The Premiership – At a Glance
It is that time of the year again: Christmas, and you will be forgiven to think that it is the season of good will and forgiveness. Christmas is the time you tell someone to forget the “past” with a “present”. But not if the English Premiership has anything to do with it. In premiership terms, it the heralding of the annual managerial merry-go-round and musical chairs rolled into one. It is the time when teams are made and broken. Unlike other football leagues that have winter breaks, the festive period in England is packed with football matches throughout; giving fans enough reasons to cheer or drown their sorrows in equal measure. (Photo: Abdulai Mansaray (Zoztik Mayanga), author)
When UEFA introduced the dreaded Transfer Window, it was meant to provide, as far as practically possible, an equal playing field. Unfortunately, it marked the time for the changes of the reins with many clubs. This is so common now that there is popular myth that if a club is in the bottom three by Christmas, it is bound to be relegated. This might be a myth but statistics back it firmly; as only Bryan Robson has put paid to that with West Bromwich Albion F C. Well it sounds like Roman Abramovich and Mike Ashley of Chelsea and Newcastle Football clubs respectively, have not waited for the starter gun to start the race.
Chelsea started this year’s premiership season in spectacular style, scoring an average of four goals per game. Chelsea was so lethal that Solomon Kalou reportedly claimed Chelsea will win the premiership by Christmas. Drogba went one step further, that the only competition was Chelsea itself; if they become complacent. How ironic that these protestations have come back to haunt them. Just as a reminder, Chelsea will not win the title by Christmas and their poor form has not come as a result of their complacence. They just cannot buy a win at present, despite the owner’s billions. Even when the Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes gifted him a goal, Drogba declined to score one on Sunday. Fans woke up one morning to hear that their coach, Ray Wilkins had been sacked while he was giving a half time team talk to the Chelsea Reserve team in Germany. It will be preposterous to say that it is the main reason for Chelsea’s current form, with one win in 8 games; but the coincidence is too spicy and tempting to ignore that conclusion. If you thought that “Pa Sheki” had a weird way of sacking his ministers, over to you Cillaty Daboh. Ray had been part of the coaching staff that landed the FA Cup and the Premiership Title (The Double) for the first time in the club’s history. His reward was a P45. We may never know the ins and outs of the events leading to that. It sounds like Abramovich has a penchant for changing his horses in mid-stream. Remember a guy called Mourhino?
Like Abramovich, Mike Ashley of Newcastle United sacked the manager, Chris Hughton last week. With the terrible takeover masquerade that took place at Newcastle United since Mike Ashley bought the club, Hughton was one of the few managers insane enough, to take the reins, after the club had been relegated under Geordie Idol Alan Shearer. With a shoe string budget, Hughton kept the squad together and gained not only promotion but the title the following season. His Christmas present was the sack, not the one Santa Claus brings to your house at this time of the year though. His crime was taking the team to mid table just halfway through the season. There are common denominators between these two clubs. They are owned by people who have succeeded in business. Business as we know it is a ruthless past time, and these clubs are basically treated as past time by these guys. They don’t seem to show any considerations for the feelings of the fans that provide the life support mechanism for their clubs. The fact that Newcastle has had six different mangers in two years speaks volumes of the nature of the club.
As for Chelsea, they have had Avram Grant, Scolari, Guus Hiddink and now Ancellotti (who is rumoured to be considering his position), since Mourhino left. It is refreshing therefore, to know that Sir Alex Ferguson would have had twenty four years, one month and fourteen days in the Manchester United hot seat, by the time they clash with Arsenal. Any surprise that the Manchester United trophy cabinet is bursting at the seams? The team also boasts of the longest serving and most decorated premiership player in Ryan Giggs. The one common ingredient here is “patience”.
Back in the Eastland’s, Carlos Tevez played for Manchester United for two years before switching his allegiance, if any, to arch rivals Manchester City. If you manage to find your way to the city, you can still see the banners that greeted him “welcome to Manchester” when he made the switch; a once in a life time occurrence in the history of English football. What the City fans failed to heed was that “he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day”. For Tevez to switch from United without a speck of conscience for his adoring fans was, in itself a betrayal. Manchester City fans are now waking up to the idea that Tevez is untrustworthy, and in the bargain begin to appreciate the wisdom of Sir Alex Ferguson to let him go in the first place. Many reasons have been given for his U turn, from homesickness, depression, to The Rooney syndrome. Don’t rule out the role of his agent considering, south American players are not only bought by clubs, but can be “owned “by individuals and third parties. It is the third party aspect that may have spooked the deal for Tevez at Manchester United. Looks like its “Adios Manchester”.
Apart from these shenanigans, the premiership has been the most unpredictable for years and all this is good for the spirit of the beautiful game. With top teams dropping points, Man Utd as draw specialists, Arsenal’s inconsistency, and Chelsea unable to even buy a win, teams like Tottenham and Manchester City have been given the best chance to gate-crash the big boy’s party. With the transfer window looming large, the cheque books are itching to change hands, as the horse trading begins in earnest next month; or is it next year?. The most dreaded vote of confidence in managers languishing in the bottom tier will start following. Whenever a football chairman says that he has confidence in a manager, you can tell that the bells are tolling. Avram Grant of West Ham United has had his fair share of that vote of confidence already. The prayers have been offered and are all the way to the slaughter house; sorry the bank. May the best team win.
Abdulai Mansaray (Zoztik Mayanga)
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