It was a couple of years ago, wasn’t it, that Chelsea and Liverpool played each other five times, wasn’t it? The press, of course, loved it: it provided a stream of headlines, culminating (hilariously, to be honest) with Liverpool dumping Chelsea on their arses in the European Cup semi-final. By the time the final match came around, though, most of the rest of us had become bored to tears. Both teams had adopted the strategy of “score once and shut up shop”, and only the last of the five was genuinely exciting, and that was largely because of the atmosphere generated within Anfield on that particular night.
With this in mind, there was a certain amount of “meh” surrounding yesterday’s Community Shield match in Cardiff. The supporters of Liverpool and Chelsea evidently felt the same, as the crowd of 56,000 was some 16,000 short of the Millenium Stadium’s capacity. Still, Liverpool came through in the end – the icing on the cake of Chelsea’s wretched pre-season. Mourinho must be getting concerned. Beaten by an MLS All-Star team, held at home by a half-strength Celtic side last week, and now beaten by Liverpool with two goals that showed up huge inadequacies in their defence. Why did even try and tackle Riise when he ran 60 yards to score their first? Why was nobody anywhere Crouch when he headed the winner? So many questions, and he’s now got five days to start finding some answers.
Meanwhile, in the Midlands, it’s time to say farewell, by the looks of it, to Doug Ellis. The last of the old-time football Lords Of The Manor, Ellis is certainly no cult hero of any sort, but his departure seems to mark the last of the Local Businessmen Done Good leaving the Premiership. In the old days, the Chairman was a local Burgher, fired up by a mixture of altruistically wanting to give something to the town that they were brought up in and rampant egotism. Nowadays, like so much else, they’ve been blanded out to men in their forties in shiny suits, with bad tans and toothy grins. I doubt if there are many Aston Villa fans that would agree with me on this (they’ve probably already started mentally spending the quite beautifully named Randy Lerner’s money already), but Ellis will, in his own way, be missed.
It has also been an encouraging weekend for the future of English goalkeeping. Robert Green appears to be on his way to West Ham, which will do his chances of usurping Paul Robinson in the national team no harm (though it’s still some way off), and the apparently excellent young prospect Scott Carson has been loaned out to Charlton by Liverpool. If he’s as good as some of his supporters say he is, this could be the first step on the way to a lengthy Premiership career. With Chris Kirkland going to Wigan (also on loan from Liverpool), it’ll be nice to see some English goalkeepers playing in the Premiership.
Finally, a peculiar little fact: did you know that only three Premiership managers were sacked last season? Is this a record low number? Maybe club owners are finally learning to not panic when things start going badly. Well, we can hope, can’t we?