joeldurston

Posts Tagged ‘Football’

Hodgson to call up BNP supporters

In Satire on June 23, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Roy Hodgson has bowed to pressure from the public for England football players with more “passion” by announcing he will now select BNP supporters for the national team.

Following the team’s return to England after their dead rubber against Costa Rica tomorrow, the England manager will, in the absence of any remaining official meeting place for the troubled political movement, look for new players by scouring pubs, fish and chip shops, Jobcentres, the outside of mosques and the types of websites where more is written in upper case than lower case.

Hodgson said: “I will explain the situation to prospective players and draw them in with the promise of being able to promote their political views to a global audience in exotic corners of the world.

“I’m guessing they will be too stupid to realise the irony of that.”

He went on to explain that if someone was interested they must pass a basic test of explaining the offside rule then completing ten kick-ups – to demonstrate basic football knowledge and ability – and then belting out the national anthem and expressing convincing abuse of a minority – to test the more important attribute of “passion”.

“After that, training will consist of some orthodox training sessions but much time drinking copious amounts of alcohol in a pub while watching top-level football and thinking up ways to insult the foreign players,” Hodgson added.

“It will be good for team spirit. None of these spats which have plagued the national team recently. Hate can be a very unifying force, you know.”

BNP Chairman Nick Griffin said: “This is fantastic news, because it means the national team will be restored into the hands of good, honest, native, tax-paying Englishmen.

“The players selected will probably turn up pissed, but that is because we, the BNP, reflect good, honest, native, tax-paying Englishmen.

“And they will still play better pissed than Phil Jagielka sober.”

Football needs to scrap the double punishment for last man offences in the box

In Sport on March 12, 2014 at 4:16 PM

As Arsenal lick their wounds after last night’s aggregate 3-1 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, many are looking back in regret to Nicola Rizzoli’s decision to send off Wojciech Szczesny in the first leg. Although David Alaba missed the resulting penalty, and Fabianski deputised very well for the Pole in the second leg, there wasn’t much doubt that the decision turned the tie in Bayern Munich’s favour. Defending against Bayern with 11 men is hard enough, as their 49-game unbeaten run and average three goals per game this season testifies. (Ok, maybe I’m clutching at straws a bit, but, as a Gooner, it’s a good coping mechanism).

Even many neutrals said it was the wrong decision and that ‘killed the game” (a slightly spurious phrase personally, as the ref has no obligation to making games entertaining – merely fair) . I don’t quite agree, though – it was the right decision, but under the wrong rule. The rules clearly state that committing a foul which prevents a goalscoring opportunity incurs a red card, so the ref made the correct decision. Szczesny was the last man and did not play the ball. And just to pre-empt any suggestions of sour grapes on my part, I also thought the rule was unfair on Tottenham in their visit to Stamford Bridge this weekend (as with many other occasions). On the hour, with Chelsea 1-0 up, Younes Kaboul made slight contact with Eto’o’s back and the Cameroonian went over. What wouldn’t have even been a yellow outside of the box was deemed a red, Hazard converted the spot kick and what had been an even contest turned into a bit of rout for Chelsea. Although anyone who saw Spurs’ two defensive howlers for Chelsea’s third and fourth goals will testify that the scoreline was not just down to Chelsea’s numerical advantage, it certainly helped.

So my truck is with the rules. Surely, the whole point of the red card is to compensate for the probable goal that would have been scored. So reds for last-man fouls outside the box makes complete sense. But inside the box the penalty usually presents as good a chance to score as the denied opportunity, if not a better one. So in many cases, issuing a red card for a challenge in the box just represents a needless double punishment. Defenders and keepers should have the luxury of being able to go into the dramatic last-gasp challenges the punters want to see without, if they get it wrong, being down both a goal (probably) and a man.

One argument is that changing the rules could open a can of worms for referees, but as the controversy over the current rules show, they are already criticised under the current rules. And giving the refs discretion in this area might be hard to implement, but it could be combined with video technology, successful in other sports, and/or a rugby-esque sin-bin rule so even the team misses the penalty they have still gained some advantage.  It could, I suppose, encourage cynical fouling of players through on goal, but this is not bound to happen if the ref retains the power to send people off for last-man challenges in the box.

Whatever you think, surely there’s a world of difference in principle between a non-dangerous challenge mistimed by mere milliseconds and the type of challenge Lee Cattermole has made his trademark…

Ashley Cole: legend?

In Opinion, Sport on February 7, 2013 at 1:48 PM

*From a debate article with a fellow TAY writer.

No

The eternal dilemma posed to anyone pretentious enough to have studied a module called ‘Ideas in the Arts’ at university: Can Leni Riefenstahl’s films be considered good art? (Leni Riefenstahl was – almost universally considered – a talented and innovative film director, but who has divided opinion for making Nazi propaganda). I am not quite sure how I answered the question – a broad yes I think – but it has, strangely, sprung to the mind with Ashley Cole winning his 100th cap. As he is undoubtedly a great exponent of his craft – one of the few solid, even spectacular, England performers of the last decade – but also a bit of a dick. Or at the very least – for he comes across not unreasonably in interviews – he has…let’s say, made several ill-judged professional and moral decisions (if there is even such a distinction in modern football). Certainly in the mind of many, there’s no smoke without fire.

The combination of fast cars and faster girls with tabloids and Twitter can be a poisoned chalice, especially for young footballers. But England fans do forgive controversial moments – look at the adoration of messrs Rooney and, especially, Beckham. Even at 29, Cole was disqualified from driving for doing 104mph in a 50, and at 30 shot an intern with an air rifle. And at 31, he told the whole Twittersphere what a ‘#BUNCHOFT***S’ (nice of him to censor ‘twats’) the ‘#fa’ were for their handling of a quasi-judicial case on alleged racism.

I’m by no means one of the baying, moralising soldiers-should-get-footballers’-wages brigade. I don’t expect players to know give loads of charity, have a compost heap or have read the classics – that’s not their job. So I don’t give much of a shit about him cheating on Cheryl (if anything, gives me more of a shot, if only approximately 0.0000000001% more).

But it helps if you’re not a prick. There’s always people in jobs one doesn’t like, while still recognising their talent. This arguably applies even more to an industry built on entertainment, with posters on kids’ bedroom walls. It just so happens I’m a customer in Cole’s profession, albeit indirectly. So, while it would be somewhat hypocritical – and stupid – to deny his obvious quality and commitment, I think that fact affords me a little moan over football’s water cooler – the blogosphere.

Arguably, to do otherwise – to suggest players’ personality is totally irrelevant –reduces footballers to little more than talented drones; mere collections of stats like their fantasy footy avatars (I actually have Cole in my team this season; very good he’s been too). I think football’s richer than that, though I prefer to exalt the positive – the hunger, the humour, the humanity.

So, whatever his ability, speaking Cole’s name in the same breath as the other, unarguable legends in the 100-cap bracket  – Shilton (125), Beckham (115), Moore (108), Charlton (106), Billy Wright (105) and Gerrard (101) – rings just a little hollow. And that’s only partly because Cole’s position is that height of glamour – left back (in the changing room).

So, that’s why last night I was praising Cole’s achievement, unenthusiastically.

Joel Durston

FA planning sinister brain implants

In Satire, Sport on October 12, 2012 at 1:30 PM

St George’s Park, the new £105m national football training centre, is secretly being used to pioneer brain implants to administer to prospective England players, TAY can exclusively reveal.

The centre is intended to be a world-class training facility to identify and train talent at all ranks of English football.

But our reporter, at the launch this week, exposed the shocking true motives for the centre, secretly recording a conversation between two scientists.

While collecting a stray ball from a journalists’ kickabout, he heard voices speaking through the wall and, as anyone good journo would do, listened in, excusing himself from the kickabout when he started to hear scandalous revelations on the centre’s true purpose.

One man speaking on the taped conversation revealed: “The money is just a ruse. Do you really think you need a hundred million bloody pounds to build some football pitches, a canteen and some jacuzzis?! I mean it’s nice, but c’mon…”

He went on to explain to another man, seemingly a new recruit to the project, how the real purpose was for the development of sinister new monitoring of players’ behaviour and lifestyle, with the intention of using findings for behavioural therapy to ameliorate the much damaged view of footballers, football authorities and the English national team.

And, in shocking revelations, he even claimed some players might be subject to new brain implants (which leave football ability intact) that they are very close to having pioneered, which make players less troublesome and more compliant.

The news follows the unveiling of a new code of conduct for current England players – a response to recent scandal surrounding the investigations into John Terry’s alleged racism, and social media hysteria about selection policy

He explained: “Think about it – we’ve been mediocre as a footballing force for so long that people are kind of resigned to that.

“Just get to some quarter finals and unluckily go out on penalties, get the odd big win against the Frogs or the Krauts and, especially with the success of the Premier League, we can just about kid ourselves we’re still a major international force, just perennially unlucky –despite the fact that supposed misfortune would surely have averaged out over THIRTY-SIX BLOODY YEARS [the time since England last won a major tournament]…

“No, what people are really so disillusioned about is this mediocrity compounded with players who are, or at least they think to be, c***s.”

He explained how, as with film stars and rock stars, no one really cares if their heroes are “wankers” so long as they are talented, indeed that it can actually boost the appeal, but the same decadent traits are poisonous when married to the “unrelenting mediocrity of English football we are bombarded with ”.

He added that the success of the Olympics – “decent people doing well” – great as it was, exacerbated the problem.

All Under-19 England players will undergo several “media training” sessions – some personal, some as a team – and a thorough ‘personality test’, under the auspices of beneficial career advice and determining suitable roommates.

But the actual primary purpose of these measures is to determine the extent of the need for behavioural therapy for players, or even brain implants, to ultimately avoid scandal for the FA (apparently not so much the players themselves, though – “if the media wasn’t on our backs like fucking leeches, we wouldn’t really give a shit what trouble some idiot from Salford does”).

The FA declined to comment.

 

We imagined what the test might look like:

1. Which most accurately describes your leisure activities?

A. Visiting art galleries, watching arthouse films, salsa.

B. Meeting mates, seeing the family, watching TV, playing Call of Duty and FIFA.

C. Getting drunk with the lads.

D. Chirpsing, cotchin’ and getting crunk.

 

2. Imagine, if you are not anyway, that you are single and in a club with your teammates. An attractive but clearly quite drunk young lady walks up to you and praises you for your performance in your last match. Do you?

A. Thank the young lady and converse with the young lady, finding out what she is like and what she does, but making it clear to her that if she has any “amorous intentions” she will disappointed. This is because you have a rule against that kind of thing when you are “dragged along” to a club by your teammates, due to the “fleeting and sordid” nature of such alcohol-influenced attachments and the perils of the “vulture-ish media and prying eyes of the public” damaging the image of the game.

B. Talk to the girl, end up kissing her and swapping numbers – but making it clear that, while you like her, you won’t take it any further until you’ve seen her a few more times and gained her trust because, “unfortunately”, you are wary of, as a time before, pictures and stories splashed in the tabloids. (Partly a genuine worry; partly a subtle request to her to be discreet).

C. Chat the girl up, end up going home with her (with your trusted cabbie, of course), while demanding several times she doesn’t sell her story to “those fucking scummy hacks”.

D. Start flirting outrageously with her from the off, aiming to be in the club toilets with her within five minutes.

 

3. Which of the below most accurately describes your views on gay marriage?

A. Passionately in favour. Love is beautiful thing and, in a true democracy, should be allowed to flourish by anyone fortunate enough to be blessed by it.

B. In favour. Don’t see a reason gay people shouldn’t be allowed to be as miserable as the rest of us.

C. Errrrm, ok, as long as they shove it anyone’s faces.

D. Weird. What’s wrong with pussy, man?! And won’t this means that AIDS will spread…

 

4. Which of the below most accurately describes your views on the EU?

A.  In favour. It has its negatives but the aim of greater political and economic consensus is a noble, and generally beneficial, one.

B. Dunno really. It’s a tough one. I hear it creates a lot of business, but it’s bloody expensive and they have some stupid regulations.

C.  It’s bollocks. Too many bloody foreign bureaucrats meddling in our business, and getting paid loads for it too.

D. The what?! Oh yeah, that thing…errr, I don’t really do politics, geez.

 

5. Which of the below most accurately describes your current relationship status?

A. Blissfully in love.

B. Single and looking for a relationship if you find the right person OR been going out with someone for a while and it’s going pretty well; just taking each day as it comes.

C. Single; you want to have fun while you’re young.

D. ‘On the prowl’

 

6. A bloke comes up to you in a club, clearly pissed, fairly aggressive saying you were “shit” last week. Do you…

A. Try to engage the chap in a epistemological discussion on the nature of perception, of which you believe society, and it seems him, has an overly restrictive view.

B. Admit that it wasn’t your best game, but state you will put it right next game.

C. Proudly defend yourself by citing your record of goals and assists record for that season.

D. Declare that the man is “talking shit”, list all your footballing and sexual achievements, and then aggressively question what said man has ever done with his life, while preparing yourself for a possible fight.

 

7. Football is…

A. A wonderful pastime which brings people together and fosters togetherness and inclusion between different people.

B. Dunno. Never really thought about it. A good game, I suppose.

C. A great sport, and cracking banter with the lads.

D. Something to show your tekkers and pull the honeyz.

 

8. Your fairly serious girlfriend confesses to you that she has been seeing another man for a while but that it is over, she regrets and still loves you. Do you?

A. Thank her for her honesty and sincerity; state that you are disappointed she broke your trust; discuss reasonably what led to her to the cheating; suggest how, despite no allusions to such from her, her actions represent a statement against the  “oppressive and outdated societal norm of monogamy”; and explore the possibility of an open relationship.

B. Call her a bitch, walk out of the room and say you need some time to think.

C. Call her a slut, leave the room slamming the door, call the lads for an emergency booze up and hit the town, aiming to pull a girl and send your (now undeniably ex-) girlfriend a spiteful picture message of the conquest (if fit enough to prove a point) in the morning.

D. Call her a “fuckin’ money-grabbing whore”, leave the room slamming the door, mouth off about her on several tweets tagging her and her friends (who you have had an eye on anyway) hoping for moral vindication, with a view to bedding said friends and sending your (now undeniably ex-) girlfriend – and everyone else –pictorial evidence of the revenge on social media.

 

9. Which of the below most accurately describes your diet?

A. I like to cook a wide range of foods from across the globe, so long as there’s no meat. I’m cooking a lot of Lebanese food at present.

B. Just normal stuff really. Try to eat healthy because of the job obviously; pasta, chicken, fish and stuff and I must admit some pizza and ready meals and stuff sometimes.

C. Whatever the woman cooks – or takeaways.

D. “The Holy Trinity” – Maccy D’s, Burger King and KFC.

 

10. Which of the below most accurately describes your view of the FA?

A. A bit bureaucratic and hierarchical, but generally for a noble purpose.

B. Good, I suppose.

C. Some of ‘em are decent, but a load of bloody jumped-up bureaucrats intruding in our business because they’re jealous they never had any tekkers.

D. Wankers; always complaining about me and fining me cos I speaks my mind and live my life.

 

11. Which of the below most accurately describes your taste in music?

A. Nu-jazz, pyschadelica, post-funk. Don’t like too much in the charts. World music and classical.

B. A bit of everything really. You listen to Radio 1 on the way to training.

C. Dance and rap mostly.

D. Rap and grime. You do your own raps actually.

 

12. You have just come in to your club to have a meeting with the manager and are told to wait in the little room outside his office. There is a selection of papers on the table. Do you?

A. Pick up The Guardian and start reading it front to back.

B. Have a quick scan of the front pages, then turn to the back pages and see what takes your interest.

C. Pick up The Sun, have a look at pages 1 and 3, then turn to the back page.

D. You don’t read papers as you don’t “do all that political shit” and “journalists are lying c***s”. Instead you are playing Angry Birds and messaging some ‘honeyz’.

 

13. Your club offers you a new contract and you think you deserve more than the than they offered. Do you?

A. Consider that money is only a means to an end, you are in a very privileged position, and you are happy with your life, so accept the contract while politely asking if the club can pay an extra £5,000 a week, which you feel you ‘deserve’, to charity in your and their name.

B. Discuss with your agent that it is not great, but that you are otherwise happy at the club and therefore resolve to go into further negotiations reasonably, with the idea that you will ultimately take the contract regardless.

C. Immediately get on the blower to your agent and express your displeasure and get him to say the “bloody pen-pushers” that a lot of other clubs would pay more…

D. Immediately call up the manager and start abusing him for his “disgrace of an offer” and bragging about your talents, tweet about your anger under the hashtag #disgrace, call up that journo friend of yours at The Sun to get the story out to attract potential buyers, and call up Fergie to see what he can offer you…

 

The results

Mostly As – Obviously a very cultured, politically engaged individual, and likely to deal with the viccisitudes of top-level football, and all the crap that goes with it, with equanimity many don’t possess. Only problem is, he might just be a bit too cultured and intellectual to really get on with his teammates if he makes it to England level.

Mostly Bs – No issues here; balanced in his opinions, level-headed enough to deal with the responsibility and potential pitfalls of fame, but not averse to a few laughs. Normal lad, all in all.

Mostly Cs – A bit gauche for some people, perhaps, but not a bad bloke. Potentially a bit rash in his judgements and decision-making, so could lead to a bit of media trouble, but should be ok with a bit of intensive “media training”.

Mostly Ds – An Ashley Cole in the making. Lobotomise the moron.

Joel Durston

Of Handshakes and Finger-Pointing

In Opinion, Sport on September 29, 2012 at 1:56 PM

So, John Terry is a racist… or said something ‘racist’… according to three people… but not another dozen or so. And inevitably, the papers and social media explode with righteous indignation and moral finger-pointing.

I’m not really going to jump on that bandwagon; not due to any moral objections, merely that everything that could be said kind of has been already – and, paradoxically, through all the unsavoury racial controversy in football recently, anyone with half a brain cell has got the point anyway that racism (at least not connected with tricky issues of crime, immigration etc.) is an unarguably Bad Thing.

What I do have a little bit of an issue with, though, is some of the muddle-headed hysteria surrounding it. By some unfortunate coincidence (or some Machiavellian plotting by football scriptwriters up in the sky), the first time after The Incident that John Terry and Anton Ferdinand met in a match with a pre-game handshake, the goalless draw at Loftus Road just over a fortnight ago, coincided with the shocking revelations of police corruption and cover-ups that tragically tarred the (now almost certainly clean) reputation of those who died in the Hillsborough tragedy.

This led to many, in the media or not, decrying the footballers’ (supposed) childish bickering in light of such sobering news. Such rash comparison is unsurprising in the red tops, but it’s in evidence elsewhere too, including in the putatively respectable Independent. In an opinion piece for the centre-left national, entitled ‘posturing would have shamed a schoolyard’, Michael Calvin claimed: “Searching questions about human nature have been asked in the aftermath of the Hillsborough panel’s report. The Premier League’s post-Olympic era began at Loftus Road with pettiness and theatrical vindictiveness. Business as usual, in other words.”

A reasonable comparison at first glance, perhaps, and certainly not malicious, but it’s not an altogether fair one. One is a case of police cronyism and misinformation; the other a case of racially inflammatory language – both abhorrent (especially if as clear-cut as typically alleged) of course, but completely different moral precedents. It’s not as if Terry called for the comparison – frankly, if he is as calculatedly self-serving as is supposed, he’d have more sense.

And James Lawton, the paper’s chief sports writer was also in on the act, suggesting in the headline of the piece ‘if in this of all weeks we are obsessed by a handshake, the game really is up’. He argued: “Yesterday’s furore over the quandary of whether to shake a hand or apply another measure of bitterness to the atmosphere of the national game seemed especially petty at the end of the week of Hillsborough, one in which so much old and apparently unbreakable anger had finally been recognised with unexpected honesty and regret.”

The point about the handshake is also somewhat illogical. Of course, in a sense it’s just a handshake, but it’s the symbolic value that’s important. Using the same logic, applause is merely a collision of hands; physical swearing merely the raising of a particular finger – rather than gestures which speak volumes about human relationships. Call me pretentious if you will, but I think the handshake in sport stands for a sincere acknowledgement that one’s opponent – while undoubtedly going for the same, singular victory – has an equal right to compete and has done/will do so in a fair manner; a very healthy lesson for life in general which must be lived with others but experienced alone.

Clearly Ferdinand has good reason to believe this doesn’t apply to Terry (even more in hindsight after the FA’s verdict, whatever the truth of the situation), because he probably felt Terry doesn’t think it applies to him. And clearly team mates of the respective players equally felt this. So why should they have shaken hands? And why is it ‘petty’ and ‘vindictive’ that they did not? Terry offering a conciliatory hand is decent – and surely Ferdinand took the most respectable course of his action for his grievance? Would it have seemed manly to sit the game out? Or was the ‘mature’ act for this tricky situation to knock Terry’s lights out? Somehow I don’t think so. There is a great irony in newspaper columnists, though undoubtedly Not Racist (as they seem so pleased to tell us), decrying the way players have dealt with the problem, as if they, and not the players themselves, have a monopoly on grandstanding over moral issues.

Of course, Ferdinand could have shaken Terry’s hand; but – if, as nearly everyone believes, he has good reason to suspect racism – why should he have? It would have probably only served to undermine the great strides football has taken to root racism out of the game, indeed society. Personally this would have been a bigger setback for race relations in football than the current system, as in a game played and watched by millions, two isolated incidents – one of which there is still significant doubt over* (Suarez/Evra the  other) – surely do not in and of themselves represent a return to the dark ages. Indeed, I’d argue the righteous indignation from nearly all is a sign of how far football has come since only around 30 years ago when bananas would be thrown from the stands at players like John Barnes.

(*All the FA statement conclusively stated was that Terry used “abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour […] which included a reference to colour and/or race” – which Terry himself admitted in court, defending himself by saying he was using the words in question…in question. Perhaps this is a factor in the disparity between Terry’s four-game and Suarez’s eight-game ban)

For surely, for all the ills of the undoubted globalisation and increasingly ginormous amounts of money in football, this has only had a beneficial effect on race relations. In an extremely – sometimes brutally – measurable, meritocratic field, it makes pure business sense to support players from all over the world (especially if your club can take a player from a poor African club in return for next to nothing). To be blunt, teams and their fans are very unlikely to favour the less gifted white player over the more gifted Nigerian, Mexican or Russian because, all sensible social considerations aside, they won’t be as successful or lucrative if they do. It is not an ideal world where some people had to/have to see a person can manipulate a ball with his feet well to be a  respectable member of society, but, hey, it’s a means  to an end. But it’s by no means all just the almost accidental benefit of the free market; there has been a lot of very positive work in terms of bans and fines for offenders, the Kick It Out organisation endorsed by almost all if not all football league clubs, and community work organised by clubs.

None of this is to necessarily absolve Terry – or others – of culpability, just to ask for an end to the conflating of different issues and the rash jumping to conclusions. I think few would argue that Terry, at least from his media image, is a particularly nice, wholesome character, but this by no means necessarily makes him a racist, as it seems many think. There are loads of twats who aren’t racist (though I don’t think the reverse is true). Based on his childhood and career in which he has played with and against many black players, under intense media pressure and in many heated moments, it certainly seems unlikely that such an incident would only occur when he was 30 if he really was racist (italicised because it’s not necessarily a black and white issue, so to speak). As the football cliché goes, at the end of the day, two different investigations have returned opposing verdicts, so let’s just treat the situation as it is; with requisite uncertainty and free from extraneous character assassination, blanket statements on racism in football and comparisons to a police scandal.

But by all means, call Terry a heartless, adulterous, glory-grabbing cunt if you want…

Joel Durston

Why footballers’ Wages Are Fair

In Opinion, Sport on August 1, 2012 at 5:20 PM

*With another journalist arguing their wages are not fair:

Fair:

The perennial question: why are professional footballers paid so much? Because we choose to pay them so much is the simplified, but largely correct, answer (or at least around a third of the whole population according to recent statistics – either way, a fuck load of people).

The common complaint runs that it’s unjust that people earn six-figure weekly sums for kicking a glorified pig’s bladder around when nurses, teachers and soldiers (substitute other noble worker) struggle by on wages supposedly incommensurate with the importance and difficulty of their respective jobs. And some of the more pompous complainers will draw admittedly egregious analogies to third world poverty. The arguments are well-meaning and certainly appealing, superficially at least, but they just don’t hold up to rigorous scrutiny.

The facts are all professional footballers have worked extremely hard since a very young age to perfect their trade and reach the top of probably the most competitive field in the world. At the highest level (ultimately) small differences in ability spell the difference between great success and failure; millions and thousands – all based on the consumer’s insatiable appetite for the service and associated willingness to pay for it in various forms. As such, demand from employers is great and supply of necessary quality relatively low, increasingly so higher up. So wages are greatly pushed up due to competition. The money is also a great, aspirational carrot, if you will, for everyone to work hard for. Granted, one could call for greater governmental regulation (wage capping etc), but this would probably just lead to the best workers and organisations fleeing abroad to similarly competitive markets (see the recent exodus of rich French people following Francois Hollande’s introduction of the 75% tax rate).This would deprive the UK economy of the world’s best talent in a very prosperous market and millions in tax revenue. Nearly all elite employees (i.e. those who don’t avoid or evade tax) will see almost half of their earnings go straight to the tax man, and in effect pay all those aforementioned supposedly embittered teachers, nurses and soldiers – often at the expense of super-rich foreign oil magnates owning organisations. And on top of this, many – quietly – give very generously to charity (a player giving £10,000 is less newsworthy than a kiss-and-tell), and even stop civil wars! (Though being a good role model is not technically important to wages – employees are judged on performance, not ethics.)

It may sound ridiculous to take footballers’ employment status out of context, but why not? Millions choose the best job offers, and do jobs they know aren’t of great benefit to the world yet feel they should be paid reasonably for their hard work, including myself (this is not my job). Why should footballers not be similarly remunerated? Because they have the gall to enjoy what they do and don’t – ostensibly, at least – save or educate the world?! In relation to the real money men in football, the players don’t even do that well financially, and much of the money really rich footballers earn is from outside ventures.  For instance, in British football, Michael Owen is the second wealthiest player with an estimated value of £40m, yet only comes in at 66th in the whole British football money list. At least footballers aren’t, as the same type of complainers so often decry of bankers, screwing the world up. I, for one, would certainly much rather see the money generated from football go into the hands of its primary players, so to speak, than its hangers-on. Granted, this may all be at the expense of the traditional fan being priced out of watching his team live week in week out, but by the same token he or she will have a far, far greater opportunity to follow football in one form or another cheaply…swings and roundabouts.

A typical counter-argument runs that all this cold logic is not the point; morally, players don’t deserve what they get. This may be so, but surely the logical extension of this position is an often hypocritical, arguably rather self-righteous belief that billions are also at least somewhat wrong in liking football – for essentially paying footballers. This is bollocks; people can like what they want, especially if it doesn’t affect anyone else. Football muggles must at least recognise this, and that their opinion is little if any better than the next person’s. For the great irony in all the sanctimonious lefties – as it typically is – denouncing free-market capitalism as an elitist system is that – in many cases, including this – the people actually do have the power. People can love football for what it is or talk with their wallet and don’t watch it, leaving it to wither and die. I, for one, am more than happy to buy a few pints to fund great athletes, camaraderie and drama.

Joel Durston

My England Squad for the Euros

In Sport on May 21, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Goalkeepers: Hart (capt.), Green, Foster (Robinson)

Defenders: Cole, Baines, Richards Cahill, Walker, Ferdinand, Lescott

Midfielders: Young, Lennon, Gerrard, Parker, Barry Lampard, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain

Strikers: Rooney, Welbeck, Defoe, Bent (Crouch), Sturridge

 

Starting from the back, Hart is a no-brainer, having cemented himself in a world class with the lowest goals against tally this season (and any sensible person’s fantasy team). He’s also got a great temperament; committed, commanding, ambitious (see his anger at himself at not saving even screamers), and just a down-to-earth bloke off-the-pitch. Couple this with fact that being a keeper gives you a great vantage point from which to view the game, and he’s a strong candidate for the captaincy. Of the other two, Green would be my number two because he has, save (…ahem) one horrendous error, always been a solid player when called upon (and with one liners such as this, he’ll be great around the camp: (on the gaffe against USA: “Had a random drug tests after the game…needless to say they didn’t find any performance-enhancing drugs in my system”). I’ve always considered Foster quite error prone, but he’s had a solid spell at West Brom so merits a place in the squad, if as much because of the lack of other suitable candidates. If Robinson was not in retirement – as I hear he may come out of – he would be my number two, as he has been quietly putting in impressive performances for Blackburn and was unfairly ousted following one unfortunate incident (the Croatia bobble). Remember when we were all debating whether he was/could be world class?
Anyway all no. 2 considerations are pretty academic, given Hart’s age, form and unlikeliness to sustain serious injury.

Cole, if perhaps not as world class as he once was, is still a very steady pair of feet. A measure of his quality is that he is almost universally praised for his ability – despite being, or at least having been, a fairly odious human being. Baines provides a solid cover if he gets injured. Lescott and Richards have both had good seasons at City – with the reserves their disposal, even being a consistent starter is impressive. If Terry were still performing as he were two years ago, he should go on ability – but given poor recent form (Liverpool ran him ragged), the possibility of him creating tension in the camp is too much – even if innocent until proven guilty.

Very tough in midfield. Lampard was underused by Chelsea, as attested by the resurgence largely brought about when he got more game time. Similarly, Gerrard is a little past his peak, but still capable of inspirational moments so warrants inclusion. Parker, if fit, is a solid, talismanic presence. The wingers all represent real pace and danger (if not always delivery), and have had at least moments of genius this season. Oxlade-Chamberlain is undoubtedly a risk, but has the youthful audacity to run at, try things – and usually succeed – against the best of the Premiership so there’s no logical reason why he should be able to against international teams. Barry’s not a world-beater, but you know what you’re getting with him and has been quietly influential for probable Champions, City, so is a good squad player.

Rooney is a given, despite his two-match ban – one of probably only three world-class players in the squad, with Hart and Cole. Welbeck has impressed this season, is a versatile striker and has the benefit of an understanding with Rooney already. Defoe is a consistent poacher, as is Bent, who seems will be fit. And has an added aerial presence to his game, so gets the nod over Crouch for me. Sturridge brings a bit of flair, and the possibility to be used in the now-popular 4-2-3-1 if we choose to play that way, as is possible with two natural holding men in Barry and Parker and attacking threat on the wings.

Joel Durston

2011/12 Premiership Season Review

In Sport on May 20, 2012 at 3:34 AM

O……M…….F……..G. Here at TAY we’re not usually prone to such teenage internet-speak, but the most  apocalyptic end to the most apocalyptic season (in living memory at least) had the marvellous ability to bring out the gawping, incredulous child in all of us. Alright there were some killjoys, but more fool them if they are either too serious (or joyless) to spurn the emotional thrill of football for the FT,  or hypocritical enough to enough to decry football while engrossed in the Saturday night fortunes of others who have the temerity to passionately pursue their dream.

But for the most of us – engorged in fat, fatuous cake of football, however self-consciously – here’s TAY’s attempt to make a method of this season’s undoubted, exhilarating madness…

Best match

How to choose. United v Everton? Chelsea v Arsenal? United v Arsenal? City v QPR? All great games in their own right. The obvious answer is of course the latter; City’s breathtaking 3-2 win this weekend against QPR, but, being a pretentious pedant, this was only so exciting when viewed in the context of the other games that day and the narrative of the season as a whole. In isolation it was just a perfectly normal, albeit exciting, win against a much lesser team. My pick is City’s landmark 6-1 win against United earlier this season because of its significance; confirmation, if it hadn’t already arrived, that City were no longer just the ‘noisy neighbours’ playing their dubstep at a slightly inconvenient yet ignorable level, but neighbours persistently urging to come over and join the dinner party. They wrangled the invite. The results were thrillingly messy.

Best team

At the start of the season, many if not most were consigning Swansea to relegation – myself included, despite having a soft spot for them due it being my mum’s hometown. It seemed likely they would become this season’s Blackpool; likable, attractive to watch, but ultimately too brittle and under-resourced for the Darwinnian, Hunger Games-esque world of the Premiership. That they definitively proved the naysayers wrong, whilst still retaining their integrity and playing style, is a tremendous credit to Brendan Rodgers and his players.

Best goal

Another very tough choice. Cisse (that one) and Suarez (the chip against Norwich) both scored amazing goals, but these were spontaneous moments of brilliance. Hatem Ben Arfa’s, my choice, showed several moments of genius, which all combined to make one spectacular whole – the quick-thinking backheel and then blistering pace to beat the two Bolton central midfielders, the thread-through-a-needle incision of the centre-halves, and the composed finished past Bogdan. Sublime.

Best player

Could be any one of a dozen or so – (in rough ascending order) Walker for tireless running; Ba/Cisse (pre- and post-Christmas, respectively); Bale if he – and spurs – didn’t go off the boil slightly; Rooney for consistent strike rate (and unusual temperament); Aguero for impish energy and finishing; Silva for effortless, elegant excellence; Hart for presence and world-class shot-stopping; Parker, Kompany and Toure for towering performances and leadership. But, admittedly with possible bias, I’m plumping for Van Persie, for the way he almost single-handedly brought Arsenal (hell, cover’s blown – ‘us’) Champions League football with 30 league goals – an eclectic mix of wonder-goals and tap-ins. There were times this joke seemed very apt: “The Robin Van Persie Tea Tray….carries 10 mugs”. Considering, a third-placed finish is a great achievement, and largely his.

Best character

A two-horse race, surely, between messrs Balotelli and Barton. The former an exuberant, enigmatic court jester, a man with the talent of the 21-year-old he is but the attitude of a 7-year-old. The latter a strange tri-chotomy, if you will, of a man – part sensitive, art-loving Smiths fan; part people’s philosopher (or fool); and part Scouse thug. Public perception has lurched staunchly to the latter view after Sunday’s moment of madness (or, perhaps, normality for him). So for this reason, Balotelli gets my vote. Super Mario was similarly a class-A prat against Arsenal, where he got sent off for a reckless challenge after he should have been sent off for an even more reckless challenge – actions that arguably nearly cost City the title, and may yet lead to his exit from the club. But, although this was one piece of crazy too much for many, Balotelli can largely pull off japes like playing Angry Birds on the bench for his national team (i.e. funny but disrespectful) due to his youthful joie de vivre – personally what football is all about. Barton would be pilloried, and rightly so.

Best howler

The cliché my nan could have scored that! is oft-used in football, but probably actually true in this case. Torres had actually had a good game this match at Old Trafford – not always with end product, but lively, and he produced one sumptuous chip to beat De Gea. The miss, however, typified his form. He took a through ball and rounded De Gea well, but missed an open goal from 6 yards under absolutely no pressure. People pored over the replays to look for an incriminating bobble, but there was none; just absolutely shocking tekkers, hilarious to the majority of football fans who love a bit of schadenfreude.

Best Manager

Could have equally gone to Brendan Rodgers (as best team could have Newcastle), but I’ve elected to give this to Alan Pardew for the way he has turned a very average team into serious Champions League hopefuls. And he did it the right way too. Contemporaries Liverpool splashed the clash yet floundered (in the league at least), but Pardew brought in relative unknowns for bargain-bucket prices and moulded them into a unit at once solid and exhibitive of fantastic, flowing football. Demba Ba on a free has to be signing of the season. Remember we were all outraged at nice guy Hughton being given his marching orders?! That this seems a distant memory is testament to Pardew’s transformation.

Dark horse

Would be Newcastle or Ba specifically, but since I’ve covered both already, I’ll go for Papiss Cisse, with a notable mention to reborn Hatem Ben Arfa. Pretty much unknown by everyone before he was bought in January (for £10m from Freiburg) – I’ll hold my hands up, I didn’t know who he was – Cisse has gone on to become a fans’ favourite. And unsurprisingly, given his 13 goals in 14 appearances, including some absolutely redonkulous ones such as the looped chip against Swansea and outside-of-the-foot, 35-yard banana shot against Chelsea, which probably would have returned back to him were it not for the net. Nice guy, too, as shown by his surprise visit to the home of the (overjoyed) primary school kid who drew a picture of him at school when he was meant to make a present for his folks. Who needs Carroll, eh?!

Best Funny moment

There’s been a few – there always will be with Super Mario around – but it’s got to go the Anfield cat. The stray, known to wander around the premises, livened up an otherwise drab encounter between Liverpool and Spurs, insouciantly trotting around Brad Friedel’s goalmouth and sitting down – much to the amusement of the players and fans – before being escorted off by a steward, earning 25,000 Twitter fans in the process. And in doing so, ‘Kenny’, as he’s been dubbed, made more of an impact at Anfield than Stewart Downing did all season. Miaow.

Best punditry

OK, so they’re both technically in the Champions League (the Chelsea/Barca semi), but it’s got to be a joint win between Gary Neville’s much-parodied orgasmic exhortations at Torres’ last minute goal and Geoff Shreeves’ brutally frank questioning of Branislav Ivanovic. Without so much as a personal congratulation for a typically resolute performance, Shreeves saw fit to demand of Ivanovic whether he was booked and, upon the bewildered Ivanovic answering in the affirmative, tell him in no uncertain terms he would miss the final. Talk about party-pooper. Made for great TV, though, in a similarly bonkers, brilliant season. Please no one burst the bubble.

Joel Durston

King Kenny Leaves the Castle

In Sport on May 17, 2012 at 6:26 PM

So, King Kenny has been forced from the castle. Instead of taking a no doubt much needed holiday, he flew to America to review his contract with owners John Henry and Tom Werner, and was given his marching orders from the insular bubble of the castle, over the crocodile-infested moat of hacks, and into the land of managerial uncertainty.

The case for the prosecution against this once great player is contentious. On the one hand, he has brought Liverpool a Carling Cup, seemingly instilling the resolve to see them past a strong City team in the semis and beat a very spirited Cardiff team – on penalties, after a gruelling 120 minutes – in the final. This is one more serious title than Barcelona and Manchester United have got this season. He also got them to an FA Cup final, only losing narrowly to a good Chelsea team. And, despite all the controversy and the myriad stars (or supposed stars) who have had to content themselves with bench-warming for much of the season, it appears he’s created a positive team atmosphere around Anfield. No mean feat, especially when compared to the problems City, a similar if more successful case, have had in this respect. Even erstwhile renegade vagabond, Roy Carroll, seems to be acting like a sensible, if largely shit, professional nowadays.

No doubt he was helped in this by the aura of hero-worship which surrounds him on the red side of Liverpool – a respect seemingly echoed by the players, and one which lent him the benefit of the doubt on many contentious cases. For this you could call him ‘lucky’, but one’s stature is not divorced from the job, so this should be a point in his favour.

But – and it’s a big but – in finishing 8th Liverpool have simply failed to perform in the league, especially when considered, with the ‘messiah’ Kenny and several big signings on board, many fans were hailing this as the season as the one in which Liverpool finally fulfilled on their promise and returned to former glories. And it wasn’t even a particularly close 8th – closer to the drop zone than (normal) Champions League Qualification (16 and 17 points, respectively), and a galling four points off those pesky neighbours on the other side of Stanley Park. Undoubtedly they were unlucky in some games in which they dominated but thwarted by some combination of poor finishing, refereeing decisions, out-of-the-ordinary goalkeeping (Scott Dann), and the woodwork – which, with 22 strikes, they hit comfortably more than anyone else in the Premiership. However, that is only so if you agree all this so-near-yet-so-far constitutes ‘unlucky’ (I do to some extent). In many performances they were just plain poor; disorganised, anaemic, and seemingly clueless. A tell-tale sign is that the now-infamous Anfield Cat, which appeared in their drab 0-0 home with Spurs, spawned so many ironic jokes about the tabby doing more at Anfield than many players, particularly Downing, had done all season.

Yes, a lot of the culpability for this should lie with the players – a crux I feel most sacked managers are unfairly burdened with. However new the system or unfamiliar the players, surely a ‘good’ left winger should be able to beat the man and put in a decent cross… *cough* Downing *cough* (ok, so I’m singling poor Stewart out, but I’m angry about his selection for the England squad). In this case, though, a lot of the blame should fall on Dalglish’s shoulders. Newcastle, for one, will be laughing at Liverpool’s (figurative) fortunes right now. Flushed £41m from the sale of Carroll (£35m) and Jose Enrique (£6m) to Liverpool, they have bought – among others – Check Tiote, Davide Santon, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse and signed on a free Demba Ba. All unmitigated successes, and they still turned a £8m profit. Bravo, Pardew. By contrast, on top of the £35m for Carroll (though admittedly buoyed by an equally ridiculous £50m for Torres), Kenny spent more than Newcastle on Henderson and Downing alone (£16m and £20m, respectively). In the league, the former clocking in with a disappointing 2 goals and 4 assists and the latter a pathetic zilch. It’s very easy to point the finger at bad signings in hindsight, but even at the time the consensus – and my opinion – was that Liverpool were paying way over the odds for these two. Even Adam and Coates – at £7m each – seemed overpriced, in hindsight at least. Also, his selection has often seemed misguided. Despite lacklustre performances, Henderson and Downing have both found regularly found themselves in attacking midfield positions ahead of Maxi Rodriguez, who has scored four goals in just 11 league appearances.

Also, Dalglish’s handling of the whole Suarez-Evra affair was very divisive; unbridled in his support for the player vehemently accused – and later convicted of – racism. His indignant reaction to ban, too – acting as if it was an unfair attack on him/his club – won him few admirers. It’s certainly true that being honourable and nice to the press (and fans) is not a pre-requisite for the job – it certainly never hurt Fergie or Mourinho – but for a club that prides itself so much on its ethics (or being self-righteous and worthy), it was quite damaging. And arguably quite an unhelpful distraction from the football itself too.

So, I think the prosecution wins on the balance of probabilities, at least in today’s cutthroat, Darwinnian hell-hole that is the Premiership managerial merry-go-round. It may seem harsh and rash, but so did Chris Hughton’s sacking, remember?! And look what Pardew’s done. Another thing to be said for the decision is the timing; a new manager, if appointed quickly, will have plenty of time over the summer to rebuild and mould his squad. And a prestigious, if ‘pressure-cooker’, job like Liverpool should have no shortage of attractive potential suitors – already Martinez, even Benitez and Capello have been thrown into the ring. If messrs Henry and Warner appoint one of these and he takes Liverpool onto success, it will prove a good decision…in hindsight as well as at the moment.

Joel Durston

The Novice’s Guide to Surviving Football Conversations

In Satire on March 5, 2012 at 3:20 PM

Football is so ubiquitous now that, in certain circles at least, particularly male ones, professing not to take an interest in it is tantamount to saying one doesn’t shower or never gives to charity: an indication that one is somehow deficient, rather than a grown adult making an informed decision. It can leave one feeling very left out. This was certainly the position my ex-housemate found himself in living with three football fans. As a kind of pub-conversation survival guide, I created for him – and now you, dear reader – the ‘football-ionary’.

As general tips, the ‘football virgin’ or ‘football novice’ would be well served to express points in a confident, vociferous, humorous, stereotype-laden and politically incorrect manner, ideally pint in hand. Knowledge of specific facts is actually not terrible important. Good luck and God speed…

50/50 n descriptive of a situation in which both competitors have equal, hence the name, chance of winning possession of the ball.

Armchair fan a fan who is not seen to support the game and his/her team because he does not spend extortionate amounts viewing matches live (also, fair-weather fan).

Blind adj a judgement passed upon a referee’s – supposed – poor decision making (however, officials, by definition, can’t be blind).

Big lad both descriptive of a player’s physical attributes and, typically, his high-strength but relatively low-skill game (see also put on the big lad).

Box the penalty area.

Don’t like it up ‘em colloq a vague term which suggests the opposition particularly does not appreciate, and therefore play well against, aggressive play. It can usually be safely applied by the football virgin testing out the waters of his or her unknown territory, and may often be reinforced by further comments asserting how the team of choice is going to “get stuck in” and “smash them”.

Early doors adj, n early on during the match e.g get stuck in early doors.

Early bath n a sending off, for when players are guilty of a serious foul or ungentlemanly conduct.

FIFA officially the ruling establishment of football – who are typically referred to very negatively – but also a popular football simulation computer game. Be wary: this is a potential banana skin for the football novice.

Footy ManFooty Manager or FM football management simulation computer game that is as important, if not more, for many football fans as the game itself. It is often juxtaposed with the real game e.g “*player* is playing shit at the moment…he’s smacking them in for fun on my Footy Manager game, though!”

Game of two halves n another nebulous, catch-all term which describes the arbitrariness, capricious nature of football.

Gaffer synon manager.

Gloryhunter a fan of a team who is supposed to only support them for their triumphs, not through thick and thin, which is often considered requisite in football contrary to its largely consumerist, capitalist nature.

Heskey n a lovable oaf, and also anyone vaguely resembling him.

Lad common way of referring to those men involved in football.

Lino colloq the linesman – the official responsible for determining throw-ins and offsides.

OG abbr own goal.

On a plate adj (concerning a goal-scoring opportunity) easy.

Pen abbr penalty.

Play the whistle colloq a dictum to continue playing until an official directs otherwise.

Poncy adj descriptive of football which is seen to fail for its over-complication and fanciness. Perhaps the foremost exponents of poncy football are Arsenal. When successful, ‘poncy’ football is referred to as, variously, ‘good football’, ‘champagne football’ and displaying ‘tekkers’.

Poof 1. Any player that reads a broadsheet newspaper (this definition, in football terms, typically extends all the way down to The Daily Mail).

2. Any player that doesn’t recklessly put their body in danger for the benefit of the team.

Prawn sandwich brigade a term coined by infamous hard-man Roy Keane to describe, negatively, the influx of the bourgeoisie thought to be far less fanatically (and unquestioningly) passionate about the game and ‘their’ team than those who favour Pukka pies for nourishment. A tricky one to employ, but will earn the football novice real respect as a ‘proper’ fan if employed properly (see also Pukka pie).

Pukka pie n stodgy, meat-based produce favoured at half time at football grounds, especially lower league. Generally thought to be real, honest football grub.

Put on the big lad colloq a tactic often employed by teams in dire straits, whereby they stick an aforesaid ‘big lad’ in attack and play long balls up to him in the hope he can push some people out of the way and head the ball for a typically more talented player to score a goal. A pretty foolproof piece of tactical advice for the football novice to spout when a team is not winning.

She fel’ over colloq a chant echoed when a player, typically the keeper, falls over. The humour lies in the fact that most competitors of football are male – not in fact female, as the chant ostensibly suggests.

Short corner crap colloq descriptive of poncy play at a corner, passing the ball rather than whipping it into the box.

Sitter an easy goal-scoring opportunity (typically applied upon a miss of said chance).

Stonewall adj (concerning a decision) certain. The football virgin can usually get away with applying this if there is merely a reasonably strong case for a decision (if the football novice is feeling adventurous, he may want to mix this with ‘pen’ e.g. “that was a stonewall pen!”)

Tekkers adj, n exhibitive of good technique. If especially so, is often prefaced by ‘unbelievable’. Etymoleng. Technique.

Thursday nights, Channel 5 colloq the term, deriving from the actual scheduling, used to disparage fans of clubs with the misfortune of playing in the Europa League, Europe’s less prestigious domestic competition.

Wanker synon the referee.

Joel Durston

http://thisaffectedyouth.co.uk/2012/03/the-novices-guide-to-surviving-football-conversations/