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The Beautiful Game?

Filed: Friday, 24th September 2004
By: Kevin Mousley

I can honestly say for the first time in 40 years I don’t much care what happens in football. Of course I care passionately what happens to West Ham, which is not quite the same thing.

As a long distance Hammer, I rarely get the opportunity to see them play. Instead every Saturday afternoon I’m a hostage to busying myself with time consuming menial tasks in a fruitless attempt to ignore the stomach thumping implication of the final whistle.

The problem is; should we sweep or sneak back into the Premier League what on earth have we to look forward to? Miraculously stealing a point from the Russian ‘freak show’, only getting thumped 4-0 by Manchester United, or more realistically perhaps putting one over on Spurs?

In the last week we have won two and drawn one. How often is that going to happen if we return to the top flight?

Like most fans I have been trying hard to figure out what exactly has gone wrong. I have nodded sagely as websites, columnists and terrace philosophers have laid into Terry Brown as being the ultimate cause of the catastrophe that has engulfed our club in the last two and a bit years.

He clearly bears some responsibility but not, I feel, for the reasons that most would cite. Choosing Roeder was a bit of clanger, although not as big as being hoodwinked by Harry ‘Del Boy’ Redknapp over the puzzling selection of misfits, has-beens and dross upon whom he managed to splurge so much money.

On a more micro level failing to release funds to shore up the defence in the January transfer window was a serious and ultimately fatal error in our last season in the Premiership.

No, the biggest disservice he and two dozen club owning chums inflicted upon us was agreeing to, or not kicking up enough stink about, the very formation of the Premier League. I could really lay into him on this one but for the fact, that when it came to the ‘vision’ thing, he was not alone. And since when were West Ham a club of vision?

Ask yourself the question: Just what is the point of a league where only three teams can win anything and the rest are playing for not honour but survival?

You wouldn’t watch a boxing bout between a heavyweight and lightweight because it would be a foregone conclusion. Why would you pay £400 plus a season to watch the team you love pummelled by the finest mercenaries that money can buy and we could never afford? I know we Brits are supposed to love an underdog but the new reality of professional football is that every dog does not have its day.

And it will get worse. The FA are a creature of the Premier League and what the big clubs want the big clubs get, which will be an increasing slice of the pie with the threat that if they don’t get it they’ll be off to join a European Super League.

It is a little known fact that already the FA are under notice that if they don’t give more of the revenue from FA to the top clubs then they will quit the competition. Premier League chairman, Dave Richards, denies this but a journalist mate of mine has the letter containing the threat.

United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are running teams and budgets that only make sense if European football is achieved; this is not football, it is commerce and they are not going to let the bothersome business of a level playing field stand in the way of their high risk ventures.

Of course it could all end in tears. Attending football matches is largely a middle aged business these days and will the younger generation feel sufficient pull to commit £400 a year, or whatever the equivalent will be in the future, to watching a local team going nowhere - ever?

Then again are we fast approaching the Scottish situation where we become a nation of United, Arsenal or Chelsea supporters with a soft spot for an also ran?

As things stand I would love West Ham to run away with the Championship this season and then elect to stay there! If only we could afford to.

I must come clean and admit I was moved to write this as a result of reading a new book. 'The Beautiful Game?' by David Conn. Crap title, belting book. All the above and more are expedited with greater clarity and skill than I could hope for within its covers. David is a sometime colleague, co-author and mate of mine - but don’t let that put you off.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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