Slow fuse at Gunners' headquarters


ALL IN THE GAME:The Irish Times recently had cause to contact the communications department at Arsenal and, as there was no huge urgency about it, when their lines were busy we decided to simply drop them an email.

At that stage an automated response suggested they would aim to reply within two weeks, prompting us to get back on the blower.

It seems their membership department works to even more laid back turnaround times as a recent mail-shot to some 20,000 Junior Gunners would suggest.

The kids in question received their packs for the new season only recently and must have been thrilled to see that the stars selected for the covers were Robin van Persie and Alex Song . . . both of whom actually moved on during the summer.

Betting on Theo Walcott being on next year’s cover has already closed.

Letting rip at agent

Ah, where would this column be without those crazeee Latin club president types; the kind who bravely say what’s on their minds and immediately spread joy all over the footballing globe.

This week’s plain-speaker is Marcelo Recante of Paraguayan club Olimpia who, it seems, is a tiny bit put out by agent Regis Marques’ plan to relocate his client, the player Maximillano Biancucchi, to Qatar in order to further his career and allow him to experience a different culture (all right, in order to rake in a very big pile of cash).

“Marques?” says Recante, “He’s a big Brazilian shit, a garbage man. Keep your mouth shut Marques.” As for Biancucchi, he is a “stupid, disrespectful Argentinean midget,” according to the club official.

Fans’ poll results stark reading for FAI

That they are generally unhappy may not have been in doubt, but the level of disaffection among supporters of Airtricity League clubs with the way the game is run here has always been hard to quantify; at least until this weekend when Foras – the folks behind Cork City – revealed the results of a major survey conducted with the assistance of British organisation Supporters Direct.

More than 1,500 fans responded to the questionnaire which was one of the many topics to get an airing at Foras’ Heart of the Game conference staged at the Metroplole Hotel over the weekend and the results make fairly stark reading for the FAI.

Some 89 per cent of those who took part say that they are dissatisfied with the way the game is run here and almost as many, 82 per cent, believe that their views are routinely ignored by the Irish game’s decision makers.

When asked to characterise the way the sport is governed here, the word apparently most used by respondents was: “shambolic”.

At a time when the association is finding it ever more difficult to put bums on seats for any but the very biggest of games at the Aviva stadium, it might do well to try to build some bridges with the section of the “football family” that most regularly pays into football matches.

McClean resisted temptation to reply

James McClean won’t, we presume, have been surprised by the, eh, spirited debate he kicked off on Twitter after his decision not to wear a shirt with a poppy for Saturday’s game between Sunderland and Everton but those around him will be relieved that he seems to have resisted the temptation to get directly involved.

Of course, those who had ever viewed the profile on what appears to be the latest incarnation of his twitter account (@mcclean23) won’t have been overly surprised as he describes himself as hailing from “Free Derry”.

There has been predictable outrage since the match, though, along with some feisty support. Interestingly, there was also some rather more measured debate regarding the way in which the increasing sense of obligation surrounding the wearing of a poppy on and around Remembrance Sunday has tended to devalue the actual gesture.

Still, it’s the vitriol that stands out with many of the messages pretty much unprintable. The 23-year-old seems to take it all in his stride, however, so he may be more put out by @sounddave1991’s needlessly cruel observation in the midst of the twitter storm that: “James McClean looks like the fat older brother from Home Alone”. Ouch.

McCarthy’s angst

What could possibly take any of the shine off Celtic’s remarkable defeat of Barcelona last Wednesday for a lifelong supporter of the club? you might reasonably ask and by way of reply we’d simply point, sympathetically, in the direction of Ireland midfielder James McCarthy who had a ticket but opted in the end against making the trip to Glasgow. “I was going to go to the game,” said the (as of today) 22-year-old at an EA Sports event to promote Fifa 2012 yesterday. “I had a ticket actually but at the last minute I pulled out because we had training the next day. I still watched it but I was gutted that night because it was supposed to have been an unbelievable atmosphere. It was an unbelievable performance.

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