Today League One AFC Wimbledon beat fellow League One club Fleetwood Town in the FA Cup third round. It meant they take home £134,000 prize money. They’ll get slightly more as the gate receipts are shared between the two clubs, but as Fleetwood have one of the lowest home attendances in the League, it won’t make a massive difference.
But what difference will the prize money make?
Let’s start with the secretive world of player salaries. AFC Wimbledon have been punching above their financial weight for some years now. They’ve been favourites for relegation so many times, largely because of their low playing budget, yet have so far flattered to deceive.
The average salary of a League One player is around £70,000 per annum. So winning £134,000 nearly pays for two players salary. With a squad of (say) 28 players, a team getting a windfall of that amount, gets a return of approximately 15% of their playing budget.
As mentioned above, things don’t stop there. There is 50% of the gate receipts, after expenses have been deducted. Then if you’re lucky to have your game screened live on TV, there’s anything up to £100k added on top.
So for clubs like AFC Wimbledon, this is a massive amount. The club is currently sitting at the bottom of League One. They’ve put together some useful results of late, only losing one of their last five matches, but are in need of some fresh talent in the transfer window.
So having extra cash in the bank, and the attraction of a fourth round cup tie later in the month, could just tip the balance to getting a player to sign a contract. As an AFC Wimbledon fan myself, I certainly hope so.
Football matches are a traditional way to spend a Boxing Day afternoon. But on this day in 1963, pretty much every football fan who attended a match, saw something special. Take a look at these scores…
West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
66 goals with an average of over 6.5 per game. As someone said to me today at a game, “That was in the day when they used to drink on Christmas Day.” Maybe that explains the leaky defences.
A couple of weeks ago news broke of José Mourinho’s sacking as manager of Manchester United. It was hardly surprising. The team had been under performing, but more damaging was their style of play. The continuous defensive nature of their displays, combined with his negative demeanour, didn’t go down well with fans.
When news broke of his departure, a lot was made in the media of his payout. Rumoured to be £20m, it seems like a lot for being a failure. It comes with the territory though. His contract was for a set period, so some compensation was necessary for an early termination.
What wasn’t widely reported was Jose’s domestic arrangements. He’d lived in an apartment at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester since being appointed two and a half years ago. He’d chosen to live there, whilst his family remained at their London home. He is reported to have been happy with the arrangements, but it can’t have been easy.
José is quoted as saying, “The most important thing is my family and being a good father.” So the decision to work away from what is important to him and his wife, must have added additional strain to what was an already stressful job. OK Manchester isn’t a million miles away from London, but coming home to an empty apartment / house is never the same.
Anyone who’s experienced bereavement or coming home when their partner is away, can testify that it can be a very lonely experience. Even the strongest person can suffer over time as a result. I’m not saying that Jose did, but it could have been a factor.
In his mind, there were very good reasons for keeping his family in London. He’s very protective of them, and maybe the extra pressure of managing one of the world’s biggest clubs was something he wanted to protect them from. When you move your family, it is more than just houses that need finding. You’re taking children away from their school and friends, your wife away from her support network, and everyone away from what they’re used to.
I wouldn’t say that being away from those you love makes you worse at your job, but it doesn’t help when things aren’t going well. José Mourinho was widely criticised for his negative demeanour running up to his departure. Could this be partly because his domestic arrangements were finally getting on top of him? Only he will know.
I’ve been a Fitbit user for a few years now. I started with the simple but effective Fitbit Charge, before migrating to the Fitbit HR, Fitbit Blaze, and finally the Fitbit Versa. So how does the Versa measure up to those devices and the likes of the Apple Watch?
At first sight, the Ionic looks pretty cool. It’s round corners and beveled edges give it a sleek look, and the way the angled base appears to slide away, makes it disappear into your wrist when it is worn.
The Versa has the same three function buttons as the Blaze, one on the left and two on the right, but their functions are different. The left hand button just turns on or off the screen display, and if you hold the button opens up the music, screen wake, and notification settings. The upper right button allows you to select an activity, or if held displays any notifications you’ve not seen. The lower left button allows you to configure alarms. The right hand buttons can also be used to start, pause, and finish an exercise.
User of the Blaze will be familiar with the Versa’s workings. It is pretty much the same, except for some additions like the ability to:
Auto recognise activity
Turn on the GPS for specific activities
Access a clock face store
One major addition to the Versa is Fitbit Pay. This is like Apple Pay or Paypal, and allows you to associate your credit / debit card with the device. However it is currently only available on a limited number of financial providers. More are promised, but for now this limitation means most users won’t be able to benefit from this.
Another is the ability to download music to the device. This uses a Deezer subscription, although you can also add your own music via the Fitbit phone app. However the cost of a Deezer Premium subscription in addition to the Spotify subscription I have on my phone makes this a non-starter for me.
Additionally the Versa is water resistant, meaning that it can be used whilst exercising in water borne activities.
This is an area where Fitbit fails compared to other fitness trackers, and especially the Apple Watch. It seems like the majority of the R&D effort has gone into the tracker itself, with precious little spent on it’s accessories.
One such gripe is the charger that comes with the tracker. It just feels cheap. It works slightly differently from previous Fitbit chargers, as it uses a vice type hold. You have to pinch both sides and place the device inside before releasing. It may seem a little fiddly at first, but you soon get the hang of it. However the major beef I have is that the charger doesn’t automatically sit properly, unless you either remove the strap or take the trouble to flatten the strap. You shouldn’t have to do either.
Talking of Straps
The Versa comes with two straps. They are both the same black colour, but come in small and large sizes. This negates the need to work out what wrist size you have before buying, but is slightly wasteful. However it does have the advantage of having a spare strap if, like me, the small size fits you.
The straps are fiddly to fit, just like the Blaze, but are fairly cheaply made. It certainly doesn’t say “quality”. This has been an area in other Fitbit watches that I’ve been disappointed with. I’ve been lucky if they’ve lasted nine months.
There are a wealth of online providers that provide replacement straps and accessories, in addition to Fitbit’s own store. These other providers have the advantage of offering a wide range of styles and colours. In the past I’ve even purchased a high end leather strap for everyday wear, only to change it to the bog standard strap when exercising.
Just a word of warning here. The quality of some online Fitbit accessories not purchased through the Fitbit store is very questionable. For example you may find a cheap watch strap that is almost impossible to fit because the straps pins are incorrectly aligned.
The battery life of any Fitbit device is where it wins big time over an Apple Watch. The Versa’s marketing suggests you get 4+ days life from each charge. This all depends on the device’s configuration and how active you are.
For example, using the All Day Sync option decreases the battery life compared to synchronising the device manually once a day. Likewise someone training for a triathlon is likely to find their battery life is significantly less than someone who just walks their dog once a day.
When all is said and done, the battery life is considerably better than the Apple Watch. One major reason I didn’t invest in the Apple Watch was the 18 hour battery life. Even though users I’ve spoken to say they regularly get up to two days from each charge, this is significantly less than a Fitbit device.
Just one more note about Fitbit batteries. With all the devices I’ve owned, there has been a marked reduction in the length of time between charges over time. I’ve noticed the difference from about nine months on. On some devices, after a year the device has become unusable unless you’ve a collection of chargers at various locations. It all reinforces my previous thoughts on the general build quality. Either that or it’s a clever ploy to get us to purchase a newer device!
One nice addition is the number of developers willing to devote time to produce applications for the Versa. One example of this is the number of watch faces available. There are hundreds to choose from, with many of them free. There is one for everyone.
Some extend the functionality of Fitbit by using other services like weather updates. Some of these additional services, like some of the more sophisticated watch faces require a payment. However all of the ones I tried had a trial period of anything from one to three days before any payment was taken.
In my opinion Fitbit devices should not be compared to an Apple Watch. They are two different beasts. In the world of exercise trackers, Fitbit is the one to beat. Their devices may not have the same functionality as Apple devices, but then they are looking at a different market.
The price of the Fitbit Versa is significantly less than an Apple Watch. Throw in the additional battery life, and for me it was a no brainer to continue purchasing a Fitbit device. It may not be for everyone though. You need to think hard about what you want your device to do for you.
The look and feel of the Versa is a big improvement, as it the functionality. The only down sides are the build quality, particularly of the accessories, and the potential loss of battery charge over time. I’ve only had my Versa for about two months, but if past devices are anything to go by, I’ll have to learn to love another device this time next year.
All things considered, I’m very pleased with my Versa, and long live Fitbit so they can keep Apple on their toes.
I’m a fit and healthy individual. I’m competitive, without having outstanding sporting talent. I love exercising, but have never quite made the grade from being an enthusiastic amateur.
This year has been a real test, both physically and mentally. You see I’ve experienced a series of setbacks, some fairly major.
Last March I went for a run near my office. It had been raining slightly, and as I went around a sharp corner, my foot slipped on a metal drain cover. I fell heavily on my left hand side. Picking myself off the ground, I found I couldn’t put any weight on my left leg. I’d fractured my pelvis (ischium).
Deep joy. Three days in hospital whilst my consultant decided if I needed an operation. Thankfully I didn’t, but I received differing quotes of when I would be able to run again. This tended to vary between when I could run run again, to when it would be safe to do so. Anything up to six months of doing nothing, and during the time of year when it is great being outdoors running around your local park.
Two months into my recovery I decided to do a local Park Run. I’d done it the week before by walking around the course. This time I decided to see if I could jog slowly around part of the course. I joined the back of the 350+ runners. As I jogged around, it felt good. So much so, that at the half way point I continued running.
I finished in a little under 36 minutes. Not my fastest time by some margin, but I was more than happy with my fitness. I’d suppressed the urge to end quickly as people sprinted past me in the last few hundred meters.
Later that day I felt really tired. In fact I felt utterly drained. Weird as I hadn’t felt like I’d put in a lot of effort earlier in the day. The following day I developed a rash around my neck and left ear. Shingles! Deep joy. A week of antibiotics, followed by several weeks of letting the virus work though my system. Even now two months later, I’m still not 100%.
Throughout all these issues, I’ve changed my exercise routine to do what I can. I’ve used a cross trainer instead of running. I’ve adapted my gym sessions to include more weights and flexibility work. Trouble is life can still leap up to bite you when you least expect it.
I’ve always been very mildly asthmatic. It is something I don’t tend to notice except in the summer months. For a month or two each year I notice a drop in my breathing efficiency. It doesn’t amount to very much, but it is noticeable, especially during prolonged physical exercise.
This year the English summer has been very warm and dry. My part of London hasn’t experienced any rain, not one drop, since mid May. It’s lovely summer weather and I’m not complaining, but it has created an issue for me. As well as the seasonal shortness of breath, I’ve had a ticklely dry cough, runny nose, and dry mouth.
In an effort to overcome these annoying symptoms, I took some over the counter allergy tablets containing cetirizine hydrocloride. Big mistake. Why?
On day one of taking them, I was unable to walk more than a few hundred meters without having to sit down to catch my breath. It’s a common side effect, but if I’d have known it was going to be that bad I wouldn’t have started taking them.
On day two I started getting a stiff calf muscle. Even having stopped taking the tablets, my calf became so still and sore, I could be found hobbling around. Yes you’ve guessed it, oedema (swelling due to water retention) is a side effect that affects around one in a thousand people. How lucky I am!
Down but not out
Here I am four months into my six month recovery, and it’s been far from straightforward. I’m getting there, but it is frustrating. Some workouts have gone better than others, but that’s normal. Even when 100% fit, you sometimes have sessions when it’s an effort to put one foot in front of the other.
The worst part of the last few months, is that earlier this year I was approaching a level of fitness I hadn’t seen in many a year. My personal best running times may not have been at the levels they were in my mid 20s, but they were coming down. Sometimes by a far margin.
Before all these setbacks, I’d set myself an ambitious 10k target time, and was hoping to run my first half marathon in over 25 years. I was close to meeting the 10k time, and had earmarked a half marathon. I’m not giving up. Those targets still exist, and I can’t wait to get back on the road and smash them.
I write this the morning after Croatia’s win over England in last night’s World Cup semi final. I’m also, as if you need reminding, Irish. So I can write about the game with a degree of detachment, despite having lived in England since three years of age.
Well to a degree. There is no doubt where my loyalty lies when Ireland play England in any sport. Just in the same way most British born Indians want India to beat England in a cricket test, I want to see Ireland trounce England in the Six Nations.
This World Cup is different. For a start, Ireland didn’t qualify. If they had, I’d feel different. Until England progressed and Ireland were knocked out that is. I’m Irish first and foremost, but can support the team that represents where I live, has provided me with a living, and where my family live.
Having a split nationality has it’s advantages. I don’t get hyper at the slightest chance of success. The euphoria ever since England’s 6-1 demolition of Panama, the England media has scented World Cup success. The fans loved this, and happily sang The Lightening Seeds unofficial England anthem. “It’s coming home. It’s coming home. It’s coming. Football’s coming home.” It was everywhere.
My response to such hyperbole was, “Yes, but where to?”
Don’t get me wrong. I wanted England to succeed. It would have been great for this team of inexperience youngsters, and the manager Gareth Southgate. It is just that I could clearly the problems the England team had compared to others. Even the rather laboured win against Tunisia in England’s first game perfectly demonstrated the issues.
We (sorry England!) have talented players. In Harry Kane they’ve a world class striker. In players like Jordan Pickford, Harry Maguire and Kieran Trippier, they have young players that have yet to reach their full potential. That’s a scary proposition for the European Championships in 2020.
Our (there I go again) problems are also the youth and inexperience. On occasions the didn’t manage a game as well as they should. Certain players, should I mention Raheem Sterling, didn’t pass when there were better placed players. Small margins maybe, but these win you games at the top level.
This morning I can go into work with my head held high. My team didn’t lose last night. The same can be said of all England fans. Yes they may have lost a World Cup semi final, but the overall winner was the pride the country showed in their team. The last few weeks have united the country in a way not seen for many a year, and long may that continue.
In the wider scheme of things, the 10th July 2002 won’t go down as a major historical date. In fact the only significant event according to onthisday.com was the sale at Sotheby’s of Peter Paul Rubens’ painting The Massacre of the Innocents for £49.5 million.
In football circles however, the rise of AFC Wimbledon was about to start. The story of this football club is the stuff of legend. It’s about how Wimbledon FC was allowed to move 60 miles from its home, change its name, and alienate it’s entire fan base. All, according to the English Football Association, “in the wider interests of football”.
Not lying down quietly, the fan base set up their own club, held player trails on Wimbledon Common, and organised on this day 16 years ago a friendly against Sutton United. No one knew what to expect. Would anyone turn up?
As it happens, yes they would. Some 4000 fans queued outside Sutton’s ground on a balmy Wednesday evening. So many in fact that the kickoff was delayed by almost an hour to allow them all in.
The rag bag mix of players ran onto the pitch. They weren’t fit, hardly knew each other’s names, let alone where they were supposed to play, but we didn’t care. After a long hard battle to keep our club, we fans just wanted to watch football.
We lost the game, fairly easily as it turned out, but it didn’t matter. Never had a defeat seemed like a victory until that evening. I was there that evening, and the smiles on the faces as we left the ground, is a sight I’ll remember until my last breath.
We knew we were onto something special.
Roll on to 2018 and our club has multiple promotions under it’s belt, turned professional, and maintains a position in the third tier of English football. We’re not the biggest or wealthiest club by some margin, but it was never about wealth or prestige. We just wanted to get back to watching our team play football.
Whether this changes remains to be seen. It is a fact that with our success comes expectation. The sense of anger and injustice over the original decision to allow the club’s relocation is still there, and it manifests itself occasionally in a greed to get back to the Premier League.
We may well have been founder members of the Premier League, but that was almost 20 years ago. These days the league is a different place. Money abounds. Money we don’t have. We run our club on a shoestring. Our playing budget is around £3,000,000. With some Premier League players on £250,000 a week, our budget wouldn’t last long.
So for now we do our best to maintain our position. We’ve got a new ground to look forward to in around 18 months. It’s just down the road from where the old ground was before it was knocked down to make way for apartments. Whenever we play that first game back on Plough Lane, it will be another lump in the throat moment in the life of this incredible club.
When a national team reaches a major tournament, there’s always fevered anticipation as to who’ll be in the squad. At least there should be. As a football fan living in England, it’s clear that there isn’t a particularly high expectation of the English team setting the world alight in Russia. The national team has lived far too long on the 1966 victory, and even then only because of a dubious Russian lineman. The teams of the late 80s and early 90s showed promise, but since then it has been all downhill.
Interestingly current manager Gareth Southgate has picked one of the youngest England squads ever to play in a major tournament. Several household names didn’t make it. That’s a brave call, and either sets him up for a major fall when they lose to Tunisia, or gets him a knighthood when they win a penalty shootout against Germany in the semi-finals.
Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley).
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Danny Rose (Tottenham), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ashley Young (Manchester United).
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).
Read through the names quickly, and you’d be quite optimistic. With the odd exception, they’re all Premier League first team regulars. Around 75% are from top six clubs, but I can’t help feeling slightly underwhelmed. For a start there are players like Dele Alli. Any Wimbledon fan will tell you that as a former Franchise FC player, they wish he’d disappear into oblivion. My issue with him is that he tries too hard to cheat. He’s young, talented, and immensely arrogant. He’ll get found out at this level.
England’s major problem is defense. There are some OK players, but against the world’s best, I just can’t see them doing well. Even if the likes of Cahill and Jones stay fit. The front line is OK, even if the experiments of having both Vardy and Kane on the pitch at the same time never seems to work. Sterling like Alli dives too much, and Rashford doesn’t dominate games. England’s success depends too much on all players bringing their A game to every game.
Most England fans remember The European Championship two years ago. Back then we were knocked out in the group stage by that major footballing force Iceland! Iceland may not have a team of household names, but they showed that night how 11 players well drilled and playing with pride could upset the form guide.
Southgate’s experiment may well prove to be a tactical masterstroke, but then again it could bring back memories of that truly awful penalty miss against Germany in 1996. Now who was it that missed it again?
One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
Such sentences underline the difficulties when determining what is acceptable to say when it comes to topics that are even vaguely political. Of course there are clear cut cases where it is unacceptable. For example, any sportsperson supporting holy jihad. But when it comes to less clear cut cases, where should the line be drawn?
There have been numerous cases of sportsmen and women falling foul of their sporting authority’s rules. Recent cases that spring to mind include:
Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer was fined for wearing a “No. 40 decal” on his helmet to honour former Arizona Cardinals teammate Pat Tillman who was killed in Iraq. See this Outside the Beltway blog post.
The English Football Association was fined £35000 by FIFA after the England squad wore shirts with the annual British Legion poppy symbol. See this See Independent Newspaper article.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, formally manager of Barcelona, has been charged by the English FA for wearing a yellow ribbon in support of imprisoned Catalan politicians. See this BBC Website story.
In the modern big money world of branding, you can understand why sporting bodies get all hot under the collar when people don’t stay on message, but is that acceptable?
You could argue that straying off message is not only against the rules, but also is direct defiance of your employment contract. I’m sure most of us who are employed could find something we dislike about our employer’s ethical, environmental, or personnel policies. But most of us choose to ignore these policies and keep quiet. Whether this is for fear of being disciplined, or just that it’s not such a big deal is irrelevant. By not doing anything, we acquiesce to our employer’s views. If we stick our head above the parapet, we must expect some push back. We’re disobeying their rules after all, whether we like it or not. If we continue to disobey the rules, we must expect the ultimate sanction to be a disciplinary case resulting in dismissal.
So should a sporting celebrity by allowed to speak out? Of course. I’d defend that to the hilt. The real issue is whether they’d do so, if they were to lose their income, fame, and livelihood as a result. Some would no doubt, but I’d suggest that in all the cases above, they know that any fine is small enough to not really matter in the long run. That’s OK too. It gives both sides a win-win. One side can speak out when they feel strongly about something, and the other can cry foul and demand retribution in the form of a small financial slap on the wrist.
If you’re a UK sports fan, you really should have stayed up to watch last night’s US Super Bowl. What’s that? You don’t follow American Football? Well if you had, this game may well have changed your mind. It had everything: pre-match hype, big hits, massive plays, tumbling records, and suspense in bucket loads.
The Philadelphia Eagles came into the game as underdogs, but you don’t get through to the Super Bowl without having something about you. Right the way through the regular season and the division playoffs, they downplayed their chances, but kept on getting results. Such resilience can’t be ignored. The fact that their regular quarterback Carson Wentz was out injured added additional speculation, with the pressure on stand in Nick Foles going up a notch or two.
The New England Patriots came into the game looking for a third successive Super Bowl victory. That this was one of the few records not to be broken on the night, says a lot for the game. Clear favourites and led by veteran Tom Brady, himself a five times winner, they failed at the final hurdle. Even then, they could have won it with the final play of the night.
Prior to kickoff, opinion was divided. The Eagles had man to man a stronger lineup. Players like Zach Ertz, Brandon Graham, Alshon Jeffery, and Corey Clement. In comparison much was made of the Patriot’s Quarterback Tom Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick. Could their experience carry the team to a record sixth Super Bowl victory? It nearly did.
The game was played at breakneck speed, the Eagles deciding to match the Patriots no huddle offence. With such little time to organise your defence, it is hard to play against. Each side traded early field goals, and you started to wonder if it was going to be one of those strategic defensive battles. Any doubts of this type of game were soon dashed midway through the first quarter, when Nick Foles threw a 32 yard pass into the end zone where Alshon Jeffery made a spectacular catch.
In a breathtaking first half there were three touchdowns, and some astonishingly brave plays. Early in the second quarter saw Brady running wide right without the ball. A trick play on a third down, the ball was tossed to him but he just failed to catch it. He was wide open. It was a key moment in the game. When Foles did the same later in the half, but in the end zone and successfully, you just had to step back and admire the audacity of such plays. In doing so Foles became the first player to throw and catch a touchdown in Super Bowl history.
Both teams continued the second half as they finished the first. The Patriots started to except some consistent pressure with Rob Gronkowski adding two touchdowns, and Chris Hogan another. For the first time in the game, the Patriots led. Would they repeat last year’s performance and put the Eagles to the sword? Not a bit of it. Back came Zach Ertz with a touchdown that set up the game for an exhilarating last few minutes.
Brady did his best to get the one big play that could see him win his sixth Super Bowl ring. He used all of his experience to drive the offence down the field, but ultimately came up short. His final hopeful throw into the end zone could have won it on another day, but that day wasn’t yesterday. The Eagles had won with a squad who between them had only seven appearances in a Super Bowl. Brady had seven appearances just by himself!
If you want more evidence of just how spectacular this game was, here’s two more statistics that beggar belief. There were no sacks, and only one punt the entire game. Admittedly Brady’s fumble near the end was a good as a sack in real terms, and Brandon Graham can take real credit for that. It was his hand that striped the ball from Brady’s glove and effectively sealed the Eagles victory.
Now throw in the following:
The Patriots became the first team in NFL history to advance the ball over 600 yards and lose.
The Eagles conceded the highest number of points by a winning team in the Super Bowl.
Brady was the first quarterback in any NFL game to lose after throwing more than 500 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.
So the Vince Lomardi trophy went to Philadelphia for the first time in the franchise’s history and Head Coach Doug Pederson received the traditional Gatorade bath. Ther’ll be one hell of a party there in the coming days.
I’ve stayed up the watch the Super Bowl on many occasions. Regrettably I went to bed at half time last year with the Patriots being thrashed. I wished I’d stayed up, but I’d work in the morning. This year I booked Monday off, and boy was I glad I did. Getting to bed at 3:30am isn’t everybody’s idea of fun, but this was a small sacrifice to make for what was a thoroughly enthralling contest. It may not have the dramatic impact of the Patriot’s come back last year, but the sheer athleticism, audacity, and strategic brilliance from both sides made it a spectacle that will live long in the memory.