By Calvin Palmer
It has been quite a week on the sporting front both sides of the Atlantic.
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver finally grew some balls and fired coach Jack Del Rio after Sunday’s humiliating and inept performance against the Houston Texans.
When the TV commentator, usually so forgiving like all TV commentators are, expressed surprise that a three-man Texans rush could get past the five-man Jaguars offensive line to sack rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, it was pretty obvious we were witnessing something verging on the pathetic.
I doubt Gabbert will shed many tears over Del Rio’s departure. There is now every chance that his talent will one day flower rather than be crushed into obscurity.
It will be interesting to see if the players start playing to their full potential with interim coach Mel Tucker in charge on Monday night. Whether the game suffers a TV blackout hangs in the balance.
I wonder if tight-end Mercedes Lewis, for older English readers Marina Lewis would be a more appropriate name, will actually start catching the ball and help take the pressure off Gabbert. Lewis was a Pro Bowl tight-end last season. This season he has looked more like toilet bowl material. Still, he got a nice fat contract during the close season and has repaid the franchise in pretty much the same way former quarterback David Garrard did after he received his improved contract.
Weaver did not stop at firing coach Del Rio. He also announced he was selling the franchise to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan who nearly bought the St Louis Rams in 2010.
Quite what the First Baptist Church bigots and Jacksonville’s white supremacists will make of Shahid Khan owning the city’s NFL franchise is anyone’s guess. I can envisage a burning cross on the halfway line at EverBank Stadium.
Already, racist comments have appeared along with the view that an American sport should be owned by Americans; so much for Shahid Khan’s U.S. citizenship. Those comments only serve to show the racist underbelly that sadly still exists in Jacksonville and northeast Florida.
It is probably just as well that the Jaguars did not draft Tim Tebow, given the turn of events this week. Tebow would probably have spent all his time trying to convert Khan rather than converting drives into touchdowns.
Across the Atlantic, second tier Crystal Palace took on Premier League Manchester United and succeeded in knocking them out of the Carling Cup and at Old Trafford. A friend from my university days who is a staunch Palace supporter will be delighted.
Stoke City also secured their place in the last 32 teams of the Europa League on Thursday with a lacklustre performance at home to Dynamo Kiev. Kiev should have had the game sewn up at half-time but squandered two chances that would have put the game beyond Stoke’s reach.
It took a pinpoint cross from winger Jermaine Pennant and a powerful header from Kenwyne Jones to give Stoke a goal they never really looked like scoring throughout the entire game. Stoke’s performance was not much different than that of the Jaguars against the Texans. Del Rio must wish that he had the luck of Stoke City coach Tony Pulis.
The same goes for Sunderland coach Steve Bruce who was sacked on the same day Del Rio was fired.
Writing in The Guardian, Louise Taylor stated:
“Arguably one of the principal reasons Bruce is no longer in charge at the Stadium of Light concerns his apparent inability to tweak formations or tactics during matches. Whenever a rival manager re-configured his system mid-game, Bruce invariably failed to come up with a countermeasure.
“In recent months Alan Pardew, Mark Hughes, Roy Hodgson and, most recently, Roberto Martínez have all seemingly out-thought him as Sunderland dropped points against supposedly weaker sides they really should have beaten.”
Tony Pulis has similarly been out-thought by managers of clubs Stoke were expected to beat and yet he remains in charge with his square pegs in round holes team selections that sees Stoke taking the field in most games without recognized full-backs, a geriatric midfield player and no creativity whatsoever, hence the lack of goal chances let alone goals.
The one bright spot in Thursday’s game against Dynamo Kiev was the performance of Wilson Palacios, playing his first full game since his summer transfer from Tottenham Hotspur. I stand to be corrected but as far as I could see, I don’t think one pass from Palacios went astray and they were all played to a teammate’s feet.
If that basic footballing skill could be passed on to the rest of the team, my fears regarding Stoke City’s future in the Premier League would evaporate.
Tomorrow, Stoke take on Everton at Goodison Park and I am sure it will see another poor away performance that ends in defeat. I hope I am wrong.