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Three Great Reads from Pitch Publishing

The FA Cup Miscellany by Michael Keane is an absolute treat for English football fans.

The FA Cup is something special and so is this book. They both have a incredibly charming quality.  The book has a little bit of everything put together in no certain order, while any team can win the FA Cup.

You hear about the first edition in the 1871/72 season where only a few of the original 15 teams are even recognizable today.  You’ll hear about the wacky teams that have played in the FA Cup over the years: Blyth Spartans, Bedlington Terriers, Thurnby Nirvana, and Billingham Synthonia.

You’ll even learn about Preston North End’s 26-0 defeat of Hyde United in 1887.  Great goals, great players, great games, that’s the FA Cup.

There is so much to learn and this book is a great place to start.

Newcastle United On This Day by David Potter is another one of our favorites.

This little book contains a “diary entry” for every day of the year, a little nugget of Newcastle history to be enjoyed by the club’s true supporters.  The history of the club is a bit like riding a rollercoaster, some highs, some lows, and a lot in between. This book captures that feeling in a big way. The highs are quite exciting thanks to great players like Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer.  The lows are centered around one word: relegation.

Today Newcastle sits in the middle, trying to stay up in the BPL and keeping the fight up against the big boys from Manchester, Liverpool, and Arsenal.  This book is a fantastic read that talks about what could have been and what has become reality for all of those that love Newcastle United.

Wolves’ Greatest Games by John Hendley is a special text for a special club, one that is overwhelming with history.  Yes, Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club is one of the England’s oldest clubs, having been founded in 1877.

Wolves were one of the original founders of the Football League, an early ancestor of the English Premier League.  They have even played at the same location, Molineux, for 100+ years.

The discussion of the great games is absolute magic, bringing up some of the best memories from the club’s long history.  There is a lot of history and a lot of great moments from the 1893 FA Cup Final to EPL matches in 2011.

I have to say it was entertaining to see the growth of the club (and English football for that matter) over the pages of the book.  Hendley gives great snapshots of matches, describing their importance and where they fit into the team’s history.  You encounter great managers, players, and of course the always supportive fans that stuck with the club in good times (dominance of the 1950s) to lows (being relegated out of the Premier League and then the Championship).

As the title suggests, these are three great reads from our friends at Pitch Publishing.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: A Cultural Analysis of Manchester United (Review)

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: A Cultural Analysis of Manchester United by Søren Frank stands out as a great Manchester United book.  Yes, Man U’s global popularity has led to dozens of books every year, but this one is just a bit different.

First things first, you don’t have to be a Manchester United supporter to enjoy this one.  It certainly wouldn’t hurt, but this is a football book for football fans.

Second, it covers the entire history of the club from humble beginnings to global supremacy.  You will hear about the legends of Billy Meredith and Matt Busby, but you will also hear about modern stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.

You will learn about Manchester United as a phoenix club, one that overcame bankruptcy in the early 1900s and the tragic Munich air disaster in 1958.  We’re talking resilience in a big way, rebuilding and getting stronger at the same time.

The book helps the reader understand the decisions made in the big moments: why David Moyes was the right pick to replace Sir Alex, why the team has been relevant for 100+ years, and why the club continues to grow and evolve.

It is an effortless and enjoyable read, a title that is worth taking a look at.  We enjoyed it considerably and that is saying something as we review several soccer titles each and every week.

English Football Q&A with Andrew Raeburn

1. What can we expect to see from Eastbourne Borough FC this season?

A bit more stability for a start. Last season, manager Tommy Widdrington’s first full season in charge, was very much one of transition. He swept away most of the squad from the previous regime, some of whom had been at the club for up to 10 years, and took time to establish which of his new players were worth keeping on. Results suffered as a result and they look were looking over their shoulder at the relegation zone for a bit, until a run of decent performances late in the season. By that time he’d already agreed longer-term contracts with key personnel and has built this season’s side around them. They have won three and drawn one of their opening four games to put them top of the Conference South, although it’s obviously very early days. Most supporters would be happy with a mid-table finish, especially as Borough are well down the league in terms of playing budget, but these early performances are sparking a little bit more optimism.

2. What can we expect from Brighton & Hove Albion? What did Dick Knight do for the club as a whole?

The acrimonious departure of Gus Poyet, who had transformed Brighton from a struggling third-tier side into a club challenging for promotion to the Premier League, leaves Brighton in a somewhat transitional state themselves. Poyet was universally lauded for his commitment to attractive football but was also criticised for not having a Plan B, something which cost them in their promotion playoff semi-final with archrivals Crystal Palace. The manner of his departure, amid rows with the board over unspecified breaches of his contract, split supporters down the middle but they are now having to unite behind new boss Oscar Garcia, a former coach of Barcelona’s youth sides. Brighton haven’t made the best of starts to the new season but if Garcia can get his ideas across to the players sooner rather than later, I wouldn’t rule out another bid for the playoffs. Knight will forever be held up as a hero at Brighton. A lifelong Albion fan, he became chairman in 1997 having led the campaign to remove the previous board after they sold the club’s Goldstone Ground home to property developers. He led them out of the financial wilderness and was in charge for 12 years until he sold up in 2009 to local poker millionaire Tony Bloom, who funded the £93 million Amex Stadium and other substantial investments on and off the pitch. Knight is now life president of the club and has a bar named after him in the stadium.

3. How concerned should fans be about a BBC report that a third of owners at Championship and League One clubs are considering selling in the next 12-18 months?

It certainly highlights the financial plight of some clubs in the Football League, who essentially make regular massive losses, propped up by shareholders and investors, as they chase promotion. I imagine most are talking hypothetically, if a buyout package was on the table, rather than actively looking to sell, but even so it’s a damning indictment of the way football is financed in this country.

4. What non-league teams should be looked at for making the jump to league football?

Most of the teams in the Conference Premier capable of mounting a serious promotion challenge are former League sides looking to bounce back. Barnet, now managed by former Dutch international Edgar Davids, have moved out of their historic Underhill stadium but don’t seem to be suffering a hangover from dropping out of League Two last season. Cambridge, Grimsby and Lincoln, three other former League clubs, have also made strong starts to the campaign. I certainly expect Grimsby to be a contender, but question marks remain over Cambridge and Lincoln’s consistency. Kidderminster, who aside from a five-year spell in the Football League in the early 2000s have nearly always been a traditional non-League club, are well-equipped for a playoff challenge, and I’d tip Forest Green Rovers, a small club backed by some decent money, as promotion challengers as well. Aldershot, in financial turmoil after their relegation from the League, will find it nigh-on impossible to make an instant return as they started the season saddled with a 10-point deduction.

5. What League 2 clubs might be in danger of relegation to the Conference Premier?

A very difficult question to answer. Accrington have shipped 10 goals in their first four games and may be in for a struggle, as might Dagenham, who only stayed up on the final day of last season. Hartlepool suffered a dismal campaign last year, finishing bottom of League One, and they will need to improve on their early showings to avoid a double dip. AFC Wimbledon look an improved side on last season, while the two newly-promoted sides, Newport and Mansfield, should finish in at least mid-table.

6. Why is non-league football important to the greater English game?

September 7th is the fourth annual Non-League Day, which aims to promote the ‘grassroots’ game to a wider audience. It is held on a weekend when there are no Premier League or Championship matches due to the international fixtures and many non-League clubs offer reduced (or in some cases free) entry to their matches to season ticket holders of Premier League/Championship clubs. Although being a football fan usually involves blind loyalty to ‘your’ side, many are turning their back on professional football as the costs of tickets/refreshments/travel spirals out of control. Those who have been priced out of going to watch top flight clubs often get their football fix more locally and non-League attendances are seeing a boost as a result.

NLD is gaining a higher profile each year, thanks to backing from many pro clubs and media organizations, and fans are encouraged to see what’s going on at a club near them which they may never have known existed.  What’s so attractive about non-League football is the community aspect of it. Bar the Conference Premier, the vast majority of non-League clubs are almost exclusively volunteer-run and you can get to know people at the club (including the players). Ticket prices are much more affordable (although still not cheap when you compare it to the level of football you can watch for the same price on mainland Europe) and you can often stand anywhere in the ground without the need for fussy stewards!

7. Finally how do you see the EPL finishing out? What teams could be headed for silverware and spots in Europe? Who is in danger of being relegated?

It is hard to look beyond the moneyed three of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea for the title - all three of whom have new managers at the helm of course. United virtually won the title last season by default, with other challengers falling away, but will face a much bigger test this season. David Moyes has stepped into the almost unfillable shoes of Sir Alex Ferguson and must first reassure his own fans that he is the right man to replace the legend in the Old Trafford hotseat. He has already come up against Jose Mourinho, now back at Chelsea, in a lifeless 0-0 draw which sadly failed to showcase the EPL in the way we’d hoped. Chelsea have plenty of attacking firepower, if Mourinho is prepared to unleash it, but they remain vulnerable at the back, particularly when talismanic skipper John Terry is missing. Manchester City have bolstered their squad under Manuel Pellegrini but defeat to newly-promoted Cardiff City in their second match has raised question marks over their defence. The expected world record sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid is funding a late transfer spree at Tottenham, who are shelling out £25.7m on Roma forward Erik Lamela and £8.5m on Romanian defender Vlad Chiriches. They will compete for fourth yet again with north London rivals Arsenal, who are yet to make a serious move in the transfer market this summer, much to the annoyance of their supporters. Liverpool look an improved side under Brendan Rodgers and seem likely to keep hold of striker Luis Suarez but they’re still short of Champions League qualification.

Of the newly-promoted sides, I can’t see Hull or Crystal Palace having enough to stay up but Cardiff have demonstrated their capabilities in beating Man City. The two bitter north east rivals, Newcastle and Sunderland, are also likely to struggle this season. Newcastle are in turmoil at present, with a bizarre internal battle between manager Alan Pardew, newly-installed director of football Joe Kinnear, and owner Mike Ashley being played out at the same time as they’re struggling with injuries and poor performances on the field. I don’t see Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio having the right character to lift a team out of relegation danger.

Andrew Raeburn is a freelance sports journalist and commentator who specializes in English football, particularly the non-League game. He also commentates on Champions League and Europa League matches for UEFA as well as live matches from leagues as diverse as Greece, Peru, and China and writes for the West London Sport and websites. Raeburn can be found on Twitter @andrew_raeburn or you can visit

The Origins of the Football League: The First Season by Mark Metcalf (Review)

Mark Metcalf’s The Origins of the Football League is one of the most fascinating soccer books I have ever read.  Metcalf’s diligent research gives us a firsthand look into the first season of England’s Football League, something that truly revolutionized the sport of soccer.

You hear about the challenges faced by those early footballers and the journalists that followed them. Uneven pitches, sketchy weather, unforgiving equipment, pitch invasions, uncertain referees, the list goes on and on. But the work they did gave us so much.  Simply put, we wouldn’t have the EPL without Football League founder William McGregor and the men that played in the first season.  They were truly pioneers of the beautiful game.

You’ll hear great stories, many from actual articles of the day.  You’ll learn about an invincible Preston side and lowly teams like Stoke and Notts County.

It’s amazing how far we have come. Top teams like Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, and Liverpool weren’t around for that first season. I guess you could say that Newton Heath FC got a mention in the book, but they were far from the global superpower that Man U is today.

There is even a register of players that were part of that first season.  We get a short bio of each player, telling us what they did in 1888-1889 and where their careers went from there.

The photos and newspaper clippings found throughout the book are priceless. They give us a rare glimpse into the early days of football in England.

As a bonus you get to hear about the 1888/89 FA Cup and Home International Championship.

This is a book that you must have if you love English football or are interested in the history of the beautiful game.  It is a great read that is incredibly enjoyable.

NBC Sports Group Rolls Out the Red Carpet for EPL Fans

NBC Sports Group today released channel assignments for the first three weeks of its television coverage beginning Saturday, August 17 at 7:00 AM ET on NBC Sports Network with the Liverpool-Stoke City matchup.

In addition, NBC Sports Group in the coming days will launch an interactive game finder (via to provide fans with details on how to find Premier League games on TV, online and on mobile devices, based upon where they live and their TV provider.

In the first three weeks, NBC and NBC Sports Network will televise 17 Premier League matches.  The remaining matches will be made available on Premier League Extra Time, a bonus television package available to MVPDs at no extra cost for customers who receive NBC Sports Network.

Lead play-by-play voice Arlo White joins former Premier League star and four-time league champion Lee Dixon to call the 12:30 PM ET Saturday matches on NBC in the first three weeks – Swansea-Manchester United on Aug. 17; Aston Villa-Liverpool on Aug. 24; and Crystal Palace-Sunderland on Aug. 31.

White teams with Graeme Le Saux, the former Premier League star who played in 36 international matches for England, to call two Sunday matches and one Monday game on NBC Sports Network in the first three weeks – Chelsea-Hull City at 11:00 AM ET on Sunday, Aug. 18; Manchester United-Chelsea at 3:00 PM ET on Monday, Aug. 26; and Liverpool-Manchester United at 8:30 AM ET on Sunday, Sept. 1.  Legendary U.K. footballer and presenter Gary Lineker will serve as a special contributor to NBC Sports Group’s Premier League coverage.

All matches will be preceded and followed by Premier League Live pre- and post-match shows from the NBC Sports Group International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn. Rebecca Lowe  hosts Premier League Live alongside former Jamaican National Team player Robbie Earle, former U.S. National Team midfielder Kyle Martino, and former English footballer Robbie Mustoe.

In addition, six matches in the season’s first three weeks will be telecast in Spanish by Telemundo and mun2 (listed in table below).

All Premier League games will be streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices and tablets. Games airing on NBC Sports Network will be live streamed via “TV Everywhere,” the media industry’s effort to make quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.

To date, AT&T U-verse®, Bright House Networks, Cablevision’s Optimum, Comcast’s Xfinity TV, Cox, DIRECTV, DISH, Mediacom, Suddenlink, and Time Warner Cable have opted to carry the additional Premier League matches via the Premier League Extra Time package, and AT&T U-verse, Cablevision’s Optimum, Charter, Comcast’s Xfinity TV, Cox, DIRECTV, DISH, Suddenlink and Verizon FiOS will make all Premier League games available through TV Everywhere. Additionally, over 100 NCTC partners have either signed-on to the Premier League Extra Time package or have opted-in via TV Everywhere, including Blue Ridge Communications, Buckeye CableSystem, CenturyLink Prism, and RCN. In some cases, the Premier League Extra Time package will be available in select markets.

Following are schedule highlights for the first three weeks of the Premier League season:

Saturday, August 17, 7:45 AM ET on NBCSN


NBC Sports Group’s first-ever telecast of Premier League action features the Liverpool-Stoke City matchup.

Saturday, August 17, 12:30 PM ET on NBC & mun 2


Manager David Moyes takes the reins of the Premier League’s most decorated team – returning champions Manchester United – from their legendary manager of over 26 years, Sir Alex Ferguson.   The Red Devils’ first test comes against a fiery Swansea side.

Sunday, August 18, 11:00 AM ET on NBCSN & mun2


Chelsea, last season’s third-place finishers, begin their campaign against newly promoted side, Hull City. Jose Mourinho, “the Special One,” is back as the Blues manager to the delight of the Chelsea faithful.  With an all-star international line-up, Chelsea will be looking for a strong showing  against the Tigers, whose quest to avoid a trip back to the Championship begins against one of the Premier League’s perennial powers.

Saturday, August 24, 10:00 AM ET on Premier League Extra Time


Stoke City, established in 1863, are the oldest club in the Premier League and in their first home match of the campaign, they host newly promoted London side Crystal Palace.  Stoke City were known for playing an aggressive, physical style of soccer but new manager Mark Hughes is looking to change that.  Playing against colorful manager Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace, that now boasts rising Spain star and exciting midfielder Jose Campaña, will provide an early measuring stick for both the Stoke team in transition and Palace’s rising star.

Monday, August 26, 3:00 PM ET on NBCSN


In just the second week of the campaign, last season’s first- and third-place finishers meet at the Premier League’s largest stadium, Manchester United’s Old Trafford.  Eight of the last nine Premier League titles have been won by either United or Chelsea and both clubs will be under tremendous scrutiny this season with new managers.

Sunday, September 1, 8:30 AM ET on NBSCN & Telemundo


The two most decorated teams in English soccer history simply do not like each other.  At Liverpool’s historic Anfield, the Reds’ beloved captain and star Steven Gerrard, aka “Stevie G”, will look to help his side earn three points against United in the Premier League for the first time since March 2011.

Sunday, September 1, 11:00 AM ET on NBSCN & mun2


Arsenal host neighbors Tottenham at Emirates Stadium for the first edition of this season’s North London Derby and for a tough, early test at home for Arsenal.  The rivalry between the Gunners and Spurs dates to the early 1900s, and with Arsenal having finished directly above Tottenham in the table the last four seasons, Tottenham will be looking to make an early statement that their place in the standings belongs above Arsenal.

Following is the NBCUniversal schedule for the first three weeks of the Premier League season:

Date Time (ET) Home Away Network
Sat., Aug. 17 7:45 a.m. Liverpool Stoke City NBCSN
10 a.m. Arsenal Aston Villa NBCSN, mun2
10 a.m. Norwich Everton Extra Time
10 a.m. Sunderland Fulham Extra Time
10 a.m. West Ham Cardiff Extra Time
10 a.m. West Brom Southampton Extra Time
12:30 p.m. Swansea Man United NBC, mun2
Sun., Aug. 18 8:30 a.m. Crystal Palace Tottenham NBCSN
11 a.m. Chelsea Hull City NBCSN
Mon., Aug. 19 3 p.m. Man City Newcastle NBCSN
Wed., Aug. 21 2:30 p.m. Chelsea Aston Villa NBCSN
Sat., Aug. 24 7:45 a.m. Fulham Arsenal NBCSN, mun2
10 a.m. Newcastle West Ham NBCSN
10 a.m. Everton West Brom Extra Time
10 a.m. Southampton Sunderland Extra Time
10 a.m. Hull City Norwich Extra Time
10 a.m. Stoke City Crystal Palace Extra Time
12:30 p.m. Aston Villa Liverpool NBC
Sun., Aug. 25 11 a.m. Tottenham Swansea NBCSN, mun2
11 a.m. Cardiff Man City Extra Time
Mon., Aug 26 3 p.m. Man United Chelsea NBCSN
Sat., Aug. 31 7:45 a.m. Man City Hull City NBCSN
10 a.m. Newcastle Fulham NBCSN
10 a.m. Cardiff Everton Extra Time
10 a.m. West Ham Stoke City Extra Time
10 a.m. West Brom Swansea Extra Time
10 a.m. Norwich Southampton Extra Time
12:30 p.m. Crystal Palace Sunderland NBC
Sun., Sept. 1 8:30 a.m. Liverpool Man United NBCSN, Telemundo
11 a.m. Arsenal Tottenham NBCSN, mun2