Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Footy Fatigue

Big apologies from Teesside for a lack of communication in the past week and a half. This has a little to do with the God-awful form of Middlesbrough, a bout of flu which has left me only slightly less weak than my beloved Boro, and the ever-creeping fear that there may be – I say may be – something more to life than sport.

This hit me in the solar plexus on Sunday when, confronted by Cup finalists more plucky than a boxful of tweezers, I found myself staring unmoved at my television screen. Even the more than worthy claret-and-amber scarves raised in exultation at the hammering their team was undergoing didn’t quite moisten the eye. But then of course, remembering those that died in the Bradford City fire did leave me blubbing.

On the same weekend, Frank Lampard’s missed penalty should have raised a chuckle, but all I could muster was a hissed ‘you cock’ before returning to my honey and lemon (with a Johnnie Walker chaser). The two fine City strikes that won the game might have caused a ripple of respect once upon a time, but these days I just think ‘on the money you’re on you should be able to fire a 35-yard screamer out of your back passage you mercenary bastards.’

Gareth Bale’s predatory free-kicks? Well, yes, I suppose it’s okay but it’s these damn silly lightweight footballs they use that move around 50p plastic jobbies from Seaton Carew beach shop. That Ronaldo header where he hung in the air like a… like a kestrel (?)… ah come on, he wasn’t defying the laws of physics. He’s just a good header of a football and that’s an art that Barcelona have almost dismissed from the game.

Of course I should be writing my 53rd blog about the end of Arsene Wenger – and it’s difficult to work out which end he talks out of these days. Arsenal could still come second? And Oscar Pistorius could still be found innocent. And the parmo is the healthiest food known to man.

It appears Wenger is unsackable. In fact the only thing Wenger’s won in the last eight years is the club’s bollocks and he holds on to them with a truly Alsatian grip. Van Persie, I read today, was sold to keep Arsenal in the black. And in the blackest of moods. Put simply they’re not very good. Much of that is down to the manager’s purchases: Mertesacker defends like a newborn foal; Podolski is as reliable as a hedgehog’s condom; and Wenger gives Walcott his centre-forward head on the same night as Arsenal’s back four start favouring more than the odd long ball.

Wenger can snap away like a strange grey spoddy prefect from a well-to-do grammar school but frankly he needs to start answering questions.

There are other managers stomping around the upper echelons of the Premier League who I wouldn’t mind covering in jam and leaving out near the bins on an August night – I’ll do it for Comic Relief! (Not Sport Relief – I suggested that I’d do a sponsored watch of Boro v Bolton 2004 for that bleeding charity – that was the sport bit covered. The relief bit had summat to do with Victoria Pendleton and I never heard back from them.)

Those managers are, in no particular order (much as their teams are) Roberto Mancini and Rafael Benitez.

Mancini had the audacity to claim last week that he was the best manager in England. He’s the best manager from England Who Looks Like He Has Been Photographed For A Headshot Outside A Continental 1987. In the close season this genius bought Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell. What do you get the club who has everything? I dunno, but neither of them two for a start.

This season he’s been slating his players for being crap. But I don’t think it helps when your very decent strikers have to play second fiddle to Loopy Mario, a man who could make Mother Theresa reach for the c-word.

Mancini is, however, a man with the same rational rigour as Stephen Hawking when compared with the Spanish toad in charge at Chelsea. I’m still in shock that he’s there. He said he’d never go; Chelsea fans despise him; he always knew it was short term. The reason he is there is twofold: greed, and arrogance. Any honest person in that job would pour a bucket of faeces over himself before even going in to work, for you might as well get your retaliation in first.

Unless Mourinho can be charmed back, there is no way forward for Chelsea at the moment.

But even then, these clubs will be pretty much the top five (plus Spurs). The good ‘uns, run by the realists, the Moyeses, the Clarkes, the Martinezes, they’ll all be scrabbling around for the crumbs of comfort that have fallen off the top table. Thank heavens for Swansea, I suppose.

So though the game itself remains addictive – and you only have to walk past a park kickabout to know that to be true – the people in it these days are so often the opposite: a bit repellent, delusional, and ridiculously wealthy to boot.

On top of it all, the man whose career is one of undeniable sustained brilliance – the best manager British football has ever know – is not the most graceful human being of all time. But at least he wins stuff.

And while I sit with me head over a bowl of steaming water laced with eucalyptus (that’s the stuff koalas eat and a lot of them have got chlamydia, so God knows how that’s going to help) and I listen to the jaded sneer of Alan Green, or the improbable insight of Andy Townsend, I realise that I have just about had it up to the back teeth with it. Football.

Then again, we might beat Chelsea tonight. And get promoted via the play-offs. So I’ll just wait a while before turning my back on the lot of them. Now where’s that bastard benylin?

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Frank's New Kid's Book - Exclusive!

It was a bright sunny morning and Frankie went out on to the park to kick a ball about with his friends. And there was Stevie G, standing right where he wanted to be.

Frankie was quick to challenge him.

"Let's have a penalty competition to see who should stand there, Stevie G!"

"Okay, but can we not pretend that it's an international fixture" worried Stevie.

"You're on!" said Frankie and placed the ball on the penalty spot.

"Can I take one?" shouted Frankie's friend JT.

But poor old JT fell over. The big chump.

"No" said Frankie "This is a competition between me and Stevie."

"Can I have a pop at it?" insisted JT.

"NO!" shouted Frankie.

"I wasn't talking about the penalty" said John. "I was talking about her." And silly old JT pointed in the vague direction of some footballers' wives.

"Can I take it?" said little Nando, a frail pasty looking boy with all the confidence of a kitten.

Frankie sighed. And then because he was a kind professional he passed the ball over to Nando. Well, you wouldn't believe how long it took Nando to get that ball on the penalty spot. And even then, he ran up to take the penalty facing the wrong way!

"In the goal, Nando! In the goal!" said Frank encouraging.

"What is this goal?" asked Nando.

"There are two, Nando" Frankie explained "With two posts and a bar. This one here is the Drog Bar. That one over there is the Demba Bar."

A strange fat man appeared. He had a bad beard and a notebook in his hand.

"Buenos tardes" he said.

"Who are you?" asked Frankie.

"I am new caretaker" said the suspicious-looking man.

"But you're not Pep. We were promised Pep!" And Frankie started to cry.

"Be quiet, Frankie. I no like crybabies. You not allowed on pitch. Go sit on bench until I am desperate."

While Frankie went and sat on the park bench, Stevie G waved at the Caretaker

"Hello, Caretaker" said Stevie G "Remember me, I made your career."

The Caretaker didn't like this.

"Why are you here?" asked Stevie G.

"I am here to look after Nando" said the Caretaker, "but is very good chance I get massive pay-off when it doesn't work out for me."

Just then a naughty boy from another school ran on to the pitch and tried to take the ball home with him. But Frankie's pal Eden was having none of it. He kicked the boy - not very hard - and the boy let the ball go. Clearly this strange boy was a bit of a cock.

Eden put the ball back down on the penalty spot.

Cashley was looking very interested in having a go.

"Do you want me to shoot?" he asked.

Well, everyone put their hands in the air and begged Cashley to put the gun down.

"Who do you think you are?" shouted Frankie "Oscar Pistorius? [allegedly]"

Cashley put his gun down and apologised.

It wasn't turning out to be a very nice day. It got worse when the Russian turned up. The Russian was a nasty man with a happy face. He was carrying a big chest full of coins.

All the boys gathered round and the Caretaker started dribbling - from his mouth and not with the ball - but the Russian walked over to Stevie G.

"For di last time" he said "Will you join us?" And he plonked the money right next to Stevie G.

"I dunno, Mr Russian" said Stevie G "I'm not as fast as I used to be, some of my injuries have taken their toll, and my career is almost over."

"That's what Sheva said, but that didn't stop me" said the Russian.

Stevie G shook his head.

"It is your loss" said the Russian. "Now I will have to go to Europe to find someone."

"And that" smiled the caretaker "is where we are all going today!"

"What?" said Frankie "But it's a Thursday!"

"Thursday is our new Going to Europe Day!" said the Caretaker with a big smile.

"Will we be going to Madrid and Barcelona again?" asked Frankie excitedly.

"No" said the Caretaker "Not while I'm here."

It began to rain, and everyone went inside, all of them feeling a bit sad.

"Never mind" said Frankie's Mum "You may get to go to exciting places like Bucharest and Kharkiv. And anyway, Christine's coming round for tea in half an hour."

"Oooo! Can I stay for tea?"said JT, batting his eyelids at Frankie's Mum.

"NO!!!!" shouted everyone. And they were right, too.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Where there's a Wilshere...

Well it was quite a refreshing evening at Wembley last night.

First of all, only three players pulled out of a friendly international. Normally, the England manager endures more late withdrawals than a Greek bank. Only Michael Carrick's absence looked remotely suspicious. But then again Carrick hasn't exactly shown himself to be the most enthusiastic England squad memebr and there was no doubt he wasn't going to get a start last night.

Which is not something you could say of Ashley Cole. He's had his knockers, has Ashley [insert joke here]. His misdemeanours are legion: bringing a gun to work; being less than happy about getting £55 grand a week; and, worst of all, treating Wor Cheryl like a doormat.

However every time the little numpty had pulled on an England shirt he's been committed and competent and until Baines's recent rise there's been no competition for his place whatsoever. It was good too to hear that even if he isn't first choice, he'll still be turning up for the internationals - a rare vow of loyalty in these days of self-interest.

In short, yes Cashley is a bit of a knob, but he's our knob. Except when he plays for Chelsea when he goes back to being a plain old knob.

(By the way, the reason I didn't write a blog on Monday was cos it would have been a gentle gloat over the Blues' increasing ability to throw away comfortable leads while El Chubbo watches on in bewilderment, his notebook and pencil in his hand like he's about to take down an order for two patatas braveas and a cafe con leche. Which reminds of the time when I took the missus to Paris and ordered meself a cafe au lait and she asked why French coffee has got a Spanish name.)

Of course Wednesday night also saw the full return of Jack Wilshere and the lad looked every bit as good as them Samba Boys. He's got the lot, that boy. He must have arrived in the world with a ball at his feet, kicked before he walked. He's a gleaming drop of hope, isn't he?

Not that the others can be too overlooked. Hodgson picked a team that looked a bit more threatening than usual. Although Walcott is still a mix of heady speedster and headless chicken, he looks more and more like the player Sven imagined he might be when he was the squad mascot. Rooney had one of his better games - although that appalling barnet makes him look more and more like he's walked off the pages of The Beano.

Hart and Johnson pretty much pick temselves too. On the down side, Cahill had one of those moments that has the average Englishman hollering "GET RID!!! OH YOU FUCKING TOILET!!!" We'd love a footballing centre-half in this country - you know, a Beckenbauer who can stride out from the back without someone shouting "What the hell is he doing?" But hellfire, you're not him, Gary!

Brazil's equaliser prompted one of those familiar periods of an England international when the back four pass it around with all the intelligence and confidence of a pheasant crossing the road.

Brazil weren't too duff either, and Scolari wasn't too disappointed by them. While praise was heaped on Harts penalty save no mention seemd to be made of what a shite penalty kick Ronaldinho took, as if the lad is above criticism. As for Neymar, well I've not seen owt of him really but you are left with the impression that the lad needs to be reminded that there's more to a footballing great than a crap haircut and some shiny boots.

But it was a great evening's entertainment I thought. And while Andy Townsend will tell you that it'll give them a lot of confidence going forward - that terrible Osborne-ish phrase - it'll be nowt compared with the horrors of a must-win fixture on a corrugated roof of a pitch in Montenegro. That'll be a much tougher test. Especially as San Marino comes first, which will keep the physios busy for the three days afterwards.