‘Football has f$cked itself’ and it started with Chelsea and got much, much worse
There is more talk of sportswashing in a Mailbox that also takes in Arsenal, Lucas Moura and Crystal Palace.
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We should not defend the indefensible for football
So, amongst many good points, Levenshulme Blue mentions the story of East Manchester and the resident thereof, this was exactly my point – do you honestly think that ‘the Abu Dhabi lads’ give one single shite about the locals near the stadium, any more than they give to the workers who are the ones that really pay for the oil profits?
Up to 10,000 (Guardian article) are estimated to die in the region each year, still at least there’s something nice to look at in East Manchester. I’ve been to the UAE as my daughter lived there for a while, we went out on a day trip and were driven at speed past a large collection of huts/portacabins several miles outside the city, this is where the migrant workers are ‘housed’. Fences surrounded the compound, there was no public transport available, the only way out of the area was by employer run buses that ferried the workers to their employment and back each day – and the workers had to pay for that too.
This is the reality of the situation that pays for the nice shiny things in your trophy cabinet. Your neighbours now seem to be ready to pick from a Qatari banker (with obviously no connection to the State, but who can somehow rustle up £6Bn) or that lovely Mr Ratcliffe, proponent of Brexit who moved to Monaco for tax reasons and is building his next car in France because Brexit has made it too difficult to make a profit on it in the UK. Football has f$cked itself, and will only unf$ck itself when the playthings of the rich disappear off into the super league in whatever guise it takes.
Oh, and by the way, no I wouldn’t be defending them if it was my club, I’d walk away. But then leaving a sinking ship is hardly the most radical action! Leeds United has been part of my life since 1970, but I couldn’t stomach being an apologist for that sort of regime as owner, easy to say with the club in dire trouble at the bottom of the league but the proliferation of multi billionaires at the top is taking away any sense that clubs can challenge for the title.
Steve Leeds since 1970 and likely to be much longer as we aren’t worth the investment!
…Levenshulme blue says
‘ because if they were YOUR owners, you’d be defending them.’
And that right there is the issue. There’s one set of folk in the world for whom this applies. Their team. Their friends. Their family. Their country. No matter the crime. No matter the cause. No matter the c**titute perpetrated. Always defend.
I wonder how far that goes? Is there anything yours could do that might make you admit that maybe just maybe those ain’t idols you worship, but people. With flesh and blood and flaws? In one way I almost envy that kind of lack of thinking. Life must be so easy when everything is so black and white. Though the knots you have to tie yourself in would make my head hurt.
But in another, much more substantial way, I pity folk like you. You have to approach everything with such certainty, and make these opinions such an integral part of your personality, that when reality creeps in, as it always does, it must hurt. It’s a toxic way to view the world, and without hyperbole on my part, it’s responsible for so much of the shit we have to live with.
To utterly disprove you sir, my owners tried to join the super league. I will never forgive them, and it exposed them for the greedy, vile, self serving c**ts I already knew them to be. See levenshulme blue. You don’t have to childishly defend your owners. It’s easy not to and you even get to use the word C**t.
The state of football and its ownership
Here are two extreme versions of high-level football. I am not saying either one is perfect, or even desirable/workable in the real world. They are hypothetical:
On the left we have football for the people, for society. Clubs are 100% democratically owned by their fans. A ticket in every ground costs the same affordable amount. A salary cap ensures all players get the same extortionate wage (compared to 99% of the world population) for being in the squad. There are no transfer fees, players can register for their team on 3 year contracts and can be swapped and traded between clubs. A more than living wage can be paid to all employees of the club. Any profits made by clubs after this goes to local charities and grass roots around the club and nationally. Football is sustainable and enjoyed by all. No club goes to the wall. No club overspends for an advantage. Equal playing field for all clubs.
On the right we have an ultra capitalist system. Money is all that matters. Clubs can be owned by anyone at all regardless of background. Nation states with money from all across the world can invest, as well as criminal organisations, hucksters and even Elon Musk. Maximum cash is extracted from fans at every opportunity to set against the money being poured in for whatever dubious reason the owner has. From sports washing and money laundering to dick swinging billionaire contests. Players get paid whatever their agents can squeeze from the clubs while other staff are on minimum wage. If you have the money, you too can have success. This is what sport is. Win at all costs. In every arena, sporting and financial. Everything else is secondary. Win.
Clearly football currently exists somewhere in-between these two places.
I would like to think, optimistically admittedly, that most sensible lovers of football would like it moved closer to the left scenario. (Again, I am not saying the left scenario is perfect or at all workable… this is a spectrum). Yet over the past 10-20 years it is racing towards the right hand side.
Now, moving football towards the right hand scenario is easy. You just need money. Lots of it admittedly. But you just need money. Bid more for clubs when the chance comes. Pay for the best lawyers, PR gurus and accountants. Pay for nice things, make yourself look like butter wouldn’t melt to your own fans. If you’ve got the money then you control the narrative of your club.
Moving it towards the left is insanely difficult. You need two things. A united fanbase across all clubs that believe in making that change (See the reaction to the European Super League nonsense) and/or a strong government/independent body to impose its will. Now, the real kicker is that money interferes here too…. fans can’t organise if you set them against each other. Stoke up the rhetoric and division using traditional and social media. Dangle big shiny expensive signings (or even just rumours) in front of them. Bring the glamour, the drama, the pizazz. Distract the fans. Money also buys you political influence (either political party has been guilty of this in the past although the current lot seem to have turned it into an art form) hamstringing a government into the status quo or subtly tipping laws/regulations into their favour.
Look. Maybe you look at the right hand scenario and think. “Yeah, brilliant!”. If so, then fair enough. I get it. If that is what football is to you, what gets your dopamine flowing then more power to you. You want to push football that way, defend your dubious owners, because at the moment your club is richer than God and they do/say/buy you nice things? Ok. I just feel football could be better, it could mean more.
I don’t have an answer. The way this country is at the moment, with everyone worrying about their own problems and situations means any collective action is difficult. If people won’t riot about being taken for a ride regards to their gas/electric bills and general cost of living imposed on us by a badly run government then they are going to be even more apathetic about who owns a football club. I get it. I’m not rioting either. I just know that big money is taking advantage of all of us and especially our game. Even if we don’t take action against this shift, the least we can do is not actively help it further down that road.
Funstar (If all the worst possible human traits across history could be condensed into one organism you would end up with Bruno Fernandes) Andy
Football is over
Growing up in actual bandit country during the troubles it was essential to compartmentalise everything to allow you to continue to live your life in the middle of all the shootings and car bombs. As much as you could of course because in Northern Ireland virtually everything is politicised. English football specifically was one of the few things you could escape into for some respite from the unrelenting pervasiveness of politics. As humans we’re not mentally prepared for our lives to be consumed by weaponised politics 24 hours a day. We need some things that don’t define whether we’re good or bad people. Just things that are what they are like 22 people kicking a football around a pitch for a couple of hours.
The problem now with English football is that you’ve already lost and you just don’t know it. You lost when you allowed the first proxy nation state to buy Chelsea. You’re so far down the rabbit hole that your arguments are now about exactly how despotic your local sports club can be before it’s too despotic. It’s sad because you had this wonderful thing and you gave it away and now some of you have to square away actual human rights atrocities to follow your football club.
Some of you don’t even get the severity of the situation and equate a brown envelope in 1910 with the jailing of raped women for adultery. I can’t say anything about Fred West because I once put a plastic bottle in the general waste bin.
I guess the point of this mail is to say that the thing needed to be the thing. Football needed to be football if we’re to survive as human beings. We need respite, we need a safe haven. When you’re doing research to see exactly how many people your football club has stoned to death then we’ve crossed the Rubicon. Pack it up lads, we’re done here. Find something else to do that’s not about geopolitical soft warfare and for the love of Bob protect it this time.
SC, Belfast (Taking up crochet)
A funny old season for Liverpool
What a season this has been. As we approach the endgame, I just wanted to share a few thoughts on the highs and lows of supporting Liverpool this season.
Let’s be honest, it’s been a disaster overall. To go from quadruple-chasing, two-trophy-winning machine, to ‘which Liverpool will we get’ has been a tough one to take. But in all seriousness, it’s had some proper ‘this is why we bother moments’.
A short list of highlights if I may:
Obviously beating United 7 nil was the big one. Enough has been said about that, but still, 7 nil! A result for the ages.
Finally beating City in the league. Sadly, not impacting anything meaningful, but we’d not beaten City in the League since 2019. Add to this it was when we were expected to lose heavily, the joy of that Salah goal should not be underplayed.
Diogo Jota, the return. A lot of focus on not scoring for a year, but it’s a bit moot, in that time he firstly created a lot of chances, secondly was injured quite a bit and third did a tonne of work for the team. Nice to have him back and firing – helping to build a bit of optimism before next season.
Nunez showing us what he is. A good debut season, he brought pace, power and directness to the forward play. His finishing needs (a lot) of work. But an exciting signing with better to come. And that finish against Madrid – if we’d not been absolutely outclassed it’d be goal of the season! Same for Gakpo btw, who looks class.
The other big wins, 9 nil, 7-1, 6-1, forget xG, these were just thoroughly enjoyable hammerings. If you can’t enjoy these, then try something else.
4-3 vs Spurs. A season summed up. Elation, nerves, frustration, crushing disappointment, last-minute winner, youtube highlights in the morning.
Also mentions in the awards stakes for Salah and Alisson, whose continued excellence have kept us competitive at times. Let’s not forget Salah has still scored 27 goals this season. Approx 1/3 of our total.
So even in this strange season, we’ve a handful of top memories. As Liverpool fans we’ve known more success than anyone else, and we’re lucky to be in such a privileged position that 5th (currently?!) is a let-down. Football, eh?
Five games to play, enjoy them if you can Reds, it’s going to be a long summer.
Arsenal future is bright
Reading Rami’s mail from Monday and I don’t know what’s funnier. Thinking Arsenal is the benchmark to compare his Man Utd team to or thinking Arsenal can somehow pry De Ligt/Rudiger from their respective clubs.
Good for you if you win the FA Cup and the League Cup and good for Arsenal if the finish second. We’ve been saying it for months here in this mailbox but it was nice to hear Giannis put it in context. None of you here can be more disappointed than any Arsenal player. They spent two-thirds of the league in first and won’t win it. Disappointing but trying to paint this as a failure is shocking and distasteful. Next year, we will demand more from these players (as we should) but this year they’ve met the target they set for themselves; Return to the Champs League for the first time in 7 years. Full stop. End of story. Trying to sell this “failure” narrative is just funny.
P.S Can I just say how proud I am of the Arsenal women team. This season, I’ve watched pretty much all the games available live. My very first game live at the Emirates was watching the women’s team in the Champions League and I loved every minute of it. To have come this far without four of the best players in the team is just crazy. It just hard not to love Arsenal as a whole now and just excited to see what the future holds for both these teams.
It would appear not to be a popular opinion, but Graeme Souness is my favourite pundit. He dominates the studio like a Lion like he did on the pitch. Watch his body language and the others around him. In an age of beta males.. it is sad to see one of the last true alphas be put to pasture.
I don’t watch the build up to games anymore , 90% adverts and the panel don’t enlighten me whatsoever. Waste of time. But I would always like to listen to Graeme’s opinion . He put his swingers on the line (see Liverpool vs Utd when he was mocked by Keane and Neville) and only this Sunday gone, I wanted to hear his comments after Liverpool vs Spurs . Again , he was spot on, especially re the (non) penalty for Spurs and the yellow for Skip vs Jota.
I bet he chose the game at the weekend to bow out because his first ever club in England was actually Tottenham, not Liverpool . He never played a game for Spurs (may have played one game). He knocked on Bill Nicholson door demanding to play but was swiftly moved on to Middlesbrough for 30K, so the young upstart had every confidence in his ability even back then.
A true legend and real leader of the game. Cleaned up trophy wise. For those that cannot remember his playing days … he was an absolute monster of a man. Imagine Gerrard but much more tactically disciplined. If Jude Bellingham is worth 130 million, Mr Souness wouldn’t be far off this price tag in today’s market. He wasn’t simply a brute either (you needed to be tough in those days) but his technical ability and goal scoring prowess was right up there. They guy was a force of nature and his will to win was second to none. Any top team today with aspirations of winning their domestic league and Europe would take peak Graeme in a flash.
Will be missed in some quarters.
Ben (Also assigned by Kenny Dalglish to be Kelly’s bodyguard around Liverpool) Howarth
The descent of Moura
His awful assist for Jota on Sunday afternoon got me to thinking about Lucas Moura, and what’s happened to him and Spurs over the last four years.
In May 2019, he scored a beautiful hat trick in Amsterdam to move Pochettino to tears, and Spurs to the final. He didn’t start that final, he should have started that final. Prior to it he scored the first hat-trick at Spurs new stadium. He was in fine form.
After this, his contributions in the first games of new managers is quite something –
November 2019. He scores in Mourinho’s first game in charge. A 3-2 win at West Ham
April 2021. Spurs have sacked Mourinho and Ryan Mason is pitted against Pep in the League Cup Final. Spurs lose 1-0 but BBC Sport tells us that Moura is Spurs highest rated outfield player.
August 2021. With Kane on the bench trying to force a move to Manchester, Moura, Son and Bergwijn terrorise the Man City defence in Nuno’s first game in charge, a 1 – 0 win.
November 2021. He scores against Vitesse Arnhem in Conte’s first game in charge.
March 2023. He is sent off minutes after coming on as a sub in Cristian Stellini’s first game away at Everton
April 2023. Provides a lovely unintended assist for Jota to score the winner at Anfield, minutes after coming on as a sub.
It’s interesting to see the contributions turn from positive to negative as the changes mount up. It’s almost like Spurs have taken this talent, who has had some injury problems, and wasted it with a string of managerial changes and hapless mismanagement. Who knew change could be so unsettling…
All the best
Andrew, Woodford Green
From the Palace…
It’s hard to know what I admired more: his level-headed captaincy; his goal, finished with the cool-headedness of Mo Salah; or the way he left an opponent in a heap and jogged back into position with the cold-blooded remorselessness of Stuart Pearce.
* For roughly 24 hours that was the maddest 4-3 of the Premier League weekend. Crystal Palace v West Ham United is an underrated Premier League fixture: there are always goals (there hasn’t been a 0-0 since 2012 in the Championship), there is often late drama, and there has been the occasional spectacular goal.
* The best news of the day was the return of Wilfried Zaha to the starting lineup. While Leicester City were beaten after he went off injured, then Southampton and Leeds United were dispatched with minimal fuss, the Eagles had faltered in the last couple of games, failing to score against Everton or Wolverhampton. Like all of his attacking teammates, Zaha was excellent against United.
* Just as Patrick Vieira regularly praised what he inherited from Roy Hodgson before reverting to the previous era’s worst traits, Hodgson has praised the way Vieira has improved the squad, and paid tribute to his successor/predecessor by picking a team that couldn’t defend against set pieces. United opened the scoring on Saturday when a corner from the right landed on Michael Olise’s head. He appeared to nod it down perfectly for a teammate to clear, but instead Tomas Soucek reacted quickest.
* It didn’t take long for Olise to make amends. He received a pass from Cheick Doucoure and attracted the attention of two defenders, whom he split with a pass. This allowed Jordan Ayew to make a diagonal run into the box and fire into the bottom corner. Olise and Ayew combined again a few minutes later, the Frenchman exploiting space down the right and finding Ayew at the near post with a low cross. Instead of shooting, he flicked the ball across the goal to Zaha, who stabbed it home to give his side the lead. The lead was doubled on the half hour mark. United were too casual with the ball near their own penalty area, allowing Jeffrey Schlupp to steam forwards and rob Soucek before slotting a composed finish through Lukasz Fabianski’s legs.
With only a few minutes left in a frantic first half, United gave themselves a lifeline from another corner. A near post flick-on found Michail Antonio unmarked to nod home at the far post.
* United were a bit aggrieved by the decision to award a penalty for a foul by Nayef Aguerd. It looked soft, but Aguerd grabs hold of Eberechi Eze’s shirt, so it’s clearly a foul, but one that doesn’t get awarded if Eze stays on his feet. I’d be annoyed if the referee had awarded it against Palace, but I’d also be annoyed with my defender’s poor play. Having won the spot kick, Eze put it away to give Palace yet another dangerous two-goal lead. They were surprisingly less vocal about the goal by Aguerd that rounded off the scoring with a suspicion of handball.
* A couple of weeks ago, the Totally Football Show were pushing all over their social media channels what they claimed was a brilliant analogy by Benji Lanyado, suggesting Zaha was the equivalent to the seventh sugar in Bob Mortimer’s tea, or too much of a good thing alongside Palace’s other skilful attackers. This missed the point, subsequently explained by Hodgson, that Zaha is one of the best players in the Premier League at unlocking defences, something his teammates struggle to do. Unmentioned at the time, Lanyado is a United fan, a club that has never particularly admired the Ivorian, so it’s tempting to describe Saturday’s result as too sweet.
* It’s player of the season time in the lower leagues and there have been some interesting results: like all Palace fans I’m delighted to see Jeserun Rak-Sakyi acknowledged for his stellar season at Charlton Athletic; meanwhile Exeter City giving their prize to Jevani Brown is certainly an eyebrow-raiser.
* Nothing says “I am magnanimous in both victory and defeat” like a man injuring himself celebrating a goal in the face of the officials. It really is one of life’s mysteries why there is so much abuse (and worse) of referees when the highest levels of football are replete with such paragons of virtue.
Still, the good news for Premier League referees is that at least Jürgen Klopp won’t be complaining about any more decisions that go against his team. I’m sure he’ll agree that as Liverpool won a game with a goal from a player who could have been sent off, that these things have a tendency to even themselves out over the course of a season.
I thought I’d truly given up on Chelsea as a club.
Then I saw they want Mourinho back.
To be fair we might get 10th next season with him in charge.
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