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Double Fantasy August 4, 2009

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jt and stevie

Its two weeks before the start of the new season, which means two things: a flurry of transfer activity and setting up your fantasy league team. Although if you’re Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini, the two events are much the same.

The last few weeks of the transfer window are a strange affair. It’s all clammy-palmed anxiety, furtive glances, and ‘my mate fancies you’ exchanges between clubs and agents. It’s nearest parallel in wider culture is witnessed at around 1.50am on Saturday night at nightclubs across the country, as drunken men prowl the dancefloor, all too aware that if they don’t pull in the next ten minutes it’s pot-noodle-and-a-wank time for another week. Freddy Shepherd in the mid-nineties would have been familiar with both the reality and the metaphor. Although in the case of Freddy Shepherd he’d be more likely (in a metaphorical sense) to enter the club at 7pm, buy all the girls champagne, and then watch as all the fit ones went off with other blokes, leaving him with all the chavvy tarts, a massive bar bill, and Kevin Keegan asking to share a cab. I once heard a great joke about Ken Bates standing in a butcher’s, about to buy a pork pie for £2.99, only for Freddy Shepherd to run in, slap a grand down on the counter and run off with the pie, cackling. Although given the lardy-ness of the two protagonists, that might actually have happened. Trouble is, there are loads of Shepherds in the game at the moment, and it’s all a bit daft. Just pity the poor sod that wakes up the next morning in the same bed as the female equivalent of Titus Bramble.

Speaking of Titus, I have him in my fantasy team this year. I had to, since I refuse to run a fantasy team that doesn’t feature Gerrard or Torres. As objective as many people try to be about their choices, you notice that (mainly in the case of supporters of the ‘big four’), favourite players creep in. I’ve often thought that fantasy football favours people who support rubbish Prem teams. Not only can they be more objective about the top players, but they presumably have a better knowledge of the teams lower down the table. Of course, those who support non-Prem teams are even better. We’re talking REAL football fans, yeah? They support REAL football. As opposed to the purely imaginary football and imaginary fans that you see in the Premier League. The players, stadiums and fans you see on MOTD don’t actually exist. It’s a collective hallucination. League football is where it’s REALLY at. Leeds didn’t exist until they got relegated. Man City were imaginary, then the existed, then they REALLY existed, then they just existed, now they don’t exist again. Technically all Premier League teams are fantasy teams.

But I digress. My team this year consists of Gerrard, Torres, Anelka, and a bunch of makeweights, mostly made up of Everton players, Man City reserves and recently promoted strikers. Basically all I need is for Ebanks-Blake to have a stormer, Liverpool to win the league and all of Man City’s first XI to get crocked and I’m a shoe-in.

Then there is the issue of what to name your team. A mate of mine called hers (that’s right, she be a lady) ‘Lobbing Seaman’, which I sniggered at. Job done. Another mate called his ‘JT’s Suspicious Bonk-On’, inspired by the semi-turgid erection that John Terry seems to sport whenever leading mascots out onto the pitch. My more Chelsea-hating friends take this to prove he’s a paedophile, but I would suggest (for libel purposes if nothing else) that he’s wearing a jockstrap. Or else is very well-endowed and has to coil it around in his shorts. Not at all that he likes to boff kiddies. In all honesty, only his outing as a child molester would be enough to oust him from his role as England captain, so entrenched is he. I’d suggest he has pictures of Capello in a thong, but we’ve all seen those in the News of the World already. Gerrard tried valiantly to usurp him – after being a model professional and the best player in the country didn’t work, he (allegedly) decked a Man Utd fan in a bar, but to no avail. Maybe he should wait for a terrorist atrocity and then ridicule grieving relatives – that seemed to work for JT.

But worry not, Stevie G, I’ve made you captain of my team, with all the double-point glory it entails. It might not be Three Lions, but a key injury this season and don’t bet against leading the England team out in South Africa. A few more injuries and some bizarre deaths and Titus Bramble might be involved too…

Benitez loves Johnson June 24, 2009

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none

Yes, the title is a little puerile, but seeing as Rafa is willing to spend so much money on Glen Johnson then he must be keen on the lad. Now, I don’t think he’s worth that much, but – and here I put on my chippy scouser hat – I find all the comment on BBC 606 (your license fee spent on moderating comments by cretinous estate agents and benefit cheats from the arse-ends of the country) a little rich. Especially in the wake of Real Madrid apparently about to spend a gazillion pounds on Manchester’s foremost prostitute aficionado (Ronaldo, not Anderson, although apparently they go dutch). The hookers of Madrid are frantically applying lipgloss as we speak.

However, look up ‘transfer window’ in a thesaurus (it’s a metaphorical thesaurus, obviously) and you’re likely to see the synonyms ‘greed’, ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘utterly barmy, sickening time of year, completely divorced from morality, reality, or common sense’. Quite how anyone with a functioning brain can spend the season advocating a strong squad, then support a team that will sell seven players to acquire one, is beyond me. And yet that’s what you often find among the types of supporters that frequent gossip sites.

You also find the view that the most pathetic and risible situation for a club to be in is to have to sell players to fund acquisition. God forbid that a football club should have to stoop so low as to follow the most basic rules of economics. Much more preferable to have some shady Russian oil magnate fund purchases. That way your team could also be woefully lopsided and unimaginative. It’s a football transfer policy only supportable by people who have spent more time on Championship Manager than actually watching real football.

I don’t wish injury on anyone (that’s a lie, to be honest) but part of me hopes that Real Madrid do sign Ronaldo and sell the likes of Van Nistelrooy, Sneijder, Robben and Van der Vaart, only to find him crocked on the first day of the season. It would serve them – and him – right. It’s really nothing more than modern day cheating, 21st century bullying. Madrid essentially pick up poorer teams by their ankles and shake them until all their promising players fall out. Fergie attempting to claim moral high ground against Madrid is (rather melodramatically, I grant you) a bit like Hitler saying Stalin is ‘a bit more evil’. Both as bad as each other, neither will win their respective titles next year. At least Madrid are providing some comedy – they are like a richer, Iberian Newcastle. They’ll install Keegan as the manager next, and buy back Michael Owen.

So while these gossip-mongers sit there in open plan offices with oversize knots in their ties, trying to shag Katie the new temp and posting about how Liverpool are crazy to pay that much for Johnson – remember, as Michael Corleone points out in Godfather Part II – we are all part of the same hypocrisy.

Dusty old opinions June 24, 2009

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Scroll down below and you will see archived stuff that was originally posted over at View From The Terraces, which i’m now posting in the past on this site. It’s the kind of time travel revisionism that a Nazi version of Doc from Back to the Future would be proud of. Possibly in a mash-up called Back to the Fuhrer.

Tevez, or not Tevez? That is the question my gristle-headed friend April 24, 2009

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tevezSo in today’s Sun it says that Michael Carrick has “issued a ‘please-don’t-leave-us’ plea to teammate Carlos Tévez,” who apparently has been linked with Liverpool. Now, first I would like to point out that I learned this from the BBC website gossip column as I refuse, on principle, to buy The Sun. That aside, I’m irked by the constant use of corporate and heavily formalised language to describe inter-personal relationships, which just about reaches its worst in football journalism. How exactly does one issue such a plea? I’ve never issued a plea, whether it be ‘please-don’t-leave’, or indeed ‘come-and get-me’. I’ve ran after a soon-to-be-ex girlfriend’s car once, weeping, screaming “please don’t leave me” at the top of my lungs before vomiting, literally in the street. Does that count? I might ring up Kelvin MacKenzie, ask him, then tell him he’s a bastard.

I hope Carrick’s plea falls on deaf ears. I love Tévez. He’s easily my dad’s favourite player too, probably on account of his bewilderment when he ended up at West Ham, his tenacity and work rate, and the fact he has a face like a jacket potato full of marbles. Yes, yes, he was in a house fire as a child, but then only explains the scarring to his neck – that face is pure genetic tomfoolery. Quite how it goes unnoticed that Cristiano Ronaldo is similarly afflicted is surely only because of his height, and his grace on the ball. When trying to pinpoint exactly who Tévez reminds me of, I settled on Super Mario’s age-old nemesis Bowser, but to be honest he could be an end-of-level boss from any Nintendo video game ever. But one that sees the error of his ways by the end, since Carlos is nothing if not a decent-seeming chap, all too rare these days.

Apparently Tévez, Patrice Evra and Park Ji-Sung are bestest buddies (BFF if you will), something which amused Darren Fletcher no end, who wondered aloud – and in print – at what they talk about, considering they are Argentinean, French and Korean respectively (I’m paraphrasing here, obviously) and none of them speak English. Probably about what an ugly, useless berk Darren Fletcher is, I wouldn’t wonder. Presumably Fletcher, Wayne Rooney and John O’Shea sit around conversing about the finer points of pre-Raphaelite sculpture and the current state of fiction in our increasingly commercialised literary landscape. Or maybe they just grunt at each other about boobs while flicking through a copy of Nuts, the mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging troglodytes. Darren seems to miss the point that while English may nominally be their first language, they don’t quite speak the Queen’s do they?

I’m now off for ‘clear-the-air talks’ with my flat mate, who last week ‘blasted’ me for not buying more teabags.

Steven Gerrard and the Bog-wash of Doom April 14, 2009

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stevie and man utd

I write this in fevered anticipation of the second leg of the Champion’s League tie between (my beloved, free-scoring, incomparable) Liverpool, and (the equally free-scoring, but somehow managing to concede three to Bolton) Chelsea. Should be a good match, if only because if we get beat it’s almost like it happened last week anyway, but if we win it’s another of those moments that make fans of other teams hate us and bang on about giros and the like. Of course almost every Chelsea fan I know has been driving me somewhere in a taxi, but it’s a steady job.

It’s a shame that the match has come so early in the tournament, since these two are undoubtedly the in-form teams in the country, with Manchester United stumbling along like some arthritic pensioner, gabbling about the war, angry and confused. Maybe that’s just Fergie, but you get the idea. At least when Paula Radcliffe crapped herself she had the decency to give up, but with Man Utd one can be certain that they’ll drag themselves across the finish line and then start crowing about it as if they won it by 30 points. The fact that Liverpool and Chelsea have been so strong in the last couple of months makes it a frustrating end to a season that has done a lot to restore confidence in my team.

This infuriating turn of events is compounded by the Man Utd Annual Awards Love-in, which inexplicably is named the PFA Player of the Year Award. Someone must’ve been drunk this year when taking the bribes because Steven Gerrard has managed to get a nomination, and he’s sure to have a lovely time at the event, especially if they make all the nominees sit together. I’d hate to see our beloved captain reduced to the level of the new boy in school, squirming in fear of a bog-washing…or worse. In a title race as tight as this one, it is self-evidently ridiculous to have the award dominated by one team to such an extent, but it would seem that in nomination, as in all aspects of life, footballers like to do it in a group.

But in all honesty, considering it’s the 20th anniversary of Hillsborough tomorrow it would be wise to have a little perspective, even in the warlike fervour of the Champions League tonight. My uncle was there that day, and never went to another football match again. 96 fans never got the chance to make that choice for themselves – a sobering reminder of how, while the joy of victory and the agony of defeat may seem important, it really isn’t everything.

No such thing as a Stelling mistake March 23, 2009

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stelling

Is there a better broadcaster, not only in sport but in all of television, than Jeff Stelling? I think not. I was watching Gillette (other brands of shaving paraphernalia are available) Soccer Saturday on…well, Saturday, and it just reaffirmed what an utter joy the man is. Enthusiasm, knowledge, wit – he has it all. He’s also gracious, his reaction calm and dignified even as he saw Hartlepool go from 2-0 up at half time against Millwall, to 3-2 down after the break. His prowess just throws into even starker relief the paucity of genuinely engaging broadcasters currently covering the game.

The BBC, pumped full of misplaced entitlement, believes itself to be pretty darn spiffy, but in reality there are slim picking among its ranks. I’m one of the few in the country that doesn’t seem to be irritated to distraction by Lineker, even though his orange mug not only makes him look like he holidays in Chernobyl, but also makes me doubt that I’ve got the contrast right on my telly. In order to make him look human I have to adjust the set to such an extreme Hansen and Lawrenson literally disappear, leaving only shirts and trousers behind. Some may say this is an improvement.

Looking past this ‘A-team’ we see diminishing returns. Garth Crooks is like Mr Toad without that literary great’s vim and vigour, as if Moley and Badger have gone to visit him after a stroke to find him heavily dosed up and completely off his food. When Rafa told him halfway through an interview “sorry…I have to…talk to someone else” it was the greatest put-down in the history of the televised game. MOTD 2 is worse. Adrian Chiles seems to think (wrongly) that supporting West Brom means he’s an authority on football, and he’s backed-up by Martin Keown – a man who has the air of a reformed serial killer, all pious and long words, always at war with the animal within. There’s also the unfortunate side effect of him and Chiles looking like children’s favourites Stopit and Tidyup. When Lee Dixon is added to the mix they remind me of that famous sketch about class differences with the Two Ronnie’s and John Cleese.

Over on ITV, Steve Rider manages to say “coming up after the break, analysis by Andy Townsend” with a straight face. I feel sorry for Steve – a consummate broadcaster, it must rankle that he works so hard only to have important parts of the match replaced by adverts for Tena Lady and Tic-Tacs. Commentary-wise Clive Tyldseley would’ve been more at home in the pressure cooker of 1930’s Germany where the only two choices were fascism or communism, such is his commitment to seeing everything in the most balck and white terms. Liverpool are winning? Madrid must be rubbish. Madrid equalize? Liverpool are rubbish. And round and round we go.

Even on Stelling’s own stomping ground, Sky Sports, we see no improvement. Andy Gray could have “I H8 LFC” tattooed on his forehead and be pictured taking a dump on Shankly’s grave and he couldn’t be any more anti-Reds. Jamie Redknapp always looks like he’s late for an appointment, perched on the edge of his seat. Either that or he has piles. The way Richard Keys snipes at him has me wondering too. It’s as if they had one crazy night of passion at an away fixture, but Jamie refused to leave his wife. Even after Key’s had the backs of his hand’s lasered especially. Redknapp is another telly-confuser. He only ever wears black, white or grey, making a mockery of my colour TV license.

Enough of this folly – I’m off to watch Countdown.

Less losing, More-inho February 23, 2009

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jose spitting

Right, so after posting over at my friend Charlie’s siet View From The Terraces, I decided to try my hand at my own blog.  However, while Charlie writes about football in an authoritative and knowledgeable manner, my perspective on football is sullied by whimsy, emotion and the infamous scouse persecution complex.

To be honest, I don’t really want to talk about the Reds right now, seeing as we’re probably not going to win the league – the fact that it was Bellamy that scored for Man City was the rancid icing on a cake made out of broken dreams. And poo. I’m not going to talk about Andreas Dossena, a left back so bad that I go into matches hoping he’ll be sent off, stretchered off, or just forget to board the team bus and be wandering like a hobo around Bootle – ironically where most of his clearances seem to be aimed. I’m not going to talk about the fact that Rafa looks increasingly unlikely to be the one that brings us the league title we crave. It’s a sad state of affairs when someone that has done so much for the club is more than likely going to get the boot, but if not now, when? More time, more cash, is the mantra of the top flight manager, but when he spends the money on Drossena and co he can hardly complain. He might as well come back from market having flogged Torres for three magic beans.

Who would replace him though? Rijkaard is out of a job, although I’m perturbed that I’ve never, as far as I can recall, heard him speak. This does, of course, hold the possibility that he may open his gob and a Ringo Starr-esque lilt would emanate, immediately endearing him to us, but I doubt it. With the little dreadlocks he used to have it would render him similar in my mind to Lister from Red Dwarf, and I for one would rather not go into the new season with the beserk image of our manager smoking crack in the back of a cab on his way home from Corrie rehearsals.

Klinnsman is no doubt hanging around with his 80s Bond villain haircut, but it took many years, a Champions League final, and vocal coaching from Alexei Sayle before we grew to love Dietmar Hamann (though the fact he abandoned an almost done deal to join Bolton after getting abused in a Boltonian chip shop is one of my favourite football stories of the past ten years).

So that leaves Mourinho. Of course, it doesn’t really leave Mourinho, as there’s Big Phil, Avram Wigwam, Sober Tony Adams and a host of others. But I really want it to be Mourinho – he’s a scouser in all but name, and we’d love him. God, I’d love him – physically if needs be. That’s unlikely to hasten his arrival, but it’d be a nice surprise when he gets off the plane…

Welcome to The Goal Mouth February 1, 2009

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worst-sport-environment-soccer

Greetings! After posting over at my mate Charlie’s blog, View From The Terraces, I decided to start my own blog, where we’ll deal with the kinds of things that make football what it is – unfounded gossip, back-biting and cussing out Man Utd fans and players. Feel free to comment as vehemently as possible!