Why football fans should all watch Downton Abbey

Downton Football

Anglophile and Downton Abbey fanatic Elko Born looks at the parallels between the most popular weekly pantomime on TV and Julian Fellows’ ratings winner…

You might have a wife or mum who forces you to watch it. You might have a girlfriend who uses it as a commodity (‘We watch this together and then you can watch Match of the Day 2 while I brush my teeth’). You might simply have a sensitive heart that finds solace in idyllic depictions of post-Edwardian Britain on rainy Sundays (I’m not talking about myself, I’m not talking about myself…).

Whatever the case, you must have heard of ITV’s hit series Downton Abbey, the Sunday night historic soap opera set in a fantasy world where class divisions might exist but—oh how heartwarming—don’t matter in the end.

You might not have realised, but there isn’t much difference between fans of Downton Abbey and the average football enthusiast. In the end, viewers of the popular costume drama and fanatic followers of the Premier League are after the same things: stories about love, life, fear and death. Not convinced? Then let the following list of examples serve as a case in point. Continue reading

Brasileirão Returnees Part 1 – Gilberto Silva and Jô


In the first of a two part specialTim Stillman of Vital Arsenal and Arseblog takes a look at how some of the Seleção have fared when they returned to Brazil…

Much has been written in the past around the ability of Brazilian players to adapt to life in the Premier League. It’s difficult to pontificate on the subject without lapsing into cliché – a challenge Rob Brown met manfully at the outset of this series. Rob was correct to point out cultural differences between the two countries. The punctuality of the Premier League training regime is at odds for a country for whom ‘antes tarda do que nunca‘ (‘better late than never’) is an ingrained cliché. I attended a graduation ball in Minas Gerais back in July and I was already yawning by the time we arrived at the event shortly before 1am.

Football is more of an art than a science in Brazil and its national league, Brasileirão, bears those traits for better and for worse. The league is temperamental to say the least. Not simply because of the amount of yellow and red cards you can expect to see, but the league table is capable of turning itself upside down from season to season. Most clubs are basket cases financially, which prevents any one team from dominating. Teams are generally very evenly matched; one or two astute signings can see you leap up the table. Cruzeiro, who have ostensibly fought relegation in the last 3 seasons, currently lead Serie A by 12 points.

The appointment of Marcelo de Oliveira Santos as coach and canny additions such as Dede and Everton Ribeiro has been enough to catapult them to champions elect. Yet it’s likely that Cruzeiro’s promising players will be picked off soon enough and they will have to start again. Meanwhile, Fluminense (1st in 2012) and Vasco da Gama (5th) are all in a relegation battle in 2013 due to tumultuous club politics. Again, without wishing to stereotype, the Brazilian game tends to be honed ‘na rua’ (‘in the street’) which isn’t necessarily conducive to the tactical rigidity often required in the Premier League.

Consequently, Brasileirão contains a fair sample of players who have tried their hand in the Premier League. It’s far too simplistic to say that Brazilians don’t “do” tactics, this is a nation with five World Cups after all. In truth, Brazil’s last two World Cup triumphs, in 1994 and 2002, weren’t achieved with anything close to the flair of the 1970 squad, who still leave a deep imprint on the popular perception of Seleção. Brazil has always been renowned for the flair that they have given the game. “Futebol art” and “jogo bonito” are football clichés applied to the nation. Yet Brazil are not as renowned as they ought to be for the quality of their “volantes” the Brazilian term for defensive midfielders. “O volante” literally means “the steering wheel.” Continue reading

Hypothetical XI #21: British Prime Ministers


Footbalternative founder Jonny Singer compiles a Hypothetical XI of former British Prime Ministers…

The modern politician has plenty to say about football. Thatcher had her negativity towards it, Blair his famous pseudo-support, and the present-day House of Commons regularly feels the need to discuss the national sport.

But what would a team of British political leaders look like? Here’s my Prime Minister’s XI: Continue reading

Juliano Belletti – The Brazilian who was born to play at Stamford Bridge


Juliano Belletti’s time at Chelsea was something special, and so it felt only right to offer the player a fittingly robust profile of his life and times in England at the Bridge by Joe Tweeds of Plains of Almeria and Sam Johnston of FourThreeThree.

First, Joe Tweeds details how the hard-working full-back rose to become an idol of the Shed End…

Juliano Belletti is the absolute definition of a cult hero. He came to Chelsea having scored the goal that stopped Arsenal winning the European Cup; then went on to make a name for himself by scoring an absolute scorcher against Spurs. He instantly adapted to the club and its fans, so much so that he can be seen to frequently comment on the matters of the club on Twitter.

He was the modern day utility player and someone who Chelsea fans grew to love for his committed displays regardless of where he was deployed. Operating at either full-back spot, as a holding midfielder, central midfielder or anywhere on the flank his dedication to the cause is something that saw his name chanted regularly every week. Not a lot of foreign players really get English football. Many come and brighten up the league with their exceptional talent, however there are a rare breed who just get the culture. Continue reading

Hypothetical XI #20: Literary Theorists

sartre-omelettesMaking his first appearance on The False Nine, Alex Stewart from Put Niels In Goal suggests a Hypothetical XI of literary theorists…

Football is a game constantly analysed and debated, abounding with different schools of thought or even ideologies about how the game should be played. As bloggers and journalists are to football, so this lot are to the equally complex world of literature. But what if they were taken out of their natural habitat and thrust into ours?

While I realise the impossibility of them ever happily coexisting for long enough to play 90 minutes, this is my suggestion for an XI of Literary Theorists.

A note on style: while significant emphasis would be placed on set plays, the team has also worked hard on novel approaches. Both creative players like to drift between the lines, and the central midfield’s reading of the game is crucial. The team press hard as a whole and cover metre after metre. All players are expected to be good with their feet. Defeat is never glossed over. And, of course, they’re all encouraged to get booked. Continue reading

Editor’s Column: Fabio Borini, Joe Hart and Arsenal v Liverpool


The latest Editor’s Column from James Dutton tackles the implications of two late goals in the Premier League and next weekend’s top-of-the-table clash…

Is there a top-flight derby in England with lower quality and technical ability than Sunderland v Newcastle?

A central defensive pairing of Mike Williamson and Paul Dummett, a midfield battle between Cheick Tiote and Lee Cattermole and the continued pointlessness of Adam Johnson.

Before Fabio Borini’s stunning late winner for the hosts, it was a derby meandering toward nothingness. Suddenly the Black Cats are reinvigorated, and Newcastle fans are staring at another year wondering what on earth is going on.

Will it be the turning point of Sunderland’s season? Victory against your local rivals can create a cathartic, transformative effect around a club, and given their meek surrender at Swansea last week it no doubt removes some of the gloom that has gripped the Mackems.

But this one result against an alarmingly average Newcastle side doesn’t show that they have the necessary tools to avoid relegation. It doesn’t change the fact that Sunderland have, Crystal Palace aside, the weakest squad in the league. Continue reading

Hypothetical XI #19: Political Philosophy XI


The Hypothetical XI Series returns with Jonny Singer imagining a team composed of political theorists…

Combining philosophy and football is nothing new. From Camus to Joey Barton, the philosopher-footballer has always attracted a certain mystique.

But what about that subset of the philosophical game, the political philosophers? Less abstract than their marginally useless counterparts, less practical than a genuine politician. What would a team of political thinkers look like, based on their works and writings?

Here’s my XI: Continue reading