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That empty feeling
By Chris Lawton
I don't know about you, the reader, but I have a very flat empty feeling right now. Some of that is undoubtedly due to the disappointments of the past season. However I can't help but think that my passion for football on the whole has wained. About a year ago football came home. Euro '96 was here and we loved it. There was the tension of the Scotland match, the demolition of Holland and the passionate game against Germany. Football was alive and kicking and the new season promised much at all levels.

I guess where these feelings come from is more from watching the Premiership week in week out on the telly. Rarely did we see a performance that matched any of England's attempts over the summer. Even by Christmas there was an air of inevitability about the way the leagues were shaping up and deep down we all knew that Man Utd were going to win again.

Perhaps it is the money in the sport that has done the damage. Too many overpaid, beer drinking stars who, when it comes to it, just can't be bothered. We pay our money and watch, seeking entertainment and passion, and all we get is a dour game the result of which could have been guessed after five minutes. It seems the price of failure is now so great that teams won't risk the extravagant.

Newcastle under Keegan were perhaps an exception. Whilst people may doubt his managerial abilities, he gave a refreshing approach to the game where entertainment was a high priority. Since his departure Dalglish has employed the same tactics he used at Blackburn when they won the title - grinding out results at the expense of entertainment.

In other walks of life we would not put up with this situation. We would be critical of the lack of passion and commitment and demand a change. In the end football in this country has become rather like the Conservative Party had in the last few months. Unimaginative, stale and yet desperate to hang onto its place as the nation's number one sport. The England performance against Italy demonstrated clearly that more than skill our players lack imagination, vision and passion. A change is needed.

What that change is I don't know. Maybe summer success will bring renewed hope. Maybe summer spending sprees will dampen it forever. It seems that in the world of football money doesn't just talk - it shouts very loudly. Sadly it is killing the game that many of us love and give up our time, money and energy following. Perhaps we need just to take the money out the game. The star of the season was, in my opinion, Juninho. Here was someone who seemed to relish stepping out and playing. Giving his all and not afraid of that bit of magic. Contrast that with Emerson who, when push came to shove, couldn't be bothered.

Whatever happens over the summer come August we'll all be there. Ready to shout and cheer, even if from afar. Ready to give our all for the team we support. Wouldn't it be good if just for a change the players up and down the country did the same?