Thursday, 25 September 2008
That's unless someone in a position of power in football, does something to help him.
It doesn't mean packing him off to the Priory and picking up the tab. It doesn't mean having him in as a guest in your club or on your show. It means giving him a job in your football club; one that'll give him a reason to live. Something with football at its heart.
Every fan loves him, everyone remembers his exploits. The World Cup semi-final sob, the flute playing at Rangers, the burp into the waiting reporters mike, the Cup semi free-kick which buried Arsenal, the overheated, deranged challenges on Parker and Charles which led to cruciate damage, smashing up the hotel room when Hoddle told him he'd rather have Rob Lee at France 98, The Sun's Dentist Chair and the accompanying celebration at Wembley against the Scots. EVERYTHING he did was wholehearted or funny - and usually both.
That's why someone - at Newcastle, Spurs, Lazio, Rangers, Middlesbrough, Everton, Burnley ... or Wolves should give him a job.Gazza loves kids, he loves football; can't someone think laterally? his job could be Youth Team training partner, handshaker, full-time autograph signer. Something that if he's not there one day, you'd shrug and say "don't worry, he'll be back next week". It'd be about giving this troubled man the support he's literally crying for.
Football owes a debt of gratitude to Gazza. He emerged as football did - from the ashes of Bradford and the tragedies of Heysel and Hillsborough - to the glory of Italia 90 and then the formation of the Premier League.
It's no co-incidence. People and personalities like him were the catalyst as football emerged from near extinction in the 80's.
George Best died a slow and inevitable death - why does it have to happen again? Gazza, a hero to millions and one of football's biggest figures of the last two decades.
If football people really mean it when they say, "I want to give something back to the game" - they should start by lending Gazza a hand.
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
To gauge just how much The Professor's changed The Gunners, recall how rival fans taunted them with boring boring Arsenal - a chant now employed ironically by the home fans each time their team's won a game by halftime. Never has an old song been consigned more soundly to the dustbin than that!
Arsenal's Wengerness manifests itself so frequently in lengthy unbeaten runs, two-dozen passes leading to Goal Of The Season and sound thrashings meted out to lesser-prepared teams and their array of transient managers.
And it's all down to The Man.
But just how does The Professor keep such basic tenets of belief so fresh for his players when the challenge is just to keep winning?
The answer to that lies in his constant desire to keep adapting to the conundra set by differing opposition - by succeeding.
Players come and go, in the case of Hleb and Flamini, sometimes faster than he wants them to.But Wenger's principles remain steadfast in the face of a changing football world - and the ultimate insurance policy against have-a-go billionaires who think they can buy glory.
There are many ways to skin a cat. Compare The Professor with Fergie with The Special One and you'll unearth a multitude of routes to a Winning Formula.
The greats are often mavericks with seemingly unorthodox methods. From Shankly's “If you're not sure what to do with the ball, just pop it in the net and we'll discuss your options afterwards.” to Cloughie's "When I disagree with a player, we talk about it for 20 minutes and then we decide I was right."
But there's a science and logic to Wenger, who's way of management has changed its face forever.
His principles on diet, fitness and a team ethic now in the public domain, are universal, for all time and should be adopted by any coach serious about success, now or in the future.
I really hope Arsenal win the league this season, not just to propel Wenger to the game's summit again, but also to show the wave of billionaire owners that football's dreams can still be made of Stars - not just Cash Cows.
Saturday, 20 September 2008
Even Google's robot knows it.
For all the millions lavished upon them and the grand gesture in appointing a double UEFA Cup winning coach, it seems there's one inalienable truth which applies to football as much as to wider life:
You Can't Polish A Turd.
It seems the Carling Cup victory in Juande Ramos' first months as Spurs boss now looks like a false dawn.
You see, Tottenham aren't built to win Championships, neither are they equipped to compete in the Champions League. At best, they win domestic cups - and that at a rate of one every three managerial changes.
A couple of season's back, their transfer policy was to sign Englishmen. But Jermaine Jenas' quote on his arrival at White Hart Lane gives an insight into why Spurs constantly fail to make the breakthrough.
Jenas described his relief at escaping Newcastle's goldfish bowl, but what he really meant by that was he wanted a piece of party-time London without detection.
Spurs seldom attract the professional - the person who's there to play football first. The honourable exceptions to that rule end up at Liverpool and Manchester United.
Arsenal might be in London too, but no-one can accuse Arsene Wenger of scoffing from Swinging London's chocolate box; and his players are made of the same fabric. I mean, can you conjure up an image of Pascal Cygan stumbling out of Tramp arm-in-arm with a WAG? He saved all his best stumblings for gametime.
Tottenham, and for that matter Manchester City and Newcastle attract a certain kind of Charlie that Arsenal and indeed clubs like Everton and Aston Villa don't.
However much you lavish on some clubs, they always seem to fail. There seems to be a default position of relative success and failure at which teams find their level, whatever resource is thrown at them.
When predicting future success, the strongest marker lies in pointing to a glorious past. If a club's done it before, there's every chance they'll do it again.
For all of Liverpool's struggles in reclaiming the title during the imperious reign of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, the Reds have still won the FA Cup and League Cups (more than once) and BOTH European trophies. They're a winning machine even if a triumvirate of big guns perenially stall their Premier League dream.
I mentioned Aston Villa and Everton. Football League Originals both of them and a quiet dignity which means they stay out of the headlines and more than occasionally go on and achieve "unexpectedly".
For all of Newcastle's noise and north-easternness? nothing.
The Shearers, the Keegans and the Sir Bobbys, all orbiting stars of the St James' solar system, but their twinkle is always eclipsed by the bad moon risings of the Bartons, Bellamys and Dyers.
Manchester City's new owners be warned - your trillions are at risk so enjoy the buffet in hospitality while you're there!
And that's Tottenham's lot too, unless they can ignite a winning catalyst. A good coach will eventually craft a good team.
Spurs need only look a couple of miles down the road to see how Arsenal have built a dynasty in a decade: a commitment to their manager, superb transfer dealings and a stunning new stadium which'll keep the Gunners at football's top table long-after Wenger's moved on.
However low on confidence Spurs might be playing, their board must stick with Ramos, a man who took a provincial Spanish club to a summit of the European game.
And while they're doing that, why don't they ask him what else the board at Sevilla were doing while he brought home the jamon?
Thursday, 11 September 2008
But the team followed Capello's orders, showed great discipline - and our key players demonstrated in spades, what we know each of them for.
Lampard - skill, poise and the trigger at set-pieces. Unlucky with his disallowed goal. Rooney - full of running, clever passing in the final third of the pitch, non-stop harrying and chasing. Walcott - pace, quick feet and self-assurance. (Post-match audio interview).
Monday, 8 September 2008
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Sunday, 7 September 2008
Gerrard's drive in midfield is sorely missed and England's best starting line-up is compromised by outside forces.
Friday, 5 September 2008
It's time for Newcastle United to extricate itself from the past. The last time Kevin Keegan led Newcastle to (near) glory in the 90's, he was merely pitted against Arsenal's Bruce Rioch, Liverpool's Roy Evans and Chelsea's Ruud Gullit.
Who beat Keegan to the title? the ultimate football winner, Alex Ferguson. Aside from the total one-off that is The Govanor, the game's moved on.
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
But Manchester City’s lightning quick purchase by Abu Dhabi Babby shows there's still a billionaire somewhere ready to buy the Premier League dream. Just who and where he comes from has shifted from west to east quicker than you can send tanks through a neighbouring state.
World capital is suddenly in the hands of the oil rich, the cash rich and the sovereign wealth fund – and they all want a piece of our game too!
This season we might see embarrassingly half-empty stadia for supposedly big games, but when you’re Barry Bigshot after instant status and a lot of fun, there’s seemingly nowhere better to splurge your cash than at ... Manchester City(!)
Spiralling wages and transfer fees will continue. Sadly the difference between fan and player will also become bigger.
Football’s economy bears no relation to the UK's because it's almost entirely without regulation. This is what happens when you truly expose yourself to Globalization. The Fit and Proper Person’s Rule is about the only regulation there is, and that’s about as sharp as pensioners teeth.
(By the way, I like it like this).
My main concern is that the Megamoney will make the mistake of believing the fans will be less and less important because they'll be contributing a smaller share of the overall financial pie.
But without the fan, there's no passion. Ultimately the billionaire's buying into them. Beware new investors; without the supporters your investment will shrivel.
And now, as with all finance-based editorial, here's a warning from our Compliance Officer: "Your investment in Manchester City could go down as well as further down."