F o o t b a l l , d e s i g n & W IT
In England you eat too much sugar and meat and not enough vegetables. ArsĂ¨ne Wenger
editor's letter t's probably about time that we introduced ourselves, what with it being our fourth issue and all. We are Pickles. We are Pickles. We are Pickles. Yes we are! And it's our aim to present to you, dear reader, a selection of insightful, poignant and witty features on the subject of football. Combining our love of the game with our love of design & illustration, Pickles is a unique project, with contributions from the likes of Max Grieve, Charles Lawley and Duncan Jenkins. Issue four focuses on the influence foreign players have had on the British game. From the majestic to the mercurial, the Premier League has witnessed an incredible array of talent - from international
heroes who have graced us with their presence, to cult classics; players who have appeared from nowhere and left a mark on our subconscious. Whether it's Jay-Jay Okocha or Eric Cantona – the Premier League wouldn't have been the same without these legends from overseas. Oh, and don't forget George Weah's cousin!
Editor Arnold Bernid Creative Director Ned Read Designer Steve Leard Words & Pictures Chris Butcher James Carruthers
We hope you enjoy the issue and if you do feel inclined, get in touch. We are always looking for contributers. So whether you are a hotshot designer or illustrator, or fancy yourself as a bit of a wordsmith, feel free to send us an email and follow us on twitter. Arnold Bernid & The Pickles Team
Chris Cooper James Cowen Tom Dowding Greg Holmes Dan Humphry
stanley chow The cover art for Pickles issue four is a piece by Stanley Chow. It’s the first time an illustrator’s work has featured on the Pickles front cover, so it’s fitting that the idea of a newspaper combining football with design, art and illustration was first spoken about between friends over a beer on a weekend in Manchester – Stanley Chow’s hometown. Originally a club DJ, Chow started designing and illustrating flyers and posters for venues he played. Chow’s style and work is now instantly recognised in the UK and beyond, distinctively combining simple shapes and colours to craft some of the most well known faces in the land. This has taken him from designing flyers handed around Manchester’s Northern Quarter
to working with huge names in the design and editorial sectors including the Sunday Times and the New Yorker. As well as creating our own work to feature in Pickles, we’ve always wanted to include work from other designers and illustrators. Stanley Chow
was one of those names on our dream contributors list as his iconic work encapsulates everything that we want Pickles to be. Pickles is a huge admirer of Chow’s soccer prints so we’re delighted to feature his Balotelli print for this issue. Balotelli is one of the most high profile, talented and notorious foreign players currently plying his trade in the Britain and makes a great front cover for this issue that celebrates the contributions of foreign players in our game. Having been born, raised and still working in Manchester, Chow is a continuation of the creative output from Manchester. Chow is also a passionate Manchester United fan. stanleychowillustration.com
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game over? "England gave the world football." â€“ Sir Dave Richards.
t’s our game. We invented it. Selﬂessly spreading its sacred gospel to the masses, the most beautiful of all games, the game we named ‘football’. Tucked under our arm, carried by our wits and our desire to ‘see’ the rest of the world, we carried it across the globe. This great ﬂame, illuminating the four corners of the earth with its beguiling beauty. What greater gift to give to humankind. I must write a strongly worded letter to the Nobel commission. The lack of recognition forthcoming to us for this most noble of deeds is a gross oversight on their part, and frankly it really is too much to bear. I fear Sepp Blatter must be on that board of directors too. This strange force; this mesmerising whirlwind of a game, this fabulous, breathtaking… Apologies reader. This was for my column in the Daily Mail. I freelance you see. What with bills to pay etc, and these foreigners coming over here, stealing our… yep, sorry. Who is this for again? Ah, Pickles. That youthful, energetic, slightly left of ﬁeld football magazine with a handsome following of clearly intelligent, stylish, enlightened young readers, with iphones, twitter accounts and the like. Time for a gear-change… Our game… I have to be honest. The absurdity of the notion that any one country has guardianship over something as childish as kicking a ball around is frankly only an argument that could possibly be put forward by us. Yes, us. The English. Dave Richards and his woefully outdated views are the embodiment of why we are so universally disliked around the globe. A nation with the ugliest of traits; a chip on it’s shoulder. Did we give the world a libero or a trequartista? Did we give the world the 1982 Brazil side? Total Football? Maradona? Pele? Cryuff ? It’s this kind of arrogance born out of some form of ‘little country' syndrome that undermines our position on the world stage. Resulting in the quite farcical awarding of the right to stage the World Cup to Russia and Qatar. That’s right Dave Richards. FIFA think so little of you and your views that they would rather send your game to a country with a reputation for hooliganism and racism, and to another that not only currently has no infrastructure in place to host an international tournament, but doesn’t even recognise Israel! Yes, it’s ours and we’d like it back please, FIFA. The Barclays Premier League is the single most profitable football league in the world. Some of the greatest foreign footballers of the past twenty years have graced our shores with their poise, technique, and exciting football. Zola, Vieira and Cantona are but a few of the players who decided to ply their trade here, bringing with them a pedigree and a class that frankly has never truly been in the grasp of our home grown players. It’s not that we don’t produce fantastic footballers, (though we don’t produce nearly enough), it’s that we don’t know what to do with them. I mean Paul Scholes on the left wing for England? It's like telling Debussy to compose ‘Prélude à L'Aprèsmidi d'un Faune’ on a banjo! We can produce players with great technical skill like Gascoigne, Waddle, Beardsley and Platt, but is it any wonder they all at some point left home for the continent where they could cultivate their game and be appreciated for their ﬂair and creative talents in a way they were never allowed to over here. Chris Waddle is mobbed whenever he visits Marseille, I doubt the same is said when he ventures to his native Northeast. Playing against players of diﬀerent nationalities, with diﬀerent strengths, and tactical preferences must surely have had a positive eﬀect on our English players. Before we start blaming foreign players for our national side's shortcomings, we should remember
that there are very few English players plying their trade overseas. Anybody who thinks English players’ development is hampered by the commercial success (and in correlation, the inﬂux of top foreign talent) of the PL is missing the point, grossly. The reason young English players are not getting into sides is because they are not good enough. They have often been found wanting at the highest level because they have not been coached eﬀectively enough as children. The premium for English talent exists because there simply aren’t that many good young English players around. And when you can go abroad and bring in top young players relatively cheaply in comparison, where there is a bigger pool to choose from, it is obvious clubs are going to do so. In this country we love players of heart and industry, but isn’t running around the minimum requirement of a footballer? The players we should most admire are the ones who can change a game. The ones who make us feel alive, who evoke the spirit of playing in the park with your friends. The ones who bring us joy.
Chris Waddle is mobbed whenever he visits Marseille, I doubt the same is said when he ventures to his native Northeast.
For too long the ‘English’ way has been predicated on pace, power and strength. At any youth game shouts from the touchline of “not in there”, “get it out” are still commonplace. And where has it gotten us? Technique has been coached out of our young players for many years, and judging by watching England in the Under 19 World Championships, this shows no signs of changing. Content to sit behind the ball, it saddens me to see the lack of imagination from our young players. For years we’ve rewarded players with professional contracts because they are quick. Putting a premium on athleticism and not footballing intelligence. Comparatively, the level of technical sophistication and unrelenting pursuit of footballing perfection on show in the Spain v. Portugal game was astonishing. The thing is, every now and then, playing football parking ‘le bus’ and hitting teams on the counter attack works, and the cavemen clap their hands, basking in the smug glow of an ugly victory. England’s senior team are ranked 5th in the world. 5th. Ahead of Italy, France, Holland, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Croatia. This all sounds fairly promising. Aren’t we doing well? We may well be ranked 5th in the world, but I’d rather watch all of those teams ahead of England. The four above them aren’t bad either, (Spain, Germany, Portugal and Argentina). Bright, intelligent, expansive, pretty football. The way football should be played. It’s clear for all to see that a radical change is needed in our coaching and in our mindset. A permanent revolution regarding our footballing culture needs to be cultivated, so we can attempt to close the gap on the likes of Spain and Germany, whose infrastructure regarding youth development and how it is implemented makes us look like a dusty relic. A throwback. A once proud nation dragging its knuckles into the 21st century, clutching at its heritage as justification for our moral obligation or divine right to be good at the game we made. ‘Can we have our game back, please?’ I don’t know about you, but I want whatever game the Spanish and the Germans are playing. That looks like fun The number of UEFA accredited coaches in this country (2,769) is laughable when compared to other European countries, (34,970 in Germany, 29,420 in Italy and 23,995 in Spain). Written by Chris Cooper @picklesmagazine
Yes We Di Canio windon Town is a club with a turbulent history. But there’s been a revolution in the South West – almost ironically, under the direction of Paolo Di Canio, one of the most volatile and controversial players to have graced the Premier League, Swindon are stabilising. For too long Swindon has been relegated to a punch line; the butt of failed Brent quips in The Office. Visually, Swindon is a concrete jungle without the colour of other urban sprawls; a place that has struggled to deﬁne its identity and purpose since its industrialised railway past. As a footballing town, life has never been dull for the club and their supporters. They’ve experienced the occasional high but too often it has been the grim realities of football in the modern era that have shaped the club. Swindon managed promotion to the Premier League in 1993 and despite struggling for most of the season, just to be there was a great achievement for a club rarely in the top ﬂight of English football. Swindon has stared into the ugly face of football more than most clubs. From ﬁnancial corruption that rocked the club in the eighties to a slow slide back down to the very depths of the Football League and the season-on-season struggle just to survive – it’s a robin-sized miracle that Swindon still has a professional football club. Something had to change. Giving young managers the chance to ﬂourish proved a key foothold. Lou Macari, Ossie Ardiles, Glenn Hoddle and Dennis Wise all given their chance. Yet no other appointment excited the Swindon faithful more than when Di Canio took the helm, overnight putting Swindon
back into the nation’s psyche after the relegation to League Two in 2011. Di Canio himself has seen both sides of the game. His ﬂamboyance on the pitch sharply contrasted the controversy that dogged him, (laying hands on referees and parading his questionable political leaning). Was he a man to trust with the future for your club? Ultimately it’s his character and passion that instantly won over the Swindon fans – for too long used to greyness – now a chance for a colourful period in their history. But commentators of the game could do well to remember Di Canio’s story when writing off current players who today ﬁnd themselves shrouded in controversy. It’s proved time and time again in football that no matter how low someone can go, there will always be second chances; even third, fourth and ﬁfth chances. In that way it’s a ﬁtting marriage that binds Di Canio and Swindon as both look to rise from the doldrums of a chequered past.
It’s a robin-sized miracle that Swindon still has a professional football club
Di Canio’s ﬁrst season in charge was a great success to most but not without ﬂashes of trouble. He had to endure clashes with a Football Association not used to his style, whether that be running the stretch of the pitch to celebrate or on occasion becoming involved in physical bust-ups with his players – predictably ending with Paolo having to watch his side from the stands of the County Ground during periods of the season. Despite moments of controversy, success ultimately won out – the promotion to League One and cup giant-killings far outweighing the low points. Di Canio’s passion, conﬁdence and sporadic anger is refreshing in a time when we’re forced to watch beige press conferences from media savvy managers and professional players. Di Canio’s statement midway through last season that Swindon would win the league even if he was banished to the stands every game was one of the more memorable moments of the year - the players, club and town lifted by Di Canio’s conviction. And that’s what the game and towns like Swindon need; a ﬁgure who gives people hope and the character to turn that hope into a reality. Someone to give you a reason to trudge down Manchester Road towards the County Ground instead of settling for an evening of Chinese takeaway with Maniche. Paolo brings that air of excitement and the knowing that anything can happen. While Paolo and Swindon are together great things can happen. Yet we all know that while Paolo Di Canio is probably Swindon Town’s Obama, no one believes Swindon is Di Canio’s United States. One day he will leave Swindon like every great manager in the lower leagues. The hope is that his conﬁdence, spirit and vibrancy sink into the town’s very bones, passing on a legacy for generations to inherit Written by Matt Wheater @picklesmagazine
words by tom dowding
unday May 13th, 2012. It is deep into injury-time at the Etihad Stadium and Manchester City’s dreams of a ﬁrst league title since 1968 hang by the merest thread. The ball breaks to Sergio Aguero who duly smashes it past Paddy Kenny into the QPR net. Cue bedlam: City have won the championship at the death; their success accompanied by the disturbing sound of Martin Tyler apparently giving birth in the commentary box. This swiftly gives rise to feelings of nausea in the red half of Manchester. Probably best imagined by the prospect of sharing dinner with Bear Grylls. How the ball eventually made its way to the feet of the diminutive Argentine served as the ﬁnal redemptive act of a season framed in controversy and sensationalism for Mario Balotelli. His decisive assist came only ﬁve weeks after he left the ﬁeld in disgrace; having been sent off as City capitulated away to Arsenal. Balotelli seemed destined for permanent exile and City seemingly resigned to the perpetual dominance of their neighbours. That Balotelli would single-handedly bring the assurance that led to City’s ultimate insurrection typifies his career to date. From the abyss of uncertainty, he delivers moments which remind people why he is such a good footballer. He has specialised in Houdini-esque moments of escapology as well as meted out brutal domination. His record boasts three league titles, two domestic cups and a Champions League winners’ medal. This analysis also needs to be tempered by the fact he is still only 21 years of age. It would seem, however, that there are people who expect more from young Mario or at least are never satisﬁed with his endeavours. Herein lies a problem which we all to some degree share. The fascination surrounding Balotelli is largely born out of a desire to construct a persona onto what we see and hear. He is a victim of vast swathes of people lasciviously groping their way to the front of the queue in order to pin countless adjectives on him. “Mad Mario,” “Super Mario,” “Bigotry Bludgeoner Mario.” The list seems endless. This frenzy reached new levels at Euro 2012. On the back of his startling performance against Germany in the semi-ﬁnal, it appeared to a large number of observers that Balotelli had metamorphosed from a boy into a man. This is wrong. He was already a man. Just look at him. He’s cut like a badly truncated ITV premier and boasts the physique of an Olympic sprinter. This hasty transmogriﬁcation birthed the misconception among many pundits that Balotelli had attained the status of a great player, thus foisting platitudes – usually reserved for those whose qualities have stood the test of time – on a young man whose career, hitherto, has been ill-defined by various extracurricular antics and to which his actual talent has often been viewed as complementary. During the build-up to the ﬁnal in Kiev, the BBC decided to evoke Winston Churchill’s enduring quote about Soviet Russia in relation to Balotelli, thus proclaiming him ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.’ This is indicative of the trite and frankly necessitous coverage of his career to date. The dire need for football to have that character that is just ‘a little bit different;’ whom we can watch while wading in the vicarious mire of wondering ‘what might he do?’ ‘Will he punch someone?
Will he eat the ball in a manic rage? Will he manage to put the bib on?’ Very rarely, it seems, do people wonder if he will produce a performance of the splendour as those with which he embellished the latter stages of the European Championships. The truth - an unfashionable truth at that - is that Balotelli is not a riddle. Nor is he a mystery inside a £200k Bentley. He is, on the other hand, an opulently rich young man, gifted to a fault and carrying a complicated past. He is impressive; determined not to show an ounce of emotion or care, desperate not to betray any sign of weakness. For a persistent media, this merely serves to make him a more obvious target. The differing views which accompany Balotelli’s very existence are often rooted in hypocrisy. Some of this is routine and lazy. Quite often it is abhorrent. During Euro 2012, Alan Hansen asserted that he would remain unconvinced about Balotelli’s worth unless he scored ten hat tricks next season. What kind of analysis is that, other than one which you’ve unwittingly paid for? Hansen’s sniping was consistent with much of the BBC’s vapid coverage of the event, often characterised by ill-researched views and downright unpleasantness. Where this has a wider, damaging eﬀect is that a large majority of the public construct their views on the salient comments and penetrative wit of messrs Hansen, Shearer and Lawrenson and it serves to foment the broadening view that the intrigue around Balotelli is whether he might capitulate rather than what he might produce with the ball. Hansen’s shameful on air approach to Balotelli contrasted wildly to a sober, measured piece he contributed for The Telegraph, sensibly opining that his stellar-show against Germany should serve as a stepping-stone to greatness, not confirmation of greatness itself. What Balotelli has consistently provided on the ﬁeld is a tantalising glimpse of the player he could become; a phenomenal combination of skill and athleticism shrouded by a warning of what could easily be lost. The likelihood is that there are just as many people waiting to see him fail as there are willing to see him thrive. The diversity of opinions coursing around him are largely constructed by the persona which follows him. His occasional brilliance on the ﬁeld ensures there is always credit in the bank with his employers; his idiosyncrasies guarantee a phalanx of unabashed ill-wishers and sceptics. He does little to dissuade the intrigue. In fact, he seems to revel in it. For all the controversies, real and fabricated, associated with him, perhaps his only discernible crime is that he rarely appears to enjoy the wonderful gift he has been given. All too often he is seen sulking, or looks to be sleepwalking his way through matches. He can give the impression of someone ungrateful for the privileged position he is in. This breeds resentment and jealously and compels people to obsess over Balotelli the playboy rather than Balotelli the footballer. Somewhat contrarily, his apparent faults served to make his various exclamations of emotional energy for Italy all the more endearing. The delight etched over his face at giving the Azzurri an unassailable two-goal against Germany hinted at a breaking of the cool, contrived exterior. It was a shattering of the construct. No mystery, just unadulterated joy. Much of the conjecture following his heroics hinted at placing him as a knight in the battle against racism. Having come from a country where he had grown up accustomed to institutionalised racism, (the county of his birth, the country that failed to recognise him as a citizen until he turned 18) – he ﬁnally has found himself in the position where they have become beholden to him. To cast him in the role of the heart-winner and opinion-changer of those with the most despicable views in society is simply putting too great a responsibility on a footballer, even one of his apparent symbolic signiﬁcance. Many who might contend that his various controversies may render him an unsympathetic character in such a struggle gravely miss the point. No person should have to tolerate the kind of abuse he has been subjected to. With all this in mind, it should surely be regarded as a privilege to have a player like Mario Balotelli in the Premier League. He is gifted, newsworthy and bears a life-story interesting enough to confound tales of women’s prisons, ropey ﬁrework displays and human-dartboards, and seeing as he plies his trade in this country; it is comforting to know he fails to conform to the Phil Brown definition of ‘homophobic.’ But what even that fabled guardian of the English language might be able to tell you is that Balotelli is the true auteur of his career, that a gold-lined legacy is his to lose and that branding him for the purposes of flaming the empty ether of hype does us all a disservice. Alright, he won’t tell you that, but wouldn’t it be nice?
Photograph by Jonjo Rooney
hooligans Posthooligans zlawords by barry deck
n ancient Rome slaves and captured soldiers would do battle for baying thousands in the name of entertainment. Through renaissance Europe and the Wild West, two men with issues would square oﬀ in duel; an act so rich in conduct and romance that it’s practice is still immortalised to this day. In Sub-Saharan Africa, remote ﬁelds still bustle with tribes congregating in their thousands to watch each village’s elite compete through brutal Nguni stick ﬁghting tournaments, a tradition passed down over hundreds of years and still at the heart of tribal honour, hierarchy and pride. In modern Britain - safer, gentriﬁed, more controlled and less visceral than perhaps any other society in history - lumpen headed men meet in abandoned inner city wastelands to punch, kick and claw at their prearranged enemies in the name of little else than a replica ﬂag made up of football shirts. Debate goes two ways. To paraphrase Sin City, the Football Factory school of thought would have us believe that these punch-drunk drunks just had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong century and that they’d be right at home on some ancient battleﬁeld, swinging an axe into somebody’s face. As ‘Firms’ ﬁghts are prearranged over mobile phones and internet forums, gathered outside downtrodden pubs or abandoned car parks, delusions, coke and booze fuel these men to ‘represent their club’ in charge and batter, like stray dogs ﬁghting over a pissstained mattress. But what is the real drive? A sense of honour? In these most dismal of surroundings with such wide public disapproval - or worse still, utter ignorance of its existence - it is hard to see. The sense of rebellion, of acting out? Darren Wells, former member of the notorious Chelsea Head-Hunter ﬁrm, has spoken openly on the draw of hooliganism. “With me it was just escapism…” he says. “Some people are in it just for the notoriety of it, some people just love the fighting.” Many hooligans speak of a fraternity among the firms, of wanting to kick out at a sanitised society and the buzz. Perhaps all true, these excuses seem childish. Need escapism? Here’s a cinema ticket and £13 Ryan Air flights to Romania. Need fraternity? Go join a Sunday League and participate in the sport you feel so passionate about. Enjoy violence? Many do, go visit a boxing gym. Though diminished since the nineties football hooliganism is not a dead issue. Acts still ﬂair across the
country and it is when violence spills on to streets that we regret our ignorance. In August 2010, Bristol City fans bombarded visiting Millwall supporters with bottles and stones outside their stadium. Matters escalated when a Millwall supporter’s bus had the misfortune to take a series a wrong turns that led it to a particularly ﬁrm-centric area of the city. Within minutes the bus was smashed open with bricks and set alight, forcing Millwall fans to flee directly in to the punching hands of City hooligans. In late 2011 a violent clash between Nottingham Forest and Barnsley fans outside a city centre pub led to 14 arrests while Celtic manager Neil Lennon was forced to endure a letter bomb campaign during the 2010/11 season at the hands of anti-republican football firms. Millwall fans themselves took to the streets during the 2011 London riots, identifying themselves not by geographical neighbourliness but as vigilante groups formed from supporters divisions. Forming blockades around local high streets fans chanted ‘No one loots us,’ while upholding an uneasy alliance with Charlton Athletic firms who patrolled nearby patches. Though football fan arrests at games has fallen to an all time low - 3,089 English and Welsh in 2010/11 - Police statistics released in mid-2012 revealed that over the past three years 700 incidents of violence, vandalism and drunkenness on trains in the UK were directly linked to football. It is here that hooligan’s claims that they’re ‘hurting no one but each other’ fall to the wayside as the biggest casualty becomes football itself - thrown back to the dark ages of 70s terrace mob rule. Many of the uglier shades of football have been overcome the sport since those days - racism, homophobia and Andy Gray - but still sporadic acts of hooliganism persist. Is it a case that in the ever more sanitised world of corporate sport, fans in fact enjoy that feint air of danger on an away trip, that films and media have glamorised the hooligan lifestyle to a point of - if not acceptance - then wry knowing or is it simpler yet, as firms would have us believe, that violence is an inherent part of football and island culture? No stains can be bleached absolutely and at least for now it seems jumped up men with boring lives will continue to find ways of knocking heads with their out-of-town brothers. In the meantime the average fan will have to be content that these ever shrinking minorities no longer represent the game and that modern stadiums have become among the safest places in today’s societies - whether that’s how you like it or not
tanica Lo! And now the towers fall Under some words too great Alas, they had them built too tall And they could not bear the weight There Zlatan goes, and so goes all Imagination. Allegri sighs, defeated "Why have all my parts retreated?"
I met a Frenchman in the stands His face was covered by his hands Wearied by the fight below And ignorant of distant fans "I am Platini: hear me now!" And he began an explanation Of blind and deaf decisions Or a new UEFA regulation Though I couldn't hear him all too well Through his forks of red crustacean.
Lo! And now the towers fall Under some words too great Alas, they had them built too tall And they could not bear the weight Crushed by departure, Allegri calls "Where are those we once admired?" Sounds echo off four empty walls They've left for Paris, or retired.
A poem by Max Grieve
bunch of twits L
ong ago, the mainstream British media placed a tax on highly-paid and adored footballers to ply their trade within the British Isles. For the luxury and the trappings that the sport had to oﬀer, players became subject to the prying lens of the eager photographer and the inquisitive wit of the determined journalist. By and large, players got it. They knew the rules. Ever since, it has been a clear game of cat and mouse, with most modern stars proﬁcient enough in the tricks required to avoid the majority of unwanted attention. Clubs, recognising the ability of journalists to expertly extract top secret information or garner enough of a reaction to create unwanted headlines from players under interview duress even ensure their players receive training in how to handle the media, which is unfortunately to blame for largely formulaic pregame press conferences and post-game interviews. And then Jack Dorsey invented Twitter and the rules changed. In fact, not only did the rules change but they are constantly evolving and footballers need to have their wits about them to keep up with this evolution. The world of football, from FIFA to fans, must adapt to the inﬂuence of a completely foreign media, one which has the power to completely reinvent the way football exists in the media. The early days of Twitter were fairly casual, certainly in comparison to the maelstrom that has ensued in recent times. Sure, there were a few Twits in the ﬂedgling stages, as we suggested in Pickles Issue 1. The odd footballer – cough cough @DarrenBent – might have had a moan about his transfer not going through or the likes of @RyanBabel occasionally fancied a whinge when dropped from the team, but all could be ﬁled away in the tray marked ‘minor offenses’. During this time, fans could ﬁnd out what @rioferdy5 thought about any given X Factor act and journalists had an occasional, usually inane column ﬁlling quote from a Premier League star. As Tweets became tastier, they started to feed the hunger
of mainstream media in evermore gluttonous portions. Babel started to slate referees instead of managers, Ryan Giggs was exposed despite not even entering the domain himself and everyone seemed to enter into arguments with somebody – if not with fans then most likely with @PiersMorgan – giving the gossip columns something to write about also.
As ever, the gift is also the curse. The reﬂexive instinct to ﬁnger-blast an emotional response when riled by a provocative tweet is the scourge of players living under the intense scrutiny of top level football. Players have yet to get to grips with the unsolicited, direct access provided to a vast number of idiots who believe they can say what they like under a cloak of anonymity.
The social network has become the journalist’s ﬁrst source of information, one they don’t even need to leave the oﬀice to tap into. In fairness to players, as journalist understanding has hastened, some too have shown an improved ability to manage their accounts in a beneﬁcial manner.
Ashley Cole’s arrival on Twitter was greeted by a host of reciprocated abuse, whilst others, including Wayne Rooney and recently Emmanuel Frimpong, have been in trouble for dishing out abuse on Twitter. Even a seasoned tweeter like Rio Ferdinand fell into the trap of not fully thinking through the implications of his response to an allegedly racist tweet.
Joey Barton has made every eﬀort through Twitter to show his legion of followers that he isn’t as stupid as he often appears. Credit where it’s due, he has led the way in showcasing the potential of instant and personal microblogging to curry positive PR amongst the on looking masses. And many have followed suit. Samir Nasri used the tool to express rapid regret at his foul-mouthed tirade against a journalist at Euro 2012 and earlier this year Luis Suarez attempted to manage the fallout of his racism row through one or two sub 140-character messages.
The escalation of such events has prompted the FA to release a set of guidelines for players to adhere to when dabbling in the world of social media and for Twitter to continue to play an active role in the Premier League, players have got to be savvier with what they say and do. There has to be recognition of the awesome power possessed by a 140-character communication. Much like a Tsunami, a tweet may look rather unthreatening from a distance, but its true force is
only realised once it hits the mainland and sweeps all before it. And like a Tsunami, there is no stopping an errant tweet. There has to be a realisation that the diﬀerence between banter and abuse is context. The public Twitter forum does not provide the same sanctuary as a dressing room and behaviour should be tailored accordingly. With Twitter, as in the real world, oﬀense is taken and not always intended. Abuse, however distasteful, needs to be handled professionally. The shining example set by Stan Collymore in the face of a tirade of abhorrent racial abuse is one to follow. Stan simply exposes the morons who have taken the trouble to contact him and passes their information onto the police. Twitter education will no doubt become a staple part of a young starlet’s passage into the ﬁrst team and potentially dumbing down the entertainment value in the long term. The saving grace is the ever-increasing prevalence of sensationalist stories being broken on Twitter. Eden Hazard, Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor and Michael Owen have all taken to Twitter this summer to tantalise us about their transfer situation. All may not be lost after all
50 shades of andy gray Chronicling the erotic odyssey of former footballer and Sky Sports pundit Andy Gray
“Stop” she requests as he’s midway through belting her tuna sink “Eat me like a full English”. He snarls “I’m just too good to go down.”
His three fingers blast her gutted wombat. His hand moves faster than a Ford Focus until orgasm paste squirts over him. “The Valley erupts!”
Suddenly he stopped pounding her. Something was wrong. "Your condom" she said red faced "it came off in me." He grinned "pick that one out!"
5 0 s h a d e s o f a n dy g r ay i s t h e c r e at i o n o f c h a r l es l aw l e y @ 5 0 SOA n d y G r a y
Tottenham Holsten vs Newcastle Wonga words by Greg Theoharis
mre Varadi. Now there’s a name that doesn’t crop up too often in the every day chatter of even the most obsessive of football obsessives. I only mention him now, not out of any kind of deep yearning for the journeyman forward’s footballing prowess but because of what was plastered on his West Brom shirt when I pulled him out of a Panini packet in 1986. It made a long-lasting impression on me. In place of the logo of some fashionable beer or desirable mod con was a nonsmoking symbol. I didn’t realise it at the time, but West Brom were pioneers in what has now become known as ‘ethical advertising’. Flash-forward twenty-six years and Newcastle United have caused controversy by entering a sponsorship partnership with Wonga who have been labelled by the local council leader as “legal loan sharks”. Wonga’s involvement with football is nothing new but it would appear to many (with the greatest respect to Blackpool and Hearts) that the sight of the online lending company’s name on the famous black and white shirts next season is a morally irresponsible decision on the part of the Newcastle board who can take advantage of an enormous fan-base that hungrily devours replica shirts year upon year. The question that can legitimately be asked however, is whether or not a shirt sponsor really has an inﬂuence on the purchasing choices of the average football supporter? In that regard, I can only speak from personal experience and to a point, yes it does. For many reasons, the sponsor that will always hold some degree of brand loyalty for me is Holsten, who sponsored Spurs for two stints over a twenty-year period. When I ﬁrst began getting kits for Christmas, the block capitals of the German alcohol purveyors where as synonymous with Spurs as the cockerel on the club crest. As a result of this, I would plead with my mum to add Holsten to the bottles of Babycham and Cinzano in the
trolley when The Big Christmas Shop for provisions came around, despite the fact I was not of an age to be allowed to consume alcohol. I’m pretty certain my family would much rather have glugged down Cypriot Keo on such festive occasions but Cypriot parents will do almost anything to sate the whims of their offspring. Furthermore, the identification of a sponsor with one’s rivals led to much stomping of tribalistic feet on my part when my family purchased a state–ofthe-art video cassette recorder manufactured by JVC who were affiliated with Arsenal at the time. I refused to tape episodes of Blind Date and Bullseye off the tv for months after until I eventually realised I would inevitably lose that particular war of attrition. My mum is a very stubborn woman. I hadn’t thought about Holsten for some time though until I found myself in a country pub on a stag weekend a couple of years ago. The pub, unwittingly hosting a clientele that paid unconscious tributes to the slip-on shoes and skinny faux-leather ties of twenty-five years ago, magically still continued to stock Holsten Pils. In bottles. Like an activated drone from The Manchurian Candidate, my brand allegiance was re-awoken and before you could say “John Chiedozie”, I was sipping on pilsner for the majority of the weekend. So much so that one friend glibly observed, “What is this? The 1980s?” To an extent he was right. I’m not a particularly big drinker but when presented with the choice, I immediately went for a brand of beer that I overtly associate with the formative experiences I had supporting Spurs. And for an afternoon at least I happily reminisced about that time when Glenn Hoddle ghosted through two Oxford United players before fooling the goalkeeper with a dummy. The names on club shirts inevitably reﬂect the times in which they are worn. In the 1980s, the brands associated with football were more or less concerned with the material consumption of the Thatcher era
or appealed to a predominantly male demographic. Hence why clubs were sponsored by the likes of JVC, Sharp, Hitachi, Draper Tools and Skol. As technology boomed and new markets were opened, so we saw mobile phones and cable companies dominate the latter part of the 90s and early 2000s. Nowadays, as people continue to struggle to make ends meet, there seems to have been a shift to conceptual brands rather than tangible goods. For instance, more and more clubs are sponsored by online betting companies which although presented as innocent opportunities for a cheeky ﬂutter, if taken to an extreme could encourage the desperate to gamble in order to escape overbearing economic difficulty. Emirates and Etihad airways present aspirational yet unattainable lifestyles of extravagant wealth for many while insurance and investment companies on other notable club shirts foster and cement notions of instability and uncertainty in a depressed marketplace. Newcastle have been criticised for the Wonga deal because in a part of the country that has suffered from rising unemployment, the presence on the club shirt of a company that charges a ludicrously obscene amount of APR could lead many financially ravaged souls to consider them as a quick fix when all avenues have been exhausted. It’s a long way away from the iconic blue star of Newcastle Brown Ale that was somehow symbolic of both the area and its industry. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have any advertising. However, we cannot escape the effects and power it has over us. If I told you, “I’d rather have a bowl of…” you’d be able to finish the slogan without a second thought. Or that “washing machines live longer with…” Advertising creates a commonality between us all that in some cases encourages conversation in the workplace where small talk rules (as Ricky Gervais expertly showed every time David
Brent desperately latched onto the latest adinspired buzz phrase in The Office). It is such a part of the daily vernacular that on occasion it can be elevated into artistic expression. Quentin Tarantino managed to eﬀectively do this throughout the entirety of Pulp Fiction whose dialogue relies heavily upon the audience’s familiarity with adspeak. While it’s laudable that the likes of Barcelona and Blackburn Rovers have been respectively ‘sponsored’ by Unicef and The Prince’s Trust, the reality is that football is a business and clubs understandably need to explore all avenues to maximise revenue. However, if the morality of these choices continues to erode would it be inconceivable that we might reach a point where BAE systems or GlaxoSmithKline end up sponsoring some of our biggest clubs? If that ever comes to pass, will a man in his thirties in 2036 wake up one morning and ﬁlled with nostalgia for his youth decide to buy shares in Investec Bank? “Ahhh, AVB,” he’d sigh wistfully. “Those were the days” Written by Greg Theoharis @Sofalife www.dispatchesfromafootballsofa.com
Bendtner is alive! ince arriving in Turin dressed like Alan Partridge, Nicklas Bendtner’s time at Juventus has been as action-packed as a night spent watching every one of the Die Hard ﬁlms during a lightning storm with all the windows open. His request for the No. 10 shirt, then recently vacated by Alessandro Del Piero, was promptly turned down due to concerns that he could be too good and overshadow its previous holder, so he humbly accepted the No. 17 instead, agreeing that it was best for everyone; not least and most importantly himself. Bendtner has had a ﬂying start to his career at the Juventus Stadium, making one appearance as a substitute in the 80th minute in a 2-0 win over Chievo Verona – that’s where Romeo and Juliet is set! He had one shot, then left the ﬁeld with the rest of the players once the game had ended. Club coaches have remarked on the Danish striker’s weight; an issue which Bendtner has acknowledged, and is working to resolve. In response to claims that he is “fat”, Bendtner tweeted ‘Overweight? Yeah it’s really horrible, will need 4-5 months to get going. Ha ha,’ demonstrating a clear shift in his attitudes towards a humanly acceptable work ethic. Juventus have an option to buy Bendtner at the end of the loan period, and one man at la Vecchia Signora believes that it’s an opportunity too good to pass up. ‘Nicklas Bendtner is the best striker in the world. Of course Juventus would like to have Nicklas Bendtner stay at the end of the season, as would any club,’ said Bendtner Written by Max Grieve @maxjgri www.thesubstitution.tumblr.com
Dear Mr Platini, We have all just witnessed one of the greatest European Championships that there has ever been. There was joy, despair, controversy and sprinkling of scandal. Poland and the Ukraine were ﬁtting hosts for the tournament and provided an excellent backdrop for the games to take place. The European Championships have historically been the epitome of national football in Europe and aside from the World Cup is arguably the most important footballing championship in the world (my apologies to all you South Americans out there). Nations which have taken part in the tournament have historically been considered the major footballing nations of Europe. On the odd occasion that a major nation did not qualify this was down to a poor qualiﬁcation campaign. This leads me to question your reasons behind the planned expansion of the tournament to 24 teams? UEFA have stated that the reason behind this expansion is to: “give middle ranked countries a much greater chance to qualify for the ﬁnal tournament, thereby expanding the fanbase directly reached, and increasing the number of matches played and increasing overall stadium capacity” To me this should read: “give middle ranked countries a much greater chance to qualify so that UEFA can increase its proﬁts” The expansion to 24 teams will dilute the quality of the competition and talent on show; and in turn damage the brand that UEFA has fought so hard over the years to establish throughout the world. Knowing that you have to perform from the ﬁrst whistle of your opening match means that players will give their all in every game. When players start to come up against opposition where certain individuals cannot even get into their clubs starting eleven or are even playing in the second tier of a national league system, this is where problems arise. Players will not feel as though they have just played a game of the highest level of football when they walk off the pitch if this is the opposition that they are going to face. The expansion to 24 teams also provides a mathematical problem. 24 teams does not work its way down to two teams contesting the ﬁnal. This begs the question, how will the group stage work? UEFA have stated that the format will be the same as what was in place at the World Cups from 1986 to 1994; a ﬁnal tournament consisting of six groups of four teams, followed by a round of 16, quarter-ﬁnals, semi-ﬁnals and ﬁnal. The top
two from each group would qualify in addition to the four best third-ranked sides. Why use a format that was last used 20 years ago? UEFA itself is now questioning whether this expansion is worthwhile with the general secretary, Gianni Infantino claiming that the new format “is not ideal”. This new format would mean that teams like Greece would not have played for the win in their ﬁnal group A game knowing that a draw would have been enough to see them through to the next stage. This therefore means that alliances could be formed to manipulate a situation where teams are more concerned with qualifying for the next stage rather than trying to beat the team that is put in front of them. With what is currently occurring in Italy, this is the last thing that UEFA would want to be dealing with on a national level. I am not saying that expansions in competitions are doomed from the outset; the Champions League has thrived since its expansion and now consists of a wide variety of teams from all corners of Europe. However there have been instances where the viewing public have not tuned into games as the group stage of the competition is now deemed more of a qualiﬁcation stage for the knockout phase. This is what the European Championships must aim to avoid. Expansion of this competition would also mean that teams would have a longer rest period between their games, which could lead to them becoming disillusioned with the competition. The European Championships should be a month of high calibre football with the players in full knowledge that if they slip up at any point, either on the pitch or away from it, then they will be on the next plane home. In conclusion if you want to leave a legacy in European Football then you should continue to promote the European game and highlight the quality that we possess on this continent by providing tournament football that the whole world wants to see. Dilution of the quality of football on show will only aid the emergence of South American and Asian football on the world stage. In the knowledge that outstanding football will be on show every four years, fans will look forward to the next competition. This should be the legacy that you leave in European football, and who knows this might mean you get Sepp’s job! Yours Sincerely Chris Butcher & The Pickles Team
are rangers dead and buried?
here is a patient lying bereft of care. Hooked up to a life-support machine it is barely existing... The sun is only just beginning to set on a sultry and balmy summer’s evening. There is a lull in the air and a lack of breeze yet there are some dark cumulonimbus forming not too far away. Thirty minutes later, there is a thick vale of smoke rising into the Angus air, ready to meet and do battle with a summer deluge. What are we expecting to rise from this dark, swirly fog consuming all around it? A phoenix? A shining beacon? No, a Rangers supporter climbing up a ﬂoodlight. Torrential rain was met with smoke bombs on the pitch of Glebe Park, home to Brechin City as Rangers played their ﬁrst competitive game since being liquidated, in the Ramsdens Cup ﬁrst round. Hang on, there’s something not quite right about that sentence... ‘liquidated’... ‘ﬁrst competitive game’. Hmm, usually after liquidation there are no more games. No more, well - anything. That’s what the fans of Gretna or Wimbledon would tell you. The Rangers clan at Glebe Park would have you believe they’ve been unduly punished. Acrimoniously raped, pillaged and plundered. Angry faces in blue shirts chant about the SFA hierarchy and vent spleen as their historic and mighty club are placed on the same playing ﬁeld as such humble and meek opposition. Well actually, Brechin are in the league above Rangers but hey-ho. It would seem Rangers FC (the artist formerly known as), as a football club and organisation have actually been let oﬀ by being allowed to exist in the Scottish Third Division. The Glasgow based Scottish Football Association, along with city neighbours Scottish Premier League, decided to let the club oﬀ mildly for their years of cheating and deceiving. It would deﬁnitely seem like Rangers have done the dirty on their masochistic partners. The Scottish footballing authorities have given the club so much yet allowed the Teddybears to walk all over them in their royal blue stilettos for over a decade. And still the ‘gers plump for cheating on their benefactors and gobble up more illegal proﬁts. Like a tramp huddled round a burnt-out car in a disused industrial estate, Scottish football
has existed from the embers of the Old Firm. Or, that’s how the supporters of Rangers and Celtic would have you believe. Fans of other clubs have had one main aim since the inception of the SPL; to rise to the top of the league – and by the top of the league I of course mean third place in the SPL. Before Rangers’ expulsion only once has a club outside the Old Firm finished in the top two places of Scottish football, Hearts in 2006. Now the Old Firm have usually always dominated in postWar Scottish football yet never to such an extreme as during the SPL era. Why is this? Success breeds money? Where is this money coming from? Sky perhaps... The smack-hose pumping pain-relief finance directly into the bloodstream. Give TV the decision what time and day games kick-oﬀ and what do you get – a gradual apathy building towards the working man’s game; 3 o’clock on a Saturday? Pﬀt, do me a favour, pleasing the masses sat at home on bums is more important. Revenue goes down, less money to spend on players, wages etc. and so the cycle continues... This has happened south of the border as well but to less an extreme, it would seem. Scotland appears to be a microcosm, a footballing experiment that over time is burning upon it’s own ash and remains instead of fuel. What will happen to the SPL now Rangers have been denounced to the bowels of the Third? Well it would probably be wise to suggest ‘not a lot’. As there is still one more bigoted boil left upon the patient’s buttock, eating away upon the erse cheek in Glagea (“bigoted” - not all but some, protesting against the poppy and Remembrance is pretty low). Step up for a chance to finish not third but second. Celtic will surely romp to another league title with the rest of the chasing pack gnawing at each others’ ankles for second place. Second is certainly better than third and it gives the runner-up a chance to play in the Champions League but it’s still not competitive, not truly competitive is it? This season, and the remaining seasons Rangers spend outside the top ﬂight is a new chapter for Scottish football, even British football. As it is a chance to see what happens when you take out the half of the Old Firm (or one of the ‘Big 4’ in England). One less dominating twin sister to punish the other smaller siblings. Perhaps, maybe, just maybe the patient may prosper without half of the monopolizing cancers eating away. For the last decade and-a-half Scottish football has barely had a pulse. Please, Doc, switch oﬀ the machine... The rebirth may be painful but the patient could grow into a much healthier, happier and fairer existence Written by Greg Holmes @picklesmagazine
Illustration by Steven Leard
Are players too valuable to tackle? words by james carruthers
here fans would once stand, they now sit. Where battles were once waged in winter trenches, they are now played on year-round luscious carpet. And where once-upon-a-time a bone-crunching tackle would raise the roof, it now invariably raises a red card from the referee’s pocket. We all recognise football when we see it; twenty-two players running systematically around a green pitch chasing a round ball to a chorus of terrace cheers and jeers. Yet the modern game has gradually lost much of its familiar feel from the pre-Premier League era and the more acutely the two are compared the more glaring the diﬀerences appear. For people who grew up watching and admiring tough tackles – where all that mattered was whether the ball was won or not – the modern deﬁnition of a foul, which calls for the oﬀicials to judge whether reckless or excessive force has been used, is a rather unfathomable and frustrating concept. Further confusion no doubt manifests as the legislation evolves over time and rarely seems to be communicated eﬀectively to the good fans of the game. Across the ages, the English game traditionally represented a bastion of the tough tackle in Europe. Whilst continental teams more often – though not exclusively, it must be said – relied on the technical excellence of their players, British football addicts adored and idolised anyone who showed themselves to be prepared for a real scrap. An ability to boss the park with a ﬁrm foot and a fearsome grimace made heroes of the likes of Ron “Chopper” Harris in the 70s, Graeme Souness throughout the 80s and Vinnie Jones in the 90s. But since the game’s global expansion over the last two decades, the English game has been subject to distinct sanitisation as the rule makers endeavour to preserve a clean, family image. Fundamentally, as with every other aspect of modern day football, the shift is commercially driven. The protection of the brightest, most entertaining
and spell-binding players is the authorities’ biggest concern. Tournaments inclusive of the world’s most marketable players are a more lucrative revenue stream for the governing bodies than those where prized assets are notably absent, making their protection from on-ﬁeld bullies of the highest priority. It goes without saying that this stance receives ever more intensifying support from the biggest clubs who demand protection for their invaluable assets, as well as managers whose employment status relies on them being able to field their best players week in, week out. Over the last few seasons, many have even tried to make clubs like Wolverhampton and Stoke feel embarrassed for adopting a rough and tumble approach to football combat. Sub-consciously, comments from the game’s “experts” permeate into all areas of football. Wall-towall media coverage means that when these people talk, everyone hears it. Continually condemning the stronger tackles in post match press quizzes sets precedents and gradually the masses are conditioned to think forceful challenges are over the top. Eventually, fans become accustomed to the punishment delivered for a particular type of tackle and accept it as the norm.
British football addicts idolised anyone prepared for a real scrap
Whilst the lawmakers are no doubt the primary architects of this devolution, they are not solely responsible for the shift. “Chopper” Harris’ most iconic performance was arguably in the 1970 FA Cup final replay, one of the most physical matches in history. By modern standards, the game would have ﬁnished at least six men shy of the number that started it, but at no point did any player dive, bitch or moan. The rolling around and crocodile tears that follow a robust challenge are far too common place on the football ﬁeld in 2012 and simply serve to exaggerate the seriousness of many of the tackles now deemed yellow or red card-worthy. The modern, dare I say pampered, footballer has a distinctly different personality from the rugged battlers that deﬁned previous eras. Whilst as a collective they have taken technical excellence and trickery to a whole new level, they, and their coaches, seem to have neglected some of the advanced tackling skills that past defenders had perfected. Of course there were over the top, nigh on criminal tackles before the turn of the millennium, but the modern tendency for players to launch into a tackle with two feet oﬀ the ground and landing square on their derriere, which has only evolved in the last ten years or so, just smacks of terrible technique. The dramatic nature of these lunges invariably exacerbates already infuriated managers and animates media personnel. Football is unlikely to end up like basketball – a purely non-contact sport – but it will certainly progress further down the path of censorship over the coming seasons. As we are already in an age of an automatic yellow card for any slide challenge that doesn’t win the ball, in all probability players will be directed to avoid going to ground wherever possible. The beautiful sight of a well timed slide will be reserved for last ditch, desperation tackles. The one consolation...it will take players a few years yet to learn to #stayonyourfeet. Enjoy the tackles while they last
a poim for wazza by duncan jenkins
oh wayne i'm so sorry to be a pain take this kiss upon your brow and read the rest of my poim now oh wazza i write this poim with no shame wayne, your full name is wayne mark rooney when you were young you were a loony but now you are not not as bad as before anyway mates oh wazza oh wazza fergie says your like gazza you are both men of many talons and you both drink beer by the gallons oh wayne you used to be in despairs coz of your dissappearing hairs you must of been so miffed but not anymore mates not with that lovely quift in the summer you'd gone bald this is a poim from me to roo and i've just called to say your new hairs really suit you oh wazza your wife is fit as fuck do you ever look in the mirrors and think "i cant believe my luck" i know i would you are a part of the cheshire set does your dad still like a bet
Illustration by flaminghairdryer.com
oh wazza you are a humble man from liverpool just like your favourite band who are dead cool you have twitted about them before they were known as the fab four the fans love you yeah yeah yeah they love you yeah yeah yeah with a love like that you know you cant be bad your a great striker and a great lad mates oh wazza oh wazza you score the goals that matter and as you stand amid the roar please forget about that whore we've all made mistakes before
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