On May 29, the city of Liverpool formally marked the anniversary of the Heysel disaster for the first time, 15 years after it occurred. If anyone needed any further reminders of the worst that can happen at big international football events, the timing could not have been better.
So, another stroll to the title for Manchester United with records broken in the process for the number of goals scored and the points margin ahead of second place. Is it all getting a bit too easy? The Sunday Times thinks so, suggesting they “are on the threshold of the sort of monopoly Rangers enjoy in Scotland”. The relative ease with which United won their sixth title in eight years has been contrasted with more closely contested championships elsewhere, with Lazio still pushing Juventus in Italy, Bayer Leverkusen leading Bayern Munich going into the final fortnight of the Bundesliga and as many as four teams with a realistic chance of winning the Spanish league with three games left.
The punishments handed down to Leicester City players and officials over the sale of their 1999 Worthington Cup final tickets seem a bit random. Andy Impey received a five-year ticket ban and was fined £20,000 for selling ten tickets to Tottenham fans, while Tony Cottee got a three-year ban and a £12,500 fine, even though 35 of his tickets got into the hands of Spurs supporters.
It is rare for all the newspapers, tabloid and broadsheet alike, to run the same picture on their sports pages. But it happened at the end of February when they all featured an image of a middle-aged businessman sitting in a puddle. Wimbledon’s former owner Sam Hammam had just sold his remaining 20 per cent stake to the Norwegian millionaires who took control of the club last year. The players marked the event by soaking him at the training ground. As has often been the case with Wimbledon, it was probably fun for those directly involved.
The African Nations Cup has been in existence for over 40 years, making it slightly older than the European Championship. Until very recently, this biennial competition has received almost no media coverage here. Now, however, virtually every column on the sports pages has something to say about the effect it is having on the English season.
Manchester United’s participation in the “world club championship” in Brazil this month might have been designed to make a point about the unhealthy imbalance between the English champions and every other club in the land.
It’s no reflection on Bobby Robson’s age to suggest that perhaps his memory is failing him in certain respects. The Newcastle Utd manager was apoplectic about the treatment meted out to Alan Shearer by Watford fans at Vicarage Road in November. “Think about what he has done for club and country,” Robson entreated us. “Whatever has happened to our so-called sporting public?”
“I would not be Kevin Keegan if I did not get excited about this,” said the England manager in a blinding flash of self-awareness on hearing the Euro 2000 play-off draw. Unfortunately, he is Kevin Keegan, and his face was splashed all over the papers after England and Scotland came out of the hat together (or what passes for a hat at UEFA headquarters these days).
There’s more than a slight air of desperation hanging around this season’s Champions League, and it’s not just emanating from Bob Wilson. “This first stage of the competition doesn’t interest me,” says Johan Cruyff, and frankly we’d have to lump ourselves in with the thousands of fans who appear to agree with him.
Another August, another Newcastle manager on his way. This time last year we boldly hinted at disaster for clubs like United who change their manager with ever increasing frequency. Obviously, it gives us absolutely no pleas-ure to have been proved right. No, really, not even a tiny bit.