Monday, May 2, 2011

Odds and Ends

Several things that I may be the only person in the world to care about simultaneously:

After skipping the tournament in 2008 and 2009, IFK Mariehamn thrashed second-division Joensuun Iloiset Peli-Pojat (JIPPO) 4-0 to reach the semifinals of the Finnish Cup for the second year in a row. Another clean sheet for Josh Wicks and Mason Trafford.

In addition to excellent results on the field, Mr. Wicks appears to be adjusting well to life in the Aland Islands -- he and Joe Funicello even have their own radio show. They are both, unquestionably, a long way from a football field at Richard Montgomery High School.

IFK has another North American in their squad, former Vancouver Whitecap and USPDL player Luca Bellisomo, who recently explained that he'd take his Brazilian teammate along to a desert island because he looks like a woman from behind. (The Brazilian in question, Fernando de Abreu Ferreira answers the same question with Josh Wicks, as Wicks would scare away any dangerous animals that might offend them).

IFK opens up its league season today with a match against Myllykosken Pallo -47 (MyPa), who were knocked out of the Finnish Cup Thursday by last year's runner up, HJK. MyPa has also added a Canadian: Kentucky Wildcat alum Riley O'Neill. O'Neill joined MyPa after four years in lower division German football.

In Scotland, our Raith Rovers' surprising bid for a spot in the Scottish Premier League was dealt a mortal below last weekend after a Fife derby loss to Dunfermline. The coup de grĂ¢ce to the promotion push was administered by Queen of the South on Saturday. Although it is a disappointing end to a brilliantly entertaining season and although the gaffer painted a dire picture of the immediate future of Raith football after the match, falling just short does not wipe away everything the club achieved this year, as confirmed by John McGlynn being named Manager of the Year by the PFA Scotland and John Baird being named Scottish first division player of the year.

We've proudly sponsored Raith Rovers players the last two seasons and look forward to continuing our support next season, whatever the composition of the squad. By all rights, however, we should not be able to sponsor any players on the club next season if McGlynn gets the measure of support he has earned from local fans. What he has done at Raith is nothing short of incredible and as only a passive supporter of the club, I am in awe of how much he has achieved.

As amazing as the Raith story has been, mighty Accrington Stanley's year has surpassed it. For a little club always on the brink of extinction, Stanley's clinching of a League 2 playoff spot after adding to Barnet's misery Saturday is almost unbelievable. As with Raith Rovers, we've proudly sponsored an Accrington Stanley man for the last two seasons and have followed the sordid soap opera of the team's front office operations. Less than a month ago, John Coleman announced that Stanley's players were not receiving salaries after yet more financial difficulties for the club. Nevertheless, Stanley have not lost a league fixture since falling 3-1 to Gillingham on March 12th.

Beyond all reasonable expectations, if Stanley can handle Torquay or Stevenage or Gillingham (depending on results from the last league weekend), they will likely face Shrewsbury at Old Trafford with a chance to host Charlton Athletic in League 1 next season. That's insane.

If last season's FA Cup run, culminating in a fourth round home match against Fulham televised on Fox Soccer Channel, seemed like a dream, diehard supporters in Lancashire must be pinching themselves continuously and questioning their sanity.

I hope they don't wake up anytime soon.

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