Should the Premier League really restart on April 30th?

Let’s face it we all miss football and it would be great to get back to some normality and have ‘our’ weekends back again. But in the light of the terrible Coronavirus we seem some time away from that.

People’s jobs and livelihoods are at stake and of course so many people have already died of the virus that talking about wanting football back seems very superficial. But as humans have done for literally millions of years of disasters and destruction and acts of God so to speak, we have gotten through it, and folks the show must goes on.

That is essentially what the English FA said when they held an emergency meeting a few days ago. According to them the league must go on, and importantly teams want to go on and finish the season. That sounds like great news if it didn’t feel the world was coming to an end.

When people’s jobs are at risk and small businesses are closing, and many cities throughout the world are on a standstill it feels bizarre to think that the FA believe that the situation will be so much better in five weeks that we will be able to restart the Premier League once more, scheduled for April 30th.

If the situation hasn’t changed then football will surely be making a mockery of the public efforts and the brave nurses and doctors and in England the brilliant NHS staff who have done an outstanding job. Some have come out of retirement to help, and that should be applauded the country over.

This isn’t a piece saying that the league should be null and void, but it is questioning the time frame of the FA’s decision. With no summer tournaments now the league could run right through past the summer, although UEFA would have to relax different players contracts and the transfer window would have to open up later and finish later. In truth take out meaningless friendlies and internationals and a new league season could start as far back as October if need be.

Of course in five weeks the world could be a different place. The Coronavirus could have dissipated, and most things could have returned to normal. But the worry is that April is just over a week away and the news has not improved and the FA want players back in training at the beginning of April.

Of course games would be played behind closed doors. But you still need a staff of between 300-500 to make these games happen, and again if small clubs and pubs are being closed down, then football even behind closed doors needs to be too.

Maybe it comes down to this:Imagine we were in May and the season had ended, would the FA or anyone else be talking about bringing football back? All summer friendlies and pre- tournaments would be cancelled no question. So it seems like football is returning because of the money being lost tied up to billionaire TV deals, and simply put that is not right and again is underlining all of the hard work and efforts being made by the general public.

We love football, and we want it back. But let’s remain sane about the situation, and not rush it back just yet.

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Immaturity still the enemy of Dele Alli as he faces possible FA charge

The most controversial moment in the Premier League over the past few days did not take place on the pitch but off it when Dele Alli joked about the recent coronavirus disease which has spread in China.

Alli was spending time off as the winter break took hold in the Premier League and Tottenham had no games planned. Predictably flying to Dubai Alli posted a video on social media app snapchat, and one really has to wonder what was going through the Tottenham players mind when he did so?

The video posted by Alli showed him wearing a face mask in an airport lounge, before moving the camera to show a man of Asian appearance, and then zooming in on a bottle of antiseptic hand wash.

Looking at both sides of the argument to try and understand why Alli did this, one can see a young man trying to have a laugh about a world story, and perhaps his one big fault is that he made a video of it. Alli isn’t a spiteful and hateful person, but a lot of people would have been offended by his video which came across as being rather stereotypical.

Alli quickly took down the video presumably after reading some of the negative comments and possibly getting contacted by his agent that he had messed up and gone too far. He then had to issue an apology. Alli said: “It wasn’t funny and I realised that immediately and took it down. I let myself down and the club. It isn’t something that should be joked about. I’m sending all my love and all my thoughts and prayers to everyone in China.”

Whilst Alli did apologise there was something in his response that just seemed very generic and it is worrying that Alli a professional football player who millions of fans around the world would look up to would make such a child like error.

Alli has shown to be immature before, on the pitch, and this is something that ex-players have also noticed and spoken out about. Paul Ince did so in 2016 saying: “He’s still got a lot to learn and it’s important that we don’t get too carried away about him. Some of the stuff Dele does is very immature. He makes some silly tackles and he can kick out at people. That’s where he’s got to learn and improve.”

That word immature has followed Alli around and when it is being spoken of you when you are 20 is one thing, but when you are making very silly jokes and posting videos 3 years later it is quite another. Of course Alli is only 23 and most 23 year old’s are making far worse mistakes in life, the difference again is that Alli doesn’t always seem to understand the important public role he is in.

Just a few months ago TV pundit and ex-Liverpool legend Graeme Souness criticised Alli saying: “He needs to ask why Harry Kane has kicked on and handled all the peripheral stuff that comes with being a top player, and he hasn’t. Can he honestly say he’s been fully focused on his football or has he forgotten what made him kick a ball in the first place?”

All of these are very interesting comments by different leading pundits in the media and whilst they may seem negative there is an underlying reason why pundits in England are ready to speak about Alli in this way. That reason is because he is Alli is a superb player when he wants to be. He is the player that can make the difference and take Tottenham and England up to another level. Professionals can see this in him, and so when he lets himself down on or off the pitch it feels like watching wasted potential.

The FA have written to the player asking him to explain his actions and if he is charged he could well be suspended for at least 1 game and be fined. It is likely with the FA having a zero tolerance on social media posts that are deemed to be ‘unhealthy’ that he will face a charge.

Hopefully Alli can kick on and realise that posting jokes about serious issues in the world isn’t what professional sportsman do. And hopefully he can become a consistent enough player for Tottenham too.

In reality his harshest critics are actually his biggest fans.

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Michail Antonio has the right ideas about racism in the Premier League

Racism has reared its ugly head but instead of being in Spain, Italy or Eastern Europe there have been countless cases recently in England’s Premier League. England football players have been subjected to racist monkey chanting when playing international games, and whilst it is right to point the finger at other countries for doing so, the problem also has to be tackled at home.

It is unfortunate though that racism exists in the English game because the Premier League has done so much to eradicate it. Through adverts, promotion of anti-racism and a real stance on it there has been a huge effort. And to the Premier League’s credit when a racist incident has occurred they have been quick to have a zero tolerance attitude on it and they work very closely with the police and local authorities. To this the Premier League still seems head and shoulders above other associations in sorting racism out.

However bigger punishments need to be dealt out. We all know about UEFA’S weak hand outs which usually mean a fine that associations can easily pay and a game played behind closed doors. Again for UEFA racism means cheap banners sprawled across the stadium ‘Say no to racism’ words do not have any effect against a racist and an association being fined money clearly isn’t working.

The English FA have to go up a few levels and West Ham’s Michail Antonio seems to have the perfect answer: deduct points from teams. At first suggestion this seems like a harsh rule because in essence why should it be the teams fault if a few of their fans are being racist? But in the long run it would work. If you are a fan and sadly inclined to being a racist, you may just think twice at the thought that you alone are going to be responsible for your team being docked points. Forget the attention it brings, because it can also ruin your life being in the media and possibly losing your job etc. It is a ripple effect that has many negative outcomes.

Antonio correctly went on to say that if a fan wants to be racist and starts screaming abuse that other fans around the supporter would quickly stop the person, no one wants a point deduction. Of course more research would be needed, as we could have the situation where a fan posing to be another one goes into a stadium solely to get the club deducted points. It is a bizarre scenario  but one that could happen with such a rule in place.

That rule though is absolutely the correct one, over to you FA to make it a reality.

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Is VAR and a lack of common sense ruining the game we love?

Yet again the talking point of the weekend is not so much the football but VAR and one wonders if common sense is now ruining the game we love?

There are so many different issues after a few months of VAR and that can be normal when a new service is implemented but it has also been evidently frustrating for fans. Now when your team score, you cheer with uncertainty, you just never know if play will be called back. It is even harder if you are at a game. Take yesterday’s match between Arsenal and Crystal Palace as a huge example. The game was locked at 2-2 but Arsenal had taken the lead, it was a goal, but it wasn’t. Fans in the stadium honestly had no idea what was going on. Replays were not shown, no explanation was given, but there was a long delay. The goal looked legitimate, but VAR had spotted something between two players in the build up something and nothing if truth be told and Arsenal were denied what most probably would have been the win.

The offside rule is another problem. How can a player be deemed to have an advantage or looking for one if their nose, or hair or foot is offside? This isn’t VAR’s fault of course and it is only going by the laws of the game, but they are silly ones at best. The same problem is the hand to ball, ball to hand rule in the penalty area. How can it be a penalty when no obvious cheating is involved? We now have a situation where an opposing player can now fire the ball into a defenders arm and get given a penalty, stone wall in some people’s opinion, this seems almost warped and is ruining the game.

Penalties are given far too easily, but at the end of the day when VAR was supposed to clear up match day controversy it is actually simply adding to it. So what is the solution? First off common sense needs to prevail, it is easy to tell if a player is putting themselves in a position to cheat or take an advantage or handle the ball or mistakenly do so. VAR needs to be quicker in its decisions and perhaps VAR should be less used and let the referee be able to make decisions. One area where VAR is needed is offside because the linesman’s job seems obsolete now, too many are too poor at their job. And what VAR does spectacularly right is when a player is NOT offside and is able to rule that out.

I think it’s fair to say that even if you are for VAR, the system has made too many errors and the judgement really hasn’t been there on a consistent basis. That’s fine it is new, but perhaps this has all been rushed out far too quickly? The football, the players and the goals should be the talking point of the weekend, not VAR and that is the bottom line.

Richard Scudamore’s reported £5 million Premier League payment is wrong on all levels

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The CEO of the English Premier League Richard Scudamore is leaving his post after what has been 19 glorious years at the helm. But Scudamore has come under pressure after it was announced that he will be receiving a £5 million golden handshake goodbye.

The payment will be made by all 20 Premier League clubs, contributing £250,000 each but the question that has to be asked is how is this allowed to happen?

Let’s be clear in the fact that Scudamore has done a quite terrific job promoting the Premier League over the last two decades. When he entered the job, the Italian league- Serie A was still the greatest league in Europe if not the world. This was quickly taken over by the Spanish league and La Liga. But the Premier League has risen up to become not only he most competitive league at least in Europe but also the most exciting and most watched.

Scudamore has been the engine behind an incredible revamp that has seen hooliganism evaporated, safe stands, and hundreds of millions of pounds injected into the 20 top clubs. This has led to the Premier League having some of the greatest players in this era to grace the game playing week in and week out. Also stadiums have improved, so much so that it should be a formality for England to be holding a World Cup very soon. Various Champions League finals have already taken place in the UK.

So from that point there is little to complain of, Scudamore has done an excellent job- although one must remember that he was once quoted saying that it didn’t feel like a job since he was having so much fun. The problem with this payment is that Scudamore is paid a reported £900,000 a year to do his job and also can receive seven figure bonuses each year. And that’s the biting point- why do clubs deem it necessary for him to be paid almost five times his salary as a bonus?

From a clubs point of view the answer is easy, Scudamore has made them tens of millions. This is there everlasting thank you to him. The problem is that the payment is not justified on a wider scale. How many jobs would pay out a 5x salary bonus because you did well? The story stinks and just shows how far football is now removed from the common fan.

No doubt Scudamore will now be under pressure to give some of the money away. Investing it in some charities would be nice, or even grassroots football, giving something back in a nutshell. But that isn’t what football at the very core is sadly about.

Pochettino calls FA tweet about Smalling and Kane “embarrassing”

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Mauricio Pochettino has hit out against the Football Association after the governing body sent a tweet which appeared to mock England striker Harry Kane. Following Man Utd’s 2-1 FA Cup semi-final victory over Tottenham, the FA sent a tweet asking Chris Smalling what he had in his pocket. They then attached a video of Smalling saying “Harry Kane”. Spurs boss Pochettino was exasperated that the organisation would send such a tweet, especially with the World Cup fast approaching and Kane cutting a figure of optimism for England supporters ahead of the showcase competition. When asked of the situation, Pochettino replied: “We need to protect our English players. We need to give them belief.

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Marcos Alonso Facing Punishment From FA After Rash Long Challenge

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Chelsea’s trip to Southampton at the weekend was a thoroughly entertaining affair. Relegation-threatened Saints took a two goal lead in the first half to offer real hope that new manager Mark Hughes could guide his side nearer to safety, but a capitulation saw last season’s champions take all three points with a 3-2 win.

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Sam Allardyce is the new England manager

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When England failed abysmally at Euro 2016 and Roy Hodgson as expected quit his post moments later the players hoped that the new England boss would come from foreign shores. They haven’t got their wish as the FA has given the green light to Sam Allardyce.

Allardyce or ‘Big Sam’ as he is known in England will be doing his best impression of his famed Cheshire cat grin with the news. Indeed a few weeks ago linking the former West Ham United and Sunderland manager to the job would have been distant, but any English manager working in the top flight for so long has the ultimate dream of leading their country and at 61 time was not on his side. He’s finally, after managing for nearly 25 years in the game, landed the big job and he will be relishing every moment of it- but was he really the right man?

The problem for the FA going with a foreign manager is the slap in the face and rubber stamp to the heart of English football emblazoned with a seven lettered word- ‘failure’. Going abroad would have been admittance that there isn’t any English born manager available that has the talent to lead the national side. Also the top nations don’t go looking abroad. New European champions Portugal have done in the past but they finally won a major trophy with Fernando Santos, Portuguese. Indeed all of the semi final teams from Euro 2016 were all managed by coaches from that country. Why should England be different?

The FA can of course point to the fact that when they did look further away they came up with Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello who both respectively took one step forward and several back. Would an English manager in their time have done any worse? Okay Steve McClaren aside, but these managers demanded huge salaries and huge attention and their legacies as football coaches will not be remembered for their time with the English national team.

Allardyce in the end didn’t have too much competition- there was talk of Steve Bruce perhaps Alan Pardew but in the end the FA have gone for a man who some players he’s coached have recently come out and said he has a calming influence and really does care for the progression of the team. Progression is a huge word and one that ultimately won over the FA because Allardyce has agreed to nurture the next England coach as part of his job.

The problem for Big Sam is that he is more remembered for relegation dog fights than battling it out near the top of the league. And the big worry must inevitably remain that he may, even if he is English, be another manager that could well be taking backwards steps than advancing in his new job. Only time will tell.