“We are accustomed to English players being in the minority. But, when most of them are employed by foreigners, marketing the product abroad as the ‘English Premier League’ becomes almost as dubious as labelling Japanese whiskey ‘Scotch'” – Patrick Barclay

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I think there is an awful lot of expenditure and you say to yourself: ‘Where is it going to end? That is exactly what was happening in the business world two years ago. There were warning signs and everyone knew there were, yet they carried on because it was so easy to access loans. In the football world you say to yourself the warning signs are there, but nobody seems to be bothering about it. You wonder where it’s going to go and what is going to happen if one major club are to go, to collapse. People are treating football as an item for themselves, owning clubs with untold wealth that you wonder if it is really good for the game or good for that particular club. The clubs involved cannot complain because they see a possibility of richer rewards ahead. That has got to be the carrot. But it is not easy winning things, definitely not easy, and they’ll soon find out.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.

Runner-up: “People say, ‘I hope you get cancer’ and ‘I hope you turn your car over and kill your wife.’ They are not human beings. They need help as they can’t be right, can they? It hurt, yes… Everybody goes on about Pompey being in debt but that’s nothing to do with me. It’s to do with the people who handle the finances. If you can’t afford a player, they shouldn’t buy him… When you’ve got a rich Russian owner [Sacha Gaydamak], the fans think you’ve won the pools, but then he doesn’t want to finance it any more. Then they bring in Al-whatever-his-name, who is eating hamburgers with a Pompey shirt on and it didn’t look quite right. Hopefully now Peter Storrie has found the right owners.” – Harry Redknapp.


Today’s overview: After battling the referees during the international break for his”unfit” comments made about Alan Wiley, Sir Alex has managed to move the conversation on this Saturday by prophesying the collapse of a major football club in the near future. (See the quote of the day.)

But, as The Manchester United manager’s outspoken comments are almost certainly aimed at Real Madrid and Manchester City… [yet] some will say that Ferguson is in no position to talk, with United £699 million in debt as a result of the Glazer family’s takeover in 2005.”

Staying with the subject of responsible ownership, Patrick Barclay laments the fact that English owners are now a minority in the Premier League. “We are accustomed to English players being in the minority. But, when most of them are employed by foreigners, marketing the product abroad as the ‘English Premier League’ becomes almost as dubious as labelling Japanese whiskey ‘Scotch.'”

The heat is turned on Liverpool this Saturday as the Reds face a make-or-break next eight days of their season. Fearing the worse from matches with Sunderland, Lyon and the Manchester United, Oliver Kay spouts “the trouble with Liverpool is that, when they hit a sticky patch, they really suffer.”

The East Lancashire derby is hyped up in the Saturdays – Ian Herbert trumpeting that “absence has made the rage grow stronger, where these sides are concerned” – with the Times calling on two high-powered Labour politicians to preview the match.

Representing Burnley, spin-doctor the last time we beat Blackburn at Ewood Park, I was at university and Margaret Thatcher… [was] waiting for the 1979 election that would make her PM… It was a bad year for Britain – the Tories won – but a great year for sport. We did the double on Blackburn, who were relegated.” Fighting back though is Blackburn fan, and former foreign secretary, Jack Straw. “Their away record is even worse than ours, so I am in no doubt that although it’s going to be a tough match, in the end I’ll be backing the winning team. Sorry in advance, Alastair.”

Describing just how sensitive the police are the the “cotton mill derby,” Andy Hunter details the travel arrangements for the visiting Clarets’ fans. “All 3,000 Burnley supporters with tickets for Ewood Park are under police orders to report to Turf Moor at 9.15am tomorrow and make the 14-mile journey between the stadiums in a convoy of coaches – even the poor Burnley season-ticket holder who lives a four-minute walk from Ewood and wished to escort his Blackburn-following grandfather to the game… They must submit their name, vehicle make and registration to Lancashire police before being allowed to join the convoy. The A666 offers a fitting route.”

Rob Kelly believes their a too many distasteful chants in the Premier League. “Liverpool and Manchester United fans have long serenaded each other with sickeningly gleeful songs about the Munich air disaster and the Heysel stadium disaster, while some Arsenal fans have been known to taunt Tottenham supporters with a disgraceful hissing sound meant to replicate that of gas entering a gas chamber. Supporters may not throw banana skins anymore, but that does not mean that the English game is without problems.”

Also on a downer is Glenn Moore, who explains the dire situation for blooding coaches in England. “Wages paid to youth coaches are, for such a wealthy sport, an absolute disgrace… as a result too many ex-pros, the ones with the knowledge, drift into the media… At the last count, in 2008, Germany, Italy, Spain and France had 100,000 coaches of B licence standard and above, between them, while England had fewer than 3,000.”

The Saturday interviews see Ashley Young and Andrei Arshavin chew the fat, while in a much more serious one-on-one with Ian Herbert, Burnley defender Clarke Carlisle talks about his battle against alcoholism in which “crime thrillers, the church and fighting racism have replaced the booze.”

In his most revealing interview since leaving Everton, Joleon Lescott speaks to Matt Lawton about his move to Manchester City. “The biggest thing for me was what the manager said about my attitude. When he made those comments about me to the media I just couldn’t believe it. He said my attitude had been poor, that I had let down the boys, and it was so inaccurate.”

Terry Venables uses his column in The Sun to argue that Ledley King should go to South Africa. “You cannot doubt the Tottenham man’s talent. The only question mark, of course, hangs over his fitness… If King could boost our chances of winning just one game – say a quarter or semi-final – then his inclusion would be worthwhile.”

Finally, Paul Merson makes the argument that Manchester City should offload Robinho in order to accommodate Craig Bellamy. “How can you leave out Craig Bellamy with the way he is playing at the moment? You can’t. Or at least you shouldn’t. Having someone such as Bellamy in your side really does make a difference I know he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but at the moment Bellamy is looking their most dangerous player. He gives you 100 per cent all of the time – which is something you can’t say about Robinho. He’s got everything in his locker. He is quick, he works hard and he can finish. If having Robinho in the side away from home feels like playing with 10 men, then having Bellamy in the team must be like playing with 12. He doesn’t stop running.”