Five things: County, Sol, Wiley, Rafa, FIFA

Luvfooty - Five ThingsLuvfooty brings you what we hope will be at least a new weekly feature where we make a brief analysis of five current football stories out there.  We’re good like that.

1. Notts County reveal the man who wasn’t there

Pakistani businessman Anwar Shafi has denied any involvement with League Two side Notts County in spite of being quoted on their official website ten days ago as confirming his “significant holding”.  Today the club released a statement – ignoring Shafi’s denial – on behalf of the Hyat and Shafi families who are part of the Qadbak trust who own the club.  They spoke of “distorted and misleading stories” and “salacious nature of the intrusive inquiries”.  They also said they would continue to conduct their affairs with “discretion and privacy” – which is hardly going to help.

Their executive chairman Peter Trembling (insert own joke) described the media attention as “scandalous”.  He said the owners are “extremely angry” and found the attention “demoralising”.

Well it’s a pity about them.  Rightly or wrongly, when a mysterious investment group pours money in to a fourth division football club, hires one of the most highly paid managers in the world and invests unprecedentedly in players (although we’ll get on to that point next), eyebrows are going to raise and the media machine have every right to poke their nose in and find out what is going on.

Trembling talks about the possibility of a “vendetta” and “maliciousness” in the media.  But all the club have to do to put an end to it is reveal who the investors are.  This is a takeover that still hasn’t been ratified by the Football Association and until it is then there are still questions to be answered (even after ratification the stories will continue – look at Chelsea).  In the midst of numerous investigations about corruption in football these are very valid questions.  If they have designs on climbing through the divisions in the next five years then they better get used to the attention.

2. The Solman – Money grabber or just demented?

My Spurs-centric views will probably always colour my opinion of Sol Campbell.  The pragmatic and unemotionally involved will always say he was entitled to string Spurs along in 2001 before joining rivals Arsenal for nothing.  That’s one view.  The other view is that the anger and vitriol that remains to this day at Spurs is fully justified.

In isolation one might be willing to glaze over those events.  But in 2006 Sol walked out on Arsenal during half-time of a 2-3 defeat against West Ham following a very poor first half performance.  At the end of that season, in spite of making a comeback and scoring in the European Cup final, he announced he was leaving for a “fresh challenge” and publicly spoke of his interest in playing abroad.  In spite of signing a three year deal in 2005, Arsenal released him from his contract at the age of just 31.

He didn’t quite get as far as France, landing instead at Portsmouth.  After three relatively successful seasons there he left last summer when his contract expired with talk again of interest across Europe.  His decision to join his old England manager Sven Goran-Eriksson Notts County for a reported £40,000 a week (£33,000 of it relating to an “ambassadorial role” it says here) raised eyebrows – not least because Campbell had spoken of his desire to play a part in the 2010 World Cup finals.

Anyway the point is that Sol Campbell has been portrayed by some as being disloyal, a trouble-maker and a money grabber.  I don’t think this is the case at all.  I think Sol is quite the opposite.  Yes, he a little self-absorbed but this is amplified by a highly sensitive disposition which has seen him “lose his nerve” a few times.

He never moves very far from his comfort zone.  He wanted to win trophies but wasn’t going to do it at Spurs.  He would have had his pick of top European teams in 2001 but chose to move to a club a few miles across town.  In one way it was brave but in another it was cowardly.

He left Arsenal after the West Ham shambles (perhaps indicative that he was never captain material) but, again, rather than picking a top European club where he would have continued to play European Cup games, he chose the comfy bosom of Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth.

He got one game in to his five year Notts County contract before walking out, citing unkept promises, saying that big names such as Roberto Carlos were promised but never materialised.  Oh, and Benjani.

Sol has continually made life difficult for himself with questionable decisions.  I don’t think he is especially greedy but he certainly seems a bit demented.

3. Alex and the “unfit” ref

There was much mocking of Rafa Benitez (more on him in a bit) when he whipped out his spectacles last January and read a list of charges from an A4 sheet of paper detailing Alex Ferguson’s constant bickering and undermining of referees (which anyone with a modicum of impartiality would agree with).  Ferguson added another line to the charge sheet this weekend when he criticised referee Alan Wiley as being “unfit” after United drew 2-2 at home to Sunderland.

While he did have reason to be critical of Wiley for not adding on a minute or so to compensate for United’s injury time equaliser, it did seem somewhat disingenuous for him to publicly berate a referee who has passed all the fitness tests that were put in front of him.

Ferguson could have chosen to have his point recorded privately by the fourth official but obviously the comment was calculated to deflect from his own side’s disappointing result.

I’m all for banning managers who undermine officials but at the same time it should apply across the board (albeit with repeat offenders being more heavily punished).  Sam Allardyce attacked referee Peter Walton for not giving his team a penalty in their ludicrous 2-6 reverse at Arsenal and he apparently will not be charged.

While he did somewhat self-righteously say that he is “100% right” he also added that he had to make the point in public because “unfortunately the system is not working so I have to be heard”.

He’s right…the system isn’t working.  But I’m not sure that diminishing the role of the referee is going to fix it any time soon.

4. Liverpool owner blames the manager

Rafa Benitez put on a brave face after back-to-back defeats against Fiorentina and Chelsea.  The results not so much damaged their challenges in the European Cup and Premier League but more so damaged the credibility of his team.  It’s way too early to say that Liverpool won’t challenge for the title or the Champions League but it has done the fractious relationship with his board no favours.

Co-owner George Gillett said of Liverpool’s progress: “Now if it’s not getting better, it’s not Gillett and [co-owner] Hicks, it’s the manager, it’s the scouting. You have to make sure you balance out your analysis. There was plenty of money, so if you have any complaints, take a look at the ins and outs.”

Liverpool fans loyal to Benitez will dispute Gillett’s claim that £128m has been invested in the last 18 months (he could be including wages, catering and goldfish in that total for all I know).  But at the same time they have to be somewhat unimpressed with the transfer policy that the manager now apparently has sole control over since the departure of chief executive Rick Parry.

Questions continue to be raised about the form of Jamie Carragher, the failure of Ryan Babel to perform and the quality of Lucas Leiva and Emiliano Insúa.  Benitez’s team look very beatable if Gerrard and Torres are off colour and it seems that the latter is still easily bullied out of a game (compare his performance against Chelsea last week to his two-goal triumph last February).

It’s too early to say there is a problem at Liverpool (although they have already lost more league games than they did throughout the entirety of last season).  But this year Rafa (like Arsene) has the billionaire-shaped shadow of Manchester City peering over his shoulder and failure to finish in the top four is unthinkable – never mind winning the league.

5. Shay no fan of “disgusting” FIFA

On radio last night Shay Given was not backwards at going forwards when he said that FIFA’s “u-turn” on the World Cup qualifying play off system was “disgusting”.  Given the poor performance of nations like Portugal, Czech Republic and France (with even Germany under pressure to win their group) it does seem that the scales have been belatedly tipped in favour of the larger nations with the news that the top four ranked teams will be kept apart.

The 2006 play-offs were played on a seeded basis (six teams in two pots) but this time around FIFA had left their options open for some unknown reason, indicating that the draw would be open.  This late change will endear them to the money men in Zurich, Frankfurt, Paris and (ironically) Lisbon but maybe not the players and officials in Dublin, Sarajevo and Oslo.

From my Irish point of view it is a disappointment (but not as much of a disappointment as Trapattoni’s insipid Irish midfield is).  I would certainly feel sympathy for lower ranked teams like Bosnia and Slovenia who have put themselves in with a shout of reaching the World Cup Finals.  Nations like them they must feel like Homer did in that Simpsons episode where, fuelled by the Power Sauce bar, he thinks he has climbed to the top of The Murderhorn mountain only to find that he’s actually got another few thousand feet to go.  D’oh!

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2 comments

  1. In reply to point 4 – I kinda agree.
    Got to say as a Red I don’t believe the panic that has set in over the three defeats so far – we have only a couple of points less than this time last season and have scored more goals than ever before.
    I’m excited to see what Aquilani can add to the team but don’t believe the hype that Lucas is the problem (I too was a massive fan of Xavi’s btw and sad to see him leave – but it was ultimately inevitable as is Rafa’s returm to Real Madrid one day) – Rafa has us playing a more exciting and proactive style this season to alleviate the huge amount of draws we had last season. Give the team chance to get it together. Agger will help as will Aurelio playing more games.
    Leave him alone George (and Tom)
    YNWA

    • Thanks for the comment. I’m not a fan of Rafa but tipped Liverpool for the league this year on the back of their end-of-season form in 2008/9. I still think there are chinks in the armour of the entire top four this year and the league won’t be cut and dried for some time. I’m looking forward to seeing if Aquilani lives up to his promise – and of course more close ups of his missus …..

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