Tag Archives: Football

Pitch invasions should be a thing of the past

WhatsApp-Image-2017-05-07-at-15.13.14-696x522

Have you ever had that rush of blood when you are at a concert and you are so overjoyed that your storm the stage in celebration of the band’s beautiful creation?

No?

How about when Anthony Joshua beat Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley, didn’t you want to jump into the ring to celebrate with all the assembled media that hopped in?

Really? Weird.

Well, it seems to happen every year in English football, regardless of whether a team goes up or avoids going down. It’s tradition, like watching the queen’s speech at Christmas or throwing up after having too many pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, for many a pitch invasion simply has to happen.

But, why?

Picking apart one of many that occurred over the final games of the Championship, League One and League Two, the one at Nottingham Forest was a little shameful. The former two-time European Champions, as they would kindly remind you, saw their fans claim the City Ground’s pitch after their team staved off relegation to League One on goal difference.

It’s like throwing a party because you managed to pay the bailiffs by finding a pound coin in-between the sofa cushions.

Even the positive ones seem a little redundant, like when Bolton Wanderers’ fans even started raiding before the final whistle had blew. They have come straight back up after relegation last season, so the redeption story or the overwhelming sense of beating the odds just isn’t there.

sport-preview-bolton-promoted

Compare it to Brighton, who were on the brink of extinction just over two decades ago, and you can justify their need to hug all of their lovely footballers. Those fans almost couldn’t imagine a future and now, it could not be much brighter.

Saying that, footballers must hate pitch invasions. For the home players, it must be like being mugged by the most joyful person in the world. Most of them hope to be near the tunnel straight away but the poor goalkeepers and defenders must wade through the barbarians like it’s Black Friday at Tesco.

As for the away players, they must be begging that they can avoid all of it. The only things that could happen are getting shouted at, potentially assaulted or a dabble of both, with a sea of people running your direction not looking so nice for those that simply want to be on the first plane off this rock for the summer.

What’s even stranger is that it never happens elsewhere. There wasn’t a mass raid when Leicester spectacularly won the title last season, no one in Turin jumped the barriers when they made the Champions League final earlier this week and France contained themselves when they even won the World Cup in their own country in 1998.

However, we English tend to get all passionate about much. When it’s our local football club, with it’s inferior budgeting for stewarding and their more lax nature for idiots, let’s just ignore the norms and go a little mental.

It might be an unpopular opinion, or a surprisingly popular one, but end-of-season public pitch parades should be a thing of the past.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Is expanding the World Cup a good idea?

131021122824-world-cup-trophy-horizontal-large-gallery

The World Cup is changing, but for the better? Source: CNN

This morning, FIFA president Gianni Infantino announced that from 2026, the World Cup will be expanding to a 48-team format.

Sixteen groups of three teams will duke it out for two qualifying spots before the final 32 face off in knockout rounds. There will be a decision made two years before the finals whether ties in the group stages will be settled by penalty shootouts.

So, the real question out of this is, have they gone absolutely bloomin’ bonkers?

Well FIFA certainly don’t think so, as they can’t see any of the anger towards them through the shower of money raining in front of them. With the extra 16 games comes only more need for fans to fill stadiums, more games for television companies to cast and more heavy-duty wallets for the bigwigs.

That’s not to say that any positive is because of greed. The four additional spots for Asia and Africa to qualify are great for two developing continents within the world of football to gain exposure on what is the largest stage.

It’s also another well for FIFA to drain should it take of as well.

However, there are also legitimate arguments against the idea of a big expansion like this, starting with it diluting the competition element of the tournament. With the most recent European Championships a prime example, adding more teams means that some that missed out because they weren’t good enough then will slip through the cracks, bringing the overall football on show down a peg.

That also, unfortunately, includes those extra teams coming from nations like Asia and Africa. When current rankings are taken into consideration, teams like Sweden, Denmark, Scotland and Austria would not make it whereas powerful footballing sides like China, UAE and Curacao would.

gianni-infantino

Infantino has wanted to expand the tournament for a long time and he finally has his wish. Source: Sportzwiki.com

 

But then, those heart-warming stories about the plucky underdog can become more likely. With some bigger nations maybe taking it easy or tired from a long season, some small nation may get the chance to stun us like Iceland or Wales did in Euro 2016.

Then again, there’s just as much chance of drubbings that require the score prompter to spell out the number because it’s got that high.

There will also be a big backlash from a number of the big European clubs, filled with international players, who already have to give some a longer rest if they go far in the tournament. With it likely to last longer or attempt to pack more matches into a shorter timeframe, especially with plans to move kick off times for big markets, it will only exacerbate an already strong issue for club football.

It also boggles the mind of the football purists, who can’t even fathom trying to cover that many games in a short space of time. That fatigue will also eventually hit the regular fan too, exhausted from a long club season and a myriad of pointless qualifiers that have even less significance now that when it does come to the summer, they would rather take a few weeks off.

Lost in some of this is the dream machine it will hopefully make for some of the youngsters around the world in some of the most impoverished areas. That may be true and that’s a beautiful idealism to root for but is that FIFA’s forward thinking or a by-product of them trying to expand their grip into new markets?

This is sure to be a debate that will roll on until the tournament, wherever it may be held, rolls around in nine years’ time. While some will be shaking their heads, some like those in FIFA will simply be blue-balling themselves with dollar signs in their eyes until then.

Tagged , , ,

Why is football punditry so hated?

ryan-giggs-on-mnf-with-jamie-carragher-gary-neville-main

Monday Night Football seems to be a fan favourite, so why don’t others follow suit? Source: Daily Mirror

On Saturday evening, many people watching Match of the Day on BBC One HD were without sound for the first 45 minutes or so.

Some would call that a blessing in disguise.

It didn’t matter to this writer, who skips through the analysis in the studio and sticks to the in-game action instead. Even if he did feel like a mad man either watching silence or commentating himself like he was playing Football Manager.

Don’t judge me, please.

But it did lead me to think about something that seems a hot button with everyone these days. Are pundits getting worse? Are they taking a little too much flak? Do we really know what we want from our half-time talking heads?

Let us start with those paid for their opinions. There’s a number of different styles to pick through with all varying degrees of usefulness over every media platform, the know-it-alls, the not-too-risqué and the all-too-risqué.

pe3o6z9ojhensk7h4xmdoxojbzmtt2bj

Sometimes right, sometimes absolutely wrong, always a little bland, Jamie Redknapp everyone! Source: Sky Sports

Starting with everyone’s favourites with the know-it-alls. These are your Monday Night Football, European football clever-clogs that tell you the little bits you didn’t see and what you should be expecting from your overpaid superstars.

There’s a lot to like about what they bring. They pry through the game long and hard to give you something extra that you might not have caught on first viewing or simply didn’t know about to even look out for.

Sometimes what they can say is overly complicated, sometimes you are left a little lingering, hoping they’d delve in deeper. But the likes of Gary Neville or Jamie Carragher can’t give all their secrets away, otherwise they may be out of a job.

Honestly, there should be more in this category. A few are on the borderline, mainly the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves, but at least these are trying to add something to the game you’ve just watched rather than telling you with words what you’ve already seen with your eyes.

That moves us perfectly on to the next type, the not-too-risqué types. This eclipses most of your pundits you see, the non-offending smart shirt-wearing former professional who doesn’t try to stray too far from the given path.

They may go on a slight angry rant if something has grieved them over the course of the game or if it has been grinding them down in the past few weeks but they stick by the line. Say nothing too untoward, don’t have too much explanation it what has happened and give us a brief overview.

The perfect middle-managers of the pundit world. Keep it short, sharp and to the point so that everyone can understand what is said without making those tuning in feel like morons.

robbie-savage-and-chris-sutton-on-bt-sport-score-136410909947903901-161030014056

Two hot-head mouthpieces that should no longer be on television. So fond of butting heads they thought they’d try each other for size. Source: BT Sport

Personally, I don’t have a huge problem with the Jamie Redknapp’s and the Alan Shearer’s of the world. They sometimes come up with something interesting but it’s more of a shame that they don’t go deeper when you want them too.

All in all, they are just a little too vanilla.

For those that prefer the taste of hot sauce and blood, there is the all-too-risqué types. The blood and thunder types that thrive in saying the exact opposite to everyone else just for the kicks and then thrive in their role as the heel to the watching audience.

I shouldn’t even have to mention names here, it’s the ones that sound ridiculous even when they make a valid point. They go over-the-top, get annoyed at the slightest thing and a fair few of them still live in the dark ages where you could kick seven shades of something out of the opponent without consequence.

These glorified shock masters should be culled. A controversial opinion should be welcomed with evidence but they never present any, hoping their shouty and aggressive attitude is enough to convince you that they are right.

So what do we want? The general feeling as we just want something added to our content. The more conscious viewer of the modern age wants analysis that gives us more of a “why” instead of a “how”, examples to show us both and ideas that give us though on how our own teams perform on a weekly basis.

bt-sport-european-football-show-sd-12012014

An example of what we could see, the European Football Show is always an interesting watch. Source: BT

We want stories, insight into the different teams and the reasons why certain things are done in a certain way. For example, the excellent panel of journalists on the European Football Show always come packed with little tid-bits on every team or even player that adds to the experience, even if they aren’t ex-pros that “know” every in and out.

Which is why there’s such a backlash against the status quo. We aren’t Neanderthals any more, the holier-than-thou attitude from those that act like it simply because they were gifted the talent to make a career out of it does not mean they can look down on us that only have the mind as sharp.

It’s proven in some of the absolutely outstanding work done out there by writers across Europe, by the superb stuff done by analysists and the social media age that have given us more access than ever. Former agents, coaches, scouts have given us tools we could have only hoped for in the past and it’s time for ex-pros to step up their game in time with that.

Overall, punditry should continue to be varied and give us a little more on every broadcast. The additions like those from writers and even ex-referees explaining decisions thoroughly without any bias has given us more, stating the rules as they are written rather than with the tinted glasses of a footballer.

The hope is that the current generation coming through are watching the love for the likes of Neville and Carragher and they follow suit. Give us a little more, fill our minds with your knowledge and more importantly, stop those who can fast-forwarding.

Tagged , , , , ,

Footballers are humans, too

Sterling's dismal performance against the Republic of  Ireland summed up his last three months.  Source: Sky Sports

Sterling’s dismal performance against the Republic of Ireland summed up his last three months. Source: Sky Sports

It’s a strange thing to say but what sometimes seems to be lost in the modern day reporting an even discussion in football is that the names we talk about are human beings. We talk about transfers, contract situations and even a player’s form almost as if there can’t be external issues off the field of play that could be pulling them away.

This has come up recently with Raheem Sterling, who has even been vocal in his disappointment that his contract talks with Liverpool have come out. Unsurprisngly, his form declined at the end of the season and whilst some would point to fatigue, which could also be a factor, it’s clear from numerous performances that his trademark swagger has left him.It was what made him so distinctive and exciting, he showed no fear and looking at WhoScored’s ratings you can see the dip he’s gone through.

Up until his two-assist performance in the 2-1 win against Manchester City at the start of March, he’d put in a string of excellent performances and whilst his form was erratic at times, he’d regularly hit over 7.5 on their scale. After that point, he made just one more goal and assist, scoring over 7.5 twice in the final 14 games whilst finishing below 7 in all of his last seven games.

Di Maria's concern for his family's well-being hindered his form.  Source: Sky Sports

Di Maria’s concern for his family’s well-being hindered his form. Source: Sky Sports

It’s clear from that whilst the actual situation with his contract isn’t affecting his play, the ire from the wider public that he’s received and the increased attention has. It’s a process he’ll certainly learn from and will likely grow a thicker skin, it’s interesting to see how the psyche can change a player’s form on the field.

It’s not just Sterling that’s been affected, Angel Di Maria has also had a pretty poor season for his lofty expectations and it’s almost obvious that the break-in at his home had a detrimental on his on-field exploits.

He would give the ball away, try to do a little too much and his own frustration at his inability to rediscover his form led to the petulance seen during the FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal where he was sent off. Sometimes it’s just a break that a player needs to find his feet again and now the season is over, hopefully both can return to their former glories.

De Gea's happiness is forthright, no amount of Manchester United's money will change that.  Source: Express

De Gea’s happiness is forthright, no amount of Manchester United’s money will change that. Source: Express

However, we should also take a player’s off-the-field happiness into consideration during transfers too. Some don’t join clubs because they don’t fancy the area, because they don’t want to learn a new language or they want to leave because it’ll make their lives a little easier.

A perfect example is David De Gea, who looks almost certain to join Real Madrid not simply because it’s a huge club but because it’s a lot easier on his family. His girlfriend much prefers Spain, his family hasn’t got to travel as far (especially with his father’s fear of flying)  and that’s a really big factor in a player’s decision, sometimes even more so than money.

Sometimes we lose a little bit of thinking, analysing numbers on a screen and thinking of players much like they are within the realms of FIFA 15 of Football Manager but after all, they aren’t far removed from ourselves. It’s almost impossible to see the roadblocks in someone’s mind and we never will but it’s something that teams, players and even the media will get better with the more we learn.

Tagged , , , , , ,