It is not just the draw with Manchester City that suggests a positive change for Newcastle, and English football.
It was the response of Eddie Howe when told that Real Madrid saw Bruno Guimaraes as the replacement for the departing Casemiro. Were Newcastle up for turning a quick profit?
‘No, absolutely not,’ said Howe. ‘We’re trying to build a squad here who can make the club successful.’ And we’ve heard such denials many times over the years. Nobody’s for sale until they are.
Bruno Guimaraes has been one of Newcastle’s star players since joining the club in January
Magpies manager Eddie Howe has said his midfielder is ‘absolutely not’ for sale
At Newcastle, though, it’s now different. Newcastle no longer have to sell. Newcastle can say no and mean it, like Manchester City could after the Abu Dhabi takeover. And that’s progress. For the club, but also for the English game. The elite can still try to tie Newcastle in the protectionist knots of financial fair play, but they cannot plunder their best.
Guimaraes was smartly recruited in January. If Madrid see him as the next Casemiro, it means perhaps Manchester United missed another trick. They have paid £60million for a 30-year-old; Guimaraes is 24 and cost £35m.
But Newcastle do not have to fix United’s mistakes any more. They do not have to kowtow to Madrid, either. The giants of La Liga think players must come to them by right. Madrid’s reaction to Paris Saint-Germain keeping Kylian Mbappe was hysterical, in both senses of the word. Imagine if they cannot even prise Guimaraes out of Newcastle.
And some will disapprove. They will cite the source of Newcastle’s new-found wealth as they once did that of Manchester City. Yet what is the alternative? Leicester, Everton. Clubs that are currently being raided due to the inequalities of FFP.
Leicester cantre-back Wesley Fofana has been subject to two huge bids from Chelsea
Leicester cannot spend, it seems. Nor Everton. Yet Chelsea can raid them for Wesley Fofana or Anthony Gordon, maybe both. That’s how FFP works. The claim is that clubs can grow organically, living within their means.
The reality is that if they unearth some nugget of local talent, if they are shrewd in their dealings in the transfer market, a bigger, wealthier rival ensures they never get the chance to make it count.
Gordon, born in Kirkdale, won’t get beyond one full season at Everton. Fofana, unearthed by Leicester at Saint-Etienne, has played 52 games for them in all competitions. He now sits in the stand trying to force his move to Chelsea.
Anthony Gordon has just broken through at Everton but could be set to leave for Chelsea
So viva Newcastle. Viva Newcastle for being able to tell the elite where to go. And yes, it would be better if the foundation of this new money was more palatable. Yet Newcastle didn’t make the rules, either. They didn’t wrap football in the protectionist limitations of FFP, so that the only way in was with the greatest wealth.
And, like City, maybe one day Newcastle will join that club, too. For the moment, though, enjoy the rich calling only to have the door shut in their faces. This is good for football. Anything that annoys the monsters of the Super League must be.
Now there’s a ‘man’ ban at the beeb
Presenting Match of the Day 2 on Sunday, the excellent Mark Chapman stumbled over his words slightly when describing Jack Harrison’s display for Leeds against Chelsea.
Why? He was calling Harrison ‘player of the match’, when every fibre in his body will have wanted to say ‘man’.
No doubt some wonk at the BBC has decided it is inappropriate to talk of men playing men’s football. It’s the same at Sky apparently. Making a gifted presenter uncomfortable in his own language is what broadcasting has been reduced to.
It’s not the American’s, Gary… it is just bad owners
‘The thing I admire most about the Chinese is that they’re hanging in there with the chopsticks,’ said Jerry Seinfield.
‘Because if you think about it, they’ve seen the fork by now. I’m sure they’ve seen the spoon. They’re going, ‘Yeah, they’re OK. We’re gonna stay with the sticks’.’
American Todd Boehly took over Chelsea earlier this year after Roman Abramovich’s departure
And it’s the same with Gary Neville and football’s government regulator. He’s seen the mess Ofgem have made of energy. He’s aware of the deep disaster that is Ofwat. Yet he’s sticking with the regulator as the cure for football’s ills.
When news broke that investment group Apollo might buy a slice of Manchester United from the Glazer family, Neville leapt straight to his standard solution. ‘We need a regulator asap,’ he tweeted.
How would that work, then? What government regulator would outlaw foreign investment? Aren’t the Conservatives meant to be the party of business? And aren’t these tough times? It seems a rather dangerous precedent for the Government to bar American investors at Manchester United given recent events at Chelsea. It probably wouldn’t stand up in court.
‘The US model of sports ownership is all about significant return on investment at all cost,’ Neville continued. ‘The ownership model in England needs to change and US money is a bigger danger to that than any other international money.’ And, yes, American owners have made mistakes of late; even so, it’s quite a sweeping statement.
The Glazers have got a lot wrong at Manchester United, but not all American owners are bad
Just because the Glazers have got so much wrong at Manchester United, doesn’t mean Todd Boehly is bad for Chelsea or Fenway for Liverpool. In this country, American owners drove the Super League project, but they had willing accomplices from Russia, Abu Dhabi and north London — and the concept was born in Madrid, Barcelona and northern Italy.
It is not as simplistic as Americans bad, others good. There can be good American owners, and bad ones, just like good and bad custodians from the East, or even from Derby, or Bury.
Gunners fans are giddy, and rightly so
Arsenal have maximum points from three games and their supporters are getting quite giddy. Cynics, meanwhile, are pointing out they have only played Crystal Palace and Bournemouth away, and Leicester at home.
True, there are bigger tests ahead. Yet the 2021-22 campaign started with three defeats. And in the corresponding fixtures last season — plus the last league trip to Bournemouth on Boxing Day, 2019 — Arsenal accrued four points.
So this is a significant improvement. It doesn’t mean they’ll win the league, but it doesn’t mean there will be an inevitable collapse, either. Arsenal look good.
Arsenal are in fine form, and top the Premier League with three wins from three so far
Joshua and Usyk could have sold out Wembley twice over, but they chose money
Just in case you were wondering, the giant, blue, beautiful stadium the broadcasters kept cutting to in breaks before the Anthony Joshua fight wasn’t where the action took place. That was in the 10,000-capacity indoor venue next door which wasn’t entirely full of paying customers.
They could have sold out Wembley twice over — and the Stadium, not the Arena. The boxers are very wealthy as a result of going east, and good luck to them. But it’s still a pity. Pretty much the only British voices in Jeddah were expats based in Dubai. The Qatar World Cup may be very similar.
Joshua in Jeddah exposes folly of Qatar World Cup
Jeddah in August fully brings home the scandal of awarding a World Cup to Qatar, in what would have been the height of the Arabian summer.
It was impossible to remain outdoors for any length of time without feeling uncomfortable, and even short walks were off-limits. For locals, too; you barely see them on the streets.
It was impossible to remain outdoors without feeling uncomfortable in Jeddah at the weekend
There is little doubt there could have been fatalities getting fans to the stadiums, particularly as the temperature in Doha was slated to be as high as 50°C. When Sepp Blatter announced Qatar as hosts, his FIFA colleagues had not voted for a winter World Cup. That idea came later once it became obvious that the initial plan was unworkable.
Many of those responsible are either dead or disgraced. But those who are not and who supported Qatar, whether through their votes or through their endorsement, should not be allowed near an international football tournament again.
That’s why refs don’t talk
So everybody has been campaigning for referees to explain their decisions and then Mike Dean does and, suddenly, that’s wrong, too. Dean admitted regrets in his role as VAR for not alerting Anthony Taylor to Cristian Romero’s blatant hair-pull on Marc Cucurella, when Tottenham played Chelsea.
Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea manager, was angered that it took so long, coming days after the incident. Robbie Savage, in his newspaper column, raged that the apology was meaningless and Dean’s decision could cost Chelsea many millions of pounds, if they fall short of a European place.
Thomas Tuchel has been charged with improper conduct for his comments on Anthony Taylor
Now you know why referees don’t talk. Why is it that Dean might cost Chelsea a league position, and not Kai Havertz, who missed a sitter to put the game out of reach, or Jorginho, whose error in the penalty area led to Tottenham’s first goal? Surely losing 3-0 at Leeds doesn’t help either.
Dean explained his dilemma. He could only get involved if he felt Taylor had missed a red card offence and, at first sight, he didn’t think Romero’s foul was worthy. He’s now had second thoughts. But that’s all they are. A fresh judgment made with the benefit of many more replays, thinking time and hindsight.
So it’s Dean’s fault but it’s also the system. He should have simply been able to tell Taylor there was no further corner award because a Tottenham player had committed a clear and obvious foul. And there all controversy would have ended.
Viborg visa farce can’t be repeated
Being UEFA’s Conference League, the injustice passed almost unnoticed, but it was rotten that Viborg of Denmark had to play West Ham last week without two first-team players.
Nigerian winger Ibrahim Said, who has featured in most of Viborg’s games this season, and Gambian forward Alassana Jatta could not play at the London Stadium.
There were only 16 days between the draw and the first leg of the play off-round and visas for non-European Union citizens could not be arranged in time.
That’s poor. There should be reciprocal arrangements for fast-tracking between the governments of countries involved in UEFA competitions to ensure fairness, otherwise it looks like gaming the system.
Test cricket could be dying for nothing
Sir Andrew Strauss says the Hundred will be part of English cricket for ‘at least’ the next five years. And what use would that be? Are we seriously undermining our Test and County Championship cricket for a format that could be consigned to the garbage in 2027?
This was meant to be the future, not some half-baked experiment. And then what? Another ECB gimmick, another marketing man’s plan to which the red-ball game must defer?
We don’t deserve to succeed.
Sir Andrew Strauss said the tournament will be part of cricket for at least the next five years
Italians running scared of Forest
Fear of the Premier League’s wealth felt on the continent is such that Monza general manager Adriano Galliani — CEO of AC Milan during the Silvio Berlusconi years — says plans for a Super League should continue, but without English clubs. ‘There should be a Brexit in football,’ he argued.
Yet who wants to watch a super league shorn of super talent? Bayern Munich would have no part in it, nor Paris Saint-Germain. Now it is seriously being suggested removing the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City.
If there was a vibrant global market for the behemoths of Spain and Italy, they wouldn’t be so scared of Nottingham Forest’s spending power. The Super League plan confirmed their weakness, not strength.
Nottingham Forest have spent over £150million so far this transfer window, and aren’t done yet
Bazball this, Bazball that
Now we know how Bazball works. If England win, it’s Bazball and it’s brilliant; if England fail, it’s nothing to do with Bazball, what’s Bazball anyway, England simply lost to a better side.
Despite this new ideology, though, cricket’s truisms endure. Not much beats having the fastest bowlers, and if you can’t bat you’re fu… (That’s enough truisms — Ed.)
Why talent in our state schools will remain untapped
After Eddie Jones’s class war appraisal of rugby there have been calls to get more state school pupils involved in the sport. Ugo Monye, a former British and Irish Lion with 14 caps for England, mostly on the wing, moved from the state to the private system at the age of 13.
‘I was the quickest in the Premiership, but in my state school I wasn’t even the quickest in my year,’ he said. ‘If you could invest time into other schools not on the radar, you would find untapped talent.’
Former England winger Ugo Monye has called for England to invest more time in state schools
This is a familiar refrain. The greatest tennis players, cricketers, England’s best XV are all undiscovered at state schools apparently. Yet it’s not time that’s the issue here, it’s money, it’s room. Rugby pitches consume playing-field space. A wicket needs maintenance and cricket equipment costs a fortune.
And what would modern health and safety make of the old state school practice of sharing a box, swapped over between the outgoing and the incoming batsman? Equally, how many state schools have tennis courts?
Yes, it would be wonderful if state pupils could access private or club facilities, but that requires supervision and teaching professionals, and it all costs. It’s not as simple as locating untapped talent. It’s untapped for many reasons.