Good Week/Bad Week In The Premier League

Following a mid-season break with the mute button on, I cranked up the volume and got Robbie Savage talking about Joey Barton when the real focus should've been on the latest round of howlers by referees...
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In the six weeks since I last wrote this column, football has continued to delight, repulse and baffle. The reasons for this self-enforced break were myriad. Work and family commitments, several boozy barbecues, coaching and a trip to a non-league game that left me with a lot of (and some still) unanswered questions about my feelings about top-flight football. I admire football journalists. To constantly write word after word on the same subject is credible, and while I'm not saying I wouldn't take a job on the nationals, the thought of writing about the same thing week-in, week-out frightens me.

Especially when I'm often too angry to even attempt objectivity. Passive / aggressive isn't a good look on anyone and, when it is a state engendered by a sport that I have been inextricably linked with for 29 years as a player, coach, fan and journalist, I thought it best to keep my powder dry.

It's not that I haven't watched any football in the last six weeks, quite the opposite. But apart from the odd scouting report and a couple of match reports, I've kept a lid on it. The feeling of satisfaction I get from coaching the under-9s and playing with my stepson in the garden have been enough. I have, in many ways, returned to a childlike state, and, so I'm a happy child, have put all my energies into the grassroots side of the game. To wit I will, hopefully, be taking my FA Level Two this summer with an eye on the UEFA B and, who knows, the UEFA A.

I have watched a lot of football with the volume turned off recently. I once had a coach who listened to classical music when watching football so he didn't have to hold a knife to his throat while Martin Tyler droned nonsense. I have also recorded highlights programmes and fast-forwarded through the 'punditry'. I haven't enjoyed it any less, but felt the time was ripe to unlock the mute button. The shame being that a busy schedule meant that MOTD 2 was the first available programme.

You will all be aware that Joey Barton has just aired his latest cretinous offerings to the French football magazine, So Foot. Barton is a tool who can play a bit, end of. Every time he speaks it should be ignored

The problem with saturation of coverage means that broadcasters and journalists have to constantly reinvent the packaging. They use terrible graphics and play fast, loose and lazy with historical events and films. So the first thing I hear, after Lawro, Savage and Murray giggling, is the Grease theme tune with Wenger and Holloway as Danny Zuko and Kenickie. Why Grease? If they’re implying that it is a slippery slope and have chosen to illustrate it with a film about 50s America then someone needs sacking.

On the subject of sacking, would any of you, hand on heart, be able to point the finger if Ian Holloway and Mick McCarthy took a referee hostage? The penalty decisions – Jagielka on Ebanks-Blake and the tackle and handball that left Holloway apoplectic – that went against two sides struggling for survival will not even themselves out. Wolves were on top against Everton when the referee waved away the protests. Deflated, they sunk into collective despair and got taken to the cleaners.

Ditto Blackpool. They may have lost anyway but how can the governing bodies still refuse to introduce video technology for penalty box incidents that will, if a team gets relegated, play a large part in jobs being lost? It is a disgrace. Video technology has improved rugby and cricket. It might result in less stupid graphics and endless column inches but it would create a level playing field. Is that too much to ask for? That football, the richest game in the world, invest money in cleaning up one part of the game that they can actually influence?

You will all be aware that Joey Barton has just aired his latest cretinous offerings to the French football magazine, So Foot. Barton is a tool who can play a bit, end of. Every time he speaks it should be ignored. But instead, we got Robbie Savage, dressed as a 60s ice-cream van, ‘dissecting’ exactly why he isn’t the best English midfielder in the country. ‘Lampard would’ve scored that’ ‘He doesn’t pass like Gerrard’ and ‘Wilshire would have taken him on there’ were the scintillating insights we got. Utterly pointless.

It’s pretty much a given that United will win the title, Spurs won’t make the top four and Liverpool, whatever happens tonight against City, will only have domestic honours to play for next season. Consider it done.

Thankfully, from a country where punditry is excellent, youth systems light-years ahead and technique a pre-requisite rather than an after-thought, we are going to be treated to four El Clasico’s in 18 days.

Barcleona v Real Madrid doing battle over a minimum of 360 minutes is definitely worth turning up the volume for, a feast of football that needs nothing more than a few choice video montages of classic battles and some insightful tactical punditry in the televised hour before kick-off.

Anyone else expecting an overblown Gladiator sequence?

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