Tag Archives: Comment

Ah! That’s Champion(ship / League, but only the latter part)!

Apologies for the use of the first person throughout this post, but something has been niggling at me.

I felt a little ashamed in being a Manchester United fan yesterday afternoon. While sat next to an avid Stoke fan, it made me realise that the Premier League is severely lacking in one, important aspect that makes football the game that endears so many – spontaneity.

The Championship’s denouement was one of those special afternoons in football. It left you lost, perplexed, and yet, you didn’t care – clarity wasn’t necessary. You just went along with the journey, wondering where you would end up at the end. For the neutral, there’s no finer feeling (it is maybe why the play-offs tend to be the best games all season); for the Stoke, Leicester and Southampton fans, it was perhaps of a sort of masochistic torture.

Ever since that momentous FA Cup quarter-final between Barnsley and Chelsea, Mick McCarthy’s comments in the post-match analysis have stuck with me. Fans of Barnsley have experienced Premier League football, relegation, more relegation, promotion, and now the FA Cup in the space of ten years.

Excitement and despair, those two feelings so closely aligned with one another, consistently experienced by Barnsley fans. As he put it, it’s exciting to be a Barnsley fan, because the spontaneity is always there.

This is not the case with the Premier League, with one of the top four guaranteed to win the division and claim those Champions League spots. Supporting a team like United means that the result is almost predictable week-in, week-out.

When the unpredictable does happen, it’s almost treated with distain by some United fans; the prospect of losing means that everything they’ve bought into has been demolished completely – like losing does not happen for those supporting what is once again the richest club in the world. Well it does, and at times (and dare I say it), it’s a refreshing change.

This is why as a United fan, I live for the Champions League more than the Premier League;  for a start, the Premier League doesn’t force me into a nervous, drunken stupor like last Tuesday. My appetite for the European Cup isn’t just in terms of the history United have with ol’ Big Ears, but because it’s where that sense of unpredictability is most likely to be (in the latter rounds, anyway; the group stage feels like an irrelevance at times). The quest for another European Cup is what feeds me more than another  almost-certain Premier League title.

However, today’s game between Newcastle and Chelsea is intriguing: Newcastle, the masters of spontaneity within the Premier League over the last two decades, could unexpectedly hand the title to United if they beat Chelsea this afternoon; yet a Chelsea win will make next Sunday a day of relevance, even if it may be only slight. I’m not sure which one I want.

Even so, it’s very easy for me to write the above – I know that all too well. But I guess there is something that United for once lack, which most other clubs at least have. Perhaps this is why I’ve gone to a lot of Stockport County games this season.

God, I’m confused.

David.

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Filed under Barclays Premier League, Chelsea, Comment, England, English Premier League, Football, Football League - League 2, Football League Championship, Leicester City, Newcastle United, Opinion, Soccer, Southampton, Sport, Stockport County, Stoke City, The Football League, UEFA Champions League

The plight of Trescothick casts light on the smokescreen of sport

Marcus Trescothick is still unwell. He has just pulled out of the UAE tour with Somerset “to be with his family” according to Somerset’s chief executive Richard Gould. 

This is the third time Trescothick’s euphemistic “stress-related illness” has come to light concerning tours abroad, with Trescothick coming home during England’s tour of India in 2006. He later returned for England’s tours of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but then ruled himself out of  the ICC Champions Trophy in India. 

He later dealt a major blow to England’s efforts in retaining the Ashes by breaking down and returning home after two warm-up games. 

Last season he broke the thousand run barrier for Somerset, which included an innings of 284 against Northants last May. 

For England, he averages 43.79 in his 76 Tests with a career best 219 against South Africa at the Oval in 2003. 

It’s unlikely Trescothick will ever return to the international set up unless he somehow gets better. This is worrying for England judging from some of the sub-standard batting performances in New Zealand so far, as well as the numerous poor performances we’ve seen in previous series since the Ashes tour of Australia. 

Of course, Trescothick’s mental wellbeing is all that matters, as duly noted by Paul Collingwood:

“It’s just really sad,” he said. “We just need to get him right, for his own sake really. We can be very selfish and ask whether he will ever play for England again, but it doesn’t really matter because we need to get him right.”

Trescothick is an example of the mental torment that can inflict sportsmen. The man who can hold it together in the most mentally taxing of sports, struggles to do so off it. It holds a strange, tragic poignancy. 

He shows that sportsmen, who look dominant and act as examples of human endeavour and hard-work, are actually vulnerable people (as shown through countless examples — too many to name here).

It’s something that needs to be remembered a lot more, especially with the amount of money that sport as an industry is now built upon. It’s so easy to forget now-a-days. 

His illness also shows how sport can mask reality. There is a separation of the two worlds but when they blur, it’s almost post-modern. You get trapped into this world of sport where reality seems to be put aside, yet it can be thrown right back at you at any time; by tragedy, incident, or your side’s victory/defeat.

When sport transcends that barrier between the two, that’s where it holds its power. But it’s dangerous, for crossing it can also make sport feel irrelevant, and mere escapism. Tresco is an example of the other, as shown by Collingwood’s comments.     

I hope he gets better soon. He should be known as the sportsman that can transcend the barrier through success, not because he suffers from that “stress-related illness”. 

David.  

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Filed under Comment, Cricket, England, Marcus Trescothick, News, Paul Collingwood, Somerset, Sport

Eduardo Leg Break: Pictures (WARNING)

Right, I’m going to warn you now. There’s a very good reason why the broadcasters won’t show the full detail of Eduardo’s leg-break.

I’ve managed to find a clip of the break (mainly to see how bad the tackle was and to satisfy my own sick sense of curiosity), and it’s clear to see why.

But, the effects need to be seen. Personally, I’m not sure whether Martin Taylor’s tackle warranted the gruesome, unfortunate outcome. To me, it looked like Eduardo over-ran the ball, tried to regain it, and Taylor caught him unintentionally.

Still, it was a poor tackle and while extreme, Eduardo will now act as a permanent example of what bad, careless tackling can do. Let this act as the one moment where the art of tackling came back. In fact, it shouldn’t even be an art – good tackling is a necessity.

If Eduardo comes back and plays football again, then anything is possible in the game. However, after Wenger’s bleak assessment, it looks likely that his career is in real, severe danger.

The video the images are taken from has since been taken down due to a copyright dispute. However, I hope the BBC show the tackle and provide prior warning this evening on Match of the Day.

Let something good come out of this ugly mess. Show it to kids, schoolboys and aspiring players. Let them know that this could be them if tackling isn’t improved, and let them know that their possible career, for all its conceivable riches and celebrity, could meet a sudden and awful end. This should act as the ultimate reality check.

Having witnessed David Busst’s leg break when he played for Coventry against Manchester United in 1996, I thought nothing could surpass the nauseating effect that possessed. Eduardo’s break is the worse kind of compound fracture imaginable.

If you’ve got a soft stomach then I would advise against looking at the images below, particularly the second image.

A dangerous, clinical, young striker’s career could well be over, and the outcome needs to be seen:

 

 

Thanks for all your comments. Needless to say, I’m absolutely staggered at the interest these pictures taken off a YouTube clip hastily taken down have caused. It seems that the power of blogging was fully realised and experienced with this, and we managed to be right on the ball. Unlike Martin Taylor…

Anyway, most of the comments on here have been considered and well expressed, which is excellent. But I’m going to close the ability to leave comments on this for now since it’s taking quite a bit of time to moderate and edit some of them. However, if you have any particular views, then why not send an email? Who knows, I may even put it up here…

Email us at: thesightisinend@googlemail.com

David.

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Filed under Arsenal FC, Arsene Wenger, Barclays Premier League, Birmingham City, Comment, Croatia, Eduardo, England, English Premier League, Euro 2008, Martin Taylor, News, Soccer, Sport

Fifa say ‘nay’ to Premier League global plan, but we enter a worrying period

Sepp Blatter has said that the Premier League’s international round will not be going ahead. He has also issued what is practically a threat, saying that were the Premier League to go-ahead with the plan, England’s 2018 World Cup bid would be affected.

With UEFA, the AFC and now FIFA opposing the plan, it seems unlikely that it will happen. Yet this sets up a battle that could well turn very nasty, and could marginalise English football from the rest of the world. Richard Scudamore has come out and said that if they receive backing from the FA, it will go ahead.

If that happens, the consequences could be damaging, and will finally confirm something that has long been pondered: that the national game is secondary to the process of profiteering and promoting a valuable product. Indeed, were the Premier League to implement the plan, it would now probably affect the value of its prized commodity.

Yet this could raise the club vs. country row again, except this time it could take a more unsavoury and potentially harmful air. If the Premier League went against FIFA, where would players loyalties lies? With their employers, or with the law-maker? It would likely be the former.

It could, in some ways, be the equivalent of the Kerry Packer/World Series Cricket saga of the 70s, where players are torn between two sides: the PL, seeking more money in a supposed quest to advance their national game; and FIFA, the body there to protect world football (of course, where it does is the matter for a separate debate altogether). Players being forced to choose sides, and players being ostracised.

In 2000, the FA got the biggest shock possible when it realised how out of touch it was with world football, after England’s World Cup 2006 bid failed to get to the final round. Since then, it has worked hard to build bridges throughout the footballing world, to a point where it is now favourite to get the 2018 World Cup.

Even the CONCACAF chief Jack Warner, after originally being heavily against the bid and saying that he would do everything to make sure it failed, has now suddenly come out in favour. The Premier League’s plan threatens this newly-created relationship between the FA, the other NFAs and confederations.

It is time the Premier League ditched the idea. It was once rather funny and foolish in all honesty, but now it’s extremely threatening and deeply concerning. This has transcended taking clubs abroad for a game, raising more revenue and upsetting fans who will, in all probability, show apathy for a few weeks and nothing else; this can now irrevocably damage the game in this country, and leave a deep and ugly scar.

David.

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Filed under AFC, Barclays Premier League, Comment, CONCACAF, Cricket, England, English Premier League, FA, FIFA, Football, Football League, Jack Warner, Kerry Packer, Richard Scudamore, Sepp Blatter, Soccer, Sport, UEFA

Chambers avoids the selection loophole, and embarrasses his fellow athletes

Dwain Chambers has been selected for the GB athletics squad for the World Indoor Championships in Valencia.

It is of course controversial, and UK Athletics chief Niels de Vos (I will have to try and remain impartial here, as de Vos was chief executive of Sale Sharks and Stockport County under the banner of Cheshire Sports, the sporting arm of multi-millionaire Brian Kennedy. Their decision making severely impacted on the way County was run and arguably endangered the club. Anyway…) was all but demanding the selection committee to activate a loophole in the selection process to avoid selecting him.

The loophole, which allows the selection committee to choice another athlete in “exceptional circumstances” mainly relating to performance, value judgements or stone-cold belief, was last used in 1983 when a struggling Coe managed to usurp Peter Elliott, who initially won 1500m Olympic trial, only to have his place given to the Olympic champion Coe.

In the end, it was a decision that paid off for Great Britain and for Coe; but it impacted on Elliott who, while having a place for the 800m, had to go through an unfamiliar routine of two qualifying races prior to the final. In the end, he succumbed to injury and was unable to run for gold.

Chambers’ selection was begrudging. The statement released by the selection committee is far from complimentary:

“Taking him to the World Indoors deprives young, upwardly mobile committed athletes of this key development opportunity.

“Our World Class Performance Programme is focused on achievement at Olympic and World level. On this basis, it is extremely frustrating to leave young athletes at home; eligible for Beijing, in possession of the qualifying standard and committed to ongoing participation in a drug-free sport.

In contrast, we have to take an individual whose sudden return, especially when considered against his previous actions and comments, suggests that he may be using the whole process for his own ends.

“Unfortunately, the committee felt that the selection criteria pertaining to the winner of the trials, coupled with the manner of Dwain’s performance, left them no room to take any other decision.

“We wish all the selected athletes well at the event, but will certainly explore ways in which future selections can be made to match the true ‘spirit’ of our sport.”

I don’t think Chambers will need any more inspiration after reading that. Chambers beat the rest of the field, and therefore he has the right to go — former drugs cheat or not. No other athlete was good enough, and that’s the end of the matter. He has carried out his sentence, has realised that he was a product of corruption and not a cause, and can do nothing else except, in his words, “let the legs do the talking.”

And I think that’s another reason for the animosity to Chambers. He has just walked back into the sport after flirting with American Football, and beat the rest of the field who train day in, day out.

He exposed the rest of the athletes as not being good enough, and not matching his ability minus chemical assistance. In essence, he showed up the other athletes royally, and they (UK Athletics, Steve Cram et.al) do not like it. Indeed, it was refreshing to hear 2nd place Simeon Williamson supporting Chambers.

Chambers obviously is good enough, and it’s time he proved it without science’s help.

David.

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Filed under Athletics, Comment, Dwain Chambers, IAAF, News, Seb Coe, Sport

Munich: A City Fan’s View

Something about the Munich air crash has been brewing within me for some time. In fact, I suggested the idea of writing up on this site a controversial City fan’s view around a month ago.

I’ve avoided actually doing it because wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted to say. Did I want to point out that United arguably exploited the disaster to create a kind of club founding-myth (something that was suggested in the Manchester Evening News as early as 1959)?

Did I want to say something about the hypocrisy of some of the things coming out of the club and its sympathisers in the media, given how little respect fans of United (and every other club, including City) give to the memory of the Hillsborough disaster? (I always find a good test of how offensive something is, is to remove the word ‘scouse’ and replace it with ‘black’, and think about whether a “respectable” broadsheet paper would publish it. But that’s another issue.)

On the other hand, did I want to write an apology to United for what some City fans might do – or for what they might have done without the sustained pressure from inside and outside Eastlands? Did I want to muse on the rights of football fans to say what they like inside the ground, given what Sol Campbell said earlier this season about abuse?

I don’t know. There are too many issues I want to explore and I don’t really think, on reflection, that it’s appropriate to base a discussion of them around the anniversary of a tragedy.

National newspapers don’t necessarily like complexity, so for most of them this week has been about one young man – Duncan Edwards, who died at the age of 21 and a few months, younger than I am now. His death has been made to stand for the whole Munich crash: the end of a great team, and the cruel way in which youthful promise was taken away. Not many events in football have this kind of symbolic power.

Generally, it is football itself that inspires us. So although a moment of silence on Saturday is only proper (and I sincerely hope it is observed), the best way to honour those young men, many of whom were from the very city whose two great clubs are meeting, is to play a great game of football.

“To say that these men paid their shillings to watch 22 hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink… for not only had you escaped from the clanking machinery of this lesser life, from work, wages, rent, doles, sick pay, insurance cards, nagging wives, ailing children, bad bosses, idle workmen, but you had escaped with most of your mates and your neighbours, with half the town, and there you were, cheering together, thumping one another on the shoulders, swapping judgements like lords of the earth, having pushed your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid kind of life, hurtling with conflict and yet passionate and beautiful in its art.”  — JB Priestley

Harry.

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Filed under Barclays Premier League, Comment, England, English Premier League, Football, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Munich Air Disaster, Soccer, Sport

Going global, but not to Acapulco…yet? Premier League consider ‘international round’

The inevitable has happened. After the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants successfully (ruined Wembley’s pitch, some would say…) brought the NFL over here, the Premier League have announced that they are considering an ‘international round’ of fixtures. Although why mention ‘consider’ is anyone’s guess. To announce they’re considering it seems like a euphemism. All twenty Premier League clubs have agreed to the proposal.

The Premier League season would be extended to 39 games, could involve extra travelling for already exhausted players, and adds an extra air of gravitas to a league that is now going truly global.

The Premier League are walking a fine tight-rope. Many fans complain that ticket prices are still too high, yet clubs have provisionally agreed to take the game away from them, rather than trying to take it closer to fans. As Mihir Bose, the BBC sports editor so rightfully put it, “it’s chance for the Premier League to showcase its product around the world.”

Don’t forget, though, that the Premier League have actually flirted with this idea for a very long time. The Premier League Asia Cup must now be officially viewed as a yearly experiment to gauge the popularity of the English game abroad. It’s obvious the Premier League were happy with the results.

This move shows the power of the new batch of Premier League owners. American investors like the Glazers, Hicks and Gillette, want to see a return on their investment as soon as possible. By taking their franchises (a term that I think we’ll need to get used to as time progresses…) global, it makes it more likely that this will happen sooner.

But what this also shows is how powerful other nations have become to the future of English top-flight football. By taking the game abroad, the Premier League assures its survival for time to come. It can bank on continued TV deals at mesmurising costs, and will definitely ensure that it gets the best players in the world from Asia, the Middle East and North America — the three big continents where Premier League football is most popular.

I’m sure we’ll have much more to say on the matter in due course.

Imagine if relegation fights or championship battles were eventually decided in a city thousands of miles away, though? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

David.

   

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Filed under Barclays Premier League, BBC, Comment, England, English Premier League, FA, FIFA, Football, NFL, Soccer, Sport