Category: English Football League


Veteran striker Kevin Phillips was the toast of his teammates on Monday evening - but will he return to the Premier League next year? (Image | Sportinglife.com)

Veteran striker Kevin Phillips was the toast of his teammates on Monday evening – but will he return to the Premier League next year? (Image | Sportinglife.com)

Kevin Phillips’ 105th-minute penalty on Monday afternoon secured Crystal Palace a win and the biggest prize in football – an estimated £120m windfall to go with their return to the Premier League after an eight-year absence.

In what could have been his final game for the club, Phillips, whose career began at defeated finalists Watford, stayed calm to blast the decisive spot-kick beyond Manuel Almunia.

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In case any of you were too busy watching the relegation battles on Tuesday night, you may have missed the news that, after three straight years of play-off heartache, Cardiff City were promoted to the Premier League after a 50-year absence from the top flight.

Vincent Tan, Malaysia's ninth richest man, celebrated his club's promotion along with Cardiff fans at Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday (Image | football365.com)

Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan celebrated his club’s promotion along with fans at Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday (Image | football365.com)

The achievement has been heralded as a landmark moment in the history of Welsh football. Ten percent of next year’s Premier League teams will be Welsh… but is there really much that Welsh footballers stand to gain?

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Paulo di Canio will be celebrating a step forward in his managerial career - but does he have what it takes to save Sunderland? (Image | Getty)

Paulo di Canio will be celebrating a step forward in his managerial career – but does he have what it takes to save Sunderland? (Image | Getty)

Sunderland made a bold decision yesterday in hiring highly flammable but little-tested Italian Paulo Di Canio as their new manager in the midst of a relegation battle. The first question that came to my mind, however, was: is Di Canio really the ideal candidate for a team fighting to stave off relegation?

There’s no denying that the controversial Di Canio is a talented manager; his Swindon charges certainly seemed inspired to greater things by him based on the club’s dip in form following his departure. But the Sunderland post presents new challenges to Di Canio.

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Since taking over Nottingham Forest in July, chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi has had four managers serving under him, and the latest of these for only 40 days and seven games.

"Mac the Knifed" | Nottingham Forest manager Alex McLeish left the club by mutual consent after 40 days in charge. (Image | The Times)

Turmoil | Nottingham Forest manager Alex McLeish left the club by mutual consent after 40 days in charge. (Image | The Times)

When the news that former Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish had departed by mutual consent emerged last week, the footballing world let out a collective groan as it became clear that yet another club was in the throes of what might be called “toxic ownership”.

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When Capital One took on the sponsorship of the League Cup, as it is traditionally known, it may perhaps have been dreaming of a showpiece final pitting Manchester United against rivals and Premier League champions Manchester City.

All aboard the Bantam bus | Bradford City fans celebrate their side's victory over Aston Villa. (Image | The Guardian)

Bantams of the opera | Bradford City fans make their voices heard following the two-legged victory over Aston Villa. (Image | The Guardian)

As a worst-case scenario, the banking firm would surely have expected two teams of a similar calibre to Everton and Liverpool to be contesting the final at Wembley Stadium in front of 90,000 supporters.

Not in a million years would Capital One have ever anticipated that its brand name and image would be projected around the world on the basis of 90 minutes of football played between Bradford City, of League Two, and top flight outfit Swansea City.

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Obsession | Football is as much a part of the British national psyche as queuing, drinking tea and spending hours in the pub. (Image | The Sun)

It is probably fair to say that if the next national census asked whether people considered themselves to be a fan of sport, and then asked them to specify their favourite, the most popular answer would be football. By popular consensus, football is the national sport.

It is a constant talking point in the media and a regular source of conversation in workplaces and public houses. With this in mind: why do such a large number of people seem to know so little about the game?

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Rodgered | The League Cup has, in recent years, seemed to provide far more upsets than the FA Cup, and last night was no exception. (Image | Wales Online)

The past two decades have almost put paid to the relevance and validity of the League Cup in the eyes of football supporters up and down the country. It is frequently deemed a “distraction” by managers who field drastically weakened sides in the hope of making an early exit.

With this level of disdain in mind, one would expect the football to be not at all worth watching. Yeah, right.

Tuesday’s encounter between Reading and Arsenal and yesterday’s Chelsea v Manchester United clash were both stellar examples of the often-lauded “pace and high tempo” of English football. Admittedly, the excitement in both largely stemmed from appalling defending.

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Stigma | Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic heads in against Liverpool, a club known for using zonal marking. Many pundits are suspicious of the system. (Image | Daily Mail)

Zonal marking is repeatedly lambasted by football pundits in the United Kingdom, However, as Simon Cox rightly argues, nobody ever blames man marking when a goal is conceded at a set piece.

Yet, if zonal marking was in place then the press would have a field day attributing blame to it – on the grounds that it is obviously a flimsy foreign tactic not suitable for our rugged style – as the sole reason for the concession of a goal.

Historically, we remain steadfast against any divergence from the standard tactic of the day and repeatedly showing ourselves (on the whole) as being somewhat tactically inept.

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Abused | England Under-21s star Danny Rose hit out after the final whistle at 90 minutes of racist chanting by Serbian fans. (Image | The Guardian)

The recent examples of racist abuse at the highest levels of domestic and European football have sent shockwaves through the sport. High-profile incidents have cast doubt on the instruments of justice and guardians of the game.

Not only this, but the reappearance of racism on what is now a world stage is beginning to undermine all the progress made towards eliminating such egregious abuse – once endemic – from modern football.

All around us politicians, footballers, supporters, victims and others are calling for action to be taken. The question is, who should be taking this action, and what can actually be done to truly kick racism out of football?

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Mark Cousins, Colchester United‘s first-choice goalkeeper, met up with TAP editor Rob Schatten (left) to discuss his chances of cementing the number one spot, the season so far and recent facility upgrades. (Image | The Armchair Pundits)

It’s been a difficult start to the season for Colchester United, who after seven games remain one of three winless teams in League 1 and find themselves sitting 22nd in the division ahead of this weekend’s road trip to fellow strugglers Scunthorpe.

But one of the bright spots of the new season has been the emergence of long-serving goalkeeper Mark Cousins, who at the age of 25 is enjoying his first opportunity to seize for himself the job of first-choice goalkeeper at the club.

After several seasons of patiently waiting behind Manchester United youth product Ben Williams, who bolted for Hibernian as a free agent in the summer, Cousins made the most of his golden chance early on, with a stellar performance earning the team a point away at Preston North End. Despite the U’s poor run of form so far in the new campaign, supporters will agree that many of the side’s draws or narrow defeats would have been worse had it not been for Cousins’ heroics.

We were naturally thrilled, then, when the stopper agreed to stop off at the Weston Homes Community Stadium after training on Thursday and speak exclusively with The Armchair Pundits. Here’s what he had to say…

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