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Monday, 31 October 2011

What If? Scotland's 1960s

Jim Baxter becomes an 'unofficial World Champion'

Over to Magic Spongers' Rob MacDonald to lament the many and varied 'What Ifs' of Scotland's very own golden generation...

A famous anecdote about the Rangers midfielder Jim Baxter on international duty reads thus: As others bustled and clattered around the room he was, unusually, a study in concentration. He tapped the studs on the heel of his right boot idly, and exhaled slowly. The volume of the shouts, the barks, the back slapping increased. In the far corner, Denis Law was so flushed with intent it looked like he might explode. ‘Jim’, a voice said, over the cacophony of Celtic camaraderie. ‘Jim’, it said again. ‘You should warm up. It is England after all’.

Baxter lowered the pages of his Racing Post, and stretched his left leg out in front of him. He stretched his right leg,languid and disinterested. To the casual observer, the Racing Post exercise would have appeared the most strenuous of the three. He raised his eyes.

‘That’s me warmed up’.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

What If? #3 Wales: World Cup '58

Head like a traction engine

We've kept you waiting a week for the next installment of our What If? series. And you'll be glad we did. Here's the ever-superb Andi Thomas of Twisted Blood on a forgotten Welsh golden generation.

Sometimes, a word or phrase acquires, through association, a kind of toxicity. Though it may come from humble or well-meaning beginnings, and it may seem innocent when considered abstractly, it is failure that corrupts. So Francis Jeffers, by flopping at Arsenal, forever poisoned “fox in the box”. No chairman would dare propose that his club “live the dream”, thanks to Peter Ridsdale. The allure of Ruud Gullit’s “sexy football” was washed away during the Derby in the Rain. And, perhaps most vexed of all, the disappointed trudge from the fields of South Africa finally put paid, once and for all, to the hollow braggadocio of Adam Crozier’s “golden generation”.

Friday, 14 October 2011

What If? #2 Cantona Hadn't Signed For Manchester United

Eric Cantona at Leeds in... '93?
Two Uniteds. Two sleeping giants. One enigmatic Frenchman. Magic Spongers welcomes Dan Forman whose parallel universe-centred debut is an absolute belter*

November 1992, Alex Ferguson's office. The phone rings.

"Alex, it's Martin. Listen, Leeds are on the line again. Howard Wilkinson wants to speak to you."

"Did he say what about? It better not be bloody Irwin again."

"No but he's very keen apparently. You're not going to sell him Denis Irwin are you?"
"No chance. But put him through. There's something I've been thinking about asking him anyway...

"Howard, how are you?"

Monday, 10 October 2011

What If? #1 Yugoslavia: Euro '92

Zvonmir Boban kicks himself into football folklore (he could play a bit too...)

In something of a coup for these fair pages, we've snapped up someone who actually knows what they are talking about and/or doesn't have to rant to get his point across. Ladies and gentlemen, to kick off a new series, here's Richard Hall on the Yugoslavia side that could/would have won Euro '92...

If you can, cast your mind back 20 years. To a time when English football had been dominated by Merseyside, not Manchester; when we got our news from teletext, not twitter; and when governments were contemplating crisis not among the banks, but in the Balkans.

Friday, 7 October 2011

A Very English Upset

"I'm quite good you know."

So here we are again. Another English qualifying campaign is set to come to a close and you could be forgiven for thinking that this had been the case a month ago with England’s 1-0 victory over the Welsh. Never ones for particularly long memories, most of the talk spewing forth from the frothing mouths of the English media collective seems to have centred on Wayne Rooney’s dad or Phil Jones’ debut. But England underestimate Montenegro at their peril.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Joo's A Crowd

"Get Wayne Bridge on if you're desperate you fuckers."

“A man is known by the company he keeps,” goes the old adage. No less true in these cynical times is the fact that behind every greedy footballer is a greedy agent. When Sir Alex Ferguson launched into a diatribe about the shady middle men cluttering up the game at the turn of the year, the context was that a few months previous, his club’s most prized asset Wayne Rooney had come within a transplanted hair’s breadth of leaving for their city rivals. As well as Rooney, the player’s agent Paul Stretford came in for criticism from Sir Alex. Diplomatically calling Stretford’s influence ‘bad advice’, one winces when imagining what the Scot said about him behind closed doors.