Mike Newell moved around quite a bit as a player, playing for 13 different English clubs. The highlight was winning the Premiership with Blackburn Rovers, and scoring the fastest ever hat-trick in The Champions League vs Rosenborg of Norway. A few months ago he caused a sensation by stating that he had been offered bungs by unscrupulous agents, and that some English coaches were on the take, backed up by a rather limp story on the BBC Panorama programme, with the Football Association is attempting to clean up the game.
On November 11th, as manager of Luton Town, his team lost to Queens Park Rangers and accused female referees assistant Amy Rayner of being useless, and that women should not be involved in men's football. He later apologized for the hurt, but not for his opinion and was lucky to be only slapped on the wrist by the Luton Town board. Gordon Taylor, Executive Director of the Professional Footballers Association had suggested that he be dismissed. It caused sensational headlines in the press and great embarrasment to the game as a whole. There are many women in the English game, as owners, such as Norwich City, as executive Directors, in physio and other roles. The England Women's team recently qualified for only the second time for the Womens World Cup in China next summer. Hope Powell the coach was a Millwall Lioness since the age off 11 and played 66 times for England and scored 35 goals. Her coaching assistants are male, and she is both black and female. Women's and girls football in England has over 130,000 players and 7,000 clubs with a 49% increase in the last 5 years. Arsenal Ladies are now the first English club to reach the UEFA Womens' Final. The FA says that they are 5,000 referees short and that 7,000 referees quit or retire annually, so obviously they need more of them, and girls and women are enrolling in referee courses as never before.
the Football Association this week announced new rules for Football Agents, and for clubs and players. Even agents registered in foreign countries must register with the F.A. if they want to do business in England, and players must pay their agents for work done, since clubs cannot do so. Agents must only represent one side, either club or player, and all monetary payments must be declared. The chairman of the Football Association Geoff Thompson, has also voted himself out of a job, so that the Football Council can have a new, independent chairperson (maybe a woman) to build concensus between the professional game and the much less wealthy but more numerous amateur game. A few years ago,in 2001, before the Premiership clubs were as powerful, and oozing with money from television rights, the F.A. started construction on a National Training Centre near Burton on Trent in the middle of the country. Eight grass and two synthetic pitches were built, plus floodlights and headquarters buildings, modelled on the Clairefontaine Centre built for French Football outside Paris which I have visited. The big clubs, with their own academies, don't want it even though its supposed to be for all National teams, be they World Cup, Under 21, Under 19, Under 17, men, women, non hearing, non sighted, and other teams. Already $40 million has been spent, the field and floodlights are in place and most of the buildings. Work and further funding stopped 2 years ago.At the moment the nearby non league club, Burton Albion, coached by Nigel Clough, son of the famous legend Brian Clough are the only club using it, and happy to do so. The council voted to stop funding, close it down and sell it, probably for a knock down price, although this move is being challenged. With Wembley Stadium costing the F.A. much more than expected, the organization faced possible bankrupcy, until a settlement was reached with the stadium builders a few weeks ago, and it is expected to host the next F.A. Cup Final in May 2007.
Laugh of the week. The Sheffield United and Ireland goalkeeper, Paddy Kenny came to the home match with Manchester United last Saturday at Bramall Lane with a big patch on his face. Outside a curry cafe in Halifax, his home town, a few nights earlier, he got into an scuffle with a 'friend' who was supposed to be going out with the goalies wife, now they are separated. His friend bit the goalie's eyebrow off !! In the 2005/6 season Kenny was voted the best goalkeeper in the league.
Good news about another goalkeeper, David James of Portsmouth FC. He writes a very readable column each Sunday in 'The Observer' www.observer.co.uk commenting on football and the social aspects of sport, and although he used to be called 'Calamity James' for his errors while in goal for England, Liverpool and other previous clubs, he is a very intelligent commentator on the state of the game and an accomplished amateur artist. In fact he is one of the judges for ONE LOVE:The Football Art Prize, at Manchester's superb LOWRY GALLERY on Salford Quays, a short walk from Old Trafford. I made a recent visit to look at my favourite painting, "Going to the Match", by LS Lowry a local artist whose work with 'matchstick' figure art is renown. His painting, now owned by the nearby Professional Footballers Association, is on loan to the gallery and the most looked at piece of art. It in fact won a similar competition back in 1953, prior to Lowry's fame. Over 800 amateur and professional entries were received for the current competition and the top 80 will be displayed from December 2006 to March 2007. The awards and prize money will be announced on November 30th. David James will be one of the judges.