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Thuggery, an opportunist politician and tepid rubbish

Sometimes when Stoke play I get a warm thrill of nostalgia.  If we get a corner and the Stokies present give a roar of excitement it sounds like an old friend.  A good Delilah still gets the blood pumping.  When the TV cameras scan the aforementioned Stokies I instinctively look for faces I recognise and smile when I locate one.  Saturday nights game against Fulham was certainly not one such occasion.  In fact, quite a while before Ryans red and Dempsey’s penalty out us out of our misery I just felt pleased I hadn’t wasted a large amount of money on travelling to West London to watch such a depressing display.  Only Begovic emerges from that dull rubbish with any credit.  Mark Hughes couldn’t have been too pleased with his own players after the game either.  Only scoring twice against a team as off form as we were was pathetic.  The only positive thing to come from the game was that the pre match handshake between the managers puts an end to their childish spat.  At the end at least I was lucky enough to be able to go straight to bed instead of enduring a long journey home.  And those journeys home are doubly painful after a ‘performance’ as hopeless as that one.   

An exciting A-League derby game between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart was ruined by an act of vicious thuggery from Kevin Muscat.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxdgSBbFLP4  There was so much wrong with that violent assault on Heart’s Adrian Zahra it’s hard to know how to start to condemn it.  Zahra will miss the remainder of this campaign season with ligament damage but may be ready for the start of next season.   Earlier this season Perth Glory’s Michael Baird served a two match  ban for diving.  If a dive was a two game how long should Muscat spend away from the game?  Although at this stage it wouldn’t  be inappropriate if his club asserted some firm self governance and sacked him. 

At Molineux  on Saturday it was back to the 80’s.  Some may find it hard to believe but there was a time when Liverpool were every bit as dominant as Man Utd have been for the last seventeen years.  It was common back then for sides to try to rattle them physically, which wasn’t particularly fruitful as that Liverpool side were perfectly capable of handling the physical.  In fact at times they got their retaliation in first!  So seeing Wolves attempts to get over the top and lean into their opponents was something of a nostalgia trip!  And it really was a nostalgia trip because Liverpool handled that threat and imposed themselves on the game and won convincingly with ruthless efficiency.  At certain points in the last ten years Bob Paisley has turned in his grave….. at other times he’s been spinning.  But on Saturday he’d have quietly smiled.  It was 1981 again!
Any politician wishing to be regarded as an everyday down to earth type can use football as a thematic peg to hang it all on.    In early 1995 as leader of the opposition,  Tony Blair was the king of the photo opportunity.  One such opportunity manifested itself by way of a speech criticising the size  footballers pay packets.  Predictably, his speech made headlines and was one small segment of Blair’s inexorable march to number 10.  In the aftermath Tommy Docherty asked a significant question which remained unanswered… “So what’s he going to do about it?”  A question of chilling simplicity yet great relevance.  It was clear that Blair was going to become prime minister, when he reached office what did he do about it?   Last week British minister for sport Hugh Robertson, with justification, attacked football’s administrators and declared that action is needed.  A Culture, Media and Sport select committee has been talking to people within the game and will report its findings in May.  Whatever the findings we can reasonably suspect Tommy Docherty’s question may have to be repeated…. what’s he going to do about it?

Amid the constant surge of praise for Barcelona, one of the most enjoyable teams to watch in Europe at the moment is Borussia Dortmund.  Most of their games are entertaining.  Their stadium is always filled with a sea of bright yellow creating a passionate din  and they play exciting fast paced football.  Despite their dominant league position they do have streaks of vulnerability which is endearing to the neutral as it must be infuriating to their fans!

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