All Things Footie

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All Things Footie | Tuesday, May 31 | Jordan

Go outside

I'm in Italy for the next 14 days, so football (or at least All Things Footie) is being relegated to the back of my mind. Have a good two weeks everyone.

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All Things Footie | Thursday, May 26 | Jordan

Where do I start?

On Saturdays, teams who are resoundingly outplayed yet come away with a draw and win a cup final on penalties are bad, bad people and lucky bastards who deserve nothing.

On Wednesdays, identical happenings are woderful, magical occurances that will be savoured for decades.

Discuss.

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All Things Footie | Monday, May 16 | Jordan

Ups and Downs II

Two things to talk about today. Firstly, I’ll start with the positive—good on you West Brom. I’m chuffed for the baggies for so many reasons: defying the odds, staying up because they were bold enough to play some decent football and win games rather than just ground out draws for the closing months trying not to lose; and last but not least, for showing a true display of footballing support yesterday. Scenes of mass pitch invasions (in joy rather than anger) have been a rare sight in the Premiership, and that just makes them all the more emotional and stirring when they do happen. It tweaked my cynical old heart-strings to see the crowds of jubilant Albion fans boing-boing-ing around the pitch after the final whistle yesterday; even the police couldn’t be arsed trying to control them. For all the big-money glamour of Chelsea, for all the mercurial-swagger of Arsenal, for all the bitterness and anger of United; it was truly wonderful to have a day belonging to a good honest team whose fans couldn’t have been happier had they won the European Cup.

With the joy comes sadness of course, and I really felt for Nigel Worthington and Iain Dowie—two managers who came to the premiership with the right attitude, and who’ve overseen clubs who’ve been a credit to the top league over the last nine months admirably. It’s a cliché, but it’s a shame anyone had to go down this year, and I’d rather have a Palace or a Norwich in the Premiership than a side of useless cloggers like Blackburn.

The rest of the fixtures on the final day were pretty uch immaterial, with the slight exception of the head-to-head battle for the UEFA cup spot between Manchester City and Middlesbrough. I wanted City to win that one, partly because I like Stuart Pearce and partly because the only thing duller than Steve McLaren are Middlesbrough’s away performaces. The game did teach Stuart Pearce one important lesson though; never trust Robbie Fowler. The biggest bottler in football with all his heart having left the game the day he left Liverpool; I’d have given that penalty to Danny Mills over him. Given his impact on the season so far however, I’d have let Shaun-Wright Phillips step up for it.

On to topic number 2: Malcolm Glazier.

I’ve talked about this before, and frankly, I’m sick of whinging United fans and I have a message to them all: Your club IS a PLC (which means that members of the public are able to buy bits of it), this means you can make a lot of money issuing shares (which you have, and used it to become the richest club in the world) but opens you up to the market where anyone (yes, ANYONE) can buy a piece of you, as large or as small as he/she can afford. Malcolm Glazier has gotten together enough money to buy pretty much all of you. Tough shit if you don’t like it, I haven’t seen you complaining about the money it brought in to the club from 1991 onwards.

Maybe Glazier is just going to use United as a useful revenue stream; after all, it’s a very profitable business, and could make him a lot of money. Maybe he’ll use them to shift his debts onto and use essentially as a guarantee on his loans (making United and all assets potentially reposessable if he defaults on any loans), or maybe he’s just having a bit of fun.

This is a lesson to all the clubs that have listed, or are thinking about listing, on public investment markets: do it at your own peril. If bad things happen to United (they end up groundsharing with Altrincham at Moss Lane, or packing up and leaving á la MK Dons) then it will not ‘be the end of football as we know it’ as many United Supporters Groups are trying to ram down our throats; it will merely be the sorry end of a club who saw profits and money before football, and in this author’s opinion it will be no disaster but a fitting end to a club obsessed with branding, marketing and making money.

I have one wholly hypothetical and mildly ridiculous question for united fans that I’d be genuinely interested in hearing the answer to:

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All Things Footie | Tuesday, May 10 | Jordan

Ups and downs

As a bald, cockney prophet once intoned in support of Britains largest telecomms network: it’s good to talk. I love talking about football—it’s the whole reason I started this site in the first place—and I may be giving away a big secret here, but many of the opinions and ideas voiced on all things footie are not entirely of my own making. Ideas and opinions are gleaned from friends and relatives, arguing in the pub, or late at night with very large Havana Club’s in hand and the promise of a splitting headache the next morning. The following idea was first put to me in the early hours of the morning a couple of weeks ago by my brother, over a large bottle of Johhny Walker and another of Sloe Gin (not mixed I hasten to add). I made a mental note* to share it with you all—so here it is.

* Actually, not being one to trust my faculty of memory too strongly after a nip too much whiskey, I wrote it on a piece of paper. That I’ve now lost.

Promotion and relegation are always a battlefield of emotions. While the supporters of Wigan and at the opposite end of the Championship, Crewe, rejoice; those of Gillingham and Bournmouth see their hopes crumble like an over-dunked hob-nob. With Europe on offer, and serious financial benefits of finishing just one place higher in the Premiership, little further incentive is needed to motivate clubs to keep playing past March, and there’s no doubt at all that the playoffs—and the scramble for places that ensues in spring—are essential for keeping the division(s) alive in the closing few months.

Given that however, there’s a part of me that finds them intrinsically unjust. Sure, there’s romance in a team who places sixth, 20 points behind 3rd place, getting promotion by playing a three good games; but is it sensible to send up a team who has a significantly reduced hope of making it in the higher division when a ‘better’ team could go up instead? After all, isn’t that why we promote first, second etc. rather than just drawing from a hat at the end of the season? To send the better teams up? Surely, if we have faith in the league system, a team placed third is better than a team placed fourth, so they should go up.

If we want to keep the play-offs in some form or another (and I think we should), but we also want to offer a better chance of promoting better teams, then why not mess about with the format a little?

Staggered play-offs

Promote the top two teams, but restructure the playoff matches so they run as follows (With all three rounds played over one-leg at neutral venues):

That way, finishing third means you only have to win one game to go up—you still have to win a game, it’s not a gimmie by any stretch of the imagination, but you afford yourself a little rest at least. The first and second rounds may just tire the side that reaches the final (though they will have played no more games than they would at present), but they may give them a good running start—in the same way we often see inter-toto cup entrants start the domestic season well in the premiership.

If the third placed team has been much better throughout the season than those placed lower, you’d expect them to progress more easily in this system than the current one, but if it was tight, you’d expect the run-up to have an effect.

Punish the slackers

If third place in the Championship gives you a shot at promotion, why not give the third from bottom team in the Premiership a shot at staying up? A straight playoff between the two sides would be a massively interesting game, and in cases where good sides are going down and poor sides trying to go up, it’d keep the quality in the top division as high as possible. It does however play into the rich getting richer/poor getting poorer model. Sometimes, crap teams morally deserve a shot at the big-league; even if it’s just to make a bit of cash (though promoted sides rarely make any money in their first year in the Premiership due to silly transfers and high wage bills and bonus packages.

However significant this effect, it could be balanced by forcing a playoff between fourth from bottom in the Premiership and fourth place in the Championship; ditto for fifth and sixth. Teams from lower divisions regularly upset the ‘big boys’ in the FA and League Cup, so why not now; when there’s even more at stake. The beauty of this system would be that at the end of these kind of playoffs you could have as many as 6 teams swapping places, or as few as two. There’d always be some changeover so it wouldn’t be boring, but it’d make the teams five or six places from the bottom of the league and safe from relegation (but no hope of Europe) something to play for.

What do you lot think?

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All Things Footie | Tuesday, May 3 | Jordan

Chelsea plod to title

You won’t find any sour grapes here, Chelsea have been the best team this season by a stretch, and deserve the league without a doubt, but they categorically have not been as ‘phenomenal’ or ‘incredible’ as I’m so consistently told they have been by the hyped up Sky Sports presenters. They’ve been incredibly consistent, yes, they’ve won a large percentage of their games by grinding out results and winning the war of attrition that results when both sides play safety first, absolutely. There hasn’t been the mercurial swagger that United and (particularly) Arsenal have brought to many of their recent Premiership triumphs, which is clear in the fact that their almost unanimously accepted best player is a centre half. Where we’ve had phenomenal seasons from Henry, Pires and Ljungberg, or Giggs, Scholes and van Nistelrooij; this year we’ve had Terry, Cech and Lampard. Well, one attacking midfielder out of three aint bad. Sure, Robben, Duff and Gudjonsen have also made significant contributions, and it’s important to recognise the success of a real team-effort over an individual’s brilliance, but any fan would be hard-pressed to say that this Chelsea team is one of the greatest sides they’ve ever seen. Even if they go on to win the Champions League.

There’s no doubt that on there day Chelsea can be devastating, scoring bags of goals seemingly effortlessly (see the first 20 minutes against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in-particular), but their game is based not on improvisation and fluidity of movement—of their attacking players only Robben has that true gliding quality and magic feet—but on careful organisation, meticulous distribution and above all else a dogged determination to keep plugging familiar routes to goal. Give it to Duff, run, cross, head. Give it to Robben, run, shoot. Hoof it to Drogba, pick up the scraps from the knockdown. And they do it over and over again. And it usually works. Which far from being a critisim, is a good tactic; it wins games, points, and leagues.

I said at the start of the year that if Chelsea won the league it would be a defeat for good, honest football, and I stand by that. While other sides have to a large extent bought success (or have tried to), it’s at least been accountable cash that’s financed them. Manchester United’s brilliant marketing strategies generating millions; lifelong Blackburn fan Jack Walker ploughing his hard earned cash into his team; steady, consistent success and frugality giving Arsenal a few bob to throw around; the loyal patronage of Newcastle’s toon army keeping the club’s coffers topped up. It’s a very different situation to the billions available to Chelsea on the whim of a Russian oligarch who wanted a new play-thing. It’s absolutely true and to their credit that the two most effective and influential Chelsea players this season have been Lampard and Terry, homegrown (of sorts) and there pre-Abramovich. But would Chelsea have achieved all they have without spending the best part of £200m on Robben, Duff, Makelele, Drogba, Tiago, Carvalho, Cech, Ferrara, Johnson, Bridge, Kezman, Crespo, Mutu (alright, scratch the last three)? The answer of course, is no way.

Regardless of all that I’ve said above, part of me is glad that the United/Arsenal stranglehold has been broken and that there’s some serious competition at the top of the table now. I do like Jose Mourinho; he’s colourful, he’s fun, he’s honest, and I’ve always admired John Terry. Chelsea may be a bit dull every now and then, but at least they play football, which is more than can be said of Manchester United circa 2005. One thing I must add; talk of Chelsea dominance by all and sundry is very short-sighted and blissfully naïve. Arsenal have been uncharacteristically poor this season, part due to Jose Reyes inability to adjust to England, part due to serious injuries to Gilberto, Sol Campbell and Patrick Vieira, and part due to some erratic goalkeeping. United too have been very poor on the whole, and Liverpool’s aims too unfocused. I expect next year to be much tighter, and I don’t expect Chelsea to romp the league. Not by a long shot.

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  1. Punishment should fit the crime
  2. Ouch
  3. Tevez and Mascherano madness
  4. Predictions
  5. Warming up
  6. The World Cup II
  7. The World Cup
  8. Thought for the day
  9. Ready children? Then let's begin
  10. Don't say I never give you anything