Monday, 21 November 2016

Give It To Gareth, FFS.

Gareth Southgate's being interviewed as I write. For the England job, not for next year's I'm A Celebrity although it's not hard to imagine that as his next career move after he gets the job. He will get the job and that's because he is so well-qualified for it.

I would lay out Gareth's assets for the role as the following:

1. Availability.
2. Willingness.
3. Niceness.
4. Englishness*
5. A bit of success with the under 21's.

Of these, availability is the major factor. Pundits can bleat on about how he might fare in the crucible of tournament football. He might lack the strong mindset of people like oo, I dunno, Fabio Capello. They might even fret that being a decent fella never seemed to matter to Mourinho or Ferguson - they were both utter shits and it worked for them. Woy, Stevey Mac and Sven were gentle souls and look at their international records. Then again Sam Allardyce is a bit of a twat and yet his England win ratio is 100%.

But the main point is that Gareth Southgate is the only bloke who fancies having a go at the job at present. And therefore he should get the job. It's no point giving an important role to someone who doesn't really want it. I mean look at Boris Johnson. (Then look away quickly before you break all the crockery in your house.)

Of course Southgate's interim stewardship has been as okay as any other manager's might have been. England still struggle to look good going forward without looking as disorientated as a gathering of American liberals at the back. But that's simply a matter of personnel. If there was ever a Golden Generation then this one is made of lead. The Leaden Generation.

It'd be lovely to imagine Gareth is some sort of Gok Wan of international football. In six months' time we'll know the make-over is complete when Gary Cahill plays a 60-yard Rabona onto the chest of Jordan Henderson whose clever-back heel puts Theo Walcott in acres of space, at which point the wannabe-Henry loses his life-long agoraphobia and calmly slides the ball into the path of a purposeful Raheem Sterling who calmly side-foots home without the use of his shin.

But that ain't gonna happen.

I hope Southgate's cause is not undermined by England squad members behaving like young men on a night off. It's just another example of how removed from reality these England superstars are when they get caught doing things that other people their age might do.

Wayne Rooney was drunk, I tell you, drunk. And on a Saturday night. Worse than that it was at a wedding party to which he had been invited and the arrogant out-of-touch Scouser said 'Thanks I'd love to.'  So full of himself was Wazza that he then proceeded to drink red wine. We can safely assume that beer just isn't good enough for the up-himself tosser these days.

[Incidentally I am employing the use of irony in the above paragraph - I realise since the advent of Trump as President-Elect, irony has little place in the world but I will try my best to maintain a cherished place for it here.]

Meanwhile, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson apparently went to a strip club. I hear it's not cos there were lasses there getting their kits off, but cos they'd got vouchers for a 2 for 1 offer on spirits until midnight. Strip clubs are shit. And, in the case of Sunderland away kits, club strips are shit too.

None of this, it seems to me, is any reason to go off the deep end and condemn these lads any more than a slick five-pass move by England deserves the strange sound of Glenn Hoddle cooing and saying 'that could be Spain playing there'.  It's not great behaviour, no, but nothing untoward happened and unless Rooney's having to leave the pitch to vomit Merlot into a bucket then I'm just not bothered frankly.

Wayne apologised for the 'inappropriate' images but jeez he was a bit tiddly and sat on a sofa - he wasn't waggling his cock about in a primary school playground. That is genuinely not appropriate. I can vouch for that. I was seven at the time but even so...

I've never been one of these twerps who think that because they wear an England shirt ten times a year and get paid vast amounts of money by their clubs they should bear in mind that they are role models. It's horse dung frankly. I am bothered when they play like a bunch of bleeding fuckwits because as professional people they should at least be able to get that bit of their lives to function more frequently.

I heard Peter Shilton suggesting that Southgate hasn't got enough experience for the job. Who the hell has? All this hubbub around waiting for Wenger strikes me as misguided. Look at the Englishmen who have flourished under his tutelage - Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere, Chambers... not really, eh? The best he's managed is a training routine that repeatedly twangs hamstrings.

Nah, it may be with a touch of resignation, but give it to Gareth. Everyone likes him. He's got the gumption to take it on, much like he had the nuts to take that sixth penalty in Euro '96. Okay that didn't work out but...


*Not really a qualification

Monday, 7 November 2016

Bloody Lovely Stuff

One of the reasons I stopped blogging a while back was coz even when he was out of a job all people talked about was Jose Mourinho. This is partly coz he manages to draw attention to himself like a pissed aunty at a funeral. Constantly saying inappropriate things, slating the officials, undermining the bride, saying the bridesmaids are just not up to snuff. (Well that was my Aunty Pat, any road.)

There was a time when this tactic was a way of drawing the fire away from his team and creating a bunker mentality to help the players thrive. Nowadays, he seems to take a misfiring first eleven to be a personal slight. That might seem like paranoia but in the case of his last half season at Chelsea, I think it was justifiable paranoia.

You only have to look at Conte's Chelsea, featuring the same players by and large that Jose left behind, to realise that the boys in blue just didn't give a shit for the Special One. Costa's back to his rollicking best, Hazard is twinkling around like a footballing Tinkerbell, and the back three look as unbreakable as the skull of a Trump supporter.

Meanwhile United are still a scatter-brained blend of the overpaid and the barely worthwhile. One League Cup win over Manchester City's B-team and a victory over a Swans team that played like cygnets hasn't changed that. Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho have all tried and failed to instil some sort of pattern and belief on a struggling club. And frankly I'm quite pleased. United fans might get snarky, but as it says in the song 'if I hadn't seen such riches I could live with being poor.' In other words, Sit Down next to me (A Boro fan) Stretford Enders.

Having said that, a Boro fan is more likely to witness a point being won at the Etihad. Last Tuesday, Citeh had a night which some people seem to think has changed the world of football for ever. It's as if a late middle-aged woman had finally discovered the female orgasm. The result Citeh have been waiting for. Yes, and... They're still going to finish second in their group and go out to Bayern Munich in the last 16.

Apart from flickers of brilliance up front, Citeh still can't put teams away. They're like me getting home from the boozer and trying to find the wastepaper basket with an empty crisp packet. Even leaning over the bloody thing I can still tweak it wide. Sterling fills me with least confidence in front of goal - I doubt he can find the bowl with his piss even if he were sat down - but his form elsewhere has been terrific and Guardiola deserves much credit for reviving the lad after a desperate summer.

Nevertheless the back four, with Kompany's absence throwing a long shadow over it, has a brittle look about it, Pep likes a ball-playing goalkeeper and I do too so lng as it's cos the bloke's got his hand down his shorts cos he's got bugger-all else to do - come on we've all done it. Citeh's title chances, as has been the case for a few seasons, rather depend on whether Aguero's chunky little legs don't keep falling away like slow-cooked lamb off the bone.

And I haven't mentioned Arsenal. It's not unusual for Wenger's team to have a good start. Arsenal are like delicate summer blooms which flower long into November, only for winter's icy blast to bring them withering to the ground. In other words, they don't like it up 'em, whether that be a sadistic centre-back or a strong north-easterly.

That being said, Mesut Ozil is making kicking a football about into the sort of them fecking rhythmic gymnasts could only dream of. The goal to see off Ludogarets was so sublime that Darcey Bussell is dancing it at Sadlers Wells next week. Ozil is the Federer of footy. When he's on the ball, he looks like he's got more time than the planet itself has. He's left more goggle-eyed this season than he is.

As for Liverpool, well, they're shining as bright as a Klopp grin. I haven't purred so much about a Koppite eleven since the days of Barnes and Beardsley. Really bloody lovely stuff. The way they knock it around between the front four - well, it's just a shame Andy Carroll's not there to finish it off, isn't it? Yep. That's what was happening not very long ago.

But it's been a happily hard to predict beginning to the post-fact Premier League. The current champions are Leicester City. It's worth repeating this as fact every now and then, just to underline that it's not some neutral's blissful dream - a kind of counterbalance to the dark nightmares of Brexit, President Trump or West Ham's stewarding at home games - but an actual fact.

I was pretty much dreading a return to the grim days of Chelsea/Citeh/United dominance. But no. It's been a pretty bleeding wonderful start to the season. Entertainment galore and in Hazard, Ozil and Coutinho (with Sanchez, Firmino and Costa not far behind) we are getting to see some top players at the peak of their powers.

Mourinho aside, I'm enjoying it again.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Go away Jose!

Let's face it, a lot of us are scraping by at the moment. If we're lucky we'll have a skanky Chinese of a Friday night and keep up the Netflix monthly payments if we can. If you've got little uns the ungrateful bastards are getting every single available item from Primark and they're just having to live with it.

Sod your ethical investment funds and your organic cotton, we've got to screw every last penny out of every nook and cranny we can find. Sofas that haven't had their grim contents eviscerated for years are being ripped open to reveal a horrific combination of lost keys, soiled tissues, battery-less remotes, Ginster's pastry, a few quid in coppers and in my case about three pairs of socks. Well, six individual ones but times are tough so I've paired em up anyway.

Austerity continues to press upon us like a weighty layer of marzipan, squeezing our innards outwards in an unappetising way that would have Mary Berry's face wrinkling into a charming walnutty frown.

History tells us that at times like these, what we want is a bit of escapism: a glance into a better world of glamour, of artistry, of sophistication,

A world where fellow parliamentary representatives of our country are knocking each other sideways; where the country isn't run by a kind of wicked governess that wouldn't think twice about locking you in the cupboard under the stairs, especially if you hadn't passed your 11-plus; where the words 'grab her by the pussy' are magically transformed into something more romantic and alluring like 'I've got a half of Lowenbrau with your name on it, pet, but obviously it's up to you, like.'

Yes, when you can't see where your next tuppence is coming from what you need more than anything else is ENTERTAINMENT. Especially from those for whom Austerity is something that is happening in a parallel universe somewhere beyond the leylandii at the bottom of the garden.

Of course Jose Mourinho has never believed he was in the entertainment business. Unless referee-baiting becomes an international sport, in which case he'd be WORLD FUCKING CHAMPION, the louse.

It's been a long time since Duff and Robben seared up and down the flanks at Stamford Bridge while Drogba ploughed between them like some fleet-footed shire horse. He'll have none of that frippery anymore. For all his pouty good looks and his occasionally colourful outbursts Mourinho has become as dour a coach as the game currently has. What is wrong with the miserable sod that he has to inflict such pragmatic workaday drudgery on the expectant football fan?

I bet if you went round his house for dinner you'd get some dry white bread, a scrape of butter and one of those mandarins with all the taste bled out if it. If he bought you a present it'd be gift vouchers for Jewson's. He'd be the one buying a winter coat on the warmest day of the year.

Now look, as a Boro fan maybe I'm feeling this more than most. Karanka's not exactly got us leaping of our seats right now. In fact I've invested in some comfy cushions for the next home match cos there's nowt like a sheet of cold plastic for kickstarting your haemorrhoids. But we have to be a bit practical. The club's not awash with cash like some of them.

But Manchester United? Well, they've spent the gross domestic product of a middle-sized European nation on their team and all we get is a decent defensive unit with a top keeper and an ageing showpony up front.

I mean what's Mourinho said to himself here? 'It worked for Simeone and Atletico'? Yeah but he's making the most of not much. 'And look how well Iceland did'? Yeah but that's Iceland. Ibrahimovic could buy Iceland with a week's wages.

And here's my point. Life gets a tad dull when your nose is to the grindstone. The last thing you want to do is go and see a team of multimillionaires play the greatest game on earth like their noses are to the self-same grindstone. We want self-expression, extravagance, spontaneity and a dash of the unexpected. In other words all the things that Mourinho abhors.

I tell you this for nowt, if United had Tony Pulis in charge right now they'd be doing just as well. At least Guardiola gets his rich boys knocking it about a bit. Right now United, the keeper aside, wouldn't look out of place wandering out onto a municipal playing-field having just downed a jar of ale.

And don't one of you lot even begin to argue that it's working and that it's a valuable point and not a lot of teams come away from Anfield looking that sort of reasonable.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

We're Not Very Good

The job of England manager is a poisoned chalice, right? Well it used to be. Nowadays it's a vast hadron collider of radioactive particles and disturbing faecal matter all whirring through an endless canal of hydrochloric acid, ectoplasm and old man's piss.

Currently swimming against this most monstrous of tides is one Gareth Southgate. In their infinite stupidity and desperation this giant toilet of a job has been handed on to clean-cut Gaz for four games. Yep, four games, Even for a Premier League chairmen that's a short attention span. Perhaps goldfish are now in charge of the FA.

Given the parlousness and paucity of the national team's plight, extra provision might be provided for the emergency gaffer: more time with the players; a longer stretch of matches to familiarise himself with the mess he accurately describes he's been left with; some magic dust to sprinkle onto Daniel Sturridge's eyes to make him see a simple pass when it's all so fucking obviously on.

But no. Just get on with it. No pressure. Just get us halfway to Russia til we find someone we want to do your job. (Who knows, Gar, mate, it might be you!)

Gareth has made a good start. Sort of. He's nice with the press, can string sentences together and doesn't pretend he's one of the finest managers the Premier League's ever seen. Big Sam believed he was but then again there are still some women prepared to vote for Donald Trump. Southgate does strut about in a permanent state of blustering, shifty self-delusion. Good.

On the pitch, well... not so good. But that's because, and I will say this until we all, as a nation, understand this simple truth, ENGLAND ARE NOT VERY GOOD AT FOOTBALL.

Yes but, I hear the UKIPs of football opinion say, the English Premier League is the best league in the world. Well (a) no it isn't and (b) even if it were, the people making it exciting tend not to be audaciously gifted Englishmen.

In fact the only world-class performer on Tuesday night can't get a game in our league cos an eccentric Chilean bloke has forced him to go to Turin - and Joe looked a whole lot more relaxed for the experience. (Southgate praised his calmness too. He looks more like himself again.)

But I am utterly fed up of punters and pundits, through a mixture of patriotism and optimism and plain stupidity, arguing that this latest batch of young players have talent to burn. Like who, exactly?

Daniel Sturridge? Floats in and out a game like a sea mist, and don't get me wrong, mist can look quite pretty sometimes.

Theo Walcott? I swear the lad's agoraphobic. Put him in space and he absolutely panics.

Jordan Henderson? Well he was man of the match against Malta. That's Malta, okay? Not fucking Argentina. And he got praise for passing it to his teammates frequently. I mean that's like giving a train driver a bonus for stopping at all the right stops. It's the bloody least he should do.

As for the others, it's all potential isn't it? Meaningless. Alli, Rashford, Stones... some chump'll tell you that this is the backbone of England for years to come. Hmmm. If that's the case then the team's going to need a damn good osteopath.

And yet, they are the only hope. Stop me if you've heard this one before but unless they give youth its head, and let it sink or swim for a while, and resist the temptation to lob Milner on cos he can 'do a job and he tries awful hard' then we're going to be banging our collective heads against the same wall and wondering if 1966 was just another bit of post-fact nonsense that we invented to create some myth of nationhood.

Southgate has done one very fine thing. He's told Wayne Rooney his days are numbered. Every right thinking person who has managed to detach the potent image of the hirsute boy-chimp who terrified Europe in 2004 from the current version realise that Rooney 7.0 has a battery problem and no matter how many times you take it back to the shop to be reconditioned, it just doesn't work like it used to.

Wazza is nowt nor summat. Not a holding midfielder nor a striker. He's like a jaffa cake. You reach for it when you need some cake and find you've got a biscuit. But if it's a biscuit you're looking for you find you've got a cake. What he is - and always has been - is willing, and a huge trier and a man who has always played for the team (except when he's stepped on a testicle, but hey who wouldn't want to step on Ricardo Carvalho's groin given the opportunity?)

And so for that reason, it's crap to jeer him, give him stick that his effort does not deserve. Indeed it's true of all the team. They desperately want to do well, I don't believe even Sturridge can't be arsed. They're all trying really quite hard. It's just THEY'RE NOT VERY GOOD, OKAY?

So, FA. Southgate has had some success with young players. And he should be playing a team chock full of them. So just give him the job. Cut him some slack. And the rest of us can just do our best to be a little bit more understanding and think a little bit more long-term and hope that whatever talent the babies do possess can be moulded into something resembling a decent team.

But me, I'm starting to develop the mentality of a Scottish football fan. Take what little sustenance you can from the meagre crumbs on offer. We are not at the top table anymore. We are the stray dogs hiding underneath it. And hey who knows, in time we might just discover we've got a bit of pedigree after all. I'm just not holding my breath.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

England Expects Sweet FA

Well I wasn't going to bother. Blogging was getting me down. I was a rotten record, whingeing about the same cash-fuelled self-interested egocentric baastards who run, organise and play the beautiful game.

I stopped the blog. Then Leicester kept winning. Even Spurs perked up. Citeh were lacklustre. Chelsea a swirling pit of Mourinho-muddled masochism. Van Gaal looked more and more like a man who gone seven rounds with Tyson Fury (and after the first four rounds they'd probably thrown in a chaser to go with the pint).

What's more Middlesbrough, that great groaning loss at the core of my being, started to return the love. It was if I'd met up with the love of my schoolboy life and she hadn't been a cow to me all that time, she just didn't know how to say she loved me. But now she was paying me back big time.

I'm a football supporter. The confluence of Teesside triumph and the Fantastic Mr Foxes were directly down to my putting down my typing fingers and using them instead to gesture at Leave voters out of me window. (Don't get me on to that. Safe to say that when the ageing dullards who voted for it get senile and need their dumb arses wiping, they'll find the care home has lost its Eastern European workers and they'll just have to sit in their own shit for a couple of decades).

Any road England's summer of shame nearly prompted a response of more than 140 characters - which is precisely 139 more characters than there were in the England dressing-room during that tournament - and the exception to that should still be at school.

The game against Iceland was England's single worst performance of my lifetime. Yes Iceland were well-organised and plucky, but so's a Bernard Matthews turkey farm and you wouldn't think there's any meat products available that wouldn't surpass Bernard's.

What made it worse, beyond even Joe Hart's scarecrow hands, was the calamitous shitness of all the rest of the team. It was a highlights package of awfulness. Like a 'You've Been Framed' football special. That notorious free-kick was less Harry Kane and more Harry Hill. It couldn't have been more embarrassing and humiliating had the whole team's shorts fallen down simultaneously to reveal a collection of shit-stained buttocks.

I was pleased we lost. Never said that before about any team I support. We deserved nowt better.

(Briefly, well done Wales. but don;t get ahead of yourselves - you lost to England. That England.)

Unsurprisingly Roy Hodgson shuffled off to a quiet corner of the world where he is slowly disintegrating into vodka and heroin inspired catatonia - if he wasn't there already during the second half of his last match as boss.
His replacement? The lumbering bull-faced long-ball lummox that is Sam Allardyce. Well, his speciality was resurrecting the dead so his CV looked perfect. If you can save Sunderland, thn you could probably successfully reintroduce the dodo to the Pacific Islands.

Never mind that the Toon Army and the fans of West Ham - who now watch their team play at home with the same proximity as the French eye the white cliffs of Dover - could barely watch Big Sam's plebeian fare. At east he'd get the team doing what they were told and knowing their jobs. Apart from Wayne Rooney who could, apparently, pop off for a bag of sherbet lemons during the second half if that's what he wanted to do.

Now we've got a very nice man in charge - and believe me Southgate makes Roy Hodgson look like Bashar al-Assad - and all because the blobby fuckwit Big Sam couldn't keep his grasping greedy hands in his fucking pockets.

Mind you, don't blame the FA. When it comes to shady dealings, Sam has absolutely no previous whatsoever. He's whiter than white is Sam. Pure as the driven slush. Shearer says we're a laughing stock. That's nowt new. The only people overrating this England squad is the squad itself.

Chris Waddle gets it right. When the pressure's on, our players still lack technique and competence. But if the first thing you learn on a footy pitch is that you have to win, then the first thing you reward is getting the ball down the other end. Great when you're nine and the pitch is massive. Shit when you're twenty-nine and the opposition have a clue how to pass it to each other. Shit too when they put ten men behind the ball and ask you to be inventive. Thank God Thomas Edison wasn't an English footballer or we'd all still be sitting in the fucking dark,

I hope, genuinely, that Southgate does a good job, that Scotland don't rub our noses in the manure we've created, that Rooney becomes chief cheerleader and the likes of Alli, Stones, Rashford and Dier get to play, no questions asked. But reality has bitten, boys and girls.In the great rolling ocean that is international football, we are the bottom-feeders. Get used to it.