Friday, August 15, 2008

A clean slate

The English Premier League starts again tomorrow!



I love how the table looks at the start of a new season:


Anything could happen.

We could have a season like last year's, in which case I'll be content with maintaining our "current" position (13th!). Or we could undergo a second Keegan revolution and storm the top of the table, ending up in European competition next year. I will obviously be delighted if this actually happens, but I won't be holding my breath... especially since our first game is away to Man Utd on Sunday. I fear another season of agony may be in store for us long-suffering Magpies.

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NB a brief description of the system for readers who are more used to a North American-style playoff system:

Each team in the league plays each other twice, once at each venue. The team at the top of the table at the end of the season is the winner, end of story. This title is the biggest prize in English football. The top four or so* teams qualify for the Champions' League, the most prestigious European club competition. The next two or three* qualify for the UEFA cup, a less prestigious European club competition. The bottom three clubs are relegated to a lower division for the next season, and are replaced with the three best teams in the next league down. This shuffling happens at the top and bottom of every English league, of which there are many. I think that North American sports would be greatly enhanced by introducing a similar promotion and relegation system.

There are also two separate domestic cup competitions. Both are open to clubs at all levels, including amateur sides, although small clubs have to go through qualification round whereas the big clubs join at a later stage. Anyone can be drawn against anyone, with each game being a one-off knock-out game. The FA Cup is the more prestigious of the two cup competitions.

*actual numbers can be different each year, and I can't be bothered to look up this year's allocations. The numbers partially depend on the success of teams from that country in previous European competitions, so the bigger English, Italian, Spanish and German leagues send more teams than, say, Scotland or Greece.

18 comments:

  1. It doesn't look too good for you at the moment - you're still below 'boro.

    It's soooo tempting to email a gooner friend out of the blue and tell him to pray that they stop the league now, before they slip any further.

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  2. Are you trying to distract us with your football talk from Canada's performance in the Olympics? ;)

    Kidding! Kidding! Except not really because it's kinda funny that Togo and Mongolia are currently leading Canada in the medal count.... :)

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  3. Watching Arsenal-West Bromwich ... looking like it's going to be a cakewalk...

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  4. Bob, yes, but above Sunderland, and that's all that counts really. Unless they win their game against Liverpool (playing now), which seems unlikely

    Ruchi, I'll have you know that Canada now has THREE medals - one of each colour. So there! :-'

    Okham, they never stood much of a chance really, did they? Stoke lost 3-1 to Bolton, it's tough when you come up into the premiership. Hull won though!

    Ah, I missed watching the football on a Saturday morning with a cuppa tea in hand.

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  5. Okham, they never stood much of a chance really, did they?

    No, but not a terribly impressive performance from the Gunners either... well, granted, it's the first game of the season...
    Can't wait for Serie A to start... even though when you already know from day one that it's going to be one of those three teams again, it gets kinda boring...

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  6. Wow three medals while we were sleeping!! Very impressive. Your Canadian cats must be happy.

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  7. Ruchi, they are getting into the spirit of things by training for the sleeping endurance event. It is way too hot to be wearing a fur coat today so I don't blame them.

    Oh, and Canada now has a mighty 7 medals! 2 gold! GB is currently THIRD in the medal table with 25 medals, 11 gold. Not bad for 60 million people!

    Okham, which team do you support in Serie A? And I hope you noticed today's result - Man Utd 1 - Newcastle Utd 1! I am pretty damn happy with that score!

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  8. My favorite team was actually pretty good in the early 90s (played a European championship final, lost to Barcelona) -- now the franchise does not have the money to compete with the big three, and essentially is there just to "make the numbers"... pretty dull, eh ?

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  9. ...oh, yeah, and OMG everyone but ManUtd again... I almost can't stand them as much as Juventus or Real Madrid...

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  10. Okham, I know the feeling. Like Keegan (our manager) said, it used to be about winning, now it's about trying to break into the top 4. Everyone else is just playing for those UEFA cup places! Last year I had to choose between Man Utd and Chelsea for the title and reluctantly had to go for Man Utd, as a proper team, not a purchased team. I still hate both of them though. C'mon Liverpool and Arsenal!

    BTW I don't speak much Italian at all but I can understand the following from the site you linked to:

    "OOPS. Non hai il plugin Flash o il tuo plugin e superato. Clicca qui per aggiornare il tuo player per vedere questo contenuto". OOPS and anyhozzle - see, I know two new Italian words! Oh, and plugin.

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  11. Yeah, the translation of that message is: "Sorry, you are one of those losers out there who are still browsing the internet with FMIE... smarten up or lose out -- anyhoozle"... yep, that's the literal translation.

    Maybe you can try this one instead.

    If you ask me, everything went downhill the moment they removed the cap on the maximum payroll size. It got to the point where some teams (Inter FC was notorious for doing that) were paying 50+ players, most of whom would not play a single game in the entire season. What was the point ? Ostensibly, to ensure that none of them would play for anyone else...
    Of course, there are other things that poison football, such as
    1) random numbers on the back of a player (Ohmyholyjesusinheaven, goaltender is number one, not 99 !)
    2) Games played at random times during the week (games must be played on Sunday at 2:30 pm ALL RIGHT ?)
    3) Goalie not allowed to handle the ball on a back pass
    4) Offside rule subject to mind reading on the part of the officials (as opposed to the good ol' you-are-offside-when-you-are-offside-dammit rule).

    I think the most eloquent comment about all of these "innovations" was made by Bobby Charlton, who went "WTF ?"

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  12. Ooh that's an ugly website!

    We have IE6 installed at work as the only permitted browser and can't do a single thing about it. Our servers have patient data and medical records on them so our IT department will not let us install ANYTHING. Not even Google toolbar. It's understandable but frustrating. I use Firefox at home.

    1) random numbers on the back of a player (Ohmyholyjesusinheaven, goaltender is number one, not 99 !)

    Couldn't agree more. Defenders should be numbers 2-5, strikers # 9 (main striker) and 10 (secondary striker). I don't care about the rest as long as they are numbers 6,7,8 and 11 in any order. Not #45 and 33 or whatever. Rugby union has set numbers for each position - much more straightforward.

    2) Games played at random times during the week (games must be played on Sunday at 2:30 pm ALL RIGHT ?)

    You are dead wrong. Games should be played at 3 pm on a Saturday and no other time. Ever. Definitely do not make Newcastle fans travel to Portsmouth - the longest journey in the Premier League - for a 12.15 pm kick-off; that's just cruel.

    3) Goalie not allowed to handle the ball on a back pass

    I don't mind this one too much. Maybe because I was younger than you when it changed...?

    4) Offside rule subject to mind reading on the part of the officials (as opposed to the good ol' you-are-offside-when-you-are-offside-dammit rule).

    Don't forget those is-it-or-isn't-it-over-the line moments. I am all in favour of video playback for disputed goals, offsides and penalties. It made rugby union a better game, in my opinion, as long as they're not stopping the game every 5 minutes.

    I think the most eloquent comment about all of these "innovations" was made by Bobby Charlton, who went "WTF ?"

    The Charlton brothers (and Jackie Milburn, another Newcastle legend) were born in the same small town as me - Ashington, about 30 miles North of Newcastle. I saw Jack Charlton around town a few times when I went back to Newcastle for university. Geordie legends, all of them! There's not much else about Ashington to be proud about...

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  13. Hull City in Champion's league spot!

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  14. Woohoo!

    I love this time of year. You can go from bottom to top in a couple of weeks. Newcastle usually go on to reverse that move over the following 6 months.

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  15. @ Cath re: GB. Damnit, you're totally going to win the per-capita count!!

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  16. Couldn't agree more. Defenders should be numbers 2-5, strikers # 9 (main striker) and 10 (secondary striker).

    10 ? I thought strikers were 9 and 11 (it definitely was like that when I was growing up). 10 was more like, offensive midfielder, e.g., Hoddle, Baggio, Maradona... AND, sweeper should be number 6.

    AND, don't even get me started about the name of the player on the back of the shirt. First, who the hell can read that crap at the stadium anyway ? Second, if you can't recognize the players by their looks, you are no true football fan and don't belong in there. There !

    (games must be played on Sunday at 2:30 pm ALL RIGHT ?)

    You are dead wrong. Games should be played at 3 pm on a Saturday and no other time.


    All right, fine... for us it used to be Sunday at 2:30 pm. And that was pretty much all that there was to Sunday (together with church in the morning, men standing in the back reading "La Gazzetta dello Sport". Can't buy those great memories... whatever).

    Don't forget those is-it-or-isn't-it-over-the line moments. I am all in favour of video playback for disputed goals, offsides and penalties.

    In theory I agree but in practice I watched a lot of ugly arguments on TV among people who could not agree even then... I suppose introducing the notion of "challenging a referee's decision" like they do in American football might be doable though.

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  17. Ruchi: here's hoping! The Aussies are hot on our heels.

    Okham, this is fun.

    I hear number 10 and I think of someone like Michael Owen or Gary Lineker - maybe different countries have slightly different conventions, just like they do with the traditional kick-off time. I like how the Italian time fits nicely after church, whereas the English time fits nicely between pub sessions.

    You might be right about those arguments. I watched the England-South Africa rugby world cup final at a friend's house last year, and almost had a BIG argument with her dad while they were showing replays of a disputed England try. It wasn't given and he was soooo smug. I still say the guy's foot didn't touch down over the line. But whatever. South Africa had handed us a severe thrashing earlier in the competition and deserved to win. I suppose.

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