Two for your Christmas wish list

The last two weeks have been ones of significant travel delays for The Ball is Round team.  Not only did we travel to the arctic wastelands of Northern Denmark to bring you all the action from Randers v FC Copenhagen, but we then had to endure Easyjet at its worst with a 5 hour delay long into the middle of the night, and finally closer to home we have had to suffer the ineptness of SouthEastern railways.  But all of this time spent waiting gave us a chance to catch up on some long overdue reading and some new games on our iPhone.

Whilst the seat belt signs were on this week we dived into Paul Brown’s new tome, The Unofficial Football World Champions.  The concept of the UFWC is one we all remember from school where you tenuously tried to prove that Gravesend & Northfleet were actually better than Liverpool through a series of linked games.  You remember – Gravesend & Northfleet beat Charlton in a pre-season friendly, Charlton had beaten Palace, Palace had beaten Sunderland, Sunderland beat Everton, Everton beat Liverpool.  All very logical to an eleven year old.  But the concept actually originated from the Scots back in 1967 when they beat World Champions England 3-2 at Wembley and thus claimed they were the “unofficial World Champions”.

Brown traces the whole saga back to the first ever international match played on 30 November 1872 when England and Scotland drew 0-0.  Since that day he has documented all 838 matches up until October 2010, covering around 100 of the more interesting games in detail.  The book is written in a way that I guarantee every few pages you will say “Well I never knew that”.  Some facts you will discover include:-

  • Why the referee in 1880 game between England and Scotland was a Bastard
  • What legacy did Sam Weller Widdowson give to the gave today back in the 19th century
  • How the Netherlands Antilles became Unofficial World Champions in 1963
  • What was missing from the 1974 World Cup Final
  • Who is the current Ultimate Football World Champion

This is a book you can pick up, read some and then put it down again.  It is a great read and one for any football fan.  Brown’s writing style is one based on humour and that helps making a potentially dry factual book into one that is a compelling journey.

The book is currently on sale from now for just £7.99 or from after Christmas – but by then you will have missed the opportunity to make someone’s Christmas.  We award this FIFA 5 stars!

As soon as that bing noise hits us on the airplane we fire up our iPhone and continue with our long journey of trying to take Southampton to European glory on Championship Manager 2011 for the iPhone.  This new App is a faithful reproduction of the PC game and allows you to access almost all of the features you know and love.

We have played the order versions on the PSP and PC in the past and was interested as to how the programme would work on a touch screen.  But our fears were soon put to one side as within minutes we had set up our squad at Southampton + were in our pre-season preparations.

All the usual features you find in CM are here as well as a couple of nice touches.  We really liked the post match press conference where your answer will determine your popularity with the fans, the board, the players or the media itself.

Our pre-season saw us win all three games against Pompey, Lille and Swindon Town giving us hope for the new season.  And like West Ham’s form this season after an unbeaten pre-season our actual campaign started off like a lead balloon.  Three games three defeats.  I asked my assistant manager for advice and he suggested we change our style from “Nottingham Forest 1979” to Red Star Belgrade where we became tough nuts and kicked our way to victory away to Brighton in the next game.  And the game play itself?  Watching the ball zip around the pitch was almost back to the Kevin Toms day of Football Manager but it fitted with the game perfectly.

As the seatbelt sign came on in our approach to Copenhagen’s snowy Kastrup airport we had managed to rise to 8th in the league and were still in the Carling Cup, looking forward to a visit of West Ham.

My verdict?  This is a great way to spend an hour or two trying to build a footballing dynasty.  And at £3.99?  An absolute bargain.


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