A New Dawn in European Football

It’s back. The return of football in Europe is in sight (excluding Belarus, where it’s been business as usual.) South Korea became the first league to return to action following the coronavirus. Obviously there have been some major changes to ensure the safety of everyone involved; no crowd, no handshakes, substitutes wearing masks and maintaining a social distance on the bench. These are all factors which will be taken into consideration wherever football is played in the near future, and is likely to be commonplace for some time to come.

Unless you’ve been following the Nicaraguan league, the Bundesliga will be the first opportunity to watch live football for the best part of two months. Although a variety of programmes have been showing classic matches from yesteryear nothing compares to the real thing. Even though, under normal circumstances the league breaks over summer, the hiatus has been longer than normal with no international tournaments between seasons.

There are a number of fans who follow all football throughout the year, but for most casual fans the Premier League would be the only tournament they maintain an interest in. However, with the top division in England not returning until next month (at the very earliest) attention turns across the channel to Germany.

Under strong leadership Germany has taken control of the pandemic, and the Bundesliga has now marked its calendar to complete the remaining fixtures of the season. As a follower of the Premier League the rivalries are familiar, names are well known and the narrative is set. With an unfamiliar league, it’s time to get up to speed with what’s going on, who are the teams and who are the players.

Having done some research on the clubs, do you remain neutral? Or do you choose a team support? It’s definitely more entertaining watching a match with a vested interest. One of the common comments I get from people not interested in football is they wouldn’t watch a match if they didn’t want a team to win. To them there doesn’t seem to be a point. Back to choosing a team, what makes your decision? The colour of the kit, the location, the style of play, whoever is best (I don’t feel I could do that. Something about the British underdog mentality, perhaps. The having grown up in the 90’s with the majority of the school supporting Manchester United. Where are they now)?

I hope from a health and safety perspective it is a success. Even if you’re not interested in football (why are you still reading) it is a silver lining in a sky full of clouds, and a semblance of a return to normality. No other European league is returning for the next few weeks; France, Belgium and The Netherlands have already scrapped a return. This means German football will have more viewers than ever on , and it might be their opportunity to take advantage. The Bundesliga is one of the top five leagues in the world with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund regularly competing in the latter stages of the major European competitions. It is highly likely once the casual fan starts watching the Bundesliga for the rest of the season they will be hooked (I would have said caught the bug, but doesn’t seem right currently) and continue to watch even after the other leagues return later in the year.


As the Australians finally progress to the next year’s World Cup in Russia, it could be a fairy-tale journey for one player. This player is the uncapped, Kenya-born, 22-year-old refugee named Awer Bul Mabil, and this is his story.


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The Ebony Shoe and The Belgian Lion

The Jupiler Pro League in Belgium is no different from the other leagues across Europe. At the end of the season, the best individuals are nominated for the player of the year, with the league’s finest performer taking home the award. However, in Belgium there are a couple of other awards which are unique amongst their peers, Le Soulier d’Ébène and Le Lion Belge. Le Soulier d’Ébène (The Ebony Shoe) is awarded annually to the best African or African origin player in the Belgian Pro League, and Le Lion Belge (The Belgian Lion) rewards the best Maghrebian (or Maghrebian origin) footballer in Belgium in the three national divisions.


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Gil Heron – Celtic’s first black star

This article came about after a colleague asked what music I was listening to. When I told him it was Gil Scott-Heron he informed me that the musician’s father played for Celtic. I found this an interesting piece of trivia but when I thought more about it made me want to delve deeper. If Gil Scott-Heron was performing in the 1970s his father must have played for Celtic long before then? In the early post war era, there can’t have been many black footballers in Britain? How did a man from North America end up playing football in Glasgow?


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Free Agent Squad

The 1st July is the official start of the new season. With the last club season a distant memory clubs have been freshening up their squads and releasing player who have come to the end of their contracts. With so many players released what are the options out there. Is it possible to create a squad to compete in the Premier League comprised entirely of free agents? Have a read and see what you think…

*Please note this article was written before Victor Valdes and Mikel Arteta joined Middlesbrough and Manchester City respectively



Undisputed No. 1 is Victor Valdes, the Spanish goalkeeper started his careers at Barcelona and won everything in his time at the Nou Camp. After letting his contract run down Valdes joined Manchester United in January 2015. It was thought fellow Spaniard David de Gea would leave the Red Devils last summer but a proposed transfer to Real Madrid fell through at the last minute. Valdes spent last season on loan to Standard Liege in Belgium, following a dispute with manager Louis van Gaal. Despite van Gaal’s departure Valdes was still released when his contract expired. Back up to Valdes will be provided by the experienced Mark Schwarzer. The Australian was on the books at current champions Leicester City, but didn’t make an appearance during their title winning campaign. Further backup is provided in the form of veteran Steve Harper. After 20 years at Newcastle United the goalkeeper spent two years with Hull City before signing for Sunderland last season.



Kolo Toure was released by Liverpool despite appearing regularly at the end of last season following Mamadou Sakho’s suspension, often in preference to Martin Skrtel. Toure will be joined by Martin Demichelis.martin-demichelis The 35-year-old made over 100 appearances for Manchester City, helping them to three trophies in his three years at the club. Alternatives at centre back come in the form of Brede Hangeland, who spent the last two years at Crystal Palace having left Fulham after the Cottagers were relegated from the Premier League, and Steven Taylor, who departed Newcastle United after making 268 appearances in 13 years at the club. Taylor’s former United teammate, Jose Enrique, offers experience at left back despite being frozen out by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool last season. Former Chelsea Academy graduate Kevin Wright offers youthful enthusiasm having won the FA Youth Cup and the Under-21 Premier League in his time at the club. At right back Joey O’Brien was released by West Ham after five years at the club while while Tony Hibbert has spent his career on Merseyside with Everton.



flamini rosicky

Former Arsenal trio Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini come with vast experience at the highest level. Arteta and Rosicky have been plagued by injuries with the latter forced out of the Czech Republic’s Euro 2016 squad with a thigh strain. Other options in central midfield include former Arsenal trainee Steve Sidwell who has played in the Premier League with Chelsea, Aston Villa and Stoke. Nick Powell was signed by Manchester United as a promising youngster from Crewe Alexandra and despite not fulfilling his potential is only 22 years old and has represented England at all youth levels up to under 21 level. Like Tony Hibbert Leon Osman spent his entire career with Everton before being released this summer despite never considered a regular Osman has put in some impressive performances in an Everton shirt and received a call up to England in 2013. Osman’s former Everton teammate Steven Pienaar is also available having been released by the Toffees. During his time on Merseyside the South African made up one of the most effective left sided duo alongside Leighton Baines. On the flank other options are provided by Stephane Sessegnon, the tricky midfielder was impressive when he first arrived in England with Sunderland and last season at West Brom he showed occasional flashes to link up well with Saido Berahino and Salomón Rondón.



Emmanual Adebayor was released by Crystal Palace following a short spell at the South London club. The Togo international is a player who when on form can be unplayable, anyone able to play for Real Madrid and command a £25m price tag must have some talent. To complement Adebayor’s physical presence Peter Odemwingie offers pace and trickery. The Nigerian has spent time in the Premier League with West Brom, Cardiff and most recently Stoke City. Another player currently available is his international teammate and former colleague at West Brom Victor Anichebe. The former Everton man is as strong as an Ox has made it his trademark to pin defenders before turning and shooting. The last man to make up the squad is former Liverpool man Samed Yeşil, the 22-year-old represented Germany up to under-19 level. He was particularly successful in their under-17 team, whom he helped become runners-up in the European Championship and third place at the World Cup in 2011.


Marching into the Saint’s Manager’s Office

Following Ronald Koeman’s appointment at Everton Southampton are looking for their fourth manager in less than four years. Koeman left the club in a healthy condition following a sixth place finish in the Premier League, the Saints highest ever, and a record 63 points. Despite this the former Dutch international opted to head to Merseyside to succeed Roberto Martinez as Everton manager. A recent takeover at Everton by Iranian Farhad Moshiri, and the potential for investment in the squad may have tempted Koeman as last year was the Toffees second successive season finishing outside the top half of the table.


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Scouting for Galacticos

With the European Championships in full swing the best players on the continent are performing on the biggest stage for national glory. As well as the fans the stadiums will be full of scouts looking for their club’s next signing. While some will be looking for an unknown quantity or the next hot prospect Real Madrid will be looking for their next Galactico.

real madrid

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Best Premier League Transfer – 2015/16

Dimitri Payet

West Ham’s final season at the Boleyn Ground began in July with the Hammers participating in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League following entry via the Fair Play League. Slaven Bilic arrived to replace Sam Allardyce and made a number of changes in the playing staff. Among those to arrive was Dimitri Payet from Marseille. The playmaker cost West Ham £11.25m but the fee has been worth it as Payet hit the ground running in England straight away. Beginning with an assist in an opening day victory at the Emirates and scoring five goals by November the French international fast became the star man in a promising season for the Hammers. However, an injury caused by a reckless challenge from James McCarthy against Everton forced Payet out of action for two months. By the time he returned speculation was mounting the Payet may become the latest player to be lured to China for big wages. West Ham ended rumours of departure by agreeing an improved contract for the midfielder to remain in East London. Returning from injury Payet maintained his excellent form with a couple of spectacular free kicks against Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United, making him the most feared set piece taker in the Premier League since Cristiano Ronaldo. Overall Payet has scored 12 goals for West Ham, and assisted 12 more. This form was acknowledged with a nomination for the PFA Player of the Award and a place in the PFA Team of the Year. With a record Premier League points total and the possibility of European football next year West Ham will be positive about moving to the Olympic Stadium with their talismanic playmaker.

West Ham United v Chelsea - Premier League

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 24: Dimitri Payet of West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Chelsea at Boleyn Ground on October 24, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

N’Golo Kante

With odds of 5,000-1 no one could have predicted Leicester City’s rise to the top of English football. 12 months ago the team just survived relegation following a remarkable run of form. However, it wasn’t enough for Nigel Pearson to keep his job and the Thai owners decided to appoint Claudio Ranieri as his replacement. Optimism was in short supply but the Italian kept the formula which had allowed the Foxes to escape the drop the previous season. One key change was the transfer of N’Golo Kante from SM Caen for £6.75m. With Leicester playing 4-4-2 a great deal is expected of the central midfielders who are usually outnumbered, Kante has built an impressive partnership with Danny Drinkwater in what has become the most settled line up in the league. The diminutive midfielder is crucial in the Foxes style of play and has topped the number of tackles won across Europe’s top five leagues. Despite his defensive work Kante has also broken into the attack to contribute with four assists and one goal, a crucial 2-1 home victory over Watford in December. For a player that was competing in third tier of French football three years ago Kante’s rise has been phenomenal. His efforts with Leicester have alerted the French National Team for whom the midfielder made his debut this year and will look to play in his homeland at Euro 2016 this summer. Despite being the unsung hero, behind teammates Jamie Vardy and Riyadh Mahrez, his peers have recognised the 25-year old’s contribution with a place in the PFA Team of the Year. With Leicester within touching distance of the title and assured Champions League football next season there is speculation that the top sides in Europe are looking to capture Kante from the Foxes. A £20m release clause in his contract will surely tempt Manchester United, Arsenal or PSG to make a move for the hardworking defensive midfielder.

N’Golo Kante

Petr Cech

When Thibault Courtois returned from a loan spell at Atletico Madrid last summer Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had to choose between the Belgium goalkeeper and current incumbent, Petr Cech. Mourinho opted for the younger as his first choice and after almost a decade as undisputed No. 1 at Chelsea Cech had to accept a place on the bench. After making only seven league appearances during the Blues Championship winning campaign the Czech international knew he would have to look elsewhere for more regular first team football. As expected for a goalkeeper of his calibre there was high demand across Europe to secure Cech’s services. Mourinho would have preferred Cech moved abroad, potentially to PSG but the goalkeeper didn’t want to uproot his young family. Owner Roman Abrahmovic personally gave Cech his backing and authorised a move across London to rivals Arsenal. For £10m Arsene Wenger had secured a quality goalkeeper, ousting Wojciech Szczęsny and David Ospina. Cech’s competitive debut was made against the club he’d just left, in a 1-0 win to secure the Community Shield. However, the 33-year old’s league debut didn’t go to plan as he misjudged a free kick to allow Cheikhou Kouyate to score the opening goal as the Gunners went down 2-0 to West Ham. Cech’s successor at Chelsea didn’t have it any better getting sent off in their opening day draw at home to Swansea. That result, and Mourinho’s touchline antics, set the tone for the West London club for the worst title defence in Premier League history. Although injuries can’t be accounted for Cech would surely have received more game time at Chelsea had he stayed. However, with the turmoil at Stamford Bridge the veteran wouldn’t have regretted moving on. In a bittersweet season for Arsenal calls for Arsene Wenger’s departure and another last 16 exit in the Champions League were balanced by pipping Tottenham on the final day and securing a runner’s up spot, the club’s highest finish in 11 years. On a personal level Cech’s 16 Premier League clean sheets won him the Golden Gloves award for a joint record fourth time. Despite falling short against this year Arsenal fans will hope the Gunners can go one step further and win the title again, and with the calming influence of Cech they may get to end their wait.

Petr Cech

Hard work – you get what you put it

At the halfway stage of this topsy-turvy Premier League season one of the themes to take away is that hard work is certainly paying off. This might seem pretty obvious and the least fans expect from players earning vast fortunes each week but the success or Leicester City and the struggles of Chelsea have bought effort, desire and commitment to the fore this season. Here are a few examples of players who’ve always put in 100% for their team.


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