The Grey Neutral: The northern soul is hurting

HOW the Class of 92 must be wishing they bought Bury instead of Salford! Interesting that Phil Neville has been pleading for Bury to be saved, a club that has strong links to his family. Like so many cases, it is only when a crisis comes that people really start to rally behind the stricken club. It’s the Woolworths syndrome, with everyone getting emotional about the loss of an institution but rarely visiting the shop themselves. Bury has long been in the shadow of Manchester and averaged just 4,000 people at their home games in 2018-19. Mostly, the crowds have been lower than that, in a town of around 80,000. If Bury goes, which is looking increasingly likely, they will doubtless become a phoenix club. The new entity will become one of around a dozen former Football League names from the north of England languishing in non-league football – these include Bradford Park Avenue, Southport, Stockport, Halifax, York, Barrow, Workington, Darlington and Hartlepool. Non-league will not be the end of the road, it can be a new beginning, one that enables the fans to have a bigger say.

THEY may be dominating Spanish domestic football on the pitch, but Barcelona may also be about to overtake rivals Real Madrid in financial terms. In 2018-19, preliminary figures indicate that Barca made record revenues of € 990 million, just € 10 million below the € 1 billion target they are aiming for by 2021. According to Forbes, Barca are no just US$ 220 million behind Real in terms of value. Barca have been spending cash during the summer with two huge signings in Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann, almost € 200 million of talent. It’s difficult to see anyone other than Barca winning the title again this season, but their opening day defeat at Bilbao will give the rest of La Liga ample encouragement for 2019-20!

THE ASIAN Champions League is at the last eight stage, with Saudi Arabia dominating the Western half of the draw and China and Japan the East. Kashima Antlers, winners in 2018, will face Guangzhou Evergrande, twice winners of the competition while 2017 winners Urawa Reds come up against Shanghai SIPG. Kashima were recently taken over by by e-commerce firm Mercari, who bought as 61.6% stake from Nippon Steel. Kashima are chasing the J-League title and are currently trailing leaders FC Tokyo by four points. FC Tokyo from Chōfu in Tokyo have never won the J-League. The title race is shaping-up to be very interesting, with crowds currently averaging 20,000 this season, up from 2018.

THE film “Too big to go down” about Manchester United’s 1974 relegation is an absorbing account of a rare moment in time. It is also a reminder that United’s team under Tommy Docherty between 1975 and 1977 played some exciting football. Players like Gordon Hill, Steve Coppell, Sammy McIlroy, Gerry Daly, Lou Macari and Stuart Pearson were a joy to watch. For the fans that have known nothing but success and the corporatisation of United should watch this, not just to see the flowing and occasionally haphazard football served up by a team of red-shirted swarming dervishes, but also the atmosphere of the Stretford End. United were a soft touch sometimes away from home, but they were an attraction, a team that made the heart beat faster. After Docherty, the original self-destructive manager, it was never the same.

Photo: PA

 

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