Do You Trust The Premier League? I Don’t.
Where has the integrity of the league we love gone?
There used to be a time when the only (and I say only with tongue firmly in cheek) thing football fans had to worry about their teams and players were kiss and tell stories in tabloids and whether the star player came back to pre-season with an extra love handle.
Integrity Missing In Action
Now, we have the last 4 managers to face Leicester City all expressing a preference that they want the Foxes to win the title. We also have last season’s player of the year but this season’s liability of the year, Eden Hazard, suggesting without any irony, that before him and his side play Spurs and Leicester, that he essentially will do anything to stop Spurs from lifting the trophy but may well lay out the rose petals for the Foxes on the last day.
Add Mamadou Sakho offering up a positive drug test for a fat burner, (yes a pro athlete folks who trains 6 days a week and plays 45 high octane football matches) and maybe football fans across the country may just start to wonder if a few cracks are starting to appear in the world’s greatest league.
Cycling, athletics and many other sports which have had problems over the years have suffered because the watcher can no longer trust what they see in front of them, and when that goes, the whole sport starts to crumble as a legitimate competitive sport.
I’ve heard people say over the last few days “ah Stan, but you should know that Hazard and Chelsea hate Spurs”. I get it, but to then gleefully say on TV that he wants Leicester to win the title, after a season where I am questioning the fight and commitment of him and his team (a year after being Champions) makes me feel uncomfortable. When you feel uncomfortable watching the sport you love, you should stand up and speak out in my opinion.
It’s just not right for Hazard to express a preference with both teams to play.
Why? Because to be honest after going from brilliant to crap, then crying off the pitch in two games, I just don’t trust the lad, I’m sorry, but I don’t.
Blackburn faced Liverpool back in 1994 while United went to West Ham. Everyone thought Liverpool would hand King Kenny the title as Liverpool hate Man United. I was in the Sky Sports studio that day as a guest and I had no feeling whatsoever that Liverpool, at Anfield, would lay down. No feeling at all.
Watching games in this run in, unfashionable though it is to burst the Leicester miracle narrative, again watching a replay last night of the Swansea performance, I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t see a team that in any way shape or form say “You’re not winning this against us”. I’m sorry, I just didn’t see it, and several Swansea fans who called Collymore yesterday were much less kind, and they watch their team every week!
Sporting integrity, the trust of what we see in front of us.
Sakho. Liverpool fans who say “he’s not that type”, “he’s one of us”, “fat burners aren’t PEDs” are all deluded. The point of lines in the sand where banned substances are concerned is to not cross it, ever.
I was tested twice in a 14 year career. Once in the Premier League, once in UEFA Cup.
Players now can go from pennies to £150k a week next season by taking risks, gambles and being downright devious if they so wish, safe in the knowledge that the risk is worth taking.
Don’t believe the bullshit coming from the authorities on testing, the odds of being caught are low. When Mark Lawrenson or Gary Lineker say “PEDs can’t make you trap a ball”, it’s about as ridiculous a view as saying the earth is flat.
PEDs can make you run faster, for longer, game in game out. They can make you build muscle in double quick time, muscle which is used to grind your way through the world’s toughest league with no winter break.
Bigger, stronger, faster, more alert, more aggressive. In a sport whereby these attributes are top of the list for every scout and every coach, and little skillful Johnny at the academy is told to “come back in a few years”, you can see that a player may see a golden opportunity to say “bigger, stronger, faster”, I’ll have some of that.
So for a Premier League player and French international such as Sakho, at one of the world’s greatest and most high profile football clubs to take a fat burner is not only gross stupidity on a grand scale, but along with the daft Hazard comments, makes football fans feel uncomfortable, and again, I repeat, when you aren’t sure what you see is real, eventually the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.
Prove Me Wrong!
I want Chelsea to beat Spurs and Leicester now and show us what Champions can do, rather than the modern mercenary like Hazard who has a crap season then perhaps tootles off to Madrid. Prove me wrong!
I want Sakho’s B sample (it comes from the same test tube by the way, there’s no magic other sample to test) to say that there is no fat burner in there and it’s all been a bad mistake on the part of UEFA because I want to believe that not only a player who trains daily, would not need to take fat burners in April.
But then the sceptic in me knows that slimming pills, diuretic agents, potions and pills of all kinds are used to mask real performance enhancing drugs! So I desperately want to believe that this isn’t a problem in our game.
Leicester is an amazing story, I know many great people who I still contact there, but I need to know they’ve earned every damn win thrown in, never mind point. Why? For players like Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher who worked like trojans, carrying a club on their back for 1200 plus games to just fall short of a trophy that N’Golo Kante may win in 38 Premier League games.
Reassurance Is Needed
I need to know that players in the Premier League that I watch week in week out are fit and strong because of their dedication, fitness regimes, character and personality to see them beat an opponent, not by taking pharma short cuts.
I’ll ask you, the true fan one question. After a week where Hazard and Sakho raised questions in my mind about Premier League integrity, do you trust what you see in the world’s richest league?