Football Diary

by Patrick O’Connor

THE main football programme may be over in England but there is still plenty of going on, what with cup finals, promotion play-offs and, of course, the forthcoming World Cup.

It’s been a crazy few days if you are a Leicester City fan. They were promoted from League One at the end of the 2008-9 season and continued their fine form throughout last year, finishing in the Championship play-offs.

But it all ended disastrously in their semi-final against Cardiff. Having lost the home leg 1-0, Leicester went to Cardiff with a mountain to climb but climb it they did, winning the tie 3-2 and thus taking it to extra-time.  That didn’t produce a winner and so the match went to penalties to decide who would meet Blackpool in the final at Wembley.

The shoot-out was a pretty even affair with Bruno Berner, Steve Howard and Nolberto Solano netting for the Foxes and Michael Chopra, Ross McCormack and Joe Ledley blasting home their efforts for Cardiff.  Then up stepped Leicester’s 28 year old Frenchman Yann Kermorgant who chose this moment of all moments to try a cheeky chip. Unfortunately for Kermorgant he mis-hit it and the ball sailed softly into the waiting hands of goalkeeper David Marshall.  As the penalty-taking resumed there was a telling TV shot of the Leicester players lined up arm in arm but with Kermorgant standing isolated several yards away.

Bet he’ll be looking for a new club this summer.

Mark Kennedy fired in from 12 yards for Cardiff before Marshall saved again, this time from Martyn Waghorn to give the Welsh side a Wembley date this Saturday.

Leicester’s traumatic end to season continued a few days after the Cardiff match when a national newspaper alleged that one of their players had a bust-up with black team-mates after revealing he had voted for the right-wing British National Party in the recent general election.  The Daily Star said that defender Wayne Brown had been suspended by the club following the training ground row with striker Lloyd Dyer and coach Chris Powell.  Brown was then left out of the squad for the Cardiff match.

Worrying times also for another Championship outfit, Preston, who have been served with a winding up petition by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs: They are one of a number of clubs facing a tense summer – have they enough financial resources to see them through?

No such concerns for  Chelsea who completed the double by beating Portsmouth 1-0 in the FA Cup Final.  Chelsea should definitely have won by a much bigger margin for they hit the woodwork FIVE times in the first half.  The biggest surprise was that owner Roman Abramovich didn’t try to buy the goalposts during the interval.

Next season Manchester City will try to outdo him on the spending front and that will inevitably drive wages and transfer fees up even higher.  What a shameful contrast to the general economy of the country where everyone is bracing them for massive cutbacks as the newly elected Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government attempts to tackle the country’s enormous debt.

Maybe the politicians are hoping that England have a successful World Cup campaign to lift everybody’s spirits.

World Cup merchandising is already appearing in the shops and the media are turning their attention to who will make it into Fabio Capello’s final squad.

And for many us, we are getting ready to fight that crucial fight for the TV remote control!