Hello London, this is Sydney(ish) calling.
I’ve been in Australia for about a year now. I’m happy to report that things are going well. To quote a balding sixty-something year old New York song writer “Things are okay with me these days, I got a good job, I got a good office, I got a new wife, got a new life and the family is fine.” We’re just coming into summer and daylight savings means that I get up every morning to live football on the telly and 20-25 degrees outside. Life is sweet although watching ‘Super Sunday’ games is a bit of a hassle if it’s a good un such as Chelsea Vs Manchester United since they kick off at around 3 AM on Monday AEST. Not ideal when one is due at work at 8:30 AM. That said, Blues kicked off as that time last Sunday so I booked the day off. It would’ve been worth it had we won although missing any day off work is never necessarily bad.
Super Sunday here in Aus consists of watching North Queensland Fury against Wellington Phoenix. It doesn’t really cut the mustard, really. Still, bless ’em, they try. And Fox Sports certainly have their own Jamie Redknapp – winner of the ‘Pundit I’d most like to hit in the face with a frying pan because he never says anything remotely interesting nor controversial but does occasionally say something really stupid’ award in the shape of Robbie Slater. And there’s Mark Bosnich, who annoys me because despite the fact that, at a relatively young age, I was taught to dislike him, actually says some mildly interesting and amusing things. And he puts Slater in his place. Which makes me happy which makes me forgive Bosnich for all of his past demeanours a little bit.
Still, it’s not really the standard of local football that I’m here to blog about. I’m finally settled in Australia now and in some sort of rhythm as far as life goes. So I decided that, with Kev’s permission, I’d start to blog about what it’s like following Blues from the other side of the planet. So from this point on, I’ll blog weekly(ish) about the goings on at St Andrew’s from an ex-pats point of view as well as sharing tidbits of what it’s like to live in Australia.
The backend of last season was a bit of a nightmare here. Blues were on TV occasionally (when they were on back home) but coverage was irregular and a half hour round up of all action from the Championship and Leagues 1 and 2 every Tuesday night did not suffice. Online coverage was sketchy too. As quickly as footage was uploaded to places like YouTube, it was erased due to copyright issues. Which I suppose is fair enough but when you’re a homesick Pom, it’s a bit of a pain. Still, promotion was achieved via a dodgy online footy stream that decided it needed to buffer every 2 minutes or so. I’m sure that those at Reading saw it in a bit more High Def than us here in Aus. Still, the result is all that matters and promotion to the Premier League meant red button access. Fox Sports show five Saturday 3 PM kick offs concurrently at 2 AM (midnight when it’s not daylight savings) so there’s a good chance that Blues will be on live here every week. Which means I’ll see more of Blues here in Australia that I could afford to in England! So far, I’ve missed just one game – Blues at home to Bolton, which was not shown here.
Oh, and Arsenal. But that wasn’t down to the selection decisions of the Fox Sport directors. That was down to my cable box blowing up literally just as the game kicked off. By the time I had tuned into the service that is Blues World, we were already 2-0 down. My other half was not amused since she’s the TV guru in our household and naturally, at 2 AM, when the cable and TV weren’t working, it was her job to fix it. She failed and eventually went back to bed in a huff. When I flipped the PC on and found us 2-0 down, she thought that I should’ve been too busy being appreciate for her efforts to fix the TV rather than focussed on how Blues were getting on. Women, eh?
And speaking of Blues World (or whatever it’s called these days) I hope one of the upgrades to the club as a result of the takeover is to ditch the jokers that run it and try and find a better way to connect with exiled fans. The service is a joke and in my experience, rarely does what it claims to do – Ie. Give exiled fans commentary. I won’t bore you with the list of mess ups throughout the years, suffice to say, it’s left me very bitter at the fact that I have no other choice but to subscribe if I want to hear Blues live when we’re not on TV. I hope that Blues World isn’t the way that Yeung, Hui, Yu, Pannu, Dunford and co are hoping to win over the 5 gazillion Chinese fans that we now have.
So as far as coverage goes, I was really looking forward to this season. And then we made the signings that we did and everyone was optimistic. We didn’t start quite as well as we’d hoped and optimism quickly turned into despair. Meanwhile, Yeung had turned up again and decided that this time, he had the funds and Sullivan and Gold were ready to play ball. Things happened very quickly and at the back end of last season, who would’ve guessed that in January, we’d have a different board with different ambitions?
What I like about the new board is that they seem to realise that football is fun. The last board – and a lot of fans across the footballing spectrum – became obssessed with winning, with success, with moving the football club on, with not getting left behind, with buying a better player, making more money. It’s a depressing thought since football has always been and should always be about having a laugh, a bit of fun, destressing from the week. It’s a little bit of a worry when the stress of football is taking over from the stress of a working week! Maybe fun isn’t the right word and perhaps I’m not painting it in the light that I wish to paint it in, like Blues are just a bit of light-hearted fun to me. That’s not true and I can’t really seem to find the correct words. Still, on we plough…
One word that is not correct is entertainment. I hate the idea that football is ‘entertainment’. WWE Wrestling is ‘entertainment’. A Keanu Reeves film is ‘entertainment’ (comedy really, but still.) A choreographed TV programme is ‘entertainment’. Football should never be choreographed or predictable or entertainment. Entertaining, sure… but somehow, that’s different. Entertainment to me is something that is designed to amuse or engage using a certain angle or coming from a certain direction. Football should be unpredictable and you should get that feeling that anything could happen when you walk through a turnstyle or sit down in front of your TV (in my case.) I still get that but it’s becoming harder to find.
And that’s why the new board seem to be such a breath of fresh air. Without jumping on the bandwagon of absolutely slating the old board – a viewpoint I generally find to be a little bit disrespectful and unappreciative on the whole – the new board seem to have realised that you need to give the fans something to be happy about. And not necessarily a 40m budget for a transfer window. And speaking of that, that worries me somewhat… what if we spend 40m and get relegated? What happens? Assume we can sell players but will they go for as much as we paid? Probably not. The old board always budgeted for relegation very well, despite what some might say.
But back to the point about the new board understanding what is required. A sense of fun and occasion, a sense of everyone working together, a sense of respect for the fans, a sense of general oveall enjoyment. I have no doubts that behind the fun-loving, getting pissed at Chinese restaurants with the fans antics lie some serious and impressive people. But coming in and immediately banging on about progress, about success, about achievements, about what the fans need to do to make it happen is not what we want. It’s not what football wants – or needs. The fun needs to be put back into the game and dare I say the word that tends to, most of the time, make me cringe when I hear it… no sod it, I’ll say it – CHARACTERS. That’s what the new board seem to be.
No-one’s saying that you can afford to run a Premier League team whilst half pissed and not focussing on what needs to be done. But there has to be scope for a bit of lively fun and clowning around. Something to brings the smiles back to the faces when the roll of the ball may not be doing so. A director grabbing a microphone (a director, I hasten to add who is not Delia Smith) and yells “I love you all!” to an astonished St Andrew’s and then goes head-to-head in a drinking competition with a local Viler and then sings KRO with the fans is exactly what we need!
Anyone remember the Barry Fry days? Compared to the days of say, Trevor Francis, they weren’t terribly successful. Yes, we won two trophies but unfortunately, we had to be relegated in the first place to do so! Bazza got rid of the youth set up and bought so many bad players and caused so many arguments that often, we found ourselves – as a third tier club – unable to get OUT of the newspapers. They were great days and people loved them because there was that sense of amusement surrounding it all. A cloud of disbelief and astonishment hung over the club because literally, you never knew what was coming next.
Then Trev took over and took us tantalisingly close to silverware and the Premier League. Some of those games under TF – the atmosphere especially – will live with some ‘noses forever. But overall, was it more fun that it was under Bazza? I’d argue that it wasn’t. Trev sort of dragged the club up towards a more professional footing and layed a lot of the groundwork for when W’or Brucey took over. But they never quite matched up to the days of Bazza being in charge, did they?
This is how I sort of feel about the new board, I think. Whilst the old board may (and it has yet to be proven) have been more professional and responsible in the way they made sure that the future of the club was never in doubt, there’s a sense of curiousness, anxiety and excitement about the new board. They could literally do anything and I always have the feeling that when I get up in the morning, I could read anything on my PC screen regarding Blues. I mean, we literally could’ve signed Ronaldo to play on the wing… but backed this up by signing the Honey Monster as cover for left back. It’s that sort of silly scenario that makes me glad that the takeover has gone ahead.
I mean, I’m sure that none of the above will happen and I’m sure that in time, we’ll see a thoroughly slick and professional outfit emerge who ARE capable of running the club to the same standard – and more – than the last board. I sincerely hope so. But I always hope that there’s this rogue element to their ownership. The type of thing that could see literally anything come from the left field and blind sight us all. The old board lost that ability and it was always middle of the road stuff with David Sullivan’s broadsides at the fans the only really thing out of the ordinary – and even after a while, they became second nature.
The now have the keys to the kingdom, let’s see what they can do with them… this expat is excited about the future. Even if the future spells financial oblivion and relegation to the third tier to play against little teams like Leeds, Charlton and Southampton!
Yours in Down-Underness…
Ps. If you do not remember me or you’d like to read some of my stuff from the olders days of J&S, you can do so here.