What happened to the halcyon days? The glory days of football? The honesty of the players, the passion for club and country?
The smiling faces from the Merlin sticker albums, the Shoot Football Annuals, the Roy of the Rovers character of virtually every club. Where has it all gone?
This question has come bubbling to the surface following a slew of recent controversies. The Luis Suarez and John Terry incidents are just the tip of the iceberg in what seems to be a never ending trail of controversy stalking the “The beautiful game”.
Let us start on Merseyside. Liverpool. The bastion of morality. Home of the Kop, Shankly, Paisley and more football romance than was thought possible. The club which behaved with such dignity throughout the Hillsborough tragedy and graciously remembers its dead on an annual basis. The club of the boot room and the Anfield Road…
And look at them now.
Reduced to an unfortunate situation defending a player charged with racial abuse. The club said that they were “very surprised and disappointed” at the ban. An incredulous statement it must be said.
The Glory of 5 European Cups and 18 League titles is in danger of being tarnished irrevocably with such a comment. This wonderful football club which throughout its proud history had always behaved with class and dignity saying they were disappointed at a ban rightly being handed out?
Where has the backbone and spine of this wonderful club gone to?
No less a luminary than Ireland legend Paul McGrath cut right through the folly of Liverpool’s actions.
‘It puts the anti-racism campaign back to the beginning as far as I’m concerned.. If I was in Glen Johnsons situation, I’d have thrown the shirt to the floor. If that had been someone in my time and I’d heard the comments or even suspect he was guilty, then I would not wear a T-shirt with his name on it, saying all is well and good here.’
The game itself has gone too big, it’s about winning and the money. The actual element of football being a game has long since gone, it is all about protecting your interest, protecting your best players.”
McGrath has hit the nail on the head with his apposite comments. What makes it even more sad from a Liverpool point of view is that this staunch, barely comprehensible defence of Suarez has been orchestrated by the King of the Kop himself. Kenny Dalglish is more than just another manager. He embodies all that is good about Liverpool and indeed football. But it is not just any old wrong which has been committed here it must be remembered.
Dalglish should not be putting himself in this position whereby he is effectively selling himself short. His legacy should not be tarnished merely because of the actions of somebody else. A lifetime’s worth of wonderful memories both as player and manager is being put at risk in order to protect an “asset” of the football club.
Moving away from Anfield and speaking about football in general, it must be remembered that above all else football is a sport. One definition of Sport in the dictionary is that it is for “diversion, recreation and a pleasant pastime”. Football clubs should not lose sight of this. Principle should always be backed up before backing up hypocrisy. Playing to the business men and protecting an asset and saying to hell with morality is not a definition that anybody should be countenancing when it comes to a mere sport no matter the business cost involved. Alas, at the moment It is win at all costs. The next Pound must be made. The last shilling must be squeezed at the turnstiles. What kind of example is this setting?
You expect a bone headed, blind support of a player like Suarez from the majority of football fans. Football fans generally support their own man but this has gone too far when seemingly nobody has shouted “Stop” at a club against something that has happened on their watch that is so fundamentally wrong.
Evra went to take a throw in for Man Utd against Man City in the FA Cup 3rd round and you could see a ridiculous scene unfold where City “fans” hurled abuse(who knows if it was racist?) at Evra for merely doing his job.
When will this madness end? The ironic thing is that Evra will arguably suffer more for having the guts to come out and rightly speak his mind at the abuse he suffered at the hands of Suarez.
What kind of game supports those who have done wrong?
Football that’s what.
The Glory. The Honour. The love of playing the game for the game’s sake. Where has it gone?
Warnock and Hughes
Further evidence of the moral turpitude of football was provided when Neil Warnock was relieved of his duties recently. Warnock worked minor miracles by getting an admittedly cash rich QPR promoted and what do Rangers do only sack him once they reach the promised land of the Premier League.
Warnock alluded to the truth upon his departure when suggesting that agents had been working behind his back looking to get their men hired.
Warnock quipped: “No doubt the chairman has had a string of agents in touch telling them their man could do a better job.”
It is shameful when a man can’t go about his livelihood trying to make a decent living without his employers being constantly told by outsiders with vested interests that the manager is not up to the job.
Yet another shameful episode for football it must be said.
This was confirmed when pictures of a beaming Kia Joorabchian walking behind Mark Hughes were shown 24/7 on Sky Sports News after Sparky was unveiled as the new boss at Loftus Road. The agent had succeeded in his job. Warnock had been dislodged and Hughes appointed. In another era, this would be called high treason but in this day and age its regarded as “part of the game”.
England’s Brave and Loyal
And as if that weren’t bad enough then you reach the England Captain. Where do you start with John Terry? To be honest, I won’t even try bar saying that the English Football Association have shown themselves to be shallow, short-sighted people for not immediately stripping Terry of the England Captaincy following the Anton Ferdinand incident. Terry clearly was caught out on camera but has had the bare faced cheek to say that he is completely blameless in the whole incident.
The worst part is that the fans are being treated like complete fools. Fans won’t tolerate the lies and spiv for much longer. I think i speak for most people when i say that fans love the game for the game itself and not all the crap that goes with it.
A terrible beauty was born
However even after all the nonsense and all the woes betiding the game have been listed out, the irresistible beauty of football is still inclined to show its face at any moment.
The poetic imagery of watching Thierry Henry slotting home the winner for Arsenal on his return to the club was a joy to behold. Most football fans will tell you that their collective hearts melted. All that cynicism, all those questions get wiped over when you witness a moment like that. Henry embracing Wenger on the bench. Student embracing Master. It reminds you of why you fell in love with football in the first place. It’s a funny old game.