Football

Isolation Through Stereotypes

Stereotyping any type of person is problematic. The LGBT+ community, like many others, is rife with preconceived false notions of what ‘should’ constitute an LGBT man or woman. A prevalent stereotype of gay men is that we love pop divas and their music, think Cher, Madonna, Kylie – and while that is true of plenty of gay men around the world, the sheer scope of exposure afforded to this cross-section of gay culture is somewhat isolating to the rest of us.

Obviously gay periodicals and news channels like HuffPostGay, Gay Times and Attitude will commercially benefit from covering news stories pertaining to the aforementioned artists, and I’m sure many gay men have a vested interest in these people but that doesn’t mean that their excursions constitute ‘gay news’.

Irrelevant… Dannii Minogue’s return to music made headlines among gay publications

There are many gay men who are interested in sport, politics and other types of music, to name just a few examples. Shouldn’t gay news outlets publish gay features on a plethora of interests or more simply just cover gay and LGBT issues, rather than paying disproportionate attention to stereotypical music tastes? Printed versions may have to restrict the range of news covered due to lack of space but online, where many of these outlets operate, there is no such excuse.

Of course, these celebrities can largely attribute their popularity among the gay community to their do-gooding, and it remains imperative for rights activists in the media to be reported on when they are active in that process. However, it isn’t factual to suggest that Kylie and Madonna, to stick with earlier examples, are only reported on for equality campaigning. In contrast, Maroon 5 front-man Adam Levine and pop band Fun get nowhere near the same level of coverage despite similar if not excelling levels of activism themselves. Well, Adam Levine does get coverage, but a different kind. In recent years Levine has persistently and vocally championed equal rights and Fun have co-founded the Ally Coalition that encourages the idea of straight allies.

The point I’m trying to make is that the release of Madonna’s album is not ‘gay news’. Liza Minnelli going back to rehab, though sad and upsetting for some, is not ‘gay news’. In fact, just yesterday Attitude published an article listing all the instances of self-reference on Madonna’s latest release, Rebel Heart. I mean really? For the record, I think Attitude is an excellent publication but why are certain gay men’s interests more important than others? I’m sure many consider these stories important or interesting but it isn’t gay-specific news and the sole focus on trivial topics like these only propagates stereotypes of gay men and isolates those who don’t fit in to these conventional interests.

Overlooked… LGBT+ issues in sports are often not given the same importance as pop music

There are a couple of ways that gay news carriers could correct this, and to be honest, it’s surprising it hasn’t already happened. They could either stick to LGBT specific news or feature a wide variety of interests remarked on from a gay angle. Let’s be fair, a certain genre of pop music is not under the ownership of all in the gay community. In modern times, we are told repeatedly that gay men are a diverse group with a wide range of interests, views and beliefs – and rightly so. But why is it that in 2015, we still assume that disco pop is the only thing that gay men are interested in outside of being gay? Obviously, I don’t expect a horse racing pull-out and a motorsports section but why are, for example, potential features on homosexuality in football or even the LGBT policy proposals of political parties being displaced by Britney Spears’ latest robotic effort?

While I concede that it makes financial sense to include these stories in gay magazines, it doesn’t make much sense to exclude other interests held by gay people that may transcend other spheres. This, remember is a community that added a ‘+’ on to the LGBT acronym to be wholly inclusive – it’s time to walk the walk. LGBT men and women should be able to purchase, follow and read gay news and have their other interests covered if the stereotypically common interests of other LGBT people are. Let’s not isolate gay people via the media because they don’t conform to traditional typecasts. It may seem like an over-the-top reaction to a seemingly minor issue but pigeon-holing people is never a good idea, particularly when these outlets are supposed to be representative. Let’s not give others the chance to stereotype those in the LGBT community and embrace the wide variety of interests we share – that’s the right attitude.

Dear, Football

Dear players and staff of *club name*,

My name is Chris Whiting; I’m a 19 year old lifelong football fan. Ever since, I was very young, I have loved football. I’m a passionate, dedicated, loyal and hopefully knowledgeable Leicester City fan. And I am gay.

I have been gay for as long as I have been a football fan and personally, my sexuality has never caused me any internal anguish. But, for many fans it does, and still in 2015 they are unable to marry these two qualities.  Football has always been viewed as fair game for banter, or what could be better termed as vitriol. Racism, sexism and homophobia have always been rife in the stands but the latter two are fading gradually with higher visibility of ethnic minorities and women in the sport.

We haven’t even begun to go down that road with homosexuality.  Of course, being gay is something you can hide in football and until that changes it will always be viewed as a weakness.

Every Saturday, I get angry when the linesman misses a blatant offside, I taunt the opposing fans when their star striker blasts wide from six yards, and I flail my limbs like a lunatic when we grab a vital goal. I do these things just like every other football fan in the country. So, why is the thought of homosexuals being involved in football still such a stigma?

Like I’ve already said, I’m a normal football fan and I’m gay. Statistically, at least one of your squad is too. I don’t wish to force anybody ‘out of the closet’, but in honour of LGBT+ history month, I wanted to try and encourage somebody to take that brave step on their own.  Or at least, encourage anyone to whom this doesn’t personally apply to be allies. ‘Coming out’ is a personal journey but the inability of football to address this affects everyone.

Society has made massive strides in terms of accepting gay people. I’m pretty much considered normal in every other part of my life. One day, I hope to feel the same at 3pm every Saturday.

Football isn’t ready, and it never will be until we make it get ready. It’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Whiting

The Official LCFC Loyal Supporter Charter

NOTE: If you don’t understand that this is satirical then God help you.

There are way too many disloyal Leicester City fans out there, it’s time there was an official charter to sift out the true, die-hard supporters from the prawn sandwich brigade tossers.

AND IT’S LEICESTER CITY!

Firstly, if you live anywhere past Aylestone or Beaumont Leys then why are you even reading this? Go and support Anstey Nomads or Blaby & Whetstone and leave the real local supporters to it.

1. You must attend all away games, and you must travel to them on Coach One, anyone who rides on Coaches two or higher or even makes their own way via car is a disloyal twat, trains are okay for some reason – they just are. Optional: Mock a woman dubbed ‘Hagrid’ mercilessly on social media because, well you know, she’s not conventional looking and definitely deserves it.

2. Make sure your phone has Instagram, you will need it to upload as many action shots of every game as humanly possible. It is advisable to upload stadium panoramas and away day tickets to prove what a hardened sport traveller you are. If we don’t see these pictures how will we know you’re a true fan when the purging starts?

3. You most show yourself to be a friend of the players, just how Directioners think they have in-jokes with the group and affectionately call them ‘the boys’, but this is different because it’s football. We as fans must suck up to our team’s WAGs, this is crucial, you should reply to all of their tweets as if you are a long-term friend of theirs. It’s definitely a good idea to tweet youth players too. Get in there before they become the stars of the future so you can laud it over fellow fans because you saw their talent first. Man like Panayiotou etc. etc.

4. Bi-annually, you will be expected to report breaking news and insider transfer knowledge to your legion of Twitter followers. So, pretend to be an ITK, it doesn’t matter if you just know the Belvoir Drive’s lawn mower or even if you just work in Maryland Chicken, make it work. After all, people only judge you on the guesses you get right, and you may be able to force yourself in to becoming a local celebrity if you kiss the arse of Ian Stringer enough.

Now, we’ve pretty much covered how you should act as a supreme fan of Leicester City, let’s discuss how a true fan looks;

5. It’s crucial to set your display picture on every social networking site you’re on to either the badge, a player or the stadium, preferably Filbert Street because we all know it was better there. Who are these traitors who think their faces are more important than the holy fox’s head? That’s sacrilegious in my book.

6. Every away day should be spent the same, lace up your Gazelles, throw on your Stone Island jacket and remember, always hop aboard Coach 1… or a train, and blast out the most angsty monotonous Oasis track in your music library. If your taste is different then being a loyal football fan simply isn’t for you. Thankfully, as followers of Leicester, we can choose from either Oasis or Kasabian, but remember if you weren’t at that Kasabian concert last summer then your support of the football club is simply invalid.

Finally, what defines us most as die-hard Leicester City supporters is how we speak to those lesser people who think they’re fans but we all know are not.

7. No matter what the situation, whether we’re performing catastrophically, or the manager has tossed away the FA Cup like an out-of-date bag of Walkers crisps (the only crisps you can eat by the way), we have to support the team! Now, there are many ways to do that but we believe that the best way is by completely suffocating any criticism whether it be fair or otherwise. Most people think that negativity is okay as long as it isn’t voiced in the stadium but they are wrong, you must NEVER speak negatively or even think negatively, if you do you are a plastic, knee-jerk traitor – and your conscience will never be clear!

8. But we cannot stop there! It is simply not enough to be positive all the time, suffocate other opinions, exert delusions of grandeur and basically be a vacuous passive puppet, it is our duty as fans to name and shame those that dare besmirch the team in any form. The best way to go about this is to call them negative, knee-jerk, wankers, morons or disloyal twats before suggesting they move their support to Coventry or Notts Forest.

I hope that clears everything up for all you plastic arseholes out there. As for you diehards, sing it with me; WE ARE STAYING UP! SAY, WE ARE STAYING UP! And, if you don’t think so, you’re a treacherous balloon-head.

Fellow Foxes, Are you Mad?!

Leicester City surprised everyone on Saturday by coming from behind to dump Spurs out of the FA Cup at White Hart Lane. As a result, the Foxes find themselves in the last sixteen of the competition whilst, languishing at the bottom of the Premier League. Now, many are opening the debate as to whether City would rather finish 17th in the Premier League or win the FA Cup.

As a fanbase, we know the club have spent years and years pining for a return to England’s top-flight. And, having experienced just over half a season back in the Premier League, I can see the perks of being here. It’s a badge of nobility to be in the top-flight, to be acknowledged, to be famous. Winning just feels that little bit better with that proud, navy lion slapped on the side of your arm. It also feels better having the £90 million windfall that comes with being in the illustrious top division. However, finishing 17th in the league ladder isn’t a trophy; it won’t go down in footballing history. It will just be another placing at the end of another league season.

In contrast, this club loves the FA Cup – it seems illogical but it’s true. I can’t think of a club in English football that loves this competition as much despite being treated so cruelly by it in the past. In recent seasons, we’ve seen 8000 of the blue army at Nottingham Forest, 6000 at Chelsea, 4000 at Stoke, even 4000 troughed up to Huddersfield on a cold January afternoon, engrossed by the meagre whiff of cup glory. There is nothing like winning a major trophy, and being the biggest bridesmaids in football, you would think our fans would know that – is there a bigger club to have never won this competition than us? In four finals, we’ve suffered four defeats, a soul-crushing record.

So, my question to those who would prefer to finish 17th over winning the FA Cup this season is; are you mad?! We have spent half of our history in the top flight but we’ve never won this tournament, the greatest domestic cup competition in the entire world. Sure, away games next season at The Valley and Ewood Park would be a big come down from this season’s league outings but winning the cup could mean an overdue shot at revenge against Atletico – well, that particular scenario is a long shot but we will be back in Europe nonetheless.

Now the competition has been blown wide open with the eliminations of Chelsea, Manchester City and of course, Tottenham Hotspur, we would be senseless not to go all out to win it. Of course, the prevailing point is; we don’t actually have to choose, we could achieve both objectives and that’s exactly what we should try to do. Neither are a distraction, neither are hindrances to the other. Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth aren’t where they are now because they won the FA Cup that’s for certain.

But if I had to choose I would say; let’s stop being a nearly club and win the FA cup, we’ve come as close as you can to the country’s two biggest honours – and now’s the time to be opportunistic. Memories of avoiding relegation will eventually dwindle in to obscurity, especially given how many relegation skirmishes we have endured as a club, but silverware on the other hand lasts eternally. So, if you really still think 17th is of greater prestige then I’m thoroughly mystified. Come on Leicester; we’re staying up and we’ll win the cup!

The Beautiful Game of Ugly Morality

Ched Evans has failed yet again to gain a contract at one of England’s Football League clubs. Oldham Athletic’s board today backed out of negotiations, presumably due to pressure from sponsors and fans – it seems clear to me that this is the right decision for football but what isn’t clear is why there is so much support for Ched Evans to return to the ‘beautiful game’.

Of course, there is a band of loyal Ched Evans fans who like himself protest his innocence at every opportunity, and to an extent it’s perfectly fine to hold that opinion. But when, it comes to making decisions about his future, it simply isn’t. If Ched Evans is innocent then he can appeal to the courts and amend it legally, but for now he is a convicted rapist. He was found to be guilty by a jury of people with far more knowledge of the case than the vast majority of us, so really we are powerless to submit to their superior knowledge on the matter – let’s face it, a conspiracy theory can be floated about literally anything. It’s for this reason that this post will continue to consider Ched Evans a rapist until it is proven otherwise.

Then there are those who dispute the classification of rape. For reasons I’ve already explained, I won’t delve too far in to the intricacies of the case but sex with someone who doesn’t consent is rape, not just somebody who says ‘no’. Some people have even cited instances of other convicted footballers returning to their playing careers, like Lee Hughes, as reasons for Ched Evans to do the same. Does that really make it right? Just because someone has made an error in judgement previously we should do the same again? That is no sort of logic, it’s immature and puerile.

Other myths surrounding Evans’ case have too arisen as attempts to ‘debunk’ those fighting against his return to football are coming under fire online.  Ched Evans has not completed his punishment, his five-year sentence is only half-way complete, meaning currently he’s on license. He is out of prison but he doesn’t currently have the freedoms of the average Briton and won’t do for some time either.

It’s important to make this clear too; Ched Evans should be rehabilitated. But our definitions of restorative justice need to be defied. Rehabilitation does not mean picking up where you left off. Rape is a callous, corrupting and serious crime, and for that reason an offender cannot presume to strut back in to a comfortable existence once released from prison – his victim has been afforded no such scenario and she is the victim of this crime, not Ched Evans. He hasn’t had to move homes and change identities five times because he was deemed to have been sexually attacked. Why we’re on this subject, should Ian Watkins be handed a record deal when he leaves prison? Should we grant Rolf Harris his own talk show on release? Ched should be able to resume his life but not from the lofty heights from which he fell, there’s a ladder to climb, and like offenders from every areas of work, he has to start at the bottom.

Rape is not a crime that should ever be curtailed. Regardless of what we, as outsiders to the trial have surmised, he was found guilty of rape. That is the simple fact. Now, having been freed from prison having served half of his short sentence, he should be able to go about his life. But that does not entitle him to a career in football. People are grumbling about the alleged ‘bias’ against Ched Evans because he’s a footballer but that’s actually the opposite of what is being displayed. Any other position in the country that commands that wage, influence or effect on children would not be left vacant for a convicted criminal of such a revolting crime – in fact even football stewards wouldn’t be allowed by law to return to their job if found guilty of rape, why should footballers? Ched Evans has no lawful nor ethical right to waltz back in to a cushy lifestyle. In the eyes of jury, he forfeited that when he was adjudicated to have violated another person against their will. In truth, this is indicative of a larger problem in football where there are no holds barred. For some, homophobia, racism, sexism and now rape are acceptable in the morally bankrupt world of football. Maybe our game isn’t so ‘beautiful’ after all.

Leicester City’s Top 10 Greatest Managers

It’s one of the classic debates had between fans of every football club the nation over. Yes, we all know who’s going to win this ranking but let’s at least revel in his nine runners-up before we once again bask in the greatness of City’s greatest ever manger as chosen by the fans.

 10. David Halliday

Average rating: 5.21/10
Win rate: 64-27-54 (44.14%)
Tenure: 1955–8

Accolades: 1956–7 Second Division Champions

In truth, Halliday’s reign at Leicester City wasn’t too eventful. Whilst he did guide the Foxes to their fourth of a record seven second tier titles in 1957 following a successful spell as manager of Aberdeen. During his stint at Filbert Street, Halliday got the Foxes firing presiding over the career of legend Arthur Rowley in a championship winning season that saw the Foxes set a club record 109 goals. But perhaps, despite a solid but unremarkable record at the Foxes, his lasting legacy will be laying the foundations for what would be Leicester’s longest stint in the top-flight. In fact, Filbert Street would be Halliday’s final footballing destination. Following his exit from the manager’s role in 1958, he retired from football management and passed away some twelve years later.

 9. Frank O’Farrell

Average rating: 5.9/10
Win rate: 51-28-35 (44.74%)
Tenure: 1968–71

Accolades: 1970–71 Second Division Champions, 1969 FA Cup finalists

Frank O’Farrell’s tenure was all too typical of Leicester City’s history overall. Under the Irishmen’s tutelage, City experienced relegation, winning the second tier and of course FA Cup final defeat. Of course, those three eventualities seem to define City’s existence but O’Farrell can take great pleasure in being the only manager to lead the Foxes to all three before swanning off to emerging European giants Manchester United in 1972.

8. Jock Wallace

Average rating: 6.46/10
Win rate: 69-51-69 (36.51%)
Tenure: 1978–82

Accolades: 1979–80 Second Division Champions

Whilst widely regarded as one of Rangers’ best ever managers, Wallace’s City career was slightly less glamorous. The Scot was famous for the brutal, in your face style of management he employed, scaring the wits out of Gary Lineker during his tenure. Wallace led City to yet another second tier title and a famous double over European Champions Liverpool, who had gone 85 games unbeaten at Anfield at the time, despite this feat City were relegated that season but not without pulling off what would be the biggest transfer in the club’s history; an audacious bid for Johan Cryuff.

7. Brian Little

Average rating: 6.51/10
Win rate: 76-58-54 (42.70%)
Tenure: 1991–94

Accolades: Promotion to the Premier League 1993–94

Brian Little never brought any real hardware to Filbert Way. But he did set up the Leicester City pitch at Wembley that would last throughout the 1990s, meaning only England played at the famous ground more in that decade. Little transformed the hapless Foxes from a side waiting for their first relegation to the third tier in to play-off finalists three years running. The memories of heartbreaking near misses against Blackburn Rovers and Swindon Town were all made worth it, when Brian Little’s side silenced the Rams in 1994, giving Leicester their first ever promotion to the newly found Premier League.

6. Peter Hodge

Average rating: 6.69/10
Win rate: 159-110-141 (38.78%)
Tenure: 1919–26, 1932–34

Accolades: 1924–25 Second Division Champions

It seems fitting that City’s first ever manager go down as one of their best. Back in their early years, the Foxes were a club slapped with a small-time label; low attendances, struggling in the second tier, occasional applications for re-election and so forth. When money worries hit the club, Leicester did away with the use of footballing boards and secretaries in managing the team appointing Hodge as their first ever leader. During a difficult socio-economic period, Hodge brought stability to the club and team. In his first stint, Hodge led the Foxes to their first ever promotion, first ever league title and trebled home attendances. When he rejoined Leicester from Manchester City in 1932, he took the club to their first ever FA Cup final before taking ill over one Summer. He died 18 days after relinquishing the manager’s post.

5. Willie Orr

Average rating: 7.1/10
Win rate: 131-78-126 (39.10%)
Tenure: 1926–32
Accolades: 1928–29 First Division Runners-up

Willie Orr was the manager bookended by Peter Hodge. In his first three seasons at the club, City set a new highest ever league finish, going from 7th in the top flight to 3rd to runners-up in 1929, a record that remains intact today. Orr built on the work started by Peter Hodge and managed the side to a close second to then-named the Wednesday, in true Leicester fashion, they were on course to win the title for much of the season but didn’t quite make it. Form didn’t stay with the Foxes though and Willie Orr bowed out allowing Peter Hodge to return and pick up where he left off.

4. Nigel Pearson

Average rating: 7.72/10
Win rate: 130-64-73 (48.69%)
Tenure: 2008–10, 2011–
Accolades: 2008–09 Football League One Champions, 2013–14 Football League Championship Champions

Current leader Nigel Pearson is one of the best. Before the Foxes, Pearson’s experience as manager was minimal but he was still able to guide the declining Foxes out of the painfully unfamiliar third tier and in style, before guiding the Foxes to the record-breaking seventh second tier title in his second stint. In fact, breaking records was a real feat for Leicester last season when the Foxes smashed points totals, winning runs, consecutive away wins records among many others. In fact, in all of Pearson’s full seasons so far, the Foxes have claimed a top six finish, although we can all agree we won’t achieve that this season, having  finally landed back in the top-flight. As being responsible for a quarter of the club’s league titles, Pearson also boasts the highest win rate of any of the club’s longest serving manager too. And if you can’t appreciate these achievements you can “f**k off and die!”

3. Jimmy Bloomfield

Average rating: 7.74/10
Win rate: 85-104-96 (29.82%)
Tenure: 1971–7

The fact Jimmy Bloomfield has reached the top three is remarkable given his distinct lack of accolades, however this is a strong case to place him in the bronze medal position. During the early 1970s, Bloomfield was able to fashion a Leicester side renowned for flair, skill and free-flowing football, whilst running the team on a shoestring budget. Legends like Frank Worthington, Lenny Glover and Keith Weller were all apart of the side that dazzled the top flight for six years. If there was any doubts about the substance to Bloomfield’s attractive side then note that Leicester were relegated as the bottom club the season after his departure.

2. Matt Gillies

Average rating: 7.77/10
Win rate: 201-123-184 (39.57%)
Tenure: 1958–68
Accolades: 1964 League Cup winners, 1965 League Cup runners-up, 1961 FA Cup runners-up, 1963 FA Cup runners-up

The best of the rest is Leicester’s longest serving manager, Matt Gillies. The savvy Scot led to Leicester to more cup finals than any other manager in history, winning admiration from esteemed contemporaries like Sir Matt Busby and Bill Shankly in the process. In fact, had City not been cursed by being a nearly club, the Foxes may have had three more major trophies to boast about today. In fact, had Gillies been able to carry Leicester over the line, he may have been a place better off. But still, Gillies’ reign was filled with successes, he was the first manager to lead the Foxes in to Europe, where typically they were unstuck by the pesky Atletico Madrid. If all of this wasn’t enough, when Gillies walked out on the Foxes after a dispute with the board, he went up the A46 and relegated Nottingham Forest. Happy days.

 

1. Martin O’Neill

Average rating: 9.09/10
Win rate: 85-68-70 (38.12%)
Tenure: 1995–2000
Accolades: 1997 League Cup winners, 2000 League Cup winners, 1999 League Cup runners-up

Shock horror! From “O’Neill out” to “Don’t Go Martin”. O’Neill’s stewardship at Leicester City is considered something of a fairytale on Filbert Way some twenty years on. Having fashioned an unlucky winning run that took City towards the most valuable shin in football and a place in the Premier League, it was only up from there. The Foxes would go on to rock the Premier League, picking up memorable wins such as the 5–2 thrashing of Sunderland, the 4–0 away romp at Pride Park and the infamous 3–3 at home to Arsenal. O’Neill’s efficient side practically established a monopoly over the League Cup, reaching three finals in five years, and winning two of them. Martin O’Neill was simply never going to be beaten in this race, having been responsible for the most enjoyable period of the Foxes’ recent history and two of the club’s three major trophies, he is rightfully considered Leicester City’s greatest ever manager.

Pearson, Sort it Out!

Currently, there’s a widespread feeling of confusion at Filbert Way. After an impressive haul of eight points against Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea, Stoke and Manchester United, the Foxes have failed to pick up more than a solitary point against less fancied outfits Crystal Palace, Burnley, Newcastle, Swansea and West Brom – as well as high-flying Southampton. Begging the question; what on earth has happened to Leicester City?

I’m not usually a fan of phrases like “typical Leicester” or “classic City”. They’re constantly used with pessimistic connotations and are synonymous with the sort of banally arrogant fatalism that’s spouted by nearly every football fan the nation over. However, Leicester’s recent glitch does seem to resonate with our rather regrettable tradition of helping those on a bad run – be they Newcastle, Swansea or Shane Long. At least, that’s all I thought it was until one point in four became one point in five which then became one point in six.

Last season, Leicester were a beacon of stability. The formidable system of 4-4-2 was seldom tinkered with, and the same could be said for the personnel. Crucially, it seemed the Championship’s big-hitters of last term; Leicester, Burnley, Derby etc., all used the fewest amount of players in the league. Consistency in selection led to consistent results.

I’m sure monotony, as you may dub it, is quite in tune with City manager Nigel Pearson’s appearance. However, in recent weeks he seems to have deviated from that image. Leicester have started their last six games in no less than five different systems with the starting eleven from the previous game failing to survive intact for the next game once.

Under-pressure… Nigel Pearson’s tactics have been slated by many Leicester fans

And as much as I admire his work at the club thus far, Nigel Pearson ought to take a sizeable portion of the culpability for the recent blip. The manager’s defensive and dismissive attitude when it comes to discussing tactics with the media has been challenged lately as he’s been keener to explore different set-ups – it appears Pearson may have bought in to the anti-4-4-2 rhetoric of the Premier League’s experts. Persistent tinkering is surely counter-productive, particularly when that very tinkering has the side lining up to match West Bromwich Albion’s threat at home. Talks of a confidence crisis have been rife on City forums, and with the manager not placing ample faith in his side to undo Albion playing to their strengths there would be no surprise if there was some substance to it.

There too have been repeated calls of a reversion to Leicester’s favoured 4-4-2 system, to include more width in to the side’s play, be it tactically en vogue or not.  City’s strikers that started the most recent league outing at St. Mary’s, Leonardo Ulloa and Jamie Vardy have scored six goals between them this season, all of them, bar a penalty against Manchester United have come from wide positions. In fact, since Pearson sacrificed width for whatever he feels the side has gained since, I can barely remember the pair having a shot on target between them.

On top of this, the Foxes seem content enough to continually invite pressure on themselves away from home, looking to absorb any threat and then cannon the ball back out to the opposition – at least we appear to have learned the art of defending set pieces, not that we could score one at the other end in a month of Sundays. Simply put though, Leicester are not good enough to play the containing game away from home and consistently pick up points. Our best players are attackers, and as clichéd as it sounds, they need to be a form of defence for us away from home as much as the defenders do.

Cursed… The out-of-form Foxes have been unlucky in recent weeks

Don’t get me wrong, Nigel Pearson has been a superb manager for the club and to want his dismissal at this moment in time would be lunacy but his decisions of late have definitely raised eyebrows. His persistence with isolating previously free-scoring Leonardo Ulloa up top and his desire to transform our best striker in Jamie Vardy in to a makeshift winger have been thoroughly ineffective and ultimately a waste of time. It seems clear to everyone in the stands that Nigel needs to discover his best eleven and start playing to our strengths, home and away – like he said he was going to before the start of the current campaign.

Of course, it’s also true that this slump is not all the manager’s fault. The current Leicester team(s) haven’t really looked like scoring in their last six matches, summed up perfectly by Chris Wood’s unthinkable miss on the South Coast. On top of that, our passing game has been erratic, rushed and panicked for weeks. Leicester’s attacking and defensive strengths seem to be depreciating simultaneously but despite it not being all down to Nigel Pearson – it’s his job to fix it.

However, it’s important to remember that the sides that fought gallantly against the country’s footballing elite are all still here, they just need to be unearthed again. Maybe, it’s time to do away with what others think and go and play Leicester City’s game, and perhaps, in Football Manager terms switch the mentality from ‘contain’ back to ‘counter’ away from home– it wasn’t working too badly in August and September. I’m not having the suggestion that we aren’t good enough for this level because we are – we’ve seen it, it just needs to be reproduced again and again. But with all this being said, it’s imperative we as fans don’t lose hope and our patience with Nigel Pearson – he’ll sort it all out with time to spare, and so will the players.

Football is in Debt to its LGBT Fans

It’s 2014 and there are still no openly LGBT people in English football. Not a manager, a player, nor even a physio. Other sporting organisations in the traditionally more conservative United States such as the NFL and the WWE and even Rugby Union and cricket here are streets ahead of ‘the beautiful game’ when it comes to equality.

Homophobia is still a huge problem in English football. The FA and the 92 league clubs are, in my opinion doing little to combat anti-LGBT perceptions on the pitch and in the stands. When I corresponded with the FA, they were proud to boast of several initiatives they had backed including Opening Doors and Joining In and Football vs. Homophobia. Other than placing their name on a few programs, the visibility of the FA’s work is scarce to say the least. In fact, the campaigns they allegedly support haven’t had much success with England’s top clubs either. Just over a quarter of the ninety-two Premier League and Football League clubs are signed up to the Football vs. Homophobia campaign.

The FA has had numerous opportunities to avow its pledge to opposing homophobia but refuses to comment on the provocative choices of Russia and Qatar for the following two World Cups. Sadly, it seems there was greater tumult in the footballing world, when it was alleged that the decision was the product of a payoff rather than the fact the bribers were from a country that incarcerates homosexuals?

The biggest problem is the non-existence of ‘out’ footballing personnel – and the absence of transparency. In recent years, high-profile names such as Thomas Hitzlsperger and Robbie Rogers have come out as gay. The former waited until he was retired to do so and the latter felt he’d be safer from abuse and judgement in the United States, where social conservatism is almost sacred. If that doesn’t highlight the problem then I don’t know what will.

Just this week Malky Mackay and Iain Moody were accused of sending homophobic texts as well as racist and sexist ones, using phrases such as ‘independently minded young homo’ and ‘gay snake’. Imagine being a young gay footballer working under people with those views. In a truly appalling follow-up the League Manager’s Association dismissed Mackay’s and Moody’s heinous behaviour as ‘banter’ and the pair ‘blowing off steam’. Football doesn’t take the issue seriously. Last season, footballers and managers were given the opportunity to showcase their support for LGBT people in football by supporting Paddy Power and Stonewall’s Right Behind Gay Footballers rainbow laces campaign but most didn’t lace up. Only one player from my club did so, which is demoralising – every player in the top six divisions received the laces for free.

It’s important that fans, players and footballing bodies alike make LGBT players feel comfortable to not hide who they are. A recent poll found that 73% of English fans would accept a gay player in either their club or national team, even when we account for demand characteristics and social desirability bias; we can be nigh on certain that the majority of football fans would embrace or at least tolerate more LGBT personnel in the English game. So, we need to ask ourselves why players are still so petrified.

It’s time for football to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. It’s not enough to say you’re anti-homophobia but do nothing about it. The FA, the Premier League and the Football League need to introduce high visibility initiatives to make gay footballers feel safe enough to ‘come out’ and hopefully soon – that’s the best way to rid the game of homophobia. For too long, football fans have put banter ahead of equality, shoddily made Richard Keys vines ahead of an all-encompassing environment. Seriously, it’s 2014. There are more openly gay active NFL players and WWE wrestlers than there are openly gay players in English football. Our sport may be the world’s best but when it comes to a Premier League for equality; football is doing a Derby County.

Can the FA Cup Final be England’s ‘Super Bowl’?

A little over a week ago, the sports world basked in the occasion of the 48th annual Super Bowl.  The Seattle Seahawks embarrassed the Denver Broncos, dispatching them 43-8. Most of us on this side of the pond will have already forgotten that scoreline, but the spectacle itself will remain a little fresher in our minds.

In truth, the Super Bowl is more than just an American football match. It’s an occasion. The NFL have managed to fuse sports and culture perfectly to make it an event that the whole country is enveloped in regardless of their individual interest in sports.  People gather, TV stations change their schedule and the whole nation, for a day or two, is gripped by one singular sporting event. For instance, the Super Bowl has a grand history of spectacular half-time shows including performances from Beyonce, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and more. Coupled with its corporate tradition of debuting spectacular adverts during the many intervals from play, there is genuinely plenty on offer to entertain all sorts of people.

Prominent… The NFL’s showcase game regularly draws in over 100 million US viewers. [Photo: Wikipedia]

The FA Cup final is the obvious contender to compare with the Super Bowl for English sport. A famous tournament of the nation’s favourite sport, settled by one single game that airs on terrestrial television. In fact, the comparisons end there. Now, I’m not saying that I want the FA to fervently promote the final by shoving Jessie J on the pitch at half-time, in a feckless attempt to maintain any interest in the event. But I do think Britain’s footballing body could do more to make the FA Cup final a bigger occasion on a national scale. There’s no reason why the FA Cup final can’t be an experience that grips the entirety of England in the days leading up to the event. There’s certainly no need for us to try and emulate the Super Bowl to too great an extent. The cacophonous pageantry of American Football and the orgulousness required to call the winners of a domestic trophy ‘world champions’ is not found on these shores but their blue print for sporting spectacles is certainly to be admired.

Super Bowl XLVIII brough in 111.5 million viewers for Fox last Sunday night meaning around 35% of the USA was tuning in, making it the most watched television broadcast in the nation’s history. In stark contrast, the most recent FA Cup final which saw Wigan Athletic upset the odds to beat Manchester City was viewed by 4.10 million on ITV (8% of England), being outperformed that week by an episode of Off Their Rockers and Paul O’Grady: For The Love of Dogs. It’s not like a boost in attention for the FA Cup final wouldn’t favour TV channels, if American trends are anything to go by. Fox’s comedy New Girl received 26 million viewers, an 867% increase in viewership on it’s season average.

Overlooked: FA Cup Finals are convincingly outperformed by entertainment variety shows. [Photo: Wikipedia]

Unfortunately, the FA Cup is a distant after thought behind the much preferred league campaigns, which I can certainly appreciate. England has two cup competitions. The Football League Cup has long been disregarded by the ‘bigger clubs’ unless they reach the latter stages; only then do they usually field their strongest sides. Even Championship clubs see that tournament as a chance for squad rotation. In recent years, the FA Cup has been heading in the same direction with many clubs simply not trying to compete, illustrated by falling attendances and of course ‘weakened’ squads.

It’s not like England wouldn’t embrace a grander spectacle, we see how much football fever takes hold of the nation every time the European Championships and World Cup roll around. And, it’s certainly not beyond us to forge such a special sporting event, given the overwhelming success of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. In theory, everything is in place for the FA Cup final to be a truly global sporting event. We really ought to be giving English football’s grandest competition a less bathetic climax, otherwise what is the point? But, until the FA and indeed the football clubs themselves start to take the world’s oldest football tournament seriously; it’s likely to remain a distant dream.

(Thank you to Kyle Andrews for helping with this article. Read his stuff; chrispowellsflatcap.wordpress.com)

Against Modern Fads

If you follow English football on Twitter, you’ll know how difficult it is to go thirty minutes without a disgruntled fan lambasting ‘modern football’.  In fact, the term ‘against modern football’ has become somewhat of an internet cliché. The phrase seems to encompass every thing from soft red cards to obscure mascots and is essentially a persistently minor protest against the modern adaptation of the world’s favourite sport.

A lot of the major criticisms of ‘modern football’ are the increasing expenditure of following a club, the almost identical new-style stadia and the lack of atmosphere they produce. It’s fair to say that these are all fair comments and something many football fans share a disliking of. Others bemoan the influence of broadcasting giants, BSkyB in determining untraditional kick-off times instead of the standard Saturday 3pm start. As silly and banal as some of these issues seem, they genuinely matter to many a football fan, even leading to the popularisation of flares at football matches in tune with Eastern European footballing traditions that are similar to English football’s in the 1970s and 80s.

Modern stadium… The home of Cardiff City

However, many don’t consider the ridiculousness of attacking the entire institution of modern football. Many seem oblivious to the fact that emulating football support from forty years ago is also a promotion of hooliganism and intolerance. Others forget that modern football is also superior as a game with huge advancements in facilities paying dividends in creating a more entertaining sport with fitter players.  A deluded sense of nostalgia seems to be the culprit in this absurd movement to disestablish everything football has evolved into.  On the other hand, naive ‘bandwagoning’ from the younger generations may be at fault. I for one would guess that most of the ‘AMF’ crowd are under the age of twenty. In fact, most older football fans I know love ‘modern football’.

In reality, ‘against modern football’ is nothing but an irritating catchphrase used by fans who choose to ignore the historic flaws of the game we love. Sure, we would all like cheaper match tickets, better atmosphere and maybe less characterless stadiums but ignoring that, there isn’t much wrong with the current game. In fact, modern football isn’t something to be opposed at all, it’s something to be embraced.