Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Wenger's Lament

Finally the tall grey man stood up and approached the lectern. So ashen was he, he resembled nowt less than a cigarette that had been left in an ash-tray to burn itself out. He stiffened sinews that had long been stretched to breaking point by the agony of watching errors that even the mascots sniggered about.

And then, in a tired but impassioned Alsatian voice, Le Professeur addressed the apostles that gathered before him

“Somewhere there is a place where the world is at peace; where footballer shall not harm footballer; where the extra pass shall be the equal of a goal;

“where pint-sized pretty boys with flicky faffy feet shall be feted – and clumsy rumbling oiks with all the grace and touch of sponge-shoed yetis shall be scorned and jeered and pelted from the stands by philosophy graduates;

“where centre-halves are as French fancies – decorative, lightly frosted and easily crumbled and devoured; where goalkeepers are friendly buffoons whose every touch makes you tremor with a mixture of mirth and fear; where the Big Number Nine is a work of fiction and the small number fourteen a joy to behold.

“Here bottles of mineral water are safe.

“There are no horrors to abhor, or ignore, depending upon who committed them.

“Children from across the (predominantly French-speaking) world can hold hands around a golden orb like some freaking Benetton ad and preach possession unto each other, forgetting that it is only nine tenths of the law and not even a fifth of a score;

“Here, tippy shall pass to tappy and tappy to tippy; to score off your knee is a crime; the long ball is a dance party that finishes at six in the morning; tackle is what you cover when you stand in a defensive wall and humping it into the box is only available on the adult channel.

“Spectators shall hiss ‘Shhhh’ if someone says ‘Hoof it, you soddin’ twat Djourou!’

“The season begins in spirit and wonder, glimmers with a thousand dreams and finishes with some really nice compliments, thank you;

“And the joy of Cesc remains forever;

“But there are no medals here – but then what are medals but mere trinkets to adorn the necks of the artisan? An artist needs a cup for nowt more than somewhere to put his peppermint tea. What is the pursuit of trophies without the pursuit of perfection?

“For one day, mes amis, we will score the perfect goal. And it will not be scored by going round the outside or hitting it long and feeding off the knock-downs. It will be an orgy of one-touch purity (unless Bendtner’s on the pitch) put together by nimble pixies with magical magnets in their feet and paradise in their souls.

“And even if you do say that Barca have done that already and are way better at it than you’ll ever be, hear this, oh Gooners!

“We shall not desist! We shall through our desire, our mentality, our technicality and our one touch too many, ascend the sheer face of English philistinism and bring forth a better way: the Arsene way!

“For I have been to that mountaintop! And we shall all get there again one day – though obviously we’ll probably trot back and forth and fail to find the direct route to the top.

“And once there we shall gaze across all we have achieved. Top four finishes, Champions League quarter-finals, runners-up medals by the sackful. And still a huge amount of wonga in the kitty for a decent keeper and a centre-back with a spine.

“And we shall embrace then at a job well done.

“For we shall look back at that which went before: the dark days of 1-0s and George Graham. The ineffable tedium of that team (apart from that fluky 2-0 at Anfield which bagged them a title). And we shall not fear our true selves.

“And yea, though Fergie may sit astride a higher peak, lost in clouds of champagne spray, and Jose may glower above us too (I shall not know for I won’t be looking – I’m no voyeur), we shall not weep. For we shall know in our heart of hearts that we have striven to bring to a game full of base urges and crude lunges a sense of beauty, of Art.

“And to those of you that cry ‘Go, Arsene, go!’ I say ‘Non’. I am Arsenal. Why even my name is writ in Arsenal’s. Arsene to Arsenal. One day Harry Potter will manage Stoke City, a Del Boy Trotter will coach Bolton and Robbie Savage will be represented in Scunthorpe.

“So will I change my outlook, my philosophy? Jamais!

“I will hold true to it with every fibre of my increasingly hacked-off being. And remember this, mes amies. If we win nothing more. If we simply piss away Kroenke’s kazillions on an over-expensive Tomas Rosicky cloning machine and never achieve another thing except the affection of football fans everywhere bar White Hart Lane, then remember – we will always have The Invincibles... “

There’s a ripple of applause from the folk who throng the Emirates Library. “Yeah, they were great them Invincibles but they had a couple of hard bastards at the back, two more ugly buggers in midfield and Thierry Henry. And a proper goalie.”

Le professeur pauses for thought. He looks the man in the eye, then he picks up a bottle of water, slams it on the floor and storms out.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

In Praise of Fergie

Here's an ugly truth for you. Alex Ferguson, Sir, is the finest football manager the English game has ever seen. I mean that's uglier than a close-up of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's face mid-shit.

'How come I cannae see any decent opposition through this specs?'

I can hear the protests from the Scouse brigade but the Liverpool dynasty wasn't just one bloke was it? There'll be some advocates for Cloughie and maybe he did more turd-polishing with the players at his disposal but...

And there'll be some that argue that he can't be the best manager ever cos he's bleeding 'orrible. That opinion's got about as much influence as a Liberal in a cabinet meeting.

This latest outfit at Old Trafford are proof positive of Fergie's greatness. It's not a great team. The midfield's had a creativity bypass unless old man Giggs is Pilated in. The bench is pretty threadbare if you ask me. And if Vidic or Rio is out the back four's distinctly creaky.

Hellfire the Croxteth Bruiser was set to leave cos he recognised the shortcomings. Now Rooney's buzzing again and looking like the bastard son of Susan Boyle and Roy of the Rovers.

(Incidentally, Graeme Souness - emphatically not the best manager the English game's ever seen - insists that Rooney needs to be angry to play well. That is of course self-serving bollocks. Souness was always angry and it suits him to suggest other people need to be similarly furious.)

So how come United are still on for the treble? Well mainly cos Fergie's got them playing in a way that suits them. His reincarnations of United over the years have been little short of amazing.

First of all there was the Party Central brigade of Robson (get well soon), Brucey and co who he managed to dry out enough to keep going for a whole season. Then there was Hansen's 'kids' - a bunch of squeaky-voiced schoolboys who matured into top-class footballers once Robbie Savage had left. Not long ago he had Ronaldo, Tevez and Rooney criss-crossing across the opposition back-line like the Red Arrows in human form.

This season he's got a ploddy steady grind-it-out bunch of triers. Plus the best goalscorer in the division who cost him 6 million (I mean Chiquitita or whatever he's called - a snip).

He's not stuck to the same formations or looked for the same types. Not for him the tippy-tappy automatons of Arsenal. Or the steely-eyed mercenaries heeding the whiff of Roman's wallet.

He's made the best of what he's got or paid shed-bloody-loads when he's had to.

Yes he's bought a lot of duffers along the way: Djemba-Djemba (so shite they named him twice); Poborsky (he should've torn up that Czech a lot sooner); and Kleberson? Well not clever, son...

'What?... No boss I never ordered no taxi!

But he's made legends of looneys like Cantona, he's been patient with gelled show-ponies like Ronaldo and Nani, and his 1999 front pair were Cole and Yorke - I mean you'd have to be a genius to think that that was going to work.

It's an astounding record. There are things we can do without when it comes to Fergie. The gratuitous ref-bashing. The absurd mentality that makes him think United are being victimised just cos Rooney's gets banned for being a plank and he gets put it in the stands for saying the ref was biased.

He could also talk to the Beeb and stop sending Stonewall Phelan in to bat for him. It's petty and tedious. Then again the good managers seem to be able to harness their neurosis for the good of the team.

And there's the mysterious way he seems to manipulate time to encompass his team's victories.

(Maybe Rory McIlroy could do with his bunker mentality. Poor lamb. For three days he trotted around that course like a finely-tuned Goofy - and for the last round he was little short of a grief-stricken Donald Duck.)

It's clear Ferguson inspires loyalty, that's for sure. Some of the steady Eddies that have stuck there cos he's stuck with them: Brown, O'Shea, Fletcher... you've never heard them bleating about lack of first-team opportunities like the vast cellar of whines across the city at Eastlands.

Now I realise this blog will be coming as a great surprise to a lot of you. But the thing is I've been waiting for the demise/retirement of the Govan Beetroot for about fifteen years now.

I've been watching his touchline-jig getting more and more like your pissed Uncle attempting a hokey-kokey at your cousin's wedding. I've been waiting with baited breath as the noisy neighbours pelt him with wads of Abu-Dhabian wonga. I've watching the face redden as the old boy seems ready to reach for the blanket and the thermos.

(And while he does like his red wine, I reckon the boozy complexion must be down to the same condition as I've got - rosacea, it's called. You can alleviate the symptoms by cutting down on alcohol and spicy food so it looks like I'm stuck with it.)

Skin complaints? Bring 'em on.

Only Mourinho has kept Fergie under during all that time. And Wenger's Untouchables for one glorious strong-tackling season. Be great if real And United could fight it out at Wembley in the Champs League Final. The footy wouldn't be great but you could just watch the dug-outs for 90 minutes.

So do I like Ferguson? Nah. Not much. Am I saying he could've done all this without United's cash? Nah. And while there's still some debt for the Glazers to offload there'll still be money in Fergie's kitty.

But he's bloody good at his job. I mean I don't like our postie much either - he's always trying to charm the missus and he can't whistle in tune (I'm thinking of getting a dog) - but so long as he gets my letters to me I don't much care.

So fair play to him. I reckon a double at least this season. Barca'll probably stop him in Europe. But for him, at his age, with his track record, to be able to get that pretty ordinary side to two semis and a pretty certain Premier League.

The best ever? Fact. Rafa.

Now piss off and leave the rest of us in peace you gruff n greedy Glaswegian codger.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Wayne Looney

I’ve not much cause to go see young lads play footy but me nephew was playing for his local Saturday morning team last weekend so I thought I’d pop along.

First of all the playing surface was slightly less suitable than the Somme. It had more bobbles than your grandma’s cardy. Secondly there was a little knot of parents on either side of the pitch rooting for their little ones and as ever, there was a bloke who was really letting himself down.

He looked like a scalped hog, this bloke, and his gob flapped for 30 minutes like a bedsheet in the breeze. His kid, a half-decent player with boots the colour of kryptonite and hair so heftily gelled he could barely lift his chin to the horizontal, was called – get this – Anton. That’s right, he’d named him after the crap Ferdinand.

And this father bollocked his son’s every pass and tackle until young Anton tumbled like some jessie out of the Royal Ballet School over a non-existent limb and the fresh-face ref waved play on. Anton’s Dad went Fergie-coloured and blurted out a sentence of such invective I dare not repeat it on these pages. Suffice to say it was a fucking disgrace.

Of course, this was nowt compared to the effort put forth from the mouth of England’s finest current footballer. Wayne Rooney. I think, finally, we’ve had enough of him. Haven’t we?

If he’s not elbowing some unprotected opponent in the face, he’s telling brassic England fans to dtop booing him and his mates after they’ve turned out a performance that couldn’t have been lamer had they all stayed in bed for 90 minutes.he’s bawling down the lens of a camera like he’s in the middle of a bleeding war-zone and he’s just taken out the people who killed his family. And we’ve seen enough news on the telly recently to know what that looks like.

All this self-serving tosh about Wayne being a passionate footballer... unlike, say, that Ryan Giggs who clearly doesn’t give a toss about the game. And remember that Bobby Moore? Very few yellow cards... no f-words... He just couldn’t be bothered, could he? I’ve seen more passion in a haddock.

My mate points out that footballers are confusing passion with out and out fury. (And that doesn’t bode well for their missuses, does it. ‘I BOUGHT YOU SOME FUCKIN ROSES, RIGHT! COS I FUCKIN LOVE YOU, YOU BASTARD SLAG! HAPPY VALEN-FUCKING-TINE’S DAY!’ ’)

The mate in question is an Arsenal fan which brings into question his understanding of rage in a football context. I think he believes throwing a plastic cup on the ground is tantamount to Dr David Banner going green.

But I take his point. Cos who exactly is wild Wayne wailing at when he looks down a camera lens? And why would anyone condone such unhinged mania?

Note Carrick's expression - every bit of him's yelling 'aw don't do that you twat!'

And all this of course on the back of Richard Scudamore insisting that clubs, managers and players need to take more action to sustain the laughable Respect campaign. At the mo, refs are getting no protection from abuse whatsoever, least of all from the lumbering neurotics who select the teams or the Neanderthals who play it.

You might say Fergie got a touchline ban for calling Martin Atkinson’s impartiality into question. Except somehow the Govan Beetroot is able to talk to the bench on an absurd white phone and still give half-time team talks to spur his players on to, albeit very impressively, turn around a 2-0 deficit. How exactly then has his Puceness been punished?

Referees need to be supported very directly by the FA. When Clattenburg didn’t quite see the Rooney elbow v Wigan but gave a free-kick anyway, he should have been permitted a second look after the game. And then the Scouse Mouth would and should have got a three-match ban minimum.

But the FA say it was dealt with at the time. Well no it wasn’t. If new evidence comes up in an old court case you don’t say ‘well, yes, I know we got the wrong man but I think you’ll find the judge dealt with it at the time.’ It’s preposterous.

So if Scudamore’s serious about trying to repair the tarnished image of English football then I suggest he and his cohorts start today. Ban the toilet-tongued lout and tell him to learn how to talk to people.

And back refs when they dismiss players after they get called a cunt. Back them, back them, back them.

Refs can be helped by the FA allowing video evidence to be used to up or downgrade cautions and dismissals (including hopeless tumbles like Jagielka’s woeful plummet on Saturday). They should use goal-line technology immediately. All communication between players and officials should be directed through the captain.

And to be fair, they should give managers a bit of breathing space before they come off the park and talk hokum to some mike-carrying no-mark in the tunnel.

Me, I’d like to see Rooney off the England team-sheet n all. The Ghana friendly the other night suggests that he’s not as pivotal as he’d like to think in the national set-up and during the World Cup he couldn’t have hit an aircraft hangar with a carpet-beater.

It’s clear Wazza is a talented player. He’s one of the reasons people have been misguidedly optimistic about England’s chances in big tournaments. But until he can let his feet do the talking I don’t want to see his badly-shave bollock-headed Phil Mitchell-looky-likey face on the box again for a bit.

He’s an embarrassment waiting to happen. Even when he plays well he spoils it by being little short of a Friday night oik after his first ever half a lager.

'Fuckin' Ave 'Im Kai!'

And I’ve got a horrible feeling that when Kai’s playing his first competitive seven-a-side – probably on an immaculate green lawn amongst the dignitaries of downtown Didsbury la-di-dah – some generous volunteer official will have his ears bawled out by the fat slaphead Dad on the touchline who no one’s talking to.