Monday, October 18, 2010

The week that was

Wayne Rooney is threatening to leave Manchester United after another row with nice Mr Ferguson...Didn’t Beckham, Stam, Van Nistelrooy and Ronaldo fall out with Sir Alex too before heading for the exit at Old Trafford? I still seem to be the only person who does not think Fergie is a football genius.
Former Manchester City coach Malcolm Allison, who died this week aged 83, was best-known for his 1970s image – the fedora, cigars, nightclubs and glamour girls, as well as his rebranding of Crystal Palace as ‘the Eagles’, but he also had a shrewd soccer brain. He had realised by the early 1950s that English football was tactically obsolete, but unlike most, fought hard to do something about it through innovative coaching. He won the league and European Cup Winners’ Cup with City (the last all-English champions of England), turned down Juventus and won a Portuguese championship with Sporting Lisbon. Charismatic and flamboyant in public to the point of ridicule he was, yet he remained a sound judge of the game, and like many a English manager with continental leanings, was consistently overlooked by the myopic Football Association.
After the Sunday Times splashed the shock news that certain FIFA Executive Committee members are inviting investment in return for World Cup votes, their next assignment is to reveal that the earth goes around the sun.
This is no scoop. What is the Nigeria or Tahiti representative supposed to do other than try to boost the football infrastructure in their either poor or rugby-swamped nations? FiFA is always talking about developing the game in such places. And why are the bidding nations playing friendlies in places like Trinidad or Qatar other than to curry votes from the local members of the Executive Committee. This is politics, not cricket, like it or not, and FIFA have muddied the waters of the Corinthian spirit.
Yes, soccer is bent, inevitably so with so much money at stake you might say. At least an unnamed FIFA member let slip that England are not bribing for 2018...So that’s Russia’s in the bag then.
Fulham skipper Danny Murphy has kept the tabloids in business this week with a curious dig at Wolves, Stoke and Blackburn for playing too physically. Football surely is cleaner now than in the past, due to the banning of tackles from behind and the two-dozen cameras covering the pitch. If it seems rough it must be due to the pace of modern tackles flying in, or this year’s World Cup Final...It is not that Murphy does not know the sport began as a brawl between medieval villages; he is just a fiery lad. I recall watching a game at Craven Cottage in his presence and there was a brooding menace in the air, perhaps just what you want from a midfield enforcer. As I was exiting the press room toilets he was marching in and threw me a look of ‘get outta here you hack’.
Fabio Capello’s second England honeymoon juddered to a halt with a turgid 0-0 draw at Wembley against Montenegro this week, with uncomfortable echoes of the Algeria game in Cape Town this summer, the most painfully soporific 90 minutes I can recall. From high up in Wembley I saw the white shirts’ predictable approach fail to bear fruit, but watching the tape the next day, the Montenegrins’ organisation looked quite impressive. Top of the group, they could ruffle some more feathers soon...
The same night Serb thugs got the Italy v Serbia clash in Genoa called off. For once, Italian teppisti were not to blame. Coming only days after extreme right-wing yobs (perhaps the same ones) viciously attacked a gay pride march in Sarajevo, Serbia seems hell-bent on winning the crown of being Europe’s bad boys. I have heard a few football chants in my time, but nothing as vile as those coming from the orifices of Yugoslavia fans at the 1998 World Cup in Nantes - ditties boasting of Serb militia atrocities in the Balkan conflict of the early ‘90s to be precise.
Liverpool’s flirting with doom is the other main story here this week. Second to bottom with Gerrard and Torres in the team? How times have changed. The Liverpool of my youth were one of the few teams I have watched (along with Milan of the early 1990s) who at times appeared unbeatable. The new American owners have no background in the game, but surely they cannot be worse than the previous duo.
(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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