Football gone wrong, and how the clubs could act if they wanted to

by Tony Attwood

About three and a half years ago Mikel Arteta, when assistant to Pep Guardiola was asked by a journalist if he felt anything needed to be changed in English football.

Now the standard answer to this question is “no”, with the foreign interviewee replying that the Premier League is the strongest league in the world and the best league in the world and it is wonderful to be here as a guest and he wouldn’t dare change anything here except maybe the weather, ha ha, everyone chuckle, oh aren’t these foreign chappies wonderful etc etc.

Arsene Wenger went further saying that he could not get used to milk in tea, but otherwise, most played it safe.   Because if any foreign person does venture further well, the journalists can always come in quick with the notion that foreigners don’t understand these things, and they will meddle so and don’t these overseas chaps realise we invented the game in the 14th century when the pig’s bladder was kicked from one village into another to destroy the rival village, rape the women and steal the cattle – a bit like Stoke matches under Pulis (see previous article).

Answering the question, and sticking to the injunction to make just one and only one change, Arteta was careful, and he suggested changing the calendar.  Not so that the season would run from March to November but to avoid playing three games a week.  (I’m not quite sure how Man C managed to play nine games in 27 days, but that’s what he said.  And he followed that up with the stupidity of having international matches peppered around the season – which of course many of us can agree with).

He could also have mentioned the impact on the environment of all these players travelling overseas on private jets to play for their countries, but he stayed off that one, which was a shame because it would have been a great opportunity to point out the effect international matches have on the environment.  But still…

It is still an issue Guardiola and Klopp were both asked recently and suggested ending FA Cup replays, reducing the size of the Premier League… that sort of thing.

Which is of course what the clubs like Manchester City who have bought their way into permanent participation in the Champions League (at least until the next round of the legal argument) wants.   And so I began to wonder, supposing, against all the odds, the CAS actually upheld the Manchester City ban on European competitions for two seasons.  Would they still want fewer games?

It is a relevant question for us to ask, because that is what Arsenal are facing for at least one season, unless they can win a few games, and find other clubs don’t annoyingly do the same thing at the same time.  We could next season have three competitions (League, League Cup, FA Cup) rather than four.  Then what would we do?  Invent mid-week tour of the UAE I suspect.

In fact we never used to complain about multiple games.   When we qualified for the Uefa Cup under Rioch, on the last day of the season, there was much celebrating, as I recall.   And then as the “every year in Europe” series started, Arsenal under Mr Wenger rarely saw the League Cup as a pain, using it as a way to give squad players and under 23s games in front of decent crowds.   Showing the kids just how violent football can be in the lower reaches, and reminding them that this was where their careers would go, if they took playing for a club like Arsenal as their right, rather than as a gift to be nurtured.

In the early days of the Wenger revolution, playing every season in Europe it was something of a novelty, but once we had thrashed Sheffield United 6-0 on 23 September 2008 the world changed.  Because it turned out that even our youngsters could thrash non-PL clubs.

On that day, when we won 6-0, we put out a team made up of

Łukasz Fabiański,

Gavin Hoyte, Johann Djourou, Alex Song, Kieran Gibbs,

Fran Merida, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere,

Mark Randall, Nicklas Bendtner

Also it must be remembered that at the time, Mr Wenger was out on his own, using the kiddies in the League Cup.   Since then others have copied – just as they normally do.  But when Arsenal did it, it was because we couldn’t afford a huge squad of established players.  There was a stadium to pay for.

Come next season, if Arsenal are not in Europe, the League Cup might give us a few extra matches to watch – and if the club continues its admirable (but generally utterly ignored by the media) policy of just charging £10 for the downstairs seats, it gives families a chance to come and see a game at the Stadium without having to take out a mortgage.

But the pressure is on now for the league cup to vanish.  And in the light of this maybe it is interesting to remember that Arsenal did not enter the League Cup in 1961 when it started.  In fact they didn’t join in until 1972, when entry become obligatory.  Before then the old military guard which eventually took the club into ruins and near relegation in the mid-1970s, had announced they wanted nothing to do with the new-fangled affair and refused to enter.  In fact Bertie Mee was trying to implement a policy of having a squad of 18 players, and to scrap the two youth teams.

The fact is that today the League Cup symbolises the different desires of the “have’s” and “have nots”.  The former don’t want another competition, the latter, without all that troublesome bother of Champions League or Europa games, quite like it.

And I quite like it.   Blacksheep and I normally go to the home games each season, and I show him what it is like sitting in the posh seats upstairs.  They charge him £20.  I get a discount for being old.

The decision to admit adults for £10 downstairs really is something for the club to be proud of.  And if we are out of Europe next season I suspect a few more fans might want to pop along to a League Cup game and take a look and some of the youngsters and see how they are getting on.

And be surprised at the cost of admission.

14 Replies to “Football gone wrong, and how the clubs could act if they wanted to”

  1. Tony,
    I’m fairly sure Arsenal were in the League Cup before 1972. I was at Wembley for both the ’67 &’68 finals when we got beaten by Nasty Leeds and Swindon respectively

  2. Ando

    Me too. at least the Swindon final.

    Even though I was just 9 years old I remember certain bits vividly.

    I sat upon my dear old Dads shoulders watching Ian Ure have a mare, John Samuals scoring our only goal and Don Rogers putting us to the sword, all on a mud heap of a pitch.

    And that was my introduction to Arsenal live and in the flesh. I still fell in love.

    Luckily my next experience was the Fairs Cities cup final 2nd leg triumph against Anderlecht in 1970.

    What a night that was.


  3. Nitram,
    I could’ve sworn it was Bobby Gould whose goal kept us in the game.
    It’s in the past now but I can still feel the shame of going into work on Monday morning and all my mates ripping the piss out of me!

  4. Ando

    You could be right, it’s a very long time ago!

    I don’t remember getting any grief at school.

    But when I Started out at work in the late 70’s, I was following Arsenal the length and breadth and boy did they let me have it on a Monday morning when we lost, which was quite often.

  5. LiVARpool losing to Chel$ea in FA Cup

    I can imagine that the players for LiVARpool liked the run they were on. And the longer the run went; just about any team could beat them. It turned out it was Watford that turned their run off.

    I think all players in the EPL know that few games are played on a level playing field. And that no player is allowed to say anything about winning or losing due to what that bunch of idjuts at PGMO are doing.

    And so, we get a bunch of idiotic comments from time to time. The players and management cannot say what they thing, they have to come up with some crap that is allowed by the PGMO rules.

    The players on LiVARpool know they were gifted at least one game by PGMO. To have the run end by Watford, released this huge pressure to continue something that should never have gotten to that point. So in this game against Chel$ea in FA Cup play, they lose again.

    They are a good team. They aren’t as good as their win/draw/loss in the EPL show; because PGMO have been tilting things for them. I suspect in the rest of the season; they will be getting more draws and losses than they are expected to.

    All because a team of idjuts led by 😈 Mike Riley feels it has to impose itself on EPL games.

    Personally, I hope that England do NOT provide a FIFA or UEFA referee in the next 20 years or so.

    I hope that at some point, all this crap about PGMO becomes public knowledge.

  6. LiVARpool losing to Chel$ea in FA Cup

    LiVARpool still have this HUGE lead, so I expect they will still be named champions. But really, they should feel they are chumpions, because they have accomplished all this on a tilted playing field.

    People at LiVARpool have done a good job of documenting their history. Do they choose to follow this crap from EPL/The (sweet) FA and tell us how wonderful they have been; or do they say at some point this has all been due to a tilted playing field?

    It is their choice.

    Leicester was gifted a championship; and still seem to like promoting they are better than they should be because of PGMO tilting the field.

    The Chinese proverb: May you live in interesting times.

    The LiVARpool saying: You’ll never walk alone (but PGMO may tilt things your way).

  7. Yep, slip of the finger on my part. Several clubs did refuse to enter the league cup but gradually drifted into it. We did not enter in 1961/2 through to 1965/6

  8. I too was there in 68 & 69. It was indeed Bobby Gould who scored and Don Rogers got to for Swindon. I also remember going to both semi-final games against the Spuds. 1-0 at home (John Radford) and 1-1 away (Radford and Jimmy Greaves). My parents had recently moved house and I was at school in White Hart lane at the time. It didn’t go down well with 99.9% of my fellow pupils.

    What’s also interesting to remember is the attitude of the footballing authorities at the time. There had been a major flu epidemic at the time and we had had something like 90% of our first team sick the week before the game and ask for a postponement. They FA refused…….it’s like nothing has changed.

  9. @Mikey historically the FA and all who sail with her has penalised Arsenal in whatever way they could including the docked points for Man United scrum with handbags. Neither side was apportioned blame but the bias showed in the points deduction.

    This season despite the game being ‘not as advertised’ has stumped the FA in that Arsenal have risen above their bias and might prove a thon in their side.

    Won’t be long before I write to all & sundry for my money back as the game is ‘not as advertised’.

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