THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY
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
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
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.
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.
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