The planned silence before the kick off, commemorating the horrific disaster at Hillsborough more than two decades ago, was sullied by the mindless chants of Chelsea supporters. A section of the crowd you might perhaps say, disinterring an old cliché. By contrast the Tottenham fans at the other end of the stadium were respectfully and impeccably silent, though they booed the Chelsea louts when the silence, such as it so briefly was, terminated with the referee’s whistle.
All of which, of course, begs the question of whether the silence should as some columnists have suggested have been imposed at all on that particular game. Certainly the Everton v Liverpool semi final on the previous day was a whole apposite occasion to mourn the Hillsborough disaster, concerning as it did so poignantly and appallingly Liverpool as city itself. But what had London to do with it? Why should it have been decreed to take place before a London derby match when, not least all those years after the cruel event, it could scarcely have impinged on the fans of Chelsea and Spurs?
It was the FA who decreed it, just as they decreed, in thrall to television, that each of the semi finals should begin at such a stupidly inappropriate time. It was outrageous to expect Liverpudlians to make the long trek from their native city to London for a 12.30 kick off. It was equally crass to oblige a justifiably incensed Chelsea with their huge European Cup challenge against Barcelona only three days away, to kick off as late as 6pm. But, for the umpteenth time, one has sadly to reflect that the FA has not had a decent leader since Sir Stanley Rous rose to the Presidency of FIFA to vacate the secreteryship of the FA in 1962. When he should have been succeeded by the then England manager Walter Winterbottom but so controversially was not. I wish I could recall the name of the present chief executive of the FA but at the moment, alas, it eludes me.
A shocking blunder by a referee, Martin Atkinson, who has made a habit of them this season gave Chelsea a traumatising goal and momentarily at least must have knocked the stuffing out of Tottenham. But they had plenty of time surely to retrieve both their morale and what was then only a one-goal deficit. That they didn’t and couldn’t hardly reflected well on the prowess of then manager Harry Redknapp, nor on what, for some time, has seemed his cast iron claims to the England managership.
No one bar Harry himself of course was happier than myself to see him acquitted at that bizarre trial over his alleged tax evasion, which cost so ludicrously much and achieved so ludicrously little. All these weeks later one still finds it hard to understand just what happened, what with Harry admitting that he had lied in his conversation with the News of the World but told the truth in court, while a ferocious prosecution insisted that it was the other way around. The jury blessedly believed Harry.
Hallelujah. But I still wonder, and perhaps he does himself, whether Harry is cut out to be an international team manager with all its pressures and loneliness, when he is so plainly suitable for the busier life of a club manager, with his talents in the transfer market and his popularity with his players. He did not to be frank, make any kind of a tactical success of the semi final. True, injury deprived him of the two obvious candidates for the centre back positions, but to pick two veterans in William Gallas, who had a humiliating time of it, and Ledley King was surely dicing with death. Keeping Gallas, especially on the field throughout was simply inexplicable. By the end he was an almost pathetic figure.
Should the England role then go to Roy Hodgson? It should have done, in my view, away back in 1994, after a World Cup in America to which he had, so skilfully managed an unfancied Swiss team. But it didn’t and now here he is efficiently running West Bromwich Albion. Harry has no international team experience. Roy managed Finland as well as the Swiss and has had a host of foreign clubs in his command, among them Malmo and Inter; even if things went wrong at Dalglish obsessed Liverpool. In a sparse field he does look the strongest candidate but I wish he had been chosen in 1994.