Tag Archives: English Premier League

Reality Bites

In a week where it seemed every discussion on football concerned off-field matters, it was nice to see the game come back yesterday with a healthy dose of realism. Whether it be lunatic plans to turn the Premiership into a U2 tour, or hyperbolic panic over whether lost legends would be appropriately commemorated, it seemed to have slipped everyone’s mind that it is what takes place on the field that keeps us, as fans, so attached.

I experienced a slight feeling of surprise that a match actually took place at all in yesterday’s Manchester derby, such was the speculation surrounding it’s unique preamble. Yet once the whistle went, it didn’t take long before I, as a football fan, and a neutral on this most partizan of occasions, was back in the place I know best, a place I could feel comfortable again.

Having taken in the parades, the mascots, the adapted kits, and the wonderfully observed (much to my surprise, I must admit) minute’s silence, this match, far from being weighed down by any emotional baggage, instantly became a classic tactical battle that could have been played out in any era of the game – one that was won, hands down, by Manchester City’s Sven Goran Eriksson.

Manchester United could probably have been forgiven for believing that things would go their way in this match, given the massive wave of sympathy that flowed in their favour, but City turned up with a spot-on attitude and a classic underdog’s gameplan, and upset both the script and the odds.

It took around ten minutes for the game to settle into a pattern that was never really broken. All of a sudden, Manchester United found themselves banging their heads against the brick wall that was City’s five-man midfield, expertly marshalled by man-of-the-match Dietmar Hamann, a realist’s footballer if ever there was one. Any thoughts of the occasion were lost, as suddenly United found three crucial points in the Championship race drifting away from them.

Immediately afterwards, over at Stamford Bridge, the worldwide audience got a timely taste of just what could be coming in their direction in 2011. If they’ve got any sense or taste, they’ll be writing their letters of opposition in Kuala Lumpur right now.

Quite why Chelsea and Liverpool even bother to fulfil this fixture is a mystery to me, neither of them ever has any inclination to win it, so they might as well just take a point each and save us all the misery of sitting through the worst 90 minutes of the season. As dull, turgid, pointless, meaningless 0-0 draws go, this was up there with the best of them.

Between them the two sides mustered one solitary goalbound effort in the entire match – and that was a Peter Crouch header so tame that the big man could have picked himself up, made his way to the goal and saved it himself if he so wished.

My initial thought was that new rules ought to be brought in to enable these two to be docked points for this display. My second thought was that if some yank wants to walk on at the end of this, and insist the game be settled by a session of “added-time Multiball!”, then I for one would be in favour. Bring it on, it would actually be better than this.

Then I paused for a third thought. I realised that this was great. I had endured 90 minutes of total crap, but in a silly way that only hardened football fans can understand I had thoroughly enjoyed it. This was football reality, the game brought down to it’s bare bones, and a match that will bring absolutely no new converts to the game.

After this week’s insane proposals, it was exactly the sort of game that needed to be showcased to a worldwide audience. After all, if you’re going to market a product, then you must be honest with your customers about exactly what they’ll be letting themselves in for, so well done Premier League for not keeping the truth locked away.

Anyone watching Chelsea v Liverpool in one of the exotic locations the Premier League has lined up will surely now feel feel far more threatened by English Football coming their way than we feel by the idea of losing it.

A day that, if Sky Sports and the Premier League had had their way, was meant to be full of emotion, passion, and excitement ended up being dominated by arch-professionalism and heavy strategy. Good. It reassured me that you can take the football out of England, but you’ll never take England out of the football.

Jamie.

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Filed under Barclays Premier League, Chelsea FC, Comment, England, English Premier League, FA, Football, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Munich Air Disaster, Opinion, Sky, Soccer, Sport, Sven Goran Eriksson, Television

The Wit and Wisdom of Kevin Keegan

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I have said some harsh words about Newcastle United on this site, and indeed I have been quite sick of hearing about them over the last week. But today, I have to admit that football supporters everywhere owe the Geordie club a debt of thanks.

Since hearing the news of Kevin Keegan’s re-appointment as Newcastle manager, I have lost count already of the amount of times I have heard the phrase ‘entertaining football’ uttered in connection with it. And I have to say I cannot argue, the world of football is about to become a whole lot more entertaining. At least for us neutral observers, and dare I say one or two Sunderland fans.

I think it is time for a reminder of exactly what this great man has to offer the game in terms of entertainment. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you what is now universally known as The Wit and Wisdom of Kevin Keegan:

“The good news for Nigeria is that they’re two-nil down very early in the game.”

“It’s like a toaster, the ref’s shirt pocket. Every time there’s a tackle, up pops a yellow card. I’m talking metaphysically now of course.”

“The 33 or 34-year-olds will be 36 or 37 by the time the next World Cup comes around, if they’re not careful.”

“They compare Steve McManaman to Steve Heighway and he’s nothing like him, but I can see why – it’s because he’s a bit different. They are both called Steve.”

“In some ways, cramp is worse than having a broken leg. But leukaemia is worse still. Probably.”

“I think Ron will be pulling him off at half time and no mistakin’.”

“There’ll be no siestas in Madrid tonight.”

“England have the best fans in the world and Scotland’s fans are second to none.”

“He can’t speak Turks, but you can tell he’s delighted.”

“You’d think the Moroccans would have learnt their lesson by now. You can’t win games without scoring goals.”

“I’d love to be a mole on the wall in the Liverpool dressing room at half-time. And not for the reasons that you’re thinking of Clive.”

“Goalkeepers aren’t born today until they’re in their late 20s or 30s and sometimes not even then. Or so it would appear. To me anyway. Don’t you agree?”

“I know what is around the corner. I just don’t know where the corner is.”

“You can’t do better than go away from home and get a draw.”

“You’d think the Cameroonians would have learnt their lesson by now. You can’t get very far with such brutal tackles. It’s just not cricket you know.”

“Chile have three options – they could win or they could lose. It’s up to them, the tide is in their court now.”

“The substitute is about to come on – he’s a player who was left out of the starting line-up today. There were others as well.”

“I came to Nantes two years ago and it’s much the same today, except that it’s totally different. The red light district is still the same mind you. Though it’s a lot bigger. And more expensive. I prefer Hamburg, more variety. There are these ladies there with fully formed moustaches, know what I mean.”

“…using his strength. And that is his strength, his strength. You could say that that’s his strong point.”

“The game has gone rather scrappy as both sides realise they could win this match or lose it or draw it even.”

“Argentina are the second-best team in the world, and there’s no higher praise than that.”

“That decision, for me, was almost certainly definitely wrong.”

“A tremendous strike which hit the defender full on the arm – and it nearly came off.”

“I don’t think there’s anyone bigger or smaller than Maradona. You seen the pictures as well Clive. Like an acorn I tells ya, just like an acorn.”

And my personal favourite:

“The ref was vertically 15 yards away. He has a moustache.”

Thanks Mike Ashley, from football supporters everywhere. We owe you one.

Jamie.

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