|Now where's that lovely smile gone, eh?|
Of course I might be able to offer a reluctant shrug in the direction of much of Citeh’s league form this year – the incision and swiftness of their interplay; the invention of David Silva as he unpicks a defence like a seasoned shellfish eater picking out a winkle with a pin; the drive of the mighty Yaya as he drives forward like a Volvo Estate through a cloud of flies.
But Yaya went to Africa, Silva turned to brass, Kompany got dismissed then crocked, and Tevez was back home honing his golf swing. For inspiration they turned to some English yeomen or Mario Bagatelli, the man with the pinball brain. Yes, the vainglory of Citeh as their involvement in Europe became so minimal as to be Marine Le Pen-like (and by ‘eck them Frenchies lie to the opinion pollsters every election, don’t they? Put a pencil and a ballot paper in their hands though and one fifth of them turn into racists of the most rabid kind) and the title slipped through their blinged-up sky-blue fingers.
And all the while Ferguson, with an infusion of unsung heroes, ploughed his well-worn furrow with the certainty of the seasoned artisan. No complacency, no real razzle-dazzle, but a lot of know-how. And slowly the wheel turned back to old Professor Plum. And across town the deflowering of Manchester’s Miss Peacock would have to wait.
I mean there he is, old man Fergie, allowing himself a right old chuckle on the touchline at Old Trafford as United take an unassailable 4-2 lead. But the face was positively molten with rage by the end. Ha! Ha-ha-ha!
Yes, for the average football fan for whom triumph is as elusive and short-lived as the life of a damselfly, the mirth to be had at the expense of the expensively-assembled is one’s only recompense.
But then this season hasn’t really put paid to the argument that wealth will out. Dalglish’s laughable ragbag of a team, winner of five home games out of seventeen, might well end the season with two cups.
Jeez, even Chelsea, run with all the clear-sightedness of a mole in a sandstorm, might just weedle their way into a Champions League final.
Loth as I am to give credit to Newcastle, they’ve bucked the trend a bit, and in Cabaye, Cisse and the mended Ben Arfa (hard not to think of him in Albert Square isn’t it?) they’ve got four of the players of the season. Pardew has shopped around brilliantly but he’s had a fair bit more to spend than many.
The reason that Swansea and Norwich have been so roundly praised, or patronised, is that they’ve got fuck-all money and they’ve squeezed every last ounce of talent from the poundstretcher purchases they’ve got. David Moyes is the benchmark for most managers these days and he’s won sweet f-all in his time at Goodison.
If you support these clubs you can stick out a firm chin and be ‘proud of the lads’ cos they’ve given irrational per cents of effort.
Not for you the scramble for fourth spot, the humbling foot-slog of the Europa League.
Now it may well be that the Europa League is the Lidl of international club football but as any acute observer, unswollen by the trappings of ceaseless wealth and the tedium of success, will tell you, we like a traipse round Europe cos our team’s done well. Ask Stoke, Fulham, hellfire Boro!
But for now the plucky majority can only stand by, like meek flag-waving peasants at some royal bloody parade, as Mancini and Ferguson start ratchetting up the tension for this season’s big one.
It’s difficult isn’t it, neutrals? As with voting preferences in this country you have to ask yourself what’s the least worst option?
Citeh finally collaring a title, their expenditure just about exceeding their capacity to self-destruct, and Mancini plodding along with this ridiculous post-match pessimism that contrasts markedly the Handbook of Italian Gesture he unveils in the technical area.
A side that have somehow embraced a man who displayed some of the rankest behaviour by a professional footballer ever witnessed at a British club.
Or Him Again. The Greatest Manager Ever Ever Ever. Two titles in two years with a bunch of players who most independent observers reckon ain’t all that. It would be his finest achievement yet. But for God’s sake you’ve achieved enough you greedy Glaswegian git. Get your bus pass, give the job to Moyes and let the poor bloke win summat himself (preferably after a brief hiatus where, I dunno, Norwich win the League).
Yes, yes, yes, it’s plain envy on one level. But this should be a mouth-watering fixture – up there with the Liverpool-Arsenal decider in ’89 (and I’ll be honest and say I wanted the post-Hillsborough ‘Pool to win that cos they’d played some of the most gorgeous football known to man that season).
|"We have no chance. We are shit, honestly."|
And yet for the neutral there’s no choice available. We don’t want either of you to win it. Simple as that. If I was at the Premier League I’d be deducting fifteen points off each of you out of sheer bloody spite. And that still wouldn’t be enough. So good luck on Monday. May the best team win. And lose.