These Football Times

A collection of all of my articles for long-form website These Football Times.

A-Z of the 2000s: Fernando Torres

Few names evoke the first footballing decade of the new millennium as effectively as Fernando Torres. He fits the brief irresistibly, graduating to Atlético Madrid’s first team in 2001 and peaking at Anfield prior to his 2011 departure. His subsequent move to Chelsea, short-lived stint at AC Milan, emotional return to Atlético, and intriguing swansong in Japan are more than mere footnotes in his remarkable career, but history will remember Torres as the dominant forward he was in the 2000s. Tor

The united Irish football team: a history of unique progress and dreams of resurrection

To this day, England’s record victory stands at 13-0. The rout was achieved in February 1882 against an opponent playing its first-ever international fixture: the Ireland national football team. Even following the division of Ireland in 1920, this united team would continue in some guise for another three decades. The pre-partition side was only the fourth national team to be formed, following in the wake of England, Scotland and Wales. The fledgeling state of the international scene meant that

The master and the apprentice: Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry at Arsenal

This feature is part of Duology “Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp!” The Dutchman cannot be mentioned without this immortal piece of commentary from the 1998 World Cup coming to mind, but at club level his name was seldom heard without being closely followed by that of his strike partner, Thierry Henry. At the same tournament, the young Frenchman was bursting on to the international scene. At just 20 years of age he would end up as top scorer for his country, who of course went

The fire and the flair of Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge at Liverpool

This feature is part of Duology All the world is a stage but Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge were more than merely players. In 2013/14, their only full season together, the two combined to produce sheer theatre of the sort rarely seen before on a football pitch – Suárez the anti-hero, Sturridge the flawed genius. Ultimately it was not an Achilles Heel but an Achilles tendon that brought the latter down, while the Uruguayan left for Barcelona with not a Premier League winners medal hanging aro

The telepathy of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres at their peak for Liverpool

This feature is part of Duology Steven Gerrard, more than most, is familiar with Liverpool’s revolving door of strikers. His illustrious career saw him take to the pitch with Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Luis Suárez, along with many more who cannot claim to be such household names. One by one, each came and went all the while the captain remained, unmoved, doggedly turning in performance after performance, even as the team around him operated in a constant state of flux. The same fate would ul

The dirty look and the traffic lights that gave birth to yellow and red cards

To many people watching football today, the game cannot be imagined without yellow and red cards. Fans discuss the seriousness of offences by reference to the colour of card that they warrant, while bookmakers offer odds on who will be the first to see yellow or red in any given match. It may come as some surprise, then, that the cards system is not even 50 years old. The system of sanctions in football stretches much further back than 50 years, to the inception of the game as we know it today.

How modern football is marginalising what made the number 10 so special

TO MANY FOOTBALL FANS, the archetypal number 10 represents the sport at its purest. Tasked with playing in whatever tiny pockets of space they can find behind the striker, their role is to create. This duty is, on the face of it, at odds with the inevitable congestion in a central and advanced position; to carry it out, therefore, the number 10 must be the most inventive man on the pitch. Sumptuous skills and perfectly-weighted passes that most wouldn’t even have spotted are the bread and butte

In praise of Álvaro Arbeloa, the underrated stalwart of Liverpool and Real Madrid

“Real Madrid is the club of my life, I will never call to ask for a job, but I am always available to offer myself.” These were the parting words of Álvaro Arbeloa as he announced that he was hanging up his boots, following an ultimately disappointing final season in the game with West Ham United. It was fitting that he should pledge fealty to Los Blancos even as he left his playing career behind him; the Spanish giants had shaped the whole direction of his career, and it was with them that he h

Jerzy Dudek and the heroics of an underrated goalkeeper

JERZY DUDEK WILL FOREVER BE A LEGEND ON MERSEYSIDE. His heroics in Istanbul have gone down in footballing folklore, and that crazy night is rightly remembered as the zenith of his long career. However, his journey is full of achievements that do not deserve to be forgotten – from setting records in the Polish third division to receiving a guard of honour from his Real Madrid teammates, and much else in between. Dudek came from humble beginnings. His father and grandfather were both miners – the

Peter Crouch: the most unlikely member of the 100 club

All logic dictates that Peter Crouch should not have had a particularly successful career. That is not to say he lacks talent – as the old and tired maxim goes, “he’s got good feet for a big man” – but he entered football at almost precisely the same time as the traditional target man began to go out of fashion at the top level. This has been borne out by the journeyman nature of his time in football: no team has ever wanted to commit to building around a striker in Crouch’s mould, and he has d