What on earth could be worse than a year in review post? Nothing.
Except, there is one thing worse than a year in review post. Two year in review posts!
Yes, that’s right, just when you thought I couldn’t stoop any lower than this time last year without emerging somewhere in the vicinity of Southern Spain…
Hola, ¿cómo estás? Bienvenidos a Sevilla!
But seriously though, what better way is there to end the year, than to devote a post to incessant bragging and the shameless re-plugging of material you have either read already, or have previously made a perfectly valid decision that it wasn’t worth the effort?
Of course, there is none. Having said that though, if you can think of one, please let me know and I’ll do it next year.
This has been a good year for the blog. Readership has more than doubled and my enthusiasm for what I am doing here has increased along with it, but there wasn’t the faintest clue that this was on the cards as 2013 kicked off. I mean, for goodness sake, just look at my first substantive post of the year! It was about some sort of silly oval ball nonsense, and contained a deeply embarrassing incriminating photograph. Needless to say I am suitably ashamed of myself. January is traditionally a month when quality local football on offer is a bit thin on the ground, so I also tried my hand at a bit of satire and posted a ‘lookalikes’ post, which lampooned various over-paid footballers and also took aim at my least favourite politician…
The highlight of February was undoubtedly my interview with Birkenhead United regista, Jack Hobson-McVeigh. It is interesting to read through it again now, especially in light of his modesty about how well Birko was placed to challenge for the Premier Division title so soon after promotion from Division 1. They ended up missing out on the crown, but only just. They led the league all season, only to be pipped at the post right at the end by East Coast Bays.
March was a classic month that saw the current record for the most monthly page views on the blog set, at just a tad over 14,000. This was principally due to two things. The first of them was the series of one, two and three play-offs between Claudelands, Te Atatu and Papakura City for a place in the Northern Regional Football League. These games had everything. Tension, excitement, niggle, heroes, villains, and multiple comebacks. The second thing that made March so successful was my crazy, crazy, crazy brainwave to drive around every NRFL number one pitch in the Super City and rate their preparedness for the season ahead. This smashed all records for the most viewed article in the history of this blog, with the hit count on that post alone still sitting at around double that of the second highest performer to date – the first post of the 2013 National Women’s League, the popularity of which was largely due to an unrelated AFC Fury debate that took place in the comments section (we’ll deal with Fury down this page further).
April saw shockwaves ripple through the New Zealand footballing community as All Whites’ captain Ryan Nelsen announced his retirement from playing the game, and his surprise appointment as a coach – for MLS side Toronto FC. I follow a few die-hard Toronto fans on Twitter, so I asked one of them to write me a guest post about how it feels when an unheralded Kiwi who has never had a coaching gig in his life turns up to take over your team. On the local front, we also had the opening round of the Chatham Cup, which saw me head to my local park to watch two relatively lowly sides – Glen Eden and Drury – take each other on.
In May I discovered the best stadium food in the football world by a country mile – the Fijian duck curry at Mangere United’s Centre Park. It was also a case of another month, another cup competition, this time with a brilliant round of the NZ Women’s Knockout Cup, featuring one of the great goalkeeping displays ever seen in this country. Warkworth’s Fiona Mann almost single handedly kept the fearsome Claudelands Rovers attack largely at bay. It’s not very often you see a referee get down on his knees and literally bow down to a player at the end of a game, but believe it or not, that’s what happened that day!
In June I declared my deep and undying love for an AC Milan player – yet another example of how I’m going soft in my old age. There was also a great personal triumph for me, when my second favourite team in the world, that I watched play in the sixth tier of Italian football back in 2007, was promoted to Serie B. And finally in June, the NRFL passed its mid-point, so by popular demand I followed up my pre-season look at the state of Auckland pitches and had a look at how many dry dust-bowls had turned into boggy mud-bowls. The answer, in short, was “glug, glug, glug, glug, gurgle gurgle, glug”.
In July I took on another big job and downloaded annual reports from every current NRFL club and poured over them to attempt to address the age-old question of does paying players buy you success? Not sure I was able to provide a definitive answer on the subject, however the exercise was not a total waste. I still have the folder full of paper, and if the hand-brake ever fails on a Mack truck nearby, I have the perfect thing to prop behind the back wheel to stop it rolling down the hill and killing someone. July also saw a sleeping Italian giant, Hellas Verona, earn promotion back into Serie A, which inspired me to write a little bit about the short history of their rivalry with Chievo – known in Italy as the derby Della Scala.
This was followed up in August with an update of my 2012, slightly irreverent, ‘Antipodean’s Guide to Serie A’. Meanwhile, back to what was going on locally, my new practice of interviewing coaches after games saw a magical moment take place in front of my camera following Waiuku’s clash with Fencibles. Do watch the video at the end of that post if you haven’t already. It’s quite something to behold I promise you. A real highlight of the year was also the Birkenhead United vs East Coast Bays game at Shepherd’s Park that effectively decided the league.
September saw me do my latest interview, in the build-up to the new ASB Premiership season. New WaiBOP United coach Peter Smith gave us a fascinating insight to what it’s like to start a new club from scratch.
In October I was inspired by the various club prizegivings taking place up and down the country at that time, to hand out a few virtual prizes of my own. October also saw the second NRFL play-off series of the year, as Papakura, back from their sad defeat to Claudelands in March, faced a very different Waikato/Bay of Plenty foe – the rather controversial AFC Fury. Kura lost 5-2 on aggregate, but immediately lodged a protest in the game’s aftermath. The dispute was over the eligibility of two players and at the centre of the firestorm, David Cook took to this blog to state his case for scrapping the guest player rule. His argument was ultimately unsuccessful however, as it was announced just yesterday that two 3-0 victories have been awarded to Kura, and they will take their place in Division 2 next year. Congratulations to them, although part of me is a bit sad we will be missing out on the entertainment value of Mr Cook in 2014.
On the first of November I wrote about the curious phenomenon of my beloved Roma winning our first ten games of the new Serie A season in a row, and how awesome it felt to finally enjoy some success after so many lean years! I couldn’t understand why other Romanisti online were discouraging each other from celebrating this great feat for fear of tempting fate. Why all the mindless superstition? Of course, three days after I wrote this post, we dropped our first points. So… yeah, sorry about that. Keeping my big trap shut now, and lesson learned… This was also a month of more records getting smashed in terms of hits. The BBC website unexpectedly linked to Scarves on Statues, which saw 1,759 unique visitors come my way in one day. The previous record had been fewer than 400. The real highlight of November though, was my first ever visit to a football game in Christchurch, which completely blew me away with its total awesomeness.
Which brings us to this fine month of December, which saw far and away the photographic highlight of the year for me. Following the final of the National Women’s League, one of the photos I took was selected for the front page lead story in the “Central Canterbury News”. Now, I have had photos published in bigger papers than this, but what made this one special was the reporter informing me that the story would have been buried inside the paper with a file pic if it wasn’t for my shot. It’s a very proud feeling to know that because of me, women’s football, even just on this one occasion in a small corner of the country, got the prominence it deserves. I am making a difference, and that’s why I will keep going.
See you next year!
Categories: Other Football Topics
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/