Filed: Friday, 2nd October 2015
By: Brian Williams
Ask anyone at the Premier League and they will tell you the fixture list is compiled by computer. But what sort of computer?
Youíd think that, as chief executive of the wealthiest league in the world, Richard Scudamore would have sufficient funds at his disposal to afford something decent like a MacBook Air, complete with an Intel Core processor. But, judging by the way West Hamís games have fallen this year, it looks like someone has used an old Amstrad powered by the clockwork innards of a Mickey Mouse watch.
One home game in a calendar month? Youíve gotta be kidding! Yes, I know thereís an international break. But there are five Saturdays in October this year, and we have one, single, solitary first team fixture at Upton Park in that time.
Admittedly it is a mouth-watering encounter with Chelsea, but as someone who regularly forgets where I have left my keys, I just hope I can remember where Iíve stored my season ticket when Jose Mourinho brings his team of corinthian heroes to E13. It will have been gathering dust for a month by then.
Call me old-fashioned, but I rather like the traditional method of playing home and away games on alternate weekends. This new-fangled idea of back-to-back fixtures at the Boleyn Ground (or, worse, miles away from Upton Park) doesnít suit me at all.
Many season ticket holders would have been stymied by the Leicester and Bournemouth home games being on consecutive Saturdays. I was one of them. Word may not have reached the Premier League bigwigs at Gloucester Place, but August is a popular month for parents to take their children away for a summer holiday. I believe it has something to do with the schools being closed around that time.
Bad luck if you happened to have booked the two weeks which included the 15th and the 22nd. (Or good luck if you are one of those sensitive souls who get unduly upset by watching West Ham lose at home to teams we all thought were nothing more than cannon fodder when the fixture list was published in June.)
We get some more of this back-to-back malarkey in December. Worse still, itís either side of Christmas with Swansea away on the Saturday immediately beforehand and another away fixture at Aston Villa on Boxing Day.
Again, Iíd like to know if anyone at Premier League HQ actually looked at these fixtures before they went public with them. Whether or not a clubís Boxing Day fixture is home or away is, of course, in the lap of the gods. But wherever itís played, the game should be a local derby (and if I hear some overpaid TV pundit describe our game against Villa on the 26th as the ďclaret and blue derbyĒ I will choke on my cold turkey sandwich).
When I was a kid, Christmas usually meant Spurs. Sometimes there would be a game against Chelsea (and in 1978 we had the most unlikely local derby when we played Orient on Boxing Day) but, generally, it was Tottenham.
Hard to believe I know, but there was a time when not only did we play on Boxing Day, there would be a game on either Christmas Day or Christmas Eve as well. In 1958, for example, we played Spurs on December 25th and 26th, winning the first game 2-1 at home, then giving them a 4-1 festive stuffing at their place the following day. How good would that make your Christmas?
In the interests of balance, I should probably point out that two years later they beat us 5-0 on aggregate over two games on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. But I think weíll quietly pass over that.
The fixture that really disappointed me this year, of all years, was our final home match. Remember, this isnít just the final home match of the season, itís the last ever game at what has been our home since 1904. No disrespect to Swansea (actually, thereís a good deal of disrespect in what Iím about to say next), but the wonk pressing the buttons on the fixture list computer really should have thrown that one back in the sea when it first came up and had another go until his mighty machine spat out a big fish. Man U, for example.
But the thing that really worries me about the final game at Upton Park is that it isnít the final game of the season. Which means the TV companies can dictate when itís played.
The games on the last day all have to kick off at the same time so no club can gain an advantage by knowing how their rivals have performed. The same is not true of matches played the week before, so if BT or Sky fancy getting their grubby little hands on what is clearly a momentous occasion in our history, there is precious little we or anyone else can do about it.
I am an unashamed traditionalist about things like this, and I like my football matches to kick off at 3pm on a Saturday. Not all supporters, I accept, share my aversion to 12.45s, 5.30s, and Sunday at four oíclock. But letís just say Sky decides to make it the Monday Night Football game. I like my football under lights as much as any West Ham supporter. However, before I leave Upton Park for the last time I would like to have the time to pay my respects properly. Thatís not going to happen if the game kicks off at 8pm. In fact, thereís every chance it will feel like being hustled out of a funeral before the coffin has been laid in the ground.
Football supporters get a raw deal at the best of times. Saying the final farewell to your spiritual home is the worst of times. Perhaps, when this yearís fixture list was compiled, someone who takes home a fat salary for administrating what used to be known as the peopleís game had relied on common sense rather than a dodgy computer we might all have been spared the anguish of how the glorious story that is the Boleyn Ground may yet end.
* Brian Williams is the author of Nearly Reach The Sky Ė A Farewell To Upton Park and a regular contributor to Blowing Bubbles. The October edition is due out next week.
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.
12:14PM 28th Jul 2009
''Nice to read a bit of positivity instead of all the doom and gloom merchants, well done!
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