About Jonny Singer

Jonny is a freelance sports journalist for Mail Online, ESPN and The Sunday Times. Not that long ago he was lucky enough to write his undergraduate dissertation about the history of football tactics. He has now ventured away from university to find, to his very great surprise, that there are very few places this knowledge is transferable.

Harry Potter and the Manager who Changed English Football

Jonny Singer takes an alternative look at Arsene Wenger’s 20 years at Arsenal…

Between my fifth and six birthdays, two events took place that would shape not only my childhood, but also my teenage years and much of my adult life to this point.

On October 1 1996, Arsene Wenger began his 20 years as Arsenal manager, sparking the most successful period in the club’s history.

About nine months later, just as Wenger prepared for his first full season in charge, in which a young boy would become a regular in the West Stand at Highbury and watch Dennis Bergkamp make sport into poetry on the way to a double, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published.

Two decades on, and it seems fitting to examine the legacy of Wenger at Arsenal. Several brilliant articles have been written on it, notably Joe Bernstein in the Mail and Barney Ronay in the Guardian, while John Cross’ book on the Wenger years is a pretty complete analysis.

But none of them, as far as I can tell, have touched on the key aspect of the legacy debate – the Albus Dumbledore problem (more on that later). Continue reading

The Premier Election: the General Election Re-imagined


Jonny Singer reimagines the 2015 General Election in footballing parlance…

Football and elections go together like lamb and mustard. It’s not really how things are meant to be, but occasionally someone decides the two should be combined.

Who can forget that Arsenal, never relegated from the top flight, have also never been promoted, but were in fact elected to the Premier League (loads of people, actually, but not, it transpires, Spurs fans)? Who can forget that Tony Blair basically won his general elections because he pretended to like football (again, lots of people, because it’s not really true, but you know, it’s a nice thought)?

Anyway, it seems that now is one of those times where football and elections should, once again, cross paths. In just a week we’ll have a new government, almost certainly a Premier League winner, and two FA Cup finalists. If that doesn’t represent an opportunity for tenuous, disarmingly accurate and occasionally witty connections between sport and politics, what does?

So, here are the parties for the Premier Election (the best politics in the world™):

SNP – Celtic: 

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Popular in Scotland, but ignored in England, despite occasional interest when first team minister Nicola ‘Deila’ Sturgeon tries something different. Obsessed with staying in Europe but have very little control over that. With no real rivals north of the border they try and get involved down south, but it’s not going to happen.

Continue reading

5 Things we learned from lazy match reports

Jonny Singer returns with five critiques of lazy match reports…

1. Last month I had the pleasure of covering the Africa Cup of Nations for a couple of news outlets. Going to matches, travelling around Equatorial Guinea, interviewing players and getting to know, and watch, better and more experienced journalists was an experience I’ll never forget. But as well as all the fun and games (and hard work) there were some tough experiences, not least during the semi-final between the hosts and Ghana.

You might think, from the media coverage, some of which I contributed to, that this was a terrifying experience. It was not. None of us in the press box felt in any danger, though one photographer did take quite a nasty blow from the crowd.

However, it was quite a raucous, panicky environment – and in such environments, mistakes can be made. What was reported as tear gas, turned out to be smoke bombs. The height of the helicopter over the stadium varied from six foot to 40, depending on accounts. We, as journalists, had a duty to report – but we did so with the understanding that what we were providing was imperfect. Re-watching video footage would eventually prove that what we ‘saw’ with our own eyes was, at times, inaccurate.

All of this makes it even more ridiculous that one of the articles that a colleague was asked to write was entitled ‘five things we learned’.

This was not a time for analysis. At the time we didn’t have any idea what we were witnessing in terms of the bigger picture – that would come with time and perspective. To try and tell the world ‘what we’d learned’ was at best futile, at worst grossly irresponsible. Continue reading

Myth busting the Africa Cup of Nations


Jonny Singer reports from Bata, Equatorial Guinea on some of the myths surrounding the perception of African football…

The majority of European fans, and English fans in particular, watch very little African football. Our experiences tend to be based around World Cups, the odd player who plays in our leagues, and a passing interest in the Africa Cup of Nations every couple of years.

It is therefore not surprising that, while everyone here in Equatorial Guinea has warned against backing the Ivory Coast, in the UK they remain the bookies’ favourite.

Who cares that they conceded 11 times in six qualifying games? They have Yaya and Kolo Toure, Wilfried Bony, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou, Serge Aurier, Serey Die. We’ve heard of all those players – they must be good.

So when minnows Guinea, a country whose only English-based player is Sheffield Wednesday’s Kamil Zayatte, took the lead on Tuesday night, it might have come as a bit of a shock. It’s highly likely that those punters who put money on this tournament from the UK are going to be parted with it – and not inconceivable that it might even happen during the group stage.

But misconceptions about African football run deeper than not knowing which teams are in form. There are two myths that have somehow survived about the game on this continent that have very little basis. First, that the standard of refereeing here is significantly lower than in the European game, and secondly, that the goalkeepers are something of a joke. Continue reading

Et in Arcadia Ego

Jonny Singer delves into the mortality of sport, laid bare by the events of the past week…

It has been a horrible week to work in sport.

When the news broke last Tuesday that Phillip Hughes had been hit on the head and was in a coma, it shook me, but, I hoped, perhaps even assumed, he would survive. People just don’t die playing cricket.

Waking up on Thursday to headlines of his death, it was shocking. The world has paid tribute, and nothing I can say will be as eloquent or fitting as the comments made by those who knew him best.

Continue reading

FIFA: What if they’re right and we’re wrong?

Jonny Singer ponders the rights and wrongs of FIFA’s latest controversy, the Russia and Qatar World Cup bids…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, you’ll probably know that there have been a few allegations of corruption against FIFA.

Since Qatar was announced as the 2022 World Cup host, to an air of general surprise and disappointment, football’s governing body has rarely been far from the headlines.

And, if the headlines you see most are written in English, and in particular if they’re written by Englishmen, you’re likely to have a pretty strong view about the issue.

As the news broke on Thursday that FIFA’s corruption report not only absolved Qatar of any wrong-doing, but also made accusations of corruption about the Football Association, the English press were almost falling over themselves to criticize, and mock, Sepp Blatter and his organization.

The response of almost everyone I’ve spoken to in this country is the same – FIFA are so corrupt that they’re attacking the only people to call out their corruption.

But are we right? Continue reading

Hypothetical XI #25: The Ryder Cup

Jonny Singer imagines a Ryder Cup hypothetical XI of the US and European teams…

Whether you’re a regular golf follower or a casual observer once every two years, the Ryder Cup seems to capture the imagination of sports fans everywhere each time it comes around.

For three days, as a sporting community, we’ve put putts first, prioritised foursomes over four-four-two, and generally made matchplay golf the centre of our world.

But football is now well and truly back. A week packed with Champions League showdowns and Europa League snore-fests, followed by a Premier League programme with nothing to distract from it. No more applauding good play from either side. No more will a polite question of tactics be seen as a crisis. We return to blissful, tribal, perpetually ‘crisis’-ridden football. Continue reading