Saturday, 24 December 2011

HUMBUG! Festive Football - keep up with tradition?

'Tis the season to be jolly, apparently. (I keep trying to tell myself this through a chest infection that has laid me low for a couple of weeks now {sobs} and stripped me of my usual drive and inspiration ;-)  )

I obviously don't mean football season 2011-2012. It could quite possibly be the season that city win the league for the first time in my lifetime -  and that would hardly be very jolly, now would it? No, it is the festive time of year where we all get drunk and overeat and pretend we like each other for a few days and then make ludicrous promises to stay in touch and have the best ever next year and we honestly believe it will all be different when we are reading from a different calendar etc. etc.

(side note - could the Mayan prophecy of the end of the world as we know it in 2012 coincide with city winning the league? interesting....)

What this time of year also means is the incredibly exciting Christmas fixture programme. The rest of the world give their pampered players a week or so off to spend with family, but we Brits soldier on, crack the whip and make them play more games than ever for our festive entertainment. 

I have two differing feelings in mind with regards to the football over Christmas and wondered how others feel, as debates for winter breaks rear their heads every year.

I was a strange match-going fan. I was one of the rare ones that found the Christmas games a bit of a chore. Hungover, stuffed and enjoying the short break from work that everyone you know has at the same time, giving lazy time to spend with family and friends, I found that, never one to follow the bloke's mantra of wanting a break from all the family-time, going to a match on boxing day or new year's day was often one of the last things I wanted.

However, festive football very often serves up some spectacular moments, incredible score-fests to pick through with the turkey leftovers. So much so, that in my now season-ticketless state, I have found that not having to shift my none-too-insignificant gluteus maximus from the armchair, the festive fixture list is a veritable Christmas smorgasbord of delights! I can revel in the 7 goal thrillers one minute, press a button on the remote and the skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts are just coming to life the next - no need to get cold, fight against non-existent Christmas transport or spend any of the money saved for the sales....

what have I become?....

The effect on a teams season of so many games in such a short space of time is also another great reason to continue the tradition - it really could be make or break time, depending on how the teams handle it.

What are other's views on the forthcoming fixture list? click on the comments line below the post, and ruminate away, or vote in the poll on the right.

ebeneezer twig

Saturday, 3 December 2011

eee aye adios - we're going out ' the cup

Oh, for the days when clubs just played their best players and tried to win things, when you could second guess the manager and pick the team that would be on the pitch in front of you.....

My heart sank yet again last week watching the Carling Cup games unfold - and not only because of United's result against Crystal Palace. The awful spectre of the "bigger clubs" fielding weakened sides and not taking either the competition seriously, nor the opposition.

First we have city. They have one of the biggest squads, probably in world sport, and that bloke with the out-sized scarves was still complaining it was too many games etc.etc. Please just get on with it, it's only a couple of games a week and you have enough players to have two Premier League teams playing each week and both end up top half of the table.
Then - United side v Palace - fantastic result for Palace, that can't be denied. It was, however, against an extremely weakened United side. Ah, you cry - that is what these big squads are for, after all, even fergie commented that 9 internationals would be wearing a United shirt. Well, they must be giving those caps out like confetti - or is it just short sightedness on behalf of international managers, who can't see past a certain number of clubs, and if Fergie et al pick them, they must be good?

There was a stream of players that shouldn't be in a united first team. Yes, I realise these players need game time - something Sir Alex has now also admitted, but that game time should be elsewhere - just how big a squad do teams need? We get to the point where players who have not featured in a competitive game all season are then thrust in to matches against teams with points to prove. How do the players feel, knowing they have little part to play in the clubs season - just happy to pick up the pay-cheque?

(was I correct in thinking that Sir Alex's first apology went along the lines of "I apologies to MY fans..." - your fans!! sheesh - at least I can still wear my Fergie Bar-Scarf with pride....)

Of course, United couldn't have expected such a performance from Palace. They were facing United at the Theatre of Dreams, after all. It doesn't matter which players were wearing the shirt, they opposition are beaten before the step on to the pitch, aren't they? er, no. If ever you need a lift at Old Trafford, just look at a teamsheet like last Wedneday's.

And speaking of them, how about the fans? I know the result will have cockle-warmed the rest of the country and particularly Palace fans, but 50,000 people paid to watch that team.

And finally, Blackburn and the famous forfeit. This one can go two ways - put full strength team out and win the game - what a great confidence boost.

However, chicken out (PUN MOST DEFINITELY INTENDED, I thank you) and play a weakened team, therefore forfeiting (Steve Kean's words) the match. This shouldn't affect morale, we can go back in to the league matches without fear. Win, it's a bonus, lose - so what? But, again, what about the morale of the fans? How good would it feel to be in a cup semi-final, eventually to have been against Crystal Palace, with a real chance of a cup final and possible trophy to distract from a miserable season.

What exactly do we watch football for? Is it to see 38 games of pure tosh and a turgid season-long battle to stay in the top flight, just to go through it all again the next season? Or is it to dream of glory. To have a cup run and enjoy some grand days out? Relegation isn't nice, but the championship looks like a fantastic league - run the risk, as long as your accounts can check out (see Leeds, Portsmouth..)

Trust Mr Yakubu to go and ruin that part of my rant at the weekend and partly show that Steve Kean was right to rest so many players - still, just think - only a home and away leg (against lower league opposition) away from a Wembley final. You'd have taken that, wouldn't you?