The Grey Neutral: Lille in the pink

ONLY one of the top five European leagues saw its title regained by 2019-20 champions Germany and Bayern Munich. In England, France, Italy and Spain, it’s a year of change. In both France and Italy, it feels more seismic, although Atlético’s success in Spain ends a six-year run of Barca and Real passing the baton to each other. Lille’s playing budget for 2020-21 was € 147 million, versus Paris Saint-Germain’s € 600 million. Hence, the success of Lille is really quite remarkable. PSG will end the season with just the Coupe de France, so Mauricio Pochettino might be a little nervous – Tuchel left PSG with four major trophies in two seasons, including two league titles. Lille’s team may struggle to stay together, notably younger talents like Jonathan David, the 21 year-old Canadian striker, goalkeeper Mike Maignan and Turkish defender Zeki Celik. The team also has some experience in José Fonte (37), Burak Yilmaz (35) and the impressive former Rennes midfielder Benjamin André (30). It’s good to see someone challenge Paris Saint-Germain, who have just given Neymar a new contract. Will they regret that?

Sutton United – an unlikely bunch of heroes

ANYONE who used to visit Sutton United during the club’s long non-league career is probably scratching their head right now. Sutton have never been one of the big clubs in terms of attendances, although they have always had a loyal audience. In step three circles, Sutton were always considered to be non-league royalty and any victory at Gander Green Lane was savoured. They always had good backroom people, from their directors to press officers like Tony Dolbear. They were always very professional. And they have stubbornly hung on their amber and chocolate kit. Sutton deserve credit for their “rebirth” in recent years, installing an artificial pitch and boldly making ticket prices realistic. They deserved success and good luck to them in 2021-22. The Football League is a big step for a London area club and ripping-up that 4G (if it is 4G) will be a painful process, but the good folk of Sutton have never had it so good. Enjoy!

Mavericks also don’t win medals

LISTENING to a podcast involving some players from the early 1970s was an interesting experience. Firstly, it was obvious they loved the game, but secondly, they lived the life and really didn’t expect it to impact their careers. We eulogise about the so-called “maverick” players who had plenty of skill but didn’t win many caps for England. There’s a reason for that – they were unreliable and an international manager doesn’t have the scope to gamble on players or wonder if they will turn up for the game. These players were all fond of the good life and most played in teams that were inconsistent. I wonder why?  Trawl through the careers of six so-called “mavericks” – Alan Hudson, Tony Currie, Rodney Marsh, Frank Worthington, Peter Osgood and Stan Bowles. All brilliant players in their prime. Between this lot, only 45 England caps were picked up, but equally, their medal haul was meagre. Two FA Cups (both Osgood), two Football League Cups (both Marsh), two European Cup-Winners’ Cups (Hudson and Osgood). Currie, Bowles and Worthington didn’t win a single medal. As for George Best, arguably the greatest maverick of all time, he won three medals, two league titles and the 1968 European Cup. As idolised as these players were, their ability didn’t translate into material success with their clubs, unlike Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have won 40 major medals between them!


Photo: Flickr – Maxime Delrue CC BY-NC 2.0

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