Whilst Watching Manchester City beat Spurs on the Tuesday night before the FA Cup Final I came to the grim realisation lifting the trophy would be too much for us. That victory confirmed Man City’s qualification in next seasons Champions League, and the elation and relief were there for all to see. They could head into the final having achieved their primary objective for the season. The final provided them with the chance to finally get that wretched banner at Old Trafford taken down. Combine their exuberance with our injury list, the cup was on it’s way to Manchester. We can take some pride in the fact that despite our injury depleted warriors facing billionaires, it took a late scrappy goal to beat us. I was in the Quality Hotel at Wembley on the Friday night and participated in Radio Stoke’s eve of final special show. Presenter John Acres asked for a prediction and I managed to give an answer without actually addressing the question so perhaps a career in politics awaits! It would also have sounded too downcast to suggest that having travelled so far miles to attend a football match we’d emerge defeated. I’d hoped with all my heart my miserable premonition would prove flawed but it wasn’t to be.
Of course the result wasn’t what we wanted, but May 14th 2011 will be remembered as a special day in our lives. There were so many moments to cherish. At midday I walked past Wembley Park Tube Station and glanced right up Wembley Way to the stadium. The sight of the stadium draped in huge pictures of the old trophy combined with thousands of supporters heading towards the ground was amazing. It’s a famous scene but this time it was us on one of the grandest stages in football. I expected to cry during Abide With Me, instead tears arrived when the teams walked out onto that famous lush green turf! Those moments alone were worth a 12,000 mile journey. When I boarded that plane for the UK, it won’t wasn’t just to see a football match, nor was it self indulgent laddish wackiness. This was a piece of history we could be proud to be associated with…. a pilgrimage. We doffed our collective red and white caps to shared heritage. And now we all hope we don’t have to wait so long for another chance!
Barcelona’s dismantling of Man United and majestic stroll to the European Cup confirms their status as the finest club team of the modern era. Some have suggested that Europe’s top club competition is now the game’s pinnacle. Despite what some of UEFA’s sponsors and marketing executives would like us to believe, the World Cup remains the peak of world football. The majority of supporters don’t follow Champions League teams. If you support Southend or Ponferradina the Champions League is largely irrelevant. But those supporters do support their national team. We don’t all fawn and feint over the worlds mega clubs. The World Cup will always be more inclusive than any equivalent club competition. Not good news for the corporate juggernaut that the Champions League has become but it’s good news for those of us who treasure the essence of football as an emotional entity. Despite the circus that surrounds big clubs it’s emotion that sustains it.
It was pleasing to see this article about the shamefully overlooked ex Liverpool manager Joe Fagan. http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2011/jun/30/joe-fagan-liverpool-manager-remembering If Fagan is ever remembered he’s often regarded as a stopgap between Paisley’s departure and the appointment of Dalglish which overlooks several aspects of Liverpool’s success. Fagan won three trophies in his first season in charge, including the European Cup… won by beating Roma on their homeground. His second and final season saw Liverpool struggling to handle the absence of Graeme Souness. Despite this they reached the ill fated European Cup Final in Brussels. Had the tragedy not occured would Liverpool have retained their title? We’ll never know. Returning to the UK Fagan was seen weeping as he left the plane. That was his final act as Liverpool manager. He deserved better than that. Much better.
The Women’s World Cup is reaching it’s conclusion in Germany. During the match between Equatorial Guinea and Australia the referee missed the most astonishingly blatant handball in the history of astonishingly blatant handballs. This incident will surely go down as one of the most baffling moments in football. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3Q43S-PyOw&feature=player_embedded There are so many unanswered questions. Why did she pick the ball up? How did the ref not realise what had just happened? Why wasn’t the penalty given? Had Australia not gone on to win the game the fallout would be much louder and considerably more severe. It seems female referees can be just as incompetent as male ones. The similarities between the female England campaign was so similar to those of their male counterparts is eerie. Get though the group stage without particularly playing well then make a quarter final exit on penalties. Claire Rafferty’s awful missed spot kick was truly painful to watch. Poor officials, England making an exit on penalties. Sexual equality is alive and well in football it would seem.
The pre- season friendlies are getting underway. As full scale training sessions they can be useful exercises. To read too much into any results is foolish. The only time a pre season friendly has any bearing on the proper stuff is if you suffer a particularly harrowing defeat a week before the start of the league campaign. Other than that the only relevance they carry is when you support an underdog who has beaten a big club. Therefore, Central Coast Mariners will still be celebrating their victory over Celtic!!
The media kerfuffle surrounding the possibility of Harry Kewell joining an A-League team rumbles on. He seems to have been linked to every club in the past week. His manager Bernie Mandic appears to be doing his negotiating through the media. One suggestion is that Kewell should be paid a percentage of the increased gate receipts from away games. If Kewell seriously wants to return to Australia he should return. There can be little doubt his presence would be a huge boost the game needs. But allowing his manager to dictate terms and haggle his dignity away does his reputation no favours. Harry is widely believed to be the greatest Australian footballer ever. If he’s returning he should join a club and have done with it, then the public can look forward to seeing him play football instead of reading about his agent exploiting his client.