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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A few thoughts from the last week in Football (March 17-28)

I have been extremely busy at work during the last month and that has meant I have not been able to do many recaps due to time constraints and making sure all the picks were out in time.

It has been a busy time in the world of football as we get to 'squeaky bum time' meaning games are coming thick and fast, but I have found a slight window to put down a few thoughts on some of the issues that have arisen in the last couple of weeks.

The reaction to the Fabrice Muamba incident: This is something that united the football world as everyone hoped the best for the young midfielder, but more recently it has become a source of contention- not what happened to the player, but the reaction of people throughout the country.

The first thing we have to point out is the advances of social networking in the last ten years which has allowed people to put to their everyday thoughts down instantly. Therefore, any news can quickly expand and we can also see uprisings down to planned meetings on such sites, for example what happened in Egypt.

My position on Muamba is that when I initially heard what had happened, I was shocked... Not because of his age, but because it is a shock when a professional sports athlete would suddenly just collapse. It was the exact same reaction I had when I heard Daniel Jarque of Espanyol died after a training session in August 2009 and when Antonio Puerta of Sevilla died on the pitch in August 2007.

The issue I had was the number of one minute applauses held up and down the country at football matches in the days following Muamba's collapse... I could understand this a LOT more if he had passed away, but I found it a little distasteful considering he was still fighting for his life. The last time I checked, an applause was unlikely to be helpful and it just seemed really out of place because...  well because Muamba was still alive.

I could understand his former clubs at Birmingham and Arsenal holding some sort of event to let Muamba's family know he wasn't forgotten as there were players that likely had played with him, and I could understand Spurs fans wanting to do something as they were sadly witnesses to the event, while Bolton was a given.

BUT I didn't understand the need to hold an applause at Chelsea v Leicester the day after Muamba collapsed, or at Blackburn v Sunderland on Tuesday evening.

It just seems to me that people want to show their grief at something like this as a barometer as to how decent a human being they are- if you didn't shed a tear or applaud or offer your thoughts at every moment in the following days while Muamba was fighting for his life and you were disregarded as being heartless and out of order.

The last couple of days we have seen people attack the Red Issue cover, which took a satirical dig at the people who have been OTT with their response to this whole issue- the ones that seem to revel in showing how upset they are over events they have no control of.

The people who seem to have the loudest voices offering their disgust at the cover also, unsurprisingly, seem to be the people that wanted to put their grief on their sleeves in the most prominent manner.

I just don't remember the reaction of these same people to Antonio Puerta when he actually DIED on the pitch as they have had for Fabrice Muamba who is, gladly, making a recovery from his unfortunate events.

The question I have left is in what situations will a one minute applause NOT be applicable from now on? A dangerous precedent has been set in my opinion, and one that has nothing to do with people's actual feelings on the matter, making much more reasonable requests for a minute's applause/silence just part of a national grieving day.

FA Cup Semi Final Dilemma: We are coming up to the 23rd anniversary since the Hillsborough Disaster and the FA have been left in a tough spot as to what they can do with the FA Cup Semi Finals that are due to take place that day.

Liverpool, understandably, have always requested not to play on April 15th and that is the date for the second Semi Final this season. The problem for the FA is that the other Semi Final involves Chelsea, a team that are likely to be playing a Champions League Semi Final on Tuesday following this weekend.

Now what to do? The first thing is they could talk to Liverpool and ask them their feelings of playing on April 15th considering they are meeting Everton, a local rival but one that was also affected by the events in 1989. It is no exaggeration to say families can be split down the middle in that City with their support for either Everton or Liverpool, so it could be the ultimate way to pay respects to those that lost their lives 23 years ago as the two famous clubs come together.

However, that is a question for Liverpool and they have every right to say they do not wish to play on that date regardless of the opposition.

Therefore, the FA have only two real options in my opinion for the Semi Finals. Both involves keeping the Sunday clear for Chelsea as well as they deserve to be given the best opportunity to win the Champions League and need the rest between this game and the Semi Final of the other competition.

The first is simply to move the Liverpool-Everton game to take place at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff... This stadium is closer to Liverpool than Wembley and this game could take place as the early game on Saturday 14th April, with Chelsea meeting Spurs at Wembley in the evening.

However, I think the FA are adamant in playing both Semi Finals at Wembley and the only reasonable idea seems to be Chelsea-Spurs meeting on Friday evening and leaving the Liverpool-Everton game on the Saturday. Some will argue that it is impossible for the police to ensure crowd safety for the Chelsea game if everyone has been on the drink during the day, but there have been night games between the teams in the past and the police have had night games at Wembley in the past.

It seems the most logical way to avoid any issues for Chelsea and Liverpool as both clubs will be keeping a close eye on this game. The London Semi Final makes sense to be played on a Friday night as most fans will be close enough to attend and it keeps the April 15th free for both Chelsea and Liverpool for their respective reasons.

Patrick Vieira is clearly still in touch with Garry Cook: That is the only logical reason I have for the comments coming out of the 'Manchester City legend'  (he was there for 18 months at the end of his career) regarding Manchester United.

Last week he described the current League leaders as 'desperate' and was promptly put in his place by Sir Alex Ferguson later that week.

He clearly hasn't learned that he was looking like a tool (much like Garry Cook didn't recognise that until it was too late) and today has made comments about how Manchester City 'deserve' to win the League and Manchester United get all the decisions at Old Trafford.

Vieira states City deserve to win the League because they have played the best football, but clearly didn't receive the news that it was announced last week that 16 of the 20 top flight managers had nominated Tottenham as playing the best football this season.

I'm guessing the former Arsenal midfielder also missed the tape of Newcastle United being awarded a ridiculous penalty at Old Trafford earlier this season that cost Manchester United two points.

Granted it was a penalty on Monday night for the challenge on Fulham's Danny Murphy, but that has evened up the bad decision earlier this season, while Vieira also tried to hide the 'bitterness' that was brewing by suggesting all the big clubs get these decisions and that is what City are striving for.

I just think Vieira has not forgiven United were thwarting his dreams on more than one occasion during his time at Highbury, but surely someone needs to have a word that the team need to keep the focus on the field during this City run that has seen them drop to second in the League table rather than giving Sir Alex Ferguson more 'ammunition', which he already has 'plenty of'.

The relegation picture got a little murkier: Am I the only one that used to love it when the press would release their predictions as to who will win the League and who will go down based on how they thought the final fixtures would go?

I am going to release something like that on the blog in the coming days, before the weekend games, but what I do know is that last weeks results from the Premier League have made it a little tighter at the bottom of the League with all 5 teams still involved.

The biggest loser was Wolves who find themselves 4 points behind Bolton in the final position of safety (5 if you include their horrible goal difference), but a win for Wigan at Liverpool is a huge boost for their chances while Bolton beating Blackburn has dragged the latter back towards the trapdoor.

Momentum is a big thing at this stage and I think Bolton are leading that front, while Wigan and QPR have an awful set of fixtures to come. I would say Wolves will be all but down if they fail to beat Bolton this weekend at home because they have no momentum and nothing positive happening for them right now.

Blackburn had been playing better of late but the loss last week would have hurt them and it is getting tougher down the bottom. Aston Villa may want to be a little careful in thinking they are fine as there are only 8 points between them and QPR in 18th and they too have an awful set of fixtures to come and looked a little lost at times in their loss to Arsenal.

What is it with those Manchester City fans crying at Swansea and Stoke City?: I have a couple of theories: Either they had heard such a funny joke that it had brought tears to their eyes, or they have been following City for around two seasons.

I mean seriously, crying because the team is second in the table and still in control of their own destiny? (Win every game left and City are Champions as it stands).

This is a team that has gone 34 years without a trophy before winning the FA Cup last season, a team that was playing in the League One Play Offs just a few short years ago and one that has had more bad times than good for a generation.

Crying? I mean come on... It has been rightly ridiculed in a number of quarters, so much so that one of the so called 'fans' came on a radio show to claim he was just 'tired and frustrated'. Those 'fans' need to get a grip- it hasn't all be Sheikhs and financial fortunes at City in recent years and they haven't lost anything just yet.

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