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Author Archive for Richard Foster

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Michael Gray: ‘All people want to hear about is that bloody penalty’

The former Sunderland player talks about play-offs heartbreak, the kindness of fans and having a giggle with Clive MendoncaBy Richard Foster, author of The Agony and the EcstasyWhen Doncaster Rovers captain Tommy Rowe sliced his kick wide of the goal i…

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Crystal Palace: the Premier League team who are better away from home

Crystal Palace were the only team in the league who won most of their points from away games – and this is not a new trendBy Richard Foster, author of The Agony and the EcstasyWhen commentators describe Selhurst Park as “a fortress”, Crystal Palace fan…

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Crystal Palace: the Premier League team who are better away from home

Crystal Palace were the only team in the league who won most of their points from away games – and this is not a new trendBy Richard Foster, author of The Agony and the EcstasyWhen commentators describe Selhurst Park as “a fortress”, Crystal Palace fan…

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‘They’ve just scratched the surface’ – football tackling mental health but more can be done

Work by charities, the PFA, clubs and players is helping the sport open up, though no one claims to have all the answersBy Richard Foster, author of The Agony and the EcstasyGary Speed’s family are inviting fans to take part in the Speed Cycle, a fundr…

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‘They’ve just scratched the surface’ – football tackling mental health but more can be done

Work by charities, the PFA, clubs and players is helping the sport open up, though no one claims to have all the answersBy Richard Foster, author of The Agony and the EcstasyGary Speed’s family are inviting fans to take part in the Speed Cycle, a fundr…

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Liverpool’s coaching evolution: from the boot room to a throw-in specialist

Liverpool were mocked for appointing a throw-in coach but Jürgen Klopp’s collaborative approach is nothing newBy Richard Foster, author of The Agony and the EcstasyIt is difficult to imagine Jürgen Klopp squeezing into the narrow confines of the conver…

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Premier League managers should forget the mythical 40-point mark

Fans are told they can breathe easily once their team hits 40 points but 36 is usually enough to survive these daysBy Richard Foster, author of The Agony and the EcstasyPremier League managers often say they will not relax until their team has hit the …

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Juan Mata’s charity brings a club onboard to celebrate its first birthday

FC Nordsjaelland are giving 1% of their matchday revenue to Common Goal – and that’s not all of their charitable workBy Richard Foster, author of The Agony and the EcstasyA year has passed since Juan Mata launched Common Goal, which asks its members to…

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Bouncebackability: a word coined for the play-offs that fits them perfectly

The best preparation a team can have for a play-off final is the experience of losing one the year beforeBy Richard Foster, author of The Agony and the EcstasyIain Dowie coined the word bouncebackability in the 2003-04 season when describing how his Cr…

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Martin Tyler became a Woking fan 65 years ago. Now he’s coaching the team

After attending his first Woking match in 1953, Martin Tyler went on to play for them, play against them and commentate on their matches. Now, aged 72, he is joining their coaching staffBy Richard Foster for The Agony and the EcstasyMartin Tyler’s pass…

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Paul Tisdale takes over as the longest-serving manager in England – for now

Arsène Wenger’s departure from Arsenal means Exeter City boss Paul Tisdale will become the longest-serving manager in English football – although he might be on his way tooBy Richard Foster for The Agony and the EcstasyAs Arsène Wenger prepares to say …

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Mentoring, marching and matchdays: life as a football club’s ambassador

Andy Johnson scored 85 goals for Crystal Palace and is now back in south London representing the club in the communityBy Richard Foster for The Agony and the EcstasyAndy Johnson is revered by Crystal Palace fans. He scored 85 goals in 160 appearances f…

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When Brighton played Palace and the referee gave five penalties in 27 minutes

Ian Wright, Mark Bright and John Pemberton all missed penalties for Crystal Palace against Brighton in 1989 but they still won the game (thanks to a penalty)By Richard Foster for The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Guardian Sport NetworkThe FA Cup tie bet…

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World Cup draw cock-ups: dropouts, dropped balls and dresses

Dividing teams into groups for a football tournament should be easy but nothing is ever simple when Fifa is in chargeBy Richard Foster for The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Guardian Sport NetworkGary Lineker has faced accusations of hypocrisy after cond…

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Celtic’s 63-game unbeaten record is impressive but Steaua Bucharest hit 119

Celtic broke their own 100-year-old British record on Saturday but they still have some way to go if they are to match Steaua Bucharest’s European recordBy Richard Foster for The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Guardian Sport NetworkWhen Celtic cruised pa…

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How Croatia, Italy and Ireland fared in Europe’s first World Cup play-offs in 1997

A few of the teams facing play-offs for next summer’s World Cup have been here before. Croatia and Italy qualified 20 years ago … unlike the Republic of IrelandBy Richard Foster for The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Guardian Sport NetworkOf the eight …

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Footballers living on the breadline: low wages, short contracts and no security

A few elite footballers make millions but players such as Josip Vukovic and David Low – who earn little and are often paid late – are the norm across the globe

By Richard Foster for The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Guardian Sport Network

Manchester City made two players the most expensive defenders in history last month. Kyle Walker’s became the costliest defender in the game when he made a £50m move from Tottenham and, just 10 days later, Benjamin Mendy took the record by joining City for £52m. The day before City signed Mendy they also tied up a £26.5m deal for Danilo, Real Madrid’s second choice right-back, taking their spending on full-backs to £128.5m in the space of a fortnight.

City’s trio of new defenders will each earn around £100,000 per week, a sum that has become common at the richest clubs in the Premier League. However, away from the moneyed elite at the top of European football, the majority of footballers live in a very different world. FIFPro, the union that represent 65,000 players across the world, say 45% of their members earn less than $1,000 a month.

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Afghanistan’s unlikely football league: eight teams, 18 matches and one city

Afghanistan’s first professional football league was set up in 2012 – with the help of a reality TV show – and it has given fans some much-needed normality

By Richard Foster for The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Guardian Sport Network

The last time Afghan football attracted the attention of the global media, it was all down to a plastic bag, a young boy and his idol. Lionel Messi met Murtaza Ahmadi in December after a picture of the five-year old in his homemade blue-and-white striped replica shirt had captured the world’s sympathy.

After Ahmadi was tracked down to the Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan, the UN’s child refugee agency arranged a meeting with Messi in Doha, before a friendly between Barcelona and Al-Ahli, where he was also the official mascot. The unfortunate and telling consequence of this moment of fame was that the Murtaza family had to move to Pakistan shortly afterwards because of fears the boy would be kidnapped, an all too common occurrence in his own country.

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Jimmy Bullard: ‘I wish I could go back and pick the brains of all of my managers’

Jimmy Bullard ‘loved every minute’ of his debut season as a manager at Leatherhead in the seventh tier. Now he wants an even bigger challenge

By Richard Foster for The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Guardian Sport Network

Leatherhead is not exactly one of the hotbeds of football in the United Kingdom. In this sleepy town tucked between Dorking and Epsom on the banks of the River Mole, the annual sporting highlight comes when the London-Surrey cycle classic wends its way through the town centre. A little way out of town is the football club at Fetcham Grove, nestling next to the leisure centre. Founded in 1907, the club has hovered around the lower levels of the non-league pyramid, switching between the Surrey Senior League and the Isthmian League for most of its 110-year history.

The Tanners have known better days and were once put firmly on the map by the escapades of Chris Kelly, the “Leatherhead Lip” who spearheaded the club’s famous FA Cup run in the 1974-75 season. Not only did they beat league opposition in Colchester and Brighton, but they were also 2-0 up against Leicester, then of the First Division, before bowing out to great acclaim with a narrow 3-2 defeat at Filbert Street. Kelly’s arrogance and habit of making bold predictions upset his opponents but the media lapped it up enthusiastically.

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How does it feel to win the play-offs? AFC Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley explains

Winning a play-offs final is thrilling but it can be stressful – especially if you have a family holiday booked and your taxi to Heathrow is waiting outside Wembley

By Richard Foster for The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Guardian Sport Network

Another chapter in the story of AFC Wimbledon’s remarkable rise up the leagues was written last May, when they went to Wembley and secured their sixth promotion in 13 seasons. The club had only played their first competitive match in 2002 – in the tenth-tier Combined Counties League – but here they were competing for a place in League One, where they would meet their nemeses, MK Dons.

Their 2-0 victory over Plymouth Argyle in the final was fully deserved, with Lyle Taylor’s accomplished finish setting them on their way before Ade Akinfenwa delivered the perfect swansong to his AFC Wimbledon career with his penalty in the 100th minute. That the match was played out in front of 57,956 fans – a bigger crowd than had watched the League One final the previous day – shows just how much people were invested in AFC Wimbledon’s triumph.

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