The Sweeper: West Ham and Millwall Return England to the Dark Ages (or so we’re told)

Millwall West Ham pitch invasion

Millwall - West Ham pitch invasion

Big Story

The big story, of course, is the serious trouble that broke out at the West Ham-Millwall Carling Cup match last night. The disgraceful scenes have brought out all the old chestnuts in the press about English football at home and abroad: perhaps my favourite comes from the USA Today, who under the headline “A bloody bad show for English soccer” lead with “Even by the low standards of English soccer, last night’s violence at a soccer match in London was epic.”  Right, “epic”. I’m sure it felt “epic” to be West Ham player Jack Collison bravely playing just days after the death of his father in a match ruined by what we’re obliged to call “so-called football fans”.

And of course, fearing a worldwide resurgence of such a stereotype of the English game, England’s 2018 World Cup bid committee immediately chirped up to condemn the scenes, as if what they had to say mattered one jot right now (“A tiny minority have deflected from the passion and dedication that millions of genuine fans show every week for our national game.”).  The FA chimes in by boasting that “We are seen as one of the leaders, if not the leader, in the way that we have tackled hooliganism and disorder in our grounds over the past 30 years.”

It’s true that one bad night doesn’t mean the English disease back, with disorder numbers at English games continuing to decline year-on-year. There’s a tough balance for normal football fans who want no part of this: while it’s clear the authorities need to take strong action against West Ham and Millwall (and they really ought to look at how the police failed to prevent an obviously inflammatory match deteriorating into utter chaos), as Two Hundred Percent sensibly comments the concern is that football fan’s civil liberties will again be under threat from a draconian over-reaction, especially if the fear is the World Cup bid is on the line.

Still, at least Danny Dyer’s career got another breath of life, eh?

Worldwide

  • There was some pretty poor behaviour on the pitch in the Carling Cup last night as well. Sheffield Wednesday’s Francis Jeffers was transfer-listed and fined immediately after a game in which he was sent-off for punching and headbutting an opponent.
  • There was further madness in the Carling Cup as Swansea were reduced to six men due to a combination of two red cards for violent play and several injuries. They went down 2-1 to Scunthorpe after extra time, with manager Paolo Sousa barely condemning his team, saying that “We have been provoked and we have reacted not in a good way but my way is to protect my players.”
  • In lighter and somewhat more bizarre news, Peter Andre is to serenade Muhammed Ali at the Greatest Luncheon Ever at Stoke City.
  • Quiet in class! The 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid teams are all studiously following Fifa’s lead this week, in Zurich for something described as “knowledge transfer”. As long as it’s not the transfer of brown envelopes, that’s cool.

North America

  • Television ratings for ESPN2′s Premier League broadcasts hit record highs in the United States. In only the second week of transmission, Wigan-Manchester United draw 374,799 at 10am EST on Saturday, followed by an even stronger total viewing audience of 398,391 for Liverpool-Aston Villa on Monday afternoon. These numbers already dwarf the audiences for MLS broadcasts on primetime on ESPN2 and those achieved last year for the Premier League by niche channels FSC and Setanta.
  • Two long-touted US youth internationals Charles Renken and Joseph Gyau will be joining Hoffenheim’s development program in Germany, splitting time with the Vancouver Whitecaps. The troubling news is word that the two were unsettled at US Soccer’s Bradenton academy.
  • Speaking of Vancouver, is their stadium revamp in danger?  Vancouver Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi hardly put out the fire by saying it was just a “rumor”. Government support for the $365-million upgrade to B.C. Place, including a retractable roof, appears to fast be waning.
  • Malian international Bakary Soumare finally spoke out about the aftermath of his clash with Chicago Fire head coach Denis Hamlett that led to his transfer this week to Boulogne. The two were involved in a physical confrontation at half-time of the Fire’s match against Houston a few weeks ago. Pitch Invasion wishes Bakary well in France, and thanks him for once coming out to watch your editor and other Fire supporters lose a recreational match 7-0!

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter. Wish me a happy thirtieth birthday today!

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