An interesting weekend’s football, but everything was put into perspective by events further down the football ladder. More of that later. In the Premiership, Everton recorded their biggest win against Liverpool since 1964. It’s too early in the season to read any enormous significance into the result itself, but the question of what Andy Johnson has to do to get a full game for England is certainly a pertinent one. He’s a great striker, in excellent form, and should, especially considering England’s anaemic performance in midweek, be given an opportunity. Of course, I’m thoroughly enjoying Liverpool’s poor start to the season, but not as much as I’m enjoying Arsenal’s. The self-appointed Guardians Of Football’s Moral Highground can’t buy a win at Ashburton Grove so far. Thierry Henry still looks disinterested, their defence still looks porous, and the latest mediocre team to go to North London and come away from it with something were Middlesbrough, who thoroughly deserved their point. The pre-determined nature of the Premiership still means that Arsenal’s position is being talked about in terms of how many points they are from Manchester United rather than how close they are to Watford and Sheffield United. How long, though, before it becomes a full-blown crisis? Not, though, that supporters of Spurs are in any position to laugh at the moment. They may only have gone down 1-0 at Old Trafford, but it was the most one-sided 1-0 defeat I’ve seen for a while. Compare, if you will, Jermaine Defoe’s miss from eight yards in this match with Andy Johnson’s brace against Liverpool.
In the League, the possibility of a three-way Midlands battle for a place back in the Premiership is starting to raise its head, with Birmingham, Wolves and West Bromwich Albion tucked into second, third and fourth place behind leaders Cardiff. Wolves’ win at Leeds this afternoon will have increased the torpor around Elland Road. They’ll be concerned at, if nothing else, a home league crowd of only just over 16,000. A club in the sort of financial position that they have been in needs bigger crowds than that. Roy Keane’s managerial career began well enough with a win at Derby (for whom the epithet “Crisis Club” is looming). Dropping down a division, Brighton, who sacked Mark McGhee during the week, had an excellent away win at Millwall, but at the top of the table Nottingham Forest are continuing to sweep all before them. Their latest victims were Yeovil Town. In the Third, Swindon’s 100% record is over. They took the lead at Wrexham, but wound up losing by the odd goal in three. At the very bottom of the Football League, alarm bells will be starting to ring at Macclesfield, who lost at home to fellow strugglers Barnet. There’s no need for them to panic, though. Relegation to the Conference isn’t the end of the world, as is being proved by Oxford United, who coasted to another easy win, 3-0 at Morecambe. Elsewhere, Stevenage kicked some life into their corpse-esque season with a 6-0 thrashing of newly promoted Stafford Rangers. My lot, St Albans City, continued their recent run of decent performances with a 3-0 win at Northwich Victoria. They’re still looking like they can hold their own in the Conference, though my spies at the match have reported that it was a somewhat flattering result.
All of this, though, is somewhat reduced in terms of its importance, when compared with the sad news from Harrogate Town this weekend where, during their Unibond League match with Hinckley United, Hinckley defender Matt Gadsby collapsed and died on the pitch. He leaves a wife and baby. It kind of puts the nonsense in the papers over the last couple of weeks or so into perspective.