TFN Returns

Four years ago this week, we started The False Nine in the hope of creating an alternative platform for football writing.

There were several blogs out there already proposing a similar purpose – sites like In Bed With Maradona, The Inside Left and A Football Report were doing interesting things and we took inspiration from them.

Four years on though, it’s fair to say that the football writing landscape has changed significantly. There’s been a greater demand for quality, long-form writing that goes beyond the bread and butter of match reports and transfer rumours.

Publications like the Blizzard have gone from strength to strength, and have even published work by writers from this very site.

We’ve also seen greater recognition for tactical writing and statistical analysis, with sites like Squawka and WhoScored boasting coverage to rival the football supplements of broadsheets and tabloids alike.

With these trends in mind, we’ll be revisiting some of our old articles from over the years and looking at where we got it right – and wrong. What do our observations since 2012 tell us about the direction the game is taking?

Named as we are after the tactical trend that saw Spain soar to a third successive tournament triumph, the overwhelmingly possession-based dogma of that summer has become outdated and largely given way with counter-attacking again on the rise.

A promising but unproven young French midfielder left Manchester United for Juventus that summer, and has returned to Old Trafford four years on as the most expensive footballer in world football. The biggest deal of that transfer window saw Robin van Persie trade Arsenal for United, and with it inspire Sir Alex Ferguson to his final Premier League title in his 27 years at the helm.

This summer the Premier League’s window spending has surpassed £1b for the first time. Much has changed, and yet we endeavour to carry on.

As well as this, we’ll be dishing out our usual share of TFN nostalgia and looking back at some of the key events in our footballing memories, while keeping a watchful eye over the current trends in the modern game.

Football Rivalry: Know Your Enemy

Ally Moncrieff looks at the importance of rivalries and knowing your enemies in the world of football…

You don’t need much to get a game of football started, a few willing participants, an open area and an object resembling a ball means you can partake in something that could be broadly recognised as the same sport played by Messi, Ronaldo et al. Its glorious simplicity is one of the things that makes football the greatest game in the world. Obviously once you start adding nets, kits, officials and so on that kickabout in the park becomes ever more like the real thing.

One thing is always going to be missing though, one little factor that takes football from great sport to great spectacle and that’s an enemy. Football without an enemy is just another hobby, another distraction from the mundanity of life. It needs the tribal ferocity that only true enemies can produce to elevate it to something grander, something more important. 

All teams have a rival, a side they’d prefer to beat above all others irrespective of how it affects league position or cup progress. Not all though have an enemy. 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

Football: More than a Man’s sport

Alex Stewart continues his look into language and football, and what the sport as a whole can learn from the USMNT…

The World Cup was a humdinger, wasn’t it? The James turn and volley, the beautifully unexpected performances of teams like Costa Rica and Algeria, that five one shellacking of the indolent Spanish, the heroics of hirsute Tim Howard. That last performance, which inflamed the hearts of American fans neutrals and alike, as he almost single-handedly kept the considerably-less-marauding-than-they-ought-to-have-been Belgians at bay (ok, as a keeper he used both hands and, indeed, his feet, but you know what I mean), similarly scorched Twitter: memes were born and heroics celebrated.

And many with the following appended: #USMNT — the United States Men’s National Team. A touch cumbersome, as social signposting goes, though, for the blood-and-thunder sports fans of the US, comfortingly pugnacious, even bellicose, more Special Forces unit designation than handy football acronym. And the abbreviation is a lot more interesting (and important) than simply be an easy way to navigate oneself towards another Howard stopping a meteorite Photoshop job. 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

Podcast: The fifth False Nine Pubcast with Musa Okwonga, Nassos Stylianou & Francis Gene-Rowe

Host Greg Johnson and regulars Hugo Greenhalgh and James Dutton are joined by Musa Okwonga (ESPN/BBC), Nassos Stylianou (Financial Times, Football Weekly) and TFN’s very own Francis Gene-Row for The False Nine’s fifth Pubcast at The Old Red Lion Theatre Pub, in Angel.

They look at the club football season, look ahead to the World Cup and discuss which clubs they’d stamp a Bela Guttmann-esque curse upon and why.



The False Nine predict the World Cup


With the World Cup less than a month away the excitement is palpable. We at The False Nine have put together our own predictions for how the tournament will pan out with an almost universal consensus that Spain will complete an unprecedented quadruple and retain their crown…

Don’t forget to head over to the Betting Expert World Cup Predictor page to create your own set of World Cup results! Continue reading