From billionaire owners to players making weekly salaries well in excess of six digits to massive television broadcast deals, the Premier League is dominated by one thing: money.
Yet while all the major players surrounding the Premier League continue to get richer and richer, fans continue to be saddled with increasing ticket prices. It’s a system that most agree is broken, not to mention inherently unfair.
Amidst the outcry, however, clubs have been reluctant to step up and protect those who keep them afloat. Until today that is, when Stoke City announced the unprecedented step of offering their supporters free coach travel to every Premier League away game this season.
The plan emerged after representatives from all Premier League met to discuss the steep decline in the number of away fans attending matches. The Potters idea of free bus travel was submitted to the other clubs but “didn’t get universal approval,” said Stoke chairman Peter Coates.
Despite the resistance, however, Stoke is pushing forward with the initiative for a year long trial period. “We think that the cost of travel is very expensive these days. We are going to try this experiment for 12 months, and we think it will be appreciated by our supporters,” Coates said.
Coates wasn’t upset by other clubs failing to adopt his idea, saying “I am a great believer in not telling other clubs what to do.”
For the chairman, the away coach project is his way of ensuring the game doesn’t lose the fans who brought the game to prominence. “I have always been of the view that everyone in the community should be able to go to football,” Coates said. “It’s traditionally a working-class sport and we want people on modest incomes to be able to come.”
For a club typically panned for its lack of on-field innovation, Stoke City and Peter Coates deserve huge applause for this simple yet cutting edge initiative.
One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.
Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.
At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.
That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:
HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.
AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.
I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.
In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”
HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.
I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.
Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.
The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.
John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.
That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.
Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.
The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.