OBSCURE XI’S // WEEK Three – Gingers vs. Dreads

The short 11 which can be found here is ahead in the voting for last weeks Pitchside Picks. This week our 11’s are back and even more obscure! Our own ginger panelist Michael ‘Morecambe’ Garvey has picked his dream Ginger XI which will go against Tom Dorsett’s dread-locked 11, Tom unfortunately does not have dreads (check out the curls though!) but here are his and Morecambe’s teams…

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Ginger XI – “Orange County F.C” – 4-4-2

 The Gaffer – Alex McLeish

The team is managed by Alex McLeish who has enjoyed success in Scotland with Rangers winning the SPL and Scottish cup twice. He has also managed both Birmingham clubs and guided Birmigham City to promotion to the Premier League and Carling Cup in 2011 where they beat Arsenal in the final.

Goalkeeper – Ben Amos

Goalkeeper is not this teams strongest position, but it is always important to build for the future and Ben Amos certainly has a bright one having been capped three times for England Under 21s and making several appearances in the Manchester United first team. Currently on loan at Carlisle where he looks a cut above in League One.

Right Back – Wes Brown

Not many gingers can boast a medal haul of Five Premier League Titles, two FA Cups and Two Champions League’s. Not to mention 23 caps for England. Wes Brown was reliable defender for Manchester United for over a decade before being transferred to Sunderland where he proved he still has it with his performance against Manchester City the other week after a lengthy spell out injured.

Centre Back – Alexi Lalas

Iconic United States centre back, who lit up the 1994 World Cup with his long ginger hair and bright bushy beard, became the first modern era American to play in Serie A when he joined Padova in 1994, had a spell as general manager of LA Galaxy and now works for ESPN as an analyst.

Centre Back – Matthias Sammer

Dubbed as the heir to the great Beckenbauer, Sammer was the peak of his powers at Euro 1996 where he was part of the victorious German team, a feat that also saw him claim the Ballon D’or that year. Played predominantly for Borussia Dortmund where he won the Bundesliga and Champions League in 1997. Retired in 1999 aged 30 and now works as a sporting director at Bayern Munich.

Sammer was a big player for Dortmund in the 90's

Sammer was a big player for Dortmund in the 90’s

Left back – John Arne Riise

The Norweigan left back has one of the most powerful left foots the game has ever seen, won several major honours at Liverpool including the Champions League,  still playing at the age of 33 at Fulham.

Right Midfielder – Neil Lennon

A product of the prestigious Crewe academy, Lennon enjoyed a decent career in the Premiership with Leicester City and in Scotland with Celtic, winning the League cup and the SPL five times. Now manager at Celtic in the most uncompetitive league in world football.

Central Midfield – Paul Scholes

The first name on the team sheet, Scholes is the benchmark for all ginger people to aspire to and his 60 yard pinpoint passes will allow him to run the show for this team. After a glittering career at Manchester United where he won 11 Premiership titles, three FA cups and two Champions Leagues among others he is now coaching the youth team at United.

Central Midfield – Nicky Butt

Butt is included alongside Scholes in central midfield and they will complement each other perfectly, a tough tackling midfielder who was scared of no one, Butt was a rock at the central of United’s midfielder for over a decade, winning numerous trophies including playing the Champions League final in 1999 before moving on to Newcastle and Birmingham City. Now back at United coaching the youth team with Scholes.

Left Midfielder – Gordon Strachan

A talented left winger who enjoyed a decent career under Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen and Manchester United, before moving on to Leeds where he won the first division title in 1992. Retired at 40 in 1997 and now the manager of Scotland.

Centre Forward – John Hartson

An old fashioned battering ram of a centre forward, Hartson enjoyed a decent career in the Premier League with Arsenal, West Ham and in Scotland with Celtic. Hartson now does a bit of coaching and works as a pundit after recovering from cancer.

Centre Forward – Dave Kitson

Average striker but with better than average ginger hair, Kitson played in the Premier League for Reading and Stoke before moving down the leagues and now plays in League Two for Oxford United.

 And the opposition…

Dreads XI – “The Hair Care Bunch” – 4-2-3-1

The Gaffer – Ruud Gullit:

To put it simply, Ruud Gullit is the Godfather of the Dreadlock. Regarded as one of the finest players of his generation, Gullit was an elegant midfielder with outstanding balance who was named Ballon d’Or winner in 1987.

Gullit was an integral part of the dominant force that was Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan team of the late 80’s and along with compatriots Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, won three Serie A’s, three Supercoppa Italiana’s, two European Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and two Intercontinental Cups – Quite a trophy list.

Gullit also holds legendary status not only as a player, but also as a manager, winning the F.A. Cup in 1997, the club’s first major trophy in 26 years. Ruud will be sad to not see his son… sorry, doppelgänger Nathan Ake, Chelsea’s newest young prospect, in the starting line-up.

A chequered managerial career, probably down to the arrogant nature of the Dutchman; I’m sure he can he lead his fellow dread-locked disciples with distinction.

Goalkeeper – José Manuel Pinto:

Now this man has gone for a dreadlock with a twist; a corn-rowed style of dreadlock, but believe me I’ve seen this man’s hair out of his famous look and let me tell you, it’s LONG.

A close call with David James, Barcelona’s second-choice goalkeeper for five years just edged it in my ruthless quest for the defined dreadlock. Despite the sporadic nature of his appearances for the Catalan club, Jose hasn’t done too bad for himself; four La Liga’s, two Copa del Rey’s, four Supercopa de Espana’s, two UEFA Champions League’s, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.

Pinto on his day is a steady pair of hands; off his day, not so much. Let’s just hope for this particular “day” he’s on-form.

Right Back – Bacary Sagna:

Now when Bacary arrived in North London, you could hear many an Arsenal fan say, “What is he doing with his hair?!” but not now.

Unlike Gervinho, who had the craziest hair style, I’d certainly seen in a long time, Sagna and his trademark locks have been an ever-present sight for Arsenal, flowing in the wind, for seven seasons now and in the process becoming something of a cult hero with the fans at the Emirates.

Arriving at the Gunners from Auxerre in 2007, he has gone on to make 243 (+12 sub) appearances for Arsenal, being named in the PFA Team of the Year twice, 2007/8 and 2010/11.

Arsene Wenger has said that “Bac” is the best right back in the Premier League, which I’m sure, proves he’s a great addition to my team. 

Centre Back – Rigobert Song:

The King of Cameroon himself; this man knows how to rock a dreadlock. The undisputed fans’ favourite of the Indomitable Lions up until his retirement, Song holds all manner of records for his country including number of caps (138) and record number of African Cup of Nations played in (8).

The King of Cameroon boasted arguably the best dreads of any footballer

The King of Cameroon boasted arguably the best dreads of any footballer

A club career starting in France with Metz and ending in Turkey with Trabzonspor, it is perhaps a spell with then Gerard Houllier’s, Liverpool where he is most fondly remembered, (although Trabzonspor’s fans did nickname him “Big Chief”, and he was famed for his dance moves).

During a three-year spell on Merseyside, Song established himself as a real fans’ favourite, probably due to his hard-working attitude and the fact he was often played out of position at right back – thus the chant “We’ve Only Got One Song” was imagined by the Kop faithful.

A rock for his national team, I have the faith that Big ‘Bert can lead the back-four with aplomb; however he won’t be on Jamie Carragher’s Christmas card list, after the always eloquent Scouser allegedly in his autobiography called Rigobert “a soft c***t” after taking him out in a training session. Jamie, how dare you!

Centre Back – Linvoy Primus:

Mr Portsmouth himself is given the task of marshalling the back-four along with Big Bert, and was one of few (apart from that crazy fan with the tattoos) to work a dreadlock or two down on the South Coast.

Starting his career at Charlton before being released in 1994, Primus went on to make 127 appearances for Barnet before finding his real home at Portsmouth. During a nine-year stay at Fratton Park, he made 189 (+9 sub) appearances for Pompey, winning the Division One (Championship) title as well the fans’ player of the year and the PFA Player of the Year in the 2002/03 season.

So much so is he loved by both the club and the city, following his testimonial game in 2010, the club announced that the Milton End Stand would be renamed the Linvoy Primus Community Stand after his outstanding service to the club, where he remains in an ambassadorial role.

Ruud and I, alike, have faith in Big Linvoy to deal with the Ginger’s XI’s battering rams of a strike-force, John Hartson and erm… Dave Kitson.

Left Back – Taribo West:

Now, you may not remember the name, but you’ll definitely remember those green dreadlocks from the 1998 World Cup.

In a playing career, that may well be forgotten about, due to his wacky dreads, West did make 41 appearances for Nigeria, playing every minute of aforementioned World Cup and winning an Olympic Gold Medal at the ’96 games in Atlanta.

West also played for the likes of Internazionale and A.C. Milan, proving to be an integral part of the Nerazzurri’s 1998 UEFA Cup winning team. During his time with Auxerre, he also won a Ligue One title as well as two French Cups. In a recent interview, West claimed that he “was better” than A.C. Milan legend Paolo Maldini and the only reason for his short spell with Milan was because of the former’s “godfather-like” status at the club.

Taribo only just edged it ahead of the likes of Benoit Assou-Ekotto, because of his trademarked variety of colours of dread, but an honourable mention must go to Fulham legend, Rufus Brevett. Rufus and his blonde-tinted dreadlocks bombing on from left back will forever be one of my favourite sights from supporting the Mighty Whites!

Centre Midfield – Alexandre Song:

I’m sure Alex Song will feel an immense sense of pride playing in front of his cousin (but some reason, Alex calls him “uncle”) Rigobert Song but also playing next to the great Edgar Davids in the first of my two, pivotal, holding midfield roles.

Song, who took on the challenge of a flat-top with dreads during his time with Arsenal, was probably missed by the Gunners up until the return of Mathieu Flamini this season – the athletic midfielder, who is equally adept at both breaking and setting up attacks, was brought to North London for 1m and sold for 15m to Barcelona in 2012.

During his time in North London, he made 118 (+15 sub) appearances for Arsenal and collected a Champions League Runners-up medal in 2005/06.

Now carrying the Song flag for Cameroon in place of his “uncle”, I’m more than willing to wager that he and “the Pitbull” alongside him can be more than a match for the Ginger midfield.

Centre Midfield – Edgar Davids (C):

I and Ruud were unanimous when it came to deciding who should captain our dread-locked side, and making his second appearance in Pitchside XI’s, Edgar Davids and his unique image is surely one of the most recognisable sights of our generation of football.

As has already been mentioned the man had an illustrious playing career that spanned the top divisions in Holland, Spain, Italy and England – where he was a key player for Spurs in their consecutive fifth-place finishes in 2005/06 & 06/07; somewhat unbefitting of the man this career finished at Crystal Palace, of all places.

Davids went on to make a total of 386 (+20 sub) appearances in his club career, scoring 32 goals and winning a plethora of trophies including three Serie A’s, a Champions League and an UEFA Cup. Add to that 74 caps for the Netherlands, plus one of the greatest ever players, Pele, personally placing you into FIFA’s top 100 living players – you’d have to be a fool not to see how highly regarded this man was.

Making some “choice” decisions in charge of Barnet, isn’t exactly the best way to start your managerial career – but the man who Marcello Lippi once described as, “a one-man engine room” will without doubt be relishing the opportunity to go head-to-head once more with Paul Scholes in what could prove to be a crucial clash in deciding the outcome of this game.

Right Wing – Clarence Seedorf:

He may not have them now, but one of the best-named men in football, Clarence Seedorf was the “Daddy Cool” of the dreadlock in his pomp.

Much like his compatriot, Davids, Seedorf now at the tail-end of his career with Botafogo in Brazil has had an incredible career with the likes of Ajax, Real Madrid and A.C. Milan where he spent ten years of his career, making 300 appearances and scoring 62 goals, in all competitions.

Still the only player to win four Champions League’s with three different clubs; Ajax in 1995, Real Madrid in 1998 and Milan in 2003 & 2007, Seedorf was ranked seventh out of 20 in the best players of the Champions League since its inception.

Some eyebrows may be raised when it comes to his position out on the right wing, but Clarence possesses superb feet and technical ability, accompany that with a wicked cross and exceptional free-kick ability – I’m sure Clarence will do just fine.

Centre Attacking Midfield – Jay-Jay Okocha:

Part of Nigeria’s “Dream Team” that won an Olympic Gold Medal alongside team-mate here, Taribo West, Okocha is probably one of Nigeria’s greatest-ever players.

Jay-Jay (so good they named him twice, any Bolton Wanderers fan will tell you) was renowned for his elaborate skills and had a playing career which really kicked off in Germany with Eintracht Frankfurt alongside Tony Yeboah. Spells at Fernerbahce and PSG followed before he found his hero-like status in the most unlikely of places – Bolton, Lancashire.

Brought to the Reebok Stadium by “Big” Sam Allardyce, there have been plenty of times where I’ve been sat in the away end feeling both of sense of incensement and admiration whilst watching Jay-Jay Okocha.

An absolute cult-hero in Bolton (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/bolton-wanderers, Bolton fans’ DO NOT click here as it might break your hearts), Okocha made 106 (+18 sub) appearances for Wanderers scoring 14 goals.

With that much flair and ability, surely Jay-Jay can be the fulcrum of my side’s attacking intent and lead them to victory?

Left Wing – Siphiwe Tshabalala:

I’m not going to do much writing for this one apart from the following: Surely everyone’s favourite player at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the greatest surname in football, and an excellent set of dreadlocks. What more could you want?

Well Siphiwe Tshabalala went and did this…

 

Striker – Henrik Larsson:

Henrik loved Scotland and Scotland loved him; the Sweden legend scored an incredible 243 goals in 315 competitive games for Celtic and is the all-time leading SPL goal-scorer with 174 goals, (Kris Boyd has recently equalled this total).

Whilst banging in the goals to make him top goal-scorer in the SPL in five of the six seasons that he competed in, he had the cheek to score the majority with the greatest blonde dreadlocks you’re ever likely to see!

A hero for his country also, he appeared in three World Cups and three European Championships and ended his international career with 37 goals in 106 matches.

Spells at Barcelona, Helsingborg and a brief loan-spell at Manchester United capped off a club career that ended with a record of 573 apps, 325 goals. Not bad for a man who’s also played competitive floorball since 1989.

and of course…

The Chairmen – Michael Garvey & Tom Dorsett.

The Story of Giuliano Maiorana

As the ‘Class of 92’ hit cinemas last week, we take a look at the story of Giuliano Maiorana, one of the original ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ whose rapid rise from non-league football to the Manchester United first team is likely to never be repeated.

When Giuliano first heard that United were looking at him, he thought it was a joke; he was playing non- league football for Histon part time and had already been turned down by Cambridge United, Brentford and Norwich City.

He was given a trial but wasn’t very hopeful: “When I found out United were looking at me, I honestly thought it was a wind up considering I was 19 at the time, and bearing in mind that Cambridge United had told me on a few occasions that I wasn’t good enough for them. I thought my one week trial at Manchester United would come to nothing, other than a week of experience with a massive club”.

In only the second day of his trial, Giuliano was picked in the squad to play in a testimonial match for Birmingham City’s Ian Handyside and performed so well that he was offered a four-year contract after being substituted at half time: “Being picked to play in Ian Handyside’s testimonial was a big surprise to me, it was a Tuesday night and before the game I got told I was in the starting line-up which shocked me even more because it was with the first team squad.”

“Playing in front of 10,000 people was nerve racking but luckily for me I didn’t do too bad, I got a penalty and at half-time they brought me off and offered me a four year contract straight away. It took me only around six weeks to break into the first team. My scout Ray Medwell told me what I had achieved would not happen again, because at the time Histon were five leagues below the old fourth division”.

Giuliano's rise from the ninth tier of English Football to the Theatre of Dreams, will likely never be repeated...

Giuliano’s rise from the ninth tier of English Football to the Theatre of Dreams, will likely never be repeated…

The transfer fee United paid Histon saved them from going out of business and Maiorana made his debut on 14th January 1989, coming on as a substitute in a league match against Millwall at Old Trafford, and remembers feeling slightly overwhelmed by the situation he found himself in: “When I came on as a sub I remember after running down the wing, because I was breathing heavy, my ears kept blocking and unblocking, all I could hear fading in and out of my ears was United, United, United!”

“As this happened I looked around the stadium and suddenly it dawned on me the magnitude of the situation I was in. There were around 45,000 people at the game and considering only six weeks before I was playing in front of 50/60 people. I was used to watching professional games but all of a sudden I was thrust into a game, which the supporters were watching, that I was playing in, it was ridiculous and awe inspiring”.

The skilful left winger rose to prominence in his first start for the club with an exciting performance in a televised 1-1 draw against Arsenal, who finished the season as league champions. It looked like the start of a long and promising career and he was seen as a star of the future at Old Trafford.

Then a cruel twist of fate intervened, whilst playing in a reserve game in 1991 he suffered a serious knee injury after a tackle from Aston Villa’s Dwight Yorke, from which he was unable to fully recover. He never played for the first team again, eventually leaving the club and after a brief spell playing in Sweden he retired from the game at the age of 24.

Giuliano in action for United...

Giuliano in action for United…

In total Giuliano made eight appearances for United and looks back at his time at Old Trafford with mixed emotions: “Obviously playing for the first team was a dream, but the flip side was getting injured when I was 21 and having to retire at 24. A journalist once asked me after reading in a paper about the skill I had, if it made me feel proud.”

“I responded that I was very lucky to have been blessed with the skill I did have, but it would’ve made my life a hell of a lot easier if I didn’t have it and United would’ve released me because I wasn’t good enough, then at least I could’ve got on with my life thinking that I had given it a go and wasn’t good enough. Instead I’ve got a question mark over my career, that unfortunately for me I will never be able to answer.”

Now 44, Giuliano now works for his family’s upholstery business and still has some involvement in football: “I only play five-a-side now against friends, nothing serious just for enjoyment, getting too old for that. I also help coaching my son’s team. I’ve been doing that for around eight years and get a lot of pleasure and enjoyment doing it.”

Unlike many players whose careers are cut short by injury, Giuliano is happy and has been able to make a good life for himself away from football: “I’ve learnt with age that you always have to look at the positives and for me the positives of my time at United are that I met some really good people up in Manchester, my wife is from Salford and we have two wonderful kids, I’m blessed with a great family.”

“I may not be rich with the money I might have earned as a professional footballer, but I’m happy and rich with life, so I can’t complain.”

Michael Garvey

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

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

Mystic Mawky – Week Four

Everton 1-1 Liverpool: A closely-fought game at Goodison Park with both teams cancelling each other out in the end, Everton are pretty solid at home and despite Liverpool’s recent good form I just can’t pick a winner!

Arsenal 2-1 Southampton: A good game at the Emirates, which will be close but in the end, Arsenals quality will prevail. Southampton will run them close though and give them a game.

Fulham 1-1 Swansea: Fulham will take a point at home against an average Swansea side. An uneventful draw between two team’s struggling for form. Should Fulham lose, I don’t see how Martin Jol can keep his job.

Martin Jol will be praying star striker Berbatov can dig him out of trouble.

Martin Jol will be praying star striker Berbatov can dig him out of trouble.

Hull 2-1 Crystal Palace: Palace’s woes will continue with their trip to the recently crowned UK City of Culture, Hull will comfortably beat them but they will manage a consolation.

Newcastle 3-1 Norwich: Newcastle will take all three points at St. James’ Park against an underperforming Norwich side who could be in serious trouble if they don’t start picking up points from somewhere.

Stoke 1-1 Sunderland: Two struggling sides meet at the Britannia Stadium and as usual with any game involving Stoke, it won’t be pretty. Forgettable 1-1 draw.

West Ham 1-3 Chelsea: Mourinho’s Chelsea team haven’t set the Premier League alight as many expected, and the honeymoon period for Jose’s second spell in charge is most definitely over. Abramovich is a chairman who demands results but Chelsea should get one here, winning comfortably at Upton Park against a West Ham side who are only above the relegation zone on goal difference.

Manchester City 3-1 Tottenham: Two teams who aren’t quite performing to expectations this season. Having said that City’s forward line is formidable and that will be too much for a Spurs side that have been terrible to watch this season.

Cardiff 0-2 Manchester United: United continue their revival with a tricky trip to South Wales, that being said, I think they will have too much for Cardiff and should win reasonably comfortable with two second half goals.

West Brom 0-0 Aston Villa: One of those mid-table games where both teams cancel each other out and it fizzles into a draw. 0-0 snorefest.