At one end of the scale, of course, there are crocodile tears, hype beyond hype and more money can most people could ever realistically manage to be able to imagine. Manchester United returned to England today, curiously now being lauded as one of the greatest teams in the history of football on account of winning on penalties, having been outplayed for much of the match. Doubtless the roles would have been reversed and, had Chelsea won, we would now be hearing endless tributes to the stout yeomanry of John Terry and Frank Lampard, and about how Nicolas Anelka was the right man all along. Curiously, Anelka’s shoulder-shrugging ambivalence to his penalty miss last night was one of the more refreshing things to happen yesterday evening. In an age in which PASSION and HEART and still held up to be adequate replacements for skill, mental strength and tactical nous, it was pleasing to see the one man currently involved in the whole Premier League merry-go-round shrugging his shoulders and giving that particularly Gallic face that says, “You know, we might have just lost the European Cup, but I’m still on £70,000 per week and sobbing would be somewhat disproportionate, don’t you think?”.
At the other end of the spectrum, the adulation being heaped upon Manchester United was out of proportion with the scale of their achievement. United are, as I’ve said on here before, probably the best team in Europe at the moment, but we are currently living through an era when there is something of a dearth of talent in European football. They, in many respects, deserved to lose last night, but the hubris surrounding them has long since disbarred anyone associated with them from having a worthwhile opinion on how they’ve done. Consider this gem from Alex Ferguson last night: “”We deserved it. With the history of this club we deserved to get this trophy tonight”. It has long been a trick of Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United supporters to decry the achievements of anyone else on account of their having “no history”, but this condescending attitude now seems to have filtered down to the management. It’s not beyond the realms of plausibility to say, “Well, Alex, you didn’t deserve to win it on the basis of your performance last night”.
Elsewhere, the game keeps rumbling on. The Football League has its play-offs this weekend, and there’ll be a full run down on here tomorrow about what will be going on this weekend. The end of the non-league season is in danger of collapsing into chaos. We’ve already lost Halifax Town, who will be starting again at the foot of the ladder after their expulsion from the Blue Square Premier (although there are two rival consortia currently bidding for the right to be the team for Halifax and play at The Shay next season), and Cambridge City’s right to stay in the Blue Square South is still in some doubt after the club failed ground grading for their stadium (although the club has a pretty good reason for having been unable to carry out the required improvements – they were using their money at court, wresting back control of the ground itself from the property developers that it had, as a judge eventually ruled, been illegally sold to), but even more trouble appears to have come in the Blue Square North, with poor old Boston United (to whom, having been demoted two division last season, and are now looking at another potential two division demotion) you can only say, “haven’t they suffered enough?” and Nuneaton Borough being threatened with the same sanction, having been forced into administration just before the end of the season.
There’ll be more about the parlous state of the game in the lower divisions on here over the weekend.