It’s always a disappointment to have a match postponed. However rational and understandable, the decision not to play a game is always met with an initial air of contempt and references to modern players being over indulged and pampered. On Saturday, despite knowing that much of Europe was at a snow enforced standstill, I got that compulsory feeling of disgruntled bitterness. The rare chance to get to bed before sunrise on Sunday morning faded into insignificance when compared to the chance to watch us probably get beaten by the Wenger conspiracy! I used to get nerve induced stomach cramps in the build up to big games. The night before we we played Coventry in the FA Cup 5th round in 1987, the anxiety manifested itself by way of a nightmare that was frighteningly realistic and I still remember it clearly to this day. The aforementioned nightmare involved walking to the ground to watch the game but as the ground came into view nearly being run over by a fleet of fire engines speeding down Leek Road and under Glebe St Bridge. In the distance, I saw plumes of smoke rising, obscuring the glare of the floodlights and merging into the leaden sky. Getting closer to the stadium there were swarms of people watching in fascinated terror as flames were being thrown up the streets adjoining the ground. Stoke armageddon. Climbing into the stadium over a wall, the pitch was on fire and as thousands of supporters were screaming to escape, the flames rose with ever increasing ferocity. After a while, the pitch suddenly opened up forming a vast canyon, from that gaping wound emerged some giant mechanical bears chasing away the fire brigade, whose engines fell into the canyon, exploded and fell out of view. Nightmare it may have been, but to any football supporter preparing to watch a game, that pitch was an adequate playable surface!
One game that did take place was Manchester City’s doomed attempt to secure the Christmas number one spot by beating Everton. For all the millions spent they still lack the resilience required to lead everyone to believe they can reach the summit and stay there. It seems Mancini will have funds to invest in January. A disciplined holding midfielder would be a useful acquisition. Someone who can organise lead and make sure everyone is where they should be. With the milli0ns at their disposal it shouldn’t be too hard to find one.
Another one bites the dust. What was actually expected from Sam Allardyce? Since taking over at Blackburn two years ago he staved off the threat of relegation, helped them to finish in healthy 10th position last season and had made a steady start to the current campaign. Much of the mindset was understandably based on strong home form. All in all, two years of stability and quiet progress. So what are the new owners expecting? Who do they think has the experience to sustain the recent progress? One rumour was that the owners lined up Kris Boyd and Geovanni to sign, Sam said he didn’t rate them and didn’t want them so he was sacked. Good way to run a club eh? One factor could be that despite being a progressive manager who always embraced the games new developments, he doesn’t look as if he does. Being 56 years old and achieving success based largely on pragmatic methods doesn’t have the panache some seem to crave, but it’s a football team not a beauty contest. Foolish owners inflict yet more unnecessary pressure on managers.
Could Rafael Benitez have been angling for a dignified exit from the San Siro? Rafa made a little outburst on what he perceived as Inter’s lack of ambition. Having won the white elephant that is the World Club Championship he left with a hint of dignity, not to mention a hefty pay off. Jose Mourinho was always going to be a big act to follow… with or without the support of the board. One significant question remains unanswered …. why did Moratti choose Benitez in the first place?
Brisbane Roar won again, this time away to North QLD Fury in a display of steady efficiency. 17 games unbeaten which is seriously impressive form. Pre- season, Everton played a friendly here. During that game I was irked by that legendary figure all football fans have encountered….. ‘The Bloke Behind Me’. In this instance the bloke behind me was bullishly boasting about not renewing his membership for the season. Apparently, he’d been contacted by the club regarding his lapsed membership and he’d given a volley of abuse about the manager, the unfortunately named… Ange Postecoglou. So vitriolic (and unjustified) was his attack I felt compelled to stick my nose in. I told him that considering the state of the team when Ange took over in November 2009, he’d done a decent job. Some stale old rubbish had to be thrown out of the club and some of the playing staff were, simply, too comfortable. Ange had shown the required strength in dealing with some of the clubs over indulged stalwarts and making unpopular decisions for the greater good of the club. The current form vindicates my impassioned defence of Ange. Another salient point is that, particularly taking over a struggling team, managers can’t be fully judged until they have spent an entire pre season with the players so it becomes their squad. That is the time when a manager can impose on a squad of players what is expected, as individuals and collectively. That principle applies to football everywhere. So hopefully Ange can continue the great work, and if the bloke behind me can’t get a ticket for the grand final, a 52,000 sell out crowd on a beautiful late summer evening, I hope he doesn’t come crying to me!
Italy’s 1982 World Cup winning manager Enzo Bearzot has died. Despite an awful group stage Italy came through the pack by defeating Diego Maradona’s Argentina and the Harlem Globetrotter like Brazilians to prove themselves the best team in the competition. Their 3-2 victory over Brazil is one of the most gripping games ever played, jack in the box Paolo Rossi justifying the decision to lift the ban on him by scoring a hat trick. Marco Tardelli’s contorted face after scoring in the final celebration remains one of the most iconic moments in football history.
RIP Enzo Bearzot