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Solid but toothless, taking a stand, storm in a teacup

Stoke City’s draw against Crystal Palace wasn’t a classic.  It was satisfying to secure a clean sheet but the point has to be made, failing to sustain meaningful pressure on the Palace defence was disappointing.  However, the priority from a fiddly tie was to be in the hat for the fourth round draw and in that respect it was mission accomplished.  The replay certainly isn’t a foregone conclusion.  There is a lot to do if we are to get the  fourth round tie against Manchester City.

Despite being a lover of football traditions, it’d be foolish to deny that the FA Cup has lost much of it’s polish in recent years.  Seeing games played out on front of half full stadiums and managers clearly regarding the whole competition as a nuisance isn’t an inspiring spectacle.  The FA holding this years final yet again on a weekend of a full Premier League programme hardly suggests that it’s a priority for anyone.  But if we were to totally disregard the FA Cup it would be an arrogant mistake.   Some may consider it to be a hindrance but it’s a hindrance worth winning.

When Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng led his teammates off the pitch last week it was a huge moment.  For several years the issue of how to deal with the issue of bigotry in football has been debated.  The vast majority of supporters are repelled by racism and believe it has no place in football… or anywhere else in society for that matter.  The clamour for authorities to take strong decisive action has only been matched by the administrators  stubborn refusal to do so.  It’s the lack of affirmative action which led to Boateng snapping, deciding enough is enough, and that in 2013 nobody should have to tolerate racial abuse in the workplace.  The stand had to be taken as ruling bodies clearly have no intention of addressing the subject.  Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the incident is that it occurred at all.  Traditionally players have been expected to do what they are told and keep quiet.  Even now there is a handful of people who believe footballers shouldn’t respond at all to the abuse and that is a small price to pay for earning an astronomical wage… despite the fact the vast majority of players don’t earn a huge wage and some things transcend the relevance of money.  For all that, the response to Milan’s walk off has, in general, been supportive from both the general public and those in the game… with one notable exception.  Sepp Blatter stating his belief that Boateng was ‘running away’ from racism is yet another indication that he is fails to understand the issue and why it needs to be addressed.  FIFA have shied away too long, seemingly afraid to assert effective governance.  As a result Blatter has demonstrated his isolation from a crucial subject in the game and as such has proven again that he is unfit to govern.

On an issue considerably less important, another administrator stoked some fires recently.  Michel Platini declared “If we look at the Champions League draw, it’s clear that Juventus are already through to the quarter finals”.  While Juventus are clearly favourites heading into the tie It’d be foolish to consider Celtic an easy passage to the quarter finals.  Especially now Neil Lennon has extra armour to motivate his team!

Much has been made of Roberto Mancini’s training ground altercation with Mario Balotelli.  Was it really worthy of so many column inches?  Probably not. Disagreements like this have always occurred at football clubs and always will.  Many years ago I used to watch Stoke City training and similar incidents were commonplace.  The main difference is that now anyone who witnesses something can post details on a social media website and within minutes the story has travelled across the world.  With the saturation coverage of modern football press are often present and looking for the story.  The attention received by their spat says much more about modern media practices than it does about the individuals involved.


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