A Tale Two Cities
There are a handful of matches being played tonight, but the two that stand all are the two represent all that is right and wrong with the modern game. At one end of the country, the cashed-drenched, hyper-celebrity Champions League sees Liverpool play Chelsea at Anfield whilst, at Hayes Lane, on the border between London and Kent, Bromley play AFC Wimbledon in the Ryman League Play-Off Semi-Finals. You don’t really need me to tell you which one I’d rather be at, do you? Sadly, work commitments prevented me going to Bromley tonight, so I’ll have to make do with what used to be known as the European Cup instead. If you’re a Chelsea or Liverpool supporter, I dare say that you’ll be beside yourself with excitement. For the rest of us, though, it’s all mere fluff. Is Dirk Kuyt suddenly going to turn into Cristiano Ronaldo? Is Peter Crouch suddenly going to acquire the intelligence and verve of Dimitar Berbatov? I rather suspect not. Still, considering that it’s an all-English match, we should at least get something approaching an unbiased commentary from ITV.
Meanwhile, down south, a sell-out crowd of 5,000 will watch Bromley play AFC Wimbledon for a place in the Ryman League play-off final. I’ve covered Wimbledon on here before, of course, so it’s probably time to tip a brief nod to Bromley, three times FA Amateur Cup winners and a team that knocked on the door of a place in the Conference a couple of times in the late 1980s. There’s been a little bit of needle between the two sides over the last couple of years, so we hope it passes off without incident, but of course we should all want Wimbledon to win – promotion for them coupled with what we hope will be a failure for Franchise to go up would reduce the gap between the businessmen’s venture and the supporters’ club to just two divisions.
One of the surprises of the season came on Sunday, when Sam Allardyce resigned as the manager of Bolton Wanderers. I’ve noted my dislike of him on here before, but I’ll try and be relatively objective about it all. The timing is certainly strange. If he has been tapped up by the consortium bidding to take Manchester City over, why not just wait until after the final game of the season before announcing it? There is also talk that the FA have come to the conclusion that their decision to hire Steve McClaren was a hideous mistake, and that Allardyce will be offered the England job should they fail to win in Estonia on June 6th , but surely the same logic applies here too, though. The final rumour doing the rounds is that there is another story set to hit the news stands regarding his extra-curricular activities. It would certainly explain the timing of the decision, and the fact that, six months on, the BBC haven’t yet had a lawsuit slapped upon them after their “Panorama” special about corruption in football. I’m sure there’s nothing in that, though. Most humorous of all has been the reaction of the Bolton chairman Phil Gartside, who has gone on record this week as saying that he thinks that Allardyce’s replacement, the completely inexperienced Sammy Lee, is an “even better” coach than his predecessor. Yes, Phil. You just keep telling yourself that.
Finally for tonight, a quick congratulations to Lancaster City, who, as mentioned on here before, were aiming to get themselves off zero points before the end of the season. Well, on Saturday, away to promotion-chasing former League club Workington, they did it. A 1-1 draw was enough to lift them into positive figures for the season. It looks likely that they will drop two divisions this summer, to the newly-regional Unibond League Division One, but no definite decision has been made yet. Exceptionally brief highlights of their draw at Workington on Saturday (they’re in blue, by the way) can be found right here.