Could the Greed Is Good League take a lesson from Italian football, as personified by two of the azzurri’s most impressive players in the recent Confederation Cup semi final lost only on a belated missed penalty to a far from dominating Spain?
This is to say, both Antonio Candreva, so busily effective in midfield, and Emmaneule Giaccherini, operating “in the hole” and heading against a post at the start of injury time, may be said to have come up the hard way.
Candreva, 26, was actually born in Rome but neither Roma nor Lazio (where at long last he landed last season) gave him houseroom. Modest Ternana then in Serie B took him on as a teenager, but it was only in his third season there that with twenty nine appearances he won a regular place; and then the club were relegated. Udinese bought him in 2007 but in a star crossed season he made just three Serie A appearances, being sold to Livorno; whom he promptly helped to promotion from Serie B. There nineteen first team games saw Juventus snap him up for the remainder of the Serie A season. Sixteen games and a couple of goals were not enough to make them keep him.
Udinese came back for him in the close season then transferred him to Parma without giving him a game before the new season even started. Thirty one games and three goals there then he was on the move yet again; a season at Parma as a first choice, the next one at Cesena, then, at last, back to his native city of Rome with….Lazio. The poor fellow’s head must have spun but now he’s an established international.
Emmanuele Giaccherini, so lively an attacker in Brazil, has had still more of conflicted career. Cesena was actually his first club in his teens but he never got a game for them either in C1 or B. Four seasons in C 2 with Florli, Bellaria and Pavia, seldom scoring, never out of single figures. Then it was Cesena again. This he was a titlolare, first choice, for three seasons, the third of them in A, where his seven goals were enough to convince Juventus he was worth buying. Never say die.
If there is any kind of moral here for English football it is surely that players who appear to have fallen by the wayside often deserve and can seize another chance. One remembers the story of Gary Birtles; when Brian Clough then managing Nottingham Forest went to see him playing non-league football he remarked that “even the Bovril was better than Birtles.” But he signed him, turned him into an international player, and a stalwart of their European Cup success. Now in the Premiership on the one hand both costly stars and even young starlets are brought in from abroad, perhaps clubs should be looking closer at the lower domestic leagues.
The creation of the Greed Is Good League can rightly be seen as the great sell out by the Football Association. But why?
Recently, a leading sports columnist blamed the hostility of the FA to the Football League and its clubs, asserting, through the testimony of Greg Dyke, former chief of the BBC and now top man at the FA, that they could have got a far better deal with the leading First Division clubs. Rightly or wrongly I found this surprising, having long been convinced that Graham Kelly, then chief executive of the FA, and former top man at the Football League, (where Alan Hardaker had for years waged war on the FA) could hardly have acted out of hostility.
Whatever the explanation, it was manifestly a betrayal of the FA’s historic responsibilities.
How gloriously ironic that almost concurrently, a blast of irrelevant hot air threatening the Football Association by one Andy Burnham, previously Labour Minister of Culture, Media and Sport, should be quite overshadowed by a huge headline in the Sunday press to the effect that Burnham had exerted pressure on a whistleblower!
So far as football is concerned everybody, not least posturing MPs, wants as Jimmy Durante the comic once said, to get in on the act.
Burnham, who should have other things much closer to home to worry about, warns that the FA will “become an irrelevance” unless its new chairman Greg Dyke can regain power from the Premier League. He also blamed the failure of the Under-21s of late on leading clubs failing to promote local home-grown talent. That failure might just have had something to do with the fact that a whole first choice team and more were unavailable, but, in any case, who gives a damn what a publicity seeking MP (with serious troubles of his own) thinks about football?
Perhaps Dyke should ask Burnham not to interfere with whistle blowers (and that doesn’t mean referees.)