Friday, 29 October 2010

2018 and all that


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:


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,
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

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.]

Monday, 11 October 2010

Why We Love A Skipper

Okay. Fabio Capello has dropped some clangers. No doubt about that. This time he's brought in Stewart Downing - presumably to remind Adam Johnson of what he could've been if life had been less kind. And picking Shaun Wright-Phillips AGAIN will have every Clanger on their planet - and the Soup Dragon - and the Iron Chicken - laughing their little woollen togs off.

Some Clangers search vainly for a football after it was crossed by Shaun Wright-Phillips

But this captaincy business. I confess I've tried to get with the Italian's line of thinking. There should be 11 skippers on the park. It hasn't worked. The Germans did us up like 11 kippers. So why does it matter?

Well, I think it's mattered to me since the forgettably-named quicksilver carrot-top Andy Smudger Smith got the school captainct aged 9 when clearly I was the better candidate. People were scared of me. A knowledge of fags, French kissing and intercourse put me way above the ginger lad.

Smudger bathed in the worshipful glow that blazed down on him every time he passed thiry keepy-uppies, but was it him nicking the football cards from Oundsworth's?

Oh Smudger could tie up a defender in knots so complex even Akela hadn't seen 'em before, but was it him found the discarded porn mag in the truckers lay-by?

Nah. I had respect of a more solid kind. I had a gob on me n all. I was socks-round-me-ankles, mud-from-tip-to-toe, he was a prancing Persil ad, all bigheadedness and bluey-whiteness.

And our the teacher made him skipper. You wanted your role-model to be Captain Fantastic and what we got was Lieutenant Pigeon.

In England, you grow up with the belief that one day, if you work hard, if you're gritty, honest and never-say-die, if you are the still, certain pulsing heartbeat of the men with whom you play, then you, sunshine, shall wear the armband.

And not only the heart. The bloody guts n all.

That's how it is. It's not an award that gets passed around like toffees at a dentists convention. Not for us.

You only have to look at John Terry's reaction to being relieved of the honour. (That sounds like a sordid euphemism, but it always does if 'John Terry' is in the sentence.) He played like a carthorse and whined like a girl. And he's out the squad again cos of a bad back. Who was it this time, JT?

You could also look at Gerrard's marked improvement. Admittedly, this has summat to do with not having to shar his football boots with Frank Lampard (while they're both on the pitch) but Stevie has proved time and time again that the added responsibility suits him.

I reckon the lad can be a right whiny pain-in-the-backside but give him his best position and a stretchy little ribbon round his skinny Scouse arm and he can do the business for you.

Of course he should stay skipper. Rio's got the job back cos Capello has this inflexible approach to everything. The man must be a nightmare to be married to. I can see him being like Richard Briers in Ever Decreasing Circles, folding napkins in particular ways and writing out his team-sheet with a ruler to underline everyone's name.

Thank Christ he's not a referee. He'd be getting the tape measure out every time a wall is formed wouldn't he? You'd have penalties retaken so many times that even Graham Alexander could miss one.

And you know, if Fabio really doesn't think it means owt, he could try asking his players. Or that vein-bulging slab of Full English, his assistant Stuart Psycho Pearce. (Although the Psycho reputation has been utterly undermined by the fact that Capello has reduced his bench-buddy to the role of hapless stooge and punchbag. A sort of Phil Neal with bruises.)

There's the language barrier but I'm sure if he gets Stuart to speak slowly he'll come up with summat resembling English.

And if he does he'll hear the word 'honour' mentioned over and over again. And even the pampered millionaires that so frequently distribute so much silage across our international playing-fields do actually mean it when they say it.

And not only does it matter from a sentimental point-of-view. To someone of my vintage it means you can be mentioned in the same breath as Bobby Moore. The greatest English centre-half there ever was, by the way, if any wet-behind-the-ears whipper-snappers are reading.

It matters from a pure ego point of view. You're the captain. The team wins summat. Yes, it's about everybody. Not just about me... blah blah... Great bunch of lads... blah blah... really pulled together... blah blah... the gaffer's been amazing blah blah...

...but when it comes down to it the lad wearing the armband is the lad that steps up to the front, leads his mates forward, shakes the parasitic hands of all the no-mark dignitaries and disinterested blue-bloods, and clasps his big hairy mitts around the glorious glowing goblet of gold and holds it aloft while your mates and fans roar you into paradise!

And any man that doesn't want that job isn't fit to wear the shirt.

And I mean you Smudger, wherever you are. Cos we won fuck-all with you at the helm.

In the meantime England's squad members have been making more withdrawals than a queue of savings account holders outside a branch of Anglo-Irish.

I'm reckoning Capello will have to go with:

Hart; G. Johnson (And please if there is a God can you find someone in the country who is a better right-back and isn't called Neville), Lescott, Ferdinand, A.Cole; Young, Barry (cue ponderous comedy music played on the tuba), Gerrard, A.Johnson; Rooney, Crouch.

Or Kevin Davies.

Honest lad, Kev. Dirty. And honest. But Kevin Davies. Truly, the cupboard is bare.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Hell of Hicksville

Okay. I’ll be honest. There’s been a bit of me smirking like a third-rate Eastenders villain at the plight of Liverpool Football Club. I’m as ready as the next Englishman to wallow in the misfortune of the mighty.

Old Ollie said he got tingles just reading the ‘This Is Anfield’ sign on his way on to the pitch. Me too Ian. I get a frisson when I know you’ve got three points in the bag even before the game’s begun. Thing it’s all gone a bit unbelievable now. Like the most blatant plastic surgery, Liverpool’s gone tits up.

There are five tits in question. Though I think quite possibly the American tits (strictly speaking, chickadees) are the ones with most to answer. From what I can gather, Martin Broughton responded to Hicks’s intransigence over decent offers for the club by just huffing off to the press and leaving the poker-faced Yank billionaire playing Texas Hold ‘Em (Till a Playboy Oil Baron Comes A Calling).

At the present rate Hicks and Gillett stand to lose 140 million – not sure if that’s pounds or dollars – like it makes a flamin’ difference. Basically, it’s shitloads. Even Georgie Osborne might blench at taking that much cash off someone in one fell swoop. So in a way you can understand their resistance.

And in another way – just take the money and eff off, lads. It’s not like it’s the first time for Tom. No, he’s done this with other sports franchises in the States.

He seems to have the capacity to get other people’s money to buy him into new businesses without ever making making a decent fist of any of them.

Why are these people he’s borrowing from still chucking cash at him? And why, when he was making such a patent mess of US franchises like the Dallas Stars and the recently bankrupted (sound familiar?) Texas Rangers, did LFC think he was such a good catch? The only connection I can find between the two is that they both spend a lot of time in the red.

At least in the other two instances Hicks was shitting on his own doorstep. Texas. The Lone Star State. Or should that be Loan Star? I don’t reckon it’s a part of the world we Brits have ever felt that enamoured of. JR Ewing, George Dubya, Tom Hicks... there was the Texan bar in the 70s which I liked but I do blame it for the fact I’ve now got so many fillings the dentist uses cavity wall insulation to keep the teeth from crumbling altogether.

I looked up a site of Famous Texans. Here’s the bloke who invented Star Trek. And Jayne Mansfield. That’s about your lot.

Hicks’s response to the crisis was straight out of Southfork too. The Brits on the board go blabbing. They’re not on the board anymore. According to Tom. Possibly not according to law. He’s replaced them with two objective people. His friend and his son. Meanwhile Martin Brought-In reveals he signed up on the understanding that the owners would not frustrate his attempts to find a buyer for the club. Unless that buyer costs the owners the GDP of Belgium. Maybe.

It’s carnage. Like two lions fighting each other while the press vultures pick at the Anfield carcass til there’s nowt left.

Still, like in all good Texan yarns, the cavalry have just appeared on the horizon. Reday to ride to the rescue is... another yank.

This one, and his pals own the Boston Red Sox. That’s right. They spell ‘socks’ that way in the US of A. They tell the time by their clox, their ships are moored in dox, and their geese gather in flox. What a bunch of Cox.

Except they’re not. And this bloke, John Henry, doesn’t appear to be all bad either. Given that his predecessor will be Hicks, even Nick Flaming Leeson would look a decent bet.

From what I can glean – and remember I’m about as financially literate as Wayne Rooney is... well... literate – he doesn’t rely too much on piling loads of debt onto his acquisitions at the first possible opportunity. And he doesn’t seem to be too much of a bullshitter either. His consortium saved a famous sports stadium rather than building a brand new utterly soulless slightly out of town facility with all the buzz and atmos of a Trappist monks karaoke night.

If Hicks can have the club wrenched from his cold dead hand (and here I paraphrase Charlton Heston who may not have been Texan but would have fitted in dead well there) there may still be an Anfield to go watch football at. And despite the piss-taking earlier on, it is a great stadium and I doubt a new ‘un in the centre of Stanley Park would have nearly the same resonance.

Were it not for the fact of John Henry’s birthplace I reckon Liverpool fans might be able to see a glimmer of light.

But the trouble is, once you just let the nearest billionaire take a hold of your football club you are at the mercy of whoever the hell might want it next. And hellfire that person could be anyone... Thaksin Shinawatra, Sulaiman Al-Fahim, Malcolm (Shudder, United fans, Shudder!) Glazer... any Johnny-come-lately basically.

'Yes sir, I'm tellin y'all, Ewe-nah-ted are next!'

Abramovich set the benchmark. But even he won’t just sit around coughing up tenners like a malfunctioning cashpoint. I hope this rich man’s plaything of a League rights itself sooner or later and we just have a bunch of similarly endowed institutions all battling it out on a level playing field (not that there are any bloody playing-fields left in this country) and all will be right with the world.

Although we’d still have Man Friggin’ City.


Monday, 4 October 2010

You'll Never Win Again

First off, well done Europe!

We all had confidence in G-Mac didn't we? Not to mention L-Don, M-Jim and I-Pou. In fact whenever a European bagged a birdie and shouted 'C'Mon!' they were actually hollering for the team captain Monty. As LifeUniStudent tweeted us, no one ever calls Tom Watson T-Wat - we reserve that for Jeff Overton.

'Looks like it's going to be a close shave - Immac for G-Mac!'

I'm pleased that they managed to rescue the Cup from a flood of Biblical proportions on the first day. They all went out two by two on Monday and well it lived up to the billing in the end. My only regret is that no one managed to attack some of them lads with a pair of clippers.

Bubba Watson looked like a Silvikrin ad, Ricky Fowler like some lost sibling of the Partridge Family and Rory McIlroy looks for all the world like the illegitimate offspring of Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction and Jimmy Nesbitt. Get a bleeding haircut.

It was the right result in the end though eh?

As it was at Anfield. Blackpool walked it really. I hope they stumble again soon cos by God am I fed up of hearing some numpty commentator use the phrase 'Tangerine Dream'.

But it's more likely that Liverpool will continue to suffer. Poor Woy. It's been a while since we've heard 'You'll Never Walk Alone' on the Kop. I reckon Hodgson might be doing just that - straight out of Anfield - very soon. Incidentally, Nigel de Jong's favourite terrace anthem is 'You'll Never Walk Again'. And for Fernando Torres, it should be 'You'll Never Run Again'.

Torres's lack of confidence in either his ability or his groin is the tip of Woy's iceberg. He insists he's one of the most wespected coaches in Europe but that hardly matters if he's one of the least wespected in Liverpool.

'Wot Wubbish! This weally couldn't be any worse if my name was Gwaeme Souness.'

His main problem, as far as I can make out, is in my own limited, naive, objective, ill-informed opinion, that he's got a shit squad.

'Course Benitez had the gall to say, as they finally got shot of him, that he'd left the club in good nick. Which is like watching a man fall past your twenty-seventh floor window and remarking on how good his skin looks.

Hodgson's always had his work cut out but at the moment he resembles a man trying to stop a runaway piano from going down a 1 in 4 hill. And it would be a damn sight easier if it didn't seem like the players and most of the board were sitting on top of the bloody piano while he put his shoulder to it.

Not that Woy's immune from criticism. Poulsen looks like his Voronin. Joe Cole is playing like a wasp in a jam-jar. Glen Johnson's form is literally indefensible. He looks less like an international full-back and more like a four-year-old who's just got off a roundabout.

And you have to look really hard at Jamie Carragher to reassure yourself that he is actually moving.

Thirty years after the death of Bill Shankly, there was an appropriately feisty march by The Spirit of Shankly supporters, demanding that Tom Hicks (T-Hick) take the first horse outa town.

It's a very understandable point of view. It's incomprehensible that the man can't just accept he and his grey pint-sized fellow prospector have done little more than trash a proud institution to the edge of insolvency and madness. And get out quick.

I guess they're afraid of losing face, or more likely money. Thing is, football isn't about money. Not to the supporter. It's about love. And love, like a lot of Liverpool's first XI right now, is blind.

It's also a dangerous sentiment when practical solutions are required. The worst noise Hodgson could've heard on Sunday (apart from the dim and ugly ping of the sinews of Torres's inside leg) was the chant of 'Dalglish, Dalglish'.

Every one knows Dalglish in Geordie is 'Shearer'. And look how he turned around Newcastle. He picked them up, dusted 'em down and marched 'em straight into the Championship.

The reason Al did that job was cos he couldn't turn down a loved one in need. Fact is, the Lard Ashley got him in cos whatever Al did he was beyond reproach as afr as the Gallowgate were concerned. Same with King Kenny.

The Liverpool board might soon be dead keen to get him in cos even if he can't reinvent Dirk Kuyt as a flaxen-haired Lionel Messi, he'd still be worshipped at the Kop End.
Dirk Kuyt dreams he's playing for Blackpool.

But then here's Hodgson's real problem. He's not allowed to tell the fans that their expectations are too high, even though they are. Mine would be too if I supported Liverpool FC.

Here's a club so steeped in its recent history that you need a bloody good mangle to squeeze all that sentiment out and give it a dose of reality. And the fact that Hodgson appears to be doing this by selecting teams with all the ambition and adventurousness of a giant panda's diet means he really isn't going to last long.

In the meantime the likes of Rushy, Kenny and co can gaze down on to their playpen and shake their sorry heads as Liverpool Football Club careers into the abyss.

As someone who grew up hollering for Liverpool in Europe, and who still rates that team Arsenal pipped in '89 as one of the finest sets of entertainers ever to set foot on English soil, it doesn't fill me with great glee to see the Red demise.

But, face it, my Scouse friends, the good times, Woy or not, are a long way behind you and until the white charger arrives bearing its truckload of Oriental cash, you'll have to make do with Average.

You've had a good run. Now Welcome To Our World.