With all the goodbyes on Sunday, one slipped under the radar. John Nicholson says we won't miss Michael Owen because, for the last few years anyway, he hasn't really been here...
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...
I am a fan of the cheap 'n' dirty guitar. As long as it stays in tune and doesn't have an action so high it makes it feel like you're playing six washing lines on a plank, it'll do for me. By the time you've put it through an enormous effects rack and a Marshall stack, the sound is so mutilated, you can get away with it being a bit rubbish.
But for a while I got ideas above my station and went touring the guitar shops of the north looking for a classier axe, eventually ending up with a solid body Yamaha SG which sustained forever but could throw your shoulder out of joint because it was so heavy. It didn't suit me at all. Trouble is, trying out guitars in shops is a nightmarish experience fraught with potential humiliation, largely because there is always someone in there showing off, fret-w*nking and shredding like crazy. It's always a man.
By contrast, your humble riffmeister here turns up with his limited armoury and has to try and compete. Of course you can't compete, not on one level anyway. The guitar store shredder has great technique and probably knows every riff ever recorded from 1955 onwards and, well, I don't.
But it becomes competitive. He cranks it up, you crank it up and pretty soon it sounds like it's the night of the long knives at the cattery.
But I learned really quickly that the guitar shop shredder was almost always a fraud. He was a bedroom player who could mimic but never originate. His gig was all about copying note for note someone else's original work. They were usually all technique and no spirit or passion. I had almost no technique so made up for it with physicality and commitment; thrashing around, making mistakes, not being at all cool; just sweating it out of my soul and relying on that to get me through my solo. This, I found, was a good lesson for life and certainly for football. Managers should spend more time in guitar shops.
The FA Cup this weekend and the League Cup before it illustrated perfectly a lesson a lot of top-flight clubs need to learn. You can have players with great technique but there are times when you need a big bastard who can dominate a situation with his sheer raw physical presence. So much focus has been on skill and technique in recent years, for obvious reasons, that the physical side of the game has been almost totally abandoned, so much so that some managers seem keen to sign only players who are lightweights, as though physicality is old-fashioned and vulgar. Yet there should be a place in every squad for one pit pony of epic proportions. James Hanson for Bradford City is an industrial slab of beef but Villa's top-flight defenders didn't know how to defend against him. Liverpool couldn't handle Oldham's wall of flesh Matt Smith.
Any top flight club with an ounce of nous would understand that having a big brutal striker on your books has never been more worthwhile than it is in 2013. It is obvious that most top-flight defenders have forgotten how to defend against powerful get-a-head-to-it-at-all-costs strikers. They spend their weeks defending against physical lightweights like Luis Suarez, Theo Walcott and Jermain Defoe. Their concern is not getting bullied but getting outplayed. When they play against bigger men like Olivier Giroud, Fernando Torres, Danny Welbeck or Daniel Sturridge, these men are still lightweights; skinny athletes who couldn't physically boss a pillow full of wind.
Now Didier Drogba has departed and Andy Carroll has broken a hoof, top-flight defenders rarely have to deal with a big hard sod. It's a habit they have lost. So when they are presented with a physically imposing and determined striker who may have no technique or much skill but who can throw himself at a ball like a heat-seeking missile, they're helpless. Similarly, whenever a side starts playing proper long ball football, simply because no-one ever does, it panics defenders for a while. It is the shock of the new to this generation of top players.
It's as though they are being asked to play a different game altogether. It disrupts their thought processes and that's why it should be an option for every side. It doesn't have to be the default mode of play, your big bastard doesn't have to start every game, you can and should be selective about how you deploy him but to surrender physicality to skill every time is simply stupid and wilfully narrowing your options. This weekend proved that brilliantly. You might only need to play them for half an hour occasionally; indeed you want to avoid defenders having to deal with them very often because soon enough, they'd work out how to stop them. But once in a while, you want some proper big haunch of bloody red meat behind the ball and not half a pound of mince.
In rock 'n' roll and football, you can get too fixated on technique and forget about grit and guts. Hopefully this week's cup football has taught some managers a valuable lesson.