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League One

Andy Ritchie's Blog 10

24 October 2012

I've got to confess that when I heard that Jason Roberts was planning not to wear a Kick It Out T-shirt at the weekend, my initial reaction was why he couldn't make a protest and still wear the T-shirt. I said as much on MUTV recently and I didn't agree with his stance.

With the benefit of hindsight, I've now got to say he was probably right. The debate he has created might be uncomfortable but it's important nonetheless. He took a stand and it can only be healthy that everyone is talking about racism in the game rather than sticking their heads in the sand.

Knowing Jason as I do, I know his only agenda in all this is to create a debate. He obviously feels very strongly about the way football is tackling racism at the moment and in the long term the media reaction can only be a positive.

Personally, I can understand some of the frustrations of black players. I was shocked when I heard that Kick It Out only has an annual budget of £500,000 and when you think football is awash with money, it really doesn't seem enough.

I also strongly believe UEFA has to set more of an example. Racism is an issue for all of the game from international level down to npower League 1 and League 2 but without clear leadership, it's hard to make real progress. The half-hearted way UEFA have dealt with allegations of racism in Serbia and Spain sets a dangerous precedent.

I can also understand the anger among some black players with the speed with which racism appears to be tackled. I was speaking to Andrew Cole at the Manchester United game on Tuesday night and he was staggered at how long it had taken the John Terry case to come to a conclusion. I'm not saying Andrew represents every black player but it's become clear that he's not alone in his opinion.

I still believe football will be better served on this issue if everyone sticks together, if the PFA give more support to Kick It Out and allegations of racist behaviour are dealt with quickly. It's a difficult time for the game but we cannot afford to shy away from the issues that are being raised.

The two in-form teams in npower League 1 - Crawley Town and Colchester United - were both in action on Tuesday night and victories over Milton Keynes Dons and Leyton Orient made it five wins in six for both sides.

Colchester are absolutely flying after Joe Dunne replaced John Ward. I feel a bit sorry for John because he had the vision to integrate the Under-21 players into the first-team squad and now watch from afar as Joe reaps the rewards, but that's football.

Richie Barker did a magnificent job at Bury despite the club's financial limitations before taking over at Crawley and he's working his magic again, at the Broadfield Stadium this season. Sometimes it is harder to come into a club with high expectations and a culture of success and keep that momentum going but Richie has achieved it so far.

It took two goals from Billy Clarke for Crawley to beat the Dons, his first success in front of goal after a nine-match drought. I don't think I ever went that long without scoring as a player but I accept my memory might be playing tricks on me and I'm sure Billy is mightily relieved to have got the monkey off his back.

A barren spell for a striker is obviously a worrying development but you've got to be brave enough to keep getting in the right positions, even if the ball just won't seem to go in. A couple of assists certainly help to relieve the pressure but there is still nothing quite like the sensation of scoring.

A striker who has been enjoying a decent spell is Jose Baxter at Oldham Athletic and after he signed from the club on a four-month deal in September, I'm beginning to wonder whether the Latics are going to struggle to keep hold of him in January.

I mentioned Jose in one of my previous blogs because I was impressed that he had turned the offer of a new contract at Everton in the summer because he wanted to play first-team football. That kind of hunger, rather than just kicking his heels in the reserves and taking the money, is increasingly rare in football these days.

Oldham took a chance on him and it will be interesting to see how much he feels he owes the club as the end of his short-term deal.

I'm wary of banging on about the lack of loyalty in the modern game but the fact remains players have all the power these days and although Jose strikes me as the kind of character who might want to repay Oldham, I've learned to take nothing for granted any more.

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