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All Things Footie | Monday, February 23 | Jordan

They think it’s all over

At the start of the season, I said that as long as Chelsea win nothing this year, hope is alive that money can’t buy you everything in football. Thus I ask all followers of the game who support these sentiments to give thanks to Arsenal Football Club for ending Abramavich’s hopes in the only two competitions that the club had a realistic chance of winning.

I don’t know what’s funnier:

Spurs letting a three nil lead slip … again. I don’t know why it keeps happening, but so long as it does it’ll keep me amused. David Pleat insists he won’t stop the attacking play that’s cost Spurs 13 goals, FA Cup quarter final place and two Premiership points (that could have been many more) in the last four games. Clueless.

Gerard Houllier once again trying to pass the buck for a poor, passionless, Liverpool performance, refusing to accept that his own inadequacies are the problem. With an almost fully fit squad playing a newly promoted club that had to recall loaned players to name a squad of sixteen, he couldn’t blame injuries. The referee gave Liverpool an absolutely scandalous penalty and nearly gave them another one for a handball by (Liverpool player) Milan Baros, so he can’t blame the man in black. Comments like: ‘It’s not about me it’s about the team’ and ‘looking at the performances we had the chances to win both games’ won’t endear him to fans, pundits or players. At some point he has to admit that his passive tactics, dull squad selections and bad buys over the years have as much to do with the results as pitches, luck, injuries and bad weather.

The third and funniest thing to happen was Alex Ferguson’s frankly hilarious attempt at ‘mind-games’ on Saturday morning, when he said:

‘I read this week that Arsenal could go into administration next year. You would hate to think anything like that could happen to a club with such tradition and history.’

Presumably after reading an invisible newspaper, magazine or cigarette packet. This morning, Arsenal announced that the final £260m for their new stadium at Ashburton Grove was in place, and a fourteen year repayment plan agreed with a consortium of banks. Work is progressing on the Ashburton Grove site, and the 60,000 seater stadium is expected to be open for the start of the 2006-7 season. Add that to another win over Chelsea, once again after Abramavich Athletic took the lead, and Leeds earning a point at Old Trafford makes it a very good weekend for Arsenal fans.

For all the talk of joy and happiness (in one half of North London and my own little corner of Cheshire anyway) it would be criminal not to mention the death of John Charles, Il Gigante Buono, who passed away at the beginning of the weekend. I obviously never saw Charles play, I think I’ve only ever seen him on TV a few times, but for so many reasons I have enormous respect for the credit to the Game that he was. I can’t remember a player getting such universal praise both during and after his playing career.

I remember when I was about 14 (I suspect it was during World Cup USA 8216;94) reading a newspaper suppliment where the greatest footballers of all time were gathered together for the compilation of an all time XI. I recognised almost all of the names of course: Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Moore, Banks, Eusebio, Beckenbauer, even the likes of Dixie Dean, but this enormous Welshman that made the shortlist completely bamboozled me. I’d never seen or heard of this giant of a man, yet I read how he was one of the first British players to move abroad, how he became a legend at Juventus, scoring a remarkable 93 goals in 155 games on the way to three Italian league titles in five years—I read how he’d never been booked or sent off in his eighteen year career. Later, in 1997, Juventus fans voted him the best foreigner ever to play for the club—ahead of Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane. He was a giant, a genius and a gent. They truly don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

John Charles, 1931-2004, RIP.

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