KAREN CARNEY is a brilliant pundit.
The levels of insight and knowledge in her radio co-commentaries make you realise how little homework many of her male counterparts do.
Karen Carney was subjected to vile abuse on social media this weekCredit: Rex Features
I didn’t agree with Carney’s comment that Leeds were promoted ‘because of Covid’ but she did have a valid argument — Marcelo Bielsa’s high-energy side were faltering before lockdown and flying after they had recharged their batteries.
Anyway, all of us who comment on football in the media cause controversy. Sometimes we make comments which turn out to be plain wrong.
Leeds knew what they were doing when they highlighted Carney’s comments in a tweet after their 5-0 thumping of West Brom.
They knew that, on social media, female pundits get more abuse than men; that they get personal, sexist abuse; that they are disrespected at every turn by misogynists who believe they are only in work because of a box-ticking exercise.
Covid chaos around corner
THEY are winging it now. Making it up as they go along and flying by the seat of their pants.
Having dug themselves into a hole with a hopelessly congested fixture list, football’s rulers are content to stick their fingers in their ears and carry on regardless.
Arrogance and incompetence is never a good mix and the Premier League season is descending towards chaos and anarchy.
Jose Mourinho took a swipe at the Premier League over the late decision to postpone Spurs’ clash with FulhamCredit: Instagram @josemourinho
The Covid outbreaks at Manchester City and Fulham, which led to the postponements of their fixtures at Everton and Tottenham respectively, leave the fixture list on the brink of breaking point.
The 11th-hour nature of the decision-making — and the lack of transparency over the reasoning — led to rightful anger from Everton and Spurs.
Premier League rules state that fixtures must go ahead as long as both clubs have 14 fit players. Yet Covid has made those rules redundant.
Instead we are left with ad-hoc decisions over the staging of individual fixtures — a situation which is likely to continue for some time as the pandemic rages in this bleakest of midwinters.
Because they were missing a certain number of players through Covid? A certain number of players in a specific position?
Or was it simply the idea that a postponement would be the most sensible way of stopping the spread inside football’s “biosecure” red zone?
Manchester City saw their game at Everton postponed because of a Covid outbreakCredit: PA:Press Association
We don’t know for certain because the Premier League is operating without clarity.
In the absence of clear rules, there will inevitably be petty and unedifying squabbling about whether City or Fulham “didn’t fancy” it.
Whether they received preferential treatment to Sheffield United, who fulfilled their fixture at Burnley despite a significant Covid outbreak.
These suggestions are probably untrue but, without transparency, we are unsure. Jose Mourinho was fully entitled to sarcastically scoff about the “best league in the world” in an Instagram post.
It came four hours before Wednesday’s scheduled kick-off time, as his Spurs players waited in a hotel to hear whether or not they would be playing Fulham.
There are likely to be many similar scenarios in the coming weeks and months.
Tottenham vs Fulham was called off at the last minute on WednesdayCredit: Getty Images
Aston Villa v Newcastle fell foul of Covid earlier in December and there will surely be more to come.
Before this season began, there was always a serious threat of a second spike in Covid-19 cases.
Yet all of football’s governing bodies — not just the Premier League — chose to ignore this distinct possibility and pack the fixture list to ensure they got hold of every penny of broadcast money.
The League Cup and the Uefa Nations League should have been scrapped to give domestic leagues the best chance of completion.
The fact there is virtually no wriggle room in the schedule leads to a desperation to avoid postponements, which results in panic-stricken decision-making.
And it was utter negligence for Premier League clubs to start this season without having reached agreements over what would happen in the event of a curtailment.
Especially after months of wrangling on the issue before Project Restart back in June.
God, spare us a repeat of all that.
Now football finds itself in a complex moral maze.
Talk of a two or three-week “circuit-breaker” is likely to be a red herring. There is no guarantee it would be effective.
The Premier League have no plans for a break in fixtures despite rising Covid casesCredit: Getty Images
So should professional footballers be vaccinated against Covid sooner rather than later?
It won’t happen, as obvious accusations of queue-jumping would be bad PR.
Even though, in real terms, a few thousand premature jabs would make very little difference.
The sport’s high profile could be used positively to persuade those sceptical about being vaccinated that it is not only safe, but society’s only hope. As the Premier League ploughs on — without even discussing a shutdown — it can continue to state it is “following government advice”.
The advice of a government which has favoured blind optimism over reason at every turn since Covid began to threaten us 12 months ago.
In the wider world, there was plenty of opposition to Project Restart in June, even when infection rates were low. And plenty of genuine health concerns among players too.
It was heartening that last season was successfully completed, even behind closed doors.
But these are very different circumstances. Football in the middle of a severe Covid spike is not a good look.
You will never get a properly dispassionate view on the issue from those of us in the football media — we all want the show to go on.
Sports journalism and broadcasting without any actual sport is soul- destroying. We learned that between March and June.
Sam Allardyce, 66, admitted he is ‘very concerned’ and called for a breakCredit: AP:Associated Press
But we must recognise that many of those who don’t follow football find its continuation weird, even abhorrent.
Plenty of match-going fans aren’t that bothered either. For many, watching matches on TV in empty stadia is a pale imitation of the game they love.
Yet with the grim prospect of complete lockdown throughout the frozen wastelands of January and February, the chance to watch a match is some small consolation for millions.
Football’s in a mess and hasn’t helped itself. But it remains something for many to cling to, even in desperate times.
IT IS a regular phenomenon at Christmas, rather than a specific Covid thing, but entertainment value in the last round of Premier League matches was desperately poor.
Leeds thrashed West Brom 5-0 in the pick of the games during the festive periodCredit: AFP
Besides West Brom, guided by Sam Allardyce, v Leeds there were just seven goals in seven games and too many players with tired minds and bodies.
In a ‘normal’ season, there could be one fewer round of matches over the festive season, with fixtures staggered out to satisfy TV, but with quality valued over quantity.
CHELSEA have one win in six games. Their £70million summer signing Kai Havertz has shown no signs of settling, while £48m Timo Werner is bombing after a promising start.
It is unclear whether boss Frank Lampard knows how to effectively employ either man.
Lose to Manchester City on Sunday and they will be sinking into mid-table.
After a summer spend of over £220m, that is simply not good enough.
Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw by Aston Villa and fell further off the paceCredit: EPA
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