The football season proper kicks off on 6 August 2010 and, for fans everywhere, there is much work to be done. While the uneducated may think it’s all about watching the matches or listening on the radio, we at Pocket-lint understand that football is a 24/7 addiction. There are transfers to monitor, post match analysis to pour through and goals to watch and re-watch over and over again, as well as the great need to do something else at work other than actually, you know, work.
So, for the football fanatics among you, here are the best ways you can follow your team and the beautiful game from the comfort of your own internet connection.
Podcasts are an all too oft forgotten way of following events in this world of social networking and applications, and it's rather a shame because they offer a richness of information that's difficult to fit into a news article. So, if you remember to download and get the chance to listen, the Guardian Football Weekly podcast with James Richardson is considered by many as the pick of the bunch.
Football Ramble is the biggest independent football podcast around with plenty of respect and a good team behind it, otherwise, The Times football podcast, known as TheGame, is an excellent listen with sports journalist Gabriele Marcotti at the helm.
Finally, of course, you can also bet that your team has at least one podcast going for it from one of the blogs out there. Naturally, you’ll get a serious range of quality, but you should find yourself pleasantly surprised.
The idea of getting any information out of email beyond work talk and the odd line or two from a buddy might seem a bit quaint these days, but never underestimate the power of the direct message. Well, actually, you can underestimate the power of the direct message and suffer no problems at all, but the point is that there are two newsletters that are well worth subscribing to in the football world.
The first is your club. It’ll be rather dull and official, but you will get all sorts of special offers through including, most importantly, when they haven’t sold out for matches and there’s a chance you might be able to pick up a ticket at short notice.
The second, and much more entertaining option, is the long running epistle from the football team at the Guardian known as the Fiver, because it turns up in your inbox at 5pm each day. It might take you a while to work out what the hell the writers are talking about with so many home made nic-names (Big Cup is the Champions League, MU Rowdies are Manchester United, etc) but it’s a good giggle and nicely put together. It also happens to be a splendid way of whittling down that last half hour or so of your working day - when it arrives on time, that is.
There are a hell of a lot of sites out there devoted to the pursuit, consumption and appreciation of football. One could take several months trying to list them all but mercifully, there’s no need. In fact, there’s only two sites to bookmark at all as it goes.
The first is NewsNow which is an aggregator of all sorts of news on the web, but it just so happens that it’s particularly excellent for football. It updates itself every 5 minutes with the headlines and links to all the blogs, papers and sites on the beautiful game and the best part is that you can filter for any league, club or even individual player you like. It’s the best way to keep your finger on the pulse and invaluable during the transfer windows.
The second site you’ll need is 101 Great Goals, and to say that there’s 101 of them on the site is doing it a massive disservice. 101 pulls in all the goals scored anywhere in the world from any game that you can possibly imagine, including friendlies from the most obscure leagues in the world. The links to the goals won’t last forever given all the TV and copyright issues, but there’s still plenty to see. By the same token, do take the time to view some of the site's greatest ever goals top tens. They’re pretty much unparalleled.
To say there’s only two websites that you need is true, but there is also one more group that you might like to take the time to peruse as well. If your team have just played in Europe, take a look at the match report through the eyes of the media of the country you just played. A more balanced, or certainly counter-balanced, view of events can make very good reading. For France use L’Equipe, for Spain it’s either Marca or El Mundo, Gazetta for Italy and Bild for Germany. If you don’t happen to be multi-lingual, you might want to put them through a Google translation.
Appswise there’s plenty out there although there’s still some room for improvement in this department. Your first port of call is going to be the Sky Sports Football Live app with its up to the minute action on all things Saturday afternoon. You also get the benefit of the news side of things, upcoming fixtures and video highlights too. The only trouble is that Sky has got its finger out just far enough to put the app together for iPhone and nothing else so far. On the plus side, it is free.
If you’re on Android, there are a few options although none of them are quite perfect for every single handset, the best thing to do would be to try LiveSoccer, Live Football Soccer Scores and Live Soccer Free - Football and see which works for you. Each brings you all the live action from more leagues around the world than you ever knew existed.
Football Reporter is another excellent Android app for news on the English leagues, the Scottish Prem, Primera Division and Serie A. If that doesn’t cover you team, then Goal.com’s app will. You can find that one on the iPhone and BlackBerry platforms as well.
Finally, there’s also the opportunity to actually watch some football via mobile phone apps too. Five does a Europa Live service straight to the mini screen where you can watch games live from the Europa League. For those on iPhone, Sky Mobile TV is an excellent service that will cost you a few quid, depending on whether you’re a Sky subscriber or not, but it does allow you to watch all sorts of Premier League games on your iPod touch, iPad or iPhone wherever you are. ITV is also reported to be looking at an ITV player app for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone which will come in rather handy for Champions League and FA Cup games should it get the green light.
Lastly, of course, there’s always your club’s own official app. Quite a few have got them these days and, even if most are a rip off for the quid or so they might cost, it all goes towards supporting your team.
There are three types of people you might want to consider following on Twitter to bring you the best of the football world. The first are the players. You’re not going to get much decent info out of them apart from what top 10 R&B they’re listening to at the moment - particularly if they’re English - but you might feel good about following one of your club heroes.
The second type of person are the pundits and journalists. Plenty of wise words to be had here with some giving better tweet than others, but you’ll certainly learn plenty more about the goings on of the beautiful game than a 200-word news article will teach you.
Rather than sift through all the fake accounts, Sporting Tweets does a good job of pulling in the streams of both the two types above. Head over to the site’s @sporting_tweets/football list and hit follow, and you’ll be killing 169 of those birds with a single stone. Voices on the list include Garbriele Marcotti, Ryan Babel and all sorts of official club Twitter accounts as well.
The final type to follow are the football news sites. If you pick a handful and set them to come through as SMS to your mobile phone it’s an excellent way of keeping bang up to date on all the comings and goings in the game or just your club, wherever you are. That way you don’t need a Twitter app on your handset or, if you have one anyway, it’s a good way of prioritising certain tweets. Some to consider are the BBC news site for your team, the Sun football and the Mirror Football.
Of course, one of the best ways to follow your team on line is by watching the entire 90 minutes over IPTV of some sort. Sky Player will do you proud if your club is featured on their channels at that time but, if you really want to make sure you see every moment, it has to be the shady world of illegal satellite streams.
MyP2P has pretty much all the football (and sport) worldwide you can think of. It's just a linking service. It doesn't actually host anything, just points you in the right way. For each game it will give you a list of channels it is available on, with a number of links for each and it tells you the bandwidth it streams at, its own star rating, the rating of users and also whether you'll need third-party software like Sopcast or TVants, to view the streams. We trust you'll feel suitably guilty as you enjoy all Saturday 3pm kick off from the comfort of you own home.
So, that's our take on the best of football online, but what have we missed? Which are your favourite ways of following the beautiful game? Let us know your hot tips in the comments below.