Football, Mr Shankly, is just a game
Well, this weekend’s football has really been put into perspective by the distressing events at White Hart Lane. Whether your club is challenging for honours or fighting to stay in the division, it really doesn’t matter because what really hit home on Saturday night more than ever is that football is just a game. Nothing more, nothing less.
As I write this, Fabrice Muamba is in the London Chest Hospital fighting for his life after collapsing on the pitch during Bolton’s sixth-round FA Cup-tie with Tottenham and it is something that has shocked and saddened the whole of the football community and beyond.
When I see medical staff surrounding a player, my first thought is that somebody has sustained a nasty injury. Then, as time went by, it was plain to see that this was something much more serious; in fact, life threatening. I am really lost for words at this moment because nobody knows if Muamba is going to pull through.
I’m not a religious man but I can say that, on Saturday evening, I prayed for the lad, as I am sure many people did. It’s in these times that you realise that for all the bad press that football in general gets, whenever something goes wrong or something tragic happens everybody pulls together and is united in rallying round the affected people.
The medical staff on hand from both teams were second to none and, sometimes, you really don’t appreciate how good these people are at their job. They have given Fabrice the best possible chance of recovery and I am sure everybody will be praying day and night for him to pull through. All our thoughts are with his family, too. Good luck, Fabrice.
Now, I will try to concentrate on the weekend’s action, although it really doesn’t seem to matter at this time. The top and bottom is pretty much as it was before the few matches that were played. Wolves look dead and buried and they seem to have lost all discipline. Manchester United didn’t start off well and were perhaps there for the taking early on due to a possible Europa League hangover.
I fully expected to see Wolves come flying out of the traps, like they have against the big teams at home. That was definitely a trait that Mick McCarthy had installed in them. No matter how badly they were playing, you were always guaranteed a high-tempo no-holds-barred type of game against them.
Unfortunately, through one thing or another, that fight seems to have disappeared and United were able to take control with little resilience from the home team. Wolves made more of a fist of it in the second half but, by then, it was far too little too late.
Wigan, for all their pressure against West Brom, were unable to put away more than one of their guilt-edged chances and, as each game passes, Roberto Martinez, their manager, is finding himself saying the same things. But things have to change quickly for them, especially in front of goal, or they will be down before the last few games. QPR didn’t play but it’s still been a good weekend for them, now knowing that they will have a chance to pull away a bit from the drop zone.
At the top, Man United were efficient as usual and, as well as getting the three points at Molineux, have gone a considerable way to getting level with Manchester City’s goal difference. And they’re four points clear, albeit with an extra game played.
At this point in the season, it’s better to have points in the bag than games in hand. I fully expect United to go on and the win the Premier League and I don’t think it will come down to the Manchester derby next month. City have to play a resurgent Chelsea in midweek and I feel that their home games are going to be more difficult because teams are going to go there and play deep and ask City questions like “Can you break us down?”
Now to the FA Cup … and the possible semi-final line-ups look very mouth watering, with two possible derbies taking place. I would love nothing more than for Bolton to go all the way and lift the the Cup for Muamba but, unfortunately, things don’t often work that way and I think Spurs will have too much for them when the abandoned match is restaged. I can see Sunderland beating Everton although it will be a close call.
So, therefore, I can see Chelsea v Spurs and Liverpool v Sunderland in the semis. And I was pleased to see Fernando Torres get a couple of goals on Sunday in the 5-2 victory over Leicester. He is a class act, still keeps giving his all and I hope things work out for him at Chelsea.
That’s about it, the weekend gone. Before I go, one last matter. Bill Shankly, one of the greatest managers of all time, once said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much much more important than that.” Sadly, this weekend has proved that, for all the joy and pain football can bring, there is no thing more important in life than life itself. Whatever anybody thinks, football is just a game. Nothing more, nothing less.