Chelsea FC Training Session & Press Conference

FA Cup tradition vs. economic reality; we’ve seen this tussle before


I suppose it’s nice to see that lands beyond our own struggle with some of the same issues around their favorite sports – the constant push and pull of tradition vs. economic reality, for instance.

Ahead of today’s FA Cup final, one man who has played in this historic event wonders about the timing. Former England international Sol Campbell, writing in The Guardian, says the kickoff time is wrong (later in the evening, to capitalize on greater ad revenue in the TV slot). And he says the relocation on the year’s sporting calendar (landing on the next-to-last weekend of league play) is a mistake, too.

Campbell’s piece in The Guardian is here.

In terms of tradition, he’s got it right. But Campbell and so many others benefitted (and continues to benefit) from the vast pools of money in the game. And at some point, you have to feed the golden goose rather than just gathering the eggs.

It’s no different than Major League Baseball playoff games that start well into the night – at times when children are less likely to hang in there through conclusion. We’ve been arguing about that one for 30 years.

The FA Cup, perhaps, is one of the properties so filthy rich with tradition that maybe it shouldn’t be touched. Campbell certainly believes so. He’s also bothered by the Saturday kickoff rather than Sunday.

Playing the final on this Saturday has also taken some sheen off the game. Don’t get me wrong, Chelsea versus Liverpool at Wembley in an FA Cup final has sparkle, but it is taking place on the same weekend that the two Manchester clubs are playing in huge, title-deciding league matches, and arguably Manchester City’s match at Newcastle on Sunday is the biggest of the weekend given the quality of both sides and what’s at stake. So to play the Cup final now is bizarre. The fabric of the game is being stripped away and in 10 years’ time we may not recognise it at all.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.