Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I’ve been involved in difficult games and things happened. Here, I’ve played seven years and I’ve never seen it like this. It’s certainly not good for football. I was completely shocked. Totally. I knew it was a game that meant a lot for the two sets of supporters, but I didn’t imagine it like this.” – Gianfranco Zola.
Runner-up: “I didnâ€™t fear for my own safety. There were no Millwall fans on the pitch. They stayed where they were supposed to. There were a lot of people on the pitch. The lads gathered together and came to the sides, as they should have. That was the right thing to do. Weâ€™ve got a passionate game in this country, but when it oversteps the mark then things have to be done.” – Kenny Jackett.
Today’s overview: There is widespread condemnation and anger throughout the backpages this Wednesday as the disgraceful violent scenes from the West Ham-Millwall match are dissected by the fourth estate. Sadly, one person was stabbed during the violence.
After being an eye-witness to the events, Dominic Fifield wrote “football was plunged back into the Dark Ages last night… This was always likely to prove a poisonous occasion, though it was demoralising to see grim pre-match fears realised… The Football Association will act swiftly and, surely, decisively in the wake of an evening that shamed football.” Ron Lewis also hung his head in shame in The Times. “For a time at Upton Park last night it was as if football had been transported back to the 1980s, as supporters of West Ham United and Millwall re-enacted a time when the match was only a backdrop to rioting.”
Chris Irvine announced “it is thought some fans were ambushed by rival supporters outside the nearby Upton Park underground station via side roads.”uncovers the details of the organised violence. “Violence outside the stadium began at 6pm, an hour and 45 minutes before the Carling Cup match was due to begin. Supporters later attacked police officers who tried in vain to maintain a cordon around the stands… The Metropolitan Police said that disorder outside the ground, where West Ham beat their rivals 3-1 after extra time, was caused by troublemakers who had turned up despite not having tickets.” Filling out the picture further,
The Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel, a well-known West Ham fan, was also in attendance with his children last night and the scribe reported on his personal experience of the night. “A pal of mine, a Millwall fan, got off at Upton Park station. Police said they could not guarantee his safety. He turned around and went home. Everyone thought I was mad to bring the boys here, even in the comfort of the posh seats. I said it was about time they saw a real football match. It seems a rotten joke now. I meant lively. I didnâ€™t mean like this… I canâ€™t comment on what happened outside the ground, but I know what I saw inside. This was not Millwallâ€™s problem; this was down to West Ham.”
Not only was violence present at the match, but racism too, according to Gary Jacob. “Carlton Cole appeared to gesture as he was substituted that he was racially abused with monkey chants by Millwall fans.” Over in the Mirror Darren Lewis removes any doubt from the equation, reporting “West Ham striker Carlton Cole was forced to endure shocking racist abuse from the Millwall fans.”
Looking at the aftermath of the violence, Andrew Fifield talks up swift action from the FA. “English football’s governing body has promised a stringent investigation after violence erupted inside and outside the stadium, and they are expected to impose severe sanctions. Both clubs will be bracing themselves for a hefty fine, and the FA could even close sections of Upton Park.” In a separate article Fifield continues to lay out the potential repercussions writing “the ‘planned’ scuffles could see both clubs incur massive penalties from the Football Association, with the individual culprits facing a lifetime ban.”
Dragging English football further down the mire is David Conn’s report into how an alleged cover-up over a railway battle between Sunderland supporters and police has now turned into a legal fight. “Sunderland supporters are continuing to dispute Northumbria police’s account of an incident at Newcastle Central station this month, when police with dogs and wielding batons left several of their number injured, including three who required hospital treatment, two reportedly for serious head wounds.”
Although football violence is unquestionably the story of the day, there are other footballing issues splattered around the backpages.
Liverpool’s dire start to the season is examined byCertainly, the owners have again been an issue, providing neither sufficient funds nor conspicuous stability in the boardroom… With a growing feeling that BenÃtezâ€™s squad reached its potential last season – an appraisal that was laughed off by some when it was made by Sir Alex Ferguson before the new campaign began – the ownersâ€™ unwillingness to invest heavily over the summer looks increasingly like a missed opportunity.”
Keeping with Liverpool, Sam Wallace looks to explain the Reds’ recent defeats by looknig at issues on the pitch. “More than anything, the Villa defeat demonstrated the need for urgency in the recovery of Â£18m signing Alberto Aquilani… The performance on Monday showed that â€“ never mind Alonso â€“ when Liverpool cannot rely upon Gerrard and Torres there is not another creative spark who might be able to conjure up something in a difficult situation.”
Most of the papers report how Arsene Wenger has instructed his Arsenal team to stay focused ahead of their match with Celtic tonight in the Champions League. For Jeremy Wilson though, the reality is that the tie is virtually over already. “For all Wenger’s caution, Celtic have won just once away from Glasgow in Europe over the past six years and should provide only a limited threat.”
Two of Manchester United’s squad members receive less than welcome features.
For the second day running we learn about Anderson’s falling out with Sir Alex, Oliver Kay reporting “Ferguson will consider giving Anderson a starting role in the eagerly awaited tussle with Arsenal on Saturday evening, but the playerâ€™s long-term future at Manchester United is in doubt after a row with his manager on the training ground.” Elsewhere, Sam Wallace delivers bad news to Little Mickey announcing “Owen’s first goal for Manchester United against Wigan last Saturday has not convinced Fabio Capello that he is worth a recall.”
Almost peeing in his pants,Everton are poised to sign Sylvain Distin for Â£5 million, while Aston Villa are closing in on Richard Dunne. In addition, Spurs are ready to splash Â£13 million on the 20-year-old Internacional defensive midfielder Sandro, while also lining “up a move for Mario Mandzukic, the Dynamo Zagreb forward, in case Roman Pavlyuchenko leaves.”
The likelihood of Roman Pavlyuchenko leaving Spurs increases in the Telegraph, where we learn “Italian side Roma have monitored Pavlyuchenko and there is thought to be interest in Germany and from his former club Spartak Moscow.” And The Sun go one step further claiming “Pavlyuchenko has derailed Spurs’ flying start to the season by demanding a transfer.”
Staying with Spurs, Alan Nixon takes journalistic license to trumpet “Tottenham star set for Blackburn switch” – the story being that “Sam Allardyce is making a shock Â£1.5 million swoop for Tottenham’s unhappy Pascal Chimbonda – as he opens the door for Steven Warnock to join Aston Villa.”
The Daily Mail deliver the never-gonna-happen rumour that “Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is believed to have stepped up his interest in Arjen Robben, after the Real Madrid player was reportedly offered to Manchester United.” Jumping on the bandwagon is Ian McGarry farting “Manchester United will launch a deadline-busting bid to sign Arjen Robben from Real Madrid. United have been quoted Â£26million but the Red Devils plan to force the price down this weekend.” Danny Fulbrook also wades into the hyped transfer story of the day noting “Sir Alex Ferguson is weighing up a Â£20 million move for Arjen Robben.”
Lastly, out of leftfield and arguablly way behind the times Rob Bagchi complains about how football fans have been turned into walking billboards. “More and more of us are dressing in uniform to attend games, clothes which we pay for that turn us into advertising vehicles. It’s been a miracle of marketing. Go figure.”