A Plea to the Premier League
This morning I awoke to the extraordinary news that West Ham and Portsmouth are facing investigation into the alleged use of ineligible players. Strangely perhaps, it is the actions of West Ham rather than Portsmouth which trouble me the most, and demand the most throrough of examinations.
There's a bit of 'previous' here too as you might recall, because West Ham were thrown out of the League Cup after the infamous 'Manny Omininyi' affair. To quote a baseball term, for me it should very much be a case of 'two strikes and you're out' (I think it's three - Ed.)
There are few things that threaten the very integrity of our beautiful game than the fielding of ineligible players. The fans can overlook hooliganism; we can disregard the occasional bung and we can certainly turn a blind eye to allegations of wife-beating, alcoholism, gambling addiction and roastings. However the use of ineligible players eats away like a cancer at the very heart of what sport should be.
To my knowledge, Charlton have never fielded an ineligible player. Incompetent, ineffectual and inept yes, but never ineligible. And you know what, Curbs knew it too which is perhaps why he left. There were strong rumours (subsequently denied) that towards the end of last season he knocked on Richard Murray's door and said, "Ronaldinho's in London shopping this weekend....any chance we could throw him in against 'Boro and call him 'Lloyd Sam'? After all no-one knows what Lloyd Sam looks like 'cos I've never played him."
Naturally whilst 'Minty' was tempted what with positional prize money at stake, he knew the fans would never stomach it. Anyhow I refuse to believe there's much in the rumour either given his reputation for purity; Curbs was after all famously quoted as saying, "I'd rather lose a match than leave someone up for corners."
I've had a bit of 'previous' myself when it comes to ineligble players and I've seen the damage it causes. When I was living in London, I ran a Sunday league team and the temptation to 'play a ringer' was never too far away. One Sunday morning for example, my patience was tested by my goalkeeper who rang me and informed me "I don't know where I am" in a hungover drawl. "Have you tried going outside to take a look?," I replied helpfully, resigning myself to taking the field with ten men.
So the next time we were short, I enlisted the help of my friend Stuart (6-foot, ginger, WASP) and asked him if he minded being Jon (5-foot 5, Jewish) for the duration of the game. When a dangerous cross was entering our penalty box, I had enough on my plate trying to avoid having to head it without worrying that I needed to remember to stop referring to 'Jon' as 'Stuart'. It was only when the third goal for which Jon/Stuart was directly at fault for bulged the net, that I began to realise factors other than confusion over his name might be at work.
So it is with a touch of nostalgia (which isn't what it used to be incidentally), and a heavy heart that today I appeal to the Premier League to do what is right, and preserve the very decency of the sport and West Ham's proud history. As Epictetus put it, "First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do."
So it is in the memory of the late great Bobby Moore, in the name of Geoff Pike, Pat Holland and George Parris, and in the name of all true and decent lovers of football, that New York Addick today demands an immediate ten-point deduction and the requirement that West Ham field only eligible players such as Jonathan Spector and Christian Dailly in all remaining games.