Tag Archives: Opinion

We’re back! / Twenty20 and its dependence on football

So, after the bane of University work hindering my chances of writing, I’m pleased to say that for the foreseeable future at least, The Sight is in End will finally resume its normal service.

The reason why I haven’t written much is that I didn’t want to hastily churn something out that I wasn’t particularly happy with, simply to keep having content on the blog. Now, that may seem counter-productive since yes, a blog should be updated regularly in order to keep its audience et ceteras, but I’m not a fan of that school of thought.

Let it come to pass that if it means taking weeks out and then writing one or two decent things, then that’ll do me (and hopefully, you). Anyway, I’ve gone on too much.

Before this year, I bet hardly anyone had heard the name Allan Stanford. A multi-billionaire Texan who has been based in Antigua for over two decades, in 2005 he announced he would set up an inter-Caribbean Twenty20 tournament in the hope that he could use the format to revitalise West Indian cricket, and therefore becoming one of cricket’s most important in the process.

Three years later, and Stanford has done just that. Australia had Kerry Packer; India have the deflated ICL creator, Kapil Dev; now England and the WI have their own equivalent.

Stanford promises $10 million Twenty20 matches between a West Indies All-Star XI and England, as well as tournaments at Lord’s that would allow two additional Test playing nations to compete alongside the WI and England, have wooed the ECB into taking him incredibly seriously. All this talk has allowed him to become the man at the heart of the English equivalent to the IPL.

Stanford has promised substantial financial backing for an English-equivalent, providing it arrives within the next two years. After that, he says, the opportunity will have disappeared.

For an English IPL to happen, it’s likely that for Twenty20, counties will have to amalgamate, with Lancashire, Yorkshire and Durham theoretically put together to form a Northern side. I would have loved to have seen Geoff Boycott’s reaction to that.

However, the often ECB attitude of cynicism and ignorance seems to have been put aside; and as seen with the BSkyB Test-match deal, money is the subject that always pricks their ears (don’t let me stop you using the Joe Orton anagram in “ears”, by the way).

All this promise of millions on single matches is nothing when you think that when the English IPL eventually comes to fruition, he could be tapping into a worldwide market worth around $500 million. Twenty20, Stanford says, has the potential to become the biggest game in world sport, surpassing football in the process.

They sound like the remarks of a deluded idiot willing to gamble millions; but with the support of the Asian sub-continent, he could have a point.

Yet Stanford’s talk of overtaking football is forgetting one thing: that Twenty20 is clinging to football. As well as the game itself being easily digestible and over in a couple of hours, it’s everything else that surrounds it that makes you realise that Twenty20 depends on today’s version of football in order to advance. The examples aren’t implicit either — they’re down right blatant.

The TV presentation, the red tunnels, the floodlights, the glamour, the kits made by Reebok and Adidas and Nike, the LED advertising boards, cricketers marketed as stars and given a ‘bought’ through an auction, and the use of the footballing lexicon (Indian Premier League) and talk of a Twenty20 Champions League (that will probably have its own classically-inspired theme-tune (with a hint of tabla) featuring”The Champions!” sung in English, English (with a hint of Caribbean), Afrikaans, Bangla, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Sinhala and Tamil).

This is all rhetoric, and the effect of it can be seen by how the IPL is a serious plaything for the wealthy akin to the Premier League. Not only have the fans succumbed to the rhetoric, but the wealthy Bollywood stars and millionaires have as well — and how. Football, or specifically the Premier League, has made sport the ultimate plaything that can yield profit and bring more publicity for them.

It seems that where football is going, Twenty20 is following. Whether it could be the other way round in years to come? Doubt it.

David.

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Filed under Barclays Premier League, Cricket, ECB, England, English Premier League, India, Indian Cricket League, Indian Premier League, IPL, Kerry Packer, Opinion, Sport

Apologies and Mascarenhas

It’s been a slow week here on The Sight is in End, for which we apologise. I have been knee deep with Uni work, and would rather write something that I’m proud of and spend some time on, rather than trying to knock something out quickly. What I can tell you is that I’m currently watching England try and save the one-day series against New Zealand, and it promises to be a fine game indeed.

In fact, I will make one point. England need to utilise Dimitri Mascarenhas much, much more than they have done so far.

In Napier, where we had one of the most entertaining ODIs England have ever played in certainly and on a fast pitch, he bowled two overs and didn’t even bat, even when England had plenty of wickets in hand in their remaining overs, and were in the search for boundaries. The way Collingwood was thrashing it through the leg-side and beyond the short boundary, you wonder whether he could have done the same, and maybe put the game beyond New Zealand’s reach.

Of course, maybe I’m fixed on the Mascarenhas we see as an explosive and talented Twenty20 player, as shown in Auckland. Still, for a decent all-rounded like him, two overs and a number eight position almost makes his place in the side pointless.

David.

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Filed under Cricket, Dimitri Mascarenhas, England, New Zealand, Sport

I-gone? Icon Magazine in trouble – and I’m rather glad

According to Media Guardian, Icon Magazine, the up-market lifestyle magazine that you have to be invited to read, was originally aimed at Premier League footballers but then widened to include millionaire sporting personalities and first class airport lounges, is in trouble.

A joint venture of arguably the first couple that fused football and pop music in Jamie & Louise Redknapp and Jamie’s former team-mate Tim Sherwood, editorial misguidance and general incompetence seem to be the reasons why the magazine is struggling, with a development deal desperately being sought to keep the magazine alive.

Even so, I can’t say that I’m sorry or heartbroken that it’s in trouble, since the magazine debatably acts as a symbol for what is wrong within top-flight football.

The idea to set up the magazine came from Sherwood, who believed that his ‘subtle’ and ‘acquired’ tastes were not being catered for by other lifestyle magazines.

But Icon reeks of sheer elitism with its exclusion and pomposity, and is run on deep-seated consumerism with advertisements of supposedly luxurious items that “complements the ambitions of its affluent readership.” If your ambition is to own a £15,000 Rolex watch, you’re a sports personality and you’re a millionaire, then Icon wants you, loves you and needs you.

All the major interviews are conducted by Redknapp and Sherwood, although they usually get someone else to write it up for them. However, in its opening issue that featured Frank Lampard as its icon, Redknapp decides to give profile writing a go. However, it does help that your interview subject is also your cousin:

“As I sat by the window in Scalini, our family’s favourite restaurant, Frank strolled in looking every inch the footballing icon he is…As Frank tucks into his favourite grilled chicken and penne arrabiata, I’m eager to delve deeper into his career…It hasn’t always been plain sailing for Frank and he has shown real guts and determination to get where he is today.”

Meanwhile, Redknapp and Sherwood have also involved former team-mate and friend Les Ferdinand, who reviewed a helicopter that he bought for a bargain £180,000; and Redknapp’s dad Harry, who test-drove a Bentley.

Redknapp’s interview with Joe Calzaghe prior to his fight against Mikkel Kessler is also tinged with embarrassment, as Redknapp compares the sight of Joe training with his father, Enzo, to watching Michael Jordan “play basketball at ringside”.

He also describes Enzo Calzaghe’s gym in Newbridge, known for its sparse surroundings and basic amenities as “a raw place, full of character.” We can assume that no grilled chicken and penne arrabiata was in sight here. He certainly wins no prizes for description or elaboration, either, and it would have been good of them to employ a knowledgeable, talented freelancer who could have at least produced a worthy piece.

Each cover of Icon also features a pretentious front-cover, with a Premier League footballer (bar the Calzaghe edition) positioned under the title ICON, and is usually sporting a suit and looking serious, bordering on pensive. Oh, and Louise Redknapp predictably runs the magazine’s fashion section. Vanity, vanity, vanity. Although I’ll be the first to admit that Calzaghe does deserve the icon status bestowed upon him.

Icon acts as a prime symbol of where top-flight football has reached. A point where it believes it is cut off from the rest of the world and in a class of its own; a point where that the other world around them is irrelevant and insignificant. Indeed, it is also an example of how publishing can be used as a folly to boost egos and self-importance.

Up to now, NatWest have agreed a plan to stop the £80,000 debt – a week’s wage for most Premier League footballers, spiralling out of control (which, to be honest, I find staggering in itself. Shouldn’t the money at their disposal be more than enough to rescue it?). Time will tell whether advertisers will continue to flock to a magazine of adverts and self-worth.

Hopefully the impending failure of Icon could result in a return to the real world for J. Redknapp et.al, albeit for the briefest of brief periods. But I don’t hold out much hope.

David.

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Filed under Football, Icon Magazine, Jamie Redknapp, Opinion, 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

Sod Newcastle, a real football team needs saving

So we’ve been hearing all week about football’s crisis club. An ongoing story of failure and disaster, which now appears to have reached breaking point, caused by continued mismanagement and a desire for quick success being allowed to override the need for long-term foundations to be laid.

Well actually, no, we haven’t. Instead the column inches have been clogged up with the latest renewal of the pantomime called Newcastle United. So lets quickly recap what everyone, interested in football or otherwise, now knows: A staggeringly rich football club, and its latest in a long line of staggeringly rich owners, keeps failing to use their staggeringly vast resources sensibly enough even to bring just enough decent football to keep the fans quiet. Oh how my heart bleeds for their plight.

Or to put it another way, who gives a toss? More importantly, who gives a toss when there is a case out there more deserving of our sympathy? A case for whom the kind of press coverage Newcastle have received this week could mean the difference between footballing life and death.

For Luton Town, the game is nearly up. Already in administration, a situation which has cost them ten points that currently make the difference between a place in the relegation zone, and being within shouting distance of the play-offs, Luton yesterday lost their manager. Yes, they lost their manager. You don’t hear it put like that very often do you?

For Kevin Blackwell, his job had become impossible. In making his final preparations for Luton’s home game against league one leaders Swansea on friday, Blackwell discovered that five of his players had been sold by the administrators. Having already endured the administration and points deduction, along with FA enquiries into the dodgy dealings of the club’s previous owners, and not having been paid for two weeks, you can begin to understand how Blackwell reached the end of his tether.

Yet, despite all this misery, the team has continued to show the most incredible spirit in it’s performances on the pitch. Luton’s home record has been one of the most consistent in the country this season. Promotion, not relegation, would be uppermost in their mind without the ten point penalty, and even since it was imposed, Luton have shown enough good form to suggest that survival would not have been a problem. In fact, before yesterday, Luton had lost only once in 13 games, an extraordinary performance by players who, of course, are also not being paid right now.

In addition to this, they knocked Nottingham Forest out of the FA Cup in the second round, before trumping that by earning a magnificent and improbable draw against Liverpool (should that be crisis club Liverpool?) in the third. The latter result has earned Luton a potentially life-saving replay at Anfield, but unless a new owner can be found for the club with some speed, this could prove to be a short reprieve.

Salvation for Luton is currently forming in the shape of a consortium led by (former) TV celebrity Nick Owen, a lifelong fan. Everyone in football should be hoping that Owen succeeds. Firstly, he is exactly the type of owner that a football club like Luton should have; a genuine fan, someone who would perform every action with the best interests of the club in mind, someone who would genuinely be in touch, and have sympathy, with the thoughts of the supporters, and someone who would leave the running of team affairs to the manager and his staff.

More importantly though, clubs like Luton simply must not be allowed to just disappear out of the league. They are part of football’s history, were a trophy winning club in the recent past, and are a hugely important institution in their local community. For clubs of Luton’s stature to suddenly cease to exist has massive implications for football, threatening even to the Premiership royalty that so sadly, and with blinkers firmly fitted, ignores their situation.

Lest we forget, Luton currently find themselves in such dire straits largely thanks to the allegedly illegal transfer activity of the clubs former owners – activity which was brought to the attention of the FA, The Football League and the national media by their then manager Mike Newell. Newell was admonished by virtually everyone in football, he lost his job, and has not worked since. The courage he showed in speaking out, with no support whatsoever from within the game, has been rejected and forgotten. This tale tells us everything we need to know about the way football is being run.

If the takeover goes through at Luton, and stability can be restored, Blackwell might be persuaded to change his mind about leaving (he’s decided to keep working with the players until February). Considering the job he has done with the team in such trying circumstances, this must be regarded as a necessity for Luton.

Although even if they hang on to Blackwell, the depleted squad is going to find it tough going for the remainder of the season, and bringing in new players is a fast-disappearing possibility with the days of January ticking by. Another example of how the smaller clubs are punished by the ridiculous transfer window rules, which were of course imposed in an attempt to curb the spending power of the super-rich.

The owner, directors, caretaker manager, players, and fans of Newcastle United should open up a newspaper today, wade through the ten pages of headlines about their own club, and seek out the small print. Hidden in there, they might find a football story that will make them sit up, take stock, and put their ‘problems’ into perspective.

Lets look at the facts: They will have no problem finding a manager, that manager will have millions of pounds to spend, they will continue to get 50,000+ gates for every league game regardless of how the team play, and they have no chance, repeat no chance, of getting relegated.

Could be worse couldn’t it? Newcastle, if you’re listening, you can’t continue to enjoy the luxury you do without the help of clubs like Luton Town. I suggest that the very least you could do is stop whining for five minutes, and wish them luck in their bid for survival.

Jamie.

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Filed under Alan Shearer, Barclays Premier League, Comment, English Premier League, FA, FA Cup, Football, Football League, Liverpool FC, Luton Town, Next Newcastle Utd Manager, Nottingham Forest, Sam Allardyce, Soccer, Sport, Swansea City

Shearer DOES want the Newcastle job

One of the fine advantages of having an irregular sleep pattern is that I can scout the news channels at night for possible news stories and bring them to people before others. I’m destined for the night-shifts, I think…

Anyway, according to Sky News and their sources, Alan Shearer now DOES want the Newcastle job, providing he is offered it.

In my opinion, how Shearer, even with his beloved Newcastle, could contemplate breaking his managerial virginity with the footballing equivalent of the managerial whore where the unwanted is tossed aside once the minimal amount of pleasure / usefulness is extracted or no longer wanted, scares me.

Or rather, will he attract the whore?

Will Shearer be another seduced (or vice versa)? I think so. The Week in Wagers post will be up in due course (I hope…), but on Betfair, he’s 8.8 back (8/1). If I could afford it, I’d do so right away. Interestingly, however, Harry Redknapp is a nailed on certainty according to BF – he’s at 1.36 back (4/11).

David.

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Filed under Alan Shearer, Barclays Premier League, Betfair, Betting, Comment, English Premier League, Football, Harry Redknapp, Newcastle United, News, Next Newcastle Utd Manager, Opinion, Sam Allardyce, Soccer, Sport

Here to save us all – The FA Cup.

Here we are once again in the first week of the new year, a very appropriate time for football’s annual shot at redemption: The FA Cup, to begin in earnest with its third round.

These are dark days for football. Greed is a necessity for success; rampant violence, criminality and generally vulgar behaviour amongst players are tolerated by the biggest clubs; the rich/poor gap is wider than ever, and trophy winning is reserved for a priveleged few. In addition, satellite TV continues to saturate the airwaves with an insane number of matches, and erode the atmosphere at grounds by bamboozling the already over-fed supporters with its bizarre range of kick-off times.

It’s all a far cry from the days that this particular weekend in the football calendar always reminds us of. Yet it is surely the FA Cup that provides the rest of the footballing nation with its one chance to get their own back; to redress the balance; to turn back the clock and yet dream of a brighter future, even if only for a day.

This is of course because anything’s possible when the Premiership megacelebs and the part-time cloggers get thrown into the mix together. In truth, giant-killings, which in the past were almost inevitable, are now very few and far between, due to the increased professionalism of the bigger clubs (at least on the pitch). But there’s always a chance, and my goodness how football needs someone to prove that to us this weekend.

Nowadays, that chance tends to present itself as the big clubs increasingly treat the early rounds of the cup as an annoyance, and large amounts of first-teamers get dropped. Whether you call it arrogance, or a panicked desire to wrap players in cotton-wool with that we-dare-not-miss-out-on-all-that-cash Champions League fixture on the horizon, it still provides David with the chance of a lifetime to slay Goliath.

Some may argue that it rather takes the shine off a giant-killing when the famous team appears to have announced with its team selection that it doesn’t care. I disagree. Firstly, you can still bet your life that the favourites don’t want to lose, and secondly it makes no difference to how good the score sounds in the classified check.

Manchester United‘s adoption of this risky strategy has seen them involved in a couple of spectacular near-misses in recent years. They could surely have fielded a 5th team that could beat Exeter City in 2005, and yet back to Devon they all went after a 0-0 draw. Having failed to learn from that mistake, United promptly made it again 12 months later at Burton Albion, where they once more escaped humiliation in a replay.

Another such near miss brings us nicely onto this years fixtures. Two years ago, when Luton Town were 3-1 up and playing Liverpool off the park, live on the BBC, the classic cup upset appeared to be on the cards. Liverpool spoiled everyone’s fun by storming back to win the game 5-3. The two clubs meet again on Sunday, with Luton now in a far worse position; threatened with relegation to League Two, and finances in a mess. Yet their impressive home record this season demands respect, and with Liverpool‘s manager appearing to think that the aim of his job is to get his best players on the pitch as rarely as possible, who knows what set of misfits The Hatters might come up against?

Let’s look at where else we can pin our hopes for a dose of footballing equality:

The other three members of football’s royal family all have fascinating draws. It says a lot about the state of football today that if Aston Villa, currently plumbing the depths of 7th in the Premiership, were to turn Manchester United over at home, it would be regarded as a major giant-killing. It would probably come as an almighty shock to Villa fans as well, given their team’s abysmal recent record against the champions. Nevertheless, it’s by far the best chance we have of seeing one of the big four sent packing early.

You can bet that Burnley is one of the last places Arsenal would fancy spending a sunday afternoon. Yet however intimidating an atmosphere the Turf Moor fans create, it’s difficult to see the Premiership leaders slipping up here. The new Burnley manager Owen Coyle once famously helped a second division Bolton dump Arsenal out in a replay at Highbury, but is yet to get his side going in the short time he’s been in charge, despite being dubbed ‘the new Bill Shankly’ by his chairman.

No game this weekend quite encapsulates football’s plight like Chelsea v QPR. This one is fascinating for all the wrong reasons, as it brings together football’s two richest clubs. Chelsea, the cup holders, have earned their status thanks entirely to the riches of Roman Abramovich. Poor west London relations QPR are now making an attempt to catch up with the Joneses; not content with the billions of Formula 1’s hierarchy, Rangers have recently brought on board an Asian businessman with even deeper pockets. They are however yet to spend any of this loot, meaning their chances of winning this local derby are still extremely remote, but their surging league form of late suggests the players may be playing with a greater incentive (I wonder what that could be?). Couple this with Chelsea‘s injury crisis, and maybe it’s not so clearcut.

The remaining non-league sides Chasetown and Havant & Waterlooville have seemingly impossible tasks against in-form welsh outfits Cardiff and Swansea respectively. In fact you could say they Havant a prayer. Sorry.

Realistically, we will probably have to settle for slightly smaller potatoes, in the shape of mid-table Premiership sides slipping up. Here are the third round fixtures I think have the best chance of producing a surprise result:

Bristol City v Middlesbrough – This is a repeat of a fourth round tie from last season, when Boro needed penalties to see off the league one version of City after twice narrowly escaping with a 2-2 draw. Since then, City have been promoted and are finding the Championship a breeze, where as beleaguered Boro edge nearer to the Premiership trap-door. Southgate is a sitting duck.

Huddersfield v Birmingham – Huddersfield are yet again failing to meet expectations in League One, languishing in mid-table. Which leaves them in a perfect position to put all their energies into this. With no promotion on the horizon, The Terriers’ large following, in their excellent stadium, will be desperate to make the most of the big occasion. Alex McLeish‘s side, with a must-win relegation battle in the league to fight, will not appreciate this distraction.

Ipswich v Portsmouth – A tie in which something has to give. Ipswich unbeatable at home, Pompey saving all their best for the road. If it goes to a replay, we’ll be no nearer sorting it out, given Harry Redknapp‘s side inability to find the net at home, and the Tractor Boys still searching for a first away win. The Premiership quality should be the difference, but anything can happen here.

Stoke v Newcastle This is the ‘you-wouldn’t-want-to-be-in-his-shoes’ game of the weekend. Sam Allardyce needs this game at the moment like he needs, say, his best central midfielder to get banged up for a fortnight. Surely it’s too soon for Joey the jailbird to make an appearance here – if he does he will be a brave man, because the Britannia Stadium, both its players and spectators, will be merciless. If Newcastle escape with a draw they’ll be absolutely delighted.

Jamie.

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