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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ian Holloway & Blackpool

It's emerge today that Blackpool Football Club have been fined £25,000 for fielding a weakened side at Villa Park on 10 November. He made 10 changes to the team from that fielded against Everton at Bloomfield Road, and after the Aston Villa game, which Blackpool lost by 3-2, Holloway said he had to make changes because his regular players were struggling to keep up with a hectic game schedule. On the point about fielding a weakened side and possible sanctions for doing so, Holloway said:

"If some bright spark from the Premier League wants to tell me who I can pick, then come and have a cup of coffee and you'll probably get it chucked in your lap.....Let them try and fine me, it's an absolute disgrace. I'll show the Premier League. We were a credit to football, and let the Premier League try to tell me otherwise."

It was stated that Holloway had threatened to resign if the Premier League were to fine the club, albeit if that was what his chairman, Karl Oyston would agree was in the best interest of the club. So no, Holloway will not be resigning as a result of this fine, because he has done magnificently at Blackpool, getting them into the top flight after an absence of three decades, done the double over Liverpool, beaten other teams and positioned the club in 12th place so far.

But, the same thing happened to Mick McCarthy of Wolves, who fielded a weakened side against Man United at Old Trafford on 15th December , in anticipation of a Burnley game five days later at Molineux which seemed easier to approach for points. Wolves had played, and beaten, Spurs at White Hart Lane 0-1 on the 12th December, and McCarthy made 10 changes to that side to field at OT. Wolves was fined £25,000, which was suspended due to mitigating circumstances submitted by Wolves with which the Premier League had sympathy.

The difference with that verdict and Blackpool's is that the Premier League also took into consideration Blackpool fielded a weakened side against Southampton at The St. Mary's Stadium on 8th January, prioritising the league game at home four days later against Liverpool in the league. Holloway had made nine changes from the side beaten by Birmingham on the 4th January at Bloomsfield to field against Southampton, and he was blatant on TV saying he would do so. He did not fancy Blackpool's chances in the competition, stating that staying up was his main priority.

My point is, the manager is the forefront runner for selection. He picks the team he feels is best for the game, and if that selection is dependable on fighting relegation, seeking promotion, seeking to raise up the table to get into a European place, or is based on an opposition too good for his side, then that's his prerogative. It's his team, let him pick who he wants to, from his squad, because it's his neck on the line.

Arsene Wenger, for one, took Arsenal into the 2nd leg of the Carling Cup semi-final, fielding the likes of Andrei Arshavin, Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, practically a full strength side, when in the past he has fielded mainly the younger players in the squad. He could have done, but he appeared to have focused on getting into the final much more and did away with a young team for his more EPL choice.

But that was his choice, not one the Premier League favoured. I don't think clubs should be fined for fielding players they would usually not field. As long as a player who plays for a club has the right to, then leave it to the manager to choose who he wants to choose from his squad.


Andy Gray & Richard Keys

Andy Gray & Richard Keys have left Sky Sports for good. Andy Gray was dismissed, Richard Keys resigned. For those who don't know, these two presented several live football programmes for Sky for almost two decades. They were the faces of Sky Sports football, Keys was the presenter and Gray was the former footballer who would analyse the action points of the game concerned. At first I was hooked on Gray's analysis, felt he was quite right on most occasions, using his screen gadgetry to explain his points of view.

The only thing with Gray, with me, was his criticism of referees'. I see referees as having a very difficult time in officiating at games, making decisions at the speed of play. Whether they are right or wrong, they should be left alone to make decisions without hassle or harassment from players, and non-constructive criticism from pundits. Non-constructive criticism has led to referees having a bad reputation for a role, I think, many of us would not look to even go near, much less exercise. We can criticise, but we won't try the role to see for ourselves how it is.

That aside, Andy Gray, along with Richard Keys, has come up with another point that has left a bad taste with others, much less myself. The Wolves v Liverpool game on Saturday gone had a lineswoman, Sian Massey. Gray and another Sky reporter, Andy Burton, were discussing about Miss Massey's looks, and during this exchange Burton said he was told by a crew member that Massey was "a bit of a looker." Gray remarked in a manner to indicate his dislike for a lineswoman - "What do women know about the offside rule?"

At another point before the game started, Gray and Keys were in discussion about Massey in the studios, saying female referees do not know about the offside rule. Keys added "Someone better get down there and explain offside to her." Gray replied "Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don't know the offside rule." Keys then said "Course they don't. I can guarantee you there will be a big one today."

Well, Keys was spot on, there was a big call in that game, and Massey at first was looked on as if she got it wrong, only for replays to show she got it correct. Besides, even if she had got it wrong, linesmen have been getting it wrong for years. How could it be said women do not know the offside rule when you have women players playing for the professional clubs?!?

That's the main core of the furore that erupted. Since then, other elements have emerged of Gray and Keys, individually, making comments that indicated more sexism to wards women. It would seem these two have commented off-air to the point that someone leaked the footage of them deliberately. Whether whoever that person was knew of the repercussions of doing so is something else. But the result is Sky will not have them as presenters any more, their faces will no longer have anything to do with Sky Sports, and to be frank I think it was inevitable. They could not continue once the footage had gotten out.

Keys was present at the TalkSport studios, giving his side to the issue. He considered 'dark forces' were at work in getting him and Gray out of Sky, although Keys officially resigned (before he was dismissed, I think). But considering the comments made, are there any more footage to know of? Had they been making comments like these for a long time? And if so, didn't Keys think someone would be offended by them, and eventually his career for Sky would be untenable if such comments were released into the general public by the media?

Dark forces may have been at work against Gray and Keys, but they were not in human form. One was named 'Ethics', the other 'Karma'.



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