The Buck Stops There
Sepp Blatter has been barred from all football activity for 8 years this week following FIFA’s investigation into irregular payments to Michel Platini approved by Blatter. Blatter will be appealing ( I’ve phrased that badly – he’ll never be appealing but he will be challenging the verdict) so we’ve not heard the last of this but few will be surprised. More of a story is that Platini was also suspended, who would otherwise have been favourite to supplant the long-tarnished Blatter. However the pair have taken each other down in a mutually vindictive death-grip. The week’s top car-crash TV was Blatter’s press conference immediately following the verdict when he appeared to be puzzled and hurt to be treated so badly. Lovers of Shakespeare will be reminded of Hamlet and think Blatter “doth protest too much”. “8 years suspended… for what?” was the stand out quote. The simple answer to that of course being that it was for misuse of funds. In a broader sense though, he has been head of an organisation for 17 years and during that time not only has that organisation been riddled with corruption, but he also spent much of the time refusing to address that corruption. Perhaps if he pondered that a bit more and considered the concept of executive accountability he’d have a bit more of an idea why all this was happening.
Front-page news in the Daily Mirror earlier this week was the manager of Bolton Wanderers threatening to knife his mistress if she told his wife what was going on. It’s interesting to note that while sordid and reprehensible, the sole reason the story gained such prominence was its connection to football, and that this connection was to someone involved with a club which are currently bottom of the Championship. It’s not Arsene Wenger or Jurgen Klopp, it’s Neil Lennon. This is by no means high society misdeeds, just footballers behaving badly and it seems any old footballer will do. You can’t even say it was because of a slow news week, the nation currently being involved in a war and all. It says a lot I suppose about the all-pervading nature of football stories these days, and the appetite of the general public to read them.
Doorjambs for goalposts
While scouring my 7-year-old’s xmas list I noticed something called a Hoverball in pride of place. This thing is basically half a football which hovers over the ground on a cushion of air so you can play football in the house without smashing stuff. Whatever happened to the good old days of breaking your Mam’s ornaments with a pair of high-velocity rolled-up socks? The skill as I remember from my distant childhood was in the method of rolling the socks to create the tightest-packed, most solid object to maximise the power with which it could be volleyed into the most fragile vase in the house. Where’s the fun in this sanitised modern experience? It’s like playing darts without the risk of hitting a wire and getting speared in the foot or worse.
Back to Reality?
The disappointing performance last week and failing to beat bottom club Villa at home seemed a classic example of Newcastle building up their fans only to let them down. It’s probably closer to reality than the previous two victories against Liverpool and Spurs. What it definitely told us was that our inability to break teams down when we can’t hit them on the break remains unchanged. 7 points from 9 can’t be sniffed at of course but the problem with that is we’ll play more teams like Villa this season than we will teams like Liverpool or Spurs. There was a story in the press this week that we’d been coaching our team to take “at least six passes before initiating a full-on attack”. I have no coaching badges so could be misguided but this seems to be a perfect example of doing something which is almost totally counterproductive. It sounds like passing and possession for the sake of it, allowing the opposition time to regroup and set themselves up defensively. I think to become a good team you need to be able to keep the ball and dominate possession but the idea surely is to have constructive possession, not just waste time passing along the back line until an arbitrary number of completions is achieved. The story in the link mentions that this policy has now been ditched and McClaren is trying to achieve a balance between getting the ball forward early and keeping possession which sounds like a good idea but also something which won’t happen overnight.