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Roker Ramble: Choose Football!

The Ramble goes all Scottish - Trainspotting, Celtic... and Wycombe Wanderers.

Tottenham Hotspur v Wycombe Wanderers - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Choose football. Choose Sky. Choose BT. Choose 11.30 kick-offs on a Sunday morning. Choose streaming games from a Latvian server whilst worms and trojans burrow into your hard drive. Choose Wayne Rooney. Choose players that don’t share your passion, your dreams, who don’t care, who don’t try. Choose players who cheat openly in front of a global TV audience with no comeback, no retribution. Choose a star striker who walks away to earn more in a month than you will in a lifetime. Choose a referee with pre-conceived opinions and selective vision. Choose owners and managers who’re paid millions to fuck up your club and millions more to leave it gutted and bankrupt. Choose sponsors who rename your ground so that it sounds like a cheap Boxing Day sale. Choose a sport that turned its face away from countless abusive assaults that’ll haunt those wronged for the rest of their lives. Choose football.

Choose a five year old mascot with an unbeatable smile.

Choose courage, determination, resilience and fortitude.

Choose innocence and honesty.

Choose the positive outlook, the upside, the cup half full.

Choose the bigger picture.

Choose winning.

Choose life.

Spurs have started promoting their new ground - the new 61,000 seat, £750 million stadium - with posters on London Underground. Rather hilariously, they all have had to come down again because of the spelling mistakes. They managed to spell ‘premium’ wrong – twice, and in two different ways, 'premum' firstly, then 'premiun'. Pretty impressive I think you’ll agree, and one would hope that the structural engineers on the project have a greater eye for detail.

However, when it was pointed out, the response from the Club cleared the matter up:

Unfortunately this was misaligned when installed rather than being incorrect! We're on the case.

Not sure what case they’re on, but it does explain the problem. No-one in the marketing department speaks English and they’re relying on Google Translate to sell 61,000 season tickets.

North of the border great things are happening – Celtic have just gone 27 games unbeaten, thereby overtaking the record of Jock Stein’s European champions. Is anyone really surprised, or perhaps more appropriately, does anyone care outside of Glasgow? Celtic have all the money, the support, the players and zero competition. If they deserve credit for anything it’s for stopping their players getting bored out of their brains. Or as one commentator put it, ‘Brendan Rodgers and his squad have placed their name in the pantheon with a remorseless application to the job in hand’.

I’m guessing he must be Scottish.

So, FA Cup weekend, and a general air of gloom settles around half the country. Despite the best efforts of the BBC, interest in the competition pales in comparison to what it used to be, so it was with an air of bored resignation I tuned in to the weekend highlights. And they were brilliant.

The football was absolutely fantastic. Fulham, Lincoln, Sutton, Oxford and Wolves were sensational, and the Wycombe Wanderers-Spurs game alone was worth the licence fee. I had never seen Wycombe before, and to be honest it took a while to get used to their strip which looked like it was permanently highlighted by a strobe, but they played the game like it should be played and were great to watch. Desperately unlucky with the result but they made a lot of friends in the process.

And that’s the big thing about the Cup – supporting the underdogs, and when the ‘big’ clubs make wholesale changes, it can play right into the smaller clubs hands. Leeds made ten changes from their previous match; Newcastle, Brighton and Liverpool nine – they all lost and it was great fun.

Alan Shearer went on record to say that clubs making so many changes are letting their fans down, and he has a point. But I can see the managers position as well, they have squad players that need game time, it’s a risk playing their star players in a competition that’s no longer a priority for the top clubs, and if there was any ‘joined-up’ administration in football at all, why schedule a full serving of Premier League fixtures on the Tuesday after a Cup weekend?

Of course managers aren’t going to risk their best players with a Premier League game in three days time. However they could manage the expectations of the fans so that they know what to expect, and the fact the ‘gamble’ of wholesale changes was so spectacularly unsuccessful could mean a change of attitude in the future.

The one thing completely overbearing about the whole cup coverage were the facts. God forbid we’d got to half time in most games before some berk from provincial television had finished telling us that ‘this would be the first time in 115 years that they had reached the fifth round’, how old all the players were, what they did for a living and where they were the last time they’d beaten the other side.

In the meantime, go Lincoln, Sutton, Oxford, Wolves, Fulham – and Milwall, you’ve made the Cup fun again. And as for Mr Shearer, it wasn’t anything to do with the Newcastle result, was it?

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