The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

I assumed I read this when I was younger but maybe it was abridged, or a kids’ version, or I saw a movie. For years even though it kept popping up I deferred reading it again because I couldn’t shake the assumption that it was just a serious version of The Princess Bride. In some ways it is, but in baser terms it’s jumped straight to the top of my ‘best novels’ list.

I feel like I’ve acquired lives – good and evil – that were’t mine, and there were half a dozen moments when I got chills because of the grandeur of a scene. Revenge. Faith. Love. Wealth. Technology. Newspapers. Philosophy. Napolean. All these. It’s 1,200 pages long. By the end, I was reflecting on the earlier chapters in the same way you might remember the day you first met someone. At the curtain call, you’re told that all human knowledge can be summarised in just two words. I wait and hope for you to read this book.

You can get your copy of The Count of Monte Cristo on Amazon (US) or Amazon.co.uk

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The 14 Best Registability Tweets

registability

For months I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen that there’s a genuinely elite Twitter account for football out there.

It’s an anonymous account. He hints at working inside the game as a scout. His knowledge and lingo suggest he’s worked across Europe and possibly with some of the world’s top clubs.

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What’s The Best Soccer Formation?

best-soccer-formations

What’s the best soccer formation? Patience, young Padawan, for you have much to learn. If there were one single best soccer formation, the world would surely stop turning. We wouldn’t see so many variations and experimentations, births, deaths and re-births. In short, evolution itself would end.

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How Did Dennis Bergkamp Get So Very Good?

dennis-bergkamp

Robin Van Persie is in the jacuzzi. He’s finished training for the day at Arsenal and is enjoying a relaxing soak. The gym and recovery facilities at Arsenal’s training ground were designed by Arsène Wenger for maximum light. There’s lots of glass and windows. From the hot tub, Van Persie is looking out onto the training pitch and watching Dennis Bergkamp. The Dutchman is on his way back from injury, practicing with two youth team players and the fitness coach. It’s a complicated exercise involving shooting and giving and receiving passes at speed. Van Persie tells himself that he’ll get changed when Bergkamp makes a mistake. 45 minutes later, he’s still in the jacuzzi and his hands are wrinkly.

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How To Fix A Swollen Ankle Like Michael Jordan

neymar-michael-jordan

We’ve all been there. Rolling the ankle the day before a big game. It’s the biggest pain in the arse. You go home, you google ‘how to fix a swollen ankle’, you follow the R.I.C.E. protocol and you cross your fingers. You wake up the next day and the swelling’s gone down but not enough for you to play. You’re out of the game. Gutted.

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Striking Thought: How Forwards can Make Their Coaches Love Them

FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-WEST HAM

I’ve been reading Ruud Gullit’s book, How To Watch Football. It’s a good mix of an instructional approach for new soccer fans getting to know the game and deeper insights from Gullit’s career that even specialists won’t have heard before. He pointed out one thing in particular that I wanted to share.

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The Pre-Match Meal I Eat Instead of Pasta

fullsizerender

People are always asking me what I eat before a soccer game to optimise performance… right now, this is the answer.

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Doing The Rondo: A Practical Analysis Of Barcelona’s Secret Weapon

 rondo

When Pep Guardiola brought his Barcelona team to Wembley in 2011, the television cameras captured one of the most mesmeric sights in the game. In the studios before kick off, pundits around the world were busy scratching their heads at the team news. Amazingly, Sir Alex Ferguson had decided to field Park Ji-sung and Michael Carrick against the three-man Barcelona midfield of Sergio Busquets, Xavi, and Andres Iniesta (the second time Ferguson had made this 2-against-3 mistake, the first being in the 2009 Champions League Final in Rome). Out on the Wembley turf, the warm up told you everything you needed to know about what would happen next.

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Fantasy Premier League Strategy: 6 Tips For Guaranteed Success

 fantasy-premier-league
Fantasy Premier League is back. The website’s had a lick of paint and they’ve got rid of Aston Villa. Now it’s time to pick your side. If you’re fed up of finishing mid-table and looking for an edge, this core Fantasy Premier League strategy is for you. It’s not about picking individual players based on past performance or hope. It’s built on the rules of the game and the psychology of the masses. It works. Enjoy.

 

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What Is Packing? The New Soccer Metric You Need to Know About

what-is-packing

All passes are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Anyone who’s played the game understands intuitively that existing soccer stats such as possession, shots and corners are limited at best and misleading at worst.

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Don’t Worry France, It’s Not Your Fault (Blame These Guys)

france-players-dejected

As the post mortem begins for France after their 0-1 extra-time defeat to Portugal in the Euro 2016 final, it’s worth pointing out that France started the game at a serious disadvantage.

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With Rooney, Mourinho Is Going To First Principles

going-to-first-principles

It was some good old-fashioned Greek logic.

When José Mourinho sat down at his first press conference as Manchester United manager, he summoned some reasoning that dates back to 384 BC and the northern periphery of classical Greece. More recently, it’s a mental model that’s been applied by Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX, Tesla and Solar City.

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Brexit & Cods Wallop

cods-wallop-brexit

In most traumatic situations, it’s helpful to zoom out. In a week, for example, when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and England lost to Iceland, I recall a conversation I had with my father-in-law late last year when Vladimir Putin was advancing on Ukraine. As a committed historian, I asked him how long he estimated it would take humanity to zoom out and focus on, well, humanity.

“Oh, another 4,000 years.”

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How To Avoid Counter-Attacks, by Johan Cruyff (And How To Defend Them)

counter-attack-johan-cruyff

A German referee asked an interesting thing the other day. Our Berlin ‘freizeit’ team SFC Friedrichshain Internazionale had just battled to a 2-4 away victory, defending bravely in the second half after a 3-0 lead was pegged back to 3-2. When our fourth goal came in the last minute from Ryu Voelkel it was a moment of joy and relief. Afterwards, the referee asked our coach Andrew Weber what we needed to improve on next season.

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What José Mourinho Told Me About 5-a-Side

5-a-side

I once travelled to Madrid to interview José Mourinho. On the way into Real Madrid’s training ground, the state-of-the-art facility designed by architect Carlos Lamela, I passed Rui Faria, Mourinho’s trusted fitness coach. I was ushered through the sparkly halls and into a room with the great man himself. I had been granted 15 minutes with Mourinho on one condition from his sponsor: we couldn’t talk about soccer.

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The Knuckleball Free Kick, by Juninho Pernambucano

juningo-pernambucano-knuckleball

The knowledge of how to make a ball wobble in the air dates back more than a century, to 1908. There’s some debate about who the bulk of the credit should go to, but mainly it rests with Eddie “Knuckles” Cicotte, a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. Cicotte discovered that with the right grip he could eliminate the spin on the baseball.

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Is This Vegetable A Performance-Enhancing Drug?

james-vardy-vector

The very latest research in sports drinks that improve athletic performance isn’t what you think. It’s not a lurid yellow isotonic formula with flashy marketing. It’s not a magic powder and it’s not evening chocolate milk, which you’ll no doubt already know is as good as it gets for post-match recovery (unless you’re lactose intolerant).

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SFC Friedrichshain Internazionale 3 – 1 vs. Pulmon Negro (a)

Saturday, 10th October, 2015

Goals: Wuyts, Fanning, Lannoy
Assists: Weber, French, Liu

This match report begins just as soon as you’ve out some earphones in.

Got them? Comfy? Hit play.

 

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SFC Friedrichshain Internazionale 4 – 3 vs. Polnischer Olympia Club

caterpillar

“Was he an animal, that music could move him so? He felt as if the way to the unknown nourishment he longed for were coming to light.”

― Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Saturday, 19th September, 2015

GOALS: Lannoy, Shingleton, Jersch, West
ASSISTS: Shingleton, Wuyts, French, Lannoy

In the summer of 2013, Jennifer Pentland, who is the daughter of Roseanne Barr of Roseanne fame, tweeted a question about one of the most mysterious miracles of Mother Nature. She asked the internets: “Do caterpillars know they’re gonna fly some day or they just start building a cocoon and are like why am I doing this?” It was retweeted over 5,000 times. As SFC Friedrichshain Internazionale reflect on claiming their first points of the season against Polnischer Olympia Club on Saturday, the debrief is characterised by the complexities of change. It is a story of the old and the new.

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If You Want To Play Like Messi, Then Think Like An Accordion

messi-accordion

There’s a key to developing a deeper appreciation of the football of Barcelona. All you have to do is ask the experts; the men who’ve spent years studying – not just watching – how Barcelona got to where we see them today.

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Friedrichshain Rovers 4-0 vs. Lichtenrader Füchse

Photo Credit: Ryu Voelkel

Photo Credit: Ryu Voelkel

GOALS: Wuyts, French, West (pen), Jersch
ASSISTS: Lannoy, Shingleton, Weber, Hagen

If you look closely at the graph below, you can see the exact point at which Friedrichshain Rovers realised they were in a relegation battle. On a Saturday when Barcelona were in Berlin, it’s at least logically legitimate to recognise that Rovers could actually be The Best Team In The World, forbidden from promotion and chained, like a brooding bear, to Freizeit obscurity. This season, this band of men have forgivably but regrettably fallen on the wrong side of this city’s many wonderful distractions. They have forgotten that there is football to be played and scraps to be won. But play they can.

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Quote of the Decade, by Josh Waitzkin

joshua-waitzkin-quote

Joshua Waitzkin wrote The Art of Learning.

This quote comes courtesy of The Tim Ferriss Show.

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Ryu Voelkel’s Kickstarter ~ Claim Your Slice Of The Beautiful Game

UPDATE: The Kickstarter has now finished at 277% of target!

Follow @toksuede for the best pictures from Brazil…

Thanks to all those who pledged, you won’t regret it.

 – Paul

ryu-voelkel-kickstarter

I first got in touch with Ryu Voelkel because I saw his work referenced on the site of my favourite football illustrator, Dan Leydon.

A speculative email, a couple of cups of coffee, a shared appreciation for ZLATAN and six weeks later I’m sat next to Ryu launching a World Cup Kickstarter.

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Understanding Barça: Guillem Balagué’s Tiki-Taka Library

barca-dan-leydon

Dan Leydon is the classiest footy illustrator out there. If you’re ever stuck for a birthday gift for a mate, just click this picture.

 

guillem-balague-guardiolaThere’s a key to developing a deeper appreciation of the football of Barcelona.

All you have to do is ask the experts; the men who’ve spent years studying – not just watching – how Barcelona got to where we see them today.

Guillem Balagué is the author Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning: The Biography, which was published in 2012.

He’s a man in the know.

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10 Lionel Messi Anecdotes That Have Been Touched by Genius

lionel-messi-boy

If you look in the right places, the secrets to Lionel Messi’s greatness reveal themselves.

Great ball players often take a moment in possession – just a half breath – to allow the picture in front of them to shift. The opposition are sucked towards the ball while runs align and space opens up.

Then: PING! Breakthrough.

In Spain, this is known as ‘la pausa’.

You could say that I had a ‘la pausa’ moment while reading Guillem Balague’s biography of Messi recently…

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How to Deal With Smelly Colleagues

marcus-aurelius

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An Important Announcement About The Future of Reading

Logo

I’m joining the team at The Pigeonhole in Berlin to help bring about a seismic shift in the way books are produced and consumed.

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Achtung! I’m Moving To Berlin

Moving to Berlin

(Image: ezeep on Facebook)

I’m moving to Berlin. I’ve spent nine months travelling the world and here, at the end of it, I have decided to move to Berlin with my girlfriend. Before we went away, we lived and worked in London, but going back doesn’t appeal. We want to carry on that sense of change and adventure and for that, Berlin ticks a lot of boxes. The rent is significantly better value than in London. There are opportunities in young, exciting companies taking advantage of the cheap office space. We can learn the language together (although she’s got a head start, being half German). It’s bike friendly. You can buy a coffee for the same price as a newspaper. The nightlife. The greenery. World-class cake. Yes, we’re moving to Berlin.

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Finding Joy in Simplicity: Living in Itacaré

Some say Brazil’s a dangerous place. On my first days in the Bahian surf town Itacaré, where the mouth of the Rio de Contas meets the Atlantic Ocean, I was mugged, as it were, by the contrast between two things. The first was the shit-out-of-luck search for a newspaper; a situation which is foreign to anyone who’s lived a life in cities. And just as I was getting used – warming, even – to the idea of living in a more detached, straightforward part of the world, came the second. Over beers with locals, I was struck by the recurring turn, “É complicado aqui.”

As a region, Bahia is a vast northeastern chunk of Atlantic coast, pocked with coconut groves, cacao plantations, summer heat and clammy-hands humidity. Bays flutter with reggae and football; boats haul fresh catches into bustling markets, surfers carve their paths. Waterfalls and bastard mosquitoes abound. Kids have kites. Marijuana. To the uninitiated, so it goes: there is absolutely nothing complicated here.

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The Best Music to Listen to When You Need to Get Shit Done

(Photo: djsosumi)

I’ve always been very jealous of people who can listen to music and concentrate on their work at the same time.

My brain refuses to operate like that. I’ve tried, but it won’t budge on this one. The bastard.

I find it too difficult to compute the three-way between the words on the screen, the words coming from the music and the words in my head. It’s chaos. It hurts.

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How to Not Suck at Surfing

how-to-not-suck-at-surfing

“Surfing recreates you. I went into the water literally ready to blow my brains out and came back out of the water a warrior.” ~ Doc Paskowitz (Click to tweet)

How long should it take to learn to surf? It’s difficult to know. It is, it seems, a monstrous task for anyone who’s not twelve.

From Cornwall to Santander to Biarritz, I have snatched and grabbed at surfing for years: a day here, a stag-do there, the occasional long weekend flash-flooding my sinuses and wishing something that looks so cool would be so much easier for the rest of us. Until recently, it had been a frustrating journey.

Then, I had one of those perfect days where everything that I had to remember to remember was right where I needed it to be. As the waves rolled in along Engenhoca beach in Brazil, I felt everything that surfing had ever promised.

I grinned like a loon.

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Is Tim Ferriss the World’s Greatest Journalist?

Tim Ferriss needs 20 million

(Photo: All Rights Reserved, Tim Ferriss)

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” ~ Archimedes

I have spent much of the last six weeks of the UK’s bitterly cold November in a hammock.

I have been able to do this almost exclusively thanks to what I learned from Tim Ferriss in his disruptive debut publication, The 4-Hour Workweek. Thanks to Tim, I was able to quit my job and travel while an automated source of income feeds my bank account. The hammock, from which I’m typing right now, is strung up in the exterior courtyard of a rented beach house in the Brazilian surf town of Itacaré.

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How to Write a Book, by Paul French

So here’s a story.

In 2010, I sat a supremely talented performer called James Brown (seen here on ITV’s Penn & Teller: Fool Us)  in front of a dictaphone for three straight days, asked him simply to talk and only let him leave the room for occasional toilet breaks and food.

Then, I enlisted the help of a transcription service. They came back a week later with a monstrous 135,000 word document which I had painfully failed to specify should not have been verbatim.

It was a horrible sight; as long as a dozen university dissertations strung back-to-back and flecked with stuff like ‘Where’s the bog?’ Not a good start. But, a year and a half later, we have a book.

A book that has SOLD OUT. (Update – the book is back in stock, and on Kindle)

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Saudade ~ A Virgin’s Look at Burning Man

 

 
 

There is no English translation for the first gift I received at Burning Man. It was not a necklace or a bracelet or other trinkety item of raiment. Instead, it left me exposed, across a stretch of seven extraordinary days on the playa, to both brutal sadness and the gates of personal freedom. It was gifted to me by Mitch, from Chicago, when I told him of my plans to travel to the Northern shores of Brazil.

It was a feeling.

A single word.

Saudade.

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‘Mind Twists’: The Greatest Speech You’ve Never Read (and why I quit my job)

 


The Magic Circle headquarters in Euston, London

In October 2011 a man called Ian Rowland, who is a member of the Magic Circle and has taught the FBI to read minds, gave a talk to a small group of people at The Comedy Pub in London. Ian was “pleasantly amazed” by the responses and made a written version of the talk available on his website, resulting in similar praise and thanks  from people all over the world.

When I first read ‘Mind Twists’ earlier this year, I was wrestling with the idea of packing in my job. My reasons were no more specific or complicated than anyone else who reaches a crossroads. Sometimes, it’s just time to move on. The difficult bit is letting go.

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Working Example #3: How to solve any problem, with Spencer Gallagher

Spencer Gallagher

(Photo: Simon Green)

Digital Entrepreneur Spencer Gallagher successfully built and sold Bluhalo Ltd., one of the UK’s largest digital marketing agencies. Spencer, who left school at 16 with no qualifications, sits on the boards of various companies in which he has invested his self-made millions. The following is a contribution written by Spencer for the exciting new book, The Professional Opportunist, by James Brown.

In the world of digital advertising and marketing, we pitch for business daily. Our performances are as finely tuned as those in a show. We know what business attire we’ll wear and we rehearse our lines.

Natalie Portman once said, “Ninety per cent of how you learn is watching great people. When you are surrounded by good actors it lifts your performance.” She’s right. It’s overlooked so often, but surrounding yourself with a great team lifts your own performance, no matter how good you are in the first place.

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Working Example # 2: Marvin Berglas explains what puts the magic in business

Internationally recognised as a worldwide brand leader, Marvin’s online Magic Club is the fastest growing magic club in the world, with over 100,000 members. He has residency in some of the world’s most prestigious stores, including Harrods in Knightsbridge and Hamleys of Regent Street in London. The following is a contribution written by Marvin for the upcoming book, The Professional Opportunist, by James Brown.

I have always been entrepreneurial. Six weeks after leaving school I had no idea which path to follow. I was a collector of football memorabilia and decided to put on a fair for collectors of all sorts, knowing as I did that the ones I had visited had been cramped and badly organised. I hired the banqueting suite at Lord’s Cricket Ground and sold space to dealers of postcards, cigarette cards, stamps, coins and other ephemera. Without knowing it, I was generating phenomenal publicity.

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Jeremiah Owyang: from grunt IT work to partner at Altimeter Group

Jeremiah Owyang speaking at Le Web 11

(Photo: LeWeb11)

A graduate from the San Francisco State University School of Business, Jeremiah is one of the world’s foremost web strategists, helping companies make sense of emerging technological tools. The following is a contribution written by Jeremiah for the book, The Professional Opportunist, by James Brown.

Learn something new every day. When I was a lowly intern right out of college doing grunt IT work, I harassed my dear colleagues to teach me something every single day. They thought I was bright-eyed, cute and naive and I ended up learning a little about each of the web developers, system integrators, project managers, web managers, web architects and computer support teams. Although this was clearly outside of the scope of an intern, bit by bit, I soaked in each little morsel about web enterprise and it fuelled me to learn more.

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Marketing Interests: A Cheat-Sheet for the Buyer-Seller Relationship


When I read, I’ve got a trusty orange highlighter to hand to mark the bits of a book I find most valuable. The problem with reading David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing & PR is that I all but coloured in its 350 pages.

So, because it’s not really practical (or legal) to share completely what I felt were the most important marketing lessons I learned, I have distilled my highlights down to just ten points. Or rather, nine points and an analogy about soufflé.

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Being Bruce Lee: How to Have Kick-Ass Ideas

“Ideas have made America what she is, and one good idea will make a man what he wants to be.” ~ Bruce Lee

You know you’ve found something good when it hits a nerve despite being written long before you were born by a martial arts legend.  My current bedside reading is Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living and it’s an absolute belter. Here’s a highlight.

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The Importance of Maps: Plotting the Future with Juan Enríquez

'Sphere Within Sphere', by Arnaldo Pomodoro

When was the last time you looked at a map to work out where you were going?

Recently, probably. When was the last time you looked at a non-digital map, a non-Google or Tom Tom map, a map made out of paper? If you’re a walker or a hiker, it may also be not long ago. But when was the last time you looked at an old map, a map that has, on its basic function of navigation, been compromised by time?

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Top Tips for Recovering from a Broken Leg

(Photo: bunchofpants)

I broke my leg playing football. The pain, which is extraordinary, is not something it’s easy to misdiagnose. You know when you’ve got a broken leg. You also know that you’ve got a lengthy spell out of action and on the sofa, during which the daily habits you adopt will significantly effect how quickly your bone heals. Here are some tips (some legitimate science, some not) for making the most of your recovery period…

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Something I Once Wrote About Zinedine Zidane

(Photo: markeb23)
I wrote this a few days after the 2006 World Cup Final. It’s some celebratory guff regarding a player who I’m lucky enough to have once seen play. The article originally appeared on tribalfootball.com, but after a site re-launch it appears to have been discarded. So, to appease my ego and in the interests of diligent archiving, I’m just going to keep it here instead…
 
 

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