Archive for the Football Category

Why Do England Always Lose on Penalties?

Posted in Biographical, Football with tags , , , on July 12, 2021 by telescoper

I’m reblogging this post from a few years ago. It remains topical.

I thought I’d add my own (very limited) experience of taking penalties. In the period from 1988-90 or thereabouts I played for a team called the University Associates in the Sussex Sunday League (2nd Division). The League also had a cup competition, and one day we played a game that ended in a draw after extra time, so went to penalties. I used to play in midfield for that team, rather than as a striker and I scored only 2-3 goals a season. I wasn’t one of the five nominated penalty takers but after those it was 2-2 so it went to sudden death and my turn came up at 3-3 after one round. It was the only penalty I’ve ever taken (not counting 5-a-side). I wasn’t at all confident but my biggest fear was the ribbing I would undoubtedly get if I didn’t even hit the target, so I decided to hit it as hard as I could straight at the goal. I thought my natural level of inaccuracy might take the ball to one side or the other of the goalie.

So I paused, took a deep breath, ran up and blammed it as hard as I could. It went quite hard straight at the goalie. If he’d stayed where he was standing it would have hit him at chest level. Fortunately for me he dived out of the way and I scored. 4-3! So I have a 100% success rate at scoring penalties (based on a sample of one).

The story didn’t end entirely happily though. My opposite number scored to make it 4-4 and we ended up losing 5-4.

IB Maths Resources from Intermathematics

penalties2

Statistics to win penalty shoot-outs

With the World Cup nearly upon us we can look forward to another heroic defeat on penalties by England. England are in fact the worst country of any of the major footballing nations at taking penalties, having won only 1 out of 7 shoot-outs at the Euros and World Cup. In fact of the 35 penalties taken in shoot-outs England have missed 12 – which is a miss rate of over 30%. Germany by comparison have won 5 out of 7 – and have a miss rate of only 15%.

With the stakes in penalty shoot-outs so high there have been a number of studies to look at optimum strategies for players.

Shoot left when ahead

One study published in Psychological Science looked at all the penalties taken in penalty shoot-outs in the World Cup since 1982. What they found was pretty incredible – goalkeepers…

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The Morning After…

Posted in Biographical, Football with tags , , , , on July 12, 2021 by telescoper
Gareth Southgate consoles Bukayo Saka who missed the last penalty in the shootout against Italy

Well that’s that. Last year’s European Championship is over. Italy beat England in the final last night on penalties. England lost in the semi-final of the, World Cup in 2018. Many people suggested they would go a step further this time, and they did: they lost in a final.

It wasn’t a great game. Finals seldom are – there’s too much at stake for the players to play with any freedom. But it was tense and dramatic and in the end, for England fans and players, heartbreaking. Italy have been the most consistently impressive team in the tournament, and had a far more difficult draw than England (who, in my opinion were very lucky to beat Denmark in the semi-final thanks to a very dodgy penalty) and didn’t have home advantage.

Overall I think Italy deserved to win the tournament and happy for them, though sad a bit for Gareth Southgate who has proved himself the most gentlemanly of managers. The manner of this loss – on penalties yet again – must hurt him, but he will be gracious in defeat. I wish the same could be said of some of the England supporters.

People have been critical of Southgate’s rather defensive tactics for last night’s match. For what it’s worth I think his cautious approach was dictated by his awareness of the weaknesses in his side. He had good attacking players but lacked strength in midfield. Italy were much more tenacious and comfortable in possession. For large parts of last night’s match England were just unable to get the ball; the official possession stats were 65:35 in Italy’s favour. A playmaker in the centre of the park would make a huge difference to England’s chances of landing a major trophy.

The great thing about this young England football team is how it has managed to provide so many positive role models, through its dignified response to racism and embrace of inclusivity, while at the same time respecting the time-honoured English tradition of losing on penalties. They will no doubt be feeling awful right now but they have a lot to build on for the World Cup next year if they can pick themselves up, though they might not get such a favourable draw.

I have enjoyed the tournament. I didn’t watch all the games because I was too busy, but I watched most of the 8pm matches and found them a welcome distraction. As an émigré I no longer feel any obligation to support England, but I don’t feel any need to despise them either so I was able just to enjoy the football. As I said above, I think Italy performed most consistently at a high level throughout the competition but I also enjoyed watching Spain (who would be world-beating if they had a decent striker) and Belgium, either of whom would have been worthy finalists had the draw. I feel a bit sorry for Denmark given what happened in their first match. They can be very proud of the way they rallied to reach the semi-finals without their star player Christian Eriksen.

Anyway, well played Italy! I have quite a few Italian friends and colleagues and I know they’re all delighted. Il Calcio sta tornando a casa…

End of Term Hiatus

Posted in Biographical, Education, Football, Maynooth on June 24, 2021 by telescoper

Yesterday was quite a busy day because, as well as my talk in the afternoon, we had the main University Examination Board in the morning. Because many students in Maynooth are taking courses that spread across more than one Department, this is an opportunity to raise any issues arising when marks are combined. The full results for each student are presented on “Broadsheets” which I suspect in days gone by would have been broad sheets of paper, but which nowadays are hefty PDF files, one for each faculty. Science & Engineering was the first session, kicking off at 9.15 via Teams but because we all had access to the Broadsheets since last Friday we had time to identify any relevant matters and the meeting itself went quite smoothly.

Now there’s a short hiatus because the formal results will not be communicated to students until tomorrow (Friday 25th). Next Tuesday (29th June) is Consultation Day, on which students can discuss their results and any matters arising with staff. Obviously we can’t do this in person this year because of Covid-19 restrictions but, because the examination scripts were scanned and uploaded electronically this year the students will actually have the originals, discussing any issues of marking shouldn’t be too difficult.

Some students will need to take repeat examinations before they can progress. These are in the period 4th-14th August in Maynooth so I’ll have to be around for those. I was hoping to try to get some summer holiday this year – which I didn’t last summer – starting on 5th July, but that has already been pushed back because something important has arisen that means I have to be working on 7th July. I hope nothing else eats into my leave entitlement. It says in my contract how many weeks holiday I should have per year so I will not accept another year of not being able to take it.

Although we have a short break in the examination process that doesn’t mean everything stops. I have to work this Saturday (26th June) at the Summer Open Day here at Maynooth, recruiting the September intake…

The sense of hiatus is amplified by the fact that there are no matches today or tomorrow in the European Championship, the final group games being last night and the first in the Round of 16 being on Saturday. I’ve got quite used to watching the 8pm matches over the last couple of weeks!

Football Round Up

Posted in Football, GAA on May 23, 2021 by telescoper

Well today saw the last round of matches of the English Premier League for this season. The most important match finished Fulham 0 Newcastle United 2. That caps a good end of season run that leaves Newcastle in 12th place having recovered well from an alarming slump in mid-season to avoid any threat of regation.

It’s been a good weekend for Newcastle fans because yesterday Sunderland lost their playoff semi-final against Lincoln City and therefore languish in League One for another season.

Fulham, West Brom were already relegated some time ago, so there wasn’t much end of season drama at the bottom end of the table. I gather that manager Sam Allardyce will be leaving West Brom, having accomplished everything that was expected of him with the club.

As you can see, the top three teams are all from the Midlands. Leicester could have joined them had they not lost to Spurs today so it is Chelsea that joins them in the top 4. Manchester City finish as Champions by a country mile.

By contrast, here in Ireland, the Gaelic Football season has only just started. This afternoon I watched a cracking game between Dublin and Kerry that ended with points level at 4-09 to 1-18 after a late penalty to Kerry allowed them to equalize in stoppage time. Dublin had been well ahead earlier in the game but had to weather a determined fightback to hold on for the draw.

There are no crowds at GAA matches yet but at least one can watch games for free on terrestrial TV…

Endgames

Posted in Football with tags , , , , , on July 26, 2020 by telescoper

Today sees the last round of games in this year’s strange Premiership season. All ten games kick off at 4pm.

I last commented on the relegation situation when there were six games to play. Now, with one game left to play the bottom of the table looks like this:

Norwich City are already relegated and all the teams above these four, including Newcastle United, are safe; Brighton are in 16th place on 38 points.

It is possible for any two of Aston Villa, Watford and Bournemouth to go down though Bournemouth have to win and hope both Villa and Watford lose. Bournemouth are playing Everton away from home. I’d say the combination of them winning and other two relegation candidates both losing is rather improbable, but you never know.

One of either Watford or Aston Villa must get relegated. The team that gets the better result of the two will stay up.

If all three of these teams lose (which is by no means unlikely) whoever goes down with Bournemouth and Norwich will be determined by goal difference. Villa have a cushion of only one goal which means that if Villa and Watford both draw then Villa stay up. If they both win then the survivor will be determined by goal difference.

Aston Villa are away at West Ham and Watford are away at Arsenal. I’d say Watford has the tougher game so I’d say they were favourites to go down with Bournemouth.

The bookies seem to agree with me. Here are the best odds on teams to be relegated:

These are the odds on survival:

Bournemouth’s odds look a bit miserly to me, so the best price is Watford to stay up at 11/4 although even that isn’t enough to tempt me to have a flutter.

Of course these odds will change during the course of the games.

Half-time Update:

The key scores at half time are:

  • Arsenal 3 Watford 1
  • Everton 1 Bournemouth 2
  • West Ham 0 Aston Villa 0

As things stand, Villa stay up; Bournemouth and Watford go down. That will change if Villa concede a goal.

Full-time Update:

  • Arsenal 3 Watford 2
  • Everton 1 Bournemouth 3
  • West Ham 1 Aston Villa 1

Bournemouth did what they needed to do but despite their efforts that draw for Villa sends them down along with Watford.

Newcastle United unsurprisingly lost their final match against Liverpool and finished in 13th place, 10 points above the relegation zone.

Three Funerals and a Cartoon

Posted in Biographical, Football, Maynooth with tags , , , on July 21, 2020 by telescoper

I was later than usual coming to the office today as I had to arrange some things to do with the house I’m buying in Maynooth. It was mid morning when I walked up towards campus. I was a little bit confused to see a large crowd of people walking along Main Street, but when I got closer I realized they were all walking behind a hearse on their way to a funeral service at St Mary’s Church. I followed the procession all the way along Main Street and up Mill Street where another large group of people was waiting outside the Church. I don’t know who had passed away but judging by the attendance they must have been popular in the community.

This is the first time I’d seen such a procession here in Ireland, though I was of course already aware that the Irish treat funerals very differently from the English. Coincidentally, though, today saw the funeral of Jack Charlton which began with a procession through the streets of Ashington, the cortege led by piper playing the Northumbrian pipes. Many hundreds turned up to show their respects.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, only about 20 people could attend the funeral service, which was held at the West Road Crematorium in Newcastle upon Tyne. As it happens, that was where the funeral of my Mam took place about 9 months ago. There were no Covid-19 restrictions then, which makes it seem like a different age altogether.

Anyway, going back to Jack Charlton, I saw last week marvellous comic book tribute to him called The Life and Times of Jack Charlton by David Squires in the Guardian. The poignant last panel is beautifully done.

The people who do things and what they do

Posted in Art, Cricket, Football, Opera, Television with tags , on July 19, 2020 by telescoper

It’s a tough lesson to learn in life that the people you admire or idolize for their contribution in a particular arena (whether that be sport, art, science or something else) turn out to be people you can’t stand in terms of their character or political views.

You have to separate, for example, having a high regard for Ian Botham’s cricketing prowess from having a high regard for his personal character. In fact I can think of few sportspeople whose company I’d enjoy socially.

The same goes in many other spheres. Richard Feynman was a truly great physicist but I’ve never bought into the personality cult surrounding him. In fact I doubt I would have liked him very much at all if we’d ever met in person. They say you should never meet your heroes. They’re right.

Another example is Richard Wagner, a brilliant composer but really horrible man, who brings us to this clip from the end of Twilight of the Gods (the last episode of Series 7 of Inspector Morse, first broadcast in 1993).

I won’t spoil the plot if you haven’t seen it but it involves a famous opera singer, Gladys Probert, who visits Oxford to perform and receive an honorary degree. On the way to the ceremony she is shot, but was she the intended victim?

Opera-loving Morse is a huge admirer of Gladys Probert but in the course of his investigation he uncovers some unpleasant truths about her private life. He solves the crime but the case leaves him dispirited.

Here is the ending. John Thaw is Inspector Morse and Kevin Whateley is Detective Sergeant Lewis.

R. I. P. Jack Charlton (1935-2020)

Posted in Football with tags , , , , on July 11, 2020 by telescoper

Sad news today of the death at the age of 85 of legendary footballer and manager Jack Charlton.

The tributes to Jack Charlton here in Ireland focus on his time as manager of the Republic of Ireland national team, during which he produced many great results, including qualifying for two World Cups (in 1990 and 1994). Ireland got to the quarter-finals in 1990, which was an amazing achievement. Jack Charlton created some marvellous memories and became like an adopted son in the hearts of Irish folk, spending a lot of his time here in his retirement. He had a house in Ballina (County Mayo) and enjoyed going fishing. I suspect he rarely had to buy a drink in the local pubs! As a fellow Geordie living in Ireland I can understand very well why he loved it here.

He gave up the house in Ireland a few years ago when his health started to fail and moved to Stamfordham in Northumberland, the County of his birth. Jack was actually born in Ashington and was the nephew of legendary Newcastle United centre-forward Jackie Milburn.

As a player he was an old-school centre half: tall and tough and not prone to try anything fancy. He knew his limitations as a footballer and concentrated on what he could do well. He spent his entire professional playing career of 21 years at Leeds United. He wasn’t capped for England until he was 29 and a year later he was a member of the team that won the 1966 World Cup, as was his brother Bobby.

I remember an interview with Jack Charlton during which he recalled asking manager Sir Alf Ramsay why he had been picked for the England team when there were many better players than him around. Ramsay’s reply was that he didn’t always pick the best players, he picked the best team. What I think he meant by that is that he saw Jack’s steadiness as a providing an ideal blend in the centre of the defence balance to the less conventional Bobby Moore.

My own memories of Jack Charlton are dominated by his time as manager of Newcastle United between 1984 and 1985; see the picture, which is from this time, including Peter Beardsley (left) and Chris Waddle (right). I was a student at Cambridge at this time and there was quite a large Newcastle United Supporters’ Club of which I was a member. We travelled to quite a few games in the 84/85 season. The Club Secretary wrote a letter to Jack Charlton inviting him to visit us for a dinner and speech. We couldn’t even offer him travel expenses so I assumed he would just ignore the request, but he didn’t. He actually wrote a very nice letter politely declining the invitation but thanking us for our support and good wishes. He also reminded us not to neglect our studies because of football as he regretted not having had “much of an education”.

It’s worth mentioning that 1984/5 was the time of the Miners’ Strike during which Jack Charlton was a staunch supporter of the Miners. He even lent his car to help miners on flying pickets. He was rather left-wing generally, actually.

Jack Charlton brought to football management the same approach he had brought to his own playing. It was by focusing on doing the basics well that he was able to get outstanding results using limited resources. He wouldn’t have been a good manager of a huge club full of luxury players, but in his niche he was superb.

As a person Jack Charlton was as strong-minded and uncompromising as he was as a player and a manager, but he was also down to earth, completely unpretentious, funny and self-deprecating, and as honest as the day is long.

Rest in peace, Jack Charlton (1935-2020)

Football Roundup

Posted in Football with tags , , on July 2, 2020 by telescoper

By way of a diversion this lunchtime after a morning of Microsoft Teams, I thought I’d comment briefly on another kind of team, by looking at the state of play in the Premier League.

Liverpool of course deservedly won the title last weekend when Manchester city lost to Chelsea. To have won the Premiership with seven games left to play is a remarkable achievement. All credit to their excellent manager Jürgen Klopp, who actually seems a thoroughly decent fellow as well. Although based in the English Midlands, Liverpool have a strong following here in Ireland so there were many celebrations here when the Premiership race was sealed.

The absence of any football for many weeks at least removed one usual cause of springtime stress, namely Newcastle United’s struggle to avoid relegation. Since the return, however, Steve Bruce’s team have done pretty well, with seven points out of a possible nine, though they did get knocked out of the FA Cup. Last night they beat struggling Bournemouth 4-1 away from home which leaves them on 42 points with six games left to play. They’re not mathematically safe from relegation but it’s very difficult to see any of the bottom three teams getting more than 15 points from their remaining games so I think relegation is extremely improbable. Norwich look relegation certainties, but who will go down with them? Based on last night’s poor performance at home, I’d say probably Bournemouth and one other.

The Bookies odds at the moment are:

  • Norwich: 1/100.
  • Bournemouth: 1/6.
  • Aston Villa: 1/4.
  • Watford: 2/1.
  • West Ham: 6/1.
  • Brighton: 28/1.

Watford or West Ham might be worth a bet. There are still six games to be played, after all.

I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the games since the season restarted. Playing in an empty stadium makes football very strange to watch, and the artificial crowd noises make it even stranger. It problem reduces home advantage not having supporters in the ground, but I haven’t looked at the statistical evidence whether or not this is the case..

It’s worth mentioning the situation in League 1:

Here the season has been declared closed. Wycombe Wanderers finish in third on the basis of points per game despite having fewer points than the team in fourth. Wycombe’s 35th game would have been against Coventry…

I’ll just mention in passing that Sunderland will not be promoted. Tragic.

End of Season

Posted in Football with tags , , , , on May 13, 2019 by telescoper

After the cold spell we’ve had for the last week or two it’s a warm sunny and generally rather lovely day today. It’s also very quiet on campus here in Maynooth because lectures are over. There are students around, especially in the library and other study spaces, but there’s none of the usual rushing about in between lectures. After rushing about myself a bit this morning I thought I’d take a coffee break and reflect on the weekend’s football.

 

A picture of a football

Yesterday saw the last round of matches in the Premiership, where the focus was on which of the two leading Midlands clubs (Liverpool or Manchester City) would win. After a brief glimmer of excitement when Brighton took the lead against Manchester City and thus gave Liverpool a chance of the title, normal service was resumed when Manchester City regained the lead and eventually won 4-1. Although Liverpool won their game too (against Wolves) they ended up in second place by one point. It’s quite a remarkable feat to finish on 97 points and not win the Premiership, which is what Liverpool have done. I suppose they will be seeking some meagre consolation by winning the UEFA Champions League..

Earlier last week there were two remarkable matches in said UEFA Champions League. Liverpool, 3-0 down to Barcelona after the first (away) leg of their semi-final, managed to win the home leg 4-0 and thus qualified for the final. I wasn’t going to watch this as I thought it was a foregone conclusion that Barcelona would win, but I eventually wandered into the pub (McMahon’s) for the second half when it was 1-0 and saw two more goals. The closing stages of the game were very exciting, as even at 4-0 Barcelona only needed one goal to win. There was huge support for Liverpool among the locals too, which made it very enjoyable to watch.

Obviously Liverpool benefited from a much tougher game last weekend against Newcastle United, who made them work hard for a 3-2 victory. A difficult work-out like that made their job against less distinguished opponents Barcelona relatively straightforward.

The next day Tottenham had a 1-0 deficit from their home leg against Ajax, who I thought were going to clean up (Geddit?) especially when they scored two early goals. In another remarkable turnaround, Spurs then scored three goals away goals which took them through when the aggregate score finished at 3-3. Amazing stuff.

In the interest of full disclosure I should admit that I put £50 on a double that the final would be between Ajax and Barcelona. You can’t win ’em all.

Oh and both Arsenal and Chelsea have qualified for the Europa League final (whatever that is). They will play each other in Baku (wherever that is) for a place in next year’s Eurovision song contest.

More importantly than all this, Newcastle United won 4-0 yesterday away at Fulham to finish 13th on 45 points. It hasn’t been a marvellous season but at least there was no last-minute nail baiting. They secured Premiership status some weeks ago. They are indeed fortunate to have Rafa Benitez as manager. He is an excellent coach, but his contract is up this summer and it’s not obvious he will stay. Next season will be difficult without him.

Already relegated Cardiff City managed a win against Manchester United: Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s bright start in charge seems to have come a cropper in a disappointing last few games. At least Cardiff City went down with guns blazing.

And finally back to Brighton who, I have just learned, have sacked their manager Chris Hughton. That’s not a  very nice way to thank someone who got them promoted, and kept them in the Premiership. It’s a great shame for Hughton for whom I have a lot of respect. Football is a brutal game sometimes, especially off the field.