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Blowing bubbles?

If you follow this blog/ know me, you will be aware I’m a lifelong football obsessive who supports Spurs – currently one of the most attractive and compelling teams to watch in Europe. And yet… not only did I turn down the chance to go to last night’s (Jan 4th) game against West Ham at Wembley, I switched over at home ten minutes into the second half.

Why? Because having attended several ‘home’ games this season at our national stadium (which is a labour of love in itself as it’s a nightmare to get to and from), I have had the pleasure of watching every single opposing side line up inside their own half and sit there, like a petulant six-year-old refusing to come outside because their big brother won’t play the game they want.

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Burnley, Swansea, West Brom and – most pointedly of all – Brighton have turned up and transformed what should be a sporting event into a footballing version of pinata: getting battered for ages before either crumbling (Brighton) or somehow escaping without being defeated (the others).

Newcastle’s extreme version of the tactic against Manchester City attracted the highest level of opprobrium, which, as they were playing at home is fair enough, but if you were at Wembley for Spurs v Brighton to watch a side refuse to chase the game at one and two-nil down you might have disagreed with that assessment. Brighton’s players did not seek to press or dispossess Spurs at any stage, even when losing. Is it possible to sue a club for breaching the Trade Descriptions Act?

Equally deplorable was Manchester United’s embarrassing showing at home to Manchester City, when despite fielding a forward line worth about a billion pounds they hoofed the ball out of defence for virtually the entire game. They are one of only a handful of teams with the attacking options to discomfit City’s potentially fragile central defence, yet they didn’t try. And lost. Top job, Mourinho.

Sitting deep and hitting your opponents on the break is an acceptable tactic. Sitting deep and hoping desperately to get a couple of free-kicks or corners in 90 minutes, from where you might nick a goal, is not.

I don’t care how anyone tries to justify it (it’s up to the attacking side to break the other team down… yawn), I will always be on the side of Danny Blanchflower, who famously said, “The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.”

If the current trend persists, attendances will fall, TV revenue will dry up and the Premier League – arguably the most successful British product of the last thirty years – will wither and eventually die.

Grumpy post-match interviews from Jose Mourinho will be much less compelling if no one’s watching.

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Categories: blogging for Britain
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