Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Scouse Proud

There’s seems to be whole lot of huffing and puffing of chests going on down Anfield way. Suddenly the Mickey Mouse Cup has been rebranded as if it’s up there with winning a flaming Oscar.

(Not that I watch the Oscars. I spent some ten or fifteen years staying up and waiting for one of them dirgy speeches spat out by some mademoiselle with tears pissing out her eyeballs to be interrupted by a shout of ‘It’s not a proper fucking job, you c**t!’ It’s never happened, sadly.)

Still Dirk Kuyt was keen to point out what a brilliant trophy the Carling Cup is. And of course Kenny was weeping like he’d just received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Which in a funny way might’ve been true.

The champagne had barely dried on the dressing room walls before the folk with Liverpool cut into the fabric of their beings started trotting out the careworn clich├ęs about this being a start. A new dawn, Something to build on.

Well now, how sturdy are them foundations? The facts are that Liverpool should’ve lost. Kenny Miller’s chance three minutes from time wasn’t so much gilt-edged as a gentle-rolling 24-carat Faberge egg. Cardiff lumbered back into the game in extra time despite the fact that only 3 players were actually able to stand. The Bluebirds penalty kicks hit posts but pinged away. Liverpool fell over the line like a bunch of pissed pensioners falling through an open door.

Not that this wasn’t thrilling stuff. The plucky underdogs did their bit and earned every one of the inevitably patronising pats on the bonce from the pundits, although similar gestures from the likes of Carragher and Bellamy after Gerrard Mark II had written his name momentarily above his cuz in Liverpool folklore were admirable.

Yep it was a cracking final.

I’m just gobsmacked that Scousers seem to see it as some sort of rebirth. I mean when Boro lifted this pot in 2004 I was similarly elated but no one thought that Lionel Messi was about to pick up the phone. Apparently there’s not a blade of grass in Europe that hasn’t been trampled upon by a Scouse in waiting. Napoli’s entire frontline are huge Beatles fans, and I hear that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a huge fan of Roger McGough.

But let’s look at the facts. The Champs League is a big big ask for Dalglish’s men. For all the attempts to bring a little more vim to the frontline, Liverpool have served up the sort of gruel even Oliver Twist might’ve not gone back for.

Dalglish has got one thing horribly wring this season and that’s his support of the twonk of a Number 7. You just hope that if the goofy Uruguayan fooks up another time then King Ken’ll be ensuring he’s Bugsy Alone.

But the biggest question marks for Kenny have to be with his signings. Jordan Henderson never looked like much more than a comedy potato in a stripy top at Sunderland. The orgasmic ripples that greeted his every mishit pass mystified me then. But now...? Well it’s right up there with riddles such as ‘What’s the point of sprouts?’ and ‘Why do some women sneeze like timid squirrels?’

Then there’s Andy Carroll, a pony-tailed pisshead with potential. Do they feed that potential? I don’t mean in beer and kebabs, I mean in terms of getting to the byline and sticking one on his forehead, cos the lad’s got the makings of the best header of a ball that England have. He gets off the ground, too, and powers it in – he’s not a lanky flicker like your Crouches or your Niall Quinns.

Although even without that service there were times on Sunday when just your run-of-the-mill plod to the near post would’ve brought him a sniff, but Carroll was back on his heels more often than a donkey in stilettos. (No, that’s not a personal thing, I just liked the image.)

Unsurprisingly he hasn’t made it into the England squad. Although given the parlous state of England’s options upfront, he might as well be. Darren Bent’s nasty injury has robbed England of a goalscorer – although not a natural one by my reckoning. I doubt Bent’s ever netted with his eyes open.

Stuart Pearce has got one thing right, mind. Giving people a telephone call to tell them they’re not wanted. Capello didn’t even bother to text. It’s hard not to think of Michael Corleone turning to Rob Green and whispering ‘You are nothing to me now.’

"What is this telephone of which you speak, Stuart?"

I see no harm in Pearce starting with Sturridge and Welbeck tomorrow night. It’s better than Kevin Bleeding Davies. Or that bloke from the Championship – Jay Bothroyd - who got a cap recently for, I dunno, being alive. I mean the lad’s so poor even Craig Levein hadn’t checked out his parentage.

Still I’m upbeat about Euro 2012. Capello’s jumped ship, England have to travel vast distances to play their group games cos they’re based in Poland and playing in Ukraine and clearly no one at the FA realised how blinking huge these countries are. Rooney’s out for two games. We haven’t got any other strikers.

What could go wrong? Well, everything! Not even the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks we’ve got a prayer. And that’s a good thing. It’s worked wonders with the rugby team. All right Wales beat ‘em but they were plucky the fellows in white, what what? I mean they’re going to be shit for a bit so let’s get behind them, eh?

It’s all about keeping expectations low, Koppites. One Carling Cup and the world’s your oyster? It’s not even your winkle, lads.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

It's Gunner Get Worse

Only two English clubs have got in to the last 16 of the Champions League this season. Strangely, both of them are by common consent in the shit.

In Arsenal's case the merde has been passed by the management. It is no longer enough for the Wenger loyalists to lob insults at the board like so many Rory Delaps.

Enough is enough, Arsene. Pretty just won't do. The Milan defeat was a bloody awful yardstick for how low football's professor of philosophy has sank. There are many reasons why Arsenal are so poor but as ever the standout one (I use the word standout in an ironic sense as it's really just an illiterate American version of the word 'outstanding') is that the players are crap.

That's crap in comparison with their recent predecessors. You look at Chamakh, a bench-warmer whose only contribution to North London life has been an alarming rise in the sales Stupido Hair Gel. Arshavin, less a footballer these days than a Tzu-Tzu hamster. Walcott, all the assets, but put him within twenty yards of a net and he displays all the composure of a schoolgirl in a snake pit.

But the clown prince of all that it is cack about Wenger's half-arsened squad is Johann Djourou.

I'm versatile and consistent. Shit in every position.

Djourou resembles a heron chick. Crap hair, no coordination plus - and here's where the comparison founders - a new three-year contract.

If you truly want to understand how many marbles have tumbled out of Wenger's bonce in the last three years, there's your test-case. Djourou couldn't defend a night-club door against some uppity eight-year olds, let alone a six-yard box.

The only reason it's still possible that Wenger might maintain a presence in next year's Champions League is because there's a tall, increasingly pale centre-forward bailing 'em out each week. The reason Robin van Persie looks quite so wan at the moment is cos the whole club is clutching on to that particular straw so tightly there's barely only blood circulating around his body.

He is the magnificent oak that has sprouts from a sea of manure. The idea that he'll be there next year is laughable, unless Wenger can (a) unlock some funds and (b) dare to spend it. The rationale for keeping the moulah down his sophisticated French pantalon seems to be less about a club philosophy and more about fear of failure.

Eden Hazard - which once referred to the serpent that whisperecd in Eve's shell-like - could have been an Arsenal player if Wenger had been self-assured to insist on the cash being stumped up. As it is he'll go to Barca, or Real, or Spurs. Yes. Spurs.

Instead you get the likes of Gervinho - he of the forehead so bulbous you have to assume he gets around using inbuilt sonar (if you listen closely you can hear a series of rapid clicks as he approaches the opposition penalty area) - and he's just another speedy headless chicken. The idea that the return of Wilshere, good as he is, will herald a better season is optimistic and unfair on the player.

Meanwhile Andre Villas-Boas continues to crouch uncomfortably on the touchline like a constipated fox terrier as his team play a brand of football that wouldn't look out of place in a Mack Sennet short.

AVB endures another torrid post-match interview

Certainly there are plenty of comic turns to enjoy. David Luiz looks more and more like one of the brooms out of the Sorcerer's Apprentice. Only this broom has a mind of its own.

Ivanovic reminds me of an easily duped heavy in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. ('Derrrr! Where'd he go? Where'd he go?') And Chelsea fans watch Fernando Torres like a nervy banker watches the trade figures, desperately hoping to see the green shoots of recovery and finding a big fat nothing staring them in the face.

Even the bright spots Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge are beginning to dim like child's sparklers into the mist. Mata was withdrawn at half-time against Brum despite being the only creative influence on the park. Sturridge insists he's fine playing right wing which is a bit like a horse insisting he loves his concrete yard when just over the road there's acres of lush pasture.

Meanwhile some of Chelsea's second-half improvement is being put down to a rabble-rousing bit of oratory from Didier Drogba. Having watched the interview with DD on the Beeb website you can understand why he might command a room with more authority than the bearded Portuguese pigeon currently in charge.

The Chelsea job comes with a lot of baggage. AVB's appointment has always looked like Abramovich has hired a Mourinho who listens. What it looks like he's got is a Scolari with an eating disorder.

The thing is I like AVB. He has dignity, even if it has been trampled underfoot by a squad of disniterested players who all seem to be gagging for a nice big cuddle with Guus Hiddink. I've no doubt that Hiddink will be driving up the Kings Road after defeat in Napoli and that Villas-Boas will become the latest expendable casualty of Roman's Masterplan.

I'm sorry to see Mick McCarthy get the boot by the way. Maybe Curbishley wil revive them enough but a realistic person would tell you that Wolves have been infinitely better with the Barnsley bruiser at the helm.

And I'm sorry to see Neil Warnock back into management so swiftly. He's working for Ken Bates. Like Piers Morgan hiring Kelvin Mackenzie. Hopefully they'll lay into each other like Chisora and Haye neither of 'em will come through it.

'Good to see you back at Chelsea. I thought you might be wanting my job. It's available'

At present Monsieur Wenger is far more likely to disappear without a trace. And I'm not sure that that wouldn't be the best thing for all concerned. Being second best is begining to take its toll.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Luis Suarez and the Ugly Face of Football

The judge in the Harry Redknapp tax evasion case suggested that football had ‘lost its way’ in this country. I couldn’t agree more. This week highlighted it more than most.

First of all, Redknapp is acquitted – rightly, from what one can glean – but none of the intimate details suggest that the words ‘squeaky-clean’ can be ascribed to matters financial at Portsmouth Football Club during Mandaric’s reign. Still, no laws were apparently broken. I myself have now set up a Monaco account under the name of my granddaughter’s guinea-pig. As yet there’s nowt in Fifi64, but give it time.

Next, Fabio Capello hands in his notice cos the FA has told him he can’t have an alleged racist as team captain. Fabio isn’t having it, so he bails out. Of course the Italian insists he didn’t look for an escape exit, it’s just that David Bernstein pulled the lever on a trapdoor that had, since 2010, been mysteriously rusted up.

It’s one of those issues that the ‘sport-and-politics-shouldn’t-mix’ brigade are up in arms about, but you have to be a fuckwitted student of history to believe that. Anyone who thinks that the sports embargo on South Africa had nothing to do with the downfall of apartheid isn’t reading the same books as I have.

The recent death of Basil D’Oliveira served as a reminder that the basic tenet of treating people differently because of the colour of their skin should be resisted at all costs. The fact that Capello saw no political overtones to being the coach of a national team suggests to me that the man shouldn’t have had the job in the first place.

Okay, so the FA, in all its leaden incompetence, managed to make the right decision in the wrong way – it would have been nice to have consulted Fabio before making the announcement – but that’s beside the point.

The manager cannot be immune to the bigger picture. Which brings us to Luis Suarez. I don’t know how comfortable the Liverpool squad were wearing them Suarez 7 t-shirts a while back. I’m pretty sure they’ll be wishing they hadn’t bothered now.

The build-up to this Saturday’s fixture was all about putting events behind you and moving on. The handshake was even touted in some places as an underlining of that.

There’s an acknowledgement among most football fans that Patrice Evra is both a fine left-back and a bit of a knob. (There are many such examples in the modern game. And not all of them play for Man U.)

Nevertheless Evra, urged on no doubt by the wise words of Sepp Blatter on such matters, did dangle a limp mitt in Suarez’s direction and the Uruguayan ignored it, going from bewildered mascot to the slightly more bewildered David De Gea. (To be fair, De Gea might have been disorientated as much by his selection ahead of Lindegaard as the opposition striker’s behaviour.)

Unsurprisingly, Rio Ferdinand – barracked at Chelsea for having the audacity to be the brother of a man who has allegedly been racially abused – refused to shake El Divo’s hand in return, and lo and behold we’re back to square one.

Dalglish, like some antsy doe-eyed parent, has stood four-square behind Suarez before, during and after the eight-game ban. And this is how the bloke repays him. Add to that a Luis special of a performance, neat flicks combined with ludicrous writhing, and it all gets crowned with Evra whipping up the Stretford End into a lather of schadenfraude at Suarez’s defeat.

Ugly isn’t the word. If football had a face at the moment it’d make Andrew Lloyd Webber look like Hayley Atwell.

Not Andrew Lloyd Webber

Fergie’s righteous ire, coupled with a gentle censure of his left-back, was on this occasion forgivable. He’s a pious old rogue sometimes but I agree with him. They need to take that ungrateful little nerk into a small cupboard in Anfield and give him a serious talking-to.

From the moment Liverpool refused to contest the ban, Suarez could forget about being treated as the innocent party. He needs to bloody well shape up or they can send him to, I dunno, Poland where his views might be more sympathetically embraced.

Just as with these utter bankers who are still trousering bollock-twistingly large amounts of money despite their contribution to our blasted economy, so footballers and managers need to understand that part of the quid pro quo of huge salaries and public adoration is a responsibility to at least try to uphold the best standards of society.

Yes, maybe that’s unfair on a bunch of none-too-bright young men whose feet talk better than their gobs, but that’s their reality. Capello can’t stomp off in high dudgeon just cos his employers want to impose a political decision on him. It’s in the nature of his ex-job. Ravel Morrison shouldn’t be tweeting homophobic shite either.

Hopefully Harry understands this. Redknapp’s literacy may well be limited entirely to football, but the England manager has to muddy his mitts in the murky waters of morality too. Of course he’s the obvious choice and not cos he’s English. McClaren, Keegan, Taylor, it’s a roll-call of concrete-shoe-wearers jumping in at the wrong end of the local baths.

But my fear is simply that Redknapp could get swept up by events beyond his control –and if you look at his testimony in the recent court case you’d have to conclude that a lot of his life is beyond his control – and instead of having an upbeat youthful team unburdened by stupid expectation attempting to play the game the right way, you have Avram Redknapp moping along the touchline like a latter-day Eeyore.

I’d have no objection to Guus Hiddink getting the role and Harry carrying on putting a bit of entertainment on to the football parks of England by staying where he is. Whoever it is, at least they don’t have to fret about whether to select Luis Suarez. Or John Terry, actually, if they want my advice.

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Nightmare of Terry Vision

Just pretend for a moment that you’re on the board of the Football Association. And that you’re not dipping your nib in the PA’s inkwell. And that you have the future of the national game at heart.

Here's Frank Lampard doing the FA's dirty work for them

To look forward to, you have the latest appearance of the national team in a major international football tournament.

In your wisdom, the man you pay £6 million a year to manage your football team – and who can't even manage a comprehensible sentence in English – retained his post in the wake of the most disappointing World Cup finals campaign England has ever mounted.

That campaign was dogged by many difficulties: Ferdinand’s injury leading to another change of skipper; the fact that England players were ‘tired’ (unlike those Barca and Madrid lads who played a hell of a lot of European games themselves); the players were also shite; and John Terry gave a press conference that involved him standing the manager at one end of a long rug and tugging it bloody hard from the other.

It’s still uncertain as to whether he did this with the approval of his teammates or behind their backs. Wayne Bridge thinks the latter.

'No, FA I-a give-a you da finger!'

Terry’s reward for this blatant brinkmanship? Capello gives him back the armband. Bewildering. But then he is a ‘natural leader’. He’s good at speaking for others. He’s actually good at the press-conf platitudes, and he does it without the nervous wittering of a Gerrard or a Rooney.

So England run a reasonably trouble-free qualification campaign for Euro 2012, although in the last couple of games our best player is Rob Earnshaw. Terry’s credentials as skipper are less in doubt than his actual quality on the pitch. To the non-partisan fan (that’s me) he looks one-paced and indecisive, like a tortoise with the trots. Then again if you played alongside David Luiz every week you might need to call a readily available pack of Immodium. Luiz is to Terry what Sideshow Bob is to Bart Simpson.

And then he appears to call Anton Ferdinand ‘a black cunt’. And times are such that the ‘cunt’ bit is less troublesome than the ‘black’ with its indication – and Luis Suarez will tell you this is all just normal everyday stuff – that the being black bit is contributory to the cuntdom.

So here you are FA board member. Over here! Take your eyes off that cleavage and put down that gin! Here’s the summer we have in store if nothing changes:

Scenario 1: England go to the Euros with Terry as captain. England get knocked out early. Terry gets seen bawling at, say, Theo Walcott for his lack of composure. Racist? Or really simply what WE’RE ALL DOING!

Scenario 2: England go to the Euros and Terry is captain. England do well. Polish and Ukrainian fans boo black players in England shirts throughout. John Terry condemns the Eastern European fuckwits with swastikas tattooed to their scar-tissued foreheads. Three weeks later he’s found guilty of racism.

Scenario 3: England sack Terry – or rather suspend him while investigations are ongoing. England go to Euros without him and are shit. They come back. Terry is found innocent.

Scenario 4: England win the Euros. Terry holds the trophy aloft. Three weeks later he’s found guilty of racism. The first time anyone below 50 years of age has been able to celebrate national football success and the bloke holding up the pot is a certified shithead.

As far as I’m concerned – and yes it’s about as likely as Ian Bell being able to define the word ‘doosra’ – scenario 4 is worth ruling out altogether, and the only way to do that is simply to sack Terry.

Do the FA look stupid if Terry is found innocent? No. Regardless of what Capello says. And frankly Fabio can just strut his barrel-chested bantam way out of English football if he thinks he’s earned the right to make his own decisions on such matters.

Capello sacked Terry for off-the-field activities that maybe broke moral codes, but no actual laws. This is a criminal act. And it’s happened on the field.

Were John Terry in any other walk of life he’d already be suspended on full pay while the case was investigated. Furthermore no one would be pushing the case back cos of ickle John’s pressing workload. I’m guessing that Terry and his legal team thought that the postponement of the case was the best option for Terry. It’s just a shame it’s the worst option for everyone else.

While Terry blathers on about pride and commitment to the cause, it’s clear that his and Ron Gourlay’s actions mean that the most important person involved here is John Terry.

Not long ago, Capello said that the issue of who is captain is not really that important. Now he’s getting ratty about not being able to keep a suspected racist in the role.

Me, I’d go further. I’d tell Terry he can’t play for England til the case is resolved one way or another. If he’s done nowt wrong, he can come back. If he’s guilty, I’d stop him playing for Chelsea for more than a few months too.

Here's proof of John's innocence. A black friend and a nice T-shirt.

The lament footballers’ll give you these days is that they’re not politicians. They just want to go out and give 110%. Well, wake up. You are in a game watched by billions. Your fellow professionals are pushing a noble cause of ‘Kicking Racism Out’. (And the boos for Rio Ferdinand at Stamford Bridge suggest there’s a lot of work to do.) And the fact is the standing of English football is more important than John Terry’s career.

Anything else is ‘back to front’ which I’m sure Terry’ll say are the very words he used towards Anton.

In the meantime give Joe Hart the job. He’ll play every game. I don’t think he’s been caught throwing eggs at immigrants or molesting poultry, and it doesn’t matter who’s skipper – you need 11 leaders on the park, don’t you?