FA Cup-Money-Disrespect

FA Cup-Money-Disrespect

I love the FA Cup and just about every fan I speak to does also. Yet it continues to be treated with disrespect by those who are more concerned with money than glory.

Can the Baggies upset the odds and win at Liverpool in the 4th round and will Blues cause a shock at Premier League Huddersfield. The drama, romance, thrills along with the potential giant killing acts still make this the greatest and much envied domestic cup competition on the planet. But the love of money and the fear of losing money has seen certain managers and clubs taint this wonderful competition. The top teams are concerned with European games or ensuring they win enough Premier League games to qualify for the money spinning Champions League. The middle teams are concerned with possibly moving up a few places because each place you finish higher in the league earns you around two million  pounds. The bottom clubs are just concerned with finishing 17th or higher to ensure that the guaranteed 160 million pounds is there next season (100 million minimum each season in the premier league plus a guaranteed 60 million pounds in parachute payments if you do get relegated).

Teams can get more money for finishing two places higher in the Premier League than they can for winning the FA Cup. You will earn £3,397,000 for winning the Cup and yet will earn an extra 4 million for finishing 15th instead of 17th in the Premier League. Now for fans that financial incentive is not important but it does illustrate where manager’s priorities understandably can lie and why some of them do pick weakened teams.

Lots of teams made many changes last weekend for the third round games and for some that meant a weakened team with too many inexperienced youngsters but for others it was used as opportunity to give valuable game time to regular first team squad members while some are thinking about important league games the following week?.

For example did Villa pick a weakened team? Well if I suppose if it’s not your preferred first eleven then I suppose technically its weaker. However using Villa as an example their starting eleven was not full of kids but experience players with quite a few internationals and with all respect to Peterborough it should have been good enough to win the tie. However Posh showed greater desire, enthusiasm, and work rate and in my opinion that negated and over-ran Villa’s apparent better ability. To put it in simple terms Peterborough wanted it more than Villa’s players did.

The reason we get and have always had upsets and giant killing acts in the FA Cup is because some of the bigger clubs underestimate the power of desire over ability.

Other managers played lots of kids with potential and paid the penalty by being knocked out of the Cup. I just don’t get it-you can only play the game you have today. No point in worrying about next week’s game and the possibility of injuries when a player can just as easily get injured in training. I remember before 2011 when the FA changed the rules that teams would be fined for picking a weakened team in the FA Cup. Now as long as the players are chosen from their 25 man squad it’s seems to be OK even though the FA Rules state clubs must “pick their strongest available team”. Yet EFL teams were fined last season and can still be fined for not picking their strongest teams in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Just wait and see what happens when teams reach the latter stages of the FA Cup they are certain to pick their strongest starting eleven.

Maybe it’s a generational thing. I grew up wanting to play in the FA Cup final for Blues and if not I wanted to see them play in the final at Wembley (still waiting by the way) because it was a massive football occasion. And failing that I wanted to watch them on TV playing in the FA Cup final watching from around 9 am until well after the final whistle.

What will it take for our clubs, players and managers to once again make the FA Cup a priority? Do the powers that be need to provide a money spinning Champions League place for the winners. Or do they need to up the prize money? How seedy and tacky does that sound? And surely managers and players have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of their lives but the love of money is all consuming.

Without doubt there is a financial and football Imbalance within the football pyramid that encourages management by fear. The romance of the FA Cup is still there it’s just that love will have to find a way into the minds and hearts of managers and players to rekindle it.

 

RIP Big C

RIP Big C

 

There were lots of things I was going to write about today most concerning relegation or promotion or the lack of transfer activity but that was all spike when I was told the news early on Monday about the death of Cyrille Regis MBE. Now it may sound like a well-worn   cliché but the news of his untimely death really did shock the football world to its core. Like everyone else I was deeply shocked, saddened and devastated to hear that such a fit man had been take at the early age of 59 especially as I had been in his company just a few weeks ago. He looked so fit and in perfect health which is why when I was told I refused to believe it at first.

Just a few weeks prior to Christmas I hosted a Q & A at the Hawthorns to publicise Ally Robertson’s recently released autobiography. The panel for the Q & A was an amazing line up of Baggies legends, Bryan Robson, Johnny Giles, Bomber Brown, John Wile, Ally Robertson Joe Mayo and the legend that is Cyrille Regis. Big C was in great form with his quiet banter and wit shining through alongside that cheeky warm engaging smile.

Cyrille was much loved and respected by not only all football fans but professional footballers from many eras and from all corners of the planet. This was due to him and his close pals Laurie Cunningham and Brendan Batson paving the way for every black player who followed them. In the 70’s they suffered racist abuse week in and week out due to the colour of their skin. Cyrille said the bananas thrown onto the pitches, monkey chants and even worse abuse hurt and angered him but he channelled that hurt and anger into his performance using it to inspire himself from within. That showed his amazing mental strength and courage because, let’s be honest, it would have been easier to run away or hide from that abuse or at least let it affect your performance-but not Big C- he was having none of it and defenders all over the country were made to pay. He along with Laurie and Brendan did more to fight racism in the game than any other player-he was a true pioneer at the most difficult of times

Cyrille was without doubt a great player as his 675 league games and 172 goals playing with six clubs, West Brom, Coventry,  Aston Villa, Wolves, Wycombe ,Chester and five England caps over a twenty year span testifies without fear of argument. He played in all divisions pre Premier League and even had a spell in the Premier League with Villa.

However it was not just as a great footballer that he will be remembered but also as a great man. A warm, humble, grounded, quiet man that had time for everyone be they King or Pauper. No matter if he had just scored a hat-trick or been picked for England he was never ever a “Billy Big Time” what you saw was what you got. In all my 40 years broadcasting in the West Midlands area I have never heard one person say a bad word about Cyrille and neither have I ever heard Cyrille bad mouth anyone else. In fact if you ever moaned about a player to him he would always take the time to try to give you a different perspective on that player and make you think about or re-think your original perception.

I first interviewed him for BRMB at West Brom and then at Coventry and he always had time for reporters be they from newspapers, TV or radio. He took time out to speak to me at Hillsborough after Coventry had beaten Leeds United 3-2 to reach the FA Cup final. Everybody wanted to speak to him but he made sure he looked after us local journo’s such was the measure of the man.

I know his younger brother Dave who played for Blues for a while and he was rightly very proud of his big brother and said he was the same quiet unassuming person wherever he was and preferred the background to the limelight unless of course he was on the pitch when his goal-scoring exploits thrust him into the limelight. However his team mates say he was not a loud in your face player on the pitch he just got on with the business of scoring goals. I think it says a lot about how they were brought up by their parents.

Cyrille was quiet and unassuming but had a great sense of humour and loved the banter. He loved the gregarious in your face sense of humour displayed by players like Ally Robertson and Joe Mayo but it was not for him- he could not be that way it was not in his nature. I remember one night at Cielos Italian Restaurant in Birmingham where about 10 or 12 ex Baggies players of that era along with myself and Geoff Snape were celebrating something for Tony Brown. The stories and banter flowed non-stop and Cyrille joined in the laughing but not saying too much preferring to sit quietly while the much exaggerated stories were endlessly told.

I was on the end of his razor sharp wit when at a Q & A about a year ago I asked him “Cyrille you have played for the Baggies, Coventry, Villa, and Wolves but not my club Blues-why?” he replied with that lovable cheeky smile “there’s still time”.

He cared about others and did whatever he could for various charities and we at Help Harry Help Others will always be grateful for the support he gave us.

All Black players earning fortunes in the Premier League would do well to spare a thought about Big C before they take to the pitch this weekend. I would hope every single club will hold a minute’s applause and wear black armbands as a mark of respect for the man who made a massive and positive difference to the game – there are not many who can say that.

I hope the owners of West Bromwich Albion can find it in their hearts to pay the balance of the money needed to finish the Three Degrees statue. What a wonderful way to honour Big C and the wonderful Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham who also faced and beat that racist abuse and brought class to the club on and off the pitch. Erect it in the Main Car Park alongside the Tony Brown statue. What a wonderful way to celebrate the life of a man who gave so much to the club and who is revered and idolised by the fans. They I am certain would be eternally grateful if you could make this happen. Like lots of people I will miss him. RIP Big C

Birmingham Mail column Jan17th 2018.

 

The City of Birmingham should have Premier League teams!

The City of Birmingham should have Premier League teams!

Can I start by wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2018 and hope that the New Year sees the start of our football teams turning this brilliant city into a hot bed of football. It’s embarrassing that a city the size of Birmingham does not have a team in the Premier League or realistically challenging for silverware. Credit to West Bromwich Albion who are the West Midlands only top flight team and hopefully under Alan Pardew they can retain that status for a long time. I know that there are Baggies fans who live in Birmingham but the majority of Albion fans would not class themselves as Brummies. As it looks going into 2018 Wolves look nailed on to join Albion in the Premier League under the ownership of Fosun and the management of Nuno Espirito Santo. To be fair it’s not rocket science when you evaluate why they are top of the Championship! They have bought in good players and splashed big money to get in players who make a difference. A number of their players look like they would be quite at home in the top flight.

So why is the biggest city in the United Kingdom floundering when it comes to having a successful football team-one that can rival any team outside the top four or five uber-wealthy big clubs?

There is not just one reason but, in my opinion, many reasons why!

Having too many managers in a short space of time.

Recruitment where millions of pounds have been wasted on poor players and then losing fortunes when they are sold or even worse having them still employed by the club earning millions of pounds while doing little other than turning up for training.

Changing owners.

Owners going to prison and putting the clubs future at risk.

Owners/Directors taking advice from the wrong people.

Supporters regularly say the clubs don’t have a plan B well at times like many supporters I have found it difficult to work out exactly what plan A was.

Villa have an owner who is accessible and answers questions while Blues owners are mostly based in China and are rarely seen and never interviewed.

That is not a criticism of either way of running a football club as there is no “right” way to do it.

The fans are still turning up in their multi thousands for both clubs and that is even more admirable in Blues case because they sat bottom of the table as they said goodbye to what was a troubled 2017.

Both Steve Bruce and Steve Cotterill need help from their owners now that the transfer window is open. It is widely accepted that buying players in January is difficult with both transfer fees and wages inflated and most deals will be done towards the end of the window as players and agents wait or tout for better offers.

I am certain it will be easier for the Villa boss to attract quality players with his team in the playoff positions while the Blues boss will have to be at his persuasive best to attract good players while his team sits rock bottom of the division.

So what will 2018 bring for our teams and its difficult when invariably your heart over-rules your head when it comes to analysing football? However as always my metaphorical glass is half full so;

West Brom to avoid relegation.

Wolves to be promoted as champions.

Villa clinch a playoff place and reach the playoff final.

Blues to escape the drop.

Walsall to finish mid-table.

It is so easy when you are writing it rather than having responsibility for achieving it – but as always my fingers are well and truly crossed and I am sure before the end of the season I will have said the odd Hail Mary as well.

The sooner we have West Brom, Wolves, Blues and Villa back in the top flight the better. Not that the Championship isn’t exciting and competitive because it is. However we fans want to see our teams competing against the best and that has absolutely nothing to do with how much money each club gets for being in the Premier League.

Why does the City of Birmingham not have a  Premier League team?

Why does the City of Birmingham not have a Premier League team?

Can I start by wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2018 and hope that the New Year sees the start of our football teams turning this brilliant city into a hot bed of football. It’s embarrassing that a city the size of Birmingham does not have a team in the Premier League or realistically challenging for silverware. Credit to West Bromwich Albion who are the West Midlands only top flight team and hopefully under Alan Pardew they can retain that status for a long time. I know that there are Baggies fans who live in Birmingham but the majority of Albion fans would not class themselves as Brummies. As it looks going into 2018 Wolves look nailed on to join Albion in the Premier League under the ownership of Fosun and the management of Nuno Espirito Santo. To be fair it’s not rocket science when you evaluate why they are top of the Championship! They have bought in good players and splashed big money to get in players who make a difference. A number of their players look like they would be quite at home in the top flight.

So why is the biggest city in the United Kingdom floundering when it comes to having a successful football team-one that can rival any team outside the top four or five uber-wealthy big clubs?

There is not just one reason but, in my opinion, many reasons why!

Having too many managers in a short space of time.

Recruitment where millions of pounds have been wasted on poor players and then losing fortunes when they are sold or even worse having them still employed by the club earning millions of pounds while doing little other than turning up for training.

Changing owners.

Owners going to prison and putting the clubs future at risk.

Owners/Directors taking advice from the wrong people.

Supporters regularly say the clubs don’t have a plan B well at times like many supporters I have found it difficult to work out exactly what plan A was.

Villa have an owner who is accessible and answers questions while Blues owners are mostly based in China and are rarely seen and never interviewed.

That is not a criticism of either way of running a football club as there is no “right” way to do it.

The fans are still turning up in their multi thousands for both clubs and that is even more admirable in Blues case because they sat bottom of the table as they said goodbye to what was a troubled 2017.

Both Steve Bruce and Steve Cotterill need help from their owners now that the transfer window is open. It is widely accepted that buying players in January is difficult with both transfer fees and wages inflated and most deals will be done towards the end of the window as players and agents wait or tout for better offers.

I am certain it will be easier for the Villa boss to attract quality players with his team in the playoff positions while the Blues boss will have to be at his persuasive best to attract good players while his team sits rock bottom of the division.

So what will 2018 bring for our teams and its difficult when invariably your heart over-rules your head when it comes to analysing football? However as always my metaphorical glass is half full so;

West Brom to avoid relegation.

Wolves to be promoted as champions.

Villa clinch a playoff place and reach the playoff final.

Blues to escape the drop.

Walsall to finish mid-table.

It is so easy when you are writing it rather than having responsibility for achieving it – but as always my fingers are well and truly crossed and I am sure before the end of the season I will have said the odd Hail Mary as well.

The sooner we have West Brom, Wolves, Blues and Villa back in the top flight the better. Not that the Championship isn’t exciting and competitive because it is. However we fans want to see our teams competing against the best and that has absolutely nothing to do with how much money each club gets for being in the Premier League.

Wanted for the good of the game!! Honesty

 

I interviewed new Baggies boss Alan Pardew for talkSPORT last week and it was a surprise but, nonetheless a pleasure, to hear him talk about how the art of defending is disappearing.

Any week you on Match of the Day you can see highly paid so called defenders turning their backs when a free kick is taken or ducking their head when jumping to challenge a striker for the ball.

Yet even worse and something I detest is so called tough defenders going down with minimal contact and then rolling around pretending to be injured. I don’t know if you have noticed but it would also appear that the fair, within the laws, shoulder charge has all but disappeared from the game.

Do we really want a game with minimal contact? Having said that nobody wants to see players deliberately trying to injure an opponents with over the top tackles and they should be dealt with retrospectively and severely.

However surely we all want to see a game with genuine physicality and tough tackling? But to have that we need honesty from players and managers and for me therein lies the problem. We are all very quick to judge the referee and shift all the responsibility for honesty in the game onto his or her shoulders. Players cheat and then quite openly say “I gave the referee a decision to make”. Which leads nicely onto the diving and cheating that goes on in the game in all divisions but in my opinion even more so in the Premier League. However I accept that the media scrutiny and spotlight might make it appear that way.

Many wrongly think that diving only occurs when you have not been touched by an opponent. I would extend that to those who go over at the most minimal of contact and roll over and over holding whatever piece of their anatomy they think will most convince the referee that it was a serious foul.

Isn’t it embarrassing to also see the Physio and club doctor run on to the pitch and “treat” these con artists?

We were told that the FA were intent on cracking down on players who dive or whatever they call it? Eradicating simulation or trying to deceive the officials? Most supporters thought it was fantastic news and eagerly awaited a more honest game. However it is as bad as it ever was and yet nothing appears to be done retrospectively as they promised. Without any doubt or argument any player found guilty of diving, whether or not he won a penalty or was responsible for an opponent being red carded or not, should be retrospectively punished.

Furthermore, in my opinion, any club whoever it is who is found guilty of their players diving on four or more occasions in any one season should be deducted 3 points. I say four occasions but it could be three four, five or six but it has to be a number that puts fear into clubs whether they be fighting for a European place or fighting relegation

This is the only way you will eradicate this malaise of the game. However the reality is it will never happen because the Premier League in reality run the game although the FA believe they do. The Premier League generate all the revenue and simply would fight any changes that would be likely to upset the big clubs in my opinion.

Just look at the comments of Stoke boss Mark Hughes after his team’s defeat by West Ham United that left me angry and disappointed yet not really that surprised. One of the Hammers players had dived without any contact whatsoever and although Hughes was angry with the referee he actually called the player “clever”. The word I am sure he was looking for was “cheat”. Why are managers so reluctant to criticise other clubs players for diving? Well in my opinion it’s simple; because they would want their own player to do exactly the same given the opportunity.

And surely the players can make a stand or are they complicit with the manager in believing that cheating is OK because its “professional” In days gone by and I don’t mean ancient history but even in early premier league days players would sort out their own issues in the dressing room without the manager present. Players who were shirking, not trying, not focused, not concentrating would be told in no uncertain manner that it was unacceptable and to sort themselves out for the good of the team. However on the pitch those same players would encourage and help him through a game but would still remind him of his responsibilities. They were a team on and off the pitch even if one or two may not have liked each other when it came to winning games they were in it together. The question I would like answered is where does it start in a players career-where does it become the norm to cheat? Is it academy days, development squad, or first team? Severe punishment is what will stop it and not just a financial punishment.

However players who deliberately try to injure opponents should also be severely punished. At the weekend two Spurs players should have been given a red card Dele Ali and the media darling Harry Kane for shocking tackles in their game against Manchester City. The FA should look at that and other such tackles and retrospectively ban the players even if the referee only issued a yellow card during the game.

It is time to stop the referee from having too much to think about and allow him to concentrate on spotting those tackles that are dangerous to the safety of the opponent and dives that are dangerous to the credibility of the game.

 

Can I take this opportunity to wish you and yours the safest and merriest of Christmas’s whatever your teams colours.

Thanks for reading my rants and diatribes over the last year. What an up and down 12 month’s it’s been after starting so full of promise and expectation. The managerial merry go round has been non-stop in this area. So what would our clubs like for Christmas?

Blues boss Steve Cotterill and Baggies boss Alan Pardew I am sure would each love a selection box of chances, goals and points please.

Villa boss Steve Bruce would like an injury free second half of the season with Jonathan Kodjia and John Terry fit again.

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo would like an injury and suspension free second half of the season.

And I am sure they would all like their owners to say yes to signings when the transfer window opens-Over to you father Christmas.