- The Football League are to blame for the collapse of Bury, politicians claim
- This is bold, given modern football is run to a higher standard than political life
- Bayern Munich’s interest in Arsene Wenger is odd given his form against them
- Son Heung-min should not be confused as the victim after injuring Andre Gomes
Politicians claim the Football League are to blame for the recent collapse of League One club Bury, but they should be taking a look at their own house first
In a football scenario, Jacob Rees-Mogg would have been sacked after his Grenfell comments
Glenn Hoddle found his position untenable after remarks on people born with disabilities
Sam Allardyce was dismissed as England boss after just one game for little more than pub talk
Bayern Munich have an interest in Arsene Wenger, but his record against them is poor
Son Heung-min showed compassion for injuring Andre Gomes, but he is not the victim
Transgender athlete Maxine Blythin (centre) is Kent Women’s cricketer of the year for 2019
Steve Bruce has been questioned in his position at Newcastle, but things could be worse
Pep Guardiola won’t agree that Claudio Bravo is significantly inferior to Ederson, but he is
Liverpool will see Bravo as a weak link if he starts for Manchester City at Anfield
In appointing Granit Xhaka to lead, Unai Emery picked a player lacking captaincy material
The Football League are to blame for the collapse of Bury, politicians claim. There should be reparations, there should be apologies, and if reform is not implemented government should intervene.
Fine words from Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee there, but just one problem. Modern football is run to far higher standards than modern political life.
If Jacob Rees-Mogg had been England manager, he’d be gone by now. Not hidden in the shadows until after the election. Not told to stay off the airways until everyone had forgotten that appalling thing he said. Gone, sacked, finished, done.
Rees-Mogg would not have made it to the middle of the week had he held a senior position at any major football club or organisation. The resulting storm over his shameful commentary on the Grenfell fire disaster would have ensured that.
Glenn Hoddle found his position untenable when mangling religious doctrines into a clumsy assault on the disabled; Sam Allardyce was dismissed for little more than pub talk. Rees-Mogg slandered the victims of an accident that caused the greatest loss of life in London since the Second World War yet sails on regardless.
He even had colleagues lauding his intelligence and advancing his credentials hours later. Football needs no lectures on principle from Parliament.
There were 72 victims of the Grenfell fire disaster. At least 18 were children, including a six-month old baby and one that was later stillborn, and there were 11 dead from two families alone.
Football does not have to think back too far to find its own Grenfell; a tragic event in which the death toll was appallingly high, the suffering unimaginable and the victims let down by the authorities they had every right to trust. In football’s Grenfell, 96 people died.
Now imagine if a football manager, or more accurately a member of the decision-making executive, started talking about common sense in the aftermath of Hillsborough? Imagine if it had been implied that those who died did so because they were not smart enough to get out of harm’s way? Careers would be over, and understandably so.
Football is a people’s game and those who steer it are required to have empathy and respect for the people. Politics is a people’s game, too.
Its leaders are obliged to care for those they represent; to have some understanding of how their lives are lived; to be able to relate. So Rees-Mogg’s words on Grenfell went beyond insensitivity. They were close to contemptuous of those who reside in tower blocks, suggesting they are not bright enough to move out of the way of fire.
The logical implication is that their circumstances — stranded in a high-rise death trap — were a result of not being particularly smart. Such studied distance from the existence of the ordinary would be fatal to a career in football; but not in politics.
Rees-Mogg even had one colleague attempt his rescue. Unfortunately, Andrew Bridgen made such a crass and stupid mess of his support that he had to issue a grovelling apology to the slandered victims, too.
Rees-Mogg is a thick person’s idea of a clever person, which is why Bridgen admires him so, but how smart is it to wreak such negativity on the Conservative Party in the infancy of a campaign?
Probably as smart as it was to celebrate England’s Cricket World Cup victory by tweeting: ‘We clearly don’t need Europe to win.’ It was instantly pointed out to Rees-Mogg that the captain, Eoin Morgan, was Irish and the opening batsman, fastest bowler and best all-rounder were all immigrants. And this is the brains of the operation, apparently.
Yet Rees-Mogg and Bridgen are still very much in work and will be defending seats with a combined Conservative majority of 23,611 on December 12, so can expect to be returned. They won’t be cast into the wilderness like, say, Hoddle or Allardyce. They’ll just lie low for a while until this latest bonfire of the inanities subsides.
It was a politician who did for Hoddle. After his corruption of Buddhism —‘You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and half-decent brains. Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime.’ — it was an appearance by Prime Minister Tony Blair on the Richard and Judy show that became the point of no return.
Blair said it would be difficult for Hoddle to keep his job, and he was sacked by the Football Association the next day. He has never occupied a role of similar importance and prestige since. Allardyce, too, lost the chance of a lifetime, lured into indiscretion by undercover journalists from The Telegraph.
Most imagined Allardyce would ride his storm with a warning, but no. He resigned within 24 hours, after meeting his FA employers.
So when the DCMS Committee next gets on its high horse about matters of governance, it should perhaps be mentioned the standards adhered to in football, and those expected of parliamentarians.
The EFL has made mistakes and these were pointed out long before politicians made it their business.
It is very hard, however, to effectively manage and legislate across 72 eclectic and often unstable lower league clubs, each pulling in a different direction.
By contrast, they’ll let any old horror into Parliament these days.
Wenger’s Bayern puzzle
One thing that did not make sense about Bayern Munich’s apparent interest in Arsene Wenger: his record against them.
In 12 matches as manager of Arsenal he won three times to Bayern’s seven, and Arsenal scored 13 goals to Munich’s 27. Most harmful of all were the very recent meetings: Wenger’s last three games against them ended in a trio of 5-1 defeats.
At the conclusion of a Champions League round of 16 tie that ended in a 10-2 aggregate defeat, the Germans mockingly tweeted: ‘Can we play you every week?’ Now Bayern want to take a manager they turned into a punchline and make him their manager? Why? Clubs and their fans remember results like that.
Mauricio Pochettino’s cachet at Real Madrid is high, in part, due to Tottenham’s performance against them in the Champions League. One imagines if Barcelona sought a new direction, Liverpool’s 4-0 win at Anfield last season would ensure Jurgen Klopp got at least a mention.
Yet how would Munich have gone about selling Wenger to fans who only remember him as a patsy? We know there is more to him than that but Munich rarely saw the man at anything like his best. Put it another way: if Brendan Rodgers left Leicester this morning, one wouldn’t imagine Ralph Hasenhuttl’s name would be high on any shortlist.
Son’s compassion admirable… but he’s not the victim
It was only fair that Son Heung-min’s red card was rescinded for the tackle on Andre Gomes.
It was good to see him in action for Tottenham in Belgrade on Wednesday night, too. However, can we now have a moratorium on the narrative of Son as victim?
The commentary in midweek flogged that line every time he touched the ball. It was Gomes whose leg ended up in half as an unintended consequence of Son’s foul. Compassion is admirable, but there is still only one victim here.
Blythin’s award just isn’t cricket
Kent Women’s cricketer of the year for 2019 is Maxine Blythin, a transgender athlete who identifies as female.
This recognition has not been universally well-received, prompting Kent captain Tammy Beaumont to spring to her defence. ‘As far as I’m aware there’s no conclusive proof of any advantages of being a trans woman in cricket,’ she tweeted. ‘I’m proud to call her my team-mate and my friend.’
And no doubt she is. Kent Women won the county championship this year and sports people tend to be quite single-minded about outcomes. Blythin is clearly an asset to the team while being no threat to Beaumont’s place in it. The cricketer whose berth she has taken may feel differently.
The absence of advantage, however, is a harder sell. Blythin scored 165 runs for Kent in Division One at a rate of 33, placing her ninth in the league’s averages. She scored 175 for the county in six T20 matches at an average of 29.17, also placing ninth overall.
For her club, St Lawrence and Highland Court, she has an astonishing record: 10 innings, 892 runs, at an average of 127.43. Yet she also plays men’s cricket and at Chesham Blythin is a second XI player, scoring 93 runs in nine innings at an average of 11.63. Of second XI players featuring in seven innings or more in 2019, Blythin is 11th in the club averages.
That’s quite the difference. Inside the top 10 in the women’s county championship, outside the top 10 in Chesham’s men’s second XI.
So while there may be no conclusive proof of advantage, because that would require an exacting statistical study over many years, in Blythin’s case something seems to be working for her in the women’s game that isn’t in men’s cricket.
There is a wider debate around inclusion and fairness, obviously, and this is a sensitive and complex issue. But let’s not pretend.
Toon tide turning?
Newcastle won their third league game of the season on November 2. On the same date last year they were still without a win.
This doesn’t make Steve Bruce a genius, or Rafa Benitez a fool. But it could be worse and has been.
No 2 Bravo is the weak link at City
Goalkeepers are important, their understudies equally so. Manchester City would not have won the League under Pep Guardiola had they not bought Ederson and the prospect of facing Liverpool without him on Sunday is potentially game-changing.
Guardiola won’t have it, but Claudio Bravo is significantly inferior. His ridiculous charge from goal against Atalanta on Wednesday ended in his dismissal and could easily have cost the game.
Some thought Bravo made minimal contact with forward Josip Ilicic but that misses the point. The way he rushed out was always likely to offer the opportunity for collision and, even had he succeeded in taking the ball cleanly, he was still diving at the feet of the player outside the penalty area.
Had he handled it, he could have been sent off just the same. It was rotten goalkeeping and Liverpool will see Bravo as a potential point of weakness if he starts at Anfield.
It has been much the same at West Ham, where Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to ditch Adrian and introduce Roberto as No 2 this season has been exposed as complete folly by the injury to Lukasz Fabianski.
On the day Fabianski was injured — September 28, at Bournemouth — West Ham were in fifth place. They are now 13th and have picked up one point from 12 in the matches Roberto has started.
What was the sixth-tightest defence in the League is now the 12th and with Fabianski out until the new year he could return to a relegation battle. West Ham are now 10 points off Chelsea in fourth place but only five off Southampton in 18th with a run of games against Tottenham, Chelsea, Wolves and Arsenal after the international break.
The understudy should not be quite as a good as the first choice but never a drop off a cliff.
Here’s who should captain Arsenal, Unai
There is sympathy for any player who sees hatred directed towards his family on social media.
If this has caused the schism between Granit Xhaka and a section of Arsenal’s support, that is entirely understandable. It does not change the fact, however, that Xhaka is nothing like captaincy material.
He makes rash, foolish decisions — such as the penalty he gave away against Tottenham earlier this year — and who can forget the sight of him bending to adjust his socks as Paul Pogba ran past him to score for Manchester United two seasons ago?
Too often he uses a foul tackle to appear committed, when his work rate in other areas has been sadly lacking. His appointment as club captain, indeed his presence in the famed leadership group at Arsenal, looked misguided from the start.
The problem, it seems, is that Arsenal are felt to be short of old-fashioned, lead-by-example captains, although events at Harrow Crown Court may change that.
The film of Sead Kolasinac, standing still and defiant as a moped thug tries to stab him, before giving chase down the street, surely contains the germ of an idea.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has got the job for now but, long term, who’s the captain? Maybe the guy that just stares you down at knife point and then wants a fight. Patrick Vieira would have been impressed with that, maybe even Roy Keane.