Letters from London: The Most Talked About Team in Britain

1 Comment

LONDON – “Did you see the attendance,” a man calls to another table at the Sussex Arms, a pub in Westminster. As Gary Neville analyzes the round’s results for Sky Sports, the two tables have started their own weekend review, with the most talked about team in Britain stealing the group’s attentions from the Premier League.

“They’re in the fourth tier,” a middle-aged man tells a group of young men from Manchester. Of course, he’s talking about Glasgow Rangers. “Normally, second and third tier, you get a 200, 300 people. Rangers got 44,000.”

The number was actually larger. Rangers got 49,118 to their Saturday match at Ibrox against East Stirlingshire, the third-highest attended match in Britain (only Arsenal and Newcastle drew more). The weekend’s four other fourth division matches drew a combined 2,402 people, with Elgin City’s 631 the largest non-Rangers crowd.

With such an ardent fanbase, it’s easy to see why Britain remains fascinated with the Glaswegians. The team was a prominent part of Football Focus (BBC’s traditional match day lead in), with Mark Lawrenson and Peter Reid still expressing shock at the circumstances, even though the club’s application to rejoin Scotland’s Premier League was rejected at the beginning of July. Throughout the weekend, most of Britain’s review shows echoed Football Focus’s attentions, Rangers’ first home match since relegation clearly a story to be pushed.

Reid, 56, and Lawrenson, 55, are from a time when Rangers were a huge and significant club. As evidenced by their attendance, they remain huge, but embodying the wane Scottish soccer has experienced in recent years, Rangers are hardly significant. Last season, the club failed to play their way into both Champions and Europa League. In a season of turmoil (entering administration in February), Rangers failed to win any of Scotland’s three trophies for the first time since 2007. Combined with the pitfall in the Scottish league’s prestige, Rangers’ significance outside Scotland may have never bene lower.

All of which makes this weekend’s coverage curious. Among younger soccer fans, you see Rangers’ waning significance (just as one example, the man quoting Rangers’ attendance numbers at Sussex Arms appeared twice the age of his target audience), but on television, nearly every show treated Rangers as if it were a story fit to put on a pedestal just below the Premier League’s opening weekend.

And perhaps it was. After all, the club did draw just under 50,000 people to a fourth-tier Scottish league match. That, independent of Rangers’ financial problems, is huge news. But if Rangers F.C. wasn’t one of the teams involved, 50,000 fans at a Third Division match would have been treated as final segment curiosity, like Ron Burgundy’s waterskiing squirrel in Anchorman. Instead, it was a top of the show issue that drew panel analysis.

When we see coverage like this – disproportionate attention given to a story that was more attractive to a preceding generation of fans – it’s important to know how media works. The people who make the final call on the big stories are usually ones that come from Ried and Lawrenson’s generation. They’ve worked their entire careers to become managing editors and editors in chief, levels they’ve reached because they’ve been successful at their jobs. That success was garnered by their coverage of big stories, and while those editors (in Britain) were coming up, Rangers would have been a big story. Once you’re on top of the pile, you’ve developed habits, routines, instincts, all of which lead to Rangers continuing to get headline coverage even though the person who’ll eventually take your seat is already focusing on other, more relevant stories.

In the United States, we see this with the Kentucky Derby. Do you see today’s major media consumers (the 18-35 demographic) consumed with horse racing? Neither do I. Same goes for golf, tennis, and to a certain extent, baseball. The people who are coming into their money now (the people who advertisers want to cultivate) still love their football and basketball, but they also love Mixed Martial Arts and soccer. If your major sports network doesn’t cover those, in 10 years, it’s not going to be covering anything.

Rangers coverage is a product of that cycle. In media, people spend their entire careers working to get the big chair only to find a cold water irony once they recede into its leather: Their knowledge is already outdated. The first thing most successful people in sports media must do is change.

But old habits die hard, which is why the Kentucky Derby is still huge in the States, baseball is still insecurely touted as the national pastime, and Rangers F.C. got disproportionate media coverage in Britain this weekend.

Which, for three days, has made them the most talked about team in Britain.

PL roundup: Man Utd rolls; Arsenal falls at Stoke

Leave a comment

The wild first week of Premier League action wasn’t quite replicated on Saturday, but there were still plenty of talking points from the sophomore weekend.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

We had another surprising loss, this time it was Arsenal at Stoke, and a second prolific day from Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.

It’s all in the wrap, below.

Swansea City 0-4 Manchester UnitedRECAP

Manchester United was always in control at the Liberty Stadium, and led through Eric Bailly when a trio of Red Devils scored in neck-whipping fashion. Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba, and Anthony Martial scored in a span of 3:41 as United stayed atop the league thanks to a now plus-8 goal differential.

Stoke City 1-0 Arsenal — RECAP

Jese Rodriguez debuted in style for the bet365 Stadium faithful, combining with Saido Berahino for an early second half goal.

But Arsenal will feel rightly aggrieved after Alexandre Lacazette‘s would-be equalizer was wrongly pulled back for offside. The Gunners also had at least two penalty shouts go unheeded at the Potteries.

American center back Geoff Cameron played in a three-man back line for the Potters with Kurt Zouma and Ryan Shawcross

Southampton 3-2 West Ham United — RECAP

This one nearly went into the embarrassing column for Saints, who led 2-0 when Marko Arnautovic was given a straight red card for an albow. Mexican national teamer Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored twice to level the score, but a controversial late foul by Pablo Zabaleta led to a penalty kick. Charlie Austin scored it, and Saints won the points.

Burnley 0-1 West Bromwich Albion — RECAP

The Clarets dominated this in a bid to go 2-0, but Hal Robson-Kanu scored before being subbed off in a 1-0 win for the Baggies. How one-sided was it? West Brom only completed 100 passes. They played 90 minutes, to be clear.

Bournemouth 0-2 Watford — RECAP

No pun needed, it’s simply appropriate to say the Hornets were buzzing in a fine away performance. A prone Richarlison scored his first Premier League goal, and Etienne Capoue added an insurance goal in a win for Marco Silva‘s men.

Leicester City 2-0 Brighton and Hove Albion RECAP

Shinji Okazaki scored after less than a minute of play, and defender Harry Maguire added a goal in the second frame as the Foxes took care off the recently-promoted Gulls with relative ease.

Liverpool 1-0 Crystal Palace — RECAP

Frank De Boer‘s men nearly managed a point against their highly-favored hosts, but top attacker Sadio Mane kept up a string of starring performances with a late goal to win it for the Reds at Anfield.

Stoke City 1-0 Arsenal: Jese leads Potters to win

Leave a comment
  • New boy Jese scores
  • Arsenal has goal chalked off
  • Gunners have 77% possession
  • First Arsenal loss to Stoke since Dec. 2014

Jese Rodriguez’s second half goal lifted Stoke City to a 1-0 win over Arsenal at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday.

Alexandre Lacazette had a late goal controversially ruled offside — it didn’t appear to be — as Arsenal fell ahead of an Aug. 27 trip to Liverpool.

Arsenal also had two sincere calls for penalties go unheeded.

Stoke heads to 2-0 West Brom on the same day.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Signed on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, Jese had a good early chance when he dribbled into the 18 and hit a left-footed offering that Petr Cech raced to close down.

Arsenal soon settled into expected control of possession, though the first real bit of danger saw Jack Butland stopping a Danny Welbeck effort in the 20th minute. Bellerin drew shouts for a penalty kick moments later.

Stoke had a chance against the run of play when Jese, now on the right, found Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting for a tame chance at Cech.

Butland denied Aaron Ramsey‘s attempt off an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain free kick in the 28th minute.

Choupo-Moting found Shawcross from a dangerous header in the 32nd minute, but the English center back couldn’t get the required mustard nor direction on his attempt.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Saido Berahino played provider on the 48th minute opener, holding the ball for Jese to race past Nacho Monreal and shoot past Cech.

Butland conceded a corner off a pair of Arsenal chances in the 58th minute, but the Gunners couldn’t do anything with the opportunity.

Berahino came close to making it 2-0 on a break, but Arsenal forced a corner kick.

The Gunners stayed in the match, and a lively Welbeck forced Butland to concede a corner off a good lay-off from substitute Olivier Giroud.

Jese subbed out to solid applause in the 71st minute.

Soon after, a nice bit of combination play resulted in a wrongly ruled-out Lacazette goal. He looked to be onside, but the linesman didn’t see it that way.

Giroud flashed a stoppage time header across the goal but wide in what was Arsenal’s last true chance of the match.

Lyon’s Fekir scores amazing goal from halfway line – Video

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It is quite possible the goal of the season has already been scored. Eat your heart out, David Beckham.

[ MORE: Ligue 1 score, schedule

Lyon’s captain Nabil Fekir drilled home a sensational goal to open the scoring at home against Bordeaux on Saturday, in what would turn out to be an enthralling 3-3 in the Ligue 1 clash.

Fekir, 24, picked the ball up 20 yards into his own half and without hesitation sent a rasping, rising effort from inside his own half which flew into the back of the net.

It was also with his weaker right foot…

Take a look at the incredible strike below from the French international attacking midfielder.


Klopp reveals love for Anfield, Liverpool’s goal in victory

Leave a comment

With the Phillipe Coutinho situation compounded by shaky defensive displays, it hasn’t been too much fun for Liverpool fans recently.

Jurgen Klopp thanked Liverpool’s supporters for delivering a fine atmosphere at Anfield to get a much-changed Liverpool side over the line against Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: Mourinho – “Let horses run freely” ]

With a UEFA Champions League playoff second leg against Hoffenheim on Wednesday coming up, also at Anfield, Klopp rested five players for the game against Palace.

Frank De Boer‘s side had won on their last three visits to Anfield in the Premier League and although former Liverpool striker Christian Benteke missed a glorious chance went it was 0-0, Sadio Mane score the game-winner in a dogged Liverpool display.

There was no doubt who was the hero for Klopp: “Anfield helps a lot I think today it was the difference.”

Getting into more depth about his teams display, Klopp was pleased with the defensive display and Liverpool’s patience as well as lauding the scrappy nature of their game-winner as substitute Dominic Solanke made an impact and Mane pounced.

“It was a hard job to do,” Klopp admitted. “I have no idea how much we had the ball but it was a lot. We need to be creative and we had our moments in the first half and we knew we had to be a little more patient and we have to switch the sides again because they were quite deep and defended well but we had the moment and didn’t score, but didn’t give a lot of counter attacks away. Second half we adjusted a little bit and did it better.

“The first part of the second half was really good but how it is, we’ve had games like this, against Crystal Palace already, where one counter attack kills you. We were really awake, concentrated in these situations and defender well. Then you have to… I loved the goal, to be honest. We could have scored more but I love the goal because it wasn’t a clear situation, it was a counter-pressing situation. Dom [Solanke] is awake to get his foot in so Sadio can score the easy goal in the end. We had other chances where we could have scored more often. It was difficult but I am completely happy with how the boys did the job today.”

Sadio Mane popped up when Liverpool needed him and with the Coutinho saga rumbling on — Liverpool turned down a $145 million bid from Barcelona on Friday — Liverpool proved they can not only continue to create chances in attack without Coutinho but also proved they can defend better than they have been with defenders Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno and Trent Alexander-Arnold all rested on Saturday.

Liverpool’s coach reserved special praise for Andrew Robertson, making his Liverpool debut, at left back and Joe Gomez at right back who has missed a huge chunk of time out injured. Robertson was particularly dangerous in attack but it will b Liverpool’s solid defensive display which will have impressed Klopp the most.

Klopp will need another balanced display this week to get Liverpool past Hoffenheim and into the UCL group stage, and he will need another lively atmosphere from the Anfield faithful to help get his team over the line.