Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Life, death, football, Moyes, Manchester United, money, tears, second-hand opinion and anything else I can throw into mix. Plus why – why! – all this bloody interest in Francoise Hollande? And a quite fascinating royal tale!

I had for some time been toying with the idea of a post about Manchester United, their new manager David Moyes and how to all our dismay – that is to the dismay of all the club’s supporters – they have been a mediocre to bad side this season. But as anyone with two ears and a radio or TV will know events have overtaken me. Moyes is no longer the ‘new manager’. He is now a ‘past manager’, sacked after just ten months into a six-year contract.

Analysis – the technical term for interminable waffle – has been abundant about what, why, where, when, who, to whom, with whom, to whom it should have been and did the Glazers use a condom when they shafted Moyes, and I am only repeating various things I have heard on the radio this morning. My view is that Moyes should have been given more time, at least another season, if not two, to show his mettle, and then been shafted if United proved unable to regain the glory they achieved under Alex Ferguson. But I am old-fashioned. It has often been pointed out that Ferguson got several years grace when he was appointed 28 years ago, but the world of football was very different then. Certainly, it was already about money, but to my mind, what with the fabulous sums available for one reason or another for clubs who win the Premier League title and/or make it into the Champions League, it is now far, far more about money than ever before.

Incidentally, I am not one of those – in fact, I am the complete opposite of those – who bang on, usually in the pub with a pint in their hands, about how ‘our modern players are overpaid, overgrown big girls’ blouses who should cut their hair and get a proper job’ – elaborate in your own time, if you so wish, but before that get the fuck out of my blog. Yes, they are paid


enormous sums, certainly more than you and I could hope to see in a lifetime, but they are the one asset the club which employs and pays them have. Not one penny (cent, centime, pfennig) of all the fabulous sums being made by clubs through TV rights and coverage and the sale of all the tat which is generally known as ‘merchandise’ would be made if it were not for those players.

The players make it all possible. They are the source of all the money, and long go are the days where a man would play professional football in the winter and work as a painter and decorator in the summer to feed his family. Oh, and when George Clooney or Leonard DiCaprio or Jennifer Lawrence are paid $5 million for a part in film, you don’t hear the wiseacres sounding off in the pub (pint in hand) and opining in unison: ‘It’s a farce, I wouldn’t pay him/her in washers! All that bloody money just for standing before a camera and speaking words someone has written? It complete bloody, total lunacy! My two year-old could act/play football/paint/compose music/run the country better – and he’s even more of a narrow-minded, bigoted halfwit than I am! Only goes show doesn’t it?’

But back to Moyes. The Manchester United fans seem to be split pretty evenly down the middle between those who are saying ‘thank God, about time, now get someone in who can really do the job’ and those, like me, who think this is really not the way to go about things and that if patience were ever a virtue, now is the time to find out.

The villains of the piece are, and have been for some time, Malcolm Glazer and his sons Joel and Avram who own the club (and have several sporting interests in the US). And they are unashamed businessmen who will readily admit they are in it for the money. And when times are good there is a lot of money to be made. They have never been particularly popular, but then with the exception of some clubs, owners rarely are. They got off to a bad start with the fans when they bought Manchester United in 2005, but highlighting their talkover would be very disingenuous: there has been trouble at United long before and, like Liverpool for the past 20 years - until now - they have also had their time in the wilderness, especially after Matt Busby retired (and like Alex Ferguson wouldn't bugger off and let his successor get on with it).

One of the many interesting and, I think, pertinent points made this morning is that when Alex Ferguson finally retired at the end of last season, he wasn’t the only one to leave. There was something like a wholesale changing of the guard from the chairman David Gill down (and someone mentioned their lawyer who was apparently a very smart cookie but who also retired last year). When Moyes moved in from Everton, he brought with him his own staff and got rid of much of the previous infrastructure. It’s been said that the players didn’t happily adapt to his style, which is very hands on and tough, and that he lost the confidence of some players early on. It’s also been said – and this is my view – that the playing squad he inherited from Ferguson was not all that good and that United had been quite lucky to win the title last season.

As someone pointed out on the radio this morning it was a question of the opposition underperforming – all three contenders, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool were going through their own managerial upheavals and not playing to the best of their abilities. I must say, I was surprised

when United won the Premier League, and they were most certainly not playing well and winning until Robin Van Persie joined them from Arsenal after Christmas (NB I am told it was before Christmas). It would be no exaggeration to claim that Van Persie salvaged their season last year.

That things were not all rosy in the garden might be gauged from the fact that Ferguson even hauled Paul Scholes out of retirement to bolster his midfield, which is a pretty unusual move. I was puzzled that Moyes didn’t play Ferdinand more often. And it has to be said that all the dithering over buying players just before the season started last August didn’t look good as the only player he did land was one Marouane Fellaini who – in my view, at least – was rather less effective in midfield than had Moyes played a peanut butter sandwich.

But what do I know? As Liverpool’s great Bill Shankly once said about football: ‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.’

(Note to American readers: When I and Shankly refer to ‘football’, we mean what you know as ‘soccer’. It has always puzzled us in the rest of the world why you couldn’t also refer ‘football’ as ‘football’ – because that is what is it is – and find some other name for your ‘football’, which we call ‘American football’.)

But there you go – as Moyes has now – and it all history now. I feel that United are now in for a few rough years, that they will, as they have in the past in similar circumstances, go through quite a few managers before they hit upon a new Matt Busby or Alex Ferguson, and that the time has come to acknowledge as much. I can’t see the Glazer family selling up yet or even for some time because there is still money to be made from the club. But it’s not going to look very pretty for a few years now.

PS Just been considering what I wrote earlier on and I thought I might add that it is, perhaps, possible that Moyes’s style was wrong for the kind of side Manchester United are when they are at their best. But even then the man should have been given at least another season to prove himself either way.

. . .

I am still baffled by the interest shown around the world – now even Brazil – about bloody Francoise Hollande and his wandering dick. The blooger statistics tell me that he is still the most visited post in the ’ere collection and has been for several months now. So what give? Folk dying by the hundreds in Syria, a new dictator is slowly easing himself into place in Egypt, the Ukraine could or could not spark a new war in Europe, David Moyes gets the push, but all folk seem to want to know is: who is France’s president Francoise Hollande shafting this week? Odd.

. . .

A fascinating story has come my way courtesy of a friend on the Mail’s gossip column, who – whisper it quietly! – gets to hear these things! It seems David Moyes’ maternal great-grandfather was, by his third marriage, related to the daughter of the Silver-Stick-In-Attendance to Prince Heinrich-Wilhem Graf von Anschluss zu Lubeck-Treppenwitz, Queen Victoria’s, second nephew three times removed who in his younger days was something of a card!

As a young man and chafing a little at the inconsistencies and incongruities of life in late 19th-century Schleswig-Holstein at the court of his father, Prince Heinrich-Wilhem upped sticks and sailed to the Spice Islands where he landed a job training the local Sawab of Molucca’s racing elephants! Unfortunately, he did not show the prowess in that profession as he had at hockey – he captained the Lichtenstein national side at the 1749 Brussels Olympics – and was unceremoniously shown the door when two of his elephants died of alcohol poisoining! As they say, it’s a small world!

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