Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2014 - Robbo's Crystal Ball

Okay lady and gentlemen. Cover your eyes if I've predicted good things for your teams this year - or you can always resort to a Greg Dyke throat-slitting gesture if you wish. Here's what I see happening at least up until the World Cup - and let's face it, after that the rest of the year can go hang.

England's valiant cricketers return home and parade through the streets of London in an open-top bus. Australians watch from top-floor windows and piss all over them for the sixth time this winter.

On a visit to Manchester, Brendan Rogers gets a parking ticket and is appalled to discover that the traffic warden in question is from the Greater Manchester area.

The Australian Open final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal goes into a second day after the first rally of the match takes 28 hours to finish. Andy Murray is so blown away by the match that he tells reporters 'it was a tough match'.

Nicolas Anelka is cleared of making a Nazi gesture and goes on loan to Lazio. 

Vincent Tan becomes Cardiff City's new manager. The team come out for his first game in charge with a collar and tie on under their shirts, cripplingly high waistbands on their shorts, and moustaches on their top-lips that even Adolf Hitler would've smirked at.

Meanwhile Malky Mackay becomes manager at West Brom and - to no one's surprise - they do pretty well for the rest of the season .

The transfer window closes after several eye-popping purchases:

Arsene Wenger finally gets his hands on some back-up for Olivier Giroud. Unfortunately it's a former Chelsea forward - any one of them - and so Bendtner goes back to second in the pecking order;

Tottenham narrowly fail to sign four top European players - all of them go to Chelsea at the last minute.

Marouane Fellaini's return from injury underlines the absence of a decent midfield player at Manchester United. But as he's tall, clumsy and doesn't possess a secure first touch, Mark Hughes is straight in there to get him on loan at Stoke.

Moyes spends the entire transfer window standing outside the homes of Everton players, knocking on their doors and then asking them if they'd like to come and play at his house.

Half-decent Premier League players wake up on transfer deadline day to find trails of coins leading out from their front doors. At the end of them is Tony Fernandes. Inevitably, Crouchy and Bent scurry over for a piece of the action with 'Arry.

At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea play Newcastle and there is a nasty coming together between David Luiz and Fabricio Coloccini. Top stylist Nicky Clarke is called in to separate them, hair by hair.

Roy Hodgson's squad for the next friendly has more late withdrawals than a Catholic family planning session. Hodgson uses it as a chance to blood some twelve-year-olds who were doing keepy-uppies on Wembley Way.

The League Cup final is an all-Manchester affair so who gives a shit who won it. Probably Citeh. 3-1. Goals by those famous Mancunians Negredo, Aguero and Fernandinho.

United compensate themselves with a 1-0 against Liverpool. Phil Jones scores the winner and Brendan Rogers accuses him of being born suspiciously close to the Greater Manchester area.

DJ Campbell denies putting money on how long his sentence might be.

Sebastian Vettel agrees to drive for Austin Allegro in this year's Formula 1 Grand Prix season. He wins the first three races despite having his old Mum in the back seat telling him to slow down.

In spite of everything the world might say, Bernie Ecclestone adds Damascus, Pyongyang and South Sudan to the F1 roster.

Graeme Swann decides to name names in regard to those people in cricket who are 'up themselves'. The press conference lasts seven hours and all he does is read out a list.

In the Champions League, Manchester City beat Barcelona and Chelsea overcome the shock of the terrifying legend on a banner in the crowd - until Frank Lampard reminded his team-mates that (a) 'Welcome to Hull' was a spelling mistake, and (b) it wasn't like they were Fulham.

The Premier League is won by Manchester City, with Chelsea second, Arsenal third and, horribly enough United fourth. Everton and Liverpool draw lots to see who will play in the Europa League. Liverpool lose and so Everton get to stay at home.

Falling out of the Premier League are poor old West Ham whose central defence is so riddled with injury that Big Sam makes a fleeting appearance, not so much as a centre back but a roundabout round which the opposition has to play.

Joining the Irons are Fulham and Cardiff. Vincent Tan writes himself a terse email and two days later finds himself sacked.

The FA Cup is won out of nowhere by Middlesbrough. No one can believe it. I celebrate like an 18 year old on his first night in Amsterdam and don't write a blog for six weeks. (Yes I know that is quite often the gap between them these days so just shush now).

The Champions League is retain by Bayern Munich after a thrilling final against Man City. People praise Pellegrini to the skies. Not because he's a genius or owt, just cos he's managed to stop Mourinho from picking up even the smallest trinket and for that we should be very grateful.

Brazil prepares to welcome the World Cup tournament. Tickets are reduced for those supporters who are willing to hammer in a few nails to keep the stands up.

England draw against Italy in sweltering conditions. They would have won only Frank Lampard's terrific 25-yarder was only three yards over the line so it was difficult to be certain it was a goal. Ashley Young gets into trouble in the Arena Amazonia when he appears to go down like he's been shot. It is later proved that he was shot, by a blow-dart from an England fan outraged that such a cheating little git could make the England squad. Several black players complain about racist monkey chants coming from the stands but it turns out those chants were made by actual monkeys. FIFA investigate to see whether these monkeys are actually racist.

On to the Uruguay game and England draw 0-0 despite Luis Suarez getting a red card for a diving bite at Phil Jagielka.

The decider against Costa Rica is nip and tuck but Bryans Oviedo and Ruiz (the only Costa Ricans this commentator has heard of) combine to create a winning goal and England are out. The nation breathes a sigh of relief.

The BBC's special feature 'Rio in Rio' is a bit of a disaster but Ferdinand successfully predicts a Brazilian victory on home soil. They win the final 3-1 against Argentina after Lionel Messi receives his first ever red card for failing to get a decent haircut.

Happy New Year! May it see fewer bosses axed, more bankers taxed, and a the continuing revival of the slumbering giant that is Middlesbrough FC.

Enjoy 2014, all of you!! (Except you. You know who you are.)

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Time, Misery and Whine

Christmas is here and it's time for Robbo to dig out his white fluffy beard and become all grandfatherly, but not in the manner of someone who presented children's television programmes on the BBC in the 1980s.

Yuletide is a crap time of year I reckon. I spent today in a Sainsburys the size of Marbella pushing past bedazzled fuckwits as they paused over exotic butternut squashes as if they were in some sort of summer fete guess-the-vegetable contest. Husbands were shrugging at relentless wives as they burrowed through squadrons of unfettered brats all throwing unwanted confectionary into their parents' trolley and then booing their little bastard eyes out if so much of a grain of sugar found its way back onto the shelves.

I seriously heard one man say to his missus: "I honestly don't care just please don't make let me be in here any longer."

But now tis over. The requisite booze has been acquired. The brandy butter sits oozily in the fridge. And I am full of Christmas cheer.

So, ignoring the gift of Man City having someone called Jesus scoring at Christmas time (it wasn't that long ago it was Roque Santa Claus) here's some apt pressies for the folks we love to hate.

To Luis Suarez - well I would give him the freedom of Norwich but clearly he's already got that, so I'll give him a 5000 piece jigsaw. It might just be the only thing he can't finish this season.

To David Moyes - a little torch so he can see something while he's there in Fergie's shadow.

To Malky Mackay - he needs to expunge the name Tan from his mind for a few days so I've bought him a box of gerines, a book on tric sex and a fish k.

To Daniel Levy - a new manager who can help Spurs make that step up into the top four permanently. Given his track record, Jesus Christ might be the best bet, but failing that, Glenn Hoddle as he's closer to Jesus than many. Except it turns out it's Tim Sherwood - who should surely be the gaffer at Nottingham Forest.

To Graeme Swann - the film Titanic, featuring that memorable line 'women and children and hacked-off off-spinners first!'

To The Rest Of the England cricket team - a pair of very interesting shoes each cos that's what they'll be looking at for the next three months.

To Sebastian Vettel - a grab bag of Quavers so he has summat to eat while he's strolling to victory in them grand prix.

To Ashley Young - I think I must have given him snorkel and flippers last year so maybe he can give 'em to young Janazaj now he doesn't get much chance to use 'em anymore.

To Mark Lawrenson - a P-45 and my best wishes for a long and happy retirement, although to be fair he's been enjoying that on various television sofas for years.

To Jack Wilshere - a copy of the Mona Lisa. The eyes follow you around the room, much like television cameras you great twot.

To Arsene Wenger - one of them super-powerful wrenches you get at Kwikfit so he can stop the wheels coming off over Christmas.

To Rangers - some opposition would be nice.

To Celtic - some opposition would be nice.

To John McCririck - a small cottage in a deep dark wood somewhere in Olde England where he can chunter away to himself like the idiot bumpkin he is.

To Andy Murray - a musical stave that shows just how many notes are available to the human voice. And another grand slam, naturally.

To Heather Mills - a diving board so she can go off the deep end whenever she fancies it. Still it's good to see her putting her foot down even if it is one that the IPC don't approve of.

To Essex nightclub doormen - a chamber-pot hat, just in case Monty Panesar fancies a night out round their way.

To Roy Hodgson - all the luck in the world, mate. And 26 changes of shirt for the game in Manaus.

To Peter Crouch - a pair of boxing gloves so that the lad can keep punching above his weight with that Abbey Clancy. That lass doesn't so much dance as flow, bless 'er. Mind you, Sophie Ellis-Bextor's bloke - the one that looked like a surprised woodland piglet - is so far out of her league he's Chorley to her Chelsea.

To Tiger Woods - slalom lessons from his girlfriend Michelle Vonn. That way he might be able to avoid garbage bins when he comes out of his driveway.

To Oscar Pistorius - an amazing pair of briefs, he's going to need them.

To The Welsh Rugby Union - shares in French holiday homes, as that's where all your countrymen will be for the foreseeable future.

To Jamaican Athletics - a drugs mule to carry all the prohibited substances OUT of the country. I know you're quick boys and girls but that doesn't mean you can run forever. Allegedly.

To the organisers in Sochi - a great big slobbery same-sex kiss to each and every one of you, and a set of floodlights to bring you out from the Dark Ages.

To Marion Bartoli - a book on personal beauty by that picture of asymmetric beauty John 'Call Me Casanova' Inverdale. All right ladies, calm down. I know how much you hate us lads having a pop at John. He just oozes sex appeal, that man, like a chip oozes oil.

And to Kevin Pietersen - a forward defensive prod. Very useful when you're 400 behind. A wonderful batsman and an absolute twerp.


And up the Boro!!!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Gaffes with the Gaffers

Andy Murray won Sports Personality of the Year and then had the good grace to admit that his voice suggests he doesn't actually have a personality. You get more rise and fall in the monologues of Professor Stephen Hawking. Then again, who needs a lovely speaking voice when you racing back and forth like a Jack Russell on the lend of a length of rope? 

Of course while Sports Personality was wringing tears from this sentimental old sports buff's eyes - and the tribute to Anne Williams was really top-notch - Liverpool fans were crooning out You'll Never Walk Alone on the terraces of White Hart Lane. Or Shite Fart Pain as my unamusing drinking colleague Tony Thompson insisted on calling it.

Villas-Boas tried to maintain his strangely scholarly dignity on the touchline but each goal to removed another finger from the only hand left clinging on to his North London window ledge until finally Sterling's effort saw him off into free-fall. So the Portuguese joins Steve Clarke in the managerial sin-bin.

Clarke's dismissal was really quite mysterious. Sometimes it's a worry if a manager gets his team to their highest league position ever. Over-achieve and you've had it the next season. The Baggies won at Old Trafford (admittedly not too tough a mission right now) and should've won at Stamford Bridge. They haven't had the rub of the green. No one's really trounced them. The players are in shock and there's no one waiting in the wings to change things. Well there's AVB of course.

The chairman Jeremy Peace - a surname tinged with irony if ever there was one - doesn't usually muck about so you'd expect to see someone in place pretty soon. And Malky Mackay must be itching to leave Cardiff City and its moustachioed dictator.

As for AVB, well he's a curious cove. I'm sure if you told him a joke he'd have a think about it and then push a note back across the table telling you it's funny. If football was played in a library he'd be the next Alex Ferguson. Last season Bale was Jesus to Spurs's Lazarus but with the Welsh wizard long departed, a cluster of replacements haven't papered over the cracks.

Nevertheless there are others who could take a little more flak than they do. Baldini - whose job is what exactly? - seems just as responsible for the purchases as the manager. Only Eriksson and on occasion Paulinho have looked any better than what was already in place. Lamela, Chadli, Soldado... there was a time when only Rafa Benitez could rack up a subs bench of such utter forgettability. Bale was a game-changer. These blokes are same-gamers. Bring them on - nothing changes.

As for Daniel Levy - well, the appointment of AVB reeked of chutzpah in the first place."So he didn't work out at Chelsea? Well that's cos of Chelsea, not cos of the man himself."

Yeah, well, 17 months is not a great statement of faith in your man, Danny boy. Spurs aren't in a terrible league position. Anyone can concede six at the Etihad. The Europa League opposition have been vanquished. And who's going to replace him anyway?

It's all a bit desperate. Glenn Hoddle seems to be everyone's tip for some sort of interim role. Except every manager appears to be on an interim contract at the moment, regardless of how many years they've actually signed up for.

Genuine football fans crave stability. As do the players. Despite Abramovich attempting to prove otherwise, sticking with a manager is a GOOD THING. Tottenham's flirtation with 4th position in the Premier League appears to have left Levy's nerves shredded and judgement impaired.

Or maybe, just maybe, we've got it wrong. In the modern pentathlon, the horse you ride during the equestrian section is allocated at random. The nag you get is down to luck. If figure it's time they did this at Premier League level. The managers and the clubs do a do-si-do and Man City end up with Ian Holloway, Arsenal get Sam Allardyce, and Stoke, bless 'em, get Wenger. Then we'd see who was any good at proper coaching. 

Anyway I can't write A V B anymore as it reminds me of a Victorian Bitter, which is the official beer of Cricket Australia. And if it was up to me I'd be throwing nine of England's cricket team into a vat o the stuff n leaving em there. Utter utter shite. Be ashamed. Be very ashamed.

Friday, 6 December 2013

The Hurt of Moyes

A very enjoyable midweek Match of the Day on Wednesday and one man outshone all others. The Biter, the Baiter, the Bugsy Bad Boy is in the sort of form that you only really ever see in your dreams. So successful is he at throttling Canaries that Sylvester must be up there somewhere in cartoon heaven praying that Luis finds Tweety Pie's address.

When I was growing up, hat-tricks got scored by nimble goal-scroungers who loitered around the six-yard box like itinerant workers hang around outside Wickes. Opportunists, they were - your Mullers and Linekers - not doing a scrap of work elsewhere and then popping up just when you'd forgotten that they were on the pitch.

These days your hat-trick heroes don't some much sniff out a chance as construct on from their own imaginations. You seriously get the impression that Messi, Ronaldo and Suarez could score at almost any time they fancied it.

Take Suarez's quartet on Wednesday night. Admittedly this was against Norwich City defence still shell-shocked from previous encounters with the Nibbler, and which therefore gave the Uruguayan the sort of room you might give an elephant with diarrhoea.

Nevertheless, each one was a work of art. The first a searing volleyed lob that left John Ruddy flailing so badly there was a bit of Seaman in the despairing lunge. Ahem. The second a bit more of a Gerd Muller, but a tricky finish made to look so simple. The third a ludicrous Gazzaesque lob and control followed by a beautifully controlled half-volley drive. The fourth just your run-of-the-mill 25-yard free kick.

And you have to be one helluva player to set up a chance that even Raheem Sterling can't miss.

It strikes me that despite the praise ladled in the direction of the Suarez-Sturridge combo, Luis is even better when he has to do more of the work himself. This is good and bad news for Rodgers. Yes I know the Reds coped well while Suarez spent the first few games licking his wounds (I think maybe he should've been licking Ivanovic's too). They weren't exactly tearing teams apart, mind you. Lots of George Grahamesque 1-0s if I remember rightly.

I make in 13 goals in 10 starts since his Nibs returned. I never thought I'd write this but it's a pleasure to have him around this season. You can't help wondering if the Something Stupid he might do is just around the corner. But till then, enjoy. He's utterly brilliant.

A blissful week all round for the city of Liverpool then, particularly the blue half of what was briefly known as Moyesyside. Bryan Oviedo's 86th winner against Manchester United finally rid Everton of 21 years of failure in the Theatre of Dreams. That it should happen while their manager of 11 years is in charge of the opposition is a deliciously cruel piece of irony.

It's easy to suggest that Moyes always treated this fixture too negatively when he was in charge of the Toffees and that's why Everton could never win. Easy cos by and large it's true. The Old Puce Glasgae Father Figure rather intimidated everyone, not least his heir apparent.

Martinez isn't walking around in anyone's shadow. Everton, with Lukaku roaming the front line like a great caged lion, and the likes of Barkley and Deulofeu being given their heads despite their youth, are playing fine and attractive football with not a backward step involved.

Mind you, Martinez has inherited a better team. Moyes is picking through the debris of Fergie's leftovers. I still don't have a clue how these lads lifted a trophy last season. Vidic and Ferdinand are done for. The likes of Nani and Young float around the fringes like tatty decorations that haven't been taken down after the Christmas party.

The midfield looked bare before Moyes arrived. Fellaini looks back to his stompingly clumsy worst. Giggs is looking more like Corporal Jones in there (Don't Panic!). Cleverly is neat and tidy and tepid. Anderson might never be anything and Carrick's calmness is actually being hugely missed. Kagawa could help if played in the right position. It's all very average.

I'd love to watch a United game whilst simultaneously watching a temperature gauge attached beneath Wayne Rooney's top-weave. The Toxteth Terror seems to be seething and steaming more and more these days as he wages a one-man campaign to get some uplift into United's season. As I have noted before, it might be good for England that Rooney is learning to play well in a pretty shite team right now.

But Wazza - good though he is - is not a Suarez, not even a Bale. He cannot keep saving a middling team with one moment of inspiration even if every time he strikes a dead ball at the moment you think there might be something in it for his team.

Van Persie's return will further paper over the cracks but Moyes has a transfer window of massive importance coming up. And I'm jiggered if I can see who might want to join a midtable outfit with little chance of making the Champions League this season. Even Leighton Baines might prefer to stay put - unless Oviedo keeps him out of the team of course.

Footnote: Australian readers might be disappointed at my lack of coverage of the Ashes cricket series. Well for the winter this will remain almost exclusively a football blog. Unless England get their shit together.