The good side of the game

Dave Woodhall touches on the biggest footballing topic of the weekend.

I should be looking forward to Villa’s game with Bolton tomorrow night, hoping that we can get a second consecutive Premier League win and our first double of the season.  Unfortunately, the horrendous illness suffered by Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba meant that the game was called off, and in the circumstances all parties should be congratulated for acting so quickly. There was no way on earth that the Bolton players would have been in any fit state to prepare for the match while their colleague remained in a critical condition, and both Villa and the Premier League behaved with decency in agreeing to their request.

It’s been good to see such an outpouring of sympathy and goodwill towards Muamba. Football gets a lot of criticism, and mostly it’s justified, but when this type of tragedy happens we’re all on the same side. I hope it doesn’t sound flippant, but the slight consolation is that with the exception of an A&E unit there’s probably no better place to have such an attack as inside a Premier League ground. Paramedics, defibrillators and ambulances are in compulsory attendance, and there’s also the likelihood of specialist medical staff being amongst the crowd, as was the case at White Hart Lane on Saturday. Top-level stadia are some of the safest places in the country, both in the normal course of events and in an emergency. We’ve come a long way from the days when untrained stewards, often-hostile police and well-meaning volunteer St John’s Ambulance men were the only help available. Much as I like to complain that football’s not what it was, there are some ways in which it’s improved beyond all recognition.

In an ideal world Bolton would have been beaten at Spurs and so demoralised by the defeat that they would have been easy opposition for Villa to pick up three points before a run of difficult games starting at the Emirates on Saturday. Arsenal are running into form now, they’ve got third place in their sights (Reasons to Hate Modern Football cont. – third place is now so important there’s a Race for it)and with the possible exception of a trip to Old Trafford there’s currently no more daunting task in the Premier League.  Let’s be honest – we’ve got hardly any chance of getting anything from the game. In fact, we’ve got about as much chance of winning at Arsenal on Saturday as we had of winning there last year.