Social media has been around for a while now but the question has to be asked - how wise is it for footballers to mix with it and freely comment on anything on the internet?
Some players use it without too many hiccups - the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Michael Owen make many personal comments that rarely cause much more than perhaps a raised eyebrow every now and again but mainly are not a problem at all. Joey Barton is another player that uses Twitter regularly and although the controversial player uses his Twitter account in a slightly different way to the norm and has had the occasional rant but never to the extent of some others. In his latter days at Newcastle and forced to train with the reserves he did reveal via Twitter how disillusioned he had become at the time.
Whilst at Spurs Darren Bent caused controversy with some of his tweets that saw him leave the club. A delayed move to Sunderland caused him to tweet "Why can't anything be simple. It's so frustrating hanging round doing jack s***."
After chairman Daniel Levy looked at other possibilities Bent added "Do I wanna go to Hull City NO. Do I wanna go to Stoke NO do I wanna go sunderland YES so stop f****** around Levy."
Before last seasons Champions League match against Real Madrid, Spurs winger Aaron Lennon was apparently taken ill just moments before kick-off according to Harry Rednapp. Lennon felt he was being made the scapegoat and commented on Twitter "Saying i fell ill be4 the game is bull**** i fell ill on sunday morning where the med team put me on antibotics, but only got worse b4 tues. "Believe me this is 1 game i did no wnt to miss and still devo now!!!! But will not be made a scapegoat saying they only knew jus b4 K O."
West Ham defender Danny Gabiddon criticised his own teams fans on a rant when he commented "U know what f*** the lot of of you u will never get another tweet from me again u just don't get it do you. Bye bye." Gabiddon was fined for his comments and left the club for QPR last summer.
It's not just players but their girlfriends too that can get their boyfriends into hot water. David Bentley's girlfriend wrote 'What's happening? F*** all and its starting to wind me up!! Sort it out Harry for f*** sake.' Bentley was dispatched on loan to Birmingham and now languishes in Spurs reserves.
Players also at times attack TV pundits and this was true when Liverpool defender Glen Johnson barked back at Paul Merson who had commented that "Johnson cannot defend for toffee". Johnson tweeted "Comments from alcoholic drug abusers are not going to upset me and who is Paul Merson to judge players. He was average at the best of times, the only reason he is on that show is coz he gambled all his money away. The clown!"
Of course referees come under further scrutiny through Twitter too. After Howard Webb had awarded Manchester United a penalty against Liverpool in the FA Cup, Liverpool defender Ryan Babel took to Twitter and posted a mocked up image of Webb in a United shirt with the comment "And they call him one of the best referees? That's a joke." Although the comment was removed the damage was done and Babel was fined and warned on his future conduct.
Going down the leagues there are many, many more stories of players commenting on Twitter that have even seen players sacked by their clubs. But the latest story of Twitter and footballers takes us back to the Premier League and out of favour Aston Villa midfielder Steven Ireland showing the world how he enjoyed his Christmas.
Admittedly it was not Ireland that actually posted this photograph - it was his girlfriend Jessica Lawlor. The picture (seen above) shows Ireland smoking an Shisha pipe in one hand and with a drink (presumably alcoholic) in the other.
Lawlor has done her footballer boyfriend no favours at all with this and his manager Alex McLeish is doing his best in public to play this story down. He said " I don't know what is in that stuff. For all I know he could have been blowing bubbles into it or something. It is not my world, the way the players live nowadays, with the tweeting and posting pictures of themselves and that. Any opinion I have on that will be delivered to Stephen rather than discussing it in the newspapers."
I would guess in private the conversation will probably be a little different to say the least!
Each year that goes by we get to the end of it and reflect and some of the people that we have lost in the past twelve months. The video above shows some of the well known names from many sports but in my opinion the most tragic still has to be the loss of the only footballer shown in this list and that was of course Gary Speed.
Death is never a topic of conversation that we like to spend too long thinking about especially when it involves people that we actually know. But sports stars - the same as celebrities from all other fields get into our heads and when we lose them it can feel like a real personal loss too.
When we lost older stars such as Henry Cooper I guess it is not as much of a shock because these people are getting on in years - although it is never any easier for the loved ones that actually knew them. Also in the case of Cooper and many others that have been out of the lime light for many years again the impact of their passing does not quite have the same factor as it would have done if he was still at his peak - again though - it does not make it any easier.
That brings back to Gary Speed as he was the exact opposite. Even though his playing career was finally over, his managerial journey seemed like it was only just beginning and in his short reign as manager of Wales the team had shown an unbelievable change in progression and we can now only ask ourselves how far they could have gone under Gary.
Of course Speed as the Welsh boss was still in the lime light and regularly seen on TV on shows such as Match of the Day, Football Focus, Question of Sport and Goals on Sunday. On top of this of course we would see him for every televised Welsh game plus sitting and watching from the stands at regular Premier League matches. And then all of a sudden he is gone in a flash and for sure his demise may always raise questions as to why he did what he did but it is hard to believe that it has already been a month since it happened.
Speed's death was the stunning news that upon hearing it our nation of football fans combined regardless of their personal team and joined together in paying their respects to Speed in the best and only way they knew how to. There were some great and touching moments around the grounds in the weeks that followed and I did not hear a thing untoward anywhere so it has to be said to fans from all clubs - well done.
What do Glenn Hoddle, John Collins, George Weah, Thierry Henry, Patrick Evra, David Trezeguet and Lilian Thuram all have in common? The answer is of course that they are many of the big name players that spent part of or started their careers at AS Monaco in the French League. Arsene Wenger of course also was the manager of the team from 1987-1994 before his two years in Japan and then on to Arsenal.
In 2003, Didier Deschamps led them to a Champions League Final and along the way the team knocked out big name clubs such as Real Madrid and Chelsea. Just eight years later and having been relegated to Ligue 2 in 2011 they are now rock bottom of that division as well and are facing a second successive relegation.
So what has gone wrong? Too many manager changes and too many poor player signings? We have seen it in England too with clubs such as Nottingham Forest and Leeds United having been in the elite European clubs at one time and much more recently languishing in the third tier of English football although both clubs are now back in the Championship.
Whether it was just bad management or financial woes that have caused the Monaco team to fade down the leagues perhaps the news today is the beginning of a new dawn that they have been waiting for. Russian billionaire businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev has just bought a majority stake in the club and has made a pledge to invest a minimum of 100 million Euros into the club over the next four years.
Money cannot guarantee instant success but it can certainly help and with that kind of financial backing I will not be at all surprised to see the club back hitting the heights again soon and taking on the other super rich team in France right now Paris St. Germain.
The reason in this day and age that I say that money cannot guarantee success is because billionaires are not one offs any more. In the past twenty years in England Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea and now Manchester City have all won trophies mainly due to huge investment in their teams that have taken the clubs to a pinacle. But we are getting to the stage where we are over loaded with the rich billionaires and lets say for example in the English Premier League every club was owned by one of these guys then somebody still has to finish bottom!
It is a strange fact that for a while now Bill Kenwright has apparently been trying to sell Everton and just cannot get any takers. This is a club with a great tradition and history that have had success in the past and come from one of the capital cities for football fans in this country. Considering their recent plight they have done well to survive in the Premier League and their fans have proved their loyalty and the club have stuck by David Moyes.
It has been a frustrating last few seasons for Moyes and Everton - it was not that long ago that they qualified for the Champions League but were unfortunately knocked out in the preliminaries and then had to survive a relegation scare.
When you look at the long list of English clubs and other teams such as AS Monaco that are now owned by rich foreign investors you have to wonder why teams such as Everton do not seem a viable proposition to them - more so than AS Monaco right now at least!
I have just been watching the Champions League draw - you know the show, the one that takes two hours to draw a few balls out of a pot. One of the guests for the draw was German legend and now UEFA ambassador Paul Breitner.
In the brief, random chit chat just before the draw Breitner was asked about Munich's new stadium which will be used for this seasons final. The Allianz Arena has a capacity of just under 70,000 and was built at a cost of approximately 340 million Euros. As with the Munich Olympic Stadium, it is once again being shared by the two local teams - Bayern Munich and 1860 Munich.
Breitner emphasised the point that one of the key ingredients that fans wanted from the new stadium was to be once again closer to the actual pitch. Of course by using the 1972 Olympic Stadium there was a running track surrounding the pitch and further separating the fans from the action and this was detested by all.
So, upon listening to those remarks should not both West Ham and Tottenham take heed? Why do they both seem so desperate to want to play in the London Olympic Stadium and then suffer with the same problems.
I was also listening to an interview with ex-Crystal Palace chairman Ron Noades and amongst other things he mentioned ground-sharing - something that Palace became used to with several seasons with both Charlton Athletic and then Wimbledon sharing Selhurst Park with them. In both of these instances though, because Palace owned the ground and in effect were renting it to these other clubs, Palace reaped many extra benefits. However Noades did strongly suggest that he could not understand why clubs, especially in these economic times are not looking to ground share on an equal par. Liverpool and Everton and the Sheffield clubs were just two examples that he mentioned. He did also suggest that the only reason that it just will not happen is because of the English mentality. Ask most red or blues on either Merseyside or in Sheffield and the large majority of fans will tell you that this is the last thing that they want. Tradition is a very strong trait on these shores.
Spurs and West Ham are another example of two north London teams that it would make even more sense to do this. Both, by declaring an interest in wanted the Olympic Stadium have openly admitted to wanting to leave their current grounds. Instead of fighting over a stadium not purposely built for football why not build one at a more suitable location for all supporters between the two clubs?
It is highly unlikely that this will happen because as a nation we are just too pig headed even if it is staring us in the face what is the most common sense. Ask Inter or AC Milan fans about sharing the San Siro or the two Munich clubs about sharing their new stadium. The board should be the first saying thanks for this and it must be halving their running costs.
In the same way that the English are pig-headed about this, it was also interesting to hear Noades talking about the formation of the Premier League in the early 90's. One of the initial plans was to have a Premier League split into two divisions but it was teams such as Grimsby Town and one or two others that voted against the majority. Another proposal was that all non-Premier league teams would get a 25% share of any Premier League TV deals but they turned it down believing that they would be able to make their own deals. A few years later and after the debacle of ITV Digital just look where many of these teams have now plunged to financially. The whole outlook of the league would probably be completely different right now and much more healthier than the rich just getting richer motif that seems to now just sit there permanently,
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The day that Swindon Town announced last summer that their new manager was going to be Paolo Di Canio - we should have all known it was going to be a roller-coaster ride. There would be moments of great enthusiasm, passion, joy and laughter. But we knew we would also see other moments of argument, confrontation and negative passion towards the feeling of despair, rage and just generally throwing all of the toys out of the pram.
Swindon have gone on a great run in the League 2 and are unbeaten in 14 games in all competitions, a run that stretches back to late September; they currently sit in the play-off positions. They have also reached the 3rd Round of the FA Cup after wins against both Huddersfield Town and Colchester United (both from League 1) and now face Premier League Wigan Athletic at home at the beginning of January.
Despite all of this, it was last weekends performance away to Bristol Rovers that has made Di Canio furious. A late equaliser meant that Rovers earned a share of the points and in the press conference after the match the Italian let rip at his team even threatening to quit unless changes were made to the squad. The full interview can be heard over on the interviews blog
(posted the same day as this post).
From some of my own experiences of amateur football, I know how frustrating it can be when players let you down. My first priority was that actually turned up for a match in the first place and if so were in a fit state to play and had not forgotten their boots at home! Di Canio's problems are certainly different from these but in a comparison between an amateur team and a professional club I think I understand the Italian's frustrations especially of course as in his playing career he played at a much higher level whereby things that he points out would have been done automatically.
I just hope he does not quit as the game in general needs characters in it and he is certainly one of them as I have posted before. His dream is to manage West Ham United and I hope that he can achieve this as we will see much more of him as The Hammers are always going to be in the headlines for different reasons.
There is hope for everybody! Barcelona are human! Last night watching the big two in Spain I guess nobody expected what would happen in the game in the first 30 seconds. Barcelona just went backwards from the kick-off and made mistake after mistake and conceded a real idiotic goal - the type of goal better associated with a Sunday League pub team.
To some extent it did not matter what happened after that and even to a degree it was irrelevant that they went on to win the match 3-1. It was just those first 30 seconds that gave everybody an almighty boost that even some of the so called best players in the world can be so sloppy that they can in fact be beaten.
Nearly a year ago when they Barcelona played Arsenal - a team that attempt to model their style of play on the Spanish giants, I thought it was the biggest snooze fest that I had seen in quite a while. Pass - pass - pass - pass - pass and eventually for me zzzzzzzz - it was boring! I am sure as a footballer it is lovely to play in a style such as this but for a viewer - sorry, it just does not do it. I much prefer the so called blood and guts type of game that had been played a day earlier at the San Siro between AC Milan and Spurs.
On the TV, all we get from the pundits are Barcelona are "beautiful", "elegant", "world class" and so on and no doubt many of those words do I suppose fit their style of play. But imagine a world where all teams played like this or tried to imitate them such as Arsenal - the sport would be much poorer for it. With stricter guidelines for referees perhaps the powers that be are doing their best to get more teams to play like this but it is never going to happen thank God.
It is not too bad when a Barcelona or Arsenal play against other teams that do not play the same style - it is just a nightmare when they meet as they will want you to bore the pants off of you by passing the ball to death. I once asked my own centre forward that if he was given a choice of scoring 15 goals in a season that were all brilliant goals in that they were team goals with brilliant passing and movement that he finished in spectacular style or 30 goals in a season that were all tap ins of which some were mistakes by the defence - which would he choose?
I am glad he chose the latter option and agreed with me that 30 is twice as good as 15 and for the team that could make a hell of a difference come the end of the season. Arsenal have become well known for trying to walk the ball into the net and if it comes off it looks really good but the problem occurs when too many passes result in failure and that happens way too often - but that has to be a good thing for the rest of us.
Barcelona just gave us all a glimmer of hope in this clip that there is something normal, perhaps even inadequate about them with defending like this. It also continues to give the rest of us that believe in other ways of playing the game a little more inspiration that our way can also work as with many of us, we just do not have the players to be able to even attempt to play the way that they do.
I refer back to a post I made a few weeks ago when Sir Alex Ferguson shirked off comments that his United team were struggling in the Champions League. His body language suggested how dare the reporter even have the audacity to ask such a question - how dare he even suggest that United were in fact struggling?
A definition of the word "struggling" - A task or goal taking much effort to accomplish or achieve. To be coping with inability to perform well or to win.
When the reporter asked the question United still had one group game left. They had failed to beat Benfica either at home or away and had also drawn at home with Basel. So taking the bottom team out of the equation as all three teams had beaten them home and away, this three team contest was a very tight struggle according to the definition of the word "struggle" and going into the final matches Benfica had already qualified but only by a tight margin leaving United to go head to head against Basel in Switzerland.
The Swiss team had never qualified beyond the group stages before and up against the proud record held by Manchester United in the competition should mean on paper at least that they had no chance. As it was Basel needed to win and United only needed at least a draw to go through and as the game progressed it became quite clear - as it had also been see at Old Trafford that the Swiss had no respect for reputations and statistics.
It was an all round terrible night for the city of Manchester in the Champions League with City also heading out. But at least with City they can hold their heads up as they did accumulate 10 points in all, normally enough to get a team through. And because it was their first year in qualifying, despite the huge amounts of money they have thrown into buying a team, they can still use it as an excuse and a learning curve. More importantly their prime goal right now and probably has been since day one of the season is to win their first Premier League title.
United are now entering some really dangerous territory and it will be interesting to see what Sir Alex does next. First of all how will he now handle his next press interview? With his team out of the Champions League, several points adrift of City in the league and drawn away to face them in the FA Cup, knocked out of the League Cup by Crystal Palace just a week ago - what are United's expectations now for the remainder of the season? Will the fans that demand success to keep them in their seats drift out of Old Trafford as quickly as they did when City were knocking six past them a few weeks ago? Could Sir Alex even find himself under a new kind of pressure? We have seen already this season the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea both go through difficult periods where even the likes of Arsene Wenger's continued management was put under pressure. It could not happen to Sir Alex - could it? Lets hope a reporter does not ask him "Is your position under pressure?" as you may see live his head begin to turn bright pink and steam escaping from every orifice - not a pretty picture.
Some might say that Chelsea surprisingly pulled it off with some ease tonight in finally qualifying through their Champions League Group. Not only that they finished top so increasing their chances of meeting the big guns - at least for one more round.
Valencia were poor on the night though but Chelsea can only play what is in front of them. However, some noticeable changes in tactics by manager Andre Villas-Boas may well have helped their cause. For once defender David Luiz did not look like a liability - and that is saying something on his performances for the club so far. At the other end Didier Drogba looked almost back to his best. This could be to the facts that it looks certain that Anelka is now leaving the club having slapped in a transfer request last weekend and also Fernando Torres is finding himself seemingly now glued to the substitutes bench as the manager has lost patience with him.
It was also nice to Villas-Boas actually crack a smile this week at the end of a press conference in which he attacked ex-players that are now working as pundits. Both Gary Neville and Alan Hansen came under attack from the Chelsea boss as he finally showed some offense back to the ex-players that are now all talk but no action. It is so easy for the likes of Hansen, Shearer (very briefly), Lawrenson, Neville an co. to criticise from a TV studio having never really been in a position of authority and responsibility themselves. You could almost call the pundit roll in their cases a cheap and easy option rather than actually trying to show their real expertise to everybody by actually doing something about it.
That is why when I list the pundits I have left off of the list the likes of Thompson, Souness, Merson, Hoddle etc because they have all sat on both side of the fence. For sure I could name others such as Nicholas, Le Tissier and Dixon just to get going that are in the same boat as Hansen, Neville and Co. but none of these are currently really rocking the boat right now - that's not to say they have done in the past or will do again in the future.
We as fans of the game are all mostly novices with zero levels of knowledge of the professional game from within. Yet there are many of us that despite never kicking a ball for a professional club or perhaps never even managing or coaching a pub team on a Sunday morning - can talk more sense than some of these so called "experts" that are paid a lot of money to do precisely that just because they once upon a time played the game. Some of the greatest players over the years turned in lousy managers so why should not the same thing be said about players turning into pundits?
And likewise, why should so many of us that were not good enough or never had the chance to play at a high level and play in front of thousands of people each week not be considered good enough to be able to make a comment that makes more sense than the so called experts?
Experience is not everything but it certainly does help. If I was to apply for a managers job with a league club I would have no chance because nobody would have ever heard of me. To make matters worse the players would have no respect for me (at least to begin with) yet these players can get these jobs as soon as their playing days are finished and walk straight into them. With no experience of management or being a pundit we the fans now have to put up with them once more from a different perspective. In the case of the actual manager such as Villas-Boas; when he makes a decision such as with Torres, Anelka and Alex then we should respect it. But if results do not go right still then these guys know that they are straight back in the firing line with probably the fans first in the queue followed closely after by the pundits licking their lips and sensing blood.
A week ago, Newcastle United benefited from a terrible decision by a referee when Rio Ferdinand was adjudged to have committed a foul in the Manchester United penalty area resulting in a Newcastle penalty that in the end would earn them a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
Seven days later at St. James Park (yes – still saying it) and Chelsea's David Luiz is clearly fouling Demba Ba and denying him a clear goal scoring opportunity yet the referee fails to show a red card to Luiz and consequently Chelsea then go on to win the game.
As we see in the video clip, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew makes some good points regarding both of these incidents and also makes some suggestions as to how the game can be improved so that decisions such as these that keep on happening can be remedied and stopped.
But I have a problem with the suggestions that were made here as I feel that they would not even scratch the surface as to the real root cause of the problem in the game as a whole not just nationwide - but worldwide.
It is fair enough to say we that the authorities should splash more money to invest in higher quality and better performing referees and linesman but can we honestly say that since referees have gone professional that there has been a massive improvement in their overall performances?
I for one do not think so and that is why I am not blaming them entirely for what has been going on not just in the past few weeks but game upon game, year upon year at all levels. I believe that the root cause of the problem is that as the laws of the game have become complex, huge grey areas have grown immensely that no referee, player, manager, pundit or fan truly understands what the correct decision is or should be.
Lets take a look at a few example of these :-
Fouls in the penalty box from corners – At just about any corner in any game that is taken, have a closer inspection as to what is happening inside the penalty area and see how many fouls are been committed by both attacking and defensive players. These range from shirt pulling to holding, to shoving and so on. I believe that a referee could basically blow his whistle for just about every corner that is taken and immediately either order a penalty or a free kick to the defending team. What complicates this further is with both teams doing it at the same time which decision is the correct one?
Throw-Ins – I cannot believe even at the highest level how many times that I see foul throws happening every week and not a thing being done about them. Granted – this is a minor issue but I wanted to throw it in anyway rather than have it overlooked once again.
Offsides – From a minor point to a major one, how complex the powers that be have made this law leaves managers and coaches as well as their players as to how to play it and understand it as one week a decision will go one way and the next the other. First phase, second phase – even third phase, all it has done has confused everybody. I am not saying lets go back to the old days but lets use a bit more common sense here and make it clearer to everybody. What I will say is though if a player is ten yards goal side of the last defender on the left wing and the ball is played onto the right wing – has the left winger gained an unfair advantage? My answer is yes! There was an international game involving France that summed this up a few years ago when Thierry Henry did exactly this and when the ball was finally played in from the right wing it was Henry coming in from the left wing that would put the ball into the back of the net. How do defences set themselves out against this unless they defend much deeper and then leave much more open spaces in front of them? Better still – abolish the offside rule altogether. It would be interesting to see a game played at top level without this rule as an experiment and would also mean that officials could concentrate on other areas of decision making.
Yellow and Red Cards – Pardew mentioned that in so many games these days, if there is any contact the referee is immediately brandishing a card whereas just a few years ago there was a distinct difference in a foul that warranted a card and one that did not. Have referees more recently been directed to show cards for any physical contact whatsoever? Because that is the way it seems to come across in so many games – apart from in penalty areas as previously mentioned because then referees would be blamed for ruining the game and giving too many penalties or infringements making any open play from a corner impossible to officiate. The only solution here is to ban all players from the penalty box at the time a corner is being taken but even then all the fouls would still take place with opposing players running in and again tugging shirts and so on. So to add to that I guess the only option is to just ban players entering the penalty area period - a bit like in 5-a-side.
On top of this there is the other argument that can be summed up by a couple of games seen in recent years both involving the Dutch national team. In the World Cup in 2006 against Portugal and in the World Cup Final in 2010 against Spain, both matches could have easily seen both teams reduced in players to ridiculously low numbers of players left on the pitch because of the extremely high level of blatant fouls (in these cases) that were happening. In 2006 the referee was lambasted for taking action and sending off the guilty parties and was accused of “ruining the contest”. In the final in 2010 referee Howard Webb was clearly told before the game to try and keep players on the pitch seeing as it was the pinnacle match in the world. He was then heavily criticized for not taking action – you cannot win!
One final thought on this – how many times do we see a player commit a foul in the first five minutes of a game and not get carded for it yet if it had been committed lets say 25 minutes later he would definitely be going into the book for the same offence? The excuse I hear is a similar one to the world cup scenario whereas there is some sort of instruction given to the referee to not spoil the game by booking too many players too early. Yet the poor old substitute that comes on with 20 minutes to go can get his name taken after his first challenge within a couple of minutes? I wonder if any of these substitutes have ever said to the referee something along the lines of “but ref – I have just come on – where is my ten minutes grace whilst I am still getting up to speed with the game” - It does not happen.
The Picky Decisions – I have personally witnessed this too many times to keep count but again it leaves everybody not knowing where they stand. One week a referee will send off a player for an action and the following week when an identical situation occurs nothing happens. I have seen players infuriated by this and even complaining that they themselves had received a red card for doing precisely the same thing in a previous game. I have seen a game where a referee ordered a penalty to be retaken three times because of encroachment into the area. For one thing what difference is it making if the ball has been smashed past the goalkeeper to begin with? It is only if it is saved and has rebounded that the referee should be looking to act. My point is that each week a different referee tends to have different focuses. One week it will be penalty encroachments, the next week foul throws, the week after it could be the use of language and so on. Because of all of these once again nobody knows where they are at because each referee has his own approach as to how he wants to apply the rules of the game and because there are so many grey areas within the rules nothing is clear cut and he thinks he is using his own discretion but the rest of us want a clear ruling by all – something is either right or wrong and not different each week depending on the official in charge. Imagine driving along a road with lets say at 60 speed limit. One week the police may caution anybody speeding whatsoever, the following week the police are only interested in anybody exceeding 70; the next week the police are not monitoring the road at all.
It does not matter whether a game is being played in front of a world wide audience or is just a match between two pub teams in the local Sunday League – both matches fall under the same sets of rules and all the clubs regardless of level are affiliated under the governing body of their countries football association. I know there are people out there who prefer the debates, the controversy that provokes discussion and arguments about whether it was or it was not. But ask the people actually in the game – the managers with their heads on the block if results do not go the right way, the money men desperate to insure success to their teams, the players looking to make a name for themselves to make it to or keep on playing at the highest level – they will all tell you the same thing and that is they want the right decision but that decision should be in their favour!
Yet, having said all of this do any of us really believe that there is any possible way that even if all the laws of the game were adjusted and were now in black and white that debates and disagreements would cease to be? Imagine if the two opposing managers were Sir Alex Ferguson and Neil Warnock just to give an example. I cannot see either of them or any other managers past, present or future for that matter owning up and agreeing with everything in an after match interview when their team have been reduced to 8 men, 3 goals have been awarded from dubious looking offside decisions and two blatant penalty claims have been turned down.
What would the manager honestly say - “We were second rate – our discipline was terrible, we need to work better on our defensive line, I thought we should have had two penalties but the referee was right” - It just is not going to happen but these guys are paid to do a job and part of that job is always going to be, a bit like a politician that they, regardless of their position are always going to do their best to protect the position of their club and suggest that injustices have been served against them and that it is nobody's fault within the club and that outside forces have swarmed together to deny them what should have been rightfully theirs. The ironic thing is that if they failed to do this they would be out of a job in next to no time as the chairman will not have it and nor will the fans.
One of the primary goals that I look at when writing is to try and offer some sort of possible option that could solve the problem in question. When looking at the sport of football as it stands today, it is very difficult to provide a true solution that will please everybody. Football never has been as clear cut as lets say tennis when the only questionable decisions can now be referred by the player to the umpire to determine whether or not the ball had landed in or out of play. No, there is no comparison at all that we can make between these two sports and the same can be said of many other sports too in comparison to football.
Money cannot really be used as an excuse either as financial backing is also massive in many other sports that do have much clearer guide lines with little room for criticism because the rules are usually defining. The nature of the beast is football itself and what it has become so maybe we will always be stuck with decisions being made that will be debated and will never always give us the perfect result because somebody, somewhere will always argue the case for the other side.
Two Sunday mornings running I wake up to hear the news of the death of a famous football player.
Unlike the unimaginable shock of the news of Gary Speed a week ago, the death of the Brazilian star Socrates was less so because of his health issues but having said that the age of 57 is still a relatively early age to pass away.
It was reported earlier in the weekend that Socrates had been admitted to hospital and into intensive care on Friday in San Paulo. His condition was said to have been critical having suffered a septic shock of intestinal origin and he was breathing with a ventilator and using a dialysis machine. He had also been in hospital earlier in the year for similar reasons regarding his digestive tract.
Socrates was also known to be both a heavy drinker and smoker – even in the height of his playing days. He made his name playing in Brazil for Corinthians where he played between 1978-1984 making nearly 300 appearances and scoring an amazing 172 goals from midfield. A move to Italy and Fiorentina followed before he moved back to Brazil just two years later to finish his career with Flamengo and Santos with brief spells at both clubs.
He became more famous worldwide as a major part of the 1982 Brazil World Cup team and was their captain scoring twice in the tournament against USSR and then Italy. He made a total of 60 appearances for his nation between 1979 and 1986 scoring 22 goals.
In 2004 he made an amazing comeback 15 years after retirement and played one match for Garforth Town in the Northern Counties East League of all places! The press coverage was huge because of this news but it was rather sad to see a great player last seen by many in his prime some twenty years earlier, now an ageing and overweight player that was hardly recognisable.
To give him his full birth name – Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira (no wonder Brazil stars stick to one name!) was also a qualified doctor of medicine and was a practitioner of sports medicine. But his passion was with his football and World Soccer magazine named him one of the 100 best footballers in history.