The Top 10 of 2020

Here we are on the final day of 2020, it’s been quite a year. Not exactly the one we would have wanted, but it’s the one we got and we’ve had to make the best of it.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has read, shared, liked or commented on any of my posts this year.

It hasn’t always been easy coming up with content to fill out the blog, especially in the lockdown months when there was literally no football to talk about – unless I had decided to get into the Belarus league of course!

Despite this, I’ve still managed to exceed expectations for this year and hopefully things can continue to improve next year!

10. Watching Football in the “New Normality”

Six months after my last match I was finally back inside a stadium again! The Communidad de Madrid has approved protocols for fans to return to stadiums a few days earlier and a pre-season friendly between Móstoles CF and Santa Ana was the first game where this took effect.

So of course I hopped on the Cercanias to document it all.

Some of the things I saw have remained constant this season (temperature checks, hand sanitising, social distancing for fans and team photos) while others (players having to wear masks while playing) have largely fallen by the wayside.

9. Estádio da Luz

I love the city of Lisbon, so looking back on my 2019 visit and my trip to the Estádio da Luz during lockdown was a pleasing way to distract myself from the outside world.

The Estádio da Luz is one of the best stadiums I’ve ever been to and having waited so long to finally get to a game there, I was rewarded with a fun contest between Benfica and Vitória Setúbal and got to witness João Félix before Atleti made him the most expensive teenager in history.

The draft for this post had been sitting half-finished since May last year, so this is one that I was particularly glad to finally get published.

8. Recommended Reading II: Best Books for Christmas 2020

After it proved popular last year, I decided to do another pre-Christmas books recommendation post.

I read a lot this year – being confined to your small flat for a couple of months leaves you with a lot of spare time – so narrowing it down to a list of ten books was quite the task. I tried to avoid repeating authors from last year’s list and to include a wide range of subjects – it would have been easy to just have put ten football history books on the list.

There were a couple which narrowly missed out – and a couple which were nowhere near making the cut (thankfully both came from a trial of Kindle Unlimited, so I didn’t actually waste good money on them) but I’m pretty happy with the final ten. Already looking forward to compiling next year’s list!

7. Goal III: The Worst Football Film Ever

Nothing can really prepare you for the true horror that is Goal III: Taking on the World.

It’s a masterpiece of awful filmmaking, featuring a nonsensical plot, terrible, fake-looking greenscreen in the football scenes, cringeworthy attempts at humour and an inexplicable cameo from Mike Ashley.

But its worst crime by far is that it sidelines Santiago Muñez, the likeable if slightly two-dimensional protagonist of the first two films, in favour of two generic “jack-the-lad” English stereotypes we’ve never seen before in the series and then attempting to hang overly-dramatic plotlines on them when the audience has no connection to them.

No wonder Kuno Becker, the actor who played Muñez, described it as “a pile of sh*t” and has written a script for a potential Goal IV to try and give his character a proper send-off.

6. Touring the Bernabéu

All about the stadium and museum tour at one of football’s most iconic venues.

The only post from a previous year to make the top ten was a bit of an outlier. It did modest numbers when it was originally posted last year and although I updated it with a few more up-to-date photos in March, it wasn’t until July that it really took off.

Perhaps someone was inspired to share it because of the ongoing renovation of the stadium? It did show me that stadium tour posts are a viable source of content on their own – a later post looking at the Estádio do Dragão museum in Porto only just missed the top ten.

5. Rating the Euros TV Intros: BBC vs ITV

I had this prepared well in advance for the opening day of the Euros in June but of course, that didn’t happen. And to tell the truth, writing in December and looking ahead to the prospect of a Northern Ireland-less tournament next summer, I’m not really all that excited any more.

That will undoubtedly change towards the end of the season, but for now the scars of that play-off defeat by Slovakia still run deep.

Anyway, going through the intros from the BBC and ITV European Championships coverage was great fun, they tend to get overlooked compared to the World Cup ones, but the best of this bunch definitely deserve to be in that kind of distinguished company.

4. Rating the FIFA World Cup Official Films (Part 1)

With not much to do in the early days of Lockdown, I decided to watch the old World Cup films, which just so happened to be available on Amazon Prime.

After sitting through a few of them, the idea of turning this experience into blog content seemed obvious. And when I’d written down my thoughts about just two of them, I realised this would need to be a two-part post.

Some of the early films are a bit of a chore to get through, extended highlights of games no one needed to see again, dull narration, weird subplots about children running away from home to watch the World Cup etc, but by the time we reach the Sean Connery-narrated G’Olé (covering the 1982 tournament in Spain) they’ve hit upon a format which works.

3. 2019/20 in Review

Ah the story of a season cruelly cut off in its prime…

I was set to break all kinds of records in terms of games last season before the pandemic rudely interrupted things at the start of March.

Thankfully I’d still been enough places, seen enough good games and witnessed enough weird stuff to fill out my end of year awards.

Favourite category? Weirdest Company in the Stands – when I was joined by the San Fernando manager, kicking seats, shouting instructions, questionable language and all, after he was sent from the dugout in their game against Unión Adarve in February.

2. Villaverde: Madrid’s Best Kept Secret

Botti might not be challenging near the top of any league tables decided on the pitch this year but if this ranking was the Madrid Tercera, they’d be looking good for a shot at the promotion play-offs. And that’s the real quiz.

The Estadio Boetticher is one of Madrid’s most charming old-school grounds and it’s great that they’ve been able to reopen it to a small number of fans this season. It’s somewhere that I’m always happy to visit!

And although things have not been great for the club this year, my visit there in January, where they scored a late goal to end a long winless run stretching back to September was one of my moments of 2020.

1. Rating the FIFA World Cup Official Films (Part 2)

In part two of this epic early lockdown post, I finally get on to the World Cups of my lifetime – so 1986 to 2018 and boy is there a lot to cover!

Generally the films in this one are a much better watch than the earlier ones, with more modern production values and better editing helping greatly. Narration from the likes of Michael Caine, Sean Bean and John Hurt is an added bonus.

Nostalgia is also an important factor – as I remember most of these World Cups happening I was able to connect much better with them than the older efforts. Not everything is good though – one of the 2010 efforts, Match 64, is a relentlessly tedious behind-the-scenes look at the final between Spain and the Netherlands, while 2014’s Brasil! would rather show us a million interviews with children living in the Amazon than highlights of anything other than Brazil games and the Final.

This post was the slow-burning hit of the year – it never once topped the monthly rankings but kept steadily picking up views, mostly through searches, until it hit top spot in November.

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