Archive for February, 2011

My Favourite Match – Boston United 4 v 1 FC United of Manchester 17/04/10. Boston.

February 26, 2011 Leave a comment

By Adam Shergold

The first two articles in this series featured Champions League ties but Adam’s opted for a game a lot closer to home. This game from last year was pivotal in Boston’s promotion back to the Conference North. Look out for the wonderful show of appreciation and respect between the two sets of fans after the final whistle. You can follow Adam on Twitter @adamjshergold and read more from him at his excellent blog More in Hope than Expectation which describes the joy and anguish of following Boston United.

I fully expect my favourite match to look out of place on this page. There’s no delusions of grandeur here, no international superstars and it most definitely was not watched by millions. The attendance is only in four figures, the players involved all have tedious day jobs and the camera work in the video below is frankly awful. There was silverware at stake, yes, but it was arranged by Unibond, not UEFA.

It’s a selection which features my team, Boston United, at a crucial moment in last season’s (ultimately successful) promotion push. The team’s return to the Conference North, achieved through the play-offs, ran parallel to the last year of my undergraduate studies at York, so the joy of United’s success nicely counterbalanced the stress of finals.

I thought long and hard before choosing this particular game. My main criteria was that it must be a game I attended and there’s certainly been plenty to choose from, as I’ve followed the side home and away for quite a few years now. The 2-0 win at Hayes which secured promotion to the Football League in 2002 would have been the obvious choice. I was there, of course, but felt an imposter having not attended many matches that season.

The Boston players celebrate (thanks to David Shipman for the picture)

There were five years in the Football League, when grounds were visited which actually had proper stands, seats and people to sit in them, but away days typically ended in defeat and demoralisation. More recently, I’ve gained great satisfaction from seeing an 89th minute winner at Buxton, a surging comeback at Guiseley or a scrambled equaliser at Telford but they all somehow seemed run-of-the-mill. This needed to be a game which was at the same time crucial, dramatic and glorious.

Boston were stalking Guiseley at the top of the Unibond Northern Premier and this penultimate game of the season, at a sun-bathed York Street, was must-win. Losing was unthinkable if automatic promotion was to be gained on the final day away at Marine, and the lottery of the play-offs avoided. The fact this was our biggest game of the season – FC United enjoyed far-and-away the biggest crowds in the division, as well they might – only added to the spectacular sense of occasion.

And come they did. With their red and black flags, their green and gold protest scarves, their awesome repertoire of songs and their smoke flares. But the Boston public came too – 2,500 to be precise, by far the largest attendance since the dizzy heights of League Two. The hardcore in the Spayne Road terrace were bouncing. I was in amongst them. The scene was set.

FCUM were playing only for pride but hadn’t read the script. Just four minutes in, Jerome Wright lined up a 30-yard free-kick. The ground held its breath. Wright dispatched the set-piece into the top corner with the technique of a son of Sao Paulo, not Wythenshawe.

The next 60-odd minutes were a kind of purgatory. We were playing the creative, passing football (by non-league standards) but the chances, for some reason, just weren’t coming. The players seemed shell-shocked, suddenly paralysed by fear with the finish line in sight. The travelling support delighted in our stasis. We tried to lift the players but FCUM held firm – Mark Ayres and David Chadwick at the back might as well have been Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Our energy ebbed away, the ground fell silent but for the sounds of nails being chewed. Time ticked down.

In a flash, the sterling work of our management duo of Rob Scott and Paul Hurst was becoming worthless, the freezing nights of winter stood on terraces at places like Stocksbridge Park Steels, Ashton United and Kendal Town seemed pointless. All that time and money. 

But, suddenly, from the most unlikely source came salvation. Less than 20 minutes remained when Lee Canoville, our centre-back, ghosted to the edge of the penalty area as Jamie Yates flicked in a cross from the left. By his own admission, Canoville would clear the stand nine times out of ten but, with impeccable timing, he swivelled and lashed the ball into the net. And with his left foot. The relief which surged around the ground is indescribable.

Bodies recharged, United swarmed forward again and, seven minutes later, Anthony Church connected sweetly with Spencer Weir-Daley’s ball to find the roof of the net. The scenes of celebration at this invaluable goal will remain with me forever – I had the bruises on my hands for weeks afterwards from swinging on the rafters.

The noise was now deafening and as we finally found the courage to sing “We are going up,” Weir-Daley rolled in the third. Danny Davidson, who like Weir-Daley had been outstanding all season, added a fourth in stoppage time.

Hundreds spilled onto the pitch at the final whistle, the players were mobbed and there was a wonderful moment of mutual appreciation with the FCUM fans. Just two-and-a-half years after the club was rescued at the eleventh hour from extinction, this small, forgotten corner of Lincolnshire had experienced another finest hour.

P.S. Boston blew their chance at automatic promotion the following weekend. In a cruel but accurate reflection of the team’s last few years, they produced a flat, nervy performance in a 0-0 at Marine. It was another seven days before the champagne could be uncorked, with a 2-1 play-off final win at Bradford Park Avenue.  

If you would like to be involved in the ‘My Favourite Match’ series, read this post to find out more.

My Favourite Match – Real Madrid 0 v 2 Ajax 22/11/95. Madrid.

February 19, 2011 Leave a comment

By Mohamed Moallim
Mohamed has chosen a performance from one of the great Ajax teams for his favourite match. This dutch team possessed a wealth of talent which had grown up together in their famed academy. Their style gained many plaudits and this evening in Madrid was a perfect example of their attacking philosophy.
You can follow Mohamed on twitter @jouracule and read more from him at his blog La Croqueta.  
It was the 22nd November, 1995. Just a usual autumn day, nothing out of the ordinary, but on this day something remarkable was to happen, something that would be spoken of for years and generations to come. 
The remarkable event I speak of took place at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid, home to Spanish giants Real Madrid; they were hosting a Champions’ League group game against the reigning champions AFC Ajax, who had won the competition months prior.
Again there was nothing strange about this but after the full time whistle everything changed. 
Compared to today, things were very different in the mid-90s European football wise. Unlike today, a side back then could realistically win the European Cup with a side assembled for less than £1m – but that side had to be very special, and this Ajax side was.

Ajax may have been ever more successful had it not been for Bosman

Much of it was made up of home grown players who are now household names such as: Danny Blind, Frank & Ronald de Boer, Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids, Marc Overmars, Clarence Seedorf, Edwin van der Sar etc there were also players acquired from abroad like Jari Litmanen, Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu. 

Having the players was one thing, but they needed to be guided and the man in charge was Louis van Gaal. The side he ended up winning the European Cup with in the midst of Vienna was different to the one he inherited, it slowly matured but the signs were already there.
Van Gaal kept the Ajax philosophy and continued the 3-3-1-3 formation which served Johan Cruijff well during his spell as coach in the mid 80s (despite being the bitter of enemies there was this mutual understanding and if you want respect – both knew how to play good football).
As said in the Guardian’s Joy of Six ‘forgotten classics’: “With their exhilarating speed, fiendish imagination and exquisite technique, Van Gaal’s young Ajax side of the mid-90s were magnificent to watch.”
Going into the game, the Ajax players didn’t feel like they were underdogs, compared to now where the gulf between the two sides is vast and growing. In 1995 Ajax going to Madrid and expecting not to leave without anything wouldn’t have been scoffed at and called a ‘dream’. 
This game changed everything. Van Gaal’s Ajax side played the game the right way and their attacking approach has always been met with praise and adulation at home and abroad, but this game it seemed they went up a level or three. 
Their starting XI was as follows: Van der Sar; Reiziger, Bogarde, Blind, Musampa; Ronald de Boer, Davids, Litmanen; George, Kluivert, Overmars.
And this wasn’t against a bad Real Madrid side which included Luís Enrique, Michael Laudrup, Fernando Redondo, Raúl and Iván Zamorano to name but a few. Real went into the game on the back of a 1-0 win in the Madrid derby against Atlético de Madrid, a step in the right direction after a torrid start to their season. But this proved to be a false dawn as the Spanish titleholders simply had no answer to the pace and intelligence of Litmanen, George and Kluivert. 
The seamless dominance from the opposition began to tell as the rings of boos and whistles from the home crowd intensified every time Ajax kept going forward – but in no ways did this deter Van Gaal’s men. In the end it was a surprise that Ajax didn’t win by more than the two goals they scored (Litmanen and Kluivert the goal scorers both had goals disallowed and the woodwork was hit several times) such was the dominance that Ajax’s first goal came when they only had 2 up against 6 Real Madrid players.
Finidi George sliced the Madrid defence open with a slick through-ball that Litmanen latched on to before drilling under the keeper and in. Eight minutes later they were two up, Kluivert combining niftily with the outstanding Marc Overmars before nudging the ball into the net off the far post. 
Then Real Madrid coach Jorge Valdano (and now sporting director of the club) after the game commented: “Ajax aren’t just the team of the 90’s, they’re approaching football utopia.”
But what really was memorable that night was the ovation, a standing one, from the home crowd towards the Ajax players, what were boos turned to applause and the Ajax men soaked it in and rightly so, good football deserves such adulation even from the opposition. It was the closest Total Football was played since the days of Cruijff, Krol, Keizer, Neeskens et al.
“We were heavenly, world class,” said Frank de Boer, who watched the game and subsequent lap of honour from the sidelines because of injury. “This was Ajax at their best.”
An urban legend goes that this game has been used by Real Madrid youth team coaches to show their students on how the beautiful game should be played, a compliment of the highest order if true.
Ajax would go on to reach their second Champions League final where they would agonisingly lose to Juventus on penalties, that side would subsequently break up as the bosman ruling took full effect, the club has yet to rediscover the dizzy heights of the mid-90s but with a member of that side in charge now it may not be for long. 
If you would like to be involved in the ‘My Favourite Match’ series, read this post to find out more

New Series – My Favourite Match

February 16, 2011 7 comments

After seeing that a number of other blogs have thrown their pages open to contributions from others, I’ve decided to do something similar. A number of fantastic series have been posted including My Favourite Footballer by The Equaliser, Sporting Heroes by Talking Sports and My Favourite Goal by GhostGoal. I’ve really enjoyed reading and contributing to these features and thought it would be intriguing to host one of my own. ‘My Favourite Match’ seemed the most logical idea.

It can be any game from any era and it can be your favourite game for any reason. Perhaps it was a high-scoring thriller with both sides racking up the goals. Maybe it was a cup shock where a team defied all the odds in a once in a lifetime result. It could even be a one-sided affair where the victorious side simply demolished the opposition. It doesn’t have to be the team you support and it can be a national side or a club team.

Probably likely to feature...

I will (presuming I can find highlights of the game) post a video of the highlights under the article and links to people’s Twitter and blogs so I can promote your own work too.

There’s no time limit on contributing to the series and no restrictions on word length. It can be a short description of why that game was your favourite or it can be a detailed tactical breakdown of the game’s key moments.

The response on Twitter has been great so far so I’ll try to leave it open for a few months and try to put a couple up each week.

You can get in touch with me via the comments section, via Twitter @liamblackburn or via email . If you send me a comment, tweet or email with your idea first I can get an idea of which matches people want to cover and hopefully avoid duplicates.

To get the ball rolling I’ve done a piece on My Favourite Match – Juventus 2 v 3 Manchester United 1999



Categories: My Favourite Match

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