Hype and a Whole Heap of Highbury Hoopla

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 4, 2005 | Go to article overview

Hype and a Whole Heap of Highbury Hoopla


Byline: DAVID MELLOR

ALEX FERGUSON won't win too much silverware this season, but he's certainly won his war with Arsene Wenger. The once coolly cerebral Arsenal boss is becoming a gibbering wreck, seeing conspiracies at every turn.

Chelsea's alleged meeting with Arsenal's Ashley Cole was, according to Arsene, deliberately designed to undermine his squad on the eve of their game against United. Come on Arsene. I know even paranoids have enemies, but this is daft.

Face the facts, old son. Your game against Ferguson's Manchester United was completely irrelevant to Chelsea, who as long as they keep on beating teams such as Blackburn, as they did on Wednesday, don't have to worry about your lot at all.

Wenger in his heart of hearts doubtless knows this, which explains another one of this week's petulant outbursts. "It's all Chelsea hype," he whined, claiming the press praise Chelsea's strength even when they play badly. Come on Arsene, are you forgetting all the slobbering coverage you got during your long unbeaten run?

He's not wrong about everything though. "When you see a club who make a loss of [pounds sterling]80million and it doesn't matter to them, you feel there is no logic needed in the way they conduct their business," he complained. And that's right. Chief executive Peter Kenyon says Chelsea will break even within five years, but I don't know a single sophisticated business brain who believes him. The fact is, for better or worse, Chelsea are the plaything of Roman Abramovich. If he pulls the plug, it's game over. Until he does it's spend, spend, spend.

To me the most depressing news of the week wasn't that Chelsea have apparently had a meeting with Cole. Tapping up goes on all the time. No, the sad thing is that Pini Zahavi was at the heart of it.

Zahavi was a prime mover in Chelsea's summer of idiocy in 2003, when tens of millions were thrown away on show ponies such as Juan Veron and Hernan Crespo.

Ken Bates estimates the total cost of Veron is [pounds sterling]45m and not much of that is coming back from Inter Milan, where he is on loan.

After disasters such as these you'd think Zahavi would have been shown the door. The thought of him being locked up with Kenyon and Cole, apparently plotting the next big earner, is hardly reassuring for those who want to believe financial rectitude is the order of the day at the Bridge.

But, as it happens, I think it was Zahavi who was being legged over this time. Nothing is more likely to project Cole into the big money at Highbury than a nice little meeting with Chelsea. Nice one Ashley.

Forget about the logo, we need action New FA chief Barwick shows a solid grasp of the blatantly obvious NEWS that England will wear antiracism logos on their shirts in next week's friendly with Holland will be regarded by some as just another empty gesture. And indeed after the debacle over the DVD celebrating England's footballing prowess using no black players, the FA do have an incentive to do something for their distinguished black contingent.

But I disagree with the critics. Football is often derided for sending out the wrong messages to young people and sometimes - with greed, double dealing, cheating and roasting all the rage - it does.

But elsewhere it's a beacon of hope, nowhere more so than in race relations.

Every top English team now has a mix of races that pays tribute to the noble cause of equality and people of all colours and creeds working effectively together for the common good.

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