Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Lazio fans had nothing to do with what happened last night in Campo de Fiori. When it emerges who was really responsible, some people will be surprised. It is all too easy to speak about aggression from people whose faces are covered and say that they are Lazio fans. This isn’t the case. Do you know, for example, that among these criminals, who must be punished in a harsh manner, there were also three foreigners (ie non-Italians)? I maintain that Lazio fans had nothing to do with it.” – Lazio club president Claudio Lotito.
Runner-up: “To know you were innocent but that there was the opportunity for it to wreck your career was truly frightening. Racism has no place in football and this experience should not discourage those to speak out if they genuinely believe they are a victim of abuse. The messages of encouragement from those inside and outside the game helped me through the most stressful time of my professional life.” – Mark Clattenburg.
Benitez: Courting Chelsea Fans
Benitez: I don’t regret the insults (Sun) Rafa Benitez has no regrets over insulting Chelsea in the past — and vows to get Fernando Torres scoring… He said: “If I’m a fan, I’d want my manager fighting for my club. It wasn’t a lack of respect for the Chelsea fans. It was a manager defending his team. I’m sure the fans here would like to see me doing the same. You can analyse every sentence I say. It’s not the big issue. The big issue is that I was fighting, playing a top side in the Champions League semi-final.”
It’s easy, Rafa.. you just have to win every Chelsea game (Steven Howard, Sun) Generally he gave regulation answers to most of the questions while sidestepping those that might have embarrassed him. Like what is a manager who has won both the Champions League and UEFA Cup doing in the demeaning situation of holding the fort until Guardiola or whoever arrives? And is there anything he can do to impress Abramovich, seeing winning the Champions League did Di Matteo a fat lot of good? Benitez’s standard reply — he must have said it half a dozen times — went like this: “For me, the most important thing is I am here because I want to be here. It’s a massive club, one that allows me to fight for trophies.”
Rafa holds up well on first day in the madhouse with Gourlay and Buck nowhere to be seen (Neil Ashton, Mail) Chairman Bruce Buck and chief executive Ron Gourlay are happy to pipe up on radio stations when it suits them, but when it comes to questions that are fully-loaded they are nowhere to be seen. Shame on them. When the FA released a statement clearing Mark Clattenburg of racially abusing their own player, John Mikel Obi, they didn’t have the courage to face up to questions. When Benitez was asked to explain why he is prepared to keep the seat warm for Pep Guardiola, the Spanish coach was left to front it out himself.
Welcome Mr Benítez, Chelsea’s latest second-best next big thing (Barney Ronay, Guardian) Welcome back, then, Mr Benítez. We haven’t been expecting you. Albeit credit where credit is due, it has to be said that nobody does an unveiling quite like Chelsea. If the presentation of Rafa Benítez to the media at Stamford Bridge on Thursday afternoon perhaps lacked the event-glamour of André Villas-Boas’s debut in the same room last summer – an occasion reminiscent in its swooning near-hysteria of an early Cliff Richard concert – it was still a peculiarly gripping, peculiarly fraught, even thrillingly incoherent occasion.
The Ambush & Anti-Semitism Tottenham Suffered At Lazio
Spurs fan fights for life after being knifed in Nazi ambush (Sun) A Brit footie fan was left fighting for life after being stabbed in the head and groin by Nazi thugs. A 100-strong gang of well-drilled, heavily armed yobs yelling anti-Jewish chants stormed a Rome pub where Ashley Mills, 25, was drinking with Spurs pals. The fascist thugs, known as Ultras, ruthlessly targeted Spurs because of their historic Jewish links, police feared last night. Ashley was stabbed and nine others injured when hooligans armed with knives, clubs, knuckle-dusters, rocks and tear gas struck the bar. Witnesses said they heard cries of “Jews” during the pre-planned attack on Tottenham supporters ahead of last night’s Europa League game against Lazio.
Attack on Spurs fans in Rome: questions asked over role of police (John Hooper, Guardian) Questions were being asked on Thursday night about how Italian police failed to prevent a bloody and unprovoked attack on Tottenham Hotspur football fans in one of Rome’s most heavily frequented – and policed – squares.
AVB rages at ‘Jew’ chants (Sun) Lazio fans sunk to a new low — taunting Tottenham followers with anti-Semitic chants in German. In the first-half of last night’s stalemate, they chanted: “Juden Tottenham, Juden Tottenham.” Juden is the German word for Jewish. Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas said: “It will take another investigation. It happened last time. If there is anything here, UEFA have to act.”
Lazio thugs behaved despicably but UEFA chiefs turn a blind eye if it’s not English fans (Martin Lipton, Mirror) Rome’s Stadio Olimpico brought shame on football again last night as Lazio fans showered racial abuse on Tottenham supporters. But for all the weasel words of European football chiefs at UEFA we all know what they will do – nothing. Had English fans showed such despicable, inhuman treatment to foreign supporters, UEFA would come down on the club concerned like a ton of bricks… It is scandalous, unacceptable, utterly wrong. Yet it happens time and again. All we get is lip service. It is outrageous. And nobody seems to care.
Clattenburg On The Chelsea Offensive After His Racism All-Clear
Clatt hits back (Sun) Alan Leighton, head of referees’ union Prospect, said: “Mark is very upset his reputation has been dragged through the mud by this process. There was no need for Chelsea to make the public aware of the allegation. There is also an issue of flimsiness about the evidence provided. What we now need is for Chelsea to accept the verdict, to fully apologise unreservedly to Mark for the actions they’ve taken in damaging his career and to compensate him for that.”
The enemies of football are now pariahs of the Premier League… Gourlay should pay with his job for this (Jonathan McEvoy, Mail) Why did they not keep quiet while they considered if a complaint was worthwhile? That is a question for Ron Gourlay, the chief executive. A second question for him is: will you resign after this fiasco? Harsh? Hardly. This is a club drunk on its own oxygen and wealth.
Now charge Chelsea! Throw the book at Blues after false Clattenburg claim (Graham Poll, Mail) Chelsea should be charged with bringing the game into disrepute, wasting FA time and potentially face a private prosecution from Mark Clattenburg for defamation of character.
Chelsea to resist demands for compensation for Mark Clattenburg (Owen Gibson, Guardian) The Premier League referee spoke of his huge relief after the Football Association found he had no case to answer, describing the “frightening” allegations as the most stressful experience of his life. But Chelsea will resist calls for a direct apology, believing they acted in good faith at all times and had a duty to support Ramires. The Brazilian claimed he heard the referee say “shut up you monkey” to Mikel in the wake of the sending off of Fernando Torres during Chelsea’s home defeat to Manchester United on 28 October.
Chelsea say case is closed but keep their counsel on Mark Clattenburg (Daniel Taylor, Guardian) It is wrong to demonise Chelsea. They will be braced for a good kicking. It has become their default position more times than they will care to remember and, yes, it is clear they have made mistakes. But football is so quick to look for guilty parties it rarely stops to consider that maybe it is not quite that straightforward, as messy and unsatisfactory as it all is. What, after all, were Chelsea supposed to do if one of their players was adamant he had heard a team-mate being racially abused?
FA deserves credit for calm handling of the Mark Clattenburg case (David Conn, Guardian) The association’s thorough and quick report into Chelsea’s accusations leaves no doubt about the referee’s innocence.
Derby’s New Ticket System
Derby roll out revolutionary ticket system to pull in punters (Martin Hardy, Independent) Buying a ticket for a Derby County game, you see, is not like buying a ticket for the vast majority of football clubs in this country. It’s actually more like buying a flight, or a ticket to the theatre. If you leave it late, you’re taking a gamble, especially for the big games. At Pride Park, you could have bought a single ticket for the final game of the season against Millwall before a ball had been kicked in August. That is not the norm. Traditionally, a football fan can buy a season ticket or do it game-by-game. In recent years the half-season ticket has increased in popularity. At Derby, you can get either of those, or a six- or four-game bundle, and the key here is, what goes in that bundle of games will be the Derby fan’s choice, a kind of pick-and-mix with football matches.
City swoop for £15m Wilf (Sun) Manchester City have made their £15million move for Crystal Palace sensation Wilfried Zaha. The Premier League champions are offering £12m up front — plus another £3m in add-ons — for the England new-boy. And they are happy for him to remain on loan at Selhurst Park until the summer.
Spurs go all out for Ince (Sun) Tottenham are stepping up their interest in Blackpool star Tom Ince but will have to pay £10million for his signature in January.
Don’t, Pjanic! Roma refuse to sell star to Spurs in the middle of a season (Mirror) Tottenham made a move for the Bosnian midfielder in the summer and have tried again with a £12m bid while in Italy this week to face Lazio.
Liverpool pin hopes on £12m Sturridge and £6m Ince after hitting Walcott hitch (Mail) Liverpool are confident of finalising a £6million deal for Blackpool’s Tom Ince and will look to add Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge for a further £12m. Arsenal’s reluctance to sell Theo Walcott in January, regardless of his contract negotiations, will delay any possible move from Liverpool until the summer, although the player may yet receive offers from elsewhere with Juventus, Chelsea and Manchester City keen.
Eriksen’s contract snub raises Tottenham’s hopes of signing Ajax ace in January (Mail) The 20-year-old attacking midfielder, who turned down a chance to join Manchester City last year, is refusing to sign a new contract at Ajax.
QPR poised to sack boss Hughes and bring in Redknapp (Mirror) Harry Redknapp has been lined up to return to management at Queens Park Rangers – but not until after their weekend trip to Manchester United… It is believed that QPR are confident Redknapp will take charge as early as Sunday.
Fulham could offer Rover Robinson a return to the Prem (Mirror) Blackburn are poised to let the former England international go on a free as they line up a homecoming for Tottenham’s Brad Friedel in January.