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November 30, 2007

Tottenham Hotspur FC.

Filed under: English Football Clubs — admin @ 7:17 pm

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Hotspur FC was formed in 1882, by a group of teenagers in the North London district of Tottenham, and named after Henry IV (Henry Hotspur, of Shakespearean fame), who had lived there in the 14th century, and whose descendants owned land there.  The name was changed to Tottenham Hotspur FC in 1884.   The club turned professional in 1895.  They joined the Southern League the following year.  In 1898, they began wearing white jerseys and navy blue pants, in emulation of Preston North End, the top English club of the time.  They won the FA Cup in 1901, as the first non-League club to win the trophy, beating Sheffield United 3-2, in the replay.  They were elected to the Second Division in 1908, and immediately won promotion to the First Division, in 1909.  However, their form suffered, and by 1915, the time of the Great War (now called World War I), they were bottom of the league. 

Resumption of the league, in 1919, brought about expansion to 22 teams.  Chelsea, set to be relegated, as they finished second-from-bottom in 1915, were allowed to remain in the top flight.  But the other new spot was not given to last-place Tottenham, but rather to Arsenal, even though Arsenal had finished 5th place in the Second Division.  This, compounded by Arsenal’s encroachment into Tottenham’s territory five years earlier, led to the bad feelings toward Arsenal that have continued to this day. (See this article.)  The club bounced right back to the top flight the next season, though, and won their second FA Cup (1921).  They beat Wolverhampton 3-1, before 71,000 at Stamford Bridge.  A second-place finish the next season was followed by a steady decline, ending in relegation in 1928.  From 1928 to 1950, they  languished, spending 13 of 15 seasons in the Second Division.  But under Athur Rowe, starting in 1949, Tottenham began playing in an agressive, fluid style, called “push and run,” that was marked by give-and-go passing.  Key players included Alf Ramsay and Bill Nicholson.  They gained promotion in 1950, then won their first National Title, in 1951, their first season back in the First Division.  In the next nine seasons, they finished second place twice, and third place twice, but also finished in 16th and 18th place two times.  Tottenham won their second (and last) Title in 1961.  In fact, they became the first English club in the twentieth century to win “The Double” (League Title + FA Cup), by beating Leicester City 3-1, at Wembley.  This legendary side was managed by Bill Nicholson, and featured Jimmy Greaves, Danny Blanchflower, and Dave Mackay.  The next season, they finished second, and won their fourth FA Cup, defeating Burnley 3-1.  In 1963, they became the first British team to win silverware on the continent, claiming the European Cup Winners’ Cup over Atletico Madrid, 5-1.  Tottenham won their fifth FA Cup in 1967, beating Chelsea 2-1.  More Euro glory was gained in 1973, when Tottenham won the new UEFA Cup, over Wolverhampton. 
Since 1950, Tottenham Hotspur have spent just one season in the second level: 1977-78.  Back in the top tier, in 1978, they signed two Argentinian World Cup winners, Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa.  This was an unusual act for the era, and it helped propel the club to back-to-back FA Cup wins in 1981 and 1982.  Both of these Cup finals went to replays; the ’81: 3-2 over Manchester City, the ’82: 1-0 over Queens Park Rangers.  Tottenham won their second UEFA Cup in 1987, over Anderlecht of Belgium.  That year was ultimately a disappointment, though, as they frittered away the league title, and lost to their nemesis Arsenal, in the FA Cup final.  They did win their eighth FA Cup, though, in 1991, with a side that included Gary Linekar and Paul Gascoigne.   Since then, the club has won no silverware, and their best finish has been 5th place, in 2006 and 2007.  (They blew a 4th place finish in 2006, on the last game of the season, after half their starting lineup fell ill from food poisoning.  Fourth place is so important in England, because that is the last European Champions League spot, and is basically the ticket to the promised land of Big Club status.)  This 25-year run of failure has led to mounting frustration amongst the fans, and pressure from the board for results.  Being such a high profile club from London, with one of the most successful clubs in all of England only 4 miles away, has turned the need for results into a mania.  Which can partially explain the poor way in which the board, under chairman Daniel Levy, handled the dismissal of much-loved manager Martin Jol, in late October, 2007.  This after a poor start to a season where they were odds-on favorites to finally break into the coveted top 4.  New manager Juande Ramos, fresh off two straight UEFA Cup wins at Sevilla,  takes over a club that boasts an explosive attack, but is prone to sieve-like defensive displays.   Tottenham has huge ambitions, including a new stadium, and there are plenty of funds in the transfer kitty, but Ramos still has his work cut out for him.

Find out Tottenham Hotspur FAQ here.

Thanks to colours-of-football[dot]com, for the new kits; historicalkits[dot]co[dot]uk for the old kits (the 5 kits at the bottom left-hand corner), which are copyright Historical Football Kits, and reproduced by kind permission. Thanks to org[dot]ntnu[dot]no, and sportsgallery[dot]co[dot]uk for the photos.  Thanks to tottenhamhotspur-mad[dot]co[dot]uk, and european-football-statistics[dot]co[dot]uk for stats.  Thanks to wikipedia for info.  Thanks to FourFourTwo for the great article.

November 29, 2007

West Ham United FC.

Filed under: English Football Clubs — admin @ 12:53 pm

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The football club of the Thames Ironworks was formed in 1895.  The club joined the Southern league in 1898.  They re-formed, as a professional club, in 1900, changing their name to West Ham United FC.  (The club gets it’s nickname, The Hammers, from it’s origins as a metal-works team, not as a derivation of “Ham;” their crest features a pair of rivet hammers)  In 1919, West Ham were elected to Division 2 of the Football League.  1923 was a watershed year for the club.  They participated in one of the most famous FA Cup Finals, losing 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers, in the first cup final played at Wembley Stadium.  Known as “The White Horse Final,” (see this article) it was attended by over 125,000 spectators.  That defeat was tempered by their promotion to the First Division the same spring.  Their first stay in the top flight only lasted 9 years, though, as they were relegated in 1932.  They languished in the second division for 19 seasons, finally winning promotion in 1958, the year Bobby Moore debuted.

In 1961, Ron Greenwood became manager, and West Ham’s golden age began.  They won the 1964 FA Cup, defeating Preston North End 3-2.  One year later, they beat Munich 1860 to win the (now defunct) European Cup Winners’ Cup.  Three West Ham players had crucial roles in England’s 1966 World Cup victory: Captain Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst (who scored a hat trick in the final, over Germany 4-2), and Martin Peters (who also scored in the final).  West Ham won the FA Cup again, in 1975, this time over Fulham, 2-0.  West Ham’s great run ended when they were relegated, in 1978.  But while in the 2nd Division, they then won their third FA Cup, defeating Arsenal 1-0, in 1980.  The Hammers were promoted the following year (1981).  Since then, they have spent 22 seasons in the top flight, and 5 in the 2nd level; with 3 separate relegations and subsequent promotions.  Their last promotion was in 2005, under manager Alan Pardew.  They did well in the 2005-06 Premier League season, finishing 9th.  But a poor start, and injuries, put the Hammers in a relegation battle the next season.  Pardew was sacked in December 2006, replaced by ex-Charlton manager Alan Curbishley.  They survived relegation by winning 7 of their last 9 games, the greatest escape from relegation the Premier League has ever seen.  The controversial acquistion (illegal, actually) of Argentine phenom Carlos Tevez proved crucial to the club’s survival, as he scored 7 goals in their last 10 games.

West Ham United is famous for the quality of it’s developmental system.  They have consistently produced fine talent, many from near their hardscrabble East London base.  The club bills themselves as “The Academy of Football.”  Their supporters have sometimes been maligned as full of a hooligan element, but those days (the 1970′s and 80′s) are thankfully in the past.  Their true rival is Millwall, who play just across the Thames River from West Ham.  But Millwall’s recent downturn in form (they’re stuck in the 3rd Division) has chilled the rivalry.  They have no love for the more posh North and West London clubs of Arsenal, Tottenham, and Chelsea.

Thanks to these sites.  Photos: stadiumguide[dot]com; footballgroundguide[dot]co[dot]uk and en[dot]wikipedia[dot]org.  Newer kits: colours-of-football[dot]com; old kits: historicalkits[dot]co[dot]uk.  Statistics: westhamutd-mad[dot]co[dot]uk.  Attendance figures: european-football-statistics[dot]co[dot]uk.

November 27, 2007

Wigan Athletic FC.

Filed under: English Football Clubs — admin @ 8:48 pm

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Wigan Athletic FC are also known as the Latics, which is a corruption of the word “Athletic.”  Wigan has made it to the lofty reaches of the English Premier League because of the massive investment owner Dave Whelan has put into the club.  The multi-millionaire is former owner of JJB Sports, a large retail sporting goods chain. Whelan played for Blackburn Rovers FC in the late 1950s and early 1960s, before a broken leg forced an early retirement.  He used the compensation-money to purchase his first store, which he eventually parlayed into JJB.  After making JJB Sports the biggest sports retailers in the UK, Whelan turned his attention back to football, assuming Chairmanship of Wigan in 1995.  The club had only joined the Football League in 1978, and had an extremely small fan base. The first game under his reign, Wigan drew 1,452 to their old ground, Springfield Park.  But that situation soon changed, as Whelan invested heavily, and Wigan rose meteorically up the leagues.  The Latics made it to the Premier League in 2005, and surprised everyone by finishing 10th in 2005-06, under manager Paul Jewell.  In their second Premiership season (2006-07), they avoided relegation by the thinnest of margins, beating Sheffield United away, pipping them on goal difference.  Jewell was burned out by the stress, though,  and stepped down.  His successor, Chris Hutchings lasted only 12 games, with Wigan mired in the relegation zone.  Steve Bruce was named the new manager on November 23, 2007.  Bruce, who had briefly managed Wigan in 2001, before having a six-year spell at Birmingham City, will try to pull the Latics out of their 11 game winless streak.  Poor league form aside, Wigan also face an uphill battle attracting fans.  Their sleek park (which they moved into in 2000), home also to the Rugby team the Wigan Warriors, is often embarrasingly empty for games.  They are on their way to having the worst attendance in the league again, around 18,400.  There simply may be too much top-level football in the northwest of England.  Manchester is just 25 miles down the road (where around 115,000 fans comprise the Manchester United/Manchester City attendance base); Liverpool is also 25 miles away (Liverpool/Everton making up about 85,000 average spectators);  Bolton (22,000 or so per game) is right next door; and Blackburn (24,000) is also nearby.  Plus, there are 3 second-division clubs within 50 miles of Wigan.  The Latics really have their work cut out for them.   The bloom is off their fairy-tale rise, fans have stopped showing up, they play in a region with a glut of football clubs, and perhaps most damning of all, most quality football players would really rather play somewhere more glamorous.

Thanks to these websites: FootballGroundsGuide[dot]co[dot]uk, and chilvers1[dot]demon[dot]co[uk] for photos; and Colours-Of-Football[dot]com for the kits.

November 26, 2007

Negro League Baseball, 1920-1950.

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: Negro Leagues,Hand Drawn Maps — admin @ 7:16 am

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Denied entrance into Major League Baseball by the color barrier, black ballplayers organized leagues of their own. These were the Negro Leagues, which existed between 1920 and 1957. The primary leagues were the Negro National League (1920-31; and 1933-48); the Negro Southern League, a minor-league (1920-40);  the Eastern Colored League (1923-28); and the Negro American League (1937-57). [For purposes of this map, records will only go to 1950, after which the Negro American League, the last negro league, essentially played exhibition games.] 

There were many standouts in the Negro Leagues, and 34 players have been elected to the Baseball Hall Of Fame. The first five elected were Satchel Paige (the legendary right-handed pitcher);  Josh Gibson (catcher, and home run king); James ”Cool Papa” Bell (center fielder, and base-stealer extroardinaire);  Buck Leonard (first baseman, slugger); William “Judy” Johnson (third baseman, with a .349 lifetime batting average); and Oscar Charleston (outfielder, and slugger, with a blend of power and speed; and a .376 lifetime batting average). More information about the Negro Leagues can be found at www.blackbaseball.com, and at the Negro Leagues e-Museum @ http://www.coe.ksu.edu/nlbemuseum/,  among other good sites.

Negro League baseball was characterized by fleet-footed action, and hi-jinks, ranging from tomfoolery to deadly serious one-upsmanship. There was more base-stealing than in Major League Baseball, and there was a sense of “playing to the crowd.” The teams knew the fans (particularly the significant portion of white customers) were there to see a show, and the players didn’t disappoint. An example of this was the barnstorming (traveling) club called the Indianapolis Clowns, an outfit similar to the Harlem Globetrotters. But that did not mean that Negro League baseball was an inferior product. During this era, negro baseball squads often defeated white MLB squads in exhibition games. Seasons were generally around 60 to 70 games long. There were no real standardized schedules, and teams operated on a shoe-string budget. 

The Golden Age of the Negro Leagues can be seen as the period from 1933 to 1947. The Washington-Homestead Grays regularly outdrew the Major League Baseball team the Washington Senators in Griffith Park in Washington DC, as they racked up 9 straight Negro National League titles. The Chicago American Giants played in old Comiskey Park, home of the MLB team the Chicago White Sox. The Pittsburgh Crawfords played in the first entirely black-owned ball park, Greenlee Field, and traveled the country in style, in their custom-made bus. The Newark Eagles won the 1946 NNL title, under Effa Manley (the first woman owner-operator to win a championship; she became the first woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, in 2006). And the Kansas City Monarchs toured the continent with their state-of-the-art portable lighting system. The Kansas City Monarchs would set up shop most anywhere, playing to thousands on a nightly basis. The Monarchs began using lighting for night games in 1930, five years before MLB teams first did. The KC Monarchs ranged throughout the midwest, the upper midwest and Canada. The Monarchs ended up sending more players to Major League Baseball than any other Negro League team. Their star pitcher, Satchel Paige, made more money than most major leaguers. It was an amazing phenomenon, that only ended when blacks were finally able to play in the Major Leagues. In 1947, Jackie Robinson, of the Brooklyn Dodgers, broke the color barrier, and the Negro Leagues days were numbered. Owners saw their star talent go to the white ball clubs, with no financial compensation. By the mid 1950s, the few surviving Negro League clubs were basically playing exhibition games, and the whole era faded away under the public radar. But the legacy of the Negro Leagues cannot be overstated.

I drew the main map in 2001. I added the flanking segments in 2007. I have included the 17 most prominent Negro Leagues ball clubs.

November 23, 2007

College Basketball. AP Top 25 Poll, November 23, 2007.

Filed under: NCAA Men's Basketball — admin @ 10:00 pm

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This is a new concept I’m trying out here. I’ve taken the latest Associated Press College Basketball Poll, and made a map out of it.  The 25 top ranked school’s emblems are scaled progressively smaller, as the team rankings go down from #1 to #25.

College Football, Mountain West Conference. 2006 Attendance Map.

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The Mountain West Conference (MWC)  was formed in 1999, when several members of the recently expanded Western Athletic Conference decided that the conference was too big.  8 schools left , depriving the WAC of much of it’s competitive strength and history.  TCU followed 4 years later.  Founding members of the WAC (which was formed in 1962) that eventually became part of the Mountain West Conference were Brigham Young University, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.  Schools that later joined the WAC, and also moved on to the Mountain West were Colorado State (joined WAC in 1967),  San Diego State (joined WAC in 1978), Air Force (joined WAC in 1980), UNLV (joined WAC in 1996), and TCU (joined WAC in 1996).   So the MWC is basically the old-time WAC, plus TCU and UNLV.  Only Hawaii remains in the WAC, from the earlier days of that conference.  The Mountain West has it’s own TV broadcast network, the “mtn.” (the mountain).  They ceased their affiliation with ESPN after that network insisted the MWC play games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  But there have been problems.  The network is unavailable on satellite TV, and totally unavailable in Dallas/Ft. Worth, the home of TCU.  Both Utah schools are dissatisfied to the point of bringing in their lawyers.  

November 22, 2007

Portsmouth Football Club.

Filed under: English Football Clubs,Hand Drawn Maps — admin @ 9:51 am

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 Today is Thanksgiving in the USA, and I am giving thanks to the roof over my head, my family and their continued health and happiness, this old e-machine that can still (slowly) do the work I demand of it, and to the fact that my favorite sporting club is sitting in 6th place in one of the top leagues in the world.  That would be plucky Portsmouth FC of the English Premier League, affectionately known as “Pompey.”  Portsmouth was the traditional home base of the British Navy, all through the years of Empire, and the naval presence there is still strong.  It is a very working-class town, as opposed to the more upper-middle class Southampton, 15 miles northwest.  The two have one of the biggest rivalries in English football, and there was much glee in Portsmouth when Southampton FC were relegated in 2005.  Pompey almost were relegated the following season, but pulled off one of the greatest escapes in Premier League history, going from 9 pts. down, to safety, in the last 10 games.  They did this by virtue of two things: the return of much-loved manager Harry Redknapp earlier that season, and a cash-infusion from new ownership that allowed the wheeler-dealer Redknapp to make some crucial player acquisitions during the January transfer window. I decided on Portsmouth as my club because I love their passionate fans, and I am drawn to teams that have to struggle to keep their heads above water.  Portsmouth, in their dilapidated stadium, with their working class fan base, punching above their weight, really reminded me of the soccer club I lived and died for as a youth…the Rochester Lancers of the old North American Soccer League.  I later found out that Harry Redknapp had played, and coached, in the NASL, with the Seattle Sounders from 1976 to 1979.  Here he met Milan Mandaric, then owner of the original San Jose Earthquakes.  Harry had come up through the West Ham United system, playing midfield for the East London club from 1965-72, with 147 appearances and 7 goals.  He ended his English career at Bournemouth in 1976, and then went to the US .   Years later, when Mandaric decided to buy (and basically rescue and revive) Portsmouth FC (he loved how devoted the Pompey faithful were), he appointed Redknapp (who had just managed West Ham for 6 seasons) as Director of Football.  Redknapp eventually became manager in 2002, guiding Pompey back to the top flight for the first time in 15 years, in 2003.  So that NASL vibe I felt with Portsmouth was real. 

Portsmouth FC has less cash-flow worries since Alexandre Gaydamak bought the club in 2005.  Since avoiding relegation in 2005, they have been steadily improving.  They finished 9th last season, just missing out on qualifying for Europe, in the UEFA Cup.  Under Harry, Pompey has always played a brand attacking football, and the team has been fun to watch these last 5 seasons.  Redknapp is much loved by his players, and has an avuncular style that has endeared him to the public.  His acumen in the transfer market is legendary.  He’s kind of like a used car salesman, but with footballers.  Now with more cash at his disposal, Redknapp has been acquiring (and attracting) a higher caliber of player.  Portsmouth’s defense (never a strength) has improved considerably, and they recently won an unprecedented 4 straight games on the road.  The club is also improving infrastructure like it’s training facillities, and they finally put a roof over the re-built away stands.  Fratton Park is still the smallest venue in the Premier League, but the club plans to build a new, state of the art stadium/commercial complex/luxury co-op development, on land reclaimed from the English Channel.  Last time I checked, it was slated for a 2010 completion, but I’ll believe it when I see it.  Whatever the outcome of the perpetually delayed new stadium, Portsmouth FC”s future looks bright.

Special thanks to these websites: FootballGroundGuide[dot]com[dot]uk, and Stadium Guide[dot]com for the photos, and Colours-Of-Football[dot]com for the kits. 

November 18, 2007

College Football, The Big East. Attendance Map, 2006.



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The Big East Conference was founded in 1979, but did not begin playing football until 1991.  Before then, it had been primarily a stage for the basketball programs of it’s constituent schools.  Miami’s presence gave Big East football instant credibility, and the Hurricanes dominated, winning 9 titles in 13 years.  When Miami left (along with Virginia Tech) to join the ACC in 2004, there was a gaping hole, only partially filled by the additions of Cincinnati, Louisville, and South Florida.  Boston College also left to join the ACC, in 2005.  In 2005, West Virginia claimed the Big East title, and won the Sugar Bowl (over Georgia), finishing #5 nationwide, in the AP poll.  In 2006, Louisville won the title, which they sealed with a triple-overtime win over upstart Rutgers.  Louisville went on to win the Orange Bowl (over Wake Forest), and finished #6 in the AP poll.  West Virginia finished #10, and Rutgers were #12.   The state school of New Jersey, Rutgers were a perennial doormat in football up until 2006.  Their surprising success, along with the rise of Connecticut and South Florida as football powers, points to a promising future for Big East football.

November 16, 2007

College Football, The ACC. Attendance Map, 2006.

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The Atlantic Coast Conference was formed in June, 1953, and begun play for football that fall.  The 7 founding members had left the Sothern Conference, primarily due to that conference’s ban on post-season play.  Charter members were Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, and Wake Forest.  Virginia joined the following year.  South Carolina opted to become an independent in 1971 (they are now in the SEC).  Georgia Tech joined in 1978, and Florida State joined in 1991 (both from the old Metro Conference, a fore-runner of Conference USA).  In 2004, Miami and Virginia Tech left the Big East, in a rather acrimonious fashion, and joined the ACC. A year later, Boston College followed suit.  This made the ACC a 12-team conference.  In 2005, the ACC began divisional play, with a Championship game played each December in Jacksonville, Florida.  The Atlantic Division is made up of Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, N.C. State, and Wake Forest.  The Coastal Conference is comprised of Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia, North Carolina, and Duke. 
With regards to the Conference Titles chart, I did not list the 3 Dixie Conference titles that Florida State won (1948-1950), as the conference was a pretty small concern.  4 of the 9 schools in it then did not field football teams.  The conference, now called the USA South Athletic Conference,  is in Division 3.  The list shows Duke with 16 conference titles, and that is not a typo. Duke fielded some successful football teams during it’s time in the Southern Conference (1928-1952), and were champions, or co-champions, of the first 3 ACC seasons (1953-1955).  Of course now, Duke focuses it’s energies on it’s huge basketball program, to the detriment of it’s sparsely attended football program.  Thanks to the Midwest Collectibles website. 

November 14, 2007

England, 2nd Division: attendance update, November, 2007.

Filed under: Attendance Maps & Charts — admin @ 10:48 am

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The League Championship is the second level of football (soccer) in England.  It is the 12th highest-drawing professional domestic league in the world.  Last season, the league averaged 18,221 per game.  However,  this season attendance is down over 10% .  The only non-promoted club with a significant gate increase is Wolverhampton.  The West Midlands-based club, which was last in the top flight 4 seasons ago,  have maintained a solid fanbase, and yet again are pushing for promotion.  They sit 5th in the table, which is a promotion play-off position  (first and second place win automatic promotion to the Premier League;  3rd through 6th place vie for the third promotion spot).   As the season progresses, and clubs become involved in both the push for promotion spots, and in the struggle to avoid relegation (the bottom three clubs), attendances will likely increase.   

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