I’ll steal a line from the Men in Blazers and say if you’re looking for technical, insightful hard hitting commentary look somewhere else.
But before I get in to the nuts and bolts let me explain how I became such a fan of futbol. The year was 1979 and I said to my 7 year old son that tomorrow is Little League sign up day. He looked at me and said “Dad, I want to play soccer”. You could have knocked me down with the proverbial feather. I never played, I had never heard him express a wish to play, nada, nothing. It seemed his friend Fred who lived across the street had already played a year and he had a net set up and my son had been playing over there. I panicked. I immediately called my Dad and said what am I going to do? Chris not playing baseball?? Well, of course I told my son he could play soccer and I’ll take him down when registration opens. The next morning grandpa paid a visit and took his grandson for a ride, to the Little League registration. He played both. As Chris started his soccer career I watched from the sidelines with my wife and infant daughter. 5 years later that infant daughter wanted to play. She started on an under 8 team in our town’s recreation league. After 7 games the team was 0-7 and lost every game by the mercy rule. The coach quit and guess who the league recruited to coach? Yup, me. I coached for a very enjoyable 13 years. That included 7 years as a referee in which I officiated youth competitive soccer up to U18, school soccer from middle to high school and I was just starting to get my feet wet in the adult leagues when we moved to Florida and that was it.
Not having a club in my blood like the Boston Red Sox are, my allegiances to premier league teams has changed over the years. When Red Sox owner John Henry purchased Liverpool I was all in. Go Reds!! So of course I’m rooting for Liverpool to win the championship. But there is so much more to enjoy in the BPL. A champion is crowned but there are 3 other competitions that take place within the league. The top 3 or 4 teams participate in the UEFA Champions League, the highest caliber league on the planet. The next 3 or 4 get invited to play in the Europa League, which is a second tier Champions league. Then, there’s the fight for survival where the bottom three clubs are demoted to England’s Championship division and three teams from there are promoted. Very often this is the most exciting competition come the last day of the season.
At the midseason break it’s looking pretty grim for my Reds. After one of their most successful seasons in years, where they earned a Champions League entry, they are mired in eighth place, 17 points from co leaders Chelsea and Manchester City. Last year they had the most potent attack in the league with Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling. All they had to do was add a midfielder, shore up the back line and the sky was the limit. But they lost Suarez in the summer transfer window, Sturridge has been hurt and the signings Brendan Rodgers made haven’t panned out. The back line is still bad and Mignolet seems to have regressed in goal.
It’s safe to say Chelsea and Man City will fight it out for the championship. Man United has improved recently and they look like a lock for a Champions League spot next year. Now it gets interesting for the fourth position as Southhampton, Tottenham, West Ham, Arsenal, Liverpool and Swansea are all within 7 points of each other. One of them will make the CL, the others probably will fill out the Europa league. Remember the BPL awards 3 points for a win so standings can change quickly. In the relegation battle there are 9 teams who are only separated by 8 points. Aston Villa, Everton, Sunderland, Hull, Queens Park Rangers, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Burnley and Leicester City are all in danger of relegation.
For the first time in my life I can say I am enjoying the BPL more than the NFL. That’s a topic for another day but I can tell you one thing for sure. Futbol referees don’t take back their red cards. It looks like a great second half for the Barclays Premier League.