United 20 – Gerrard 0

I’m going to be interested to see how many Liverpool fans read past the title of this piece. If commenting on this blog was something that people did I’m sure it would be full of Liverpool fans saying how ridiculous the banner is and how I, as a United fan are just jealous of their season and to get back in my box. Well here is something that a lot of Liverpool fans might not expect I think the banner that flew over Anfield on the final day of the season was an absolute joke.

I’ve always described myself as a football fan first and foremost. Manchester United are my team, they have been since I first knew what football was and I will support them through good and bad times (and yes, this is really the first time in my life that you could consider bad although I’m sure Cardiff, Fulham and Norwich fans will tell me I have no idea what bad times are). Some might think that sounds kind of silly but let me explain the difference here. While I may have some fun with friends who support other football teams to me being a fan of football means that I can fully appreciate other teams, not just me own. I’m sure 90 percent of United fans still would never have a nice thing to say about Liverpool; the club or the fans I am someone who has openly said that if Liverpool son the Premiership title this year they deserved to and I would have applauded them for that, in the same way that today I applaud City. It’s about seeing above the rivalries, or at least not boiling them down to petty squabbling which is all too prevalent in football amongst fans.

Trophies Don't Make a Great Footballer

Trophies Don’t Make a Great Footballer

When I heard about the banner that flew over Anfield there was a part of me that found it funny, as someone who has a decent relationship with fans of other clubs, Liverpool fans included it’s the kind of thing I could say to someone who knows full well that I still appreciate Steven Gerrard as an all time great footballer. Those who arranged that banner would not have thought that, it would have been done because in their minds they think that the amount of trophies you win determine how good of a footballer you are.

If you are someone who thinks trophies won equals fantastic footballer have a little look at some of these names: Anderson, Raymond Van Der Gouw, Karel Poborsky, Darren Ferguson, Fabio and Luke Chadwick. All of those United players have at least one Premier League winners medal. Does that make them great footballers? Certainly not. For the most part it is a testament to Sir Ale Ferguson that he won so many titles with such dross but the fact remains that regardless of the number of league titles Steven Gerrard has one he is still one of the best footballers of his generation and someone that I am glad to say I have seen play.

This Man Has Four Premier League Winner Medals...My God.

This Man Has Four Premier League Winner Medals…My God.

It’s been funny over the years watching United fans (myself included) get annoyed with Liverpool fans who keep talking about their past glories. When they weren’t fighting for titles you would still always get Liverpool fans taunting United when they slipped up and missed out on trophies. So you would have thought that now the tables have turned this season you would have thought that United fans would have just sat quietly but no, the roles have well and truly reversed. I’m really not saying there should be no banter between clubs whatsoever (apologies for use of the word banter) but nine times out of ten there isn’t any humour intended when fans of these two great clubs come together. These people who flew the banner over Anfield genuinely believe Gerrard is an awful player and that him sticking with his boyhood club is something to laugh at. It isn’t.

It’s been a fantastic season for those who love football. Yes your club might not have had the greatest season but from the top of the Premiership to the bottom of League Two we have been treated to some fantastic football, as well as some utter dross of course. Here is looking forward to next season, here is hoping United are back challenging for the title but firstly, here’s hoping for a great World Cup and let’s just remember that whatever team wins the tournament there will be some absolutely awful players.


Maybe Fulham Were Just A Bit Crap Mohamed?

Me and my friend Jona were having a laugh on Monday night during the ad break of Game of Thrones. We saw that Liverpool were 3-0 up and, as United fans, let out a massive groan. We kept talking about football and conversation turned to Fulham and how they were now confirmed to relegated to the Championship from the Barclays Premier League (it’s law that you have to call it that).

Now, Jona made the observation that it is obvious that Fulham have gone down because their new owners got rid of the Michael Jackson statue that stood “proudly” outside Craven Cottage over the years. We of course both had a little chuckle and then proceeded to watch the rest of Game of Thrones.

Fast forward a couple of days and the e owner of Fulham, Mohamed Al Fayed, has actually been saying that (and i’m paraphrasing here, it’s tough to actually understand what Al Fayed says) Fulham went down because they got rid of the statue. Now, this definitely does not sound like a bitter former owner having a pop at the new owner at all does it? Oh wait, it does.

Well, how about this Mohamed, maybe, just maybe the reason Fulham went down were because they were a little bit shit and not because of a terrible, terrible statue.

Michael Jackson statue Fulham FC

I don’t think this even needs a caption.

Something To Brighten Up Your Day

I didn’t watch the Chelsea / Madrid match last night so imagine my joy when I saw this on Sky Sports News this morning. Everyone’s favourite racist / cheater (excluding Luis Suarez) was crying his eye’s out after losing in the Champions League Semi Final.



Any one else and I would have sympathy (except Luis Suarez). So, if you’re having a bad day, just take a look at the image above and have a chuckle.

You’re welcome.

Play to Win, Not to Entertain.

If England played football like Chelsea at the world cup and won it, I wouldn’t care less, it’s about winning. It’s not pretty, but it gets the results. I certainly wouldn’t want to watch it week in week out, but if it gets results then that is what matters.

A lot of people will tell you that football is entertainment and while for us, the fans we can certainly see it as entertainment the fact remains, when all is said and done football is a sport, it is about a team playing to win trophies. You don’t play football as a kid to entertain your parents watching on the sidelines, you play to win and its the same all the way up the football pyramid, it doesn’t change.  It shouldn’t change. Just because football is now this huge global phenomenon the core goal is still the same, win football matches. Win trophies.

It's all about trophies

It’s all about trophies

While I would love teams I watch or have played for to play beautiful, free flowing attacking football I would still sacrifice that for victories. That feeling of winning outweighs anything else. If Chelsea end up winning the Champions League and maybe even the Premier League then do you think Mourinho, the players or the fans will care about the striker less team that was put out at Old Trafford earlier this season or the digs from other managers who have been defeated by Chelsea? Not at all, that feeling of having your club lifting a trophy is amazing.

There is that phrase that manager’s use just before they get sacked; it’s a results business. And that is the truth of it. While there are a few owners of clubs who might get rid of a manager for not being entertaining (and Abramovich was one of them, he seems to have accepted results over style now) the most important thing, especially in the modern game where the amount of money a club receives for just staying in the Premier League is astronomical, is results. Just look at the handful of clubs at the bottom of the Premier League at the moment.  There have been so many changes of manager because the results just have not been coming.

Yes as fans we would love to see free flowing football but whether its on a park on a Sunday, or playing at Anfield / Old Trafford at 3pm on a Saturday the main goal is the same, win a football match. You play the right tactics against the right teams.

Only the result counts

Only the result counts

To address the criticism of Chelsea a little more head on hear I actually think Mourinho would be playing a little more expansive if he had brought a striker in the summer or in the January transfer window, he is playing to his teams’ strengths. I have absolutely no issues with how he sets his teams up to get a result, Liverpool and Rogers were sore losers on Sunday and of course you can understand that a little, being close to their first title in over two decades and seeing it slip away must be heart breaking but Mourinho did his homework, knew Liverpool have one way of playing (which is beautiful to watch and will blow away 90 percent of other teams in the league) and set out his team to counter that and win. And he did.

What doesn’t sit well with me about Mourinho is how he criticises other teams for setting up teams against him in the same vein. He’s a genius when he does it, but Big Sam and West Ham play 19th century football when they do it.


Love it or hate it, Mourinho’s way of playing football is successful and while the larger football world might not look back in twenty years time and remember that classic Chelsea side who won all those trophies, the history books will still read that Chelsea won and if Mourinho comes out against Athletico Madrid tonight and heads to Lisbon to face his old club Real Madrid in the final then again his tactics from the first leg would be totally justified.

To take you back to the top of this piece I will ask a question of you: If England (or your nation if you aren’t English, I’m not UKIP) win the world cup playing the type of football Chelsea have in the big games this season would you really complain? Or would you be out on the streets waving your flags and having a few drinks? I’ll be out on the streets.

FIFA Manager 12 – Preview

Let’s get this out of the way right now, not everybody loves football management games. It could be because they don’t like Football in general or it could just be that people find them too fiddly, and I can understand why people would feel that way. As someone who plays football (when I’m not injured) and who has tried my hand at coaching and managing a side, I am one of those people who really quite enjoy the genre, and find it a perfect way for me to see if I can manage the egos of a top class football team (though I draw the line at trying to keep them away from ladies who aren’t their wives).

FIFA Manager 12 is the eleventh instalment of the FIFA Manager series and also happens to be the first time I have ever seen a FIFA Manager game running. Based in Cologne, the developers, Bright Future, have been working on the FIFA Manager series since 2007 and, since taking over the development reins, they have managed to produce a game that has gone down quite well with the critics. This year, FIFA Manager is looking to blow the competition out of the water with some brand new features and refinements of old ones. During a visit to EA’s offices last month, Producer Adrian Curry ran me through some of the new features for the game and talked over what I could look forward to getting out of this one…

The first thing that struck me is the quality of the presentation. In football management sims, I’m used to staring at the same dull menus – a massive issue for me in this genre as you’re usually just staring at a screen full of boxes and menus – but Bright Future have picked up on that and created some beautiful and intuitive menu screens. This was best shown off in the game’s 3D match engine, an enhanced and tweaked version of the previous FIFA engine that not only looks good, but provides minimal loading times in the transition from menus to game and certainly looks impressive.

The game plays out as if you were watching a game of FIFA but, at any time, you can make changes to your formations and tactics, differing from rival footy management sims by allowing you to make all of these decisions right there on the pitch, without having to trawl through lots of menus and sub menus. If you know that the opposition striker is dangerous and needs close attention, you can find the defender on the screen and check out his man marking stats while the game is still in full flow, and then instruct the defender to man-mark that target. As soon as you have made that man-marking call, you will see your defender attempt to get close to the striker, though unfortunately in our demonstration the opposition striker scored within seconds of being marked, but it just showed that it’s not a guaranteed way of always keeping your opponents from scoring. With defending as just one example I was shown, you can also make changes on the fly all across the pitch, instructing your midfielders to take more long shots and wingers to cross the ball more often, all while the game is unfolding in front of you, just like a real manager.

To read the whole preview click here to be transported to

An Open Letter To Joseph S Blatter

Dear Mr Blatter,

I have been playing football for as long as I can remember. Whether it is just having a kick about with some friends on a piece of green, my first organised game at eight years old playing out a 2-2 draw and being named captain or the eleven a side game I played at the home of football, Wembley Stadium, just a few years ago after winning a competition. I have had passion for this sport throughout my entire life. Being born into a family obsessed with the game I was always going to be involved with it.

But I, unlike you and your organisation, find myself in a crisis. At the beginning of the 2010 / 2011 season I found myself captaining a Swindon Sunday League side that had just started up. The manager was the most passionate man I have ever had the pleasure of playing under, every training session was a joy because I could see that this man cared about his players, he wanted to see each and every one of us improve. I remember having conversations with him where he mentioned that he rarely slept the night before a game because his mind was racing with thoughts on the next day’s game. This man lit a fire under me and I wanted to play every second I could for him and the team, unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Five games in I tore the cartilage in my left knee and had to have an operation which kept me out for the rest of the season.

Tragedy then struck for our Sunday League team. The manager lost a member of his family and had to leave the club leaving myself as the captain and our club secretary to run team for the second half of the season. We struggled through the remaining 10 games of the season scraping together a team at times so that we could fulfil fixtures. I must admit that I very much enjoy the coaching aspect and at one point could see myself setting up a kid’s team, helping bring through the next generation of footballers but more on that later.

I have recently found out that I must have another knee operation and this is where I find my crisis Mr Blatter. As someone who loves the sport of Football I find my enthusiasm, my passion, my love wavering. I am on the verge of taking the next year out of football because I do not think I can put everything I have into it. There’s a big chance I would miss the beginning of the season injured and do I have it in me to come back from this to play again? In a time when football is a tainted word in a lot of circles, do I want to work hard to come back into a sport that is rotten to it’s core?

What you must remember Mr Blatter is that what happens at FIFA has a knock on effect to anyone involved in the game, at all levels. If I wanted to start up a children’s team in my local area how could I convince parents to let their children start devoting a big part of their life to a sport whose name is mud? Wouldn’t they rather their children took part in a sport that people in the street had respect for?

Now, I do not claim to know the inner workings of FIFA but how difficult is it for you to come out and be transparent. You speak about the damage done to the reputation of FIFA and you claim to be sorry for the fans of football worldwide. If this was truly the case you would listen to the millions of real football fans calling for you to resign so that FIFA can be rebuilt, from the ground up. You refuse to see that the organisation is crumbling around you, two of your biggest commercial partners Addidas and Coca-Cola are getting worried, if they pull out of their dealings with FIFA would you still claim that there was no crisis?

With footballs name being dragged through the mud, with no end in sight, I can see myself staying away from organised football when I am fit again. I think you would agree that would be a shame and surely I can’t be the only one? There are probably hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who are becoming disillusioned with the state of the game, the game that you have ruled over since 1998. I know football will go on without me but it would be sad for the sport to lose someone who at one time had thoughts of giving back to grassroots football.

Mr Blatter, if you truly cared about football you would come out and admit that your time is up and that your position is no longer tenable. You should make the decision to halt proceedings of this week’s sham election. You should also allow an outside organisation in to investigate the numerous allegations of corruption, if FIFA has nothing to hide like you seem to think then surely it wouldn’t be an issue.

Remember Mr Blatter, football is bigger than all of us and will ultimately prevail but it will prevail a lot quicker without you.

Yours Faithfully

Joe Dale

Fight Night Champion Review

The bell rings and you slowly turn around to walk back to your corner but your legs are heavy, filled with lead. You manage to drag yourself over to the corner and slump onto the haven that is your stool. The cold water hits the back of your head as your trainer pours it on top of you, your eyes focus on the figure in front of you. The trainer tells you it’s time for the last round, you’re behind on points, it’s now or never, victory or defeat, you need to knock the other man out. Taking deep breathes you make your way to your feet as the bell rings signalling the beginning of the end. Your opponent charges towards you, sensing all is not right. Your guard is up but a couple of jabs sting your face, then a right hook shakes your soul to its very core, you feel yourself stagger but find your feet at the right time. The opponent comes at you again looking to finish the fight.

Then, in a heartbeat everything slows down, the deafening noise of the crowd fade out, no longer can you hear your trainer barking instructions, you see your opponent pull back his left arm aiming a monster left hook directly at your jaw. You duck your head underneath. You throw your right hand, the impact on the other warriors skull can be felt all the way down your arm. His head jars sideways, his legs turn to jelly and he falls to the floor with a sickening thud, his head bouncing off the blood stained canvas. The referee waves his hand in the air signalling the end of the fight.

You have done it, against all the odds. You are the Champion.

Fight Night Champion

Fight Night Champion is the latest boxing offering from EA sports. During the two year gap after Fight Night Round 4 EA has been working on trying to revolutionise the boxing genre. And in a way, they have succeeded.

The newest addition to FNC is Champion Mode. The name may not be original but the idea, for a sports title, certainly is. You take control of Andre Bishop in a battered ring surrounded by prisoners. Andre is in prison, fighting against another prisoner in a bare knuckle, no rules fight. The first man who is unable to stand is the loser. Andrew wins the fight but soon after is attacked by his opponent’s cronies in a brutal beat down that involves a lot of blood and finally a boot to the face. This then allows the story to be told of how Andre went from being a promising up and coming boxer winning the Amateur world championships, winning his first few professional fights, to being in prison mixing it with the bottom of society. It’s a fantastic story that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Hollywood movie. There is the crooked boxing promoter, D.L McQueen who looks to take Andre under his wing, but Andre is loyal to his manager. There is the love interest, which happens to McQueen’s daughter. Andre’s younger brother is also a promising boxer and signs with McQueen. The ingredients are there, and it delivers.

When I first heard about Champion mode I was a bit sceptical. All I was really looking for in the game was an improved career mode and a bigger selection of licensed fighters to choose from. After playing through champion mode I can quite clearly say that it helps rejuvenate what had become a stagnating franchise. Champion mode not only has huge ramifications for Fight Night, it opens the door for other yearly sport franchise games, your FIFA’s, Maddens, PGA Tour (minus Tiger). Fans of these games buy the game year after year hoping for some slightly improved graphics and new animations but this could change what people expect from a sports title.

Andre Bishop - Fight Night Champions Main Character

Having the story of Andre’s life in the back of your head when you take to the ring helps bring that sense of realism to what can sometimes feel like an arcade style brawl. You want to win the fight for Andre and his trainer. You feel sorry for Andre, a man who was on the up destined for greatness until it all came crashing down around him. I don’t think I have ever felt anything for a character in a sports game, it feels good. Helping Andre come through the pain is a refreshing and rewarding experience; it’s unlike anything I have played in a sports title.

The scripted nature of Champion mode also helps throw in some new gameplay scenarios as opposed to a series of matches where you have to win the fight. In one fight Andre breaks his hand after landing a big overhand right in the first round. You take over as the second round begins and are warned that you can only use your left hand. It just helps bring something different to the table. Another example is a matchup where the referee has been paid off by McQueen and starts calling low blows even though you don’t go anywhere near the downstairs zone. This makes you change your game plan and wait for your opponent to make a mistake so you can target the head.

Not only does it keep the gameplay fresh but it also helps train you. When it comes to playing online or offline multiplayer you are ready to mix your game up against whatever type of opponent is put before you.

The controls also help keep you engaged with the action. Movement is controlled via the left analogue with punches mapped to the right analogue stick, shoulder buttons and triggers are retained for power, block and movement modifiers.

All of these have been refined somewhat from the last game and for the better. The new punching system (given the snappy title of Full Spectrum Punch Control) means you no longer have to wind up punches. Flick the stick up and you throw a jab / straight. Flick it left or right and there’s a hook. It helps you make easier decisions and have more control over exactly what punch you throw. It also helps that you can now block and punch at the same time. It sounds a minor thing but makes a massive difference. Playing as a slightly weaker opponent keeping covered up and protecting yourself is of vital importance. Go in without any guard and you will hit the canvas and not get back up.

This shows that EA have listened to the community, people have been looking for a slightly less clunky way of throwing punches and it has been included.

Graphically FNC is stunning. The character models are life like, muscles bulge and react with every movement. Expressions change depending on how the fight is going, sweat drips and blood pours. My god does the blood pour. This is by far the most brutal imagining of boxing you have seen on a console. After each fight you can see the damage that has been done during the previous rounds, swelling and bruising looks painful and the character faces tell the story of what has gone on in the ring. The blood effects are some of the best I have seen, little cuts turn into big cuts with blood pouring down the bodies staining the shorts of both fighters, again helping to add to the experience that you are the fighter in the ring.

FNC shows how brutal boxing can be

There are a couple of hiccups mind you. The slow motion replays after a knockdown look very impressive until the final punch lands and a lot of the time it doesn’t look like it lands which is a big shame, replaying big punches, watching the opponents face ripple with the force, especially in multiplayer matches, is one of the best parts.

So while FNC seems to be a game that has taken massive steps forward in certain department one certain area has been left to rot: Legacy Mode.

Legacy mode lets you create your own boxer, or take one of the 50 licensed boxers from amateur champion all the way through their career to try to earn the moniker of “The Greatest of All Time”. You start off by taking part in an amateur tournament, winning gives you a booster to use on your statistics for the future. Statistics are improved by earning XP through training mini games in the weeks leading up to scheduled fight, do well in the mini games and the more XP you earn to improve your fighter.

The problem is, it isn’t fun, the mini games are the same, or similar to previous games and they were awful back then. There is nothing about legacy mode that tempts you in to carry on, having “just one more fight” before hanging up the gloves for the evening. It’s as if all efforts were focussed on bringing the great Champion mode to life and forgot to touch Legacy mode. The issue they have created by doing this is that Legacy mode is where the meat of the game is.  Champion mode is a 6 hour intense story with limited replayability. Legacy is there to occupy your time, grinding and working your way up to the top of the game but without any fun there is no way people will want to invest too much time in it.

You also have online multiplayer which is as solid as ever. You can take your legacy mode boxer or use one of the licensed pros into the online battlefield and pit your wits against players from around the world. Do well enough and you can earn a shot at various titles and call yourself the World Champion.

One addition to the multiplayer is the addition of online gyms, these are effectively clans. You can create a gym, sign up fighters from the online world and fight against rival gyms for bragging rights. It’s a good idea that can take an individual game and turn it into something a bit more team based. It’s a nice addition and has been implemented pretty well.


  • Solid story more that is unique to the genre.
  • Beautiful graphics that help showcase the sweet science.
  • A vast roster of talent from David Haye to Sergio Mora to choose from.
  • Online gyms a welcome addition, helping to bring a clan feel to the multiplayer.


  • Legacy mode is essentially the same as previous titles.
  • Longevity is lacking

We may actually see this fight for real now


I have had a fantastic time with Fight Night Champion. I cannot express how much of a step forward the introduction of Champion Mode is. It is a bit short at about 6 hours but this is where the Legacy mode should help add to the experience, unfortunately it doesn’t. At times FNC can make you feel like you are the person in the ring,  that your life depends on how you do over the upcoming 36 minutes. But just like a right uppercut to the kidney it brings your down to earth and reminds you that you are sitting in front of a screen. I would definitely recommend picking the game up on a rental to try Champion Mode and if you are a fan of the online multiplayer then maybe a full purchase would be called for. I just hope that the next game brings more of the story mode but not at the neglect of the Legacy Mode.


A Man’s Game?

So it looked like the main story that came from this weekend’s football schedule wasn’t a particular result but two well known football broadcasters getting caught off air making sexist remarks about a female referees assistant who was officiating in a high profile match up being broadcast live on TV.

Whilst I agree that the remarks were out of order and in this day and age where nearly everything you say could be recorded and passed on to news outlets the two broadcasters caught up in the “scandal” should have known better. But the public’s reaction to this has been nothing short of extraordinary. Taking them off of the broadcast for Monday night’s fixture was the correct move now let’s have them come out and apologise, draw a line under it and let’s get back to concentrating on the football.
Officials are going to get abuse, by fans, players and managers but they have learned to deal with it…Women officials know they are going to come in for some stick but they will just ignore it, like their male counterparts. Although i think the below image of the two broadcasters explanation to the woman official of the offside rule is a bit harsh…

My personal feelings on women and football…I have no problems with it whatsoever. In fact, my girlfriend knows more about lower league football than I do being a season ticket holder to Swindon Town (bless her). And when it comes to women officials, as long as they can do the job and does it well does it matter what their gender is? If i turned up on a Sunday morning with Cartus FC and we were assigned a female referee I would tell the lads to show as much respect to her as any other referee that we get assigned. Remember, without officials there would be no football

World Cup 2018 & 2022

So we found out yesterday that football was not coming home. Cue mass outrage from every Englishman and woman who are interested in football, cries of corruption and the finger pointed firmly at the British Press.

I was one of these people and I still am. I am outraged that England are not hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup but not as outraged as I was at the time. I have sat back and tried to think rationally about this trying to answer the question that crosses everyone’s mind after something has not gone to plan…Why?

First off, I do not blame The Sunday Times or Panorama I want to, my god I want to, but is having anything in this country worth taking away the freedom of the press? I hate a lot of what goes on in the press but our press and the freedom they have to report on anything they want is part of what makes England a great country. The timing of the Panorama show was questionable but there really wasn’t any new allegations made, it was all rehashed.

Secondly, the Russians and the Qataris have endless money to throw at these World Cups while we do not. Yes we already have the infrastructure needed to host a World Cup, and we can host one tomorrow but FIFA are looking to develop football in countries that don’t necessarily have the greatest football following. This is a massive risk because I’m sure a South Korea V Greece game in Russia or Qatar will mean a half empty stadium and that does nothing but hurt the spectacle that is the World Cup. Also, the stadiums that are built specially for the month of the World Cup, what will happen after the event finishes? Will they stand empty to fall into a state of disrepair due to the lack of top flight football in these countries? More than likely, but money is no object to these countries and that is their right.

The main reason that we did not win was down to Sepp Blatter, FIFA President. Sepp is a very ambitious and egotistical man. When he finally leaves the post of FIFA President he wants to be able to say to people “I took the World Cup to places it had never been, that is my legacy”. The first World Cups in Asia and Africa have been staged under his leadership and now we have the first in the Middle East and Eastern Europe (I still don’t see how Russia is Eastern Europe, surely it should be Asia?!) There is nothing that England can do in the eyes of Blatter, England are not even on his radar. He wants to spread the gospel of football around the world like a maniacal priest and he has the power to do that.

I have now come to terms with where 2018 and 2022 are going to be held, and good luck to both countries. I’m sure the events will be spectacular. With all that money behind them they better bloody well be. Let’s now get behind your team, your country and support your nation, there will be no bigger kick in the face to Blatter than your team taking the cup home.

Bring It Home