THE VOTE Who do you want to get relegated?

Around this time of the season I like to adopt one or two second teams to support in their relegation dogfights. I never like to see the three that get promoted go straight back down - and Reading have made sure that is not the case this season - but then you have to lose an established Premiership side. So who do you want to get relegated? Click below to see the candidates and choose who you would like to see in the Championship next season.

Manchester City Relegation outsiders. Level on points with Sheffield United, but with two games in hand. Don't think they will mess it up that much between now and the end of the season.
Sheffield United Relegation dead-certs have shocked a few people by sneaking up to 16th. Neil Warnock has brought colour to the Premiership, and I would like to see the Blades stay up.
Wigan Last season's Reading have been unlucky with some injuries, but their constant moaning makes me reluctant to offer any sympathy.
Charlton Alan Pardew has improved their chances of avoiding the drop considerably (relatively speaking, of course).
West Ham Overachieved last season and are as good as relegated already. And that's without any pending points deduction.
Watford I would love Aidy Boothroyd's side to get out of this one. They had some rough luck at the start of the season and their approach to life in the Prem has been excellent. It is difficult to see them avoiding the drop though.

Pick your three.

[Rob Parker]

March 2, 2007 in Charlton Athletic, Manchester City, Sheffield United, Vote, Watford, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic | Permalink | Comments (14)

Obscene season ticket prices to be slashed?

Money_4 News reaches us that Premiership chairmen are going to be forced into cutting 'obscene' ticket prices because fans have just about had enough of being the victims of daylight robbery every weekend, and as a result, football has reached a tipping point.

Two top-flight chairmen have expressed the same view, both of whom predict price cuts all round next season. 'It is a serious issue that has reached saturation point across the country,' said Phil Gartside, chairman of Bolton. 'We feel duty bound to make a stance by reducing the cost for our season ticket holders, and I'm sure other clubs will follow suit next season and listen to public opinion.' But surely the tickets are inflated at the chairs' behest?

This weekend saw ManYoo fans protesting about the amount being charged to let their fans watch their side at Fulham. They were asked for a whopping £45 to watch their team, and that doesn't include travel and grub... although they hadn't got far to travel from Essex eh? Ho Ho Ho... I'll get me coat. A senior executive from another of the Premiership's 'big four' clubs told Observer Sport that prices could not go any higher. 'Officially we are monitoring the situation,' he said. 'But privately we have realised that ticket prices have reached their maximum, at least in the immediate future.'

These warnings come slap bang in the middle of an attendance slump. Despite an increased capacity at Arsenal and Manchester United, the average attendance is down from last year, and whilst the big four continue to sell out their games, the overall Premiership average is down by more than 1,000 year on year and now stands at 32,775, not including this weekend. What is causing fans to stay away? Well, once, you could watch the footy and not dent the wallet too much, and know exactly when you'd be going out. Basically, high prices and amended kick-off times to enable saturated TV coverage aren't encouraging fans to get down the ground. 

Of course, a lot of money is generated by the TV rights, which obviously help clubs to bring in new players and the like. That said, the Premier League negotiated a new £600million, three-year deal for overseas TV rights to the Premiership. Add the £1.7 billion Sky and Setanta will pay to screen matches in Britain, and the £400m for internet and mobile phone rights, and it seems scandalous that ticket prices continually increase. Each club will be getting around £900m per season (starting in August).

Apart from drops in season ticket prices, a group are also want away matches addressed. The Football Supporters' Federation want a fixed price for all travelling supporters. 'Away fans in England are unique. You would not get 5,000 Milan supporters travelling to Juventus. If prices were to stay in line with the Taylor Report's recommendation, then £15 would be a fair price for those who travel to watch their team.' The report, published in January 1990 in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, stated that 'it should be possible for seating to be £6'. With inflation, that would mean fans paying just £9.60 now, rather than the average of about £30.

So what's the answer? Well, looking at Germany's Bundesliga, the average attendance was approximately 40,000, which is superior to our league matches. In fact, it's about a quarter more fans in through the turnstiles, shouting for their team. German fans can buy tickets for as little as £10 or £15 for all games, and in some cases, terracing is being used, which gives a fan a feeling of real unity, as opposed to the sterile stadia over here. What is interesting is that the Bundesliga is renowned for its competitiveness, with many teams standing a chance of winning it. Should we look at the German model to fix our game? [Mof Gimmers]

February 26, 2007 in Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, News balls, Portsmouth, Reading, Sheffield United, Tottenham Hotspur, Watford, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic | Permalink | Comments (2)

Phil Dowd, definitely not on Paul Jewell's Xmas card list

Paul_jewell_wigan_081006 Just leave it Paul, he's not worth it… Wigan Athletic manager Paul Jewell has claimed, in the Daily Mail, that a Premiership club asked not to have referee Phil Dowd in charge of their games: 'We can't as a club say we don't want him but I know a certain club that has asked,' he told the Mail. 'I know they didn't have him when they should have this season. Maybe some clubs have more influence than others.' Hmm, who could this mysterious club be? Man Utd perhaps? Or Arsenal? One of the big four, by the sound of it.

Jewell has already been charged by the FA for previous comments about Dowd, and this won't do his case any good. I understand he is still upset about losing 2-1 to Arsenal, but in the interests of ensuring Wigan's Premiership survival, he should move on, don't you think?

February 21, 2007 in News balls, Wigan Athletic | Permalink | Comments (0)

THE VOTE Should footballers and managers be allowed to swear at the referee?

Dowd_jewell Wigan boss Paul Jewell has announced he will contest a foul and abusive language charge by alleging that referee Phil Dowd is partial to a bit of cursing himself. Jewell will face the FA armed with statements from six of his players claiming that Dowd told them to "F**k off" during the match against Arsenal last Sunday.

Is the solution to these petty disputes to let both parties say what they like on the pitch? I recall Gazza being sent off for swearing at the referee during his time at Middlesbrough and saying he could not see anything wrong with a bit of industrial language between two men at work. Or is maintaining a certain level of respect for match officials the only way to stop incidents spiralling out of control? [Rob Parker]

February 14, 2007 in Vote, Wigan Athletic | Permalink | Comments (1)

Big Sam Allardyce has a pop at time-wasting Arsene Wenger

0100457472400 The Arsene Wenger/Thierry Henry/Paul Jewell/Phil Dowd/Chris Kirkland/Mad Jens saga continues to run. Big Sam Allardyce (seen here with a couple of members of the Bolton coaching staff) has hit back at Wenger's time-wasting jibes by claiming Arsenal are just as good at playing the clock as any team.

Read Sam's provocative comments after the jumpy thing…

3373021753089458238 'Arsene has been very clever in choosing to make a little psychological profile of the time-wasting issue,' said Allardyce. 'It is as though the opposition always do it against them and they never do it… But it doesn't fool us and it doesn't fool most of the other managers either because we know they are just as good at doing it as anyone else when they are winning in the final minutes of matches.

'He criticised us heavily for time-wasting when we nearly beat Arsenal last season, so hopefully he will be moaning about us again tomorrow.'

The 'tomorrow' Sam refers to is now today [Wednesday 14th Feb], the date of Arsenal's FA Cup replay against Bolton at the Reebok Stadium. Nothing like stirring the pot, is there Sam?

Essentially, Sam is right, in as much as every professional team time wastes these days, so it's pointless to pick out one team as more guilty than any other. Bolton do it, Arsenal do it, Chelsea do it, Wigan do it, Man Yoo do it etc etc.

And until refs really clamp down on time-wasting (red cards?), all teams will continue to do it.

February 14, 2007 in Arsenal, Bolton Wanderers, News balls, Wigan Athletic | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wigan? Boo-stinkin'-Hoo.

Jewell_2 Is it me, or is anyone else annoyed with the mewing coming from Wigan at the minute? It's all 'boo-hoo, we're so hard done to…' Admittedly, Wigan were unlucky against Arsenal at the weekend, what with penalty decisions not going their way and the referee reportedly swearing at Paul Jewell; they really should have had at least a point from the game.

Since when has 'Football team - Unlucky' been news though? Henry's dive was bad news but it didn't end up making an impression on the match, while Flamini's offside position is just one of a thousand ropey decisions by match officials over the weekend. There's another problem that needs addressing at the JJB, and it aint referee Phil Dowd.

Basically, the league table has this points system. We've had it for over one hundred years (with a slight change from 2 points for a win to 3 for all you pedants out there) and it's simple. Win games, go up the league. Now, with every team suffering from bad decisions week-in, week-out, I'd argue that Wigan's current predicament is down to the fact that they're a poor side that can't win matches.

If Wigan's chairman, Dave Whelan, really thinks that Dowd is to blame for "costing the club £50m" for their potential relegation, then sorry, Wigan will get relegated for being incompetent on the park, and to quote Jewell himself, lacking bedevilment in-front of goal. Eight-game losing streaks get you relegated, not one poor decision by a match official. [Mof Gimmers]

February 13, 2007 in Wigan Athletic | Permalink | Comments (2)

THE VOTE Was Henry right to goad Chris Kirkland?

Picture_1_279 Thierry Henry is not very popular right now, after a couple of incidents during Arsenal's jammy 2-1 win against plucky Wigan. Not only did Henry dive in the box, he also gloated in the face of Wigan keeper Chris Kirkland (who had, admittedly yet understandably, been guilty of time-wasting). All very unsavoury. Now Arsene Wenger has come out and said that Henry was 'right' to do what he did to Kirkland. Pathetic, Arsene.

The Guardian's Rob Smyth has waded into the debate, accusing the Frenchman of 'increasingly infantile behaviour'. I agree with much of what Smyth says. Henry is going down and down in my estimation. He is an incredibly talented but also incredibly vain player – perhaps that explains why he didn't want to go to Barcelona, where he would have been just another superstar, and also behind Ronaldinho in the pecking order.

February 12, 2007 in Arsenal, Wigan Athletic | Permalink | Comments (5)

THE VOTE Did Thierry Henry dive against Wigan?

Of course he did… va va voom - more like va va cheating twat.

February 12, 2007 in Arsenal, Video clips, Vote, Wigan Athletic | Permalink | Comments (13)

Wigan gun for Lee Chun-Soo

Wigan boss Paul Jewell is going after Lee Chun-Soo. The South Korean starlet announced himself on the World Stage at the last World Cup with a stunning freekick against Togo. The 25-year-old former Asian Young Footballer of the Year has emerged as a target as Jewell looks to strengthen his squad. Lee currently plays for Ulsan Tigers in the K-League and is keen to return to Europe after spells at Real Sociedad and Numancia in Spain.  Let's have another look and hope he makes a decent impact on the Premiership.

January 23, 2007 in International football, Players to watch, Rumours & gossip, Video clips, Wigan Athletic | Permalink | Comments (0)

Please can we have some decent match officials?

RennieSo, Keith Hackett wants the BBC to stop criticizing his referees eh? Well, like I said last week, if that's going to happen, we need the match officials to sharpen up a bit. This weekend, much like any other footballing weekend, has seen a couple of incidents that have really stuck in my throat. The first referee under deserved scrutiny is the hapless Uriah Rennie.

Rennie is facing a drop from the Premiership over a glaring error that enabled Newcastle to fight back for a 2-2 draw with West Ham. His mistake in allowing James Milner's goal to stand when Scott Parker was clearly interfering with play in an offside position is also likely to be used as a demonstration video for referees on how not to apply football's most complicated law. If West Ham are relegated by a couple of points, don't be surprised if Uriah takes some heat.

This glaring gaffe was described last night as "an appalling piece of refereeing" by one former official, Kevin Lynch. The referees' chief, Keith Hackett, has a policy of temporarily removing officials from the top flight in such instances and Rennie is almost certain to find himself demoted to the Coca-Cola League for a fortnight at least. "People claim the law is confusing but in this instance it is very clear, leaving no room for misinterpretation, because there was interference," said Lynch. "The assistant was quite right to put up his flag, in my opinion. To overrule him was extremely poor refereeing - a big mistake."

This is where I get angry. Just how acceptable is it to send Rennie to The Championship? Games lower down the league are just as important as the Premiership matches. By admitting that Rennie is incompetent (why else would you demoted him?) it hardly seems fair to send him somewhere else. The only difference in sending him to Coventry (quite literally) is that he will come under less scrutiny. This won't necessarily make him a better referee. Surely a review, then a one-match ban would be more appropriate? Like a player who constantly gets sent off, it would tarnish his career and further suspensions would lead his employers to consider his future at the club. This doesn't happen with officials. They merely get taken out of the spotlight. It's not enough.

In another show of inconsistency, Alan Wiley sent off El-Hadji Diouf for abuse. Now, looking at the footage, it seems that Diouf appealed a decision and then told Wiley to "fuck off". Now, whilst I do agree that players should not abuse the officials, it is interesting to note that during the Man United/Arsenal game, Thierry Henry stayed on the pitch after calling the ref' "a fucking prick" after he failed to win a penalty. In fact, the level of swearing at the ref that generally goes on in Man United games leads many fans to believe that there is a two tier rule book in the Premiership. Wayne Rooney, notorious for giving the officials hell, gets away with it time and time again. Of course, it's not just Manchester United who do this. Every club is guilty of it. Referee's are often surrounded by players debating a decision, but how many result in red cards? Not enough. However, Diouf it would seem, was sent off because his reputation preceded him. Surely, the officials should be approaching the game with a clean slate? UEFA have called for more protection for officials and  I'm not calling for leniency on abuse to referees, but consistency in their decisions. What do you think? [Mof Gimmers]

January 22, 2007 in Arsenal, Bolton Wanderers, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Wigan Athletic | Permalink | Comments (7)