Matchday 6

Can Koeman win?

Assume you’re Ronald Koeman. You’ve lost your best player the very last day of the transfer window, and he wasn’t just a great player. Messi is arguably the most influential playmaker in decades, which is important because the rest of the team had grown accustomed to playing FOR him, to following his flow. It’s not like losing a fantastic centre-forward or an insistent full back. Barcelona’s approach to playing football during the last decade was Messi, what he wanted to do or could do, much more than it was Guardiola, Cruyff or positional play.

Continue reading “Matchday 6”

Vinny, Benz and the Barça blues

Rockin’ and a rollin’ with the new twins of mayhem, Real Madrid lead the table and it ain’t even autumn. Wake me up, when September ends. Vinny and Benz, the fashionable couple of football now, have for some reason struck up a partnership that will either prove to be a devastating argument for the white ones’ title prospects or an excellent way of hiding the other deficiencies that exist in the squad, exacerbated further by Carvajal joining the limp-master Bale in Madrid’s dry-dock. 

Continue reading “Vinny, Benz and the Barça blues”

Matchday 5

Get ready for a few upsets

The weekend after a set of fixtures in the European competitions is always ripe for upsets. And if you throw in the fact that the traditional top three (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico) haven’t looked themselves since the season started, this could be the first matchday in which all three fail to win their games. That is indeed a rare combination, however one which this column believes will happen several times this campaign.

Continue reading “Matchday 5”

Beach Wisdom

It was Monday night and I’d just nipped down to the beach for a cooling dip, as you do.  It’d been a muggy day in San Sebastián and I’d been suffering a bit in the office all day.  The good thing about going for a swim early evening is that most of the day-trippers have gone home, and I can usually count on bumping into a sort of mate of mine, an ex-pro neighbour who played for several top-flight clubs but who has been retired for a while now, living the life of Riley as an agent.   Good bloke though, and always up for a natter.  Sure enough, he emerged from the sea five minutes after me and we had a drying-down chat in the fading bronze light of the beach.  

Continue reading “Beach Wisdom”

Matchday 4

Bye, European Glory

One used to think that the balance of power in LaLiga was not good for the tournament itself, but great for European competitions. Let me explain: three top teams (Barcelona, Real Madrid and yes, Atletico as long as Simeone is their coach), five or six middle class who can compete with anyone on a given day (Sevilla, Villarreal, Athletic, Real Sociedad, Valencia and perhaps even Betis) and then the remaining teams who struggle to survive and get a famous win every once in a while. Three clear tiers with obvious consequences for the competition in Spain and the chances to challenge for a European title.

Continue reading “Matchday 4”

Happy with Mbappé?

Before we get onto the minor stuff – Messi, Mbappé, Memphis, let me just tell you about my weekend.  Live football is good, particularly after pandemic-based confinements, and so like many other dysfunctional members of my species I’m trying to attend as much as possible.  As Stephen Fry said of religion, ‘It’s what some people do with their madness’.  My madness is more ball than Bible-based, and my pilgrimage sites tend to involve terracing.  Which is why people should never get married on Saturdays.  Why Saturdays, ffs? The wedding reception I was invited to unfortunately coincided with Real Sociedad v Levante on Saturday, meaning that another lucky madman got my seat (I gave it to him, in a Christian act of altruism) but it really isn’t good enough.  Why can’t people have wedding receptions on a Thursday night?  They would then only coincide with the Europa League, and the loss would be of little consequence.   Propose this soon to your local MP. You know it makes sense.

Continue reading “Happy with Mbappé?”

Matchday 3

When cachet still matters

And we’re back! Yes, a certain transfer market move by Real Madrid you’ve probably heard of may have a lot to do with my recent awakening from hibernation, but the fact is that the whole sequence of signings, farewells and the drama they’ve brought in the last few weeks makes it almost impossible for me to keep watching and not to write about it.

Continue reading “Matchday 3”

It’s The Balls!

Never mind the bullocks – it’s The Balls

It’s The Balls!  2019-20 LaLiga round-up.

La Liga round-up, 2020-21

It’s been a weird yet wonderful season, a stranger-than-fiction one, interrupted briefly by the birth and death of a super-league that lasted a week but which seemed more serious than a pandemic in its implications – a season played out against the backdrop of empty seats in a theatre of the absurd, waiting for a Godot who never really came. 

Continue reading “It’s The Balls!”

The 111-year delayed derby

On March 20th, 1910, about 60 metres from the house where I now sit at my keyboard, Athletic Bilbao, sporting for the first time their iconic red and white stripes, defeated Vasconia (about to become Real Sociedad) 1-0 in what was essentially the final of the breakaway tournament UECF (Spanish Union of Football Clubs), now officially recognised in the history books.  Remigio Iza scored the goal in the 56th minute and the ref (Lavat) had come from across the nearby French border to San Sebastián to officiate the tournament’s games. Madrid FC were the other side, and the next day they lost to Vasconia 2-0 in what was essentially a 2nd/3rd-place play-off. 

Continue reading “The 111-year delayed derby”

Literary pitches, football bitches

I’ve recently finished writing a kids’ novel, and during the process of coming up with the ‘elevator pitch’ (the blurb to convince the literary agent in less than 20 words) I’ve learned various things, the most important of which is that if you don’t have a simple story line with characters who have punchy kid-like features, you can’t write the pitch….and therefore your book probably sucks, or won’t sell.

Continue reading “Literary pitches, football bitches”