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Richard Lord
Richard Lord

In The Eyes Of The Lord!

By: Richard Lord
Date: 06/02/2008 (Last updated: 03/03/2008)

FOLLOWING the year we’ve just had it would be easy to lament the England football team, English players, the Football Association, the coaching of young talent, God, or even moan about how annoying Slaven Bilic’s face is.

Yes, he does have the eyes of a murderer. But - as we enter the second month of 2008 -and you get round to reading this, it’ll all be water under the crumbling (Wayne) Bridge, and no doubt everyone will be fed up with what’s been said and written about England’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008.

The media and fans have had their moan. But the truth is, football gives us a platform and a licence to moan. Other than queuing and being drunk, moaning is what we, as a nation, do best. We pay good money to go to a game and moan. If I were the England manager I’d play the 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1 formation, with the players completely pissed and annoyed with everyone but themselves (not too far from the truth, it would seem). Let’s be honest, what would football be like if we couldn’t have a proper rant before, during, or after the game? And I’m not just talking about the fans here – or the players for that matter. The managers are the worst culprits these days. But, given the fact that they are paid very well indeed, do they have the same licence to moan as we have? Let’s consider the evidence.

The change in their attitude over the past decade is palpable, and, like most other things that have added to the list of negative traits in football, it can all be traced back to that marvellous invention called the Premier League. Sky TV, money… the pressure is so great on managers these days that some of them need to take a break from the game because they get so stressed, not mentioning any Jewells – er, I mean ‘names’. We all know that the difference between success and failure is measured in millions of pounds. When this much money rests upon them, is it any wonder that managers are becoming more and more aggressive? I saw Chris Coleman’s face when Fulham were denied a penalty. The amount of hatred contained in one man’s face is sometimes quite scary. And the moaning… well, they’ve taken it to another level.> For instance, I have never understood the moaning behind fixture congestion. What the manager is doing here, essentially, is lambasting his own club’s success on the pitch. If only they didn’t win all those games they wouldn’t have to take part in the FA Cup and Champions League as well as their bread and butter Premier League stuff. But hang on a minute – am I being so unreasonable as to expect a mediocre player, who earns more in a week than most of us earn in two to four years, to do something twice a week?

So, Liverpool have a Premier League fixture on a Saturday, and then a Champions League match on a Wednesday. And when they have a break from the Champions League they have a League Cup or FA Cup game in midweek. I’ll tell you what – pay me somewhere between 40 and 100 grand and I’ll play two games a week.

And no, don’t reduce the number of teams in the Premier League. This isn’t the competition that you should be looking to change. This is a competition that grants you the chance to showcase your abilities in Europe. If you want fewer fixtures, change the format of the European competitions. I’ve never liked group stages. Let’s bring football back to its senses and play knock-out games right from the start. Less fixtures, less chance of two high profile teams playing out a 0-0 draw, and more chance of some actual entertainment and cup upsets.

That, ladies and gentlemen, will not happen, mainly because it won’t generate as much money as the current format generates now. And that, I fear, will be the answer to a lot of our questions and suggestions.

While down in League 2, Grimsby Town have got on quietly with their job of playing out the month of January and the Christmas period with two games a week. To my knowledge, no one from the club has moaned about the fact that we’ve had trips to Dagenham, Chester, Notts County Brentford, Stockport (twice) and Chesterfield aswell as eight home games. We haven’t really got a squad to cope with that kind of fixture congestion, but the last time I heard Alan Buckley moan about something like this was… well, I can’t think of a time Buckley moaned about something that wasn’t worth moaning about. I’ve always appreciated a straight-talking manager, as do fans in general, I suspect.

Wind the clock back ten years to a season most of us remember very well for obvious reasons. Promotion, cup runs and two visits to Wembley. How many games did we play that season? 68. Did we have a massive squad? No. I think this speaks volumes, and should be something that all managers are forced to acknowledge before they go spouting off about having too many games in a short space of time, and that they will have to rotate their players to avoid them ‘burning out’ or getting injured. Ahem, I’m sorry, but professional footballers are paid handsomely to play football. Paul Groves played every minute of those 68 games and didn’t get injured. He was professional enough to look after himself. In today’s climate of nutritional experts and personal trainers, there should be no excuse for not being able to last 90 minutes in any match – unless, of course, you are returning from a genuine injury.

So, in summary, as much as I would like to sympathise with them, Premier League managers annoy me by moaning just for the hell of it - possibly because of the stress they are under; possibly because they have developed an inferior complex against everything and anything. I appreciate there is a wider spectrum of issues for managers to contend with – so many that I haven’t got the space, time or inclination to mention them all here - but there is very rarely any substance to what they say, rendering those post-match interviews predictable, dull and boring most of the time. Fans don’t want to be patronised by lame excuses and banality. If Fernando Torres can’t play 90 minutes of football twice a week and Gary Jones can, then something is wrong with the one who gets paid 200 times more than the other, or the manager is simply dumb. So don’t go spouting off to the cameras about how the whole world is against you. Give up the clichés, give up the moaning, and give us fans something tangible to listen to.

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