Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Football versus Cricket

Beefy, Baldy and Dennis

In the week where the England football team managed to overcome the might of Andorra – population 26 plus lots and lots of sheep; it only remains for your commentator to stress the stupidity of the football authorities – once again.

Every chance I get I continue to complain about how crazy the organization of football has become. Just occasionally I can get someone to listen and sometimes agree. This week the whole of the football season has to be put on hold (thereby dragging it interminably on and on) so that England can play the sheep-herders and then march gaily on to the bandit country of Macedonia – another football powerhouse. Result? A wasted week removed from the football calendar just as the season is getting underway. Crazy.

What is needed is a two-tier system so that the smaller nations of Europe can have a meaningful competition among themselves and the top teams are not endanger of a coma induced by jet lag or their top international players of being injured playing the Macedonian equivalent of Vinny Jones. Sensible? You bet. Possible? Not likely.

Picking up my EDP yesterday I also noticed that the FA Cup had reached its “preliminary round stage”. Unfortunately for Stowmarket they crashed out 0-2 to Dereham Town in front of 67 of the faithful. Ah – the romance of the Cup. What nonsense! I'm only amazed that 67 Suffolk morons could be tempted into the ground. Perhaps they had all been sucking too much red diesel from the tanks?

How we all love a giant-killing! I'm not sure Dereham overcoming Stowmarket quite qualifies, but it must be close. Surely? Not a chance. What makes it all the more crass and idiotic is that the non-league teams have a competition of their own – the FA Vase. If the Cup was organized on egalitarian lines I might see some sense in it. Imagine if Man Utd were forced to play in every round, not get a bye through to the the third round proper? Dereham Town v. Manchester United – now that's a fixture that would really put meaning into the “romance of the cup”. Likely? Not likely. The FA Cup operates exactly how I'm suggesting the European Cup should do. The big clubs don't have to play until the later rounds. Why not have one cup for the “big boys” and one for the small fry – with promotion and relegation – rather like the Davis Cup? Too sensible.

Conversely, either all clubs should be forced to play all rounds of the FA Cup or only the top 150 clubs in England should be entered. Result? Meaningless fixtures eliminated and the football calendar reduced by weeks. Sensible? You bet.

Which brings us neatly to the title of this post. Beefy is, of course, none other than Ian Botham – a Scunthorpe United player when not engaged in thrashing the Aussies. Baldy, affectionately named, Chris Balderstone who played cricket for Leicestershire and Doncaster Rovers and Carlisle United – among others and Dennis, the incomparable Dennis Compton who played for England and Arsenal in the 1950's.

Impossible to do now-a-days even if you had the talent. Why? Because the football season is now so long that it would be impossible to fit any cricket in. Result? All sports are steam-rollered by the football juggernaut and become marginalised. My solution to bring some respectability to the UK Olympic team for the London Games? Ban football in the two years previous.

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