Sunday, January 21, 2007

Something For The Weekend

It is not surprising that Sky Sports would use 'Grand Slam' hyperbole to describe this weekend's Premiership football; after all they've paid enough for the rights. Indeed, out here in the US it's 'Grand Slam' weekend in more ways than one, with the NFL title deciders later today set to confirm the Superbowl contenders. And if that wasn't enough sport for one weekend, we had Ricky Hatton's fight last night too.

The Liverpool vs Chelsea encounter was a bit of a damp squib, but the Arsenal v Man Utd game eventually lived up to expectations, even if it took Rooney's goal to really take off. The game was full of flair, skill and wonderful technique under pressure, and thus bore virtually no resemblence either to our game nor the dire Wigan v Everton game that I endured this morning at the pub.

If I thought it was lonely being a Charlton fan in New York, it's clearly nothing compared to what it is to be a Latic or a Toffee (assuming there even are any, especially the former). When I entered the pub at 8.30am, the two bargirls looked aghast as if I had just broken into their house, clearly convinced that they would be completing their morning stock count in peace. Imagine their surprise too when I demanded the 'check' long before the Arsenal game began; "Are you not staying for the main game, love?" they asked, "No, no interest whatsoever thanks," I replied to the same stunned looks that greeted my arrival (they weren't to know I was heading home to watch it).

Now whilst the 'big four' are amongst some of the finest purveyors of football in the world, the Premiership product elsewhere is firmly 'damaged goods' in my view, and the fans are recognising it too. Admittedly I've waxed lyrical about this topic before, but it's a theme I find myself unable to stray too far from. With the top four places pretty much sown up already thanks to Henry's late winner, and the bottom five increasingly adrift, there is a rump of eleven clubs in midtable with just the dubious 'goal' of UEFA Cup football and positional prize money to aim for.

Thus should we be surprised at the desperately poor crowds at a number of Premiership grounds this weekend (again)? 18,149 at Wigan (which included a solid turnout of Everton fans); 24,614 at improving 'Boro; 36,590 at Man City (in a stadium built for 31% more)? Meanwhile last weekend, high-flying overachieving Bolton could only attract 22,334 for a local derby with Man City. Fans of these clubs might be loyal but they ain't stupid, especially at £30+ a pop with interest rates going up.

Having said all that, I am actually rather enjoying this relegation battle. I don't recall the last time I watched a Premiership game not involving Charlton and actually caring who won, yet here I was at an ungodly hour cheering on Everton with unbridled passion. Hell, I even winced when I realised Andrew Johnson might be badly injured, but luckily his teammates pushed on for a victory which whilst hardly a 'Grand Slam' for Charlton, was perhaps a 'Triple Crown' of an Addicks win, and Sheff Utd/Wigan defeats.

I can't usually rustle up too much enthusiasm for boxing, but I decided to stay up to witness Hatton's Vegas debut. With a middle name like 'Hitman' it was perhaps inevitable that he'd end up being a boxer, but whilst the expert commentators on HBO confirmed it wasn't his 'finest performance' (I'm not sure I can tell the difference to be honest), he certainly charmed the viewers with his self-deprecating humour at the end.

My favourite moment of the fight actually occurred inbetween rounds, when the commentators suggested that viewers might require an interpreter for Hatton's corner as well as the one already recruited to explain what was being said in Juan Urango's. If the Mancunian dialect was a little too obscure for the locals, then there must have been plenty of confusion throughout Vegas last night because 7,000 apparently made the trip to see the local favourite. Just think about that.....7,000 genuine Mancunians altogether in one place....that's more than you get at Old Trafford.

Talking of sports I don't really understand, the NFL conference title deciders take place today with virtually all neutrals backing the New Orleans Saints to overcome the Chicago Bears, and claim an unlikely Superbowl berth after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Elsewhere, the Indianapolis Colts take on the New England Patriots, Superbowl champions in three of the past five seasons.


At 11:59 PM, Anonymous Ali said...

The Bolton v Man City game had such a low attendance because the City fans organised a boycott, in protest at the cost of tickets. They had shots of the away end on MOTD which basically consisted of a young couple sat down the front, and lots and lots of empty seats.

At 4:04 AM, Anonymous newyorkaddick said...

Point taken but it's another manisfestation of the same theme....overpriced tickets for an inferior product

At 5:22 PM, Blogger worcestershireleaburn said...

Top flight football in the UK was killed when the Premier League took Murdoch's shilling in 1992. Any suggestions that it is the best league in the world are pure hype. When the big boys decide to bail out (Roman, etc...) and the TV money returns to a sensible amount, we'll see what's left of our beloved league. My guess is it'll be wrung dry by then, and probably not with 92 clubs.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Chicago Addick said...


At 8:41 PM, Blogger tim said...

i think the prices of tickets will come down. The amount of money being made thru TV surely now dwarfs the ground revenue and the key is to keep the grounds full. It is the atmosphere that often sets the league apart - its the most common thing i hear "the songs you crazy english sing at your football" - they will reduce fees to maintain the theatre, perhaps even paying a fee to the heartiest singers like an extra in a film


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