Posts Tagged ‘プレミアー・リーグ

23
May
12

Hopeless

When all’s lost, there’s always hope. Why? Why can’t there just be nothing…

As the cliché goes, it’s the hope that kills you.

Bearing that in mind, as a Manchester United fan I had done my best not to have any; I was hopeless, you could say.

Even when United were eight points clear with just six games to go I refused to say that it was over – that the twentieth title was in the bag.

I remember a Japanese friend laughing at my hesitancy, and deep down I have to admit that it felt as good as done.

But as good as done is not good enough, and with each subsequent game things started to slowly unravel.

Defeat to Wigan was a hiccup, but Sir Alex would surely give the team a kick up the arse and have them back in gear again for the next game.

And that he did, they beat Villa and were then at home to Everton. 4-2 up with seven minutes to go, it looked like another step towards an improbable triumph – don’t forget, United themselves had made up a five-point gap on their “noisy neighbours” Manchester City to establish their lead on the final straight.

But again they messed up, and two goals conceded in three minutes turned a vital three points into one and, in my opinion (and that of Patrice Evra), cost them the title.

As I so often touch upon when discussing the J.League, the psychological aspects of football are absolutely crucial, and that slip-up undoubtedly threw the players off their concentration and introduced nervousness at the worst possible time.

Next came the derby with City, and with their expensively-assembled squad sensing blood the unthinkable came true and they ground out the win that took them back to the top of the table.

But, don’t forget, there’s always hope. Goddammit, there’s always hope.

Both teams won their next games meaning it would all be decided on the final day of the season.

Thankfully City were at home to QPR though, so it was inevitable they’d win and take the title. I didn’t have to get my hopes up.

Things progressed as expected and they took a first half lead through their Argentinean full-back Pablo Zabaleta. Still, with United also leading against Sunderland, just one goal would send the trophy to the red half of Manchester instead.

There it was again, like those annoying and unavoidable Japanese politicians who drive down your street repeating nothing but their name over and over again; always in the background.

And just after half-time somebody decided to turn the volume up. Djibril Cisse equalised for QPR and United went top. I refused to celebrate or be tricked into anything though, knowing full well that Mark Hughes’ side wouldn’t be able to hold on for the best part of 40 minutes.

My heart-rate was helped a little by Joey Barton a few minutes later, bless him, when he did what he does best and acted like an absolute bell-end to get himself sent off before trying to start a fight with half of the city of Manchester as he left the pitch.

“Ok, just as I thought, there’s no chance. The title’s City’s.”

Then the car stopped right outside my apartment. The noise was deafening and it was all but impossible to ignore: Jamie Mackie had put QPR ahead. City needed two goals.

By this point I don’t mind admitting I was in quite a state. I couldn’t sit still but had nowhere to go. Time couldn’t move quickly enough. In fact, I felt sure it wasn’t moving at all.

All I knew was that I couldn’t do it. Whatever it took I wasn’t to think about it. It was impossible. City were going to win.

But 90 minutes were up. It was still 2-1 to QPR and I did it, I gave in to hope. And that was it. A couple of minutes, a couple of goals and everything was snatched away.

I said that the draw with Everton was what cost the title but I can’t help but feel I’m also partly to blame. I was seduced and – to return to my laboured metaphor – I returned a wave to that irritant and his incessantly-smiling cronies in their white gloves, and I paid the price.

I certainly won’t let it happen again.

I hope.

16
Jan
12

Not Kean

The treatment meted out to Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean this season has not only been a little close to the bone but it’s also become counter-productive…

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Usually when I travel back to England and settle down to write this column I focus on something that English football does better than Japanese, and suggest ways that the J.League could improve.

This Christmas, however, something that was going on in the Premier League had the opposite effect, with Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean being subjected to a ridiculous amount of abuse by his club’s own fans as the team slid slowly down the table.

Several times I have spoken of my desire for fans in Japan to be a little more spontaneous and to think for themselves rather than just robotically supporting their team regardless of what is happening on the pitch. 

The treatment that was being dished out to Kean is definitely not something that I support though, and the fact that such mindless protests aren’t the norm in Japan is certainly something that the J.League can be proud of.

Sometimes, of course, a coach is not doing his job well enough and a change is the best option.

Indeed, Blackburn are certainly not in a good position, sat at the bottom of the table with a board who appear to have no real understanding of how to run a professional football club.

It is not so much the cause of the unrest which I have a problem with, it is more the personal nature of the insults and its counter-productivity. 

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Blackburn fans have been booing their side and chanting for the dismissal of their manager for several weeks, as well as hiring a plane to fly over their Ewood Park stadium with a banner reading “Kean Out!” during a match.

It is very rare that I agree with religious leaders, but ahead of Rovers’ tricky set of fixtures over the Christmas and New Year period the Bishop of Blackburn spoke a lot of sense on the issue.

“I would say please, always remember the human being, always remember that he’s part of a family — that other people will be suffering because people have got him in their sights,” Right Reverend Nicholas Reade said to the BBC.

Bolton Wanderer’s head coach Owen Coyle – whose side defeated Rovers to send them to the bottom of the table – was one of many managers to publically support Kean.

“I don’t think they have given Stevie Kean a chance from the outset when he was appointed,” he said. “Ultimately, people who shout the loudest get heard. Stevie Kean is a terrific coach, he is managing in the best league in the world and somebody has to fill the dreaded bottom places.”

While the team has struggled, the idiotic behaviour of their fans appears to have contributed to their plummet to the bottom of the table, and it is surely no coincidence that Rovers have reserved their best results for their away games – including a draw at Liverpool and a victory over Manchester United – while losing eight of their first ten at home.

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Striker Yakubu threw his considerable weight behind his coach after the win over United, asking “What did [the fans] expect? They should give him a break and support the team. Look at the way he believes in the players.”

Kean also came out fighting, and pointed out the mindless nature of the protests.

“I have five or six players who are under 22 and if they can feel a negative vibe around the ground, it can get to the younger players. So I hope the fans realise we have a young side and are a little bit fragile, and I hope they get behind us.”

It was even suggested in some quarters that the impressive results against two of the Premier League’s biggest clubs would have displeased the protestors – by virtue of the points keeping Kean in a job.

“I wouldn’t imagine any true supporter would want to see us get relegated,” he said on that issue.

“If there is anybody in the stadium who is taking a bit of joy when we don’t win or when we lose and that’s their goal when they come to the ground, I wouldn’t class them as supporters.”

I fully agree with that; there are many words to describe those people and ‘supporters’ is definitely not one of them.




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