Thursday, 1 May 2008

Full English? Not For Me, Thanks.

I’m sorry but I’m thoroughly underwhelmed by this prospect of an all-English Champions league final. We are being told that this is somehow the greatest thing since sliced bread. I for one am not as thrilled as I supposedly should be and I’m not the only one.

Amongst the entire furore, it’s not lost on me, and I’m sure others will agree, that the two ‘English’ sides competing are the two most disliked football teams in the country. Outside of Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford, would anyone really be happy to see either of these sides lift the coveted trophy?

It’s no secret to anyone who follows the beautiful game that CSKA Fulham would be nowhere without their sugar daddy and to seethe fruit of his labours triumph in his native Russia in a few weeks will produce the kind of irony likely to induce vomiting amongst the watching world.

In all fairness, CSKA – normally the Lords of anti-football – did produce somewhat of a classic against Liverpool during extra time to go through last night. However, let’s not let the final result mask the fact that over 90 minutes, it was the fourth draw between the two sides in 5 games this season.

A victory for The Salford Bay Rowdies on the other hand will spawn no end of sycophantic praise for the team and manager alike. While there is no doubting that Taggart is great manager and has a CV overloaded with success and his team play some sublime football at times – both legs of the semi final being the noteworthy exception – they are a deplorable, arrogant bunch who believe not only that they have a God-given right to success but also consider themselves above the law. See ‘Sir’s’ incomprehensible rantings last Saturday as a case in point.

No-one want to see a team like that succeed.

A moment of magic from Paul Scholes took them through but that aside, the Rowdies were comprehensively outplayed by a visibly unconfident Barcelona side who still managed to outplay their conquerors over both games.

But we are told that because the two teams are from England we should be happy. How can we be happy when we know there is no possibility that they can’t both lose?
Supporting an English club in Europe in a concept lost on me. It seems like something of a bygone era when there were very few clubs in European competition. Back then, it was something important to back a team who really represented the nation against Europe’s finest. The rare triumphs during the nineties were something most of the nation could get behind.

Nowadays the money-machine that is the Champion’s League is more like a watered down version of the old European Cup. Back then, it was a true test of how the best in Europe faired against one another. In the modern era you can finish as low as 4th and have a chance to win the big cup.

How can you support the team representing England when four different teams are doing their best to outdo each other?

Is it really a victory for English football if CSKA or the Rowdies win the trophy by beating one another? Also, explain to me how that is a triumph over Europe? Had Liverpool made the final, they would have done so having not faced a ‘European’ side since the first knock-out stage.

Me? Unpatriotic? Please!

In the final we have one side that are owned by Americans, managed by a Scot, whose best player is Portuguese taking on a Russian owned, Israeli managed team whose top player is from the Ivory Coast. Might I also add their kit is made by a German firm and their sponsor is from Japan! Hardly striking a blow for English football.

Once again, I’m sure I am not alone. Fans of the other 90-odd clubs in the English league surely don’t give a monkey’s about two of ‘our own’ in the final. How does that benefit anyone aside from the two sides involved? They’re the only ones who reap any sort of financial benefit and the gap between rich and poor gets ever wider. This final does nothing for the likes Doncaster Rovers, Ipswich Town, Rochdale or Hull City.

Finally, the amount of trouble in Moscow on that fateful May evening doesn’t even bare thinking about. The CSKA mob’s reputation has been well-documented for years and the Rowdies fans are hardly angels themselves. Add that to the expected heavy-handed treatment from the Russian police and undoubted ticketless fans who will try and get into the Luzhniki stadium and you have a recipe for disaster.

Ironically enough, this so-called great occasion for English football could very well see the kind of crowd trouble we all fear and ultimately may lead to UEFA imposing some kind of sanctions against English clubs. They can’t be too pleased about our clubs monopolising their competitions and will find any excuse to prevent it from continuing.

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