Friday, 27 July 2012

Time for an English Anthem or God Save The Queen across the Kingdom

No curveball from Becks. He'd have sung!
What did you think of the Welsh contingent not singing the National Anthem? There wasn't a squeak before kick-off. Craig Bellamy and Ryan Giggs remained purse-lipped as God Save The Queen came trumpeting from the PA system. It provided another headline to the one-all draw with Senegal at Old Trafford.  
Though irritating to the Unionists among us, it's easy to understand why they didn't join in. The over-aged big names were merely confirming the blur, nay fudge between what's English and British.

He's a miserable git anyway

While Flower of Scotland is Hampden's hymn and Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau's definitely Welsh, (Old Land of my Fathers to thee and me), God Save The Queen's the choice for both England and Northern Ireland games. But in reality, it's the UK's anthem.

The solution's simple: we either all sing God Save The Queen before each Home Nation game (distinctly unlikely in this age of devolution, other parliaments and all) - or England and Northern Ireland find regional solutions, so pokerfaced Bellamy would feel more compelled to have a Great British sing-song.

Goal! But no complaints over his commitment.
Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory, One Step Beyond: they've all been suggested for England while Londonderry Air would cause all sorts of new sectarian argument in Northern Ireland to make one think God Save The Queen was the best choice in the first place!

And there was nothing wrong with any of the player's commitment to the cause. Giggs, Bellamy and Joe Allen, the Welshman pictured above next to Bellamy, all played their part in a game that we should've really won. A couple of bars of our anthem wouldn't have hurt either of them, really.

But whatever the song, we've uncovered another fault-line in a football project that only a minority believes is meaningful. A Great Britain Olympic football team is at best a flash mob and at worst, a political pawn which FIFA can bully us with in the future.

God Save The Queen!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Beware Citeh! Fergie's warpath target is the title

There's no one better at setting and achieving goals than Sir Alex Ferguson. Whether Manchester United win trophies or not, you can guarantee Fergie resets his ambitions to square one every August. It's the only viable explanation for the club's astonishing consistency in retaining or reclaiming silverware.

Fergie's first Premier League title in 1993
And the 70-year-old's challenged his squad to reclaim the title after City pipped them on goal difference last term; "We have to recover, as we've done many times. That's our target this year."

And when the Govanator insists recapturing the Premier League title is his "number one priority", the noisy neighbours had better sit up and pay attention:

Every time United have finished runners-up under Fergie, they've gone on to reclaim the prize next time - and then some! In 1996, they claimed the double, in 1999, it was the treble plus 2007 and 2011.

United will be strengthened by the return from injury of Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic, akin to a new top-level signing.

United's midfield looked distinctly light-touch compared to previous incarnations. So weak last season, it's underperformance encouraged Fergie to tempt Paul Scholes out of retirement, as Ryan Giggs continued to deliver at 37. With Ji-Sung Park transferred and Darren Fletcher's ulcerative colitis ruling him out for an unspecified timespan, Fergie (rather like the unfortunate Fletcher) has begun reconstruction in the middle.

Nick Powell's arrived from Crewe Alexandra and Japan international Shinji Kagawa's been signed from Borussia Dortmund.
Fergie's new midfield: adding numbers to experience.
City will be under considerable pressure on two fronts this year: having set the bar at title-winning level, their squad of millionaires will be expected to finish top again while at the same time, fairing much, much better in the Champions League.

Perhaps pivotal in the title race is the unknown variable of a player's future: of a man who doesn't even play for either of the Mancunian protagonists. 

Robin Van Persie's recent refusal to put pen to paper on a new Arsenal contract's ignited an almighty scramble for his services: a battle which Fergie claims he's won. Time will tell whether the Dutchman will pick United over City, who are willing to pay him more and Juventus, who are touting a completely new challenge in Serie A.

United actually finished their last season top when the final whistle blew at Sunderland; but that was minutes before City's last-gasp come-from-behind win at home to QPR.

But if City are favourites with the bookies at the start, perhaps the clever money's on United to wrest control of the coveted trophy come May next year.

It's hard to deny Fergie's extraordinary hunger for success and achievement.

Friday, 13 July 2012

John Terry NOT GUILTY of racial abuse

John Terry's been found NOT guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle said the case was not about 'whether Mr Terry was a racist in the broadest sense of the word'.

He said he'd heard a great deal of evidence to show that he was not.

The 31-year-old left court within minutes of the verdict, making no comment as a group of Chelsea fans waiting outside cheered as he walked by.

Mr Terry was accused of calling Ferdinand a "f****** black c***" during a Premier League match between Chelsea and QPR last October.

Concluding his statement, Riddle said: 'Weighing all the evidence together, I think it is highly unlikely that Mr Ferdinand accused Mr Terry on the pitch of calling him a b**** c***.

Terry vehemently denied he was racist and claimed the video took him out of context. “I thought Anton was accusing me of using a racist slur against him. I responded aggressively, saying that I never used that term. I will fight this charge tooth and nail”, he said. Amid all the TV camera angles there've been, this uncensored close-up of Terry was the clearest evidence of a strong case to be answered.

Terry was no ordinary person at the dock, and although he shouldn't have been treated any differently from anyone else facing charges of racism, he was in a position of responsibility to behave inside boundaries. Despite his repeated horridness, incredibly some fans continue to look upto him.


But the collateral damage of this case could still hang over his life and playing career. The Football Association have 'noted' the case and may still punish Terry in some way.

Football can and should punish him on the basis that he doesn't deny using those choice of words on a pitch in front of thousands of fans and millions on TV.

Society simply can't afford to tolerate this kind of alleged behaviour from a player of his standing and level.

No one will believe football's story of standing against racism and other forms of prejudice if the authorities don't act.

Summer tours set to change the Premier League forever

The Premier League is colonizing the summer months to spread their gospel around the world. Every club is embarking on a summer tour in some far-flung outpost, some are even hopping across three different continents in pursuit of a burgeoning fanbase.

Jonny reports on the staggering Airmiles being accrued by the likes of Manchester United et al.

The 39th Game: the debate rages again

As Manchester United jet across the world satisfying a Premier League hunger beyond these shores, the spectre of a 39th Game must surely be back on the agenda.

United lead the way with a mind-numbing pre-season schedule of 22,000 airmiles with friendlies in South Africa, China, Norway, Sweden and Germany.

Premier League CEO Scudamore loves globalization
Champions Manchester City travel 16,000 miles to Austria and China. Everton are in Indonesia, while Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool and Villa are in the USA.

Chief Executive of the Premier League, Richard Scudamore is the most powerful proponent of globalising the Premier League with the 39th Game, but it's an idea in the traditions of Millwall. No one likes it, he don't care!

And when I canvas my fellow football-loving pals, I'm firmly in a minority of one in thinking this is a good idea.

But it's got to be a logical progression for the most widely watched league in the world.

Supporter groups in England are unsurprisingly against it.
After all, the NBA and NFL come to London, so is the Premier League missing a trick? In an inter connected world, isn't it an essential mechanic of a global game?

And if we don't do it, won't other European leagues biting at our heels do it first? Barcelona and Real Madrid are real Box Office and oh yeah, their national team is the greatest ever! The Premier League must stay ahead of the game and embrace an enlarged and growing fanbase - or somewhere else will grab them.

As the recession showed, travelling support for England was curtailed to Poland and the Ukraine, but for clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool, local support is literally only half the story.

And for teams like Queen's Park Rangers, boasting new signing Ji Sung Park, South Korea presents a massive new fanbase opportunity (although curiously his homeland isn't part of their mammoth 20,000 mile trek this time).

I really believe it's one-eyed for the Premier League not to consider the 39th Game and having created the global demand, our clubs need to respect and honour it with meaningful competition, not just friendlies.

We had an audio debate in the @sportsmediauk newsroom - and Marcus Stead wrote this passionate piece against it.

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