Two stories from the Premier League caught my eye this week, one impressing me and one disappointing me. The first, and the one that impressed me, was the news that in the wake of their humiliating 9-1 defeat at Tottenham on Sunday, the Wigan players have agreed to refund the costs to the hardy 400 Latics fans who made the long trip South to see the match. Football's a very expensive game to watch these days. Tickets alone for the Wigan fans at White Hart lane were ?26, while with travel costs included, it would have been a costly day out. We all know how dreadful it feels to be a football fan in the days after your club has suffered a bad loss, and the Wigan fans will have been forced to bear the ridicule of friends and colleagues over the last two days (did you hear Wigan are holding an emergency meeting at the ground after the defeat? What time does it start? About ten past Chris Kirkland). This gesture of apology from the players therefore will serve not only to fill the hole left in their pockets, but to take the edge off the despair they're sure to be feeling after such a terrible result. The overall expenditure for the players amounts to little more than a day's wages, but it's the intent that counts. It's important for young football fans to see that there's more to being a top sportsman that simply earning millions, driving flash cars and partying. Just as fans dutifully support their players, footballers have a duty to reward their fans with their actions both on and off the pitch, and even if Wigan failed miserably to do the former, I'm very glad to see they're doing the latter.
The second story comes after an event rather closer to home, Stoke's 1-0 victory over Portsmouth at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday. Portsmouth manager Paul Hart has today been, in the words of the club, "relieved of his duties." Simply speaking, he has been sacked. Hart was appointed full time as Pompey boss in March, charged with keeping the struggling club up in the Premier League, a target he achieved with aplomb, guiding them to a respectable fourteenth placed finish. This summer the club was bought and sold twice, and heavily in debt, has been in financial turmoil. Hart was forced to sell many of his best players, including Peter Crouch, Niko Kranjčar and Glen Johnson, and was given only very modest funds to replace them, having to look to loan signings and free transfers effectively building a squad from scratch. Unsurprisingly, for a team hastily assembled in a backdrop of instability, they made a poor start to the season, losing all of their first seven Premier League matches of this season. Recently however, the green shoots of recovery were starting to show through the Fratton Park turf. They had won two and drawn one of the five league games to the run up to the one at Stoke, and were finding great comfort in their impressive League Cup run. Though they still sat bottom of the table, their position was no means irrecoverable, and if they had continued to play in the way they had been doing in recent weeks, recovery looked a real possibility. Still, showing all the loyalty of Ashley Cole and David Beckham combined, the Portsmouth board chose to sack Hart, with many sources claiming they have already contacted and lined up his successor. For me, that's wrong. Hart was doing a good job in very difficult circumstances, and should have been given far more of a chance to prove his ability to build on the foundations his team had recently laid. It disap points me greatly to see a football club show such blatant disregard for the efforts of a good footballing man doing his best despite adversity. It also makes me wonder how Phil Brown is still in a job, but that's irrelevant.
Thankfully, at Stoke we've not had any eight goal reverses recently, and our manager's in no danger of being sacked, but if either situation should arise, I hope we can respond to them the right way.