Monday, 27 April 2015

Backing The Boro

First off, I'm not pissed off. Boro were magnificent in their 4-3 defeat at Fulham and although it was a little heartbreaking to not get owt out of the game at all, they've got to be feeling that the play-offs is ours to win.I didn't blame the manager or the keeper - let's face it he's not the first reckless Greek we've seen in recent times.

The play-offs beckon. The prize the right to play David Cameron's favourite team next season - whoever the fuck that might be.You don't simply forget the name of the team you support unless you fucking well made it up. It's symptomatic of the superior, patronising and all too stage-managed nature of this election that some stuck-up knobhead thinks he can make us like him more by saying he's supports a football team. 

Any road, a visit to Chelsea next season will mean playing the Champions. Which means the rest of the League has been pretty poor. Not that Mourinho will give a fig. I don't particularly like the fella or the way he sets up his teams to play - especially in the big games - but frankly the bloke is nigh on a genius when it comes to eking out results. 

The team itself has lots to admire about it. It's just that those qualities  - organisation, discipline, efficiency - are the least uplifting. They're less a football team and more a high quality private security firm. At the Emirates, Arsenal fans resorted to calling Chelsea boring, and to be fair, I've had conjunctivitis that's easier on the eye. But one, George Graham was duller still, a Phil Collins to Jose's Coldplay; and two,  Wenger simply doesn't know how to beat Mourinho - be that football, or banter.

Indeed Wenger's comments about Chelsea are the verbal equivalent of an underhit backpass. He keeps making Jose come across like Groucho Marx.

Wenger: It's easy to defend.
Mourinho: You lost 3-1 to Monaco. You call that easy?

Arsenal fans: Chelsea are boring.
Mourinho: Not winning the league for ten years - that's boring.

You can almost see John Terry in a Harpo wig, honking the hooter at every retort.

Indeed Mourinho was right to point to his captain as outstanding. Terry continues to be the best centre-half in the country, and his fellow pros appear to agree with me. It's annoying when someone who is patently a git is undeniably good at something, though isn't it? It's like when people always insisted that Bernard Manning was a brilliant comedian, technically. He was also a great ball of vitriol and bile. Which trumps funny, I reckon.

So while the molten bronze gets poured into the mould for Mourinho's Special One memorial statue, the other managers huff and puff about might-have-beens in a somewhat self-delusional mode. Van Gaal reckoned Man Utd would have won the title had they made a better start... well, duh King Louis, and Paula Radcliffe would have won the London Marathon if she'd only done the first bit on a scooter. It's irrelevant.

Brendan Rodgers praised his side for their goalless draw at West Brom. 'Outstanding' he called them. Which is like calling an impotent man 'fertile'. Liverpool have a lot of head-scratching to do. I hope Rodgers sorts it out as he seems like a decent enough bloke.

At the bottom Tim Sherwood laughs off the notion of relegation. T'ain't a laughing matter. I'd rather I had Nigel Pearson telling me 'there was still a lot of work to do'. The prospect of Newcastle being caught on the line hasn't vanished yet. John Carver looks like a bloke trying to build a house with a sack of balsa wood and some cheese-string. Poor fella. Half the fans are staying at home while the others are bringing sofas into the Gallowgate so they've got something to hide behind.

Having said that it looks very much like Burnley and QPR are down, not least because every time they get a spot-kick, the taker shows all the confidence of a nd Sunderland/Hull will be slipping from the summit. If it's the Mackems then at least there'll still be two North-East teams in the top division.

Won't there?

Monday, 20 April 2015

A Keeper's Lot Is Not A Happy One

Ah goalkeepers. Like licking the socket on the kettle, stroking wasps and walking in on your parents at midnight, most of us learn from a very early age that it's not for us. Fly goalies is just a way of making sure you're not stuck there all bloody afternoon while your mates are doing their best David Mills and Alan Foggon impressions.

But there's always someone who finds it rewarding. In my experience, this person is (a) a mouthy great lummox who can jump off the science block without flinching and carries an air rifle with him at all times; or (b) an oppressed loner with an interest in military history, playing the saxophone and keeping reptiles as pets. Neither of them are run of the mill. 

A good keeper will snort when you show the bruises beneath your shinpads. He (or she I better say now we're all taking lasses' football seriously) will not have a clue how to dress himself. He will think he knows all about football when he knows more about nuclear fission (witness Schmeichel's punditry or Bryan Gunn's management). He will have Saturday's dirt under his fingernails come Wednesday night. And apart from the last bit, he wouldn't be me. 

For which all of us outfield fancy dans are eternally grateful. And for those of us that choose not to get kneed in the head by every Cockney rhymer's favourite player Stephen Hunt, or indulge in over ambitious step-overs when confronted by a pacy forward, let me say here and now we have nothing but sympathy. Coupled with a complete lack of comprehension. 

In the case of Mr Federici, I'm all heart. After a very decent performance the ball slid out between his legs like a fourteenth child. It barely touched the sides. To say I felt sick for the lad is an understatement, like suggesting the thoughts of Katie Hopkins are somewhat distasteful. (It's a long time since capital punishment was - rightly - eliminated from this country but there's always the exception that proves the rule and crucifixion's too good for her. She is a shadow on the lung of our body politic).

Federici left the field in tears having left enough of them out there to have watered Wembley for a lifetime. (Although not quite as much as Chelsea use before playing a slick passing team at Stamford Bridge). I don't blame him. If it was me I'd have been a huddled wreck cowering in my own net for the rest of the season. 

I hope he's got to sleep by now, but somehow I doubt it. 

Those of us watching the frenzy at the top of the Championship can tell you all about sleepless nights mind you. 45 minutes into Saturday's fixtures Boro were top after our gritty win at Carrow Road. Another half later and we're 3rd again. It's torture, I tell you. Then again I could be a goalkeeper. Or a Newcastle fan. 

It seems Ashley's pigeons are coming home to roost. Anyone who thinks Fat Mike gives a shit about anyone but himself has never bought a pair of jiggly bottoms from Sports Direct. Newcastle are those joggy bottoms: misshapen, uncared for and lacking any style whatsoever. John Carver steers the good ship Gallowgate like he's got his braces caught in the steering wheel. It's a terrible terrible joke and even I can't laugh any more. 

There's a bit at the end of Animal Farm where the pigs are eating with the humans and you can't tell them apart. That's Mike Ashley, that is. We've known for decades that English football clubs are rich men's playthings but at least Abramovich looks after his toys - for now. Ashley shoves his in a box, hides it in the attic and occasionally brings it down to give it a bit of a kicking. 

It's a bit like seeing the woman you love shacking up with a fella who doesn't even remember why he moved in in the first place. Ashley's the Katie Hopkins of Football ownership and he needs to be forcibly moved on. It'll take one mighty forklift but the sooner he's south of Watford Gap (that gap being 1 point currently - see Championship table) the better for all of us. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Manuel Labouring

So another filthily rich football club prepares to ditch a nice man coz the players can't really be arsed. Manuel Pellegrini wears a haunted look these days, and given that at the best of times the Chilean appears to have just stepped off the world's most terrifying ghost train, that's saying something.

Of course for those of us who observe from a distance, like inquisitive paupers in Downton Abbey, there's a certain delight in watching the wealthy fall. Self serving millionaires tend to get a little bored and complacent at times. Even Bill Gates must have a day off but unlike say Yaya Toure that tends not to coincide with a need to up your workrate to avoid being overrun in midfield.

As  Citeh's form goes up and down its easy to blame Yaya for the yoyo. He's a paradox, that lad, a combination of grace and fatigue. One moment he's powering through opposition like an American through pizza, the next moment he looks he's moving through glue.

But it's not all him. Joe Hart's done well since definitively holding off the man with the Mexican porn name Willy Caballero, and you can never fault Zabaleta for effort. Aguero will never be less than a brilliant forward but when your best player this year has been James Milner you've got to ask yourself what's going wrong.

There's no doubt Vincent Kompany has been astonishingly shit. Watching him flail around like a plastic bag in a jacuzzi has been as shocking in its way as seeing Ian Poulter in grey slacks or hearing Robbie Savage successfully arrive at the end of a sentence.

His direness is not down to lethargy unlike say the mercenary ex-Arsenal brigade. Of course the solution will be a managerial change rather than ditching the lax and lazy. FIFA fair play rules haven't helped but even then they've forked out a fortune on Mangala, a defender who makes Phil Jones look assured, and Bony who has merely become the latest in a long line of Etihad bench decoration.

Were it not for the eminent graciousness of the manager I'd be chuckling like the mean-spirited sod I've always been. Still maybe management of a ruthless organisation is too rough a post for such a bloke. If I were him I'd take the money and set up a nice over 50s five a side league in Santiago and never look back.

Lest we forget mind you we are talking of the Premier League champions, the team that robbed us of a lovely sentimental story last season when they pipped Liverpool. This season there's less romance riding on the Kop's achievements so people (and the press) are more able to focus on the misdemeanours of the misfiring Reds.

Perhaps Kevin Pietersen 's every move will be monitored more closely than Raheem Sterling. But I doubt it. The lad may be less bouffant this season but his head's much further above the parapet. His agent is clearly unconcerned about the boy's wellbeing and is fuelling his client's agitation for a move to somewhere like Madrid.

"STERLING TO EUROPE" There's a headline that will confuse Ukip voters.

But all the kid's done so far is turn down a lot of money and taken laughing gas, neither of which are that unusual amongst rich young men right now. Indeed if Sterling was, say, a successful stockbroker we'd all be expecting this rampant self-interest. After all it's what the Conservative party manifesto is all about.

While we're on the subject can I just remind people that Inheritance Tax does NOT mean that you pay tax on your money twice. You pay tax on it once. Then you die. Your children then pay tax on it (and even then that's only when it gets above a very healthy amount). It's called redistribution and it's perfectly reasonable. Sorry children of the reasonably well off you'll just have to pay the same sordid tax-dodge shysters to help you avoid that one too.

Where was I? Ah yes, Raheem. Yes he's greedy. It's how this country works right now. But for God's sake can we stop this scuzzy snooping when people are simply having a bit of a legal laugh. The odd ciggie or even spliff isn't the end of the fecking world.

Listen if Sterling is burning off defenders inter 2016 Euros and getting England the odd victory he can Robbie-Fowler up the touch line for all I care.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Up The Boro, Down the Boro

First to fourth. Like an over-optimistic British Olympian it's hard not to escape the feeling that we've forgotten to dip on the line. I'm not saying Boro's performances were pedestrian against Watford and Bournemouth. It was more like they were sponsored by Zimmer frames.

However, however, however. It's been a while since my nerves were this close to a cheese grater on a daily basis and while days like yesterday left me looking as cheery as a London commuter on a sweatbox train from Orpington (that's late, cramped, owned by a European State-funded train company and earning them a fortune), I am not complaining.

You can't help thinking that Bournemouth turned a massive corner, and as they have been the Championship entertainers this season they throughly deserve anything they get, and that second place will be Norwich's unless our lads turn em over a week on Friday. In which case the play-offs beckon, by which time I'll have moved on to pulling out my toenails for a bit of light relief.

But this has been a potty league, with more turn-ups than a 1970's jeans factory, so I'm ruling nowt out and nowt in. Much like a major political party's election manifesto.

Whatever happens, it'll be a damn sight more exciting than the league we're all fighting to get into. At least at the top. Chelsea are destined to win it, despite miracles from Charlie Adam. If Adam was sipping an ale at a bar I'd move to another bar. It's good to see him leave his mark on the game rather than an opponent's shin. But it didn't stop Chelsea from winning.

And what sort of champions are they going to be? I'll remember simulating central defenders, diddums ref-baiting, neurotic conspiracy theories and Diego Costa somehow staying on the park when all about him are getting their marching orders.

There has been one jewel, mind you. Eden Hazard. In English the name reads like a nickname for the serpent that tempted Eve, but he's got way more going for him than that. As and when his team lift the title, he's the main reason. While Costa's been dogged by niggles and nastiness, and Cesc once again bloomed and faded like cherry blossom, Hazard has been consistently the most dangerous attacking player in the competition.

He'd be my choice for Player of the Year. But I dunno, this season seems to have featured more reliance on outstanding individuals than any one previous to it. For Hazard at Chelsea, read Sanchez at Arsenal, De Gea at Man U, Kane at Spurs, absolutely no one at Man City, and in retrospect Suarez at Liverpool.

Of those De Gea deserves some sort of Purple Heart for bravery as he's played in front of the brittlest defence imaginable. I've seen Cadbury's Flakes with more spine. Indeed the current league position of Manchester United is one of the great mysteries of the season.

Van Gaal, who resembles more and more a man built entirely from molten rock - if he was in a superhero comic he'd be called Lava Man - has somehow happened across a team that looks quite good. The benefit of having a deep but injury-plagued squad is that eventually you hit on a formula that works.

Moyes must be thudding his head against a door rather like I was yesterday lunchtime when he hears that Marouane Fellaini is currently irreplaceable at the Theatre of Dreams. Juan Mata is playing brilliantly but wouldn't have started had Di Maria not got himself sent off. Van Persie's absence has led to Rooney playing up top again rather than like a kind of Paul Scholes Lite. It's all looking lovely for Louis.

And all the while the likes of Jones, Smalling and Rojo take it in turns to play the Three Stooges at the back, they still win matches. I tell you the Lava Man must have control of some dark forces. I wouldn't be surprised if the Hadron Collider discovers the Van Gaal Particle in the next six months.

Liverpool's season is in danger of imminent collapse. The sight of a 20-year-old turning down a 100 grand a week has never sat well with the great British Football Fan and whoever told Raheem Sterling to go on telly and tell the world that he just wanted to concentrate on his football needs a good slap. I'm happy to oblige if we can find the bloke. If the boy meant what he said he'd be on the training pitch not chatting to the Beeb in a sly manner.

After a brief period of stability Rodgers is rocking again but he's only got himself to blame. It was Brendan's idea to buy Balotelli, which is the managerial equivalent of trying to climb a hill while tied to a whale. Mario has never been anything less than a drain on resources and Rodgers was a fool to sign him.

The bottom of the table, where I still hope to find Boro this time next year, is a scrap of epic proportions. Leicester won't escape, but everyone else lives in hope. I fear for Hull, but then I always have. Of the others, well it's a toss-up but no one would be that sad to see perennial wallowers in former glory Aston Villa to take the long plummet. Chances are Burnley will save them.

But none of that is particularly important. What matters is Rotherham at home on Saturday. C'mon you Millers, you're as good as safe. Take the weekend off!