With New Year upon us, what better time to bust some myths, slay some sacred cows and otherwise upset the apple cart?
In the hope of a better 2013, let’s set about ridding football of some of its worst excesses and most worrying trends.
If you’re sitting comfortably, we’ll begin the process right away.
The Catalan Giants don’t yearn for your admiration; they expect it. With their saintly parade of homegrown players and that cherubic goal-fiend Lionel Messi, what’s not to adore?
In the Josep Guardiola-era, they seemingly became the World’s second team, converting an impressionable public to their morally righteous cause. These wannabe sophisticates sickeningly refer to them as Barca and praise their possession-heavy style as the right and only way to play football.
People have always attached themselves, limpet-like to success, living vicariously through the achievements of others, but this globalised strain of glory-hunting and fan tourism is rather more insidious. Never have a group been so protective over something that isn’t theirs to begin with.
What started with Denis Law’s genuine gesture of affection has been bent horrifically out of shape in recent times.
Law’s lack of emotion upon potentially relegating former club Manchester United, for whom he made over 300 appearances during 11 years, seemed sincere. However, Scott Sinclair’s copycat act against Chelsea in early 2012 less so.
The not-celebrating trend has simply gone too far. Cristiano Ronaldo has even felt the need to preempt events by announcing that he won’t dance a jaunty jig should he score against United in their Champions League tie.
Barely a week goes by without Match of the Day noting that a striker with some tenuous connection to another club—perhaps he once had a trial there or a really nice Balti pie—has chosen to remain stone-faced out of a warped sense of duty.
This mutual love-in needs to end now. Where are our pantomime villains and unhinged Marco Tardelli-esque celebrations in this world of polite restraint? It’s meant to be a moment of orgasmic joy after all, not a time for sombre reflection.
Twitter is an innovation that has made it much easier to broadcast our stupidity to a wider audience.
From death threats to racism, homophobia and Robbie Savage, Twitter has it all in the heinous crimes department.
But arguably worse and certainly more prevalent than all of that is the sheer uninsightful blandness of what’s said. Everyone’s an expert with a liberal helping of predictably laddish jokes thrown in for good measure.
Perhaps it’s just me, but Twitter has never held much of an attraction. It seems like a platform for little more than self-absorbed rambling, tired memes and desperate pleas for re-tweets.
And if you can’t get the attention of famous footballers through legitimate means, Twitter can press-gang them into endorsing a worthy cause instead by piggybacking on charity pleas or just praying for Stan—all is fair game in pursuit of that all-important slither of fleeting, public acknowledgement from our superiors.
The neutral’s favourite and supposed people’s choice for the England job, it’s easy to forget that he has just one major trophy, achieved in dubious financial circumstances, to his credit from almost 30 years in management.
But who needs success or even decent manners when just being part of the blokey multitude will suffice to earn a good reputation?
As if being a tabloid favourite and tub-thumping patriot at heart weren’t enough to indict him.
When the façade slips, there’s also a rather less appealing side to our Harry and his droopy-faced features. Worst of all, with no other manager are we so ingratiatingly on first-name terms. The opposition rests.
Tangentially linked to my previous choice in that Redknapp’s car-window interviews feature heavily in the incessant coverage of transfer deadline day, it’s a curious Sky Sports News phenomenon which captivates the masses.
Never has the doom-laden voice of Jim White passing over to a confused man in a club car park, flanked by rowdy, gurning youths and presenting grainy footage of Peter Crouch as evidence, been rendered so watchable.
Deadline day is the twice-yearly event when football irretrievably takes leave of its senses. The pretence that—at the top level at least—it is serious sport rather than a grand soap-opera fueled by unscrupulous owners and ill-gotten billions, is shattered by the wince-inducing large sums which change hands.
And still it is celebrated as a vital accessory to the game instead of its apocalyptic, shameful end point.
That Europe’s premier club competition has become painfully repetitive and largely predictable is a source of regret.
Led by the most powerful, for the sake of their own enrichment, the competition is engineered to suit TV audiences rather than true supporters.
Meanwhile, Michel Platini floats the idea of expanding the format to include 64 teams—under the pretence of helping the many—will further entrench the advantages of the few.
While a bloated group stage, already weighted in favour of the elite by seeding, limits the scope for surprise outcomes, the Europa League is affected by having third-placed failures parachuted in.
The Champions League does tend to come alive by the quarter final stage, at which point I’m already wearied by various combinations of Chelsea, Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munich playing each other over and over and over again.