Turkish Football

  1. Turkish leagues – structure and attendances
  2. My visit to istanbul
  3. Tuzlaspor 2 Sakaryaspor 3 HT: 1-1 Att: c650
  4. Fenerbahçe 5 Kasimpasa 1 HT: 2-1

Turkish leagues – structure and attendances

The Turkish top-flight started in 1959. Even though football was played in Turkey from the late 19th Century, introduced from the UK, it wasn’t until 1959 that the first nationwide league started – the Super Lig. Before that, the big cities had their own regional leagues. However, when calculating number of Championships, Besiktas were allowed to include their two Turkish Federation Cup wins in 1957-58 and 58-59, a nationwide cup that preceded the Super Lig., which means 66 titles have been awarded.

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Staffs County League Fans’ Guide 2020-21

Welcome to the eighth edition of the Staffs County League fans’ Guide.
While this should be accurate at the time of publication, please let me know of any errors, omissions or changes.

The Groundhog


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Staffordshire County Senior League (Step 7)

Staffordshire County Senior League
Map of League Teams in the SCSL – here.
As I’m starting to run out of grounds close to my home at Step 6 and higher of non-league, I’ve started taking an interest in the Staffordshire League. This is three divisions running from Step seven to step nine. The reason I don’t ordinarily show an interest in Step seven or lower is that there are no FA requirements for grounds below step six. Step six is where a ground must have floodlights, hard standing round the pitch and at least 50 covered seats in one stand and able to accommodate at least 100 fans undercover in the ground. These are just a tiny few of the many requirements step six clubs must meet, and as you go up the pyramid the more rules you must adhere to as well as more seats and a greater capacity. Rules for steps 1-6 can be read here.
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Subbuteo Goals      [I had some of those goals– just like the ones that used  be at Stamford Bridge before redevelopment.]

Subbuteoooooo…suh-suh subbuteooooo. Subbuteoooooo…suh-suh subbuteooooo – Phil Collins.

I feel a need to talk about the game which consumed most of my spare time in the mid-eighties. Leon got me into table football, or in our case mostly floor football. He was my best friend between approximately 1983-1987. We used to go down the Goldstone together for every home game, sometimes with my Dad and sometimes with his Uncle. We didn’t miss a home game for years. In traditional schoolboy style we always stood right at the front of the East Terrace and bang in the middle.

Leon introduced me to Subbuteo when we were about 12. Its rather esoteric name came about because the makers originally wanted to call it Hobby; but this had been trademarked already, so they went for the Latin name for the Hobby bird – Falco Subbuteo. Subbuteo wasn’t just football, though. It was religion! No, what I mean is that they did a range of sports including cricket and other games besides the football version, though it’s always football people associate with that name.  With the gift of hindsight I think he got me into it largely due to needing someone to play against. He was like the Sheffield FC of Subbuteo in our parts. I was the Hallam FC. I played a few games at his house (away games for me) and loved it from the start.

When he said he was replacing his cloth pitch(which, to my amusement, he used to iron diligently before our matches) with an AstroPitch, he let me take his old cloth pitch home so that I could practice and so he could finally play an away game. It was an auspicious and exciting moment unfolding Leon’s pitch onto the table tennis table in our dank garage, dimly lit by a naked bulb (the floodlights, I guess). With the pitch, Leon included two teams (20 little footballers on semi-circular bases and 2 goalkeepers on long sticks) and 2 goals. The players and goals were very old fashioned – he must have had them passed down from some older family member. This may be an embellished memory, but I’m sure the players sitting on their semi-circular bottoms were in more of a sepia tone, had long shorts painted on and all looked like Stanley Matthews. All the modern teams we usually played with had tight eighties shorts on and all looked like Roy Race.
The goals were old fashioned too, I remember them clearly, and very fondly. Modern Subbuteo goals were exclusively made from plastic. These ones had metal frames, which I thought were better, though maybe slightly less realistic on account of the stanchions being too thin. They were the triangle style goals and had orange nets. The netting was really thick, like hemp, compared to the modern cheap netting. I loved them. With this old stuff I felt like I was performing a re-enactment of a fifties cup final. Having my own set, albeit on loan, was enough to get me hooked and I received my first very own Subbuteo equipment for my next birthday.
My Dad bought me the AstroPitch straight off (no messing about ironing pitches, thank god); I suppose it was the Subbuteo equivalent of a Luton or Preston pitch. He bought the QPR style goals (actually QPR had a plastic pitch too, didn’t they? So, in effect my Dad bought me Loftus Road), white stanchions that curved at the back instead of the usual straight angle, with the nets hanging down between the front and back posts. They were nice goals.

The 2 teams my Dad got were a complete mystery to me and still are. I was expecting Brighton and Palace perhaps, or England and Brazil. No; my first two teams were the startlingly random choice of Monaco and Dundee. Knowing how much my Dad hates shopping and shops generally, he may have just stormed into Beatties and whipped the first two teams he saw off the shelf, without paying much attention. Or he could’ve been being deliberately obscure; that would also be like him, although picking teams not just not from the same division, but not even from the same country, one of which from Scotland? That’s too eccentric even for him. Surely these weren’t a considered choice.

So it was with a touch of surrealism that Leon came round for my inaugural match. I was Monaco, as I liked their kit, the red and white triangle halves; Leon was Dundee in the all blue strip. The final score was Monaco 1 Dundee 10. Surely Dundee’s finest victory ever, real or otherwise. I was humiliated in my home debut. If I’d bought any packs of supporters from Beatties they would’ve called for my head and booed my little self-righting men off the pitch (in French, I presume).

I continued to get soundly beaten by Leon for some time, his experience clearly showing, but the beatings got less embarrassing and I usually kept him in single figures. It wasn’t too long, though, before I was good competition and my teams no longer whipping boys. One advantage he had over me was that he was a strong proponent of blocking flicks. I could never be bothered with them, they were too much like hard work. Andy didn’t bother with them much either, so games with him were a bit more relaxed. To recap the rules, if I remember correctly, you flick your man and if he connects with the ball it is still your go. Each individual man can only connect with the ball 3 times in a row (so great long dribbles are out); a fourth kick results in a free kick to the other player.

So the idea is to build up an attack by passing the ball between players. There were two extra lines on the subbuteo pitch which marked the boundary from where you could legally score from. These were roughly halfway between the penalty area and halfway line. It was to stop players shooting from wherever they were, encouraging a more skilful approach. Mind you, if it deflected off someone who was within the line and went in, the goal would stand. However, doing this as a tactic was frowned upon and considered gamesmanship. I confess it was occasionally employed by me if I was a goal down in the dying seconds.

When your player fails to connect with the ball then it is your opponents turn to flick. The blocking flick was a move you could make while your opponent was on the ball, and it was basically an off the ball run to get players into better positions. I think you had one blocking flick for each of your opponents flicks. I didn’t bother with them, generally, except for the odd token one now and again. Leon performed them extensively and it often annoyed me, sometimes to the extent where I wanted to blocking flick his face! I found they made the game a bit too hectic. I don’t think my lack of them adversely affected my performance, though.

Our leisure time over the next few years became dominated by Subbuteo, with the occasional break to go and watch the Albion – they were halcyon days. We were connoisseurs of the various accessories you could buy. There were a choice of balls for starters. We both preferred playing with the yellow spongeball but in terms of looks my favourite was the plastic orange Addidas Tango. Leon’s was the Mitre Delta. I seriously considered sprinkling my Astro Pitch with icing sugar to create a snowy pitch effect to complement the orange ball I had. The problem with the hard balls, compared to the spongeball, was that close-range shots that hit the net fast recoiled the goalnets to a sometimes farcical extent. The spongeball wasn’t as pretty but it made for a more realistic game.

We had a range of goalposts between us, the ones with triangles in orange and white net varieties, the QPR-style ones and there were some that looked like Chelsea’s at the time. We both bought the scoreboard with the accompanying hundreds of thin strips of card with the names of what seemed like every team in Europe on them. They even had blank spares that you could write your own team names on. We never got as far as adorning our pitches with the stands you could buy, though. I’m sure this was due to our restricted finances. The stands were expensive and to fill the stands with the little plastic figures you could buy, in about packs of ten, put the cost up even more. We could have accumulated the stands over time but that would have meant playing with one conspicuously large stand and nothing else for a while which we didn’t think would look good (a bit like Sincil Bank or Springfield Park).

Leon was a stickler for the kits being accurate, and got his Mum, who was a talented artist, to painstakingly paint the 11 little players in whichever team’s new kit for that year, with staggering attention to detail – they were great works of art. He also taped the crowd noises from Match of the Day and some recent live games to play during our games to create an authentic atmosphere. It never quite worked though as it involved a bit of a break in the game for Leon to press ‘play’ on his stereo which was followed by silence and then sudden crowd noises which always amused me to the point of giggles.

My brother, Andy, got into Subbuteo as well so when Leon wasn’t there I had someone else to play. We went as far as buying the little packs of transfers with the numbers 1-12 on them that, with great precision, we stuck on all the players’ backs. We could now write down the names of the scorers, obtaining squad lists from my ‘Match’ magazine that I subscribed to and came weekly, so had bang-up-to-date information. We also converted our 10 minutes each way games into proper minutes using a bit of simple maths so we had the scorers and the minutes. It’s fair to say we became a tad obsessed with it.

Subbuteo could often be wonderful but it could also be intensely frustrating, and sometimes just shit.

Subbuteo and the frustration of it was expressed marvellously in lyrics by the band ‘Half Man Half Biscuit’ in their song ‘All I want for Christmas is the Dukla Prague Away Kit’.

So he’d send his doting mother up the stairs with the stepladders
To get the Subbuteo out of the loft
He had all the accessories required for that big match atmosphere
The crowd and the dugout and the floodlights too
You’d always get palmed off with a headless centre forward
And a goalkeeper with no arms and a face like his
And he’d managed to get hold of a Dukla Prague away kit
’cause his uncle owned a sports shop and he’d kept it to one side
And after only five minutes you’d be down to ten men
’cause he’d sent off your right back for taking the base from under his left winger
And come to half time you were losing four-nil
Each and every goal a hotly disputed penalty
So you’d smash up the floodlights and the match was abandoned
And the dog would bark and you’d be banned from his house
And your travelling army of synthetic supporters
Would be taken away from you and thrown in the bin

Yes, the players were prone to some horrific injuries, the worst of which and almost certainly career-ending was being detached from your base, usually caused by being trodden on or kneeled on. Superglue only worked temporarily until the player started falling ever so slowly to the horizontal. I remember quite a few players only having one leg connected to the base so being fairly lopsided, due to partial treadings on. Quite a few players still playing first team football were at 45 degree angles.

It didn’t strike me as odd at the time, but when I reminisce about the Subbuteo years it occurs to me that Andy was about 18 when he was turning up with me at Leon’s house, all 6 foot plus of him, to play his away fixture in some cup or other we were playing. Such innocence.

English League Football by R C Churchill

                 I happened upon the most wonderful book the other week at Dagfields Antique market in Cheshire. It was a hardback called  English League Football Book coverby R C Churchill (pictured). Ordinarily, old sports books don’t interest me much, on account on their obsolescence, but this one was different. This one sang to me. Everything about it was delicious – its perfect size, its ageing leaves, it’s kitsch front cover – it was almost edible. This was before I’d seen what was inside. Unlike similar old fleaguesootball titles this one was loaded with statistics – RC Churchill was ahead of his time. There were all the league tables at the back since 1888, a comparison table of FA Cup winners and where they finished in the league and a chart showing every team’s final position each year since the league began.

All these sort of stats are de rigeur nowadays but probably something of a rarity then. What really set this volume apart, though, were the maps at the front. They reminded me a little of the maps at the start of Lord of the Rings, they had the same charming vagueness. One of the few things as appealing as league tables and footie stats is maps – combine the two together and you have perfection! It listed every team that had played in the league with, and this is genius, the twelve founder members in capital letters! Those teams that had folded had their birth and death dates in brackets. The mapsLondon and Lancashire regions were blown up on the facing page as they were too crowded to be shown clearly on the main map. I now have a mnemonic for remembering the founder members – P BAW BAW BENDS. With those letters you should be able to work them out. Post your efforts back to me (and no cheating!)
The fact that the league tables stop at 1962 would normally give me enough anguish to not buy it, but it didn’t matter. In fact, the 80 years it DID cover were probably exactly the right amount, without the book becoming a bigger and less manageable size. There was also something quite eerie about there being no Oxford, Wigan or Wimbledon. I wandered up to the till reading it, no question of whether I was buying it or not; while it cost a meagre £3 I would have payed £15 for it, maybe more.
Will you come to Nelson Town?

Looking at the maps at the front made me re-realise how many obscure teams have graced the league, some even in the top-flight: teams from tiny little towns like Glossop, Bootle and Darwen. Did you know that the little brewery town of Burton-on-Trent had not one but TWO clubs both playing second division football for years. I imagine derby days in Burton when Wanderers played United were buzzing. Have you heard of Middlesbrough Ironopolis who played at the Paradise Ground? They were nothing to do the Middlesbrough of today.

Quiz questions for fellow enthusiasts keep popping into my mind, such as Which is the most northern team to have played league football? I imagine my posee struggling to picture whether Carlisle or Newcastle is further north, remembering that the UK tilts slightly. After making their choice I would say with satisfied smugness – Ashington!(1921-27) -Who? Ashington! Yes, the little crofting community in Northumberland, population 50! (well, that’s the image it evokes to me). I think they are my favourite ex-league team along with Aberdare Athletic from Wales (1921-27).
Other questions that bubble their way up are:
Q. What is the difference between Glossop North End and Hull City?
A. Hull City have never played top-flight football

Q. Which is the northern most team to play in Division 3 South?
A Grimsby Town (there was only one Division 3 in its inaugural season – it was officially Division 3 South. The North were a year behind. Grimsby were allowed in until the following season when they could join their more geographically apt Division 3 North.)

Half of the book is comprised of one page of information per club, the usual fare of date founded, date entered league, nickname, honours, ground, capacity, record attendance, record win, defeat etc. Some of the more unusual clubs like New Brighton barely make it to half way down the sheet. It is on this pages that the best and most bizarre feature of the book is; little quotes under each team name , which allude, sometimes very vaguely or mysteriously, to the club’s nickname, as in:
team infoScunthorpe & Lindsey Utd –  which has the quote from Kipling In a Fair Ground?! Huh?
Darlington’s had a quote from Pope (Alexander, I presume) – Round a Quaker’s Beaver cast a glory – pardon!  Is that why they are the Quakers or is it just a quote that happens to contain the word Quakers?
Such wonderful randomness and non-sequiturs wouldn’t be allowed in modern publishing – and more’s the pity.
I recommend this enchanting little tome to all football connoisseurs, if you can find it. Try e-bay or second hand bookshops. I imagine the particularly musty smelling ones would be most likely to have it. R C Churchill is a legend and should be recognised as such – the original ‘Statto’.

Goal nets & stanchions

                  I confess I’m a connoisseur of goal types; the stanchions and nets. One of the sad things about the modern game (apart from the oft-cited and obvious) is that all goals are becoming standardised, much like the new grounds, programmes and coffee. You take a look in any of the numerous new stadia built recently and they all have exactly the same goals – back stanchion posts tied to the top corner. Is this a new FIFA ruling? It all began around the mid-eighties and the Mexico 86 World Cup.             

 One thing that disturbed me about Mexico was the size of the goals. Obviously the frontage was the standard issue 24’ by 8’, but the size of the nets behind was cause for grave concern. The style of goal they used was rarely seen in England at that time, but very popular on the continent: where the netting is tied to a post each side of the goal by chords strung from each top corner. I wasn’t keen on these but Mexico took them to new heights (and depths) of repugnance. They were simply enormous. They were as deep as they were high. They must hold the record for the largest volume inside a goal. You could easily have fit a car in there facing outward with it’s bumper all the way behind the line.

 The problem with this was that a scored goal just didn’t look as good flying into these nets. Top Corners (my favourites) were lost inside these voluminous onion bags. There’s nothing nicer than a long shot smacking right in to the top corner against the triangle or the corner of the back stanchion, but at Mexico ’86 to score a proper top corner would almost require breaking the laws of gravity. You’d have to shoot fast and low but rising steadily upward to hit the corner where the netting was attached to the supporting post. Vasili Ratz did manage it though for Russia; needless to say this was my favourite goal of the tournament.                           

 Most goals, however, were marred by the horrendous billowing of the ball as it swished around in the mass of netting. The sad thing is that these became commonplace in England.  All new grounds built since 1986 come with these as standard. Admittedly they’re not as deep as the ones in Mexico, but I still don’t like them; and like a lot of things in football, such as new Stadiums themselves, their uniformity has taken some of the charm and individuality away from the sport. Is it just me or can the net and the type of structure of the goal-frame make quite a big difference to the beauty of a goal? Nets in the eighties were so personal to each club; there was an array of different styles back then. I could tell you the ground straight away by the goals alone. (try doing that now).             

  There were back stanchions of different colours, triangles, small holed nets, large-holed nets, criss-crossed diamond patterned nets, coloured nets etc etc. This may be a wild claim but I reckon I could tell you what sort of goals every league club had circa 1986. Some grounds’ goals stand out particularly for me. Do you remember the Dell’s goals? They were strung with really coarse small-holed netting; so tight that shots fired at any speed flew back out again. There were Anfield’s red nets and Everton’s blue ones, both of which you could hardly see through, and on the same theme Sheffield Wednesday’s small-holed white nets were virtually opaque. Swansea’s were unusual in that they were strung diagonally so the holes were diamonds rather than squares – a nice effect. They all had the triangle. Arsenal had the back stanchions, which were red, with small holed nets.              

               Brighton’s Goldstone Ground also had back stanchions but were unique in that the stanchion didn’t start exactly at the corner of the bar and post but about half a foot down, and the stanchions had an extra kink at the bottom, about a foot off the ground. Our netting was large holed. Stamford Bridge had unusual goals; this was when the Bridge was shaped like Wembley with two enormous semi-circular gaps at either end where the terracing swung round in a semi-circle. (Is it my imagination or were there cars parked in these spaces?) They had the back stanchions but instead of just one bend had two so were  shaped like this:Chelsea Goals

Loftus Road was also home to some peculiar stanchions (and I’m sure some Subbuteo goals I bought were modelled on them). They had back stanchions like at Chelsea but which curved down smoothly rather than bending at an angle and the netting, rather than being wound round the back of the stanchions, dropped down a couple of inches short of them so they looked a bit like this:  

QPR goals 

Dartford’s Watling Street Ground had some unusual goals that reminded me of ones used in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. They had jet black stanchions that kinked in two places, Like Chelsea’s, but with the top bit being much shorter than their white Stamford Bridge counterparts. A little bit like this.Dartford goals Stanchions were definitely rarer than the common triangle. Though the triangles themselves came in a variety of colours, sizes and styles. Some weren’t even triangles! I saw some pretty awful approximations of a triangle at some of the Conference grounds while watching the FA Cup round-up on Match of the Day. Some were more like Rhombuses (Rhombai?). One of the rarest type was triangle and stanchion together in the same goal! This was like the Penny black of stanchions. I saw it a couple of times but usually on school pitches seen from the train on the Brighton to Victoria line. Nowadays most clubs have moved over to the new style stanchions and nets. I think every club in the Premier League has the big continental nets with the posts at the back. It’s a shame. I miss the triangle. Never again will we see a football get stuck in the triangle like Trevor Brooking’s goal against Hungary in the early eighties, nor will we see the ref wave play on after a free kick rebounds out off the back stanchion a la Clive Allen, also in the early eighties.

Perhaps I’m the only person in the world who cares?