Monday, 30 August 2010

No Ball Games

Greetings from smogland. How good it is to be out of the bracing ozone-rich toff-tastic Dorset coast and back inhaling the proper man's air of Teesside. Still it weren't too bad camping n that: the rustle of the sleeping bag, the Heinz tomato soup, the glorious hot/cold/hot/cold of the shower.

Of course there are comforts that can't be replaced. I embraced Match of the Day 2 like a long-lost brother last night. That does mean trying to get your arms around Colin Murray, who is starting to resemble an over-enthusiastic blinking Ulster mole.

Getting ex-managers to pull pieces of paper out of brown envelopes? I mean you'd want George Graham on there wouldn't you? Nationwide everyone sings the Match of the Day theme? This isn't a Radio 1 bloody roadshow, this is a footy programme! I'm almost missing the straight-fringed potato-faced Baggie. Almost.

Of course Capello has named a new England squad. No place for Lennon or Huddlestone, but serial wastes of space SWP are there. Presumably so the other 21 players can have their confidence boosted. 'Sure I'm not playing well but at least I'm not that shit.' We'll see.

As a Boro fan, I'm just relieved that none of the players in the England squad is Scottish.

It takes a lot for a footy weekend to be overshadowed by any other sport in this country, so cue the Pakistan cricket team to get their sport back on to the front pages.

Frankly I'm pleased. This year's visit had been all a little tame. Not one seam picked, not one player stroppily despatched back home, not one utter refusal to carry on playing. And a lot of batting that would look pretty rum if it were in French cricket.

But wait! Here comes the News of the World to the rescue. Yes those dastardly dusky types have been at it again, bowling no balls to order. The evidence looks pretty damning and unless Perry Mason can be hired by the PCB then a lot of shit's about to hit a darned big fan.

Of course 'no balls' is a pretty good description of the PCB. Rameez Raja was on the radio describing earlier controversies where reputations of Pakistani legends were saved by a hurried covering up of the facts. It appears to happen so frequently that the PCB have single-handedly kept the trade in Persian carpets and brooms in business.

So is this a particularly Pakistani phenomenon? Ermm... no. The saintly Christian Hansie Cronje was elbow deep in manure. Warney's placed a bet or two on occasion. I seem to remember that tophole Cambridge chap Michael Atherton rubbing dirt on to a cricket ball.

But there is a suspicion in this country that a touring Pakistan team will be up to no good at some point. When Waqar and Wasim were skittling out England teams in the early 90s it was clear that the subcontinental devils were applying some strange blend of spices to the cricket ball.

Of course when we learnt to do it in 2005 it became officially known as reverse swing.

Whether Asif and Aamer - both of them, sadly, utterly brilliant with the ball in hand - will get the proper censure from the PCB is unsure. What is certain is when gambling businesses are allowing bets on the most inconsequential bits of a cricket match then sport has truly lost its way.

Spot betting is ridiculous. It's all right if you're betting your mate on raindrops going down a pane of glass or snails crossing a paving stone. But TV misses nothing these days and soon you'll be putting your five pounds/rupees/ringgits on the next fielder to break wind. (Not KP who looks like he couldn't give a fart.)

There appear to be many fixers hard at work behind the scenes of international cricket and temptations for a cricketer to earn a quick five-figure sum for, I dunno, bowling it second slip once in a while must be enormous. (You wouldn't offer money to Stephen Harmison to do this, mind - chances are he knock out middle.)

If they did cheat, it's not like Aamer or Asif manifestly altered the result of the match at Lord's, and if they trousered a wad of cash in the process then I find it, well, understandable. Although if you are going to overstep the crease than try not to do it by the length of the average swimming pool.

It doesn't make it right though. Aggers and co have been using words like 'tragedy' and 'disaster' to describe the situation. Well it's not is it? They're not floating about on a muddy torrent on a couple of roof-tiles with a babe-in-arms and a cholera epidemic round the corner.

What is tragic is that these two young lads MAY have been caught with their hands in the till at exactly the moment when thousands of their countrymen could do with a quick cash injection to save their bloody lives.

'OK America, which one them is Barack Obama?'

They tell me cricket is a religion in Pakistan. (I wish someone would tell the Taleban that.) If it is, then there's a lot of mighty edifices crumbling to the ground. The Pakistan Cricket Board simply have to ban these two lads, talented though they are, for life, and not have the shilly-shallying they've gone through with tizzy-fit masters like Shoaib and Yousuf.

If these were English lads, and let's not kid ourselves that our players aren't easily nobblable too, you'd expect nothing less.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Arteta for Art's Sake

My Boro pals and me are taking rusty nails and shards of glass to the enxt home game. Not to pelt the team with. We’re going to stick them into our palms Harry Palmer style so that we don’t nod off.

'You're only supposed to bore the bloody draws off'

The main question in the boozer after was nowt to with Boro, mind: ‘If you were the England manager would you select Spaniard Mikel Arteta?’

It’s complicated of course. If you were that person you’d be an Italian. You’d also be very content to select the Canadian Owen Hargreaves were he not spending more time on a couch than the average Mid-West American family.

Furthermore, as we’re told repeatedly, England already possess some World Class midfielders whose place of birth is not an issue – although if that isn’t a loose use of World Class then I’m a Sydney Drag Queen (NB I’m not). I mean Spain have got loads of world-class midfielders or we wouldn’t be talking about Arteta cos he would’ve got in their team by now.

I like Arteta. He’s - ooh what’s that thing we’ve been lacking – creative. But the point is can we trust someone with a funny accent to play with his heart and soul? To wear the Three Lions with pride? To dig in when our backs are against the wall? Ermm, not necessarily. But given that we can’t trust any other hobbling halfwit who went to South Africa either I suggest being born and raised here doesn’t much matter any more.

To me, it’s one of them things they call a no-brainer – I hate that expression. Borrowed from the Yanks I bet. Actually while we’re on the subject here are some more stupid phrases that media twats roll out – actually ‘rolling out’! There’s one! I’m doing it meself!

Add to that ‘going forward’ which means nowt less than ‘in the near future’. Presumably when these spokesturdsmen talk about what happened yesterday they say ‘Going backward’. I heard some council exec calling the preparation for a Christmas cold spell being a ‘winterisation’ progamme.

It’s all corporate speak isn’t it? These wanker-bankers haven’t just nicked all our money they’ve flooded common or garden English with a load of babbling, meaningless shite!

Where was I? Ah, si. Senor Arteta.

'Hof course Hi 'em Hinglish! Mekka me captain and I sleepa with your wife!'

Look, pick him. If his national form bears no resemblance to his club form then we’ll know he’s truly English and we can embrace and/or jeer the poor bastard till he retires from the international game at 30 cos he hasn’t got the cojones to carry on. Then Capello can recall Beckham from his bath chair/UN ambassador role and all will be almost all right with the world.

It’s been a weekend of storms in teacups. ’Arry has had to defend the signing of William Gallas, which some WHL regulars have suggested is about as appropriate as making Sir Alex Ferguson Chairman of the BBC.

I mean I’m all for a bit of needle between teams but surely Gallas can play for who the hell he likes and frankly good luck to whoever takes him on. As it is his Redknapp knows the territory of treachery well – I understand that in the bibles in churches across the South Coast of England Jesus Christ is betrayed by an ugly ginger bloke with a twitch and a bit of a marf on him.

The wisdom of the move is not financial – he’s come in on a free – or indeed morally questionable. It’s simply that Gallas has moments of nut-jobbery that, even in a world where a sane French footballer is scarcer than a faithful English one, to take him on at all would seem well bloody risky.

Wenger once berated him for a having a ciggie on his way home from a club but I’d like to leave that one to one side. Yes he was club captain but for Christ’s sake smokers need role models too!

Perhaps of more concern is that admission that if Chelsea didn’t release him he’d score own goals. And he’s a decent finisher is Gallas. If, say, Emile Heskey made the same pledge right now Villa fans could laugh it off with a ‘No chance’.
There was also William’s wobbly moment at Birmingham a while back in the aftermath of Eduardo’s leg-shattering when he sat in a strop on the pitch, displaying all the leadership skills of Violet Elizabeth Bott.

But if he can put the adolescent tizzies behind him and put out them fags then I reckon Redknapp’s got a flaming bargain particularly in the light of the fact most Spurs centre-backs seemed to have a loyalty card a the local Casualty department.

If Capello is watching out for bright new English talent then there’s a glimmer of hope in Andy Carroll. Six foot three, skin and bone, bad hair... he’s in danger of becoming the new Mark Hateley. I reckon he’s better than that, mind.

Apart from Hansen inexplicably slagging off Theo Walcott after twatting Blackpool on MOTD (he scored a hat-trick, you miserable git! What next? ‘That Joe Hart – calls himself a keeper but look at his goalscoring record at club level – terrible!’) the Geordies 6-0 duffing up of Villa was the most incredible game of the weekend.

Joey Barton’s ‘tache has gone, celebrated inevitably with a gesture that the dumb numpty made look a bit Nazi. Of course he could have gone the whole hog and put a swastika on his arm but you don’t get away with that sort of thing unless your surname’s Windsor.

And grin of the week was Fergie being left fuming after United’s tame draw at Fulham. Sad to see he still wasn’t up for talking to the BBC about it. We get Mike Phelan instead who had a charisma bypass operation at the age of 17. Sigh.

Still even Phelan surpassed the entertainment on offer at the Riverside last weekend. Seriously I’ve had more fun scraping old bits of food out of our dishwasher. But that’s the thing with Strachan. He’ll admit it. And somehow you can’t help liking him.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Bit-eh, grit-eh, and just not pret-eh!

It’s over. £150million quid later – approximately £2m a day – Manchester City, unleashed on the market like a bunch of greedy no-marks on Supermarket Sweep, have returned with their trolleys full and a bewildered look on their faces.

All it needs now is Dale Winton to loom all Blackpool-shirt-faced over the spendthrifts and say ‘Well done, sweethearts but it looks to me like you’ve got an awful lot of the same thing.’

I mean I’m sure Blackburn fans are dreaming of summat similar at Ewood Park, although Allardyce put on his usual Bulldog Licking Piss Off A Nettle face when he suggested that coming to Blackburn was a bit less of a draw than, well, anywhere really.

Why wouldn't people want to join me?

Chins up Sam! Juninho came to Middlesbrough – twice!

And of course you’ll be able to waft rolls of wonga under their noses and nowt peaks a professional footballer’s interest more than that (except the waft of mascara-lacquered eyelashes across a Mediterranean bar in August).

Manchester City’s elite squad – cash-hungry ragbag to us plain speakers – have been doing their best to spout the party line. They’re here to get Chumps League footy... erm, next year... ahem , maybe. In Yaya Toure’s case (and he must be the Sloaney brother in the Toure household ) he’s already won 200k a week and d’you know I’m not sure a trophy can top that. Hasn’t he won the Champs League anyway? Ya-Yawn Toure more like.

Milner arrives with the wrong-headed assumption that he’ll be wide right most of the time given that Citeh already have central midfield more clogged than a docker’s arteries. Barry, de Jong, Yaya, Vieira, and Michael Johnson (English, home-grown, doesn’t really count) are all jostling for a bit of space and Mancini reckons on Milner being in there too.

If he is moved to the flanks he’ll have to compete with the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Adam Johnson and new boy David Silva. At least Weiss is popping up in Glasgow for a bit so he can spend the year putting things on a plate for James Beattie – who’s never made a habit of finishing an easy meal. In fact if you want a benchmark for the quality of Scottish club football look no further than Rangers signing of a great 32-year-old lunk with the first touch of a concrete block whose biggest impact in football has been on the side of William Gallas’s head.

In the meantime, players that have served Citeh well are scowling along touchlines in a state of apoplexy. It’s unclear as to what Given and Bellamy have done to deserve being ignored – although if Craig opened his gob, then it’s understandable.
There are other players who are starting to look like last week’s under-5’s Chrissie presents. Wayne Bridge can get back to his pre-summer sulk-fest as the one-footed wally will be on his way elsewhere. (Blackburn? I expect Sam’ll be checking how far he can hoof it as we speak).

Lescott may start tonight in that vibrant outpost of FC Timisoara but he has Zabaleta and Kolarov ahead of him now. Still, City’s bench-warmers can always enjoy the cultural bounty that Timisoara offers: choose from Timi┼čoara Orthodox Cathedral or St. George's Cathedral (presumably the unorthodox one).

Robinho and Jo are still around like a special offer at a beauty salon – 2 free Brazilians, lady? - and the Ecuadorian Caicedo is around too. I wonder if he knows how or why.

And here’s the thing. Any club with unlimited funds is bound to get a little carried away but Citeh’s problem seems to be that they’re getting the players first and assembling a team second. A touch of the Capellos maybe.

Of course, Ferguson can’t resist one of his lateral digs - ‘kamikaze spending’ he called it.

Well, no, Fergie. Kamikaze spending would be forking out money you don’t really have cos the people owning your club are using it to offset the huge debts they have elsewhere and if they forked off tomorrow you’d be selling the Big Issue and looking nervously at the team-sheet for Wythenshawe Wanderers.

I mean I expect you to get a little cranky, my human Stop Light, but it’s not like this Fand-Abu-Dhabi fund is going to run out soon.

The side Mancini put out at White Hart Lane on Saturday was an odd one with Tevez playing the lone striker role and inevitably scuttling back into the midfield three to find out what had happened to the ball for the first half-hour. Answer: Spurs had it.

Mancini betrayed a negative mindset last year and with Rafa out of the frame he is free and clear to claim the mantle of Most Miserable Deployer of Incredibly Expensive Footballers in the Premier League. Three holding midfielders tonight n all! Who have these Romanians got in the middle of the park? Platini, Zidane and Mara-bloody-dona?

I mean the least you could try to be was a bit enter-bloody-taining for 150 million quid plus last year’s convoy of cash. When you think how hilariously playful Sparky’s Citeh were before the chairman sent out the managerial seagulls to crap on him. And now this outfit.

'If only the team had been duller...'

It’s early days for the Italian and it would take a right pillock not to put at least one good side together from the equipment he has available, but no, I will not be wishing the moneybags well and neither should the Citeh fans expect it.

Most of us cling on the misguided belief that money isn’t everything – if it is, we’ve got too much nothing – and a well average Citeh season would happily underline this.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Cole Bunkered

Joe Cole’s been called a few things following his debut red card. Unfortunate, clumsy... but if I had to describe it I’d call it Scholesian. The shaven-headed urchin must’ve been looking forward to a bit of regular action – and I don’t mean in the off-season late-night post-club back-of-a-cab sort of way. Now he looks likely to be warming a sofa somewhere for a couple of weeks. The numpty.

Liverpool-Arsenal was one of them games you call ‘incident-packed’. In other words, lots of stuff went on but not much of it was particularly good footy. Liverpool looked half-decent and well-organised, as you’d expect from Woy, and it looks spookily like Hodgy has Bobby Zamorified Ngog into a goalscorer. That’s not grey flecks in the gaffer’s barnet, that there’s blinking fairy dust.

Talking of fairies, Arsenal still looked like a bunch of delicate sprites busily building a passing movement out of gossamer thread, and wilting as the likes of Carragher pulled it down. Shorn of the Joy of Cesc, and Hobblin Van Persie, the Wenger boys continue to be a tad powder-puff.

Ahhh!! A playful moment during Arsenal's pre-season training

Meanwhile West Brom returned to the Premier League and the Throstle was throttled by a brutal Chelsea team. When Chelsea play like this I just hear that Mr. Blond from Reservoir Dogs muttering ‘Torture you... that’s good... that’s a good idea...’

The Baggies defending of free kicks was abject. Pink Floyd fan Scott Carson was left fuming about the need for Another Prick in the Wall.

It wasn’t a great start for goalies generally.

Tim Howard’s clanger at Ewood Park was top of the drops – even in slow motion it’s hard to see how his sturdy Yank arms transformed from bank vault to basketball hoop in the blink of an eye. Reina’s was more glaring after his team had battled so hard. And of course the thank you cards have been winging their way across Lancashire for Chris Kirkland who looked so wooden every time he’d dived for another Harewood piledriver I shouted ‘Timber!’

But well done little old Blackpool and their charming yokel manager Jethro Holloway! Ah bless ‘em. And they only met each other this morning. And how funny they look in their Tango tops!! Charming! If I could sidestep the stream of patronising pap that’s been sent their way, it was an utterly brilliant result. My favourite man on the pitch was Gary Taylor-Fletcher who may well be a vibrant young lad but looks like your generic bloke-down-the-pub somehow.

Actually, the only downside of Blackpool’s thumping of Wigan was the post-match interview by Olly in which he did his best to look like a decision had been made to cull the Pleasure Beach donkeys. He made Avram Grant look like Timmy Mallet.

This donkey has been saved by Wigan Athletic, who see him as the natural replacement for Titus Bramble

Come on, Olly, play the game! Apart from anything else all this straight faced sobriety doesn’t fool anyone. It’s like when Gazza tried becoming a serious football pundit. You were just waiting for him to shout ‘Nah, only kidding!’ and get the plastic tits oot for the lads. Holloway knows what’s expected of him and he better start delivering.

‘Course we can’t talk keepers without mentioning Joe Hart, who saved Mancini’s bacon at WHL with some tip-top stops. Otherwise Citeh played like unthinking one-paced strangers, which when you think about it is what they are.

There’s this new film out starring Stallone, Schwarzenegger n all. It’s about a bunch of mercenaries on a steroid/botox diet. (In fact I saw Mickey Rourke on Wossy’s last Beeb show and if that bloke wanted to rob a bank he could do worse that hide his plastic mask beneath a real face.) Any road this film is called The Expendables. And I think Craig Bellamy’s in it. Just a bit part, but that’s more than Mancini’s ever really given him.

Now I know Bellamy’s a narky little toerag at times, but frankly he was the best thing at Eastlands last year if we ignore Tevez. So maybe, just this once, he has cause to be hacked off. Shay Given was the next best thing in sky blue and you can’t see him sticking being one of the expensive scatter-cushions in the Citeh dug-out for long. Although maybe Steve Harper will be texting him to tell to bloody well put up with it like he did.

I tell you Mancini's got his hands full there.

In the meantime at the comically-named Whistling Straits - just up the road from Screaming Queens I think - golf continues to throw up examples of why it’s such a bloody absurd game. Today’s question for you check-trousered chumps is ‘When is a bunker not a bunker?’ Dustin...?

‘Well, sir, when it’s a patch of sand that’s been trampled under the weight of many thousands of the weightiest creatures in Middle America since dinosaurs strode the earth?’
‘No Dustin, didn’t you read the quirky rulebook we gave ya?’
‘No sir. Like most golfers I don’t actually read.’

Now while it’s true to say that the poor sap had to have two shots deducted, you have to ask why a course would be so quirkily set up. Then again, golf is bloody mental. When Bubba – and for Christ’s sake man get a proper name you sound like some monstrous friendly fur-covered C-Beebies troll – Watson hit into water on the last play-off hole 5Live’s Jay ‘Hindsight is 20-20’ Townsend revealed he had five options as to what to do with the ball. FIVE!!!

Surprisingly one of them wasn’t bending down and putting your head on a tee-peg while people who had money on him took turns to see if they could chip the dozy lunk’s snitch onto the putting surface. (Harsh maybe but Bubba cost me twenty fucking quid). Golf makes about as much sense as a pink away kit.

Still, looking forward to the return of Newcastle to the top flight tonight. And I reckon they’ll do allreet. Don’t be surprised at a 1-1, especially if Man U’s ginger ninja is preaching what his little East End disciple is practising.

'And this is Tackle No.6 - the De Jong'

Up the Boro and - pretend you never read this - Ha'way the lads!

Friday, 13 August 2010

We Have The Predictions You Need

Well the beggars and borrowers have shuffled out of the limelight now and it’s time for the big boys. Ooh lovely. The Carling Cup chucked up a few surprises but not Boro who now head off to that most welcoming of London retreats, the New Den. Can’t wait to get off that South Bermondsey platform – oh, it’s like stepping off a quaint little set on Thomas the Tank Engine.

Apparently this is Miss Millwall, but look at the state of the pitch!

And in the interest of balance here's a camp Mourinho-looky-likey

Anyway enough discussion of the lowly. It’s the Premier League, boys n girls! We got a taste of the usual suspects on Wednesday night as Capello’s ‘new look England’ incorporating so many flops the line-up resembled a clinic for erectile dysfunction.

Despite some necessary jeering, the fans were warm, civilised and strangely respectful, like the Members Stand at Lord’s in the 80s when the cricket selectors had sent out eleven new fluffy white-flannelled lambs to the slaughter.

There was a bit to be chipper about. Walcott did what we know he can – the shovel is ice-cold and the shit is red hot when he gets going – and I wonder why neither Wenger nor Capello hasn’t bunged him down the middle on occasion.

Adam Johnson did enough to prove he should’ve been ahead of Shaun Wright-Phillips in the queue for South Africa (for example he passed to a team-mate a few times). And his missing of a sitter reminded you that Emile Heskey wasn’t playing.

Gerrard, surprise, surprise, looked better in a central area. Lampard appears to have remained in some sort of non-executive role, like some recently retired politician at a merchant bank. Bench him for Chrissakes.

Other than that we had Capello doing a strange impression of Sven-Goran Eriksson, sitting tight, emotion barely flickering across his chops. At times I wondered if Madame Tussaud’s had sent a Fabio replacement.

And of course Capello is in hot water for telling everyone except the sainted Becks that his England career is over. We’ve discovered a lot that’s lacking in the England manager in the last few months and that was just bloody mean-spirited.

It’s not like it’s the wrong decision. David might sneak back into the side under an assumed name given that he currently flounces about as a weird mixture of Grizzly Adams and Rod Steiger in The Illustrated Man. But for God’s sake call the man first, Fabio. Maybe send James Corden along with some flowers...

'Come on Becks, pick yourself up son!'

Any road, I’m not expecting a marked improvement soon with England, although I do anticipate that the likes of Rooney, a man who currently looks less like one of the top five players in the world and more like a ravaged inmate of the Big Brother household, will return to form in the bosom of their adoring club support.

I don’t reckon on the Premier League serving up a feast of footy this season but it’s going to be a tight one, I reckon – and all the better for it. Here’s my reckoning.

Given that Wenger’s held on to Fabregas like a drowning man clinging to a bit of driftwood, this could be a good year. Schwarzer, if he gets him, won’t let him down and a fit RVP will help. But if you build in the inevitable post-Christmas dip then... 4th.

I picture an enraged O’Neill bouncing furiously out of Villa Park like an Ulster Yosemite Sam. Lerner’s post-resignation comments suggest that the ghost of Doug Short-Arms-Deep-Pockets Ellis has returned. A tricky season. 8th.

I’m assuming McLeish has his eye on someone other than Zigic to beef up his squad although the Serbian will bring new dimensions to the phrase ‘a bit of a handful’. More like a ‘lorryload’. Can’t see them improving on last year though but. 12th

Another season of clogging and humping and midfielders gazing like forlorn astronomers into the night sky. And Big Sam’s great gob keeping Wrigley’s in business. 11th.

Jaunty Ian Holloway will be his usual engaging self. His team are doomed, I tell you. 20th.

Owen Coyle re-introduced his players to grass last season and they’ll improve this. My surprise team of the season. 9th.

There’s lot of talk of kids being blooded this season. Not sure when. It’ll be the same old suspects and the return of Essien makes them look better already. The team to beat. 1st. (Yawn).

Moyes has managed to keep hold of his top players and Kenwright’s kept hold of Moyes. On the coat-tails of the Champs League but, like a Shaun Wright-Phillips dive, falling short. 7th.

FULHAMSparky wants to bring in Santa Cruz. That’s right, a good solid hard-working team really needs a gorgeous preening layabout up top. A struggle for them. 14th.

Meanwhile Hodgson is looking good. The limbs of Torres are vital, and Coles Joe and Carlton (?) will help and if the club’s finances get sorted this could be a very good year. 3rd.

The Abu-Dhabi billions tower over the Premier League like Canary Wharf lours over the estates of Tower Hamlets. Still there’s a lot of selfish fuckwits working in Canary Wharf and I reckon the same could be said of Citeh. Plus they’ve got a dud manager. 5th.

I dunno. If Rooney continues his wretched form, Rio’s back keeps creaking like a woodwormed wardrobe and Scholes and Giggsy can’t start their mobility scooters they could struggle – who am I trying to kid? 2nd.

They rise again. We await the next chapter of the Gospel According to St.James. Toonites’ expectations are, for once, realistic. And getting round Sol will put a good mile on a strikers journey. 15th

Headguards on lads, it’s time for a Tony Pulis team-talk. They’ll keep plugging away. And get by. Still no one has quite worked out how to defend the Delapidator. 13th

Haven’t got a clue how they’ll do. Don’t think Brucie has either. 9th or 17th. Let’s say 11th.

Well, the nation’s favourite geezer – the friendly face of the Mitchells – has been associated with everyone from Stephen Ireland to Bobby the ball-playing bulldog but I reckon the Champs League – win or lose – is going to take it out of them. 6th.

Well they’ll do better than Blackpool. 18th.

The Gold n Sullivan generation. Keeping hold of Scottie, 20 million for Carlton, Becks is going to walk through the door any day... larvely... we won the World Cup, mate!... Sigh. 17th.

They should go down every year but never do. Somehow an array of Central American jugglers do enough for ‘em. Give or take the odd 9-1 pounding, they will survive. 16th.

WOLVES‘By ‘eck’as like. We’re right poor, us and nobbut middlin’ so owt we get’d be right good cos we’re nowt compared t’ Big boys.’ Cue the violins, Mick. 19th.

You see if I'm not right. May your teams prosper, entertain, and avoid too many Scottish purchases.

I do love the footy.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Fabio's Sinking Ship

So Paul Robinson has pulled out of the England squad - he doesn't see himself as a number 3 or 4 keeper so he's retired from international football. Oh no!!! First Wayne Bridge the imaginary cuckold, then Emile Heskey the imaginary centre-forward, and now the Bloke Who Mistook a Molehill for a Football!

How the fook will we cope? Happy retirement, Paul. Maybe you'll even get a tinpot handshake from the golden shower generation.

Quick men! Swim back to your clubs!

But wait!!! Wes Brown, too?! The versatile defender (code for never very convincing anywhere, cf Joleon Lescott) has joined the unseemly scramble to get off the SS Fabio before the Hungarian Iceberg hits.

There can't be many still in Capello's post-calamity creche who couldn't do with a break from pulling on the three kittens and stepping out on a top-weaved Wembley turf to a wall of passive aggression from the England fans. But still, it's starting to reek of yellow streak.

Fabio's Fashanu-elbowed a couple of undeserving blokes out of the squad and I assume Crouchy and Defoe's omissions are more down to Spurs having a Champs League qualifier than for any desperate shortcomings in South Africa. Hard to see what Stephen Warnock did wrong... or indeed what he did at all. Or Joe Cole, for that matter. Perhaps Capello has a pathological hatred for Oliver! the Musical.

Others can join Robinson, Brown and Heskey in the pub for wannabe pundits. David 'Macy Gray' James, Robert 'KitKat Fingers' Green, Matty Upson-Downs, Wrong Shite-Phillips... all are rightly on the discard pile.

The squad has stuck with some creaking old retainers, mind you. Those of us that have suspected that John Terry was an unshod carthorse with all the pace of a salted snail were proved right against Germany. Add to that his capacity for dipping his pen in the wrong inkwell and running off his mouth at the wrong mike and you have a walking, almost-talking disaster.

Lampard too might well be looking at long nights on a Good Morning sofa with Ms Bleakley rather than continuing to prove his limitations at international level.

Wazza - as in 'have a wazzagainst the bin, mate' - could do with having a bit of a rest n all. I'm not too fussed about his lewd behaviour, me. Apparently he had a fag on n all. Big deal.

Don't worry, Wayne - it is big and it is clever

I mean the Blue Bell used to have an end of season award called 'Best Goal Scored While Smoking'. We banned it not for PC reasons but cos in the act of deflecting a piledriver for a corner, the ball set Tony Thompson's in-pocket Swan Vestas alight and incinerated his 75% polyester footy shorts. I can tell he wwasn't playing in the hole for a few weeks after that.

You just hope when Giggsy tells you in a post-match interview that Wazza's 'on fire' it doesn't mean he's dropped his Silk Cut-butt inside his socks.

As for Gareth Barry, well, I'd rather he gave up footy and joined JT and Jamie Carragher in training for the London 2012 20km Plod (that's Walk). If all three of them run as fast as they can they could win us a medal and there'd be no danger of any of them being disqualified.

It's Carra from Barra from JT!!

Of course you can't really tell anything at this stage of the season. It's a preposterous game for the FA to organise. Clearly it was done with some post-WC glory in mind - you know... flag-waving yeomen swarming to nestle 'neath the Wembley arch and hail the glorious near-conquerors.

As it is it's effing meaniningless in the extreme. Why for example Ashley Young, Theo Walcott or Adam Johnson should be better qualified to play for England now, with precisely no competitive games played in the season, than they were in say, May, is impossible to argue.

The only qualities you want to see out on the pitch on Wednesday - given that touch and technique are guaranteed to be absent - are a bit of passion and a sense that the players want to be out there.

There's a delicious little bit of irony in that the yoof element of the squad comes mostly from that flimsy front for French-speaking immigrants, Arsenal FC. That's right! It's like finding out that the beef for your Sunday roasts has been supplied by the Vegetarian Society.

It's almost a shame that Fabregas's decision to stay (for one last hurrah) means Wilshere's opportunities will still be limited.

Of course we're stuck with Capello's management and not Andy Smart's inspired suggestion that a different pub selects the team each time. (Listen to Robbo Podcast 3, above). If the Blue Bell were in charge, the team would look like this:

Hart; G.Johnson, Jagielka, Dawson, A.Cole; Young/Milner, Wilshere, Parker, A Johnson; Gerrard; Rooney.

Clearly if we go to a two-man strike force then Wayne will be partnered by whoever has a lighter with him and my money would be on Zamora.

Of course most of us would've been delighted with a wholesale cull of the same magnitude as the French Football Federation's. I can see Anelka and Malouda chuntering away together at Chelsea HQ saying "'E 'az like totally Laurent Blanc-ed me!"

Whether I'll have owt to say on Wednesday's game is a moot point. As sport it's about as important as the Community Shield. Or the plotline of an Australian soap. Which brings us back to Paul Robinson.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Nando's Staying Put?!

Well bugger me if Roy Hodgson hasn't managed to keep hold of Torres n all. It's a shock. My sources were certain he was on his way. Then again my sources aren't exactly social networkers - one lives with his infirm Mum and the other lives somewhere between a Blue Bell bar stool and the Blue Bell floor.

I thought we'd seen the back of him

My first thought on hearing the news was 'Bloody hell, he must be worried about the injury'. My second thought was 'Bloody hell, they have got a buyer' otherwise they'd be flogging the Spaniard for whatever they could get for him. My third thought was 'Never mind that how come Aidan McGeady isn't going to Boro? He's Scottish isn't he?'

I'm surprised figures of 40 million were being bandied around for a lad who bought his hamstrings from the same pound shop as Michael Owen. Rafa spent most of his last two seasons at Anfield batting back questions as to when Torres would return after his latest sicky.

But he's back in training, no doubt with club physios surrounding his like the roll-cage of a top-of-the-range Volvo, and he'll be giving his all for the club and the fans. Well I hope he stays fit cos he's a joy to behold in full flow but if we see the World Cup Torres then we'll have a fella with the touch and technique of a bull elephant with its legs in plaster.

It all means that this Kenny Huang bloke looks very likely to be relieving Gillett and Hicks of their irresponsibilities.

There's pics a plenty of Hillocks and Gitt holding up scarves looking like two dopy rich kids with a new train set. And just like two kids Hex and Tourette've done their best to drive the Good Train Liverpool off the rails, shedding loads of points in the process.

It's hard to believe Huang could be worse. But his track record suggests that he's not in it for the glory anymore than Blix and Burette were. The bottom line is cash. He does look the most likely candidate, mind. Not least cos Liverpool were after Luke Fu Yung.

In fact Liverpool FC have a long connection with the Far East. Just think of Graeme Sweet n Sourness, Teriyaki McDermott, John Arne Riise, Crispy Durck Kuyt. 20 million was a dim sum to pay for Robbie Keane. And let's face it you couldn't get a more Chinese name than Sammy Lee.

I hear that Huang's hit list includes Frank Spare Ribery and Wok-A Santa Cruz.

(That's enough now. I won't mention the talk of luring Eric Cantonese out of retirement.)

Of course all these hilarious puns are an attempt to laugh off the possibility that Liverpool FC, with an injection of cash, a sensible manager, and the retention of good players, might be able to do a lot better this year. I think they will.

It is fun when they don't though isn't it?

Meanwhile the unspeakably wealthy Manchester City continue to be linked with anyone who can do up his own shoelaces (so not many of the current England squad then). Salomon Kalou has warned Manchester City that cash cannot buy them the title - another indication of just how short a memory your average Chelsea player has.

It was your lot, Hassungotta, who started it. This vogue for blindfolded billionaires sticking a pin into a Premier League table and than splashing through the shallow waters of football's soul in order to pick up a floating near-carcass of a club and breathe new life into its gagging nostrils all began in West London. All roads lead back to Roman.

So no, Chelsea players need to stuff a gold-threaded silken hanky into their witless gobs before commenting upon what cash can get you. Although given Kalou has never get on the end of a decent cross it's hard to expect him to get on the right end of a good argument.

If he's anything to go by cash can buy you a shit haircut that makes you look like you've been run over by a motorbike.

And maybe it helps in other directions n all...

I suppose it's good for your average successful footballer to have this goldfish-like recall. It means they can go on winning the same trophy year after year and still find it a surprise.

I'm laying off the predictions till next week now, mainly cos we've got the unholy thrill of watching the Community Shield this weekend. Whoop-di-doo! Another tame 0-0 and a pen shoot-out from some tanned podgers.

There hasn't been a decent Charity Shield since Keegan And Bremner battered the flak out of each other in 1974. If only Glitch and Colette could work out their differences in the same way there'd be some guaranteed entertainment in the red half of Merseyside this year.