by Patrick O’Connor
It’s back! The Premier League, with all its financial insanity and hype, has returned to action and from the outset I must confess some self-interest when it comes to the fortunes of newcomers Blackpool.
They were promoted from the Championship via the play-offs last season and are rated by many as the least equipped side ever to tackle football’s top league.
Many pundits had them down as relegation favourites last season but under their astute manager Ian Holloway they confounded everyone. Now they are with the big boys, complete with run-down stadium, by far the smallest wage-bill and a pitifully tiny squad, only boosted last week by a flurry of late, bargain-basement signings.
Everybody is forecasting that Blackpool will be relegated by a mile by January and I have to be honest and say that part of me is hoping so.
You see, the team that I follow, Derby County, were last in the Premier League in the 2007-8 season and our campaign reads like a nightmare:
*Least number of wins – one
*Least number of away wins – none
*Most defeats – 28 (joint with Sunderland and Ipswich)
*Fewest points – 11
*Fewest goals scored – 20
*Worst goal difference – 69.
The memory of that awful season still lingers, and will only be banished when some other poor outfit performs even worse than we did. So prior to Saturday’s kick off I was hoping that Blackpool would set the tone for the rest of the season by getting hammered at Wigan (the match should have been played at Blackpool but the new stand they have had to build following promotion is not ready yet!).
Well there was a hammering all right, Wigan got turned over 4-0 and with only one game played Blackpool are already well on course for overtaking Derby’s dismal statistics.
Oh well, still 37 games to go.
Better news was that Manchester City, who have spent £106 million so far this summer, could only draw at Tottenham and only managed that because goalkeeper Joe Hart had a blinder. However double holders Chelsea (£31.5m on new players) walloped newly promoted West Brom 6-0 which I suppose goes to show that money doesn’t guarantee success (I’m being sarcastic!).
The life of a Premier League footballer isn’t all always sweetness and light though. The West Ham forward Bennie McCarthy has been warned by the club’s co-owner David Sullivan that he will be fined if he doesn’t lose weight.
“It’s like a jockey being overweight. He can’t ride a horse and no-one is going to pay him,” said Sullivan. “I think we are fully within our rights to say ‘you are not honouring your side of the contract’. He is training very hard so he must be eating or drinking something very wrong. Short of spending 24 hours with him, we have to assume that. You expect him to turn up in a state to be a footballer. We are not starving him. It’s just don’t eat ice cream, don’t eat cakes, don’t drink wine.” Shame.
“Having been shockingly overlooked by successive Norwich City managers all these years as a player, I have come to the sad conclusion that it is probably unlikely now that I will ever be picked to play for the first team.” Another pampered, overpaid footballer whinging? No, just the tongue-in-cheek comments by actor, writer and television presenter Stephen Fry who has joined the board of the Championship club, who have television celebrity chef Delia Smith as a majority shareholder. “The day may still come when I am needed out on the pitch, I haven’t entirely ruled that out, but until then I shall endeavour to serve with enthusiasm and energy, spreading the word far and wide of Norwich City Football Club and the pleasures and rewards to be had as a supporter,” said the 52 year old Fry.
Ms Smith said: “Having one of the club’s most passionate supporters who just happens to also be one of the country’s best-loved performers join us to act as an ambassador for the football club will be just fantastic.”