Monday, 19 December 2011

Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Football?

There are times in a football supporter’s life where he (or she, you won’t catch me in a Gray/Key-esque scenario) when you think, is there simply too much of it?

Don’t jump down my throat just yet. Let me lay my cards on the table.

Fast forward to August 2012. The new season is about to start. We have just seen England and Ireland both eliminated in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals. An Irish nation consoles. An English nation weeps and the FA vows to never employ another Italian/Swede.

Redknapp/Pearce/Allardyce is appointed, and the general public is told to “watch this space” for 2014.

Meanwhile, the GB Olympic team has also fallen valiantly short of a medal, with a penalty shoot-out defeat against Germany. The creativity-shy and passion-filled performances are viewed with great encouragement for the future.

One or two of the Olympic team’s better players enjoy a mountain of pressure ahead of the new season. The whole country waits with baited breath for the new season to burst out of the blocks, and cheer their tortured souls.

But hang on a minute. All the Europeans are knackered. Only Fernando Torres looks on the ball, as he didn’t get a kick for Spain in the Euros. David Silva fails to reproduce his Premier League and Euro-winning form, and he is proclaimed “finished” and “past his peak” by our glorious experts.

I’m sure we can all envisage such a scenario. Such saturation of football will undoubtedly fill our summers with joy, but part of the game’s beauty, like that of life itself, is the moments of calm, of taking stock, or simply speculating on which aged star your lower league team is looking to take on board.

Instead, expect little-to-no transfer activity until late July, as every scout crowds the stadiums of Poland and Ukraine, not to mention the Olympics. Rest assured, every spend-thrift chairman (so that’s all of them then) will be hoping to snap up an up-and-coming sensation.

I anticipate a lot of disappointed fans at several clubs, as they hear the old “we tried to get players in, but with all the scouts present it was impossible to get a look in” line trotted out around the different boardrooms. Most chairmen don’t need any help looking for excuses not to spend money.

So to answer my question – is there too much football? After such a cynical few paragraphs you might expect the answer to be a resounding yes, but let’s face it, the amusement at watching all this chaos unfold is just another one of those tiny things that make football great.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

A Brief Summary Of Recent Footballing Events

So with exams out of the way at last, I am happy to be back in the blogging saddle. You will be happy to know that I am not about to try and sum up everything sporty that has happened in the last month. Hell, it would take me at least one page to explain Blackburn’s situation.

With the table beginning to take shape, the strugglers preparing their life-boats, and the chairman fondling their triggers, it is not going to be a happy Christmas for everyone in football.

Most surprisingly of all we find Owen Coyle on the wrong end of some criticism. I’m not going to defend his record this season. 13 defeats in 16 games is not good enough by anyone’s standards, and his Bolton side lie five points adrift of safety. Sadly, it looks like he may be nearly out of time.

Since that thrashing at the hands of Stoke in last season’s cup semi-final, the Trotters have been displaying relegation form. The same form that Burnley were stuck in prior to Coyle’s departure for Bolton.

I look at the team and don’t see any real quality. The best players from last season – Jack Wilshere and Johan Elmander, have either gone back to their parent club, or been let go altogether. Some have not stepped up to the plate to fill the gap.

Before the weekend’s fixtures I got the welcome news that Blackburn supporters were finally ceasing their series of protests against their team’s manager Steve Kean.

While I am not exactly his strongest advocate, it surely goes without saying that endless demonstrations against how the team is being run cannot help performances on the pitch. At the time of writing, a 2-1 home defeat to West Brom had just been confirmed, so maybe the protesters will rear their ugly heads again over Christmas.

With the two Manchester clubs dropping into the Europa League, continental competition will take on a strange feel – not to mention Stoke’s absurd tie against Valencia. I’d say this draw alone is Tony Pulis’s proudest moment in management.

With Stoke moving up to eighth in the Premier League table this weekend you could hardly argue for an adverse effect on their performances. I for one cannot wait to see Valencia’s centre backs trying to cope with a Rory Delap special.

London clubs are also finally enjoying the upper hand briefly, at least in European terms. However, do not be surprised to see AC Milan and Napoli eliminate English interest before the last eight. Milan will surely have too much for Arsenal, while Chelsea will hope their new found defensive solidity carries forward to February, as Napoli have some deadly weapons up front.

Consider this a dipping the toes back into the ocean, and some more substantial musings will be winging their way to you shortly.