Monday, October 03, 2005


The Sporting Life, And Other Mysteries Of The World As It Seems

I see that the typically informed and informative writing at Ubersportingpundit continues. I'd like to point out two posts in particular, and have my say.

First off, a piece about Roy Keane, who has of course claimed he wishes to leave Manchester United at the end of the season (or conceivably before).

Ah, Roy Keane. On the one hand, an excellent organising midfield player, on the other Ireland's only football hooligan. Personally, as a man who loathes Manchester United more than anything else on Earth, I have to say I shall be delighted to see the end of him. Football is all about grudges, it's all about hating teams passionately. If I could, I'd wish Man Utd go down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, out the bottom of the Isthmian. I even dreamed that happened once, and they knocked down the ground to build a supercasino instead, which had the double virtue of pissing off both United fans and modern day puritans. It was, I believe, the happiest dream I've ever had.

So a large part of my dislike for Keane comes down to his effectiveness. Pearce says 'his contribution to United's epic treble-winning year of 1999 cannot be doubted', and he's absolutely right. When people assign decades to teams - the seventies and eighties to Liverpool, the nineties to Man Utd, the early 2000s to Arsenal, the late 2000s to Chelsea, they often look back and struggle to remember more than a handful of players who really made all that happen. Keane was such a player. He's instrumental in every game he plays in, and is perhaps the man most suited to the role of club captain in the whole Premiership.

Of course, a large part of Keane's success derives from the way he plays the game, which is to say very aggressively. A large part of the reason I loathe United so is down to the very thuggishness of their captain that gave them so much success. Anyone remember this?

The lads all wanted to pitch in when Martin lost his contact lenses.

That's Keane shouting at Alf Inge Haaland after deliberately breaking his leg. Bizarrely, apart from a small media storm at the time of the publication of his autobiography, Keane's assault today remains all but forgotten. This is one of the sad disgraces of modern sport - Keane deliberatley injured a fellow professional in a manner that would be called Grievous Bodily Harm in a court of law, yet people forgave him. Why?

They forgave him again after his departure from World Cup 2002 before the tournament even started. That article is entitled 'A nation disowns its hero', but in fact all was forgiven and forgotten more or less straight away.

Football is not called 'the beautiful game' without reason. The departure of Keane marks the end of a player who started to draw fine lines on the canvas, but spoiled it with blood. He should not be missed.


The other post worth considering is this one. Briefly, it asks whether or not the Premiership is boring this season.

Perhaps a more pertinent question would be why it's so boring every season. For a long time now, the amount of money in the game, admittedly combined with other factors such as how clubs are ran, has allowed certain teams to dominate, and create eras. The current season seems very likely to mark the start of the Chelsea era, and my God how boring does it promise to be. Most football pundits appeared to agree with this thesis after just a few games, but now the fashion appears to be to pour scorn on that attitude (whatever happened to Duleep Allirajah, anyway?). The argument appears to be that because after seven games last season everyone thought Arsenal would walk away with the title, when of course they did nothing of the sort, it's wholly ridiculous to claim that Chelsea will this season.

However, the fact of the matter is that in those seven games last season, and even in their unbeaten season previous to that, Arsenal were already living on borrowed time. The Abramovich cash was sure to figure eventually, because if you throw enough of it at something eventually the difference will start to tell. I vividly recall a phone in at the end of last season, after Chelsea won the title, 6-0-6 it was, when Alan Green was refusing to let anyone claim that Chelsea 'bought' the title. This is rather like like the Emperor's press secretary forbidding anyone from pointing out the Emperor's nudity. It was patently obvious Chelsea had bought the title, and denying it fooled no-one.

There are of course attendant benefits to the Abramovich cash. It has made the Premiership a better league, and certainly a richer league, since teams can demand large amounts of money of the benificent giant for their star players. Some teams, like Manchester City, who received an incomprehensible sum for overhyped winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, are spending that money wisely. The other benefit, of course, is that a better class of player can be seen week in, week it, around the country. Without the Abramovich money, we wouldn't be seeing Drogba or Essien on Match of the Day.

The real issue is whether these benefits merit the cost of a hopelessly uncompetitive league. As even Lyons admits in his defence of this seasons Premiership, 'it's correct that only four teams in the league have much chance of becoming champions this season.' Four out of twenty is an exceedingly poor ratio. In reality, of course, it isn't even four, because Liverpool don't even have an outside chance, as Sunday's mauling proved.

I would go so far as to argue that neither Arsenal or Manchester United have much chance either. They both struggled to get past Birmingham and Fulham respectively this weekend, two teams who will certainly be in the bottom half of the table at the end of the season. So far, there has been precisely no evidence of Chelsea struggling at all.

Time to indulge in fantasies again. Were I supreme being and ruler of all the universe, one of my first acts would be to install a salary cap and a supplemental draft in the Premiership. Both would have the wholly benficial result of levelling the league off, or more accurately, giving each team their turn. This may sound hopeless and fruitlessly egalitarian, but as a fan of the NFL, I have to say American Football is far more interesting precisely because at the end of September it isn't wholly obvious who'll be champions come the end of the season. Certainly, American Football teams are not wholly equal - some are run better than others, some are better in control of the salary cap, and then there are the effects of the draft to consider - but everything is up for grabs, whereas almost every game in the Premiership this season has been, and will be, completely predictable.

I think that's sad.

Are they a force for interest, or a force for bordeom?


A much, much, much better and more detailed post on the same subject can be found at Coffee And PC.

If I followed Chelsea, I'd forgive the boring.
I suppose so. If I followed Chelsea, I don't think I would have been particularly bothered to write this post.

By the way Tone, what's happened to your site? It appears to have vanished!
Ignorant Yank Becomes Lost and Confused Reading Soccer Post, Wanders off to Drink Coffee to Compensate - news at 11....
I do go into sport quite frequently, I'm afraid . . .
I might add that I don't follow Chelsea. Yes, they are boring.

About my site - I'm a goose!
Actually, I have to say - I like the new design. It looks good on you.
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