Football

What to do With A Problem Like Manchester City?

The football world was shaken to it’s core on Friday evening with the announcement that UEFA had banned Manchester City from European competition for two years. The governing body of European football took this momentous step because of financial fair play (FFP) breaches along with misleading information provided by the club.

This is a talking point that rumbles on almost a week later. This appears a solitary case, but the ramifications of this could spread far beyond Europe. For now the dispute rumbles on, but what could this mean for the future of football? Let’s examine the events that led to this moment.

Manchester City are accused by UEFA of overstating sponsorship revenue they received to circumvent FFP rules. The estimated £200m allowed the club greater financial flexibility to sign top players like Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane and John Stones. It also helped to pay their £300m wage bill, the third most in world football behind Barcelona and Real Madrid.

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De Bruyne has been key to City’s success since signing in 2016, the last year of which City are alleged to have breached FFP rules. Photo: Manchester City

This extra money via alleged financial doping unquestionably helped lay the foundations for the juggernaut team that won the Premier League and League Cup in 2018 as well as an F.A Cup in 2019. Some have now questioned the validity of these successes, knowing the club could have cheated to attain them.

This UEFA investigation opened in November 2018 after leaked internal emails from the club surfaced at German publication Der Spiegel as part of their Football Leaks platform. The whistleblower Rui Pinto now sits in a Portuguese prison awaiting trial for hacking charges. UEFA had previously punished City and PSG in 2014 for rules breaches, reaching a financial settlement with the two clubs.

This previous punishment helps explains the ongoing rift between Manchester City and UEFA. The club responded immediately on Friday night, releasing a statement protesting their innocence as well as besmirching the investigation as one of bias with a pre-determined guilt. The club have now employed an army of lawyers to help with their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

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This is what City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak is reported to have told FIFA president Gianni Infantino in the past. Could this antagonistic attitude cost the club? Photo: City Extra/Twitter.

A large bone of contention between the two entities is the level of dialogue. UEFA believe that City were either non-cooperative or misled the investigation, which factored into their much larger punishment. UEFA has given similar punishments in recent years to the likes of A.C Milan, who were banned from Europe for one season.

The fact City didn’t cooperate with the investigation will have factored into their two year ban. City themselves have refuted this, believing that they provided all necessary information and cooperation in this investigation, despite consistent leaks to the media.

This decision from UEFA will now be played out at CAS, and could last for several years. This is a landmark case for both parties, with the loser sure to come out of this bloodied. If Manchester City lose, they could lose star manager Pep Guardiola along with a host of players. If UEFA lose, the FFP system will lose all authority as clubs ride roughshod over it.

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City fans made their feelings towards UEFA known at their Premier League game against West Ham. Photo: EMPICS Sport

Whatever happens, UEFA could lose in the long run. City could use their two-year suspension to build their global brand playing lucrative friendlies in attractive markets such as Asia and North America. If UEFA lose this ruling, it will be a humiliating defeat that will only embolden prestige clubs to create their own breakaway European Super League.

Since taking over the club in 2008, owner Sheikh Mansour has invested hundreds of millions of pounds to elevate City to a competitive level. Since Guardiola took over in 2016 the club have a net spend of £340m. The club have the fifth highest income in football, however this drops to eighth if you discount the troublesome Etihad deal.

The club have been in the shadow of city rivals Manchester United for almost their entire history. United are a truly global club and have become a hugely successful brand across the world, in part thanks to their historic successes. This is something City have been trying to build in just over a decade.

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City rivals Manchester United have a global supporter base thanks to sustained success. This is something City are playing catch up to. Photo: China Group via Getty Images.

FFP restrictions limit the Man City model of a wealthy owner pouring money into the club until they are successful a la Roman Abramovich at Chelsea. City haven’t had enough time to build their global brand, so to compete with the best in England and Europe they will have felt under pressure to use the owners money to even the playing field.

Some pundits have already hypothesized a very small positive to come out of this for City. With looming sanctions, will they turn this into a motivational boost to win the Champions League this year. For the club, it would no doubt give them great satisfaction to be handed the biggest prize in club football by the people they are going up against in court.

This legal dispute feels like a landmark moment for European football that could have far reaching consequences in the near future. Will UEFA be able to stamp its authority, or will City show that big clubs now have the power in football? The legal battle will no doubt be ugly, however it seems this will be difficult for City to overcome.

They have never said the leaked documents were fake, so it seems clear cut that they broke the FFP rules they agreed to every season when they play in the Champions League. The emails and their reactionary statement show a level of arrogance at the top levels of the club that only sways neutrals to UEFA’s side. Maybe City can force UEFA into a reduced punishment, but for now it seems City are bang to rights and need to take their punishment.

Do you have any thoughts on this piece? Let me know on Twitter @JWjournalism. Thank you for reading this article, I really appreciate it! 

 

 

Are Tottenham in Crisis?

As an Arsenal fan this next line is a tough one to write, but over the past five years Tottenham have overtaken us as kings of North London. For the past three years Spurs have finished above Arsenal, feasting on Champions League football as the Gunners make do with the Europa League.

After moving into their new 62 000 seater stadium last year, the future should be looking rosy. Aside from their Champions League heroics last season, the results on the pitch haven’t met expectation. After being a model of how to run a club well, are Tottenham now in crisis?

Pundits and fans alike have begun questioning Tottenham, after a hangover from a poor end to last season continues. They sit sixth in the Premier League after seven games, already five points behind Manchester City and ten behind Liverpool. Tottenham are not competing with the likes of City and Liverpool, but they cemented themselves as the third best team in the league in recent seasons.

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Mauricio Pochettino and his Tottenham players celebrate their historic progression to the Champions League final. The feeling around the club has changed massively in the six months since this photo. Photo: Press Association

Now, even that distinction is under threat. Arsenal are currently above them, but haven’t played well. Chelsea are under a transfer ban and have an inexperienced manager, and Manchester United have their worst squad in years. It’s not that these three clubs have stepped up, it appears at this stage that Spurs have regressed to their level. Currently the third best team in the league is none of these, but Leicester and based on performances they can stay there.

The results haven’t looked good the entire year. Of the 24 Premier League games they’ve played in 2019, their record is: 11 wins, 4 draws and 10 losses. That form puts them 9th in the table, with the performances matching these stats.

Tottenham have struggled through a tumultuous summer. Key players Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are all out of contract next summer, with manager Mauricio Pochettino using them sparingly this season. The club could be allowing £175m to walk out the door for nothing next year, and the squad has suffered.

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Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen smile in happier times. Now both, along with Vertonghen’s defensive partner Toby Alderweireld, are likely to leave next summer for free. Photo: Jorg Schuler/Getty Images.

 

Tottenham have always been punching above their weight with their performances, and this is reflected in their overall squad depth. The likes of Juan Foyth, Serge Aurier and Victor Wanyama haven’t stepped up. Spurs have had a small squad in recent years, and their suffering for it now. The first eleven can match anyone in the league, but with contract sagas and injuries the squad rotation players haven’t played well enough to keep them competitive.

The one shining light for Spurs in 2019 has been their run to the Champions League final. Despite losing 1-0 to Liverpool, even making the final was a massive achievement. This season they can’t let that distract them, having started this years competition poorly. Throwing away a 2-0 lead away at Olympiacos was compounded by a humiliating 7-2 home defeat to Bayern Munich this week.

The reason the squad depth is an issue is because of their frugal chairman Daniel Levy. He is renowned for being stubborn in the transfer market, who doesn’t vary from his own valuations of players. This is why the club didn’t sell Eriksen, Vertonghen or Alderweireld in the summer.

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Spurs net spend figures are skewed by their big spending this summer. Without this, they would be a mid-table club in terms of net spend. Photo: Transfermarkt.

Since 2015 Spurs have a net spend of -£120m, with £90m of that coming this summer. The big money moves for Tanguy Ndombele (£54m) and Giovani Lo Celso (£55m) have covered up the fact that for the previous four years their net spend was -£30m, with the club famously going over 500 days without signing a player. Compared to their rivals: Chelsea (-£142m, Arsenal (-£335m) and Man Utd (-£554m) they haven’t spent to their level and this is hurting the team.

Another factor behind the poor performances is the seemingly obvious disharmony in the squad. Tottenham are known to be frugal with the wage budget, offering players below market value wages with big incentives. This has worked up until now, as the players have bought into the project at the club, but this season it appears the wheels are falling off.

There is the ongoing contract issues with Eriksen, Alderweireld and Vertonghen, all of whom are likely to leave next summer for free. Danny Rose publicly said he wanted to leave in the summer, and Hugo Lloris has previously said he will leave if Pochettino goes. The players know they could leave the club to win trophies and earn higher wages, so it will be tough for the club to keep their best players if they don’t win this season.

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Tottenham players look dejected on a humiliating night for the club. Losing 7-2 at home to Bayern Munich only heightens the pressure on this team. Photo: Press Association.

The reason I say this season is because it’s not just the players other clubs have been scouting. It’s manager Mauricio Pochettino. He was heavily linked with both the Real Madrid and Manchester United jobs this year, and it’s well known he has a rocky relationship with Levy. Much like the players, he wants to take the next step in his career and the club don’t seem to be able to satisfy his ambitions anymore.

He’s been with the club for five years now, and some in the media have questioned whether it’s simply the end of his cycle. Maybe the players are not listening to him as intently as they have in previous years, or maybe he has grown weary of challenging but ultimately failing to win trophies.

This season feels like a big turning point, with the current trajectory the club is on isn’t healthy long-term. They look to have slipped back this season, although it’s still early, with off-pitch turmoil only compounding their problems. It’s unclear who will still be at the club next season, with a season of regression only making it more likely key players or management would leave. Could the Pochettino era be coming to an end?

What do you think about this? Let me know in the comments section below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who read this blog I really appreciate it!

January Improvements Needed at Arsenal

The Unai Emery revolution is six months in at Arsenal, with both positive and negatives to draw from the start he has made. The atmosphere around the club has improved and the team is playing with more intensity this season, however some old questions still linger with this side.

This is not to be unexpected as the squad is largely the same as under Arsene Wenger, and this is certainly not Emery’s fault as he has improved many of the Arsenal team already this season. The Christmas period was a difficult one for Arsenal, with a disappointing 1-1 draw away to Brighton on Boxing Day, and then a 5-1 humiliation at Anfield against title-challenging Liverpool three days later.

The revolution is underway at Arsenal, and compared to last season we currently sit one place higher in fifth with 41 points, three more than at this stage last year. Now this is small progress for the club and this shouldn’t be criticized, however a common issue for Emery this season has been the depth in quality of this squad.

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Rob Holding being stretchered off with a torn ACL in their 2-2 draw with Manchester United last month. Holding has improved under Emery and his absence is keenly felt. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images.

The biggest issue this season has been the defence, we have the joint ninth worst record for conceding goals, shared with Watford and Everton, with 31 goals conceded in 21 games. That’s also only worse than Manchester United and West Ham in the top ten. A massive reason for this has been our wealth of defensive injuries, with Laurent Koscielny, Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos all out injured for long periods of the season.

The loss of Bellerin and Holding proved especially tough, with both starting the season in good form anchoring the back four. The recent return of Koscielny is a boost, although he has admitted his return from injury was slightly rushed because of the defensive injury crisis. The good news is that Bellerin and Mavropanos return in the coming weeks, providing greater depth which should help ease the defensive problems of Arsenal.

Now that the January transfer window is open, Arsenal could use this month to improve their squad for a late-season push for a return to the Champions League. By and large the summer signings have proved a success so far, with Lucas Torreira and Bernd Leno making instant impacts at the club. All five signings such as Sokratis, Matteo Guendouzi and Stephan Lichtsteiner have made over 15 appearances this season, showing how much they’ve added to the team this season.

The triumvirate transfer committee of Emery, head of recruitment Sven Mislintat and director of football Raul Sanllehi have shown that they can be trusted to find promising talent at affordable prices, but will they pull the trigger on anyone else in January?

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Lucas Torriera has been the midfield pitbull Arsenal have craved for a decade. The club will be hoping to replicate their success in the market in the coming summer. Photo: Getty Images.

The early names linked have been out of-favour Chelsea defender Gary Cahill on a short-term loan, and the ever-present midfielder Ever Banega. The move for Cahill is a more likely one, as the club are already making noises that there will not be much if any money to spend this month. Chelsea could however be unwilling to loan him to a direct rival, and some will have legitimate questions as to whether his quality at this stage of his career is enough to make a big contribution for Arsenal.

From all of the noises being put out by the club and the media closely associated with the club, it appears that Arsenal will be quiet in this window, with a focus instead of spending in the summer to improve key positions such as at winger and defensively.  The team had great attacking options last season, and they have now fixed the defensive midfield and goalkeeper positions.

The first six months of Emery’s reign have been a success so far, with an improvement in results and the performance of previously poor key squad players. The new transfer committee will need to build on they’re early success, and if they can, Arsenal will definitely begin to more seriously rival the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and bitter rivals Tottenham.

Thank you for reading this article if you have any thoughts on it please feel free to leave a comment below. For any interested I’m on Twitter @JWjournalism. 

What’s Wrong At Arsenal Part 1: Arsene Wenger

First of all I would like to say that I understand this will appear to be a poorly timed post. Arsenal battered Bournemouth 3-0 and then played their best game in a long time to contain champions Chelsea 0-0 at Stamford Bridge. This blog post is however not simply a response to the last two games, or even the 4-0 humiliation against Liverpool, this a response to the sustained poor performances which has led to a growing discontent amongst the fans, mostly centered on manager Arsene Wenger.

I would also like to say from the start that the current climate around the club is not the sole responsibility of Wenger and I feel that he shoulders more of the blame for the clubs problems than he should. This however is the downside of being the public face of the football club. Up until several years ago I remained a Wenger in supporter, but the ongoing poor performances when they matter most  are impossible to ignore any more.

They have produced one-off performances in big games such as their 2-0 win over Manchester City at the Etihad in January 2015, or the clubs 3-0 hammering of Chelsea at home at the beginning of last season, but this have been few and far between. Just take the 2013/14 season as an example. In one season away from home they managed to lose to Manchester City 6-3, Liverpool 5-1 and Chelsea 6-0. This big game issue extends to the clubs derby with rivals Tottenham. The last time they beat Spurs was March 2014 with a 1-0 win at White Hart Lane, and since this game the club have risen above Arsenal for the first time this century.

The club have also struggled to compete in the Champions League. The world’s premier club cup competition has proved the same repetitive cycle for the club. Since the turn of the decade they have been knocked out in the second round of the competition every year, almost exclusively by Bayern Munich and Barcelona it seems. The 10-2 aggregate humiliation by Bayern Munich last season made us the laughing stock of Europe, whilst the recent 4-0 humiliation by Liverpool made us the laughing stock of Britain so at least we are consistent.

With all of these results the players have to shoulder some of the responsibility but ultimately it’s the manager that sets up the team and does the tactics. One-off bad performances can be tolerated, but it’s the consistency of our drubbings which has begun to wear thin on the majority of fans.

To revisit the recent Liverpool game the manager chose to leave starting left back Sead Kolasinac on the bench and put right back Hector Bellerin in his place, even though he’s a natural right back. He then played midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at the right back role. Aside from the defence he decided to leave the club record signing Alexandre Lacazette on the bench in place of Danny Welbeck. Welbeck is a good player who works hard however away from home against a top four opponent your best players should be playing, in their correct positions.

These tactical decisions in a key game are baffling to both fans and experts alike, and surely only Wenger could fully explain his reasoning behind the team decisions he made for this game. Many fans have begun to question whether Wenger can still be successful in the modern game, and they would point to his tactical choices in this game as an example proving their point.

Along with the notion of playing players out of position, he also appears to be very one dimensional in his philosophy. Whilst every manager has their favoured system, it appears Wenger is almost always completely unwilling to change his possession based attacking style of play. This style of play produces good results when facing inferior teams and has earned Arsenal a reputation as one of the best teams to watch in the world on their day.

The frustrating thing watching Arsenal is that they will still try and play this attacking style of football when playing against better matched teams with higher quality players. This is where the team are fatally exposed because every team knows how to game plan against Arsenal. Top six sides and even less talented physical sides such as West Brom can have success against Arsenal because of how they play.

This explains why the team are consistently struggling against top six opponents, as the team have failed to address their need for more physical players to help with the defensive work the team struggle with so often. This along with Wenger’s seeming indifference to changing his style of play no matter the opponent has led to the current on pitch problems for the club.

What do you think of Arsene Wenger? If you are a fan of the club or have any views on the Frenchman please leave them in the comments section below. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95 and I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Part two is coming up shortly and will look at the problems of the current board and owner. Stay tuned!

 

 

Could ‘Moneyball’ Ever Work In Football?

Since the new millennium a singular concept has swept through American professional sports. The concept is known as ‘Moneyball’,  has been made famous by the 2003 best selling book and the 2011 film starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. After conquering American sports, the question is, can the concept work in football?

For those of you who  are not familiar with the ‘Moneyball’ idea, it’s the concept that individual players are over valued and a team filled with smaller players working to a common goal are just as effective as world class talent, costing a lot less money and allowing smaller teams to compete with bigger teams. Whilst this is a broad description of it, it’s the only way to explain it so it would work in professional football.

Existing football pundits may suggest that the concept is a novel idea but would not work in football and they could have a point. For a start, football does not have a salary cap unlike major American sports. They would suggest that this means that the concept has little relevance to football, however for me I have to disagree.

The ethos of the concept is to help smaller budget teams compete more evenly with their financially richer rivals. The sport in which gave the concept its fame is Baseball, a game which arguably has the biggest discrepancy in finances. According to Spotrac going into the 2017 Major League Baseball season, there is a difference of $179 million dollars between the L.A Dodgers $242 million dollar payroll and the Milwaukee Brewers $63 million dollar payroll.

Whilst there is a large difference in finances between the top and bottom of the Premier League for example, the financial divide is no where near as big as baseball. If teams such as the Oakland A’s can compete with major teams in baseball the same is possible within the Premier League.

Last season Leicester City proved inadvertently that the ‘Moneyball’ concept can work at a high level in football. They assembled a squad that cost under £30 million pounds, with their biggest signing being Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki for £7 million. With their own brand of counter attacking football manager Claudio Ranieri, they shocked sports fans across the world.

They started the season as favourites for relegation, with some bookmakers they were 5000-1 to win the Premier League. Yet they flew through the season, only losing three games on route to the most unlikely Premier League title in history. Whilst this is rightly being talked about as the ultimate football fairy tale story, what can be learnt from it?

What I think it shows is that the ‘Moneyball’ concept could work in professional football. If a lower budget team adopted the mentality and began searching for players who had good individual attributes, and putting them into a team which could then execute an effective game plan could very well prove to work better for that club than the existing model.

Whilst it’s possible the entire Leicester season was indeed a one-off fairy tale, it’s equally possible that Leicester proved that a new model of structuring a team can be successful in football. It will be interesting to see in the future if any other Premier League clubs adopt this mentality, and if it works the revolutionary balls of change may begin to roll.

‘Moneyball’ proved that in baseball you didn’t need to pay the high wages of a Derek Jeter to be successful and compete, so could Leicester’s success prove you don’t need a Sergio Aguero or Paul Pogba to be successful? Only time will tell.

 

What do you think of the ‘Moneyball’ concept, and do you think it could work in the Premier League? Let me know in the comments section below and thank you for reading. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

Does the Premier League Need a Winter Break?

The Christmas and New Year period is for the large majority of the nation an opportunity to spend time with loved ones, however in the world of English club football this period is the busiest of the season. With many teams facing the prospect of three games within a week over this period, has the time come for serious debate over whether a winter break period should be adopted?

The English football league is an anomaly amongst its European counterparts, with a vast majority of other European leagues taking a winter break. Even the Scottish leagues have a break over the new year period. South of the border teams are forced to exhaust all avenues of their squad as they have to prepare their teams to face three fixtures in six days, an exercise that seems an archaic throwback to previous era’s of football.

Some football fans will want to retain the hectic Christmas fixture list, maybe as a nostalgic ode to how things used to be. On the other hand, at a time when English football is going through a period of introspection after successive failures for the national team, club teams also find themselves on the back foot.

The Premier League is widely seen as the most competitive major league in the world thanks to its high level of talent, but in major competition they face a disadvantage. When the next rounds of the Champions League and Europa League take place in the middle of February, for English teams they will already have done three quarters of their season, and will be suitably showing the exertion this places on a squad. European rivals however will be just a few weeks into the second half of their seasons after the break.

The winter break is not simply a time to rest however. Many clubs will hold winter training camps or play international friendlies to raise the profile of their clubs. The more controlled nature of these however ensure that the players efforts do not replicate what takes place in a normal league fixture. The risk of injuries or suspensions is also very much reduced, keeping as much as the squad fit and healthy for the second half of the season.

The period of non-stop fixtures takes a heavy toll on English teams, leaving them at a disadvantage as the season goes on. This month there is the added burden of the African Cup of Nations, of which many top players will compete in, although this is something that every major club will have to deal with, however some clubs may be affected more than others by the tournament.

Whilst some fans and pundits in England have lamented state of football in this country, it seems obvious that when other major clubs around you have several weeks off whilst they have to face the most congested period of the season, of course this is going to put you at a disadvantage to your rivals. Whilst the solution would be for the English leagues to adopt a winter break, this is far easier said than done.

The English Premier League especially generates huge amounts of revenue and has the largest worldwide fan base of any major league. It’s become a global brand and therefore it will be very hard for the F.A to implement a winter break when fans are used to having such a busy Christmas/New Year period. Fans may be able to stage some form of protest, although this issue is for the majority not their highest priority.

Next month will see the return of the Champions League and Europa League, and I hope I am proved wrong about the disadvantages facing the English teams competing. If however they struggle against their respective opponents, factor in the relative games both sets of players have already competed in.

Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95 and thank you for reading!

 

Bristol Rovers one step away

Admittedly, this is not the start to the season some Rovers fans were expecting, after playing poorly and being relegated on the final day of last season, many were expecting a triumphant return to the football league this season as either champions or by easily going through the end of season play-off’s.

Whilst this is a small minority their unrealistic expectations have led to an almost toxic atmosphere at the football club at the moment, something I was reminded of in the early stages of our latest home game against Wrexham on Tuesday night. Wrexham were unbeaten in their last 3 away games and started brightly against us, creating several chances and looking far more convincing in the opponent’s final third. At this point some of the fans started to voice their frustration with the team, with little encouragement coming from the Blackthorn end at this point.

From here thankfully things improved for Rovers as they edged their way into the game and took the lead with an Andy Monkhouse header from a corner in the 34th minute. Once we took the lead, Rovers fans showed themselves at their best as they began heartily singing and supporting the team from here until the final 10 minutes, when a edgy Rovers just managed to hold of a threatening Wrexham team. For the majority of the game Rovers fans showed themselves to be one of the loudest supports in the lower leagues, from League 1 downwards.

If Rovers fans could consistently match they hype surrounding their support, the team would have a hugely positive presence at every game cheering them on. Granted, recently this sounds like wishful thinking after early losses to part time teams such as Altrincham and Braintree. It’s not simply the losses but the poor manner in which we played those games, which have led a select view to voice their opinion that Darrell Clarke should be sacked. Whilst the games have not been great I personally can’t see any positives to sacking Darrell Clarke so early in the season, especially since he came into the worst possible situation before the final run-in last season.

Clarke has proved he can cut it at this level with Salisbury City, and deserves a full season at Rovers at the very least to prove his worth at the club during this transition period for Bristol Rovers. By far the biggest issue at the moment with Bristol Rovers seems to be emanating from the boardroom. The lack of investment in any other area apart from the new UWE stadium is worrying at the very least, with the recent news that Rovers are now suing Memorial stadium buyers Sainsbury’s shows all is not well with the stadium also.

It seems in my opinion that owner Nick Higgs has sacrificed financial investment to improve the results on the pitch, in favour of pouring money into this new stadium. Whilst the stadium is a brilliant idea and will secure a lot of money for the club in the future, the investment needed at the present moment seems to have affected the club. In calling for Higgs to invest more into the squad I’m not asking for him to sign Messi, Ronaldo or Bale I simply feel we need a slight investment to strengthen our already decent squad. Investment in players would also appease the fans and keep them on side for a time until the row with Sainsbury’s is resolved.

In conclusion, whilst I want the new stadium as much as anyone else, I will not be able to fully believe it until I see it with my own eyes. The potential is huge but so is the risk, something we can ill afford right now with our current position in the Vanarama Conference. It’s unlikely my hopes of squad investment in the near future will come to fruition, though I can still dream. Whatever happens with Bristol Rovers you’ll be able to find me on match day supporting the team from the Blackthorn end terraces, something that will hopefully drown out the doomongers amongst us who seemingly want Rovers and Darrell Clarke to go downhill. That would be a tragedy for Bristol’s finest sporting club, I admit I have no evidence on that and am writing from a totally biast standpoint yet everyone is entitled to their opinion.