Musician and Manchester City fan, Roy Harper voices his opinion.
To read Part 2, click here
The following article was written at the weekend, so the paragraph beginning, ‘One definite way of producing a top six performance in 2009/10 will be to offer players like Diego Forlan a big wage to come here and spend their last good years in blue.’ is already out of date. I didn’t realize that things would kick off this quickly, but that’s life, and City! ..and the weather here got really good, so I was out there in it – oblivious. Anyway… here goes.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
When I saw the team sheet for the Fulham game, I knew there was only one side in it. I sat there and watched it, bemused. It was like waiting for a bomb to blow up. You didn’t know where it was going to happen, or when, but you knew that it would.
There was no sense of excitement, just an impending thought, a knowledge that the season wasn’t even hanging by a thread any more. They started well.. kind of, but when they scored, it was hard to believe. I even had an unreal moment of ‘Yes.. they can escape from this.. maybe Europe is on the cards after all.. it could be a draw.. yes.. it could be a draw’. But the longer I watched it, the longer I knew that a draw would be a lucky result.
Fulham were by far the better side, they were a team. I was watching an organized team who played together every week, and it was obvious that, on the day, we were a scratch outfit. As it wore on, we looked like we would have found it difficult to give Morecambe a game.
It was plain to see that we just didn’t have the squad to allow SWP to be sidelined with an injury that had been a long time coming due to the sheer weight of physical responsibility on his shoulders, that he himself had chosen to carry. Not only is he one of our best offensive players, he is also the most able player we have running back to defend, and, crucially, other members of the first team defence such as De Jong, Kompany and Bridge were carrying serious niggles. As everyone knows, the premiership is now a squad game.
Europe passed through my mind again. I knew we needed it. So did everyone else. There were noises on the day from the Fulham hierarchy to the effect that Fulham could really do without Europe, that their squad wouldn’t be big enough to cope, and by inference, wouldn’t be any time soon, or maybe ever. And yet they were playing us off the park. Reverse Psychology?! Yet more ‘conspiracy’? Then I began thinking about what resources football clubs had, and then about the very nature of resource, in all its different expressions and implications. And particularly when applied to football.
I thought back to pre-Premiership days, and how the whole thing had now almost changed beyond recognition. PLC was something Joe Mercer would never have known a thing about, but here we are beyond PLC.., with just four clubs holding nearly all the resources.
As we all know, the bigger a resource becomes, the more it attracts the wealthy, the investors, and the corporations, and so the bigger it becomes. It’s a gravy train. The Champions League is a resource, to be tapped into by anyone who has enough wealth to be able to take a profit, from Pepsi to Carlsberg, The Glazers to Abramovich.. (well, perhaps that’s stretching it a bit). It’s ‘reality’ entertainment for hundreds of millions of people across Europe, and billions worldwide. A weekly physical soap that ends up heralding the end of winter in the northern hemisphere, and a big money spinner for the earners.
In the past, for the average punters attached to their local team, it’s been a different matter. Most of them lived in the locality of their team. In the virtual slavery of what having to turn up to a workplace every day does to people, a major focus of relief in the past has been the Saturday game. The Champions League isn’t that any more. In many ways, it’s no longer the preserve of local people. It’s moved on, and almost out of their world.
Manchester United now belongs as much to Bejing as it does to Bedford. As much to Hollywood as Wall St. As much to theatre as to sport. Barcelona represents the Catalan people, not only in their struggle for some independence from Spain, but as a separate International destination with a separate identity. That the more virtuous part of the community which is Barcelona decided to promote Unicef on the front of its shirt rather than some commercial entity, is the exception rather than the rule, which says it all. Almost, but not quite.
When you read things like the following, you have to take on a slightly modified view:- ‘Meanwhile, Michel Platini, the UEFA president, has weighed in by attaching moral superiority to Barcelona’s youth system. ‘Barcelona represent my philosophy, not just in their style of play, but how they form their footballers,’ Platini said. ‘I believe players should be protected until they are 18, more for moral reasons than economic ones.’ Wise words.
Among those currently under the moral protection of Barcelona are Gai Yigaal Assulin, an 18-year-old Israeli who joined Barcelona when he was 12, Jeffren Suarez, a 21-year-old from Venezuela (now helpfully converted to a Spanish Under 21 international), who joined Barcelona when he was 16 from Tenerife and has recently bemoaned his lack of first-team opportunity, and Thiago Alcantara, who was with Brazilian club Flamengo, before joining Ureca in the Spanish region of Galicia and being spirited away to Barcelona at the age of 14.
Lionel Messi went to Spain as a schoolboy after Barcelona agreed to fund his growth hormone treatment. He would not have been allowed to sign for a Premier League club in those circumstances. Different leagues have different rules. We cannot doubt, however, that Barcelona’s youth transfers are all conducted to the high standards espoused by Platini. Perish the thought that there should be moral compromise at football’s most perfect club.’
Notwithstanding Platini being a known ardent anglo-phobe, there are obviously universal dual standards. In the event, Barcelona won the CL on Wednesday, and philosophies and mode d’emploi are by the by in the euphoria of winning and the depression of losing. Stretford didn’t turn up on the night, which is… by the by.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, being at the actual heart of ‘reality TV’ like it is.