Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Im Forever Blowing Bubbles

What a mess. What a pure and unadulterated mess, made even worse by the fact it is totally of their own making. What ion earth is going on at West Ham?. Should I be gloating? No not really to be honest as a football fan I don't like to see any club in a mess. There is something about West Ham though that (unless you support Milwall I suppose) that makes you feel apart of the club even if you don't support them. Like the way Newcastle gets a lot of support from neutral fans, some of us feel this way about West Ham.

I'm not a West Ham fan but all my family are. Brought up on the trio of World Cup stars to the players that they had down the years. Brooking, Devonshire (What a tash that was!), Parks, Peters, Dicks, Mad Dog Martin, Bonds, Lampard Snr not forgetting Mr West Ham Booby Moore. These were the players my Dad and later on when he started to take me to football that I grew up watching. Ill admit I fell for another mistress in London drawn in by Villa, Ardiles and Hoddle but I never, ever forgot those players.

The next generation that came through Ferdinand, Cole, Lampard Jnr, Carrick. People talk about the youth from Man Utd but West Ham had just as good as group of players and its a real shame they weren't kept together. West Ham is known as the academy but where are these players nowadays? Where are the legends for the next generation of West Ham fans to look up to? Nowhere that's where. You see the problem was in my opinion that West Ham, through bad management and a lack of vision as well as unfair expectations have lost their way.

The way they have treated season ticket fans this year is appalling. How can you charge people upfront £800 as some of my family have spent, only to then offer tickets at a discounted rate weeks in advance yet offer them no refund?. That's appalling business practise. Yes people will say write to the club. Really and get a standard reply that says they don't care we have your money!. No thanks Ill save the ink. Then there is the manager. Not every ones cup of tea Ill give you that, but they cannot say they didn't know what they were getting when they signed him. I believe the reason they signed him is because he's cheap. Yes Zola was cheap but Grant had more experience and was probably wanting the same sort of package. If this was the case then why are they after 'bigger names' now. Why didnt they do it in the summer?

They have proceeded over the past few weeks to cut his feet from underneath him every chance they have got. This is a results business I get that, the team may also not be performing as well as it should be and some of that blame has to fall at the managers feet I get that as well, but the board must take some of the blame as well. They haven't exactly supported him in the transfer market have they?. They also haven't stopped all the sniping about him, they have allowed this to continue with name after name being touted around about his job. How has he reacted to this?. With dignity. Something that perhaps the board at West Ham need to have a look in the mirror and see if they can regain it. Lets be honest as well he is one game away from Wembley and also two games away from Europe. What fun that will be if he wins the League Cup Id love to be a fly on the wall at THAT boardroom meeting.

So whats the solution then? There isn't one its that simple. Not now, not at this moment in time the season is too far gone. The only thing they an do is back him in the transfer market and see what happens. If they go down so be it, it'll be painful but in the long run it may be the best thing that happens to the club. It will allow them to shift some of the stupid money of the books and get players that want to play, perhaps even blood some youngsters that will be the future of West Ham. and let the Phoenix grow from the ashes of whats there now. The other thing though is stop chasing the Olympic Stadium, how on earth are you going to fill it when you cant even fill the stadium you have? Crazy.

Take whatever is coming on the chin and then rebuild the club from the ground up. West Ham used to be a family club now in my opinion its a fractured club, losing its way with perhaps the worst PR people in the business. You have the most loyal fans in the country, they have put up with all types of crap down the years. They deserve better. Get a grip or as my favourite manager Keith Burkinshaw said about Spurs as he walked away for the last time 'There used to be a football club there'.

The Return Of The Messiah

Ive seen this so many times down the years. A player or manager returns to a club where they once had huge success and nine times out of ten it doesn't work. They cant quite reach the levels they had before. Of course John Still at our club is probably an exception, but it doesn't always work out. The latest to return is Kenny Dalgleish. I used to love watching him as a young lad and remember the haggard face when he quit Liverpool all those years ago. It seems a shame to me that he has gone back. I'm sure he is doing it for the right reasons but I'm not convinced it will work.

Dalgleish was part of an era long gone at Anfield. A club that dominated English football for decades that all the best players wanted to play for. Those day are gone. What they have now is a club, a former shadow of itself and the fans and the people at the club need to realise that before its too late. Its hard for anyone to accept that they aren't at the level they once were. We see it so many times with different sportsmen in all sports. There comes a time when you get over taken and this has happened to Liverpool. Until they accept this they will never move forward.

I grew up watching Liverpool in the late 70's and 80's. They not only dominated the domestic game they conquered Europe almost at will. They did this on foundations set by Bill Shankly and the way that he set the club up. The famous boot room. Shanks, Paisley, Fagan all sitting around and discussing the way the game should be played. Stuff of legend. You went to Liverpool not expecting to go straight into the first team but to play in the reserves for the first year, to earn your place in the first team. It wasn't a given and all the players signed knew this and were prepared to do it. I know the finacle rewards are far higher nowadays and players expect to play every week, but would they better for this experience rather than what they get now? I think they would.

Don't get me wrong there are players that deserve to go straight into the first team as they would improve it, but what about youngsters from the lower leagues? My guess is that most of them aren't interested in that. Is this me being unrealistic about the modern player? Perhaps but it worked at Liverpool and it worked for many years. The reason? The club was bigger than the player simple as that. I believe in the modern game manager's aren't given enough time. It takes time to turn a club around, to lay foundations that will lead to bigger and better things but in this 'we must have it and have it now' society we live in this isn't going to happen anymore.

So it begins, the constant changing of managers, the pay-offs and such forth and for what? The unrealistic expectations of supporters on their manager. I hope Kenny Dalgleish is a success at Liverpool I really do. I hope that they allow him to rebuild a broken club. To bring back that famous boot room where managers of the future are helped and bred and brought up to believe in what Liverpool FC stands for. Only then will they begin to regain their position in the game and satisfy the fans needs for what they have been spoilt with. The odds unfortunately are against him. As I said at the start it doesn't always work out and taints supporters memory's of what great players and servants these guys were for their clubs. Good luck Kenny, I believe you are going to need it.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Its A Thankless Task Being A Referee

Whats the hardest job in sport? The Manager? Nope, The Chairman? Nope, The centre forward? Nope, The goalkeeper got to be the goalkeeper? Nope. No more guesses? Shall I tell you? The Referee. Yes that man who wears black and has his parenthood called into question every week, and then gets told he doesn't know what he is doing. Ah the life of a referee isn't a very popular one is it?.

To be honest though as much as Ive shouted at one as much as the next person, there is no way I would be one thanks very much. Does that make me a hypocrite? Perhaps it does. The thing is though there is so much pressure on them to get it right first time that they have an absolutely thankless task. They have to make a split second decision in the heat of a game and not only that we expect them to get it right every single time. How many of us do our jobs and never make a mistake? None of us I bet. Yes sometimes they do get it horrifically wrong, England at the World Cup would be one of many examples but is it fair?

Are we expecting them to be superhuman and never get anything wrong? I think we are. There are some real shockers out there that struggle to follow the basic rules of the game but there are some excellent ones as well.  That gets forgotten doesn't it? How many times is the referee talked about after a game and its mentioned what a good game he had? Hardly ever. What does get forgotten though is that every time a referee gets surrounded by players in professional football whatever league its in this is then copied and repeated in football parks across the land by kids and adults. I have seen and heard some shocking things said to referee's in parks football. Then the managers complain that they cant get a get a referee to manager their games and you end up with a parent doing it and all the problems that brings.

I know Ive been there. Sunday morning football and having to referee a game and getting dogs abuse from both sets of parents and for what? £20 or £30? Is it worth it? We wonder why there is a lack of referees coming into the game and this is the reason why. There is always talk of ex-players doing the courses. Yeah right can you see Rooney or Terry being a referee? No me neither. I was always taught to respect the referee by the best Head teacher I ever had. His name was Ken Ashton. Those of a certain age will know who he is but those that don't here is a little history for you. He is the man that invented the Red and Yellow cards and was one of the most respected referees in the world.

As kids at school if any of us and I mean no matter how good a player you were talked back to the referee he would haul us off and that would be it. A bit extreme perhaps but it worked, we never talked back to the ref no matter how useless and incompetent he was. We were taught you just didn't do it. That's what is missing from today's game at all levels. Forget all the talk about technology and extra linesman the only way to sort this out and encourage more refs to enter the game is to show them respect. I know we had the respect campaign but it was an utter disaster, it worked for about oh 2 weeks, then it was forgotten about.

Personally I would like to see a mixture of what they have in rugby plus a little added extra. So if you argue with the ref over a decision you lose 10 yards at a free-kick. If you continue you are then sin-binned for 5 minutes. That would stop the crowding of refs by players trying to intimidate them. I would however allow the captain and the captain only to talk to the ref. If he makes an utter howler then when its reviewed after the game he will then be suspended for 2 games. That way its fair on everyone.

I am not a believer in a referee losing teams league titles and getting teams relegated. The players and the managers do that, not the referee, yes they will not give your team a penalty or a goal every now and then, but they will also do the same for YOU at some stage in a season. You have to remember that. It works out just about even over a season. So how about we give him a break every now and then? Its the one job in football that we could all do if we applied ourselves to it isn't, but its also the one job we wouldn't want to do as well.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Sack Race

Half way through the season and the sackings have begun. The rumours have begun about who's going next and the bookies are making a fortune with people betting on it. Yes ladies and gentleman welcome to the sack race. Don't get me wrong there are clearly clubs where managers aren't doing what they are paid to do but lets be honest shouldn't other people take some of the blame as well?

It takes a lot to surprise me in football nowadays because I think Ive seen it all. The court cases, the players falling out of clubs drunk, the scandals with prostitutes, even sleeping with your teammates wife/girlfriend but some things still surprise me. The sacking of managers for no apparent reason. If you are in relegation trouble and you have had a shed load of money to spend and you screw it up, well sorry mate its your fault for bad buys and not getting it right. However there are two exceptions to this and I feel so sorry for them both.

Firstly Big Sam, lauded as a future England manager a few years ago, his sacking at Blackburn was ridiculous and there is no way Steve Kean didn't have anything to do with it. How that man can look himself in the mirror is beyond me. It goes some way to showing how badly the other managers think he has been treated when Steve Bruce comes out after beating Blackburn at the weekend and says 'That was for Big Sam'. The owners, who by the way obviously don't have a clue then release a press statement saying that they are going to buy Rolandinho. What? You having a laugh guys? AC Milan to Blackburn to play for a manager he has never heard of? Hold on my sides hurt. One word? Idiots. End of.

That leads me nicely onto that other idiot owner Mile Ashley. He treated Houghton like dirt. However if he was going to replace him with a 'Big Name' then perhaps I could understand it, slightly. So there we all are awaiting for the so called 'Big Name'  to be announced and its.........Alan Pardew on a 5 1/2 YEAR CONTRACT. This is the guy that has failed at West Ham, failed at Charlton and Southampton and you think he is going to push you onto bigger and better things. Hold on I haven't got a lot of ribs left after Blackburn. Once again? Idiot. End of.

There have been others as well, Burley at Crystal Palace, Ferguson at Preston to name a few and there will be more to come as well. Hodgson at Liverpool is apparently struggling, lets be honest Rafa didn't get them Champions League last year did he? He spent a load of money on average players and its a massive rebuilding job there before they can even consider getting into the top four again, and Houlier at Villa hasn't exactly covered himself with glory has he?. I'm all for changing a manager if it is clearly not working but I feel the expectations of fans and owners are a little unrealistic sometimes. Let me explain.

Just because you played in a higher League for a season doesn't mean you deserve to be there. You may have had an excellent run of results at the right time and with a little luck you got there. That doesn't mean you have reached your natural level, you may have over achieved. Managers need time to get things right, they cant all get it right first time and its unfair to expect them to. If your chairman gives them money and they screw up then its your right to have a go. If your players are not pulling their weight then feel free to have your say. However don't expect a miracle when there is no money to do so. You are in the position you are in because that is where you deserve to be. Its that simple really. Painful? perhaps but the truth hurts doesn't it?

Only a few teams can get promoted or win a league, and yes a few teams will be relegated as well. If your club spends money it doesn't have that is the fault of the owner, not the manager. Personally I would like people to start to get a little realistic and allow managers to build teams around home grown talent. The way the game is now that doesn't happen very often and it affects the game at all levels. Instant success is the order of the day. Except at one club I know. You may have heard of them? Dagenham and Redbridge. We don't spend money we don't have, we give young players a chance, and we have a legend of a manager who does what he does because he has been backed all the way. He also knows that we will support him whatever happens this season. He may frustrate us but no one and I mean no one can doubt the commitment and the belief that he has in our players. I guarantee as well that he will leave this club WHEN HE WANTS TO. So all you fans calling for his head or be moved to a director of football role, you don't know what you are talking about and you don't GET OUR CLUB. If we go down he stays. Its that simple. Have a look at some of the other clubs in the league and thank your lucky stars we aren't one of them. We\ are who we are and be proud of it, as the saying goes 'be careful what you wish for'.

Im porud of my club and the way its run. Can you honestly say that, that is what happens at your club?