From Sheffield to Southend: football’s express ride towards chaos and crisis

<span>Photograph: Jim Holden/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Jim Holden/Alamy


Those who read Big Website’s UK news edition will have heard quite a bit about “levelling up”, a process currently under the microscope due to an almighty row about high-speed rattlers. Want to travel from somewhere near Coventry to an art-deco station plaza with a glorious vista of Wormwood Scrubs? Step this way, mesdames et messieurs, the Elizabeth Line next awaits, taking you anywhere you like. As long as it’s London or nearby. Want to travel between northern cities, the factory floors of this great nation? Let’s say Manchester and Leeds … “The 9.32 is running approximately 42 minutes late and will be made up of [jerky, computerised voice gets even jerkier] two carriages.” The issue at hand is inequality, of the haves and have-nots, of metropolitan elites in air-con comfort while provincial types chug along in choo-choos Dr Beeching wanted decommissioning.

And when it comes to inequality, of money filtering off to the wrong places, football can always be relied on to echo real life. As Rishi Sunak bats away pesky straight-talking northern radio hosts and the Premier League elite count their loot, the number of entries to the column marked CRISIS CLUB piles up. If they weren’t already on it, add Sheffield Wednesday. “From now, I will not put additional money into the club,” howled owner Dejphon Chansiri on Friday morning. The tuna magnate has decided to chuck the Owls under the trawler as he’s miffed that fans have complained about offing Darren Moore despite winning the League One playoffs, and being annoyed their team has yet to win a Championship game when attending Hillsborough costs a packet and then some. “Those fans who create trouble to the club and myself and believe they are the real owner of the club need to be responsible for the financial matters of the club from now on.” Chansiri calculates that at £2m a month. Ouch.

He could have saved money by not having seats installed to spell out his own name, mind.
Perhaps Chansiri could have saved some money by not having seats installed at Hillsborough spelling out his own name. Photograph: Phil Duncan/Shutterstock

There’s worse. Take this Thursday exchange between Reading manager Ruben Sellés and a local journalist. Sellés: “We got told it won’t be a problem to get our wages tomorrow. That info came today, so I don’t expect anything different.” Reporter: “That’s excellent news.” Sellés: “That’s not excellent news. That’s a normal thing. You do your job and you get paid for that.” Reading players have regularly not been paid on time and the club has tax issues, too.

Worse? To Firewall FC, of the National League North, where owner David Hilton has also withdrawn funding and wants them playing at Gainsborough Trinity, who say this is the first they’ve heard of it. A HMRC winding-up order looms. Worst? Onwards to Southend, long-time regulars in this category, second-bottom in the National League, this week losing their appeal against a 10-point deduction. HMRC and winding-up lurk with dangerous intentions there, too. The elite to the rescue? The Premier League has presented a plan to increase redistribution to the EFL by £358m. Phew! With strings attached. Ah. And there’s the perennial problem that in football, as in real life, and grand, high-minded government projects, there will never be enough money to go around.


“I think the football [we are playing] is very dynamic and now we have to work on the recovery of [injured players], like Christopher Nkunku to help us have more goals and be more solid. But of course, we already start to work [on January]” – Mauricio Pochettino there, admitting that despite Chelsea’s near-£1bn-plus splurge in the past two seasons, he still needs just a couple more players to compete.


The prospect of any individual being punished with a night out alongside ‘Emmanuel Eboué at Rowans bowling alley’ (yesterday’s Football Daily) gave me a bone-deep chill that I thought I’d buried with my 20s. As a local Arsenal fan susceptible to peer-pressure, I have tangible sense-memories of both Eboué and Rowans. I just can’t separate them. An intoxicating sense of fun and freedom, barely papering over calamitous mistakes. A carnival vibe that ultimately leaves you empty. The lasting suspicion that the money spent can’t ever be justified. Persistent nausea. I now feel the line between the two has disappeared. Which was the overindulged chaotic tornado? Which was the promise of glory that robbed me blind? Which one had the worse karaoke options? Eboué and Rowans are one, and all I know any more is that I’ve lost to them both” – Will Green.

Rowans in Finsbury Park
Rowans in Finsbury Park, earlier. Photograph: Alex Segre/Alamy

Could you maybe just stop writing about Arsenal for a while. Yes, there are Arsenal fans who are enthusiastic and some who are annoying, and a lot of us just like our club. But maybe you and the rest of the press could leave off the heavy narrative stories about our club and spend some time with some other clubs – you can pick it. Not everything in life has a narrative – sometimes things just happen, and the heavy-handed constant attempts to find the narrative, and to make fun of Arsenal fans, or its players or invent nonsense could really be spent talking about some other club. Maybe Notts County deserve some more attention (and they probably do)” – William Ireland.

Mentioning John Wark (yesterday’s Football Daily letters) reminded me I met him in the late-1990s when he was checking out Ipswich’s opposition before some forthcoming matches. Sitting in the hospitality lounge at Swindon Town, I explained how they could to beat us when we played a couple of weeks hence. Imagine my embarrassment when we were 3-0 down to at half-time, eventually losing 6-0. This at home! Did my insight bring about the defeat? Probably not, but I still feel guilty even today” – Adrian Foster-Fletcher.

Re: yesterday’s letters. While it makes a good joke, the Persian Gulf does not separate the UAE (Manchester City) from Saudi Arabia (Newcastle). In fact, they share a land border that is nearly 300 miles long. And you’re right. This isn’t pithy or funny, and anyway, I’ve already ordered the book” – Joe Pearson (and 1,056 others).

Send your letters to Today’s winner of our letter o’ the day is … Will Green, who wins a copy of the Football Weekly Book – out now.

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