Ade Ojeikere

 

What a football season in England! Shocking results weekly. What happened in the league last week was simply crazy, mad, and unimaginable before the games were played. Words failed me to describe what happened, especially as I support Liverpool. No excuses, though on reflection one can’t help but suggest that the voodoo failures can be traced to improper pre-season preparations. This technical build-up flaw has affected the big clubs – Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea.

If teams had done proper pre-season preparation, the coaches would have been able to correctly recruit players to fix the problematic areas. It is during such pre-season schemes in choice areas devoid of the noise in the cities, family distractions, and busybody newsmen and women that these coaches plot the season’s graphs, knowing when to change formations or otherwise. This period players use it to know their new teammates and get used to how they play. New alliances are formed with these new players which rub off on how well and how quickly they gel during matches. It is during this camping session that players are made to undergo rigorous medical examinations to ascertain their levels of fitness. Those with underlying medical conditions are taken to specialists on such matters to be given the right medications. In fact, Nigeria’s goalkeeper Carl Ikpeme discovered the illness which ended his career during Wolves’ pre-season medicals examinations. Thank God for this.

Besides, players didn’t have the required period to rest their limbs. The anxious wait for the 2020/2021 season to kick off in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic destroyed all that the players needed to do to ensure a smooth transition from a busy season to a new one. the first ripple effect of this lapse are the spate of injuries to key players after three matches. One isn’t trying to make excuses for teams’ losses. but it is important to stress here that every club would experience a crisis no matter how less tedious their schedules are. Manchester United, Manchester City, and Liverpool are the victims today, no one knows the next team(s) slated for the slaughter slab. We wait.

Football faithful are busy trolling losing teams’ loyalists, especially those with the scandalous results. No one is reckoning with the absence of these clubs’ fans at match venues. Liverpool for instance wouldn’t have lost so scandalously had their fans been at the Villa Park Stadium on Sunday. A lack of a crowd is ‘key’ to the ‘crazy’ Premier League scorelines we have seen so far. Liverpool relies heavily on their fans’ battle songs to motivate them to rise up to the occasion when things are going awry as we saw against Aston Villa. In the last round of matches in the Premier League, there were 43 goals scored. Premier League champions Liverpool was stunned 7-2 away at Aston Villa while Manchester United suffered a joint-heaviest league defeat in their 6-1 mauling by Tottenham. The defeats serve as a wake-up call to these big boys to adapt to the new trends and raise their games.

Need I waste space to highlight the devastating effects the Coronavirus pandemic caused the world? In fact, Coronavirus has effectively shut down 2020, with signals in  the last few weeks  suggesting that the virus could render 2021 otiose, if precautionary measures are not taken to avert a second strike of the pandemic. Fresh cases of the virus around the world are being reported, with words rife that some European leagues could be shutdown.

Same players but miserable results that look like a kick on their groins. It must be stated here that the players aren’t robots. they need adequate time to reset which they couldn’t do due to the stressful European season last year and the uncertainty surrounding the commencement of the 2020/2021 season, not thanks to the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The less-fancied teams are having a ball with few of them at the top rung of the table. The beauty of this development is that it shows growth in the league such that statistics point to Aston Villa and Everton as two of the top negotiators in the transfer window which closed on Monday. Those boogie clubs at the top half of the English Premier League knows that the big boys would storm back. It is important to predict that the relegation dog fight towards the end of the season would be very fierce.

The group of sleeping giants such as Arsenal, Tottenham, Leicester, and Chelsea has filled the void arising from the big boys’ whiplash. Of the quartet, my mind skips knowing who Jose Mourinho is. Mourinho knows how to win leagues and sensed what is happening to Spurs with the tactful manner in which he recruited his new players in the transfer window.

I’m being careful not to comment on the heavy defeats suffered by Manchester United and Liverpool. If I do, one could be addressed as a sore loser. But these two teams would struggle this season and would be lucky to make the top four. What the results have done to their season is that it gives every team the impetus to exploit the weaknesses in the two teams. The huge defeats would define their seasons, especially Jurgen Klopp, who is rigid about his belief in playing with small squads.

Klopp adopted the small squad mechanism coaching Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga. It worked because the competition isn’t as large and tasking as playing in the English game. Since Klopp changed Liverpool’s brand of football, he pays less attention to the Carabao Cup and the English FA Cup. He gives his all in the UEFA Champions League and the Barclays English Premier league competitions.

Klopp’s preference for small squads is to reduce the grumblings in the team from the benchwarmers and those who watch the club playing games from the stands. I sympathise with Klopp because he would be forced to register to man the goalpost for the Reds following his short-sightedness in not recruiting a competent goalkeeper to replace Adrian.

I miss Hotsports’ weekly debates which created another platform to tackle the mocking crowd of soccer faithful beaten by the fanatical towards their clubs. Arsenal’s fans are jumping all over the place forgetting that the team’s fumbling circle which begins from December yearly until to February the next year beckons. At Hotsports, Ige could change the topics of discussion if a story breaks. He allows for his decisions to be changed, but such changes must get his approval. We changed one topic once without his consent but the journalistic instinct in Ige ruled supreme.

The late Stephen Keshi had just be given the Super Eagles job. This columnist called the Big Boss urging him to grant us his first interview, which he respectfully agreed. I informed the anchormen who reluctantly agreed to change what Ige had directed. The interview held. After the programme on Saturday, my phone rang indicating an international call, and Ige was excited when I picked. He commended my decision, knowing that none of his staff could have changed his decision without approval.

This scenario represents who Ige is. He is a man with ideas. A high-risk taker, having thought through the process of what he wants to embark on. Converts anything near him to illustrate what he wants. If unpleased, throw away his high office attires and do it himself. He doesn’t tolerate lazy people. Did I hear you ask who this person is? Let me identify him this way – Taye Ige, many who know could take bets that he talks while asleep. Ha! I no know book o!

Do you blame anyone who feels that Ige talks in his sleep? Sleep talking also is known as Somniloquy.  One won’t blame him since he always aims for perfection. Ige wants to be successful. He stops at nothing to achieve what he wants albeit it legitimately and won’t fail to reward excellence. From the dusty town of Efon-Alaye in Ekiti State.

Taye explains how the twins’ concepts work in relation thus: ‘’I came first and my twin brother second. Kehinde Olabode Festus Ige. He’s into real estate management here in Lagos. But the legend is that he sent me to the world as his forerunner to go and taste the world and that he only decided to come after I had faithfully reported back to him that the world was sweet and that he could now come. This is the meaning of Taye which full meaning is Tayewo meaning “taste the world and see”.

Yes, Taye was 57 years old last week Sunday and he supports  Tottenham Hotspurs. I hope Taye doesn’t bend my neck for exposing his age. Congratulations!

 

The Nation