Shame on Manuel Pellegrini for his abysmal decision to put out the equivalent of an Under-21 team in the FA Cup at Chelsea.

Thereby tarnishing the club, the Cup, the City fans and football itself. Yes, City had an imminent European game in prospect, but what Pellegrini did was if not a fraud on the public then certainly a fraud on a great competition, the first major tournament ever to exist, and a pivotal force in the history of the English game. It was good to see as major a figure as Alan Shearer among those who condemned the wretched policy.

Manchester City Chelsea

Manchester City goalkeeper Willy Caballero dejected after Chelsea’s Oscar scores the third goal.

Now that the club has received Qatari millions, it is richer and more powerful than ever. As such it is surely duty bound to set a decent rather than a distasteful example.

For the City fans who travelled down to London it was a virtual betrayal, an expensive journey for nothing but humiliation. Once upon a time there was a ruling against clubs putting out weak teams in the top division.

Surely the FA should enact a law whereby a club should be severely punished for putting out weakened teams in the FA Cup. For a fiasco such as Pellegrini enacted, exclusion from the following season’s FA Cup would be a wholly appropriate sanction.

Gianni Infantino

Gianni Infantino has received the backing of Europe’s leading clubs.

Once again the pertinent question seems to be, would you rather be shot or hanged? In other words, would you rather have Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al Khalifa of Bahrain or the Italo Swiss Gianni Infantino elected – as one or other will doubtless be by the time you read this – as the new President of FIFA.

Infantino certainly seems the least worst, though his close relations and the disgraced Michel Platini and his crazy proposal for a 40 team World Cup could emphatically count against him.

Salman, the favourite, has a dubious record in his native Bahrain over the maltreatment of dissident footballers who defied the oppressive regime. He pleads innocence but reports even in the local Bahrain paper seem to demur.

Sheikh Salman

Sheikh Salman is the favourite to succeed Sepp Blatter.

Yet in the last depressing analysis, what does it matter who becomes the President? FIFA as a body, even without the belated demise of the egregious Sepp Blatter and the arrests – thanks to the USA authorities – of all those crooked executives, is surely beyond redemption and reform.

Once again, I’d point out with despair the fact that the appalling Joao Havelange reigned as FIFA President for 24 years, virtually unopposed, with the flaccid British associations as guilty as anyone else for allowing his poisonous reign to continue.

I suppose you might say that just as war is allegedly too important to be left to generals, so football is too important to be left to football people. As surely emphasised by the fact that when it at last came to cleaning up the Augean stables of FIFA, it had to be the American prosecutors who did it.

Despite the splendid investigation by my colleagues on the Sunday Times Insight team. Blatter was simply and shamelessly able to wave their damning conclusions away.


While we are on the grim subject of FIFA, what of the next two World Cups, each of which was awarded in the most dubious circumstances?

All seems to be going ahead with Russia, though the manner of their getting the vote has long appeared highly suspect.

As for putrescent little Qatar, and the resulting potential abomination of a World Cup played at the full height of what is meant to be the European season, not a peep from either of the two Presidential candidates.

The sad fact is that there is nothing to be done with FIFA. Not least because of the absurd system whereby every country, large or small, has a single vote. Not that such major countries as Russia, Brazil and Argentina are above suspicion.

To withdraw from FIFA alas is something that even the British associations would hardly dare to do. Money talks, and there would be far too much money to be lost were the World Cup to go ahead without them.


All credit to West Ham’s Croatian manager Slaven Bilic who insisted, well before his team’s annihilation of Blackburn Rovers that he put a priority on the FA Cup. If only other less altruistic managers would follow his example.

Long gone and forgotten are the histrionics which got France’s defenders Laurent Blanc, now managing Paris Saint German, expelled in Paris in the 1998 World Cup thus barring him from the Final.

As for the current call for banishing replays, this would be a shocking assault on our and the game’s oldest competition. Personally I’d be all too happy to see instead the demise of the Football League Cup, whatever its present pseudonym.