Aleksandr Kokorin’s Reformed Character

Is there a finer sight in football than the sudden, late blooming of a player believed to be lost forever? A bud thought never to open that reveals its brilliance just as winter approaches. What can be more heartening than the reminder that a player’s potential is never truly wasted until the final whistle of their final game? It is, after all, confirmation that no judgments can be passed or epitaphs penned until a career has concluded. That said, such reveals are scarce and most player’s … [Read more...]

The Retirement of St. Petersburg’s Prodigal Son, Aleksandr Kerzhakov

Nothing warms the hearts of football fans like seeing a local lad ‘come good’ for his boyhood club. Steven Gerrard in the Liverpool red. Fransesco Totti turning out in Roma’s claret and gold. In an increasingly disloyal game these flashes of tribal faith resonate. They offer glimmers of hope in a sport too often darkened by cynicism. Beyond the obvious visual appeal of homegrown talent flying the hometown flag is something deeper and more valuable. But to journey to the heart of this phenomenon … [Read more...]

Lombaerts’ Legacy

To be a centre back at Zenit St. Petersburg is like being the foundation stone that bolsters any one of St. Petersburg’s grand facades. While the service you perform is indispensible, adoration is largely reserved for those you support. Eyes linger on beauty for far longer than function, and in a city that rewards flamboyance and flair before all else, there is usually little adulation left for the quiet enabler. But magnificence without structure simply cannot exist. And as Nicolas Lombaerts … [Read more...]

Calling Time on Cherchesov’s Reign

Stop all the clocks. Call time at the bar. The final whistle has sounded after another lacklustre performance by the Russian national side and this time no one should be covering their ears. The alarm has finally rung for Stanislav Cherchesov and it should signal his imminent departure. Patience has been exhausted. Hope has been abandoned. Not even the most ardent fans of Sbornaya can dismiss what took place on Friday evening. When disgrace gave way to disgust as the most listless, … [Read more...]

Poise, Persistence, Perfection – An Ode to Anatoliy Tymoshchuk

Football is filled with contentious personalities. Hard-man defenders, stroppy strikers and mercurial midfielders are as common within the game as corner flags and crossbars. It’s rare that a day passes within the sport without one or more of the participants creating controversy for the press and problems for their management. Which is why we are allowed to shed more than a few tears when a true gentleman of the sport hangs up his boots. These few good men keep our faith in the game alive. … [Read more...]

Branislav Ivanovic and Zenit’s Loss of Local Identity

Whenever we talk transfers we tend to focus on the players involved. Their moves mark points on the trajectory of their careers, a constellation of improvement and decline offering a final appraisal of their merit when the floodlights have dimmed. But often a big move says more about the clubs involved than the player at the centre of the trade. Branislav Ivanovic is a case in point. A stellar player whose qualities are beyond question, Zenit's capture of him should be a cause for nothing but … [Read more...]

Is Stan the Man to Lead Russia?

Whenever I watch the Russian national side nowadays, I’m oddly reminded of the X-Files. This isn’t a parallel most would readily form. While Russian football can be, and often is, likened to some of the country’s greatest and most tragic novels, why would the current national scene be reminiscent of an American sci-fi series that had its peak in the mid-nineties? Because, friends, like Fox Mulder, the beleaguered protagonist of the X-Files, I too want to believe. I want to believe that by 2018 a … [Read more...]