Cultured Football #145
Mark Robins' Longevity. Thames Valley Royals. Basque Country Breeds Managers. Keep Right On. An Irishman in Cape Verde
By Luke Davis for The Gaffer
By scoring the winner in an FA Cup 3rd round tie at Nottingham Forest back in 1990, Mark Robins famously saved Sir Alex Ferugson from the sack. United were coming from an eight game win-less streak and elimination from the cup would have meant the end for the Scottish manager. Robins had just turned 21 at the time yet that was arguably the highlight of his playing career (I was surprised to find that he scored just 11 goals for United). Robins himself has gone on to enjoy a long one himself; he is currently the 5th longest serving manager in league football and has achieved great things at Coventry City. Karma for having saved the career of one of football’s modern greats?
By Steve Pye for The 1980s Sports Blog
These are dark days for Reading FC. With relegation to League Two looking quite a possibility amid financial difficulties which has seen players resorting to microwave-meals, the club is at the mercy of owner Dai Yongge. Yet this is not the first time Reading has faced such an uncertain future. Indeed, the club could have been buried a long time back had that upstanding businessman Robert Maxwell had his way back in the 1980s.
Bonus Pick: The sad demise of Northwich Victoria.
By Sid Lowe for ESPN
When Rafa Benitez signed Xabi Alonso for Liverpool, he was asked whether the midfielder would be able to handle to rough and tumble of English football. It was a question that clearly surprised Benitez, who promptly replied that being Basque Alonso came from a region know for its people’s toughness. Benitez was right, of course, and Alonso proved to be an exceptional player who had little difficulty settling into English football. Of late, however, being Basque does not only signify tough players but also great managers with some of the current greats coming from that region. And, perhaps, being great because they come from that region.
Every Saturday, Cultured Football brings you five great football articles you should be reading.
By Tom Reed for Terrace Edition
What a season this has been for Birmingham. A brilliant start came to an end when the manager who had engineered it was surprisingly sacked. His replacement, Wayne Rooney, couldn’t keep the momentum going and indeed he oversaw a dismal run that dragged them towards the bottom. Now in their third manager of the season, fans still seem to be enjoying the game. As they like to sing around those parts, keep right on.
By Andy Scott & AFP for The Citizen
Cape Verde have been one of the big surprise stories of the first week of AFCON. They followed up a historic win over Ghana with an emphatic win over Mozambique that ensures qualification to the next round. The smallest country at this stage of the tournament, the side is boosted with a number of foreign born players among whom is one with a distinct Irish accent.
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Last Week’s Most Read: How Africa Changed the Premier League
By Chris Reidy and Conor O'Neill for SkySports
Those of us who have been following English football for a bit know just how much the game and attitudes of those within it have changed. For those who have not, then Howard Wilkinson talking about how Leeds United got to sign club legend Lucas Radebe should provide an indication: “Geoff [Sleight, the then Leeds Chief Scout] was there to see Phil Masinga but he was told the best player in South Africa was currently injured. Lucas Radebe. We watched Masinga. But couldn't watch Radebe because he was injured. But based on Geoff’s conversations out there we took them both." The idea of the whole internet - let alone a club - not knowing of player seems preposterous today yet that’s how it was back then. Wilkinson is often derided but him taking a gamble on Radebe shows just how much of an experimenter he was. And it also shows how far African football has come. This brilliant three part series details that journey one decade at a time. Fantastic writing and storytelling; a must read.
Bonus Picks: Plenty of other great pieces on the African Cup of Nations including Tor-Kristian Karlsen picking the lesser known players who might star in this edition and this Twitter thread by Non League Shop on players called up for the competition who currently play non-league football.