THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY

Soccer 360 - - Inside -

THE GOOD

Burn­ley fan Scott Cun­liffe is aim­ing to raise £10,000 for char­ity by run­ning to each of Burn­ley’s 19 Pre­mier League away games, a to­tal dis­tance of 3,000 miles in his RUN­AWAY Chal­lenge initiative.

The 44-year-old will set off from Burn­ley’s Turf Moor home for each trip and by De­cem­ber he had al­ready cov­ered al­most 2,000 miles as the Clarets went to Southamp­ton, Ful­ham, Wolves, Cardiff City, Manch­ester City, West Ham and

Le­ices­ter City.

Even the jour­ney to City’s Eti­had Sta­dium was the equiv­a­lent of run­ning more than a marathon, while a De­cem­ber triple­header of London clubs — Crys­tal Palace, Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur and Ar­se­nal — put the char­ity worker on the road for 14 con­sec­u­tive days, get­ting home from the Spurs run and set­ting off for the Emi­rates Sta­dium the same day and rack­ing up

400 miles.

The idea came as Cun­liffe looked for a way to help his re­cov­ery from the POST­TRAU­MATIC Stress Dis­or­der and de­pres­sion he suf­fered with af­ter work­ing in In­done­sia and East Ti­mor, where he wit­nessed a num­ber of distressing events. “Run­ning was a ma­jor part of my ther­apy in over­com­ing this,” he said. Money raised through Cun­liffe’s JUST­GIV­ING page will be dis­trib­uted among com­mu­nity projects of all 20 Pre­mier League clubs. “There's a lot more com­mon ground in football than any ad­ver­sity or bit­ter­ness that goes with it,” he ex­plained. “There's ri­valry, but more unity than it gets credit for - as an away fan you see that all the time, you chat to fans from op­po­si­tion teams and it's just nat­u­ral and nor­mal.”

Cun­liffe is fol­low­ing — al­most lit­er­ally — in the foot­steps of Ever­ton fan Michael Cullen, af­fec­tion­ately known as Speedo Mick, who raised al­most £100,000 for a num­ber of char­i­ties in the 2016-17 sea­son. Start­ing off swim­ming the English Chan­nel — and pro­mot­ing his ef­forts by at­tend­ing matches in just his swimwear — Cullen later en­deav­oured to walk to ev­ery Ever­ton fix­ture, in­clud­ing an FA Cup semi-fi­nal at Wem­b­ley.

THE BAD

Mark Hughes’ sack­ing by Southamp­ton at the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber brought the cur­tain down on a ten­ure that should rank as one of the poor­est in the his­tory of the Pre­mier League. What’s worse is that Hughes will be hand­somely re­warded for his fail­ure, and no doubt re­turn to the top flight with an­other club be­fore long.

Hughes was dis­missed with the Saints

18th in the ta­ble, hav­ing been ap­pointed in March when they were a point above the drop zone. The Welsh­man’s brand of ugly, phys­i­cal football and per­pet­u­ally dour post­match in­ter­views, where he was al­ways quick to ap­por­tion blame to any­one other than him­self, never en­deared him to the Southamp­ton sup­port­ers. A record of three wins in 22 League games didn’t help either. The for­mer Black­burn, Manch­ester City and Stoke City man­ager might ar­gue he achieved what he was brought in to do — namely, keep Southamp­ton in the Pre­mier League. But with lit­tle to sug­gest he’d re­peat the feat this year, Southamp­ton made a change. For his ef­forts, Hughes re­ceives £6m in com­pen­sa­tion.

Avoid­ing rel­e­ga­tion was un­doubt­edly worth more to Southamp­ton than the mil­lions they’ve paid out to Hughes, but it leaves a bit­ter taste in the mouth. Hughes’ com­pen­sa­tion works out at £2m per

League game won, and, it shouldn’t be forgotten, he was in charge of Stoke for much of last sea­son but was sacked be­fore the Pot­ters were rel­e­gated. Hughes was also dis­missed by City and Queens Park Rangers, and it’s es­ti­mated he’s earned £18m in com­pen­sa­tion alone.

It’s not Hughes’ fault that clubs keep ap­point­ing man­agers of his ilk — and the huge sums of com­pen­sa­tion could be viewed as re­ceipts for the ter­ri­ble plan­ning that gets clubs into the sit­u­a­tion where they need a ‘safe pair of hands.’ Hughes, though, isn’t that, as Southamp­ton even­tu­ally re­alised.

THE UGLY

A thrilling North London derby be­tween Ar­se­nal and Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur was marred when a ba­nana skin was thrown onto the pitch, to­wards Gun­ners striker Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang, from a Spurs sup­porter.

More in-keep­ing with the poi­sonous na­ture of 1970s and 80s English football than the more tol­er­ant mod­ern game, the ac­tion was quickly con­demned from all sides and the al­leged per­pe­tra­tor ar­rested for a racially ag­gra­vated pub­lic or­der of­fence. It was claimed the ba­nana skin was thrown at Aubameyang without any racist im­pli­ca­tions in­tended.

“Be­hav­iour such as this is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able and the sup­porter in ques­tion will be is­sued with a ban,” a Tot­ten­ham spokesper­son said, while a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Pre­mier League added: “Dis­crim­i­na­tory be­hav­iour has no place in football or so­ci­ety as a whole.”

The 70s and 80s pro­duced some iconic play­ers and mo­ments, pos­i­tive ones, for English clubs, but they were at the same time a Dark Age. The football was rough and ready and the fa­cil­i­ties for and treat­ment of sup­port­ers a dis­grace. To­day the football is often bril­liant, and while ticket prices and other costs are out of con­trol, there is at least greater con­sid­er­a­tion for the con­sumer — as the men, women and chil­dren fill­ing sta­di­ums are to­day.

In a di­vided Brexit Bri­tain, there’s jus­ti­fi­able con­cern over the di­rec­tion of the coun­try’s dis­course. What can be hoped is that the North London derby in­ci­dent isn’t rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the crowd to­day. “I've played against Spurs and I've taken a lot of abuse but never ever has it been racial,” for­mer Ar­se­nal striker Ian Wright said.

“It's not only em­bar­rassed Spurs but it has em­bar­rassed the Pre­mier League be­cause it has gone around the world.”

There’s a fa­mous im­age from the 80s of John Barnes, the sub­lime Liver­pool winger, kick­ing away a ba­nana skin thrown at him dur­ing a Mersey­side derby. It was hoped that Barnes was kick­ing such attitudes into the past, where they be­long. Af­ter the Emi­rates Sta­dium in­ci­dent, that may sadly not be the case.

ABOVE:THE GOOD, Burn­leyABOVE LEFT:THE BAD, Mark HugesLEFT:THE UGLY, Pier­reEm­er­ick Aubameyang

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