Did anyone expect the grandiose report on the game by that irritating blowhard Grey Dyke and his dubious minions to be anything other than that grotesque anticlimax which it is?
How highly symptomatic it was that sitting on Dyke’s right hand and talking nineteen to the dozen was the obscure figure of an ex-England right back, Danny Mills. What on earth was he doing there? Or come to that what induced Greg Dyke to make the leader of his so-called research team a clown called Peter Beverley, described as a former McKinsey consulting executive who said he didn’t know “they played football in schools.”
The plan put forward is a dog’s dinner, mixing clubs from the lower Football Leagues with so-called Premier League B teams. Yes, it has been done in Spain but as Martin Samuel that incisive critic has pointed out. To negative effect. Real Madrid and Barcelona field teams which draw minuscule followings. “One imagines once any novelty wears off,” he writes, “England’s B teams may draw even less.”
And while I agree with Dyke that there are far too many foreign players in our top class football, barring the way to British footballers – just look at Chelsea where promotion from the youth team to the first team is a chimera – that battle was lost long ago.
When the late Artemion Franchi, canny President of UEFA, relinquished the role, having kept the European Union at bay with astonishing sleight of hand and no real legal argument. Waging a campaign to tighten up the rules on importing players from outside the EU on the grounds that permits are too easily awarded is barking up the wrong tree.
I speak as one who served for two years on the appeals committee of the Department of Employment, where appeals were often incurred because of the rigid rule that a player from outside the EU had to play 75% of his country’s international games over a limited period.
This took no account of such cases as that of the current Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard who excelled playing for the USA in France during the Confederations Cup tournament but who had for years had his international way blocked by the presence of two fine American keepers. Overall I found that the committee was in no way permissive.
But the number of players from outside Europe who manage to come into our football is dwarfed by the flood of Europeans.
You could hardly blame the Premier League for refusing to take part in Dyke’s half-baked commission. But the Premiership itself is surely at the root of so much that is wrong with English football. When it was formed at the manifest expense of League clubs outside the magic elect, I christened it the Greed Is Good League and have never had any reason to modify that description.
That the Football Association under the doubtful aegis of Graham Kelly should have made itself a partner in the coup was a betrayal of its historic trust; to hold the ring on behalf of all its members. It proved moreover a blatant and disastrous sacrifice to commercial television which from then on was able to dictate the fragmentation of the fixture list at Premier level. A situation now exacerbated by the intervention of BT.
Football is no longer its own master, but as money pours into the game, it goes predominantly into the players’ pockets and in excessive transfer fees while supporters of the Premiership clubs are charged more and alarmingly more for the privilege of watching them. Thereby excluding not only working class fans, once the lifeblood of the game, but even those from relatively comfortable backgrounds.
Nothing suggested by Dyke’s largely irrelevant inquiry can touch such problems. To think that away back in 1960 when I was given the first ever sports column in the Sunday Times, I rowed in – as did the paper itself – in support of Jimmy Hill and his resourceful crusade to abolish the iniquitous maximum wage!
Speaking of Greg Dyke, the blowhards blowhard, one was reacquainted last Sunday in a newspaper’s photograph of the fatuous moment when, learning of England’s World Cup draw when it was made, he jokingly and defeatistly ran a finger across his throat. Not to mention the two Wembley internationals which he skipped because of the demands of a couple of his other, manifold, activities.
Take me to your leader? There hasn’t been a decent one since Stanley Rous. I struggle to remember the name of the present chief FA executive, though did I read a news item to the effect that he had lost three stone in weight? An example to the obese, at least, if true.
Wilson to Wilson. Did anybody notice the special symmetry between Ryan and the dazzling, precocious teenaged James Wilson who on his Manchester United debut scored those two fine goals? His first game for United, in all probability Giggs’ last. Yet Giggs in fact is a Wilson too. That is his father’s name; a former Welsh Rugby League international who departed the family, to Ryan’s dismay, so much so that he refused to retain his surname.
Scarcely had Malky Mackay made his almost Stalinist obeisance to the egregious Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan than the Sunday Telegraph were billing Tan for their bad behaviour award “for the extraordinary way Tan sacked Malky Mackay.”
Stalin’s victims flattered him because they feared execution. Malkey Mackay who had manfully hauled Cardiff up after years of exile to the top division, had no such fear, even if one of his various purchases had proved a horribly expensive failure.
But you wonder if some kind of a deal was done. On the displeasing face of it Tan, who ludicrously and superstitiously changed Cardiff’s colours from blue to red, is an arrogant, insensitive autocrat. Not though for Mackay; or so it unconvincingly appears.
And what is the sequel to Mackay’s self-abasing statement? Why, a splenetic outburst from Tan, calling Mackay the main person responsible for relegation: “His friends supported him to be a big hero; their hero almost killed this club.”
And if it be true, as a club insider alleges, that Mackay not only eats such humble pie but has even dropped his claim to compensation, what on earth induced him to “apologise without reservation?’ A deep mystery.