Wigan win the FA Cup: a United fan’s report hidden within the City support

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Manchester United supporter Greg Johnson accompanied his City-supporting father to the FA Cup Final to watch Wigan Athletic triumph, tradition fade and football win the day…

Emerging from underground, the first thing that hits you about Wembley is its size, looming impossibly large in the middle-distance, with its craning white arch. Strangely, however, as you approach the stadium it almost begins to feel out of scale, like a dolly zoom warping its 90,000 capacity into a confusingly manageable frame.

Unmistakably large but hardly intimidating, the venue, shrinking in stature with every step, fits the occasion perfectly. Once grand enough to occupy a whole date on the national events calendar, FA Cup Final Day is now FA Cup Final Evening; shunted into the primetime TV slot with the early distraction of an afternoon Premier League fixture to contend with.

I was a Manchester United fan in stealth mode, attending my first fixture at the new Wembley alongside my City supporting father. Aged four he took me to see Denis Irwin, Paul Ince and Eric Cantona at Old Trafford a number of times thanks to spare tickets gained through work. One of those games happened to be the 9-0 dismantling of Ipswich Town – an experience that painted my impressionable, glory-hunting young mind the colour red.

Having accidentally fallen for Manchester City’s main rivals while he introduced me to my love of football, joining him for the game was the least I could do, and besides; father and son, the FA Cup final, Wembley: in many ways this was a dream I’d long wished to realise. Continue reading

Zenit St Petersburg Will Three-Peat

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Andy Shenk reports on how Zenit St. Petersburg are about to complete a hattrick of Russian Premier League titles for Russianfootballnews.com

Forget the talk about CSKA and Anzhi knocking Zenit from their perch atop Russian football. Despite an early-season slump which saw Zenit pick up five points from five matches between August 25 – September 29, brought on in part by squad turmoil after the flashy Hulk and Witsel signings, St. Petersburg’s flagship club will nip CSKA on the final day of the season thanks to a superior head-to-head record. That’s right, on May 26, Zenit and CSKA will finish with 66 points apiece, eight clear of Anzhi, but Zenit’s 3-1 away win to CSKA last August will be the difference as the men in sky blue celebrate a third-consecutive Premier League crown after wrapping up a win on Amkar Perm’s artificial pitch, 1,500 kilometers from home. Cue the confetti for Zenit’s Italian maestro Luciano Spalletti.

In the first Russian Premier League season to be contested on a fall-spring schedule, five different teams have topped the table, Zenit, Spartak, Terek, CSKA and Anzhi. Yet it is CSKA that have been the undisputed favorites since passing Anzhi on October 28 for 1st place in the league, a spot they’ve yet to relinquish. The Army Men’s balance is easily noted by league bests in goals scored (44) and goals conceded (19).  Eight points up on Zenit with seven matches to play, CSKA’s 4th title in 11 years, and 1st since 2006, appeared wrapped up, but recent draws with rival Moscow clubs Spartak and Dinamo have allowed Zenit to close the gap to four points. With the late-season schedule favoring the challengers, CSKA fans are due for heartbreak. Continue reading

CSKA’s Love Too Much for Alania: Russian Premier League Weekend Wrap

Back to Russia with Love.

Back to Russia with Love.

The False Nine’s Russian correspondent Andy Shenk rounds up the action from Week 22 of the Russian Premier League…

With eight games to play, CSKA Moscow’s 4-0 drubbing of Alania in Vladikavkaz pulled the Army Men eight points clear of the pack in the race for the 2012/2013 Russian Premier League title. It’s been six and a half years since the club won its last domestic title and just as long of a championship drought for the Russian capital.

On Monday night in North Ossetia, the visitors made short work of Valery Gazzaev’s revamped roster. Alan Dzagoev, who originally hails from the North Caucasus republic, knocked in Vagner Love’s rebound in the 25th minute to cool off an energetic home side. He completed his brace with another goal in the second half. This was Love’s third match back since rejoining CSKA from Flamengo of Brazil, having previously played for the club between 2004 and 2011. Doumbia rounded out the scoring in extra time after comical defending by Bosnian defender Ogjnen Vranjes. Continue reading

149 Years in the Making – Wrexham FC at Wembley

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The False Nine editor James Dutton was at Wembley on Sunday, reporting on the FA Trophy final for Wrexham.com. Here he gives his thoughts on the implications of a 4-1 penalty shoot out victory over Grimsby Town for his hometown club Wrexham…

An astonishing day, so befitting of a club that has fought for its very survival. As Johnny Hunt saw his final spot kick send the outstanding James McKeown the wrong way, the Wrexham end erupted. An outpouring of jubilation and relief, so alien to this historic club during its recent murky past, wrenched away the ghosts of financial gloom that threatened to destroy Wales’ oldest footballing establishment.

As captain Dean Keates held aloft the FA Trophy, the demons of the club’s recent history were extinguished, banished into the beyond. This was Wrexham’s day in the sun.

No set of football supporters deserve it more; ‘stand up if you own your club’ they chorused during a pedestrian first half. Continue reading

Russian Football in Like a Lion

SOGAZ-RFPLThe False Nine’s Russian correspondent Andy Shenk rounds up the action from Week 21 of the Russian Premier League…

When the Russian Premier League resumed play on March 8, following the winter break, the table was split into three distinct groups. Three clubs had risen above the pack, CSKA, Anzhi and Zenit, separated by five points in the chase for the title and one of two Champions League spots. Beginning with Kuban, Terek and Spartak, all clumped six points beneath 3rd-place Zenit, another seven teams enjoyed an excellent chance at snagging one of Russia’s four Europa League places, awarded to clubs 3rd-5th in the league as well as the winner of the Russian Cup. Continue reading

Bundesliga Mid-Season Review: Where’s Last Season’s Competition?

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In the second part of his Bundesliga mid-season review, The False Nine’s David Dodds looks at last season’s challengers and explores why they have been off the pace this year…

Borussia Dortmund

There’s a lot to ask from Borussia Dortmund’s manager Jürgen Klopp this season. Defending the title Bundesliga for the third time in a row, defending the league cup title and establishing the team properly in Europe has unfortunately been a tall order for him so far. Continue reading

Bundesliga Mid-Season Review: Bayern Back on Top

hi-res-149296310_crop_exactWith the German Bundesliga amidst a Winter Break, The False Nine’s David Dodds casts his gaze towards their dominant force this season…

The 2012/13 season for Die Roten has been about re-establishing themselves as Germany’s dominant club. Borussia Dortmund captured the title for the second consecutive year last season, and showed Bayern up in a 5-2 victory in the DFB Pokal final. All of this, compounded with the loss on home soil in the Champions League final left Bayern trophyless for the second season in a row (minus the pre-season Supercup).

Continue reading