All Things Footie

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All Things Footie | Monday, March 27 | Jordan

Just end it now / Refs

For football’s sake, just finish the season now. Apart from the fact that Chelsea are the most classless and distasteful team in modern memory, it’s just getting boring. As well as being one of the lowest quality seasons in the last decade playing wise, I’m convinced this is the worst season of refereeing I’ve seen too. This is not a comment motivated by any one particular action over the weeked, just a general thought I’ve been mulling over for a while.

I recall earlier this season that Clive Thomas (ex head of Refereeing, former World Cup Referee and High Sheriff of Mid Glamorgan) said that the current crop of referees were awful, and that our ‘best’ (Graham Poll) wouldn’t have been good enough to ref in the top flight—let alone a World Cup—in his day. Strong words, but accurate nonetheless in this author’s opinion. Maybe it’s because there have been a lot of new referees promoted to the Premiership in the last couple of years, or maybe it’s because football’s getting more difficult to referee, but I can’t remember a season more inconsistently refereed.

If you cast your mind back to the opening weeks of the 05/06 season, you’ll remember a number of red cards for challenges considered ‘dangerous’—not necessitating contact, but simply challenges that are stupid and dangerous. Given that most of the refereeing ‘initiatives’ over the past few seasons have centered around pointless legislation against dissent and shirt-pulling, I was most happy to see the true thugs finally having action taken against them. Only problem was that it just lasted a fortnight. Come December you have Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Michael Essien attempting to break kneecaps every week without so much as a booking half of the time.

It’s long been my belief that a well refereed game requires only that the players be happy with the ref’s performance—not outrageous feats of incident spotting, not being cool and calm, and not even getting the ‘big’ decisions right all the time—but it’s still an impossible task, surely? Players are never happy with referees … well, I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as that. I think if the players respect the referee, if the official is consistent in his application of the laws and is (above all) honest about his decisions, he will be fairly treated by the players. The two major problems with refs at the moment is that they’re both inconsisent, defensive, and whiney little powermongers who deserve all the respect they’re not given. How is a working class lad from a rough area of a rough city supposed to respect a schoolmaster from Harrow? Half the time he’s playnig football to get away from that kind of snotty superiority.

Don’t get me wrong; I respect unconditionally what referees do, and I actually think that at grass roots level it’s close to being spot on. In sunday and local Saturday leagues up and down the country, ex players (who’ve fallen foul of injury or a ‘real’ job) and local enthusiasts take control of games with little or no real problem. Players usually appreciate that some guy has taken time out of his day off to allow them to do something they love doing. At the highest level though, it’s all wrong. Too much politics and too much backslapping; too many referees chosen because they’re good in press conferences. There needs to be more of the kind of ref that could punch Wayne Rooney’s lights out, and give him a mouthful at the same time, someone who’s from the same kind of background as the players they’re supposed to be controlling.

Fewer white, middle-class referees would be a start, it’s hardly reflective of the men on the pitch that I can only think of one black ref in the history of the Premiership, and—dare I say it—the introduction of some continental European refs.

Referees are not the root of all 05/06’s ills, not by a long shot, but the standard this year has been particularly poor, and it’s something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later by the powers that be.

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All Things Footie | Monday, March 20 | Jordan

A change is gonna come

Once more, it’s refreshing to see Jose Mourinho gracious in defeat; after (for once) a ref and a linesman getting a crucial and difficult decision correct, all Moanrinho had to say was:

“It’s a handball so it’s not a goal and the decision is correct.

“What is not correct is the referee didn’t see and allows the goal, the linesman didn’t see but after pressure by Fulham they changed their decision.”

I’m not entirely sure what he’s trying to say there? Apart from “the decision didn’t go my way so I’ll have a moan”. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in the mantra show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser, but there’s a difference between being a good loser, and being a gracious loser. From what I heard and read, Chelsea were quite rightly beaten; and I think that more concentration on their own faults (no creativity, shit forwards, over-reliance on two players) and less on the dull, paranoid fantasy of a growing conspiracy against them, and the general populous may not hate them quite as much as everyone seems to. It’d also help if they weren’t bankrolled by corrupt Russian oil money and dull as ditchwater to watch, but that’s just an aside.

One of Chelsea’s main insecurities (and one that I’m sure wrangles with that bottom-feeding, power-hungry, big-head Peter Kenyon) is that they’re excluded from the G14 group of Europe’s most powerful clubs; whose attentions are interestingly elsewhere….

To those who are not aware, there’s a court case going on in Belgium at the moment, where Sporting Charleoi are suing FIFA after their Moroccan player Abdelmajid Oulmers was injured while on International duty with Morocco (playing Burkina Faso in a friendly). Any regular readers will know my thoughts on International football, and making international associations a little more accountable would be a welcome change for me. I’m not interested in the slightest in International football, it bores me, it’s of a lower level that top club football, and it proves nothing.

To save you all a lot of reading, the case is essentially asking whether National associations should continue to have their ‘answer to no one’ control over players’ availability. Should they still be able to call on a player for a meaningless and tiring friendly half way around the world, then return them to their employer unable to work and be totally unaccountable for what happened under their supervision? In my opinion, they absolutely should not. In season friendlies are stupid, and pointless; moreso when the international manager in question insists on using 11 half time subs.

Whatever happens with it, it’ll be interesting to watch it progress—particularly with fellow G14 member, and French Champions, Lyon filing a similar lawsuit. It could have as much impact on football as the Bosman ruling, and it’ll certainly alter how International football works; something that’s needed an overhaul for a long time.

Further reading:

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All Things Footie | Friday, March 10 | Jordan

Laughs, English, Europe

I love it when a story really makes you chuckle. I would hazard a guess that Wayne Rooney has read less books in his life than I’ve scored Premiership Goals, yet that hasn’t stopped Harper Collins signing him up for a minimum five book deal (BBC News) for a staggering five million pounds.

“It will be good for people to hear things from me for once,” he said. Presumably, by ‘from me’ he means, ‘from my ghostwriter’. I love literature, I love reading, and while I relise it’s just the way of things, I can’t help but hate the fact that brilliant minds and authors go unhearalded and—financially at least—relatively unrewarded while sloppy ghostwriters like arsehole extrordinaire Eamon Dunphy get a slice of millions for writing the biography of a sodding 19 year-old simpleton. Great footballer, but Wayne Rooney could talk non-stop for the next 30 years and still not have anything interesting to say.

After two fantastic performances with an entire back four out injured, it seems that some people still aren’t happy. Both Alan Pardew and the most worthless, useless waste of space in English football (which is some achievement) Gordon Taylor, have ‘slammed’ Arsenal’s lack of Englishmen. While part of me agrees to some extent, the simple truth is that English players fall in to one of three categories at present:

  1. They’re rubbish, over-rated and over-valued
  2. They’re doggedly loyal club-servants
  3. They’re good players, but have attitudes you could demolish walls with

As some people have already pointed out, if you look at all of the teams with high proportions of English players (Birmingham, West Ham, Manchester City, Newcastle, Charlton, Middlesbrough and West Brom all have 10 or more) then you’re looking at the gutter of the Premiership. Relegation battlers and sides going nowhere. My main problem with particularly the good, young English players, is their attitude and arrogance. I’ve said it plenty of times before, but on the continent and elsewhere in the World, footballers generally behave like professionals, they work hard to earn their place and other players’ respect. As soon as any young English footballer is told he’s going to be a great player—by peers, managers or press—they turn into teenage prima-donnas, demanding wage-hikes, ‘respect’ and first team places. Instead of knuckling down, they think the hard work is done and the rest of their career rests on them just turning up and showing off their majesty. Even the ones that do work hard and play brilliantly are prone to getting off with septugenarean prostitutes and getting in fights every weekend.

Now don’t get me wrong, this behaviour affects players in all countries at all levels, but everywhere else it is the exception, here it’s just accepted as part of the way things are. ‘Boys will be boys’. Bollocks.

As you may have guessed, I’m really enjoying the Champions League this season, and not just because for the first time in a very long time it’s not been a disappointing platform for my club. The Champions League is about the big boys; while it’s momentarily thrilling to see the likes of Porto, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco progress to the latter stages, there’s not a football fan in the world (excepting perhaps the fans of said teams) that doesn’t want to see Juventus, AC Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Ajax, Man Utd, Arsenal, Liverpool et al in the latter stages. There have been some thrilling matches so far—with some teams heading out earlier than they should have done—and more are in prospect. It really should be a feast of football.

Was I sorry to see Chelsea head out of Europe? No, and even less so after Jose Mourinho proved once again that money and a Barclaycard advert doesn’t give you class. After a game where no-one—even the most die hard Chelsea fan—could argue that the best team didn’t run out winners in the overall tie, only someone as classless and arrogant as Mourinho could try and argue that Barcelona can’t beat Chelsea with 11 men. How about Chelsea can’t keep 11 men on the pitch against Barcelona because they have to resort to kicking, pushing and fouling as they’re being dicked on by the better team?

Whatever I think about Real Madrid—and it’s not much—I have to give them a grudging respect for at least spedning their ill-gotten government cash on the most entertaining players. For assembling a team containg Zinedine Zidane, Figo, Raul, Ronaldo, Beckham and Roberto Carlos—however disjointed they are/were, I have to tip my hat. Only a team as truly vile as Chelsea could spend more money, but buy dross, dull, defenders and technically bereft centre forwards (Crespo aside). Even their flair players are just kick and run merchants. If Chelsea v Barcelona showed us anything, it’s that in a time when every Tom, Dick and Allardyce think that 4-5-1 is exciting, flair can still beat industry, which is why I love football.

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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