And so it goes, and so it goes…

In today’s Times Literary Supplement, in an unlikely article about a book about small African gold weights, David Attenborough notes an old Ghanaian proverb:  “It is unwise to rub bottoms with a porcupine”.

I think we can all see the wisdom in that, never moreso than today.

But on reflection, I’m increasingly inclined to put this down to “one of those things”.

Ajax have done nothing wrong here, merely protecting their right to retain a contracted employee.  Were I an Ajax fan, I’d be delighted with the board for their work here.

Martin Jol, supposedly the villain of the piece, may have done nothing that a hundred football people don’t do every off-season, namely look to negotiate a better (or different) job.   He wanted to come back to England, found a job that worked for him, and went about getting it.  In the end he was thwarted by the contract he himself had signed, so swings and roundabouts but no real blame.

Fulham have been unfortunate in this, keeping quiet until the last possible moment and only contributing snippets to the press when the cat of Martin Jol was well and truly out of the bag.   There is criticism of Alastair Mackintosh for not landing this particular big fish (cat, fish, what next?), but is this fair?  He had been led to believe that Jol’s contract allowed for such an approach, and if he then found this not to be the case, well, what can you do?   He aimed high in going for Jol and fell short:  this is the risk when you stretch yourself, isn’t it?   Again, though, in this he could hardly win:  aim low and incur the wrath of ‘ambitious’ supporters; aim high and things can get difficult.  (Which is why Fulham have tried to keep things quiet, of course.)

The person who comes out of this badly is perhaps Roy Hodgson, who I’ve defended throughout, but whose decision to leave so late (again, the question of whether he could have done anything differently remains unresolved) has now exposed us to a very difficult timeline.  To put myself in work shoes, for a moment:

  • w/c Sat July 17th – Jol deal falls through
  • w/c Sat July 24th – no manager in place
  • w/c Sat July 31st
  • w/c Sat August 7th
  • w/c Sat August 14th – first game of season

It’s Friday 22nd now.  That leaves three weeks until the start of the season.   Pre-season training is more or less okay, in that Ray Lewington can run all this, but here’s the thing:  suppose New Manager wants to impose a new style of play?   Now, we accept that often managers have to start their work mid-season (as did Roy), but equally, it takes more than three weeks to get a team in tune with your ways (as it did with Roy).   Throw in the need to buy new players (which we do need to do), and there’s maybe a problem brewing.

This could have been a difficult season even if Roy had stayed, and while things may yet take a turn for the better, time is marching on and the delays certainly aren’t helping.

On a brighter note, today on the way home I was reading a short story in “Love and Obstacles” by Aleksandar Hemon:

He was rewinding the tape, pressing the Stop and Play buttons alternately, trying to find the beginning.  The tape squeeled and yelped until he pinpointed the moment of silence before “Stairway to Heaven.
“There’s so much you don’t know, son.  Do you know what you don’t know?”
“No I don’t.”
“You have no idea what you don’t know.  Before you know anything, you have to know what you don’t know.”
“I know.”
“The fuck you do.”

And so much for that.  But the wonder of modern music players is that you can conjure up these songs in a jiffy, and soon indeed I was reading away with this splendid song chiming on in my ears, the first time I’d played it in ages.   What a joy.

There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven
There’s a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have
Two meanings
In a tree by the brook
There’s a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder