> Rooney, ridiculous wages and rants from a little Bristolian upstart…the Premier League at its finest. 

> Plus, insigh from renowned sports journalist Patrick Barclay of The Times.

It won’t be a surprise to any of you with a television or access to virtually any form of media to learn that Manchester United and England footballer Wayne Rooney has signed a new 5-year contract which could be worth up to a reported £250,000 a week.

Rightly or wrongly the 24-year-old could be picking up over a million pounds a month, an obscene amount even for a top class footballer (which he, now disputably is), this has caused some controversy with debates on radio phone in’s up and down the country being completely dominated by the Rooney saga. This issue has hit the headlines in a week when World Cup winner and United legend Nobby Stiles sold his 1966 winners medal and other items in his estate for the benefit of his family. But is this story just another way in which football provokes an interest and a response in people, or is there any validity in the argument that the modern game is ruining the sport of football?

Offering intriguing observations on all things football related, Chief football writer for The Times Patrick Barclay was interviewed by UWE’s own Giles Lucas on the Saturn Sports Show (Hubradio every Tuesday from 5-6pm) which threw up some interesting turns:

Giles: You’ve reported on many football tournaments, what’s been your favourite World Cup or European Championship?

Patrick: 1984 European championships stands out, the championship of Platini. Part of the joy that, I have to confess, was that England weren’t there and you were able, instead of doing the ‘rah rah pom pom’ approach to a tournament, you were able to look at the games on their technical merit…I’m bound to say it didn’t get much in the paper. But that was an unforgettable tournament; Platini scored 9 goals in 5 games from midfield. Can you imagine what would happen if Wayne Rooney were to do that from up front. That was wonderful, and of course 2 years later you had the exploits of Diego Maradona in the World Cup of 1986. Those were two things that never happened before and which never happened since, which was basically one man dominating a tournament and winning it, really, those men dominated the entire tournament…Platini in 84 & Maradona in 86 and I consider it an absolute privilege to have seen Maradona in 86, he was just…well it was the best football I’ve ever seen in my life.

Giles: So how do you compare Maradona to, say Lionel Messi? Is there even a comparison between the two?

Patrick: No, none. Well, in that they both play/played for Barcelona, are both great to watch, technically marvellous and both Argentine and on the short side. But to be fair to Messi, he’s a wonderful player who makes my heart sing but when Maradona was 22 (a similar age to Messi now) he was now nowhere near the player he became four years later, in fact he was sent off in the 1982 World Cup for a pretty horrendous foul on a Brazilian. It’s no despisement of Messi to say that Maradona was the 2nd greatest footballer that ever drew breath after Pele.

Giles: Looking into the football last season, it threw up so many surprises, with proverbial smaller teams beating the big clubs. What do you think was the best game of last season? Maybe that Manchester derby?

Patrick: Well funnily enough I was going to say that. I can remember towards the end of the match being up and down and thinking this is the match that was going to change football in Manchester and therefore, to a degree, in Europe, and it may well happen. But Man U’s resilience in that match was something quite extraordinary, and all down to Sir Alex Ferguson really, the ethos he’s created at the club, the DNA that says your never beaten is quite extraordinary, and I think Man City, the noisy neighbours, were left to scream & shout for another year, but that was certainly a wonderful game. I do think also, as you mentioned, signs of the tail wagging the dog. Early in the season when Burnley beat Manchester United, that stands out as well. I think also Burnley have set a template for clubs to come up and enjoy yourselves, don’t treat relegation like Armageddon. You’re just back where you were before having had a year out of your wildest dreams. Even if Burnley never play in the Premier League again, they can now remember the day the beat Manchester United and the whole country rejoiced with them and admired their crowd support that was an ingredient in it. That was probably a game that helped to inspire clubs for the rest of the season, and I think there was less lying down. There was a bit of lying down but there wasn’t as much lying down in the face of the so called top 4 as there has been in the previous seasons.

The Burnley template has this season been assumed by Blackpool, managed by self proclaimed Bristol bumpkin Ian ‘Olly’ Holloway. Blackpool have earned plaudits from all within the game for there attacking style and never say die attitude, with Holloway setting out his stool before the season began by allaying any fears that they wouldn’t take the big boys on;

“Petrified to go to Old Trafford? I would attack them,” he said. “I would go there to win the game. If it ends up 20-0, so be it. Playing 4-4-2, squeezing up the pitch and looking for knock-downs, is that what the game is all about? I want to entertain people and entertain myself.”

Previously ‘Olly’ has been renowned for his open press conferences much more than open football, and last month he certainly wasn’t backward in coming forward with his view on the Wayne Rooney contract situation:

“I can’t believe it’s got to the stage where a player can dictate to such a famous club, with a blatant disregard for all that club and especially the manager’s done for him.

“What is happening at Old Trafford is so wrong it frightens the life out of me. If a manager of the stature of Alex Ferguson can be bullied by a player and his agent, how sad a state is the game in? Don’t talk to me about player power.

 “It all comes back to Bosman, which is a stupid ruling in terms of football players.

 “We had it right when I was a player. If a club offered you the same money you were on or a little bit more, you could not go anywhere without their permission, regardless of whether you were out of contract.

 “If they wanted to sell you, they got the going rate. Otherwise they could just let you rot in the reserves until you saw sense.

 “When you are paying all these millions for players, in transfer fees and wages, that is how it should be.

 “I think we should all go to UEFA and FIFA and say ‘Face it, you’ve got it wrong’. And when something is wrong in life, you change it.

 “How deep is that bucket of sand they’ve all got their heads buried in? Well, we need to make them face facts, or the game is in big trouble.”

 For all the engaging ranting on the running of the game from Holloway and the glorious tales of tournaments past as illustrated by Patrick Barclay, could these debates just be another way in which we derive entertainment from the modern game and something we should accept? Or does Olly have a point?

Jake Procter