The Times‘s 50 Worst Things About Modern Football

Football is one of the greatest things in the world but it’s not perfect. It used to be perfect. Before money and television and the Bosman ruling and Baby Bentleys and roastings and tattoos and takeovers and no standing and agents and prawn sandwiches and rotation.

English newspaper The Times takes a stab at the “50 Worst Things about Modern Football”. “It could have been 500” they add.

Without question, football as we know it experienced some sort of a genetic mutation of the last 20-30 years. And for the Times writers, the common denominator as the “root of all evil” seems to be… MONEY! What else?

Indeed, the “European Champion Clubs’ Cup” sold out and became the “Champions League” (Nº3), with all the money-making evilness going along with it (“If you won the European Cup, you were the best team in Europe. If you win the Champions League, you owe someone £700 million.“). The FA Cup (Nº9), which used to be a competition where “milkmen” and “postmen” scored at Wembley stadium, has now turned into yet another money-making enterprise where a “bloke earning £100k a week wins a trophy he doesn’t give a $#!+ about“.

And what can be said about Transfer windows at Nº48 (“Going shopping twice a year wouldn’t work in real life and it doesn’t work in football.“) or Undisclosed transfer fees at Nº44 (“If you’re going to spend some of my hard-earned season ticket money on a player I’ve never heard of, I want to know how much he cost. I’m not interested in add-ons or projected fees. I just want a number. Any number will do.“)? Further of moolah’s corrupting power.

But let’s take a break from the money-related stuff. Let’s consider things like fu**ing Squad numbers (Nº47) and auto-bloody-biographies (Nº48). Remember the days when the team’s best player was Nº10, goalkeepers were Nº1, and no number went beyond 30? Now watching the Premiership seems like watching an NFL game. Also, “Wayne Rooney has already written two books. That’s one more than he’s read.“. If only he could write as well as he could speak in front of a microphone (blame Media Training for that, Nº24)…. wait never mind.

Passing along Opinions (Nº18) and Internet message boards (Nº16) (“Rafa’s God. Rafa’s an idiot. Becks is past it. No, he’s not. Your team sucks, my team’s better.” etc.), as well as musical renditions we’ve all grown to hate (Nº22: Let Me Entertain You, Nº10: Goal celebration music), we eventually go back to the root of all evil: $$$. So what better than Kaká (Nº23, “If he’s not interested in money why do AC Milan have to pay him £173,000 a week?) and Manchester City (Nº12, “The new Chelsea.“) to cap things off…

And THE worst thing about modern football according to Times writers? Nº1: Television, because it is “the monster” that ate it all. Nuff said.

Feel free to add more “WORST THINGS” about modern football in the comments below.

Nº50: Technical areas
Did Bob Paisley need a technical area when Liverpool won three European Cups and six league titles? Did Alf Ramsey need a technical area when England won the World Cup? What’s so technical about a bit of grass and some white lines, anyway? Memo to all modern managers: Sit down and shut up.

Nº49: Motorway service stations
You pop in to go to the toilet and five minutes later you’ve bought a full-English breakfast for £18.99 and joined the AA.

Nº48: Transfer windows
Imagine if you could only do your shopping twice a year – once in January and then in June, July and August. What would happen? You’d have a fridge full of beer and you’d run out of toilet paper. It wouldn’t work in real life and it doesn’t work in football.

Nº47: Squad numbers Host countries Austria and Switzerland
Remember the days when the best player was Nº10 and goalkeepers were Nº1? Not any more. Thanks to someone at the Premier League watching an American football game, players can have any number they want. George Bowyer is Rochdale’s Nº33, Ronaldinho is AC Milan’s Nº80 and William Gallas is Arsenal’s Nº10. Why?

Nº46: Autobiographies
There comes a time in every player’s life when he decides — or his agent tells him — to write his life story. A couple of interviews with a ghostwriter later and hey presto we have 200 pages of guff and absolutely zero interest from the book-buying public. Wayne Rooney has already written two books. That’s one more than he’s read.

Nº45: Craig Bellamy
He’s gobby, he’s played for 842 clubs, he’s covered in tattoos and he earns £90,000 a week. What’s not to like?

Nº44: Undisclosed transfer fees
If you’re going to spend some of my hard-earned season ticket money on a player I’ve never heard of, I want to know how much he cost. I’m not interested in add-ons or projected fees. I just want a number. Any number will do.

Nº43: Statistics
American obsession that is gradually weaving itself into the fabric of our national game. Do you care how many assists Wayne Rooney has this season? Do you care how many passes Steve Gerrard has completed in the final third? Do you care if Gareth Barry’s tackle win ratio has dropped off since Christmas? Thought not. There’s only one stat that matters. The score.

Nº42: By mutual consent
Three of the most meaningless words in the English language. Either the manager resigned or he was sacked. Just tell us the truth, we can handle it.

Nº41: Fans who complain when games are called off
Were little white things falling out of the sky when you walked to the car this morning? Was the pavement a bit slippery? If the answer to both these questions is yes, there’s a good chance the game’s going to be called off. It’s not the referee’s fault, it’s not the FA’s fault and it’s not the groundsman’s fault. Some things just weren’t meant to be.

Nº40: Gloves
This is England, not Siberia. Your hands will warm up if you run around for five minutes.

Nº39: The fat bloke in row P
Go to any football ground anywhere in England and there will be a fat bloke in your row who will a) arrive late b) talk rubbish c) leave five minutes before half time d) come back five minutes after the game has restarted e) talk rubbish f) leave five minutes before the game has finished.

Nº38: The manager’s programme column
“First off I’d like to say a big welcome to blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah we were robbed last week blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah the lads have been training brilliantly blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah get behind the lads today blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Enjoy the game.”

Nº37: Formations
Yawn. 4-4-1-1, 4-3-2-1, 4-3-3, 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2, 4-2-1-3. Can’t we just knock it up to the big bloke and get the little bloke to bang it in?

Nº36: Chelsea
The new Manchester United.

Nº35: Sky Sports News
The television station that thinks John Carew’s ingrowing toenail responding to treatment is breaking news. Is Sky Sports News the greatest invention known to man or a drug more addictive than crack? We’ll be back after the break.

If you fancy following your team around the country by public transport, don’t bother with one of the worst websites in the world. Try telling it you want a train from Manchester to London on Saturday night – journey time 2 hours 30 minutes. No problem. Get the 21:06 to Birmingham New Street. Then jump on 22:53 to Northampton. Then hop on the 04:58 bus to Leighton Buzzard. Then hop on the 06.44 bus to London. With any luck you’ll be in Euston at 8 o’clock on Sunday morning — journey time 11 hours.

Nº33: Added time
“The fourth official has indicated that there will be three minutes of added time”. So what? We got along just fine without a bloke in a tracksuit holding up a big No 3 at a quarter to five every Saturday.

Nº32: Joey Barton
We don’t like to kick a man when he’s down, but he did, so here goes. Type “Joey Barton Scum” into google and you get 30,500 results.

Nº31: Official statements
Did Robinho really say, “I am committed to helping Manchester City become the force the owners assured me they would become”? Maybe one of his agents typed it into his Blackberry. Robinho doesn’t know what “committed” or “assured” mean because he doesn’t speak English.

Nº30: Match Of The Day
Used to be the best programme on TV. Now, it’s the best football highlights show on TV on Saturday nights.

Nº29: Electronic pitchside advertising boards
Next time you go to Old Trafford make sure you take some sunglasses, otherwise you’ll be blinded by the light from the adverts on the TV screens wrapped around the pitch. A word of advice for the skinny latte-sipping Soho adman who came up with this idea: We can’t afford a new Audi. We’re here for the football and the beer.

Nº28: Referee’s assistants
They’re linesmen. End of.

Nº27: Hi-tech dugouts
Minutes from Manchester United board meeting May 2007: Sir Alex Ferguson requested that the board sanction the removal of the plastic seats in the home and away dugouts at Old Trafford. The manager wants them replaced with leather racing car seats like the ones they have in Porsches and Ferraris. Sir Bobby said that was ridiculous. Sir Alex told Sir Bobby to shut up.

Nº26: The fourth official
Pointless — like Luton Town until last Saturday.

Nº25: Club shops
Empires of tat and greed that make your local Poundstretcher look like Harrods. The club shop at the Emirates Stadium has a special section for Arsenal presents for your dog. The Stamford Bridge megastore sells Chelsea Christmas crackers — £10.43 for a pack of six — and Manchester United have ventured into the toiletries market. Ever fancied washing your hair with Manchester United shampoo and conditioner? Now you can. For £9.99.

Nº24: Media training
All Premier League players and managers are given media training to make sure that they never say anything remotely interesting when someone puts a microphone in front of them. Now you know why they’re taking one game at a time, why they didn’t see their captain punch one of his team-mates, why they haven’t thrown in the towel yet and why everything is going to be terrific.

Nº23: Kaká
If he’s not interested in money why do AC Milan have to pay him £173,000 a week? … …. ……

Nº22: Let Me Entertain You
Atrocious Robbie Williams song that has ruined the build-up to every single football game in the world since it was released in 1998.

Nº21: Points deductions
This is England, not Italy. Deducting points from teams because they failed to comply with the Football League’s insolvency rules or because they paid agents through a holding company has turned the bottom of League Two into a joke. Luton Town started the season on minus 30 points. The team at the bottom of the table should be the worst side in the league, not the club with the idiot accountant.

Nº20: Official club websites
Good for getting directions to the ground, but not much else.

Nº19: ITV
We haven’t forgotten about the ITV Digital disaster and your FA Cup coverage isn’t much to shout about either.

Nº18: Opinions
We live in an “Everyone’s entitled to my opinion” kind of world and when it comes to football, everyone’s got one. Rafa’s God. Rafa’s an idiot. Becks is past it. No, he’s not. How can Kaka be worth £100 million? Yeh, but you’d pay £45 to see him play. Stevie G and Lamps can’t play together. But they’re the best we’ve got. Can’t we all just shut up and watch the game?

Nº17: Brazil
The greatest team in the world have become football’s Harlem Globetrotters. Ronaldinho and Co have played only one friendly in Brazil in the past 2 ½ years. In the meantime they’ve put on a show in Oslo, Kuwait, Stockholm, London (four, about to be five, times), Basel, Gothenburg, Dortmund, Montpellier, Chicago, Boston, Dublin, Seattle and Boston. Ker-ching.

Nº16: Internet message boards
My team’s better than yours. No, my team’s better than yours. No, my team’s better than yours. No. my team’s better than yours. Repeat until the world ends.

Nº15: Tattoos
When we were kids only sailors and binmen had tattoos. Now, you can’t walk into a dressing-room without being blinded by Celtic crosses, barbed wire, angels, Chinese proverbs, the name of everyone’s kids, the name of everyone’s kids in Hebrew, the name of everyone’s wife, the name of everyone’s wife in Latin, a couple of Welsh dragons and Steve Sidwell’s marriage vows.

Nº14: Superagents
How does an agent become a superagent? Make a few phone calls, get friendly with Roman Abramovich and buy a flat in Knightsbridge.

Nº13: Injuries
“We’re down to the bare bones” and it’s not surprising considering that modern-day footballers are about as tough and durable as a Ming vase. Half of them can’t run without pulling a hamstring and the other half can’t tackle with breaking a metatarsal. What’s a hamstring anyway? And how come Bobby Moore never pulled one?

Nº12: Manchester City
The new Chelsea.

Nº11: Kick-off times
Football used to be played at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. Now it’s played when it suits Sky and Setanta.

Nº10: Goal celebration music
Listen. Very. Carefully. We. Don’t. Want. To. Hear. I. Feel. Good. Chelsea. Dagger. Or. Song. Two. Every. Time. Someone. Scores. A. Goal. Got. That?

Nº9: The FA Cup
When was the last time a milkman lifted the FA Cup? When was the last time a postman scored at Wembley? There’s nothing romantic about a competition which ends every year with a bloke who earns £100,000 a week lifting a trophy that he doesn’t really give a monkey’s about.

Nº8: Takeovers
In the old days all you needed to support your local club was a scarf and rattle, but these days you need a degree in economics, an MBA and a subscription to the Financial Times. Come back all you butchers, car dealers, property developers and local boys made good — all is forgiven.

Nº7: Wembley Stadium
The old Wembley Stadium had it all. Players dreamed of playing there and supporters dreamed of going there – even if the toilets smelled a bit funny. Then some bright spark at the FA thought it would be a good idea to knock down the most famous football stadium in the world and replace it with an £800 million concrete box and a pointless arch. Best stadium in the world? Thanks to Arsenal’s new ground, the new Wembley’s not even the best stadium in North London.

Nº6: Radio phone-in shows
“”The next caller is Gary from Guildford. What do you want to get off your chest, Gary?”
“Well, Alan. I think Rafa’s got to go. How can you leave Torres on the bench when you need three points? And as for that ref, he’s got to be the worst ref I’ve ever seen.”
“Were you at the game, Gary?”

Nº5: Rotation
You pay £50 for a ticket, you spend £10 on a pint of beer and a hotdog and you get to watch a kickabout between a bunch of kids no-one’s ever heard of. Thanks Arsene. Thanks Rafa. Thanks Alex. Nice to know you care.

Nº4: New stadium
Where would you rather watch a game? Maine Road or the City of Manchester Stadium? The Baseball Ground or Pride Park? Highfield Road or The Ricoh Arena? The Dell or St Mary’s? Filbert Street or The Walkers Stadium? Nice prawn sandwiches, though.

Nº3: The Champions League
What’s changed since the European Cup turned into the Champions League in 1992? Everything. If you won the European Cup, you were the best team in Europe. If you win the Champions League, you owe someone £700 million.

Nº2: The Premier League
What’s changed since the Premier League broke away from the Football League in 1992? Everything. If you won the First Division title, you were the best team in England. If you win the Premier League, you owe someone £500 million.

Nº1: Television
The monster that ate football. ………………………….. ………………… ……………. …………………

Transfer Rumors (31 Jan 09): Manchester United to counter Real Madrid's offer for Wigan's Valencia, Portsmouth move for Tottenham flop Dos Santos, and more
Newcastle snap up Kevin Nolan, but where does that leave Bolton?


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