How Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney and £££££ threaten football passion

Two comments at the Blackcats list, admittedly posted after the awful defeat at Everton, raised some gloomy thoughts about the state of football, and our relationship, as supporters, with the game.

The exchange covered cheating, money, arrogance, role models and recent controversies concerning Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney.

Mark wrote this:

Been feeling pretty sickened with football since the weekend. Our result was bad enough, but totally expected. But the carry-on with Rooney has just left me completely scunnered with the way the game is going. SIr Alex’s defence of him was totally unacceptable. I’m sick of these pampered w***ers getting away it. He should have been hit with an eight-game ban but instead the ref is chuckling away with him and they’re having a cuddle. Young kids still look up to this excuse of a man. He’s a disgrace – but he’s not the only one. The whole English team is so out of touch it’s frightening. Ashley Cole … shoots a work experience kid (see Comments). What the f**k is going on with these a***holes. Players get paid far too much money and the sooner something is down about it the better … the game is getting out of control. Where is the sportsmanship? Where are the gentlemen of the game? Where is the humour? It’s utter bollocks.

To which Andy, exiled in Australia, replied:

Couldn’t agree more Mark. If it wasn’t for Sunderland AFC I would have turned my back on the game before now! I just can’t do that though, Sunderland means too much. Sometimes that p***es me right off and I curse my family history, but after a few days of sulking and being a miserable twat I pep back up and defend them to the hilt! Like most of us no doubt …

I’ve been enjoying watching the rugby lately, more so than football, and with Melbourne now having its own Super Rugby team its made it easier to turn my attention to another, seemingly more professional and respectful, sport!. The fact that England are doing well in the 6 Nations helps!!

The obvious causes of their disenchantment are no longer fresh in the memory.

The investigation trundles on into Ashley Cole’s handling – I stand corrected by Sir Cecil on detail (see comments) – of an airgun someone had taken to the training ground and, however accidentally, his firing of it, injuring a work experience student.

I had to look up the name of the Wigan player (James McCarthy) who became more acquainted with Rooney’s elbow than he might have chosen. And Sunderland’s hopeless failure at Goodison has been followed by a resilient, heartening draw at the Emirates.

But the root causes of our concern remain. Football is awash with cheating, tacitly or expressly encouraged by managers and inadequately punished by the authorities. I still wince when I think back to Titus Bramble’s sly pull of Arshavin’s arm which, much more than the follow-up push he made no effort to conceal, marred the joy I took in our draw at Arsenal (and in Bramble’s own, otherwise impressive contribution to the point).

But the woes do not end with getting away with whatever you can.

Football has numerous other matters that ought to be addressed but probably won’t: grotesque transfer fees and wages paid, often for really quite unremarkable levels of talent, for example, or ordinary supporters finding themselves priced out of attendance at games.

It is good that Niall Quinn, a chairman who makes mistakes but is a noble ambassador for SAFC, caring deeply about the club that “got under my skin”, its supporters and the area of the country in which it is based, should have given voice to some of the reasons that our affection for football is under threat.

He is quoted as telling the House of Commons Select Committee inquiry into football governance that even big clubs such as Sunderland need help if they are to balance the books while making it less expensive for fans to attend games.

I believe he was going some way further than asking for action to block illegal – or soon to be, perhaps, less illegal – live broadcasts in pubs and clubs of the sort that cost SAFC thousands of pounds in unsold tickets for each game.

If it was just some kind of begging bowl being pushed towards government, it would of course be returned empty.

But Niall went on: “I think we should all look for something that says ‘How can we help this group of people out to still stay in love with the game?’, because if we send the matches abroad with empty stadiums, it’s over, the Premier League is over.

“These [people] are the lifeblood of the game. How do we protect these [people]? All revenue that comes in, the agents have the upper hand to squeeze it out of us.

“How can we stop that? How can we find a better way for these people to love the game? These are the same people who tell us to ‘get your chequebook out’, want us to be top six. They’re also saying now ‘you’re paying too much money. This is wrong’. But they’re also saying ‘can we go to the matches a bit cheaper?'”

Nothing will be solved simply by curbing the more outrageous activities of agents. Every pub screen could be removed without making the many problems of football vanish.

But it is good that SAFC have a figurehead whose views are taken seriously enough to warrant an invitation to speak to people with influence in the way the country is governed.

One of the key drawbacks to any campaign to clean up the game and give it back its common appeal is that most of the measures demanded by supporters are unlikely to be taken.

Which of the following does anyone seriously expect to happen?

* the return of standing areas at stadiums

* agreement by television moguls not to make late changes to fixture times whatever the impact on the pockets of ordinary people

* an all-out war on cheating with severe penalties for perpetrators and those directing them

* sensible – ie affordable – pricing policies if that also means more reasonable – ie lower – rates of pay for players and managers

* greater attention to the needs of people paying those high prices to travel to and attend games

* absolute parity in disciplinary matters so that “big clubs” and their players are seen to be treated no differently than smaller fry (eg a weakened Man Utd team at Hull taken as seriously as Blackpool’s at Villa)

The list could be extended and Salut! Sunderland readers may well have pet issues they feel I have overlooked.

But don’t hold your breath for change – or, at any rate, any change not forced on football – actually to take place.

Monsieur Salut

7 thoughts on “How Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney and £££££ threaten football passion”

  1. Great post Martin. It had me smirking alright!

    There are too many points to answer (original post) so I will limit comments to the idea of restoring the terraces. Modern stadia do not lend themselves to this at all well. Quinny’s comments about the potential to relocate away fans at the SoL illustrate this. It’s not practical or cost effective because the ground was designed in such as way that it will be very difficult to carry out or justify in terms of cost. Similar situations will be found at other new stadia.

    Standing will not overcome the genuine and widespread disillusionment with football generally. Nor would the restoration of terracing provide the same atmosphere or experience that we enjoyed at Roker where you could smell the linament, hear the ball being kicked, and shout at players who could hear you. The intimacy of football has been lost. Gone forever and there’s no way to bring it back. The increase in attendances following the introduction of all seater stadia was due to widening the attraction of football to those who had never gone before. I am surprised by this and I personally know individuals who are regular attenders at games who know absolutely sweet FA about football and who wouldn’t have been seen dead at Roker Park (even it they could have found it on a map). I suspect that this new breed of supporter (the likes of whom I hate ending up next to at games) have done a lot to put off some longer term fans. Whilst I don’t like sitting down I suspect that terracing is not going to have the effect that it might. Sorry to say this, but the real enjoyment of going to games largely disappeared the day that we left Roker Park. I know that we had to move on and I accept that, but I have a feeling that there are a great many people who feel very much the same way. I could write at length about the likes of the abhorrent Ashley Cole and his role in ruining the game but won’t as I have neither the time, nor the inclination to bore people any more than I already have.

  2. Cecil’s right. He might have shot a youngster, but he chips in with a few quid from his millions to good causes. The witchhunt is disgraceful. When are people going to realise that discharging a firearm, thereby wounding someone is perfectly acceptable, especially amongst British dignitaries?

    Why didn’t he aim the thing at Nic Anelka? – that’s what I want to know? It’s astonishing how cheaply Her Majesty gives away knighthoods these days.

    I knew Cole was a little dim when he messed around when he was with the most gorgeous girl on the planet!

  3. it’s just been announced , that after looking at the relevant video evidence , James McCarthy has been handed a 3 match ban for headbutting Wayne Rooney’s elbow !

  4. Details corrected. I don’t think anyone has ever suggested he intended more than a spot of “playing around with it”, though many have wondered whether playing around was something you did with weapons. And rather than moan about the press getting it wrong, why not berate Chelsea for refusing to explain precisely what happened rather than hiding behind the “internal matter” nonsense which such an incident can never be? It shouldn’t be left to “sources close to the player” or even Sir Cecil to try to inject some perspective.

  5. You need to get your facts right, which is admittedly difficult if one believes all the tripe written in the press. Ashley Cole did NOT take a gun to work… he was handed it by the owner who was showing it off. Cole stupidly assumed it was not loaded and playing around with it, it went off. Childish silliness, but not malicious and he was NOT responsible for it being there.
    The Cole witch-hunt is disgraceful really. He is one of the most charitable players in football, supporting causes generously, both financially and with his personal time.

  6. All comments welcome, within reason, whoever you support, but bear with us if you’re a first-time poster here as there may be a delay for moderation (ie until the overworked M Salut gets to tick the box for it to appear). This is mainly to keep spam off these pages.

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