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The English Premier League: Snowed at a Glance

The English Premier League: Snowed at a Glance

Let the festivities begin. It is the season of goodwill and the season to be jolly. The English Premier League was snowed in last week; leaving only two matches played.  Sunderland versus Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers versus West Ham United. These two sets of games could not be more contrasting. As fate would have it, it was not the small clubs that had games abandoned but even the big boys like Arsenal, Man Utd, Liverpool, etc. It was not for lack of under soil heating facilities or any of the sorts. Though rarely thought of these days, most games were postponed purely “in the interest of the fan”. How nice to hear such words or phrases again that decisions have been made simply in the interest of the average fan. The icy conditions made roads treacherous; fans could not be guaranteed to reach their desired destinations in time to watch their beloved teams. Well with the “no win, no fee” culture that is the vogue these days, most clubs were fearful of running the risk of being sued if fans were to sustain injuries from ice-laden club grounds. So for one time only, the decision to call off most of the matches was “in the interest of the fan”.  (Photo: Abdulai Mansaray (Zoztik Mayanga))

You wonder why those words take a holiday when ticket prices are decided. You wonder where those words evaporate to when managers are sacked, left, right and centre.  Take for example Chris Hughton, who was recently sacked by Mike Ashley, the Newcastle Footbal l Club chairman, despite being the fans’ favourite.

Blackburn Rovers and West Ham drew one all, but these two clubs could not be more contrasting. Like I said last week, managers who always get the nod of approval, more often than not get the sack. Last week, Avram Grant got the dreaded vote of confidence from his chairmen, but two days later, it was alleged that he had been given an ultimatum; to win at least two of his next three fixtures. Well he has drawn one already and the next two will be must win games, if the rumour mill is anything to go by. If Grant is going to get the boot, not literally, he won’t say that he did not see it coming, unlike Sam Alladice.  When Big Sam took over from Paul Ince 18 months ago, Blackburn was dicing with relegation. He saved them from relegation and got them to the top ten spot last season. I am not a fan of his brand of football and you may say what you like about his football. His tactics have been branded as anti football, ugly and within the corridors of Arsenal and Barcelona; he may not be even allowed to watch their reserve teams, for fear of diluting their brand and style of playing. That may be the view of some people, but the facts and statistics show that he gets the job done. To many clubs, chairmen, and board of directors, Big Sam is fast becoming the 4th. Emergency service; after the police, ambulance and fire. Big Sam has been known to operate on a profit margin by resurrecting the careers of people like Ivan Campo, Jay Jay Okocha, Fernando Heirro, Kevin Davies, etc. He has got results on shoe string budgets. But this was not enough for the new owners, a common playground that is fast becoming ruthless by the minute.

These situations in the Premier League are so common that Steve Bruce, manager of Sunderland believes it will be “managerial carnage” if the trend of foreign and business people continue to run these clubs. Blackburn was recently taken over by a chicken firm, which reports indicate are also tied to an advertising conglomerate. Ready for this?  On the night that they celebrated the takeover, Blackburn received a walloping 7-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester United.  Big Sam gets his marching orders. No one is saying that the 7-1 defeat was the reason for his sacking, but that may have been the last nail to the coffin. Stories about the owners’ ambitions have been peddled; with champions league football has a premium. There is no harm in dreaming; no harm in aiming high, but these must be tempered with a hint or dose of realism. Buying a club and fantasising about overnight success could be bordering on the delusional. This is common with business men who have spent their whole lives speculating to accumulate, and this is how they made their wealth. But like the saying goes it is a different ball game; literally. The common theme here is the erosion and sudden disappearance of loyalty in the game.

The days of loyalty are gone. Players like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Steven Gerard, (and who else?)  Who are known to have played for only one club, are now distant memories. The days when players pledged their loyalties are no longer the norm. Players can sign their contracts and rip it up even before the ink has barely dried up. Player contracts are no longer worth the papers on which they are written. The days when contracts were between a player and the club have been replaced by companies running a player’s life like an institution. No wonder people like Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez can be the fans favourite one minute and Judas the next. With all their skills and football l acumen, these guys, like their clubs are finding the exchange rate on loyalty very high but scarce to come by. Take Tevez for example. He is currently the best player (on form) that is not involved in Champions league football. The champions’ league has gone into snooze, giving clubs to strengthen, rebuild and recharge their teams. Cue Tevez, who becomes depressed, home sick, and angry that his relationship with the big guys at the club, not the manager, has become irreparable. If I throw in the weather, you get a transfer request; all happening just two weeks before the football bazaar begins.

As the festive season gathers momentum, the back pages also declare their open season. The transfer window will be open soon and like a river bursting its banks, the rumour mill is set to go on overdrive. Most times these rumours are never substantiated but be rest assured that it is the deadliest weapon available to a football agent ,that is bent on engineering a move and maximising it to the longest available zero (0) for his/her client . It is at this time that vulnerable clubs, who are fearful of being relegated, have the last available penny squeezed out of them.

Most times, such rumours involve players who are not happy or warming subs benches at their current clubs. They may have been prima donnas with their previous clubs, but have just realised that the grass is not greener, or in the words of Sir Alex Ferguson, “the cow on the other farm is not fatter” when they moved. The ego becomes bruised and all sorts of rumours will then be generated.  It’s funny that most managers only hear of players being associated with their clubs from the back papers. The horse trading begins in earnest next week. As these hawkers, who pass for agents ply their soul destroying trade, spare a thought for that child, man or woman, who will be spending their Christmas alone? Remember that the beauty of Christmas lies not only in the receiving, but the giving. Sadly, there will be three unwise teams, who will be led by some fallen stars to their doom to come. These stars will come bearing gifts of overnight success. Beware; there will be some long silent nights to come……spent in the Championship League.

Abdulai Mansaray (Zoztik Mayanga) – UK

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