Monday, January 20, 2014

....WELL, MAYBE....

I was speaking with a friend of mine last evening.  He`s a devoted West Ham fan and he and I were reviewing the respective fortunes of our clubs. The Hammers suffered yet another dispiriting home defeat on Saturday against Newcastle and Southampton snatched a draw from the jaws of victory at Sunderland.   In a way I suppose those results sum up the relative performances of the two clubs over the season so far, for there is genuine concern for West Ham`s Premier League survival now that they have slipped into the relegation zone whilst The Saints seem marooned on an island of their own in ninth place.

Now I might be accused of being smugly complacent about Southampton`s position but we are still short of the points total to secure survival and there are still 16 games to go. Chickens not counted yet - and with a week of boardroom traumas behind us, anything is possible - but surely it would take a disaster of monumental proportions for the Saints not to survive and prosper.   Rather, we are looking to the future;  things like ownership of the club;  and this is where it gets quite literally intriguing.   It seems the benevolent ownership of the Liebherr family might be coming to an end with rumours of a takeover by China`s richest man - one Wang Jianlin, said to be worth £16billion and counting.

It seems increasingly likely that the ownership of my club will remain in `foreign` hands, like so many of the Premier League clubs and it`s no coincidence that those clubs at the top of the league table are all foreign owned - Manchester City (United Arab Emirates;) Chelsea (Russian;) Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United ( all American) and so on.   There is a minority of clubs still in the hands of English owners - Norwich, Everton, Stoke City and one or two more including my friend`s beloved West Ham.  Ah, yes, West Ham, currently in the ownership of two porn barons and playing a brand of football under the tutelage of `Big Sam` Allardyce reminiscent of my own playing days for Maidstone Dolphins on the hallowed turf of Mangravet and Mote Park.

Now as a Euro-phobic out-of-time little Englander, I make no bones about my preference for the days when all football clubs were owned by the local butcher, car dealer, coal merchant, what have you, and I regret the foreign influence and domination that has pervaded the Premier League - `the best league in the world (tm)` - as yet another slice of Engerland gets swallowed up in the rush to globalisation, in the process of which football clubs, like countries, can lose their identity and their soul. 

So, surely my beleaguered friend and the cognoscenti of the Boleyn can at least take heart from the fact that they are almost the last bastion of the good old fashioned English football club, with their English owners, their English manager, their fervent Knees-up Mother Brown following and their prospect of moving into the Olympic Stadium.  You see, every cloud has a silver lining.  Well, it does, doesn`t it?

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