All Things Footie

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All Things Footie | Thursday, November 18 | Jordan

Beyond disgraceful

Not only was I not going to watch the England game last night, but I certainly wasn’t going to give a dull International friendly the satisfaction of writing about it too. Unfortunately, there was nothing at all on the box last night apart from the footie, and however you describe last night’s encounter between England and Spain the Bernebeu (pronouce it right you BBC muppets: bern-eh-bay-oo), it certainly wasn’t dull (for the most part anyway). If I were the manager, I’d kick Rooney out the squad for his stupid, black armband throwing, petulant, violent and unpleasant attitude; and make it clear in no uncertain terms that continuing to behave like a mouthy chav will only get him further away from a starting place in the England team. He’s a very gifted player, but an utter, utter moron. Even if it means having to play Alan Smith, the chocolate teapot of English strikers (or ‘the new Emile Heskey’), it’s a matter of principle.

Talking of matters of principle, Spain: you’re an absolute f*cking disgrace. There’s me thinking the sterotype of the hairy, misogynistic, racist, backwards, lazy, stupid Spainiard was just an outdated caricature, when it seems the majority of the population are like that. From manager Luis Aragones’ racially targetted slur on Thierry Henry, the monkey chants regularly dished out to black players in Spain in the Champions League, the same taunt at certain England U21 players on tuesday night, to the sickening chants aimed solely at Ashley Cole for the first half last night and later to Shaun Wright-Phillips in particular; there’s no doubt that a lot of people in the land of donkeys, Irish bars, bad moustaches and worse tans need some serious reducation. Preferably in the form of a good, hearty punch in the face.

I mean, honestly? How? Are we really in the 21st Century? I don’t know if it’s just because of my PC society’s social conditioning, but I genuinely felt sick to the stomach every time I heard the ‘oo oo oo oo oo’ chant ring around the stadium (this was no minority). I desperately wanted Ashley Cole or Wright-Phillips to score an equaliser and overcelbrate rubbing those neanderthal Oxygen theives’ noses in it. The sad thing is that the pathetic, spineless cowards at UEFA/FIFA would probably have fined the players for incitement. As far as I’m concerned, the Spanish crowds should be treated like the animals they are—which means either banning them from watching football until they grow up and realise that it’s no longer the 19th Century, or liberally distributing a sizeable mob of Zimbabwean policemen with cattle prods amongst the Spanish crowds with a free ‘license to shock’. My vote is for option two.

Back to the football; England were murdered, and lucky that it was only a friendly, so Spain didn’t really turn it on. Gary Neville, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand clearly had the Premiership on their minds, as the proceeded to assault José Reyes constantly for the opening half an hour. It was pleasing to see Reyes get at least one kick in on Neville, and quite hilarious to see Neville protesting as if he’d been hard done by. Watching England play dirty, United-esque tactics like that quite frankly embarrassed me nearly as much as the racist chanting must have embarassed Spainards with more than two braincells to rub together. There’s absolutely no doubt that Spain the football team deserved their win; every English player without exception had an absolute mare. I don’t think Neville made one complete pass all night, Beckham’s long balls were high and hopeful ‘to’ (well, sort of in the direction of) Owen, and ruining any periods of posession before they’d started (much the effect Owen had at Liverpool in the last few years), Lampard and Butt (ha!) were run ragged by Xavi and Xabi, Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge were run ragged by Joaquín, Rooney was less than a waste of space and I don’t think Owen actually touched the ball for the whole game.

This is what happened when England play a good team. It happens every now and then, and when it does, England tend to lose (Brazil, France, Portugal and now Spain). I can only think of one game against a good side than Eriksson’s won, and that was a tight 1-0 against Argentina from a dodgy penalty. People continually cite Eriksson’s played/lost record in defence against those—like me—that think he’s absolutely useless, but it’s not the point. England have been very lucky with either the draws they’ve had in competitions/qualifying, or been fortunate enough that when they have played half decent teams, the other lot just didn’t turn up. England are dull, disorganised, without leadership (on and off the pitch) and more importantly, full of jumped up ungrateful tossers like Wayne Rooney. With about ten minutes to go last night, Jermaine Jenas was moping around, arms flapping by his side, not looking for the ball, not wanting it, and not trying to win it back. You saw the same thing with Owen too: not even bothering to chase slightly imperfect balls. It was pathetic, and these young millionaires need reminding that when everything in the garden isn’t rosy, you have to actually work to achieve things. However poorly they played, some players (Cole and Terry in particular I noticed) were still busting a gut to try and get hold of the ball and make something happen, there was a desire there that was all but absent throughout the rest of the team. More players like that, and less prima-donna, playboy, scallies that believe their own hype and England could be a half decent side.

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All Things Footie | Tuesday, November 16 | Jordan

Goals my muse

Last week I was feeling very uninspired where football was concerned. In fact, I did begin to write an entry that began ‘I’m feeling very uninspired when it comes to football at the moment’, but thought better of it (which in hindsight was probably a good decision). Suffice to say my mind, body and soul were elsewhere. After a weekend of goals and heart stoppingly ridiculous excitement, I’m thoroughly back in the mood.

If there was one thing I didn’t need on Saturday lunchtime, after two consecutively inebriated evenings, it was being driven to lunchtime drinking by one of the most bizarre football matches I’ve ever witnessed. I don’t know where to start. Perhaps by saying that football is essentially a game to enjoy, and while I had a little trouble enjoying certain moments of the game (like watching Arsenal concede four goals to a struggling mid table side) there’s no doubting that it was a thrilling, compelling and thoroughly entertaining ninety minutes. If the aliens landed tomorrow and I wanted to make them love the beautiful game, I’d show them that match. Some lovely goals, from Defoe’s really quite wonderful run and curling, dipping shot to Fabregas’s sublime reverse pass for Ljungberg and Robert Pires’ dancing feet before slotting Arsenal’s fifth home underneath Paul Robinson. It was quite frankly breathtaking—I was exhausted by the time the final whistle went. Apparently a new record too: the most number of different goalscorers in one game with nine (for posterity’s sake: Naybet, Henry, Lauren, Vieira, Defoe, Ljungberg, King, Pires, Kanoute).

United scraped out of another hole on Sunday, with help from another dodgy penalty and a dodgy ‘not-given’ at the other end; and despite both their rivals also winning and thus being just as far behind with one less game remaining, are apparently ‘back in the title race’. What utter nonsense. Manchester United have done nothing this season to convince me that they are realistic title contenders.

Chelsea on the other hand are piling on credentials at the rate Rik Waller piles on Kilos. They were dull but effective, but ironically, since sacking a striker they seem to have added a cutting edge to their attack. Admittedly, their actual strikers are scoring less often than a team full of Emile Heskeys, but there’s no doubt the goals are coming thick and fast from somewhere. I was undecided with regards to 20 year-old Dutchman Arjen Robben before the start of the season, and I’ll still reserve my ultimate judgement until May, but he certainly looks the real deal. His running on the ball is superb, and while his excellent goal in the Carling Cup last week was more due to the fact that Chelsea’s opponents were lethargic in the extreme, there’s no doubt he has the inclination to get there, which is all that counts when you’re as good as he is.

My footballing lethargy has partially returned now, knowing that dull-a-thon internationals are imminent. Like the last England friendly, I won’t be watching it (well, maybe the highlights) and nor do I care what the score is, but if you are, do enjoy yourselves won't you.

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All Things Footie | Monday, November 1 | Jordan

Sit down, and shut up

And I thought last year’s ‘Battle of Old Trafford’ was the biggest non-event to get wall to wall media coverage, in comparison to this year’s luidcrously no-eventy, non-event, it looks like a war. By all accounts, encounters between Arsenal and Manchester United have been getting less and less violent since the infamous punch-up of 1990, though curiously the fuss made over them has moved in the opposite direction. I propose that anyone who is unimaginative and lazy enough to keep warbling on about the least feisty ‘battle’ I’ve ever heard about should be forced to tender their resignation as a pundit / journalist / manager / ex-player-with-no-braincells forthwith. That list includes: Neil Ruddock, Mark Bright, John Salako, Alex Ferguson, the entire editorial / journalistic staff of the Sun, Mirror, Daily Mail and Daily Star sport sections, and errrm, me I guess.

I’m very interested at the moment with what’s going on in the old first division—or is that the old second division? or the Championship?—more specifically, the rise and rise of Wigan Athletic. At the beginning of the 2002/03 season, Wigan were second favourites to win division two, while Leeds fans hoped the appointment of Terry Venables and the money brought in from the sale of Rio Ferdinand would steady the club in both footballing and financial departments—a top six finish was expected. Just two short, short years (and a few months) later, Wigan are atop the first division (Championship / old second division / etc.) having spent the whole season so-far unbeaten and comfortably beating a shadow of the Leeds side that began 02/03. The emergence of Wigan is remarkable, almost as remarkable as the demise of Leeds United, and both Paul Jewell and his players must be applauded and appreciated in equal measure. I firmly believe we’ll be seeing Wigan in the Premiership next season, and lets hope that the success encourages a few more of the city’s residents take a day off from watching fat blokes play catch to see some real athletes, and some real sport on a saturday afternoon.

It’s becoming clear to those that didn’t identify it already, that the only real threat to Arsenal’s Premiership title are José Mourinho’s Chelsea team. He’s a canny manager Mourinho, I like him. He’s intelligent, he makes the big decisions and he makes them well. How many managers in this country would play a big, ugly, greasy haired Russian (no offence meant, Alexi) over the British media darling (and expensive signing) Scott Parker? Only two, and both of them manage teams equal on points at the top of the Premiership. Both Wenger and Mourinho understand that it takes more than buying the latest Sun Sport favourite and throwing him straight into your team to build a good side. Teams need balance, not just literally, but figuratively—characters in the dressing room; sensible heads to offset the egos; nice blokes and bastards all together; it’s what makes a team click—for every Pires, there’s a Parlour, for every Carvalho, there’s a Terry, for every Ferdinand, there’s a Neville (or two). Mourinho’s building a canny team who’ll be very interesting to follow this season, and as far as I’m concerned he’s got what it takes. Ferguson on the other hand, is losing it big time and needs to stop playing to the crowd.

The whole Mutu saga has been interesting too. I don’t know whether it’s just because I’ve always rated him and kind of liked him, but I can’t be as universally condeming as many of the popular press and armchair fans. He’s cocked up, that much is obvious, but he’s not the only Premiership footballer to have had a noseful or two. What he could have done, was to be a bit forgetful, and miss his drugs test until they’d gotten out of his system, then claimed he was hibernating or something. The only problem with that approach is that with the precedent set by Rio Ferdinand, he would actually have ended up with a longer ban! Imagine that! Ferdinand’s punishment working as a deterrant to stop other players escaping the censure and public humiliation that’s in store for those people that have digressed. What a wonderfully unexpected side-effect of the FA just being horrible to a United player because everyone’s against United.

Even given Mutu’s digression, if I were a Premiership manager I’d still sign in him without a second thought (in about six months obviously). He’s a magnificently talented player, and with this episode behind him I’m sure he’ll straighten himself out and feel he’s got something to prove again. A very tempting proposition.

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