Friday, 31 December 2010

Window Of Opportunity?

Transfer window time. Leave it open and the cold draft of Premier League reality blows through you and some poor chairmen start to eye the hard pavement beneath with some fondness.

Using the odd hunch, some inside information and a load of old bollox (in other words, the Lawro way) here's my thoughts on the January to come. And beyond ins ome cases.

ARSENAL
Having analysed where his young guns are going wrong, Arsene beefs up his midfield with three more Eastern Europeans, Arshicky, Roshavin, and Tippitappovich. He buys a new centre-back too – the Frenchman Laissez-Faire.

ASTON VILLA
Gerard Houllier welcomes Liverpool to Villa Park with a team comprised of baa-lambs. It’s a goalless draw by the way. Stephen Ireland, bought from Man City for £8 million (or £10 a sulk) is sold to WWFC (that’s not Wolves that’s Whoever We Fucking Can).

Delighted to be at Villa isn't he?

Gerard looks to invest in some proven goalscoring talent, but unfortunately Michael Owen damages a tendon while emptying the dishwasher and Villa continue to struggle in the wake of....

...BIRMINGHAM CITY
Alex McLeish decides against any reckless spending in January. Which doesn’t half piss off Mrs. McLeish. Birmingham City however are keen for more of a cutting edge upfront so they plump for a man who can always be relied upon to finish his meal, Yakubu.

BLACKBURN ROVERS
The chicken farmers rebut allegations that they know nowt about football after selecting their new management team of Glenn Cockerill and Chick Young. Out of retirement come Hen-ning Berg and Egg-il Olsen. After a good stuffing at Sunderland, and a bit of scratching around at home to Liverpool, the owners insist they are confident of success in the FA Coop.

BLACKPOOL
Ian Holloway is confident that Blackpool will survive the drop and the jolly Bristolian’s turd-polishing continues as new signings Chris Iwelumo and Ade Akinbiyi score twice each as the Seasiders end January by defeating Man United.

BOLTON WANDERERS
Owen Coyle’s incredibly white snarling teeth remain unexplained. But he continues to encourage his team to add Routes Two and Three – unless it’s twenty minutes to go and you’re a goal down in which case bung it up to Big Kev and cross your fingers.

CHELSEA
Ancelotti is pretty clear that he’s not going after anyone in the transfer window, although Chelsea have signed up four highly promising foetuses from under the noses of rivals Manchester United.

EVERTON
Selling Yakubu has removed several pounds off the wage bill and infinite stones off the bench. Moyes trawls the world for a reliable goalscorer and ends up playing Phil Neville up front with Cahill.

FULHAM
Sparky’s already mentioned he’s going to bag himself a new number nine until Zamora returns, and as luck would have it, Wayne Rooney becomes available. But Sparky says he’s looking for a goalscorer and opts for the laidback Roque Saga Cruise.


Roque in a familiar pose

LIVERPOOL
Woy is welieved of the weins at Wiverpoow and while the new owners search desperately for a saviour they install a temporary Messiah in the form of King Kenny Dalglish. It proves hard to sign anyone for the crisis club but even harder to get rid of people. (Apart from Reina who goes to Man United in a shower of Koppite saliva). No one seems to want Poulsen, Ngog, Lucas, Babel, Konchesky, Meireles, etc, etc....wonder why?

MANCHESTER CITY
Mankini goes from strength to strength. City put in a bid for Villa – that’s Aston Villa, the whole lot of ‘em bar Ireland. And Roberto is forced to pay thousands of pounds for new pipes and slippers for the front three of Balotelli, Jo and Adebayor. Plus of course the satnav tag for Tevez.

MANCHESTER UNITED
(Someone beat them for Chrissakes.) Fergie bags Beppe from Liverpool but sells Michael Carrick to a major department store’s shop window and Owen Hargreaves to medical science.

NEWCASTLE UNITED
Pardew is replaced in January by a plate of jellied eels. The eels look to improve the Geordies’ defence by stealing Jamie Carragher from Anfield in the hope that his presence will make Sol Campbell look pacy. In the meantime Ashley wins a high court injunction forbidding Andy Carroll to go within four hundred yards of Eastlands – or Harry Redknapp’s house.

STOKE CITY
Tony Pulis meets Mark Hughes for handshaking practice, which descends into an argument about who’s the most Welsh. Meanwhile Pulis buys ina bit more creativity to Stoke’s central midfield with the purchase of Vince Grella. Yep. Vince Grella.

SUNDERLAND
Steve Bruce’s team continue to beat the good’uns and lose to the bad’uns and so he too goes on the hunt for the manager’s holy grail – the goalscorer. Darren Bent is appalled until he realises that his latest hot streak has gone as cold as Aberdonian ice-cream and his team are shedding points like a hedgehog with eczema.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Well Spurs keep on putting a smile on everyone’s face. Arry tries to lure Carroll from Newcastle by offering a part-exchange show-pony in the form of Bentley or Krancjar. No one’s biting. Or elbowing. Or headbutting. And Spurs keep all eleven on the pitch for a change.

WEST BROM
Di Matteo is desperate to shore up his static defence and replaces his entire defence with four bags of cement. Fortunately Fulham are their first opponents and Andy Johnson is unable to find a way past the stationary objects and the Baggies win 1-0.

WEST HAM
Avram spends a fortune in the transfer window and by February the investment in the American genetic technology consultancy pays off when Grant picks all ten have successfully cloned Scott Parkers and the Irons win comfortably. Capello, by the way, doesn't fancy any one of them.

WIGAN ATHLETIC
Roberto Martinez’s scouts have been scouring the four corners of the globe once more and unearthed an Amazonian Indian with a sweet left peg, a Congolese forest pygmy who’s surprisingly good in the air (the obverse of Peter Crouch, effectively) and a Filipino nanny to help Charles N’Zogbia get his toys back in his pram.

WOLVES

Mick McCarthy keeps up his “nobbut middlin’” blather like he were some monosyllabic Dales farmer from All Creatures Great and Small. And no one comes. And everyone stays. And none of ‘em get any credit cos they’s just ever so ‘umble Wolves.


Reckon we'll mek it til end of May Mr. 'Erriot?

And in cricket, Graeme Swann explains that the reason for the sprinkler dance is that it illustrates how we pissed all over the Aussies. Tsk!

And I stick by my prediction that Chelsea win the Premier League. Somehow. It may be that Liverpool won’t finish third, Villa won’t end up 8th, or Blackpool 20th. In fact I reckon we can forget them ideas. Please.

Oh and the Boro?... erm...

Well Happy *!?%ing New Year to the rest of you.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Christmas Pressies

It’s Christmas and it’s time for Robbo-ho-ho to hand out some pressies to the great, the good and bloody awful. Obviously most of these won’t arrive in time. And given the Post Office’s price hike on stamps. I’ve decided to save some dosh and send a lot of them by minicab.

To Sir Alex Ferguson: a really comfy chair like the one Jimmy Saville used to have on Jim’ll Fix It. You’ll be able to press a button and whatever you require – a glass of red, a prawn sandwich, a hairdryer – will appear magically from within the arms of the chair. And you’ll never need to get up again. In other words can’t you just eff off and let some dopy numpty like O’Neill make a complete Horlicks of the job?

To Sepp Blatter: I thought of honey, or Demerara sugar, or maple syrup but let’s face you’ve had a year-long glut of sweeteners so how about a night out at G.A.Y. with your Qatari hombres?

"Oooh, look at me! What a great jessie I am!"


To Audley Harrison: a job in Milletts – you’ll be in the tent department, Audley, keeping a close eye on the canvass.

To Big Sam Allardyce: a telescope. That way you can keep an eye on your new side’s forward passes.

To Avram Grant: I don’t reckon Av does Christmas but just because he avoids Santa’s sack doesn’t mean that Sullivan n Gold are going to be so neglectful. I reckon they’ll give him a few months rest back home.

To Lee Westwood: a major, which will come a little easier this year as I’m giving Tiger Woods a majorette.

Arsene Wenger: a big nuggety bastard of a midfielder: I’d even go so far as Lee Cattermole. Or anyone whose spine is a tad stronger than the stem of a dandelion.

Fabio Capello: well, the obvious thing’d be an English-Italian phrasebook. I’d like to add to that some magic mushroom tea just so that his imagination gets a little run-out and he stops using his substitute bench as a replica 11 for the one he starts a game with.

Mitchell Johnson: The Steve Harmison Book Of Fast Bowling. Take some tips off from Steve’s trusty sat-nav. We can’t be having Mitch finding a bit of form at this stage in the series.

Carlos Tevez: a snood cum nijab so we don’t have to look at his gritted teeth every time he pulls on a Man City shirt.

Wayne Rooney: a DVD of Algeria-England from the World Cup. See if he can sit through it without booing his tits off by the end.

FIFA: if they can’t give us the bloody World Cup – and let’s face it we could host it tomorrow but that doesn’t leave many palms to grease does it? – then they can give us some goal-line technology. You know... so we end up with a fair result...? Oh wait, sorry, you’re FIFA! What’s fairness got to do with owt?

Howard Webb: an orange card – it’s halfway between a yellow and a red and it’s the card you wave at a Dutchman when he assaults his opponent in front of the whole world.

Arjen Robben: a right foot.

Alan Pardew: a Geordie accent. You can do a right shite job at NUFC and with one of them you can get away with it. Talking of which....

Alan Shearer: a new set of shirts cos them white cuffs and collars every week make him look like he’s trying just a bit too hard. (I mean for Chrissake I get more uppity about his outfits than I do about that Rachel Riley on Countdown, who they keep dressing like some incredibly numerate street-walker. I mean it’s tough getting a seven-letter winner when you’re fighting off a lob-on.)

"All right, duckie! Fancy a consonant?"

Adrian Chiles: a rest. I’ve never seen anyone less up for an evening kick-off in my whole life. You could put a nail bomb under his chair and he’d still mutter lugubriously ‘well clearly there’s someone here who’s not that keen on watching the footy.’

Mike Hussey: I’d like to give him a laser pen – directly into his unblinking eyes just so we can get the bleeder out before he’s stopped England in their tracks again.

AP McCoy/Phil Taylor: a job swap as they’ve neither of them owt to prove in their own sports and I think the Power could probably coax a nag over the Grand National fences. And I reckon McCoy could get a nine-dart leg if he was on horseback at the time. (Incidentally – thoroughly enjoyed Sports Personality of the Year and it’s good to see the top two get the credit their transparent genius deserved.)

Colin Montgomerie: can he hand back his ‘Coach of the Year’ award at SPOTY? He didn’t coach anyone. He just picked some players to go and play golf. He hardly found a group of golfing Fergie fledgelings and melded them into a formidable dozen. Still Capello won it last year. Go figure.

David Beckham: a lovely fluffy cloud and a buffed-up halo so he can sit in his rightful place on the right-hand side of God (aka Bobby Charlton). I’m sorry but Becks gets a Lifetime Achievement Award at the same age as Giggs just wins the normal thing. He’s 35. When he’s slowly knocked off the FA one by one and held Cameron’s bollocks in a vice till he gives us back some playing-fields and footy coaches then I’m not sure he deserves the unflinching adoration of the nation. Don’t get me wrong – I like the bloke – it’s just that he’s not Mahatma frigging Gandhi just yet, is he?

Besides which he continues to give James Corden kudos and that’s not on.

And finally Tony Mowbray. A bottle of Tanqueray. And may that be the only import from North of the border that you bother yourself with for the next three years. Oh and a fucking miracle.

Middlesbrough's first team get some pre-Christmas training in

Happy Christmas one and all - except you Sepp.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Car-lost his bottle?

Anyone know what’s up with Carlos Tevez? Too many mirrors in his house perhaps? Can’t get a comfy enough snood? Or is he fed up of being outstropped by Mario Balotelli?

Or is it something a little deeper? Not that I reckon that the Argentinian has any more depth than all the other shallow mercenaries that pull on a sky blue jersey these days.

Rodney Marsh said on the radio on Sunday that Carlos is on £286,000 a week tax free. There’s another loophole just waiting to be closed Mr. Osborne. (I reckon I’ve worked out what really annoys me about George – that puffy face and ghostly white skin makes him look like the Prince Regent/George IV. If he’s not a direct descendant from that unforking family tree of royalty then I’m an overlapping left-back.)

"Silver spoon? I've got a whole blasted silver service up my backside, wot, wot!"

Any road, suffice to say Tevez’s dispute is not about money. And frankly as far as I can tell Man City look like they’ve dropped their trousers and bent over the reception desk for the young gaucho.

If he really is fretting for the wife and kids then for Chrissakes fly ‘em over. Yes, I know it’s cold but hellfire, Carlos, you can’t even walk onto a football pitch without looking like you’re one last push away from pipping Amundsen to the Pole so I’m sure you can find plenty of winter wear for the nipper and the lass.

Or, on your wages, you could build them a tropical theme park like some big fuck-off Eden Project for homesick Latin American housewifes and put her in there for the cold snap.

Or – as has been allowed by the club that contains ‘certain executives’ – you can meet up with them in Tenerife. That’s right. City really have been treating you ill.

First of all they buy you from their neighbours and use you as a poster boy. And sorry City fans but if Fergie had’ve indulged him the way they have at Eastlands he’d still be there, don’t you worry.

They made him the skipper. They let him pop back home every now and then. They don’t fine the little pillock when he bad-mouths the manager in front of the whole bleeding world.

Now Tevez is a popular footballer cos he’s got talent, yes, but more than that he’s one of them ones that, if I can borrow from the phrase-book of Simon Cowell, ‘always gives 1000%’. (Incidentally, here’s a piece of insight to make you loathe Cowell even more. You just know that every time he has to give the casting vote on some poor muppet’s future – and the crowd are baying and he’s waiting and waiting like some badly-crapped public school Buddha – you just know he’s getting a semi on? Shudder.)

Now we all like a tryer. It’s the reason Becks stayed in the hearts of the fans of clubs he played for – cos he never coasted. Football fans in this country can forgive greed, stupidity and being just a bit bleeding shite but what we can’t forgive is laziness. Which is why Berbatov gets such grief. And why I used to throw bits of pastry at Mark Viduka every now and then (I reckon most of it went in his gob).

Carlos Tevez is not lazy. At times he hunts down the ball like a dense Jack Russell puppy. If you’re a central defender with the ball at your feet, I reckon you can always hear him coming by the under-the-breath growling and the faint spray of canine saliva.

Most clubs would be delighted to have him pulling on their jersey.

The trouble with your footballer is you have to spend more than 90 minutes a week with them. And clearly Carlos is a difficult cove to have around the place.

His statement has attempted to spare all the important people from a slagging. Strangely enough Mancini, who he saw eye to eye with in an all too World Wrestling Federation way at home to Bolton the other week, is not one of his problems.

"You're right, Carlos, if only more of the team were like you, eh?"

Less surprisingly Sheikh Mansour – the only bloke at Citeh who pips Tevez on the monthly income gauge - is also complimented.

He resents the implications about Joorabchian’s role in all this and insists he’s a free-thinking individual. He says in his statement: "I hugely resent suggestions that I have been unduly influenced by others. I wanted to leave in the summer, but was convinced to return.”

So you haven’t been unduly influenced but someone convinced you to stay in the summer..? Hmmm.

Put simply I’m not quite sure what he’s expecting from his employers right now. He’s signed a contract. Yes it involves not being in Argentina much. Yes, it involves trying to get along with a bunch of people and players whose motivations for being at the club are a little suspect, frankly. And yes if Nigel de Jong was up against me in your average 5-a-side kick about I’d be dressed up like and ice-hockey goaltender. Or I’d be in the changing-room sobbing cos I wanted to see my ickle baby.

But really, sunshine, you’ve been here for four years, the terraces at Eastlands resound to the sound of your name and quite frankly when you’re on so much wonga it’s like you win Deal or No Deal every flaming week I think it might be possible to get over a bit of discomfort and carry on.

"If you don't like blues ar reds, you're going to be very disappointed"

Like he said just a week ago: "A sacrifice has to be made when you make a commitment like I have done with City and it is something I am going to see through.

"Once that job is done I will have plenty of time with my kids."

Well now you didn’t really mean any of that, did you son? And while I’m a bit smirky about you so blatantly ripping the piss out of the noisy neighbours, I reckon City are right not to sell. On balance, I’d say the gaucho is being bloody ridiculous.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Gospel According to St. James's

The Gospel According to St. James's (another part)

Also taken from the Book of Ruth-less

And from the Park of St. James had there come much grief and Gate of Gallows Humour for they had taken unto themselves false prophets for many years.

They had listed to the Shepherd that didst scorn their womenfolk and couldst not pick a decent coach even if it had National Express writ upon it.

To the Lard Ashley didst they conspire thence, and lo, he did neck full pints on terraces high and mixed amongst the merry host e’en though he did talk and hawk his wares like a two-bit chav.


'I am the Lard and I move in mysterious ways my blunders to perform'

And unto them brought He the prodigal King Kev, who had much loitered on couches of punditry and made witless predictions uponst the quality of David Batty’s nerve.

And woe alack the day, Kev was but the old-born King and one visit from the Wise Man didst send him fleeing like a big girl’s blouse in a strong cross-wind.

Yea, and thence unto the Angel of the North ventured the Lard and so sorely tempted was The Shearer that he did set amongst the brainless sheep of the baa-codes with hope in his heart and an absolute dunce as his assistant.

But The Shearer couldst not save them. And sat he back between the Lawro and the Hansen – all three of them the Blather, the Glum and the Mostly Boast –

And still did the Terraces of Toon run rank with rivers of tears – and twas the second tier to which they ran - as the Lard Ashley didst lead them into the Shadow of the Valley of Debt.

And yet to some there appeared a star in the North-East. Yea, but there were no shepherds to follow that star, nor Wise men still hanging around cos the Lard was a mate. And yet still the star glimmered.

For it was told that there was somewhere Stable. And so twas that left with no other fucking option they found a new King. Chris. Jesus! Chris?

For he was there and had been there all along. Under their overbunged noses. Lying betweenst the Lard and the Lambias.

All about him the beasts were quiet; the Ass and the Ox (or Joey and Sol as we now know them). No sound there came until, upon the midnight air came there a tune for the wholly Chris. Aye, a Carroll. A Chris-must Carroll with a good movement in the middle and a lovely finish.

And unto the new-found Chris many more were born anew: and the Toon Army did redouble its faith. For The Chris was amongst them, both he and Kevin the First Noel-an. Dispatched were the Mackem and the Villain.

And Chris didst restore vision to those that had been blind (not least the lad Coloccini). And lo didst he entreat his followers to cast their nets like another side and lo the nets didst bulge with goals. And the success-starved Toonites didst dine out on this news, for Chris could make a lot of pretty average fare seem enough to feed the 50,000. For in short he had turned their Whine into Slaughter.

And Chris offered his home to the lost and lowly, the forgotten and forlorn: to the Dyer and the Krul; to the Perch and the Gosling; to Alan Smith and Xisco (no, not the twat who did The Thong Song).



And yet still the Lard looked down from over a stack of ever-multiplying chins and though he saw that it was good (well half-good any road) he was sore afraid that no one was talking about Newcastle much any more.

For, thought he, what is this Kingdom of St.James if it is not a complete and utter shambles. Why tis a nothingness. Tis a veil of mid-table mediocrity and fuck me, if I’d’ve wanted that I’d have brung back Allardyce.

And yeah though the mild and popular Chris didst unto his disciples give a severe bollocking after they didst unto the Dorrans and the Odemwingie grant the freedom of the Hawthorns, twas not still enough to save him.

And the Portliest Pirate didst call him in and did wash his hands of him. And alas Chris was cast out into the wilderness, for like Sir Bobby he knew not what he had done.


‘Lard, Lard, why hast thou forsaken me?’

And to the Twitter went the disciples to spread the Word: and yea even those that didst always think the Geordie Bottlers were a bit of a laughing stock didst bellow unto the tops of their voices.

And over his last cuppa Chris turned to his disciples and was unsurprised to find that the Shithead Lard Ashley had entrusted all he despised to St. Peter of Beardsley. (Steve Stone - as in dropping like a...)

Monday, 29 November 2010

Brimful of Ashes

Not saying it’s cold or owt but there’s not an unneutered brass monkey on Teesside. As we watched the Boro’s latest blundering attempt to overcome feeble opposition there was a point where I considered pouring me Bovril down the insides of me trousers just to find out if my bollocks were still on the outside.

I mean it was so cold you had to wear a coat. In November. I felt a right jessie.

Some real men

I’m hoping and praying this doesn’t mean that fixtures will be cancelled cos the iddy-biddy football supporter might have an ickle slip on his way to the ground and get a bruise. For Pete’s sake, how long before you have a crack squad of under-employed solicitors hanging on our frozen street corners with an unsigned lawsuit in their hands and the local council in their gun-sights?

It’s weather like this that makes you pine for somewhere like Brisbane. I have been to Brizzie once, and I don’t remember much. Whether it was the dullness that made me drink or the drink that made it dull I can’t say. Actually it might have the dullness of the drink. Well it was Australian. Amber nectar my arse. If nectar really tasted like Foster’s there wouldn’t be a pollinated flower on God’s green earth.

Of course, there’s been some encouraging signs in the build-up to the Ashes. Which basically means that while Englishmen and South Africans were doing ok, the Aussies were batting like drunks with toothpicks.

Inevitably, someone had to spoil the impression and them someones were Peter Siddle –who bears all the hallmarks of a bloke you wouldn’t want to call a tosser under your breath (the tosser) – and Michael Hussey, a man who rejoices in the nickname Mr. Cricket. Mind you, when you’ve been called ‘hussy’ all your life anything’ll do. Ask my first girlfriend Natalie from Thornaby.

200+ behind on first innings, you knew what was coming. The return of the invertebrate England batting line-up. Just so many pale pink Pommie prawns for the summer barbie. And yet, as TMS crackled in and out of my fractured dreams, there seemed to be no signs of the debacle to come.

Not once did I hear the Boycott drone muttering ‘that’s just plain silly is that.’ Not once did I hear the faltering toff that is Martin-Jenkins so much as whisper ‘oh and he’s OUT – no he’s not that’s a fine shot for four!’

The only difference in me aural landscape was the progressively louder strains of ‘God Save The Queen’ from the Barmy Army. Ah the Englishman abroad - pissed, tuneless and heat-stroked - I'd take out the lot of 'em were it not for the fact that they get up the Antipodean nose like a funnel-web spider up a drainpipe.

At the end of the fourth day Shane Watson – one of them old school Aussies (blond hair, blond wife, tiresomely optimistic) – said that Australia had had a pretty good day. England were 309-1. Yep, and that Atom bomb was a great day for Hiroshima. Plank.



And so it was that Cook and Trott batted on into the fifth day like two schoolmasters ambling down a corridor, gently cuffing the backs of well-intentioned but inept schoolboys. Ponting, a man who looks like he’s been built by Nick Park, did his usual captaincy stuff. Not a fuckin’ clue, that man.

Punter has to be the most fortunate captain in cricketing history – and I’m not talking about his batting here which is as good as there is. For most of his career as skipper he’s had two options: give it to Glenn; or give it to Shane. In both cases it worked. Not cos Ponting has the remotest bit of nous or intuition but cos he had two of the greatest bowlers the world has seen on his pudgy little plasticine palms.

I mean for Chrissakes a cocker spaniel could’ve got the hang of that after a couple of days. Now he looks around for a go-to-man and up strides gentle Ben Hilfenhaus. Or fiery Pete Siddle – not a name you want to Spoonerise. Or Xavier Doherty – if that really is his name. Or there’s always Mitchell Johnson as his ‘Go-From Man’.

If Mitch starts marking his run-up you then one, you know Punter’s run out of ideas and two, you can add a quick fifty to the score. Surely Bollinger will replace him for Adelaide. Actually I reckon you could replace him with Asti Bastard Spumante and it would be an improvement.

Whether England can maintain the surreal dominance of the last two days remains to be seen. KP is like a myopic banana-grader for the EU – he’s still capable of missing a straight one. Prior didn’t get going. I don’t think Broad should worry too much about keeping his gob in check. He’s better when he’s cranky.

And Swanny needs to settle down a bit. At the moment he’s been built up as the one wot’ll win it for us and the last bloke that was said about was Wayne Rooney. I’m not saying Graeme’ll turn into a feckless user of whores and slater of fans but he needs to just settle in and keep it simple.

Wazza of course has slipped back into the United team with the minimum of fuss and even let Dimitar Berbatov get the plaudits for the five goals he bagged v Blackburn. I’ve never quite understood why the great alehouse brutes that stroll Terminator-like onto the park in the colours of Blackburn Rovers always play so meekly at Old Trafford.

If Big Sam knows why he’s not telling.

Meanwhile the BBC Sports Personality of the Year line-up has been announced. And – what the hell – no footballers? After all they’ve done for us? Tell you what, it’s Christmas. Panto season. Stick ‘em all in some stocks and we’ll custard pie the lot of them. For a week. Or better yet, just keep striking them in the face with James Corden.


Pick him up by the ankles and use him like a hammer. Joy unconfined.

I'm off down the boozer. Now. Where's that long-sleeved T-shirt?

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Gooner Have to Do Better

Regular readers will once again notice that this blog contains very little reference to Middlesbrough Football Club. Well there’s a reason for this. As me gran always said ‘If it’s pissing it down outside, let’s not talk about the rain.’ Or as I’ve always said: ‘Just cos I’ve done a shit doesn’t mean I have to keep going back to sniff it.’

So it is to other matters I turn.

I spent the afternoon with a wine-drinking Arsenal fan. Needless to say he was into the third bottle when I left. And in between quaffs of his Chilean Red (he’s got 32 more bottles in his underground cellar and apparently the longer they stay there the more money they’ll make) he told me what Arsenal needed.

It wasn’t, apparently, the boss to be having an affair with a 39-year-old (that means 40, obviously) woman who has been variously described as a waitress, a singer and a French rapper. (If by ‘French rapper’ it means that she talks quickly and incessantly in a language I don’t understand then it could well be my missus.)

I don’t care what Wenger does off the pitch, mind you. Neither did my mate. He reckons Wenger needs to do three things: defence, defence, defence.

This is the Wenger Giant Knife, apparently - surprisingly it lacks that cutting edge.

It remains the case that Wenger’s best-ever back four was probably the one he inherited when he got to Arsenal. Adams, Keown, Winterburn and Dixon. Attacks foundered on that flinty foursome like balloons in a porcupine farm. If Gooners ever did a Mount Rushmore they could do worse than chisel them faces into the rock face.

Behind them loured the mighty frame of Yorkshire’s moustachioed answer to Steven Seagal, David ‘Don’t Come It with Me’ Seaman. You can imagine Arsene arriving at the club and just forgetting about defensive matters.

Gooners have of course seen a series of centre-backs trot across their green and pleasant playing-fields like a string of second-rate mules on a Blackpool beach. Stepanovs, Luzhny Cygan, Senderos... transparently woeful plodders – like Adams without the nous or the part-time poetry.

Wenger’s keepers, post-Seaman (which sounds like an online fertilisation clinic) have all displayed only a passing acquaintance with the goalie’s arts, or in Jens Lehmann’s case, sanity. The most gaping gaff in Wenger’s latest version of Boyz2Men is not digging round in his office for George Graham’s big Brown envelope collection so’s he could slide a heap of cash under the nose of the horribly under-employed Shay Given.

Even Koscielny and Squillaci (if that is his name and I can’t help feeling he’s just a brand of kid-friendly pasta) would look sounder in front of the Irish No. 1.

Of course, my pal’s lament and alcohol intake was exacerbated by losing a two-goal lead to Spurs in a pretty abject way. Arsenal still look as pleasing on the eye as a Kara Tointon thigh but they’re pretty easy to score against...


... unlike Kara


Spurs’ goals featured some traditional Arsenal defending. A hopeful punt upfield saw Jermaine Defoe win the header that led to Bale’s opener. Fabregas ruined a gorgeous performance with a handball that only a stroppy kid who was trying to get his ball back cos he wanted to go home would have tried. And Kaboul’s flick on was the sort of goal that every team reckons on getting against a Wenger outfit.

Apart from Campbell and the unfortunate Vermaelen I don’t think Arsene’s found a good defender. Gallas was pretty flaky, to say the least, while he was with the Frenchman (witness Nasri’s refusal of a handshake pre-match) and Ashley Cole only really learnt to defend when he naturally left the club cos of that pitiful 55 grand a week offer from David Dein.

It doesn’t matter how long Arsene keeps up his claim that youth will win the day, the feeling remains that the poor little lambs will always be taught a one pass too many attitude. I hat slagging off Arsene by the way – and I’ll always watch his teams play when I can – but frankly he’s got another year of nowt approaching.

He’ll have no regrets though, our Arsene:

Sing, Arsene Sing!

"Non, je ne regrette rien.
Non je ne regretted rien.

Je n’achete pas
un bon centre-back
ou un demi-decent goalie mais
Ou meme un Reynard dans le boite.

Et
Non, je ne gagne rien
Non je ne gagne rien

Depuis la Tasse
De la F.A
Dans 2005
Nos avons gagne fuck-tout!!!!"

And yet this season, with United staggering and Chelsea stuttering, you’d think that someone would be grabbing the League by its throat.

Of course, the average England football fan would love to grab someone by the throat. And that someone is whoever decided that Capello should stick around post South Africa and continue to confuse our boys with his strangled English and feckless selections. Somewhere there’s a plot he’s lost.

He appeared to go for youth v France in an attempt to prove to his doubters that youth wouldn’t work. Ergo it’s better to go back into the annals of history and drag out retired carthorses (Carragher, Davies). I’d long since given up on getting the call but if Jay Bothroyd’s on the radar and going to make sure me mobile’s charged up for the next time Il Cap names a squad.

Ok, he’s not helped by the fact that England squads these days face more late withdrawals than a Roman Catholic orgy, but to be frank no one seems to bother taking him seriously anymore. And to think his was going to be the iron fist that got our feckless party animals biffed into shape.

This is how many decent forwards are available to me!

It is certainly time he went. Given every important phone call he makes is done by Franco Baldini we may as well be shot of him and just go for an interpreter in his place. Barca fans will tell you that that worked for Inter.

On Wednesday the team were visited by stupid-haired X-Factor hopefuls One Direction –and that pretty much describes the trajectory of Capello’s England. Down, down, down.

As for Arsene - there are many days ahead - but I think we can all agree that from now on they are numbered.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Vettel They Do Now?

Well they all told me down the Blue Bell that I had to watch it. It’s the closest race for the Formula 1 World Drivers Championships in years. Four drivers could still lift the trophy. Obviously, I shrugged, I’ll have to watch it.

When the Beeb bought the rights for F1 back a while ago, I wrote a blog saying how tedious the sport was and, not that this is a martial state or owt, I was advised to withdraw it in favour of something milder. Or blander. Or at least nowt to do with F1.

Since then, the Beeb have gone overboard on it. Every time I turn 5live on I’ve heard David Croft’s voice on a trailer purring ‘Let’s Go Racing!’ as if he’s some tiny Clarkson-operated puppet.

Nevertheless I tuned in for the grand finale. In Swansea. Where the Boro had an anonymous defeat to get through. And there it was. Brundle and Jordan pottering up and down the pits like a couple of bewildered reality TV celebs – offering no insights but soaking up the testosterone like two man-sized tissues.

Jake Humphrey was on the cusp of a climax all afternoon n all. Here are a bunch of blokes who only have to whiff a bit of Castrol GTX to come over all hot and sweaty. I mean God help any driver who left his petrol cap off round there... Lord knows what he’d find in his tank.

Hi there, car-lurverzzz. You don't wanna know where my pecker is right now. Hmmmm

These men are the acme of all that is disturbing about petrol heads. I’ve never so much as groaned at the sight of a motor car – let alone these aerodynamic slivers of tin and advertising that these millionaires sweep around the car-parks of the world.

Of course in the world of Top Gear that makes me a frigging eunuch. (If that’s not a contradiction in terms).

I’d have more interest in F1 if the drivers had to incorporate a bit more of what drivers actually do rather than sitting in a me-shaped hole on a wheeled playing card while computers and pit crew told them everything.

I mean that’s not driving. Robbo’s F1’d be miles bloody better:

1. Put your own bloody petrol in the car.
2. Change your own tyres.



3. Try driving with a Ginsters pasty and a grab bag of Quavers between your thighs.
4. Roundabouts. Loads more crashes and lots of bibbing at each other. Cracking.
5. Make the traffic on the grand prix circuit two-way. With an overtaking lane.

In fact, let’s just make sure it’s possible to overtake. Cos that was the worst aspect of the Abu Dhabi Doze and almost every other F1 race I’ve ever seen. Barely one car went past the next. Every overtaking manoeuvre was attempted from the pits.

I mean it’s bloody ridiculous that a race should be decided by how quick some blokes in overalls get your tyres on. Frankly, Vettel and co could’ve been given the day off and we could have just had a petrol pump-off between Red Bull and Ferrari.

Ferrari have been caned for their strategy. Well you know what – if it was a foot-race – a marathon or summat – and your lad lost, there wouldn’t be any inquest into the blokes who didn’t give their runner his water and new trainers at the right time.

And whether you get off on the sound of noisy throttling and the scent of turtle-wax or not, there has to be a better way to decide who is the best driver of these freaks of technology than stuff that happens, effectively, off the track.

Back on track are, of course, Sunderland. Yes. Sunderland. I watched the highlights but you only have to look at the stats to know that the Black Cats toyed with the Blue mice all afternoon. What’s going on?

Well Chelsea were more all over the place than Brucie’s nose. And a midfield of Ramires and Mikel are little better than what Man U have available when Scholes is getting his breath back. Chelsea’s squad suddenly appears puddle-deep.

But it’s too easy to blame Chelsea. Sunderland were, annoyingly, magnificent. Even at 2-up you still thought Ancelotti’s men would mount a comeback every time someone said the name ‘Bramble’.

This is the team that got shellacked at St. James a fortnight ago. But it’s one of them seasons. I’ve heard some bemoan the lack of quality. Maybe, but if that makes things a bit more even, then great.

Man U keep hauling themselves back from the brink – theirs must be the poorest unbeaten run in the history of football. Man City are still up there despite the lavish expenditure leading to pretty nil.I saw this play called Art once, in which this bloke had spent a bleeding fortune on a painting that was nowt more than a white rectangle. Change the colour to sky blue and that’s Man City. Honestly, I’d rather watch Formula 1 right now.

Arsenal continue to graft out the results and Wolves keep not winning and playing well. Which means they’re doomed.

In fact, I’m loving this season so far, not least cos we’ve got some highly quotable managers.

Last week Mick McCarthy managed to get through a little monologue about pink boots without uttering the single word ‘poof’, although you could tell it was right on the tip of his tongue (don’t leave that image in your mind too long, people).

Here's Wolves's latest training session

Olly Holloway’s outrage at questions regarding his wholesale changes of personnel at Villa Park were a delight. Remember not to meet Ian for coffee. Sam Allardyce lamented the indeficiencies of his team at WHL. – me either - and ‘Arry Redknapp is... well ‘e’s ‘Arry, innie? Salt o’the earth, no messin’, don’t buy a car off ‘im, etc.

All of them – plus Brucie and Pulis – are old-fashioned English eccentrics. Not quite top-drawer players who’ve become in their own ways very good managers. Long may the refs and the FA give ‘em summat to get arsey about.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Torres de Force

How was it Abba put it?

"Can you do the sums Fernando?
We were shit and we were tired and we knew not where to go
We were so afraid Fernando
Every time you did a sprint it seemed your hamstring was too tight
And the form that you were in seemed to suggest the future wasn’t bright

"But there was something in the air last night, you weren’t so shite, Fernando
You were playing with such liberty, ‘gainst John Terry, Fernando,
Though we always thought that we could lose, we just hung on.
Do you think you’ll do the same again, or go lame again, Fernando?"

Mind them hamstrings, son!

Ahhh. He’s back. Little Nando. Just when you thought it was safe to write him off. Two elegant goals from the main man finished off a pretty feeble Chelsea and you can feel the quiet ooze of belief on the Anfield terraces.

Mr. Henry’s playing the long game, muttering about big signings and slow rebuilding. Woy’s got three wins on the spin. And they’ve Daniel Comolli to find them top talent all over Europe so that the revolution can be complete by 2012.

My first reaction to that was ‘bye bye, Woy’ but then I thought to myself ‘well, that’s just malicious, what would Woy say? I mean just cos Martin Jol was undermined by Comolli at Spurs and Dennis Wise took the guff out of KK’s sails at Newcastle doesn’t mean it’s going to happen at Anfield. It just looks like it will.

Meanwhile, Liverpool continue to be buoyed by the same old toothsome twosome that they’ve relied on for three years. Torres on Sunday, Gerrard on Thursday. Even Rafa managed to keep a team going on the strength of them two. You still feel the revival is hanging by the tender thread of a Nando ligament or a Stevie tendon.

And such is the Premier League this year that there seems every chance that six sides might yet be involved. Might I direct you to the final sentences of my last blog: ‘Chelsea will win the coveted double this year. Chumps League and Premier League. At a dawdle.’ If anything can guarantee a close race then it’s a statement like that from me.

And while the Blues lose, United snooze and it’s still bad news. Park Ji-Sung, sporting a plum rinse barnet that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the bonce of Joan Collins in Dynasty, snaffled a late winner against Wolves.

Park Ji-Sung's stylist

This led to another of this season’s perennial themes of– Mick McCarthy’s bass bleat. How Yorkshire is Mick? Talk about bluff. He couldn’t be more Yorkshire if he were a flat-capped whippet in Geoff Boycott’s teapot. It’s time we set his perpetual lament – ‘We played well, we got nowt, that’s footy’ - to the Hovis theme.

If there is owt else noteworthy about last weekend – apart from Mogga’s Middlesbrough actually winning a game – it was the never-ending rise of Newcastle. And the fact that Toonites are still not getting ahead of themselves.

There was a time when such a run of results – walloping Sunderland and winning at Arsenal – would have led to the sort of fantasies that even Terry Pratchett might have found a bit far-fetched.

But not with little Chris Hughton in charge. I’m guessing the only reason he hasn’t got a contract to sign is that he’s not fitting the bill at the mo. You, the Newcastle United manager, son? Where’s the farce? Where’s the training-ground bust-ups? What the hell is Joey Barton doing behaving like a reasonable young man?

Of course, Hughton does have Andy Carroll. I like Carroll. He’s the sort of lad you came up against in school matches and thought ‘oh fuck’ before he’d even kicked a ball. He’s been compared to Big Duncan Ferguson, but Andy can run and so far he’s only used his nut on the ball not the opponent.

And I can’t imagine Ferguson going to live with the club captain after a spot of domestic bother. There’s still a bit of me finds a big lunk of a Geordie having a put-me-up at the Nolans intriguing. There’s Bernadette tucking him in. Coleen giving him his cocoa. And Linda asking him if he’s in the mood.... Sigh... There was a time...

Lining up for Andy's bedtime story

Alan Hansen reckons Carroll might be able to take up the Shearer mantle. Well, that’s pretty onerous stuff. Shearer’s the best No.9 this country’s produced in my lifetime and I don’t think Carroll’s all that. But like my preferred choice of lass, he’s more than a handful. He’s also got a good left foot and too much hair. Mark Hateley, in other words. (But with time to be much better).

Capello would like him in the squad, I hear, and hellfire if Kevin Davies is in there then Carroll’s got to be next in very short queue.

This week we have the latest square-off between the Big Mouth and Noisy Neighbour in Manchester on Wednesday, complete with a two-mile alcohol exclusion zone around Eastlands. (Wouldn’t have been possible when Big Ron was manager.)

Of course there’ll be no Rooney but there’ll be plenty of other greedy little gets plying their trade. Although Balotelli won’t. Citeh are appealing but frankly the bloke deserves a red card every now and then just cos he’s so irritating.

I reckon Fergie’ll play it tight, Mancini will do the same (he never does owt else) and a 0-0 won’t bother either of ‘em. Having said that, Citeh will nick it, despite themselves.

And Stoke will win at home to Birmingham too. Well they would do, but a goalbound header by Kenwynne Jones will be cleared off the line by the ref’s toupee. And they will concede a goal in the last minute when a penalty is awarded against Asmir Begovic for handball. Poor old Pulis. His luck’ll change.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

A Brighter Shade of Bale

Look, you know what, I’d love to write about anything else but frankly the week has been all about one man. So where does Barack Obama go from here? Well, he could do worse than set his Sky Plus for Spurs’ next match so he can watch the Welsh wizard Gareth Bale in action.

'Oh shit, I only went and missed my mouth, look you.'

Oh yes we all love Gareth Bale. Can’t get enough of him. Onan himself couldn’t have covered more inches than the footy press in the last couple of days.

Clearly he’s earned some short-term adulation. And given a bit of credit back to the BT publicists who were luring us into their football coverage pre-season with posters featuring Wes Brown (reserve), Michael Owen (crocked), Shay Given (who’s having a number two of a season) and well the boy wonder himself.

He’s the best thing to come out of Wales since Gareth Thomas erm... came out. Well since Giggs anyway. And it’s a good story cos let’s face it he was a bloody jinx 20 months ago. The Spurs motto was summat like Play Bale Must Fail.

At that time he was an attacking left-back with all the positional sense of paper aeroplane. In other words he was the mirror image of Glen Johnson. He was on the cusp of a loan move to Nottingham Forest – or, as we used to call it before they beat us 1-0 – Obscurity.

Now he’s this big striding, hip-swinging utter roaster of full-backs. It was awesome stuff even though you did have to wonder why Maicon wasn't given more cover by the right side of midfield after Bale's San Siro hat-trick. Why ever that was, you can guarantee it wasn’t Rafa’s fault.

Maicon is of course, the world’s best right-back (although against Gareth Bale, Phil Neville is the world’s best right-back – which Tony Thompson tells us is a paradox, although I know for a fact that that’s another word for aspirin).

Part of Maicon’s awesome reputation was built, I reckon, on his name. He sounds like he’s the sort of prosthetically-enhanced galactic toe-rag that might be about to take the Starship Enterprise apart. And yet Bale treated him like he was a tiny wafty little bug that needed to be dismissed – Micron, possibly.

If I was Alan Hansen, I’d be doing some of his pretend perfect prose now. Bale has got Pace, Power, Penetration, Purpose... ermm... pizzazz, piccalilli, pyjamas, etc, etc.

But pace he does have, by God.

As Tony Cascarino put it in his tremendous* analysis in The Times: ‘He’s quicker over 40 yards than he is over ten.’ Well that blew my fucking mind. Say Gareth can run ten yards in say 1.5 seconds... according to big Tony he can run forty yards in less than that. It’s possible that if Bale runs far enough he could actually get back to where he started before he set off.

But yes, he’s fast. I keep wondering how fast he could be if he really pinned his ears back. Literally pinned them back. Cos them lugs have got to be causing more wind resistance than them parachutes that shot out of the back of the Space Shuttle.

Of course part of the lad’s charm is that he’s no oil painting – well unless it’s an oil painting that might have been done by Dian Fossey. They say humans share 98% of the same DNA as chimpanzees and when I look at young GB I think ‘Really? That little?’ Mind he’s also got six GCSEs, bless him from A to C grade. (Although I reckon one of Ms. Fossey’s gorilla companions could muster an E these days, couldn’t they?)

Best of all we’re told he’s very down-to-earth. And not like Wayne and Coleen are down-to-earth cos they used an NHS hozzy. (In the light of recent events I reckon Wazza might’ve done that just cos he’s tight. Do we really need millionaires blocking beds in our overstretched public health system?)

'And honest to God, Coleen, I'll lift up da Joools Rimmittt Trophy like dis and den dey'll ALL love us again, just like you do.'

But young Gareth was offered a week off by Redknapp and he went home to be with Mam And Dad. Ahhh. And his mates. Yay for Baley. His mam says ‘”When he comes home, he is treated like a normal boy... Whatever we are having for dinner, he has for dinner.”’

Well that’s big of him. To be honest Mrs B I didn’t reckon he’d be spitting out his plonk and raging ‘Call this fuckin’ wine, Ma? Thank Christ I bought me own Chateau Neuf de Pape you fuckin’ philistines.’

But he’s a good lad Gareth and a very talented one n all. Not that Spurs owed everything to him. It was a fantastic night for the WHL faithful. And, given the way Harry has them approach the game, a success I thoroughly approve of. Inter were way off the pace. And there’s not a team who’ll enjoy meeting them in the latter stages if as seems likely, they qualify.

Meanwhile Man City went down to the team from Poland’s fifth largest city. Mancini’s right hacked off with these reports of bust-ups and divisions within the camp. I know, Roberto. That chat between Vincent Kompany and the Madebayor, that was just the sort of playful banter that proves how well-bonded the team is.

You can point at it all you like Adey, son, we still don't believe you

And Yaya Toure (not his real name, he just knows a lot of Sloanes) and James Milner are on great personal terms (over £200m grand a week in Toure’s case).

The thing is you just want it to be true. Cos when there’s so many of ‘em waist-deep in wonga you almost will them to cling on to each other and pull themselves under. At the very least there seems to be a hell of a lot of rutting stags butting antlers at Eastlands at the mo and whether the tough but doe-eyed Mancini can sort them all out is anyone’s guess.

And any road, Chelsea will win the coveted double this year. Chumps League and Premier League. At a dawdle.

*Sarcasm alert

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Rafa's Return


Fergie: 'Bad luck, tosser!' Rafa: 'Get fact, senor.'

Long before Liverpool took the plunge and expunged Rafa Benitez from their memories there were rumblings abroad that the Spaniard was pretty much as big a pain in the jacksy as it’s possible to be.

He won 2 finals while he was at Anfield – and both of them were won despite the gaffer not cos of him. Well, actually they were won by Steven Gerrard, the match-winning attacking midfielder that Rafa loved to play wide left or wide right.

Of course the Kop emblazoned Benitez’s face on banners as if he was in some sort of Mount Rushmore of Shankly, Paisley, Fagan and Dalglish. I never quite bought that. Neither did Rafa if you believe that he kicked King Kenny off the training ground.

During, and very much since his departure Benitez has indulged in a custard pie fight of throwing around the blame, and none of it was his.

The soft and wisest target is Hicks n Gillett, the Burke and Hare of football ownership. Apparently, the structure of Liverpool FC was changed and that meant Benitez couldn’t do his job properly. But even they can rightly argue that a transfer kitty was made available to El Sulko and he blew most of it on expensive flops. (Hasn’t Coleen Rooney just paid ten grand for something similar?)

Benitez has never accepted that he paid good money for old rope. But Ryan Babel? Alberto Aquilani, who was bought already crocked as a replacement for Xabi Alonso (which is like replacing a smooth old Bentley with a Fiat Uno with an empty tank).

And of course Robbie Keane. £20 million to keep a bench warm?

Benitez insists that he left the club with a net spend of £10 million and a team full of internationals. Well maybe. But if you furnish your home with the most expensive decor you can find, it can still mean that your house looks shit.

Credit where it’s due. He made two tip-top purchases: Torres and Reina. And Alonso, who couldn’t quite cope with the notion that his manager was hoping to replace him with midfield maestro Gareth Barry and sped off to Madrid. But that’s it, really.

And rather than neurotically bristling at what Roy Hodgson might say – and let’s face Woy is playing the same game as our lovely coalition and reminding everyone that the current travails are the fault of those who went before – Benitez might do well to dig around for a bit of humility and accept a little part in the demise of Liverpool’s season.

That’s not in his nature. He will be remembered for one other thing during his reign at Liverpool. Fact. That word. Fact. The Fergie-slating press conference that marked the end of his team’s title hopes. This was typical Rafa. He got himself so far up on the moral high ground his players lost sight of him and they never recovered.

There’s been echoes of that in the recent Inter press conference, where Rafa has clearly prepared some notes to read from. It’s as if the bloke turns into his own counsel or the defence or the prosecution every time he sits in front of journalists.

His latest blurtings are up there with the best of Cantona and Mourinho:
"We have a saying in Spanish: 'White liquid in a bottle has to be milk.'" Quirky and charming, Rafa, but not exactly true.



It could be a bottle of whitewash which erstwhile managers use to paint over the less successful bits of his reign.

Or the correction fluid you should have used to smear out half the words from that press conference in January 2009.

Or the bottled ejaculation of a humpback whale. (All right that’s less likely).

And if it is milk can we get a saucer of it ready for Senor Benitez for the next time we ask him about Liverpool? It wasn't me-ow!

I could be missing something. After all, some people can’t see a priest on a mountain of sugar. But hey Rafa let’s not confuse the Catholic Church with sugary treats, shall we? Not at the mo. Or I'll start misspelling Benedicked and then where will we be?

Besides which, Rafa, we have a saying in England, too: ‘Aw shut your face, you whinging pillock.’

It’s a phrase I’m tempted to use in the direction of Harry Redknapp after his rant against Mark Clattenburg. Yes, it was a weird goal that Nani scored. Yes, Clattenburg shouldn’t have waved away the Spurs players and let Rio Ferdinand stand there chuntering (although I suspect it’s pretty easy to blank out anything Rio has to say).

But I agree with Fergie. The ref hadn’t blown his whistle. He played an advantage. Gomes just had to keep the ball in his hands. He’s the plank in all of this. Had he not put the ball on the ground and faffed about like a nervy learner driver wondering whether to make a right turn the goal would never have been scored.

Clattenburg can’t really turn round and say ‘Oops I meant to blow my whistle there but forgot. Give the ball back to the keeper.’

Here's young Mark just after a quick chat with Rio Ferdinand.

I mean it’s the first rule of footy. Play to the whistle.

But players think they run the game now, don’t they? So even though he didn’t blow the whistle, he should have, so let’s assume he did.

I agree that it’d be nice to get the ref’s perspective in a press conference. I’m sure that fining Harry is a stupid idea, particularly since he wasn’t damning Clattenberg as a ref, just disagreeing with the decision. And we’d really miss a post-match ‘Arry.

And I’m not so sure that if the goal had gone the other way it would’ve been given. That’s what really rankles, I reckon. Because that Meesta Ferguthon, he get all the deceesions... and we get no help. Not never. FACT. He eez the only one who get ever-ee-theeng.

Friday, 29 October 2010

2018 and all that

FIFA.

What does it stand for?

Foreign Infidels Fixing Association. The Fuck It Financial Alliance. Football Is Feeling Ashamed. I dunno. Every time this country puts in a bid to host the World Cup you get the impression that the last place folks want the tournament to be hosted is the country with the perfect infrastructure in place.

These revelations that a couple of blokes might have up for the odd sweetener are about as surprising as discovering that Nick Clegg is a smug unctuous deceitful public school git. In both cases we kind of always knew.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that FIFA is corrupt to its core. But only cos there might be one or two lawyers cruising the mean streets of this particular blogosphere looking for a way to screw an innocent slanderer of his hard-earned cash.

World governing body Giant Sepp Blatter's pulled in the 'ethics committee' with his fairy-tale cry of 'FIFA-fo-fum, I smell the blood of a Tahitian.'

Yes, one of the (possibly) guilty men who FIFA have suspended is from that hot-bed of footballing fervour, Tahiti. Ta-fecking-hiti. I mean I’m all for everyone having a say, but even Wigan Athletic haven’t tracked down the Tahitian Maradona yet, so I doubt there is one. I’d be all for some grass-skirted woman’s footy team, mind.....



Sorry drifted off there...

The other fella was Nigerian. That round-robin e-mail entitled WORLD CUP VOTE FOR SALE was not the wisest idea. Although there’s bound to be some provincial town council that’s fallen for it and lost ten grand on the deal.

The latest spat with the Russians is just marvellous. Some bloke called the England 2018 bid “absolutely primitive" and "comical". Which would be fine if he was describing our centre-forward.

Now I’m not the sort of shaven-headed twat who tattoos the Union Jack on his arse and whose greatest desire would be to go down on our beloved Queen but I do take a big slab of umbrage when someone starts slagging off our attempt to host the greatest sporting tournament there is.

There were also some references to the fact that all our young people get hammered, and violent, and the country is uncivilized. Which made me want to find the bastard and tip my pint over his head.

I’ve seen enough about Russia on the telly to know that when it comes to getting pissed on clear liquids which are indistinguishable from meths your Russian fella takes some beating. I mean for Chrissakes they elected the biggest pisshead in world politics as their leader. Yeltsin! Why would anyone choose to have a bumbling white-haired numpty in charge? If you’re a Londoner you will be able to answer this question.



Of course Putin’s appeared in public looking more orange than a Teesside beauty on a Friday night cos it appears he’s covering up a massive shiner. Lovely David Cameron would never appear in public-looking like that (unless perhaps I happened across him).

Oh and we have, apparently, got a problem in this country with racism. This is a Russian talking. From Russia, that bastion of political correctness. I mean I know for a fact that Joe Stalin had an enormous back-catalogue of early Malian music and was a devotee of Gujurati cooking.

Me, I hope England do win the race. But there’s one thing counting against us. (Apart from, obviously, that the streets of our cities are rife with criminals, drunks and Neanderthals). England is the perfect bail-out country should the wheels come off when Russia or whoever gets the bid.

We are Plan B, Unless the mere touch of Becks’s lapel has turned Blatter into a giddy girl. But I doubt that. I don’t see how Spain/Portugal can get 2018 and Qatar 2022 now without a shedload of derision and suspicion. But I reckon Russia might get it, if only cos Sepp likes to imagine that he’s spreading the gospel of footy around a bit rather than making sure that the best prepared country gets the deal.

Meanwhile, the citizens of Teesside are eagerly awaiting Tony Mowbray’s first game in charge at the Riverside. Mowbray’s promised to give the players he didn’t pick much at Celtic a fair crack at the whip. Don’t fret, Tony, pet. They’ve not been up to much so far.

But even if the downward spiral continues I don’t think we’ll be getting on Tony’s back too much. He’s Boro through and through. His Dad was a steelworker, he can still smell the Bovril from his time on the Ayresome terraces. It’s not in the nature of a Teessider to get too sentimental about owt, but having a bloke in the manager’s chair who grew up watching the club does make you want to embrace the man in a butch and purely platonic way.



And I’d rather Tone than that arch seat-hopper Sven-Goran Eriksson. You can’t help liking old Sven but my God the man’s been round more blocks than a dustbin lorry. And his main talent appears to be doing the old press conference chat like a kind of Swedish Des Lynam.

Leicester fans would of course have preferred O’Neill to return in Tigger-mode to the Walkers Stadium touchline, but they may as well whistle for the return of a lithe twenty-something crisp-finisher like Lineker.

Sousa did his best, but Swiss defender Bruno Berner’s suggested that the Portuguese had them playing too much 4-3-3 and maybe ‘passing the ball a bit too much’. Ah, Bruno. Two years you’ve been here and you’re already thinking like an Englishman.

But any road, the Boro have got one our own in charge. And life feels just slightly more bearable.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Little Pea

It was one of them weekends when it was easy to forget that powerbases are shifting all over the place in England.

The Big Three all won. And Liverpool more than snuck a win too.

United and Chelsea played averagely but prevailed against a team of honest huffers and puffers. Gary Neville proved that the way to get away with brainless challenges is to make sure you wear the red of Manchester. Lee Cattermole could be an all time great if only Fergie’d buy him.

Chelsea’s victory was ensured as, alarmingly, it often is, by a late goal by Kalou. Which meant that we got the limpest goal celebration in modern football. What’s Salomon doing exactly? Cleaning the visor of his motor-cycle helmet? Wiping snot from a nose as red and tender as a Glaswegian managerial God’s? Wafting away the stench of his own halitosis?

Actually, it’s not as feeble as Fernando Torres who enjoyed his goal so much he stood there like a reprimanded schoolboy while his mates tried to cheer him up. Carragher looked less dejected with his own goal. Incidentally Tony Thompson (Blue Bell regular and right feckin’ know-all) reckons that carthorse Jamie has scored more goals against Liverpool than any other current Premiership player – which I find somehow very cheering.

Any road I just hope sulkin’ Nando doesn’t get a hat-trick next week or he’ll be locking himself in the nearest cupboard under the stairs while Stevie G tries to talk him out.

All the while, the British media pack was resigned to not having a crocked Wazza to point their audio-visuals at. Rooney was in Dubai. Presumably he entertained himself by playing Football Manager on his Nintendo Doo-dah and wiring the results to the Glazer family. Well, that and watching a tachometer of his minute-by-minute income whirring around like it was the date on the De Lorean in Back to the Future.

In his absence the crock of shite (his words approximately, not mine) the poor lad will still be forced to throw his lot in featured a brilliant performance by a Mexican child. Javier Hernandez prefers to wear the moniker of Chicarito which I’m told means ’little pea’ (but not the sort that Wazza has up against a dustbin, more the sort that fell out of Andre Marriner's whistle when Neville took out Etherington).

I am Little Pea - fresh as the moment when my mum went pop

It’s sweet of course – and thank God the lad hasn’t signed for French club or they'd be putting Petit Pois on his back – but you do wonder if he’s not setting a dangerous precedent by having a nickname on his shirt.

If they all followed suit there’d be a right motley collection on the Man U team-sheet: Scholes, Giggs and G-Nev would quickly become Ginger Ninja, Teacher’s Pet and, well... I don’t know quite what but I guarantee it’d be four letters long. And when Wayne does come back, how are they going to fit Greedy Scouse Bastard onto his back?

Still you can get away with a name like Little Pea if you’re good and little Javier is certainly that. We spent a long time in the Blue Bell trying to work out how he scored with that header and decided it was the bonce equivalent of a cheeky backheel - what you might call a backwards nut. It’s the kind of move Jackie Chan would use to get out of a full nelson.

I’m sure Rooney will walk back into the side with the casual lope of a Dimitar Berbatov but nevertheless there were reasons to be cheerful for Fergie in his understudy’s brightness.

Not that Wayne doesn’t, to be fair, have a point regarding the rest of the side. It appears United need more marquee signings, whatever that means. I believe a marquee is a big tent of the type that you’d put an almighty circus in, which is of course what United is most of the time.

But Nani apart – and there’s a bloke who’s managed to put a lot of his pointless circus skills behind him and actually contribute more than the odd double-shuffling mince and Olympian gymnastics floor routine to the cause – there’s not much inspiration to be had.

The midfield is a creativity wasteland when deprived of GingeNinje: they work hard enough but if a middle four of Gibson, Anderson, Fletcher and Carrick then you’re looking at faces as blank as a Holby City actress.


The older she gets the smoother the forehead becomes

Compare them with, say, Modric, Bale, Van der Vaart and Huddlestone... well it’s like a choice between a fat bowl of strawberries and cream or a dry biscuit. Reports that Sneijder was being tracked seem to represent a much-needed investment. Otherwise blood Wazza for the soon-to-be-vacant Scholes role and keep Hernandez up front. (And hope that someone like De Jong or the lovely Carl Henry doesn’t make Mushy Little Peas of the lad).

Meanwhile Arsenal continue to threaten to become that which Wenger craves so much. Winners. Barn-door Bendtner returned with a goal and my personal player of the season thus far, Samir Nasri, continues to play out of his skin.

Here's Nasri proving that Arsenal can win ugly too

Plus they beat the upstarts and I have to say the longer Man City go without lifting the Premier League trophy the better I’ll feel. Mancini’s getting into the swing of being the manager of a big English club now – complete with a whinge about a stonewall red card from his callow Belgian centre-back. All right if he’d have been wearing a red shirt with Vidic on the back it might have been a yellow but come on, Roberto, get over yourself.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Wazza Matter With Rooney

First off, apologies for my extended absence.

I was (a) right busy and then (b) sick as a dog.

You know what the first cold spell can do to a lad, even one as cold-proof as a Teessider. A few beers, a vending-machine's worth of fags, a cap-sleeved T-shirt and a night so frosty you almost expected some fey FA official to come and tell you that walking on the pavements had been banned, and wham!

One bacterium said it's back to mine and before you know it there were trillions of them barricaded me nostrils and rioting like Frenchmen on the back of me throat.

To be fair I was also hiding under the duvet during the speech by the Eton Axe-man . Comprehensive spending review? Not one of them feckers went to a bleeding comprehensive!

Here comes the night nurse and she's sneezing terribly

I've been propped in front of the box these days getting back up to speed with Countdown and Noel Edmonds's terrific telly programme which from what I've seen is called 'Are you a fuckwit?' (as in the banker's offered you 12 grand and you say 'Gimme the question, Noel' and the cheesy 80s throwback says 'Are you a Fuckwit?')

In the meantime the Theatre of Dreams has thrown up some top-quality drama. There's been a lot of bullshit from both sides but here's my opinion of the main players:

Fergie

His performance in that press conference was so beautifully-pitched, wasn't it. He looked like a mouldering red plum dangling from a tree. And he looked his age.

I thought at one point, as he wrestled with the reasons why Wayne Iscariot had said he was off, a nurse was going to pop in with a couple of pills and a wheelchair and trundle him off to a corner where he could watch ‘Are You A Fuckwit?’.

He must be reaching the end of his tether now. He’s done his best for Rooney, that’s clear, but the opportunistic and graceless little shit has had enough but then that’s football agents for you.

It looks as though Fergie’s desire for a last hurrah is not even going to be a last harrumph. Mrs. Fergie’ll be steeling herself. Yer man’s coming hame.

Wayne Rooney.

Right. I’ll try and sum up the Hairy Numbskull in what might be interpreted as a rap.

Young Scouse bruiser,
call-girl-user,
bit-of-a-boozer,
baby-producer
fan-boo-abuser,
well-short-fuser,
rotten loser,
Once a blueser, always a blueser,
Him confuser,
No excuser,
Man U accuser.
(Fergie where’s your troosers!)
Agent’s a schmoozer,
In a Landcruiser
Eastlands enthuser,
Front-page newser
He’s a sky-blueser
Fand-Abu-Dhabi-doozer.


Or to put it another way, there’s a former vacuum-salesman and unreliable witness who is well keen that you get that £10 million a year contract while you still can. Let’s face it £90 grand a week’s bog-all.

Course it’s a good idea to put out a statement saying how much you worship the Govan beetroot and the grand traditions of the club, but how you are disappointed that all the players you play with are shit.

'Ermm... surgeon sez he's gonna 'ave to keep the pot on til January'

Good to time to have an ankle injury, Wazza. Can’t see any of the first-teamers having the usual crafty fag and piss up against the bin with you after the next training session.

Fair enough the lad shouldered the club very well last season but Fergie’d be mad to fight to keep him now. Let him go to the end of the nearest rainbow.

The United fans

Well bless em, like a man caught between a piss and an orgasm they don’t know if they’re coming or going. There’s the ‘Sod Of Judas’ Brigade, who think Rooney has shown about as much loyalty the Theatre of Dreams as... as.. well as he showed for the School of Science.

I’m not quite sure why loyalty is expected from fans of a club that routinely lure talent from others without too many scruples. United are big, famous and successful. Should that make a player more likely to keep allegiance with them than, say, Scunthorpe United? No.

I’ve heard people compare him to Giggs, Scholes and Neville but them lads are United through and through. Rooney isn’t. Never was.

We could throw back the United/Big Club line when a transfer of some magnitude goes through: Rooney is simply looking to better himself and go to a club where he has a better chance of winning trophies. Seems reasonable all of a sudden.

The other faction at United are the ones in the Norwich scarves. As well as being big fans of Delia Smith, they really bloody loathe the Glazers.

Out with the Glazers! You 'orrible lot!


And who could blame them? Big Malcolm Glazer looks like he’s walked off the set of Witness. And he’s loaded that club with the kind of debt that might make Tom Hicks shake his head and mutter darkly about bad financial practice.’

This faction seems to have mistaken Wazza’s naked self-interest as a sign that he is their prophet. Now I’m all in favour of Glazer scurrying back into the land where reason sleeps, but Rooney’s departure, no matter what his agent writes out in neat for him, has got very little to do with who’s owning MUFC.

Nevertheless it’s true that United cannot currently compete with the very big boys on the European club scene. And you know what? Good.

There’s been a lot of talk about fairness this week. You know - sharing the pain around a bit. (By the way Mr. Cameron, a small suggestion regarding social housing – can we move into one of yours, mate?) But Man U taking comfort from a decent run in the Carling Cup for a couple of decades? That seems fair.

I don’t reckon much to Rooney’s behaviour full-stop. But I reckon United’s injured party routine is just a tad, well, incredible. You should be grateful – it’s not like you don’t need the money.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Is Capello Thick?



Montenegro. I’m guessing it means Black Mountain. Which is pretty much what Fabio Capello has to scale if he’s to win over the media and fans alike after Tuesday night.

If I remember rightly, the South African debacle was going to be an opportunity to blood some new lads, to pump fresh life into the rotting cadaver of England’s football. Seemingly Capello had revived the lumbering beast enough to scare off Bulgaria and Switzerland, but Nico Krancjar’s Dad knew better.

Here’s a man who clearly put his sanity on the line for his big Wembley night – he watched Algeria v England from the World Cup and thought ‘We could do that.’

That’s right get ten men behind the ball against Capello’s England and they’ll counter by keeping their ten men behind the ball too. Get out o’ that one you former Yugoslavians.

Give England possession of the football and then sit back and marvel at the almost total lack of ingenuity. If scientists were England footballers we’d still be waking up every morning and shielding our eyes from the big scary yellow thing in the sky.

And I’m prepared once and for all to lay most of the blame at the door of the manager.

True, certain absences didn’t help. Crouch and Rooney is a match made in Wife Swap. Rooney comes deep, Crouchy stays where he is. Rooney tries to stay up alongside the Cleopatra’s Needle of Football and the ball pings off he head in all directions and the old Scouse bulldog is left confused, frustrated and a yellow card in waiting.

Funny how Wazza’s insisting he hasn’t got an ankle injury when the Ferguson says he has. I wouldn’t rule out Rooney getting a definitively poorly ankle in the next couple of training sessions at United. If his ankle’s sound, his mind’s not. And a moony, loony Rooney means the national team create nowt.

Crouch is and always has been Plan B. If you’re smarter players are getting nowhere, thrown on the bamboo and get some tired defenders in a tizzy.

Capello’s also got a problem with his utterly unfeasible adoration with Gareth Barry. Here’s a man who plods around like a bloody pensioner and, worse still, just giving the ball to the nearest man regardless of their nationality. He needs a bloody shopmobility card that lad.

It’s nowt short of embarrassing how slow he is. I’ve seen milk turn faster. Owen Hargreaves is rumoured to be in the squad at United this weekend and hellfire I hope he stays fit. Cos that lad has an engine. I’m not even sure Barry’s got a laggy band.

But Capello’s worse decisions come when it’s time to change the flow of the game. We had an hour of Englishmen knocking at the Montenegran door with the football equivalent of a scatter cushion. What does Fab do? Takes off Ashley Young, a small and nippy right-winger with a variable ability to get the ball in the box. And replace him with (fuck me old boots!) Shaun Height-Limits, a small and nippy right-winger with a variable ability to get the ball in the box.



I mean what’s that about? If I order a pint of ale at the Blue Bell and it’s off, I don’t expect them to tip the damn thing away and pour me another one! Change the flaming barrel. Or give us summat new!

But wait, here’s another substitution... take off Peter Crouch, a tall persevering and awkward customer who can cause defenders problems in the air but has an annoying habit of giving away too many free kicks and bring on... Kevin Davies a tall persevering and awkward customer who can cause defenders problems in the air but has an annoying habit of giving away too many free kicks.

It’s mad! I tell you, it’s bloody crazy. There’s a Plan A and Plan B is Plan A only more so. It’s actually worse than mad. It’s thick.

It’s thick to think that Gerrard spraying Hollywood passes hither and thither from a deep-lying position is going to get you more goals than him popping up in and around the opposition’s penalty area.

It’s thick not to realise that Adam Johnson could’ve had a dig on the other flank for a bit, especially as the right-back was a new boy and AJ was our biggest threat.
It’s thick to think that the way to unpick a massed defence is to leave a genuinely smart footballer, Jack Wilshere on the bench.

It’s really dense to imagine that a team that had good results under a liberated captain in Gerrard should revert back to one who barely had the job before he was crocked any road.

And why the hell was there no friendly at the weekend? We can organise an utterly bloody pointless one after the World Cup shambles and in the first week of the new season – but when there’d be good reason to give the players a bit of a run-out – NOWT.

All these things were called stubborn before. Now it’s unintelligent, I tell you.

Meanwhile the press conferences are turning into summat from Allo Allo. Our mother tongue is like the bloody Scarlet Pimpernel for Capello. Surely he should be getting better? And if he’s communicating to his players in this incredibly indecipherable way then really what hope do they have?

It’s not as if these lads don't need a fluent English speaker to say things really slowly in the first place. But clearly Capello doesn’t help himself when his oratory is less Cicero and more Manuel from Fawlty Towers. I mean how long before we have the unedifying sight of Stuart Pearce apologising for his gaffer by saying ‘I’m sorry he’s from San Canzian d'Isonzo?

[By the by, I don’t want to do any more Liverpool stuff. Let’s just hope these new batch of Americans are the tunnel-building life-saving kind and not the ones who barge in and lob grenades around.]