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  1. Local football and rivalry is more exciting Players born near here should play for Arsenal This week I would like to write about an idea I have had for a long time. Traditionally football clubs have had the ability to get players from everywhere. It has become a moneymaking machine that is very much tilted in favour of the wealthy. Has it been good for football? Has it been good for footballers? Has it been good for the local areas? Or fans? Or countries? I say an emphatic no! Why so? Football is a huge global industry that cares nothing for localities or regions. Some entire countries get left behind like Bulgaria and Ireland, with nobody interested in the local fare provided and attendances on a downward spiral as fans have favourite teams elsewhere and use their available cash to get to see their idols. How many players come from Arsenal? Is it good for football that local players cannot get into their local team? How many players in the top leagues come from near their stadiums? In many cases none or very little. Does Newcastle have, despite their name, Newcastle players? Does Liverpool? The Manchesters? Brighton? PSG? Real Madrid? You take my point. The Romford Pele would qualify So, if you grow up in the Arsenal area and support them you also know that you will never play for them most probably. What effect does that have on football, that almost no-one can aspire to play for their local team? And so if you are good as a kid but maybe not premier league, you have to travel to another area and grow up far away from family. Or if you are very good, you travel anyway, to a top team. All the big teams have academies from everywhere, with young kids forced into a rarefied bubble apart from real life. How can this be good for the area, the kids, or football generally? Kids only want to play for the big teams And so some areas have become football hotbeds, and hoover up all the talent, and other areas are left bereft. In Ireland, you want to play for Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal or some other top team. Few grow up aspiring to play for Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians or Dundalk. Same here in Bulgaria but in Bulgaria, at the moment, few are managing to play abroad and there isn’t the same glamour about aspiring to play for Ludogoretz, Levski or CSKA. At least in Ireland, players can dream of playing in England. How many Bulgarians aspire to play for these? The reason football morphed into this situation is simple. Back in the early days of football in the UK, amateur local teams sprung up mostly in the south, which was rich. But soon the dominance switched to the north, professional players were drafted in from Scotland and northern regions as the southern clubs tried to resist. It was doomed. Professional clubs became the standard. Transfers became standard. Money became the standard significant thing. The clubs could draw huge crowds. Chairmen saw the opportunity to make money. The locals were discarded, with only, truly, a pretence that they mattered other than as cash machines. Does locality mean anything in football? Let’s look instead at a different reality. The world of football today. Fans have little power. Locality means almost nothing. Fans don’t own clubs. Prices are horrendous. Young players, up to the point whether they make it at least, are bundled into the big clubs in their hundreds with a pitiful few getting in. Most living a life of regret, that their best years are gone forever. And so often done in an alien environment, despite whatever efforts the clubs make, it is a machine that spits out hundreds of young people every year, who know that they didn’t make it. Tallaght kids can stay at home in the Rovers academy What am I proposing, then? And I guess you are all going to say it is impossible. Nothing is impossible, if it can be imagined. I believe that we can keep the existing clubs structure, even. Create footballing regions What we could do is divide areas into regions based on population and allow for 2 major clubs, and x amount of clubs in the lower divisions. Let's take London, one area could have Arsenal and Tottenham and minor teams. Only local players would be allowed to play. Growing up in this area, you could aspire to play for the big teams or the minor ones if you so wish. Academies could only take players from the area. They stay in their homes and schools. Transfers would only be possible within the area. For Liverpool, it is easy. Liverpool and Everton and the minor teams around. Only really London and Birmingham have more than 2 top teams and Birmingham only have Wolves and Villa at the moment. London has seven but you could maybe put Brighton in the mix to make it work for the moment split into four areas. You will probably have to have unusual border lines to make this idea work but so what? You could agree say a five year revision of lines, for example, to ensure that the borders made sense. The players from Celtic Euro cup 1967 all were born near the ground Let’s take Bulgaria and Ireland as examples. You take the population as a whole, divide it into regions that would work well in football terms and create new leagues or keep the old ones if that works. The old leagues are not getting the crowds so it should provide a lift. The teams are only allowed a set number of trainees and they have to be born, or if they moved away when young, actually living in the area. Football becomes local again. A local hero knows the supporters, he is their brother, their friend their schoolmate. People would be more inclined to support their local team if they actually knew the players. Young players would wish to play for their local team. It should attract bigger crowds. They should be able to get more money. Standards should go up. The national team would get better. It is no coincidence that the great Bulgarian World Cup team came together under communism or that Ireland’s great teams happened because Ireland was essentially the only foreign team in England. The players had the opportunities that comes from being able to play in a stronger league. But it's not possible? Could it happen? Certainly not easily but’s let’s say there was an agreement to make it happen. I would propose that the starter would be that all new kids coming in would have to be local, and so within 10 years all the older players would be gone or almost. I would suggest that a 3 year transition period would apply wherein things would go on as normal except for the ruling about kids coming in. Then another three years transition where transfers are restricted only to players within the boundaries with certain exceptions for older players coming to the end of their careers. The next four years could be agreed to iron out any remaining problems. I would make it the same rule regarding managers and coaches so that it is truly local. Denmark won a far smaller European nations league Another important aspect has to be fan ownership. No more billionaires coming in and changing the rules to suit themselves. The Champions League is an egregious example. They have twisted the rules and twisted the rules to make sure only big clubs can win. I love the idea of a league and a cup system. The League will go to the best team of the year and the Cup can go to whoever plays better on the day. Little teams have a chance of a big day and a trophy. Even the World cup and European Nations cup has gone to small teams when it was mostly knockout. It will eventually get boring if only a small number of teams with no real local aspect are the winners always. I could write much more but the real benefit long term is that sport comes back to the people. We can get behind our own local players. We can have stronger country teams. Progression becomes logical and young kids are not transported halfway around the world to play football, live far from home and then not make it. I believe that if you ask fans, they would love to have a strong local team to support and to know who those players are and that they care about the area. Am I right? And if this idea is better for football, then it should happen.
  2. Santa Gus comes down your chimney with lots of presents Hey all you wonderful Arsenal fans out there, do you want ideas for Christmas presents and maybe warnings for stuff to avoid? You have come to the right place here on the most wonderful Arsenal fan site of all. https://arsenal-bulgaria.com Because today I will give out some recommendations for Arsenal books and some that you can miss unless you have a particular interest in the esoteric. Now, as you can probably guess, the team here at Arsenal Bulgaria.com are an erudite bunch. We have our own messenger space where deep philosophical brooding on the state of the Arsenal is the norm. Highly intelligent argumentation happens all the time. A poor simple guy like me gets lost, they are so smart. No spam ever comes from their lips. Seriously, though, they do an incredible job, writing, analysing, going through the history and staying up-to-date on what is happening at the Arsenal so you can read straightaway the latest news in Bulgarian. For those of you who don’t speak English, this is a great boon. My little sideshow, London Calling, tries to give a different perspective on what you can read anywhere else. And this is my take on some of the books I have read this year. Well worth reading I will start with Ian Wright, because we all love him. My Life in Football is his second one and has been translated for you by the team here. You all have a copy. So is it worth reading? Yes it is. It covers his later career mostly, and also his domestic life and his difficulties with relationships. Lots of great football stories, insights to the various managers in his career, Steve Coppell, George Graham, and Arsene Wenger, and his disastrous relationship with Bruce Rioch. There is an honesty about Ian Wright’s 2 books and I can strongly recommend both. And this is even better Which brings me to Mr Wright: The Explosive Autobiography of Ian Wright, his first one. Honestly, I enjoyed this more, it gave a real feel for how he struggled in his early life, the immense difficulties in trying to make it all intertwined with a lively writing style that has you turning page after page. He scores a lot with this one It’s Only Ray Parlour, however, is the second best of the Arsenal bunch. This is such an enjoyable read, lots of funny stories, pisstaking of so many incidents and people, even Arsene Wenger is a target. Check out his story about drinks on the plane. And his story about Martin Keown’s final match. Grab this one, you will enjoy it. Our leader, our winner Sober by Tony Adams is also strongly recommended. This is an epic story of a man who came to personify Arsenal. A deeply flawed human being who had to battle against his demons to succeed. Bizarrely ending up in jail at the peak of his career, but coming out of it stronger, he was a winner, an onfield and off-field coach while still playing, the inspiration behind the team, putting up with all sorts of insults in his early and even middle career but ending up Mr Arsenal and still today, the icon of the team. Again you will enjoy this, lots of great insights and anecdotes. A great read My favourite will surprise you, I reckon. True Storey by Peter Storey is an immense book that never got the recognition it deserved. Probably because he was dismissed as just a hardman and a bit of a villain. He ended up in big trouble when his career ended with several criminal convictions and this was his attempt to give his side of the story. He was a good footballer and made a big difference to the Arsenal. Alf Ramsey famously dismissed him as a clogger for most of his career but when he finally picked him, chose him over several big names. He had a run of 15 straight games for England in his 19 caps. He never seemed to miss a penalty. But it is his after career that a lot of the book concentrates on. In those days footballers did not make big money and he set up several businesses which didn’t go well. Partnerships went wrong and there was a strong feeling of naivety in the real world waters he was now swimming in. Overall, a picture emerges of a good man struggling to get out, not having the nous to say no to a bad deal, but finally finding love and a sanctuary in the South of France. A story of redemption that would make a good film. It was mooted but never happened. It should. Everything is good about this one and its in Bulgarian Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby was also supplied by us for free and it is a great read for Arsenal and football fans. His god was Liam Brady and his description of the famous Liverpool Arsenal game is unmissable. Read it and enjoy. Interesting but not very exciting Arsene Wenger’s My Life in Red and White? Truly, it is not very exciting. A good insight to his early life and his football philosophy, his inner destruction when he lost, his man management, his attention to detail, his time in France and Japan and the glorious English years, it doesn’t really touch too much on the stories I wanted to read. The rivalries with Ferguson and Mourinho, the celebrated incidents, the sendings off to the stands, the insider personal football stories are at a minimum. Read it if you are interested in the minutiae of football. Oh and forget about Arsene Wenger - The Unauthorised Biography of Le Professeur by Tom Oldfield, it doesn’t bring much to the table. For the real fan, I suppose The same can be said of The Big Friendly German by Per Mertesacker. Great for those who want to find out about how German football is organised, how it was ahead of its time in training facilities, medical and physiotherapy and such treatments, but it is short on good football stories and insights. Thierry Henry: Lonely at the Top by Phillippe Auclair did little for me. I don’t think I even finished it. Nothing new in it. A great laugh I want to mention one more which has little about Arsenal in it but is truly worth a read – How to be a Footballer by Peter Crouch. This is a collection of funny stories about his time in football. Really superb, laugh out loud and you just keep turning the pages until you are finished. Hey, have a great Christmas, I hope you and Arsenal have a wonderful time and if you want a copy of any of these books, even the ones I don’t recommend, send me a message at gus_worth@yahoo.co.uk and I can send you a digital edition.
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