Story of the month
When Ashley Cole missed his penalty against Everton in their FA Cup tie, the Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny asked on Twitter: “What do you think Ashley was aiming for? Is it an aeroplane? No, it’s just Ashley throwing Chelsea out of the FA Cup.” In fairness to Cole, it wasn’t the most misguided shot he took this month.
Chelsea’s season, much like their left-back’s life, seems to have crumbled beyond recognition. The Double winners won’t win any domestic silverware this year and are in a battle to make next season’s Champions League, a situation that concerns John Terry: “I have lost a little bit of sleep, it is stressful. It will be disastrous for the football club if we don’t qualify for the Champions League.” Andrew Dillon of the Sun was not so sympathetic: “Never mind Chelsea. There’s still the league – the Europa League.”
ROBIN S ON
“...and the final to be played over four quarters, with a rock concert at half-time” DAV E
with a “bigger club” than Liverpool. Needless to say, Liverpool’s fans begged to differ. When the two clubs met at Stamford Bridge six days later, Torres was treated to some of the famous Scouse wit. With Chelsea trailing, Torres was reminded that he “should have stayed at a big club”, while a banner informed the home team that they had “paid £50 million for Margi Clarke”. The travelling fans seemingly wished to mock Torres with a cultural reference from an era in which Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool were likely to win trophies.
Torres, for all his quality, has not had the best of starts at Chelsea. According to the Telegraph’s Henry Winter, he has resembled “a warrior without a sword or shield, an orienteer without a map, at times a little boy lost”. Lord Sugar suggested that Torres should “go blond again to bring him good luck. He used to score as a blond.” In his role as a News of the World
It is difficult to sympathise with Chelsea’s struggle, considering their methods of dealing with the so-called crisis. Instead of developing their young players and balancing their books, Roman Abramovich has again resorted to throwing some of his hard-earned fortune at the problem. Chelsea’s sporting director Frank Arnesen explained the rationale fairly clearly. According to Arnesen, relying on young players is the pastime of clubs that “don’t want to win trophies and be involved in the Champions League”.
The majority of Chelsea’s January spending went on Fernando Torres. The striker has never won a club medal and thought he was more likely to achieve success
Daily Mirror, February 22
Mail on Sunday, February 20
columnist, Gary Lineker offered a more cogitative angle: “There is a fickle nuance in football called form. It comes and goes and no one really knows why.”
With Torres struggling, Carlo Ancelotti faced a selection dilemma. Including his expensive new striker seems to require dropping one of Didier Drogba, last season’s top scorer, or Nicolas Anelka, his only in-form forward. Ancelotti tried playing all three against Liverpool, an idea that didn’t work for David Pleat: “Chelsea looked at sea trying to accommodate their big hitters up front.” Tony Cascarino, writing in the Times, was similarly unimpressed: “Accommodation is a word for hoteliers, not football managers.” Terry Venables, not famed for his accuracy with numbers, had an odd tactical insight: “I do not think just one player will be left out to accommodate Torres – I reckon there will be THREE.”
With Chelsea’s strikers failing to click, pressure has mounted on the likeable Ancelotti. The Express’s Ian Ridley concluded that: “Poor Carlo Ancelotti is looking more hangdog by the game, more desperate, more often to slip outside for a cigarette. You have to have some sympathy for him.” Depending on which paper you read, Ancelotti will soon be replaced by José Mourinho, Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten or Mark Hughes.
Ancelotti, however, has other ideas. Without domestic distractions, the Chelsea manager hopes he can repeat his achievement with AC Milan in 2007. His team finished 36 points behind Inter in Serie A, but went on to win the Champions League. If he fails, he can no doubt expect to leave west London with another wedge of his boss’s fortune.
no doubt expect to leave west London with another wedge of his boss’s fortune.
Modern times Football’s bid for world domination
News of the World, February 13
Sun, February 21 , February 21
Times, February 11
Times, February 11 Intro of the month
John Richardson, Sunday Express, February 6 John Richardson,
In a nutshell Condensing columnists on a pressing issue of the moment
“Forget Glenn Hoddle for a moment. Let’s start with Rastamouse… drawn more than 100 complaints… some object to characters using Jamaican patois… a handful of twerps with their knickers in a twist are enough to grab a headline... Hoddle made what he considered to be a humorous remark about failing control of Fernando Torres… reminded him of the Chinese footballer Knee Shin
Toe… Hoddle wasn’t being very original or particularly amusing but he definitely wasn’t being racist… Hoddle said sorry… with Sky so sensitive in the wake of departure of Richard Keys and Andy Gray… if we apologise for every moment of colour in the language then real instances of racism will became indistinguishable from these faux controversies… Ni Shinto would have actually have some meaning in Japanese but fortunately for Hoddle he hasn’t accidentally slandered the victims of the Hiroshima bomb… we need to pull back from these po-faced inquisitions… a tiny network of attention-seeking complainers is enough to start commotion in modern Britain… having put the heads of Keys and Gray on spikes, some are still not satisfied… we know Hoddle is not a racist… as Benny Hill would have said, why you no risten?” Martin Samuel comes to the defence of Glenn Hoddle. Daily Mail, February 16
Paying the way
Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn said that his claim to “despise” fans who watch matches in pubs was meant to start a debate on falling attendances. But, while every detail of Arsenal against Barcelona was minutely scrutinised, Quinn’s comments received minimal press coverage.
harming all levels of the game.” Sunderland’s 2010 accounts were published later in February – maybe with close reading Young would have identified a richer target for his ire. The club’s wage bill for the period stood at £53.7 million – 82 per cent of turnover. It is players’ wages, not fans in pubs, that are bankrupting football.
In the Express, however, Mick
Brian McNally in the Mirror did bring up the broader issues with the modern game, referring to the “bigger picture of economic depression, extortionate Premier League prices and a growing alienation between fans and players”. In the same paper, Simon Bird agreed: “It is not a question of loyalty, it is a question of money. The first luxury to go in households is likely to be expensive trips to the Stadium of Light.”
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“West Ham branded binoculars, for £80 a pair you can nearly see the pitch DAV E
Dennis also defended Quinn, seeing Sky as an unlikely champion of those in trouble: “The bigger threat is lower down the pyramid, crowds will disappear into pubs if every landlord can show English games live on foreign channels... If Sky cannot have exclusive rights in this country, they won’t pay as much. And if the cake gets smaller, mega-clubs like Man Utd will want bigger slices. That will unpick the collective [TV] deal.”
The Mail’s Colin Young, however, had no truck with any sort of empathy. Young tutted over a “ largescale practice” by the “most pessimistic supporters in the land”, who “still struggle to forgive and forget”. The combative Young then blamed fans for football’s ills: “Whatever their selfish intentions and the money saved, this illegal trade is
While Quinn remains a popular figure on Wearside, the tone of his
Daily Express, February 15
Daily Express, February 18
comments irritated a significant minority of Sunderland supporters. But the issues raised by this row are not unique to one club. Attendances are down for a wide variety of reasons: pressing economic necessity; the media’s saturation coverage of a few favoured clubs; an increasingly tedious matchday experience. But these debates were held on message boards, not in the papers.
This was a missed opportunity to acknowledge widespread disillusionment and football’s creaking structure. The chairman of the seventh-best-supported club in the country, pressured by massively lop-sided finances spent in a faltering pursuit of upper mid-table, felt the need to berate fans during a recession, shortly after appointing David
Miliband as vice-chairman on £75,000 for two weeks work a year. Maybe football is finally caving in on itself. But if the bubble is bursting, very few in the press are listening – Jack Wilshere swapping shirts with Lionel Messi was apparently much more interesting.
“Today is a momentous day. We are proud to have been passed the Olympic torch” Karren Brady celebrates West Ham winning their stadium battle with Spurs
“With hindsight, I see them mainly as a bunch of foolhardy brats” Former France coach Raymond Domenech remembers his players’ refusal to train during the 2010 World Cup
“I speak my mind, and being a Yorkshireman I might not be as eloquent at speaking as some, but I say it as I see it” Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards on being called a bully by ex-FA head Lord Triesman at a parliamentary inquiry into football
“As it’s Wayne the press will raise a campaign to get him hung or electrocuted” Sir Alex Ferguson reacts to suggestions that Wayne Rooney should have been sent off against Wigan