Bids send fans into mad frenzy

People often compare Transfer Deadline day to Christmas for football fans, however I have never known Christmas day to be full of such nerves, excitement and false rumours….actually maybe that does sound like last year’s festivities…Back to business though and I have seen much negativity and nervousness around Brighton fans today. The cause of this drama? A rather audacious bid from none other than Crystal Palace for Bridcutt and Ulloa. The deal included £1.75M for Bridcutt and £5M for Ulloa, unsurprisingly this was rejected. This sent many into a frenzy over the prospect of losing our supposed prized assets, yet I feel we have jumped the gun too early.

 

It is well documented that Bridcutt can cut it in the Premier league, a class player who has the potential to be a midfield maestro week in week out at the highest level. We as a club may not be able to offer him this opportunity and the time will come when we say goodbye take the money and move on. However many feel the time is not right as we have no cover for him. This is where we need to look at what we have. Rohan Ince has become a knight in shining armor, the news of  Bridcutt’s injury was received with the upmost sadness and anticipation of how we were going to even live another day of our lives without him. Bring in Ince. Despite poor team performances at the start of the season, Ince proved himself to be the best of the bunch, it could not be ignored that Oscar was playing him in the role previously assigned to Bridcutt and therefore was acting as a like for like replacement. But there is so much more to him than that. His stature gives him an advantage, his forward vision, coupled with his confidence and calmness on the ball provides us with a player who can switch the game around, looking for attacking passes, or sitting back and calming the game down. At only 19 Ince has the potential to do great things. Perhaps the departure of Bridcutt is a blessing for him, after all, when one door closes another one opens. Without Bridcutt being first pick, Ince has had to step up to the plate and so far he is a capable ‘substitute’ for Liam. The price will have to be adjusted however, £1.75M is quite frankly, pathetic. Come back with £3M plus and we can start to talk business. Bridcutt does not seem as irreplaceable as he once used to be.

 

 

The Ulloa speculation is on the other hand a waste of time. Unless Bloom and Oscar organize a big night out on the town and unwillingly under the influence of alcohol sign him away, there is no chance he will be sold. I can assure us all that we are not stupid enough to sell our only fit striker at the moment, one who coincidentally has the potential to be a 20+ goal striker (which we have been crying out for for a while). Therefore I have nothing more to say on the matter and will dismiss this offer as highly speculative with zero chance of any outcome.

 

With 5 hours left till the deadline, and reports saying no permanent deals on the way, we will look to the loan market for back up. This does provide an advantage, once the transfer window is shut, clubs can finalise their squads and sort out any loose ends, quite often this results in some premier league players looking for new clubs, just because they are ‘rejected’ doesn’t mean they cant do a job for us, so it will be interesting to see who becomes available for loan. By no means is our season over if we do not sign anyone, so I think we should all just sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit and enjoy the drama.

London 2012 – One Year On

 

The 2012 Olympics and Paralympics were achieved with huge success, with the likes of Ennis, Farah, Peacock and many more showing Britain what we can achieve on a World stage. There was huge praise for the organisation, the Games Makers became known everywhere thanks to their fantastic volunteering that helped deliver a games that will not be forgotten. Lord Coe masterminded an event that exceeded all expectations; the opening ceremony bought the world to their feet in applause and set the standard for Olympic Games to come. However it was the legacy of the Games that was the most significant. London 2012 was advertised to ‘inspire a generation’ and one year on it reads mixed messages, the government promised to maximise all opportunities for young people to participate in all sport. It is a well-known aspect of sport participation that money is crucial in enabling words to be turned into actions. Therefore it seems slightly confusing as to why Sport England are cutting their funding for fourteen out of the 46 sports they fund. Cricket is a big loser in their funding; from £35.2m between 2009 and 2013 the funding will stand at just £20.0m between 2013 and 2017. With a number of sports receiving less funding, it concludes that inspiring the next generation will be a harder job than it first seemed. It was claimed by the Government that the Olympics had provided a £10 billion economic benefit, this was quickly questioned Cable the business secretary himself went on to say there was ‘no proof’ this was a direct effect of the Olympics whilst trying to defend the figures. 

 

Perhaps the Olympic legacy is not as rosy as we all thought, but to come to evaluate the claim that the Games will ‘inspire a generation’ we must delve into the local statistics of sport participation. The Active People survey carried out in Sussex gave us a positive outlook. The survey revealed that 36.5% of adults are playing sport at least once a week, which is an increase of over 2% from 2005. It is the younger generation that must be focused on and this is being delivered by the National campaign Sportivate contributing 116 projects in Sussex across a range of 41 different sports. Furthermore from September, this programme will be targeting young people aged between 11-25 years old. More promising figures are those associated with sport in school with £4.2 million to be invested in Sussex primary schools over the next two years, the Sainsbury’s Sussex School Games Summer Festival saw 700 pupils from Sussex primary and secondary schools participate in competitive sport. Sussex is also leading the way in the participation of disability sport. 6.8% of disabled people in Sussex are engaged in Sport compared to national levels of 6.5%, a credit to everyone who has taken part In ensuring these sports are more available. It is also notable that there were 830 Sport Makers volunteers from Sussex, who were deployed at events including the Sainsbury’s school games, with a whopping 8,300 hours of volunteering clocked.

 

Although there will always be sceptics who will question figures, especially locally, it seems there is a real emphasis in ensuring that we do ‘inspire a generation’. The Anniversary games have been a huge success, and what was wonderful to see was the amount of children at the events, opening their eyes to what can be achieved through hard work. Sussex is leading the way in Sport participation, and there are many programmes around the country that are helping young people and focusing them. Funding may have been cut, but you cannot fault the work of volunteers and others who are still helping the Olympics reach out to everyone on a personal level.

A Great British Summer

The summer of 2013 has bought us more success than we could’ve hoped for, and there is still plenty of potential for more winners to top off what will hopefully be a Great British summer. The Lions tour in Australia captured the grit and determination of the Nation, battling back from a 1 point defeat in the second test to annihilate the Wallabies 16-41 in the deciding test. It had been 16 years since the Lions last tour Victory in South Africa, and for the 30,000 travelling fans it was a moment to remember. The tour contained many a drama, starting early on with the Barbarians hooker Schalk Brits landing a punch on the jaw of Owen Farrell in the opener, and it set the tempo for what was to be a high intensity tour. It would not have been complete without allegations of ‘spying’, which was of course quickly denied on both sides, conspiracy theories were introduced after incidents of players biting and stamping each other were cleared and not charged. The overall casualty list read ten notable injuries, but quite thankfully only two Lions were forced to take an early flight home. The medical team must be praised for their outstanding work, perhaps even performing miracles in getting the likes of Tommy Bowe, Jamie Roberts and George North back up to fitness in record time. Times like these we start to appreciate all the work that goes on behind the scenes during major sporting events like this. Warren Gatland then came under intense scrutiny after leaving Brian O’ Driscoll out of the squad for the third test. A decision that was labeled as ‘make or break’ turned out to be a master stroke from Gatland, picking for the team instead of individuals Gatland’s team stormed out in the third test and with just 77 seconds on the clock were in front, from then on the Lions ripped apart the Wallabies and there was to be no way back for them this time. Thoughts turn to the 2017 tour, and with only 2 players of the 23 who won the series the wrong side of 30, most have another tour left in them, professional, dedicated and ambitious describes the Lions squad, and no doubt will they have the same support again in a few years time.

 

There is also no room to overlook Andy Murray’s achievements this summer, having had a successful 2012, Murray was still looking for the elusive Wimbledon title. This time perhaps somebody was looking down on him, with injuries and shock defeats to the ‘big boys’ in the world of Tennis, Murray’s route to the final began to look like a clear run. This was easier said than done, with the increased expectation on his shoulders, Murray came into a league of his own. The quarter final showed how far he has come as a sportsman. The old Murray would have crumbled being 2 sets down in the quarter finals, but this was a different Murray, a Murray who this time believed in himself, and that had been missing before. He did not panic, he did not crumble, instead he let his tennis do the talking and stormed through the next three sets to produce a wonderful comeback. At that point many tipped him for the title, yet there was still work to do. Coming into the final against Djokovic was always going to be tough. However Murray could take hope from the US open, in the final to win his Grand Slam he had beaten Djokovic. Millions watching on TV or listening on the radio, thousands on Murray Mount, and the lucky ones inside centre court held their breath and waited. The 77 year wait for a men’s Wimbledon champion was well worth the wait, a rejuvenated Murray completed a straight set win against Djokovic, finally achieving his dream, and you could see the relief on his face, the relief from his family and from everyone else who watched when Djokovic hit the ball against the net to earn Murray the title. A front runner for BBC Sports personality of the year now, but I don’t think Murray will be too bothered, the real achievement was for the weight to be lifted off his shoulders, he himself has now achieved what he set out to do, and that feeling must be incredible.

 

Until the 2012 Olympics cycling had not been a headline sport, however with the likes of Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton raising its profile, many have taken a new founded interest in the Tour De France. With Bradley Wiggins the previous winner, Chris Froome now has the chance to achieve the same, wearing the yellow jersey at the moment is a promising start, but with a while to go yet, team Sky must continue to progress. It would not be a true sporting event without controversy and this time Mark Cavendish has provided the spark. In the conclusion to the sprint yesterday, a collision took place involving him, however it was events after, that ignited a flame. When taking questions from journalists after the race, Cavendish grabbed a recorder when asked whether he caused the collision, a clearly riled Cavendish then walked off leaving a bitter end to the stage. However the Tour De France has the potential to once again contribute to a successful summer, I for one will be keeping track of the yellow jersey closely, and will hopefully be celebrating another win for team Sky, this time in the shape of Chris Froome.

 

Football also has the chance to contribute to a great summer of sport. This time we hand over responsibility to the women and their aim to conquer the Women’s Euro’s. It is the Germans that are dominating this competition and England women will be looking to break up their winning streak. The last five tournaments have been won by Germany, however England are improving and having got to the final last time, they will be hoping to do one better and walk out winners this time in Sweden. Perhaps on the 28th July we will be celebrating the England’s women’s team doing something the men’s team can only dream of?

 

The main highlight of this magical summer of sport must be the Ashes however. With England looking to retain the Ashes on home soil, the series has been much anticipated. It is a sporting event that encapsulates everyone, even non cricket lovers will be checking the progress of the team throughout the tests, and there is a general feeling that our cricketers can thrive off the feel good factor we possess at the moment and bring home another victory. The Australian’s  are in a state of disarray, unprofessional incidents, departing of their coach and a rather disappointing display at the Champions trophy have made England favourites for the series and now we wait and hope they deliver. 2013 has the potential to be an incredible year for Sport, just when we thought we couldn’t top 2012 with the Olympics, our sportsmen and women have come out to prove us wrong, and with sporting fever spreading all over the Nation we could be in for a historic Great British Summer.

A Cyclone of Action inside Upton pARK

With Manchester United having the title pretty much sewn up and West Ham safe from relegation, the floodlight fixture between the Red Devils and the Hammers could easily have been lackluster. That was not the case and right from kick off it was West Ham who started on the front foot. With less than five minutes on the clock Nolan came close to putting the Hammers in front, Carroll found time and space on the edge of the box to turn and put a shot away and with Nolan’s touch the ball rolled inches from the post. United attempted to gain a foothold in the game, but with the pace of Matt Jarvis on the counter attack West Ham continued to pose a threat. It wasn’t long before West Ham’s attacking threat produced a goal, United were caught out on the counter, an inviting cross by Jarvis was met by the head of Carroll which fell into the path of Ricardo Vaz Te to tuck home and give Sam Allardyce’s men a deserved lead.

 

United showed glimpses of their Champions quality, and having settled into the game it wasn’t long before chances were created. Clever link up play outside the box created space for Evra to run along the line, this time however his pull back was met by a West Ham player. Manchester United didn’t wait around too long and were back on level terms soon. Once again it came from the left hand side, Kagawa this time squared the ball straight into Valencia’s path who could do little but put the ball in the net. It was United who started to find their feet and began to give West Ham problems, Kagawa and Evra linking up well on the left hand side producing crosses for Van Persie and company. With one minute added time signaled, a corner for West Ham produced a period of lively action. Rooney and Carroll provided the childish nagging behavior before the corner was taken, yet it was Carroll who jumped late into De Gea and clattered him to the ground leaving Alex Ferguson fuming. The half time whistle blew ending the half with controversy, an obviously displeased Ferguson disappeared down the tunnel, with Allardyce undoubtedly being the happiest manager of the two with the score so far.

 

With less than one minute of the second half gone Phil Jones wasted a glorious chance for Manchester United, a delightful ball found Van Persie who headed the ball down for Jones a few yards out, but most importantly slightly behind him and the chance was gone. The feud between De Gea and Carroll was not gone though, tussles at the other end of the pitch between them ended in a yellow card for Carroll. But it was him who nearly had the last laugh, a shot from long range by Carroll came close to catching De Gea out, who thankfully was not called into action for it. Yet it was a beauty from Diame who put West Ham back in front, from the edge of the 18 yard box the ball was hit so sweetly it flew past all the United players and past De Gea into the bottom left corner of the net. The tempo for the second half was set, and a whirlwind of action in both penalty boxes followed. United were nearly level again through Van Persie if not for an excellent reaction save from Jaaskelainen. West Ham took a sharp intake of breath again from a United corner, it came to Rooney in the box and his shot was touched by Jaaskelainen before being kicked off the line by O’neil. It wasn’t long before West Ham were praising their goalkeeper once again, this time a brilliant save to deny Van Persie from a header.

 

With Giggs on the field, United continued to dominate possession and before long the possession paid off.  A shot by Kagawa bounced off the post straight into Van Persie’s feet who confidently tucked the ball away. It was to be Kagawa’s final contribution as he made way for Hernandez from the bench, and United looked to turn the pressure up even more and fight for the win. Manchester United continued to press and if not for some solid and brave defending from West Ham would’ve taken the lead. The nerves were felt inside Upton Park when four minutes of added time was indicated, crosses and corners continued to harass the West Ham penalty area, it was all hands to the pump with Carroll contributing some important defensive work. A full blown physical battle the whole ninety minutes made for an exhilarating game which denied United the title, just for the moment anyway.

 

Q & A On The Amex v Withdean with a Reading fan

H: “You’ve been to both the Withdean and the Amex as an away supporter.  I can only assume you enjoyed the Amex experience more!?”

 

N: “Of course, but the Withdean had its unique…..well, not ‘charms’ exactly, but the attraction of the Withdean was that it was a hell of a lot easier to get to than the Amex!  Closer to the city centre, so you can enjoy some of Brighton’s very decent pubs and still get to the ground in good time.  That said, Brighton have really tried to make the Amex as accessible as possible, but 20,000-odd squeezing into suburban Falmer station is a lot less comfortable than 6,000 getting to Preston Park.  The train to Amex for our league visit was a shambles to be honest, queues of people intermingling.  Luckily there was good humour as there is little or no animosity between Reading and Brighton but I can only imagine the fun and games when Leeds come along…..or Palace!”.

 

H: “Well, if the train journey is uncomfortable at least the stadium is a lot more enjoyable for away fans now?”

 

N: “Of course, it is fantastic.  Padded seat, great leg room!  Our ground was built ten years or so before yours so we don’t have padded seats!  What I really liked about Amex is the effort you’ve made to respect your history and welcome your visitors.  There are murals outside the ground of past Brighton players, we don’t have anything like that  and I thought it was a nice touch.  Envious of that.  In the away end you make visitors feel at home with graphics and videos of past favourite players, really caught the eye.  I believe that there are beers local to the visiting club on sale, nice touch because at most grounds there are only the usual boring branded lagers on sale.  I didn’t get to the beer queue as I arrived shortly before kick off after that cramped train journey!  My only other complaint about the Amex would be that it isn’t very clear for away fans at first where you have to enter, so I missed out on a pre-match pint.  But generally I guess if you make sure that people enjoy the experience they’ll come again, particularly to a city like Brighton where you have so much to offer the visitor”.

 

H: “No padded seats at the Withdean!”

 

N: “Quite!  It was tough for you guys having to play 100 miles away in Gillingham and the Withdean must have felt like Wembley after that period of exile.  And we could hardly expect you to feel sorry for us away supporters getting wet when you suffered the same potential drenching 23 times a season yourselves.  The view from the away end was diabolical to be honest, when we scored a consolation goal at the far end of the ground towards the end of a 3-1 thrashing in 2002 when both teams went up I couldn’t even tell we’d scored.  And obviously it rained so heavily that night you might as well have tipped a bucket of water over me as I walked through the turnstiles!  I was cursing the experience back in those days, but we only had to suffer once a season.  I remember Reading fans whingeing about the high ticket prices you charged at Withdean but to be fair when you could only squeeze 7,000 fans into the place you needed to somehow raise the revenue to compete with the wealthier sides”.

 

H: “I think it’s worth remembering how much Brighton fans suffered from the fall out of selling the Goldstone with nowhere suitable to move to.  With all due respect, other clubs like Reading who moved grounds were spoiled by comparison because you didn’t have corrupt directors and public enquiries to fight”.

 

N: “it think that is a fair point, which away supporters would have done well to remember when bemoaning the poor facilities at Withdean.  We are very lucky at Reading in that Madejski always had the club’s welfare at heart and was able to benefit from a football-friendly local council.  I think since the Goldstone has demolished you’ve seen clubs like Reading, Wigan and Stoke move grounds and thrive whilst you were stuck at an athletics ground.  None of those three clubs could claim to have greater potential support than Brighton, but they were all  fortunate to be able to improve their facilities and move up the league.  It is no coincidence that better facilities improves your fortunes because you can attract better players and more supporters. Brighton are catching up, and on the basis of that Newcastle game which was televised a few weeks ago, catching up very quickly indeed”.

 

H: “Perhaps we’ll even overtake you and have your place in the Premier League”.

 

N: “Cheeky bugger.  Perhaps.  And I never thought I’d say this, but perhaps you deserve it after all you’ve been through.  I am convinced you’ll be there sooner rather than later.  And the way your club looks after away fans – as I said earlier – would be a credit to a greedy league where you are regularly charged well over £40 for facilities far inferior to the Amex.”

 

H: “Or maybe we’ll see you next season one way or another!”

 

N: “In the Prem hopefully.  Its an unfriendly league, you’ll be patronised and looked down upon but it is still the place to be.  I will definitely visit again, in fact I visited again for the Kuipers testimonial.  For the league game we had a full allocation but those of us who were respectful and discreet were welcomed into the bar behind the stand at the far home end after the game, the North Stand I believe?  One of our party had his son with us who wore a Reading shirt but the home fans didn’t bat an eyelid, particularly after we’d sneaked a rather fortunate win.  The stewards were great as well, they allowed us to go pitch side for some pictures.  An absolute credit to your club.  I will remember that visit fondly and I wish you well because of that”.

The not so ‘squeaky clean’ side of sport

There are many trials and tribulations in the modern world of sport, and this week has unearthed some disheartening situations embedded in Football, Athletics and a range of other sports, and it is not a local problem, in fact its not even a European problem. Incorporating the whole world, the underground world of match fixing, drugs, and the importance of money has weaved its way into the highly profitable sports we live and breathe.

 

The common saying ‘money talks’ has never become so relevant in the past few years. This time it is Athletics that is in the spotlight.  Apart from London 2012, Usain Bolt hasn’t competed in England since 2009. The reason? Britain imposes taxes on appearance fees/prize money for all non-resident athletes in all sports when they compete in the country. Surprisingly enough, this tax was scrapped for the Olympics, and also for the 2011 Champions League final. Bolt’s agent stated that ‘the rules were discouraging’ a lot of athletes from competing; yet debatably it has degraded the importance of Athletics. Are the top athletes only competing for the money? Of course they love their sport, but the fact Bolt was prepared to miss The Grand Prix (again) due to the tax, raises the question of whether the government are too easily swayed into giving V.I.P treatment to high profile people. Are the government instead only ‘inspiring a generation’ that will compete, but are taught to only do so if they are getting enough money? One rule for one and one for another perhaps? Previously the government have not been so inclined to change the rules, after all the event was held at Crystal Palace, now the venue has changed to the Olympic stadium, there is a greater emphasis on inviting the top athletes to compete, and to continue the legacy of the Olympics.

 

In the background to the Lance Armstrong doping saga, another drugs scandal has emerged from Australia. Following a report from Australia’s leading criminal intelligence organization, it was concluded that the use of drugs, both performance enhancing and recreational is ‘widespread amongst professional athletes’ and it is being ‘facilitated’ by coaches, management, even doctors. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the report was that it was not just centered on athletes individually, ‘The findings indicate…the doping of entire teams’. The news will shock fans, and innocent parties involved in the sports, and who knows where the investigation will end up, if a whole team was found guilty then rightly so the team would be chucked out of competitions and leagues. For such a widespread problem, would a two year ban for guilty participants really be enough? It begs the question, if this has been uncovered in Australia, is it only inevitable that one day, it will be England at the center of a fiasco like this?

 

But perhaps these two controversial stories are just two insignificant needles in a haystack in contrast to the worldwide match-fixing debacle that was made public recently. Europol’s investigation started eighteen months ago, initially just Germany, Finland and Hungary were under scrutiny, however this was later extended to Slovenia and Austria. In total 680 matches in 30 different countries were analyzed, including a whopping 13,000 emails scrutinized. 50 people have been arrested, with a further 80 search warrants obtained, and in total 425 suspects were identified. In conclusion to the investigation it was found that 380 of the games were ‘fixed’. Included in this is an unnamed Champions league fixture in England. It is believed that the match fixing is stemmed from an Asia-based crime syndicate and investigators believe they have uncovered an ‘extensive criminal network’. It is very easy for match fixing to take place. Take for instance a lower league game in Finland, the players/officials will not be getting paid extortionate amounts, a little bribe, a little secrecy, and the match is fixed. The underlying problem, and the only way in which match fixing will be stamped out is if we regulate the betting industry (particularly in South East Asia) otherwise we are powerless to prevent it from happening, we do not want to see in the future hundreds of games being riddled with suspicious bets, and even more suspicious outcomes from matches.

 

It is almost as if the modern world has caused its own problems, with the availability of online betting, the gigantic number of matches played every week, it is very easy for certain small incidents to slip under the radar, until they are accumulated and exposed. The readily available drugs, easy to snap up online are becoming a magnet for athletes, it is the wider causes of the problems that must be addressed before there is any hope of stamping out corruption in sport.

Red or Not?

It has been a busy week for the FA, not only have they celebrated their 150th anniversary, it has also included a rather controversial decision to say the least. Vincent Kompany’s red card.  The tackle on Jack Wilshere in Sunday’s game at the Emirates has caused the tackling debate to reopen with even greater gusto than it has before. There are a couple of main questions; Are the FA undermining the referees? What is classed as a clean tackle, and what is not? The underlying problem is that football is a subjective game, and for referees especially, to make that call in the heat of the moment is all based on THEIR viewpoint. They do not have the luxury of seeing tv replays, and it is this which we must take into consideration, and be careful not to step on their toes.

Kompany’s red was classed as ‘serious foul play’ by Mike Dean in the game. Wilshere over ran the ball, and Kompany came lunging in with a two footed tackle, feet off the ground which put Wilshere in danger of an injury, the challenge was reckless, it was made with excessive force, and therefore must be a red card.  When written like that, it seems the right decision. That is Dean’s view point, tv replays however from different angles have shown a different interpretation of it. This time, Wilshere over ran the ball, Kompany stood his ground, made a well timed tackle, leading with one foot, got the ball, and it was not made with excessive force. Yes he did catch Wilshere as well, and I doubt many complaints would be made for a freekick to be given, but that description does not warrant a red card.  Now, if Mike Dean had let that tackle go, and tv replays had shown the tackle to be a two-footed lunge off the ground, he would’ve been criticized, for not making the right decision. Yet instead, the tables were turned and the FA have overruled his decision stating that they have ‘upheld a claim of wrongful dismissal’. Was it wrong? Should Dean be criticized for taking action? We do not want to enter the stage of referees being worried to make a bold decision and send a player off, if they are not 100% sure. The referee will never be 100% sure on a tackle, but in the short time before they reach for a card, or not, they must weigh everything up and are expected to make the right decision. If the FA intervenes regularly, are they really valuing the job the referees do, undermining their decisions?

So what is a red card offence? Treat it as a kind of checklist that referees must go through before making that quick decision. One aspect and the most important one is did the player make an attempt to get the ball?, if the tackle is made entirely to bring the player down, it becomes a cynical foul, was the tackle made two footed? A clean tackle can be executed with just the one foot leading, there is no need for a two footed challenge, and when this is expressed, it becomes an ‘excessive’ challenge.  Was the player tackling with studs up? This is more to protect the opposition player’s safety, as stated before there is no need for a tackle to be made studs up, it endangers the players safety and has no place in the game.  Was the challenge reckless? Did the player have any chance to win the ball, or was it a ‘hopeful’ tackle, was the tackle mistimed? Many aspects must be taken into consideration, and based on the referees observations he must make his decision. Clearly Mike Dean felt that Kompany’s tackle ticked a few boxes and in his rightful mind was shown the red card. Another obstacle that comes into play is the players reaction to a tackle, for example, if a player rolls around screaming on the floor for a few seconds after the tackle is executed, the referee will suddenly feel that perhaps he didn’t see the tackle properly, and in fact it was worse than he originally thought, this may sway his decision.

It is clear that there will always be ambiguity surrounding these decisions, referees have their own interpretation of the game, and we must make sure that the FA do not start undermining these decisions, at times like this perhaps we need to put ourselves in the referees shoes, from his viewpoint, and wonder what decision we would make? It is also important that referees are respected for their decisions, without them we would be nowhere.

Take Advice from the gERMANS

Jessie J’s trademark lyrics of ‘forget about the price tag’ does not apply to most English football fans at the moment. In fact it is the price tags that are, in some cases, making us fall out of love with the beautiful game. For others it’s an inconvenience, but with clubs like Arsenal charging £62 for a ticket, it’s making a lot of fans penniless. But if we do a bit of border hopping over to Germany, a ticket to see Borussia Dortmund is just the equivalent of £8.95. Of course this is standing but it still highlights the massive gap between ticket prices. However it is the global recognition of the Premier League that has made ticket prices a problem. Football is a worldwide game, from Champions league matches at Old Trafford, to kids playing football in the war stricken Afghanistan. Everywhere you go, people know the game. And it is this that has turned the game into a business. No longer are our clubs personal to the fans, they are investment opportunities, just an asset to businessmen, and people from around the world have come to invest in clubs. Arguably this has improved our game, with increased money being bought into the game, top players are being snapped from overseas to come and play in the Premier League. For us fans to see the talents of Aguero and Van Persie turning out for Manchester City and Manchester United respectively, it is a pleasure to watch and without foreign investment we would not have this chance. Yet it is the ownership that is causing us problems. So why don’t we learn a lesson from the Germans perhaps?

 

The German model is based on the ‘50+1’ rule, in which the club members must own a minimum of 51% of the club, and decisions associated with the club, are made and influenced by these members. In the world where English supporters are feeling devalued by their clubs, it is the fans in Germany that have the biggest say, and if they have the clubs best interests at heart it is quite hard to see how a club could end up in huge financial problems, unlike the catastrophe Portsmouth and other clubs have undergone and is still going on now. The crucial part of this rule is that a club cannot be taken over and controlled by a single power, the downfall of most financial problems in England. And to the Germans they do not understand foreign investment. To them they want to keep the game as it used to be, without the fans, there would be no game, therefore the fans are valued. There are of course a couple of exceptions to the rules Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkeusen, which in fact have always been owned by corporations. But the German league is almost a fans league, the fans make the clubs, and the clubs make the league. Perhaps this attitude has been responsible for the Germans once again making their mark in International football, as well as club management being overhauled, the whole youth system was revamped, and it had paid off for them. Any profits made from clubs are kept within the system, and no one benefits, reducing the power factor.

 

Of course there are downfalls to this, and by no means is this the complete solution, it is in fact far from it, the clubs still rely on corporate investment, if this was removed, it would be hard to see how the top clubs would cope. Maybe in 20 years time will we be able to see the long term benefits, or negatives. The point which should be taken and learnt from is instead the importance of the fans. It is something that bypasses ownership here in England, the fans are seen as customers, and treated as just that. The passion felt by us fans does not travel to foreign investors, for investors the club is an asset, but for fans, it is more than that, it is not just a club, not just a team, not just 11 players on the pitch, those 11 players carry the hopes and dreams of every one of their fans. Tears are shed, whether through happiness or sadness, and it is this emotion that is overlooked.

 

Businessmen will never understand this, to be able to understand and grasp it, you have to experience it, but with money becoming more and more of an issue, the number of people experiencing this incredible passion will start to decrease, taking away the most crucial part to the game, the fans, the future of football, without them, football is nothing.

Football needs to move on? i think you do sir.

Martin Samuel. Oh dear. Your latest article for the Daily Mail has left me in a slight state of shock. In fact it seems the article has been written in very bad taste. And i do believe it is rather homophobic. For those who have not read the article, the main punchline is that football needs its ‘watershed moment’ somebody must come out as gay and the man to do this? Joey Barton apparently. According to Samuel Rugby and Cricket have ‘had their gay watershed moment’, and apparently football needs one to ‘handle male homosexuality’. This sums it up for me really. The amount of media surrounding football, and journalists such as these, it is no wonder a footballer would not come out as gay, they would be under incredible scrutiny, and it could be said that with Samuel writing an article about homosexuality, that it is he in fact that still has a problem with it. There is no need whatsoever to bring the subject up. Maybe he is the one who cannot ‘handle’ it, and his comments later on in the article suggest just that.

 

The next point that cannot be left is about Hope Powell and her sexuality, Samuel mentions that she has been openly gay for years, however then adds on ‘yet that does not seem to count’. This can be taken a number of ways, it is almost as if he is suggesting that her sexuality should have more attention that it does, and from another viewpoint, that female sexuality is completely worthless to the world of football. This is an extremely sexist point. There is almost complete disregard for her, and is calling for a male to become the ‘gay hero’ instead. This in itself begs the question of sexism in football still. Yes football is a male dominated sport, however the women’s game is on the increase and this comment does seem rather out of place in the modern world. The article then goes on to suggest that Joey Barton should step forward and take the role of a ‘gay hero’. Yet it is the line after this that really gets me.

 

‘Instant credibility, instant respect, untouchable’

 

The main problem with homophobic abuse is the ‘separation’ from society that people feel. This line reiterates the complete and utter difference that people still mention between homosexual people and heterosexual people, an utter disgrace in my opinion. It suggests that this ‘gay hero’ will be completely different to any other player, they will not be able to do anything wrong as they are gay, it also contradicts what Samuel writes earlier. He stated that if someone came out as gay then ‘the sport can get on with its life’, here he is clearly stating that there would be special treatment of this player, and therefore the sport is not moving on at all, in fact it is taking a step backwards. The FA may as well give away free pink t-shirts to any players that come out as gay. Stereotypical? Yes. And unfortunately this is exactly what this article is as well.

 

Another point that also angers me is how Samuel lazily states that a player can ‘choose’ to come out as gay or not. I thought the world had moved on from then, obviously not, identities are not fixed, you do not choose to be gay, and here it almost seems as if the ‘decision’ (if there is such a thing) to be gay is just a publicity stunt. It certainly is not, and i am sure many gay people will say they wish they were never gay as their sexuality is still so scrutinised and even alienated at times. So to use Joey Barton as the example and say that he can easily just come out a gay is a complete farce.

 

The last line of the article? Well it puts the cherry on the top.

 

‘lets face it, with that new accent, he’s probably halfway there.’

 

Brilliant. Samuel finished off with a comment aimed at the French accent being gay. I don’t think there is much to say about this other than that it is completely unacceptable, and here there is no doubt that the comment is homophobic. I hope Samuel receives the criticism for this article that he deserves, it was written with clearly no knowledge of the subject, an insensitive and ultimately discriminative piece of writing.

The Ugly Head Of Modern Football Rears Again

Perhaps I should not have been so shocked this morning to hear the news that Roberto Di Matteo had parted company with Chelsea, however the whole situation this morning is a little bit unreal. Did Chelsea win the Champions league last season? Yes. Are they 3rd in the league at the moment? Yes. So why on earth is he no longer manager of Chelsea? The answer is simple. Abramovich is driven by success, greed and most of all money. Money talks they say, and unfortunately the money and success has backfired on Di Matteo, like a crocodile snapping his head off.

Roman Abramovich’s goal was to win the Champions League, Claudio Ranieri couldn’t achieve it, even the ‘special one’ Jose Mourinho failed in his bid to lift the trophy, Avram Grant came the closest leading Chelsea to the final, yet the trophy was becoming an even heavier burden on every Chelsea managers shoulders. Luiz Felipe Scolari entered the picture before being replaced by Guus Hiddink who swiftly returned to the Russian national team to avoid the axe by Abramovich himself, then came Carlo Ancelotti, he still could not lift THAT trophy. It was then the turn of Andre Villas-Boas infamous reign of Chelsea, which was abruptly ended with Roberto Di Matteo taking over. Di Matteo was not picked by Abramovich yet he was the one who was finally able to lift the most coveted trophy, yet even that could not save him.

Lets strip this back to the bare bones now. Take away everything we know and start from the beginning. Chelsea football club sitting in 3rd place in the Premier League in November. I would be rubbing my hands with glee at the prospect of another title challenge come the end of the season. Now lets add in the factor of Fernando Torres. I believe that Fernando Torres is a factor in this situation. However it is not his fault. Abramovich forked out an incredible £50 million for the player, every single person on this planet (except Abramovich) knew he was not worth that ridiculous money. Since then Torres has had this incredible price tag holding him back. His performances have not mirrored his price tag, but of course Abramovich does not want to be made a fool of.  Instead of giving up hope in Torres, he has given up hope with the manager, perhaps Abramovich feels another manager will be able to get the best out of him? A factor we cannot ignore in this diabolical situation is the greed and success of certain people. Abramovich has tasted success, the satisfaction of lifting the Premier League and now the champions League has turned him blind.

It would be fair to describe him as a thoroughbred racing to the finish line with blinkers on. His eyes, his head are focused on one thing, Success. Driven by greed, every whip from the jockey is another million pound invested into the club, the more money invested into the club, the faster the horse runs, but we aren’t on a computer game here. This is real life. In a race there are other horses that will affect the outcome, even if Abramovich’s horse gives his all, perhaps Mancini’s thoroughbred has that extra bit that will pip them to the line. When the horse has his blinkers taken off he can see he was not in a one horse race, yet for Abramovich those blinkers never come off, and this is his downfall. In fact it could be fair to say that he never quite understands football.

Every football fan knows it is almost impossible to go a season unbeaten (unless you’re the ‘invincibles’) we also know that a manager deserves and needs time, clubs go through blips in seasons its natural. When you’re top players are on the sidelines through injury of course you’re performances are going to drop. We all know that when a team wins, the players are praised, yet when a team loses all heads turn towards the manager, its part of the job, football is a cruel and a tough game for a manager. Yet sometimes its the players that need to take a step back and look at their performances. The manager can spend the whole week before a game preparing the players perfectly, but when they step over that line they must take responsibility for themselves.

Team selection is a trap which managers often fall into, perhaps the dropping of Fernando Torres last night was a trap Di Matteo fell into? But it would be wrong to look into the situation with all the little details like that. The facts are Abramovich never really wanted Di Matteo, but with the success of last season, it would seem absolutely disgraceful for him to have been sacked before being giving a chance this season. The slightest chance Abramovich had of pushing Di Matteo out the door it was done, the door was opened a crack, Di Matteo was squeezed out of the club, and the door was slammed shut as fast as Abramovich sacks managers. (Just a little bit slower than the speed of light)

So what next for Chelsea? The job seems like a managers graveyard, who would want to work under such a cruel person. Yet there will always be people lining up for the job, after all its the club that attracts the managers at the end of the day, who would turn down an opportunity to manage Chelsea? Whoever enters the gates of hell ‘shortly’ will have Abramovich’s axe looming over them from the first defeat. It has got to the stage now where you wonder what the manager has to do. Whoever comes in will have the get the players by the scruff of their necks. get them on their side, playing their heart out every game, and perhaps that will be the only way he will survive, or maybe all they need to do is help Torres shrug off his price tag. I wish the new manager luck at Chelsea, he sure is going to need it, meanwhile Roberto Di Matteo can hold his head high and walk out of Stamford Bridge knowing he won the Champions League, farewell my friend, football is a unforgiving game. Modern football is even tougher, so watch your backs.

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