Confessions of a Football Hipster

Only a few months ago, I became aware that I fall into the category of being a football hipster. I was horrified to learn that I was one of those people that I despise. Football hipsters have always been around. They are easily identifiable. They wear obscure jerseys (River Plate anyone?) and adore unusual players who traditionally shouldn’t be popular. But just what makes someone want to be a football hipster and why am I one myself? I wish I knew. This piece will explain the traits and methods of a football hipster.

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The internet has been a major catalyst in more and more people becoming football hipsters. The ability to create a blog has driven the trend more than anything else. Blogging has given football fans who don’t even have an opinion a chance to mimic the opinion of someone who has an one. Everyone is a journalist now, but not your everyday hack, people specialise in the most obscure football subjects. You’re thinking La Liga? No chance, more like blogs on Romanian left backs from the 1970’s.

Twitter is another prime reason for the rise of football hipsters. Along with blogging, twitter helps drive the fad. Everyone must know everything, denounce the norm, be one step ahead of the trend. Social media creates a platform for anyone to talk about how bad their team played. Maybe it’s just that now, because hipsters are expressing their views to a larger audience that people are now more aware of football hipsters.

Many view hipsters as a plague on the game, including me. Unaware to the fact that I am a football hipster, I slate them at any given opportunity. It’s odd, I despise football hipsters, yet I portray so many of the traits. Irish football website Balls.ie recently wrote an article on the top 25 football hipster traits. Some of my favourites were; ‘Buy Inverting The Pyramid. Read it cover to cover. Take shorthand notes to remember important terms like catenaccio, regista and trequartista,’ ‘Set up a blog. Write 4000 word pieces on how Falcao scores and stuff. Tweet every football journalist on twitter and ask for a RT’, or my personal favourite ‘Assert that this Barcelona team is decent but nowhere near as good as Sacchi’s Milan’.

One of the more recent hipster movements was when Real Oviedo began selling shares online. This gave football hipsters a chance to be different to your average fan. They now had the opportunity to part own a football club. I was one who bought shares in Real Oviedo being unaware that I was following a hipster movement. Am I ashamed? No, I merely embrace the life of a football hipster.

As with any trend, there are different severity levels of how far people are willing to push to be individualistic. They refuse to watch the Premier League or La Liga simply because they are too mainstream. Instead, they watch the Belgian League and the Brazilian league, or the Brasileirao as they’ll point out its proper name. Gladly, this is not something that I have to concede to admitting. (I’m not that bad, yet!)

There once was a time when having a Napoli jersey sufficed as being obscure, but not any more. Sydney FC or even a Corinthians jersey would qualify as a hipster jersey these days. (Thus why Pitchside follows Sydney these days) Hipsters are growing to be more ridiculous all the time and are becoming more extreme by the day, or so it seems.

Football hipsters love the Bundesliga and say that it is far better than a league in England or Spain. Atletic Bilbao is another favourite for a football hipster. In fact anything that is not the norm is a hipster movement in my view. That’s not saying that individualism isn’t good, it’s just that trying to be different for the sake of it is just plain stupid.

The only exception to the rule that hipsters favour things aren’t the most popular is Lionel Messi. Even hipsters agree than Lionel Messi is nothing short of magnificent. It’s not Lionel Messi though, it’s just Leo!

Nick-naming players and managers on just their initials is another trait that is just ridiculous in my view. AVB and RVP instead of Andre Villas Boas or Robin Van Persie just don’t fit in football. That’s something I’d expect to see in a sport like basketball.

Sergio Busquets is a huge favourite among football hipsters as is Hugely under-rated South Korean playmaker Yoo Chang-hyun of Pohang Steelers . I urge people to lay off football hipsters. They are just trying to be individuals. This is obviously difficult because football is such a global game. Hipsters are misunderstood in my view. Many find them unbelievably irritating and this may be true. The commercialisation of the game is hated by both hipster and normal football fan alike and I’m sure that both believe that Sky have ruined football, but that’s another matter altogether.

Ps, Jurgen Klopp is god.

Jamie Connor

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Calling Time on Ex-Footballers Turning To Crime

98% of 16-18 year old that sign scholarships are either released or dropped out of the game by the age of 21.

Set up by Michael Kinsella who hails from Liverpool, OnSIDE Academy is the United Kingdom’s first football based academy of its kind. It was established to assist released academy players, ex-footballers and disadvantaged young adults to receive adult education, along with the opportunity to return to the world of work. OnSIDE take a pragmatic approach, helping these young men reintegrate into society through apprenticeships courses such as plumbing, electricians and carpentry.

‘‘Onside is a training company in education, and supporting young people’s search for employment after falling into hard times when left behind by football. It’s based at Hope University in Liverpool. It has been running for one year, though in my head for six behind bars’’, said Michael. While OnSIDE began as solely based on helping ex-footballers it has recently began spreading its hand of help to the boxing community too. ‘‘We have boxing going in the city also giving young boxers apprenticeships and a course to get on.

Once a promising talent, Michael Kinsella, like thousands of other young men once dreamed of playing football for his beloved Everton. Sadly, things didn’t turn out like he had once dreamed. Michael’s career led him through the lower leagues and beyond to the semi-professional game for clubs such as Bury, Tranmere and Stranraer. ‘‘What I realised was that I had no real life skills to gain proper employment. I missed an opportunity to get an apprenticeship because that passes you by when you’re trying to get a career in football.

While Michael’s career faded away into obscurity like so many others before – and indeed after him, one thing remained: the need to survive. Lacking formal education finding employment served a thankless task, options were scarce. Nevertheless while Michael may have been lacking the certificates to find proper employment, he certainly knew about one way to make money – drugs. ‘‘I had to survive; I ended up turning to drugs because I knew people from that world growing up in a council estate.

Since Michael’s release from prison earlier this year his schedule has been hectic. Various partnerships have been set up with league clubs across the country, including Blackburn Rovers and even Premier League giants Liverpool. While OnSIDE is finally an established organisation with connections to many clubs its beginnings stem from humbling stories of broken dreams for many young men. ‘‘Seeing lads and families destroyed by the belief they were going to be a professional footballer and didn’t know what else to do in life, falling into crime, and then seeing my brother fail through injuries and depression”, Michael said with a brutal honesty.

Currently there are 135 ex-professional footballers in English prisons. A subject rarely covered in the media, football’s glamour tag disguises the game’s true colours hiding behind the fame in which we are all engrossed. The road to crime and prison is one well-travelled by Michael, in his relatively short life he’s found himself in prison all too often, by his own account. ‘‘I’ve done four prison sentences, one in Spain, one in Holland, and two small stints in England.

OnSIDE has been in the pipeline for some time, although Michael is only out of prison since the beginning of this year he has been working on the project while still in prison. ‘‘It (OnSIDE Academy) has been running for 1 year but in my head for 6 behind bars.

When a friend of mine first spoke to Michael in May as part of a radio documentary we were conducting, Michael said by September they planned to have 25 people signed up to OnSIDE Academy, though it seems things have since escalated quicker than expected. ‘‘There are 50 kids (signed up to OnSIDE) at present – also we currently have 5 full time staff. By year three we plan to have 10 sites set up across the country, because the issue is massive. The help provided by clubs is nominal, they might get them a sports course which considering the overcrowded industry is madness really.

Since Michael’s release from prison, the work with OnSIDE has been hectic: there have been interviews with various national newspapers and even a special feature for the BBC on the Saturday morning football show – Football Focus. Michael has been campaigning for football clubs to set up better ways to prevent so many young men fall through the net into a life of crime. ‘‘For now we’re doing our best to act as a safety net for these players.

OnSIDE has received much support recently, notably from now ex-Liverpool player and current Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. Carragher, who grew up in Bootle, Liverpool, knows too well that many who don’t make it in football find themselves in a life of crime. ‘‘I was one of the fortunate ones. But the statistics will show you that it doesn’t always happen.’’ Carragher said it was hard for senior player to offer advice to youngsters about considering their options without hurting their feelings. ‘‘It’s difficult talking about that type of thing because you don’t want them to think that you think they’re not going to make it.”

Michael’s problems with crime after football are not alone to him, but a family issue too. Michael’s brother, Gerard, 21, started to go down the wrong path when he was released by Everton, though with the help of OnSIDE he is rebuilding his life at Fleetwood Town.

Based in Liverpool Hope University OnSIDE have received support from the Player Football Association (PFA). OnSIDE aims to help young ex-footballers re-enter education and/or employment while retaining their love the game.

Kevin Kelly

How to Concede Goals for Dummies // Tottenham F.C. – November

Tromso 0-2 Tottenham:

November ended with a Europa League game to try and avoid a City hangover, with a game in the Arctic Circle in Norway against Tromso. Spurs knew they’d topped the group by half-time as Anzhi had drawn 1-1 with Sheriff. Despite that Spurs still managed to notch their third and fourth goals of November in the second half. An own goal and a good finish from Dembele gave Tottenham the points.

Performance Rating Grade B; the trademark Europa League performance  Tottenham  have come to know under Andre Villas-Boas, despite the lack of a Jermain Defoe goal. It was nice to top the group with a game to spare and come through unscathed in freezing Norway on an artificial pitch.

Manchester City 6-0 Tottenham:

The worst defeat I can remember supporting Tottenham Hotspur. Diabolical, literally from start to finish, with the first goal coming after just 13 seconds after an awful mistake from Hugo Lloris. Spurs were 3-0 down before half-time; City’s partnership of Aguero and Negredo taking full effect and cutting our “Best defence in Europe” apart. It only got worse in the second half, City looked like scoring whenever they went forward, and the introduction of Adebayor, taking us to a 4-4-2, made us capitulate. It was a complete non-performance from pretty much every single player in an admittedly beautiful navy blue shirt.

Performance Rating Grade U; where do I start? Spurs looked scared from the first minute to even have a go at City. No shape, no rhythm, no service, no chances, no goals, no anything to actually remember in a positive fashion for us. Without a doubt the most shocking performance of any team this season.

AVB’s lowest point at Spurs; could it get any worse?

Tottenham 0-1 Newcastle:

The 10th of November shall forever be Tim Krul day at White Hart Lane. The amount of saves he made in this game was ridiculous. Although Tottenham made it easy for him at times, 14 saves is an achievement in itself. Loic Remy settled the game with a neat finish past Brad Friedel (in for the “recovering” Lloris), and fans begin to grow restless against AVB and the new squad.

Performance Rating Grade E; it was just awful from start to finish. No real cutting edge, despite the amount of saves Krul made, and another labouring, dull performance that kept the atmosphere near-silent.

Tottenham 2-1 FC Sheriff:

Back to the Europa League, sponsored by Jermain Defoe, with another solid victory against Sheriff guaranteeing a place in the Europa League knockout stages. Erik Lamela played his best performance in a Spurs shirt so far, intricate little play from the Argentinian getting him a goal and winning a penalty. The spot-kick was subsequently converted by Defoe, who now becomes Tottenham’s all-time leading goal scorer in Europe.

Performance Rating Grade B; it was good to see Lamela hitting some form. Bit of a disappointment to concede our first European goal of the season however. A decent enough performance against a side better than some may believe.

Everton 0-0 Tottenham:

November began with the same theme as October, a trip to GoodisonPark providing few chances for either side. Everton in particular struggled to break the defence down, but that was not to say Spurs had anything at the other end. The talking point from this game became the Hugo Lloris issue after he collided with Romelu Lukaku. Personally, I feel the referee should have sent him off once he started going against medical advice. He did pull off a smart save near the end of the game, though.

Performance Rating Grade C; while a draw away to a rejuvenated Everton side is never a bad result, the sluggish play and lack of service to Soldado really left me and other Spurs fans wanting here.

Overall rating: Grade D; overall not good enough from us, four goals over an entire calendar month is poor beyond belief. Any month that ends with speculation over the manager’s job can never be considered a success, a vast improvement in league form is needed immediately for the pressure to be lifted off of AVB and some of the new signings.

George Pacitto 

Allez le Toon! – Newcastle F.C. – November

Newcastle United 2-0 Chelsea:

After a devastating defeat to closest rivals Sunderland in their last Premier League outing, it was imperative that Newcastle responded in front of their home fans. The reaction was indeed impressive as the Toon army remained in the game throughout, and then produced a brilliant second-half display to rattle Chelsea.

After around an hour, it became clear that the Blues weren’t up too much and three points were very much up for grabs. The goal then came as Yohan Cabaye dropped a free kick into the box that Gouffran showed the most desire to get his head on and give Newcastle a priceless lead. Hazard nearly levelled for Chelsea but narrowly put his free shot wide. The points though were sealed in the final minutes when a magical jinking run from Anita pulled the defence out of position, giving Loic Remy the inch he needed to find his sixth goal in seven games.

Performance Rating: Grade A-; fantastic result to put the Sunderland game as far out of mind as possible. Matched and thoroughly beat one of the best squads in the division.

Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Newcastle United:

Many Newcastle fans last season would probably have been quoted as calling Spurs a “one-man team”. Oh, the irony. An early Loic Remy goal would sentence Tim Krul to a 77 minute massacre, one he would somehow survive.

Remy scored after 13 minutes after some good work from Gouffran, the two offensive players again proving as dangerous as any in the division. What would follow? – Wave after wave of Tottenham attack, particularly in the second-half. Spurs fans have been complaining about their sides woes in front of goal this season, but nobody could criticise their forwards on this occasion. Tim Krul showed some inspired form to keep a clean sheet with a bit of help from Yanga-Mbiwa who made a clearance that crossed the line into ridiculousness.

Performance Rating: Grade B; if this rating was for Tim Krul it would be an A+. Otherwise it was a good team performance and another big result against one of the teams expected to do well this season.

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Tim Krul had the game of his life against Spurs at White Hart Lane…

Newcastle United 2-1 Norwich City:

A game of two halves that saw us dominate the first-half, displaying the sort of confidence you would expect from a team coming off the back of wins against two big-hitters. Two first-half goals from that duo again, Remy and Gouffran, would ultimately be enough.

Many Newcastle fans often express frustration at the fact Newcastle struggle to push on from winning positions – This was no different and at half time a game that was comfortable, became very uncomfortable when Leroy Fer scored. This was the first goal that we had conceded in over 250 minutes. Thankfully we had enough to see it out and there would be no happy return to St James’ for Chris Hughton.

Performance Rating: Grade C; a game that you would expect to win, and we did… just! It was a par, nothing spectacular but enough to smile about. Questions would have to be asked about Pardew’s half time team talk as we stepped well off the gas in the second-half.

Newcastle United 2-1 West Bromwich Albion:

Another home game and another home victory; Gouffran and Sissoko scored the goals that meant of the 19 scored by the Toon army this season, a staggering 18 had been scored by Frenchmen – The only exception to this being Geordie-born, Paul Dummett.

Gouffran gave us the lead but the scores were levelled when nobody picked up Brunt at the far post and he slammed home. Step up Moussa Sissoko, Mo Mo Mo he’s magic, you know…you’ll never get past Sissoko. Forget him stopping you, try and stop his swerving effort on the hour mark, you’ll fail. A blistering effort that deserved to win the three points, and did.

We have been treated to some special goal this season from the likes of Cabaye and Ben Arfa but this one had a real good feeling about it. The Frenchman said: It is up there as one of the greatest goals I have ever scored, probably, in my career, and I am really happy to have scored it.

Performance Rating: Grade B-; another par performance, but to be pegged back and then go and win it is something that Newcastle fans rarely see. So that gave this a bit of a better feel, it also confirmed a rarity for Newcastle, a perfect month with four wins in four.

Overall Rating: Grade A; The polar opposite to Fulham’s November. Six points would have been a good month here for Newcastle, so to get 12, is really something! Seven goals, all scored by Frenchmen, un parfait Novembre. The first 11 looks as good as any in the league right now, and all the signs are encouraging, could Newcastle be in the mix for Champions League football come the end of the season? Allez le Toon!

Harry Barker

Steady Suarez and Co. // Liverpool F.C. – November

An unusual aura of belief surrounded Anfield at the end of October. Going into November, Liverpool supporters strongly felt that their team had enough quality to finish in the top-four. Talk about Liverpool’s title credentials were picking up pace and Liverpool looked set to prove to the footballing world that they were back to their best…

Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool:

Liverpool’s first opponents were Arsenal, at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners had been outstanding thus far in the league but many people were questioning Arsenal’s capability of beating the “stronger” sides in the league. Having just come off the back of a loss against Chelsea in the League Cup, people were left pondering as to whether Arsenal were equipped to beat the mighty Reds.

I for one was worried about Arsenal and their midfield. Liverpool had looked lack-lustre in the middle, and the presence of Lucas and Gerrard continued to stress me out. The problem for me was the lack of energy in the midfield. Without Jordan Henderson in there, I believe Liverpool’s team wouldn’t have functioned the way it had so far. Ozil, Ramsey, Cazorla, scared me and this was with good reason too.

Liverpool began the game well and were pressing high up the pitch; it all fell down on 19 minutes when Santi Cazorla found the net to put the Gunners 1-0 up. Ramsey doubled their advantage on 59 minutes and Liverpool never looked like getting back in it from there. This left Liverpool sitting third in the table which was still a very healthy position for The Reds.

Performance rating: Grade C-; poor result against a very good Arsenal side, wasn’t unexpected if I’m honest, still sitting third in the table.

Liverpool 4-0 Fulham:

Fulham paid a visit to Anfield next, and I’m sure they wished they hadn’t once it was finished. Pressure was mounting on Fulham boss Martin Jol, and Fulham fans had very little optimism leading up to this game. They knew Liverpool’s tails would be up after losing to the Gunners the previous week. I was very pleased with Daniel Agger, Philippe Coutinho and Glen Johnson returning to the starting line-up.

In truth, Fulham didn’t have a prayer in my view. When Fernando Amorebieta put the ball in his own net, I knew it was going to be a rout! It was 2-0 just three minutes later when Martin Skrtel scored a header off his 50p shaped head. From here I could see nothing going wrong for Liverpool. Then it was 3-0 when Luis Suarez scored his seventh of the season after a clever pass from Jordan Henderson.

Further punishment was to be felt by Fulham as Suarez doubled his tally for the night and scored what was to be the last goal of a very one-sided game. After such domination, I felt like a top-four spot really was achievable this year. Liverpool used to have a tendency to only perform in big games but not against lesser sides and this looked to be changing.

Performance rating: Grade A*; excellent win, excellent performance. Delighted to bounce back and dominate like we did.

Daniel Sturridge was the saviour for Liverpool at Goodison...

Daniel Sturridge was the saviour for Liverpool at Goodison…

Everton 3-3 Liverpool:

Going into an international break is made easier when your team performs the way they did against Fulham. Everton were up next and as every Red fan knows, going to Goodison and getting three points is usually easier said than done. Everton themselves were in a rich vein of form and since their shaky start to the season, have really kicked on and were only a few points behind Liverpool. Lukaku was on fire and Liverpool fans know too well what he is capable of in front of goal. Despite this, I felt we would beat Everton and needless to say I was gutted about not picking up three points.

It was a dream start for Liverpool and it was 1-0 after five minutes. Kevin Mirallas scored just three minutes later to draw the game level, and I was so frustrated to concede from a set-piece. When Suarez got us back in front on 19 minutes, I felt that we would kick on but Everton continued to pose a threat. Joe Allen missed an absolute sitter from only a few yards out and this turned the game in my opinion.

It was then that Everton kicked on; McCarthy and Barry in particular impressed me in midfield as did, young Ross Barkley. It wasn’t long after this that Romelu Lukaku scored to level the game. This was the second set piece of the game that Liverpool had failed to deal with, which resulted in a goal. Then in the 82nd minute, Lukaku found the net again with a powerful heading from a corner. Our lack of ability to defend against set-pieces worries, and annoys me. Teams challenging for a top-four spot, cannot keep conceding goals in that fashion. Sturridge came off the bench and got Liverpool a point by scoring in the 89th minute. Overall, a disappointing result in my opinion.

Performance rating: Grade C; okay point, tough opponents, sad to throw away two leads, happy to score late on to equalise.

Overall Rating: Grade B+; the month of November was relatively successful for the Reds. Everton and Arsenal proved to be stern tests and we were unfortunate not to pick up three points at Goodison Park. I believe Liverpool’s strong start to the season will continue and I know that with the quality we have, we should definitely continue pushing for a top four finish.

Jamie Connor