200% is a powerful website. On December 10th, Mark Murphy asked Peter Pannu to “please **** off from Birmingham City. On December 12th…he…pissed off from Birmingham City. Co-incidence? Or will the following rant have a similarly desired effect on some of the reprehensible football “personalities” referenced therein?
Co-incidence, probably. But still, eh?
In the summer, football’s world was agog at the talents of Thomas Mueller, Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben and, briefly, Ricky Lambert.
By the middle of December, English football’s world was…well…open-mouthed at a Manchester United performance so bad that Red Lion pub teams everywhere were considering suing SKY pundit Gary Neville for defamation for making a comparison.
Off the pitch, English club football was starting to undergo the sort of radical ownership surgery which will ensure that World Cup under-achievement will be a thing of England’s past…and present and foreseeable future. While it’s moral values were regularly exposed as one notch below Neanderthal man in boardrooms, dugouts and the young minds of over-privileged players.
On the pitch, almost submerged by this moral mayhem, EPL claims to be the world’s best have rung hollower with each passing not-so-super Sunday. Southampton v Manchester United on December 8th was fourth against fifth, with the winners going third above a team managed by Sam bloody Allardyce (how’s that legal action against Panorama going, Sam?).
I only watched the second half, with the voice inside my head (in that particular 45 minutes, anyway) being Vic Reeves condemning acts on the Novelty Island section of his Big Night Out show as “verrry poor.” Then I discovered the first half had been worse.
United are not yet any better under Louis Van Gaal than they were under David Moyes (or, whisper it, Ryan Giggs). Yet while they were a distant-ish seventh last season, they sit, at the time of typing, in an automatic Champions League qualification place entirely on merit.
It is, therefore, little surprise that even this site has partly given up on football, with genius-in-chief Ian King preferring to wax (brilliantly) lyrical on Grand Theft Auto, former Radio One disc jockey-turned UKIP loonball Mike Read and “The Joy of Air Crash Investigation.”
And if Ian, still oddment enough to fill otherwise blank Saturday afternoons with a trip to Shoreham reserves, is getting repulsed by senior professional football, it is equally little surprise that increasing numbers of the 95.6% capacity crowds at EPL games arrive dressed as empty seats in home colours – 60,013 crowds at the Emirates really have come in all sizes this year.
“YER ACTUAL FOOTBALL”: On the pitch, while Lionel Messi was named the best player of the World Cup, a decision made with sponsors not skills in mind, Cristiano Ronaldo was again the best player of the year. And 2014 saw a subtle shift in their public personae.
Ronaldo remains a preening prick. His macho posing after his late penalty in the already-won Champions League final was a sending-off offence even WITH his shirt on. And when he scored a vital goal in their semi-final triumph, his rehearsed celebrations were about an individual record he’d broken rather than what it meant for the match and the club.
Messi largely remains modesty itself when he scores. A smile. A point towards anyone else involved in the goal. And a point and a grateful look to the heavens. If he ever topped that celebration, it was because of what it meant for the match and the club.
Yet reports of Ronaldo’s philanthropy have emerged, alongside suggestions that Messi’s tax affairs are…well…messy. Personally, I still find Messi a more pleasant watch than Ronaldo. But Ronaldo has been player of this year ahead of Messi by a bit more than a bit, with German keeper Manuel Neuer only a serious contender in the mind of German keeper Manuel Neuer.
FIFA’s goal of the year could yet be Stephanie Roche’s double-keepie-uppie, turn and 25-yard left-foot volley for Peamont United against Wexford Youths in Ireland’s women’s National League, perhaps thanks as much to a groundswell of anti-FIFA feeling and some clever use of “vote early, vote often” tactics by…well…me, as to its undeniable brilliance. Roche may not be as marketable as Colombian wonder-kid James (Ham-es) Rodriguez. But surely FIFA wouldn’t fix this vote.
It would, of course, be daft to rule such things out, given the latest 2018/2022 World Cup vote revelations. “We even fucked up fiddling it” said an “FA source” in written evidence to a parliamentary committee examining England’s spectacularly-failed 2018 bid.
That quote, and Russia’s ‘dog ate my homework’-style suggestion that the “leased” computers used in their bid “were destroyed in the meantime,” says nearly all that needs saying about FIFA. They are taking the piss out of everyone in football and they will continue so to do until Sepp Blatter dies.
OWNERS: Off the pitch domestically, ownership scandals continue to permeate professional and, at Hereford United, semi-professional football. If some weren’t so serious you might nominate young beat combo One Direction’s putative involvement with Doncaster Rovers as the biggest scandal of the lot.
Carson Yeung’s biggest, if not necessarily best, achievement at Birmingham City wasn’t Blues’ 2011 League Cup triumph over wilderness-years Arsenal, but the fact that he’s made more and more Blues fans nostalgic for predecessors, convicted pornographer David Sullivan and former Hustler magazine owner David Gold.
In 2014, as Leyton Orient battle Leeds United and Watford for the most managers in a season, there must be an increasing number of Os fans hankering for ex-owner Barry Hearn (although Hearn isn’t completely ex – he retains a 10% stake in the club, “boardroom facilities” for life and, which MIGHT just be key here, continued ownership of the Brisbane Road ground).
When Hearn ended his 19 years owning the Os, long-service gratuity material in such matters, he said: “I can envisage a day in the not-too-distant future when all 92 clubs here…are under overseas control.” And when such a self-confessed little Englander “(realises) I have been restricted in my vision” for “(being) opposed to foreign players and foreign owners,” that vision seems plausible.
Of course, nationality is no guide to the merits or otherwise of club ownership, a point made perfectly in three words: Kenneth William Bates. And a point vocally reinforced, then re-reinforced by Wigan’s Dave “I have hundreds and hundreds of Jewish friends” Whelan.
But Hearn suggested “it is totally about the money,” and that when it comes to spending your way towards the top “only the foreigners have that sort of money.” However, this view may have been rose-tinted by new Os owner Francesco Becchetti having the “sort of” money to give Hearn the “sort of” long-service gratuity he believed he was worth.
Cardiff City fans will know it is not “totally about the money,” especially when the owner of that money has a regularly-massaged ego the size of (and here the over-used analogy is appropriate) Wales. Vincent Tan’s personal outlook had as much to do with Cardiff’s relegation this May as his money had with their promotion last May. It was, and will continue to be, **** all to do with the kit. And the idea that he did Cardiff and football any favours with his ego-driven handling of Malky McKay’s situation needs to be quashed.
Tan is a rich football incompetent. Hull’s Assam Allam is fractionally-less so thanks to contributions he and his family have made to Hull outside football. But his persistence with the idea that making the club’s nickname its real name is more ego-driven gobshite-ery and will be proven so if Hull follow Cardiff’s into the Championship.
THE RICH GET RICHER WHILE THE POOR…: While money washes around football’s elite – and around agents – the idea that “all” are “in it together” is as laughable there as it is in PM David Cameron’s egalitarian imaginings.
Partly hidden by the many and mounting financial scandals at Ibrox has been Celtic’s refusal to pay staff the “living wage” of £7.85 per hour. It is inexcusable for any club receiving any form of European or TV money to pay any staff any less. Especially when Chelsea…CHELSEA…are taking a moral lead by paying London’s £9.15 per hour. And given Celtic’s specific, much-trumpeted, charitable origins, such parsimony is a disgrace. If Hearts, so recently in administration, can do it, Celtic surely can.
As I’ve written before, a not-insignificant proportion of Celtic’s recent transfer and European windfalls has been directed towards long-term debt. But the cost of the living wage to Celtic financially is dwarfed by the reputational cost of going so completely against their origins and supposed-ethos. Football is no charity. But paying the living wage isn’t charity. It is the right thing to do and it is affordable. And in Celtic’s case on both counts particularly so.
“RULES…WHAT RULES?”: But Rangers still rule in terms of financial skulduggery, chicanery, tomfoolery, hilarity and inappropriate self-regard. They have made whopping losses from their very start. Yet Scottish football “needs” this money-burning machine in its Premiership next year, regardless of on-field performance, with the SFA yet to issue a denial after being asked in October about the specifics of such a plan.
One poster on a Celtic fans’ forum recently nutshelled Rangers’ 2014: “Well, that was today’s clusterf**k, I wonder what tomorrow will bring.” Probably a statement from supporters group “Union of Fans” demanding/urging…something, oblivious to the fact that no-one significant cares.
In July, they claimed Channel 4 News Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson had his “reputation (such as it is) left in tatters due to (his) biased and inaccurate reporting” on Rangers…news surely to those who gave Thomson and colleagues an Emmy award a month later for their coverage of the conflict in Syria.
“We are the people,” is the Rangers’ fans mantra. Arrogant t*ssers.
RULES ON THE BACK OF A FAG PACKET: Resolutions are in sight and underway at long-term basket-cases Coventry and Portsmouth respectively. But that has been little or no thanks to Football League and FA regulations which have consistently been exposed as not worth the fag packets they might as well have been written on the back of.
I am reminded of the powerlessness of a woman at Ostend once tasked with keeping football fans off a jetfoil to Dover. Celtic had played in Belgium and a man bedecked in green and white, with a face like the map of Ireland, approached the departure desk. “Are you a football fan?” the woman asked him. “No,” he replied. The look on her face when she realised that she could do NOTHING ELSE to stop him travelling will never leave me.
With the League equally powerless, convicted fraudster Massimo Cellino can run Leeds, via his family until March, then by himself, once his conviction for tax evasion is spent. And Carson Yeung can, if the labyrinthine internal politics of Blues’ parent company favour him, control Birmingham City…FROM…A…PRISON…CELL…also via strategically-placed relatives.
Indeed, it is some achievement not to be allowed to run a senior football club in the UK. The “line” appears to be somewhere between the 41 convictions for tax avoidance belonging to putative Rangers owner Dave King and the convictions for lorry hijacking which denied Tommy Agombar his desired involvement at Hereford. If Al Capone had been alive today…
FCKD UP MORALS: It ISN’T the main point. But why do football people put such horrible nonsense in easily and widely retrievable emails? It is, I suppose a second strand of the stupidity that makes them write such shite in the first place.
Of course, while Malky Mackay thought he could get away with his casual racism, and Dave Whelan probably STILL thinks he said nothing wrong, EPL CEO Richard Scudamore knew he would get away with his casual sexism. “His” clubs, “his” officials and “his” journalists could always be relied upon.
Unrepentant rapist Ched Evans, meanwhile, received a surprising amount of irrational support from otherwise rational people, on the basis that Evans had “done his time” and that further “punishment” could not be viewed as “justice.”
This ignored football’s fundamental role in facilitating Evans’ crime – Peter Crouch’s old joke (“what would I have been if I wasn’t a professional footballer? – A virgin”) doesn’t seem so funny in that context. And the fact that denying Evans that status in society is seen as in some way “illiberal” is as skewed a morality as any exposed in football this year.
AND THE “WINNER” IS: Scudamore would win any award for football lowlight/life in any normal year. FIFA aren’t worth it. Rangers are too funny. And, to varying extents, the highest-profile sexists and racists will get theirs. But rogue owners can only ply and abuse their trade due to the free football market which Scudamore leads. And, because he is protected, Scudamore got away with breaking the rules of his very own organisation, which he sees as governing football in this country.
However, Evans, and the people “protecting” him take top spot. Scudamore, Blatter. McKay and Whelan were guilty of words. But Evans was guilty of a deed and still believes he wasn’t guilty at all.
He, Scudamore and Blatter are fundamentally dishonest people and deficient human beings. And the most depressing fact of all to take from 2014 is that those qualities seems to be so much of what it takes to make it in football these days.
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