Great Britain

Christmas parties would fill me with dread – I’d get past it by holding a barnstomer in the West End every year

THE festive season is the busiest time of the football calendar which players, managers, owners and fans alike approach with a mix of bonhomie, optimism and trepidation.

As an owner Christmas brought about a bigger concern than winning or losing matches.

While I never had the delight of Joey Barton’s version of a Christmas cigar — that was stubbed out in  youth player’s eye —  he dreaded Christmas party brought the feeling that “a word in the shell-like” was required.

I decided to circumnavigate my concerns by holding a barnstormer of a Christmas party every year at the swishest of West End hotels, although that was tinged with regret given the catering requirements of the likes of Neil Ruddock and Neil Shipperley.

We already know what the Christmas No 1 is  — step forward Jurgen Klopp.

His current all-conquering Liverpool troop are on course for their first league title in 30 years and the first of the Premier League era.

Liverpool fans have another gift knowing Klopp has just extended his contract to 2024.

As for the rest of us mere mortals? What Christmas gifts can we  hope for?

Top of the list for any self-respecting football lover has to be VAR. This  troubled, much-maligned system needs the kiss of life under the mistletoe.

In recent weeks we have seen an upturn in its performance and a downturn in criticism. Those in control at Stockley Park need to stop passing the parcel,  double down on  ensuring VAR is the enhancement it was billed as.

Communication to the fans in the  stadium needs to be sacrosanct, adjudication by current referees replaced with older more experienced senior officials,  pitchside monitors (or even on-person technology) utilised and VAR being called for by the ref rather than the other way round.

Boxing Day brings Amazon’s live streaming of nine matches on one day for the first time.

There is never too much  football and  while watching in the  stadium is best, this is an interesting present to be given.

It may even be the gateway for the game’s own platform, in a breakaway from the traditional  broadcasters, to control its destiny. Viewing costs would drop for the average viewer.

This Christmas must also be  free of any form of abuse. With the country now settled under the new Government,  instances of abuse from the stands in any form need to be addressed.

Not with the silly narrative that comes out of clubs  but by fans behaving themselves and clubs sanctioning those that don’t with lifetime bans.

The Premier League has given itself a really big gift as they finally appointed their  new CEO with the blueprint and vision of the next decade.

Wait a minute . . . this is a recycled gift!   Richard Masters, the new head honcho, was already deputising in the role.

He was deemed not good enough while two appointees either declined or destroyed their opportunity to run the world’s richest league.  Oh well, more of the same for the ‘Big Six’-controlled Premier League

Finally, the gift that keeps on giving is Arsenal Football Club.

The travails and demise of this club is mirrored by the growth of its canker sore of AFTV — the  fans’ YouTube channel — which enables supporters of other clubs to subscribe free and rubberneck at the car crash of so-called Arsenal in a feeding frenzy of cannibalism.

Fan TV content is great but this is football’s version of The Evil Dead.

While it may be a gift for us all to snigger at, for lots of Arsenal fans it is like the pair of tight pants you got brought by your nan for Christmas that really have no place in your wardrobe.

SIMON JORDAN’S Final Word is on talkSPORT every Sunday from 5-8pm

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