Premier League Focus: The BFC view (1)

Posted on September 7, 2009

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*Article originally appeared in When The Ball Moves

What a bizarre world we now find ourselves part of. After years of looking up at the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, we now find ourselves in their company. To the point that I now even find myself in sympathy with them a little bit. A few years ago I would have greeted news of a transfer embargo on one of the top four clubs with a snigger into my breakfast cereal and a brief consideration of what on earth Burnley would do if we were denied the opportunity to replace Lee Roche for two years. Now, I start to worry that what has befallen Chelsea could yet come our way. Before I go on I must make two points. Firstly, tapping up players, be they young or old, is wrong and there should be a punishment for it. Secondly, I would never dream suggest that our football club makes illegal approaches for players. Yet it can’t just be Chelsea that deal in such a way. No matter how big or small a club is, there will always be a club smaller whose prize assets are easily swayed by a secret phone call or lunch invitation. Chelsea’s dodgy dealings have got the most press, but such activity probably goes on at all levels. If you’re going to ban one team for signing anyone for a while, then the same standard must be extended. I have sympathy for Chelsea in that there do seem to be inconsistencies. Nevertheless, it could work to our advantage. Ban the top four clubs from signing anyone for a few years and the Premier League might have a very different look to it before long.

I see that the Prime Minister has offered to take a wage cut, in a ploy to demonstrate what a down-to-earth, run-of-the-mill sort of working guy he is. Good on you, Gordon, turn your nose up at £185,000 a year and insist on £180,000 instead. He’s got my vote. Disregard the fact that it’s never going to happen, and even if it did he would find a way to make the money back through his expenses. Maybe Premier League footballers should make a similar gesture. I’m going to let my status as a ‘football journalist’ go to my head and start lobbying Gordon Taylor for a PFA resolution that all Premiership footballers, in these times of hardship for the common man, take a temporary wage cut in a show of solidarity with the people who pay a large chunk of their wages. I’ll get laughed out the door, of course. How is Steven Gerrard going to pay back his mates for taking all the flak over that nightclub incident if he’s earning £10,000 less every week? If Benjani had to hand back a significant proportion of his wage packet he might have to, I don’t know, do something. But wouldn’t it be a magnificent thing for the great and the good of the footballing world to recognise the difficulties that average Joes are facing and take a hit themselves? If Carlos Tevez woke up one day and said, “Screw it, if Robbie Blake can exist on a mere £15,000 a week, so can I!” Especially as money doesn’t seem as important these days as it once was. As Tevez, Lescott et al have only signed for Manchester City for the ‘challenge’ or being part of a ‘project’, surely the huge sums of money involved only prove a distraction?

We’re a Premier League club now, so we have earned ourselves a better breed of idiot. Gone are the days of listening to Ian Holloway talking rubbish or watching Billy Davies audition for Strictly Come Dancing on the touchline. Admittedly, some idiots do manage to gain and cling on to Premier League status, some of them for longer than should be feasibly possible. Just look at Phil Brown, who for now at least embarrasses himself with some aplomb. No, the idiots we will see regularly from now on are those who we saw only fleetingly before on the rare occasion we’d bother watching Match of the Day. Rafa Benitez, who must tire of thanking Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres for saving his job yet again, completely missed the irony this summer when he moaned about inflated transfer fees while introducing his £18 million full-back. Give me a break. Most recently, Arsene Wenger proved himself a poor man’s Fergie with his behaviour during Arsenal’s game at Old Trafford, kicking a water bottle in a way only an economics professor could and then standing ostentatiously in the stands while the whole stadium jeered at him. The reason? Darren Fletcher had been a little over-zealous with his tackling. Patrick Vieira, anyone? Martin Keown?

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Posted in: Sport