Ian and the Sweet F.A.

There’s a little seaside team called Blackpool.
What’s noted for football and fun.
And young Master Ian Holloway
Went there with a job to be done.

He didn’t think much to the stadium.
The stands was all piddlin and small.
There was no riots and nobody trampled.
In fact nothing to laugh at at all.

So seeking for further amusement
They got promoted a division or two
Where there was United and Chelsea and Arsenal.
Not Scunthorpe and Barnsley and Crewe.

They caused quite a stir in le League Premiere
They’d forgot they were not mean to win.
In their shirts as orange as stewards
On a day out to sunny King’s Lynn.

There were one great big team called the Villa
In claret and blue they were dressed.
And since a big match were on at weekend
Ian gave ten of his lads a quick rest.

Now Ian had heard about Villa.
How they was all nervous and tame.
And seeing as how he’d got nothing to lose
Told his lads: ‘Play your usual game’.

It were a right proper upper and downer.
That wednesday night clash there’s no doubt.
The crowd cheered and clapped their endorsement.
And some paid again on’t way out!

But the lads at the football headquarters
Were watching and said ‘What’s to do?
There’s far too much fun here for comfort.
We’ll stop that – or they’ll all want some too!’

So they fined little Blackpool a fortune
For playing the game with some zip.
While United and City were walking the park
Like pensioners on a day trip.

The F.A. were quite nice about it,
Saying ‘No-one was really to blame.’
And hoped that Ian and Blackpool
Had enough money to play one one more game.

At this Ian got proper blazing.
‘And thank you sirs kindly’ said he.
‘Run our legs off each week playing football
To feed Rupert Murdoch – not me!’

(apologies to Marriot Edgar)

The Premier League’s line is that they are the Quality Control department for each game. So any sub-standard product must be rejected, and the standard is the ‘quality’ of the line-up on the day. The game is the product on the conveyor belt.
They don’t specify ‘standards’ for the players. They do leave that to the manager, who is the only person in a position to assess the fitness of every player in the squad. Better a fit sub than a crocked star. So the PL does accept the principle of manager quality control. They just can’t accept that he might use it in the long term interest of the club rather than to provide a constant parade of star players for the benefit of the Skysports subscribers.
The game would undoubtedly benefit from greater, or even compulsory, rotation of squads. And even Sky’s reliance on the superstars would be fed more regularly if they were rested more often. But that’s not the Murdoch way. And there’s always some new Wonderkid on the chopping block, willing to wear himself out in two years for the glory and the Ferrari. So what does Murdoch care how many broken bodies, and how much sidelined talent he leaves in his wake? As long as there’s a story to print.

And we do love a good narrative ‘arc’. From youthful hope and talent to despicable corruption. It’s a primeval need as old as the first time we noticed the sun moving across the sky. But most important of all it sells papers. It doesn’t matter if, as with John Terry, it wrecks the moral and preparation of the England team steaming through qualification for the world cup. The disaster in South Africa sold papers too.

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