The inspiration for this post was very simple - the NBA All-Star weekend. It took place last weekend and, having watched some of the events, it got me pondering whether or not it would be possible to implement a similar feature into the Premiership season.
The NBA weekend is run over three days. It consists of a rookie versus sophomore match, a D-League (the minor league) All-Star match, a team shooting challenge, a skill course, a three point shooting competition, a dunk contest and culminates with the East versus West All-Stars. Indeed, all American sports have the same mid-season for similar event-packed, star-studded affairs. The break can prove problematic for players and clubs alike, though. A weekend break for such festivities is not ideal for a team trying to gather or maintain momentum and form.
It remains, however, something that I think would be extremely interesting and entertaining to see transferred across the Atlantic. It allows fans to see a different side to the players, witnessing some absurd bits of showboating and it often is a useful means of raising money and awareness for various charitable causes.
The way it would work is relatively straight forward. Players, managers and journalists would vote for the players that they believe deserve to feature in the All-Star match (not fans - this prevent clubs with larger fan bases simply getting all their players in the team). Other players, meanwhile, would be selected to take part in the individual events which I will outline in due course.
There are a couple of obvious problems in trying to introduce such an event. These are, firstly, the Premiership has a hectic enough schedule as it is to try and fit it in and secondly, the league is not split into two separate conferences (as American sports leagues are) from which to select two sides. These problems can, however, be easily overcome. To fit the game in the season could either be prolonged by one extra week or simply add one set of midweek fixtures. To form the two sets of ten teams from which the 'All-Stars' could be chosen, a simple solution would be to divide the the league between the northern and southern clubs. This would mean that the pools of teams would look like this:
North – Newcastle, Sunderland, Blackpool, Blackburn, Bolton, Wigan, Manchester City, Manchester United, Everton and Liverpool.
South – Stoke, Wolves, West Brom, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Tottenham, Arsenal, West Ham, Chelsea and Fulham.
On balance the north/south divide seems to split the teams quite fairly which would allow for a reasonable mix of the Premiership's elite players to face off against one another. As for the events. The focal point of the day would, of course, be the north versus south All-Star game. But other competitions would be required to make the whole thing more interesting.
There would have to be some form of skill-based time trial, something akin to what you would see on Wayne Rooney's Street Striker. This would involve dribbling and passing into or through targets so we could see which Premiership player has the best “tekkers”. Another event could be a skill showdown as features on Soccer AM or a skill shot contest (alla Ronaldinho's shot from behind the goal, below). Others could be simple challenges to see who is the quickest player at dribbling the ball half the length of the pitch and a test to see who has the most powerful shot. It could even tie in with 'The Match' by featuring the celebrities versus ex-pros game.
Amidst the mayhem of the Premiership campaign, an All-Star break for one weekend of the year would offer some light relief and allow us to appreciate a different side to the league's footballers, and indeed football itself. This is just a quick example of what some potential line-ups for the events could be... you know you would want to see this:
Tekkers Trial – Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, Arteta, Modric, Nasri.
Speed Dribble – Walcott, Bale, Lennon, Guitierrez, N'Zogbia, Agbonlahor.
Skill Showdown – Berbatov, Adam, Anelka, Silva, Young, Van der Vaart.
Power Shot – Huth, Alex, Hitzelsberger, Van Persie, Taylor, Kolorov.
With an All-Star match of the League's best performers of the season.
Now some may not want to see such a weekend introduced as a distraction from the Premier League season. Moreover, managers would almost certainly not want to lose their players for such an occasion. But tell me you would not want to see the Premiership's finest go head to head over a series of irrelevant yet intriguing challenges.
Would very much like to hear people's thought on this idea. What kind of events would you like to see footballers go head-to-head in? Who would you like to see take part in such challenges? Which players would make your All-Star XI from the respective north and south divisions?
Thoughts, comments and opinions please...