Managerial turmoil. Manchester United, under the revered Dutchman Louis Van Gaal, having swept all before them in a series of friendlies, came down to earth with an embarrassing crash home to modest Swansea.
With Van Gaal in his somewhat eccentric English, admitting that, “I have seen a lot of players very nervous making the wrong choices.”
Before the game he had told his players, “Do what we have told you and we shall win.” Yet at half time he abandoned that 3-4-1-2 formation on which he had been concentrating for a 4-2-4-1 and still lost to a superior Swansea.
There was, it was true, no Robin Van Persie, but the loss of Nemanja Vidic in central defence and his loss has hardly been compensated for by the young English central defenders who, despite their occasional England caps, have yet to display the vital authority so plainly missing against Swansea.
Van Gaal has had success with Barcelona, with Bayern Munich and, in the recent World Cup, a third place finish with Holland. Yet how ironic to reflect that when poor doomed David Moyes took over the team a year ago, it began with a handsome 4-1 win over none other than Swansea themselves and at Swansea, too.
Desperate need then for reinforcements but the trouble is that with United out of the European Champions Cup their old allure is in abeyance.
Another celebrated manager in Felix Magath boasted when he took over poor Fulham last season late on he had never run a club that was relegated. Which it promptly was. How the former manager of VfB Stuttgart, Wolfsburg and Schalke and not to mention having scored the winning goal for Hamburg in a European Cup Final, he seems to be taking a substantial gamble on a Fulham team now packed with the so far obscure names of young players.
Promising, certainly, as Fulham’s progress to the Final of last season’s junior cup, lost so narrowly to Chelsea, proved that the so-called Championship is hardly the ideal context for experiment.
Then across London we have the sad and surprising resignation of Tony Pulis from Crystal Palace, after performing minor miracles last season in lifting them out of extreme relegation danger into impressive safety. In vain does his chairman publicly insist that there was no clash or collision with him over transfers.
Plainly there was, or Pulis would never have walked out. The irony being that had he belonged to, say, a Bundesliga club he would have had no say in transfer policy.
At Leeds, the new owner, the Italian Massimo Cellino, still facing malfeasance charges in his native country where he owned the Cagliari club, having got rid of Brian McDermott as his well paid manager, to appoint, against all expectation, the obscure David Hockaday whose only managerial, as opposed to coaching, experience had been four years with non-League Forest Green who had actually sacked him.
A gamble indeed not least when the club had sold their top scorer to Fulham, yet a 1-0 home win against Middlesbrough suggested there might be hope.
The sad death of that gloriously eccentric comedian Robin Williams reminds me of an episode which has eluded his many obituarists. I was lucky enough to witness it.
The scene was Las Vegas late in 1993, the occasion the draw for the 1994 World Cup. New York would surely have been the obvious choice; Vegas had no remote connection with soccer. Up on the dais when Pele had been excluded after tangling with the appalling ex son-in-law of Joao Havelange, Ricardo Teixeira.
Sepp Blatter was presiding. And Williams it was who unexpectedly was called up to pull the team tags out of the container. Bouncing up, he greeted Blatter, “Wonderful to meet you after feeling you for so long!” He then drew out the first nation’s name with a cry of “Ah! Panty hose!” while Blatter looked on bewildered.
Next morning an American newspaper columnist wrote that Blatter plainly had a career ahead of him as a straight man.
The flesh rots from the head they say, and what head could be more rotten than the extreme escapologist and bunga-bunga exponent Silvio Berlusconi? Owner of Milan, ex-President of the Council et al.
So should we be amazed that the new President of the Italian football Federation Carlo Tavecchio has called black players “banana eaters” plus being convicted for forgery and tax evasion. He has swept into power by a majority of more than 60%
And so the fish will go on rotting. While Berlusconi will never however often sentenced, go to gaol.
How sadly futile the justified protests of English fans outside the offices of the Premier League. Which alas has no power to affect the rapacious prices charged by its clubs. In outrageous contrast with those charged in the Bundesliga, of Germany the richest country in Europe. Shaming our own greedy clubs.
Can we hope for further analogies of just how the Germans do it? Their players are hardly paupers, nor are transfer fees outrageous.