Sunday, January 29, 2012

TU people needs Peoples



An idea of the Brandon Peoples' running style.

Just by sheer dumb luck, I ran into Brandon Peoples the other night.
I was coming out of the LA Fitness Center and holding the door right in front of me was a young man wearing an Archbishop Wood jacket and "B. Peoples" across the back.
"Welcome to Temple," I blurted out.
He flashed a broad smile and an inquistive look.
"How'd you know that?" he asked.
I told him I'm a big Temple football fan.
We shook hands.

Potential TU backups at RB


(numbers represent rushing figures during each player's final high school season while playing the tailback position:
Kenny Harper, Gainesville (Fla.) Buchholz (2010) _ 17 carries, 179 yards, three touchdowns (mostly played defense).
Brandon Peoples
Darius Johnson, Philadelphia Overbrook (2007) _ 147 carries, 1051 yards, nine touchdowns (his last high school year was indeed 2007).
Brandon Peoples, Archbishop Wood (2011) _ 103 carries, 1,013 yards, 22 touchdowns.
Spencer Reid, Harriton (2010) _ 142 carries, 960 yards, 12 touchdowns.
Note: Khalif Herbin and Jalen Fitzpatrick, currently tabbed as slot receivers, had the most mind-boggling senior year rushing stats but those came out of the quarterback position. Herbin (Montclair, N.J.), had 105 carries, 1,950 yards and 43 touchdowns. Fitzpatrick, from Harrisburg, finished his senior year with 1,116 yards rushing with 13 TDs on 115 carries.
Sources: tedsilary.com, pennlive.com, NJ.com., Gainesville Sun.

"Good luck, man," I said.
"Thanks," he said.
(Geez, I should have asked him if he was related to Gary Peoples. I used to play fullcourt noontime pickup basketball 20 or so years ago at the Doylestown YMCA with a great player from Abington named Gary Peoples. The next time I see Brandon, I will ask.)
If I had left LA Fitness five SECONDS later or five seconds earlier, I might have never crossed paths with Brandon Peoples until he arrived at Temple. Funny how those things happen. Heck, I did not even know he worked out at the same place I do. (And I only go to that LA Fitness because they have the TVs attached to the cardio machines.)
Meanwhile, I've thought about that "good luck" remark for the past couple of days.
A real smart man once said that luck is result of opportunity and hard work.
It appears to me now that the opportunity part is right there for Brandon Peoples.
Matty Brown is the No. 1 back and he's earned it. Heck, I might be prejudiced by I think Matty Brown is the best running back in the Mid-American Conference by far and that's not an indictment of the MAC as it is my belief that Matty is THAT good.
The opportunity comes right behind Brown and that's where Peoples comes into play.
Right now, Temple's backups at tailback are (in no particular order) Spencer Reid, Jalen Fitzpatrick, Kenny Harper and Darius Johnson. None of them had particular distinguished high school careers running the football.
Peoples, on the other hand, did have an outstanding career running the football.
What was that Bill Parcells said?
Oh  yeah: "The best predictor of future success is past success." (I wish Al Golden would have consulted that mantra before signing Vaughn Charlton, but that's a whole other story.)
Temple is about to sign a megastar in Montrell Dobbs, but it appears as though Dobbs won't be eligible for the 2012 season.
It does not look like that Addazio will reach out and get a big-time JUCO at the last minute, like Tiger Powell of Lake City, Fla.
That leaves the incoming recruits, led by Peoples.
I used to get Brandon and his cousin, Desmond, confused.
They both have the same last name.
They both played for Archbishop Wood.
I solved that by associating Brandon Peoples with another BP (Bernard Pierce).
If this BP has even half the career the other BP had, Temple's peoples (fans) will be pleased.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Source: RU leaning toward Flood

Call me naive, but I believe him.
In a perfect world, Steve Addazio would take the microphone at halftime at today's St. Joseph's University at Temple basketball game and say something like:
"I was offered an opportunity to interview for the head coaching job at Rutgers yesterday and I declined. I'm not going anywhere. Temple is where I wanted to be all along and this university is better-positioned to do great things than Rutgers."
Cue the thunderous applause from the 10,006 fans in attendance.
Band breaks out into T for Temple U.
Students storm the court at halftime to slap Daz on the back.
Owls finish up their rout of St. Joe.
As we all know this is not a perfect world and that probably won't happen.
(Don't say I didn't throw the suggestion out there, though.)
Still, Temple fans should calm down.
I have a good friend who I worked with here, now working in North Jersey, who said his paper is earlier today was about  to break the story that Florida International University (FIU) coach Mario Cristobal will accept the head coaching job. If that fails, current assistant Kyle Flood would be the fall-back choice.
Now it looks like Cristobal doesn't see the Rutgers' job as the Alabama of the North (only Rutgers' fans are that delusional) and he's going to pass.
That opens up the, err, floodgates for Flood.
Flood would not be the big splash RU fans are looking for but Greg Schiano's leaving for Tampa Bay made the timing bad all around.
Pernetti was given permission to speak with Addazio, but that never made it past the phone call stage according to my source.
The guy is a first-rate reporter and I believe him.
Still, I long for the days when Temple football had coaches like Harry Litwack, John Chaney and Fran Dunphy, guys who see  the Owls as a destination not just a step along the way.
I long for the days when Temple football had a guy like Bruce Arians, who did not take the Virginia Tech job when it was flat-out offered to him (not just an interview), saying, "I couldn't leave my Temple kids."
I long for the days when we had a guy like Wayne Hardin, who turned down the offensive coordinators' job with the Dallas Cowboys to stay and do big things at Temple.
Before the game with Wyoming, Steve Addazio said he was that kind of guy, saying that he loved Temple and could see this as his last stop.
I sense that Steve is different than Al Golden in that he is principled and loyal enough not to leave after one year at Temple.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hero - The Official Film of the 1986 FIFA World Cup


Mexico 86! Again?  Sorry... I don’t just cut 'n' paste these articles you know, but given my football nostalgia begins at this juncture, it’s no real surprise it’s a common reference point.

Anyway, there was a World Cup held in Mexico in 1986 and, as with all World Cups since 1966, FIFA produced an official film. You could tell it was an official FIFA product as it was supplied in a brown envelope and cost £300K in used notes plus a vote in some bidding process. Ha! Satire!  Hello, is this thing on? Sorry... again...

And so to the film, and we begin with footage of Maradona (the Hero you see) gliding through the England defence on his way to score what became the 'Goal of the Century' accompanied by what some may call a cod-Aztec synth riff, closely followed by the mandatory-for-the-mid-80s, syn-drums. This was 1986. Rick Wakeman was providing the soundtrack. Prog rock may have been dead, but keyboards were very much alive. "Worldmark Soccer International Presents" a "Challis / Maylan Production"- "Hero - The Official Film of XIII World Cup..."

The film itself begins by covering the devastating earthquake that so nearly cost the country host status only eight months prior to the tournament’s opening match. To this day it remains a great credit to Mexico recovering in such a short space of time. Contrast that with the current situation in Brazil, who’ve so far struggled just to build the infrastructure needed, let alone rebuild any of it. Stirring music plays as the story is told, then as kids play soccer in the streets, contrasted with footgage of "local boy" Hugo Sanchez in Mexico's first match of the finals, the keyboards are back with a vengeance. A much longed for Sanchez goal brings understandably jubilant scenes in Mexico's still ravaged streets.
(NB I'd embed the YouTube video, but Blogger can't find it...it can find Part 2 though!)

After that it's headlong into the bit we all came for; the football, narrated here by Michael Caine doing his best Michael Caine from The Italian Job impression. Greats like Francescoli and Laudrup are showcased in Denmark's mauling of Uruguay, then we link nicely to Denmark's own downfall at the hands of Spain. It’s at this point that the fact this is a ‘film’ as opposed to a record of the event comes to the fore, as a narrative, a story arc, must be forged. To this end, instead of following the tournament in a vaguely chronological fashion, the film details the various routes taken by the more notable teams.

While this approach may provide some dramatic tension, albeit tension somewhat deflated by the keyboard tinklings of Mr. Wakeman, it does leave one with a rather disjointed view of the whole affair.  It also suffers from arc-crash, which is a term I’ve just made up. What I mean is, they follow a certain team down their route to the final, e.g. Argentina. However, Argentina play England in the quarter final, so then we have to jump back to the first round to cover England’s progress to said match.

This method of storytelling, while effective, means that Maradona (the Hero, remember) doesn't feature 'til nearly 20 minutes in and England some while later. As I say, it makes a change from the usual method, but it does often leave you wondering which round you’re watching... and why. Then again, if you want more comprehensive coverage of every goal scored, you may want to track down a copy of ‘Every Goal of Mexico 86’ - though having watched it, I’d advise against it, graced as it is by Martin Tyler in full on ‘reading from the script auto-pilot monotone’ mode and poor man's synth track played through a pillow.

As well as the storyline flying all over the place, the soundtrack also takes a similar flight path, though appears to crash into several objects on its way, such is the jarring nature of it at times. This happens in the form of teams having their own little signature tune, meaning every time, say, France appear, we are treated to a shot of the crowd chanting about their beloved 'Bleus.' This chant isn’t seamlessly blended into the soundtrack however - rather it smashes into it at high speed, meaning the classic quarter final and nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out between France and Brazil is played out to a soundscape that bolts together Mexican Cheese Synth, Cockney narration, “VIVA, VIVA, VIVA LES BLEUS! VIVA!!!” and “Loooooo, lo looooo, lo loooooo, lo lo BRAZIL!”

In spite of these issues, the football itself is served up very well with lots of quality footage, plenty of time given to the stand out teams and matches and goals and replays given the right balance between ‘Ooh let’s see that again’ and the more modern phenomenon of ‘What did that goal look like from the POV of a passing crow?’

To summarise, yes it has its idiosyncrasies and has a distinctly cheesy feeling, but Hero is still a very entertaining watch and does manage to tell the story of Mexico 86 well. The FIFA films do seem to capture the nature of the tournament, with Hero being all bright colours and hard, midday shadows, contrasting nicely with the Official Film of the 1990 World Cup - Soccer Shootout - a much more sombre affair.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Soccerboss / Goal! / Wembley ad, 1969


We wonder what the 'scientific approach' was that was used in 'Goal'? Anyone got any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Joe Paterno and Temple

Joe Paterno and Wayne Hardin promote series.
By Mike Gibson
Every death is an incredibly sad thing, but I can't help but think Joe Paterno's passing on Sunday was sadder than most.
Paterno was faced with reporting a repugnant crime, something none of us ever even think about, and he went to someone who was effectively the head of the Penn State police department.
I thought he did his duty.
He could have done more and, in retrospect, he would have done more.
I don't think that should erase all of the wonderful things he did for Penn State in particular and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in general.
The true measure of a man is how many people whose lives he has touched in a positive way and I think Paterno more than met the measure.
I've never even been aware of a man who came into contact, directly or indirectly, through more Pennsylvanians than Joe Paterno.
My colleague at the Inquirer and fellow Temple News sports editor, Joe Juliano, often told me great stories of the "off-the-record" cocktail parties for Penn State beat writers. Paterno held them at his modest home a block or two away from Beaver Stadium. I wish I could tell you some of those stories, but off the record means off the record to me.
Even after the man's death.
Paterno would have a cocktail or two and loosen up, giving the reporters a more human side of the legend.
When it comes to Temple, I have my own Paterno story.
As I young Temple fan, I read an anecdote that appeared, ironically enough, in a Bill Conlin column in  in the Philadelphia Daily News about Temple signing a deal to play Penn State beginning in 1975.
"The guy who scheduled Temple must have been drunk," Conlin quoted Paterno as saying, referring to the PSU athletic director at the time.
Who knows, maybe Conlin both picked up the quote at one of those cocktail parties and violated a confidence mentioning the exchange.
I have a strong suspicion both of the above are correct.
Either way, the remark stirred enough of my fuel that I wrote Paterno a letter (back in those days we wrote handwritten letters), detailing how improved Temple was and that the Owls would be a worthy foe.
Paterno wrote me a letter back, also handwritten, and admitted to the quote but said he was first against the idea but, upon refection, thought the series would be a "great gift to our wonderful Philadelphia alumni."
(Originally, the plan was to play all of the games in Philadelphia but that changed when the first one ended in a 26-25 win for Penn State at Franklin Field in 1975.)
At the end of the letter, Paterno wrote:
"Good luck to Temple."
I wish I had saved it but, to the best of my knowledge, it was in a shoe box I lost in one of my many moves since.
Later, while working at the Doylestown Intelligencer, I fielded a call every Thursday morning from Paterno to Terry Nau, the sports editor of the Intel at that time. Nau and Paterno were friends from State College, where Nau was sports editor of the defunct daily the Pennsylvania Mirror.
I was floored when he first called.
"Hold on, Mr. Paterno," I said.
"Mike, it's Joe," Paterno said.
"OK, here's Terry."
On one of the calls, I mentioned to him that I wrote him a letter as a kid about the resumption of the Temple series and thanked him for his handwritten response.
He said he remembered. He might have just said that, but I chose to think he really did remember.
Love the guy, but always wanted to beat him just once to get back for the drunk comment.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Auburn gets a great OC in Scot Loeffler



Scot Loeffler's first press conference at Auburn starts at 0:30 timestamp.




If you are an Auburn football fan, you've got to be feeling pretty good today.
Heck, you might not know who Scot Loeffler is but, trust me, you've got to be feeling pretty good today.
The most unpopular guy on a struggling football offense is either the starting quarterback or the offensive coordinator.
Scot Loeffler was Temple's offensive coordinator for one season and all you need to know is that every Owl fan loved the guy and the plays he called.
That came one year after EVERYBODY hated the guy who preceded him, Matt Rhule. (Well, everybody loved the guy but hated the plays he called and the overall offensive scheme, which was bleeped up for want of a better term.)
Rhule's offense, broken into its most basic terms, was this:
First down _ Handoff to Bernard Pierce (or Matt Brown);
Second down _ Handoff to Bernard Pierce (or Matt Brown);
Third down _ Pass (usually resulting in a sack);
Fourth down _ Punt.
The second page of Matt Rhule's playbook is illustrated in the graphic here. All you need to know is that the graphic was made by the most precocious 17-year-old Owl fan ever. And there was not one long-time Owl fan sitting in the stands who disagreed with him. The only person I came across who supported Rhule was the father of a Rhule recruit and I run into a lot of Owl fans. Even more importantly, I know what I see and smell and it didn't pass the vision and smell test with Rhule.
Loeffler passed with flying colors.
For one year at least, Loeffler injected some imagination into the offense.
The Matt Rhule offense
Egad, passes on first down, a waggle to a talented tight end to open things up for an NFL running back.
Second down runs.
Touchdowns.
Who would have thought?
The Rhule Apologists  say it was because Al Golden was a micromanager.
I'm not buying it.
I sincerely hope that Addazio doesn't promote Rhule to his old job. Matt would be much more valuable in the role of special teams' head coach.
We need a new guy in charge of the offense.
Otherwise, it'll be Matty Brown left, Matty Brown right and an incomplete pass on third down.
That's not my idea of an offense.
Fortunately, it won't be that way for Auburn fans this fall. I expect Loeffler will see what the defense gives him and take it.
I also, sadly, fully expect Daz to hire Matt Rhule as his new offensive coordinator. Rhule's title was "co-offensive coordinator" this season if that's any clue.
My fervent hope is that he does not change that to sole offensive coordinator.
Daz, your move. Show me you are a better CEO than Al Golden.


This play will work with Alex Jackson next season, too.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Recruiting heads into the home stretch



Khalif Herbin is about two inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than Matty Brown. Otherwise, the two games are very similar as you can see here.



Khalif Herbin's 2011 rushing stats

College football has evolved in the last 20 years in a lot of ways I'm not all that excited about.
One of the ways is the BCS and the power that group of schools have over the other half of the schools who attempt to play FBS football.
It's not fair when six conferences get automatic bids into BCS games while the conferences on the outside looking in have to go without a loss even to be considered for a seat at the table.
Not fair at all.
It's particularly disconcerning that one of the few "good" rules curtailing that kind of power was overturned two years ago surrounding  bowl games. Back then, in the good old days, a 6-6 BCS team could not be considered for a bowl over a 7-5 team, no matter what conference you come from. Likewise, a 7-5 team over an 8-4 team and so on and so forth.
The BCS schools, naturally, got together to overturn that rule.
Not fair again.
Recruiting has evolved pretty much the same way.
Non-BCS staffs can work their asses off to assemble a recruiting class to be proud of, only to see the BCS vultures swipe in at the last minute and snatch some of their best recruits away.
Not fair again, but get the trend here?
So I take recruiting with a very large grain (make that boulder) of salt when it comes to Temple football.
As excited as I was for some of Al Golden's classes, I learned to wait until the ink is dry on the dotted line before assessing the harvest.
Golden spent five years here pushing that rock uphill and he did a pretty darn good job, even though Addazio flattened him with it when he "stole" Tyler Murphy away from Temple.
In those days, Addazio was pushing the rock downhill as Florida's top recruiter.
The closest I ever came to contacting a recruit came was when a top-flight one was considering Temple three years ago.
I heard he committed, but I wanted to make sure so I dashed off an email to a sports writer I knew in that state. I'll call him Doug because that's his name.
"Geez, his father was a boyhood friend of mine," Doug said, "why don't you ask him? Here's his phone number and his email."
"You sure it's OK?"
"Yeah, he's a good guy and a  straight-shooter."
My colleague Doug was right and the kid did sign at Temple after all and the father turned out to be a good guy from the get-go.
Still is.
That was the closest I came and still it didn't feel right, so I stay out of the process altogether now.
I believe all fans should do likewise, even in these days of instantaneous social media.
Generally speaking, though, I'll be a little more excited to see a tailback who can hit the home run like Bernard Pierce or a pass rusher who can put a quarterback on his ass like Adrian Robinson than I would recruits at, say, other positions.
That's the kind of immediate help Temple needs now.
Temple's got maybe the best quarterback in the league in Chris Coyer and the best tailback in Matty Brown, but I see a huge dropoff behind Brown that needs to be addressed with this class. If Montrell Dobbs or Khalif Herbin can get eligible and play right away, it has been addressed. If not, another home run hitter needs to be brought into the fold.
When it comes to recruiting individual players, I'm of the firm belief that  fans should be seen and not heard.
Not only does it border on NCAA violations, it's a big waste of time until Feb. 1.
That's the day when the faxes arrive with the signatures on the dotted line.
That's when I get excited.
The way the field is tilted so heavily against the non-BCS schools, the only thing you can do is root for Steve Addazio and company to bring in the best class possible.
Pushing that boulder uphill after years of rolling it downhill is a hard-enough task.

Subbuteo World (Catalogue I), 1979

For just ten of your British pennies, this catalogue could have been yours in the late 1970's, a small price to pay for the unfettered joy that lay within. Twenty-four half-size pages filled with every possible football team, accessory and Subbuteo set was displayed in full colour and capable of generating so much excitement in the juvenile mind that there barely seemed any point in buying the stuff at all.

I say that because this was a doorway into the realms of fantasy that any young football fan would have genuinely relished. Inside we get The Subbuteo Story, a history of the table soccer game in three paragraphs that reminded the reader how this simple pastime had grown and grown over more than three decades.

There was How to play Subbuteo, a worthwhile prĂ©cis for the newcomer that basically says 'flick the players to move the ball to score goals.' Well you never know – this could have been read by a girl, conceivably.

We see six different Subbuteo Soccer sets available to purchase, each with a differing array of components and each aimed at a variety of budgets. Whether you wanted a basic Display Edition (teams, balls, goals but no pitch) or the full Stadium Edition (containing teams, a pitch, balls, floodlights, ball boys, a scoreboard and a section of grandstand), you couldn't help but let your mind boggle at the choice on offer.

But all of that was nothing compared to the main feature of this catalogue and many others (to say nothing of wallcharts) – the six pages featuring 322 Subbuteo teams in all their myriad colours and patterns. How many hours must have been lost by the thousands of kids gazing in wonderment at the regimented rows of vivid and bright figures before them. Some were familiar, others less so but they were never unfamiliar for long. A quick check of the 6-page index would quickly tell you that the team wearing red and white quartered shirts with red socks and shorts was actually the Italian club Rimini - a team you were never likely to buy but you wouldn't have left out of the catalogue for all the world.

At the back, there were pictures of all the things you could buy to personalise your Subbuteo collection beyond comprehension. Tournament goals, 'live action' goalkeepers (spring-loaded, of course), TV camera crews – hell, even the World Cup itself if you were prepared to squint a bit. And if football wasn't your thing, why not pay the 10p anyway and check out the Subbuteo Rugby and Cricket sets. The enormous cricket-bat-on-a-stick and the oversized ball seemed a little bit odd, but then, like rugby, cricket was for strange people anyway.

And that was that, except for one final note: this was the first of two near-identical Subbuteo catalogues produced in 1979. The other was released later in the year and was different in only one small detail – it had the Iran national football team in its listings. Never let it be said that Subbuteo didn't cater for all tastes.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Two Owls on Fox Sports Network

Temple's photogenic and effective offensive line in the waning moments of Kent State game.
(thanks for the photos, Cyrus)

The mom/son firm of Kroboth, Tribue, Kroboth, Tribue.
This completely slipped my mind because I've always associated college all-star football games with Saturday afternoons after the BCS national title game but two Temple Owls, Kevin Kroboth and Wayne Tribue, are on the field now (1/16/12) in the Casino Del Sol All-Star game in Phoenix.
The game is being carried on Fox Sports Network is 722 (Comcast) in Philadelphia.
The game started at 9 p.m., Philadelphia time, and should be over by midnight. If you miss it Monday night, keep checking that Fox Sports Network channel. They will replay it at times this week.
It's on different channels if you have Verizon Fios, Direct TV and Dish TV.
Kroboth and Tribue kick off the "draft geek" season where everyone from Mel Kiper to the kid living in his mom's basement can make their own evaluations against that of the NFL experts.
Already, Temple tight end Evan Rodriguez is getting rave reviews for his play on the first day of practice at the East-West Shrine game in Tampa, Fla.
Right now, if I had to bet, Bernard Pierce and Evan Rodriguez will definitely be drafted and Adrian Robinson will go anywhere in that 4-6 range as an OLB.
Pierce is a third-rounder. ERod could go as high as fourth.
Derek Dennis, Wayne Tribue and Kee-ayre Griffin could also be drafted as well.
I see Kroboth as a seventh-rounder or a free agent and I'm sure Stephen Johnson will get a shot somewhere. Joey Jones and Rod Streater can play pro somewhere, be it in the NFL, CFL or Arena League.
That's what these all-star games are for to sort most of this out.
The nice thing is that they are easy to spot on Fox Sports Network as both are wearing the familar Temple T with their same college numbers, Kroboth wearing 37 and Tribue 69.
Here is a complete list of their East roster teammates. The roster was the only one I could find on the internet and had to take a photo of it, so it's a little blurry but you can still make out the names.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Big Match: Manchester United (DVD)

For those of you who aren’t in the know, The Big Match is a wonderful range of DVDs containing footage from ITV’s football archives. The DVDs, made by ILC Media, typically focus on an individual club and a selection of TV games they appeared in from the late-1960’s through to the early-1980’s.

From the nostalgist’s point of view, this set provides everything you could possibly want: bags of brilliant football action, all the original titles and signature tunes, plus the inimitable Brian Moore introducing each of the games. Each disc also comes complete with a bonus set of items culled from the records featuring Moore, Jimmy Hill and Jim Rosenthal discussing tactics, interviewing players and reading viewer’s letters. There’s also a generous helping of the sort of humorous clips that gave the show a friendlier, more relaxed feel than its BBC rival, Match of the Day.

Putting those bonus features aside, let's first take a look at The Big Match: Manchester United, released back in 2009. There are 14 match highlights to watch (see details below), starting with a 2-1 win for United over Arsenal that's notable for being Peter Marinello's debut for The Gunners.

The Next George Best?

As the fresh-faced Brian Moore told us after the game, Marinello was once nicknamed 'the next George Best' although the player was at pains to tell people he was 'the first Peter Marinello.' Given the celebrity spotlight and heavy drinking he endured during his time in London, it's probably fair to say Marinello was ultimately wider of the mark than those people that judged him.

The next match, from the tail end of the 1970-71 season, was United's trip to Crystal Palace which seemed to generate just as much excitement off the pitch as on it. To begin, Brian Moore told us that the Greek national side were in the UK to play England in a friendly and had opted to watch this match at Selhurst Park rather than see Arsenal or West Ham. Their decision, we're told, was made squarely on the basis of wanting to see George Best in action – a shrewdness of judgement borne out by Best's brace in a 5-3 win.

Shooting practice at Palace

After the match, Moore told us that 'he always thought Palace were a fair minded club but they were disappointed to lose a match they thought they'd win.' Was the famous commentator being brutal in his assessment of the South London club?  Not a bit of it. Unbeknown to us, Moore was just teeing up a short, humorous clip edited together by the boys in VT.

Cut to a number of tanks trundling around the perimeter of the Selhurst Park pitch firing at randomly chosen United players that were seen writhing on the ground in agony.

We can only presume there had been some sort of military hardware demonstration on the day of the game and The Big Match, being what it was, couldn't pass up an opportunity to make it look like Palace had sent the tanks out to blast away at the United players. Weird, but pleasing in a 'couldn't-happen-in-this-day-and-age' sort of way.

A gradual slide

The first few highlights packages we see on the DVD show Man United as a team in transition at the start of the 70's. Although the big names such as Best, Law and Charlton were still around, so too were a number of lesser-known players long since consigned to the history books. By the time the 1974-75 season rolled around, United were only a shadow of the side that had won the European Cup six years earlier and they now found themselves in Division Two.

A new order emerged for United, destined as they were to make an immediate return to Division One under Tommy Docherty. We get to see his transitional side in an exciting 4-4 draw at Hillsborough during which Lou Macari (2), Ron Davies and Stewart Houston all got on the scoresheet, but these were worrying times on the terraces.

The hooligan element

When Bernard Shaw scored to put Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 up, many Manchester United fans ran onto the pitch. Commentator Keith Macklin concluded that this was another attempt to deliberately get a game postponed as had happened in a previous Man United match against Newcastle United. On this occasion at least, the rowdy fans were cleared and the game was allowed to continue.

The next clip showed a resurgent United brushing aside Birmingham City in January 1976, but it was the frosty post-match interview that caught the eye on this occasion. Birmingham's Archie Stiles had been sent off for aggressive behaviour towards Alex Forsyth and this prompted Tommy Docherty to tell Gerald Sinstadt that this was a growing trend in the modern game. He even went so far as to suggest that the media weren't highlighting the problem enough and told the commentator that TV companies were editing out most of the violent incidents to give a false impression of how things really were.

A big miss

In general terms, Brian Moore was only ever absent from his comfy studio chair once a year, and that was for the Christmas edition of The Big Match. On those occasions, the presenting duties were handed over to a well-known player of the day or, as was the case in 1976, Elton John. In January 1978, however, presenting duties were handed over to Dickie Davies (presumably because Moore was ill) and we get to see the World of Sport presenter being his usual professional self on the DVD as he introduces a match between Derby and Man United.

The clip from the 1979-80 season is something of a collector's item in that it shows Kenny Dalglish providing arguably the miss of the century at Old Trafford. With the score at 1-1, Liverpool were on the attack and Alan Hansen had the ball at his feet. Seeing the United defence push up in a regimented fashion, the future Match of the Day presenter played the ball over the top and ran onto it, thereby beating the offside trap. Hansen was left with only the United keeper to beat but he unselfishly passed to his team mate, Dalglish.

In so doing, Dalglish was flagged offside, but the Scottish international striker was unaware of this and duly shot into an empty net… but missed. Manchester United went on to win the match 2-1 yet for Liverpool it was difficult to know who was more at fault – Hansen for passing to his offside teammate or Dalglish for being so poor with his shooting.



Captain Marvel arrives

The rest of the highlights footage sees United slowly emerging from Liverpool's shadow, beginning with Bryan Robson signing for United on the Old Trafford pitch before their match against Wolves in October 1981. The DVD ends with a rousing 4-0 win for the Red Devils at home to Notts County in which Robson, Norman Whiteside, Frank Stapleton and Mike Duxbury all make their mark.

United's journey from the days of Best and Charlton through a traumatic relegation and back to being a big hitter in Division One again is chronicled wonderfully well here and like all the other DVDs in the collection, it gives a great overview of a fascinating period in football history. We'll be looking at more DVDs from The Big Match collection on The Football Attic in the not-too-distant future.

The Big Match: Manchester United is available from Amazon.co.uk and all other reputable DVD outlets.

Games featured:
1969-70: Man United 2-1 Arsenal ; 1970-71: Crystal Palace 3-5 Man United; 1971-72: Coventry 2-3 Man United; 1972-73: Man United 3-0 Derby; 1973-74: Man United 2-2 Chelsea; 1974-75: Sheffield Wednesday 4-4 Man United; 1975-76: Man United 3-1 Birmingham; 1976-77: Man United 3-1 Man City; 1977-78: Ipswich 1-2  Man United; 1978-79: Derby 1-3 Man United; 1979-80: Man United 2-1 Liverpool; 1980-81: Nottm Forest 1-2 Man United; 1981-82: Man United 5-0 Wolves; 1982-83: Man United 4-0 Notts County.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Montrell Dobbs Show Debuts



Montville rival coach speaks in glowing terms of Montrell Dobbs.
"He's got to be the most in-shape athlete I've ever seen in any sport in the state."
_ Montville coach Tanner
Grove, speaking about
Ansonia's Montrell Dobbs
About this time last week, I was lamenting how Temple could lose a guy named Bernard to the NFL draft while a guy named Montee returned to Wisconsin for his senior year.
Never mind the guy named Montee was rated higher than Bernard in every statistical and other rating category and therefore had MORE to lose than Bernard by returning to college. Bernard Pierce is rated as a high third-round pick. Montee Ball would have gone in the first round.
Well, a lot has happened in a week.
A couple of days ago, Temple got a full Montee as in a Montrell.
We don't know if Temple's Montrell Dobbs will be as good or better than Bernard but, judging on their high school stats, Dobbs outperformed Pierce in a number of categories.
While Pierce's stats were impressive as a high school senior at Glen Mills (1,356 yards, 26 touchdowns), Dobbs' 45 touchdowns were literally off the charts (see accompanying chart).
Temple Football Fun Fact
Owls finished ahead of the University of Florida, Notre Dame and Miami (Fla.) in the final USA Top 25 poll. Owls had two votes, Notre Dame and Florida one and Miami zero (sorry, Al Golden).
We don't know how good a high school league Dobbs played in, but he followed that up with 1,227 yards and 21 touchdowns on a prep school level rated at about a JUCO level.
That's a pretty good level of football.
Add in the fact that Dobbs, like Pierce, is a 4.5-40 speedster and appears to have Paul Palmer-type durability (he even had a few games over 50 carries) and this just might be the best pickup of the Steve Addazio Era (and he's had a few good ones).
Dobbs told the Stamford Advocate that he's "real excited" about coming to Temple. The only person more excited about Montrell Dobbs coming to Temple is me because a top-flight running back should have been Temple's No. 1 priority in this class from the get-go and Dobbs fits the bill.
Since he's a partial qualifier, getting Dobbs on the field ASAP to play the same role Pierce played with Matty Brown now becomes urgent.

Montrell Dobbs' senior year transcript from Ansonia (Conn.) High.

Addazio appears to have addressed that  by having Dobbs enroll on Jan. 17 where he can work with Temple's excellent staff of academic advisors to come up to 4.5 speed in the classroom as well.
Al Golden once told me that the formula for winning in the MAC is pretty easy.
"Trust your eyes on most guys, but get five or six guys per class who were wanted by BCS schools," Golden said. "To win in the MAC, you've got to have BCS-level talent at the key positions."
When Temple ripped off that long winning streak in 2009 (stopped when Bernard Pierce got injured), I felt for the most part I was watching a BCS team play in a FCS league.
With Temple's recruiting advantages over the other MAC schools, that's the way it's got to be going forward.
Addazio seems to have gotten a lot of guys wanted by the Old Dominions and the Akrons, but is finally showing signs of getting guys wanted by the UConns.
Golden had a handful of guys offered (not just wanted) by BCS schools every year. Adrian Robinson was offered by Pitt. Kee-ayre Griffin was offered by Boston College. Kadeem Custis was offered by West Virginia. Evan Rodriguez actually played at West Virginia before transferring to Temple.
And those are just some examples.
Now Addazio has a marquee player offered by UConn.
By recruiting a quarterback who was wanted by Ohio State (which made an offer based on a visit) in Chris Coyer, Golden finally filled that key position and Temple fans finally saw the value of that scholarship this year.
Dobbs was wanted by UConn and signed with that school a year ago before going the prep school route.
Running back is a key position as well but, unlike quarterback, it is a position where impacts are made right away.
Montrell Dobbs has all the measurables to make an impact right away.
It should be a show worth watching.

"Get your popcorn ready. It's gonna be a show."
_T.O.
(ok, nuke the popcorn first and then come back and click on the video below.)



This is how you break all of Shady McCoy's rushing records at Milford Academy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What can Daz do for Brown?

Bernard Pierce and Matty Brown react after Bill Bradshaw tells them about ordering gloves with the Temple T on the palm side.

Social scientists a lot smarter than I am give the three stages of grief as disbelief, disintegration and reintegration.
No doubt when you lose your favorite player from your favorite team as I did last week, there is an element of grief involved and I experienced all of those stages of grief in a relatively short time.
I'm in the reintegration stage, though, because while I grieve over Bernard Pierce's loss, Matty Brown has always been my second-favorite player.


No truth to the rumor that this is how the team reacted
when Daz said Spencer Reid was replacing Bernard Pierce.
Bernie and The Bug are gone as a team but the bug is still here. Yet he cannot carry the running game alone, just as Bernie could not carry the running game alone.
At the end of December, head coach Steve Addazio threw out these names as possible sidekicks to Brown next year:
Jalen Fitzpatrick, Darius Johnson, Kenny Harper and Spencer Reid.
Sorry, Steve, I'm not buying it.
Fitzpatrick was a quarterback in high school and never played running back before. Johnson was an undistinguished and pedestrian running back in the Philadelphia Public League, quite possibly the worst high school football league in the state of Pennsylvania. Reid was given a scholarship as a running back despite running a painfully slow 4.6 40, making him slower than two of the Owls' three starting linebackers last year. (Heck, I still think his dad could have afforded a full ride to Temple, saving that scholarship for, say, Ryan Brumfield.) Kenny Harper was better known as a safety in high school for Gainesville (Fla.) Buchholz and, quite frankly, did not EVEN REMOTELY show me any flashes of either Pierce or Brown on the limited number of carries he had at that position last year. I sincerely hope that when Justin Gildea moves from strong safety to free safety Harper will slide into the starting strong safety position next year. Both players could be All-MAC on defense right away.
Fitzpatrick would be perfect to slide into Joey Jones' slot receiver spot. Deon Miller returns as one starting wide receiver and the Owls can chose from a whole lot of good options at the other WR, including playmaker Ryan Alderman.
My No. 1 solution would be for Temple to go out and find a big-time stud JUCO running back who is ready to go both on the field and in the classroom. Someone who has Bernard Pierce's vision, speed, moves and quick burst to the outside.
Maybe that someone is Tiger Powell of Lake City, Fla.
Maybe it is someone else.
If Temple is not going to sign a big-time stud JUCO running back who is ready to go next year, there are better options available (some involve shuffling of personnel from offense to defense):

Brandon Peoples, Archbishop Wood _ It's tough to ask an incoming freshman to make an impact right away but Brandon has the right initials. Another BP had 268 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-24 win at Navy as a true freshman, so maybe Brandon can duplicate that effort. He's 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, though. Pierce is 6-1, 218. Peoples is not competing for the PIAA state 100-meter dash championship. At Peoples' age, Pierce won it.

Nate Smith, like BP, has a nose for the goal line.
Nate Smith, current starting linebacker candidate _ This is my personal choice on the current team to help out Matty Brown, leaving the two current linebacker starters in place. Smith has the size (6-0, 220) of Pierce and is just a tenth of a second slower than Pierce. As a senior at Highland Park (N.J.), he was unstoppable, rushing for 2,442 yards and 32 touchdowns. That's five more touchdowns than Bernard Pierce scored for Temple in this record-breaking year. Brother of former Philadelphia Eagle L.J. Smith so he's got very good bloodlines.  Nate has been a lifelong Owl, going from the Highland Park Owls to the Temple Owls.

Wyatt Benson (6-0, 215), current starting fullback _ Benson, a blocker extraordinaire, could play his current position and pick up five to 10 carries a game to take some of the rushing load off Brown and quarterback Chris Coyer. He finished his prep career at Haverford School (the Inter-Ac, unlike the Public, is a GREAT high school league) with 663 rushing yards, 217 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.

Ahkeem Smith, current starting linebacker _ Started out as a backup running back to both Pierce and Brown at Temple. As a senior at Bethlehem Liberty, was a superstar running back in a great Lehigh Valley League with 27 touchdowns and 1,837 yards in his senior year. Showed the current coaches his running ability by scoring a touchdown against Buffalo on a fake punt.

Blaze Caponegro, current starting linebacker _ The 2008 Shore Conference Player of the Year ran for 350 yards against Manasquan (yes, that was 350 yards in just one game), scoring five touchdowns. So he knows how to run the football.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

BP is gone, but not forgotten

This great photo of BP's final home game turned out to be prophetic.
Photo by Mike Edwards

Section 121, Row 22, seat 1 just got a whole lot quieter today and the season is still nine months away.
Bernard Pierce declared for the NFL draft, according to the Associated Press late Thursday night.
The noise coming from that seat for the last three years was a loud "GIVE THE BALL TO THE FRANCHISE!" and The Franchise was Bernard Pierce.
Now the franchise will have to be Matty Brown.


"We're going to keep moving along. We're going to have a good football team. That's going to happen."
_ Steve Addazio
As much as I love Matty Brown's game, we saw all too well the limitations Brown had in the final two games of the 2010 season. With Pierce out injured and the box loaded, Brown was largely ineffective against Ohio and at Miami and the Owls lost their final two games.
Have things changed since?
We will find out soon enough.
I can't be as enthusiastic about giving the ball to Brown 25 times a game as I was adamant about giving the ball that much to Pierce.
So while I will be cheering for Brown like mad, he's going to have to show me he can get the short yardage consistently if the defense is crazy enough to load the box against a Chris Coyer-quarterbacked team.
Brown's competitiveness should carry the day, but I also think Addazio's No. 1 recruiting priority is to grab a guy with Pierce's size, speed, vision and burst to the outside.
Good luck with that, Steve.
Why is it that Matt Barkley comes back at USC, Montee Ball comes back at Wisconsin, Landry Jones comes back at Oklahoma and Temple gets screwed by losing Bernard Pierce? Can't the "little guy" ever catch a break?

Brown's competitiveness should carry the running game on most days. That and the knowledge Coyer gives the Owls an added running dimension they did not have in the past five years.
"I kind of understand Matt now," Addazio said. "He's an emotional, competitive guy. Sometimes I put my arm around him and make sure he keeps it in perspective.
"I think he's the best back in the conference next year."
I'm kind of disappointed in Pierce's decision because it is part and parcel of the "rich get richer" mentality that is prevalent in college football today.
Why is it that Matt Barkley comes back at USC, Montee Ball comes back at Wisconsin, Landry Jones comes back at Oklahoma and Temple gets screwed by losing Bernard Pierce?
Can't the "little guy" ever catch a break?
It makes me want to scream.
All of those guys had more to lose than Bernard by coming back and they STILL made the decision to return.
Addazio made clear that he laid it on the table for Pierce, telling him to come back if he's not a first-round draft choice and letting him know that those who advised him otherwise had agendas.
Pierce won't be a first-round pick, but he's not coming back.
"What I'm not going to do is try to impose my will, I'm not doing that," Addazio said. "I'll support his decision. Those are personal decisions. We're going to keep moving along. We're going to have a good football team. That's going to happen."
I think Addazio just might be right. Temple will have a good football team without Bernard Pierce, but my nagging thought is that it would have had a great one with him.
Win them all and it becomes a moot point, but that's a high bar to set for a 5-foot-5, 150-pound guy.

Top Trumps: British Soccer Stars (1978/79)

Whenever anyone does a survey of the best children’s toys and games of all time, it’s always the same names that get mentioned – Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Castrate The Racist… well maybe not the last one, but you get the picture. No-one, however, stops to consider Top Trumps – surely the only card game that ever really attained ‘legend’ status among school children up and down the UK.

Before we get onto the specifics of the British Soccer Stars pack, it’s only right to consider what Top Trumps is all about and why it’s still held in such high regard to this day. Top Trumps is a brilliantly simple game for two or more people where each player is dealt an equal number of cards from a pack. The object of the game is to win all the cards from your opponents, and to do this players take turns to read out a statistic from their card in the hope that it’s ‘stronger’ than the equivalent one on their opponents’ cards. If it is, they win the cards for that round.

From the late 1970’s many packs started appearing in the shops and all of them were cheap enough for kids to buy with their meagre pocket money. All manner of subjects were covered from Dragsters to Military Aircraft but it was the football packs that allowed the average schoolboy (or girl) to indulge in their hunger for knowledge.

And so it was that the first of those football packs, Dubrecq’s British Soccer Stars, arrived on the scene in 1978 to brighten up the dullest of school breaktimes. The set contained 32 cards featuring the great and the not-so-great of English league football, classified across the five categories of International Appearances, International Goals, League Appearances, League Goals and Height.

It’s at this point one has to stop and wonder what the modern-day sets of football Top Trumps must be like in this era of Opta Stats and the media’s clinical dependency on significant data of any kind. To be honest, we’ve not looked at the current sets because they don’t enter our realm of nostalgia, but we wouldn’t mind betting that they probably have categories like ‘Kilometres run’ and ‘Passes completed.’ Such is the price to pay for progress, we suppose.

On the subject of height, you’d be more than happy if you were dealt a goalkeeper or two during a game, although in this set it was no guarantee of success. At 5’ 11½” Liverpool’s Ray Clemence seemed a dead cert to win you a hand, but you’d have overlooked Phil Thompson, Glen Hoddle (sic) or Paul Mariner at your peril. They were a full 6-feet tall, as was the other goalkeeper in the pack, Peter Shilton. Champion Top Trumpers take note.

The thing is, goalies were a complete liability in Top Trumps if it wasn’t your turn to call a category. If the lead player shouted out ‘International goals’ or ‘League goals’, you were instantly onto a hiding and by 1978 neither Shilton or Clemence had racked up that many International Appearances either.

In fact 1978 provided an interesting snapshot of the 'Old Guard' in the prime of their careers and a new wave of players starting to emerge. When it came to International Appearances, one of the worst cards to own was that of the aforementioned Glenn Hoddle. Still in his early-20’s, he didn’t make his England debut until 1979, so you could be sure one of your opponents would get the dubious honour of owning that card. Emlyn Hughes, on the other hand, reached the peak of his international career around the time this pack came out and was the best in that category with 49.

Hughes was also a big hitter in the League Appearances category along with Manchester United’s Martin Buchan. Once again however, Glenn Hoddle was the player to avoid with only 62 appearances to boast, compared to Buchan and Hughes who had more than four times that amount.

But such talk of statistical one-upmanship only accounted for part of the game’s appeal. Aside from all the facts and figures was the visual charm which, being the late-1970’s, could be summed up in one word: 'rudimentary'.

Yes, each card had a colour picture of each of the players and yes, each one had a circular inset showing a close-up of the player’s face, but it has to be said that the photography did at best leave a little to be desired. The wide shot of Ray Clemence, for example, is unflattering in its portrayal of the England goalkeeper’s obscured face in the main picture. Phil Thompson’s face can barely be seen at all (something he’s more than made up for by becoming a regular on Sky’s Soccer Saturday) while Mick Mills looks like the only player practicing keepy uppies at his local training pitch. As for those circular insets, we can only assume Ray Kennedy wasn’t given the stool to stand on that he’d asked for.

To be honest, we’re also at a bit of a loss to understand why some players had even been selected for this collection. Fine – pick Stanley Bowles, Ray ‘Butch’ Wilkins and Andy Gray if you must, but Peter Ward of Brighton? Clive Woods of Ipswich? Are these the actions of a true football fan or an agent keen to see get his client some much needed exposure?

We’ll probably never know and that’s no doubt for the best. We wouldn’t have asked such questions when we were nine years old and we shouldn’t ask them now. This was the game that captured the imagination of millions of young football fans and in updated form continues to do so today. Quirky and lo-tech, you can’t help but love it and long may it continue.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Eagles can only hope to be Temple TUFF



Steve Spagnuolo would be a Chuck Heater-type hiring for the Eagles and that's a  good thing.

On Sundays, I hang up my Temple garb, don the Eagles gear and head out to a local establishment to watch my second-favorite football team play.
I'm always promoting the Owls by word-of-mouth, though.
I never cease to be amazed by the outdated perceptions many Eagles' fans have of Temple football.
Watching the Eagles hammer the Jets, 45-19, an old guy sitting at the bar slid down his NFL title game ticket, circa 1960.
I mentioned how stupid it was for Andy Reid to hire Juan Castillo, a lifetime offensive line coach, as defensive coordinator.
"It's pretty bad," I said out loud, "when the Temple defensive coordinator is so much better than the Eagles' defensive coordinator, it's not even funny."
Most of the bar seemed to know who Chuck Heater was and the kind of job he was doing at Temple and nodded in agreement.
Not all, but most.
Occasionally, he will throw in a "Temple TUFF, baby" at his press conferences. That's as exciting as a Reid press conference gets to me, but I appreciate it.

Certainly not the old guy.
"Temple?" he said. "Do they still draw 3,000 for their games?"
I had to bite my tongue to be nice to this guy.
"I guess you don't read the newspapers anymore," I said. "Try 30,000. They almost averaged 30,000 this year. You can look it up. You should go. Their games are a lot more exciting than the Eagles' games."
"I didn't know that," the man said, apologetically.
Perceptions are pretty hard to break down, but I'm doing it one person at a time.
That's why I took Jeffrey Lurie's press conference today as a good sign.
Andy Reid will be back. He can break down outdated perceptions of Temple football a lot faster than I can because he has a much larger platform.
Reid is a good head coach who is a friend of Temple football.
I think he made a mistake in hiring his buddy, Castillo, but Reid is a pretty loyal guy.
That's a good sign for Temple as well.
Occasionally, he will throw in a "Temple TUFF, baby" at his press conferences.
That's as exciting as a Reid press conference gets to me, but I appreciate it.
I hope Reid follows up by hiring a good defensive coordinator who will make the Eagles Temple TUFF on defense once again.
Steve Spagnuolo, who was just fired in St. Louis, would be a good fit for the Birds.
If Spagnuolo can do the same type of job as Heater, both teams should have double-digit wins next season and I'll be able once again to wear the green as proudly as I always do the Cherry and White.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Shoot! 28 October 1978

The qualifying competition for the 1980 European Championships had just begun when this issue hit the shops. Shoot! covered the upcoming round of fixtures involving the home countries and devoted much of its content to it accordingly.

England v Republic of Ireland

Having already won 4-3 in Denmark, England were about to make their first trip to Dublin for 14 years. Ron Greenwood's men hadn't reached the finals of a major competition since 1970 and this appeared to be their best chance of doing so given the talent available.

The former West Ham boss had put the emphasis on attack against the Danes, a tactic that suited players like Kevin Keegan, Trevor Francis and Tony Woodcock, but the Ireland squad was widely regarded as the best one ever and were seen as worthy opponents. Player-manager Johnny Giles was able to choose from a wealth of new and established Football League stars such as Liam Brady, Steve Heighway and David O'Leary, yet England 'keeper Ray Clemence didn't see them as much of a threat when he wrote about them in his weekly column.

Clemence was quick to focus on Johnny Giles' playing role specifically. The former Leeds United star was 37 years old going into this match and the Liverpool number 1 noted how some Irish fans were asking Giles to step aside to allow someone younger to take his place. As it is, the Republic of Ireland stalwart brought much experience and a steadying influence to the squad and this bore fruit as Ireland went on to draw 1-1 with England in Dublin.

Scotland v Norway

Scotland, meanwhile, were adjusting to life under new manager Jock Stein. Following a disastrous World Cup campaign only a few months earlier, Ally McLeod had miraculously been given a vote of confidence by the Scottish FA and was allowed to start the Euro '80 qualifying competition. When his side then lost their first match 3-2 away to Austria, however, McLeod was relieved of his duties, allowing Stein to take his place.

Jock Stein was already perceived as something of a legend having guided Celtic to European Cup glory in 1967 – the first time a British club had won the competition – yet his reputation was called into question by writer Chris Davies.

Only 45 days earlier, Stein had taken on the manager's job at Leeds United but surprised the football world by performing a dramatic U-turn to lead the Scottish national team instead. Davies noted how Stein had often preached loyalty to his players in the past yet had now turned his back on the Elland Road club. Stein claimed his wife hadn't taken to their new life in Leeds, but this only prompted Davies to wonder how she could have developed such a dislike of the place in such a short space of time.

Stein had also said he felt unable to turn down the Scotland job on account of being so patriotic, yet he'd declined such an offer while acting as caretaker manager in 1965. All this was casting Stein in a less than favourable light, Davies concluded, to say nothing of the precarious nature Leeds were left in with no manager.

Stein went on to lead Scotland to a 3-2 win over Norway that week, but ultimately failed to maintain their form during the entire European qualifying campaign. Scotland finished next to bottom in their qualifying group below Belgium, Portugal and Austria when the competition ended 17 months later.

Tough times at Stamford Bridge

Domestically, the spotlight fell on Chelsea in more ways than one. Lumbering through a financial crisis, they'd seen gate receipts plummet after a couple of seasons spent in Division Two. Despite returning to the top flight in the 1977-78 season, their position looked vulnerable and an air of uncertainty had enveloped the club.

This was reflected in Ray Wilkins' regular column where he confided his inability to pinpoint the reasons behind Chelsea's poor run of form at the time. Though they were playing capably enough on their travels, Chelsea's performances at home were particularly poor. "We use the same formation but the ball is like a hot potato… no-one wants it" Wilkins remarked. The players were undoubtedly lacking in confidence and there was a need to be more professional, he went on to say.

A welcome distraction (to say nothing of a financial fillip) came in the form of a friendly match against New York Cosmos at Stamford Bridge a month earlier. The NASL outfit were on a European tour and had stopped off in West London to help The Blues generate some much-needed revenue.

A crowd of 40,000 turned up to see the match in which Johan Cruyff primarily caught the eye. Cruyff was invited to take part in the tour and was thought to be joining the New York club on a permanent basis having left Barcelona in the summer of 1978. Chelsea had also mounted a 'dramatic bid' for him according to Shoot! but his next move would be to Los Angeles Aztecs the following year. Meantime, Cruyff's show of skill and flair in the exhibition match against Chelsea earned him a place at the start of the opening title sequence of ITV's The Big Match as you can see here.

News Desk

In other news, Tottenham's Gerry Armstrong was expressing his dissatisfaction at the varying number of roles he found himself undertaking for the North London club. 'Play me up front - or let me go' ran the headline as the article reminded readers of Armstrong's many recent substitute appearances. Shoot! reported that Birmingham, Arsenal, Ipswich, Aston Villa, Luton and Fulham were all interested in the Northern Ireland international, but in fact he stayed at White Hart Lane until a move to Watford nearly two years later.

Manchester United, meanwhile, had posted a loss for the previous season of £290,349. This had been largely down to Dave Sexton splashing out £1 million on Leeds United pair Gordon McQueen and Joe Jordan, so we were led to believe, but United fans could sleep easy in their beds. The Manchester club had made sufficient enough profits over the previous three years to leave them with an overall profit of £624,468 – "just enough to buy Trevor Francis, if he should become available when he recovers from injury."

Regular features and colour pics

Finally, this issue of Shoot! contained many of its most well-known features including You Are The Ref ('Compiled by Clive Thomas'), Ask The Expert (a chance for readers to pit ridiculously dull trivia questions to the magazine's researchers in the hope of winning £1 for having their letter published) and Football Funnies (five cartoons that regularly challenged the Trades Descriptions Act and all selected by an invited football player of the day, in this case Manchester City's Peter Barnes).

Yet as everyone surely knows, Shoot! could always be relied upon to provide its readers with a liberal sprinkling of glossy colour photographs, and this edition was no exception. The middle pages contained part of a week-by-week pull-out booklet featuring top players from the home countries, this one including profiles of Scotland's Willie Donachie and Northern Ireland's Pat Rice. There was also a double-page spread showing snapshots from the last round of Euro '80 qualifying matches, but the back page was reserved for the obligatory team picture which this week took Stoke City as its subject.

The Potters were riding high in the Second Division at the time and would go on to gain promotion to the First Division at the end of the season, doing so with the barely believable combination of Garth Crooks and Howard Kendall among its roster list.