Premier League with it's multi-national and diverse owners is becoming harder every year. The disparity between the league's haves and have-nots is already creating a three tier competition. A competition composed of those seeking the title and at least European qualification, the middle tier satisfied with the benefits of playing in the Premier League and the third tier whose yo-yo'ing between competitions is a scary and more likely reality.

Perhaps mediocrity in the premiership is looking more acceptable every day as opposed to falling down the English leagues and the monetary issues that ensue. A good run in the FA Cup against the big boys of the premiership may one day appease a supporter group that has got use to being one of the bigger English clubs. The last few seasons have given even the most optimistic supporters to the way ahead for Aston Villa, and it is more than likely not to be found at the moment by looking up.