Next up tomorrow is Wigan Athletic away in the capital of the nation’s pie-eaters. We need total focus on this game to the exclusion of all else. I’m sure you’re sick of me saying this, but it’s the only way we’ll get anything out of this season.
It’s looking increasingly like we’ll have to do without Big Bad Bill Gallas for the rest of the season. I’m starting to think we need some sort of anti-injury exorcism at the Grove. Still, there’s no point worrying about it. It is what it is. Johann Djourou deserves a chance to play. I assume he’ll start in place of Gallas, although there is the possibility of pushing Alex Song back into the centre of the back four. I imagine Le Boss will go for minimum change however.
We need to lock down fourth as soon as possible then see if we can push on for third spot. I was surprised at the Chavski win at Anfield last night. The Liverpool defence seemed to go AWOL. It’s looking all but certain that whoever emerges from this tie will face Barcelona in the Champions League semis. Barça all but locked down a spot in the last four with a four-nil win over Bayern Munich in the Nou Camp. If the Catalans score in Munich in the return that will definitely be all she wrote for the Bavarians.
The pitch at the JJB Stadium (the new naming rights don’t kick in until 1 August this year) is always a worry. Let’s hope it’s in decent nick on Saturday. It’s not just smaller clubs like Wigan who have pitch problems (Athletic shares the ground with the Wigan Warriors rugby league club) – just look at Wembley. It’s a tragedy that with all the money spent on the new English national stadium by the FA they couldn’t get the most fundamental thing in any sporting arena right – the park. Without a top class playing surface, all the 21st century bells and whistles like corporate boxes, premium seats and giant scoreboards are a bit of a waste of time really.
And let’s not blame the other events like American football, rugby league, rugby union and so on that take place at Wembley. The old ground used to get just as much use by other sports and events and, with the exception of the late 1960s when the mad sods agreed to have the Horse of the Year show on the pitch, it was always like a bowling green. The pitch at the new ground has frankly been an embarrassment at times. It needs sorting, lively.
Speaking of pitches, I hope we don’t regret losing our head groundsman Paul Burgess to Real Madrid. He did a fantastic job for us, especially in producing an amazing playing surface from day one at the Grove. Let’s hope his deputy Paul Ashcroft who was promoted to the top job on Burgess’s departure can carry on the good work. I can remember times in the 1970s when the Highbury pitch was a complete mess. Those days are thankfully long gone and we don’t want them back!
On the ownership front a steady trickle of shares continue to change hands. 27 were traded on Tuesday, in two lots of 15 and 12 for a total of £178,200. Three changed hands yesterday. The quoted price on the PLUS market on which they’re traded has ticked up £50 to £6,750 but that’s still £800 a share down on the price of £7,550 a share that held for a good few weeks. Because there are only 62,217 shares in issue and the ownership is so highly concentrated in a few hands – principally Danny Fiszman (16.1%), Stan Kroenke (20.5%), Alisher Usmanov’s Red & White Holdings (25%) and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith (15.9%) – the market price on PLUS is a notoriously bad guide to the true market value of the club. A few shares changing hands either way can cause wild swings in the price. Rest assured I shall keep you all informed on this key issue.
Keep the faith!