Wednesday 7 May ~
Given that football has become part of the global corporate world, it was inevitable that it should be infected with business speak. Club chairmen say “going forward” when they mean “in the future” and talk loftily of “plans” and “targets”. At least half the owners of Premier League clubs demand nothing less than a place in the top four but have neglected to spell out what they will do if their club fall drastically short. Football administrators are not immune to this either, as was made clear yesterday as the FA revealed their expectations for Fabio Capello.
At a Wembley press conference, which confirmed that the frequently postponed National Football Centre at Burton on Trent is definitely to be built, it was also announced that Capello is expected get his team to the next World Cup then reach the semi-finals of Euro 2012. The director of football development, Sir Trevor Brooking, expanded on this theme, saying: “If we don't have a strategy, we might as well all abandon ship.” Surely every team sets out to do as well as possible in every competition they enter? Dressing this up as a strategy – this one has been officially christened Vision 2008-2012 – is laughably meaningless.
Targets aren't just things to aim for, however, they can also be declared to be out of reach. He may simply be playing a game of reverse psychology but Kevin Keegan, the master motivator, doesn't think that getting into the top four is a realistic target. At least not without more transfer cash than he expects to receive. This can be spun as Keegan being honest or, just as plausibly, conceding that he is now out of his depth. Martin O'Neill and David Moyes, the managers whose sides have come closest to the top four this season, wouldn't make such claims because they have to be confident that the gap can be bridged – indeed David Moyes has achieved it once already.
FA chairman Lord Triesman thinks Keegan has made an important point about the imbalance in the Premier League, while adding “I don't think you can stop businesses running themselves as businesses”. But that is not remotely what Chelsea are doing. They are simply splashing the cash given to them by their billionaire owner, small change resulting from his control of some of Russia's natural resources. Although “You give us money, we spend it” could be dressed up as a strategy of sorts.