Fifty pence

John Russell has a word or two to say about modern developments.

It has long been recorded that the ball is usually only actually in play for 60 of the allotted ninety minutes. Hence some of the ludicrous added minutes which now keep me in my seat until have I missed the ‘special’ from Witton station and what should then have been an early train home.

Negativity is now so much the order of the day that it you have paid £40 for your ticket that lost time equates with almostfifty pence per minute. Obviously it’s much higher the more admission money you have paid. Think on those fifty pences next time you see footballers being paid beyond the dreams of avarice to pass the ball between themselves with no challenge from any opponent. It is tantamount to a factory worker being paid for standing around for doing nothing.

Time wasting is now so much more a part of the so-called professional game that short of stopping the clock as for example in rugby or ice hockey and demanding ninety minutes of action it seems we are destined to forever go on paying money for nothing. Perhaps cricket is to blame for all this short changing the public. twenty overs per hour used to be the accepted norm but now a mere sixteen is deemed sufficient to enable the bars and food concessions to stay in profit.

Despite the provision of ball boys it often seems to take an interminable time to get the ball back into play for a throw in, corner, goal kick, whatever. And unlike yesteryear players almost invariably current players subtly kick the ball away into no mans land at every opportunity especially when a free kick is awarded. And seldom are they punished as referees are as complicit in the tactics as the players. Or they only give the ball back as lackadaisically as they think they can get away with. It is worth watching the Big Game Revisited on ITV4 to see how much more gentlemanly the game used to be.

Injury is another annoying feature for which time is no longer of the essence, although in theory this is now accounted for by ‘Fergie Time’ Do not dismiss Fergie Time as a joke. Those mysterious extra seven minutes v Sheffield Wednesday actually may have helped cost us our winning of the first Premier League title. The league table shows we were ten points adrift at the end but if United had lost at 90 or even 92 minutes as they should have done we may not have accepted out fate over those fatal last three games.

In days of old a player would often miraculously recover at the sight of Hubert Bourne running across the field carrying ice cold water in an old football bladder. There were no substitutes and he knew he had to get up and get on with it. Now when a player goes down, often for tactical reasons as much as hurt in order to give everybody a rest at least two physicians come hurtling across the field with the proverbial blue lights flashing then spend an inordinate amount of time supposedly treating the alledged injury while the manager tries to decide whether the player is playing poorly enough to bring on a substitute. And whatever happened to the rule that all injuries should be treated off the pitch so that everyone else can get on with playing the game?

Unfortunately the officials are all too often complicit in all the time wasting although it is perhaps noticeable that they frequently ignore the rules they are there to interpret. How often does a foul throw go unpunished? Often as many as a third of throws per game are effectively one-handed. And when did you last see a goalkeeper penalised for handling the ball outside the area when making a clearance? It also happens as often as much as one in three clearances. It is where the hand and ball is that counts, not the foot.

And the arc at the corner flag seems to have been extended far further than it was ever intended to take in that extra millimetre of casing. And when was a goalkeeper last punished for moving before the penalty kick was taken? It makes a mockery of the penalty shootout. It’s time they came up with a better method of deciding even games.

They have messed about with the kick off and the goal kick to no good effect whatsoever but the penalty shootout seems sacrosanct. I seem to recall seeing a much more exciting half-time event at Shrewsbury Town when supporters from both clubs took part in an unpredictable shootout from the halfway line. Fun.

Despite the introduction of VAR far too many games are now still being decided by the referee in the nature of who gets punished for what. It is odd how many players seem to get sent off during added time as referees seemingly seek retribution for having failed to send the miscreant packing for far earlier misdemeanours. And linesmen or referees assistants now shirk their duties for fear of being shown up by the television cameras or the retribution of Alan Shearer.

Spectators still get excited at the award of a corner kick even though statistically a corner is more likely to result in a breakaway goal for the defenders than one for the attackers. And the inevitable scrum which now takes place before the kick is taken is an unedifying tag wrestling-style experience that could and should result in innumerable dismissals by any vigilant referee. To be successful a corner kick used to have to be aimed at the penalty spot but nowadays they are invariably aimed at the six yard box in the hopes of a rugby-style scramble.

Thanks originally to Don Revie and Bill Shankly modern football is rapidly losing its ability to excite. It seems to be that these days the team that runs about wins the game because in doing so they so confuse their opponents, determined to ‘keep their shapel, (whatever that means) as to where they might go next. I am pleased to see that in recent games Villa seem to be pioneering this new all0action method of playing. Long may it continue.