Image courtesy of http://files.stv.tv/imagebase/98/623×349/98292-craig-easton-spent-eight-years-at-dundee-united-between-1996-2004.jpg
“They say that you have your whole life to write your first record and nine months to write your second – it’s true!” Foster the People frontman Mark Foster knows better than most, having been tasked with following up the band’s wildly successful 2011 debut album Torches, which earned praise from industry figures from Elton John to U2.
Foster the People’s second album, Supermodel, was released in March last year and it has divided expectant fans and critics alike. The band (also comprising drummer Mark Pontius and bassist Cubbie Fink) have clearly gone down a different route with this record; indeed, Foster says, “One of the things that was important to us was making a record that, I guess, was more organic – Torches was pretty synthetic.” The debut album’s array of solid, well-polished electronic tracks drew acclaim, with “Pumped Up Kicks” and “Houdini” perhaps justifiably grabbing the spotlight.
That album eventually went platinum in Australia and Canada, and gold in four countries including the US. Fittingly, Supermodel has an equally international flavour, having been produced on three continents. Much of the writing and what Foster calls the record’s “aesthetic intensity” was conceived in Morocco; the bulk of the album was recorded in Los Angeles, and finishing touches to the vocals were added in London.
However, this time around the feel of the record is somewhat different, as its first single, “Coming of Age”, would lead you to believe. Many of the tracks on Supermodel resulted from the band “getting lost in rabbit trails and experimenting”. And experimental is exactly how some of the songs feel, none more so than the 30-second, lyric-less “The Angelic Welcome of Mr Jones” or the millennial, new-age “Pseudologia Fantastica”.
It’s somewhat ironic, then, that the pretentious “The Angelic Welcome” is followed by arguably the album’s catchiest and most radio-friendly effort, “Best Friend”. Tucked in the middle of the track list, this seems to be Supermodel’s most upbeat moment, a reprieve from the darkly inviting lyrics found elsewhere (“We’ve been crying for a leader to speak like the old prophets/The blood of the forgotten wasn’t spilled without a purpose – or was it?” in the excellently-titled “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon”, for example).
It’s easy to see this album as an evolution from Torches when Foster’s songwriting is at his aloof, apocalyptic, quasi-political best. If this feels more depressing than their debut – and it does – that appears to be accidental: “A lot of my melodies tend to be hopeful. I think there’s a melancholy there too, but always a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel,” he insisted in 2011.
But it’s that melancholy which makes this record worth listening to, makes it more than a lazy follow-up of the songwriting formula he stumbled upon while working as a “commercial jingle writer”. “Goats in Trees”, for instance, is as weird as the name suggests and as such unsuitable for radio – but it’s one of the best songs here for its smooth narrative and progression.
The album ends somewhat unusually, with the stripped-back “Fire Escape”, a love letter to Los Angeles, where Foster moved as a teenager to pursue his dream of a career in a music. For all the references to prophets and blood that precedes “Fire Escape”, its real-world grounding seems incongruous.
It does little to dispel the impression you get that Foster the People is essentially a one-man band, Foster himself putting everything together before calling his friends in to play the instruments he can’t, but this album suggests the band will be around for a while yet. As long as Foster isn’t bored of songwriting, to be precise.
(Esta nota fue escrito originariamente en junio 2015)
Finalmente el Everton ha completado el fichaje de Gerard Deulofeu después de semanas de negociación y especulación.
El mediocampista español viene desde Barcelona para €6m en un contrato de tres años. Marca el segundo fichaje de Everton este verano, después de la llegada Tom Cleverley desde Manchester United.
Deulofeu pasó una temporada exitosa en el club inglés en 2013-14 pero encontró menos oportunidades en su regreso al Barca eso verano.
El rápido joven, de 21 años se considera muy bien entre los expertos como un extremo promisorio y ahora hay debate entre las hinchas y oficiales de Barca, centrado en el precio bajo de su traspaso al Everton.
El entrenador de los Toffees, Roberto Martinez cree que ahora Deulofeu es un jugador aún más talentoso que el joven que fue cedido al Goodison Park hace dos años.
Añadió que el fichaje de Deulofeu fue uno de sus objetivos más vitales del verano.
For most countries, a total of one point and one goal scored from five games would represent nothing but complete disaster. However, American Samoa are not most countries, and the spirited performances of the islands’ youngsters at the recent Oceania under-20 Championship in Fiji have offered hope for the team’s future – not least due to the emergence of promising forward Ryan Paaga.
The American Samoans’ performances and results in their opening two games will have particularly pleased coach Rupeni Luvu, providing hope that Thomas Rongen’s legacy with the senior team, one of higher professionalism and fitness levels that led to the team almost emerging from their preliminary qualifying group for the World Cup, can be replicated by all of the islands’ teams. Luvu’s boys kicked off the tournament in the Fijian capital with a 4-0 defeat, against the hosts and eventual winners, all the goals coming in the first half. Fiji would go on to qualify for the FIFA under-20 World Cup finals (with New Zealand automatically qualifying as hosts), making this result seem almost respectable.
However, very few would have foreseen American Samoa holding Papua New Guinea, coached by Oceania Footballer of the Century Wynton Rufer, to a draw two days later. The underdogs drew first blood through Sinisa Tua in first-half stoppage time, but they could well have had a penalty after just five minutes when Paaga went down under PNG goalkeeper Koniel Vagi’s challenge after racing through on goal. PNG’s blushes were somewhat spared by Frederick Simongi’s equaliser on the hour but despite having Rafael Rocha sent off late on for scrapping with a PNG substitute, American Samoa held on for a historic result: it is the first time they have avoided defeat in an under-20 game.
Unfortunately, Luvu’s charges ran out of steam somewhat in the second half of the tournament, going down 4-0 to Vanuatu on 27th May and 5-0 to the Solomon Islands two days after that, although two of the Solomons’ goals were scored in the last 15 minutes. In their final game against New Caledonia, American Samoa were thrashed 9-0, though five of those goals were leaked in the second half as tiredness kicked in. That result may taint the success of the Papua New Guinea game, but it is clear that progress has been made: with the portly but likable Frederick Maiava between the posts, the under-20s set a national record for the longest time without conceding – 103 minutes across the second half of the Fiji game and the first hour against PNG.
Ryan Paaga epitomises this progress as much as anyone. Athletically gifted and with the raw skill to trouble defences, Paaga was American Samoa’s biggest goal threat throughout the tournament and can consider himself unfortunate not to have returned home with a first international goal to his name. If promising sportsmen like Paaga offer the biggest opportunity to the Football Federation American Samoa (FFAS), they also represent the biggest threat. The seventeen-year-old is equally gifted at rugby sevens and it is clear that the FFAS will have to do battle with the islands’ other sports federations to secure his services for future internationals.
Indeed, Paaga says the FFAS wasted little time in drafting him into the squad for Fiji upon his return from a rugby tournament in Hong Kong, but he regrets that his sporting versatility makes it difficult to focus on one code in particular: “When I came back from Hong Kong the soccer federation contacted me to select me for this team…[I’ve] never really played soccer much…it’s tough for me because so many people want me to play rugby for their team, so I don’t get time to practice my soccer skills as much.”
Aside from the impressiveness of Paaga performing the most difficult role at the tournament – lone striker in a team that often strings every other outfield player across their own penalty area – so admirably, it shows that the FFAS faces almost a sporting cannibalism from the islands’ other governing bodies. Last year fellow forward and then-seventeen-year-old Shalom Luani starred as the senior team claimed their first ever international win, a 2-1 success over Tonga, and Luani’s two goals in the three-game World Cup qualifying series made him the country’s joint-top all-time scorer. The parallels to Paaga are uncanny, and Luani’s time is similarly divided between football and American football, though recently it seems the second sport is dominating his engagements.
Luani moved to Chabot College of California in 2012 and Paaga has also admitted his desire to win a scholarship to the U.S. mainland. Though it would be wrong to stand in the youngsters’ way as they seek to further their careers in a more competitive environment, the diaspora of the islands’ talent represents a big headache for the FFAS; getting players back from the mainland to play in friendlies or qualifiers is difficult financially and logistically.
For now at least, Luvu and FFAS chairman Tavita Taumua will be pleased that the leaps achieved by Rongen are now being replicated at youth levels. A pairing of Paaga and Luani in attack would trouble any defence in the region and, with a blend of experience and promise behind them, is surely the way forward. It will be years before American Samoa can truly challenge for World Cup qualification, but if regular games are scheduled, and if the FFAS can promote football above the islands’ other sports, the 31-0 loss to Australia in 2001 that has haunted this team for so long can finally be consigned to the history books.
They celebrated in the streets of Gibraltar when the national team was finally admitted to UEFA. There may be only 30,000 people living on the Rock, but it felt like every one of them had descended into the narrow streets and the main square as young and old, player and fan stood side by side, almost all bedecked in the team’s red and white strip as the music blared and the confetti fell.
For all involved it marked a happy end to a prolonged, tiresome struggle for international recognition that began in 1999 when the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) made its initial application to UEFA. 13 years of Gibraltarian frustration, UEFA backtracking, referrals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Spanish stubbornness followed, with Gibraltar’s neighbours threatening to pull out of international competition if UEFA welcomed the territory into Europe’s footballing fold.
There’s a huge irony in the fact that it took Gibraltar – with a football association formed in 1895, easily predating those of Spain, France and Germany, amongst others – so long to be officially recognised when they have one of Europe’s longest football histories. In the first half of the twentieth century, the Rock welcomed several Spanish clubs, the pinnacle being a famous 2-2 draw with Real Madrid in 1949.
The battle at times seemed so hopeless that some could have been forgiven for believing they would never see the day when UEFA finally relented and admitted Gibraltar. Indeed, as recently as 2007, Steve Menary, after chronicling Gibraltar’s lengthy application process in his book Outcasts! The Lands That FIFA Forgot, concluded: “Spain, it seems, has won again and Gibraltar will not be allowed in.”
Yet, in May 2013, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport had twice ruled in the GFA’s favour, Gibraltar’s provisional UEFA membership was ratified and they became Europe’s governing body’s 54th member. There is still understandable frustration at the ridiculous length of time it took for admission to be granted and the petty politics that complicated the process, but the overriding feeling in Gibraltar is one of elation at the chance to compete against the continent’s finest in the coming years.
Bursting onto the international scene in 2001, current captain Roy Chipolina has seen it all from up close. Announcing his arrival in the Gibraltar side with a brace on debut against the Orkney Islands at the Island Games aged 17, the defender soon established himself as a vital cog in the Rock’s team. In 2007, he was part of the side that took gold at the 2007 Island Games, and four years later he scored in the impressive 3-0 win over the Faroe Islands, themselves members of FIFA since 1988, which proved to the world that Gibraltar was capable of competing on a bigger stage. In January 2013, he even represented his homeland in the Futsal Euro qualifiers, scoring in a dramatic 7-5 defeat of San Marino. There are, therefore, few people better qualified to comment on the territory’s bitter struggle for international recognition.
Indeed, it was Chipolina who led the team out for their first UEFA-sanctioned friendly against Slovakia in November, when 500 Gibraltarians made the 250 mile trek to Faro, Portugal (Gibraltar’s Victoria Stadium deemed unfit by UEFA) to witness a superb 0-0 draw. Chipolina, partnering Danny Higginbotham in the heart of defence, was reported by Eurosport to have delivered a rousing speech after hearing Gibraltar’s national anthem played “for the first time at the highest level.”
Coach Allen Bula has wasted little time in supplementing a mainly local-based squad with talent from abroad. Gibraltar have already enlisted the help of several current or ex-professionals, including Danny Higginbotham (now retired from club football but formerly of Manchester United, Southampton and Stoke City), Preston North End full-back Scott Wiseman, Wrexham defender David Artell, and midfielder Liam Walker, who recently joined Israeli outfit Bnei Yehuda after leaving Portsmouth. Bula has left no stone unturned in his search for eligible players, with forwards Adam Priestley and Reece Styche plucked from Farsley AFC (of the Northern Premier League Division One North) and Forest Green Rovers’ reserves respectively.
Yet Chipolina maintains that some of the national team’s home-based players are equally gifted: he has previously said veteran striker Lee Casciaro and midfielders Joseph Chipolina (a distant relative) and Brian Perez are capable of playing at a professional level. For Joseph Chipolina, comfortable either at left-back or as a winger, this seems particularly plausible: last year the 26-year-old impressed in a week-long trial at Leyton Orient, as well as attracting interest from Livingston.
Roy also believes Anthony Hernandez, who scored on his international debut against the Faroes aged just 16, and has already spent time on trial at Middlesbrough, is one to watch in the future. There are parallels to be drawn with Gibraltar’s last wonderkid, defender Jason Pusey, who signed a 3-year contract with Atlético Madrid after finishing his GCSEs in 2006, yet faded into obscurity and has now returned to local football on the Rock.
The hopes are that Hernandez, unlike Pusey, will now have a chance to develop on an international stage with regular, competitive games; Menary’s depressing footnote in 2007 that “any idea that Jason Pusey may have of pursuing an international career with the place that he grew up in are dead” is thankfully no longer applicable to Hernandez.
Despite being drawn in a tough group for Euro 2016, including Germany, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, you get the impression that Chipolina and his team-mates fear no-one. The defender, a customs officer for the government for over a decade, will be looking to make sure Gibraltar give their opponents a thorough interrogation no matter how many star names are in their team.
I was recently fortunate enough to have the chance to put some questions to Roy, and the captain proved very accommodating – as his answers demonstrate.
How important was it to finally be admitted to UEFA after decades of trying and how elated were the players?
For Gibraltar being admitted into UEFA was nothing more than making a dream a reality! It was a very emotional and jubilant day. After such a long battle which began way back in the mid-1990s Gibraltar has become the well deserved 54th member in UEFA. For us, the players, the opportunities that come with being in UEFA are huge and we are just glad to be part of it.
How special was it to be the first man to captain Gibraltar in an official UEFA game?
It was a great honour and the proudest moment of my football career to lead my country out into our first international match. It was a very emotional day and one that I will cherish forever.
Is it true that you gave a rousing speech in the dressing room before the Slovakia game and if so, what did you say?
No, not really. We are a very close bunch and with Gibraltar being so small, most of us have played alongside each other from a very young age. We are like a family. The senior players, most notably Al Greene, Daniel Duarte and myself, are usually going around motivating the rest of the team before a match but as you can imagine the team didn’t need much motivation for this match. We had been waiting many years for this moment. The whole squad knew how much this match meant not just to us but to the whole of Gibraltar! We usually rally together just before kick off and this is what we shared before kick off.
What was the atmosphere like in the dressing room after the draw with Slovakia? The players must have been delighted with the result.
The atmosphere was electric and the team was buzzing. It was very emotional not only for the players but the backroom staff too. Just being able to represent your country in an official international friendly was a dream for all of us but to get a draw against such a respected footballing nation like Slovakia in our first match was surreal. Well, let’s just say, it felt like a victory!
Which language is used in team talks and in the dressing room? Do most players speak both English and Spanish?
Our main language is English but most of us can speak English and Spanish fluently. Our team talks are always done in English but we tend to speak our own dialect which is actually a mixture of English and Spanish (Llanito). People are usually amazed when hearing us talk as we jump from English to Spanish within the same sentence at the blink of an eyelid. It’s unique.
What is the team’s relationship with the community like? Do you think the bond with the public of Gibraltar is stronger because of the small population and your underdog status?
Being that our population is just 30,000 the team’s relationship with the community is a special one, and I think one which isn’t matched by any other nation. It’s as if they are part of the team. We are such a small community that you literally know everyone. Add in that football is followed religiously here in Gibraltar and you get some tremendous support. Though we are considered underdogs I can assure you that the expectations of the people in Gibraltar are very high.
You may not have drawn them for Euro 2016, but how special would it be to play against England?
Being that England is the nation I have supported and the league I have followed since I was a young boy it would be a dream to step out at Wembley and face the mighty England. It’s every boy’s dream to play at Wembley and I am no different.
Did you agree with UEFA’s decision to keep Spain and Gibraltar apart for the Euro 2016 draw?
I will leave any political issues to the politicians. I am just extremely happy that UEFA has finally given me the same opportunity as all the other 53 members, and that is, to be able to represent my country on the international stage.
Does having to play ‘home’ games in Portugal somewhat negate home advantage? What are the chances of being able to play home games in Gibraltar in the future?
I suppose it does. The following we get in Portugal won’t be as much as if games were to be held here in Gibraltar but after our great experience in Portugal and the warm welcome we received by its people I am sure it won’t be long before we make Portugal our home from home.
There are plans to begin the construction of a new stadium at Europa Point. It’s a three-year project and I envisage that if everything goes according to plan, we should be able to use the facilities of the new stadium for the next round of World Cup qualifiers, provided we are given the awesome privilege of becoming FIFA members by then. This indeed would be the icing on the cake! You can watch a video on YouTube called ‘Europa Point Stadium’ which gives a good insight.
How long do you plan to continue playing? Do you have any plans for post-retirement?
At the moment I would like to concentrate on playing for the Gibraltar national team for as long as possible. I have no plans of hanging up my boots any time soon but I do hope that in the future I am able to attain my coaching badges so that I am able to carry on being a part of the building and improving football on the Rock.
[Note: interview originally conducted in 2012]
Franziska Klingelfuss may not be a household name, even in her native Switzerland, but the experienced goalkeeper has both benefitted from, and contributed to, the women’s game in Switzerland during a distinguished 14-year playing career.
The fact that Franziska played in the male youth team of second-tier side FC Aarau – a club who count former Chelsea Champions League-winning boss Roberto Di Matteo, ex-Middlesbrough defender Emanuel Pogatetz and Oceania Footballer of the Century Wynton Rufer among their former players – until her teenage years could be counted as both an advantage and disadvantage to her career. On the one hand, often being the only girl on the pitch in a testosterone-fuelled sport highlighted the difference between Franziska and her team-mates and could have made it hard to fit in – but the confidence gained from proving herself as good as, and better than, many of her male counterparts was surely invaluable.
Unsurprisingly, recognition from further afield followed: in 1996, she was selected for the under-16 Aargau regional team, representing the canton’s population of 600,000; two years later, Franziska progressed to the Swiss under-18 women’s national team – a huge achievement given she was plying her trade far down the Swiss league ladder at the time.
Although her practical inability to move to a top-flight women’s club – deemed necessary in order to progress further in the Swiss FA youth setup – unfortunately ended her national team career in 1998, Franziska went on to enjoy a successful career that began at Aarau and also took in two spells at FC Baden as well as stints at FC Schlieren, FC Domat-Ems and CB Laax.
A persistent and painful back injury has limited her playing time in recent years – the goalkeeper has been without a club since 2010, but, having looked into back treatment, Franziska refuses to throw in the towel: she is yet to officially retire, and with luck, will soon be back on the field.
Klingelfuss has taken advantage of that spell on the sidelines to further a promising coaching career that began in 2001 as the goalkeeper coach for SC Schöftland’s 8-16 year olds. Franziska has since passed on her expertise to the new generation of Swiss footballers in a number of roles, including training youngsters at the annual FC Aarau football camp, and helping local girls by coaching Aargau’s under-14 regional team.
2004 was the exception to this rule as Franziska took up a role as match reporter and commentator for third division men’s team FC Gränichen, but she has since returned to coaching by helping to nurture FC Aarau’s 5-7 year old “Brügglikids”.
Modest and thoughtful in equal measure, Franziska offers a fascinating insight into the life of a female footballer in Switzerland; although the women’s game has improved in recent years, it still has some way to go.
NAME: Franziska Klingelfuss
CLUBS: 1996-98 – FC Aarau; 1998-01 – FC Baden; 2001-04 – FC Aarau; 2004-05 – FC Baden; 2005-07 – FC Schlieren; 2007-09 – FC Domat-Ems; 2009-10 – CB Laax.
What was the best moment of your career, either playing for a club or the Swiss under-18 team?
To play in the Swiss under-18 team was great – I was 16 and playing in the lowest women’s league in Switzerland at the time. Normally only the players from the Nationalliga A [Swiss top flight] and maybe sometimes from the Nationalliga B [second division] get a call-up, so I was very proud, although it was just for one year.
Then the coach from the Swiss under-18 team told me that I needed to move to a club in a better league to stay in the under-18 team. It was hard for me, but at this time I couldn’t change teams because of school – if I had moved to a club in a higher division, I would have had to travel for more than an hour to get to training, and that was too much. So I stayed in the lowest league for the moment.
But it was also great to play in the clubs I’ve been. For example, with Schlieren [2005-07], we played in the 1.Liga [Swiss third division]. During the championship we won all of our 16 games; we scored 75 goals and only conceded 8 goals. That was great for me as a goalkeeper! We were promoted to the next league, Nationalliga B. In this great season we also reached the semi-final of the Swiss Cup. That was extraordinary for a team from the 1.Liga.
Which team did you enjoy playing for most, and do you have any funny stories/anecdotes from your time in football?
First, to play with the boys was cool. Once I had to play with the Ea-Juniors; this was the better team that I played for and the trainer was a little bit strong. So I was very nervous – both when I went to the meeting and in the first minute of the game. But after it was great: we won the game 3-0 and the trainer was very happy and friendly to me.
Then playing for Baden was excellent, because there I had the best goalkeeper coach ever in my career. We worked very hard but we understood each other; he was there for me if I had some questions or a private problem. We worked seriously together but we could also laugh together. We stay in contact, even now.
Also, playing for Schlieren was awesome. I said earlier that in my first year there we won ever game in the championship. And in the second year at the end of the season we finished in third place even though we were in a higher league.
As an anecdote, I can say that I hated football when I was young! My father always went to watch the games at FC Aarau with my brother. And I would never ever go with them. Then in school there was a boy I knew whose father was a coach at FC Aarau. So once I went with him and from this moment I played football.
And I’m proud that I never received a single yellow or red card in the 19 years I played!
At what age did you first start playing football and for which team?
I started to play football at the age of 9. And I played for FC Aarau with the boys. This was for the Eb-Juniors team.
What was it like being the only girl in a boys’ team at youth level? Were the boys jealous or did they respect you for being as good as them?
For me, the boys and the trainer, it was normal that I played with the boys. They saw that I could play football [just as well as them] – sorry, I don’t want to be arrogant, but it’s true!
But the other teams that we played against always laughed when they saw that my team played with a girl in goal. They always said something like: “we will score 10 goals against you, because you have a girl in goal”. Sometimes it was hard for me, because I just wanted to play football. Luckily we won most of the games and after the game the players from the other teams said nothing at all! Most of the time the other trainers come to me to say that I had played well. That was great.
How has women’s football in Switzerland developed in recent years? How big is support for it in Switzerland – how many people watch each match?
I think at the moment it’s better than ever for the women’s football in Switzerland. In my time we never, ever received money for playing – on the contrary, we had to pay an annual subscription so that we could play for the club!
Now it’s better. I don’t know how much [money] they get, but at some clubs – for example FC Zurich and Grasshopper Club – the players receive some money. Zurich have a couple of ex-national team players in Inka Grings and Sonja Fuss; I think they get a lot of money, because they are professional players. I think that they are the only professionals in Switzerland, so it’s great that they are playing in the Swiss league – they can push football in our country, and because of them Zurich always has a lot of people who watch their games: last season there were sometimes more than 500 people there, and that’s a lot in Swiss women’s football!
In my time it was impossible to be a professional footballer. We always had to go to school or to work [as well as playing]. If you had to go to the national team you had to take holidays off work so that you could go. Today it’s better, most of the players work 60% to 80% of the time. And most of the time they get time off from their employer if they had to go, for example, to the Swiss national team.
Also, a few years ago an academy was created in Huttwil for the biggest female talents in Switzerland. They can train there twice a day, going to school at special times, and they live in Huttwil with a host family. These players often stay at the academy for two years, playing for a local club at the weekend.
How do you think the women’s game in Switzerland compares to other countries in Europe and worldwide? Is there a reason why the Swiss women’s team have never qualified for the World Cup?
In Switzerland women’s football is not professional – there is less money. And it’s too hard for the players to work 80% of the time or go to school for the whole day and juggle that with playing football 5 or 6 times in one week.
For many years, the same group of players were being selected for the national team – the coach liked them even they were not the best players from Switzerland. Now we have a new coach in the Swiss national team and she has changed some players. I think it’s better now, but it will take some time for them to play how the coach would like.
With our youth national teams we’re always better [than at senior level]; at the moment our under-20 national team is at the World Cup in Tokyo.
Who is the best player you have played with and against, and the best team you have faced?
The best player I have played with was Sheila Loosli. She was a Swiss international for many years. She was 34 years old when I played with her. She has two daughters and was a member of the police. We trained 3 or 4 times each week and she was always there. It was very impressive.
The best team I have faced? Let me think… I’d say a representative team from the USA. With Baden I played in a tournament in Italy and in the final we had to play against an American team. We had no chance and we lost the game 4-0. It was so impressive to watch how they played. They were all very strong and focused.
Have you had other jobs in football to earn money, seeing as the clubs you played for didn’t pay you?
Yes, I have done the following things:
Thanks to Franziska for her time.
[Note: this interview was conducted in June 2013 for TQM Magazine.]
As Torquay United’s season reached a crucial point in their battle against relegation, I caught up with midfielder Craig Easton, currently in his first season at the club, to discuss his career so far and plans for the future.
Craig Easton is not your stereotypical professional footballer. While at Livingston in 2004, he confessed to the club’s matchday programme, “It sounds really boring, but I am quite into my gardening”. He’s also articulate – in 2012, he wrote a 10,000-word essay entitled The Future of Scottish Football, exploring his country’s tactics and youth coaching.
His off-field hobbies differ from those of his Torquay United team-mates, then, and so does Craig’s CV: with over 250 appearances in the Scottish Premier League (the country’s top division, commonly known as the SPL) and having captained Scotland at under-21 level, the midfielder is a pretty high-profile signing for fourth-tier Torquay.
In a way, it’s not surprising Easton has enjoyed a successful career in football: born in Bellshill, near Glasgow – the same place as footballing greats Sir Matt Busby, Ally McCoist, Billy Shankly and Jock Stein entered the world – Craig also comes from a family of footballers. His father represented Livingston United at junior level, while his brother, Stewart, has played for Airdrie and Elgin City.
Craig started his career at Dundee United, graduating from the club’s successful youth team in 1996. A league debut followed soon afterwards, and as early as July 1997 he was representing Dundee United in international competition. Craig’s first UEFA Cup game couldn’t have gone better: a 9-0 trouncing of Andorran minnows CE Principat in which he came on as a substitute.
Easton continued to make a name for himself at Tannadice in the following years, and was a regular in the starting line-up from 1997 until his departure in 2004. That departure was brought about by the arrival of Ian McCall as manager, whose reign saw Craig somewhat fall out of favour.
By late 2003, the midfielder had decided not to sign a new contract with the club when his current deal expired, and in April 2004 McCall confirmed that Easton was free to leave at the end of the season. Of course, McCall’s verdict was irrelevant; as Craig himself said at the time, “It was clear I wasn’t going to be in the manager’s plans, so when the club said they didn’t want to offer me a new deal, it came as no surprise.”
However, the news did upset many supporters, and a May 2004 statement on the club website paid tribute to his popularity: “News that Craig Easton is to leave the club at the end of the season has sparked a flood of mail in appreciation of his contribution to the club, both on and off the park…Off the park, he has attended countless events on behalf of the club and has always been amongst the first to volunteer to help out when required.”
United’s SPL rivals Livingston offered a fresh start, and Easton immediately justified the club’s interest in him by scoring on his debut against Inverness. He went on to play in 30 of Livingston’s 38 league games, even scoring the crucial goal that saved them from relegation on the last day of the season – sending Dundee, his first club’s rivals, down at Livingston’s expense.
Despite this, Livingston declined to renew Craig’s contract, and he spurned interest from mid-table Motherwell to move south and join Leyton Orient of the English fourth division. It was there that Easton would meet Martin Ling, then Orient’s manager, who would eventually bring the player to Torquay in 2012.
His first season in England couldn’t have gone better. Almost ever-present in the league as Orient won promotion to League One, the third division, on the last day of the season (with Craig scoring again), Easton also opened the scoring at Craven Cottage as Orient pulled off a huge shock to knock Premier League Fulham out of the FA Cup in January 2006. Unsurprisingly, it meant a lot to Craig, who revealed after the match, “I would put that down as my greatest achievement and my most enjoyable moment in football so far.”
Easton’s appearances the following season were slightly decreased, playing two-thirds of Orient’s games in League One, and in June 2007 he opted to join Swindon Town of the same division. His first season with the Robins yielded his highest ever goal tally for a single season – six goals in League One. However, it was a similar story to at Orient, as Craig’s second campaign saw him used more sparingly and in a variety of positions. He made fewer appearances still in 2009-10, and at the end of the season he rejected a new deal with Swindon.
It was while at the County Ground that Craig was approached by the editor of a newspaper in Scotland to write a column about his life as a footballer. Although the editor initially planned to ghost write the column himself – as is often done when journalists interview players for similar features – Craig asked for the opportunity to practice his writing skills, and this step would eventually lead to his enrolling on a Journalism and Broadcasting degree course at Staffordshire University. He would graduate from the course with a first-class honours degree.
Craig subsequently signed for Southend United, immediately being named club captain, scoring his first Shrimpers goal shortly afterwards against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the League Cup. It was a return to regular playing time, with 38 appearances in all competitions, but at the end of the 2010-11 season the player rejected a reduced contract and found himself a free agent once more.
What followed was a return to Scottish football after six years away, but unfortunately Easton’s six-month deal with Dunfermline Athletic was not a homecoming to remember. Struggling with injuries, Craig managed just three games for Dunfermline before his contract ended in January 2012.
Many players would no doubt have been disheartened by such a downturn of fortunes, but Craig continued to search for a route back up the football ladder, and, thanks to their Leyton Orient connection, was handed a two-week trial by Torquay boss Ling towards the end of the Gulls’ successful 2011-12 campaign.
Easton impressed sufficiently to be awarded a permanent deal in June 2012, with Ling hailing the 34-year-old as “the ideal type of character for our squad. He was a massive part of my successful time at Orient…I just know I can trust him.”
Adapting well to life on the English Riviera, Craig was a mainstay in the Torquay side early in the season, and helped the club to a comfortable mid-table position by Christmas, with the play-offs firmly in sight.
However, things took a turn for the worse after Ling was forced to return to London to recuperate from a mystery illness early in 2013, leaving the club to slide down the table under assistant manager Shaun Taylor before Alan Knill was appointed caretaker manager in late February. Torquay struggled to stay in the division, only securing their safety on the last day of the season against Bristol Rovers.
Craig was unable to help his team-mates in their relegation battle as much as he would have liked towards the end of the season – owing to a calf injury that kept him on the sidelines since March – and he was released by Ling’s successor Alan Knill at the end of the season. The midfielder will now look for his eighth club of a distinguished career, and it will be interesting to see what follows when he eventually hangs up his boots: will he pursue a career in journalism or coaching?
Craig generously gave up his time to answer my questions about his career and plans after retirement.
Which has been the highlight of your career: scoring against Fulham, captaining the Scotland under-21s, winning promotion with Orient, or something else?
I’m really proud of all the highlights you’ve mentioned. Captaining my country is very special and something I’ll never forget. I’ve got to say that winning promotion with Orient is the greatest achievement in my career. The atmosphere in that game was amazing, and to do it in front of my wife and both our Mums and Dads just made it one of the best days of my life.
What are the best and worst parts of being a professional footballer?
The best part is a bit of a cliché; doing something I love and the only thing I ever wanted to do since I can remember. I absolutely love being a footballer. However, I don’t think people really understand what really goes on, especially at our [Torquay’s] level. There’s no financial security, and that’s more of an issue as you get older. Football’s a profession where how hard you actually work doesn’t necessarily reflect how you’re treated by those in charge.
Do you have any funny anecdotes you can share from your time in football?
Dave Bowman [Craig’s team-mate at Dundee United] was one of the funniest/maddest players I’ve ever played with.
He enjoyed having ‘banter’ with the cleaning ladies Rose and Ann. One day we returned to find Rose, stuck in a bin with her legs and arms sticking out the top and Bow trying to roll her down the corridor. Another time we found her inside one of the industrial dryers in the kit room with Bow threatening to turn it on. I know this might sound harsh, bordering on harassment, but it was hilarious and wee Rose was a great sport.
What is the best game you have played in? The worst?
It’s difficult to narrow down a single game, so I’ll give you a top 3 in no particular order. Dundee United v Aberdeen in the semi final of the League Cup was one of my first games when I broke into the Dundee United first team as an 18-year-old. I scored my first professional goal and we won 3-1. There’s two Leyton Orient games that stick out: the promotion game against Oxford and also the FA Cup game against Fulham when we won 2-1 at Craven Cottage.
My worst game? There’s too many to mention! Probably any game where I’ve picked up an injury.
How many more years do you want to play for, and do you see your future in journalism or coaching after retirement?
I would say as long as I feel fit enough I’ll keep going and barring the little injury I’ve got at the moment, I feel as fit as at any point in my career. I would love to stay in football. I want to coach and ultimately manage at the highest level possible. I’ll always write, so an ideal scenario would be to continue writing about football whilst managing.
What made you study journalism at Staffordshire University? Did you consider becoming a journalist as a teenager?
I never really considered doing anything other than playing football, although I did well in my exams at school. I suppose, looking back on it now, English was one of my favourite subjects and I did like writing, so I’m not surprised that I’m enjoying the print side of journalism the most. At Swindon, I was approached to do a ‘Diary of a Pro’ piece for the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, my local paper back home. I asked if I could have a go at writing it myself; I really enjoyed it and things just snowballed from there. I then managed to get on the PFA [Professional Footballers’ Association] course a couple of years later.
Was there a mix of footballers and normal students on your journalism course? If so, how did the other students react to having professional players on their course?
We did a similar degree to other students, although we crammed it into two years and our classes were separate. That was because most of our work was done on a distance learning basis. There were about 15 of us in the class, either pro footballers – mainly from the lower divisions – or ex-players. We attended Uni in Stoke once a month and for a week in the close season before the beginning of each semester to do most of the practical work. We very rarely crossed paths with the other students, but I did meet one who’s a fellow Scot and we’ve become really good friends and are currently working on a project together.
How have your team-mates reacted to your slightly unusual hobbies for a footballer off the pitch (gardening; writing)? Are there any other budding writers at Torquay?
I’m not sure they knew about the gardening until now! I’m not into it as much as I used to be because I’m living in a rented property, but I love being outdoors and going for walks and swimming in the sea. I got a wetsuit for my birthday because it got a bit cold in the winter. That’s what I like about living here – it’s a very outdoorsy area.
[Torquay defender] Aaron Downes is a good writer. He was in my class on the course and we’re hoping to maybe work on something together in the future.
What are the differences between life in Torquay and life in Scotland?
Obviously the temperature’s a bit different to start with! The amount of rain we’ve had down here in the last year has made me feel right at home, though. It’s a very similar sort of lifestyle, especially compared to when I lived in Dundee. I love being close to the sea and going for walks and exploring the area. There are so many lovely places to visit, and Dartmoor reminds me a lot of Scotland. I know this area pretty well as we used to come to Devon and Cornwall most summers when I was growing up. My Dad used to drive down with the caravan – it used to take us 12 – 14 hours! My first ever holiday with my wife was when we went to Torquay on the bus together as teenagers. I have a great affinity with this part of the country.
What were you like as a teenager at school?
I was hardworking and enjoyed some subjects more than others – P.E., Physics, Economics and English were some of my favourites. I didn’t hate it, but I couldn’t wait for it to be over so I could go home and play football.
You have made a career in a very competitive environment. What advice would you give teenagers to help them achieve success in their chosen field?
I would just say, give it everything you’ve got. Things might not always work out how you would like and you’ll probably have some disappointments, but don’t have any regrets that you could have worked harder. Sometimes you may have to be single-minded and sacrifice things to achieve what you want to, and not just follow the crowd.
What has been the most motivational thing (words or action) you have witnessed from any of your managers?
Martin Ling gave a few brilliant team talks in my time at Leyton Orient, but the biggest motivator I’ve come across in my career has been Terry Butcher. When he was at Dundee United I remember him getting us going before a game against his old team, Rangers, at Ibrox. He was ranting and raving and telling us that they were overpaid prima donnas and how we were just as good as them on our day. By the time the whistle went, we were ready to run through walls for each other and we ended up winning 2-0.
Finally, what are your views on the Scottish independence referendum next year?
I want Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. I’m proud to be Scottish, but also proud to be British. I feel we already have a big say in how things are run in our own country and would be weakening our global position by severing our ties with the rest of the UK.
You can see more of Craig’s writing at http://eastonblog.wordpress.com/
Thanks to all the deadline day frenzy involving Marouane Fellaini, James McCarthy et al, Joel Robles’ arrival at Goodison has almost been forgotten already, but the goalkeeper looks to be a shrewd signing by Roberto Martinez. Though first-choice custodian Tim Howard has been a fine servant of the club over the past seven years, as the popular American approaches the end of his career, it’s reassuring to see that Martinez already has a worthy replacement lined up.
Robles entered English football fans’ consciousness in January with an impressive loan spell at Martinez’s Wigan Athletic – so impressive, in fact, that the 23-year-old ousted Ali Al-Habsi (a veteran almost ten years his senior) as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper. However, the Getafe-born shot-stopper is much better known in his home country, having been a part of the Spanish national youth set-up since he was 16.
Joel joined Atletico Madrid’s academy in 2005 and eventually became a regular for the club’s reserve side, but sought a move abroad earlier this year when first-team opportunities remained limited. His time at Wigan was fruitful and culminated in an FA Cup winner’s medal as he helped the Latics surprise Manchester City in the final.
The player cites his physical attributes as key to his success, and at 6ft 5”, it’s easy to see why. Robles believes his huge frame will help him deal with aerial challenges in one of Europe’s more physical leagues. Handed a 5-year deal by his compatriot Martinez, it’s clear Everton see the ‘keeper as a fine prospect and – with the possible exception of McCarthy – Robles is perhaps the summer signing likely to be turning out in royal blue for years to come.
Arguably the biggest challenge for Robles will be to avoid repeating the fate of his back-up predecessor, Jan Mucha, who was consigned to the bench throughout his career at Goodison. The Slovakian was released this summer having made just two league appearances in three years in Merseyside, but Robles looks better equipped to seriously challenge Howard for game time, with the American another year older and Joel already boasting experience in the Premier League.
Indeed, Martinez has described the Spaniard as “someone who is going to give us great protection and fight with Tim Howard – and push him all the way.” For that level of competition, the £650,000 Martinez paid Atletico Madrid seems a bargain. Joel concurs: “It is a great honour to work with Tim – he’s a great, great goalkeeper and I am looking forward to learning a lot from him.”
The player has also been quick to emphasize the importance of being reunited with Wigan goalkeeping coach Inaki Bergara, who also worked under Martinez at Swansea and followed him from the DW Stadium this summer. “I am delighted to be back working with Inaki again – he is a great professional and a really nice guy,” says Joel. The feeling is clearly mutual – Bergara has already professed his belief that Robles “has lots of potential” – and this relationship could prove pivotal to Joel’s success at Everton.
Howard may have seen off many a back-up over the years, but it looks like Robles could finally be the worthy replacement the club have been searching for. With bundles of talent and a long career ahead of him, don’t be surprised if Joel is one of the first names on the Everton team-sheet in a few years’ time.