Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Man City and Cardiff Castle

“As a Chelsea fan. I envy you. I know what it's like to suffer years of hope with nothing to show for it. But a couple of weeks before the January transfer window the speculation about which players you will sign will go ballistic and, to be honest, it's a great feeling to have the world's top players linked with your club. The thrill wears off after a couple of years so enjoy it while it's fresh.”

- SuperDad,, a comment from The Times

I've just come over from Cardiff Castle. I'd passed by it on the bus a few times yesterday, and I thought it looked interesting. It is, and it isn't. There's a 12th century castle on a motte in the middle, but the high walls and the Gothic clock tower are 18th century recreations by the 3rd Marquis of Bute. Being one of the richest men in the world wasn't satisfying, obviously.

He wanted to live in a castle.

I did the tour, and it turned my stomach. It's done up in a faux Gothic style, and it's so elaborately decorated (gilded, painted, carved, and highly polished oak panelling) that it looks a bit garish. It's looks a bit like the Cuckoo restaurant up in the Dandelong Ranges.

Please be patient, I do have a point.

There are a lot of billionaires in football at the moment. From Silvio Berlusconi to Roman Abramovich, and now to shady types like Thaksin Shinawatra and our own Alistar Usmanov, football's the trendiest acquisition for the man who can buy medium-sized African countries. They tend to buy an obscure club, inflate it with lots of cash, and then stock it with a lot of fancy players (and their accompanying bling). With Man City, Robinho's just the start. They also want Torres, Ronaldo and our own Cesc Fabregas.

The Greeks had a saying - nothing in excess. Too much of anything is bad taste. Even if you're buying the best, it starts to look a bit unnatural.

Take the Marquis of Bute's fairy-tale castle - each article is beautifully made. But with too much elaboration, it becomes gaudy. If you stockpile a room with gilded ceiling paintings, wooden vaults, oak panelling with acorns and monkeys, stained glass windows.... it looks too flashy. If he'd been a bit more restrained, and kept one feature piece in each room, it would've looked alright. But too much bling (even high-quality bling) is tacky.

The (long-suffering) Mrs Marquis of Bute slept in a separate bedroom with a separate drawing room. My tour group poked around her quarters, and they're spartan by comparison - pale green walls, a couple of wall-lamps, a carpet. I'd imagine her developing an acute visual headache in the main Gothic rooms, and then fleeing back to the calmness of her sensible Edwardian(?) drawing room.

Likewise, too many top, top players can get a bit much. Remember how we salivated when Nasri arrived? Now imagine how it would've been if we'd got Essien, Silva and Villa in the transfer window as well. Nice, hey? What about Akinfeev and Benzema in January? And Ronaldo, Vidic and Ramos after that?

Don't know about you, but if that happened, I'd be running out the room like much Mrs Marquis of Bute did in the 1700s.

Superdad (the source of my quote), has a point. Football speculation is like a fizzy soft drink. There's only so much carbon dioxide in each can. You can open it and sip, and enjoy the fizziness for the entire can. Or you can shake it up and have it escape in one enormously pleasing spurt. But if you do that, the rest of our drink is flat and boring.

That said, Wenger really should've bought a defensive midfielder. At Arsenal we like restraint, but it's not nice to live in a prison cell.

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