Being sniffy about the Europa League is ridiculous. All football is inherently pointless and this competition is no more pointless than any other. Well done Rafa and Chelsea...
We're all bored of seeing Wayne Rooney chugging around the pitch for Manchester United. He needs a new story and a new stage. Anywhere would be better...
I don't know how it happened but I found myself in Waitrose this weekend. I wasn't on drugs but man it was weird. For a start, it was full of people who you don't see anywhere else.
A chap in his mid-50s was wearing shorts; khaki shorts, the sort of khaki shorts that you would have worn if you'd fought at the Battle of El Alamein in the northern African desert in 1942. It was -2 degrees at the time. His bulging calves suggested he was a walker, an outdoors type who turns up at a youth hostel with a herd of boys on a venture scout trip.
This freaked me out because you don't normally see under-dressed people in Norfolk unless some Geordies have got lost.
I had been listening to a story on the car radio about our current state of 'austerity', which seems to have replaced the expression 'credit crunch' in the phone-in peoples' universe.
To me the word austerity conjours up images of the depression; of shoeless, starving, grinding poverty or perhaps of post-war rationing when you had to queue for an hour to buy a sausage.
Inside Waitrose they had at least nine different olive oils for sale. How the hell do you decide which one to buy? No-one needs this amount of choice. A cheap one, an expensive one and a mid-priced one would be plenty. I said to a lad - a bright-eyed middle-class student with the regulation silly hair cut - who was stacking shelves beside this display of fat-based over-indulgence, "I thought we were in a state of austerity until I saw how many bottles of olive oil you've got."
"We used to have 18," he said, helpfully.
Maybe this 50% reduction was the Waitrose concession to recession. The whole place was full of self-important women wearing pashminas and men in those baggy pink trousers; the sort who think their lives and their day is more important than yours and consequently, through much passive aggressive behaviour, try to bully a piece of northern rough like me. They were lucky I didn't commit an act of violence with a hard piece of goats cheese.
It didn't look to me like they were suffering much austerity, unless you count the fact that they had sold out of organic smoked venison as austerity. Indeed, the reports of economic hardship seemed ridiculous in this environment. On the way home, the debate about ticket prices was raging on the radio. Was £62 too much money to watch Arsenal play Manchester City in this era of austerity? And if it was, could this be blamed on players such as Theo Walcott for demanding such huge wages?
There is understandably a lot of howling at the moon about such issues. Jason Roberts, on 606, defended players trying to get as high wages as possible, saying any working person would do the same, as though there was no difference between asking for 50 quid more on your monthly wage of £700 and asking for £25,000 more on your wage of £100,000. What he didn't seem to appreciate is that there is a nebulous yet discernible moral dimension to earnings. Squeezing money out of the poor to make yourself richer sits uneasily with some, especially when you've just turned in a worthless performance. The word greed is not far from many football fans lips when they hear such talk.
However, he was correct in saying that ultimately the choice lay with the clubs to pay these wages and having to hike ticket prices to help pay for the wage bill as a consequence. However, the relationship between expenditure and income at football clubs has rarely been treated in the same way it would be in any normal business.
Yet ultimately, the power over ticket prices does lie with the consumers, just as it does in Waitrose. I presume, no-one bought nine of their 18 olive oils, so they stopped selling them. Similarly, if fans just don't buy tickets because they consider them literally too expensive or simply poor value for money - an often forgotten principle in such discussions - it would change ticket pricing policy. Indeed, this has already happened at plenty of clubs. For example, Middlesbrough's game at home to unglamorous Aldershot in the cup later this month will cost you just ten quid, pensioners get in for £7 and under-18s for £5. If they tried to charge £62 it'd be totally empty. This is only sensible economics. It is the market in action with prices aligned to demand.
As regards football ticket prices, the market really does work, though sometimes it seems as though it won't. The club will not tolerate an empty ground. I know some think TV money funds football but no TV company wants to show games played in empty stadia. However, change requires people to stay away until prices are lowered substantially. This is easy if you simply don't have the money. You have no choice. However, the great unspoken truth about our era of austerity is that many of us do have the money to do something, we just don't have the money to do everything we'd like to do. So you can choose to spend that money at the football or you could buy a good book for a tenner and stay at home. It's down to you.
If prices are high, quite simply it's your fault for paying them.
If the cost is too high, don't pay it. This is the only choice you have. I know it seems unfair to have to miss the games of the club you have supported since you were a kid but this is the modern reality. Paying the money and then moaning about it to a highly paid footballer on a phone-in is the worst thing you can do. You look weak and dumb to be funding something you claim to be offended by.
No-one in football cares about you and your economic plight as long as you keep paying the money. But another great dirty secret is that free market capitalism is terrified of collective action. This used to mean downing tools and trying to bring down the state with a General Strike but today, merely withdrawing your financial support for something works even better.
If you continue to pay for your ticket, you are endorsing the clubs' pricing policy. The only choice you have is to withdraw your support, if you want to make a difference. When done en masse it would make a profound change and within weeks in all probability. This will not be hardship for you because football is just a game and it's not really important. By doing so you'd be changing the economics and finances of football. Less income from the gate might even mean less for the players.
This has happened lower down the leagues. The only reason it hasn't happened at the top is because, like Waitrose customers, plenty of people are rather well off even in these times of austerity and they don't mind paying the high prices.
The status quo relies on your robotic, unthinking deliverance of cash into the machine and until you stop paying the money, you can't really complain. It is time to rage against the machine, but how many really want to?