Wigan lad Lee Croft celebrates with Oldham goalscorer Reece Wabara
From soap opera to pantomime to West End farce. Football as ever has been top of the vox pops and all over the press this last week or so. A 17-year-old “lad” who drives an Audi and whose dad is worth a fortune grabs the headlines while Eden Hazard gets three games or maybe more. He must wish he’d really kicked the little arsehole rather than kick the ball from under him. Meanwhile Swansea City go through to a final and it barely registers.
Yes Swansea beat the champions of Europe, Michael Laudrup’s side continues to impress and all their fans can look forward to a great day at Wembley against Bradford City.
Bradford City were the real story as they added Aston Villa to the Premier League scalps of Wigan Athletic and Arsenal.
Led by manager Phil Parkinson – whose star has shone and faded at various times in his career – the supremely well-organised team did what they had to and beat a very poor Aston Villa over two legs. A magnificent achievement and like the Jacks of Swansea they will enjoy Wembley.
Then this weekend Leeds United, Luton Town, MK Dons, Oldham Athletic and Brentford performed remarkably to keep the incredible week of football at the top of the news and sports agenda.
A strange coincidence or are clubs suddenly realising that the top league in England really isn’t that good at all? Now I hope I’m wrong and Latics get there but the FA Cup final will undoubtedly be between two of the so-called ‘big clubs’ but… At this precise point in time it is good to report that the top table has had a bit of a kicking this last week or so.
And they deserve it. Cocooned in their own world, playing a different brand of football where possession is everything, tackling is frowned upon/outlawed and the aim of 15 of the clubs is simply to stay up. Stay up not for the glory but the financial rewards. Financial rewards that in the main go straight into millionaire footballers’ pockets. Millionaire footballers that can’t beat Oldham Athletic – a team of free transfers, Englishmen, loanees and players looked upon as journeymen. But Liverpool, despite spending over £100m on the starting line-up, are crap and Oldham did what teams do to win matches. Organise, fight for each other, take your chances and put in 100% effort. And if a team does that then they give themselves half a chance. Put all that in a cup situation with a baying crowd, tackles flying in and getting stuck into the top table clubs then you have more than half a chance. And that’s what Oldham, MK Dons, Luton et al did this weekend. The Premier League Prima Donnas couldn’t handle it.
The next conundrum is whether it is indeed the fault of the clubs. The whole aim is to stay in the Premier League and to do that you have to beat those around, you adapt to that scenario and you can’t blame the clubs. I just hope that people can see through the sham of it all. The sham of something like 62% imported players, the sham of the academy systems that aim to produce technically proficient players – but throws them on a scrapheap at 18 with most totally out of their depth against players in the real world – while more foreign mercenaries are brought in. The sham of Sky Sports and their deadline day, Harry Redknapp world.
No the last week gave them a right good kicking but Sky will ensure all that is brushed under the carpet. The EPL is everything. The banter on twitter will be back, “no crowds”, “86% possession”, “penalties and handballs”, “ballboys and Opta stats” and everything will be okay again. Meanwhile as we enter the “business end” of EPL 12/13 ten sides look to avoid relegation. More foreign players will be purchased/loaned as the bottom of the poorest top division in a long while builds to a crescendo/plunges into despair. Three teams will go down and to be fair they will deserve it as there truly is a crock of shite in the league this season. Whoever does descend the slippery slope will need to be wary and it would be wise to look at how Bradford, Oldham, MK Dons, Luton et al performed this last week. A little bit of that spirit, endeavour and downright fight might help them avoid slipping that little bit further down the football pyramid…