Book review – Taking Our Ball Back: English football’s culture wars by Martin Cloake

English Football Culture!



In an age in which most football writing is obsessed with the big clubs, leading players and transfer madness, it’s encouraging to find a writer like Martin Cloake, someone that ploughs a different furrow.

His work in publications such as The New Statesman, The Football Pink and In Bed With Maradona, takes a wider view of our national game, asking searching questions about the path it has taken in recent decades, the changing relationship between clubs and the fans and the corrosive impact that money is having on football.

Cloake’s new book, Taking Our Ball Back: English Football’s Culture Wars, is a compilation of this work, along with some new material. Grouped in six themes, covering, Tradition, Business, Dissent, Organisation, Law and Love, these articles explore much of what bothers many fans about our modern game.

What is most impressive about Cloake is his willingness to tackle…

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VVV-Venlo – MVV Maastricht

Sunday 25 January 2015
Jupiler League, Netherlands (2nd tier)
VVV-Venlo(10th) – MVV Maastricht(20th)
3-0 (Nijholt 14, 34. Promes 57)
Stadion de Koel, Venlo
Attendance: 4100
Ticket: 10,- EUR
Match Program: free


The trip

I live in Venlo and this is my local football club.
Myself, I’ve got a season ticket and not a single ticket.
I realise this is not really groundhopping ,but I think it’s a welcome addition to other groundhopping experiences.
On normal ocassions we first would have a gathering round the Irish Pub, but not this time. It was due the bad weather, or COLD if you like.
I walked with a friend of mine to the stadium, that lies on a little hill. Exactly a little hill, but we like to call it ‘De Berg’, what translates as mountain. Have no idea why..
Anyway, it had been snowing the day before and it was freezing outside.
You are always going to experience cold, but if you are winning it’s just a bit warmer and if you are losing… I think you get the general idea of it.

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The stadium has a capacity of 7,500, but in the 2nd tier it’s attendance is rarely over 5000.
Today was derby- day, we played local rival MVV Maastricht. One from four local clubs in the Province of Limburg, near the German border.
What I like about the stadium, it is oldschool. No concrete prisonwalls or something like that.
Perhaps I’m a bit prejudiced, but that is how I feel about it.

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You have an oldschool gate, where you have ‘security stewards’, but they really are a joke.
On the left side, you have got the foodstand. Brilliant.

Drink and Foodstand


The tunnel you go through when you are on the longside.
And by this time, we were cold as ice.


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The snow was cleared of our field and was still standing there. The reason why we still could play on this field was because of artificial pitch…
Rather disappointing, but it came in handy this day.

The Match

It was a derby match and we didn’t expect much from both sides, the passion has gone away over the years. The fierce rivalry has cooled down and the rivalry with Roda JC is more tensed.
A lot was going on with VVV over the past couple of weeks; Financially and results on the field.
So we didn’t know what was coming our way, the only thing we knew, was the signing of a new player: Gianluca Nijholt.

VVV was very dominant the first half and played attacking football, it was a delight. We hadn’t seen that in the first half of the season and everyone was in good cheers about it.
New boy Nijholt conquered the hearts of many fans, with two superb and class goals.
It was a possitive first half ending with a 2-0 on the scorebord at half time.


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The club’s mascot ‘Koelie’, a gentleman in a dogsuit with a beer belly. Does it get any better?
Second half started and as you can see, the players have to go down from the dressingroom to get to the pitch.
The dominance of VVV continued and they played on MVV’s half, but MVV was remotely threatening on outbreaks. Our luck is our goalkeeper: Maenpaa. Worldclass and keeper of the Finnish Nation Team.
We managed to get the 3-0 from Promes, he scored home after an assist by Nijholt.
Brilliant day and match, perhaps this is good for positive vibrations and we will be able to aim at the play-offs.
Bumped into a groundhopper fro Birmingham, great to hear his opinion and loved the groundhopping passion.
Was a class day.

Floodlights going on 1/2
Floodlights going on 2/2 and the lads having a bit of snowfun
‘Don’t through snowballs, stop it…’

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FC Utrecht – Borussia Dortmund

Wednesday 21 January 2015
FC Utrecht (Netherlands)  – Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
0-1 (16th Kempl)
Stadion de Galgenwaard, Utrecht
Attendance: 16.786

Match Magazine Front
Match Magazine Front
Match Magazine with the Utrecht line-up
Match Magazine with the Utrecht line-up
Match Magazine with the Dortmund line-up
Match Magazine with the Dortmund line-up

The trip to Utrecht.
As a dutchman myself, it wasn’t very hard to come to utrecht.
Utrecht is a city in the heart of the Netherlands and I live in the south.
We took the train from Venlo and travelled via Nijmegen to Utrecht, it’s about 2 hours to Utrecht Centraal (Central station). We travelled with 3 guys.
From their we could take several busses, but we took line 12 De Uithof UMC AZU. The fourth of fifth stop (can’t remember it right..) is station Galgenwaard, what is the ground of FC Utrecht.

So we got at the stadium, which is a modern stadium.
It’s vast and full of other companies, just a multi-functional ground if you like.
I personaly hate those stadiums, just give me an old stadium and ‘I’m the most happy’.

Stadium 'De Galgenwaard'
Stadium ‘De Galgenwaard’

As you can see, it looks like a shoppingcentre.
We had the tickets already, what was a pitty.
I really fancy those good tickets you know, not those E-tickets.
But unfortunately, this was the only option.
On the other hand, we could go through the gates fast, which was nice.



The Game

This game was not planned really, Klopp (Dortmund’s Manager) wanted a match just before the competition started. So they picked a side that wasn’t to far from Dortmund and Utrecht was a good match.(It’s a 3 hour drive)
This is odd, because the dutch competition has started and Utrecht has an important away match coming  (vs. Groningen)
The place on the league table sees Utrecht on the 11th spot , which is just below the middle. The guest on the other hand have a dramatic season in their domestic league, standing 17th out of 18. Strangely enough, they are through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League.
Football is a strange game.

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It was good to see the fanatic Bunnik-side full and they had a little pyro-show, which ofcourse, I was late to take a picture of it.

But the stadium was packed for this friendly and everyone was in good cheers.
The people in Utrecht are really friendly, among themselves. They are typical bunch of people, a real club for the people.
Very passionate, a lot of verbal violence and of course great quantities of beer.
It gives you a good feeling, to go to a club with raw emotions passions and frustrations. This are the real football fans and I loved it.
Great Atmosphere.

Dortmund hadn’t got their usual pack of fans, but their were a smal 500 in the away-end.
And ofcourse dutch gloryhunters, but what you going to do about them?


Dortmund was the favorite and played solid. They scored the 0-1 after 16 minutes the germans scored via Kevin Kampl, assisted by wonderboy Marco Reus.
After that Dortmund was really tame and Utrecht did have a few good chances the first half. That made the audience very happy, because their is so many difference in the quality of the teams.
The second half saw an excellent Utrecht, attacking the dortmund goal on any ocassion. It was brilliant, the stadium was loud.
Dortmund had a few counter attacks, but the goalkeeper was on it.
The crowd reacted a bit disappointed, but they were kind of proud.
They held a european giant to 1-0 at home.