On Saturday Stoke City return to league action with an away match at Fulham. The victory over Reading lifted some of the descending gloom but Saturday presents another chapter in the aspect of our recent history that has led to many of us feeling disillusioned….. an away game! Our away form has cast a dark shadow over us since promotion. Attacking play consists of a long diagonal ball from Ryan Shawcross to Peter Crouch which may or may not be flicked on to nobody in particular. Bizarrely, we were a bigger threat to Chelsea and Manchester United than we were to Swansea and Aston Villa. We can only hope that on Saturday a global TV audience sees us with a fresher approach and maybe three precious points on the way to the magical 40 mark!
Brisbane Roar maintained their slim hopes of a place in the A-League Finals series with a steady 2-0 victory over Wellington Phoenix. The match took place in the aftermath of Roar’s Asian Champions League exit and the unpopular decision to award interim head coach Mike Mulvey a two year contract. During the second half a vociferous group of Roar supporters known as the River City Collective unfurled a banner parading the statement ‘Mulvey Out’. The stadium’s security staff dashed in to forcibly confiscate the banner. There is a worrying precedent. During the 1982 World Cup Poland played against the Soviet Union. Poland’s Solidarity movement was at this stage making its presence known in the form of strike action and various forms of protest. At the match some of Poland’s supporters unfurled Solidarity banners but the organisers removed them at the request of the Soviet government, where the national television service was covering the tournament. This action was widely condemned as an act of oppression. Is there any great difference between the removal of the Solidarity banner and the ‘Mulvey Out’ banner being taken away? In 1982 the Soviet Union was a closed society that willfully withheld information and freedom of speech from it’s populace. Brisbane Roar issued a statement and hid behind a rule that states ”All banners displayed at the stadium must first be submitted to the club to ensure they meet criteria set under the Football Federation Australia and Suncorp Stadium terms of admission to a Hyundai A-League match.” That may be a rule but it’s difficult to believe banner making an innocuous statement like ‘Come on Brisbane’ would be removed with such indecent vigour. The nature of the football club’s response to this matter suggests they are disinterested in the concerns of supporters and interested primarily in protecting their own egos. Nearing the end of a season of decline, the owners can ill afford to alienate themselves from the fanbase.
Despite supporting their right to display it, I actually disagree with the sentiments of the controversial banner. At this stage Mike Mulvey needs a close season to impose himself on the team and the club. Only then will we know if he is right for the job. For football managers time is a rare and precious commodity.
The biggest story to emerge from the FA Cup 5th round was Arsenal’s exit to Championship Blackburn. Their FA Cup exit combined with the mauling by Bayern Munich in the Champions league have made this a truly horrendous week for Arsene Wenger. Unless Arsenal fulfill the highly unlikely feat of becoming European Champions 2013 will mark the eighth consecutive season from which Arsenal have emerged without a trophy. Inevitably, the issue of Wenger’s job has come under scrutiny. The question marks over the manager’s position could hold some validity. If the ultimate step was taken it’d be a correct course of action to wait until the end of the season. It’s easy to forget Wenger’s considerable achievements with Arsenal. If sacked, he should be spared the indignity of a mid season dismissal.
It was pleasing to see veteran Dider Drogba back among the European elite for Galatasaray. Drogba left Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua in January in what was a very bitter split indeed. The Shanghai club are claiming he breached his contract in leaving and are threatening legal action. In the Champions League tie against Schalke, Drogba seemed oblivious to the brittle snap of lawyer’s briefcases as he constantly threatened the German defence with his power and pace. It was endearing to see a player of his stature seem so happy to be involved in top level European action after a calamitious spell in China. Players actually enjoying playing is a rare delight in the modern age, and I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s much more exciting than a drawn out legal battle!
After years of discussion and heated debate FIFA have finally confirmed that goal line technology will be used at the 2014 World cup in Brazil. Surely if the technology is available it’s foolish not to use it. It’s unlike many topics of debate that arise that surround refereeing decisions in a game of football. For example, last week Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off for Paris Saint Germain. It was my opinion that the red card was harsh. However, several people I spoke with felt it was a good decision by the referee and the sending off was fully justified. There are varying opinions and that is part of the soul of football. The difference between a situation like that and whether a ball crosses the line or not is that whether the ball crosses the line isn’t a subject of debate, it’s a matter of fact, and also the key factor in a match…. scoring a goal, or not as the case may be. In these days when implementing the change would be relatively straight forward, wouldn’t it be senseless to refuse to accept it?