Sunday, February 12, 2006

Things that money can't buy

Another brilliant excerpt from The Guardian. Fittingly illustrated by a picture of myself at the Anfield Road Stand, with The Kop at the background.

From the Paul Wilson column

Abramovich pleas shouted down in parish of Shankly
Roman Abramovich must have a sense of humour after all. How can a man who permits himself only one facial expression per game lecture anyone about being more demonstrative in their support?

If Abramovich wants Chelsea fans to feel more like singing, how about dropping admission prices for next season instead of putting them up? How about knocking down that tat at the Fulham Road end so the sun can get to the beach? Sorry, pitch. If Chelsea attracted more away fans the home supporters would actually have someone to sing at. But, if they want to be blown away by an atmosphere like Anfield's, that memorable night last May when the Chelsea directors confessed the noise inside the ground was 'almost frightening', the bad news is that even in football there are some things money just can't buy.

Liverpool and their extremely vocal support go back a long way, and if the passion generated on the terraces last season in any way helped the team to their unlikely triumph in Istanbul it was a fair reward for the club's commitment to their working-class fanbase over the years. Like Manchester United, who also recognise that many loyal supporters have limited means and other expenses to meet, Liverpool have steadfastly refused to take the mickey with ticket prices. When you have been put on the map by someone from Scottish mining stock this sort of collectivism comes naturally enough.

It is less clear what guides a club put on the map by a preposterously young Russian oil billionaire. Chelsea can be most things with Abramovich's money, but they can never be Liverpool. And they will never be popular either if they really want John Obi Mikel and Freddy Adu, or if they continue to irritate real talent scouts by snapping up the best two or three players at junior tournaments before farming them out across Europe on loan. People can cope with the richest club in the Premiership, managers are willing to take on the challenge of competing with the strongest team, but it is beginning to be whispered, with more than a trace of resentment, that Chelsea are using their money to sign players they don't need just so no one else can have them.

Bill Shankly - 'The socialism I believe in is not really politics; it is humanity, a way of living and sharing the rewards' - would not have approved.

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