“Ludere Causa Ludendi”
I love football. Many people do. It’s the most popular sport on the planet. Each country has its own league system and its own clubs with their own unique history. Some clubs interest me more than others. They just have something about them and they’re the kind of football club that you think would be a great project for a game like Football Manager. You find yourself looking out for a cool club’s results at the weekend even though they’re not the team you actually support. And then there are clubs that irritate you. Their decisions, their fans, everything about them just annoys you and you find yourself wishing total misfortune on these clubs every weekend. This blog post is about a mixture of clubs that I either find interesting or that do my head in. Let’s get to it…
Team Good: Leicester City
This first one should be of no surprise to anybody alive in the year 2016. Leicester City are a team I’ve never really cared about. They simply existed and there was nothing special about them. Sometimes they’ve been in the Premier League and often they haven’t been. I remember they had a couple of League cup wins in the late nineties when they were managed by Martin O’Neil and Emile Heskey played for them. Other than that they weren’t really on the radar. Last season after being newly promoted to the Premier League they struggled as everybody thought they might do. At one point they were bottom of the league and cut adrift from everybody else. Relegation seemed almost certain. Then they bucked their ideas up and went on a run that included 7 wins from their last 9 games to somehow stay up. During the summer they sacked their manager Nigel Pearson due to off the pitch dramas and appointed Claudio Ranieri. Many people saw this as a mistake but I actually thought it was a good move. He’d been a great manager for Chelsea in the Premier League. I can’t claim to have envisioned what came next though. This current season Leicester have been simply amazing. They defy the odds week after week and currently sit top of the league 5 points clear with 9 games to go. They were predicted to be in another relegation battle yet will almost certainly qualify for the Champions League and have a great chance at being crowned champions of England. Finishing above all the huge Premier League clubs when you’re supposed to be Joe Average has never been done before. The same teams win the league unless a huge cash injection has happened to a club. Leicester are on the verge of history and if it happens it will surely be the most unlikely title win in the history of football. It’s a true fairy-tale season and everyone is behind them now. They’re every fans second team. After looking at the results of your own team you now next look out for the Foxes and will them to win. With Vardy and Mahrez they’re a threat to everyone. Good luck to them. This is what football is all about and it brings hope to everyone that one day a team can be put together that will be able to challenge and surpass the big clubs with their insane amounts of cash.
Team Bad: Chelsea/Manchester City
I’m going to put these two cheating clubs in the same group because they’re both assholes for the same reason although one is even worse than the other. Chelsea were always a good Premier League team and though they never won the league (they have only 1 title win in their history before the Premier League era) they did win a few cups including the last ever Cup-Winners Cup. The last season in which they weren’t a cheating club was the 02/03 season. During this season Ranieri was manager and guided them to 4th place and the final Champions League place. Then they got bought by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and English football changed. Money is a huge part of the game but this seems an unfair way to catapult yourselves to the top. There are clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal who are also able to spend big on transfers and wages. These clubs have global appeal and make a lot of money but it all stems from their original ability on the pitch. Great teams got assembled (like at Leicester City right now) and trophies got won. Success was sustained over a long period of time due to hard work and so a fan base was built up. Success brings money through progressing in competitions and obtaining better sponsorship deals. Fans from all over the world buy merchandise increasing a club’s wealth. But this has been earned and any team could have achieved this. Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and other clubs over the years are trying to achieve this the hard way by signing some good players and achieving amazing results on the pitch. Chelsea got bought. That’s all they did. And due to the new owner being rich as hell he was able to outspend the successful clubs who had earned their money. All of a sudden Chelsea start paying crazy money for the best players and ever since the trophies have come thick and fast. That success has now lead to them being a big global brand too and so now they don’t even need the owners money as they’re able to sustain themselves. But they wouldn’t be there without that cash injection. It has hurt teams like Spurs, Everton and Aston Villa the most. These are clubs that have either finished in the top 4 or got near to it over the last decade or so. If not for Chelsea and their cash injection these clubs may have reached the Champions League places more regularly and with the money that they would have gained for this due to their own hard work then who knows where they would be now. One season in the Champions League can change your future. Qualify a few years in a row and all of a sudden you can compete for trophies. Chelsea have been in the Champions League ever since the takeover and it has denied another Premier League team without the same resources the same opportunity to progress and it really isn’t fair to them.
Then there are Manchester City who have done exactly the same except it is even more unfair. At least Chelsea qualified for the Champions League sometimes before they had rich owners. At least Chelsea had a talented squad that were able to win some competitions before the money started flowing like the River Thames. Manchester City were a yo-yo club bouncing between the Premier League and the Championship and at one point were in League One. They were at best a midtable Premier League side and if not for a cash injection would have been in relegation battles. Where would they be without the owners from the Middle East now? They may not even be in the Premier League at all. And this may have denied some other club like Derby County, Wolves, Birmingham City etc the opportunity to rise above Man City and have a place in the Premier League. And what has happened instead? Man City have won 2 Premier League titles, an FA Cup and 2 League cups since being bought. They qualify for the Champions League every season and it seems only a matter of time before they win that too. They’re a true force to be reckoned with and it’s all due to who bought them and how much money they have. It was a fast track to the top denying other teams the same success when they deserved it more due to having less resources and still being competitive. Maybe Everton would be an established Champions League side now if not for the likes of Manchester City and their riches. It’s annoying. I guess it’s amazing for fans of these clubs and they would say it gave them a chance at upsetting the status quo. But Leicester are proving this season that though a difficult task it can nonetheless be done with hard work. You could throw other teams into this category too. Paris Saint-Germain are another. They were a midtable side in the French Ligue 1 and now they win the title year after year and look capable of winning the Champions League. All it took was a rich owner. Easy peasy.
Team Good: Athletic Bilbao
Athletic Bilbao first hit my radar when they beat Manchester United in the Europa League a few years ago. It wasn’t just that they were underdogs and won. It was the way they won. They played some absolutely great football and had some amazing players. The Spanish league is absolutely dominated by Real Madrid and Barcelona but sometimes there are other clubs that can manage to break the duopoly. Valencia won back to back titles fairly recently and Atletico Madrid have won the title recently too. Sevilla have had back to back Europa League wins. But Athletic Bilbao are always around doing alright whilst never seeming to win anything to truly capture the limelight for a season or two. They intrigued me so I did a bit of research on them and fell in love with their philosophy. There are only three clubs that have always been in La Liga from its start to now. Everybody would guess Real Madrid and Barcelona and be correct. Bilbao are the third. They’ve won the league an impressive 8 times in their history and have won the second amount of Copa del Rey trophies after Barcelona. However the main reason this club are unique and amazing is the fact they have achieved all of this whilst only ever using players from the Basque region of Spain and France. They don’t buy foreign players. They don’t even buy players from the Madrid area. All of their players of the Basque region and most of them are young talented kids that have came up through the ranks to the first team. I don’t know of any other team that does this. Imagine the team spirit this must instill into the players when they’ve grown up together playing and made it to the first team of an established La Liga side together. It’s so cool. It’s like Arsenal only using players from London. Most clubs barely stick to talent from their nation so to exclusively believe in the local talent and still be successful is unbelievably admirable in today’s footballing world. Kudos to Athletic Bilbao, I hope to one day again see them win La Liga.
Team Bad: Real Madrid
Where to start with Real Madrid? In my opinion they are by far the most disgraceful club in the world. They have no honour. They have no class. They’re run by brats and their fans are the worst fans in football. This is a club that just has to comfortably be the best all of the time otherwise it is unacceptable to these cry babies. They need the best players. If any player is considered world class then Madrid want him and he wants to play for Madrid according to every newspaper. It’s not always true but it gets said. Luis Ronaldo was the deadliest striker in the world and Madrid got him. Zidane was the best midfielder in the world and Madrid got him. Cristiano mastered the Premier League and Madrid got him. They’ll pay anything to get these stars and pay stupid wages. Their youth doesn’t get a chance in this team of galacticos. They’re not even a team; they’re just a bunch of superstars and the line up gets changed each season by a new face who’s now considered to be the best. It’s so nice to see them use this crap philosophy and yet not be that successful. Since the turn of the millennium they’ve won 5 titles out of 15 and that will soon be 5 in 16 after this season. It would be a good record if they weren’t Real Madrid who believe they should have won 15 out of 15 all with style. And considering they have spent by far the most money this isn’t actually that great of a record at all. Thankfully the talent of Lionel Messi has continued to thwart the bastards.
It’s not just this galactico philosophy that annoys me. It’s the fact that they seem to sack managers every season no matter what. If Madrid are second in the league the manager is likely to be sacked. If you don’t win the Champions League you’re likely to be sacked. There have been occasions when the manager has won La Liga and still been sacked due to not thrashing teams heavily enough. If Madrid thrash a team they’re barely satisfied. If they’re winning 1-0 then it isn’t good enough and the fans may boo them. Cristiano Ronaldo has a scoring rate of more than a goal per game since he’s been there. He’s writing his own history with his goal scoring exploits in La Liga. Are Madrid happy with Ronaldo? Are they happy to see one of the best people ever to play the game single-handedly destroy teams week in week out? Are they fuck. They actually boo the guy if he misplaces a pass or misses a shot. The fans don’t love Ronaldo and players do not get better than him in the history of the Universe unless they are Lionel Messi. How much ass does a guy have to kick to get some love at Real Madrid!? It’s unbelievable and says all you need to know about them as a club. Zinedine Zidane will get the sack no matter what he does. It’s a matter of time. Madrid will continue to eat up world class players and spit them out like it’s nothing if they don’t win everything in sight and with ease. No class at all. It’s hilarious to see them in third place and feeling like it’s a disgrace. Vamos Athetic Bilbao!
Team Good: St Pauli
St Pauli are a super cool team. They’re based in the red-light district area of Hamburg. When I think of Hamburg I think of The Beatles since they were based there for a few years before they made it big. Also I’ve heard Hamburg is a great, vibrant city. Maybe it’s due to being based near an area of prostitution that makes their fans unique. For purely footballing reasons there is nothing unique about them. They play in the second tier of German football and have only ever been in the top flight on a couple of occasions. But they have a fanbase that is notoriously left wing politically. Football has struggled with hooliganism over the years. There are sectarian chants and ne0-nazis at some matches over Europe. But the fans of St Pauli are the antithesis of these hooligans. Their identity is totally tied into a stance of anti-sexism, anti-homophobia and anti-racism. Add to this the fact that considering their modest footballing achievements they have a disproportionately large “kult” following. They often sell out their 30,000 capacity stadium despite playing in the second tier with seemingly not much to shout about. Their identity is also synonymous with the punk music scene. Their colours are black and brown. Their crest that is flown on the flags is a skull and crossbones. If I lived in Germany then I would support St Pauli as many do there. They seem rebellious. Even their business decisions are of benefit to local companies at a great cost to themselves. Hopefully they can push on this season and gain promotion to the Bundesliga 1. They’re a force for good in contrast to the many money grabbing clubs of today that have fans with questionable political beliefs.
Team Bad: Milton Keynes Dons
Ahh MK Dons. You know what would bring justice to this club for what they have done? Kicking them the hell out of the Football League. They should have to apply to a non-league league way down the football pyramid. They should start where newly formed clubs start. At the very bottom. Basically they were a newly formed club founded in 2004 but got to start in League One. Not only that but they totally destroyed another club at the same time as they replaced their identity. When I first started following football Wimbledon were a Premier League side known for causing upsets and punching above their weight. They were well liked by most and had the nickname of the “Crazy Gang”. Then they struggled a bit and fell down the leagues. Milton Keynes was a newly formed town in the UK and they had intended to build a stadium to host a Football League club. Incredibly the owners of Wimbledon decided that they needed to move to Milton Keynes and occupy said stadium in order to stop the club going out of business. Imagine what this was like for Wimbledon fans. Their club was moving locations away from them to the people of Milton Keynes. The name changed and their history was given up. MK Dons became the new team for people of Milton Keynes to follow whilst Wimbledon fans were left clubless. I wouldn’t mind so much but this was just a cheating way to avoid setting up a new club and attempting to climb the ladder. No other club could set up a team and just swallow an existing team and take their place on the footballing pyramid. It’s bullshit. And this MK Dons side are now just one step below the Premier League and all the wealth that it offers. Thankfully they’re nowhere near the top of the Championship. Hopefully they get relegated. And then relegated and relegated until they’re at the bottom. Where they belong.
Team Good: AFC Wimbledon
So what do you do when your team just leaves you and gives up the identity that you were a fan of? I imagine I’d pick a new existing club to follow. But this was unacceptable to the Wimbledon fans and they immediately set up a new club after their club was dissolved in the pure evil that is the MK Dons. It’s admirable but futile you’d think. Forming a new club and starting at the bottom is all well and good but you’re going from supporting a League club to a lowly team at the very bottom of grass roots football. They started out in the ninth tier of the football pyramid. This meant they were 5 promotions away from League Two. And the original Wimbledon were in League One at the time so 6 whole promotions away. You’d think they were still bouncing around the lower leagues today but incredibly they gained 5 promotions in 9 years and once again became a League club. It’s a great story. Now the fans have a club where it should be in terms of location and place on the footballing ladder and they did it with hard work in under a decade somehow. Truly commendable spirit by all involved. Hopefully they eventually climb above MK Dons in the ladder so they can look down on the cheating bastards.
Team Bad: Cardiff City/Hull City
Ok, I have nothing against either of these sides. The problem I have is the same problem that their own fans have. Namely the godforsaken owners. First Cardiff. They’re called the Bluebirds. They play in blue and have a Bluebird on their crest. That is how it is. Until in 2012 their idiot owner Vincent Tan changed the kit to red and put a dragon on the crest (albeit with a small Bluebird underneath it). I understand his reasoning to a point. Cardiff is the capital of Wales and Wales play in red with a dragon on their national flag. By identifying with Wales as a nation it broadens their appeal and could bring in more fans and money. But they’re the Bluebirds and they play in blue. You cannot change that. You cannot alienate the fans they currently have since they are the club. It’s a shame there’s not a successful Welsh club with a red kit and a dragon on their crest but there simply isn’t. It’s a void that will never be filled unless a new club is formed and rises up the English leagues. Leave existing clubs alone! Similarly with Hull City. Their nickname is The Tigers. Their owner Assem Allam decided that it would be a good decision to rename them Hull Tigers. I guess it’s a cool name and it would have more appeal in Asia and so again would bring in more fans and money. But at what cost to the club’s original identity? If the fans don’t want a name change you can’t do it. Cardiff have since gone back to the old kit and crest but the Hull owner hasn’t given up trying to change Hull’s name. What is with these power crazy owners? The fans are the club.
Team Good: Queen’s Park
I’ve always been interested in Scottish football. As an English dude I’m lucky to live in the country that has the best football league pyramid in the world. Football was created here. There are 92 League clubs and below them there are thousands of teams with their own histories and a mixture of triumphs and failures. There’s nowhere that can compare when it comes to history. Except north of the border in Scotland. Scottish clubs are up there with the English sides when it comes to the history of the game. So it’s a cool league and deserves more attention I feel. For me, my Scottish team will always be Queen’s Park. Once again this is a unique club that go against the trend. They play in the Scottish League Two so they’re a long way from the top. There are a couple of cool facts about this team. They play at Hampden Park which is the stadium that the Scottish national team play their home matches at. It holds over 50,000 people and yet the average attendance of a Queen’s Park match is about 750. It must be strange to be a 4th tier team playing with crowds that are in line with that status and yet be playing at Hampden every other week. Strange too for the other sides in that league. Lowly Annan Athletic get to play at Hampden every season when they’re up against The Spiders (cool nickname). Queen’s Park were formed in 1867 and so are the oldest Scottish club and one of the oldest clubs in the world. They’re the only Scottish club to play in the FA Cup final. Rangers were formed in 1872 and Celtic in 1887. Along with Queen’s Park they’re all from Glasgow. So for 15 years before Celtic were formed the original Glasgow derby was between Rangers and Queen’s Park. Also, Queen’s Park have historically won the Scottish Cup the third highest amount of times after Rangers and Celtic. That’s a great achievement to be above the likes of Hearts and Aberdeen there. Also you know that passing football that we all love to watch? Barcelona may have mastered it but it was developed first by Queen’s Park. They were the first to think less about dribbling your way haphazardly towards the opponents’ goal in favour of passing the ball around to exploit space. Very cool.
However the coolest thing about Queen’s Park is the fact that they’re still just an amateur club. Everybody around them are semi-professional or professional. There can’t be many teams in any of the professional leagues across the whole of Europe who are just amateurs, if any. This means players do not get paid by Queen’s Park. They just play for nothing. I think there’s a system where fans can sponsor a player but basically they don’t get any money. They have other jobs in life. The motto of Queen’s Park is Ludere Causa Ludendi which means to play for the sake of playing. Once again I find this admirable. They could have changed but have chosen to remain an amateur side. And it’s not like they aren’t competitive. They’re currently third in their league which would be a play off place with the chance of promotion if they keep this position. Imagine if this bunch of amateurs that play purely for the love of the game reached the Scottish Premiership and threatened to challenge for a place in Europe. What a story that would be. Much love to Queen’s Park.
Beyond Good and Bad: The Old Firm
There is simply no rivalry in sport that is as intense or as interesting as the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers. It just does not get bigger. As stated previously Rangers were formed in 1872. Their formation and their historical links are largely intertwined with Protestants in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Celtic were formed in 1887 to counter this somewhat. They needed a team to represent Catholics and Celtic also represented the poor, working class. I’m not actually sure if this means that traditionally Rangers fans come from wealthier backgrounds. Maybe it matters less today. Celtic are called Celtic due to their Irish ties. You’ll often see Irish flags at Celtic matches. Obviously there have always been problems in Northen Ireland between Catholics who hate the British (and therefore hate Rangers) and Protestants who’re proud to be part of the UK (and therefore hate Celtic). This is such a monumental divide. Rangers and Celtic are from the same large city and so the derby between them would naturally be fierce anyway. But when you add in the religious and political divide too that has spread over two countries where there has been a lot of bloodshed it just adds fuel to the fire. The divide matters on a global level too. In Italy you’re more likely to follow Celtic due to the Catholic background. I doubt anybody in Italy cares about Rangers. But Rangers have a global following too. Though not as vast as Celtic’s since Catholics outnumber Protestants globally obviously. It’s all about that religious divide. Even Snoop Dogg supports Celtic.
Not only is there this unique divide but they also happen to be the two very best clubs in Scotland. Rangers have had their problems lately with being demoted due to going bankrupt and that has temporarily halted the rivalry as they haven’t played in the same league as Celtic for 4 years now. But other than that these two rivals battle for the title every year. It’s currently 54-46 in favour of Rangers in terms of title wins. That’s just ridiculous. Not even in Spain is there such a duopoly. 100 league titles between them and the majority of cup wins too. Some seasons you will have Rangers play Celtic 4 times in the league and battle it out in the latter stages of the cups too. Pride and trophies are always on the line. Celtic have suffered without Rangers in the Premiership but the rivalry will be back next season since Rangers will almost certainly complete the last required promotion of the comeback. In Turkey there is the huge Istanbul derby between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce. Both sides from the same city also often fighting for the title. In Spain there is El Clasico between two of the best teams in the world in the same league often both fighting for the title. In England there is Liverpool versus Man United who hate each other and are often fighting for the title. There are massive rivalries throughout the world of football. But none compare to the Rangers and Celtic derby. No doubt the next 100 titles will be decided in bad tempered matches between the two whilst both sets of fans sing hateful songs against each other. But one can’t function in the same way without the other. They need each other and really love hating each other. It’s the best rivalry in sport. And I’m sure if you’re a Celtic fan you see Rangers as pure evil and it’s the other way round if you’re a Rangers fan. Awesome.
Anyway, that’s just some of my thoughts on some teams I like and dislike. Every weekend I check for the results of these clubs though I actually support none of them. I did buy a Queen’s Park hat once and really want to buy a St Pauli shirt. Basically I think it’s important to recognise when a football club has great values that it sticks to. A club should keep its identity especially if it has long been a tradition and is particularly unique. The clubs that are all about money and business will find out the long way that the fans they obtain are fickle. Money flows better when the people believe in the story, the myth, the badge, the motto, the history etc. History can be built over time but it can’t be bought. Passion will always rule over money and club owners need to remember that when they’re thinking about ticket prices and shirt prices. The fans are football.