The Premier League table according to the Ffwtbol Formula

With eight or nine games to go until the end of the season, I’ve applied an objective formula to the remaining Premier League fixtures and have predicted the table below.

The formula is simple, and though it is in no way atttempting to predict results, it does give a fairly good idea of the comparative difficulty of the remaining fixtures for each team.

This is the formula:

Home game vs team below – Home win
Home game vs team above – Draw
Home game vs top 10 team – Away win
Top 10 team vs top 10 team – Home win

table The Premier League table according to the Ffwtbol Formula

Getty’s best Welsh Football Photos

Getty has recently announced that many of its images are available to embed on blogs, and I’ve taken a look through the archive and chosen the best Welsh football photos from the collection. Unfortunately, most photos are not cleared for use, but there are some crackers here.




February 1922: The goalkeeper in action during a match between Cardiff City FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Cardiff. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)




I love this photo of Moses Russell, the Welsh international who famously was threatened with a gun on Wales’ tour of Canada in the 1920s.




Skipping was big in the 1920′s. circa 1925: Cardiff City FC football players skipping, left to right Bryan, Nicolson and Keenor. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)




9th September 1925: The captains of the England and Wales deaf and dumb football teams toss for the kick off. The Welsh captain calls heads by pointing to his head. The players are all delegates at the Deaf and Dumb Conference at Southampton. (Photo by Brooke/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)




2nd November 1933: Welsh international and Tottenham Hotspur reserve half-back ‘Taffy’ Day’ (left) and Eugene O’Callaghan a Spurs and internatonal player leaving Tottenham, London, for Wales against Ireland at Belfast. (Photo by H. F. Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)




17th October 1936: A section of the crowd at a Wales V England football match in Cardiff. (Photo by Richards/Fox Photos/Getty Images)




Liverpool used to train in Rhyl…23rd December 1936: Bradshaw and Hobson of Liverpool FC putting up decorations for a Christmas party at a hotel in Rhyl, where the club is about to begin training for Christmas matches.




A Welsh international goalkeeper being trained to kill Germans..4th June 1940: J K Hassell, Welsh Amateur International goalkeeper for Wales, at bayonet practice in front of new recruits, one of many sportsmen who have joined the Royal Air Force.




Newport County FC players W. Haires and Albert Derrick trying on boots at the ground during pre season training, 25th July 1939. (Photo by Maeers/Fox Photos/Getty Images)




4th December 1954: Schoolboys playing football at a Comprehensive School in Llangefni, Anglesey. Original Publication: Picture Post – 7423 – A Hope for Every Child – Comprehensive Schools – pub. 1954




1957: A player lies injured after a collision in a match between Bristol City and Rhyl. Players from both teams huddle around another injured player in the goalmouth.




1971: Leyton Orient and Wales footballer Ian Bowyer. Bowyer doesn’t look like he’s enjoying the photo call. (Photo by A. Jones/Express/Getty Images)




5 Jun 1999: A furious Gary Speed after the European Championship Qualifier match against Italy played in Bologna, Italy. The match finished in a comprehensive 4-0 victory for Italy.




9 Jun 1999: A portrait of Neville Southall the new manager of Wales during the European Championships Qualifying match against Denmark played at Anfield in Liverpool, England. The match finished in a 0-2 win for the visitors Denmark.




14 Oct 2000: Cardiff City manager Bobby Gould (left) and chairman Sam Hammam pictured during the Nationwide League Division Three match against Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road in London




MILAN, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 6: John Hartson of Wales goes head to head with Gianluigi Buffon of Italy during the Euro 2004 Qualifier Group 9 match between Italy and Wales at the San Siro



And I’m going to finish with what might well be the best Welsh football photograph ever taken.

stradey

Welsh rugby can learn from football

There was a time when amateurism was an honour – a fiercely defended status which drew great praise for those who played their sport for fun. But Welsh sport now seems to be imploding on the self-imposed clamour for professionalism.

I rarely touch on rugby in the pages of this blog, but there is a row going on between the self-appointed, manufactured regions and the WRU which has implications for the sport of football in Wales. And the row is taking place in public, with the bitterness between the rugby union and the professional businessmen of the regional franchises barely concealed. The argument resolves around star players and competition structure. International players are flocking in their droves to better paid jobs in England and France.  They used to leave for professional northern rugby league clubs, but now its rugby union clubs that have the clout. The regions want to halt this exodus by joining  joining an Anglo-Welsh league.  And a proud union does not want to face the unpalatable truth, which is that professional sport in Wales cannot  survive outwith English competition.

Professional rugby in Wales is unsustainable without subsidy from the union. The WRU are comparatively rich, turning over £63m in 2012 and showing a profit of £2.4m.  And only a £19m debt of the £75m cost of building the Millennium Stadium remains. The professional regional franchises were subsidised to the tune of £6m by the WRU in 2012. But still that is not enough  to compete with the professional English and French clubs who have decided that there is money to be made in this once amateur sport.

The truth is that rugby in Wales is funded by a series of international matches which are massively popular as a social event. It isn’t really the rugby that brings in the crowds. These spectacular corporate eisteddfodic jollies generate enough income to just about cover the costs of professionalism. But what’s the point of spending huge sums on keeping players on big wages at the fabricated regions, and how is any of this relevant to football?

Well firstly, for rugby’s regions ambitions, you only have to look at Cardiff City and Swansea City. These two large businesses ply their trade in the big money world of English sport and the rugby regions look on enviously.  Also –  you’d think that this conflict is something new, but as always history tells us that these problems have occurred before, and that lessons can be learned from their outcomes. So let’s go back to the start of competitive football in Wales and the birth of professionalism in our sport.

The best Welsh footballers were tempted by money from English cubs even before professionalism was legalised. Bolton enticed four players from the great Druids team after one FA Cup tie in 1883, just seven years after the competitive game began in Wales. The FAW, unable to stem the flood had no choice but to allow payment of players from 1893.

But this new rule had no effect. Players like Billy Meredith were forced  across the border to make a living, joining dozens of other Welshmen at English clubs. Those English-based players still qualified for Welsh national side selection, in contrast to the Irish, who complained bitterly.

“Even against Wales we are still at a disadvantage, which however arises from no other cause than our own conscientious scruples. The Welshmen have no hesitation in scouring the best of the English clubs, and picking up all their available countrymen who have gone over to professionalism. This practice we have not yet descended to, as we feel it our duty to recognise not only the ability, but the patriotism of the men who remain amongst us, and refuse to yield to temptation of English gold.”

The Welsh clubs dipped their toes into the waters of professionalism but soon found the commitment was overwhelming. They admitted openly that they simply could not find enough quality of opposition within our own borders, and looked for English competition to sustain growth.  Just look at the history of a typical Welsh club, like Rhyl FC, who have struggled ever since formation to find their place in the world.

Rhyl began life in The Welsh League in 1890, before taking part in the North Wales Coast League, North Wales Alliance and the National Welsh League (North).  A  period of post war success saw the club apply unsuccessfully to the Football League in 1929.  A frustrated Rhyl then migrated to the Birmingham & District League before settling in the Cheshire County League.  In 1982 this became the North West Counties League, and they were promoted to the Northern Premier. In 1992, under pressure from the FAW, they reluctantly decided to join the newly formed League of Wales .

Such a patchwork of history and status is common in Wales.  Most of our clubs’ natural level is amateur with just a few exceptions. Wrexham emerged as the top club in north Wales , though their early history replicated that of Rhyl.  The Robins were fortunate to have their Football League application accepted in 1921. This left them as the only professional club in a large geographical area and they managed to survive in the Football League until 2008.  That might have been Rhyl’s story had they been luckier in 1929. As recently as 1978 Bangor City applied for Football League status but were rejected in favour of Wigan Athletic. And now look what Wigan have achieved.

The development of professionalism in the south is slightly different. The emergence of Cardiff and Swansea as relative superpowers in the Welsh game can be traced back to the boom days of the English Southern League.

Between 1906 and 1910, a huge expansion of the game took place in the south, with the number of clubs affiliated to the South Wales FA rising from 74 to 262.  English scouts were regularly seen at south Wales club matches, keen to prise away the cream of local talent. Populations in the south Wales coalfield were expanding massively and the Southern League saw the untapped potential income in those hills. They only had to look at the  many thousands of supporters who travelled from south Wales to watch professional clubs in Bristol and the Midlands. League Officials toured the valleys signing up clubs, and at one stage the entire Second Division of the Southern League was Welsh.  Then as the Southern League was absorbed by the expanding Football League, the Welsh clubs were sucked in with the flow.  By 1926 there were six professional clubs in Wales playing in the English Football League. People who complain about Welsh clubs playing in the English system should remember that we were invited. We did the English a favour and helped to expand their domestic game,  at great cost to our own.

But it has always been impossible to keep the best players in Wales, even with our big professional clubs. From the days of Billy Meredith, to  Dai Astley, John Charles, Ivor Allchurch, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen, Welsh clubs have lost players to the English. But Welsh football has never wrung their hands over this problem; they just accepted the transfer fee, and developed some new players.  So why is Welsh rugby tearing itself apart instead of accepting the state of play and readjusting?

Rugby was in a healthy state in Wales when it was an amateur sport. Ponty played Pooler in front of several thousand fans and the players got a few quid in their boots and free ale at the clubhouse bar. That is the natural level of our domestic sport, and there is nothing to be ashamed about. Welsh club rugby was strong, popular, and sustainable.

Many amateur Welsh football clubs have tried to throw money at their team in Wales, but any success is short term and devastating. The League of Wales is littered with the debris of good community clubs spoiled by the gambling whim of a businessman or merely exhausted by trying to compete at an unsustainable level. Where now Llansantffraid, Oswestry, AFC Cardiff, Ebbw Vale, Conwy, Cwmbran, Llanelli and Neath? And how different would the landscape be if Bangor, Merthyr, Llanelly and Barry had all been successful in applications to join the Football League in 1947?

The answer is this. Welsh domestic sport is fine and healthy when we compete amongst ourselves as amateurs. The events are cheap and popular. But we can only attract enough support to pay players a wage when we are part of the English system. And that’s why the Celtic League was never an answer. The creation of supposed Welsh regions, which in truth was a thinly-veiled method of legalising unfair financial support for Cardiff, Newport, Llanelli, Swansea and Neath, has wrecked domestic Welsh rugby. Is there a single Welsh rugby club who is in a stronger position since the introduction of the regions?

The only way that sport can be professional in Wales is if our clubs can be a part of the English system. There is still enough flickering emnity to make these contests attractive and bring out the public. Domestically, we should settle for a lower standard but nonetheless satisfying amateur experience. I enjoy the semi-pro Welsh Premier League but the experience can be just as good in the more amateur Huws Gray Cymru Alliance.  One of the biggest events in the past two years in my region was a 4th tier Caernarfon derby between Town and Wanderers that drew almost 2,000 spectators. TNS are currently coping with professionalism thanks to regular European prize money, but who is benefitting apart from Mike Harries the owner, and his squad of players, half of whom travel from England?

The Welsh Premier League was founded to preserve Wales’ fragile national status in the World game.  It’s been successful in that respect, but its relationship with UEFA seems to cause more problems than it solves. Clubs run by volunteers are forced to meet stringent and unnecessary ground regulations.  Most teams are unable to play European fixtures at their own ground, and despite an obvious improvement in standards, crowds have remained stagnant. At the other end of the scale, Cardiff City and Swansea City have only tenuous links to the FAW and have even investigated membership of the English FA.

The WRU should learn from Welsh football’s struggles with professionalism and let the stars go to their cash-rich foreign fields. Instead of  propping up the business concerns of a few high profile franchises, they should concentrate on developing the roots of the game.  Let the regions stand alone, just like Cardiff and Swansea City, and forget centralised contracts. Welsh rugby is extremely lucky that the Six Nations have become the Spring Break of Europe. If the FAW enjoyed even a slice of that good fortune, I doubt they would employ players for Cardiff and Swansea at the expense of the grassroots game.

plymouth

These old kits deserve respect

There are plenty of blogs that publish their list of best kits, and this one is no different. This is my personal list, and I’m serious about it. They’re not my favourite kits necessarily, but I think they all deserve respect.

Denmark/Hummel 1986
denmark86 These old kits deserve respect

Denmark’s Hummel kit shocked all of us who saw it for the first time at the 1986 World Cup Finals. It was outrageous, a combination of pin stripe and pointy arrows. It looked like three kits had been stitched together to make one. But worn by one of the most exciting young teams in football history, the kit turned out to be as innovative as the players who wore it.

Nottingham Forest / Adidas 1977-80
forest These old kits deserve respectI still think that this was just about the perfect kit. It was better with the usual white shorts of course, but the beautiful simplicity of this adidas design is timeless and would look just as good now. The photo doesnt do it justice, as there was an almost velvety texture to the shirt which lent it a quality only too rare in kit design.  And it helped that this was a fantastic Nottingham Forest side.

England / Umbro 1965-74

england 66 These old kits deserve respect

whoateallthepies.tv

Umbro ruled the roost in the 1960s and this England kit typifies the classic simplicity which stands the test of time. This was an era, of Get Carter and The Italian Job. It was a time of fags and boozers and Michael Caine’s London.

Plymouth Argyle,  1968-71

plymouth These old kits deserve respect

This is a cracker. It’s the sort of kit that I used to design in my school notebooks back in the day. White with black and green trim – it’s a winner.

Scotland / Umbro 1978 World Cup
scotland These old kits deserve respectIt breaks my heart to include this one, such were the circumstances of Scotland’s qualification for the tournament, but you have to admit that their kit was a classic.  Just look at that triangular collar. Those Umbro sleeve stripes were set to become a common site on kits around Britain, and I’ve always liked a sock which is a different colour to the shirt and shorts.

Tottenham Hotspur /Le Coq Sportif 1982-83

spurs These old kits deserve respect

Ossie Ardiles, match worn Tottenham 1982 centenary shirt. Modelled by Page 3 girl, ‘Stacy, 20, from London’. June 17, 2009. Photo: Alan McFaden/IPC

Tottenham were big innovators in kit design in the early 1980s. Their 1982/83 kit by Le Coq Sportif was a classic, featuring the first ever shadow stripe in a shirt. The kit was unfathomably silky, and its iconic status was guaranteed in Spurs’ centenary year. The legendary Argentinians, Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricky Villa starred in the side which had won the FA Cup in the previous season. This might well be the most homo-erotic kit in the selection – the shorts were silky and very very short. Though not quite as short as in this photo. But still pretty short.

Brazil 1970 World Cup / Athleta
brazil These old kits deserve respect

This shouldn’t work, but it does. You put together a yellow shirt, with a green collar, sky blue shorts and white socks, and you get Brazil.  A classic variation on the Brazilian national flag, the kit was introduced after a public competition in 1950. It even has its own name; its known as  the “canarinha” .

Coventry / Dundee/ Wales / admiral 1977

admiral stripes These old kits deserve respect

thefootballattic.blogspot.co.uk/

When this kit hit our eyes in 1977, we were taken aback before falling in love for the rest of our lives. This stock admiral three-stripe beauty was also worn by Bangor City, though Coventry’s brown away kit might be the most famous variation.

Birmingham City 1971-1975

brum These old kits deserve respect

Photo: Talksport.com

There was a time when you could turn on The Big Match and you would know which team was playing even before Idwal Robling opened his mouth. To me , this will always be Birmingham City’s kit, even though the intertwined badge only appeared for those five years. It looks like a Bukta kit.

Chelsea / Le Coq Sportif 1981
chelsea These old kits deserve respect
Le Coq sportif gave Chelsea a pin stripe in 1981 and changed football kits forever. I wasn’t a fan of the stripe myself, but we should give them their due and admit that this new amount of detail in football shirts would be here to stay.

AC Milan / Lotto 1992

ac milan These old kits deserve respect

Photo: Goal.com

We were treated to regular Italian football in the early 1990s, first by S4C’s Sgorio, and then Channel 4′s ‘Football Italia’ programme. And very often it was this classic AC Milan side that we saw. This Lotto version of their kit from 1992 was my favourite with its uncluttered design and flattering white shorts and socks. And look at this photo from a game v Juventus. Nobody bothered with away kits in those days.  And quite right too.

Cardiff City Umbro 1975-77

ccfc These old kits deserve respect

Photo: http://www.cardiffcity-mad.co.uk/

I’ve saved the best till last. This is my personal favourite club kit.

 

maracana

See the Maracana stadium in 3D

Visual effects house Finish has created a 3D model of the World Cup and Olympics Maracanã Stadium in Brazil. The Rio de Janeiro stadium will be hosting seven games at the Brazil World Cup, more than any other venue. Among those matches will be the Final on 13 July.

Once the largest stadium in the world, packing in crowds of up to 200,000 – among the highest attendances ever seen in the history of the game – the Maracana now has a reduced capacity of 73,531 for Brazil 2014. It remains, nevertheless, the country’s biggest football ground.

The 3D stadium is an exact replica of the Maracanã Stadium, created from architectural drawings and blueprints of the Stadium for reference: “Using these we knew exactly how many rows and columns there were, then we used Google satellite images to view the top of the stadium and aerial helicopter images and photos to apply the structural elements inside the stadium,” revealed the 3D artist Harin Hirani.

3D Maracanã Stadium, Brazil created by Harin Hirani @ Finish from Finish on Vimeo.

syria

Syrian football prevails in adversity

At first glance, Wales may not have much in common with the footballing nation of Syria. The two countries have never played each other and there seems nothing to connect two small associations whose capitals sit 3,000 miles and 50 hours driving apart. But dig a little deeper and you will find an admittedly tenuous history of shared World Cup misfortune between the Red Dragons and the Qasioun Eagles. With the 2014 World Cup on the horizon, we know that Wales again failed to take their rightful place at the head of the international game, but you may be wondering whether Syria will be represented at the finals in Brazil.

Things had looked promising for the Syrians back in 2011, when they beat Tajikstan 6-1 on aggregate in the 2nd round of qualifying. But one of those goals had been scored by the Beirut born centre-forward George Mourad. And Mourad, (known as, Mouradona) had already appeared for the Swedish national side in friendlies in 2005. Mourand qualified for Sweden on residency rules after his early career move to Gothenburg.  And so Syria were disqualified from the 2014 World Cup – not because Mourad was inelligible, but because they hadn’t asked FIFA permission to select him. The Syrian FA claimed that the decision had political motivations but their appeal was rejected.

mourad Syrian football prevails in adversity

Mouradona

Now many people will know that Wales have previously profited by qualifying for the World Cup Finals due to the disqualification of a Middle East nation.  Wales’ amateurish preparations for the 1958 World Cup had caused them to fail miserably in their qualifying group which had been won by Czechoslavakia,  but Jimmy Murphy’s team were given a second chance to qualify due to political unrest in the African and Asian Qualifying Group.

Syria had been a part of that group, but had lost out to Sudan, their only opponents in Group 4 of the 1st Round of Asian Qualification. Turkey, considering themselves to be European, and not Asian, had refused to compete. Then Indonesia withdrew from the second round after FIFA refused their request to face Israel on neutral ground. Egypt also withdrew from the second round allowing Sudan and Israel to progress automatically to the final round, where Sudan then also withdrew. FIFA rules stated that no team could qualify for the finals without playing a single game, so it was decided to draw one of the runners-up from the European groups to play Israel in a play-off.

After Uruguay and Italy refused to take part in the process as a matter of honour, Wales were one of nine names placed in the Jules Rimet trophy for the draw. Belgium were pulled from the cup, but also refused the offer as a matter of pride. Wales had no such qualms when their ticket was pulled out next and they grasped their second chance to reach the finals. No one imagined that Wales were using up their quota of World Cup luck for the next 50 years. (It may yet be more).

Syria, meanwhile combined with Egypt between 1958 and 1961 to form the United Arab Republic Football Team. To Syria’s loss, that combined team has always been known as Egypt, with their records attributed to Egypt by FIFA. This of course, is a similar relationship to the situation with the combined England and Wales Cricket Board side, which is only recognised recognised only as ‘England’.  I did warn you that the link was tenous.

In 1966, Syria were placed in a European Qualifying Group alongside Spain and the Republic of Ireland, but boycotted as a matter of principle. Many African and Asian teams also shunned that tournament in protest at the award of a single place to all countries from those continents. Syria also withdrew from qualification in 1978 and have been unsuccessful in every attempt since. I think that Chris Coleman should consider fielding an inelligible player in the next tournament. It would make a refreshing change to fail on a beaurocratic technicality rather than incomprehensible bad luck or simple ineptitude.

Despite the terrible situation in war-torn Syria, the national side has continued to compete, despite many of the players losing relatives in the conflict. The team has perservered, even beating Iraq to win the 2012 West Asian Championships for the first time. They played their latest home fixtures in Iran against Singapore and Oman, as part of  Asian Cup Qualification. Only 100 spectators turned up to watch the games in Tehran. Back in March 2013, however, 50,000 Iraqis had cheered the Syrian side in a friendly fixture in Baghdad.

The next Syrian international is scheduled for March 4th, away to Jordan. “A lot of fans are trying to give us support because everybody in Syria loves football you know. They follow us on Facebook, Twitter and these kind of things. They try to send us messages to encourage our team,” said Syrian captain and striker Sanhareb Malki. “For these kind of people, we will give everything, we will fight.”

Pat Heard lifts the European Cup with Aston Villa in 1982.

Catching the train with Pat Heard

There was much excitement on Saturday evening as the news emerged that a professional footballer was sharing the train with Cardiff City fans returning from their game at The Etihad Stadium. Photographs soon emerged of Gary Medel with various supporters on Piccadilly Station and in then a second class carriage of a Great Western train where most of the seats appear to have been reserved. None of the photographs show Medel in a seated position, so I can only assume that he had lacked the foresight to pre-book.

article 2542112 1ACDC68300000578 217 634x419 Catching the train with Pat Heard

Gary Medel poses with Cardiff City fans on the way home from Manchester. (IMG Twitter/George Webber)

I was reminded of a similar occasion when I was fortunate enough to share a coffee-stained British Rail table with a European Cup medal winner. It must have been almost twenty-five years ago when I pushed open the carriage doors on a train at Cardiff Central and was shocked to see a familiar face in the seat opposite. Now normally, I don’t impose myself on celebrities, but this was different, this was an enigmatic well-travelled midfield playmaker called Pat Heard.

heardfeat Catching the train with Pat Heard

Pat Heard lifts the European Cup with Aston Villa in 1982. IMG: http://www.ambernectar.org

Cardiff City were a Fourth Division club when Pat Heard arrived in 1991. After starting his career with Everton, the skillful left-footed journeyman had failed to make an impact at any of the clubs he had joined since leaving Goodison Park. He was a fringe player at Aston Villa, where he had earned a European Cup winners medal as a non-playing squad member in 1982, but was unable to gain a regular place in a very good side.  He toured the north East, with spells at Hull, Newcastle, and Middlesbrough before joining Cardiff. He was a poor player in a young but promising squad full of personality. And he was quite a character himself. Since retiring,  the versatile  Mr Heard has worked as a professional stage hypnotist, a radio presenter, and now makes a living  teaching Aston Villa players how to drive.

But on this Friday afternoon in 1991, I said hello and began to talk football with the reticent conversationalist. He had obviously been the subject of less polite approaches from disgruntled Cardiff supporters and was wary of opening himself up to more criticism. But after a few opening pleasantries he explained to me why his form had not been great since joining the club. It wasn’t his fault. He was being made to look poor by Nathan Blake and Damon Searle, two young players who were unable to read the passes of a former European Cup finalist. He was simply operating on a different wavelength.

I didn’t have much time to chat as I would be leaving the train at Bristol Temple Meads. Pat explained to me that he was being allowed to travel home to Hull for the weekend as he was not part of Cardiff manager Eddie May’s plans. As I stood to leave and shook his hand, I expressed my sympathy and out of interest, I asked him how he came to be travelling on the train from Cardiff to Portsmouth.

“Oh, I haven’t got any patience with timetables, planning journeys and booking trains and all that” he explained. “I like to arrive at the station and get on the first train that’s going north. “

Football from a Welsh perspective

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