Thursday, 24 December 2015

Ho ho ho! It's Robbo's Christmas Presents!

Happy Christmas Christians! And to the other 67%of the UK population - and the rest of the world - I hope you're busy being merry in the best way you know how.

Traditionally I like to play Santa at this time of year, bestowing my largesse on the great and good and piss-poor of our sporting world. So here's your pressies, people.

To Sepp Blatter: a mirror. Take a long hard look in it. You feel 'sorry for football'? The one you've left behind is like a deflated flaking casey that's been kicked through playing fields strewn with dog shit. And you Platini. Don't think memories of your twinkle-toed derring-do is going to get you forgiveness. 

To Jose Mourinho: one of those NHS posters warning you not to abuse the staff in the hospital. With Dr Caneiro's face on it. And a few brochures for property in the Cheshire area, just in case. 

To David Moyes; a lovely Titleist three-wood - it's the only new club he's going to get for a while. 

To John Terry - a mobility scooter - it'll make him quicker off the mark and it's got a tighter turning circle than he has. 

To Jesus Navas - some hypnotherapy to help him over come his fear of open spaces. Just cos your name's Jesus doesn't need to mean you can't put over a good cross. 

To Leicester City - sleeping tablets, so you can keep on dreaming. I was quite excited when it looked like Liverpool might bag a Premier League a while back. If Leicester win it I might have to have a bonfire in the back garden and throw every piece of cynicism I have on to it. 

To Guus Hiddink - a rear-view mirror (always assuming he can't have surgery to insert eyes in the back of his head.) Chelsea can still win stuff when the manager does what he's told - Avram, Di Matteo, etc. But if you're thinking of laying down the law, well, let's just say there's thirty pieces of silver under every coat-peg in that dressing-room. 

To Wayne Rooney - a trichology operation to undo the criminal acts done to his scalp. He's a kind of reverse Samson, Wazza. Ever since he had that hair put in he's lost all of his power. 

To Louis Van Gaal - a big thank you for his defiance in the face of the media scrum. It may sound a tad hypocritical but me I just make jokes at the expense of these extremely well-paid dictators. The proper press, as LVG more or less said, get to almost sack someone themselves if they really put their minds to it. Louis, now you know how Jeremy Corbyn feels. 

To Daniel Sturridge, Sergio Aguero, Andy Carroll - a special gentleman's remedy to make you relax a little more. A kind of anti-Viagra which might stop you being pulled off early so often.

To Roy Hodgson - Stuart Lancaster's phone number. They can have a good chat about how to play Wales and Woy can do the bleedin' opposite. 

To Remi Garde - a new Villa, preferably one on the Algarve fecking miles away from Birmingham.

To Tyson Fury - a kettle, a teabag and an instruction manual, so he can get his poor Mrs sorted on Christmas morning. 

To Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy - a pair of headphones each with some happy-clappy music playing, and a block on the phone numbers of their respective agents. Yes, a footballer's career is short, the time to cash in on your success is even shorter (particularly in Vardy's case) but withering on a bench somewhere amongst the rich kids is no way to further a career. Stay put. There's plenty of time to review options in the summer.

To Lord Coe - a Teflon suit, probably the one Blatter wore for twenty years. There's going to be some shit flying around and it's only a matter of time before some sticks to you. 

To Chris Froome - a few buckets of faeces at the ready for the Tour de France. They throw piss, you throw poo. It's the only way to answer these critics. 

To Andy Murray - well he's something of a gift to the rest of us if I'm honest. If the Scots get independence we'd lose two things of major importance: North Sea Oil and Andy Murray. The rest, you can keep. But any road I'd buy Muzza a GB team shirt so he can delude himself into thinking he's still playing Davis Cup when he hits the inevitable Federer semi* and Djokovic final.

To Gary Neville - a foreign language dictionary. Not English-Spanish by the way - I'm sure he'll catch on to that soon enough - but an English-PhilNeville dictiionary. Much of what Phil says gets lost in translation and given it's the younger brother who talks to the players at Valencia I'm wondering how the hell Gary can possibly survive. It might well be, as Phil might put it 'a bit of a baptismal of flame in that sense'.

To the drug testers in Rio 2016: patience, and more patience. Analyse every last drop of that urine as if you;re life depended on it. In fact if the competitor is running beyond 800 metres and is Russian, stand on her bladder until every last trickle has been eased into the pot. And best of luck.

To the international footballers of Scotland - some very comfy cushions for the summer time. Enjoy your rest. Just imagine how much fitter you're going to feel in August without a busy summer of action knackering you out.

To all the readers of this sometimes sporadic blog - have a great Christmas, and may the roll of the ball and the blow of the whistle always favour you.

May the dive not deceive you, the shoot-out not shaft you, the vagaries of fortune take you to the very brink of success.

And may Leicester City, in an act reminiscent of Usain Bolt's unmanning of Justin Gatlin, lift the title and make the country believe in the beautiful game all over again.

And failing that, may Boro keep tonking promotion rivals 3-0 cos I'm not up for any more of that May Day play-off tosh.

Happy Christmas!

[*You're right - the phrase 'hitting a Federer semi' doesn't have a good ring to it.]

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Just say MO to Fury

Well it's nearly Christmas time and that must mean one thing: it's time for the old 'Sports Personality! That's a contradiction in terms!' joke. Done.

Except this year there's one candidate who, for reasons best known to himself, is very much a 'personality'. Chris Froome. I jest. Chris Froome looks like a face found on a EU-banned potato, but has less charisma. I meant, of course, Max Whitlock. He's a gymnast, but not the one who did the dancing competition on the telly. I'm sure he's got a terrific personality but I wouldn't know as I'm still not quite sure who he is. 

No the real lively folk are Lucy Bronze and Lizzie Armitstead. Lucy was like a left-back who scored a top-notch goal and then that other lass scored that quirky own-goal and English football confirmed what it always knew about itself - heroic, noble, unsuccessful.

Lizzie is good at riding a bike. And is full of personality. Then there's Greg and Mo and Jess, the 2012 triptych revisited. All lovely. The real problem is the big beardie boxer bloke with the preposterous name. Tyson Fury. A colourful character, isn't he? He could have his own comic strip, couldn't he?

And as with many men who have built a career on punching people in the face, a man who rarely engages his brain before he speaks. Which is not to say he doesn't think before he fists someone's nose. Indeed the way he masterminded the defeat of the untopplable Klitschko was impressive stuff. But this isn't about whether he's got ringcraft. It's whether a homophobe and misogynist should be on the list in the first place.

Now this is a tricky one. First of all, he does talk bollocks. That is without question. His mouth opens and it's like a bin being emptied into a dustcart. My biggest hope is that Klitschko wins the rematch by a knock-out, announces he's gay and then snarls at Fury's stricken body "The best place for an intolerant bastard is on his back."

Of course, since the issue has caused much fence-sitting at the BBC and condemnation from right-minded folk everywhere, Tyson has sought to clarify his remarks about womankind and the oft-noted link between Satanism and homosexuality. His first attempt was:"Tyson Fury loves everyone, Tyson Fury doesn't hate anyone". And Robbo Robson hates anyone who uses the third person when talking about themselves.

The second effort saw an eerie glint come across his eyes as he sought to enlighten folks as to the attractions of Jesus Christ. Now I'm no expert but I don't remember the parts of the New Testament where Jesus says "Shalt it not be okay to twatteth another in the mush for money?" Or the part where Christ beseeches Mary Magdalene to leave his feet alone get on her back but not before the slapper's made a decent brew.

Of course there is that bit when poor Jesus is in the wilderness and the Devil appears unto him and tempts him into sinfulness by introducing him to a lithe and well-toned Nubian homosexual named Maurice.

But I digress. The question is: Should Tyson Fury be on the list? And the answer to that is 'yes'. Should he be allowed to say stupid things? Yes. It's called Freedom Of Speech. People have fought very hard over the years to be permitted to say what they like; many of those striving for such opportunities have been and still are gay and/or female.

We should not tolerate his bilious garbage, we should challenge it, preferably during SPOTY. I'd love to see Clare Balding having a right old pop at him. "Sorry for being here Tyson, but I've been resting up for this conversation - on my back - while Satan cooed sweet nothings in my ear."

Ban him and he just dribbles off back under that bridge and where them stupid goats trip-trap over the river. And spout even more cack whenever he is moved to speak publicly.

My SPOTY would be Mo Farah. Unless the Salazar allegations get in the way, he's a shoo-in. My overseas personality of the year would be Louis Van Gaal. Now there's a bloke with charisma, personality and a great sense of humour. This week he surpassed himself with:

"We are better than last year."

Well maybe, but that's like saying a firm turd is better than a runny one. It's still, at the end of the day, shit. Now obviously being 4th and getting beaten by the might Boro in the League Cup is no great shame, unless it's cost you a quarter of a billion quid to get there. LVG resembles one of them dopey toffs on Grand Designs who has to dolefully admit that everything is costing way more than he ever thought possible, and that's just for the foundations.

He added: 'It was a tough group."

Really? PSV, Wolfsburg, CSKA. Well now you mention there's an almost overwhelming European pedigree amongst that lot isn't there? Every one of them awash with modern greats of the game like the Polish winger Ooji-watzhit and the Ghanaian wonderboy Thimgummi. I mean, puh-lease, Louise. That's a cushy first six games, mate.

And if it was a tricky group and they are a bit better than they were, Manchester United are certainly, more than anything else, as dull as this font. I've been more entertained by the movement of the hour hand on the town clock in Yarm. 

There are mutterings that Van Gaal might be coaxed towards the exit door while Carlo Ancelotti does his regular successful two-year stint and gets ditched with his dignity intact. What's for certain is that United need to get a bit more bloody lively. Failure's bad enough. Turgid failure's unforgiveable. 

Arsenal's failure didn't come to pass, of course. In fact underneath all that po-faced sobriety Arsene had just a twinkle of smugness. And Giroud, a man maligned for appearing to be Bendtner Mk II when he's far from it, took his chances well. 

Pellegrini had a smile on his face too, which is hard to tae when normally, even in victory, the bloke looks like he's just witnessed a fatal car-crash. And Mourinho was all humility and diffidence. Yeah, whatever. I'm sure there's some myopic match officials just waiting to undermine him on Monday night. 

Citeh and Arsenal should still be smiling by then. Villa can't possibly stop a team so burgeoning with confidence and Swansea, without a manager, could have an easier away-day than the Etihad. 

By then we should also have learnt that either Mo Farah has won SPOTY or an entire fraternity of British sportsmen are wandering around the streets of Belfast urging women to take Jesus into their hearts and fall on their backs with. 

Just say MO, people. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

Vive La France, Vive Jonah

There's no such thing as a friendly international. It used to be the case. Nowadays they are always 'feeling out' exercises that by and large leave England supporters disarmed by futile optimism. Tuesday night at Wembley had none of that, unless you actually look at England's performance.

Two neat goals. A young side with a bit of pep about it. Dele Alli looking less of a whim and more of a winner. That was an irrelevance. The main thing was that the game was being played at all.

First of all, it's hard to imagine respect and empathy better demonstrated by a sporting crowd than the pre-match proceedings at Wembley. It was solemn, hugely dignified (not least by the French players who, reluctantly in some cases I'm sure, put on their kits and put in a shift in the most onerous of circumstances); it was not indulgent, there was a footy match to be played after all, but neither was it without passion - I belted out the Marseillaise myself from the comfort of a pub stool and I wasn't alone.

But Christ Almighty, Allah Be Praised and Atheists Shrug In Disbelief, it has been a shitty old week. Let's make that clear. So don't expect too much of the funny here.

I have always had a problem with people who say that sport and politics shouldn't mix. Well, especially in matters of international sport, they always bloody well do. Occasionally this brings out the worst in us and Sun headline writers, but often it brings out the best.

Anyone who thinks that Nelson Mandela handing Francois Pienaar the Rugby World Cup trophy in 1995 wasn't of huge political significance is an idiot. Or two black men clenching their fists on a podium, supported by a white man who only recently has had his bravery acknowledged - Or the treatment of Basil D'Oliveira by the MCC.

Yes, it's a shame when the Olympic Games becomes a political football. (Sepp Blatter could make a fortune out of Political Football couldn't he? Hey, but let's not have a pop at the poor man, he's had a minor nervous breakdown and it's hard to sleep with all those rogue payments crumpling up your mattress.) But sport is political.

So similarly, but more solemnly, this harmless international fixture became a bold and emotional statement about what unites people, rather than what divides them. The tricolour on the Wembley Arch spoke volumes, as did the minute's silence while rivals came together around the centre circle.

That's what sport does - unifies, rather than separates. It's why it's so bloody infuriating that the men running it are so waist-deep in the sewage of their own corruption, and utterly unconnected from the passions of those that watch and practise it (except, possibly, in a ruthless exploitative way). If the likes of Platini and Beckenbauer, men upraised by the splendour of football and their place in it, have seen fit to grub around like hyenas in a carcass for the last five or so years I think we might as well all give up.

France of course weren't exactly at the top of their game. Conclusions need not be drawn form the result. But, what with more horrendous news from Mali today, these gatherings take on huge significance. There have been many more courageous acts in the last seven days, but nevertheless those French workers simply going back to work was impressive. Football has never seemed so important to the lives of decent citizens.

There have been other less momentous stories from the week's sport but one that should and has been properly marked is the very early death of Jonah Lomu. Me, I didn't care too much for rugby union. Not in England anyway. It was and still is the province of the posh lad at play. Its rules are murky, its occasional glimpses of wonder soon disintegrate under a pile of heaving steaming flesh, like a darting kingfisher suddenly crushed beneath collapsing cattle.

I couldn't help identifying more with the Wales team, peopled as it was by working men from grittty backgrounds. Plus they were way better than the lilywhite Englanders. But there weren't too many charismatic blokes around - Serge Blanco maybe.

Lomu blew a hole in all that partisanship. Here was a bloke who rewrote the rules. Your wingers were whip thin and swift, shimmiers and sidesteppers. Forwards were massive and slow. If your backs were fast-running streams your front five were glaciers, hard to stop but easy to catch up with..

Step forward Jonah, a wardrobe fixed with an outboard motor. Fast enough to go round you, big enough to go over you, strong enough to simply straight-arm you into the stand. And a lovely bloke. It's hard to remember quite how unbelievable he was until you look back at the clips of Lomu at the World Cup.

Occasionally there are sportsmen and women who outgrow the narrow boundaries of their sport for reasons of brilliance and sometimes outspokenness too - Muhammad Ali springs immediately to mind - or simply a certain unique genius that reinvents the sport they play. I'd suggest here is where Lomu sits, alongside current giants Federer, LeBron James, Messi, and of course Stewart Downing.

The idea that this behemoth could have been brought down so soon by an ailment he struggled with all his life makes me feel a little bit humbler. Lomu wasn't one to complain. We should celebrate him, too.