the mad,mad,mad,mad world of football

Well it’s an interesting scene. It could easily be the venue, approved by FIFA, for the 2014 World Cup Final rather than say the Maracana.  I mean it’s got everything that Blatter & C0 look for – a totally remote location, a terrifying gradient yes but look at those stunning views, absolutely no facilities for spectators and that oh so important on-pitch shade for the players. I’m joking – honestly. I was just using this image as a sign that the world of football has gone completely frigging mad.

Take the situation at Newcastle Utd. It’s been a footballing basket-case for a long time now but it was tempting to think that after appointing 11 ‘messiahs’ (or failed managers) in 5 and a half years, they stumbled across a decent, modest, quietly spoken guy in Chris Hughton who, without much fuss and very little spend, created a team from the rabble who get themselves relegated, and not only ran away with the Championship title but have been acquitting themselves pretty well back in the Premiership. Old rashly Ashley was paying the guy buttons in comparison with his managerial peers whilst insisting that Hughton operate without the cover of a contract whilst fat Mike considered its terms. Well he had a ponder and decided to award him with the sack. Now that’s clever especially when the logic is based on replacing with a manager with ‘more experience’. Enter Alan Pardew on a 5 and a half year deal (nice symmetry Mike), available since his own sacking from Southampton who were sinking in Div 1.  Well with that experience it’s sure to end in incredible success for the Toon.

Was I shocked by the news – are you serious? Was I surprised – nah. If Ashley wasn’t going to award the guy a contract for delivering the club’s first significant silverware in years then he was always going to be sacked manager walking from the day Ashley appointed him. So why did the barmy Chairman do it? Who knows with Ashley. It’s just madness.

Next up the situation at Blackburn Rovers who have recently been bought out by an India company, Venky’s, which farms chickens. Now the principals of the company have openly admitted that they had seen just one Premiership game before buying the club. Well at least the lady chairman (chairwoman?) has a brother who’s a big fan of football Ah well that’s alright then. Plus they are being advised by a specialist sports agency, who specialise in trading footballers of course. Umm.

Now a couple of weeks ago the incumbent manager, Sam Allardyce, presented to the new owners his wish list of new players to transfer in during the January window. Well so impressed were they that within a few days Big Sam was heading out of Ewood Park with his P45. Of course cynics might say that it wasn’t the owners who were unimpressed with the targets – have they even heard of David Bentley? – but Jerome Anderson’s agency who might just have other players they’d prefer to bring in to the club (and earn rich commissions on of course).

Well it might have been the difference of opinion over transfer targets that got Sam the man sacked but I suspect that losing 7-0 to the mighty Man Utd on the day Venky’s were hosting a celebratory event with all their major business contacts to showcase their new plaything, sorry Premiership football club, wasn’t terribly auspicious.

Whatever, they decided that it would be better to sack a manager with considerable and undoubted experience in keeping average teams in the Premiership and to look instead for a younger manager who believed in a more attractive style of play. Well Sam’s teams can be very dour so I guess you can appreciate that ambition. But I was a little taken aback when I heard Mrs Venky (or whatever her name is) say that it ought to be a realistic target for the new manager to deliver attractive football and finish in the top 5 or even in 4th place in the Premier League. And why not?

To this end they were preparing to allocate £5m in January transfer funds to the new manager. Just to put this ambition into some perspective, fellow arrivistes the Sheiks of Eastlands, have pumped some £350m in transfer funds to deliver the same objective at Man City. Are these Indian chicken farmers simply deluded or completely frigging mad? A bit of both I’d sell. And by the time they find their inspirational young manager they’ll be deep in the relegation chicken shit.

Speaking of Man City, brings me to the madcap world of the little tooth monster himself, Carlos Tevez. He is a simply brilliant footballer but his middle name is Trouble with a capital F! He arrived at West Ham in the transfer coup of the decade as a job lot with his Argentinian team mate Javier  Mascherano. It seemed too good to be true and indeed it was. The deal was brokered by an agent who owned their transfer rights rather than a club and it broke Premiership rules on 3rd party deals which eventually cost West Ham more than £20m in compensation. Their manager at the time, one Alan Pardew, resented having these two foisted upon him and he refused to play them. Best of all, he didn’t even rate them; two players who could probably walk into any team in the world. Such instinct. Watch out Mike, he’s a real talent spotter.

Pardew’s myopia was met with the sack as West Ham tumbled towards relegation.But Tevez in particular was to prove instrumental in keeping the Hammers up and both he and Mascherano ended up being traded to bigger Premiership beasts after some protracted negotiation involving the agent, the Premier League and new clubs Man Utd and Liverpool respectively.

After scoring 34 goals in 2 seasons at Man Utd the rumours of discontent began. He felt that Utd were showing him disrespect by not speedily converting the loan deal into a permanent arrangement. Eventually Utd did agree to pay the full terms but it was too little too late and, slighted and piqued, Tevez took himself off across town to the open-cheque book mullahs at Man City in a very noisy transfer.

So Tevez had found his dream move at last…er not quite. His public agitation started early this season – two seasons and out seems to be his maxim. So far we’ve learned that he has fallen out with some of his less-committed team mates, has questioned the tactics and training techniques of the manager Mancini and shown public displays of displeasure to his manager on being substituted late on in recent games, expressed deep sadness about missing his young family over in Argentina, complained bitterly that his relationship with senior executives at the club had broken down irretrievably and most recently of all, had argued that the club lacked ambition.

Well I’m far from an apologist for Man City  but saying that the club lacks ambition is a bit like saying the French lack an arrogant streak. It’s just not genuine. On top of that it seems that the club have bent over backwards for Carlos. They’ve made him club captain, given him 4 days off a month to visit his much-loved and missed family  (even though his recent trip was re-scheduled into a winter break to Tenerife with his girlfriend), given  him a tax-free £1m bonus for non-use of image-rights and on top of all that have quietly increased his salary to around £286,000 per week making him easily the highest earner at the club, if not in world football.

And still he’s unhappy to the point where a week ago he handed in a formal transfer request. Well you would too wouldn’t you with such treatment. For goodness sake. I can’t help thinking that the wise men at City should be careful what they wish for……

‘Welcome to Madchester Sheik Mansour’

Tonight Tevez has withdrawn that transfer request, with no contract change according to the club (but you know they must have offered him something). Following constructive talks he has ‘absolutely committed his future’ to the club. I think we all know in football code that the club will present  this as the manager re-asserting his authority and the one of the great players the club has ever employed getting over his blip moment.

I’m pretty sure the reality is that Tevez’s agent has spent the last few days since the transfer request announcement, sounding out the depth of interest from the player’s next intended destination in Spain. I imagine Barca have said no interest thanks having signed the brilliant David Villa in the summer whilst Real Madrid, and especially their under pressure manager Mourinho, would presumably be very keen to get their hands on his goal scoring prowess (having recently been humiliated 5-0 by Barca). But even they would presumably baulk at having to pay upwards of £300,000 per week in wages knowing that in 18 months time the agitation will start to move on to whichever club the Qatari ruling family are running at that point. (It could only be Man Utd managed no doubt by Alan Pardew and heading for the Championship to join Newcastle Utd managed by player coach and sports psychologist Joey Barton and Blackburn Rovers managed by ‘Chicken legs’ Robbie Savage, the best young manager and thinker on the game since Arsene Wenger. At least according to chairwoman Venky).

So at Man City it’s all happy families again. Carlos heart Roberto 4ever! Well at least until the summer window opens, by which time Carlos and his Citteh mates may have given up their snoods, tights, thermal vests and gloves. Big girls.

Mad? You couldn’t make it up.



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