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The lower leagues vs The Champions League

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With the Champions League final approaching, I can't help but remark at how little I care. Here in The States, Fox Soccer Channel is advertising the "epic final" and assuming that everyone will be enthralled. I'm a little fed up with all of it...

What I am excited about is the Football League play-off finals this weekend. That's right, I would much rather watch Torquay play Stevenage than watch Manchester United play Barcelona.

The difference, for me as a neutral, is the supporters. I'd estimate that at least 90% of Man Utd fans are frontrunners, gloryhunters, call it what you want, they're not what any of us would classify as "real fans." Same goes for Barca supporters.

Does anyone support Peterborough because they're good? No... in fact, they suck (relatively speaking). Anyone who supports such a club does so because they truly care about the club. Whether they are local to the area or their parents brought them up to support the club or whatever the case was, they are real fans and I am happy for them.

Am I the only one who feels this way?

For the older contributors, was there really a day when there was a level playing field? If so, I long for those days to return.

Pat Finegan, New Jersey, USA     Posted 24/05/2011 at 19:56:44

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Sur Jo
1   Posted 25/05/2011 at 03:57:31

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There exists a positive relationship between success and number of fans. Maybe you are referring to those who jump ship. Those who follow glory just for the sake of it. I am and will be an Everton fan no matter what.

And to claim that a Football League play-off is more exciting than the Champions League Final is a bit weird. Only a few would claim that to be the case.

David Barks
2   Posted 25/05/2011 at 04:03:30

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Sorry, I'm much more interested in the Manchester United v Barcelona final. I love to watch great football, that's why I turn on the TV, and this Final is between two great sides. And think of the Champions League Final like a Superbowl type event. Only a few fans, relatively speaking, are supporters of the two teams in the Super Bowl. But it's a giant event in the US, being the most watched TV event in history two straight years.

The Champions League Final is the championship match between the two best sides in all of Europe. I can't wait to watch it.

Alex Kociuba
3   Posted 25/05/2011 at 04:43:57

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I 100% agree with the original post.
Alex Kociuba
4   Posted 25/05/2011 at 04:46:26

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The problem is the label of "real fan". People have different measures of what a real fan is and even whether its a valid concept.

The question is where you draw the line. And supporting a club purely because of their success is unreasonable. It's sad for the 'real' Man Utd and Barcelona fans who feel they need to justify their reasons for supporting their own team. It's sad that cities like Sheffield (for example) has two teams and yet there are so many Man Utd fans, mostly in their 20s, who saw (Sheffield) United and Wednesday struggle during the 90s and so jumped ship and started supporting Man Utd. How can they possibly be real fans?
David Jenkins
5   Posted 25/05/2011 at 05:25:15

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Do you really think Peterborough have more fans who care than Man United? Remember, it's not just those inside the ground on the day or the glory hunting periphery.

Pretty sure P'boro will also have a large number of glory hunters at OT (relative glory!). How often do you see lower league teams having stories of whole towns travelling to a big away day in the FA Cup? And yet these clubs struggle to get anyone in to watch their league games. You could argue this is worse.

I for one am really looking forward to the CL final and seeing some of the world's best players and most attacking teams battle for club football's top prize.

Just imagine Everton being there one day...
Matthew Lovekin
6   Posted 25/05/2011 at 06:24:59

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Pat, you could edit Peterborough in your article to Everton. We are hardly a team for glory hunters these days, even more so in the PL as teams like Peterborough at least get promoted (and relegated) once in a while.

However, I will be watching the CL final as I love watching Barca over the last few years, not as a glory hunter but for the 'out of this world' football that they play.

And yes, there was a day when the playing field was level. Happy days!
Paul Gladwell
7   Posted 25/05/2011 at 06:51:37

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I agree totally. I went with a load of mates to see Barca a few months back; one of them is a Barca lover who has lived over there and followed them and harped on to us all how great it is at matchdays.

Well the sight was awesome from the top tier, but that was it. The place was souless, no atmosphere and full of tourists, even the stadium was shit. Some lads left at half time whilst we followed 20 minutes later.

Whilst I dream of us being up there with teams like Barca and Man Utd, I would dread too to see what it would become; like what has happened at Man Utd, you would find a large amount of old fans packing the game in because the soul of the club has been stolen.

Stephen Kenny
8   Posted 25/05/2011 at 08:06:13

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I like both for different reasons:

I watch Barca to see the absolute pinnacle of football. How we all wish we could play and what Everton should aspire to, no matter how unlikely. It reminds me why I love football so much.

I watch the football league play-offs for the passion and the pride the fans and players show. I love it when the winning goal is scored and they cut to a geezer about 95 years old dancing like he hasn't got arthiritis in his hips and he's not on statins.
Bill Goodall
9   Posted 25/05/2011 at 08:15:45

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Alex @ #4, I supported Liverpool (it is my greatest shame) until I was 6 and jumped over to a very successful Everton team. Does this make me one of these not real fans or just a 6-year-old kid? If the Sheffield fans had've been 20 and changed, I would agree with you.

Is it only teams that are successful who have these so-called not real fans? Well, I for one would love to have lots of these fans jumping on our bandwagon.

Oh, hold on... our bandwagon has no wheels.
Declan O'Shaughnessy
10   Posted 25/05/2011 at 08:37:02

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I think it's worth remembering that "real" Barca fans actually own the club ? their fans buy shares in the club, the president is elected by the shareholders and the club is run on a mandate put forward by the presidential candidates before they get elected. It's been this way for quite some time, and the number of Barca shareholders hasn't wavered much in either the good times or the bad.

Sure, there are probably more tourists turning up to watch Barca at present, and probably inflating the prices somewhat (or making touts very rich), but when Barca's golden spell is over, their attendances won't fall by much (if at all) and the number of members / shareholders won't change.
Alistair Ford
11   Posted 25/05/2011 at 09:28:52

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I completely agree Pat. To me, the Champions League final epitomises all thats wrong with the modern game - media and fair weather "fans" who only come out for the "big" games. For those of us who have sat through the dullest of dull nil-nil draws at home to wigan on a freezing December day, these fair weather fans are bloody irritatating. Its why I find all those people who are suddenly massive England fans during world cups and euro hugely irritating.

For me, the most exciting match recently was the AFC Wimbledon / Luton play off final. What a story!
Nick Entwistle
12   Posted 25/05/2011 at 10:05:52

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I'll watch the CL final, but I'd share more empathy to the Stevenage Torquay players. Not because they're lower league players, just because the event is more real. It is actually acheiving something as opposed to another final for the richest teams in the world.

Gigg's to do list... Do shopping, drop kids off, read a book, play in European cup final, watch CSI, sleep on the couch.
Kevin Hudson
13   Posted 25/05/2011 at 11:41:52

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To a degree,sure, Man.United are like Juventus & Real Madrid, soaking up supporters from all parts as their respective states' top team, but perhaps you should swot up on the history of Catalunya before making an ignorant & sweeping assertion regarding the credibility of FC Barcelona "segadors."
Dylan Thomson
14   Posted 25/05/2011 at 12:48:25

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Watch the Game and not who is in the stands ...such a holier than thou argument doesnt wash when you support a PL Team.

Say we got to the final in 2 years time, how many tickets do you think we could sell? ..and whats our average attendance for away games this season?

it'll be worth watching to see them get beat.

Paul Mackie
15   Posted 25/05/2011 at 12:53:37

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I'll be watching it.

2 of the best teams in Europe, both playing fast, flowing, attacking football. I don't have any preference over who wins. It'll simply be a good game to watch with not a hoofball or parked bus in sight.
Jay Harris
16   Posted 25/05/2011 at 13:08:18

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Pat,
I have to say you watch the game not the supporters.

Some of the worlds best players will be on show and I for one will be watching that game.

I am not remotely interested in league 2 playoffs but would be interested in the Reading vs Swansea game a few days later.
Dennis Crowney
17   Posted 25/05/2011 at 13:55:51

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Kevin #13 is right, Pat, that it's worth looking behind the headline before tarring all with the same brush.

Barcelona IS different from most and has much in common with us as it's a team that is very much an integral part of the city (which is partly why DK wrankled so much with us!).

Without giving a history lesson, FC Barcelona became "more than a club" to the locals when it was the only place that the city & the region's people could fervently express their opposition to the fascist dictator, Franco, who for decades from Madrid persecuted Catalunya. The result of this is that 35 years ago (when I first worked there) they had over 100,000 paying 'socis' or club member supporters. It has always been funded greatly directly from the local fan-base - whereas Real Madrid has been supported also by the government e.g. a £320million purchase for their training ground 10 years ago when they were skint!

If you consistently have the success they have and with a spectacular style as now, you will get the glory-hunters. But, wouldn't we want both their success, skills and growth in supporter numbers?

For Saturday, I can't wait and would REALLY love it if they won convincingly with a flourish in an epic game. I do wish we were there instead, though! Right now, we can only dream.


Rob Keys
18   Posted 25/05/2011 at 15:15:05

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With due respect, Pat I think you are getting carried away... most people criticized successful clubs as attracting glory hunter. And yes, there will always be a group of them. Likewise, can we dare claim that there aren't those who were attracted to Everton during the golden years when we were the Mersey Millionaires? Or why while we were attracting players like Dean, Lawton, Ball etc?
I know for a fact that my dad was a Man U fan who continued to support Man Utd through their lean years (relegation in the 70s), finally saw them claim their title again in 92-93 season etc.
Because these top clubs' fanbase is much bigger, they will automatically have more fans who are glory hunters. So, do go easy on the hyperbole, will you? Cheers mate.
Chris Fisher
19   Posted 25/05/2011 at 15:21:48

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I am looking forward to the Champions League final, and I want Man United to win. I can't stand Barcelona, I have watched a lot of them both in their domsetic league and in Europe... as much as people drone on about how good they are at football, they are actually a bunch of cheating twats and quite a lot of their players wouldn't last a second in a more physical league. They go down clutching their faces if you so much as stroke there shoelaces.
Tony J Williams
20   Posted 25/05/2011 at 16:05:13

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Chris, I have similar thoughts as you. I don't think I will, in my lifetime, ever see such a skilfull team as Barcelona, football wise beautiful to watch.....but in the same vein, I doubt I will see a bigger bunch of diving, cheating fairies either. They were a 9 out of 10 anyway but went up to 11 when Alves joined them.....fecking hate that player
Kevin Hudson
21   Posted 25/05/2011 at 15:51:33

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I'd echo Chris's comments regarding the histrionic nature of La Liga. The El Clasico games in recent weeks were a huge let down. Both teams annoyed the hell out of me, appealing for free-kicks every 20 seconds, faking outrage every time one of them got tackled, they were ridiculously petulant towards one another.

Also, Barca's trademarked "Death by one thousand (3-yard) passes," routine, whilst universally lauded, really grates on me. In a perverse paradox it is anti-football! Skillful & effective - yes, but boring & suffocating too.

Around the same time our top two-Man.Utd & Chelsea, played each other, and the contrast could not have been more pronounced: They just got on with it, and played an open game at a much higher tempo. That's the reason why The Premier League is the world's most popular, and I hope United's endeavour, drive & energy triumphs over Barca's snide, tippy-tappy narcissism.
Tony J Williams
22   Posted 25/05/2011 at 16:51:03

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Sorry should specify that I meant 9 out of 10 on the cheating meter.
Trevor Mackie
23   Posted 25/05/2011 at 16:58:27

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I hope Barca win 10 nil because they're genuinely skilful and attacking whereas Manu will win only by doing a liverpool - defend, stifle, get a spawny one on the break or go to pens

I prefer the play offs they are more reminiscent of when football was a level playing field and teams played to win with fans who are really part of what's going on.
Consequently they've delivered some truly cracking games.
Alex Kociuba
24   Posted 25/05/2011 at 17:05:18

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Bill, as I say its hard to know where to draw the line, but I'd imagine its reasonable for young children to change their clubs up until high school maybe? I don't know. I'd say you're pretty safe being 6 years old. For a 14 year old to change to a club 250 miles away is ridiculous, though. And sadly its not just Sheffield, its an endless list of towns around the UK. Hillsborough and Bramall Lane half empty each week but loads of people walking around shamelessly walking around in Man Utd shirts.
Mike Coates
25   Posted 25/05/2011 at 17:26:02

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In other news.

Congrats to I presume soon to be departing Yobo on winning a title.

Will miss the CB.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/13508779.stm
Trevor Powell
26   Posted 25/05/2011 at 20:05:12

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Remember though that in the USA there is little loyalty between teams in a range of sports and their environs. How many franchises have just upped and moved to cites thousands of miles away. There is no longer a NFL team in Los Angeles as two have moved in the last 20 years ie rams and raiders!
Joe McMahon
27   Posted 25/05/2011 at 20:50:19

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Alex Kociuba ? it's not Man Utd shirts I see all over the country, it's Liverpool. I was in Burnley centre last year, no Burnley FC posters, just Liverpool. Every time I go down south (outside London), nowt but Liverpool shirts, they are Fucking everywhere.

Wednesday also got to 3 cup finals in the 90s.
Chris Bannantyne
28   Posted 25/05/2011 at 21:15:40

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I'm watching both for different reasons. But I don't think Barcelona are any better at cheating than Man Utd.
Jamie Crowley
29   Posted 25/05/2011 at 23:19:52

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I do sympathize with the glory-hunter sentiments. I simply detest bandwagon jumpers. Here in the States it's an epidemic. It's frankly one of the reasons I love Everton so damn much. The supporters really are a class above. Loyalty epitomized.

The final should be a good game - and Barcelona is just simply fantastic to watch IMO.

But I definitely agree the passion of the fans in the lower league playoffs is sublime. There really isn't anything like it. It's that kind of rabid fan atmosphere which drew me to English football, and football in general 5 years ago. It's priceless.

The only thing I ever experienced that rivaled it growing up American is playoff hockey. And the Bruins play tonight to go to the Stanley Cup. :0) Let the chaos begin....
James Flynn
30   Posted 25/05/2011 at 21:51:47

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Kevin (21) - Well-said.

When Barcelona is on here in the States, I watch. What a team!

Yet, I wonder how long that "15-20 OLE passes" before something happened would last in the EPL? That is, before someone (or two) got his lower leg re-arranged; making the rest play proper.

I think Barcelona would do well in the EPL; stacked with determined talent and a good idea.

Would just like to see them do it in the top league. Any team as talented as that one will always appear "The Greatest Team of All Time" competing in La Minor Liga.
James Flynn
31   Posted 25/05/2011 at 23:56:01

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Jamie (29) - "I do sympathize with the glory-hunter sentiments. I simply detest bandwagon jumpers. Here in the States it's an epidemic".

You oughta know. Ha! Most especially with Red Sox "Nation".

By the way Jamie. Do read read or follow Bill Simmons?
Mike Hargreaves
32   Posted 26/05/2011 at 00:33:25

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Pat, your over there in the USA, why choose Everton as your team? ...just wondering. But yes, on Saturday I will be watching and enjoying great attacking football and wishing a few of those players were pulling on the Royal Blue shirt next season... wishful thinking. But dare I say, I will be cheering United.
Eugene Ruane
33   Posted 26/05/2011 at 07:48:14

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I'll probably watch the match on Saturday, BUT wouldn't really give a shite if I missed it.

30 years ago, I'd be 100% DEFINITELY watching the European Cup Final and (whoever was in it) wouldn't have missed it for the world.

The difference?

Football now is fucking disgusting.

From top (Fifa) to bottom (kids football) the entire thing is morally bankrupt.

One example is 'The Champion's League' (a league where most of the teams AREN'T Champions).

Years ago, the idea of say...er..Juventus V Real, on telly live, would have been a big deal.

Not any more coz you can see the same match up/s almost every year

Now you watch for 15 mins and if it looks like it'll be a negative niggly foul-fest (AND IT WILL!) you're reaching for the remote.

As to whether there was ever a 'level playing field', probably not COMPLETELY level, but it was NEVER like it is now, where the playing field is almost fucking vertical and there are a few teams who's finances guarantee them a place at the top, while the rest (including us) need grappling irons to get near the top end'.
Tony J Williams
34   Posted 26/05/2011 at 08:57:20

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I suppose we can at least take solace in the fact that the two teams who are competing for the final this year are the Champions of their leagues (although ManUre weren't at the qualifying stage).

James 30 - I agree, imagine Messi, Inesta and Xavi trying to dribble rings around the tank that is Elokobi? 2 minutes in and one, if now three of them will be booted up in the air and out for a few weeks.

They would need a massive squad in the Premier League, as they would be injured for most of the time.
Brian Waring
35   Posted 26/05/2011 at 09:04:41

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The Manc's have always been well supported, as my other half has just told me ( She's a Man u fan, along with her brother and dad ) in the 1980 season, they had 57,049 against the redshite on boxing day, and their avarage attendance through the 80's was just over 43,090.
Brian Waring
36   Posted 26/05/2011 at 09:13:08

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I agree with you Eugene. I loved watching it when it was the European Cup, and you had to win your respective leagues.

Now its a farce when you can finish 4th, and go on to win it.
Noel Lynam
37   Posted 26/05/2011 at 12:55:47

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James (30) and Tony (34) can you imagine the likes of Elokobi and other cart horses getting near enough to the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi? If you do watch the game on Sunday, watch how easy Barcelona make it look by simply passing and moving to create space.

As for the "cheating" arguments, ask yourselves do you consider Cahill appealing for every single decision he knows he won't get cheating?

How about Fellaini or Heitinga "breaking up play" with a sly jersey pull or trip in midfield? They know it won't get a yellow cardbut ensures we can drop ten men behind the ball from the resulting free, therefore disadvantaging the opposition by deliberate and illegal means.

Or Arteta going to ground at the slightest contact? (or none at all in some cases)

Or maybe Anichebe banging his fists off the turf to influence the referee into giving him non-existent frees? Or worse still, how about when he masquerades as a professional footballer for 90 mins?

Cheating so-and-so's the lot of them. But hey, they are "our" cheats.
Eugene Ruane
38   Posted 26/05/2011 at 13:28:21

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Noel (37) your cheats argument, absolutely spot on.
James Flynn
39   Posted 26/05/2011 at 13:28:02

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Noel (37) - I think those 3 would have there way as much as not. It's this talk all season of "The Greatest Team of All Time" that gets me. How could you tell really? They play in a minor league.
Tony J Williams
40   Posted 26/05/2011 at 13:49:49

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Noel, I can definitely see Elokobi getting near them, he will make sure he does. The old sly scrape down the calf from behind, the knee in the spine etc.

I see where you are coming from with the "cheat" issue but the difference with Cahill calling for every decision and Alves rolling about like he has been snipered is miles apart. No-one will ever get sent off for Cahill appealing a decision or a sly foul/shirt pull. They try and get the players sent off, that is a world away from what you mention about Cahill and Fellaini.
Dave Roberts
41   Posted 26/05/2011 at 16:34:33

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Barcelona remind me of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Great for a few minutes but after a while they start to bore the shite out of me.
Pat Finegan
42   Posted 26/05/2011 at 18:29:41

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Mike (32) I support Everton cause they're so good. Only kidding! When I started watching footy, I watched a Liverpool game. I realized that Liverpool were a bunch of dirty scoundrels. A couple weeks later was the derby at Goodison where Johnson got a brace and Cahill scored. I decided I was going to support Everton and they grew on me.

Funny you should ask. I was going to put that in the original post but then I decided it didn't really fit.

I guess I do root against supporters. I just don't want Man U or Barca fans to have something else to brag about.
Jamie Crowley
43   Posted 27/05/2011 at 02:26:00

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James Flynn-

i don't follow Bill Simmons, but he did write probably the most hilarious article I've ever read: How to choose an EPL team. It was a 2 parter. I had chosen Everton about 2 years prior, and having a fairly good grasp of the stereotypes of each Club's fans I nearly wet myself reading it. If you haven't read it google it. It seriously is side-splitingly funny.

BTW - completely 100% accurate on that leg-breaking comment. Those twinkle-toed Barca guys would get put to the turf in about 10 minutes tops....
Jamie Crowley
44   Posted 27/05/2011 at 02:36:44

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Silly me. I was chosen, I didn't choose....
Paul Knox
45   Posted 28/05/2011 at 22:58:56

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Level playing field, of course: it starts at kick off. Some teams try to change the odds and go for 3 points, some think "We have a point in the bag ? let's keep hold of it." Unfortunately our manager is one of the latter.

Our best football comes when: 1) We go a goal down and have to change formation and attack. 2) We have injuries and Moyes doesn't have much choice in who he picks.

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