AFC Wimbledon: A Brief History of the Wombles

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Compared to other teams in English league football AFC Wimbledon are a relatively new club, but they can boast a history that goes back many years. Their dedicated followers have stayed with them through thick and thin and it is this dedication that has made the club what it is today.

Wimbledon Old Central Football Club was formed in 1889. Later known as Wimbledon FC, they played in the amateur and semi professional leagues until the late 1970’s when the team moved into the more professional leagues. From 1986 until 2000 Wimbledon Football Club kept their place in the FA Premier league. During 1998 they became the second football club to win the FA Cup and the FA Amateur Cup after beating Premier Side Liverpool 1-0 in the FA Cup Final.

Wimbledon FC’s home ground was in Plough Lane, Wimbledon, London, until the Taylor report was publicised. The Taylor report recommended that all top flight-clubs had an all seater stadium. The club made a temporary arrangement to club share with Crystal palace, lasting for ten years. In May 2002 they were given permission to move 90 km north to Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.

The move away from Wimbledon was extremely unpopular with the fans. Ivor Heller, Trevor Williams and Marc Jones formed the Don’s Trust on 27 May 2002. They held crisis meetings to represent the feelings of the fans and the board. They also provided financial representation from membership fees and donations. The owners steadfastly pursued their goal of relocation and it was finally sanctioned on 28 May 2002.

When the Don’s Trust were unsuccessful in stopping the relocation, the dedicated supporters faced losing a 115 years of history and memories. An emergency meeting decided on the formation of a new club. They called the club AFC Wimbledon.

Later, in 2004 Wimbledon FC, who had relocated, went into administration. The club was saved but they were renamed the Milton Keynes Dons. The Wimbledon fans do not associate them with the history of Wimbledon FC.

The supporters, through the Don’s Trust, own AFC Wimbledon Football Club, nicknamed the Wombles. They share their ground Kingsmeadow with Kingstonian FC in Kingston-Upon-Thames in London. Sponsored by Sports Interactive their biggest rivals are the Milton Keynes Dons, which is a result of the history between the two sides.

Their most famous player was Vinnie ‘Psycho’ Jones who has since become famous as an actor in such films as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Gone in Sixty Seconds alongside Nicolas Cage.

The club has been promoted four times in seven seasons and have assured their place in the National Conference. AFC Wimbledon played 78 league matches in a row without defeat for 3 full seasons and hold the record for winning the most consecutive football games.

AFC Wimbledon continues to be successful and the fans are as dedicated and loyal as they were a hundred years ago.


Written by Sara Rose

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Match of the Century: Queen’s Park FC versus Preston North End

On Saturday 30 October 1886, the two greatest clubs of the nineteenth century met in Glasgow. This was more than just an Anglo-Scottish clash. Queen’s Park were the amateur purists against the new professional force that was Preston North End.

Founded in 1867, Queen’s Park was Scotland’s first Association Football Club. Previously football had been confined to the English aristocracy and Public Schools, but within a couple of years Queen’s had made the sport popular in Scotland, and indeed Ireland, as their tour of Belfast was directly responsible for the founding of the Irish F.A. Not only was the club responsible for spreading the game beyond England, it changed the very way in which football was played. Half time breaks, for example, were devised by the Glaswegians, before teams had swapped ends after each goal was scored, and there was no formal rest period.

In addition they also changed the style of football. Their players were pioneers of the passing game. This concept may seem straight forward to postmodern minds, but until the 1870’s players would dribble for as long as viable, only stopping when they were tackled by their opposite number. For the first decade of organised football, the sport was played in a manner akin to a playground encounter, as men crowded around the ball taking turns to try and get into a shooting position.

Another lateral concept was the purposeful heading of the ball. The F.A. rules simply stated that an outfield player could not use his hands; heading the ball was unmentioned. It was some time before people started to deliberately use their head to move the ball, and though Queen’s Park may not have been the very first to employ the tactic, they certainly honed their heading skills before any other major team.

In 1872, Queen’s Park was involved in two pivotal events in the evolution of football. It was the year that saw the climax of the maiden F.A. Cup, and the very first international fixture. It seems that the F.A. Cup was originally envisaged as a British-wide competition, and that is probably the reason why it was not christened the English Cup. As the only entrants from north of the border, Queen’s received a bye to the semi-final, where they played The Wanderers.

The former public schoolboys had expected a comfortable victory over their northern opponents, but were held to a nil-nil draw. The replay was never to be, as the Scots could not afford the train-fare for the long journey south, and had to scratch. However, Queen’s Park had impressed sufficiently for Charles Alcock, the most influential figure in the early days of English football, to suggest an England-Scotland match.

On St. Andrew’s Day of that year, the first international Football match took place at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Glasgow. The entire Scotland team was composed of Queen’s players, and as they donned their navy blue club jerseys, the strip was adopted as Scotland’s national colours from that day forth. The following year Queen’s changed their strip to black and white hoops, and have been known as The Spiders ever since. The match was a nil-nil draw, with the Scots better team work nullifying the individual talents of the English. It was not long before all the major English sides had adopted the Scottish ‘combination strategy’.

Two years later Queen’s Park would lift the first Scottish Cup, and would claim it a further nine times before the end of the century (to this day only Celtic and Rangers have won the title more often). By the 1880’s the club had managed to become more financially secure and could now afford to regularly compete in the F.A. Cup, twice reaching the final in 1884 and 1885, only to be vanquished by Blackburn Rovers on both occasions. Yet there was a slightly hollow ring to Blackburn’s victories, as one of the most feared teams in the country, Preston North End, was not present. The reason for this absence was the result of the most significant dispute in the history of Football, the debate on professionalism.

Just as Queen’s Park had transformed the amateur game and brought it to a wider audience, so Preston North End was embarking on its own revolution. Their leading agitator was William Suddell who did more than any other man to turn football into the professional sport that would conquer the World.

In the early 1880’s football had begun to take root in Lancashire towns such as Darwen, Bolton, Blackburn, and Preston. The Preston-born entrepreneur William Suddell had realised football’s huge potential early on, and began to surreptitiously pay his players. He acted as both chairman and manager, and was also prepared to travel in search of the most talented footballers of the age. In the 1880’s the finest were generally to be found in Scotland.

The Ross brothers were the best known Scots to be recruited. Jimmy Ross was a free-scoring centre-forward who would net seven goals in Preston’s record-breaking 26-0 demolition of hapless Hyde in the F.A. Cup. His older brother Nick was a defender with a fearsome shot who bagged dozens of goals in his career, and is also credited with being the first player to utilise the backpass to the keeper.

The 1888-89 Preston North End side

The 1953-54 Preston North End side

As Preston’s footballing reputation grew, so too did the resentment of their rivals, and North End were twice expelled from the Cup for paying players, something that was common place in Lancashire at the time. Suddell decided to take on the F.A. and instead of denying the accusations, admitted that the Deepdale outfit was amongst several practising professionalism. He then proposed a breakaway professional British football association. It was a row that nearly tore football apart, in a manner similar to the dispute that impeded the development of rugby. Eventually the F.A. had little choice but to relent, as a consequence Working Class men could now consider football as a career, and the sport never looked back.

When Preston was finally readmitted to the F.A. Cup in the 1886/87 season, their first round opponents were none other than the bastions of amateurism and Scottish Cup holders, Queen’s Park. The purpose-built venue was Hampden Park (now called Cathkin Park), a few miles from the famous present-day Hampden Park. Many football fans, even members of the Tartan Army, are unaware that Queen’s Park actually owns Hampden, and that the Scottish F.A. is merely a tenant.

That almost 20,000 Glaswegians, the majority of very modest means, paid to watch a sporting contest is in itself noteworthy, and proof that in the northern half of our island, football was becoming an antidote to the drudgery of industrialism. The hosts were determined to prove that an unpaid team could compete with a professional one, and there was also a sense of Scottish national pride being at stake.

The sport played that day was recognisable as football, though there were obvious differences with today’s game; the tackling was a lot rougher, there were no nets attached to the goals, the penalty kick had yet to be devised, and substitutions would not be introduced for a further eighty years. In truth the contest itself was unremarkable. North End cantered to a three goal lead and the Spiders never really looked in the match.

The partisan home support had been directing coarse comments at North End’s ‘turncoat’ Scottish contingency throughout the ninety minutes, but matters came to a head when Jimmy Ross fouled W. Harrower, sparking a pitch invasion. Ross was only saved from a beating by the intervention of Queen’s player Walter Arnott (who had guested for the Lilywhites a few weeks earlier). However the trouble did not end there, as the official Queen’s Park history records:

‘After the whistle blew, with Preston victors by 3-0, the enraged crowd broke in and demanded Ross junior, that they might wreak their vengeance on him. His life would have been in grave danger, were it not that the Queen’s Park officials successfully protected him, and spirited him away through a back window.’

Meanwhile the rest of the visitors were besieged in the changing tent by hundreds of baying fans, and it was some hours before the North Enders could sneak away. Even then the Queen’s Park fans were not pacified, and marched off to Glasgow Central Station in an attempt to intercept their quarry. The Railway authorities managed to convince the mob that Ross and his fellow players had been arrested, and were under custody in a police station on the south side of the city. Meanwhile the Preston party made good their escape from Glasgow. Amateurs Queen’s Park may have been, but there was little doubt about the fervor that football could arose amongst their supporters.

Passionate though their followers undoubtedly were, the sun was setting on the great era of Queen’s Park, and amateur football in general. The following year the S.F.A. banned Scotland’s sides from entering English competitions, and the club won their last Scottish Cup in 1893. At first The Spiders’ distaste for professionalism continued to influence football regionally.

In its infancy the Scottish league stayed amateur, and even then Queen’s refused to participate until the twentieth century. Additionally, players like the Ross brothers who ‘sold out’ to the English clubs were barred from appearing for the Scotland national team. Eventually however, as the Scottish international team lost its competitiveness, professionalism was permitted in Scotland. Queen’s Park however, remains amateur to this day.

Even the professionals of Lancashire would have to wait a further two seasons to finally achieve the glory Suddell and his lads so desired. At the end of the season West Bromwich Albion would upset Preston in the semis winning 1-0. North End came back even more strongly the following year dispatching all before them in a mammoth, and record-breaking, run of 42 consecutive wins. However Preston was again humbled in the Cup by unfancied West Brom, this time in the final.

Nevertheless, when success finally did come, it came in grand style. Not only did 1889 see PNE win the inaugural league season without losing a game, they then collected the F.A. Cup keeping a clean sheet for the entire campaign. The opponents in the Final were not West Brom (who Preston at last beat in the semis) but their Black Country archrivals Wolves. Preston claimed The Double with a three-nil victory. William Suddell had achieved the dream of turning his team into the greatest football club in the World.

Yet they would become victims of their own success. Professionalism began to work against small town teams. Clubs such as Everton, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Sheffield United, and later Newcastle, Liverpool and the Manchester sides were able to garner larger crowds due to their greater population, and hence could afford to outbid the likes of Preston and Blackburn in the pursuit of top players.

The contest between Queen’s Park and Preston North End symbolises the triumph of professionalism. Whether that was beneficial to football is a matter of opinion. William Suddell had hastened the, perhaps inevitable, advent of professional football, helping to transform it into the world’s most popular sport.

However, in the aftermath of that painful defeat over 125 years ago, maybe there were some Queen’s supporters who, wistfully remembering the club’s motto ‘ludere causa ludendi’ meaning ‘to play for the sake of playing’, wondered whether football really had progressed.


Written by Brian Heller

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Football/Sports Tips: How to Effectively Communicate With Your Players

Communication is key in any sport, especially team ones such as rugby and football, where the success of the club depends on effective management of large pools of talent. Keeping track of the well-being, health and fitness of each individual player is essential to manage your resources and ensure that the group on the pitch is able to get the best results. It can also help you to avoid injury, overrunning certain players in the build up to important events, and overseeing opportunities as they arise.


Face-to-Face Communication

Whether you are training or giving the team a talk during half time, it can be difficult to get your message across clearly both to the team as a whole, and individuals who need specific advice or criticism. Especially during intense situations such as games, mistakes made by players can be frustrating for the coach and manager, but a negative approach to communication can only have adverse effects. In any situation, try to build a criticism into a compliment. Tell them what they were doing well, then how they can improve their game, and you are much more likely to get a positive response.

Listening is as important for coaches and managers as it is for the players. Instead of giving them a 5-minute talk on where they have gone wrong and how they could improve, get them more actively involved in the conversation. Ask them where they think things went wrong, and talk through their situation to come to a solution. By being approachable and willing to hear what the athletes themselves have to say, you might also be surprised at how many of them are perfectly capable of self-diagnosis, and ask for advice of their own accord.


Interacting off the Pitch

However much you might try to cover every base in the time spent with your players, you inevitably can’t keep track of each player at all times. Yet understanding their feelings and physical situation is crucial to effective team management, and a passing comment during training from a player might easily get lost in the pipeline. Equipping your players and your organisation with sports performance management software allows you to interact off the pitch.

Your players can fill in surveys on their performance and fitness, whilst you can co-ordinate their training and development remotely, accessible on mobile devices to fit around the busy lives of every member of the organisation. By doing so, you can secure on-going communication with your team, and make sure that everything is professionally tracked and recorded.

In a modern world where mobile technology offers the opportunity to interact any time, anywhere, as a sporting organisation or individual, communication on the pitch is only one half of the picture today. Investment in sports performance management software and makes interaction with your players easier and more effective. Combined with an approachable and positive style of coaching and management, you can get the best out of your team to watch the success speak for itself.


Article by Kelly Gilmour-Grassam, freelance copywriter from Yorkshire. Kelly loves the great outdoors, interesting places and fine foods. You can follow her on Twitter at @KellyGGrassam. This article is written with support from The Sports Office.

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Football: What does it mean and how us fans shape our lives around it

There comes a time where we must all grow up. Young boys stop playing with little action figures and move on to games consoles, young girls stop wearing their mothers make-up and start wearing their own. We all go to secondary school, reach an age where an interest in the opposite sex grows and we watch more shows created for an older fanbase, as opposed to the kid’s TV we used to enjoy.

We can change our minds so easily when we grow up. We outgrow almost everything from our childhood, be it a show, a board game or an obsession with our favourite teddy or toy that never left our side. Even hobbies find their way of slowly drifting from our routines and finding their place in our memories, never to be forgotten.

One thing that seldom changes, however, is relationships. Some even grow stronger. Childhood friends become school friends, school friends become work friends, maybe even partners. Having an affinity with something rarely changes, and it’s the same with football.

Football can shape the childhood of children so easily. We watch and become transfixed by one player, one team or just the sport in general. For children in football mad families, it is inevitable that they will watch football from early. As a young boy in an Arsenal mad family there was no other team I was ever going to watch, and when I did watch I was hooked by Thierry Henry.

He was my first idol, the first player I fell in love with. And even today, the sight of Thierry Henry or the mere mention of his name buckles me up and takes me down the greatest evocative road I’ve ever journeyed on. Reliving the moments that lit up my childhood, experiencing those moments again. Just fantastic.

To this day, as an 18-year old, I will admit that if it come down to going on a date with a beautiful female or going to watch the Arsenal, I’d pick Arsenal. She may be upset by that so I’d invite her along. If she says no then that’s her problem, not mine. However strong that may sound, football has played a part in my life so huge that living without it would be fairly difficult. It’s an escape, and the same for many other people.

People shape their lives around football. Socially and professionally, everything is built around football. Unfortunately though, not for me, professionally speaking. I work when most Arsenal games are on, and as an 18-year old I’m sadly unable to dictate when I work.

Money comes first when you’re building for a future. Needs must. But it’s not the same for others. People book days off from work to go to games. Even if they’re just going to watch it down the pub with some friends, football comes first.

It’s a strange connection, as people who don’t love football are unable to comprehend the feeling felt by fans when a goal is scored, a pass is misplaced or the ball is controlled. All these footballers are really are just normal people who can kick a ball better than the rest of us, but it’s not as simple as that.

As kids we idolise these men and treat them as superheroes and when we grow up we just sit back and watch in awe. They become parts of our lives and on the back of interviews and performances we end up feeling like we know them.

It even influences the way we use social media, particularly on Twitter. Many people you’ll find on there use it solely to air views and discuss football. There’s something about mixing social media and watching football that results in a narcissistic belief that our views are superior to others. Opinions in the world vary, but on social media the passion we hold for our clubs exudes into 140 characters and any objection comes across as disparagement. So, naturally, we bite back.

Peronally speaking as a reserved individual, football provides a platform for conversation. With not many interests other than the beautiful game finding a middle ground is difficult, and relating to people is rare. With all this in mind, football is the most important thing in my life and it’s played a huge part in the development of me as a person. It’s taught me many different emotions and even a few swear words along the way. Like millions of my fellow humans, I don’t know where I’d be without football.

Football elicits emotion that is not comparable to anything in life. Loyalty to your club is not a choice, it is an obligation; something that is very much permanent; like a birthmark, or a mole - something we cannot remove from ourselves. No matter how frustrating we may consider our connection with a football club to be, there is no doubt that however illogical perserverance through frustration sounds, it would sound even more illogical to contemplate removing your loyalty.

So loving football isn’t necessarily a choice, it’s a requirement. And it’s fun to be part of a community that’s so widespread yet united as one. It’s a wonderful feeling. And that’s why football will always come first.


Written by Ryan Goodenough

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Feature: 5 Sports With The Highest Risk Of Injury

Sports are great fun to participate in, and they’re great for your physical and mental health. Not only do you get exercise, but you get the opportunity to participate in a confidence building activity with friends that share your interests. However, sports can also be very dangerous.

If you are looking to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle while avoiding serious injury, maybe you should be aware of the sports that have the highest risk of injury. Here is a compilation of sports with the highest injury risks based on emergency room admissions across Australia and in the Latrobe Valley.


Australian Football

Australian football is the most common cause of sports-related injury in adults, accounting for more than 20% of all sports-related injuries. It is also a very common cause of injury in children, accounting for nearly 12% of all childhood sports injuries.

According to Dr. David Lee, a Sydney dentist, “The high rate of injuries in Australian football is partly due to the reluctance of players to use much in the way of safety equipment. Fortunately, the one piece of safety equipment they do use regularly is a mouthguard, so tooth injuries are reduced.” However, other types of head injuries are common, accounting for about 20% of all injuries.

According to the smaller-scale study in Latrobe Valley, the injury rate for Australian Football may be about 37/1000 in a two-week period, though most injuries are inconsequential.



Based on national injury reports, cycling is the most common cause of sports-related injury in Australia for children, accounting for more than a quarter of all childhood sports injuries. It is also a major cause of injuries in adults, accounting for about 10% of adult sports injuries.

However, because cycling is one of the most popular activities in Australia, especially for children, its injury rate is relatively low.



Soccer accounts for less than 10% of sports related injuries for both adults and children, but it is high on the list for both groups. Not surprisingly, soccer has the highest incidence of lower extremity injury of any sport, especially in adults, where they account for nearly 60% of all injuries.

The most common type of injury is a sprain or strain, although fractures were also common, especially among children. According to the Latrobe Valley study, the injury rate in soccer was higher than for Australian football, about 107/1000.



Basketball had a fairly high rate of injury for both adults and children. In children, basketball and its variant netball had the highest rate of injuries to the upper extremities. Mostly these are sprains and strains, though fractures are common. For adults, lower extremity injuries were more common in basketball and netball.

Likely, this is more reflective of the degenerating condition of adults’ lower extremities than the character of the sports.



When it comes to the last sport on this list, it’s hard to distinguish between cricket and rugby. Both  have numbers of injuries among adults, but low among children, coming out very close to one another in total numbers.

However, in the Latrobe Valley study, cricket had the highest rate of injury out of any sport (242/1000), which merits its inclusion on the list. Among children, head injuries are common, but among adults, there is no injury location that stands out as characteristic of the sport.

No matter what sport you participate in, it’s best to always take precautions to avoid injury, including proper warmup and cooldown that can help you avoid strains and sprains.


This article was artfully written by Matthew Candelaria for Off-Topic Media. Thanks to Dr. David Lee of My Hills Dentist in the Baulkham Hills area of Sydney, NSW, for his contribution to this article.

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Good Sportsmanship: A Guide To Etiquette On The Football Field

Whether you’re playing competitively or just playing for fun, a game of football should always be an enjoyable experience for all involved.

Many of us will have been in situations where we’ve had to play against opponents we might have a grudge with, or had to play an away game before hostile spectators – but at the end of the day it’s important to remember that it is a game.

Sure there’s nothing wrong with having a competitive atmosphere, but letting this escalate can result in an uncomfortable environment – and that’s when careless tackles and injuries can occur.

A painful injury is something that nobody wants. Being incapacitated can hamper future games, and have a detrimental effect on your professional and personal life. So when on the football field, even though it’s a naturally heated sport, it’s usually more beneficial for everyone to let cooler heads prevail.

Practicing good sportsmanship is a great way of decreasing tension before, during and after a game. Here are the basic rules of good footballing etiquette. Following these will help you to ensure that your game of football remains a game, and doesn’t turn into a war.


Shake Hands

Let your opponents know that your team is here to have a game of football. Be professional. Shake hands with them before the game to defuse any possible feelings of tension, and after the game, to show that there are no hard feelings over the result.

Believe me this act which may seem very insignificant will protect both teams from major issues throughout and after the game. How many times have we seen a fight break out on the pitch over small issues?


Help a Fallen Opponent

After a hard challenge, helping your opponent to their feet will help to calm any possible bad feeling resulting from it. If you’ve just fouled an opponent and realised it, apologise for the mistake.

Similarly, if one of your opponents or teammates has suffered an injury from a particularly harsh tackle, show concern and do what you can to help.

If they require treatment, get the attention of your physio if there’s one present.


Hand it Over

It can be easy to get frustrated with a decision that hasn’t gone your way, but don’t let this get the better of you. If your opponents have earned a throw in or a free kick and you have the ball, don’t disrupt the flow of play by having a tantrum and kicking it away.

Be grown-up, and willingly hand the ball over to your opponents so the game can continue.


Put It Out of Play

In those situations where an opponent is injured but play has carried on, do the right thing – put the ball out for a throw in. If your opponents are good sports like you are, they’ll return the favour and throw the ball back to you once the fallen player has received attention.

Most of the time, your opponents will be good sports - no matter where you are in the world.


This article is written by Adam who recently had an injury during a game of football. Due to the initial pain, he was prescribed pain relief medication from Express Doctor who are based in the UK.

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Feature: The Increasing Success of Football Betting

Football betting has long been popular amongst those that like to gamble, as illustrated by the ubiquitous presence of betting shops on high streets across the United Kingdom. Yet unlike many formerly popular industries, the world of football betting has thrived in the era of the internet.

Indeed, all of the major bookmakers like have setup online versions of their physical shops, leading to not only a mass exodus from the high street to the virtual world of online gambling, but it has tempted a greater proportion of the population to gamble on sports than ever before.

Now, in terms of popularity, football betting is matched only by the wealth of similarly popular online casinos.

Reasons for the continued and increasing popularity of football betting:

1. Convenience – this is arguably the main reason for the aforementioned surge. The added convenience has been generated by giving those interested in sports betting the ability to find tips and odds information, in addition to being able to place bets securely online.

The World Wide Web has therefore made football betting into something that is very accessible in terms of the ability that the average punter now has to make an informed betting choice.


2. Audience – There has been a marked increase In the level enthusiasm for sport in general amongst the public, but it is football – and the Premier League in particular –that has seen a surge in popularity and therefore in the number of people betting on its results.


3. Advertising – The likes of Bwin are experts in marketing their brand and bringing themselves to the attention of a mass audience. Indeed, sponsorship deals with European footballing behemoths, Real Madrid and AC Milan, have obviously brought the betting site to the attention of a massive audience, thus helping to increase the popularity of sports betting on a global scale.


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Bolton: Trotters’ title value?

Okay, I’m going to stick my neck firmly on the chopping block here and state that Bolton is a good value bet to take the Championship title. If you have a look at all the different odds available with the various bookies, they are a best-priced 12/1 with some of them at the time of writing.

To me, that represents good value given the way the club finished last season, the way they played at Burnley, and the signings Dougie Freedman made during the close season.

Of course, no-one can say they will win the title, but you can say it represents anomalously good value if you’re as optimistic about our chances as many Bolton fans are. I also think the market is unfairly distorted by the whole Harry Redknapp / QPR “factor”. QPR is currently a ridiculously short price to win the title – as low as 5/1.

But we know from history that the Championship is usually a close-run thing and a very difficult division to win simply by spending money – or thinking that you really “should” be winning it!


Free money bonus bet

So anyone who wants to throw their money away making such bets is welcome to do so – and they may just come off. But it certainly isn’t my idea of a value bet. You’d be better off going to a casino, taking on a big welcome bonus like at, for example, and backing red at roulette to see if you can double up your free cash!

Seriously, with the sorts of introductory bonuses websites like casino club offer, it’s something of a no-brainer for those of us who enjoy a punt.

And if you manage to double up your free cash, The Trotters could be worth a wager at 12/1 – or at around 7/2 to be promoted. Last year’s heartbreaking finish to the season could actually work out well for the club in the longer term; promotion could have been too far, too soon, in other words.


The right man at the helm

I think that Dougie Freedman will prove himself to be an excellent manager over the longer term. He didn’t really put a foot wrong when he was at the helm at Selhurst Park and when you bear in mind that he’s still only 39 years old, you realize then he still has lot to learn.

But he’s certainly heading in the right direction and at Bolton, he really has a great chance to prove himself to be the next great Scottish Manager in a long line of predecessors. He reminds me, in many ways, of David Moyes who was in a similar position at Preston North End (then Everton) just over a decade ago. Of course, we wish Mr. Moyes all the worst at Old Trafford – despite the fact that he’s a nice chap!

As we know, Dougie Freedman was the Championship’s Manager of the Month in April – and if he is again a couple of times this season, as I fully expect him to be, you won’t be able to grab that 12/1 for very long.

It’s well worth a bit of a gamble with money you can afford to lose in my opinion. It all adds a little spice to what promises to be a superb season.


Written by Alex Corcoran

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Port Vale: The Potteries see a contrast in fortunes across the City

On Saturday, Stoke were booed off at half-time against Aston Villa and the mood failed to improve in the second half as Matt Lowton and Christian Benteke earned the visitors a pivotal victory in the relegation battle. Villa left the Potters just three points off the drop zone with six matches remaining, having won just one game in their last twelve games and scoring just four times in their last eight.

A malaise has set in at the Britannia through dull football and poor results to put Tony Pulis under severe pressure. Supporters are refusing to renew season tickets through the utmost concern of where the club is heading under a manager that has spent £77 million since gaining promotion in 2008 and has failed to yet land a top half finish. Now, the prospect of relegation is looming and the discontent is emanating vocally from the crowd.

The night beforehand, across town and three divisions lower, Port Vale were hammering Burton Albion 7-1 in a League Two fixture that positioned them on the brink of promotion, a margin of six points provides their cushion on the automatic places. It has been a season founded on the attacking intent of a 4-4-2 with the flying wing-play of Ashley Vincent and Jennison Myrie-Williams, providing striker Tom Pope, who got his 32nd goal of the season against Burton.

The 27 year old was named as League Two’s player of the season a fortnight ago and before Lee Hughes arrived in January to contribute 9 goals in 14, he was single-handedly firing Vale’s promotion charge. His 32 goals have accounted for a significant portion of their club total of 81, the highest amount in all of England’s top four divisions.

It is in stark contrast to the years of misfortune that Vale fans have been forced to endure at Boardroom level. Financial mismanagement brought last season’s administration that ultimately cost them a play-off spot and, last March, the club were staring down the barrel of extinction over unpaid tax bills and an outstanding £1.8 million loan from the city’s council.

Transfer embargoes and unpaid wages followed before November’s takeover over Paul Wildes, a businessman from the Wirral, and Norman Smurthwaite bought brighter days. The duo have renovated the outlook of the club, from a previously insular, uncommunicative board that issued numerous false promises, they have been on a charm-offensive, holding Q&A nights and promising a new superstore, a new ticket office and price initiatives. The game against Burton for example, a huge night in the race for promotion, attracted 10,000 fans as prices were reduced to £9. The new chairmanship have also promised to finalise the building work on the unfinished Lorne Street stand.

“I think the club has the potential to be a Championship club” Wildes has said, stating his ambition to lead the club into more successful times, and there’s no reason, with such healthy backing, why cannot return there after they departed in 2000. After 41 years, they are the second tier’s longest serving members out of the clubs who have yet to reach the top division. Vale Park holds 19,000 fans and the relentless drive by the owners to appeal to the supporters bodes well for the future, they have also planned for a highly competitive budget should they finish the job of getting to League One next year.

Adams…. has managed to steady the Port Vale ship.

Despite some rocky form in March, Micky Adams has managed to steady the ship and put them on the brink of finishing the job he has been intent on completing since returning to the club in 2011. He has achieved it with a close-knit squad that with the likes of Doug Loft, Louis Dodds, John McCombe, Adam Yates, Pope and Rob Taylor was built on the basic principles of experience and camaraderie.

Lee Hughes and Darren Purse arrived in January to add further lower league know-how whilst Chris Birchall and Anthony Griffith, former loyal Vale servants, returned to bolster a midfield that contains the hugely promising 20 year old Sam Morsy. Adams also has a talented teenage defender in Joe Davis but the criticism remains that not enough talent is emerging from the youth set-up, something that the Wildes regime has sought to solve by planning to improving training facilities. In the meantime, Vale have been taking advantage of their Staffordshire base to train at the National Football Centre at Burton.

The promotion party will be even sweeter to the Vale fans who witnessed the poisonous era of Perry Deakin, Bill Bratt and co. that formed the previous board in which progression was sacrificed for personal profit and greed. It was described the the supporter’s group at the time as a “perfect administration” and, after the arrival of Wildes and his partner, it can be argued as being just that.

The good times are back in Staffordshire, but only in the white half of town.


Written by Adam Gray

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English Championship: Pursuing Promotion

The dog fight – the title best describing the Championship.

Cardiff are the only team consistently taking home three points. Leaving a dog fight for the second automatic promotion place. There is such a high level of expectancy for Malky Mackay’s men, as they have failed to get through the play-offs year after year. They now open a seven point gap on their promotion chasing rivals, with a game in hand.

Hull sitting in second place are trying to secure the remaining automatic promotion place to the Premier League. Steve Bruce has to take the praise for his signing of David Meyler from Sunderland, who has turned out to be a real talisman for the Tigers.

Controversial Watford lie in third thanks to the loan signings from the Pozzo families other club Udinese. Zola’s side have really been a joy to watch with their elegant passing and clinical finishing, evidently the Italian roots have surely played a part.

Just a point behind Watford in fourth are Crystal Palace who really have caught everyone’s eye this season. One player that deserves a tremendous amount of credit is Glenn Murray who really has had an eye for goal this season. He is currently the Championships top scorer, netting 29 times so far in the current campaign.

Nottingham Forest are the next team to lie in a play-off place. Billy Davies has made an immediate impact on his return to the City Ground, picking up 19 points from a possible 21 including six wins a row and remains unbeaten. This has pushed Forest up to a convincing fifth position when many people thought they were down and out for the Premier League chase.

Davies..... immediate impact.

Davies….. immediate impact.

Leicester are the final team to fill up the last remaining play-off place. Only by goal difference over Brighton, they sit just a point behind Billy Davies’ side. Nigel Pearson’s Leicester have been a breath of fresh air in front of goal this season up until now. Recent weeks indicate that the forwards have suffered with David Nugent and Chris Wood only bagging one goal between them in the last five games.

It would be a brave man to predict the outcome of the end of the season. Watford and Crystal Palace would be most suited in the top flight purely on their playing style it may seem. That is if Watford can keep hold of their loanees and Palace can retain the services of the reliable Glenn Murray, following Wilfried Zaha’s departure to Manchester United next season.

With eight games to go and only nine points separating second and seventh it will be an exciting run in to the end of season, with teams stepping up a gear and fighting for promotion to secure Premier League status.


Written by Ben Miller

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