July 2006 Archives
MANY closed industries have their shady inner workings that are dubious at best and illegal or unethical at worst and it is the job of the authorities to root them out without fear or favour.
Bent coppers, dodgy dealers in the city or salemen who fiddle the invoices, all protected by the ignorance of lay-people in how their world works, by a lack of structural transparancy and a culture of silence from colleagues who really don't want to rock the gravy boat. There are many people with a lot to lose if the bright light of truth shines in the murkier reaches of their universe.
Football is much the same. The bungs, the agents inflating transfer fees, the cash bonuses sloshing around off shore non-taxable accounts... none can be dealt with unless brave people are ready to break the omerta that keeps the secret mechanics of the game in the dark.
So why are the FA planning to punish a whistleblower?
SACRE bleu! Franck Queudrue is on the verge of making a diagonal move to Fulham - or possibly Charlton - leaving a vacancy for a Riverside cult hero who can really connect with the crowd. And leaving an enigma.
The pin-up Frenchman will be missed, not least by the East Stand honeys who swooned as he cut a gallic dash on the pitch, because he added colour and passion to what at times in recent years has been a dull squad.
Red, that was a colour he added. His popularity earned him a leeway that other rash defenders who dived in to tackles in dangerous positions that either conceded a free-kick or let the opponent race through clear on goal would never have got. Five red cards - a record shared with Ugo's tally over a far longer spell - and countless yellows peppered his five years at the Riverside... but the serial suspendee was forgiven everything.
BORO have sold just over 20,000 season tickets - and that's official!
After weeks of guestimation and doom-mongering in which the Teesside tittle-tattle pointed to a meltdown of terrifying proportions, the actual sale so far shows that the Riverside fan base is holding steady... although there are some under-lying trends that should give cause for concern.
"As it stands now we have sold a shade over 20,000," said Boro communications chief Dave Allan. "And we continue to sell them each day so we hope that we can add considerably more before the kick-off."
NEWCASTLE'S UEFA Cup hopes could be dashed if Jan Aage Fjortoft get his way.
Former Boro record buy Fjortoft is now chief executive of Norwegian club Lillestrom who set to face the Geordies in the Intertoto Cup today and Jan Aage is hoping a bit of Teesside steel and an echo of his Riverside days can help the part-timers topple Glenn Roeder's outfit.
Because ambitious Fjortoft is using Boro's rise to glory as his blueprint for transforming Lillestrom, the club he now runs, into one of Norway's big boys and into future European contenders.
SEVEN Nation Army is a great tune. I love that stripped down grungy garage punk throbbing and searing guitar breaks. By the White Stripes it is brilliant but hearing half a million Italians chanting the refrain in the streets of Rome brings back some far less savoury memories.
ROBERT Hoof has failed his medical. The lumbering Chelsea benchwarmer and early-rounds-of-the-Coca-Cola-Cup-specialist is reported to have an on-going dodgy ankle and now the £5m move - "a done deal" inherited from Steve McClaren - has been scrapped.
The modern battery of high-tech medical tests are tough. It is not like the old black and white Ayresome era when doctors said 'cough' and counted then the player did a few shuttle runs and block tackles between slay drags on their fag. Nowadays only the finest physical specimens of athletic excellence pass. And Malcolm Christie.
Now Huth joins an illustrious procession of would-be Boro heroes who failed to make it past the doctors after shaking hands on personal terms and picking out their locker.
ZINADINE Zidane - or 'ZZ Strop' as the Sun brilliantly put it - went home to a heroes' welcome in France and a warm official reception from President Chirac amid a maelstrom of contradiction and subtext.
There may be a compelling argument that he cost his nation the World Cup with his moment of madness but in France Zizou remains a powerful political symbol and a hugely popular figure that has helped unite a country with deep racial fractures. While he is an unimpeachable icon among the white French football going public for engineering the watershed World Cup victory of 1998, he also more potently represents the hope and pride of a disenfranchised section of society, the indiginous North African muslim population, the simmering children of former colonial subjects who, despite generations of endeavour, have yet to escape the ghetto.
France has this year been ripped apart by widespread urban rioting as the disaffected youth of that community have taken to the streets in an orgy of arson and violence aimed at the police. A mob who have been throwing petrol bombs and been locked in bloody battles are not likely to rush to condemn one of their own who lashes out on the pitch - especially if it is seen as an echo of their own fight for respect. And it will be.
NEW brooms sweep clean. Will Gareth Southgate take the opportunity presented by a new Riverside regime to have a dressing room clearout? Hasselbaink and Doriva are already gone, and rightly so. But will there be blood on the floor in a Riverside Night of the Long Knives? Will the Gate seize the moment?
A new manager has a mandate to reshape the team in his image. It gives him a perfect chance to not only mould the shape, style and philosophy of his side but also to stamp his authority on it. There will never again be such a politically perfect moment when the board are duty bound to back his judgement and the fans are eager to give him the benefit of the doubt.
If there is to be a wholesale change in personnel now is the time to do it. Should Southgate consider a purge?
"WHAT was he writing in that bloody notebook?" "His resignation letter I hope." That was a snippet ear-wigged in the B&Q builders yard today. It was the third time in two days I had heard the same conversation. It seems that a broad layer of Boro fans have neatly moved the focus of England's traditional need of a scapegoat to explain failure from pantomime villain Ronaldo to their former hate-figure Steve McClaren via Rooney and the departed Swede.
McClaren is coming in for a retrospective mauling from still hostile Boro fans (and a pre-emptive one from some soon to be hostile England ones) for the heinous crime of writing notes in the technical area during the ill-fated Portugal match.
The die is cast. This secretarial stupidity has given the critics a stick to beat him with before he even starts the job.
IT'S the most sickening sight in football. No, not Wayne Rooney leaving studmarks in an opponents jockstrap. Grown men crying; blubbing like infants because they have lost. Jeez, get a life.
Big hard footballers are supposed to be steely, focussed, determined, objective and philosophical about the nature of their game and the possibility of defeat. Instead it turns out these metrosexual new men are emotionally incontinent drama-queens and almost incapable of handling a set-back without breaking down in tears.
Beckham was crying at being substituted and that was bad enough. But on the whistle they were all at it. Big mean gangsta pranksta Rio, hard as nail John Terry, scouse skinhead Stevie G, rallying cry merchant Gary Neville, all weeping and wailing like schoolgirls told McFly had split. Group hug? Where's Trisha when you need her?