After settling down in my comfortably chair in the pub, and washing down my pub grub: Steak pie in Speckled Hen ale, beer gravy, mashed potatos, carrots and beans, with a Black Sheep pint, I was looking forward to the Match of The Day, Manchester United vs Chelsea FC from Old Trafford, The Theatre of Dreams.
With the goings on in West London at Stamford Bridge earlier in the week and the ouster of Jose Mourinho, would the Pensioners play like true professionals for their Tel Aviv born kibbutzer Avram Grant? Well the harsh sending off of John Obi Mikel after half a hour for a studs up challenge on Patrick Evra took the life out of the match. Joe Cole, still a very petulant player, was very lucky not to get his marching orders as well for a reckless tackle. A brilliant diving header from Carlos Tevez deep in first half added time, and a dubious penalty after a dive by Louis Saha after a tackle by Tal Ben Haim meant another sad drive back to London. Hull City up next tonight at the KC Stadium, and if Roman Abramovich is worried about his safety, 10 of the 24 tickets allocated to Chelsea in the Directors Box are for his security guys.
Another damp squid in Tainjin, China. BBC TV 1 were showing the England vs USA FIFA Women's World Cup live. I watched in a Sports Bar, which had over 100 screens on 3 floors. Two were tuned into the match while the rest showed Cardiff City vs Preston North End in The Championship, South Africa vs Tonga in the Rugby World Cup, 20-20 World Cup cricket from South Africa, Extreme Sports from All Over, and Horse Racing. It was the chance for Hope Powell's team to show that they were up there with the best . The first half was good. They played some attractive attacking soccer but couldn't finish, and when 6 ft bully girl Abby Wamback knocked out Faye White with a broken nose and went unpunished by Swedish referee Jenny Palmqvist, it didn't look good. In 13 minutes of the second half the Americans scored 3 goals past Everton goalie Rachel Brown as the defence was left in a shambles by their tough but not overly skilled opponents.
In the meantime the F A Womens Premiership season is almost non existent, with Arsenal, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Everton, Leeds United not playing while their stars are in the Far East. It will start to get running now the players have returned home. I think it is time for top class English womens soccer to be played in the summer, as it is in Sweden and Norway and in the USA. None of the teams own their own stadiums, and apart from Arsenal Ladies, the European Champions, teams get little or no funding from their famous male clubs. Its not much fun trying to get enthusiastic about a league that hastily postpones matches due to the weather at the insistance of their landlords. Much better to play in the summer and get some fans to show up on a regular basis.
Two years ago when the F.A. successfully hosted the UEFA Womens Championships in Manchester, Warrington, Blackburn, Blackpool etc., there was talk of a fully professional league. As shown in the USA, which is much further advanced, women's and girls soccer wise, only the national team can expect crowds of 10,000 plus, apart from the Women's F A Cup Final. Taking the national team around the country in pre and post World Cup tours has proved popular in the USA and The F.A. has done well to show off its full national and youth national teams at smaller venues in the provinces at very low prices.
It really is a fairy tale season at Elland Road. I left the Womens World Cup to catch a Football Special bus to join a packed house as Leeds United plucked the feathers of Swansea City 2-0 to go 7 wins in a row at the start of the season.. They would be 5 points clear at the top of Division One if it weren't for the 15 point penalty they were given at the start. 3,000 travelling Swans fans added to the atmosphere as everyone was on their feet, singing, chanting, baiting the Swansea fans and making every home match a cup tie atmosphere. The Swans had a blow-up plastic sheep that had been 'kidnapped', by Leeds fans in the North Stand and they were doing unmentionable things to it!! I would tell you, but I have many female readers, some of whom are ladies, and also some fans in South Carolina, a most conservative place. Cardiff City, Swansea City and indeed all Welsh fans are nicknamed sheep shaggers, among other things by the opposition. Ken Bates, the LUFC Chairman is asking the Football Association for their case to go before independent arbitration, and they will give their answer by the end of the week.