We might have another blank weekend but it’s only two weeks since my last relegation watch so, even though things are hotting up, what with Norwich drawing with Citeh and Rafa Benitez taking over the horse punchers after the dismally drawn out sacking of Steve McLaren (and this in the week Mr. Ashley was warned he might be held in contempt for his failure to meet MPs who want to discuss the treatment of his employees), it’s too early to go back there.
So I thought I’d do another mini tour of the North West and offer updates to some of the goings on among the clubs on this side of the Pennines, pausing only to wonder why Smoggie has not kept us up to speed with the row between players and manager down there in Yorkshire.
Last time I wandered around the NW clubs I began with Liverpool FC’s climbdown over tickets. It’s nice to see that the Premier League has gone a step further and clubs have capped away prices at £30. That’s still more than the hole that is the Anfield Road stand should cost but it’s a start, especially as Ed, myself, Pete, Colin, Wrinkly Pete, Malcolm and sundry others should qualify for pensioner discounts on top of the reduction. We might even be able to afford a pint before London games.
After discussing Liverpool in February I reported the death of Chairman Phil Gartside at Bolton. There is better news this time; it looks as if a winding-up petition against Bolton will not be enforced as an unpaid tax bill has been paid by the Sports Shield consortium which completed a takeover of the club. Former striker Dean Holdsworth leads the consortium and he will join the board of directors while former owner Eddie Davies,who has apparently agreed to write off millions, will become honorary president. League position suggests Bolton will be unable to stay up but at least they have a future, which has to be a good thing.
I’m not so sure that it can be said that Blackpool has a future. You might remember me reporting that Karl Oyston had said he’d invite fans’ groups to a meeting in March. There was apparently an invitation for Blackpool Supporters Trust members to meet with Mr. Oyston but they declined because the conditions were not acceptable. The BST, for its part, invited Mr. Oysten to a meeting last week and then rescinded the invitation after he didn’t respond. This one looks destined to run, or maybe just stagger on for ever, with no-one willing to give way, and the omens aren’t good.
And after reporting on Blackpool I trotted back to Liverpool, or at least Everton, where a young lad had scored the supporters’ goal of the month and been feted by the club. This month there’s more news from the blue side of the city after Farhad Moshiri, a British-Iranian billionaire, sold his shares in Arsenal for a reported £200 million. He will use the money to acquire 49.9% of Everton FC following Premier League approval for the deal, which arrived this week. With the promise of more money to come it’s possible Everton’s long hunt for a new stadium will end, especially as Liverpool’s mayor has form when it comes to selling off spaces around the city’s parks.
But that’s a story for another day and I’ll move on to Wigan in order to congratulate chairman David Sharpe, who has just completed a year in charge and who has guided the club into the top two in League One. I’d love them to come back up but, really, the only reason I’m mentioning them is that they have a player called Max Power and I can’t ignore that.
Max Power came from Tranmere, the third Merseyside club, the one with the only ground to have been bombed during the war, which might explain why it’s better than the other two. Tranmere, too, have a chance of promotion. They’re in a play-off place, about three above Gateshead, who have a game in hand.
And as I’m on about promotion I think it only fair to mention Burnley, who currently top the Championship and look to be in good shape. Or, I could say that I’m only mentioning Burnley because it’s almost a year since the Claretsmad website reported Rafa Benitez was taking over as manager, with Sean Dyche becoming Director of football. The date of that report? 1st April 2015.
Will either of them feel foolish next April? Or will they both be managing a premiership team next season.
I’ll leave you with that thought.