Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Southampton is Going to Die

I've always loved the Saints, and not just because of their nickname which for some reason consistently brought to mind a rag tag inner city basketball team from some seventies sports flick. Mostly I loved Southampton because Matt Le Tissier loved Southampton, a man who'd you pass by on the street without a thought, perhaps surmising he might be in security, or construction, but on the pitch could do things with the ball worthy of Zico.

So it's sad that Le Tiss' financial group Pinnacle has tried and failed to save the club he stuck with through the large part of his career. The point of contention seems to have been the FA's imposition of a ten point deduction for administration, which the Association refused to rescind (fair enough until one considers the FA's treatment of badly-managed, debt ridden Premier League clubs).

So now, if the Guardian is correct, Southampton is likely to go out of business for good if another buyer doesn't come forward. I'm just amazed that an ex-footballer with Le Tissier's talent would even give a passing thought to investing money to save the club that employed him so many years ago. Loyalty like Le Tissier's shouldn't be considered nostalgic; one must avoid the temptation to believe there were no mercenaries before 1995. Loyalty like that is simply unwordly, worthy almost of a Saint. And now as the ledger tips every wildly to the wealthy and powerful, the Saints are now poised to be leaving us for good...

Monday, June 29, 2009

That's Not Very Wilson-Like, Is It?

You'd have though Jonathan "J-Dub" Wilson would be the sort of pundit to tell us the Confederations Cup taught us why an attacking midfielder in the MODERN GAME should always lead off on his right foot so as to to be able to cut more deftly inside in a 4-3-1-2 formation, but no, he's opted to shoot five upended fish a barrel buzzing with vuvuzelas (Spain is beatable Jon? Yeah, we know, they were beaten.)

Still, a good distraction from this.

I Should Also Really Start Getting into Thrashcore Metal

According to these two websites (via the Onion Bag and EPL Talk) I should be supporting Arsenal in the Premier League and Portugal in internationals.

Which just goes to support my thesis that the Internet hates me and everything I hold dear.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Steven Wells: A NAFF's NAFF

North America needs about ten thousand more like him, punk rock, inner city, ex-pat, lover of the Real American Game: sah-ker. Too often coverage of the sport in North America is either clouded by insiderish earnestness, or worse, ESPN talking head bile. Some want the game to shirk its roots in the barren New World to suit the childish anglophilic crushes of Williamsburgs and Mission District Arsenal-scarved hipsters; others are satisfied to make moronic, homphobic jokes about the dainty European disease invading America.

Steven Wells thought the future of the Beautiful Game here was “black, female and from the inner-city.” In other words, hidden from the faux-glam of MLS with its logo designed to fool the American passerby into thinking he'd stumbled upon Major League Baseball's stunted cousin. Wells knew more than anyone that the game is here, and not because of the scared, undecided suburban voters driving their kids to-and-fro in minivans and SUVs, the mothers Don Garber and MLS team owners hoped would fill the bleachers at Pizza Hut Park.

No, football is in the centre of our dilapidated cities, the centre of poverty, the same place its embers burned during the Great Depression along the coastal enclaves where immigrants played in forgotten leagues. And it's not going away. But it needs unique voices, many many more than currently grace the airways or the internet. Steven Wells passing on Tuesday has silenced the sport's North American punk rock vocals; it has left British cultural snobbery about Goldenballs unchecked; it has left soccer a little more vulnerable to its American haters, high and low. While his brand of footballing hardcore is irreplaceable, there is ample need to fight the good fight on behalf of North American Football Fans everywhere who want the sport represented as it truly is and not through the lens of a maroon idealist or a malevolent ideologue.

And while Wells probably wouldn't have cared a damn one way or another, We NAFFs owe it to ourselves to be that voice.

I was honoured to interview Steven Wells for EPL Talk this past February. You can read it here if you want.

Friday, June 19, 2009

MLS A-Team Beats the Bejesus out of USL B-Team and Everyone's Whingeing

Second Half Action Between TFC and the Montreal Impact

First, last night's 6-1 tonking of the Montreal Impact by Toronto FC should be forever known as the Demolition Derby.

Second, a disclaimer. If you are a die-hard Toronto FC fan and read this blog because you think I am too (which would basically mean you don't really read this blog), you should probably 'X' out now and remove me from your RSS feed. You see, I actually die quite easily; after a hopeful but hardly revelatory first half, I walked out on the Nutrilite Championship's final game to watch Adventureland at my local rep cinema, missing four goals and TFC's first ever trophy.

BUT, the fact I did so, largely convinced that Toronto might get one goal more if lucky because frankly, I'd seen this song-and-dance before, gives the lie to the whingeing about a 'turkey shoot' emanating from Vancouver and Montreal fans alike. A respected fellow blogger, a Toronto FC supporter, contends Chris Cummins' side isn't six goals better than MTL, or at least not six goals better than their regular first team (which, to no surprise to anyone save the extrememly deluded football fan who's had too much mountain air, sat out a meaningless fixture).

I actually think Toronto FC have been two, three, four goals better than many teams this season; what has been awful has been our finishing. There have been countless times when Toronto FC have dominated possession and shots on goal against weaker sides only to scrape together a one goal advantage or a draw. Last night, Toronto FC had to not only finish but finish frequently, or they would die. Certainly DeRosario knew that, if not anyone else. So let's not pretend he's 19 and a promising up-and-comer from our reserves. This is a former MLS MVP, a Canadian playing for his hometown club in all-Canadian tournament to determine the best club in Canada, making mincemeat of a B-side backline from the USL. This isn't rocket science.

Even so, none of TFC's goals looked in particular like gimmes, except for Chad Barrett's clinching header in the last ten minutes. DeRo's hattrick consisted of a bycicle kick off a bad punch, a deflected strike from the edge of the box and beating the offside trap. Then Guevara, who with DeRosario looked the most up-for-it in the first half, put away a beautifully taken free kick. By the time Barrett made it five, Montreal were a heavier shower than the downpour on Saputo. Is it so unlikely a USL B-team would lose heavily to an MLS first team in search of a trophy? A first team whose specific problem all year has been bad finishing? A first team who knew they needed to score not a winner or two winners but four?

No. For all the bitchy fans who have grudgingly given TFC their due while railing against how utterly shit both Montreal and this tournament are, please remember this is the reason most Cups aren't awarded on a three team round robin. A situation like this was part of the deal going into the tournament and Vancouver fans shouldn't blame Montreal for sending out a shit squad in a tournament they were already out of. Should Montreal also take the blame for the Whitecaps 1-0 loss to TFC last month? Every game, every goal counts.

As for Toronto FC fans, read my last post. This could be the best thing for the club, forced to finish in time to win a cup, qualify for international play, and head strongly into the second half of a topsy-turvy league where scrappy, hard-fought goals are everything.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

TFC Goal Orgy a Blessing in Disguise?



So tonight Toronto FC have to do something they've only managed to do once in their franchise history: score four unanswered goals in one game.

I was there when it last happened, an MLS fixture against FC Dallas back in TFC's inaugural season. It was a great day out; Edu scored a garbage goal, Dichio scored on a great header right as his name was being chanted by the South Stand, hell, Cunningham scored TFC's fourth. It was an innocent, care free time. Before the dark times, before Robert.

Still, the great thing about the season so far is you can point to Toronto FC and say that's why they're not winning more games: bad finishing. Toronto's top scorers are midfielders, Guevara and DeRosario. Chad Barrett and Pablo Vitti move around a lot and work hard, get in good positions and create, but they falter at the apex of play. As usual, Danny 'Bedpost' Dichio lacks all the qualities of his teammates going forward—pace, a deft touch—but can finish with confidence and is therefore still our most valuable striker. The fact he started against New York this weekend is pretty telling.

So tonight, with Ali Gerba on the way and the club needing four goals against the Impact to win the Energy Drink CanCon Cup, Toronto FC's struggling forwards have a golden opportunity to make a point. Most of us remember Cunningham not taking his chance against Montreal last year with more than a bit of bitterness. It also ended his career here. I suspect many TFC fans would respect a losing effort if it involved a bit of kamikaze football, mid-nineties Keegan style, bombing forward, fuck the counter, rain shots, five on attack, BOOF liquid football and the rest. TFC have already shown they're cabable of everything but the finish. Tonight they have nothing to lose but the CONCACAF Champions League.

So not much.

ED NOTE: Yeah, that's tomorrow night. Thanks Branden.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Welcome to Lockport Gambino Real Madrid


Hi, I'm Tony Gambino of Lockport Gambino Real Madrid, and we are under new ownership which means our inventory is overstocked with footballers, footballers, footballers.

Yes, come on down to Tonawanda and Highway 13 near Jack Astor's and Mary's Lawn and Garden Emporium to get your new or used footballer at below industry prices. We have Arjen Robben, on now for $2999 or best offer, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, $2499 or best offer. Prices on Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart and Royston Drenthe have and will continue to be slashed slashed slashed. Also, fish out fixer-uppers Mahamadou Diarra and Javier Saviola from our Lockport Gambino bargain bin.

Perfect for all your mid and upper table Premier League and Serie A needs, we guarantee satisfaction or your money back.* That's Lockport Gambino Real Madrid, serving the Western New York and Madrid regions for over fifty years. Sale ends August 31st.

*Sorry, no money back, we cannot guarantee goals scored, Champions League qualification, good attitudes, attractive wags, over 70% pass completion, injury-less seasons. No CODs.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What I Did This Weekend

Saw TFC earn a scrappy yet oddly satisfying 2-1 win against the New York Caffeine Sodas. Wrote this.

Stumbled upon some interesting transfer rumours.

Sang Evensong.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

It's Getting Too HyperReal


"Hyperreality: the simulation of something which never really existed." -- Jean Baudrillard

A few days ago, I wrote a rushed treatise on why I thought Spain is on the quickstep to becoming the centre of football in Europe. The next day, Real Madrid paid an £80 million transfer fee for Cristiano Ronaldo, and suddenly his distinct mug complete with glistening earring was on the cover of a few North American papers, followed by nauseating reports of a one night stand with Paris Hilton in Los Angeles.

David Beckham, move over: soccer has a new "IKON" in Les Etats Unis. And he's coming to America this summer along with a few friends; while most hardened journalists are loathe to mention the G word anymore when it comes to Real Madrid, it's certainly a word on the minds of attendant fans here in Toronto and Washington, the two cities hosting friendlies against Real Madrid this August. (Although I think we are deluding ourselves if we think we're going to get the full summer transfer monty; I couldn't help but chuckle reading this little Kantian obligatory moral imperative on the DC United website: "...any new summer player signings by the club will participate in the game.")

In any case the event will be a zoo, featuring the 'fans' that have taken over the Gold and Platinum sections at the ACC: the suits, the cocktail dresses, the nouveau riche 905ers, Blackberrys in hand, eager for a snap with Rockin' Ronnie. This game is already a growing locus of distrust between the South End and MLSE, casting doubts on a strong showing from the supporters' groups. No, the coming of the Nouveau Galacticos will provide a vision of BMO Field that will please the MLSE head office as well as the Teacher's Pension Plan.

A glittering game featuring one of soccer's "storied sides." It's tempting to get weepy eyed remember the early halcyon days of the European Cup, with Di Stefano and later Puskas running circles around hapless continental defences. Many Madristas are deluding themselves that the mistakes of the previous Figo-Zidane-Ronaldo-Beckham Galacticos era are behind them now, but Real still seem stuck in trying to recreate a side that may have never really existed, at least in the way they envision. But for Toronto's soccer faithful, it will be a show about as fake as the turf underneath the freshly rolled out grass, the grass Toronto FC's players may still have to wait for.

Until MLSE begins treating both its club and their supporters with the respect they've given Real Madrid's travelling circus of stars, count me out.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bloggers are Not Journalists

First, to get this Real Madrid transfer business out of the way: Sir Alex Ferguson is getting pilloried for going back on his "I wouldn't sell that mob a virus." But he didn't sell them a virus, he sold them Ronaldo. So case closed.

More importantly, I was watching Jon Stewart yesterday and they went off on The New York Times for having their heads in the sand by sticking to print news when everyone else is off clicking away on their coffee breaks over at the Huffington Post. The NYT's editor, Bill Kellor, said in reponse to the seemingly unstoppable interweb news juggernaut, "does the Huffington Post have an Iraq bureau? Does the Drudge Report?"

Kellor is right; while traditional print media is losing piles of ad revenue to Craigslist, they're the ones actually finding out news for the HuffPo's and Drudges of the world to link to, as well as paying their reporters a living wage. While blogs add an interesting partisan hue to the news of the day, that doesn't mean they're a primary source. Primary sources are expensive and dangerous and the internet has yet to find a way to pay for the privelege.

Sports coverage is a slightly different beast. Most of what is written in your newspaper sports section is one part news, two parts commentary, because athletic events doesn't usually require much parsing out. Player goes here for x amount of money, which may have y number of implications for each party involved. Bloggers and professional sports writers both tend to make wild, highly-opinionated extrapolations from whatever bit of sports news, whether on field or off, happens to come up that day. While sports news still requires a primary source—someone has to record results and take player quotes—there is a lot more filler than in the front section.

There are pros and cons between each approach. Traditional sports journalism is more conservative, more literal minded, largely due to editorial demands and because they have a responsibility to paying readers. They are also (often) paid a living wage for their work. Bloggers on the other hand either write for free or scrimp tiny little bits of ad revenue, yet they have the important advantage of maintaing complete control over what they write about and how they write it. The most successful and interesting blogs tend to follow threads into the realm of the bizarre, the shocking, the unnewsworthy. Rather than ape the journalistic sports cliches and stories pumped out ad nauseam by various sport sites, the best blogs belly-flop into the abyss. If you'd like to see some of them, feel free to click on my right.

The relationship between sports journalism and blogs has up until now worked out well for the parties involved, but this will change over the next few years if the present situation—newspapers losing piles of ad money while link conglomerators reap the rewards of other journos' efforts—continues. Good writing deserves good pay; to treat journalism as a part-time hobby is to seriously undermine the Fifth Estate. I also believe sport bloggers owe it to themselves and their readers to take their writing seriously. Equitable pay models for excellent sport bloggers—the ones who make the step beyond aping the obvious or providing a series of links—don't yet exist, despite growing demand for more off-beat sporting coverage. I don't know how this happens, but I believe it's worth talking about.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Football Gods Are Making Sweet Love to Spain


Or as Google Translate wrongly puts it, El Fútbol Dioses están haciendo Sweet Love a España. First of all, even if Javier Mascherano's agent is full of shit, what the hell is Barcelona doing even being rumoured to want him when they have Iniesta, Xavi and Dani Alves? It's like infinity plus one over there; they already have the equivalent of an Arsenal in reserve. Soon it really will be more than a club, it will be two—A side for Wednesdays and B side for the weekends.

Now the Guardian is reporting Real Madrid are mulling a 75 million pound offer for Ronaldo McDonaldo, who will presumably enjoy his time as a Galactico by going halvesies with Kaka on purchasing a small African nation. Couple this with Euro 2008, Barca's dream season, and reports that the Premier League is facing a serious debt crisis (which thus far seems to outweigh La Liga's real estate sponsorship crisis) and Spain suddenly seems on the verge of total dominance.

All's I can say is GolTV is a hell of a lot cheaper to get than the station formerly known as Setanta Sports. And I WOULD pay top dollar if Toronto FC turned out to be the first run out of Madrid's new Portuguese/Brazilian midfield.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Should I Get Real?

Yeah, it's a bit nicer than BMO Field, innit?

Real Madrid are coming to Toronto, now with 100% more Kaka. Before checking my email yesterday, I stupidly had it in my naive little head that MLSE's 'loyalty discount' for season ticket holders would be substantial. Although fifteen, twenty bucks off is nice, I'm not sure it makes sense when the ticket in question is going for $130.

Yes, it's Real Madrid, but there is something so...patronizing about how the powers that be are going about this friendly. A regular season Toronto FC game scheduled for August is getting chucked back to June to make way for the fixture, the much-sought after grass is getting laid out for the first time in three years (likely to be stripped away after a few games anyway), and then there are the inflated ticket prices.

Does MLSE not know what this does for Toronto FC's morale as a Canadian expansion team in MLS? Of course Real are one of the world's greatest clubs (4-0, 6-2 drubbings this year aside), but the suits are basically saying to the club, "your regular season games aren't worth a Real Madrid (likely B-team) friendly, your players aren't worth the cost of grass, you're not good enough to demand top dollar for a regular fixture" (not that I have a problem with that).

Anyway, I haven't decided yet whether to get fleeced to watch Real's youngsters duke it out against our oldsters while the bulbs flash all over Madrid's glittering bench. I have until this Monday to decide. Are you going?

Monday, June 8, 2009

There's Only One Thing Worse Than Transfer Rumours

And that's discussion over Premier League broadcasting rights. First of all they seem to change hands every two years, meaning I have to go from getting three Saturday fixtures on basic cable to paying thirteen bucks a month to subscribe to a yellow Irish channel in the 400s that will likely have to sell back it's rights to the Premier League 2009-10 season because of massive insolvency.

Second, because I'm in Canada I have to parse through EU competition laws and the current British digital quagmire to try and guess what the biannual legal/digital upheaval will mean for my own English football watching habits. Apparently ESPN is a likely candidate to buy PL rights back off Setanta if they go up shits creek, which means what, the Premier League will end up back in the hands of TSN, ESPN's feeder channel? Or will they cede the rights back to traditional non-digital station carrier Rogers Sportsnet?

Will I have to buy a full electronic body harness equipped with special ESP emitting diodes in order to watch Bolton v. Portsmouth on time delay? Will different stations broker a deal whereby I'll have to switch between six different channels every ten minutes to catch an entire Man United game on a Saturday morning? Will this all involve lasers somehow? And how much will it cost me?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Is England v. Kazakhstan Worth $24.99?

Is Setanta actually charging me twenty-five bucks to watch a World Cup qualifier against a below average team just because it features the 'stars' of the Eee Pee El? Who will pay this amount of money in a depressed economy? Who does Setanta think we are? Twenty five bucks. That's FOUR pints plus tax and tip. That's a pretty good main at an upscale restaurant. You could rent six movies from the local movie store down my street.

That would mean all three Back to the Futures, both Ghostbuster movies, and Das Boot. What a day that would be. About 900 times more drama than John Terry bobbling a back pass leading to a fluke Kazakh goal. Goodness.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Response to Barry Glendenning on Gareth Barry


Barry Glendenning doesn't often write feature articles for the Guardian Football website, so when he does it means something is jammed deep in his craw, usually one of football's false idols.

This time, he's focused on Villa supporters upset with Gareth Barry for leaving for Manchester City. Contrary to the whingeing of Villa fans (myself included) who are upset Barry has left for a wealthy midtable club after repeatedly expressing his desire to play Champions League football, Glendenning claims players should play for whomever they like without having to explain to fans the 'real' reasons why (presumably money). Glendenning argues there is no such thing as player/club loyalty in a world where transfer fee records are still being broken in the middle of an economic depression.

I should state I have no personal beef with Gareth Barry based on his choice of club—I think there is a case to be made (although a dubious one which ignores the importance of fan support and history in addition to money in helping make a club successful) that, in the current financial climate, ADUG-owned Man City are more likely than Villa to crack the Top Four and win some serious silverware. I also agree that players can play wherever they want for whatever reason (one of the reasons Michel Platini signed for Juventus because Italy was warm and they had a Christmas break). But I don't share the view that football is merely a job, that a player's relationship to his club is akin to a executive assistant's relationship to his company, and that fans should purchase tickets in full acknowledgement football is simply a means to mammon.

Yes, football's money men have been around since the start, but they wouldn't have bothered if the game hadn't drawn tens of thousands of onlookers just as soon as various factories and mills could sponsor their own team. And footballers don't first embrace the sport as a means to get rich (although no doubt some of their parents might). Little Johnny won't spend hours practicing free kicks in the backyard in the hope he'll one day get a giant paycheque, a Lamborghini and a WAG; he'll do it because he wants to be a better player, perhaps one day playing in front of tens and thousands of supporters willing him on to acheive.

Imagine if the game were played in empty stadia with players earning millions upon millions of pounds to compete for trophies in total silence. It would no doubt be a cushy job, but it wouldn't be football. Strikers wouldn't run to the corner flag in celebration, managers wouldn't collapse on the touchline after last-gasp equalizers, Cups wouldn't be hoisted, tears wouldn't be shed. Players would have no reason to play for pride or for their country, no reason to behave themselves on the pitch, and have no reason to revere the sport. In short, it wouldn't be a game you or I would recognize. The love of fans for clubs and players and the desire of players to win trophies for supporters is football, it's what makes the game work.

This is hard to remember what with the corruption of football's technocrats, the cynicism of football's corporate 'partners,' and yes, the mercenary-like attitude of some its players. And while Glendenning is right to argue there is no duty, no categorical imperative for players to make decisions out of respect for their fans, he is wrong if he thinks there is no virtue in it. Because if there isn't, everything you or I believe of the game of football is false, the glory of winning is a lie, football writers are business reporters and fans mere theatre patrons.

It would mean there is no such thing as football.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Man City: "We Will Buy Every Living Footballer"

Janey Smucker (far left) in action during Autoglass's 7-0 loss to
Betty's Cupcakes 'n More Under 12's.

At first Janey Smucker, a six year old full-back for Denver's Al's Autoglass Pee Wee Eleven's, didn't understand what the letter in the blue envelope said. It didn't help the first half was in Arabic, or that Janey can only read at a second grade level. But when she ran into the kitchen to show her parents, she guessed it must have been good news—her mother burst into tears of joy while her father dropped kicked the cereal box against the fridge.

Janey had been offered 7 million pounds to play for Manchester City.

But as soon as Janey's dad, Albert Smucker, a Denver-area clothing store manager, called his work buddy's to brag about his daughter's unique talent (which he guessed must have been spotted by a City scout during one of her better games in the 0-14 season) he realized they too had received similar blue envelopes with slightly differing offers. Albert then urned on CNN to see families jumping for joy all across America and indeed the world: Manchester City had made a bid for every living league football player.

A representative for the Abu Dhabi United Group, who stood with his right hand close behind a sweating, nervous-looking Mark Hughes, explained in a press conference that Manchester City would be making a bid for everyone who plays for anyone, from Manchester United's Christiano Ronaldo to Iceland's Seventh Day Adventist Youth Group select's Erik Kjeld.

Estimates of the level of debt Manchester City will accrue after making bids for the roughly 240 million league players worldwide are already well into the quadrillions. While some local Blues fans expressed concern at City going into the red, others were elated. "If there are no players on any other clubs, we win every trophy, ever year, for ever. Amen to that. What's even better is that without any games, we don't have to pay the outrageous season ticket fees more and more Premier League clubs are demanding" explained some guy walking outside in the Greater Manchester area.

As for Janey, she'll be delighted to join just as soon as she mulls over another offer from Chelsea.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gareth Barry in Negotiations for Move to Manchester City

In conversation with a Legend

So Gareth, what are you looking for in a football club that you can't get from Aston Villa?
A place in the Champions League? A chance at winning the Premier League title?

Those things are great, believe you me. But no, what I'm looking for is a club barely able to make tenth in the league table. Also, I don't like playing well away from home; it's too taxing. I'd like to lose many, many games away from home. There are way less of our fans than the other team's on days when you play away from home, so it's harder to do pass and shoot and stuff without getting yelled at a lot.

Oh.

But it's not all about the football you know. I'd also enjoy getting lots and lots of money. You can get lots and lots of money at some clubs because their owners are rich beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Some of these owners will give me this money—which they apparently get because of petrol or something—if I play football on their team.

I see.

And money can be exchanged for goods and services, to buy things like Ferrari's and women.

Right.

So you spoke to Rick right? I'm getting paid for this interview? What's a blog? You're not from CNN? I think I heard some change dangling in your pocket earlier, that should be okay. And your credit card. The bathroom? Down the hall I think. See you in a bit, and don't forget to write down your card PIN.

Monday, June 1, 2009

End of Season Cup Finals Are Meaningless

I am glad Barcelona won the Champions League, dancing around a Manchester United team that seemed cramped with lactic acid in the legs and Premier League hype in the head. But the final itself did not tell a story, despite various pundits hailing it as proof Spanish possession football is taking over Europe (see Euro 2008). A lovely extended cadenza at the end of a concerto maybe or, as Sid Lowe put it, "the cherry on the icing on the cake" that was Barcelona's extraordinary season. But a conclusive demonstration of European football's changing locus of power? We've been reading too much Goldblatt and Wilson.

Ditto with the FA Cup. Chelsea the cruel heartless bastards (who incidentally came worlds closer to beating Barcelona than any other team in Europe) crush hapless underdogs Everton, thereby sealing any hopes for non-Big Four usurpation in a very expensive tomb? Not really. Everton looked shit a few dreamy minutes after Louis Saha's lightning fast goal. Chelsea managed to do what Chelsea quietly do most weekends—expertly snuff out inferior opposition—which made the game seem more like a meaningless end of season fixture than a hotly-contested final in football's oldest knockout competition.

No, this was more, poof, season over. It's like the reel burned at the decisive scene in rather dull movie. The theatre manager has said he's sorry, there's nothing he can do. So I guess it's time for me to drive home and rent an old eighties comedy or something. Bring on Em El Es.