Saturday, 24 December 2011

Robbo's Christmas Carols


No, it’s not 50 cent describing some ladeez on his latest vidjo, it's Father Christmas Robbo-style. I’ve got me Yuletide head on and I’m wishing you all a very merry sherry-filled Christmas.

In between sticking a fork into an underdone turkey, performing the Heimlich manoeuvre on whichever of me young relations has choked on the 10p coin from the Christmas pudding, rushing out for last minute M&S gift tokens and playing ref to a couple of warring piss-headed uncles, I’ve cobbled together a festive blog.

This year, carols to suit all clubs!


At the Emirates we have a sweet rendition of:

Silent Night, Holy Night,
Pass and move, get it right,
Everything is not quite what it seems
Try not to think of the Theatre of Dreams
Robin Van Persie is fi-it!
Robin van Persie is fit.

ASTON VILLA (to the tune of 'O Little Town of Bethlehem')

O little town of Birmingham
Take back our manager
His jowly face
A puce disgrace
He's worse than Houlli-er
We may have lots of po-oh-te-eh-eh-ential
But still we lag behind
Goodbye McLeish
You piece of peesh
Hurray the plank’s resigned!


We Two Kings of Orient Are
Selling chucks from the back of a car
Fucking over
Blackburn Rovers
Doing it from afar, O oh.....

BOLTON WANDERERS (To the tune of 'Stop the Cavalry')

Hey Mr Gartside comes over here to say we’re doing splendidly
Owen’s positive, we are scared stiff, cos we're lying in the bottom three
Gartside’s hanging tough, Cahill’s had enough,
He’s buggered off to Chelsea.

CHELSEA (To the tune of Slade's 'Merry Christmas')

So here it is Terry Christmas
Everybody’s staying mum
Yes he’s the skipper but
That don’t mean he’s not scu-uh-ummmm!

EVERTON (to the tune of 'Good King Wenceslas')

Good King David Moyes looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
Asked Bill Kenwright ‘is it true
We are breaking even?’
‘There’s no chance of that’ said Bill
‘We are flaming brassic.’
‘Please don’t sell that Jack Rodwell.’
‘We have, mate!’
‘That’s just classic!’

FULHAM (to the tune of 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen')

God rest you merry cottagers, let nothing you dismay
Remember that you hardly ever win when you’re away
You’re getting poorer and Zamora doesn’t want to stay
No-oh tidings of Comfort and Jol, Comfort and Jol
No-oh tidings of Comfort and Jol.

LIVERPOOL (to the tune of 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing')

Hark a Horrid Racist Sings
But not to Kenny the King
T-shirts on, an act of hubris
We all love to back our Luis
So he might have said a word
It’s not one we’ve never heard
Sepp Blatter would just shake hands
Not just give out eight-week bans
Hark the Horrid Racist Sings
But we didn’t Hear a Goddam thing.

MAN CITY (to the tune of 'Away in a Manger')

Away from Manchester
No penny is spared
To bring to the city
Some new millionaire
In all of their pockets
The finances stench
Not enough for the Gaucho
Who sits on the bench.

The Poznan is jumping
They score when they like
The boss smiles so happy
(Looks a bit like a dike?)
The league title beckons
It’ll be on the shelf
If young Balotelli
Doesn’t blow up himself.

MAN UTD (to the tune of 'Deck the Halls')

Of all coaches Fergie’s cleverer
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Not as smart as Patrice Evra
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

It will be so very pleasin’
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
If they win fuck-all this season
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

NEWCASTLE UTD (to the the tune of 'Winter Wonderland')

Mike Ashley is gettin’ meaner
At the Sports Direct Arena
All that they can pretend
At the Gallowgate End
Is that they end higher than Sunderland.

(To the tune of 'Ding Dong Merrily on High')

Ding dong we are flying high
The tractor boys are crappy
Ding dong we have lovely pie
Canaries all are happy
Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelia in excelsis.

QPR (To the tune of 'The Holly and the Ivy')

The Joey and the Warnock
When they have had their moan
The Warnock gets on the pundit’s coach
But the Barton tweets alone.

(to the tune of 'The First Nowell')

The first go-al
It came from a throw
Hurled up from our Rory
It came down with snow
Shawcross or The Crouch
Kenwynne or the Huth
One of them’s going get it
And that is the truth

O Hell, O hell, O hell, O hell,
Stoke City do love a set piece Go-al.

SUNDERLAND (To the tune of 'I Saw Three Ships')

I saw two shits come flailing by
On Sat-day night, on Sat-day night!
They trashed a car and then took flight
On Sat-day night Sunday morning

The policemen took em to the cell
On Sat-day night on Sat-day night
Titus Bramble was there as well
On Sat-day night Sunday morning.

(to the tune of 'Once in Royal David's City')

Once in Royal St. David’s City
Cardiff reached the play-off stage
Still they couldn’t win the big one
Dave Jones got the sack in rage.
Saw some Swans go floating by
Felt a tear come from his eye

No one knows who plays for Swansea
Apart from that Scott Sinclair
Bluebirds fans just sit and simmer
Disbelieving that they’re there
Soon they think they’ll take that crown
Cos the Swans will come straight back down

TOTTENHAM (Or rather Yuletide with 'Arry, to the tune of Nat King Cole's 'Merry Christmas')

My nuts roasting on an open fire
Taxman rifling through my clothes
Though I’ve heard it said, many times, many ways,
Harry’s Christmas, subject closed.

I’ll just settle watching Gareth Bale
Flames just flicking off his toes
And I’ll hope that whatever the courtroom decides
I’ll be free when Capello goes.

WEST BROM (to the tune of 'The Sussex Carol')

On Hodgson's watch all Baggies sing
To see Odemwingie on the wing
Sometimes he's soft as Christmas pud
but sometimes he is weally good.

WOLVES (To the tune of 'In the Bleak Midwinter')

In the bleak midwinter
Mick will slowly freeze
As another ref turns
Down two penalties

The first one was nailed-on
The second one stonewall
Mick just throws his head back
How he hates football.

WIGAN (To the tune of 'While Shepherds Watch')

While others watch their box at night
Martinez trawls the earth
To find an obscure midfielder
That might just prove his worth

And though they may be playing to
A crowd of twenty-five
Roberto fills his men with cheer
And keeps the dream alive.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


First of all apologies for the chasm of time it’s taken to get a new blog out. There are reasons for this. First, the computer got a virus. Second it passed it on to me. To be honest I haven’t quite got rid of the damn vyyv£"""£%^&&&*$E^E£&I *R yet

Of course, football has been idling along without me, not least in terms of two draws for European competition which seemed to be a response to a Cameron veto. Take that you smooth-browed quasi-Christian right-wing toff!

Cameron doing a sly 'wanker' gesture in the direction of France

Chelsea and Arsenal get the toughest fixtures possible. And Stoke, United and City pretty much match that in the Europa League. After the next rounds of both we could have no interest in what Europe does whatsoever and turn into a strange nation of hermits gathering on street-corners and buffing up our last pound coins while William Hague pads about in that baseball cap saying ‘I told you so!’

Of course fans of the Manchester clubs are managing to make upbeat noises about the Europa League now there in that particular kettle of fish. You’re not kidding anyone. Harry Redknapp may not have enjoyed the Shamrocking he got in Dublin but I dare say he doesn’t give a dry shit about not having to pop onto a plane every other Thursday morning.

Such is City’s strength in depth that they won’t mind having a little sideline to give their millionaire third-teamers a little run-out. United won’t last long given that injuries and illnesses have left Fergie’s cupboard looking barer than Carlos Tevez’s bookshelves.

To Stoke City, revived under Tony Pulis, the Valencia double-header will be immense fun. AS a Boro fan who watched awestruck as we marched to the final a while back, I have to say that the Europa League’s only raison d’etre is to give fans of the smaller clubs a little bit of the limelight. (Nevertheless it’s such a bloated, lifeless crock of crap for most of its duration that metaphorically it’s hard not to think of Robert Maxwell floating on the briny.)

I know scientists at CERN think they’ve found proof that the the so-called “God particle” exists, despite Jose Mourinho’s insistence that he is the Higgs Boson. But they’ve also isolated the gene for “no-nonsenseness” and it turns out Tony Pulis has no other genetic matter in his system.

Here's Pulis dressed like a twat - it's the only such picture ever taken.

Wenger and the increasingly fractious Andre Villas-Boas have trips to Milan and Naples. This means the Blue Bell will be running its ITV sweepstake for how many times Peter Drury uses the phrase ‘Italian Job’. Yawn. Personally I can’t see either of ‘em getting through. And I’m not bothered either.

There seems no doubt that if the draw keeps them apart then the final will be Real v Barca. And yeah, I’m sure they’ll be some nice stuff played n that, especially now Jose has let his team express itself a bit more, it is becoming a little too bleedin’ predictable for my liking. I mean I’m sure Sebastian Vettel’s a lovely man and an excellent driver but I don’t want to see him win every bloody race.

(Actually that’s a bad analogy cos I don’t want to watch F1 full stop and anyone who does should be taken out and shot in front of Jeremy Clarkson’s family.)

The gloryseekers abroad are as nothing compared to the burgeoning relegation dogfight that is already cranked up to breaking point this season.

Tuesday night is the must-see Lancashire Hotch-Potch derby: Blackburn Rovers v Bolton Wanderers. The two clubs have many things in common – geography, ineptitude... but more than that a couple of Scottish managers who are, regardless of circumstances, relentlessly positive.

If Steve Kean’s house caught fire he’d be happy that for at least one night the neighbours had saved on their heating bills. If Owen Coyle fell off a cliff he’d still be hoping to pick himself up and go again when he was halfway down.

I mean I’m no psychiatrist (and if you’re thinking you need one then I advise you to watch this ) but surely there comes a point when positivity in word but not in deed becomes a hollow joke.

Coyle at least has started to spread the blame amongst his players, but truth be told I’ve seen more creativity in an actuaries’ brainstorming session. No Holden, no Korean lad, no Elmander If Chris Eagles, worthy though he is, is your main spark then your matchbox is a bit on the damp side.

Steve Kean, meanwhile, has become pathologically upbeat, as if to admit for more than a second that second from bottom is pretty shit would mean the Lancastrian skies would come crashing down on top of him.

Hoillett apart there’s not much going for ‘em up front and Ryan Nelsen has been a huge miss. Scott Dann may have appeared a perfect match for Samba, but maybe he’s more ballroom and less Latin. Above all else you’d have thought that Formica would be good on the counter.

In the teeth of another gale of abuse from the Rovers faithless, it’s hard not to be impressed by the Kean’s fortitude. Blackburn have had a fair bit of misfortune and conceded a lot of late goals. I seem to remember that Boro would’ve stayed up not so long ago if football matches were 80 minutes long.

"Och we've just let in another but it only meks me more positive!"

Nevertheless you do get the impression that Kean’s position is secure only cos it would cost the Venky’s owners too much to sack him. And while he’s a focus for the fans’ ire, the poultry pedlars can hide behind him and use him, in a phrase once uttered by Lord Brown to describe his role as head of BP, as a ‘shit umbrella’.

Personally I think a shit umbrella is one with loads of holes in it. Which is a good way to describe the defences of both Bolton and Blackburn. One of em’s doomed. And the other’s not safe. It’ll be a superb, terrible football match. A reet old classico.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Out With the Dead Wood, AVB!

Andre Villas-Boas didn’t waste any time getting his retaliation in after Chelsea’s 3-0 tonking of Valencia. And you can’t blame him. Journos (and me) have been forming an orderly queue to gently push him off Roman’s slippery pedestal, and then his team came up trumps.

"3-0! Nyah-nyah-nee-ner-ner!"

There is a fair bit of spine in the Portuguese lad, isn’t there? This week Alex and, more predictably, Anelka have been put in the show-room window. Nicolas got a sign round his neck saying ‘Many previous owners, but very few smiles on the clock.’ Anelka has never been more than a sub’s bench away from a teenage strop his whole career. Enigma? Nightmare, more like.

Frank Lampard has the face of a man watching some joyriders take his Ferrari for a spin. ‘Course Frank has come back strong before but you can’t help feeling he ought to take a leaf out of his missus’s book and take a short vacation.

The escudo’s dropped for AVB. Having not wielded the new broom soon enough, there’s a sense that the axe is being primed for the greatest clear-out of dead wood since Pinocchio became a real boy. What gives him renewed confidence is the way certain players have flourished, Sturridge being the obvious example.

Some of his finishing at the Sports Clobber Going Cheap Stadium on Saturday was a little Heskeyian (hard and true and straight at the keeper) but Heskey would never have managed create such situations in the first place. Add to that a great eye for a pass and you’re looking at the best English forward in our league on current form.

Juan Mata has settled well, even if you suspect that there ought to be some sort of Hans Blix-led FIFA delegation sent into Spanish training camps to see whether they’re simply cloning Xavis and Iniestas in a topnotch laboratory somewhere.

Didier Drogba, who’s been trying to thumb a taxi out of the Bridge for three years, seems to have at the very least told the cabbie to leave the meter running while he pops inside to tidy things up. In fact getting him on side is a bit like getting the bull to hold the red cloak while you straighten your side-parting.

AVB bleated about the unfair scrutiny of the press in the post-match conference and while you can understand his yah-boo attitude, I don’t quite know what he was expecting. Chelsea managers don’t get the benefit of the doubt, not least cos it’s hard not to think of Roman Abramovich without picturing his index finger being drawn across his throat.

But surely there’s no point in employing a 34-year-old if you’re not thinking long-term. And long-term means that the old boys’ network needs ripping up sooner rather than later.

Of course, AVB suggested that Man City have not been subject to the same pressures but then maybe he wasn’t here when people were smirking about Mancini’s stuttering squad not that long ago. But old Roberto has been wielding his own weaponry in recent months.

His squad is as deep as the Marianas Trench which always means there’s someone with his own axe to grind. Kolo Toure is the latest Grinch, and given the amount of time he’s spent with nowt to do it’s hardly surprising that he’s been sitting around with his chopper in his hand.

Back in your usual seat, Kolo!

Toure’s latest lament can be best summarised as ‘Is it cos I is African?’ To which the answer is ‘No, you pillock, it’s cos you failed a drugs test.’ He argues that playing in the African Nations Cup puts him and his fellow Africans at a disadvantage. I just don’t see that. Kompany and Lescott are playing well and neither of them have bloodstreams with a suspicious composition.

Frankly young Kolo is still in work and that’s a bonus for anyone these days. I mean I haven’t seen such a misguided response since Rio came back from his absent-minded absence of 8 months and asked for a pay rise.

Every manager these days will tell you of the importance of having at least two teams to pick from. Mancini’s got getting on for seven as a far as I can tell. The price you pay for going to a club that’s got money dripping from its portals like sweat from Mike Ashley’s sauna is that you may find yourself having to be patient.

Lamps may seethe, Kolo may cavil, but if the team does better without you then wait your fucking turn and stop whingeing.

In the meantime we can still hope that financial might not win the day this season. Take that with a Siberian excavation of salt as I’m talking about Spurs. Gooners aside, Arry’s lot are certainly the neutral’s favourite this season. It’s not just Neil Warnock giving them warm applause.

Modric still weeps when he thinks that he could be playing midfield with John Obi Mikel

Modric is player of the season, if you ask me (Van Persie’s coming up on the rails). He controls the reins of that team like a tiny jockey in charge of a mighty stallion. Its galloping flanks are Bale and Lennon, its thumping heart is Scott Parker and if you want the odd award for presentation you’ve got Van der Vaart and Adebayor.

Redknapp’s said they can win it this season. Most of us wouldn’t be quite so bold, but it’s good to hear an Englishman speaking about a football team with a bit of conviction. And if the gaffer can steer clear of other convictions into the New Year, then you just never know.

Monday, 28 November 2011

The Need For Speed

I’ve got nowt funny to say today. Not one word humorous comment. Some of you’ll reckon there’s no change there, then.

If you think of Gary Speed you think of a chest-out midfielder with a great left peg; you think of the classic football cliché of a lad who had a great leap for a small man; you think of a Leeds team that somehow won the Premier League; you think of a committed international footballer and a manager who recognised that Wales have a generation of young footballers headed by Bale and Ramsey who are capable of doing special things.

And even the most heterosexual of men can acknowledge that the man was as easy on the eye as sun sparkling off a Spanish sea.

You’d have thought that with all that going for him the man would have every right to be the sort of cocky wanker that sometimes appears to blight the modern game.
I know in such circumstances you’re not going to hear a bad word said about someone, but even then some wiseacre’ll say summat out the corner of his mouth if there was anything that you needed reminding of. To be fair that’d usually be me.

But no, Gary Speed was adored. What makes this tragedy deeper is the fact that he was so deeply loved by all who played with him and watched him.

That’s a pretty hard ask when he played for a fair few clubs. Club loyalty is not what it was and football fans don’t have much time for the modern mercenary who tears around from club to club in his latest playing-card-thin Italian sports car, his agent trailing behind him with an open suitcase to collect the £50 notes that are streaming out of the boot.

Speed played for Leeds, Everton, Newcastle... not clubs where temporary residence is welcomed. And still he commanded respect and adulation.

There’s nothing about this story that leaves you with anything other than a sense of sadness and even despair. Second only to his friends and family will be the players he was managing at international level.

Welsh football has had a fickle old relationship with its gaffers for many years, with John Toshack popping up like an unwelcome uncle at a family wedding. Speed, after a not-too-successful stint at Bramall Lane, took over and the change has been really something.

He leaves a team brimming with belief, immensely capable, and as pleasant to look at as the manager himself. Lord knows who’s going to keep that going, but I hope that that legacy is not lost along with the way.

As a side-issue, one of my least favourite pundits has come out of this with renewed respect. I heard Robbie Savage on the 5Live phone-in and what came across was a genuine friend in a state of utter grief. And given what folks say about Speed it’s unlikely that he’d form such a firm friendship with a pillock. Savage has been honourable, sincere and his bewilderment at this loss just compounds our collective sense of shock.

It’s impossible to even speculate as to what might be the reason for his suicide – and that’s not for the likes of me to consider any road. His death has, however, come at a time when the Leveson enquiry has unveiled case after case of immoral pillaging of people’s private lives in search of a scoop.

And once the shock has faded, the questions will be asked, and let’s just hope and pray that the phones will remain untapped, the bins untroubled, the kids unpestered. Let’s face it there’s been some devastating tragedies in recent years that have had your average reptilian hack salivating like a komodo dragon with a poisoned buffalo in its vicinity.

RIP. Let him rest in peace. Let the family grieve in peace. They will want to know why he took his own life, but the rest of us don’t need to.

Like I say, I’ll remember Speed as a footballer. Those that know him remember him as a great colleague. Football isn’t that important, but it’s good, even in those tragic of circumstances, that it can be populated by some dedicated, gifted and thoroughly decent human beings. Though whether there are any better than Speed is highly unlikely.

Monday, 21 November 2011

AVB - A Vapid Beginning

Andre Villas-Boas. It doesn’t trip off the tongue any more easily than Roman Abramovic. Or Abram-O-vitch, depending on whether the person talking is a pedantic knob-end or not.

"Look! Here comes Guus! I told you he'd return!"

It cost €15 million for the Russian billionaire to buy off Porto for the 33-year-old and as yet there’s nowt to show for his money. Three months is a long time when you’re a clown-faced oligarch who changes managers more often than a teenager’s Mum changes his sheets. Villas-Boas must be ruefully stroking his bum-fluff this morning.

What’s most confusing about the young Portuguese gaffer’s reign thus far is how nowt’s changed. Having promised a new broom, AVB has lumped himself with precisely the same backsliding squad that dogged Ancelotti last season.

As we know, John Terry’s always open to trying out a new partner but maybe not at the centre of defence, particularly if the man in question is the human spaniel David Luiz. Off he bounds up the park chasing some imaginary stick, getting himself into deep water and dragging the whole team down with him.

Not that Terry’s lumbering efforts do much to reassure either. Perhaps the fact that people are beginning to recognise that for all his faults Ashley Cole’s as good a left-back as England has ever produced is leaving the poor lad bewildered, cos stick him in a blue shirt and he defends like Cheryl.

‘Course it doesn’t help Chelsea that they’ve tried very hard in recent months to stop getting beat by Liverpool, namely by nicking their matchwinners Torres and Meireles. Given that pedigree, it seems weird that Villas-Boas brought them both on with six minutes to go so they could get a closer look at what they’ve been missing.

Torres is of course AVB’s biggest liability.

"You remember what a football is, Nando, right?"

£50 million’s worth of talent bought, £49 million of which was lost in transit. Little bits of pace, power, anticipation and precise finishing are sitting in a LOSt Property office somewhere at Euston station. Unless Luis Suarez picked it up on the journey back up to the North-West (and you wouldn’t put it past the talented little sneak).

For 84 minutes Chelsea had the big strapping enforcer that is Didier Drogba, and right now that lad looks like he couldn’t give a fig, a toss or a shit. Anelka drifts from pitch to bench in an aimless approximation of a career. In fact the only poor sod looked miffed to be a sub. He wasn’t exactly smothered in brotherly love after he scored the goal either.

Of course the least able footballer in blue is still John/Mikel/Obi*. His worth is finally being recognised. Zilch. His meek surrendering of the ball after it’d been played to him by Peter Cech (currently doubling as a World War II pilot judging by the facial get-up) was utterly typical. I guess the only reason Chelski haven’t replaced him is that Man City currently have so many holding midfielders the FA should seriously think about contacting the Monopolies Commission.

In short it doesn’t how much Villas-Boas squats on the touchline like a dysentery victim in a Turkish loo, until he gets shot of this job-lot of these old boys who still secretly worship at the altar of the Special One then he’s pretty much done for.

Guus Hiddink, the only other man capable of wrestling these egos into summat resembling a football team, is idle now Turkey have no Euro 2012 to attend and it must be tempting for Abramovich to get straight on the blower this morning and sort it out.

In the meantime AVB resembles a shell-shocked casualty from an ad for Calvin Klein's Obsession. He seems a decent enough bloke, but you wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in the Algarve for Christmas – and he can take the Thunderbirds side-parting with him.

The winner came from a Chelsea old boy, of course, and once again Glen Johnson has made himself look good going forward. Defensively he still looks like he’d fit very well into Chelsea’s current back four. Which does beg the question ‘So what did Micah Richards do that means he’ll never get picked to play for England again?’

Certainly, Richards has had a couple of years when he’s ‘lost his way’ (translation: ‘getting shedloads of cash and spending it on booze, birds, brum-brums and bling). But with the generous exception ofKyle Walker, Richards is to every other right-back in the country what Mark Cavendish is to a kid whose just had his stabilisers taken off.

So what did he do to upset Fabio? Wear a tie incorrectly? Use his PS2 during a team talk? Happen to remark that he hadn’t understood a word of that last piece of advice, even though it had come from Stuart Pearce?

I don’t know either. But it has to be something. I mean there’s not been so mysterious an absence since Lord Lucan rode off on Shergar.

Praise however is due to @Rioferdy5. While I can’t say his is not a somewhat chequered past - Christmas parties and missed drugs test through jumper-shopping spring to mind, the way he stepped up as the Twitter-Blatter-Twatter was top-notch.

Of course some of us still remember that it wasn’t more than a few months back that the triumvirate of Wills, Backs and Dave went forelock-tugging to Switzerland and returned with a bad dose of Sepp-ticaemia.

But since they rooked us good and proper and we’re not bidding for the World Cup for the foreseeable, we can slag off the man who put the swizz into Switzerland good n proper. Unlike the strangely quiet Rest Of The Bleeding World!

Blatter won’t go. He’s apologised. He’s hugged black men in his time so that puts an end to any talk of homophobia and racism, doesn't it? So who will start the FIFA spring? Perhaps Rio, now that his England duties are over. Not sure he’s going to want partner JT in defence again anyway. He’s more likely to be working with his brother - for the prosecution.

I'm at the front of the queue, mind. With a scowl on my face and a giant fuck-off Toblerone in my hand.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Great Scott!

England beat Spain and all I can think is that Creaseless Cameron will have been nodding his head gravely and calling it ‘a victory for common sense’. It was a win cast in the Age of Austerity: no risks, bank what you’ve got, sit tight and pray to God that no one breaks your door down and makes off with the flatscreen.

Not that your Spaniards are the most belligerent of bailiffs. Fact is they’re more likely to ease open a tiny gap in the front window frame and slip one of their tiny magicians in while you’re minding the back door.

It was a weird one. Spain seem to be treating the word ‘friendly’ all too literally recently, what with getting thumped by Argentina and Portugal. (Apart from Sergio Ramos of course – a Red Hot Chilli Pepper looky-likey who plays footy with the same clunky swagger. They haven’t forgotten how to be dirty, have they?)

Just in case you don't hate Ramos as much as me, here's a picture of his girlfriend

Even at half-cock they mustered 21 chances versus England’s 3. There was nowt wrong with how Capello set up his team. Despite the fact that our plucky boys couldn’t keep the ball - I’ve not seen so many misplaced passes since our third-year lads tried to chat up some sixth-form lasses – defensively they were rock-solid.

Jagielka underlined the fact that John Terry’s tediously troubled times are coming to a close. Lescott was a bit of a revelation even if every time he cleared the ball it went unerringly to a Spanish foot, as if Joleon was saying ‘Again! Is that all you’ve got, you pussies!? Again!!!’

Of course the star of such a dogged show is always going to be your tireless holding midfielder and I think we can say the Owen Hargreaves Award for Relentless Effort goes to Scott Parker. There’s summat very reassuring about Parker. He’s old-fashioned somehow: the work-rate, the upright gait, the 1950’s Brylcreemed side-parting... it’s like he’s been drafted in from a simpler time when a rattle, a cup of Bovril and a stripy scarf was all a man needed to take to a football ground.

Parker would have been the footballer of choice for every character in an Ealing Comedy. Even the affectionate moniker ‘Scotty’ suggests a big man-sized tissue mopping up the messy dribbles and cruddy scuffs left by his less capable comrades.

Wind him up and watch him go!

It’s impossible to imagine a return to Gareth Two-Paced Barry (slow and stationary). Or Michael Carrick, a man who makes neatness a crime.

Capello was eager to praise the new boys who have stepped up, not least Jack Rodwell. Fabio claimed he ‘never thought a player so young could be so ready on his first exhibition’ thereby making the lad sound less like an attacking midfielder and more like an aspiring water-colourist. Ah, the English language, eh?

Rodwell does look the business, mind. Phil Jones did a decent job, too, though you can already see his playing career being dogged by his versatility. You just wait til the poor sod gets slotted in at left-book for a crocked Cashley and wait for the doom-mongers to rain down on him. The lad’s a centre-back. Let him play there.

As for Welbeck, well he was a direct substitution for Darren Bent, who played as the football equivalent of a look-out. Capello must’ve said ‘Darren, sneak up near the front and tell us if you can see any trouble coming.’ To Bent’s credit it was his header that led to the goal. At the moment the alternatives to Rooney up top are pretty interchangeable. But I’d rather have a lad with a decent touch up there, like Sturridge or Zamora, rather than the earnest galloper that Capello favours.

As for Spain, well they’re kilometres better than us. Or indeed anyone else. Fabregas’s post-match bleat stank of a Wengered past. What team, in their right mind, is going to keep it nice and open against the best passers the game has seen? It’d be like saying to Usain Bolt ‘race you to the next lamp-post’ without having made sure your mates had lined the pavement with boxes of distracting KFC. Madness.

And sometimes Spain have only themselves to blame. Fabregas will know that there’s a new tavern opened up by the Emirates stadium called The Extra Pass (there isn’t really, but there should be), and aside from the lady-pleasered chin of David Villa, the team lack a bit of ruthlessness at times. Even if you have 70% of possession, you’ve still got to do summat with it.

Even so, anyone thinking that this was anything more than a freakish one-off is living in the land where Audley Harrison can dance, there is a point to Michele Bachmann, and Louis Walsh has penetrating insight.

What it proved, new boys or not, is that English footballers can still be worthy and diligent if given a limited gameplan to follow but when it comes to what your Alan Hansens would call ‘touch and technique’ – well they’re the footballing equivalent of the artwork them painting elephants come up with, and they are similarly overpriced.

Of course the strange thing is that an England victory always makes you a tad perkier than you should be, and I find meself looking forward to the next Euros in a spirit of having zero expectation. There’ll be no Rooney to worry about losing in a fit of twatty temper. Chances are the creaking partnership of Terry and Ferdinand (Rio, not Anton) will be unavailable.

As long as we long-sufferers aren’t reintroduced to the Gerpard Conundrum where Fat Frank and Sulkin’ Stevie fight over the same square of turf, there might be a little bit of light, unpressured enjoyment for the even the most steadfast pessimist. Which is, paradoxically, optimistic.

Fear not, fellow miseries, there’s another friendly tomorrow night. The victory has given the lads ‘something to build on’ so we look forward to the Swedes digging up the foundations like a bunch of Scotsmen with armfuls of turf-cutting equipment.

"'As 'e finished his bleedin' blog yet?"

In the meantime we've got 'Arry's trial to look forward to in January. I think all this talk of secret Bung Bung parties in Portsmouth is just newspaper waffle. Don't you?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Stand For Fergie (If We Must)

Regular readers will know that I’m not given to outlandish statements, foolhardy predictions or irrational outbursts. But I say this to you: Democracy is dead.

The Greeks invented democracy, right? They exported it around the world to other nations who set about doing it way better. Like England and football, really. And cricket. And rugby.... tennis... *sigh* And now our Hellenic friends are holding a gun to the head of Europe and cobbling together a coalition to try and answer the continental concern.

In democracies everyone gets to vote – which is nice but quite often leads to stupidity winning the day. (See Frankie Cocozza).

I'm just bein' a knob and gettin' away wiv it. Eat your heart out Robbie Savage.

Me, I’ve always thought that the best system of rule is a dictatorship. You just have to get the right dictator.

Take Manchester United. When I was growing up they were English football’s glamorous afterthought. Post-Busby they slipped into the second division as easily as George Best slipped into a nightclub. O’Farrell was replaced by Tommy Docherty and the little gargoyle kept us entertained with the likes of Coppell and Gordon Hill (a kind of prototype Manc Cockney for Beckham) but had only an FA Cup to show for his efforts.

The Doc was a ‘character’ – a phrase that I think meant ‘pisshead’ – and United replaced the slurring bon viveur with Dave Sexton, a man with all the charisma of a woodlouse. Sensing that the crowd at the Theatre of Dreams were dreaming all too often while Sexton’s team were on the park, United turned to a Black Country version of Docherty, the Bling Magnet and Casual Racist Big Ron Atkinson.

Again, United copped a couple of FA Cups but were never able to muster a really significant assault on the League.

And to be honest, apart from the genetically encoded Scouse spite, no one really minded Man U. There was a bit of glamour sentiment attached to them, but essentially when The One True Dictator arrived Manchester United were a side overly reliant on Bryan Robson and Worthington’s Best Bitter.

What’s interesting about United managers prior to Fergie is that they lasted 3 or 4 years. In Sexton’s case, whilst doing f-all. The Govan Beetroot himself managed 4 years of diddly before they stumbled past Crystal Palace in an FA Cup Final.

What I mean to say is, they let the bloke be a bit shit for a while. How likely is that nowadays? (Apart from at Middlesbrough, where we wait for them to prove that they always were a bit shit before we move ‘em on). Ferguson had to change the culture of the club, which meant them getting used to such novelties as hairdryers, shallow frying and a drink called Water.

Slowly the dictator ossified into place and if we must all take it in turns to kiss old Taggart’s ring, then it’s fair to say that his greatest triumph has been his ability to recognise when players are past their use-by-date and when they’re ready to be thrown into the big time.

Me, I’d love to dwell on the things that didn’t work. And that basically means Eric Djemba Djemba, Kleberson and Taibi. It’s just that in 25 years that’s not bad going. Benitez managed to buy twice as many duffers during his somewhat shorter stay at the western end of the M62.

There should be many other instances where his faith hasn’t been justified. His interest in horses clearly extends to Portuguese show-ponies, but the mincing strut of Ronaldo and Nani has paid huge dividends in the end.

Giving gainful employment to a French background artist with a potty line in poetry shouldn’t have worked either but Cantona continues to be his masterstroke. That Kung Fu kick led some wags to suggest that this was the first bona fide cast of the shit actually hitting the fan.

Then there’s his sudden deployment of the cornerstones of England’s ‘golden generation’ – your Neville, your Butt, your Becks, your Scholes, your – shit, I’ve come over all Lawrenson – who were way too young to win the title. Of course, put that lot in England shirts and they became a less precious metal – the leaden, tinpot generation, I think you could call it.

My point is, if Ferguson’s tenure had been subject to the forces of democracy then none of this would’ve happened. If the season ticket holders of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand (and frankly I wish he’d stop standing and just sit the fuck down in a comfy armchair somewhere) had been given their say as to whether, say, Roy Keane should spend more time with his wife’s puppies, or even if Carlos Tevez should haul his greedy ass across Manchester, they’d still be sitting in the North Stand today.

And if it was one fan one vote, Fergie would’ve been winding his way back up to his favourite Glasgow chewing-gum vending machine with his tail between his legs after a couple of years. The fans didn’t much care for 11th in the First Division in 1987 (which as the name suggests, teenagers, used to be the best division in the country).

I’m telling you, dictators are the best bet. If only you could rely on them not being too malevolent. And only opposition managers, former players, referees and BBC executives could ever accuse Ferguson of owt like that. Could they?

Me, I’ve always blamed his Mrs. There was a time, after a trophyless season (ah happy days!) when if it wasn’t for her elbowing him back to work we’d all be chuckling behind our hands as the Glazers or whoever went through managers like the lad Cocozza gets through Bacardi-breezered totty.

But he’s still there, dammit. It looks like he’s mellowing. We can but hope.

So well done, your Knightship but please, enough is enough. Martin O’Neill’s tired of waiting. Time for a new dictator.

And that George Papandreou’ll need a job.

Man U? Compare to the bleedin' Greek economy is a piece of piss, innit?

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Case For The Defence

Ooh the crotch seams of football statisticians are splitting under the strain. The Premier League has thus far mustered an average of 2.97 goals per game. (The 0.97 of a goal is presumably the one Messrs Bent and Adebayor keep just missing – and there’s nowt more satisfying that your mercenary goalscorer failing to do the one bit of his job he’s really paid for.)

More like Smack 'im Like a Mackem

This surprising stat is supposed to indicate a sad decline in the art of defending. But are defenders really getting worse? Well yes. They’re fucking shite.

I’d like to start by blaming it on Rio. Not Ferdinand, who more and more he resembles an old dodderer from an Ibuleve advert, but Rio the city – in fact Brazil as a whole. Full-backs these days are duty bound to be auxiliary wingers. They get forward so frequently that they even have their own verb ‘bombing on’ to describe the phenomenon.

Not only does every full-back think he’s Cafu, he defends like them n all. A full-back gets notice d these days for pace and crossing ability and pace. Who gives a toss if he’s got the positional sense of a bat in ear-muffs (that’s you that is, Glen Johnson).

Jose Bosingwa, Chelsea’s mono-browed raider, needs a guide-dog to get him back into the right-hand side of defence. Kyle Walker is a tip-top lad going forward but I’m not convinced that he doesn’t need his hand-holding when he’s fending off an attacking left-winger. Leighton Baines is Everton’s biggest goal threat but he’s so impressed with Chicharito’s finishing he pulls up a deckchair and tokes on a ciggie from his front-row seat.

Of course Brazil’s compensation to this policy of outflanking the opponents was the two holding midfielders - two cloggers to shield your centre backs and guard your penalty box with your life. In a perfect world these players would be Claude Makelele and Claude Makalele. (Incidentally, the translation of ‘Makalele’ is ‘Scouse banjo’)

Now, apart from Fulham, and Man City, whose squad is the football equivalent of my wife’s frigging wardrobe (there’s something for every occasion with Adam Johnson being Mancini’s emergency all-purpose accessory and Carlos Tevez the big ugly back-of-the-drawer knickers) most teams seem to eschew this safety mechanism in favour of a headlong rush toward the opposition.

Chelsea v Arsenal featured those sturdy central operators Alex Song and John Obi Mikel. I still can’t quite believe Mikel inspired such a tug-of-war between Man U and Chelsea a while back. At the time I believe he was an attacking midfielder – he certainly defends like one. Song makes more sense in the role but even he was powerless to prevent wave after wave of Blue Meanies stomping through the Thin Red Line. I say thin – when a roof leaks at Arsenal’s training ground they send Sczesny up a ladder with a box of one-ply fragranced tissues.

While you’re never surprised to see Koscielny and Djourou behaving like men who’ve woking up with their heads down the wrong end of their sleeping-bags, it was weird to see the likes of Cashley and Terry looking similarly deranged.

‘Course the seeing John Terry fall over is a joy forever. Moscow memories came flooding back as the grim-faced plodder’s mug smacked into the Stamford Bridge turf and Robin Van Persie galloped off to confirm his status as a member of Wenger’s Irreplaceables. (Team-mates include Fabregas, Nasri, Henry, Vieira – Arsene makes ‘em skipper, they can’t wait to go).

Villas-Boas claimed the League Cup win at Goodison in midweek was for the skipper as he seeks to fight off accusations of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. If it’s true it would show just how dense Terry is – all them weaknesses in Anton Ferdinand’s game and he chooses to pick up on an irrelevance of the colour of his skin? Better surely just to point how what a crap footballer he is.

Terry doing his best Yosemite Sam impression: "Oh, You Robin!!"

As for Ashley Cole, well he got a good roasting by Theo Walcott (unfortunate turn of phrase but you know what I mean) and spent much of the time playing three or four yards behind the rest of the defence. It’s the first time someone has played the sweeper role at left back.

The thing is these blokes aren’t bad players – or at least they haven’t been. Terry lacks pace, but he’s managed to get around that until recently. It doesn’t help when David Luiz – the result of a hideous cloning experiment between Brian May and a headless chicken – is his partner in crime .

There’s some merit in saying that footballers don’t defend well these days cos the rules don’t really permit it. Good tackles get punished way too often. One of the greatest arts of the modern forward is the well-timed tumble. I’ve seen newborn foals make a better effort to stay on their feet. I honestly don’t think a lot of players know how to tackle these days, so they (a) don’t bother – (the Taarabt Option) or (b) tackle anyway and get sent off (the Cattermolean School).

There are exceptions: Scott Parker and errr... well that’s it really.

The upshot of all this suicidal defending is loads of goals and top players strutting their stuff. As well as RVP, there’s RVdV, Silva to Aguero’s Lone Ranger, and Grant Holt. The Premier League should always have space for an English centre-forward who looks like he spent the morning with one hand on the slot machine and the other on a pint of Badger’s Best.

Who Ate All The [Delia's] Pies?

Nevertheless I sometimes wonder whether the Flash Harrys might not be doing their bit at the toher end. Watch Barca. Never mind all the Billy Smart’s Circus stuff around the opposition’s box, the way they chase the ball when they lose it like a pack of Duracell-packed Jack Russells is an object lesson to all footballers.

PS I see El Hadj Diouf has signed for Doncaster for three months. Apparently it’ll get cut to 6 weeks for good behaviour.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Theatre of Dirhams

In ten years time, in the North Didsbury Sunshine Home for the Bewildered, a tottering Arsene Wenger will nudge his zimmer frame over to the grumpy bastard in the armchair.

“You’re Alex Ferguson”, he will say.

“Yes. And you’re Arsene Wenger!”

“Mais oui!”

“Aye” says the purple Scot, “I remember names – I just cannae remember how tae defend!”

After Arsenal’s 8-2 mauling at Old Trafford, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that the Premier League’s arse-spanking event of the year had been seen and done. There was something about City’s demolition derby victory that may even have left United botties rawer still.

First of all, Fergie managed to suggest his team had met all the big sides in the League last weekend. City were absent from the list. He’s the master of the tactical omission. Secondly, there’s that ‘noisy neighbours’ tag – which is Fergie’s bit of football snobbery, as if Citeh are some chav family with nothing more than a Euromillions win to go with their string of ASBOs. Well they’re not so much noisy now as so downright ear-splitting it makes your hairdryer sound like little more than a housefly’s fart.

From Cornwall to Kuala Lumpur, there’ll be wanting answers from Fergie. Citeh, five points clear and with a squad with more depth than the Marianas Trench, look pretty unbeatable. There is still one ugly blot on the Eastlands landscape but the greedy little Argie will be whisked off to a new address in January – I hear it’s called Joorabchian’s Cut – and Mancini’s grip will have tightened considerably.

And it’s Roberto who’s looking like the bee’s knees at the mo. I thought Citeh would lose patience with the bloke, assuming as I did that billionaires have attention span of a three-year-old toddler. But then not all billionaires are Russian oligarchs. Mancini’s had 100 games in charge now and finally the stroppy buggers are being weeded out and a team is emerging.

Of course Balotelli, possibly forced into service by the couch potato-faced Carlos, has been a revelation. He’s managed to combine exquisite finishing with tremendous eccentricity. Ken Loach is currently making a film called Looking for Mario, in which a United fan gets kept awake day and night by a bloke playing Italian hiphop and setting off fireworks in his bathroom.

Who said Balotelli was a bit of a cock?

That T-shirt with the slogan ‘Why Always Me?’ showed a fine line in self-awareness. I know the lad’s got a couple of rashers short of the full English but I’m starting to like the lad.

Whether this is a changing of guard in Manchester remains to be seen, say all but the most reckless of pundits. Me, I know it is. Sure, Ferguson has this magic touch, can turn average Englishness into a force to be reckoned with, but frankly he doesn’t have anything like the same weapons at his disposal. Citeh’s tanks rolled into the Theatre of Dreams and United had nowt but cotton-buds with which to protect themselves.

At times Ferdinand appeared to wave them through with grim-faced resignation like a bystander at Royal Wootton Basset.

Fergie can compete against naked wealth when it’s a band of self-interested mercenaries – not that I’m suggesting that United are poor; compared to Shane McGowan, Shaun Ryder is coherent. But if that wealth is organised into a team culture by a suave greying Mediterranean smoothie with a potty streak then Fergie has to stand aside and let that money talk, be it in roubles or dirhams.

Chelsea have yet to recover the pomp of the Mourinho years. I think the phrase is ‘in transition’. Which is football-speak for ‘some good young-uns, some good old-uns who are getting past it and some rich middle-uns who don’t quite know what they’re supposed to be doing yet.’

The defeat at QPR led to Villas-Boas’s first resort to ref-bashing. Unfairly, I reckon. The red cards were right. The penalty was right. Drogba looked like he was jumping into a puddle rather than Adel Taarabt. (Even so, I can imagine a bit of Neil Warnock wishing that he could attack Adel in the same way. Tarrabt makes Mario Balotelli look like he’s walked out of an ashram.

Rangers spent the second half doing their best All Black impression and choking like a thirteen-year-old after his first toke but in the end Anelka and co couldn’t get back into it. And Chelsea sit six points behind this season’s Premier League Champions. Or do I mean leaders? No I mean Champions.

Citeh’ll still struggle in Europe but that’ll only strengthen their hold in England.

Meanwhile the rest of the North-West are looking a bit grim. Well Wigan, Bolton and Blackburn always look a bit grim but so do their football clubs now. (Yep, I know, this coming from a citizen of Middlesbrough – but I think that qualifies me to pass judgement).

Blackburn fans seem to be the readiest to roast their manager. Not quite sure why the chicken-vendors are hesitating. Kean looks oven-ready. Not that his team have played that bad, they just haven’t had the luck. Not that Blackburn fans will forgive the manager or owners.

Steve Kean prowls the touchline.

It’s a footballing paradox that you could almost hear rolling out of the slightly slurred lips of Alan Hansen: ‘In football, luck doesn’t change by accident’.

And whichever way you look at it, you’ve got to sell a lot of flaming chickens before you can start competing against the oil and gas magnates of this world.

A final word on the Rugby World Cup. Thank God that’s over. Were it not for the romance of a nation plagued by adversity claiming the trophy it would go down as one of the grimmest tournaments in living memory.

The final was one for the connoisseurs I’m told. Which basically means it was like a food flight in an abattoir. There are better ways to spend a Sunday and Man City and QPR proved that later in the day. Football is quite simply a much much better game.

Monday, 10 October 2011

England Expects... Nowt!

A tale of two Englands with a lot in common this weekend.

Friday night saw the footballers coast into the finals following a comfortable 2-2 draw with Montenegro. Except that the match was foreshadowed by the arrest of Wayne Rooney Senior, a man who looks like a rough-shaven bollock placed on top of a badly-dressed jelly. Or, if you like, Phil Mitchell off EastEnders.

(Wayne Jr can have all the hair-dos he wants, the future’s not looking bright, Colleen.)

Still the younger Wayne was over all that sort of shady shenanigans and besides, once he crosses that white line he’s a still point of control and finesse. Til he kicks someone.

Maybe that hair transplant has confirmed he’s just one more nut-job in an England shirt. Rooney will miss England’s opening two fixtures at Euro 2012 and so all the creativity will be coming from Gareth Barry and Scott Parker. Not so much your Van Gogh and Picasso, more your two coats of honest gloss on your skirting-boards.

Or, God forbid, Lamps and Gerrard will be clumsily fitted together again and England’s Warsaw adventure will begin with two identical poles in the middle of the park.

Whatever happens this is Capello’s last hurrah and no one’s banking on us doing owt. I’ve lost count of the number of folk who say they’re not bothered about England right now. At a time when they are at least getting a job done, that’s pretty sad news. It’s probably because only the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust has seen more lame ducks over the past couple of years.

We presume Fabio’s still there cos the FA can’t afford to sack him. You might think that’d make him a bit more cavalier about team selections but when push comes to shove he goes for a lot tried – or should be tired – and tested. I mean why’s the Charm Vacuum JT still skipper?

Rooney’s absence will only fan the flames of pessimism, but frankly the majority of English club football fans live in a world where hope is as fleeting as a tear in the eye of Simon Cowell, so we’ll all feel well at home with an expectation of nowt.

Of course all the rugby union boys are on their way back home as I write – that’s if Manu Tuilagi hasn’t decided to try his hand at wing-walking. (Personally I don’t think Manu was pissed – I think he was stone cold sober and jumped off the ferry in order to swim back to Samoa as fast as he could.)

I’m not that bothered, me. I know the press go sniffing for the scent of any old shit during a big sports tournament but Martin Johnson’s men seemed to have delighted in serving big dollops of scandalous turd on a silver salver to anyone who cares to inhale.

You wouldn’t mind if, like Gazza’s dentist’s chair celebration in ’96, the players were able to stuff it back down your throats. But the concrete-filled pillow-cases that took to the field for England were steroid-enhanced Nice-But-Dims.

Johnson hasn’t done his reputation any good by sticking with Wilkinson when he was clearly out of form. Moody didn’t seem a great choice for skipper given he was coming back from injury. I know he’s fearless but having a face tattooed with stitches doesn’t make you a leader any more than getting shot nine times makes 50 Cent a great musician.

Johnson also brought on some weird old substitutions when England needed what the pundits call ‘some go-forward’ – which is another of them obvious turns of phrase that means eff-all. I mean, what else could they need? Some go-backward?

The main reason for my indifference, apart from the fact that England’s squad seems to have a disproportionate number of knobheads in it, is that I’ve tried to give rugby union a fair crack of the whip this year. I’ve tried to put aside me tribal prejudices and see the game in the round. And I’m still left with the same conclusion: it’s dull.

A lot of rugby union seems to involve huge men running into huge men and falling over. Some more huge men then join the other huge men and a lot of them fall on top of each other. Then the referee blows a whistle and tells someone they fell over in the wrong place or didn’t let go of something when they fell over.

There’s also the poorly-organised shoving contest, or scrum, during which time itself stands still. There’s about three hours of my life I’ll never get back, watching props pitch face down in the stuff that Anchor cows love so much. I don’t give a toss if it’s supposed to be an integral part of the game – it’s a frigging mess and the penalties that are conceded bewilder the pug-faced bruisers that give ‘em just as much as they do me.

The only delight in rugby union is when, all too occasionally, the ball goes through the hands. Contempomi’s little pat-ball pass during the Argies’ try against NZ is a prime example. And here’s the thing rugger-lovers – that happens ALL THE TIME in rugby league! That’s right! League is like Union minus all the shit bits.

Maybe we Northerners are too dense to understand the intricacies of the public school game of choice. And maybe we just like to play a game where men don’t feel the need to climb all over each other in a way that invites the sort of ‘insinuations’ that surround a cabinet minister when he goes abroad with a ‘close personal friend’.

Ah, the beautiful game!

Of course, Johnson has to go. But then so does Capello. It’s just nobody at either Twickers or the FA has a bastard clue who is supposed to make such a decision. How we got the Olympics is beyond me.

Any road, I’ll be doing the patronising English thing of cheering on little old Wales. At least they chuck the ball around nicely. And if NZ choke, you never know my Cymru friends.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Taxi for Tevez

Carlos Tevez was meeting Man City officials yesterday – that’s assuming he turned up of course. Now I’ve not had my official take on this yet, so here goes:

You workshy, shiftless, arrogant, money-grabbing, mercenary cock!

That’s about that. Except to say that at a time when nurses are balloting members for strike action (they’d quite like to still have a 7 grand a year pension to fall back on when they retire, selfish little tenders of the sick and old that they are) it might be nice to see someone like Tevez lift his head out of his arse and have a little look around. Not that he doesn’t look better with his head there.

I can’t say I’m one Frank Lumplard’s biggest fans, but he’s not been throwing his rusks out of his state-of-the-art baby buggy, has he? Nah, he just goes on the pitch and scores a few goals and says ‘write me off if you dare’.

There’s a bit of me – and almost everyone else I know – that feels like Citeh brought this upon themselves. The gaucho’s arrival in England didn’t exactly smack of an earnest and loyal representative keen to do his duty by the players and fans around him. Neil Warnock’s dismissive ‘the sooner he goes home the better’ comments may have been partly influenced by the fact that Tevez’s appearances for West Ham were (a) suspect and (b) saw Warnock’s Sheffield United get relegated.

Of course, much of the trouble with Tevez appears to revolve around the fact that he is the property of a top-of-the-range 4x4, the Kia Joorabchian. Joorabhcian appears happy to hawk his client about the place as if Tevez is less a footballer and more a bit of lucky heather. Why Tevez is happy to be treated like a bit of fluff on Kia’s arm is beyond me. Except for the money, of course.

But not even a salary that would make a pinstriped City swanker blush can make up for the slight of being replaced in the Citeh starting XI by Aguero (8 goals) and Dzeko (6 goals). Any right-thinking individual might think them blokes had made a good start to the season. Not Carlos.

It’s that poster that your mind drifts back to now. I’ve no problem with thumbing your nose at United, God knows. But to hang your new beginnings on the back of such an opportunistic little scrote seemed a tad odd.

Tevez may have felt slighted by his treatment at United, but clearly Ferguson had decided the lad was either not that good, or not worth the bother and in both cases, he’s probably right.

Now of course Tevez can point to his large contribution to Man City’s success last season as proof positive of his dedication to the club. His work-rate is undeniably good. But he’s not put anything like that amount of legwork into a few other basics – in particular learning the language. Four years he’s been here, working with British managers at English clubs and still not even a ‘Good morning’ from the pillock.

All right, maybe he’s thick. Maybe his Spanish isn’t much better. But this lack of effort means he’s either (a) supremely conceited or (b) thick as pig-shit or (c) both. (Ian Rush’s inability to settle at Juve was put down to being linguistically-challenged – in his case I’d go for (b))

So what do Man City do with the reprobate? Were it left to the simple common sense of the average English football fan, it’d be simply a case of giant jiffy bag, air-mail sticker and an eight-hour flight back to Argentina. I’d be tempted to throw in the Falklands too just so long as they just keep him.

Other options include: hire him out as an extra for spaghetti Westerns;

'Are you sure you won't go on for the last 20 minutes, apache?'

chuck him on a celebrity show shouty chefs so he can cook for himself instead of complaining about the restaurants; send him on a rugby tour with England to see how crap the team environment can really be.

It’s amazingly that our footballers can still be dismissed as a bunch of ignorant numpties when they do summat a bit laddish but for our rugger buggers it’s a bit of team-bonding high-jinks, don’t you know...

In the meantime, Arsenal continue to court a lot of press attention, mainly cos they’re a bit shit at the mo. The team is so fresh-faced at present I keep picturing Wenger sat next to Gary Barlow as he says to a weeping young Carl Jenkinson ‘I’m sorry you didn’t make the final 11.’

Of course, Spurs have bitten back following Citeh’s early season demolition and ‘Arry’s got that perky look back – you know the one where he looks like a sunburnt cock bantam.

Spurs look a good bet for the top four if Redknapp can rid himself of the Europa League commitment (and given he’s sending out sides that Fagin would look upon as a little bit naive, there’s every chance).

It was still a lively Norf London derby, but the game was overshadowed by some terrace chanting that really beggars belief. Adebayor is unlikely to be flavour of the month at any of his former clubs, but hilarious quips about the lad hiding under bus seats while he and his team-mates get showered with bullets is so low I’d be tempted to find the perpetrators and put ‘em through a similar experience.

The Merseyside derby saw Jack Rodwell get sent off for the heinous crime of winning the ball fairly. Suarez’s writhing didn’t help. Neither does Dalglish’s insistence is not acknowledging that the red card was undeserved, particularly when (as far as I can understand him) he’s got a moan about the refs every bloody week.

Terrible challenge! It's an early bath for someone!

Hopefully those Man City players giving evidence this week won’t be similarly tight-lipped on their former club captain’s ridiculous strop in the Allianz arena.
Twat! I just wish me mam could get hold of Tevez. He’d be training 24 hours a day just so he didn’t have to go back home.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Fergie's Having It Both Ways

So Sir Alex Ferguson is complaining about the overweaning power of Television on the Beautiful Game. That, much like the game itself, is a bit rich.

'I tell yer, television is God and it's crucifying me'

The only reason that the top footballers wade into work through a sea of bank notes these days is television. I’m sure Ferguson himself is that little bit wealthier since the advent of Sky Sports.

Those that run the Premier League will point to its enormous operating profits and pronounce it a success. It’s not so much television that rules the roost, it’s money. And television, in the form of walnut-faced mogul Murdoch and his butter-wouldn’t-melt boy James – the result of what would have happened if Steptoe and Son had made it big – pays better than owt else.

But then cos telly gets your ‘brand’ seen across five continents it doesn’t half help your merchandising n all. In fact, the Box is so instrumental in keeping your club afloat that you’d think that Ferguson might be a less grumpy about the whole thing, even if he doesn’t have to resort to the average chief executive’s role of bending over forwards while the EPL stuff in as many fivers as his arse can carry.

Ferguson says ‘Television is God’ (and you were beginning to think it was you, eh, Alex?) If he’s right, then presumably he thinks football is the Virgin Mary, but the only people getting truly fucked by the situation at the moment are those clubs without the emissaries necessary to hook a billionaire with too much time on his hands.

I just picture Bill Kenwright slapping on the lippy, hitching up the stockings and walking the wealthier thoroughfares of major financial centres waiting for someone to wind-down the dark-glassed window of his Rolls-Royce and buy some business.

When Man City played Everton this weekend, you had the two extremes in opposition and you couldn’t help rooting for the poverty-stricken honest Johns against the moneybagses. Unsurprisingly, the Toffees, outmuscled by sheer wealth, opted for the Alamo approach and held out for as long as possible while Mancini chopped and changed his state-of-the-art armouries until a fluky deflection saw the royal blue walls crumble.

'I have this many millionaires on my bench!'

This is the reality of modern-day football. Money will win out. And money comes from two directions – telly and the deep, deep pockets of rich men with nowt much to do.

And there’s no doubt that football’s thirst for cash shows no signs of fading. The whole idea of the Europa League, a great sprawling fat beggar on European football’s landscape, is designed to accrue more bits of change for the football hierarchy.

Ferguson complains about fixture lists being twisted to accommodate the whims of the television companies; surely it’s the whims of the greedy graspers running football that conceived of the Europa League, a competition that distorts your regular Saturday afternoon domestic footy programme more than any other.

Of course Fergie has only just patched things up with the Beeb after some 2004 programme implicated his boy in some sort of brown envelope conspiracy. It took Mark Thompson to go bowing and scraping at his door to get His Puceness back on side. Perhaps the Beeb’s not part of the television godhead. Perhaps Fergie’s an atheist. Or perhaps Fergie’s idea of a divine creator is one that comes and begs you to help Him out.

Add to this the fact that you can go a week without the latest endeavours of Manchester United being emblazoned across our screens, and you have to think SAF is guilty of biting the admittedly unpleasant hand that feeds him. I mean I can’t see that United have suffered in any way, shape or form from its relationship with telly.

All right, sometimes (very rarely) clubs have to play Wednesday night and Saturday lunchtime. But what with all that cash the telly’s bringing in, a club like United can afford to have two pretty decent teams in its squad, with a third one just for show for the Carling Cup. I’m still not sure where you’re losing out.

To his credit, Fergie’s push for football clubs to get more revenue from any renegotiation of the League’s international TV rights deal isn’t wholly self-interested. That money gets split 20 ways equally, so United benefit and so does everyone else. The old leftie in him sees that as ‘fair’. So do I.

Meanwhile, Michael Owen continues to bewilder the average football fan with his career choices. Apparently he’s rather play once every three months with top players than every week with cack ones. I think maybe he’s rather turn up in the League Cup where, given the poorer quality of opposition available, he’ll get more opportunities to tuck away the odd brace.

Certainly the old predatory skills have not deserted him, and he can still scuff one in off a left foot that, after 14 years at the top level, still can’t kick straight.

Owen gets a lot more joy out of his horses, as those who saw his celebrations after his nag Brown Panther won the King George V Stakes at Ascot can testify. You do wonder quite what he’s doing warming benches for a day-job.

Of course he’ll have to make sure his jockeys keep their whips trousered from now on. There are strict rules for whip usage coming up. No more than eight lashes allowed in the final furlong for National Hunt jockeys. Which is a tad muddled. If hitting them is bad, why tell the riders to do it less often? It’s like telling a thief he can only turn over three security vans a month. After that, we get serious.

You should've seen the mess it made of Max Mosley's behind. Allegedly.

Of course if horses enjoy a good thrashing then who’s to tell the likes of Dettori and McGuire what to do in the privacy of their own horse-race. I dunno but me, I suspect the gee-gees might rather watch telly with Sir Alex Ferguson than have an anorexic midget smack em about for a mile and a half. But what do I know?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Tormented Torres

Fernando Torres, eh? Three years ago he had the world at his feet. If that were still the case, he’d only shank the world into Row Z.

That miss, that glorious Rosenthalian miss, capped off a performance that sums the lad up at the moment. Clearly, he’s got a bit of the old swagger back. Villas Boas made him the lone striker and the way he ran off the shoulder of the United’s back two was very reminiscent of his better Liverpool days.

His finish for Chelsea’s goal was pretty smart too. And suddenly you were thinking that the lad that made Nemanja Vidic look like he was on board the starship Enterprise during a prolonged meteor shower was back.

But the false dawns continue. Put him in front of a net and it’s like Chelsea have paid £50 million for Norman Wisdom.

"Mr. Villas Boas! Mr Villas Boas! I think I'm going to score, Mr Villas Boas!"

I just picture Nando at home, haplessly going about his business. Looking for his pants and finding them slipping out of his trouser leg an hour after he gets to work. Dunking his biccie in his tea and losing the whole blinking digestive. Bending over to wipe his arse only for his I-Phone to fall out his shirt pocket and into the lav (all right, that last one’s happened to me – except it was a cranky old Nokia summat).

You could cry for the lad were it not for the fact that he’s paid an effing fortune and it’s Chelsea’s look-out of they want to keep rewarding failure. (As opposed to say the Royal Bank of Scotland where we’ve all got an interest, not that you’d know it).

Not that Torres’s team-mates helped out a lot. Ramires looks a decent player until he gets inside the box when he betrays all the confidence of a hydrophobic climbing into a punt. And defensively they were alluerthpless (Hansen speak for ‘crap’).

Of course, as any Arsenal fan’ll tell you, a pathetic defence makes for highly entertaining football, and despite your average neutral wishing ill on both United and Chelsea, the game was a joy to behold.

On the BBC Fergie (I’m missing Mike Phelan already aren’t you?) described the game at Old Trafford as being like basketball - well given the number of sitters missed it was like basketball played blindfolded elves.

As we know only too well, Rooney isn’t immune to the odd desperate muff, and the scuff on to the post was probably even worse than the John Terry impersonation for the penalty kick. (Although the latter wasn’t nearly as enjoyable: I think the new dictionary definition of schadenfraude is: ‘Watching John Terry fall on his arse while trying to score a match-winning penalty for Chelsea’.)

Of course Fergie’s main concern post-match was the atrocious tackle by Ashley Cole on the Cheapdorito. Cole was probably at the end of his tether after Nani spent the whole match ripping him to shreds like so much damp newspaper. Say what you like about Ferguson but he’s stuck with this bloke even though for much of his career he’s had the National Society of Show Ponies (chairman one D. Bentley) hiding their heads in shame.

You can't help wanted the cocky git to fall on his head, mind

Nowadays Nani eyes up a full-back like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall eyes up a rabbit carcass. (Although I’ve noticed the old Etonian broiler has announced he know mostly eats vegetables – a fact that coincides serendipitously with his new vegetarian cookbook.)

Another pleasing development was the loss of points by Manchester City, despite the continued ruthlessness of Sergio Aguero. Mancini says he’s short of midfielders of the holding variety. What planet is he on? I’m guessing that Mancini doesn’t step out of the house on a cold day unless he’s got at least three coats on.

Arsenal’s continued inability to tackle is another delight. According to the Daily Mirror the Arsenal squad are right behind the manager but would like a defensive coach brought in, which is ironic given that Wenger’s about the most defensive person working in football.

It was also a weekend for patting the Premier League new boys on the head. When pressed Alan Shearer managed to positively spike himself on the fence regarding the prospects of Norwich, QPR and Swansea staying up. Not sure that lad ever utters an opinion one way or t’other. Me, I don’t see the Canaries or the Swans escaping the bird-catchers.

The R’s though have one Joey Barton in their ranks and if he can stay out of trouble he might just keep the Loftus Road lot laughing. And if Shane McGowan could stay out of the pub he just might make another record.

Despite my better judgment I watched a recording of England’s rugby players’ victory over the might of Georgia. The upside was that fast-forwarding a rugby match is the best way to watch it. Just press play during the ten minutes of each half when summat is actually happening and the experience is greatly enhanced.

A lot of fuss was made of some of the England blokes – one of them married to a royal personage as if that makes a blind bit of bloody difference – having a few beers in a boozer after the Argentina game. I mean so the hell what? There was a whole week before the next game, it didn’t look like they were totally hammered, and while there’s plenty of things to do in Queenstown, most of it involves doing summat really stupid like bungee jumping... ahem.

The fact that the people involved included one Chris Ashton, a man who continually confuses extreme self-confidence with being an utter tosser (c.f. Cristiano Ronaldo, Floyd Mayweather, Robbie Savage) hardly helps their cause.

Ronan O'Gara mind-melds with a New Zealand supporter

But it was the Irish who actually brought the tournament to life. There’s nowt like beating the Aussies in the Kiwi’s backyard for endearing yourself to people. Marvellous.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Huzzah! It's Rugger!

The rugger buggers are back, then, spreading their maxi-muscled frames across our screens like a bunch of cauliflower-eared Chippendales in nadger-nipping lycra.

Course ‘rugger bugger’ is a term we tend to aim at the chinless horse-toothed pricks who slaver into your local Pitcher & Piano in their workaday pinstripes and bray like donkeys while dropping rohipnol into each other’s pints. You can tell from a lot of what passes for banter that this is pretty much a bunch of oiks in toffs’ clothing. Thick, moneyed but not remotely vain.

'Yah he like tried to gouge out my beautiful eyes, the fucking cunt!'

‘Course that’s very much an English take on union. Your average Welshman or Kiwi sees rugby as the preserve of the working man. As indeed it is. It might also be said that of the teams that I’ve watched so far those two did the most to entertain. Having said that the All Blacks only managed it for 40 minutes – but then again that was a pretty decent 40 minutes (especially according to my missus who has decided that Dan Carter can pop it between her posts any time.)

I’m particularly impressed with Sonny Bill Williams. Not least cos he’s got over the fact that his parents obviously wanted him to be a harmonica player. His handling and ‘offloading’ (that’s knobspeak for ‘short passing’) are pretty fantastic, although any seasoned Rugby League watcher will tell you that every man is taught to fling around with that sort of dash in the 13-man code.

Wales of course did their impression of Tom Cruise at his wife’s side and came up short. Again. Defeat was followed by the habitual verbal pats on the back (‘ooh well done, Taffy old chap – good show what with you being poor and English not really being your first language, wot, wot!’) They should’ve won. They were much the better team. Hook’s kick might’ve been in (can’t they use Hawkeye? I mean it’s not like India are in the tournament is it?)

And you know what, forget Invictus – and forget how transparently pleasant Francois Pienaar is - the South Africans are still the baddies. For one, they are the holders’; for another, when they open their gobs the English language has to scurry off to a refuge home for battered vowels.

Didn’t see the Wallabies or the French – I find seven o’clock starts as agreeable as Jessie Wallace wedding day – but the most irritating bleeding aspects of the whole shebang thus far are:

1) The Scrums. Has there yet been a scrum that hasn’t had to be reset? They cave in like an elephant’s deckchair every time they engage. Play doesn’t move for ten minutes while some end-of-his-tether ref tries to get the six auditionees for Captain Caveman to just stay up long enough for the game to continue.

‘Hold! Touch! Fall On Your Faces!

Hilariously if a team finds itself unable to field a prop forward cos of injuries the scrums go uncontested. Which makes you wonder what the point of it is in the first place.

2) Running down the clock is easy. If you’re a point or two ahead with 5 minutes to go you just keep hold of the ball and flop to the floor a few dozen times and you’ve won. There’s nowt the opposition can do about it. It’s a really boring version of running the ball into the corner flag in footy. Can’t they just lose the ball if they haven’t gone forward for a couple of minutes – or summat like that?

3) The pundits. I know they’re all World Cup winners and great players in their own right but every one of ‘em looks like he’s being operated by a run-of-the-mill puppeteer. I put on my 3D glasses to watch one half-time briefing cos I was so sure I was missing at least one dimension. They make Alan Shearer look like Martin Luther King.

Oh and I might add that I hope that’s the last time we see and England rugby team wearing all black shirts. Just a shoddy, arrogant decision by a bunch of people who couldn’t give a toss about tradition. And England played like a bunch of blindfolded Sumos in it any road , so get rid.

Why so much rugby talk anyway? I hear you cry.

Well, the footy has left us with nowt to yap about. It’s business as usual in Manchester – apart from Stoke and Arsenal there’s not much about the table that’s going to change by the end of the season. And the Evertonians can protest all they like about lack of ambition and progress at the club but really all them lovely banners are saying is ‘For Chrissakes, Kenwright, you’ve been there for 7 years and you still haven’t laid your hands can on one bastard tycoon.’

'If I were you, Bill, I'd be looking at the young Iranian Ahmedinajad and failing that yer man Gadaffi must be lookin' to squirrel away a few thousand.'

I can see old Bill whoring his way around the oligarchs of the world kowtowing to anyone with a few spare dirhams like... like... well, like a Prime Minister. Or Garry Cook. Of course that chippy Manc has been relieved of his position by the FandAbuDhabi brigade. It could’ve happened to any one Garry. I’m just pleased it happened to you.

The national side may be worth a quick mention, although at the mo I’m showing as much enthusiasm for the England team as the players themselves are. I certainly don’t think that point in Montenegro is a gimme. And even Capello has finally conceded that managing this set of players has left him scratching his walnut face in utter confusion.

Poor old Rob Earnshaw (‘ooh well done, Taffy old chap – good show what with you being poor and English not really being your first language, wot, wot!’) That chance was so much easier than a sitter it was damn well prostrate.

As for who will win the Rugby World Cup – listen to the upcoming podcast!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Left Sky and Dry

One of them strange weekends when your average non-Sky subscriber feels like a cave-bound hermit in the sporting wilderness. I was settled in to baby-sit the grandson on Friday night – I do my bit y’know but the sooner they get the young lad down a boxing gym the better. If you can’t jab with the left at six years old there’s little hope for you.

Any road, no Sky at this place so I’m scooting through the TV guide for the highlights package. Nowt. Nada. Murdoch hasn’t even seen fit to relinquish a glimpse of The Thatched One bagging his brace. And now it turns out that Tony Blair is godfather to Grace Murdoch. I tell you some days I’d happily feed the contents of my arse into the inner workings of every Skybox in the sodding country.

You tight-fisted misery!

Nevertheless I hear, via 5Live and the easily nettled Alan Green that it was a good victory for England, punctuated by the dropping of one Frank Lampard, halle-fuckin-lujah. There’s a phrase in football – let your feet do the talking – and I’ve noticed with Lamps in an England shirt that his feet are positively garrulous. He takes more touches to complete one pass than the number of passes Xavi Hernandez completes in an entire game.

Refreshing then, but a bit bewildering, that Capello, his job clearly up in a year’s time, finally finds the bollocks to pick the right team. Not sure what they’re doing with that new kit, mind you. There’s summat about the phrase ‘black shirts’ that makes me uneasy.

I’d like to think that Andy Carroll might be a top international striker, but he needs to start treating his body more like a temple and less like a back-alley rock venue.

So in the Murdoch-induced absence I shared the pain of Scotland’s draw with the dodgy Czechs. A blatant dive wins a match-saving penalty. Berra’s riposte – a poor enough performance to earn a walk-on part in Taggart - earned him a yellow card. Cue spurious arguments about the fact that the ref – a Dutchman called Kevin – gave one spot-kick when it wasn’t and so should make the same mistake twice in the interests of balance.

Hmm... that way madness lies. I reckon if they’d had another ten minutes of that game left, each team would have had all its outfield players rolling around in the opposition penalty box with tears in their lying eyes.

And this is where football gets it so bloody awfully wrong at the moment. There’s this tacit approval of conning the officials within the game. The times you see Steve Bruce, Mick McCarthy (or indeed any one of them managers at whom Lady Luck is always flicking the V’s) saying ‘we had one go our way today... that’s football.’ The referee always gets the flak but surely the only one to blame is the sneaky bastard who threw himself to earth in the first place. Or am I being naive?

It was left to the athletics to lift the soul this weekend – and in the form of young Mohamed Farah, the Robbo spirit soared like an eagle attached to umpteen thousand helium balloons.

Denied in the 10,000 metres by the latest lad off the Ethiopian production line, Farah hit the home straight in the 5K with the same death skull grimace on his face. Lagat, chasing him, looked no less in fear of his life. In fact it was hard not to imagine a bloody great lion looming up in the background.

And that’s why I love athletics. No bikes, motors, gloves, pads, just a lad or lass in his/her vest with his eyeballs out, going for it. OK you have to exclude Usain Bolt from that description as the lad just flows across the track like a duster across a newly-polished floor. Whereas, currently, the UK sprinters move like wonky-wheeled shopping trolleys on a cobbled street.

If I’m honest, I tend to enjoy the lads’ races more than the lasses. There’s summat about a female athlete’s body that’s intimidating and well just not sexy. Them six-packs for starters.

Put em away love!

On balance I prefer the hour-glass figure to the brick shithouse when it comes to your lasses. Still, despite the fact that they’re barely wearing owt, they’re not there for my delectation are they? And that Aussie hurdler Sally Pearson would just tonk me in the gob with her leading leg if she read this. She was just magnificent.

And that’s where athletics seems to embrace a good swathe of the assortments of humanity. Scrawny little Kenyans, gangling Croatians, women the size of wardrobes, men the width of the Wirral, all seem to have summat they can have a crack at.

But the sprint finish off the back of a middle distance race... there’s nowt to beat it.

Footy resurfaces tomorrow with England at home to the 115th ranked team in world football. Yes, Wales come hunting a shock, this time armed with the left-wing wonder-monkey that is Gareth Bale. A bigger test for Smalling you might think than some scurrying Bulgur egged on some racist thicksters from the terraces.

I shall be watching it on ITV, bless it, with his dough-faced host the saggy Baggie Adrian Chiles. An Eeyorish attitude suits watching England games, I reckon, so I’m looking forward to the old grouse’s presentation.

He’ll no doubt be accompanied by a whole welter of former Middlesbrough managers – and I think Boro’s current position in the English game is testimony to how much these blokes know.

I see A narrow England win – 2-1 – but that’ll be enough to start gearing ourselves for another let-down over the summer. England fans have sat through more anti-climaxes that the neighbours of my Uncle Keith after he married that Croatian nymphomaniac. We’ll see.

But temporarily at least, with Rooney at the top of his game, there’s a tiny flame of hope for the England team again, even if it has all the permanence of a lit match in a hurricane.