The funniest story of the week was out of Moscow. Spartak Moscow was at home to Inter Milan at the Luzhniki Stadium, a 5 star UEFA licenced stadium, built on the of the old Lenin Stadium in the Sparrow Hills and with a state of the art Field-Turf artificial surface. Well, the team made it-just-but after their charter bus had come to a standstill in rush hour traffic they ran into the nearest underground station and took to the Moscow Metro- the Red Line, which matched the red and white uniforms they wore, carrying their football boots. The coach was worried, since highly paid Russian pros don't take public transport. I remember the Moscow Metro with it's cathedral like stations from many years ago. The Red Line stops at the Lubyanka, Red Square, Lenin Library, KulturePark and then Sportivnay a 10 minute run to their locker room, or they could have taken tram No. 28. A club rich with oil money should have left earlier, and the coach tried to have his team talk on the Metro. " The police were great, and travelled with us, and we travelled for free". They lost 0-1 to the Italians.
Chelsea played at the Camp Nou against Barcelona after losing 0-1 in the first leg at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho and Barca coach Frank Rikkard were dishing each other before, during and after the match and with 10 yellow cards, 6-4 to the Blues, and about 40 fouls gave the Italian referee no chance. Chelsea tied 2-2 with an injury time goal. Lennart Johannson the UEFA president has indicated that both clubs will be punished. "Fining them is a waste of time given their wealth", so possible point deductions will be handed out. Chelsea are already 'under probabation', over the tapping up of Arsenal's Ashley Cole. It could be worse. They 'stole' two academy players from Leeds United and were about to be punished, but former Chelsea owner Ken Bates, now with Leeds United, agreed to a $10 million settlement instead, with his new club 2nd from the bottom of The Championship, and short of cash for rebuilding.
The recent Burns Report into the governance of football and ''bungs' enquiry featuring various clubs, managers and agents is soon to publish more findings. Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United are two Premiership clubs sweating on the forthcoming news. New laws will make players responsible for payments to agents, and no agent can represent both club and player any more. Family members may not be involved, which got Sir Alex Ferguson's and Sam Allardyce's sons into trouble. Last season Chelsea made a loss of $300 million. Under Football League regulations for the lower leagues, clubs may spend no more than 60% of income on players salaries and The Premier League are talking about introducing similar regulations. UEFA has introduced rules that state that at least 6 players on a squad in a UEFA competition must have come from that club's academy, to be increased to 8. Premier League ticket prices are ridiculously high, and although attendance figures have not gone down that is largely to the 20,000 more seats at the Emirates Stadium at Arsenal, and the increased capacity at Old Trafford. The north-west with lots of teams including Everton and Liverpool, Manchester United and City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic have all these teams within 90 minutes of each other. The latter 3 are struggling to attract crowds of 20,000 and have lowered prices, but a recent Bolton Wanderers vs Manchester United match-with the teams about 20 miles apart, only attracted 26,000 fans, a third of the crowd that shows up at Old Trafford. Two teams in the top 3 of The Championship, Burnley and Preston North End struggle with crowds of under 15,000 and would bring down the Premier average if they made the top flight.
Sir Alex Ferguson has completed 20 years at Old Trafford after leading unfashionable Aberdeen to the Scottish title and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup. In his first match in charge they lost to Oxford United 0-2, and it was four years before the club won a trophy. The club was infamous for their boozing culture, and he had to 'cull' a few of these type of players. However, he didn't make a new signing for 9 months, with defender Gary Pallister, and with 9 league Championships, numerous cups, 2 'doubles' and one 'treble' when they came from behind at Nou Camp and late substitutes Teddy Sherringham to equalise and Ollie Gunnar Solskjaer to get the winner deep into injury time in 1999.They are top of the Premier League, scoring lots of goals and at 64, going on 65 in December he has shrugged off any mention of retirement.
Many associations and clubs in Europe have a 'Kick-Out Racism campaign. It's particularly a probem in the former Yugoslavia and other parts of Eastern Europe. Recently Nikola Mijailuvil of Polish club Wisla Krakow racially abused Blackburn Rovers South African star Benni Carthy in a UEFA match and was given a 5 match UEFA competition ban. On a far more pleasant subject a new soccer movie was released this week, called SIXTY SIX. It's the story of 12 year old 'Bene Reubin', played by newcomer Gregg Sulkin and with an all star cast including Helen Bonham Carter, Eddie Marsden and Stephen Rae.The summer of '66 was when the World Cup was being played in England and Bene's Bar Mitzvah has been scheduled for Saturday 30th July, the day of the final. As England progress through the competition Bene gets more anxious. England beat Portugal in the semi-final to bring on a meeting with West Germany at Wembley and Bene gets really worried. ..