RearViewMirror: 2013, continued…
2013 was another year where Shinji Kagawa’s misfiring Manchester United career showed no signs of turning itself around. The Japanese star’s brilliant displays, frequently seen for Borussia Dortmund prior to his transfer, have been a rare sight in the English Premier League.
Kagawa looks devoid of the confidence that he radiated at Dortmund and—like many in the current United side, to be fair—he looks a little lost and forlorn, not quite sure of his role in the team.
The situation is exacerbated by the fact that when he does get a game, he is usually not played in his preferred position. It would appear that the imminent arrival of Juan Mata also does not bode well for Kagawa.
Up to now, the clamour for him to feature has been deafening. United supporters desperate to see some creativity introduced into their side have regularly bemoaned his exclusion. Successive managers at Old Trafford (how strange is that to say!) have failed to work out how to incorporate the player into their team.
Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp is probably spending sleepless nights sitting in a darkened room listening to loud metal to numb the pain.
Just what has happened to Shinji Kagawa at United and why David Moyes has failed to fit him in to a settled side is a difficult question to answer—especially in an underwhelming United team.
It is a question that I was asked recently on a surprising trip back to Old Trafford…
BIG IN JAPAN
The second half of my 2013 review (the first half is here) is a slightly self-indulgent one. But then, isn’t that the nature of blogging?
Grumpyoldfan.net is now two years old. Regular readers do exist in small numbers, but are hard to build on. After all, there are a multitude of excellent sites out there—some of which feature in the “blogroll” to the right of this post.
Finding a niche is said to be the way to go—general football sites such as this will tootle along, garnering spikes in the audience when the keywords in the title allow.
The original plan was for my niche to be “having a rant and a moan”—hence the name. I found the process of writing and communicating with the large football blogging community too enjoyable. The name probably doesn’t fit.
Despite the difficulties being noticed in such a vast ocean of good writing, “GOF” has still taken me to new places in 2013.
Around eight years had passed since I wrote a stroppy letter to Manchester United to decline the offer of renewing my season ticket. Two days in 2013 were to help me finally make peace with my decision to leave Old Trafford behind.
An odd, one-off trip to accompany my son to his first game occurred back in January where I encountered a very different place to that which I last inhabited.
And a third-straight play-off final defeat for FC United of Manchester which only strengthened my resolve to renew my membership with the “red rebels.”
In his excellent blog “Dispatches from a Football Sofa,” Greg Theoharis spoke in May about his then decision to quit blogging. He stated that he “began writing Dispatches in the vague hope that it might perhaps get me to the World Cup Final.” He made it to the Champions League final, a decent prize, and eventually came back for the new season.
I had no such target in mind, just a desire to type something that someone might read, even if that someone was just my Dad. It probably still is just my Dad.
In September 2013, I had my own “Dispatches” moment.
The portfolio of sites that my musings have appeared on grew throughout the year. This produced a wholly unexpected result, where I was offered a “media pass” for the Manchester-based UEFA Champions League matches.
And so, back in September, I set off for Old Trafford nice and early from work, complete with oversized laptop and a home-made “Press” card to place in my imaginary trilby. (thanks Mike!)
An empty football stadium is an eerie place. Once inside Old Trafford, I found my place and sat for a moment taking in the sight and imagining the ghosts of players past.
With half an hour or so before the match, I was sat back in the press lounge, trying my best not to look too much like an interloper as I scoffed away at my pie.
I was soon interrupted by an ever-so-familiar voice asking if the seat next to me was free.
“Yes, of course,” I replied.
None other than Mr. Clive Tyldesley sat down and opened his handwritten notebook.
Chit-chatting to a voice that has appeared in my living room describing the football on television over the last twenty years or so was a very surreal. Clive was a gent and he didn’t even mention THAT night in Barcelona once…
Once Clive had moved on, I began chatting to the chap next to me, whom I assumed was part of the press pack. Why wouldn’t he be? We were approached by a tall, impeccably dressed man who asked “are you British journalists?”
Now, the correct response would probably have been to ‘fess up and send him on his way. Naturally I answered, “Yes,” expecting my new acquaintance to answer in the affirmative as well.
“Could I ask you a few questions for Japanese TV, then?”
YES! Say it a million times. Then say it a million more. And the word you will have said two million times is…
After initial hesitation, where I pointed out the great and the good of the hacks that were gathered around us, I recalled the film “Yes Man.” I thought, why give up such an opportunity? I found them and asked if they still wanted my views.
I was whisked over to a wall next to the club crest by a second person, who brushed me down and positioned my shoulders “just so.”
A third person then appeared with a gigantic camera and a quick run-through was performed off screen. I then had to introduce myself and answer the question,
“Why is David Moyes not playing Shinji Kagawa?”
I would love to say that I impressed with my astute footballing knowledge. In truth, I have absolutely no idea what I said or where the words came from.
Apparently I commented on the cautious style of the new manager, how his preferred position wasn’t free at the club and I hit on points that none of the other wizened hacks had. I am not sure that is a good thing.
What I do recall is trying desperately to ignore the camera and just speak to the interviewer. However, I then vaguely remember that half way through I had stopped shaking and I turned to face the camera. I starting playing up to it and waving my arms around like a TV chef describing celeriac jus. (I actually have no idea if that is a thing).
Once my broadcasting baptism by fire was over, I settled back in to the press box and attempted to live-tweet the game whilst balancing the laptop.
A week or so later, I met the same journalists again at the Etihad stadium, which I can inform you has much better laptop-balancing facilities and superior food.
I was informed that the interviews were broadcast the week before, but could not confirm whether my footage was left on the editing room floor or not.
Subsequent Google searches have not been fruitful.
Like Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes with Shinji Kagawa, they probably didn’t really know what to do with me.
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