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January: the start of the business end of the season…

January in the football calendar is full of intrigue, predictions and appraisals but as most transfer windows it is the off the field drama that is at its most intense. This January has been not different the Mata factor, the Pulis factor and the Fergie factor have all been talked about. Mata ‘plays on words’ have done the rounds and it is to irresistible not to laugh. January has been a positive month for many reasons in 2014, as will be talked about in the following few paragraphs. February marks the return of Europe’s most sought after competition and the business end of the season and yes it is going to be fun…

In the middle of a stale game at Stamford Bridge on a Wednesday night , it dawned on all Chelsea fans the just sometimes their Special One does not have the answers that turn headlines in to trophy laden stats. Mata had gone and there were bound to be questions : would he of made difference, why had he gone etc. but sometimes football just sucks and there is no reason for the outcome of the game. Mata is a good player but he is not a world beater and the fact that he has been greeted as if he himself is the Messiah as one soaked Chelsea fan pointed out this a sign of the times and just where these two footballing giants are. Mata was a bench winter in a particularly mild autumn and Mourinho felt he didn’t need the bench warmed any more and instead got thirty seven million for a player on the fringes.  In came an Egyptian who does it the Jose way , presses high up the field , drops back and plays in almost frighteningly direct  manner.

Yes Chelsea got the better half of the deal but that doesn’t mean that Moyes has got the bad half. Fergie left because Fergie time had gone into injury time and there were no more time for him to work his magic. Moyes became the sacrificial lamb and the press went mad. Last season was not a season on which the current Manchester United incumbent should be judged and compared with: Mancini was a poor manager, Benitez had no time and Arsenal were Arsenal. The squad that Ferguson left was old, fractured and in need of drastic restructuring . Moyes has a fantastic record , despite what the papers are saying that doesn’t and can’t possibly change overnight. Naivety is a strange trait in football supporters but it is universal.  Anyone taken the reigns from a master will need time and cooperation and Manchester United know that. It’s the supporters that need to get a grip but will they? In a world where everything is instant from messages to tweets , time is becoming a luxury a product of which only a rare breed can afford. Yes Chelsea at this moment ahead of their Red enemies but football moves and fortunes change. Moyes will win trophies in football with United and journalists won’t. The journalists write the headlines to sell papers not to help football managers.

Now Pulis is an effective manager and although his football is almost less appealing than watching Hollyoaks , it is the stuff that will get a rubbish team out of trouble. Five clean sheets in 12 games that ought to do it. He is winning over the ever passionate Crystal Palace faithful and they will stay up, that you probably didn’t hear here first. Stoke let go of Pulis because they arrogantly presumed that they were better than him and replaced him with a manager who moans more than Steve Bruce during post match interviews. Stoke are paying the price and Crystal Palace are sowing the seeds for a first long stay in the Premier League. The Stoke fans have had a negative effect on their club and they will be sorry because Stoke are far more likely to go down than Crystal Palace. Pulis is not a genius but is industrious and this industry makes his teams survivors and not victims. Mark Hughes  and his teams are the opposite whether that be Fulham , Manchester City or Crystal Palace. Chairman pick out pros to be their managerial gurus but this is a flawed hiring process.  Pulis may be not be the equivalents of a universities dancing queen but rather the solid and loyal best friend willing to fight for your pride.  Maybe football is about substance  rather than style?

The Champions League will mark its return with some blockbuster fixtures Manchester City meet the heavy weights from Spain, Drogba makes his return to Mourinhous’ Chelsea and its Bayern against  Arsenal. The European competition will never fail to entertain. This is the period when the men  begin to stand stand tall and the boys begin to sink. It remains to be seen whether or not City can become a strong and dominant force within the European arena. Chelsea fought numerous battles before they were crowned the European Champions in the German capita in 2012. That was a sweet and an almost endless moment for most Chelsea fans. Drogba will renter Chelsea’s history and is likely to be marked out of the game.  Arsenal can triumph over two legs but whether they have the belief is altogether another question.

January is over and as Sky’s white disappears back into the cupboard for another few months, surely now is the time to put the kettle on , get your slippers on and turn on Sky Sports.  The twists and turns can offer a vital distraction from any issue in anyone’s life.  The fixtures will not stop coming and the complexities of the season will start to go complicated.  With a disappointing Ashes behind us, the football can offer the neutral some kind of grief counselling.  Spring is only just round the corner and Andy Grey is back on television, could life get any better?

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