All posts by Siggi Jonsson

Match Preview – Dundee United vs Livingston

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Saturday’s game against Livingston is even being played. For United the focus is now the playoffs (okay we still need a result to guarantee 3rd) and for Livi it will be a case of party mode as they can relax in the knowledge that they have a bit of time off before they face Dunfermline in the second round of the playoffs (see what I did there?).

As soon as I published my last match preview I knew that I had pretty much guaranteed United losing the game in Dumfries. It was full of positives and praise for the players who had started to show grit, desire and determination. Amazing then that this all seemed to disappear and at the most important time. I am all for questioning Csaba Laszlo and his managerial capabilities but last Saturday was all on the players. They made the errors, they suddenly lost any drive they had in previous games and they were the ones who let us down YET AGAIN.

The match against Livingston is an absolute non-event. Should the manager play the youngsters? Should he use it as a way of testing the team he would like to start in the playoffs? Either way the atmosphere on Saturday will be completely flat and it will be a pretty meaningless game of football. We don’t have long to wait until the first playoff matches but my worry is that most United supporters (myself included) seem totally nonplussed by the whole scenario. I am absolutely behind the team in terms of wanting them to achieve but it does feel as though there is an inevitability about our failure to secure promotion for the second time in succession. Maybe I shouldn’t be so pessimistic and in many ways there is more depth to this squad compared to last season but the reality is this group of players have a track record for falling short when the pressure is really on.

A short match preview for a match short on excitement. Maybe by Sunday I will be in a better place to go full steam ahead for the playoffs. Hopefully the United players will feel the same. If we do fall at the first hurdle then I suppose we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that you would expect some major reshuffling at the club to start pretty soon after the last ball is kicked.

Match Preview – Queen of the South vs Dundee United

A week is a long time in football.

After I published my St.Mirren match preview I was sent three separate messages via Twitter and Facebook accusing me of being overly pessimistic. I would argue that the match preview didn’t contain anything that wasn’t true and that it was written after a series of very, very poor performances. Maybe it was Csaba who messaged me and then decided to pin the report up in the Tannadice dressing room because less than 24 hours later Dundee United produced, in many ways, the performance of the season so far. To deny St.Mirren the title at Tannadice was important for the players but more so for the fans. The team has since followed that win with another 3 points against Falkirk and then again against Brechin on Tuesday night. It gives us all hope that maybe, just maybe, the season might still have a few surprises left. We are in a very strong position to secure at least a playoff spot and you can now begin to even dream about a 2nd place finish. If we did somehow finish behind St.Mirren it would give the team some extra rest before the playoff fixtures. It requires Livi dropping points but they may well do that against Inverness next Tuesday night as the Highland side can still sneak into the playoffs and they will travel to the Tony Macaroni Arena full of confidence after a remarkable run of wins. If David Hopkin’s men do drop points then the last league game of the season will be a really exciting fixture to look forward to. It also looks like Csaba has finally found a fairly settled side that can produce some consistency at the right time. Is everything falling in to place?

The most pleasing aspect about the last few games and, in particular, the St.Mirren performance is the fact that we have played like a Championship team. By that I mean we are a bit happier to kick folk, waste a little time and ‘play the game’ a little bit in terms of sportsmanship. For some it might be a little much but for me and most United fans it is a refreshing and satisfying style of play because it shows another side to a team that we have been questioning. We are not out of the woods, there are still flaws, but the last three games have shown us a different Dundee United.

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There is no doubt that the game on Saturday is a must win. Hopefully this newly galvanised group of players can yet again produce the goods and, as long as the footballing gods are smiling on us, it means we can then begin to look forward to a final day showdown against Livingston.

What we will definitely need in Dumfries is another strong performance by our defenders and goalkeeper. Amazingly we have now managed three clean sheets in a row, something that would have been unthinkable a few fixtures previous. Praise must be given to Deniz Mehmet who has now probably cemented his number one spot for the remaining games and it has been very pleasing to watch the development of Tony Ralston who is growing with each passing minute on the pitch. There is also no doubt that we are now beginning to see the real value in our surprise signing of Bilel Mohsni. He may well have been a figure of fun before he arrived at Tannadice but he is clearly the best defender we have and he could be the key to any possible playoff success (ironic given his history in these games). Reports today suggest we are trying to negotiate a contract extension for the defender, whose contract expires this summer.

It was mentioned the other day that we now have more points than we did last season which feels a bit strange given the overall disappointment in this campaign. Make no mistake, if we do not get promoted it will be seen as a failure but we are at least putting ourselves in a position to make it a possibility, regardless of how slight a chance that might be.

All talk of the boardroom strife and potential investment is probably going to put in hold over the next four weeks as these season, and potentially club, defining games begin. It would be fantastic if this squad can give us something to get excited about in the month of May.

Match Preview – 1860 Munich vs VfB Eichstätt

Time for something a little different. Back in April of 2011 some close friends and I decided to travel to Germany to see some football. I had always wanted to watch a match abroad and for me the Bundesliga is the best league in Europe. At the time it made sense to see if we could see the best team in Germany, Bayern Munich. As we planned our trip it became evident that getting a ticket for the Allianz Arena to see Bayern was going to be a challenge (and an expensive one at that). The decision was made to instead go and see their city rivals 1860 Munich because at that time they shared the same stadium and they very rarely sold out the Allianz.

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From the moment we got to our first 1860 game, kilts and all, the fans could not have been more welcoming. They were delighted that a group of Scots would go and see the ‘other’ team in Munich rather than the “red bastards” of Bayern. So it was, that in April 2011, I fell for ‘Sechzig’. I have been lucky enough to visit a few times since with many of the same friends and unbelievably, despite having a 5 month old baby in the house, my wife has given me the go ahead to go back to Munich this week. I thought that instead of doing a match preview for Dundee United vs Falkirk I would instead preview the 1860 game. Before we get on to the fixture against VfB Eichstätt there are a couple of things that you need to know about 1860 Munich –

First of all, you think Dundee United are badly run? Well let me tell you about why one of Germany’s oldest and most famous teams is currently playing in the regional 4th tier of German football. The simple fact of the matter is that 1860 Munich are a total basket case when it comes to ownership and it has been like this for a number of years. They have been, in recent times, the laughing-stock of German football. The club, known by many as ‘Die Lowen’, suffered a double relegation to Germany’s 4th division at the end of the 2016/17 season in the most ridiculous of circumstances. Last year 1860 faced Jahn Regensburg in a relegation playoff athe the end of the Bundesliga 2 season. They lost the fixture over two legs and at the end of the second game the fans trashed the Allianz Arena. Afterwards, the Jordanian owner of 1860, Hasan Abdullah Ismaik, blackmailed the board members to try to gain full control but they did not play along with him. This then meant that the board could not fund the license for playing in the third tier of German football so they defaulted on that payment and were then relegated to the regional 4th division, making it two relegations in the space of a week. Furthermore Ismaik (who is a 60% majority shareholder which in a roundabout way contravenes Germany’s strict ’50+1′ rule) then threatened to demote the club even further and attempted to legally challenge the long-established ownership structure of German football. Although Ismaik owns 60% of the club he is not allowed, by German footballing rule, to have more than 49% of the voting rights meaning he is not in full control.

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Since last season the club have found a bit more stability and that has been driven by their incredibly loyal support. The Munich side still boast one of the largest memberships of any German football club and the influence they have has allowed 1860 to start over. This however is being done with the knowledge that Ismaik is still the largest shareholder. The club is massively in his debt and this is not going to change anytime soon. He apparently wants to sell his shares but he is looking for a ridiculous sum of money. In truth the problems are not all his doing and the reality is that 1860 have been badly run for decades now, it is just that Ismaik has been the catalyst for this more sudden and shocking decline.

One positive that has come out of all of this (apart from the galvanizing of the support) has been the move away from the Allianz Arena. Despite the stadium being one of the best in Europe it was a weight around the neck of not only the club but also the fans who detested playing at the home of their bitter rivals. Anytime we have visited the supporters have always been very vocal about the fact that they hated the ground and they wished to return to Grünwalder Stadion, the spiritual home of 1860 Munich. The Allainz Arena essentially bankrupted Die Lowen and it was the financial pressures of using the stadium that led to Istiak’s involvement. The club sold their shares in the stadium to Bayern for roughly £10million due to their desperate need for cash. This then meant they had to pay an eye watering £3million a year rent to Bayern to then use the stadium for their home matches. Thankfully the club is now back at Grünwalder Stadion.

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Due to the ‘rustic’ nature of the Grünwalder Stadion it can only officially hold 12,500 people but this is due to change next year as the club have approval to extend the capacity to roughly 15,000. The limited capacity has meant that pretty much every single home game this season has been a total sell-out. This has also been helped by the fact that 1860 Munich are currently sitting in 1st place and have been comfortable leaders for the majority of the season. They have Munich born former player Daniel Bierofka in charge and he epitomizes the 1860 spirit as he is growling lion-like figure who wears his heart on his sleeve.

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The complicated route back to the ‘big time’ for 1860 Munich will take them a number of seasons and even if they win the league this year (which they should do quite comfortably) there is no guarantee that they will end up in the Bundesliga 3 next season. The lower divisions in Germany are all regionalised so the league winners of all the 4th tier leagues play one another to see who gets to play in a higher division.

The game against VfB Eichstätt this weekend is a bit of a derby but given the nature of the division it is the case that most games are derby of sorts. The small town of Eichstätt is about an hour and a half away from Munich and they should bring a decent support down to the game against the league leaders. The game doesn’t mean a huge amount for VfB Eichstätt as they currently occupy 6th place in the table and are in no real danger of either promotion or relegation. For 1860 Munich they have won 7 out of their last 9 league games and are within touching distance of the league title.

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Football photo of the day (1860 Munich Edition)…

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Grunwalder Stadium. After being evicted from the Allainz Arena this has once again become the home of 1860 Munich. The capacity at the moment is about 12,000 given various safety concerns but the club have permission to increase this to 15,000. It isn’t known if this is to be the long term home for 1860 Munich but in an ideal world they would look at building a new facility once they can financially afford to do so.

Football photo of the day (1860 Munich Edition)…

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1860 Munich’s former ‘home’, the Allianz Arena. Back in 2001 the club decided to join forces with Bayern to build a new stadium. In 2005 the shared facility opened but due to financial difficulties 1860 sold their share in the Allianz back to Bayern. After the club’s double relegation last year they were evicted and have since moved back to their old ground, Grünwalder Stadion.