Anything to say for the afternoon Mailbox? firstname.lastname@example.org
In the bin
To answer Matt – Cambridge’s mail yesterday about sin bins – I play in the London Southern Amateur League and we’ve had sin bins since the start of last season, which was a trial (I.E refs had the option of declaring whether they were in use at the beginning of the match). They’ve been used a lot more commonly this season, possibly at all games. I would suggest that sin bins are coming sooner rather than later as a way of respecting the referee & officials more, and in my experience it’s a really good initiative. Swear at the ref? 10 minutes. Disagree too much with a decision? 10 minutes. Ask about his glasses? Yep, 10 minutes.
I’m sure we’ve all been at or played in games when a player has got a yellow for dissent that has contributed to a sending off. It’s highly frustrating and sometimes can ruin a game, at which point the entirety of the vitriol is directed at the referee both immediately and afterwards. However, since the introduction of sin bins I’ve seen a rapid decline in abuse towards the ref, and also a shifting of blame from referee to player when they get binned. Phrases like ‘you knew he wasn’t going to take any sh*t’ and ‘shut your mouth next time’ have become commonly heard phrases in the dressing rooms– because of course, 99% of the time the offense is the fault of the player, not the referee.
I also think that as a knock-on effect. If sin bins get introduced in the PL, it may help to shift attitudes towards the officials from the fans, who will blame their player rather than the referee because a) it was the player’s fault b) he knew the repercussions and c) said repercussions are not too damaging to the game, as they’ll be back on in 10 minutes. It would also add a little bit of drama to games, particularly to teams under the cosh or defending for their lives who then lose a player, or the dominant team suddenly losing a key player for 10 minutes and suddenly find themselves on the back foot.
I think it’s unlikely we’ll see them introduced from 19/20, but certainly 20/21. The only question I still have is whether they come in at an FA, UEFA or FIFA level. Ideally you’d want all leagues introducing it but as we’ve seen with VAR, football’s governing bodies don’t seem to be able to put their shoes on the right feet without tripping over.
Lee (Yet to go ‘in the bin’), LFC
Someone mentioned the game Kerby in the comments section and got me thinking about football based games I played as a kid and wondered if other people have other variations of these games
Kerby, played on a road with kerbs with 2 people stood facing each other either side of the road. First player throws the ball, if they hit the kerb and it comes back to them they take a step in, same again till you have got 3 points, swaps to next player.
Headers and volleys, played with 1 goal and a goalie. As the name suggests you can only score with a header and volley so you often have someone out wide to provide crosses.
Woodie (it was an innocent version of that word) similar to headers and volleys in format but you can only score via the woodwork even if you roast one into the top corner, if it doesn’t hit the woodwork on the way in then no goal.
Wallie, played against a wall with any number of players. This was my favourite game. Players go in turn with 3 lives, you only get 1 touch or kick of the ball. The idea was to hit the ball against the wall to put the next player in trouble, so blast it miles away. We played in a sort of church playground with uneven ground and all sorts of objects and buildings you could get the ball behind. You could even blast it around the back of the church so the next player had to play a weird version of pinball trying to get the ball back to the original target wall. You lose a life if you fail to hit it until you are left with a winner. Once played this with about 30 kids, it took about 6 hours, was pitch black at the end and players were taking about 10 mins to line up each shot…..brilliant!
Sure I could think of other versions we played but wondered if anyone else played all of these? And do kids still play these games?
Graham Kirk, Sunny Manchester
Liverpool still punching
Liverpool have the second most expensive keeper in the league. Fact. No denying it.
But where do they stack up elsewhere?
A first choice defence of TAA, Gomez, VVD and Robertson cost £84m considerably less than the competition of City (£200m+), United (£105m) but much more than spurs (£35m).
In midfield, Gini, Hendo and Milner seem to be first choice (most appearances), but let’s swap Milner out for Keita (next highest) so as not to bias it. £95m is again, less than both City (£130m) and United (£160m) but again, less than Spurs (£42m).
In attack, Liverpool’s front three run the tune of £111m making them the most expensive component. City have theirs at £138m. Spurs way down at £54m. United are the £54m listed for Martial given Rashford and Lingard came through the academy, so finish below Liverpool here.
After the first XI mentioned, expensive transfers for Liverpool (20m+) amount to Fabinho and Lovren (most expensive Liverpool defender after VVD). City have their record signing on the bench, alongside Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva, Nicolas otamendi and eliquim mangala (really), whilst United have Lukaku, Sanchez (not technically £20m+) Fred, Dalot, and £50m of centre half. Outside their record signing, Tottenham have no money on their bench.
In summary, only one team can win the league, and if money was the only factor, it should be City and United duking it out, but instead Liverpool are punching way above their weight, and Pochettino is frankly performing miracles.
To think Liverpool should win the title based on 4 big transfers in 12 months is naïve, only one team can be expected to win surely? Why not expect the richest to win it?
KC (you can afford to spend £75m on your centre back when the rest of the defence cost £9m between them)
…Funniest line I’ve ever seen in the mailbox…
“Anyway, everyone knows that the best indicator of final league position is wage bill, not transfer spend. Liverpool are fourth on that score (again behind Man City, Man United and Chelsea), so again could be argued to be over-achieving.”
I’m glad you feel that everyone knows but i think the best indicator of league position is…..wait for it…..league position.
Until you can convince the FA to employ those statisticians Duckworth and Lewis to allocate points based on something other than 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw you should get used to it. The bookies usually have a handicap based league table at the begining of the season, that might work for you but i’ m afraid it will probably be Wolves at the top and not Liverpool.
Jon, Cape Town
…There’s been an interesting (ok not that interesting, more dull and repetitive) discussion about Liverpool’s expectations. Some say that spending a lot of money means they should win the league, some say it matters what happened before, net spend etc. But surely it’s logical that spending money should (emphasis on should, not definitely will) improve a team, otherwise why is the club spending it? That might be an upgrade on a first team player or better backups to push the first teamers. And a lot of money spent should improve a team enough to push them in to the ‘next level’.
Liverpool have done both of these things and therefore should expect an improvement to the ‘next level’. They upgraded a pretty ropy defence with the most expensive defender ever and the (at the time) most expensive goalkeeper in the world ever. They also signed more players for the squad like Shaqiri and Keita who have been rotating. With improvements the team should be doing better than they were before. In 2018 they came fourth and made the Champions League final. The level up from a top 4 challenge and challenging in Europe is a league challenge and continuing to challenge in Europe (cup competitions involve an element of luck and randomness, so expecting them to reach the final or win it is a bit much in my view).
If Huddersfield spent £300m they wouldn’t be expected to win the title, but they would be expected to comfortably to survive as that’s the next level up from fighting relegation.
Calum (Liverpool are pretty much matching expectations at the moment), MUFC, Bracknell
…Enough Gofezo, and anyone else who wants to bring it up, enough of net spend.
It’s a valid point that United aren’t where they should be based on what they’ve spent. No one disagrees, United fans included but there’s room for more than one team to not meet expectations (not that Liverpool have failed…yet).
Liverpool have invested heavily in their squad. They broke the world transfer record for a defender by roughly 50%. They then broke the world record for a keeper. On top of that they still invested heavily in their squad bringing in Fabinho and Keita (don’t care that the deal was made a long time ago, it was for this season). The fact that this was offset by a significant margin because Barcelona wanted to prove the size of their manhood by ridiculously overpaying for Coutinho was great for Liverpool’s net spend. It does not negate the fact that Liverpool have aggressively invested in their playing squad to make a tilt at the title.
Amount spent is obviously a material measure, United’s record recently is not great but you absolutely cannot compare Klopp’s spending habits with Poch’s. With the Coutinho deal, they basically won the lottery.
Don’t get me wrong, when they signed him they got a good deal on a really good player and developed him to a position where they were going to make a profit. But if it’s true that he went for €140m odd, they walked away with – I don’t know – €60-€80 more than any sensible person would have paid. That’s Liverpool’s good luck, because the very fact that they were able to sell him and barely missed him just shows how ridiculously overpriced he was.
They had a nice unexpected windfall, and that’s made the books look balanced but Liverpool have spent big on their side (and very well) – the sort of sums that lead to expectations.
I’m not sure tribalism per se is a problem as such. I think its where such tribalism is taken to extremes. Two examples. Outside of my beloved City, my favourite sport is rugby union especially at the international level. Take the six nations. As a rule my default preference, apart from seeing England win everything is to see the French get a right pasting, particularly when playing the UK teams or Ireland. Except that is when they, or pretty much anybody else, play Scotland. Then it’s the Jocks that I love to see get humiliated if at all possible. If, in reality, they win or have a good game then I pretty much don’t give it a second thought. Doesn’t put me in a mood or ruin my weekend or p*ss me off in any way. I’d just prefer them not to win.
The reason why I like to see ‘em lose? A weekend in a less salubrious part of Glasgow in 1990 visiting an old Army buddy when it also happened to be Scotland v England. I’ve been based with Scottish Regiments in the past but, even so, it was quite (ahem) interesting being the only Englishman in a Glasgow working man’s club when, as the drinks flowed ever more freely, you suddenly find yourself being held personally responsible for the actions of every single f*cking Englishman (plus a few ladies such as Maggie and various members of the Royal Family) since God said “Let there be light.” Celtic/Rangers derby levels of raw naked fury and genuinely held beliefs of sheer hatred except worse because I was English and in the room. Luckily, Scotland won.
Second example is my mate that I’ve known since we met at Comprehensive school a loooong time ago. Fellow Blue except that he takes his utter hatred of all things United to mind-boggling levels. He refuses to wear anything red (got sacked from a good job for that once) nothing red allowed in his house and, as God is my judge, once tried to include ketchup in this rule until his kids drew a line in the sand. Still won’t buy anything made by a MUFC sponsor and never knowingly has.
Now, I might get back to Manchester twice or maybe three times during the season and he’s one of five ‘usual suspects’ that I’ll go to the Etihad with. Without fail, the first 30/40 minutes of his conversation will be rants about all things United and we have forever been pointing out that he puts far more effort into hating the Reds than he does about supporting City. The seemingly ultimate ‘Bitter Blue’ he once told me, with perfect sincerity, that the best day of his life wasn’t his wedding day or the birth of his kids (he is an utterly devoted husband and Dad), but THAT goal from Saint Sergio. Not because it meant City won the Prem, but because it meant that SAF and United didn’t and his favourite video clips from the day are the ones showing a fairly confused looking Ferguson and players as the home crowd around them get the news. He positively exults at the faces on the stunned United fans. To be perfectly honest, I quite enjoyed that myself but the difference is that I didn’t scour social media afterwards to create a montage of crying disbelieving Reds. I much preferred watching the players, Mancini and the crying disbelieving City fans in the ground (I wasn’t there) as to how that crazy day panned out.
Now, outside of this United thing, you truly couldn’t meet a nicer bloke. Honest, caring, volunteers at a homeless charity that seek to identify ex-serviceman with MH issues or living rough or both. I love him like a brother and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve pointed out how ridiculous his viewpoint is, but he simply won’t have it.
So for me (Clive) it’s one thing to enjoy your rival club getting stuffed or losing a trophy but it’s another matter altogether when you get as much, or even more, enjoyment from that than from your own club’s successes. Or, and this in on my radio as I type, that Police are investigating death threats made against Nathan Jones after he had the sheer temerity to leave Luton Town to manage Stoke instead. Ffs.
Mark (Death threats. Seriously? Knuckle dragging f*ckwits). MCFC.
…I’ve been following the response to Daniel Storey’s excellent article about modern fan mentality with interest, and I was particularly intrigued by Rudi LFC’s letter in yesterday’s mailbox.
As a United fan, what struck me most about his mail was that at pretty much any point in the last 25 years, I could have copied it verbatim, switched the names of our respective clubs around, and it would have read fairly accurately.
During that time, Liverpool were involved in precisely 2 serious title races with us. As Rudi would put it, our results usually had “no bearing on their aspirations”. Yet, they were always the first to gloat when we failed, or to complain about our spending, our manager, favourable refereeing decisions, our fans’ sense of entitlement, etc. Basically all of the things Liverpool are currently being (mostly unjustly) criticized for, actually.
Fans of other teams did it too, but Liverpool’s were by far the most persistent, vocal, and vitriolic. And you know what? It did make it harder to simply enjoy our success. Like Rudi, my first thoughts when we slipped up were often about how their fans would react. Even when we won, I knew there was always a section of their support that would find some perceived injustice or other and latch onto it for years to come.
I’m not trying to argue that one set of fans was any worse or better than the other. I’ve seen more than enough insufferable Utd fans revelling in other teams’ failures, and I’ll even admit I’ve done it myself a fair few times. In my mind, though, it was always a justified reaction to the smug barbs I had to put up with. They were the antagonists from my point of view, not us. I was wrong, but not about everything.
If fans seriously want to move the conversation around football to a more mature place, they need to have the self-awareness to look in the mirror and consider whether they themselves are part of the problem. The fact that Rudi signs off with a jibe about Utd ‘wasting away into irrelevance’ tells me has hasn’t done that yet.
Conor, MUFC, Montreal
…Is there an unwritten rule that says if you are critiquing the tribalist backlash to Daniel Storey’s excellent piece on football tribalism’ you must imagine yourself to be writing some (poor) undergraduate essay with some pseudo-intellectual tone? You know who you are.
I love football’s tribalism and, if it gets to a point where I don’t, I simply ignore it. Much like when two firms have a pre-arranged meet up, leave the mugs to it and don’t get involved. Or alternatively, I could take some pious holier than tho tone.
Nah, I couldn’t.
The M Rod
Daniel Storey was quite right that football has become « A Very Serious Business » and that we are no longer defined by our love of the game or support of our team but by our “angry defence of our own narrow views on both.” Reading this troubled me and I wondered whether I would be able to write a message that was neither angry nor denigrating but saw the good in clubs other than my own (LFC). Here’s my attempt and I’m trying to be honest throughout.
1. What Ole is doing at Man U is impressive. It’s the romantic choice (along the lines of Giggs) but it’s working. He’s clearly doing more than just saying “go out there and enjoy yourselves”, although that would have been a big step forward. Also, seeing Rashford playing well is heartening for England’s future next summer.
2. Hats off to Crystal Palace and Newcastle, who defeated Man City and therefore have made this season’s title race interesting.
3. Sarri isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but getting Higuain in was a good piece of business. Everyone was saying they needed a striker, and he’s got one that is used to playing at the highest level.
4. Huddersfield and David Wagner have parted ways but it seems to have been without a lot of acrimony and “one more match to save his job” pressure.
5. I’m struggling for many more positives but a shout out to Bournemouth, Watford and Wolves, no pushovers and some genuinely good results this season.
Anyone else want to have a go?
Paul in Brussels (it’s harder to do than it looks)
My beloved Crusaders made a great contribution to title meltdowns in the 2016-17 Northern Irish Premiership. What made things all the more dramatic was that the club’s title bid was the subject of a fly-on-the-wall documentary for BBC Northern Ireland.
The Crues were attempting to win the league for the third successive season. They were 9 points clear of David Healy’s Linfield with 9 games remaining. The rot started with a 1-1 draw away at rock-bottom Portadown. However we were still 7 clear with 6 games to go, then we went to Coleraine and lost 1-0. The next game was the Linfield showdown, which the Blues won 1-0. In the space of five games, Crusaders’s lead had fallen from 9 points to just 1. We managed to keep that 1-point lead, going into the penultimate game against Ballymena. On a catastrophic afternoon, we lost 3-0, whilst Linfield romped to a 5-1 win against Coleraine. The Crues had been top virtually from day one but had now fallen 2 points behind Linfield. That evening, me and a friend were in the Crues social club singing “The End of the World” by Skeeter Davis (Google it). On the final day we needed our North Belfast rivals Cliftonville to beat Linfield (which I knew wouldn’t happen). Cliftonville did score first, sending the Crues top of the “as it stands” table. But Linfield came back to win 3-1, meaning that Crusaders’s 6-1 win over Glenavon wasn’t enough. You’ll never see a group of players and fans more disappointed at the end of a 6-1 victory. This was the first season where I had attended every Crusaders league game and it was a memorable campaign but then again, the Titanic sailed serenely for miles before hitting the iceberg.
To be fair to Linfield, they won 13 of their last 14 games, including their last 9 in a row (an impressive late surge). Crusaders got 87 points – which would have been enough in the previous two seasons – but just couldn’t find that one extra away win that would have kept the title at Seaview. Mr Baxter said that we would be back the following season “bigger and stronger” and he was right – Crusaders won the title in 2018 – so maybe losing a championship from a commanding position can be beneficial later down the line. Or alternatively, it can send a club into the wilderness for decades with nothing but regrets.
…Remember the scene where Red Pollard eases up on Seabiscuit in the back stretch to let War Admiral come up alongside him so that the horse can look the other horse in the eyes? Got it in your head? Okay. Now go enjoy what’s going to be one hell of a title race.
Paul K, London’s letter states “thanks to Gerrard’s slip.” No, watch it again. Gerrard gave the ball away first and then slipped. He dropped a bollock. Fact.
Matt Carr. Spurs, Wilmington, NC
EPL v NFL
In response to Steve, Cali that Sky looked with envy at what the NFL was doing with Monday Night Football and decided to follow suit. I don’t want to outright disagree with him, but want to offer an alternative to why I believe it was much bigger than that. I believe the EPL is probably the most popular sports programming package in the world. When I say the world, I don’t simply mean in terms of the total number of people who watch it, I also means geographically, it’s also watched in almost every country in the world. Contrast this with the NFL, you can probably count in one hand where the sunday games are televised. Maybe the superbowl gets a little bit of love across the world, but that’s the final game, which skews the numbers.
Based on this, I believe Sky, have a model of operating where they wanted to maximize the number of people watching the product, that means spreading out the games as much as possible, thus the introduction of Monday and the recent Friday games. The format would have followed the Champions League format of playing games in the evening. There really was no other way to make the model work.
The packaging may have stolen the name and acronym MNF from the NFL, as a catchy gimmick but overall I feel sky probably try as much as they can to ensure maximum coverage. It’s my strong belief that if allowed all 10 games would be played on a designated slot if sky had their way.
Dave (Thursday Night Football is a waste of time and is free most times, not sure what that says about free football), Somewhere
…A highly unlikely and extremely improbable solution, or at least an attempt at a solution to the situation concerning football fans and TV is a boycott.
To force, or raise, the issue of cheaper ticket prices and better treatment of match going fans with the higher-ups in the footballing world, we should employ a mass boycott of one gameweek. If fans could actually organise amongst themselves to, ideally not buy, but not go to any Premier League games on for a whole weekend, then the FA, the clubs and broadcasters would see the importance of having matchday fans over prime TV slots. We have all seen how a game played behind closed doors lacks a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about them, so imagine what a whole weekend of that eeriness. And if it happened once, it could happen again, thus forcing the issue to be taken seriously. Additonally, we might be able to actually hear all the abuse the refs recieve from the players too!
Of course, the odds of this ever happening are practically zero, what with the logistical nightmare of organising it, the tourist fans that plan for months to come to a game, and the sheer difficulty of football fans to actually boycott something they love so much.