As Friday draws to a close here in London, I thought I’d pen another look back at the week’s football. My first effort got a good response so I might try and make this a regular feature. Let me know what you think.
1. Sadly, there’s only one place to start. Most of us knew that West Ham versus Millwall in the League Cup second round was likely to lead to trouble. Anyone who thinks football hooliganism has gone away is deluding themselves. It’s still there – there were 3,000 arrests under the Football Disorder Act last year – but the internet has made it easier for these undesirables to organise their activities, which usually take place away from the grounds nowadays. Fighting seems like a regular British activity these days, especially if you encounter rowdy groups of men at the weekend. The violence was horrible and there are obvious questions to be answered. Why were the police and the stewards so underprepared? What will happen to the two clubs? Something should – I’d be in favour of a few games behind closed doors. But the gleeful way in which the media pounced on it almost risked glorifying the spectacle. Films like Football Factory and Green Street have glamourised hooliganism at a time when we needed to stamp it out for good.
2. The second big talking point of the week was Eduardo’s dive. There’s no doubt he did fall to the ground theatrically to try and win a penalty for Arsenal against Celtic. I was surprised that UEFA charged him with trying to deceive the referee today – not because it’s the wrong thing to do, but because it’s taken them so long to clamp down on blatant cheating. Simulation goes unpunished every week up and down the country and, for me, it’s not acceptable to glibly say that it’s part of the game now. The fact that the English are just as good at it as the foreigners who supposedly introduced it into our game doesn’t make it palatable. Long bans should be handed out to anyone who has tried to con the referee – the man in the middle has a difficult enough job as it is. I won’t hold my breath though.
3. Roman Abramovich’s rumoured support for UEFA’s plan to penalise clubs who are in debt made me laugh. The Russian billionaire was one of the catalysts for the worrying rise in the carefree attitude towards football finance that has endangered so many clubs (and the game as a whole in recent years). Of course, all the attention remains focussed at the top of the game rather than being directed to the lower leagues in England or the less fashionable countries where teams are right on the edge of insolvency. All the more reason for Supporters’ Direct and the fans to have a greater say in the running of their clubs.
4. All this talk of crisis clubs in the Premier League is laughable. We’ve only had three games (some sides haven’t even played that many) and the media piles the pressure on whoever is losing. First, it was Liverpool, then Manchester United and now Aston Villa are coming in for criticism. It’s far too early in the season for managers to be under pressure and journalists who write these stories must be pretty lazy. I wish chairmen, and everyone else for that matter, would heed the sage advice and not pay too much attention to the league table until the start of October when it begins to take shape.
5. Good news today that Calum Davenport is out of intensive care. Such a horrid attack on both him and his mother puts the game into proper perspective. Hopefully, both will get well soon and the people responsible for these cowardly actions will be brought to justice. Our thoughts must also be with Jack Collison, who showed such bravery in playing on Tuesday and dealing with those morons who invaded the pitch so soon after his father had so shockingly passed away. Times like this remind you that Bill Shankly was wrong.
Enjoy the weekend’s football everybody.