When Saturday Comes, so do some ‘virtual gongs’

When it comes to awards and honours, Salut! Sunderland has been happy to stick to the back seat.

That is usually becasue no one nominates us, or we hear about invitations for entries too late to give it a bash.

But we get kind words here, as well as the brickbats, and this encourages those of us who fill the site’s pages to believe we occasionally get something right.

Now comes modest confirmation from outsiders, in the shape of the excellent people at When Saturday Comes, well-known for its self-description as a “half decent” football magazine.

They have been busy “dishing out WSC’S virtual gongs for the last 12 months” and while Salut! Sunderland doesn’t exactly get one of them, it does get a pat of the back, which you’ll see if you scroll down far enough.

WSC’s 2010 Web Awards are intended to focus on “what may be considered classic fanzine virtues – independence, originality, wit and selfless involvement in a game that seems intent on distancing itself from a fanbase whose cash it wants and needs, but which in many corners still stubbornly refuses to sink into the passive role of slavish devotee”.

Here, then, is the roll of honour. This is a rushed posting before I head north for SAFC v Bolton so no clickable links, I’m afraid, but each of the sites should be easy enough to find – and their owners are welcome to add messages with links:

Quality gold

Run Of Play continues to develop into an eye-catching blog where you might typically find repros of ancient football postcards, a serialised novel set in the 1920s about Brooklyn Asylum FC, or a piece on the moral quandary of signing Marlon King. Sample quote, on why many still want to view Wayne Rooney as a spud-faced stripling: “You could make the case that what’s holding him back – injury; constantly having to adapt to different positional responsibilities – is disconcertingly grown-up for a player we’re more comfortable imagining as a permanent teenager.”

Two Hundred Per Cent keeps a timely, watchful eye on basket-case clubs, summarising all the salient points for those of us too baffled to keep track on a daily basis. Shit-Shot Mungo is the best football cartoon series ever, while match reports are regular and compelling. Sample quote: “Woking may be three divisions below Brighton, but their players are all footballers, all paid to play football to some extent. Woking raised their game in the first match and Brighton were below par. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to force a surprise.”

Cod Almighty is still by far and away the best individual team site with its persistently brilliant gallows humour, poetry and insight on a daily basis. Cod only knows how they keep it up, but this is the model to follow for all club webzines. Sample quote: “I don’t think any of us really believe Town and the Conference are in for just one brief night of passion, do we? We’re not looking at wham, bam, thank you Altrincham. Grimsby Town Football Club is broken, and it’ll take a lot to fix.”

Quality silver

Zonal Marking is a must-read site now that seeming knowledgeable about football tactics has become more important than being good in bed. Headline of the year with Redknapp proves he’s a decent tactician, even if he doesn’t want to be. Sample quote: “Man City’s first-half dominance was all about passing around Fulham. 257 passes to Fulham’s 141 tells the story, and the extra man in midfield was a key feature.” Thanks goodness someone’s counting.

HTFC World has been producing brilliantly illustrated match reports on Huddersfield Town for well over a decade, and a recent upgrade to animation has only accentuated its unstintingly scathing commentaries. A Yorkshire football version of South Park. Everyone’s fair game – referees, opponents, home players, and even the bloke who draws the mascot cartoons in the match programme. And that’s exactly how it should be.

This year’s favoured photographic site is Centre Circle Publishing, a delightfully massive range of galleries covering David Bauckham’s non-League travels. Who could ever tire of pictures of old blokes in peaked caps watching Dorking Town, and pallid, gangly lads lurching through mud at Leyton FC? Match reports are largely eschewed in favour of potted histories and weird facts, such as the right of local farmers to run their herds over Hitchin Town’s ground once a year. Sample quote: make up your own. Something like: “Bloody ‘ell, eight quid to watch this shit.”

Quality bronze

The Ball Is Round is one of the better sites documenting travels to places like Lincoln Moorlands Railway FC, SV Spakenburg or Sliema Wanderers, aided by some decent photography. There’s relief from the road with musings on great Subbuteo memorabilia, or the worst places in Europe to host football, which gratifyingly include Paris and Barcelona. Sample quote, from a visit to Minsk: “Six hours before the match, having only been in the city for a few hours we were so bored that we ended up back in the hotel, drinking something called Splotz, watching snooker on TV with German commentary.”

In Bed With Maradona is a burgeoning bloggers’ collective reporting from all kinds of countries on all kinds of issues. These include depression and homophobia in football, where next for the Uruguay national team, the historical relationship between France and Senegal and Dion Dublin’s new percussion instrument – the Dube. Sample quote: “When you think Sudan, you think, disease. Extremism. Guns. Hunger. War. Partly true, but like everywhere else in Africa, the Kush love their football too.”

Football Economy has a new, ad link-dominated layout I’m not mad about, but once you access the core of Wyn Grant’s consistently excellent economic news and analyis you can overlook the triviality of presentation. Like it or not, football’s a serious and dirty business, and we need diligent writers like Grant to tell us why, say, the latest Swiss league reform could be a monopolistic move towards abolishing relegation. Sample quote: “The latest club in trouble is Redditch, who need a £30,000 cash injection to secure their immediate future.” Often dry, but sobering and informative.

Honorable mentions

Salut! Sunderland Balanced, articulate SAFC blog.

A Football Report Smart, young and global – one to watch.

The Swiss Ramble More detailed breakdowns of football and finance.

Play The Game Ethical watchdog in equal parts both depressing and inspiring.

Better than a kick in the teeth.

Monsieur Salut

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