GLF 76: Love of the Game

GLF 76:  Surely Graham can't be disenchanted with football?

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LOVE OF THE GAME

Over the last couple of seasons I have found myself wondering why I bother with football anymore, and this has led me to miss a couple of Motherwell games that I would never have done in the past.  Although having said that it is not a Motherwell thing it is a general view of the game.

As I head deeper into middle age I do catch myself doing what I said I would never do, that is looking back to the way the game was when I first started watching it!  That’s when you know you have turned into a grumpy old man!!  But in recent times there are a number of things that have made me take stock of what is going on in football and why others who are not as committed as me may have turned their back on the game (and these are in no particular order)…

TV Coverage – there are two things wrong here, firstly there is unbelievably too much football on the box, and conversely poor coverage of the Scottish game.  When I was a youngster the only time I got to see Match of the Day was when I visited my Grandparents in England.  That was because on a Saturday night we had Sportscene showing highlights of a Scottish game.   Sadly we now have to wait until a Monday night for terrestrial coverage of the Scottish game. I would love to see the viewing figures of that programme.   Then there is the blanket coverage of the game that sees football on almost every day.  Sadly it is almost all about the English Premier League, bringing up a generation of football fans whose only experience is watching these overpaid players on the telly.  Maybe it is time BBC Scotland or STV tapped into the supposed Scottish love of football and gave some commitment to it.  The BBC have done it on the Radio, and have won awards for their coverage, why not do it on TV??

Money – The Old Firm has always had the lion’s share of the money in Scotland but at least when gates were shared the smaller clubs benefitted from their large supports and their visits to Glasgow.  Nowadays the money all filters up the way and the rich become richer, competition becomes poorer and this is a vicious circle that will see the game finally go bust.   This is not only a Scottish issue but a worldwide issue, the Premiership is the same, the Champions League is the same (to the point is has become bloated and boring!).   Idealistically it would be great if we could have a system like the NFL where the poorer teams area allocated the better players in the draft, and all NFL branded items have the money pooled across all 32 franchises.  This is done with a view to even out the competition and to ensure that teams from smaller cities can still compete.  The Green Bay Packers would never survive in an SPL model and therefore never win another Super Bowl. 

Then there is the money - players earning, £250,000 per week is absurd for anyone, but given it is a market driven sport if someone believes this is okay then it must be??   Or is it time for a salary cap based upon a percentage of turnover, which will limit the opportunity for clubs to head into administration.

It also means that some average to poor players are now going to be set for life after only a couple of years in the game, and I think this is a bit of a shocker when you look back at some of the top talent from the past who are having to sell medals and memorabilia to boost their pension. I would guess some of the modern day stars would probably struggle to know where their medals are kept!

 

Referees – I know I have been a major critic in the past of our officials but I have now become more sympathetic to their situation at the moment. I do think they are poorer now than they have ever been, but they are now living in an era where more is expected from them.   In the 1970's they could referee a game and head home knowing that the TV coverage only had a couple of cameras and would not spotlight any apparent error. Nowadays many of the games have up to 20 games playing incidents over and over again.  This then fuels the conspiracy theories we hear week in week out, when in truth bad decisions were always being made, whether it be Tiny Wharton, Willie Young, David Syme, Hugh Dallas or Dougie McDonald.

Scotland Internationals – I am now scunnered with our current manager, who I supported getting the job, and his attitude and team selections. It started with the Dundee United selections for the Sweden friendly, anyone who watches SPL football every week knows Garry Kenneth is a decent SPL centre half but not an International one.  This was truly exposed against Sweden but does this bother Levein, no he thinks he got it right!   Then there was the Czech game with infamous 4-6-0 formation, which led to defeat that with a bit more ambition could well have been a draw or a win against a poor side.  Too much respect given to the Czech past rather than the present side.  Ahead of the Faroes game I heard him talk of calling in youngsters to the squad.  Then the name mentioned was Young Bannan of Aston Villa.  He had shown some trickery against Iceland in the Under 21 game but too little effect in my opinion.  But he backed this up by saying he was playing regularly for Villa, I checked the stats – FIVE appearances!!

No mention of Chris Maguire or Jamie Murphy who, in my opinion, were better than Bannan in the Under 21 game and have both scored goals regularly in our top flight!   It seems no matter who the manager is you have to play for the Old Firm or in England to get a look in (or Dundee Utd under this manager).   As Matt Johnsone’s book title said, “The more things change the more they stay the same.”   I would really love to see a Scotland manager say he will pick players based upon form and who are playing regularly, and actually mean it!!  Gary Caldwell playing against the Czechs, his first game of the season!!

I guess I can’t have fallen out of love with the game too much, given I've been to about 30 games by the start of Nov, and have taken something from all of them, even down to watching teams 41 play 42 in the SFL as Clyde took on East Stirling…

Roll on next Saturday….

Graham Barnstaple

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