It’s astonishing to compare what is possible in the 21st century compared to how it used to be. For instance, the way we view television is remarkable.
The advent of interactive digital technology means the home viewer can select, augment and interact with what they watch in an entirely new way, and not just at home but on the move on a range of devices. It is actually possible, during a live game and whilst sitting on a bus, to turn off the sound of Andy Townsend. Slim mobile phones are now also computers, video screens, TVs, audio systems, cameras, navigation tools and much more. As technology continues to advance at a pace unimaginable even 10 years ago, the application of it in sport hasn’t quite kept up.
Some sports were quick to adopt and adapt technology that already existed, such as TV replays, and some technology is even driven by the needs of sports – take Hawkeye for example. The attitudes towards applying innovation in both technology and laws of the game varies widely though, depending on the sport. If sports were mobile phone users, you’d probably say the NFL is an early adopter owning the latest iPhone or Android version – sleek, slick and used constantly. This is partly due to the stop-start nature of the game but nonetheless, the fact that a free NFL app can provide fans with real-time stats and play-by-play analysis is pretty impressive.
More striking is that American football has been miking up the refs and providing them with video assistance since as early as 1986. You’d probably then say that sports like tennis and cricket, supposedly run by old school fuddy-duddy blazers, are also smartphone users. With Hawkeye, video replays, hotspots and so on, they’re firmly iPhone 4S users, possibly even iPhone 5 or a snazzy Samsung. Even both codes of rugby have seen some element of innovation whether it be instant replays or even simply putting players ‘on report’ in rugby league. Technology in rugby is probably the equivalent of using an early iPhone or HTC.
Then there’s football. No video replays for key decisions like offsides, penalties or red cards. Confusing rules on retrospective punishment, and no allowance for post-match reviews to punish simulation or other instances of cheating and foul play. Having just introduced goal-line technology, something that will probably get used half a dozen times a season at best, football has just upgraded to one of the early Motorola flip phones and is smugly patting itself on the back at the nice ‘clacking’ sound it makes. Worryingly, football seems to cherish its status as a laggard in the world of sports. Any debate on the subject rapidly elicits a common set of views (or misconceptions) on how technology and innovation would impact the game:
- “It would slow the game down”
- “It would undermine the referees on the pitch”
- “Football’s about people, not technology”
- “It would take away the talking points from the game”
Each of these views on closer inspection is nonsense but they remain barriers to change because there is yet to be any sensible and comprehensive debate on technology by the FA, UEFA or FIFA. Would it slow the game down? Only if you assume that every decision is subject to some form of review. With the game being so free-flowing, technology could not be employed in a blanket approach and without some amendments to the laws of the game.
A pragmatic and sensible approach would see, for instance, only certain decisions being video reviewed and only where the officials are sufficiently unsure but can let play continue – offsides, penalty decisions, tackles preventing goalscoring opportunities. Would it undermine referees? Surely what undermines referees is that every weekend, their decisions are scrutinised by pundits and journalists, and endlessly replayed in super slow-motion from numerous angles, whilst they only get the benefit of seeing it once, in real-time. Look no further than the recent furore over post-match comments by Brendan Rodgers and David Moyes, comments that came with the benefit of instant replays and slow-motion footage. Referees make mistakes, they always will because they’re human. But technology coupled with changes in the laws can minimise those mistakes.
Where referees are unsure of a big decision, rather than force them to go one way or the other, why not allow them the benefit of a video official reviewing a replay? Or where an incident happens off the ball or in the periphery of the ref’s vision, why not allow him to put the players involved on report and be dealt with in a post-match review? And lastly, if players are punished retrospectively, for say, diving, would that not drastically decrease how often it happens rather than undermine the ref? Surely even Ashley Young will rethink a dive if he’s fined or banned.
Yes, football is about people and not technology but those people are the fans and the players, both of whom generally have a vested interest in knowing that the decisions being made are correct. The same applies for the argument that technology would remove talking points. Who can honestly say they’ve gone to a game and heard someone say “Ooh, I can’t wait to see this ref today, I’m really looking forward to his performance”? The referee and assistants are not the participants. They are simply there to enforce the laws of the game – in an ideal world, they’re invisible and never make an error. Really, the only question that needs answering is this: is it reasonable to expect a referee and two assistants to spot everything that happens between twenty-two players moving at high-speed, some of whom may seek to cheat the officials? So why not give them as much help as possible. There’s plenty of other talking points on the pitch, incorrect decisions don’t need to be part of them.
Yet, astonishingly, modern football still clings to a world where portly middle-aged blokes can make decisions that mean billion-pound professional football clubs can win or lose a trophy. Much like the reaction when today’s teenagers see the early brick-sized mobile phones, in 20 years time, hopefully we’ll also be wondering how things ever worked this way.
The sacking of Malky Mackay by Cardiff City must have gone down as the least surprising event in football since Martin Jol got sacked from Fulham. It comes as the latest in a long line of increasingly odd and self-destructive moves by the Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan.
Cardiff City has a history of ludicrous owners and Chairmen, and long standing Cardiff supporters will be able to tell you all about the likes of Tony Clemo, Samesh Kumar, Sam Hammam and Peter Ridsdale. However Vincent Tan truly takes the biscuit in the terrible owner stakes.
Starting with the ludicrous kit and badge change, the last 18 months have brought a series of increasingly ill-thought out and bizarre actions and statements from the club that have pushed more and more fans away. The kit change itself was handled in a shambolic way, with denials of a change and assertions that the club was listening to the fans followed by a rapid change with no consultation with fans. The kit looked cheap and nasty and the badge was spruced up with what looked like a clip-art dragon. Meanwhile all the seats at the Cardiff City stadium remain blue and the whole change comes across as being completely half-arsed.
In the autumn there was the sacking of head of recruitment Ian Moody, replaced by an unknown 23 year old who has subsequently had to step down due to visa problems. The roots of this seem to be Tan’s complaints about an overspend on transfers over the summer. However the overspend reflects more poorly on Tan than it does on Mackay or Moody. The transfer deals would still need to be signed off by the club hierarchy, all appointed by Tan, so presumably somebody knew that the money was being spent and sanctioned it. The overspend also points to a potential lack of football knowledge, as the budget was exceeded through the addition of signing on and agents fees, rather than the payments made to clubs for players. Either way, for someone who is supposedly a great businessman he displayed a startling lack of financial control.
Following this things have become increasingly odd at Cardiff. Tan’s lack of football knowledge is astounding, with criticisms of goalkeeper David Marshall for not scoring and the suggestion that players should shoot more from distance as that will increase their chances of scoring. There have been reports of players asking that Tan not be allowed into the changing room at half time as his team talks have been disruptive and entirely unhelpful. Then there was the video of Tan booing either his own team or fans of the club (depending on your interpretation) after Sunderland’s late equaliser and his suggestion that the club should only sign players with an 8 in their birthday as that will bring good luck. Add in his ludicrous appearance and the entire package is completed.
The result is that Cardiff is now an even bigger laughing stock in football than it was before. Tan may well have thought he could get away from media glare and attention previously, but Cardiff’s rise to the Premier League means that criticism that was largely confined to pissed off fans on blogs and Twitter is now splashed all across the back pages of national daily papers and reaching back to his native Malaysia.
The absurdity of Tan’s actions and pronouncements as well as his monumental arrogance and ego are remarkable. Either he is an idiot or he is the greatest troll in football.
Given the unstable situation it seems unlikely that a serious manager will come forward for the job at Cardiff. Any manager worth his salt would want clear assurances about his exact role and a guarantee that Tan will keep his nose out of team affairs, however the ego of Tan likely means that bringing this up at the interview would result in not getting the job. The favourite seems to be Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, a manager who would, in different circumstances, be a fantastic appointment for Cardiff. However it seems unlikely he would want to take on such an unstable situation as his first job in British football and you can almost see Sir Alex Ferguson whispering in his ear to give this one a wide berth. Other names linked are journeyman Turkish manager Yilmaz Mural or Sven Goran Erikson, an appointment that would fit the gaudy, style over substance, profile above achievement approach that Tan seems to favour.
In all this, Malky Mackay has been seen by the fans as the heart of the club, someone who has been committed to the cause and put up with difficult circumstances for the greater good. However even he doesn’t come out of this affair smelling entirely of roses. The way that a ranting email to Malky from Vincent Tan was leaked and backfired points to someone who is naïve and unable to deal with the complexities and pressures that might arise should he ever go to a big club and be thrust into the harsh spotlight that comes with it. Or it points to someone who engineered his sacking to get a hefty pay out and jump ship before it all went bad, leaving his players and the club in the lurch.
Despite the difficult conditions he had to work under, and the fantastic job he did with Cardiff, it’s difficult to feel terribly sorry for Malky. He leaves with a payout rumoured to be around £2 million and his reputation largely intact. There are a number of jobs he could easily get and it would no surprise to see him take the West Brom job in early January, barring any contractual restrictions placed on him by Cardiff. It wouldn’t be surprising if fans held more affection for the sour-faced Dave Jones and the sterling effort he put in during a long spell with Cardiff than they did for Malky Mackay.
The team itself has shown it is capable of mixing it in the Premier League, with fantastic results at home such as the 3-2 victory over Manchester City, the 2-2 draw with Manchester United and the win against Swansea City. Given different circumstances they would be capable of staying up without too much difficulty.
However once again Cardiff are likely to shoot themselves in the foot and unless some stability and consistency is quickly brought in the club looks likely to be relegated.
Written by @
Written by Roberto Kusabbi – @RKtweets
Another season, another manager to be found. For any Spurs fan it’s something we’ve become accustomed to.
Nine Managers since 2001, Tottenham fans are well versed in how this goes. Will it be different this time? I don’t know. If the rumours that Tim Sherwood will be the interim manager (how very last year) and indeed is fancied for the full time job are true, I fear it won’t be. A season in flux awaits, only for us to be back here in 12 months time.
Where did it go wrong for Andre?
It’s hard to pinpoint how it came to this, or whether this was always going to happen. The road to hell is paved with many good intentions. Last season was our best ever return in the Premier League but we were rarely fluid. There were tactical tweaks here and there but I felt that we were building a platform for this season and the next. But with Gareth going we had to make wholesale changes in our team. It reminds me of when we bought Bentley, Bent, Modric et al and it was too much change at one time. But the Club could argue that what else could they do, force Gareth to stay or not replenish the squad? They were stuck between a rock and a hard place. But even more reason to allow time to take course and see where we were at the end of the season.
Andre was a good problem solver and a much more likable character than he seems in the press at times. You could see every day in coaching that solutions were being found last season. Lots of late goals being conceded? No problem, at the end of training the players did complex drills to stimulate their tired minds to increase concentration during the last moments of a match and it worked. Gareth being marked by two players and stifled on the wings? Move him centrally behind Adebayor (Swansea away, WBA) and let him play up front. Andre found solutions. Did he stop doing that?
I don’t want to make excuses for him, but I am not sure that Andre ever had the real players he wanted. Missing out on Moutinho in his first window still hangs heavy. We’ll never know how that may have worked, but imagine Bale and Moutinho linking up and being bedded in slowly, like Hugo, it’s not hard to see it could have worked. Were Dempsey and Demebele his players? We know that Sigurdsson and Vertonghen were bought before he was appointed, indeed Jan was at the last game of Redknapp’s season. The last window is harder to see who was Andre’s and who were opportunistic buys. Certainly Baldini bought in players who filed a profile. I still believe in time most of them will come good, Lamela, Capoue, Soldado and Chriches especially. Indeed, Chriches has been fantastic already. The team have shown flashes of potential here and there (Everton, Newcastle (oddly), United) but it always felt as if we were missing something, a Moutinho or an Adebayor of 2 years ago.
Then the issue of his relationship with Levy. I’m unsure what anyone’s relationship with him is like, which tells a story. Chelsea apart, most successful clubs have a chairman and manager who have a mutual respect, a partnership, a relationship that works. Has any manager had that with Levy? I don’t know. Did Andre want Baldini so badly just so he didn’t need to go through to Levy? We must be fair to Levy, he has turned Spurs around from a business and playing point of view under his chairmanship.
This season was always going to be difficult. When has a club in a top division bedded in 6 or more players for the first team in one summer and then been successful immediately? It takes a long time to build a team of the right personalities as well as the right skill sets on the pitch. To try to integrate while other Clubs like Arsenal, City and even Liverpool have added in smaller quantities rather than the wholesale way was always going to be difficult. Football is not just about putting 11 players on a pitch and hoping they click. Some people say good players know how to play with each other, I don’t think it’s that simple.
Like with anything in life, there are many points along the road that lead us to where we are now. The sacking and indeed, from what is reported, the mutual nature of the departure seems to suggest that there was a feeling on both sides that things had come to an end. Did the PSG offer turn his head or make him think what could be in the Champions League with unlimited funds? Did the Napoli rumours pre-Benitez do the same? Did he think Gareth would stay? Did he want David Villa and Hulk and found that things were never going to change at Spurs, having experienced the same the summer before with Moutinho?
We won’t know the answers unless Andre releases a statement which I doubt he will be allowed to, certainly not for awhile, but we do know he is an ambitious man who wants to reach the very top of the game.
Do I think that it was premature? Yes. I don’t understand how Sherwood or any interim move will do better than Andre would have with the run of games ahead there was a chance to bounce back, which we did time and time against last season. Why hire a man with a point to prove and a vision in mind if you don’t give him time? Why hire him if you can’t buy his players? It seems churlish to have given up so quickly on a project. It does however feel very Tottenham Hotspur.
I certainly wish him well, I imagine we’ll see him in Italy or Spain. He is a young man who makes mistakes but he learns and I only have respect for him as a manager. I wish things had worked out differently. In Italy there is a saying that a bad season doesn’t make a bad manager. As long as you learn and develop you can still rise to the top. I believe he can. He is obsessed with football, I hope it works out for him. He learnt from his Chelsea mistakes, I’m sure he will from his Tottenham mistakes.
If the rumours of Sherwood’s appointment are to be believed it certainly is an underwhelming step in my view. He has got good press for his style and job with the U-21’s but I’m unsure about how much of an indicator that is. Does he know the players? Did he ever have time with the first team? I certainly saw very little of that, Andros and Zeki apart, who played with the U-21s . It worries me. I’ve seen him mentioned as having a similar style to Pep. I cannot even begin to see how that is even remotely true.
I hope that he does well for the Club, because we still have a big opportunity to be a success this season. The Europa League and the Champions League spots are still open. But I fear the worst. I’ve seen this too many times.
One thing is for sure, we are Tottenham and this is a very Tottenham situation. We do have the incredible talent of shooting ourselves in the foot. Time. And. Time. Again.
Picture the scene: it’s 6 May 2012 and over 38,000 fans pack a sold out Hillsborough stadium for a League One clash between Sheffield Wednesday and Wycombe Wanderers. The Owls beat The Chairboys 2-0 to secure a return to English football’s second tier and pip their city rivals United to automatic promotion. Wednesday boss Dave Jones is lauded for the unbeaten run he has overseen since being appointed thirteen games ago and an air of optimism fills the ground. The chants of delighted fans ring around Hillsborough in the direction of Owls owner and, saviour from almost certain administration, Milan Mandaric. The optimism continues into the summer with Mandaric fuelling talk of promotion and comparisons involving Norwich and Southampton are encouraged by chairman and manager alike.
Now just 19 months later, the picture is rather different. After a run of 1 win in 16 games, Jones has been relieved of his duties. Despite Mandaric’s reputation for having a short fuse when it comes to manager performance, he has given Dave Jones more than enough rope to hang himself and after successive defeats to Derby, Huddersfield and Blackpool, hang himself he has.
So where do Wednesday go from here? With little success to speak of since their relegation from the Premier League in the late 90s, Owls fans have suffered through boardroom uncertainty and more managers than one cares to remember. High points in the form of promotions from League One to the Championship in 2005 and 2012 respectively, have been tempered by the reality that there has been little to no consistency within the club that suggests a Championship status is anything other than precarious at best.
Sitting 6 points from safety and in the midst of a tough run of fixtures, the remainder of the 2013-14 campaign will prove a tough challenge for whoever is next in the Hillsborough hot seat. But can we really expect anything other than a battle against relegation this season and, if lucky enough to survive, each season beyond? Whilst Owls fans should be forever grateful to Mandaric for saving the club from almost certain extinction, the rumblings of takeover have led more than a few fans to question the Serbian businessman’s motives. The facts are that the club continues to lose money on an annual basis and, with stopgap loan moves the modus operandi at present, there seems little opportunity for the club to re-establish the dressing room spirit that helped propel Wednesday to promotion two seasons ago. The sooner a long term buyer is found for the club, the better.
Dave Jones can be considered as one in a long line of Hillsborough managers who could point to the boardroom to explain away their failings. The money has never been plentiful but has the Liverpudlian really made the most of the resources at his disposal? Jones has certainly had some successes in the transfer market – plucking ex-England international Chris Kirkland out of obscurity being one of a few highlights. But too often Jones’ wheeling and dealing has had the air of ‘Arry on Transfer Deadline Day – disorganised, short-term and with a mantra of ‘I’ll have anyone I can get my hands on.’ Out of contract players, usually in their mid-30s, train with the club before being offered pay-as-you-play short term deals – Seyi Olifinjana and Stephen McPhail are the latest examples of this policy. Such short-term deals represent two things:
- the club has no real funds to recruit better, and
- of those we can recruit, we trust them to deliver for the following thirty days and no longer.
What little money there is has been spent on players who then struggle to get a consistent run in the side – Rhys McCabe (Rangers ‘wonder-kid’) and Chris Maguire (signed for a hefty sum from Derby) – are yet to see prolonged game time (Maguire has been loaned out to Coventry this month at a time when the club are down to two fit senior strikers). All this whilst out-of-form players like Michail Antonio and Jeremy Helan have been allowed to try and play through their poor performances when going for a different option may have yielded more positive results. As Wednesday stumble into December as the only club in the football league yet to keep a clean sheet, Jones’ status was that of a condemned man.
So at whose door can we lay the blame for the latest Hillsborough crisis? Whilst Mandaric continues to fund the club in the short-term, without significant investment in younger players who may actually see the hallowed Hillsborough turf, we can expect little progress to be made. Dave Jones’ mistakes outweighed his successes and on such a tight budget, that combination will never work. So whether it is Ian Holloway, Steve Evans, Stuart Pearce, or even Neil Warnock, who fills the Owls vacancy, it seems that without a resolution to the long-term future of the club the new manager will encounter the same problems the old ones have – a lack of money resulting in the need for a successful temporary solution. Perhaps as Blade and ex-Sheffield United manager Warnock throws his name in the ring as being willing to do the job for the remainder of the season, Wednesday fans may do well to swallow their pride and accept that for a club that currently needs a stop-gap solution, Warnock may just be the best option there is. The more pressing question could be when will the club stop looking for short-term solutions? The big picture looks very murky at present.
Written by Neil Piper
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery seems to be Hull City chairman Assem Allam’s maxim as he strives to outdo Cardiff owner Vincent Tan in stripping their respective clubs of tradition and history. Allam has a way to go yet to beat Tan who has not only changed the nickname and colour Cardiff play in, but is rumoured to want to change the name as well. Allam has only revealed plans to change the name of the club – so far.
Seemingly confused on what the name of the club actually is, Allam has stated that it is known as Hull City Tigers and merely wants to shorten the name to Hull Tigers as his research has shown that companies with shorter names perform better on the global stock markets. It is hard to know where to begin in pulling apart Allam’s arguments but telling him that Hull’s football club name doesn’t actually include the word ‘Tigers’ (as opposed to the holding company) seems to be a good place to start. It’s certainly what a supporters group called City Til We Die have done. Allam has decided against the friendly PR road however, by refusing to be told how to run his businesses by “a few hundred people”.
The main thrust behind the name change initially seems to be that Hull Tigers sounds more impressive and catchy to the global market compared to the boring old ‘Hull City’. Forgetting about the years of tradition that football fans generally like to cling onto, Allam is also plainly delusional about Hull’s standing in the ‘global market’. Although they are now in the Premiership, giving them exposure to a world audience generally interested in only top flight football, there is obviously no guarantee that they will survive in the league. It is also a bit of a stretch to believe that fans of English football in the various corners of the globe would latch onto Hull as the team to follow. Changing the name to Tigers surely wouldn’t make any difference to that?
There are reports of Allam’s main problem being with the council and that that is actually the main reason he wants nothing to do with the word ‘City’. If this is true then it shows the man’s spitefulness transcends his lack of knowledge of the game.
Hull fans are hoping that rules concerning name changes will fall in their favour as any plans have to be ratified by the FA after consultation with supporters. But if Cardiff are anything to go by, the FA care little for tradition and supporter reservations when it comes to multi millionaire owners intent on ripping the soul out of their new playthings. I’m afraid it doesn’t look to good for Hull City AFC.
Dan Roberts – @LasVegasWI
Today, BT Sport announced they’ve won the rights to Champions League games from 2015-18. £897m, for all 350 games – ending ITV’s long-running stint, and snatching Sky’s most recent jewel in their footballing crown.
This shit just got real.
The Football TV rights landscape has seen many pretenders come and go but Sky have always held firm.
Setanta and ESPN have come and gone. Largely in the same fashion – stretched to the limit of their finances and with a woeful lack of subscribers they crumbled. There was no real forward planning. They were nowhere near big enough to survive. Like a newly promoted Premier League team just happy to be on a higher stage, this was the sort of venture where failure was inevitable.
But then came BT Sport.
Even last year, in press rooms around the country that I was lucky enough to go to I’d hear from journalists and press officers that they would just be the same. Not all of them admittedly, but many didn’t have a clue what BT would add. They saw them as another Setanta and ESPN.
For me the facts were clear as soon as BT paid £246m per season for a package that included around half of the Premier League’s top picks.
They were serious. This wasn’t a toe in the water. They were knee deep. It wasn’t WBA vs Liverpool at 5:45. It was first picks at premium times.
When you start looking deeper you see BT are reinventing their whole business. This isn’t merely an add on. This is going to be core business. TV and Sport. With internet and phone businesses becoming increasingly ubiquitous, TV and Sport is BT’s new aim.
Their financials back it up too. Huge reserves and £18.3bn revenue vs BSkyB’s £7.2bn last year have given BT the financial clout to finally test the dominance that Sky have wielded since they first won the rights to the Premier League.
But BT still have a long way to go. Getting rid of David James and Steve McMannaman would be a start. As would adding some more slickness to their show. But for year one I think they’ve so far done a fantastic job. They didn’t even exist 6 months ago. And they have some fantastic people behind the scenes, especially in their digital and social departments – not to mention a great tie up with Opta too.
What does it hold for the future? Who knows. One thing is for sure, the Premier League rights bidding just got even more competitive. I imagine we’ll see the record broken for TV rights again. And if Sky don’t win them… Well, what do they have left?
Written by @RKTweets
When David Weir was appointed back in June, fans were broadly very optimistic – unusually so given disagreement on previous appointments. After a number of candidates had distanced themselves in what felt like the longest managerial search in the club’s history, it appeared like the club had come across a diamond in the rough.
On paper, we had a man that was keen to make his mark in football, had worked for the likes of David Moyes and Walter Smith, and who had been preparing for several years for the right time to enter management. He had apparently narrowly lost out to Roberto Martinez for the Everton job, and was all of a sudden unveiled in a fresh-looking managerial team – alongside assistants Lee Carsley (‘technical’) and Adam Owen (‘performance’).
A flurry of early signings followed. Some reliable performers in the league (Watford’s Stephen McGinn and Walsall’s Febian Brandy), while others were gambles that seemed like they might payoff, like 24-goal Lyle Taylor from Falkirk. Few came in that were experienced – this was to be a team that was younger, fresher, more attacking.
The performance on the opening evening of the season was one of the most positive I’ve seen from a new manager in years. Attack-minded full-backs that were so absent from Danny Wilson’s side last season; a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation; pace on the break that quickly disposed of memories of Barry Robson struggling to move last year. And the chances we created were intelligently created, albeit still in need of finishing. But keep playing like that and we were looking at a cracking season.
Then Kevin McDonald was sold to Wolves – the focal point to Weir’s new style. Whether it was naivety to model a team around a player with a fairly low sell-out clause, or just plain stupidity, Weir was simply unable to recapture the level of performance thereafter. And as the chances dried up, the defence that had looked so solid last year seemed incapable of a clean sheet – bizarre given Weir & Carsley’s defensive qualities as players.
As the slide started, the fans’ expectations were at the same time raised by the emergence of Prince Abdullah as a new co-owner of the football club. Further signings were made – good signings. Jose Baxter, Florent Cuvelier, Marlon King – all players that should be more than capable at League 1. And yet, the performances, save 45 minutes at Wolves, continued to be woeful.
The loss on Tuesday to League 2 Hartlepool marked his 7th defeat in all competitions – his only wins being on the first day, and a 0-0 draw that was won on penalties in the JPT against League 2 Scunthorpe. The interview he gave was just horrible to watch – a broken man. This wasn’t what he had spent years preparing for. Fan anger turned to fan pity – but in the end the general feeling had shifted to wanting him out.
You never like to see a change of this speed. But we’ve seen managers through Bramall Lane before that have inherited a good team, been able to bring in decent players, and yet hurtle down the table at alarming pace. The diabolical Bryan Robson era lasted until February – another man that had ‘learnt from the best’, who wanted to play a more passing style, and whose reign can be summed up by the fact he had ambitions of converting Nick Montgomery into ‘an attacking midfielder’. The difference then was that the fans knew Robson was doomed to fail – Weir’s inadequacies have come as a huge shock to the system.
The club is in trouble. The players’ confidence appears shot, their attitude appears to have been one of the key factors. Weir tried to impose a style on players that were either unwilling or unable to work in his system – with Weir himself refusing to budge on his approach mid-game, between games, or in the face of evidence week-on-week that it wasn’t working. Would it have improved in time? There was very little evidence to suggest this. What was a managerial career with promise 4 months ago appears in tatters. I wanted it to work, the fans wanted it to work, all signs were that it would work. It has been a disaster.
And in what is probably the most important decision of the club in my lifetime, the owners need to avert a further one.
Written by @josephclift
A tuesday night League Cup early-round tie between two Championship sides who’d probably rather have been resting their players ahead of the weekend’s fixtures. Hardly the natural backdrop for the talking point of the round – and yet it was Huish Park that played host to the latest scene in the painfully slow pantomime that is the death of sportsmanship in football.
For those that missed it, controversy struck late in the tie. Birmingham were minutes away from winning the tie when the keeper kicked the ball out so that team-mate Dan Burn, apparently injured, could be treated. Rather than return the ball, cheeky scamp Byron Webster spotted the chance to turn this match that barely anyone was concerned about into something special – deftly lobbing the ball over keeper Doyle to take the tie into extra time as Birmingham players switched off.
With Lee Clark retaining his habitual dullness and containing his mood, Yeovil boss Gary Johnson had two options: view the incident as an unsporting act that had to be quickly remedied, or view it as a just punishment for a team trying to wind down the clock with gamesmanship. The former would have seen most in the game praise Johnson’s honesty; the latter, his conviction.
In the event, he took a third option – acting neither swiftly nor decisively. Content with the situation that gave his team a late equaliser to force extra-time, Johnson instead waited 20 minutes until his side had taken the lead before any hint of guilt manifested itself. It was only then that Lee Novak was allowed to walk in a goal with all players remaining stationary. All bar Chris Burke, who escorted Novak up the pitch in either a vain hope Novak would square it at the last minute, or out of lack of trust that Wayne Hennessey wouldn’t try a last-minute Byron manoeuvre and save the ball on the line.
The gesture appeared wholly tokenistic and seemed designed to save face for Johnson, rather than be born from a sense of sportsmanship. Had the scores remained level and Yeovil not taken the lead, would Johnson have gifted Birmingham a goal to start the 2nd half of extra time? Would he have instructed a player to sky a ball over to hand Birmingham an instant advantage in the shootout? One assumes James McAllister was not under instruction when he hit his woeful penalty over the bar…
This was similarly the case when I was at Highbury in 1999 for Sheffield United’s FA Cup tie in which the ball had been kicked out so that Lee Morris, whose legs throughout his career had the durability of a pair of breadsticks, could be treated. Kanu (“unfamiliar with our customs”) latched onto a throw-in meant for keeper Alan Kelly, before crossing for Marc Overmars (very familiar with our customs) to tap home. At the time, Arsenal had been on the back foot in the game – Marcelo had just equalised for the Blades and looked set for a home replay. History will recall that Arsene Wenger “graciously offered a replay”. A replay at Highbury. When key players he had rested, such as Tony Adams and the in-form Nicolas Anelka, could be restored to the line-up. Such generosity.
Johnson himself is no stranger to these situations. It was in another League Cup tie back in 2004 against Plymouth in which Yeovil took the lead, albeit unintended, when his son Lee overhit returning the ball to the Pilgrims keeper. This was perhaps far more clear-cut a situation, but given the speed at which Johnson acted to restore panity, you have to wonder why it took so long for him to reconsider in this week’s game. Taking immediate action would have handed Birmingham the tie and save them from a gruelling 30 minutes of extra time. Should Birmingham tire and lose their game this weekend, Clark will be justifiably pointing to events this week as a contributing factor.
The sad truth is that you can understand Johnson’s reasons for thinking ‘to hell with sportsmanship’, because he’s been on the receiving end lately where players seemingly feign injury to waste time. This isn’t new – it’s been creeping into the game for years. So while you can understand Johnson’s frustrations, it can’t justify the act of ignoring the game’s customs.
What would be fairer? There has to be a better way of reducing the scope for this rule to be abused. Part of it could be avoided by the players themselves just kicking the ball out of play as far away from their goal as possible – rather than like last night tapping it out about 40 yards from the goal. There are two obvious improvements:
- leave it up to the ref to decide how play should restart and ensure that this is communicated to both teams when necessary
- stop the clock that is visible for all fans, as happens in rugby, for stoppages so that it’s clear that attempts to waste time are eliminated
Football is in a sorry state when players and managers can no longer be trusted to correct these freak occurrences. Sadly, the time has now come for this responsibility to be taken away from those directly involved. Rather than continue to witness the slow death these customs of sportsmanship have been enduring, let’s put the whole thing out of its misery.
Written by @josephclift
A big trend in the transfer windows of the last few years has been the ‘saga’.
This summer we have Bale, Suarez and Rooney, Lamela, Willian and the list goes on… In years gone by the names Fabregas, Van Persie, Ashley Cole and Modric have all been the main characters. But while the names and clubs may change the story remains the same.
With clubs ever more desperate for success higher and with fans begging clubs to spend the TV money to achieve it, the ‘saga’ is worse than ever.
As strange as it may sound, transfers in football are rarely simple and rarely actually planned.
Opportunism is a key driver, unless you have a director of football and manager working together to a single vision. Indeed, it’s not a coincidence that Spurs and Manchester City, who operate under this kind of structure, have already done business this summer in a manner which seems more planned – something that certainly wasn’t always the case for either club.
The role the media plays in transfers is both overplayed and underplayed. I know of cases where media stories have informed clubs about contracts and availability.
While some players have briefed newspapers themselves Bale and Rooney have all done their talking via others. Suarez has in fact done both, ironically using the very industry he cited (Has Uruguayan radio ever had a hotter summer in the UK?) as his reason to leave Liverpool as the tool to engineer his move.
But who is the puppet master of the saga? Is it the media? The agent, player or the clubs? Each though it pulling on the strings.
The media certainly has an interest in keeping the narrative going, which means clicks to their websites (no one buys newspapers anymore, do they?) which means more cash for them from advertisers.
The agent and player, if they let a saga roll on, can provoke a move and a cash payment or a new contract. Or sometimes just enjoy the benefits of a newly boosted media profile.
And lastly the clubs. While the selling club generally don’t want to be part of the saga, unless they are acting the damsel in distress, the buying clubs need it to continue because every backpage headline unsettles the selling club making it tougher for them to play hardball (see Real Madrid for case examples every year…)
One thing is for sure, the saga is here to stay. It’s not going to get prettier, it’s not going to get shorter, but it is going to get a hell of a lot more tedious.
- Tottenham Hotspur: Bale on brink as he misses Spurs training (clubcall.com)