Tag Archives: Manchester United

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

UEFA Launch Investigation After Liverpool v Arsenal Champions League Tie Described As ‘Decent’

UEFA chiefs today announced they would be conducting an inquiry to investigate claims that the Champions League Quarter-Final second leg between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on tuesday was “a decent game”.

The investigation was launched after an unusual amount of reaction to the game was found to be positive. One spectator was heard to summise that the game was “actually not all that bad“, whilst another observed that he found it to be “quite a decent game, really“.

Suspicions first arose that the game might actually be alright when someone reported that he had heard a raised voice on the TV commentary. The viewer, who is seen by UEFA as key to their inquiry, said “It took me completely by surprise and I can’t remember what it was all about, but I know I heard it. Clive Tyldesley definitely described an incident in a louder voice than he had the previous one. What’s more, I thought I heard an ‘oh!’ from Jim Beglin too, but I can’t be sure about that at the moment. I may have been getting carried away“.

A UEFA spokesman confirmed that they are taking the claims seriously: “Usually there are one or two who go over-the-top in their assessment of a match, but we can’t afford to ignore this. Many people seem convinced that this was a decent game, and it’s our duty to look into it. Fans can rest assured that our investigation will be most thorough“.

The spokesman was asked about further claims that TV pundit Andy Townsend had actually described the game as ‘exciting’ and ‘a thrilling spectacle’ but was quick to play the story down, saying: “This is clearly hysteria. It is one thing to say that this could have been a decent game, but to imagine that vulgar hyperbole such as this might apply to a Champions League match, especially one between two sides such as Liverpool and Arsenal, is just crazy talk. Andy Townsend has seen a great deal of Champions League football in his broadcasting career and he would know better than to make such claims. I’m confident that Andy has been misquoted, and we will be contacting him for confirmation of this“.

As the news broke after the match, many began to raise concerns about the possible knock-on effect that this allegedly decent game might have for the rest of the tournament. The spokesman addressed this also: “If it turns out that this was a decent game then we’ll have to take it on the chin and move on with the tournament, but I’m confident that this is an isolated incident. I would consider further decent games to be highly unlikely, and fans should not be concerned if planning to view future matches in this season’s Champions League. On a reassuring note, we can announce here and now that there will definitely be no repeat of this in the semi-final when Liverpool play Chelsea“.

Jamie.

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Filed under Arsenal FC, Arsene Wenger, Chelsea FC, Comment, Europe, Football, Soccer, Sport, UEFA, UEFA Champions 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

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

Munich memorial: Parker and his possible darker motive

With the Munich Memorial / Manchester Derby coming closer, there is a sense of unease in Manchester.

MPs, including the Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe and the MP for Manchester Withington John Leech, are calling for caution when the match occurs on the 10th February.

However, it is the role of the Official Man City Supporters’ Association Kevin Parker, who wants a minute’s applause instead of the proposed silence, which is threatening the occasion.

It is natural to be apprehensive with such a sombre occasion coming up, and with 3,000 City fans travelling to Old Trafford. It is also true that the behaviour of several people could light the blue torch-paper. Being a Manchester United all my life, I have often been subjected to the Munich chants and the slurs from ignorant City fans, who perhaps forget that one of their own, Frank Swift, was also killed in the tragedy.

Even so (and this may seem misguided and naive to some of you), the majority of City fans I know fully realise the significance of the event, and wouldn’t dare cross that border between deep rivalry, which I am all for, into an area that would constitute an act of sheer provocation.

And this is why the unease that is being created and voiced is misguided. The handful who could use the occasion to provoke will be out-numbered by the many who will be respectful, and I fully believe that the acts of the majority will stifle that of the minority.

However, for City fans, where’s the trust? Where’s the responsibility? If I were a City fan, I’d be incredibly upset and angry that the head of my supporters association doesn’t trust the fellow fans of my football club. City fans are in danger of being tarred by the same brush.

The fact that Parker has called for a minute’s applause is arguably attempting to protect the provocative and ignorant few, and also misses the point completely. How can you celebrate the lives of Duncan Edwards, Geoff Bent and Roger Byrne et.al with an applause, when their chances to achieve were so tragically taken away?

An applause celebrates a fulfilled, detailed history (perhaps the idea of the applause, a modern take on mourning in this country at least, could also represent the possible inherent lack of respect currently present in football, but that argument is for another day). But the Busby Babes who perished in the Munich Air Disaster do not have one, because they were never given the chance. It is a time to mourn, not celebrate.

This is an event for an entire city, not just for a sect of fans. Parker’s belief that a minute’s applause would be better for the occasion and for Manchester as a whole, could well represent a more selfish motive.

However, it doesn’t help matters when you sport your advertiser on a commemorative mural…:

Mural AIG

What d’ya think? Utter rubbish? Good point? Provocative in both senses of the word? Tell us!

David.

(Image: © MEN, taken from The Daily Mail)

 

 

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Filed under Barclays Premier League, Comment, English Premier League, Football, Manchester City, Manchester United, Opinion, Soccer, Sport

“The atmosphere is so tense, if Elvis walked in with a portion of chips, you could hear the vinegar sizzle on them”

While trying to play darts during a pub-crawl, a common argument arose; an argument that always occurs when darts brings in the New Year: Is darts a sport?

A vast majority of people believe that darts can’t be a sport because it apparently doesn’t involve physical exertion, and is supposedly comprised mostly of overweight beer drinkers and purveyors of the pork scratching. It seems that it still works hard to rid itself of the Fred Trueman, Indoor League “na’then” connotations, where a jug of Tetley’s is lingering on the table, awaiting consumption by the parched man frowin’ a’raws. (Although I’ll admit, while watching the superb series Bellies and Bullseyes with Sid Waddell, to see Bristow nonchalantly hold his fag in his left hand while he threw with his right makes you understand why the image has, perhaps, stuck).

The definition of ‘sport’ is so ambiguous, confusing and has so many meanings, that the Oxford English Dictionary is reduced to a series of huge paperweights and door-stops, where clarity is the last thing you find.

It is a “pleasant pastime; entertainment or amusement; recreation, diversion”; “a theatrical performance or show; a play” and “a series of athletic contests engaged in or held at one time and forming a spectacle or social event.” Given those examples, perhaps arrows is definitely a sport, after all. It is the most obvious example of all of those examples, including the latter.

Still, I doubt that will quell the doubters.

So where best to look but at the website for that sporting of all sporting organizations: the International Olympic Committee.

As well as the IOC obviously listing the Olympic sports that figure in summer and winter games, it also has a list of ‘recognised sports’ which, if recommended and elected for by IOC members, could become an Olympic sport. These recognised sports, including golf, rugby and most recently cricket, also include bridge, orienteering and air sports (before you strain yourself, air sports encompasses the likes of aerobatics, ballooning, general aviation and gliding).

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but none of the above exert a large amount of physical strain (with the possible exception of orienteering; although from doing it once when I was 7-years-old at school, it mainly involved walking around a wood with a wet map and getting lost).

Most importantly, none of the above experience the atmosphere, the intensity and the physical and mental strain that a top-class darts player has to cope with, where you’re in front of 2,500 raving lunatics; throwing for trebles slightly wider than a postage stamp; (although according to Trueman, that’s nothing compared to a Yorkshire dart-board; computing sums at a rapid speed; and maintaining concentration of two hours plus, stood up, leaning over, continuously throwing and staring at a target.

The argument will continue, but I am unwavering: darts is a sport. Nothing demonstrates that more than this year’s PDC World Championship at Alexandra Palace, which has shown the physical and mental stamina needed in order to win in an intense and ruthless gladiatorial atmosphere devoid of your prawn sandwiches.

Indeed, with Sir. Alex coming out and criticising the Old Trafford crowd after the Birmingham game, you have to wonder whether darts could soon head back to its hay-day of the 80s, which could steal some of the apathetic football fans who are hungry for an atmosphere and, in evidence of this year’s PDC Worlds, close and thrilling action.

I wonder if we’ll ever see bridge in a similar setting? It would probably be reminiscent of this.

David.

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Filed under Comment, Darts, Football, Manchester United, Opinion, Sid Waddell, Soccer, Sport, Uncategorized