Category Archives: Opinion

Training advisers need to realise journalism is changing

Before we start, here is a warning. Things are going to get meta. And I’ll have to discuss my own life. Please be assured, as anyone who gets a glimpse of the brief and unsatisfactory story that is my pay cheque would attest, there is no triumphalism here. What’s troubling me is the article on the Sports Journalists’ Association website entitled ‘How do I become a sports journalist’ by Keith Elliott, the SJA’s training adviser. It’s been there for five years. It may have been out of date when it was written. The fact that it’s still sitting there now is beyond frustrating. But much worse, it’s potentially damaging to the very people it purports to help. Consider the opening lines:

“Wish I had a pound for everyone who comes to see me saying: ‘I’d like a job in sports journalism.’ Sadly, their qualifications rarely match their ambitions. For many, it comes as a surprise that watching Match of the Day and being a member of Plymouth Argyle Supporters’ Club are not enough to have The Times offering huge sums for their undoubted talents. I don’t know what careers officers are telling today’s kids, but it’s a pile of the stuff left behind in the stables after Cheltenham Festival. Yes, you can get a job on Sky Sports, FourFourTwo or The Sun sports desk – if your dad’s the editor. Otherwise? No chance. They don’t take beginners.”

Anecdotal evidence isn’t always helpful in refuting an argument but in this instance you’ll have to indulge me. I work for Sky Sports as a football feature writer. It’s my first full-time writing job. And yet, my dad is a retired mechanic from Wolverhampton. He’s not the editor of Sky Sports. In fact, I had no contacts in the industry. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I did have some contacts. I wrote a blog. I was a blogger. Here we come to the crux of the issue. You might think blogging is a significant development in the recent history of journalism, particularly at the aspirational end of the scale, but it’s not mentioned once in Elliott’s article. Magazines and websites, meanwhile, get one line:

“The days of knocking on an editor’s door and getting a job because he (it was always a ‘he’ in those days) liked your nerve are long gone. Editors want people who are immediately useful, rather than enthusiastic amateurs. The latter are a liability: they work too slowly, miss out key facts, can’t spell or punctuate and make too many mistakes. So don’t even bother applying unless you’re coming to me with the core skills. But how do you acquire them? By working on a newspaper, magazine or website, dummy.”

Amateur it may be, but there are a lot of skills you can gather from blogging that are highly relevant. Firstly, there are the implied skills that any potential employer can quickly assume. You’re a self-starter, enthusiastic and committed. You have some experience of content management systems and HTML. Perhaps most crucially, as an employer you get to try before you buy. Magazine editors offering freelance work have a portfolio they can peruse. Through your Twitter presence, websites can get a feel for the extent your ideas will resonate and find a ready-made audience.

Websites, Twitter, magazines and broadcasting companies. It’s not real journalism though is it? As John Humphrys said this week: “Reporters matter above all others. The reporters on the road that report. You can do without almost everyone else.” Having noted the way experienced hacks lose interest in offering a word of advice once it emerges I work for Sky rather than the Croydon Advertiser, it seems there is a certain prevailing snobbery when it comes to the new way of doing things. But while the current generation might be a product of local papers, there are other routes.

Michael Cox is perhaps the finest example of parlaying a blog into a journalism career, writing for the Guardian and elsewhere, but there are others: Jack Pitt-Brooke at the Independent, Ed Malyon and Jack Lang at the Mirror. Andi Thomas does great stuff online. Let’s face it, even Matt Stanger is almost making a living. Elsewhere in the football industry, there is Chris Mann at Prozone, Chris Mayer at Opta and many more. Ultimately, it would be foolish to overlook, as Elliott apparently does, (a) the changes brought about by new media, and (b) the importance of specialist knowledge in a niche area such as sport:

“Subject knowledge is important. But would you know what to do if a fire broke out in the ground and dozens of people were trapped? Could you file a running story? If you had been covering the Munich Olympics when members of the Israeli team were taken hostage, would you have had the wit to dress as an athlete (as the late John Rodda did) and get into the Athletes’ Village? That’s why you need to learn the core journalistic skills.

“Imagine a giant house, with a huge party going on. Inside the house are lots of rooms with Art, Sport, Political, Foreign, Theatre and so on written on the doors. You knock on the door. A bouncer the size of a redwood answers. ‘You can’t come in unless you’re a journalist,’ he growls. You wanna join the sports writers? Was that the pop of Dom Perignon from their room? Then you’ve got to get through the main door.”

He paints a vivid picture and it’s a view being supported in classrooms all around the country. When I was studying for the NCTJ qualification – pertinently, one I’m not convinced my current employer or indeed any of the editors for whom I’ve freelanced are even aware I possess – I was also writing for When Saturday Comes and FourFourTwo. It felt incongruous to be getting paid for this but then being told on work experience at the Stafford Newsletter that five years of court reporting would be expected before I got to cover my first Stafford Rangers game.

Maybe I’d be a better journalist if I had done it that way. The grammatical errors in this piece might be less. Or fewer. Or something like that. I’m not saying this is a better way. But aspiring sports journalists should know that it is a way. Otherwise you risk spending a fortune you can’t afford on a three-year journalism degree and a further five years earning a pittance on your local paper only to discover that all the jobs have gone to Michael Cox and his buddies because they spent that time getting to know the subject you’d wanted to do all along. What a shame if young people are led down an unnecessarily costly and meandering path to their career of choice or – even worse – discouraged from a career in sports journalism altogether based on outdated information.

Misleading first impressions?

When Queens Park Rangers’ eager communications department described new signing Park Ji-Sung as a “global phenomenon” it was easy to mock. After all, a quick Google search of the phrase mentions the decline of the honey bee but little of the similarly busy Korean midfielder.

And yet, who hasn’t at some time got carried away with outrageous optimism about their club’s summer signings? It’s common knowledge that every team in the country, from Manchester United to my own five-a-side rabble, is perennially three players away from success.

And so, in the heady days of July, Chelsea fans will elevate Eden Hazard to the status of all-conquering hero; Man Utd fans can cling to the hope of Shinji Kagawa smashing Man City; while Arsenal fans might believe Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud could make light of a Robin van Persie exit.

By August the dream will have died for some. Who knew that the free transfer centre-back from Rotherham was quite so limited? Or that Kieron Dyer’s knees were little better than a cut-and-shut job done by a dodgy mechanic. Hazard and Kagawa will have their every touch analysed and those modern-day Roman emperors – aka Alan Hansen and Gary Neville – will be waiting with their equivalent of the thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

Sometimes you do just know – instantly. Sergio Agüero’s brilliant brace on debut for Man City against Swansea had football fans frothing, and nine months later he proved to be the man who defined the Premier League season. Equally, Chris Sutton never was going to recover from stumbling like a drunk at a disco when clear on goal in his Stamford Bridge bow.

But it isn’t always so…

To read on, click here

This article appears in full at BT Life’s a Pitch 

Why La Liga is irrelevant to Barcelona’s legacy

by Adam Bate

“In my time as manager, it is the best team we have faced,” said Sir Alex Ferguson after Manchester United were comprehensively dismantled by Barcelona in last year’s Champions League final. Three-time European Cup winner Graeme Souness went further, saying: “I think they are the best team ever and, in Lionel Messi, they have the best player ever.”

Ten months on, and Barca’s football continues to bewitch. Like the Dutch exponents of Total Football in 1974, and the brilliant Brazilians of 1982, this Barcelona side provides a visceral joy that goes beyond scorelines. Unlike those illustrious predecessors, Pep Guardiola’s team have not only sustained it for longer but also have the trophies to back up their claim to greatness.

And it’s quite a collection of trinkets. The statistics can only hint at the style but they do convey their relentless dominance of world football. Since Guardiola’s ascent in the summer of 2008, Barcelona have won three La Liga titles, three Supercopas, two Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups, two FIFA Club World Cups and a Copa del Rey.

But there’s a problem with crowning Barcelona as the finest team the world has ever known. It’s the pesky inconvenience of the current La Liga table. Arch-rivals Real Madrid boast an eight-point lead over Guardiola’s men that will surely prove insurmountable. Can a team justifiably be labelled the greatest of all time while simultaneously being second best in their own league? It may appear incongruous, but history suggests it is surprisingly common.


Appointing a football manager? Forget the interview

by Adam Bate

There are lots of reasons why an interview is important when deciding which candidate should get the job.

A smart appearance is indicative of a fastidious approach. A personable style can suggest a warm and engaging individual capable of motivating others.

It is also a chance to find out more about a person’s career beyond the bland statistics of a written CV.

Anybody can find a couple of references. It is far trickier, when put on the spot, for a person to explain how their ideas were received and how they interacted with colleagues.

But none of these factors should be quite so significant in the world of football management.

A football manager’s record is there for all to see.

While the sales figures at Wernham Hogg’s paper company in Slough might not be common knowledge, it takes about 10 seconds to google the win-percentage record of a football manager.

Their tactics will have been endlessly evaluated in minute detail by a plethora of pundits and bloggers.

The world will have watched on as they battled through hundreds of press conferences and media interviews. Daily assessments will have been made of their ability to handle pressure.

In short, a football manager’s CV does not require a reference.

There are literally hundreds of thousands only too willing to provide that reference – even if, for many, it may involve just two words with one of them being of the four-letter variety.

And yet, despite all this, the indications are that this week a Premier League manager will be selected on the basis of a seven day job search and a 45 minute interview.

Some employers recruit temporary admin staff more thoroughly.

So while Wolverhampton Wanderers insist they had nobody lined up when sacking Mick McCarthy on Monday, chief executive Jez Moxey will place his faith in the interview process.

“There has to be chemistry and you never really know until you get it,” said Moxey.

As a result, the manager – arguably the most important figure at a football club, capable of shaping fortunes for decades to come – will not be decided on the basis of their CV, but over a quick chat and a coffee.

The irony, of course, is that you can learn how to perform well in an interview. These skills can be picked up. And one of the reasons for having lots of successful interviews is due to jumping ship a lot. Or, heaven forbid, sacked.

The very qualities a football club does not want in a manager.

So while Steve Bruce flounced from Sheffield United to Huddersfield, and from Wigan via Crystal Palace and Birmingham then back again, Alan Curbishley stayed put at Charlton. For 15 years.

Curbishley was learning how to guide his club to the dizzy heights of seventh in the Premier League.

But Steve Bruce was learning how to give a damn good interview.

Perhaps it should come as little surprise then, that Curbishley’s son Michael took to Twitter to confirm that that his father “wants it but didn’t feel very confident after the meeting!”

In football, as in any other walk of life, a good interview can be the difference between success and failure.

But when a football manager’s career can be pored over in greater detail than could ever be explained away in an interview, doesn’t that just feel wrong?

Mick in context – a look at McCarthy’s Wolves reign

by Adam Bate

To put Mick McCarthy’s Wolverhampton Wanderers reign into perspective you need to go much further back than its beginning in 2006. You need to go back to 1989 – the year that Wolves won the old Division Three title.

Until McCarthy’s arrival at the club that was not only the last team to win a league title but it was also the last team that had a meaningful connection with the club’s supporters. It was the team of Steve Bull and a collection of other hard-working souls determined to give their all for the club despite being forced to train on the stadium car park because there was no training ground.

The facilities changed for the better when Sir Jack Hayward took the reins at Molineux in 1990 but somewhere along the way something more vital was lost. Wolves became a byword for big spending and bigger failures as the club became a victim of its own hubris.

Graham Taylor was indulged with the seven-figure signings of players such as Dean Richards, Steve Froggatt, Tony Daley, Don Goodman and Mark Atkins as Molineux heaved with expectation once more. In the 1994-95 season, Wolves’ average attendances were over 10,000 more than those at Sunderland, Derby, West Brom, Stoke or Bolton – but promotion did not come.

Mark McGhee followed and blew millions more before the spending reached an inglorious crescendo when Dave Jones splashed more than £13million in 2001 alone – only to see the disconnect between players and fans reach its nadir as the team collapsed in the run-in to allow rivals West Brom to claim promotion instead. The infamous ‘You’ve let us down again’ banner said it all.

By the time promotion finally came twelve months on, Hayward was spent-out and relegation was inevitable. Suddenly Wolves were saddled with an owner who’d lost interest and so it seemed strangely appropriate to go the whole hog and appoint a manager with little interest in the shape of Glenn Hoddle.

When the diffident Hoddle left the club in the lurch by quitting in the summer of 2006, Wolves were left with just nine fit players to report for pre-season training. Things appeared to have hit rock bottom.

Enter Mick

This was the environment into which McCarthy walked and immediately set about scaling back ambitions by declaring he was no magician. Fans feared the worst but with a young and hungry agenda and a fierce work ethic, McCarthy went to work.

Karl Henry was his first signing – a £100k capture from Stoke’s reserves. Stephen Ward arrived from Bohemians for £150k and Michael Kightly was snapped up for just £25k from non-league Grays Athletic.

Of course, some of the freebies weren’t up to scratch but it was refreshing to see a Wolves team battling against the odds for the first time in a generation. An extraordinary 6-0 home defeat to Southampton summed up the mood at Molineux as the fans supported the players – not because of some lame gallows humour – but out of a genuine belief that the players were giving it everything.

Two years later, McCarthy took Wolves to the title in brilliant fashion. His young team – only two of the first XI were older than 24 – played with enthusiasm and gusto as Wolves’ wingers Kightly and Matt Jarvis tore defences apart on a regular basis. It was a team to bring pride back to a city.

Going backwards

That McCarthy should find himself sacked three years on, having twice kept the club in the Premier League, may seem strange to some. But for all the accusations that can be thrown at Wolves owner Steve Morgan, the claim of the Daily Mail’s Des Kelly that the club has shown “no loyalty” to McCarthy must be particularly galling.

Premier League table as it stood in November 2010 (taken from the BBC website)

There were difficult days in McCarthy’s second season at the club, after which the manager himself admitted that if the fans had been given the choice between keeping him or keeping misfit striker Freddy Eastwood – a divisive figure at the club, who had become a champion for disenchanted fans – it would have been the manager to go.

But Morgan backed his man. He did so again when McCarthy was labelled a disgrace to the Premier League for making 10 changes for a trip to Manchester United. And the owner still remained calm throughout Wolves’ second season in the top flight, despite Wolves picking up just nine points from the opening 14 games and eventually being just three minutes away from relegation on a traumatic final day.

Morgan and the fans have watched on as arch-rivals West Brom have prospered. Albion were supposed to be the neighbours with the tight budget; the epitome of the yo-yo club. And yet, while McCarthy trudged on against the backdrop of ludicrously ambitious stadium expansion plans, it was the Baggies who acted so ruthlessly in ditching Roberto di Matteo in favour of Roy Hodgson just months after the former had taken the club to promotion.

For McCarthy it has been a death by a thousand cuts. There have been the bizarre selection decisions, the limited tactics and the nonsensical formation changes. The nagging belief that while the club made big plans off-the-field, on it things were beginning to slide – as evidenced by the fact that despite spending well over £40million since promotion, eight of the Championship team still regularly featured in McCarthy’s starting XI this season.

All that remained was for a knockout blow to be delivered. And a 5-1 derby defeat to your rivals is just about as emphatic as it can get. It was an insipid effort that crystallised feeling as it showcased many of McCarthy’s failings and none of his strengths. The tactical flaws were there for all to see – starting with all three strikers for the first time ever in a game he could not afford to lose. But gone was the fight and commitment so clear to see in all of his finest Molineux moments.

It was a result that changed the debate. No longer could the issue remain about who could do better. It now had to be framed in terms of who could do worse.

That’s a sad way for things to end for Wolves’ most successful manager in a generation. But as Morgan himself put it: “We had little or no choice.”

What is success for Liverpool?

by Adam Bate

What a return it has been for Kenny Dalglish. Only Cardiff City now stand in the way of Liverpool lifting the Carling Cup at Wembley later this month and thus securing the club’s first trophy in six years. King Kenny has brought the buzz back to the city. And thankfully, whatever the dramas off the field, everyone at Anfield appears to be pulling in the same direction once again.

It’s a far cry from January of last year when Liverpool were languishing in twelfth place in the Premier League under beleaguered boss Roy Hodgson. The subsequent return of the Messiah saw the team swept forward on a wave of optimism and invention that brought 10 wins in 14 games – a run that took Liverpool to the brink of a fifth place finish.

One might think it would be regarded as something of a disappointment then, that the club currently finds itself seventh in the Premier League. Has progress already reached a plateau? That’s an alarming thought given Liverpool’s 2011 spending spree of £110million. As ESPN’s Michael Cox puts it: “Failing to match last season’s performance after considerable spending on players in the summer would prompt serious questions from outside Liverpool about Kenny Dalglish’s future.”

Of course, those questions are unlikely to come from within. Liverpool fans will point to the money recouped from the sales of Fernando Torres and Raul Meireles. Others maintain this level of spending should not bring with it unattainable expectations of glory. Tony Evans, chief football writer for the Times and Liverpool fan, explains: “Spending £100 million should bring instant top-four success, goes the logic, as if it were that simple. Some cannot see that … Tottenham Hotspur have leapfrogged the five-times European champions.”

Evans is quite correct to say that some could not see this. It has certainly proved news to the notoriously unsentimental bookmakers who considered Liverpool 10/1 shots for the title, while making Tottenham the 66/1 sixth favourites. Meanwhile, the assessment of the experts at the BBC could scarcely have been more emphatic in backing Liverpool’s chances of cracking the top four.

In the BBC’s summer predictions for the season, 23 of 31 pundits tipped Liverpool for a top four finish. Mark Bright, seemingly convinced by the Merseyside club’s oft-cited advantage of not facing European distractions, even went so far as to predict Liverpool would be champions come May. “The Reds have four players who could grace any team in the Premier League: Pepe Reina, Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll,” claimed Bright.

Oh Carroll. Some supporters sought solace in the ‘Torres less £15million’mind-trick. That remains a theory from the same school of thought that if someone pays £5 for your bag of Maltesers then you’ll happily cough up £3.50 for a Curly Wurly. In truth, he is a one-man conundrum – the catalyst for countless theories searching for some kind of Moneyball method behind Liverpool’s spending madness. After all, there had to be something we were missing when more than £50million was thrown at Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson, right?

Time will tell. And there is plenty to be said for a happy fan base. But, from the outside at least, Evans’ claim that Dalglish’s potential Carling Cup success may “come to be seen as his greatest achievement,” appears rooted as much in wish fulfilment as anything approaching the reality of Liverpool’s season so far.

Anelka, Drogba and the Shenhua Revolution

by Andrew Crawford

Having even the remotest interest in Shanghai Shenhua should probably come with a health warning. When I die a decade prematurely, blame it on the side from the Hongkou stadium for weakening my heart and badly damaging my sanity. Shenhua is a dangerous interest to have. Believe me, its lots of fun but if you can, enjoy it in moderation.

The Chinese Super League (CSL) has recently been thrust into the spotlight via the big money arrivals of Nicolas Anelka and Jean Tigana at my ‘local’ club, who having not won a title in almost a decade, have now exploded into relevance once again. No-one is entirely sure where the money has come from for these signings but equally, no one really cares – Shanghai is a brash, loud city where success is expected and demanded. As long as the new arrivals help the club win, everyone’s happy.

For the hardcore fans, the ones who transform the north and south ends of the club’s otherwise sparsely filled stadium into swaying, swearing, boisterous carnivals of noise, the signings are a mixed blessing.  Anelka is still a very good player and Tigana, despite being a big fan of resigning without warning, is a proven top level coach. For a success starved club, this is exactly the sort of bold investment that the fans wanted.

However, one can only imagine that there will be more than a little frustration at the sudden influx of new supporters who have been enticed by the hype of Anelka. Ticket prices will go up, not only to fund the wages of the new arrivals but also because there will be more demand, certainly for the first half of the season.

There is also the problem of our chairman, Zhu Jun, who frankly is about as likeable as small pox. This is a man who recently made Shenhua play their ‘home’ games for the Chinese FA Cup in Wuhu, a city in the neighbouring Anhui province over two-hundred miles away from Shanghai. Last season, he sold off all Shenhua’s best players midway through the season, sparking a spectacular nosedive from the top-half of the table and into a relegation dogfight. There are more unicorns in the city then there are people with nice things to say about Mr Zhu.

However, the Anelka singing has given the eccentric videogames mogul a new platform in which to shamelessly promote himself to anyone who’ll listen, much to the delight of rumour mongers everywhere. You’ll probably be reading about Shenhua’s interest in Didier Drogba, which is highly unlikely to go through as the club already have two foreign strikers (Anelka and former Australian international, Joel Griffiths) and need to get an overseas defender or two to strengthen their backline. Fans of Brazilian club, Internacional will be equally curious about the fate of their Argentine playmaker, Andres D’Alessandro, who is also rumoured to be moving to Shanghai. Basically, if you have played in a big European league in the last five years, chances are you’ve been mentioned in the same sentence as Shenhua.  Guti and Michael Ballack are among the names that have been recently mentioned and with Zhu reluctant to deny almost any rumour, the pick-a-name reporting shows no sign of slowing down.

As someone who likes to spend his Saturdays encamped with the Blue Devils, one of the supporters groups in the Hongkou’s north stand, I can’t wait for the season to begin. The all-standing atmosphere in that part of the ground is a joy to behold, especially when tickets plus a beer can be as little as a fiver. I desperately want this season to be a success, not only as a writer who likes the romantic story of a once great club returning to its former glory but also as a resident of Shanghai who wants to see his club do well. Some fans would like a title run but for me, a decent league finish with a couple of wins over rivals Hangzhou and Beijing would be just fine. And the less Zhu, the better, obviously.

You can follow Shenhua’s fortunes by following Andrew on Twitter @ShouldersGalore

Jordan Rhodes – ‘Premier League player’?

by Adam Bate

Jordan Rhodes has certainly got the Premier League’s attention. As many as eight top flight clubs were represented at Huddersfield Town’s game against Wycombe Wanderers last week. And they are likely to have been impressed – the striker bagged five goals in a remarkable display. The question all of those scouts will have to answer is simple. Can Rhodes do it in the Premier League?

Such is the Scotland forward’s form at present, it almost seems churlish to ask. The numbers are phenomenal. Rhodes had scored 27 goals before the Christmas decorations were even down. And the 21-year-old striker is improving. “His finishing is up there with Alan Shearer, Andy Cole and Kevin Phillips,” said Huddersfield boss Lee Clark. “And his general play is excellent.”

And yet question marks will inevitably hang over the youngster. Much will be made of the massive gulf between League One and the Premier League. It’s far safer to go for proven top flight performers, or so the theory goes. But what is a proven Premier League player? The reflected glory that comes from being a youngster in and around the squad at a big club can count for a lot – but sometimes with very little substance to back it up.

Look at Federico Macheda. The 20-year-old striker has recently been snapped up by QPR on loan from Manchester United. The west London club were seemingly unperturbed by the Italian’s goalless contribution to Sampdoria’s relegation in his previous loan spell away from Old Trafford. And that’s no surprise – because he is a Manchester United player.

And then there is Everton’s popular frontrunner Victor Anichebe. The Nigerian is in his seventh season at Goodison Park with little suggestion he is likely to drop down the leagues. But Macheda and Anichebe’s combined number of career league goals currently stands at 12. In a whopping 128 games. To put this into context, Rhodes recently matched this combined league goal tally in under three weeks.

Of course, the standard is higher. But it’s equally legitimate to turn the question around and ask whether the likes of Macheda and Anichebe are capable of scoring 12 goals in five games in the competitive world of the Football League. Perhaps we should forget a few of our preconceived ideas of what constitutes a top flight player.

Norwich’s Paul Lambert is just the latest in a long line of manager’s from promoted clubs that have challenged the notion that there is a ceiling for lower league players. Lambert realised an important lesson – it’s better to sign a player adored by League One fans than ignored by Premier League ones. The Scot invested his summer transfer kitty in hungry young talent such as Elliott Bennett, Steve Morison and Anthony Pilkington and is now reaping the rewards.

Bennett and Pilkington both featured in last season’s League One PFA team of the year and they are just the latest in a long line of players who have made the step up. England internationals Joe Hart, Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott, Michael Dawson, Ashley Young, Andy Carroll, Tom Huddlestone and Matt Jarvis all featured in lower league representative sides, while Gareth Bale is another graduate of the League One PFA team of the year.

So let’s not get too caught up with the question of whether Jordan Rhodes is capable of proving himself. After all, he’s been doing that all season.

GhostGoal in 2011

2011 – A Thank You

It’s been a drunken busy Christmas and New Year period and I haven’t got round to summarising 2011 on the site. I wanted to take the chance to belatedly amend that now.

2011 was the first full year GhostGoal has been in operation and it’s been great that it’s developed as it has. The year began with the ‘My Favourite Goals’ feature which started out as a chance to invite anyone to write something about, well, their favourite goal.

The fact that ‘anyone’ ended up including award-winning writers such as Andrew Thomas, Michael Cox, Dave Hartrick, Jack Lang and many more volunteers was much more than we could have hoped. I think it highlighted the fun side of blogging collaboration in what turned out to be a fraught year for the – awful phrase coming up – ‘blogging community’.

Since then we’ve been chugging along. It was good to be one of the first sites to point out back in May that Owen Coyle wasn’t all that people held him up to be, while the defence of Serie A from the criticism of the Sunday Supplement brigade in October certainly seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people.

For me personally it has been a far more successful year than I could have hoped. When Oli and I first had the idea to jot down a few of our frustrations back in May 2010, the notion that this could directly lead to me getting paid to write about football would have been ridiculous. But (albeit in a small way) that’s what has happened over the past year with magazine commissions, regular work with Sky Sports and even an award nomination.

As a result of these writing distractions, the plans for GhostGoal in 2012 are sketchy but I’m afraid there won’t be any dramatic “I quit” stories regarding the site. Not least because it’s actually looking better than ever thanks to the much appreciated efforts of Thomas Baugh and his redesign.

And besides, I’m sure Oli will have plenty of things he needs to get off his chest in the coming year and – even if I don’t get round to writing as much as I’d like – with over 200 posts there’s plenty of nonsense for new arrivals to wade through should they be of a warped disposition.

Most of all, thanks for reading, commenting, contributing and criticising over the past 12 months.

All the best


Why Mick McCarthy’s time at Wolves is up

by Adam Bate

Progress. It’s the bane of the football manager. No matter what you deliver there’ll always be people wanting more. It’s a problem surely consuming Wolves manager Mick McCarthy right now. After lifting the club from the Championship in 2009, fans are now left wondering if progress is something McCarthy is still capable of delivering.

You can read the rest of this article by clicking here to go to BT Life’s a Pitch