Football: Yesterday’s values, at tomorrow’s prices

When the story of Malky Mackay and Iain Moody’s texts broke the other night, the football world was shocked. It’s the only part of the world that was, however.

This wasn’t because we all knew that Mackay was an unpleasant chap, most would assume that he was a rather dull man, but because we all know football is so far behind the rest of the world. So far in fact that Crystal Palace are considering offering their managers job to promising up and comer: the Lindow Peat bog man.

Football might be slightly more advanced than golf, but only fractionally. It’s still an old boys network, totally disconnected from society.

Foreign footballers are still treated with suspicion, racism is still a huge issue, and homosexuality is something that football really isn’t close to understanding or welcoming.

Above them all is sexism, which is the only one not buried away behind the curtain of this men’s club. It’s our front and centre, serving drinks.

Gabby Logan cannot host Match of the Day without an outpouring of sexist bile on twitter. Richard Scudamore’s emails were found to be sexist and he didn’t even lose any sleep, let alone his job. Chelsea’s club doctor is a talking point, not because of her credentials, but because she’s an attractive female.

I’ve not even touched upon the two chaps smoking cigars and sitting on leather Chesterfield’s Mr Keys and Mr Gray.

The reality is though that football is decades behind the times, and it will never catch up because it doesn’t want to change. It’s happy as it is, and makes loads of money so it’s not bothered.

It’s got slightly better at hiding it’s deep flaws, but when asked to do something about it football responds with all the assertiveness of a timid man confronting some difficult teens who are sat on his car.

Football is basically your uncle who makes everyone uncomfortable with his casual racism and ruins the meal by calling his nephew a “poof” for drinking lager. Then spends the rest of the evening going “what? What did I say?”

The only way in which football is ahead of it’s time is the prices which will still be more than high enough when we reach the next Millennium.

Blindly hoping to find

When Mark Robins walked away from Huddersfield Town, messages immediately started appearing from fans saying who they wanted to come in and take over.

Football fans always start off as optimists, but reality brings pessimism. Once the boss you want, a Champions League winning manager, has been ruled out, you’re left with a list of candidates who leave you pulling your hair out. It stops being about the best candidate, and starts being about who is the best of a bad bunch?

So, who will Huddersfield choose? I have no insider knowledge so this isn’t going to be a huge scoop. If you look at history however, I’d rule out a big name.

Lee Clark was assistant at Norwich, Simon Grayson had been fired by Leeds, and Mark Robins was at Coventry.

Doesn’t tell you a lot, but all are also relatively young managers, and in the case of Grayson and Robins, had a reasonable record at similarly sized clubs.

None of them were particularly huge characters. Clark had his moments, and was a passionate guy, but had similar qualities and similar faults to both Grayson and Robins.

All three, in my view, were similar managers. Clark seemed the only one who wanted to really leave a stamp on the club, however.

I would not be surprised, considering our previous hiring policy, if we went down a similar route again. The manager will almost certainly be young, either a young up and comer or a manager who has done ok at a similar sized club.

So, with that in mind I think the club will end up taking a punt on a manager. They’ll look honestly, and interview thoroughly, but ultimately I suspect whoever is chosen will not be a name to get excited about.

It’ll be someone the club can control, and someone who buys into what the club want to achieve. A restricted budget and high expectations from an average squad is likely to put off big name managers.

We still hope, rather than expect, that this time we’ll get the right manager.

The desperate search for continuity

It was over for Mark Robins when we played Leicester last season. As the game ended the majority of fans shuffled out of the stadium rather than stay to witness a lap of honour.

What had started as an admirable project: to get the team to play football properly, had stalled drastically. Obvious failings weren’t being addressed, and the whole squad looked like they were happy to see the season out.

If there was a time for Robins to go, then that was probably it as things were petering out and the spark was lacking.

It seems that he decided to leave the club last night, as didn’t feel he could achieve his goals in the way set out by the board. I respect him for that decision but it was a realisation he should have come to in May, and leaving now could leave the club in a real mess.

Although it seems the decision was Robins’, I’m sure he was aware that he was a few bad results away from the sack so decided to jump first.

Regardless of reasons, Huddersfield Town are again on the desperate hunt for a manager who can deliver a lot on a limited budget. Unfortunately, judging on the recent past it won’t be too long until we’re searching for his replacement either.

The club seem to be giving managers just over a season, and don’t seem keen to back a manager when trouble inevitably comes along. For a team with a low budget compared to the majority of the division, there will be rough days and we’ll almost certainly lose more games than we win.

We’re underdogs in this league, and even when we’ve won games the margins were often fine. To get trigger happy in this division after a bad patch is a risky strategy for a board to employ.

Whoever comes in is going to have to achieve a lot without significant investment. He’s also going to have to contend with a hands on board, whose intentions are honest but frequently misguided.

The club have to recover from an average transfer window, and a now possibly wasted preseason. Once again it’s important that the club make the right appointment, and once again it seems unlikely that they will.

No unnecessary finger pointing, but it’s time for the club to redress it’s expectations, realise it’s limitations, and learn to fight through the tough moments without throwing our toys out of the pram.

The only way is up!

A twitter quiz: what do you do when?

Ever wondered what to do when someone on twitter says something less than complimentary about your football club on twitter? Are you responding in the right way? This quiz will tell you if you’re responding in the right way.

1. A player from the opposition goes down injured. What do you tweet?
A) oh dear, I hope he’s ok.
B) bet he’s faking it, typical Arsenal always bloody cheating. That bone poking through the socks is clearly fake.
C) I hope the cocky wankers career is over. That’ll learn him for attempting to beat our defender. Die injured player die.

2. Someone criticises your summer transfer deals. What do you tweet?
A) we should wait and see, as some players might surprise you.
B) yeah, whatever. In 2002 you signed someone shit, so you can hardly talk.
C) You fucking homo cunt. Go back to your own country and die. #ynwa

3. Your best player is linked with a move elsewhere. What do you tweet?
A) Please don’t leave @bestplayer we love you.
B) if he goes I’ll just have to burn my shirt, and his house down.
C) Fucking dickstain, no fucking loyalty. Can’t trust fucking foreigners.

4. Someone says you’ll get relegated this season. What do you tweet?
A) I guess we could. Probably could have bought better and the manager isn’t very inspiring.
B) you’ll get relegated, and your mum is ugly.
C) there’s a car park in Leicester, meet me there and I’ll kick your head in you fucking shit stain.

5. There’s a gif doing the rounds that makes your manager look like a fool.
A) haha, how amusing. Having your own picture on your wall is silly.
B) grow up, you fucking virgins. Get back to your parents basements (cellar?)
C) how fucking dare you, he’s a genius. What have you achieved? He’s the son of Shankly you cunt.

So how did you do?
Mostly a) you’re far too rational.
Mostly b) you probably need to get a little bit angry.
Mostly c) welcome to twitter, we’ve been waiting for you

Why I’m fully thawed, and ready to support England

In 1998 I can vividly remember watching England vs Argentina with my whole family.

My dad and I were big football fans, but my mum couldn’t identify a football let alone a footballer, my sister positively hated the game, and my brother, who was 8 at the time preferred Boglins.

So, it was strange to sit and watch the game surrounded by them all. We celebrated, despaired and ultimately commiserated with one another when it was all over.

And once it was over, it was well and truly over. It’s never happened again. We have never watched a game together as a family, and also since that day the exploits of England’s football team have never really concerned me.

I’d grown out of football by Euro 2000, only rediscovering a love/hate for it when I watched Huddersfield relegated from Division one.

World Cup 2002 was on too early in the morning to really be enjoyed together, and despite being just 16 by then I was already watching games in the pubs with friends. Our pathetic attempts at beards and smart clothing (and most importantly a very lax policy on serving anybody under age in our locals) ensuring we got served. Watching with my family was a no go at that age.

The 2004 and 2006 tournaments seem to blend in to one another, although seeing Wayne Rooney explode on to the scene in 2004 suddenly reignited my passion, but it was fading hours later when he went off injured against Portugal.

I simply wasn’t cool enough to truly embrace a European Championship without England, so although I watched a lot of games in 2008, I wasn’t overly invested.

2010 was an atrocious World Cup, for England but also just in general. And 2012 we just went along for a ride, with so little expectation and results to match.

However, suddenly this all feels different. It doesn’t feel like “we’re going to win this” but suddenly it feels like I’m starting to truly care about the national side for the first time since 1998.

I’m not a disinterested, trying desperately hard to be cool teen anymore. I’m also no longer a faux intellectual student, who’d prefer to be at Glastonbury rather than watching football anymore either. That latter idea now sounds like hell on earth.

It’s sixteen years on, and what I see is an England team with likeable players, a genuinely decent and pleasant manager, and suitably realistic expectations.

Winning or losing doesn’t really matter to me, but now I’ve stopped pretending to be cool I’ve thawed towards the England team, and I’m ready to support like a 12 year old kid again. Might even invite the family over.

Come on England

Dear FA, leave us alone, from the Football League

Hello Greg Dyke, the rest of the FA, and does Bert Millichip still work there?

I know you’re really interested in England one day winning the World Cup, and you’re coming up with exciting new strategies to improve English football, and give the country the best possible chance of glory. However whilst you’re on this fools errand can you just leave the football league alone?

It seems that every new initiative involves an enormous amount of benefit for the premier league, and some huge sacrifice for those who happen to not be in the richest league in the world.

We’re not laboratory rats you can just test your theories out on, before allowing the finished product to be there for the benefit of the Premier League.

Believe it or not, football league fans aren’t all secretly Liverpool supporters, or fans who yearn to see our team in the top flight.

Most of us are fully aware that in the Premier League we’d get battered every week, before returning to the Championship, with nothing more than a grossly inflated wage bill, 20 more players we can’t get rid of, and a new swimming pool for the chairman.

It would be nice if rather than assuming that the problem with the England team is that teams like Bury and Oxford are letting them down by not producing talent or playing loanees, that instead realise that the Premier League is the guilty party.

It’s their greed in hoarding young players from teams up and down the country, who then get lost in academies, and disappear out of football without kicking a ball.

It’s their policy of buying players rather than promoting from within when their left back has a cold, which holds back the national side. Well, that and the fact that coaching is sub standard, and that we play an outdated style of football.

The football league has provided many players who’ve gone on to play for their Country, from Joe Hart at Shrewsbury to future England star Connor Wickham at Ipswich. There have been countless others too.

We are clubs with rich histories, with fans who actually care about their club, far more than they ever will about the prospects of the national team.

Football league clubs still get involved in the community, and matter to the those who will go to the game regardless of division or league positions. They’re a huge focal point for many in Towns and Cities across the country. These are clubs that have been around for over a hundred years in some cases, and continue to be a vital part of a Saturday afternoon for millions.

We don’t want to be feeder clubs, we’re quite happy losing one week, winning the next, and seeing our local club continue along the path of mediocrity, and never contributing a thing to the England team or the Premier League.

Greg Dyke’s plan: what’s the point?

Greg Dyke and the FA have a plan, and it’s as hot as a game of topless darts played in a sauna, by two people with a very high fever.

Well, actually it’s just a topic of discussion that will rumble on for a few years, before becoming a whimsical memory of the past like the idea of a winter break, or playing Wayne Bridge at left back to allow Ashley Cole to solve England’s left sided problem.

Anyway I’m sure you can read all about it from a journalist who is pretending to care about the lower leagues. They will spin a powerful yarn, and say something worthy about lower league football, and probably quote Kipling. Anyway it seems to me that the core of the idea is to help England win the World Cup in 2022.

Is there any point in even attempting to execute this plan? Does anybody actually care about the England team anymore? I mean people go to watch them, but they tend to be part of the England band, and you must never trust anybody who takes an instrument to a football match.

The England team are basically a big brand. They’re a marketing executives dream. They can shift Mars bars and Carlsberg by the boatload, and that’s all that really matters.

Also if you need 4 players to wear a suit and look serious for an advert, well they are more than available to help you with that mission. They will also gleefully punch the air with passionate joy to a Kasabian soundtrack whilst drinking Pepsi max.

The idea that anybody at the FA is interested in anything more than more advertising revenue is somewhat surprising, but asking the football league to sort their mess out for them will not surprise anybody.

Anyway, much as the England team no longer matter, it won’t stop the football league gleefully handing them the keys to their house and giving the premier league permission to sleep with their wife.