Archive for Football

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.

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)

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.

 

 

Synesis, Metonymy and the World Cup

Posted in Football with tags , , , , , , on June 27, 2018 by telescoper

The shock defeat of Germany by South Korea this afternoon means that the world champions fail to progress from the group stage and are eliminated from the competition. In other words, Germany are out. Or should that be Germany is out?

Strictly speaking, the singular form is correct (as was Nelson with his “England expects..” message at Trafalgar) but that doesn’t mean that the English plural is necessarily wrong. This is an example of a figure of speech called a metonymic shift, whereby a thing or concept is referred to not by its own name but by the name of something associated with it. An example is found in the phrase “to boil a kettle”: obviously it is not the kettle that gets boiled, but the water within it, but this isn’t an error as such, merely a grammatical device. Metonymic shifts also take place when we refer to the Government as “Westminster” or the film-making industry as “Hollywood”.

When we come to the “Germany is ” versus “Germany are” debate, the noun “Germany” can be taken to mean “The German team” (singular) but in British English the metonymic shift takes this to mean a collection of individual players (plural), i.e. the meaning is transferred from the “German team” to the “German players”. The use of a verb indicating a singular subject constitutes “formal agreement” with “team” whereas the plural form would be “notional agreement”.

I know that this usage is regarded as incorrect by American colleagues I have discussed it with, to the extent that it actually grates on them a bit. But I think “the team are fighting amongst themselves” is a better construction than any I can think of that includes formal rather than notional agreement. Moreover this kind of construction is correct in languages with more precise grammatical rules than English.

The Greek term synesis refers to a grammatical alteration in which a word takes the gender or number not of the word with which it should regularly agree, but of some other word implied by that word, a device much used in both Greek and Roman poetry and also in rhetoric. The distinction between “the Government is united” and “the Government are divided” offers a particularly interesting example.

Related to this difference is the fact that American sports teams tend to have names that are themselves plural, e.g. the Cubs, the Dolphins, the Jets, the Broncos etc, whereas in Britain they are more often singular (though with exceptions, such as Wolverhampton Wanderers).

Anyway, here’s a quick poll to see what you think:

UPDATE: Just to prove, as if it were needed, that I don’t have a life, I had a look at the English Football League teams for the 2018/9 season, with the the following results as to how many names are plural:

Premiership: 1/20 (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Championship: 3/24 (Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Queens Park Rangers)

League One: 3/24 (Bristol Rovers, Wycombe Wanderers, Doncaster Rovers)

League Two: 3/24 (MK Dons, Forest Green Rovers, Tranmere Rovers)

In Scotland there are:

Premiership 1/12 (Rangers)

In the lower divisions there are a further four: out of thirty teams: Aidrieonians, Raith Rovers,Albion Rovers, Berwick Rangers.

The Arithmetic of Relegation

Posted in Biographical, Sport with tags , , , on April 30, 2018 by telescoper

When I got back home after yesterday’s concert, I ate some dinner and settled down to have a look through the Sunday papers. Most of the news was as grim as expected, especially the ongoing fiasco of Brexit, and the scandal engulfing Home Secretary former Home Secretary Amber Rudd who obviously lied to Parliament on at least one occasion. Anyway, turning my attention to the Sports pages there was a write-up of Saturday’s disappointing home defeat for Newcastle United against bottom club West Bromwich Albion. I was gloomy enough to wonder whether Newcastle might actually still get relegated, so looked at the Premiership Table:

Neither West Brom (28 points) nor Stoke (30) can catch Newcastle with only two games to play, but Southampton can in principle get 41 points from here if they win all three games. It’s true that they have a worse goal difference but if Newcastle lost all their three remaining games, and Southampton won all theirs that would change. It therefore looks mathematically possible for Newcastle to be relegated.

However, I then glanced at the fixture list and found that Southampton have to play Swansea in one of their remaining matches. If Southampton win that fixture then the maximum number of points Swansea can get by the end of the competition is 39, so Newcastle can’t be relegated. If Southampton lose or it’s a draw then they can’t catch Newcastle.

I conclude, therefore, that Newcastle United are mathematically safe from relegation. Hooray!

But who will go down? I think West Brom and Stoke will probably get relegated, but I’m not sure about the third team. Huddersfield must be very nervous because their recent form has been poor and they have a very bad goal difference. The betting odds are interesting: BetFred are offering 200/1 on West Brom not being relegated and most bookies are about 8/1 on Stoke to stay up. PaddyPower are quoting 4/9 on Huddersfield and even money on Southampton to go down. If you want to bet on Brighton to get relegated your best odds are with BetVictor who are offering 50-1. Few bookies are quoting odds on West Brom to get relegated, so they obviously think that’s the likely outcome.

I expect these odds to change a lot after the next round of matches.

Sports Round-up

Posted in Cricket, Football with tags , , , , on April 15, 2018 by telescoper

Feeling a bit under the weather – and mindful that I have to get the early flight back to Cardiff tomorrow morning – I’ve been taking it easy today. I did, however, venture forth to the local pub in Maynooth (which is approximately fifty yards from my flat) after lunch to have a pint and watch the second half of Newcastle Utd against Arsenal in the Premiership League. I’m glad I did, as Newcastle won 2-1, which cheered me up considerably.

After four consecutive wins Newcastle have now got 41 points from 33 games and are in tenth place. Though relegation is still mathematically possible, that would require a very improbable sequence of results.

Even the bottom club, West Bromwich Albion, still have a chance of avoiding relegation. They even managed to beat Manchester Utd today, but it still looks most probable that they, Stoke City and Southampton will be in the Championship next year.

Manchester United’s defeat later this afternoon hands the Premiership title to their Midlands rivals Manchester City. Congratulations to City. They’ve clearly been the best team all season, a little end-of-term wobble notwithstanding.

Wolverhampton Wanderers gained promotion yesterday, but the second automatic spot is yet to be decided. Cardiff City looked to have blown it in recent matches, but had a good win yesterday against Midlands side Norwich City while a last-gasp goal from Brentford meant Fulham only drew. With a game in hand, the Bluebirds are in a strong position but you never know.

At the other end of the Championship lies Sunderland, but even they have a (remote) chance of avoiding relegation.

Anyway, as always, the last handful of matches of the football season coincides with the start of the cricket season. The County Championship started on Friday but many games were badly affected by the weather. Where play was possible, conditions favoured bowling rather than batting: Kent, for example, were bowled out for 64 in their first innings against Gloucestershire..

Glamorgan have been playing a three-day match against a Cardiff MCCU team. The students had Glamorgan in trouble at 28-3 chasing their first innings 249 but the professionals recovered to reach 217-5 at yesterday’s close. No play was possible today because of rain so the match ended in a draw.

Hopefully, when teaching and exam marking are finished in both Maynooth and Cardiff, I’ll be able to make use of my season ticket for some of Glamorgan’s matches at the SSE SWALEC Stadium in Sophia Gardens. The Welsh weather may, of course, have something to say about that!

Football Round Up

Posted in Football with tags , , , on September 17, 2017 by telescoper

Since autumn is coming, and the football season is well under way,  bringing with it that terrifying existential void that opens up on Saturdays between the end of Final Score and the start of Match Of The Day,  I thought I would just mention that, after a good win on Saturday against Stoke City,  Newcastle United are now in  4th place in the Premiership:

I’ve posted that simply to enjoy it while it lasts. I don’t think they’ll be so high at the end of the season, but they’ve recovered well, winning three consecutive games after losing their first two.

In a strange quirk of something or other, Newcastle United now find themselves immediately above the two teams to which they have lost.

Incidentally, when I was a student at Cambridge, in 1984, Chelsea finished in first place in the old Second Division, securing promotion to the First Division. Newcastle finished third that season and also got promoted. Manchester City finished fourth. How times change.

It’s a funny old game.

League Table Positions

Posted in Education, Football with tags , , , , , , , on May 26, 2015 by telescoper

Among the things I didn’t have time to blog about over a very busy Bank Holiday Weekend was the finish of the English Premiership season. I haven’t posted much about my own team, Newcastle United, this season because I haven’t been able to think of anything particularly positive to say. Since Alan Pardew quit in January to join Crystal Palace, Newcastle slumped to such an alarming extent that they went into their last game of the season (against West Ham) just two points above the drop zone. Had they lost their game, which did not seem unlikely on the basis of their recent form, and had Hull won against Manchester United, which did not seem unlikely on the grounds that Man Utd wwould finish in 4th place whatever happened in that game, then Newcastle would be relegated to the Championship. In the event, however, Newcastle won 2-0 which made them safe while Hull could only draw 0-0 which meant that Newcastle would have survived even if they had lost against West Ham. Moreover, Sunderland also lost their last game, which meant that the final Premier League Table looked like this:

Premiership_League

(courtesy of the BBC Website). The important places are 15 and 16, obviously. The natural order of things has been restored….

Another League Table came out over the Bank Holiday. This was the annual Guardian University Guide. I’m deeply sceptical of the value of these league tables, but there’s no question that they’re very important to potential students so we have to take them seriously. This year was pretty good for Sussex as far as the Guardian Table is concerned: the University of Sussex rose to 19th place overall and the two departments of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences both improved: Physics & Astronomy is back in the top 10 (at number 9, up from 11th place last year) and Mathematics rose 22 places to take 21st place. Gratifyingly, both finished well above Sunderland.

While these results are good news in themselves, at least around my neck of the woods, as they will probably lead to increased applications to Sussex from students next year, it is important to look behind the simplistic narrative of “improvements”. Since last year there have been several substantial changes to the Guardian’s methodology. The weighting given to “spend-per-student” has been reduced from 15% to 10% of the overall score and the method of calculating “value added” has excluded specific predictions based on “non-tariff” students (i.e. those without UK entry qualifications, especially A-levels). What the Guardian consistently fails to do is explain the relative size of the effect of arbitrary methodological changes on its tables compared to actual changes in, e.g., cash spent per student.

Imagine the outrage there would be if football teams were not told until the end of a Premier League season how many points would be awarded for a win….

Synesis, Metonymy and the FIFA World Cup

Posted in Football with tags , , , , , , on June 23, 2014 by telescoper

I was asleep during last night’s dramatic World Cup game between Portugal and USA which ended in a 2-2 draw thanks to an equaliser in injury time from Portugal. That’s why I found out about the result from Twitter when I woke up this morning. I was struck by the fact that virtually all comments from Americans talked about their team in the singular (e.g. “USA has drawn against Portugal”) whereas on this side of the Atlantic we almost always refer to a team in the plural (e.g. “England have lost against everyone”).

Strictly speaking, the singular form is correct (as was Nelson with his “England expects..” message at Trafalgar) but that doesn’t mean that British English is necessarily wrong. This is an example of a figure of speech called a metonymic shift, whereby a thing or concept is referred to not by its own name but by the name of something associated with it. An example is found in the phrase “to boil a kettle”: obviously it is not the kettle that gets boiled, but the water within it, but this isn’t an error as such, merely a grammatical device. Metonymic shifts also take place when we refer to the Government as “Westminster” or the film-making industry as “Hollywood”.

When we come to the “England lose” verses “England loses” debate, the noun “England” can be taken to mean “The England team” (singular) but in British English the metonymic shift takes this to mean a collection of individual players (plural), i.e. the meaning is transferred from the “England team” to the “England players”. The use of a verb indicating a singular subject constitutes “formal agreement” with “team” whereas the plural form would be “notional agreement”.

I know that this usage is regarded as incorrect by American colleagues I have discussed it with, to the extent that it actually grates on them a bit. But I think “the team are fighting amongst themselves” is a better construction than any I can think of that includes formal rather than notional agreement. Moreover this kind of construction is correct in languages with more precise grammatical rules than English. The Greek term synesis refers to a grammatical alteration in which a word takes the gender or number not of the word with which it should regularly agree, but of some other word implied by that word, a device much used in both Greek and Roman poetry and also in rhetoric. The distinction between “the Government is united” and “the Government are divided” offers a particularly interesting example.

However, having done my best to stick up for “England” as a plural, I can’t help thinking that if they ever learn how to play like a team than as a collection of individuals they might not be so strongly associated with the verb “to lose”…

Lines Composed upon the Relegation of Wigan Athletic from the Premiership

Posted in Football, Poetry with tags , , on May 15, 2013 by telescoper

So farewell, then,
Wigan Athletic.
You weren’t
Athletic enough,
Apparently.

Keith’s mum says
Wigan is not
In the Midlands.
But she’s wrong.
Obviously.

by Peter Coles (aged nearly 50).