Category Archives: Premier League

Open Letter to West Ham United

Mr D Gold & Mr D Sullivan
West Ham United Football Club
The Boleyn Ground
Green Street
Upton Park
London E13 9AZ

9th January 2014

Dear Sirs,

West Ham United Football Club
I am a proud West Ham supporter and have been for 47 years. Over the past three seasons I have become increasingly disillusioned with the direction in which you are taking our club. Along with many thousands of West Ham fans I am now dismayed, yet unsurprised, at the plight we find ourselves in.
We need a change and we need it fast. I think we can all agree on that. Yet having witnessed the hapless reigns, under your aegis, of Avram Grant – a proven football failure who led us to relegation – and Sam Allardyce – who looks determined to do the same – I have no confidence in your collective abilities to affect this.
Avram Grant’s management of the club was a farce. That alone was enough to make us a laughing stock, but your gauche attempt to appoint Martin O’Neill in December 2010 and the manner of Grant’s eventual departure, doubly compounded the situation.
O’Neill withdrew from discussions when he read about his impending appointment in the press before he had agreed a deal. Grant survived, but was summarily dismissed following the game at Wigan that confirmed our relegation. It was a match where defeat was plucked from the jaws of victory. Having been two up and cruising we capitulated and ended up losing 3-2. Yet that does not excuse what followed. That Grant was not even allowed to travel home on the team coach and was forced to make his own way back to London felt rather tawdry – certainly not the West Ham way. Indeed no less than Scott Parker, then club captain and a real credit to the shirt, expressed his disappointment at the shabby treatment of his former manager. He was sold shortly afterwards.
Two years on and things are, if anything, even worse. The ridicule that our beloved club was subjected to by the media following the 5-0 loss at the weekend to a decent Championship team (‘team’ being the key word) was dispiriting. Yes, we all heard the usual excuses and we all read your ‘open letter of support’ for the manager, but if the defeat in Nottingham was wounding, then last night in Manchester, gangrene set in.
Of course, losing a semi-final is not unprecedented for West Ham. But the manner of the defeat certainly was: an incompetent performance that reeked of indifference. So much so in fact that the 6-0 score line is not the worst part of the story. West Ham is a proud club, famous for its playing style and footballing philosophy, but it is becoming a travesty.
I feel that things simply have to change. There are tens of thousands of West Ham United fans who share this view. I understand that you are the legal owners of the football club and to that end, I would like to know how much you want from a fan consortium to purchase your shares for cash?
Our plan is simple: we will crowdfund the purchase of West Ham United and place in into the hands of thousands of genuine supporters for the good of both the club and the modern game.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Yours sincerely,

AG Payne

You can sign the petition here http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-gold-david-sullivan-name-your-price-to-sell-to-west-ham-fans

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#oneaday49: It’s all about leadership

Today is the day that West Ham United will prove that they do not live up to their name. West Ham yes, United no. I written so many times before about the appalling lack of leadership at the club that I am bored by the whole thing and cannot wait for this season horribilis to end. It has been a slow, but inevitable death right from the very first game of the season. Next week, I will go to Upton Park to say goodbye to Scott Parker, one of the few who has risen above the nonsense at the club  and played his heart out week in, week out. If only others had shown the same approach we may have shown a bit of fight.

But before we say goodbye and sign off, I will leave you with Avram Grant’s words of wisdom at his press conference on Friday, the full ‘transcript’ is available at  http://www.whufc.com/articles/20110513/avram-on-friday_2236884_2359537

‘This is a game we need to win. It doesn’t only depend on us, but what depends on us is the need to win. We are also playing against a team who also need to win, so this will be interesting.’

‘We need to do what depends on us, which is to win against a very difficult team in their home. If we don’t do it, we don’t have any chance’

‘In my experience of football it is not over until it is over. It has happened to me in the past. I was not in this situation – a relegation fight – but I was in the top in a situation like this when it didn’t only depend on us. I don’t want us to miss this chance, I want us to do what we need to do. That is all.’

And so the drivel goes on and on. Soon it will stop and I for one hope our leaders learn and then think long and hard before appointing their next manager. Time to put the helicopter back in the garage Mr Gold, close your mouth more often Mr Sullivan and take a tip from SirAlan Ms Brady and say ‘you’re fired’ a little earlier next time.  One thing is for certain, you will no longer get my season ticket money until you have proved there is a vision, after all a fish always rots from the head.

And finally the grand total of  14, yes 14 people pressed their Facebook ‘LIKE’ button on Avram’s reported words on West Ham’s website, proving there are only a few idiots around, despite all the rumours. 

:-

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#oneaday 48: Christmas in May

I woke up this morning at 6am and just could not get back to sleep, no matter how tired I thought I was.  Nothing unusual in the Spring or Summer months, I am usually so keen to get up and get outside into the garden, I think I just wake up with the sunrise. But today is FA Cup Final day and it used to be a very special day, especially when I was younger. Today could still be a special day given that there are 2 teams in the Final neither of whom have won any silverware since the 1970’s, Stoke City and Manchester City. Stoke have never been in the Final in their 140 odd years of existence, so their fans will be experiencing a mix of emotions, anxiety right now and maybe, just maybe ecstasy at about 5pm tonight. Or their fans and players will feel flatter than a pancake if they lose to their big money rivals, the Chelsea replacements in light blue. To both sets of fans winning will be everything today and losing, well just not worth contemplating. To both sets of supporters, may the best team win.

My how the game has changed though. This is the first time ever that the FA Cup Final has been played before the end of the Football League season (or indeed the Premier League) has actually finished. Worse than that, a stack of Premiership teams actually play today, all be it at 12.45pm. And even worse than that, the FA Cup Final is no longer on the BBC! Without being dewy eyed. things ain’t what they used to be.

FA Cup Final day was always special. Outside of World Cups and the occasional European Championship ( I say occasional that was because there was only 8 teams who took part, even up to 1992, and the home countries were rarely involved) and the much loved and much missed Home Internationals, which featured England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island in a round robin tournament played over a week  of 2 Saturdays and a Wednesday nigh match, there was no live football on TV.

I remember watching my first Final in 1970 – Chelsea vs Leeds which went to a replay the following week, which was great becasue it was another match live on TV.  Chelsea won it and also won a legion of new fans, all about 6 or 7 years old.  At  school on the Monday after the Saturday draw, I remember getting punched by some bigger kids because when they asked me ‘who are you for the replay, Chelsea or Leeds’ I simply replied, ‘neither, I amWest Ham’. I think the die was cast even at an early stage in my life that I was never one to follow the crowds and certainly never one to support anyone else bar my beloved Hammers. In 1971 we saw Arsenal do the Double in colour for the first time and Charlie George lay prone after scoring the winner against Liverpool. Then in ’72 it was Arsenal back again, this time against the mighty Leeds, Mick Jones with a bandaged shoulder which looked like it had dislocated as he crossed the ball for Allan Clarke to nail the winner. I remember that year collecting the Esso coin collection celebrating 100 years of the FA Cup, and pleading with Dad to make sure he always bought Esso petrol and thus got more little blue printed paper packets with a precious silver coin inside. In ’73 it was that legendary game, Sunderland of the 2nd Division beating the mighty Leeds! No one could believe it. In 74 Liverpool thumped Newcastle 3-0 and Alec Lindsay scored a scorcher which was ruled out as offside. In ’75 it was West Ham against 2nd Division Fulham. Bobby Moore, the legendary number 6 played, but not for West Ham but for Fulham. In then end all my dreams came true when our FA Cup hero, Alan Taylor scored twice again and Billy Bonds lifted the FA Cup and I was happy as a happy thing for months. The following year, it was Southampton’s turn for a day in the sun and they beat hot favourites Manchester United with a solitary goal by Bobby Stokes. And so every year the memories just built. I have only ever been to 2 FA Cup Finals, 1980  when a 2nd Division West Ham beat 1st Division Arsenal and in 2006 when a 2nd Division (now rebranded Championship) West Ham took Premiership Liverpool to penalties after a 3-3 draw in 120 minutes, not at Wembley but in Cardiff. A great day and all that, one I will never forget, despite us being on the losing side.

Not only was the match live on TV in the old days, but the whole day seemed to be about the Cup. I think the BBC and ITV used to kick off about 9 or 10am and we would have Cup Final themed ‘Swap Shop’  (BBC) and something else on ITV, and the day was about one thing and one thing only. But these were different days. Yes the game meant everything, but it was played by players who earned good money, but not daft money. The gap between the fans and those players was not enormous. We were all working class people, joining together on the big day. We all wanted to win, but we all had a laugh or a cry and above all there was a feeling of a national togetherness. Even the managers were relaxed and full of banter. Nowadays it is all conflict and hype. Take a look at ‘Big’ Ron Atkinson and Jimmy Melia who were interviewed by the legendary David Coleman on the morning of the Cup Final. They are laughing and joking and at complete ease with each other. How refreshing that is when compared with some of the nonsense we see today.

Ok, we were younger and we had more vivid memories, but who could forget the FA Cup finalists, the players, the heroes and the villians. The sea of colours, the banners, the terraces at Wembley stacked with true fans paying fair prices and the perfect pitch, green and cut with what must have been nail scissors. Who also could forget the players, putting absolutely everything into a game, often played in blazing sunshine. Those  same players with rolled down socks, discarded shin pads and fantastic 70’s and 80’s hairstyles, exhausted, many crippled by cramp and all connected to their fans and to the nation as a whole. Above all, the nation would tune in in to 1 of 2 channels and watch the game, ‘Abide with Me’ would bring tears to the eyes of the older ones, and us youngsters would be so excited we were also close to tears.

And then to the game. Everyone, and I mean everyone would be watching the game. It was just like Christmas Day, but without all the presents. Once the game was over, we would all go outside and then play football for hours, until the very last chink of sunshine allowed us to see an old rough ball. I will always remember that Sunderland team, managed by the man in the hat, Bob Stokoe, who really could not believe that they had beaten the best team in the country. These were the best of times and there were simply no ‘worst of times’. Today is a tale of two cities, Manchester and Stoke and let’s hope the best team on the day, the one who wants it most, wins. I have no fear that both sets of fans will be singing their hearts out as it will mean loads to them. Indeed one of my very good friends is an ardent Manchester City fan in his 60’s and he is taking his family and his mother a lifelong fan. Another old school friend will be there, hoping that his beloved City will win something at last. That for me is what football is all about.

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#oneaday 46: Chancey the Manager

One of my favourite films of all time is the last film Peter Sellers ever made, ‘Being There’. It was a tale of a man (Chance – the gardner)  who lived in near isolation, although not poverty, in a busy world and who by chance becomes a confidant to the president of the United States of America and extraordinary influence, yet speaks simplistic nonsense.  He is a simple man, naive but innocent and decent, but sadly capable of little. A nice guy.

Chance (Chauncey Gardiner) reminds me so much of the West Ham United manager, Avram Grant.  The wrong  man in the wrong place  for West Ham. I have gone on record, from the start of the season before we conceded 12 goals in 4 games that this was a catastophic disaster of a decision and culminated with me ditching my 2 season tickets in January. Take a look at this, enjoy the ‘movie’ references and marvel at the wisdom.

So yesterday, Saturday May 7th 2011, I decided to go back to West Ham.

The mood of the season has not changed since August last year, the beginning of the season. We have been consistent. A mix of appallingly bad leadership at the very top, ie the owners and their appointment of a manager who has zero track record, highlighted how much our owners really know about football and probably highlighted what the football industry thought of them. Faced with a crippling debt, which they inherited knowingly, they probably had few options in terms of replacements for the man that they undermined last season, Franco Zola. But the option they went with was always wrong, wrong for West Ham and wrong for everyone who is associated with the club. I think the mainstream media knew this and gently highlighted it early in the season. Indeed out very own foghorn Leghorn, co-chairman David Sullivan spoke freely about the manager being on the end of the noose as soon as we had lost our opening 4 fixtures by 3 goals a piece.

Then there was the Martin O’Neill debacle. Clearly the owners knew that Avram Grant’s days were numbered and he was an awful mistake, so they tried to recruit a replacement in January. Here the idiotic two were join by their managing director, Karen Brady who we will see dishing out all sorts of cod advice next week on the BBC when she appears as one of Sir Alan’s helpers on The Apprentice. Brady decided to brief the press on the quiet that O’Neill was all but a done deal. Even hapless Grant knew his game was up and threw his scarf into the crowd after the game with Arsenal which he thought would be his last. Trouble was, Mr O’Neill was a man of principle and knew if you sleep with dogs you can catch fleas. Within a day the deal was off, O’Neill was staying put at home and Sullivan and Gold were left with their tails between their legs. Gold even had the front to appear on Football Focus and state that ‘I would like Avram to be the manager for the next 20 years’. Unbelievable. You have to think this is either rubbish, or err, rubbish.

All this week the other half of Little and Little, Mr Sullivan, has been shouting his mouth off in the press about the inevitability of being relegated and the fact that all of our ‘England’ players will be sold. You really have to wonder if the owners are daft at all. We know they never want to pay high wages to players, just look at their record at Birmingham. How better to get the big earners off your books by a season or two in the Championship? The fans will understand that these players are too good for the Championship won’t they and the club can reduce the wage bill and get a few quid to boot.

You have to look at track records. The one track record we all know is that Avram Grant doesn’t have one, ‘got n Harry Rednapp’s way at Pompey as ‘director of football, took over from Mourinho at Chelsea when they lost the Champions League, and presided over Portsmouth’s relegation last season, before relegating West Ham’ is how I would sum it up. But the bigger question for me is the track record of the Holey (sic)  Trinity of Sullivan, Gold and Brady. 16 years at Birmingham – they took over in 1993 with the club in Division 1 (now the Championship)  and were  relegated to Division 2  in 1994. Eventually promoted to the Premiership in 2002 but relegated in 2006 after just 4 seasons. Promoted again the following season, in 2007, they were relegated the following year 2008 and promoted back in 2009. In short Birmingham were a yo-yo club – 16 years at the helm and Gold and Sullivan presided over 4 promotions and 3 relegations.

But back to Grant. Clearly unable to motivate the players, in possession of unusual tactical nous to say the least, he still, week after week talks absolute rubbish in every interview he gives. He cannot motivate his team, his bosses love to demotivate the team through the press and most of all us fans have become demotivated. Who can blame the players if they just want to get the season over and get the first cab out of Upton Park in search of a new club, with better ownership and with a manager who may just make them feel better about themselves and show them how to win. Messrs Green, Upson, Parker and Cole I personally wish you the very best of luck.  I just hope there are no more teams who will think Avram Grant is no more than a simple gardner and  I bet you all fear playing for him ever again.

Meanwhile Mr Sullivan and Mr Gold, you need to show proper leadership, take  long hard look at yourself, and hope for you own sakes that you can find someone with takent to manage our club. I am not sure how many would want to work for the two of you.

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#oneaday 32: Big Joe – age will not weary him

I have praised the power of Twitter more than once recently, but on Tuesday night, I read a whole load of Tweets to do with a game of football in Milan, between AC Milan and Tottenham Hotspur in the so called Champions League (so called because the league is not actually full of champions). Far from informing me about Spurs’s magnificent victory against the odds, Twitter was full of  Tweets centred around the behaviour of Gennaro Gattuso and Joe Jordan. There had been some disagreements between the 2 firebrands. Football is a physical game and tempers can fly as testosterone and adrenaline strut in equal measure. But this was a little more spicy than usual.

So, it was with some incredulity that I sought out and watched the said incidents. First up, the tough pocket battleship that is Gattuso  decided to push Joe Jordan in the face during the match. Allegedly Big Joe, who actually played for Milan and can speak Italian, had been berating him throughout, probably in language Gattuso would comprehend. Clearly young  Gennaro does not know who he is taking on, probably assuming the bespectacled sexagenarian Scot was just some insignificant and weak member of Harry Redknapp’s Spurs backroom team.

Well I remember Joe Jordan playing professional football for Leeds, Manchester United and of course Scotland. He really did come from the hard school of knocks, the only forward of recent times that would come close to his combative style would be Alan Shearer. Jordan’s nickname later in his career was ‘Jaws’ on account of his missing front teeth and likeness to the principle henchman in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. Needless to say Joe was the archetypal target man.  Any ball in the air, in and around the penalty box would be fair game for Joe. He would put his head and his elbows in where it hurt. Given also that this was the age of the bustling centre half put on the pitch to ‘stop’  the centre forwards, literally with anything they could get away with, footballers were a lot more used to physical battery as opposed to athletic exertion.

Joe Jordan was an icon for many of us as kids in the 70’s. He played hard, honest and with passion. He also possessed a pretty unitelligible accent (or at least unintelligible to us sassenachs) and thus when he gave post match interviews, you really needed subtitles. ‘Manchester United’ was pronounced ‘Man Chstr Neetah’ and every sentence was peppered with liberal use of ‘aye’. Just like players such as Billy Bremner, Dave Mackay, Norman Hunter, Jackie Charlton, Ronnie Harris, Billy Bonds and Tommy Smith,  there were some footballers that you just did not argue with. Add in the fact that he was the only Scot to score in 3 successive World Cups – ’74, ’78 and ’82 and you know you have a great player. I think it must have been something to do with England not qualifying for the World Cups in ’74 and ’78 that meant when we watched the tournaments on TV, BBC and ITV naturally followed Scotland and Joe Jordan, Kenny Dalglish and Archie Gemmil got increased air time.

Joe was also one of the few British players to find his fortune outside of the Football League when he joined AC Milan. Although he was part of the squad that got demoted from Serie A, he was on hand to bang and knock the goals in the following season when they came straight back up again. He loved his time in Italy and I remember seeing him on Channel 4’s Football Italia  speaking gently,  looking lean and above all talking sense about the game. Clearly his spell in Italy taught him valuable lessons in diet and physical conditioning, something pretty absent in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s in British football. Above all Joe appeared very Zen like, as if he had decided that all the aggression had evapourated and life was about enjoying the good things. His specs helped cultivate that image.

 At the final whistle on Tuesday, you therefore have to think that Gattuso really did not know who he was taking on.  As Mark Lawrenson said on Football Focus yesterday, ‘Joe had taken his glasses off, and I though aye aye, here we go’. It is a real pity that the little Italian stopper is now banned from the return fixture. It would have added some extra spice to epic that will take place at White Hart Lane in two and a half weeks time.  Harry Brown, aka Michael Caine would be proud.

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#oneaday 21: When money is easy, madness follows

Yesterday was a significant day in the (English) Premier League – £135 m spent by football clubs in one day, bringing the spend in the January transfer window to in excess of £200m – tens times what it was last year. Significant, however for all the wrong reasons. Indeed is this the last hurrah before the UEFA’s new financial rules come into play in 2013?

Januray 31st 2011 was the day when the English Premier League broke all bonds with its fans, who have clearly become the least important constituent in the football universe. Sitting way back in stands, we peer at the antics of a bloated game, one which cannot produce a credible national team, despite pouring obscene amounts of money into a whole host of distinctly average players. It all starts with the owners. Nowadays these fall into 3 broad groups.

  • The rich individual – think Roman Abramovich at Chelsea (wealth quoted at £8billion) and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his Abu Dhabi United Group at Manchester City. These people are often quotes as businessmen, yet there is often controversy surrounding their wealth. In the case of Abramovich it was gained in a very short period of time when Vladimir Putin broke up a communist, state owned economic system into pieces and bestowed it piece by piece on a number of favoured friends, the oligarchs. Over in Abu Dhabi, well it is a tale of black gold, oil.
  • The US based business conglomerate who may use debt to leverage the purchase, think the Glazers at Manchester United and Gillette and Hicks formerly of Liverpool who basically got it wrong and had to sell out to fellow American John W  Henry of New England Sports Ventures.
  • The rest, usually business men, whether they have made money in the pornography industry, sportswear or intensively farmed battery chickens, but ones who will find competing with the mega rich, just a little bit too, well, rich for them.

Yesterday saw the redistribution of a fraction of one Russian oligarch owners ‘wealth’, into an owner of a sports goods empire, via New England Sports Ventures. When Roman Abramovich decided to part with a mere £50m of his easy money,in return for Fernando Torres, he passed it to John W Henry at Liverpool, who flicked over £35m to Mike Ashley, owner of Sports Direct and Newcastle United for ‘England sensation’ Andy Carroll. I wonder if that money just goes to pay off some of the debts that Newcastle have accrued down the years? Either way I am sure it will be pretty useful to Mr Ashley. Along the way, the usual cuts would have been taken by the agents, even more money would have been put into the overpaid player’s pockets and who knows, maybe us tax payers will have gained a few quid towards our debts.

These amounts of money are nothing short of obscene. They show that the game at the ‘top end’ is nothing more that a bloated and rotten borough. In these troubled times, when pretty much all of the people who pay to watch the games via entrance fees or less so via a Sky Sports subscription, are facing an age of austerity, this sends out a message that the game has become nothing more than an effete and irrelevant sideshow, a circus. As crowd numbers fall off, the owners literally fiddle. It is yet to be seen if a fire has started, but the mood out there amongst the fans is starting to turn against their ‘heroes’.

Whether you wake up today as a Newcastle fan, a Liverpool fan or indeed a Chelsea fan this morning, you anger or elation may be short lived and the gloss may wear a little thin. Indeed, you have to ask whether the late, great Bill Shankly would ever utter his famous saying, ‘some say football is a matter of life and death. I say it is more important than that’, nowadays. Perhaps he would simply say ‘some say football is a matter of money. I say it is a matter of too much money’. I would like to think the great man would have something to say about the mess our once beautiful game is now in.

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#oneaday 19: Has the iPhone made the world even more politically correct?

As an update to my previous post from this morning, the news has now broken that Sky Sports presenter and former footballer, Andy Gray has been sacked, because of new evidence of further  unacceptable behaviour. This feels a little harsh and it will be interesting to see what will happen to his co-miscreant. Richard Keys, who by all accounts has made an apology to the referee’s assistant, Sian Massey. His fate is not yet declared as far as I can see.

There are 2 main issues here as far as I am concerned:-

1) When is a conversation private and when is it in the public domain?

2) Have Sky Sports acted against Mr Gray for any other reason than his outburst at the weekend?

The answer to 1) is pretty straight forward. In this world where news is 24/7 and there is a positive need to fill the channels, demand for ‘news’ has  never been higher. Therefore even tittle tattle becomes news, not that Gray and Keys’s outburst is tittle tattle, far from it. They should not have said what they said, but no more is there such a thing as ‘privacy’. With mobile recording devices, telephones, cameras and cables into newsrooms, all vital tools to the journalist, now all packed into an iPhone or a Blackberry, everything you say or do can be recorded and transmitted almost in real time. Thus people in the public eye or positions of responsibility, and there are many of them, will either have to ‘clip’ everything they say, or simply become bland and opinionless.  Do we really want people in the public eye to be briefed so tightly that nothing of any interest ever comes out of their mouths? Don’t answer that, plenty of the output from people in the public eye is utter nonsense and of no material interest, but you get where I am coming from.  Or we enter a new and arguably more exciting time, one where no one cares what they say, political correctness goes out of the window and we become a society of the median and the extreme.  Think Boris Johnson, who, whether you like him or not, really does not care what he says, or more accurately what his brief tells him. Boris tells it as it is, right or wrong and maybe, just maybe that will be a way forward, provided of course it is not too extreme, profane or offensive. Try defining that.   

Question 2) is more difficult to answer. Indeed, we will never know if Andy Gray’s legal case against News International, the owner of The News of the World and the 39% owner of Sky Sports, over the phone hacking scandal has influenced the decision. But Rupert Murdoch has flown into town to have top level meetings with his senior lieutenants over the troubled bid to buy the remaining shares at BSkyB and deal with the phone hacking meltdown.   You do have to wonder if Mr Murdoch has taken a personal interest in the small chinks that have been exposed in his empire, and Mr Gray is a ‘meaningful gesture’? We really will never know.

You could argue that a fully connected mobile devices, such as an iPhone and Blackberries, have done more to accelerate political correctness than any government enforced initiative or law ever has. There’s a thought and an unintended consequence, if ever I saw one.

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#oneaday 18: Is Football Sexy?

So the ‘likely lads’ who are employed by Sky Sports to present the coverage of Premier League football, you know the one with the ‘Odd Bod’ hairy hands and the one who needs subtitles south of the border, well they have gone off piste and cast aspertions over the female race’s right to be involved in any aspects of the professional game.

What utter chumps Keys and Gray are. I am really not bothered at all what they think or indeed what they say, but I am bothered that these chauvanistic clowns hold down such high profile jobs. Andy Gray used to be a formidable centre forward with Aston Villa and Everton, amongst others and put his head, face and mouth where the action was. This time round Andy probably would have been better off if he had taken a kick in the mouth rather than coating off the female linesman. Keys on the other hand, hairy or otherwise,  is a professional commentator/presenter who thinks he is a celebrity and as such exudes hubris where ever he goes, trouble is his hubris is stuck  in the 1970s. 

This is not the first time that Keys has been on the end of controversy. Roy Keane, no stranger to controversy himself, said “I was asked last week by ITV to do the Celtic game,” he said. “A couple of weeks before that I wasasked to do the United game against Celtic at Old Trafford. I think I’ve done it once for Sky. Never again. I’d rather go to the dentist. You’re sitting there with people like Richard Keys and they’re trying to sell something that’s not there”. I think Roy rumbled Richard, not for the first time.

Keys is also much liked in Scotland where he was caught off camera being ‘candid’ about a Euro 2008 qualifying game in the Faroe Islands, you can see this below.

Ultimately these 2 have been found out, off air admittedly, but have blotted their copybooks in the eyes of most of the population. I say most, as some wags will no doubt have found the whole thing ‘exaggerated and blown out of all proportion’. No matter what they think of Karren Brady, vice chair at West Ham,  they managed to work her into their impromptu routine, not for showing poor leadership over the handling of the Avram Grant/Martin O’Neil fiasco, but for mentioning that sexism is still rife in the game.  ‘Yeah right, get over it lads, she’s a bit brighter than you’.

Keys reminds me of a straight version of a less witty Alan Patridge. Banal, amateur and fawning, he continues to blunder through, seemingly thinking that he is something rather special.

Thinking about it, these two could recreate the completely brilliant  ‘The Likely Lads’  and the follow up  ‘Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads?’ . After all ‘Life on Mars’ and ‘Ashes to Ashes’ were huge successes and featured sexist humour and prejudice, all be it with brilliant script writing and acting. The ‘Likely Lads’ centred on two mates Terry (James Bolam) and Bob (Rodney Bewes) rooted in Newcastle in  the 60’s and 70’s. Their humour was ‘of the time’ but it was deliberate and still stands up today. That is because it balanced humour with irony, wit with pathos. If Gray and Keys, or rather their agents pick up the phone and  ring Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (the creators of ‘The likely Lads’ who also went on to write Auf Wiedersen Pet & Porridge) and were to ask them to script them both in a 1970’s themed football comedy, they may find a ready made retro  audience. It could be  set in a TV broadcasting studio, where the two main characters play out their lives and the issues of the day  in front and behind the cameras.  They give an insight ‘into the game’ and the audience can laugh with them and at them. Everyone would be happy, because it isn’t real life! Have a look at this, imagine Keys and Gray in the roles and you may get where I am coming from.  Meantime, they have been given a yellow card, and both are lucky to stay on the pitch. Next time it will be red, and thereafter lies life on Channel 5.

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#oneaday 10: Dignity and leadership

So today is the final day of the much derided Avram Grant’s managerial reign at West Ham. For most, including me, this is the end of a very sorry chapter in the history of my football club. I have been on the record from the first, onerous day that he was unveiled as the new manager, that he should never have been appointed. My suspicions about the decision making of the owners of the club, messrs Sullivan and Gold, the two Davids, Gollivan by other words has always been high, ever since they bought the club last year.

Their first move was to brief the press against the incumbent manager, Gianfranco Zola, a true gentleman and a proper human being who only wanted the best for his players, the club and the supporters. The two David’s did not want Zola. I still am not sure why, but they felt he was not their man, did not have the right experience and West Ham were not exactly high in the table when they bought the club. So after much agitating in public and through the media, many pundits and observers suspecting that the owners wanted to make Zola break the terms of his contract and thus save paying him off, Zola duly left the club, along with his number 2, Steve Clarke at the end of the season.

The owners claimed that they wanted a more experienced manager, one with a proven track record and one who could execute the long term plan that the owners had for the club. Appointing Avram Grant never got near fulfilling that brief and you have to wonder what the logic, or indeed the commercial reason was for this decision. Indeed the so called long term plan  has never been shared with the supporters. As I see it, the long term plan is focused on moving the club to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. According to the PR this is all part of ensuring that the Olympic legacy is not lost and that the stadium is retained and used for athletics , which was a core promise made by Lord Coe on behalf of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympics. That is all very good and very noble, but the owners’ decision  to pursue this bid, is of course money orientated. And that is no bad thing at the end of the day. Rumours are that the Upton Park site has had planning permission for residential development granted, and estimates range on that deal realising £150 – 200 million profit for the club and its owners. In one fail swoop the debt would be wiped out and the club would be financially stable and solvent.

Decisions are always a key part of leadership. Even if the decision is ‘no change’ those who are in charge need to ensure that they are exactly that, in charge and capable of making decisions. Ever since the two David’s made the decision to appoint Avram Grant, they have been less than certain that their call was right. For me it was always wrong, but there is a school of thought that says once you have made a decision, you should stick by it and give it time to work. The speculation about Avram Grant’s future has been rife and in recent weeks, the club’s owners have made all sorts of noises. He was told that he had three games before Christmas to get at least one win. That sort of ultimatum is a daft one. Suppose West Ham lost their first two games and won the third, do you then keep the manager? Equally if they win the first, is he off the hook and therefore there is no real motivation to get results in the next two? All in all it was a stupid thing to say in public or in private and not the sort of thing you expect from any leaders in any walk of life. As it was West Ham won one game and drew two – a very good set of results given their previous form. And the rumours started again.

Thus on Tuesday this week, before an important Carling Cup semi final first leg, when Martin O’Neill was spotted at the club, we all knew that the end was nigh for the manager. Clearly the owners had decided that his time was up, but they wanted, quite naturally to seek a replacement before pulling the trigger. But why would you interview a potential replacement at the club, for staff and by passers to see? Why not somewhere private? Was it the need for the owners to be seen to be making a decision? Are they that paranoid that they want the media and supporters to know that they ‘really do know there is a problem and are doing something about it’? Indeed the rumours got stronger that Grant would be sacked on Wednesday after the board of West Ham would meet. Today, news broke that Grant will no longer be the manager, but that decision will be announced tomorrow, Sunday, after our home game against Arsenal. He will be replaced by Martin O’Neill.

This sort of approach smacks of being somewhat seedy, cheap and actually wrong, even if the decision is absolutely right. If the owners appoint the manager, they have the righ to remove him, but please don’t go about your business in this way. It lacks dignity and leadership in every way.

 At least Avram Grant has acted in a dignified way and is making no comment. More rumours suggest he has already struck a deal with the club. A pay off is always the upside of any manager’s hurt when he inevitably loses his job. I wonder when the game against Arsenal  finishes around 7.30pm today if Avran Grant will wave his goodbyes to the fans and the players and sail off to his next port of call. Indeed I wonder  if he will raise a smile. That would really be a first, the last time I saw him do that was when he arrived at the club.

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#oneaday 4:Re-use and Recycle?

Management, specifically football management, what makes a good manager and why do failures get re-used and recycled time and time again? It seems like the only way the managerial gene pool is ever widened is when Premier League owners decide to import big hitters from abroad, or Blackpool and Stoke get promoted.  Having seen the hapless incumbents at Liverpool, West Ham, Aston Villa and even Chelsea look like dead men walking (apologies Gerard) after their teams all lost vital games tonight, the talk is of who will be sacked first. 

Surely this prize must be won by Avram Grant at West Ham, who has never really fitted the bill since he arrived in the summer. After 3 games in the Premier League, the owners Messrs Gold and Sullivan put dear old Avram on a warning. He’s had more since, despite the MD of West Ham, Karen Brady (her of The Apprentice panel alongside SirAlan) assuring the media, public and the fans, that ‘we just don’t sack managers’. The big question was how did this Israeli football manager ever get a job in English football in the first place? He arrived as technical director at Portsmouth when Harry Redknapp was manager and  Harry made it clear that he did not want any interference. He then went on to do a similar job, this time director of fooball, at Chelsea and dropped into Jose the Special One’s manager’s seat when Emperor Roman decided that Mourinho had expressed an opinion one too many times. After losing the Champions League final, Grant was sacked. He then returned to Portsmouth as director of football, only to become manager about a month later after the latest Pompey owner sacked the latest Pompey manager. He left after Portmouth lost the FA Cup final and were relegated, admittedly because of points deduction due to Portsmouth FC going into administration. Indeed Grant did not even hold the required top-flight coaching certification from UEFA when he took over at Chelsea. In fact, he had never received the lower-level coaching cerfications from UEFA for “B” and “A” level coaching in Europe.  But Messrs Sullivan and Gold thought it would be a great idea to hire him.

Not far behind must be either Roy Hodgson (most pundits ‘in the know’s’ choice as England manager to replace Capello after the shambles that was the 2010 World Cup) or Gerard Houllier. Neither seem in control of their respective teams, both seem just too old, too bemused and actually not good enough for either team and certainly unable to handle the expectations at their respective clubs. Indeed Hodgson’s first foray into English football was to get sacked by Blackburn a few years back. Admittedly he had a very good season with Fulham, but his record in our league was actually poor. Ditto Houllier. One UEFA Cup , FA Cup and League Cup victory plus a runners up in the League really does not make him a great winner, especially at Anfield. Thus groans were heard all through the claret and blue parts of Birmingham when Martin O’Neill stepped down, Kevin MacDonald stepped in and then made way for Houllier. If Houllier gets the boot, then he will almost certainly return to France. Ditto if Carlo Ancelotti leaves stricken Chelsea, it is unlikely that he will seek further misery in England.

So the question really is why do some of these consistently under performing managers keep getting employed? Why do the club owners fall for the same candidates time and time again? Lord knows why. If Grant and  Houllier go, surely that must be the end for them in English football? Of the current 20 Premier League managers, 14 are British which is as high as I can remember. Of those, Hogdson will not be in his job until the end of the season and some of the others may have a few sleepless nights. But we need new, younger  managers, men with fresh ideas and men who can handle the errant ways of the modern millionaire footballers. Outside of natual promotions – ie managers of teams who gained promotion in order to gain a foothold as a Premier League manager namely  Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis, Roberto Di Matteo and Owen Coyle, there seems to be a total lack of promoting managers from lower divisions into the top jobs. Is that caution or stupidity? Indeed, does football need a bit of a cull in order that we can refresh and relaunch our game?

Let’s see what happens in the coming months. Meantime, if you are a Villa, West Ham, Liverpool and even a Chelsea supporter, the next few weeks will be  very interesting. Messrs, Southgate, O’Neill, Allardyce, Curbishley and Hughton are all looking to get back into the top jobs, it will be interesting to see who does not come back and if clubs like West Ham or Aston Villa live a little and look to the Chanpionship for talent.

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