The Joy of Headers

Ally Moncrief returns to The False Nine with an appreciation of headed goals…

Growing up in a part of the country where people take genuine pleasure in fighting, in the spirit of self-preservation you learn to recognise a few things and one of the earliest lessons is to avoid at all costs the lad that likes to stick the nut in (that means headbutting in case you didn’t know). Where a punch can be evaded and swiftly recovered from, a well-timed headbutt is going to hurt and continue to hurt. Now whilst violence is clearly not to be encouraged there is something awe-inspiring about these dispensers of broken noses, there is something unnatural and wild about a headbutt, it is out of the ordinary and is impossible to defend against.

The same can be said of football’s version of the headbutt, the slightly less violent, header.

Headers can be both brutal and beautiful, used as a means of attack or defense and are the great leveller of football. They are also sadly unfashionable these days, unloved and unadmired. Often referred to as ‘aerial duels’ in these days of Americanised phrases, that moniker may seem degrading to such a majestic act but in fact merely serves to reassert it’s greatness. The key word is ‘duel’ for there is nothing in football apart from a penalty where the game is reduced, however fleetingly, to a straight fight between two participants. One will win and one will lose, the very essence of the sport. Continue reading

Louis Van Gaal: The Master Tactician

In his first piece for TFN, Kammonke Obase-Wotta looks at why Louis Van Gaal is set to succeed as the new Manchester United manager…

As the World Cup comes to a thrilling end, it is time to say goodbye and turn our attentions to one of the most anticipated soap operas of the year; the English Premier league. As last season drew to a close after another drama-filled year, the news of David Moyes’ sacking came as no surprise and was greeted with sighs of relief from the Manchester United faithful.

I can remember vividly the last three games of the season and watching Manchester United’s poor performances. After one of the matches I got involved in a heated discussion about whether or not United would bounce back. I remember saying something like, “Manchester United has probably two to three years to bounce back, based on the fact that Liverpool flopped and were out of the Champions League for over four seasons.” Fast-forward three months and I am rethinking my stance. Why? It is quite simple – because of the virtuoso tactician, Louis Van Gaal. Continue reading

The Truth About Wayne Rooney

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TFN’s Rob Brown on the enigmatic Wayne Rooney…

There is a bizarre nostalgia that affects people when they discuss Wayne Rooney. The prevalent view seems to be that he had all the talent in the world, demonstrated it with carefree abandon during his teenage years and then got spoiled by necessary on-pitch self-sacrifice and voluntary off-pitch self-sabotage. Now he is seen merely as a good player – not a genuinely great one, and certainly not the one we thought he would be.

This sudden about-turn in public opinion does not really tally up with what has been written and said about him up until now. Throughout his Manchester United career his performances have received glowing write-ups in the press and when he has underperformed – and it has happened repeatedly, sometimes for months on end – his industry and work-rate have seen him bundle in goals and escape the harshest criticism.

Perhaps it is a British journalism thing – “build ‘em up to knock ‘em down” and all that – but the idea that Rooney has not fulfilled his potential is quite ridiculous. As a conclusion, it is simply unfair. Sure, he has never hit the heights expected of him and his contribution to football pales in comparison to those of era-defining freaks Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but the reality is that he was never going to match them.

The problem lies not with Rooney but with us, his viewers. It is not that he never made the most of himself but more that we overestimated his talent to begin with. Continue reading

The Manchester derby: United’s last chance to land a knock-out blow

RVP AliGreg Johnson looks at why Manchester United must go for the uppercut against Manchester City in tonight’s Premier League derby or risk damaging their own victory like the faded glory of modern heavyweight boxing.

The causes for heavyweight boxing’s failing fortunes have been blamed and cited far and wide. From the attritional tedium of slow, lumbering fighters to professionalism’s purge on personalities, the sport’s biggest hitters have lost their box office clout.

Yet while boxing worries itself over the quality of its sporting supply, could it be that demand has in fact shifted elsewhere to the realm of goalposts, crossbars and avant garde hair design? Has football become a surrogate home for the drama, structure, celebrity and stories that once elevated heavyweight showdowns to the level of world-stopping spectacle?

Across Europe’s top leagues, title races have become season-long duopolies: intense feuds and brutal duels between two genuine, opposing heavyweights. The appetite for pre-season gossip within each league has birthed functioning pre-fight hype machines while transfer deadline day is now ritualised institution; the new weigh-in. Continue reading

Kick ‘Sloop John B’ Out of Football

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The words might change, but the chant stays the same. False Nine editor James Dutton bemoans Sloop John B – the terrace chant that just won’t go away…

Pet Sounds is one of the most influential and recognisable albums of all time. Utterly timeless, charming and ground-breaking it features regularly on countdowns of the greatest albums in history.

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Third Generation Thoroughbred Hernandez Back To His Best

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Making his TFN debut, Will Jones looks at the footballing DNA of the Hernandez family and Chicharito’s renaissance in 2012-3…

His father never thought he’d make it. But now Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is doing it in a way that his forefathers never could.

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TFN Looks Back at 2012: Part 2

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Here’s the second part of our 2012 Q and A. Happy New Year!

1. Favourite moment
2. Favourite player
3. Favourite Euro 2012 moment
4. Favourite goal
5. Favourite match
6. Young player
7. Breakthrough team
8. Joey Barton moment
9. Favourite album
10. Favourite gig

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