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Day: October 21, 2011

Doncaster Rovers & The Agent: A High-Risk Transfer Policy?

Of all the people that have come to encircle modern football in recent years, few have received the levels of vituperation that players’ agents have. It often feels as if nothing good comes from their involvement in the game, but this hasn’t stopped their influence expanding dramatically in recent years and it seems more likely than not that this sphere of influence will continue to grow as contractual matters between players and clubs become more and more complex. This week, however, a great leap forward in the influence of the agent has been made with the news that one such agent, Willie McKay, will be in charge of the transfers in and out of Championship club Doncaster Rovers for the next two years. McKay’s involvement with the club may certainly explain the curious exit of manager Sean O’Driscoll last month. Club chairman John Ryan had, just a couple of days earlier, stated publically that O’Driscoll’s job was safe. His replacement, the former Wrexham manager Dean Saunders, is a client of McKay, and the handling of the removal of O’Driscoll and his replacement by Saunders certainly raised eyebrows in South Yorkshire at the time. The question now is one of whether McKay’s radical “experiment” (at least, we can console ourselves, he has stopped short of calling it a “project”) will save the club’s season, or whether it will merely serve...

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Popplewell, Hillsborough And The Bradford Fire

“Soccer attracts more hackneyed hyperbole than most sports. We talk about “tragedy” when we mean “disappointment” and “disaster” when we mean “defeat”. When real tragedy and disaster occur, we tend to be stuck for the rights words.” Those words, written by David Lacey of the Guardian a quarter of a century ago, ring as true today as they did when they were written in the aftermath of the Bradford fire of 1985. That the loudest criticism this week of the relatives of those that were killed just over four years after the Bradford fire at Hillsborough should come from Sir Oliver Popplewell, the former judge that led the inquiry into it, is a grim irony for the relatives of those that were killed on the death-trap terraces in 1989 that he should have been their most vociferous critic this week. Popplewell’s open letter to The Times will only have reinforced the belief of the survivors and the relatives of the victims of those that died that day that the establishment is incapable of understanding their pain. “The citizens of Bradford behaved with quiet dignity and great courage.”, he wrote. “They did not harbour conspiracy theories. They did not seek endless further inquiries. They buried their dead, comforted the bereaved and succoured the injured. They organised a sensible compensation scheme and moved on. Is there, perhaps, a lesson there for...

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The Premier League’s Voodoo Plan

Now really, what’s so bad about this Elite Player Performance Plan that’s put so many in a tizzy? This weekend, there will still be hundreds of thousands of fans filling English Premiership stadiums eagerly cheering their clubs on to victory or putting two fingers up at their opposition just as always, as football yobs are wont to do these days. There will still be millions around the world tuning in to watch football powers in Manchester duel with some of the best players foreign money can buy, Chelsea’s millionaires show their class under the hot new manager’s system, or watch Liverpool’s talent-laden midfield demonstrate why Kenny Dalglish is considered a king. They might even check up on Arsenal to see if Arsene Wenger’s squad can put a lowly side like Stoke City in their place, even though they have little interest in Stoke City or know why they’re even called the Potters in the first place. Because Tony Pulis looks nothing like a boy wizard, that’s for sure. And what the hell’s an “Albion,” anyway? For these consumers of English football, the decision by the Football League to reluctantly vote in favour of allowing the Premiership clubs easier and cheaper access to talented youth, either is a welcome notion or they have no opinion. For this vast swath of humanity, if their favorite clubs are granted an ability to...

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