There’s a platinum door - Preview
Monday, 19th Apr 2021 21:56 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, ever ahead of the curve, head off into their own Super European League Teatime Spectacular on Tuesday evening with a trip into deepest Wales to face promotion chasing Swansea.
Swansea (22-10-10 LLLWWD 3rd) v QPR (16-11-15 DWLWLW 10th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday April 20, 2021 >>> Kick Off 19.00 >>> Weather – Here comes the sun >>> Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Before the war, when we weren’t forbidden by the government from going off the end of our road to meet people we like and do things we enjoy, I would use these funny little electric trains that run under the ground to take me into London. Occasionally one of these things would be as many as four minutes away and so like everybody else I’d stand there very angrily on the platform looking across at the Harry Redknapp advert encouraging me to use the Bet Victor app more often, and the Harry Redknapp advert telling me I should get a Nintendo Wii, and the Harry Redknapp advert telling me I should eat more jam roly poly (which was actually a cunningly disguised Harry Redknapp advert telling me I should use one brand of off-the-shelf website design over another), and I’d wonder just exactly how much money is ‘enough money’?
What is the critical mass for wealth? Once you’ve got the mansion in Sandbanks, the property development business, the millions from your long and illustrious career in football, the ITV entertainment commissioners so enraptured with your ‘everyman’ schtick that you could literally suggest a competition between yourself and Chris Kamara to see who could piss highest up the wall of a car park and walk out with a six-part series for Saturday nights… do you really need to keep going? Do you really need to help further the reach and appeal of an insidious gambling industry? Do you need to chuck a load of people out of a halfway house on Bournemouth seafront so you can turn it into luxury flats? How much money is ‘enough money’?
The answer, of course, is there’s no such thing. You spend up to your income, and always wish there was more. Bill Gates told Homer Simpson he didn’t get rich by writing out a lot of cheques, and the super-rich didn’t ascend to that level by stopping and settling for “enough”. When Jeff Bezos gets to $1bn he’s thinking about where the next $1bn is coming from. Profit, we’re told, is not a dirty word.
So it was a wry smile that I sat back and listened to former Manchester United player and captain, die-hard Manchester United supporter, Gary Neville letting rip from his present position as an employee of Sky Sports, about just how terribly evil the plans for a European Super League, revealed on Sunday night, really are. Don’t get me wrong, he’s absolutely right in what he says, every single bit of it, and it’s not only important that high profile people within the sport, and particularly those with a connection to the clubs involved, give these plans both barrels, but also gratifying to see somebody in his position as angry as the rest of us about it. But let’s also not pretend this is that different to the decision to ride roughshod over a century of footballing history in this country and breakaway to form a Premier League in the early 1990s. It’s simply the next step on the same journey.
That, like this, was driven by the “biggest” and richest clubs wanting a greater share of expanding media, corporate and sponsorship money. Neville’s old employer Manchester United were the biggest beneficiary, and Neville’s present employer Sky Sports was the driving force. Neville won eight of those shiny new Premier League medals and became a multi-millionaire with hotels and business interests, and a financially doped football club all of his own, through a split driven by greed and money. His anger at it, however welcome, however justified, is rather like him lambasting clubs for never giving managers time to build anything while also binning off Salford managers at a rate of one a fortnight – ok for me, not ok for you, do as I say, not as I do. Likewise, Chelsea, Man City and Spurs, who’d have been nowhere near getting a seat at the table for such discussions were they held at any point over the last century apart from the most recent ten years, and would no doubt have vehemently opposed them with everybody else, now happy to pull the drawbridge up behind them and prevent any other club ever having the chance to ascend as they have. Don’t forget that when ‘Premier League 2’ was being seriously mooted, it was Phil Gartside and Bolton Wanderers leading that charge. You feel differently about gravy trains when one stops at your door.
The European Super League is the natural progression from the formation of the Premier League and the only surprise is it hasn’t happened before now. Having got absolutely everything they wanted with the breakaway from the Football League, the biggest clubs have never once stopped bitching, moaning and angling for more. Actually, now we want fewer teams in the league, and now we want to get rid of that cup competition, and now we want an even greater share of the television revenues, and now we want to be able to sell our own television rights abroad, and now we want to have more of a say than Crystal Palace, and now we want to play some league games in Dubai, and now we want more chances for foreign tours, and now we don’t really feel like we should have to play Burnley as often as we do… on and on and on and on it goes. They’re Frasier and Niles, scheming their way into Cam Winston’s elitist health spa but only able to enjoy the treatments in the silver zone for as long as it took them to realise there was a gold door promising even greater decadence still. Of course, Frasier and Niles end up trapped in the bin store clad only in towels and honey butter face masks after mistaking the fire escape in the gold zone for a platinum door, and that’s exactly where this fucking idea belongs too.
These clubs are already at a stratospheric advantage compared to the rest of the league. The domestic television revenue is evenly split across the league, which they hate and try to change every couple of years or so, but everything else is weighted in their favour. The international TV deals, the sponsorships, the corporate, the hospitality, the gate receipts, the merchandise… Manchester United have an “official global lubricant partner”, “an official gaming partner”, “an official digital transformation partner”, “an official global mattress and pillow partner” (- not joking). There are more journalists employed on staff by Manchester City than the Manchester Evening News. The Emirates Stadium generates millions and millions of pounds for Arsenal everytime they open it for a match, while the poor bastards who moved into the flats that surround it and stand on the site of their former Highbury home are now trapped in zero-value homes clad in solidified lighter fuel which the club has washed its hands off. These behemoths get richer day by day, week by week, match by match, season by season. For the rest of the Premier League the aim is to finish seventeenth or above, bank their share of the television revenue, and move onto the next because the hope of ever really competing with these clubs no longer exists. They get richer and richer, and move further and further away into the distance, every time they arrive in the office in the morning. If you’re Southampton, you’re falling further and further behind, just by turning up for work.
And it’s still not enough. It is still, just about, a sport, and so if you do happen to do something silly like sack Mauricio Pochettino and replace him with the artist formerly known as Jose Mourinho, or bin off the most successful manager in the club’s history because the gobshites on Arsenal Fan TV are getting a bit uppity, then there is still that slim chance that a Leicester or a Wolves or a West Ham might nip in there and nick your seat at the Champions League buffet. It doesn’t necessarily matter that Arsenal and Manchester United don’t win anything anymore, and Spurs never won anything in the first place. Man Utd have quietly gone from an all-conquering juggernaut to a Europa League mainstay, with a bang average manager, and a recruitment policy that in this present day and age of data analytics and forensic examination of players amounts to little more than somebody who doesn’t know that much about football sticking a pin in old Panini sticker books. As long as the earnings go up, the share price goes up, the financial results (presented in New York naturally) talk about Instagram engagements and “brand reach”, the shareholder dividends keep getting paid…. It doesn’t actually matter. Missing out on the Champions League, though, becomes a problem, and the leaches who’ve bought these clubs to suck the riches they offer are so clueless about how to run the football side of the business that it’s happening rather too often. So, they’ve been trying to change the rules there – bigger competition, more places, a guaranteed spot every year and greater revenue share based on historical performance, just in case you do take all the grotesque advantages you have in your favour and use them to finish ninth in the league or something daft like that. In the end, though, that too, somehow, isn’t enough, because even there you might end up having to play Zenit St Petersburg, which apparently is now completely beneath Chelsea, who I once saw lose a game at Scunthorpe United 4-1.
The fact that their current fans hate it is a shoulder shrug, because it’s not for them. Football at the highest level stopped being for them, for us, a long time ago, whatever they may put on a specially commissioned banner. It’s not even for the armchair Man Utd fans in this country we’ve long taken the piss out of, nor the fans around the world attracted by the history, prestige and tradition that makes British football what it is – because this ignores all of that. It’s for the Far East, Middle East and American corporate and media markets, where a good number of the games will be played. You’re called “legacy fans” now by the way, and to be honest they’re just waiting for you to die and get out of the way so hurry the fuck up about that would you please. The fact Sky and BT are suddenly unhappy doesn’t matter, because their purpose has been served, this isn’t for their audience, and in Apple, Amazon, Disney and others there are plenty of companies out there with enormously deep pockets locked in a content arms race who will be all over this like a donkey on chips. If not, they’ll just sell their games individually themselves, to the rabid army of Instagram supporters they’ve built up around the world. The fact it’s bad for competition and bad for the sport, that the games will be largely exhibitions, with the same teams guaranteed a place regardless of performance and only one prize creating an enormous amount of dead rubbers, irrelevant. This is about the Fifa generation, paying their club per match to watch on their phones, while corporates pay enormous fees to sit in the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, or Yankee Stadium in New York, watching Manchester United and all the Manchester United players they’ve heard about play Real Madrid and all the Real Madrid players they’ve heard about. Whether there’s anything at stake or not does not matter. It’ll be on in every bar, in every city in the world, all the media companies you’re currently getting your outraged thinkpieces from will cover it, all the angry pundits will work on it and analyse it, all the dirty Gazprom money will sponsor it, Julia Roberts will be there talking about what an “outstanding human being” Paul Pogba is… One of the saddest things about it all is it will work as they want it to, and they know it.
The general consensus from the rest of us mere mortals is, essentially, ‘good’. Good fucking riddance, good fucking bye, at fucking last, don’t let the door hit you in your fat arse on the way out. If they think they can shove this through while maintaining a place in our leagues, they can think again. Ban them from our leagues, from our cups, from our World Cups, and let them go and play over there by themselves if that’s what they want to do. One of several hateful bits of our recent sojourn into the Premier League was the £60 tickets to Old Trafford to sit in a decaying stadium policed by a rabid gang of hired goons intent on throwing out half the travelling support, outnumbered ten to one on the train home by the Cockney Reds on their one game of the season trip; or the £54 seats in the away end at Anfield where “that famous atmosphere” actually consisted of row upon row upon row of tourists attempting to film “that famous atmosphere” on their mobile telephones. That won’t be missed, and a more competitive league without them holds plenty of attraction – teams who’d long since given up hope of ever competing for a league or cup, or enjoying the odd European campaign, suddenly back in the picture. Teams like Swansea City and QPR up the pecking order a little bit.
However… If you think Sky, BT, or anybody else, is going to still be paying north of £5bn every three years, and the foreign broadcasters at least that much besides, to televise a league made up of Newcastle, Everton, Leeds, Aston Villa… you are kidding yourself. That market would collapse completely, and with it all the television deals and already pitiful trickle down money into our league and beyond. It would trigger an incredible reset of football in this country which, again, you may think is a very good thing, long overdue, and better for us all in the long run, but would certainly not be quick and would be incredibly painful. QPR have already been going through a lengthy restructure, from a club that pays £80m p/a on wages to one that pays £18m p/a, and you’ve seen and heard the frustration with that along the way, when we can’t keep Nahki Wells for instance. That is inevitably set to play out across social media all over again this summer with Charlie Austin and Stefan Johansen, despite Lee Hoos patiently explaining the situation over and over and over again. The club will again be accused of lacking ambition and doing things on the cheap, when actually it’s cleaning house, abiding by the rules of the competition it’s in, and playing a long game. That is all playground stuff, absolute small fry, compared to the bloodbath we’d face if this happens. To not only pretend otherwise, but also send a cunt as cunty as Joel Glazer out to talk up the wonderful benefits of the scheme to the “footballing pyramid” rather sums up the disdain the whole project and everybody involved in it hold us. Oh look kids, it’s the nice man from Pacific Gas and Electric come to tell us the hexavalent chromium is actually good for us. Vile fucking reptile. Get off my porch.
The Championship exists now as a sort of chancers’ waiting room. More than half the clubs are foreign owned, from the Americans at Swansea and Barnsley and Malaysians at QPR, to the Greeks at Nottingham Forest, Thais at Sheffield Wednesday, Russians at Bournemouth, Indians at Blackburn, Italians at Watford and so on. None of them are doing that because they’ve got fond memories of David fucking Hirst, or because they enjoy Tuesday nights in Luton, they’re doing it because if you can do a Wolves or a Leicester you can end up with a billion pound Premier League club, and all the prestige it brings, for the cost of buying a Championship one and signing some players for Neil Warnock. Take the carrot of a huge Premier League TV payment away and the attraction for anybody owning a team in the Championship, where every club loses money and wages to turnover ratio is ridiculous, evaporates entirely. You’d literally be signing up to burn your money on bang average footballers with the best case scenario a move into a slightly less mediocre league with a slightly better TV deal. You’ll start finding Championship football clubs fly tipped down the local allotments. Again, you may think this is a good thing. What are QPR doing at the moment if not reaffirming how fun it can be to just play well and win more than you lose at this level? You might want this long overdue chance to build a more sustainable model, not always beholden to the whims and cashflow situation of one rich bloke, aspiring to something more than a promotion and then clinging onto seventeenth in the Prem by your fingernails, and I’m probably with you, but this won’t be like resetting a Super Nintendo. This will be long, grisly and painful. There are still clubs – Stockport, Grimsby, Tranmere – yet to recover from the ITV Digital collapse 20 years ago, losing them a mere £4.5m each which they’d already spent - a pinprick in comparison to this. It’s this knowledge that gives these twats the confidence they won’t be expelled.
United, Real, Juventus, Chelsea… these clubs have been brazen about this for years. It’s a business in a capitalist society to them. Liverpool, and their mawkish, “you’ll never walk alone”, “club of the people” bullshit, and Barcelona, with their long, excruciatingly drawn-out museum tour talking about how much more than a football club they really are, should be absolutely ashamed. It really was just a cynical shirt selling ruse after all. We see you. You can walk alone lads, all the way into the fucking sea. It’s been coming a long time. Once you’ve broken away once, there’s little to stop you doing it again. Even if it doesn’t happen this time, and is just yet another publicity play to enable yet another landgrab by the powerful elite, it won’t be long before it rears its head again. Because, as if we didn’t already know, there is no such thing as ‘enough money’.
Links >>> Robbie James – History >>> Gillett in charge – referee >>> Official Website >>> Planet Swans – Blog and Forum >>> Swansea Independent - Forum >>> Wales Online – Local Paper >>> The Jack Army – Forum >>> SOS - Fanzine
Geoff Cameron Facts No.143 In The Series - Geoff Cameron’s birthday party is 60% putting a crew together and 40% explaining how the birthday had already happened.
Below the fold
Team News: QPR have Charlie Austin back from his three game ban, although with Lyndon Dykes now on five goals and two assists in six games it’ll be interesting to see how Mark Warburton plays that one. Seny Dieng’s red card at the weekend has gone down as denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity, which is a one match ban, rather than dangerous play, which would have been three. Joe Lumley will deputise after his great cameo at the Riverside. Jordy De Wijs missed the weekend game with a broken nose suffered at Rotherham and remains a doubt. Geoff is “out on the grass” (ring the bell) but won’t travel.
Swansea’s top scorer Andre Ayew, 15 goals putting him sixth overall in the league, limped out of the weekend game with Wycombe after eight minutes and is definitely out. Wales U21 player Liam Cullen, himself stricken by injury since late January, came off the bench to score against the Chairboys and will likely deputise.
Elsewhere: A final full midweek round of fixtures features five games on the Tuesday including our own, and seven on Wednesday. Borussia Norwich at home to Watford looked like a great top two battle in prospect, but Swanselona’s slip at the weekend meant Daniel Farke’s side clinched promotion regardless of a loss to Bournemouth and they’ll have been celebrating ever since so it’s suddenly a good chance for Watford to cement an existing six point gap withy four to play and Swansea to come on the final day.
That impressive win for the Cherries at Carrow Road, a fifth in a row at the perfect time of year, moves them onto 74 points, level with Justice League-leaders Spartak Hounslow who enjoyed another xG win against Millwall at the weekend, which the EFL is rather unfairly and arbitrarily insisting on recording as a 0-0. No matter, they’ll probably be the best team Cardiff have played all season when they meet tomorrow, with FiveThirtyEight.com making it 365% likely the Bees will come out on top. Bournemouth, meanwhile, have a Milllllllllllllll game of their own on Wednesday night, before meeting Brentford at the weekend in a potential play-off warm-up. Barnsley are four points clear of Reading in the race for sixth and they both have winnable away games at Sporting Huddersfield and Lutown respectively.
Wycombe could go tomorrow if they don’t, at the very least, get a win for themselves against Bristol City. They’re nine points shy of fourth bottom Wayne Rooney’s Derby County with 12 to play for. Sheffield Blue Stripe have a seven point gap to make up, they’re at home to Blackburn. Exhausted Rotherham continue to burn through the games in hand without making up the requisite ground – four points back from Derby with six games still to play starting against Boro at home on Wednesday. Mr Potato Head looks like he’s going to keep the Rams up almost by default – Preston Knob End away should be a chance to put it to bed given how little they’ve got to play for, but then again County somehow lost away at Blackburn on Friday night in identical circumstances.
Referee: Jarred Gillett, easily the best referee we’ve had in our Championship games this season, gets a last attempt to sully that record before the summer break. Details.
Swansea: Initially Swansea’s looked like a promotion success built on defence. Only top two Norwich (31) and Watford (28) have conceded fewer than their 33 goals. The Swans didn’t concede a goal at all until the fourth game of the season and have kept 21 clean sheets in 46 league and cup games. On 20 occasions when they have scored first, or taken the lead at another point in the game, they have seen it through to a win, with only the 1-1 draw at Bristol City and 3-1 home loss to the same opponent blotting that record. That all, of course, includes a comfortable 2-0 win at QPR on Boxing Day. But there has been a wobble of late – four consecutive defeats to nil without scoring through the end of March and start of April against Bournemouth (3-0), Cardiff, Birmingham and Preston (all 1-0) ended their automatic promotion hopes and although they’ve since climbed back on the horse with a 3-0 at Millwall and 2-0 at Sheff Wed, they were 2-0 down here to basement dwellers Wycombe before fighting back for a point at the weekend. Cooper’s side have only kept three clean sheets in the last 12 and this run of seven goals scored in the last week came after they’d only scored two goals in the previous six. One time QPR junior Jamal Lowe had gone 17 games without a goal prior to the win at The Den, but now has four in his last three. The Swans are 11-6-4 at home this season, but three of those defeats have come in the last five games here against Bristol City, Preston and Cardiff. Like ourselves, they have somehow also lost twice to Huddersfield this season – 2-1 here, and 4-1 in West Yorkshire.
QPR: Rangers continue to alternate good performances/results with bad ones – now WLWDWLWLW over the last nine fixtures. The weekend win at Middlesbrough put them on 59 points, beating last season’s total of 58 with four games to spare despite losing 45 goals from the side in Ebere Eze, Nahki Wells and Jordan Hugill. It also put them on six away wins, one short of last season’s seven with games at Swansea and Stoke still to play. Only Huddersfield and Barnsley have doubled Rangers so far, though Swansea can make that three here. Luton on the final day is Rangers’ last chance to secure a second double of their campaign, having only beaten Cardiff home and away so far. Rob Dickie’s masterblaster at the weekend was his third goal for the club, though first against somebody other than Bristol City. Lee Wallace’s second was his first of the season, and first in 30 appearances for Rangers since he spectacularly volleyed home in a 5-1 victory against Swansea at Loftus Road in last year’s FA Cup Third Round. That thrashing was the fourth time in seven visits to W12 that Swansea had been beaten by three clear goals or more (4-0, 3-0, 4-0, 5-1) but it’s ten attempts since Rangers were last victorious either here or at the Vetch Field, a run stretching back to 1981. They’ve lost three of the last four visits to the Liberty Stadium and are without a goal in three matches here.
Prediction: We’re indebted to The Art of Football for once again agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. You can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Let’s see what last season’s champion Mase offers us this week…
" Swansea are in the playoffs but must have given up on the second automatic promotion spot. They might be tempted to select a scratchy team to preserve bodies for those games and we could be in for an entertaining dead(ish) rubber: the polar opposite of the reverse fixture in December.”
Mase’s Prediction: Swansea 2-2 QPR. Scorer – Charlie Austin
LFW’s Prediction: Swansea 1-0 QPR. No scorer.
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Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
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