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All Things Footie | Wednesday, January 26 | Jordan

Re-ignition

My footballing fires have been waning recently. Mind on other things.

Then I heard about Rodney Marsh; a man I’ve never been a fan of, and who—while some think him irreverant, honest, and down to earth—I find really quite irritating and prone to talking utter nonsense. Regardless of my personal opinion of him, I think it’s beyond a joke that he should be sacked from Sky for telling a harmless joke.

I can’t honestly believe for a second that to anyone personally affected by the awful disaster in Indonesia, a mild mannered joke playing on the fact that ‘Toon Army’ sounds a little like ‘Tsunami’ caused anyone one iota of disress more than they were already feeling.

It may not have been a tasteful joke, it may not be that funny and—given that Mr Marsh surely knows as well as I do that if you’re on TV you have a responsibility to be mild mannered, politically correct, boring and a model human being—it was a pretty stupid thing to come out with; but it’s certainly not malicious, it’s certainly not mocking anyone (apart from maybe the Beckhams) and it’s not making light of anything. It’s a joke, that’s the point, it’s not serious. It reminded me of the recent sacking of Frank McLintock for his reference to the Agatha Christie novel ‘Ten Little Niggers’; which although could be construed as racist comment, taken in context was not in the slightest bit so (in this authors opinion).

I can cope with the World going PC mad, but not the World of football. Please. Put ‘gaffes’ like this next to the racist behaviour of tens of thousands of spectators in certain (supposedly civilised) European countries and then tell me we’re not making a fuss over nothing. Compare the size of the fine the Cameroon FA received for wearing an all-in-one kit at the African Nations tournament (£86,000 and the serious threat of a ban) to the fine receieved by the Spanish FA for the racist behaviour of their fans (£44,750 and a ‘please don’t do it again you naughty boys!’). Yet we can’t handle a mildly offensive joke? I’ll tell you who the really offensive joke is: Sepp Blatter.

I could ramble on about all the annoying popstars playing benefit gigs trying to raise their profile and sell a few more albums whilst conveniently making themselves feel better for raising a tiny percentage of the daily interest accrued by the third world debt and making it seem like a huge chunk of the world’s suffering is being made better by their pathetic attempt at making their shallow lives seem wholesome. But I won’t.

Back to football, not for the first time, I think Alex Ferguson has gone mad. Ahead of tonight’s Couldn’t-give-a-Carling Cup match between United and Chelsea:

“It’s the best two sides in the country - it’s sudden death.”

But is it really, Alex? think about it now … that’s better, the table doesn’t lie (and neither does last year’s). Arsenal and Chelsea fight for the league and are happy with nothing less, Liverpool and United fight for the cups and have to settle for either.

Talking of Liverpool, you have to admire the work Rafael Benitez has done there. He’s turned a very average work-a-day team into an effective, fluent unit. They’re still too reliant on one player, and while he’s a wonderful talent he still never seems to cut it against his big rivals. Gerrard v Keane (even now) and Keane always comes out on top. Gerrard v Lampard, and Lampard’s on top. Gerrard v Vieira (even a poor, out of sorts Vieira) and he still loses out. He’s a great player, but not a big game one. It’s the same reason he’s never really done it for Enlgand too (a few spectaular long range goals apart—which is one thing he does do better than ALL his rivals).

I also wonder who’s telling the truth in the Craig Bellamy saga. I think both Bellamy and Souness would lie through their teeth to be thought ‘in the right’, and I dislike them both equally. I wouldn’t touch a player with as many personal issues as Bellamy, and with even Shearer speaking out against him, you have to think that the Welshman has probably brought all of this on himself. A bit like Jermaine Pennant at Arsenal, who after being given a second chance by boss Arsène Wenger, has thrown it back in his face by getting caught speeding again (and wrapping a car around a lampost)—all while being banned from the road. I strongly suspect Highbury has seen the last of him.

While we’re on the subject of highbury—I dearly, dearly hope that a new weblog that’s appeared: Chris Wreh Writes is the real deal; though I strongly suspect it’s not, for anyone who remember’s George Weah’s cousin’s time at Highbury (a few Wolves fans surely…) it’s still very funny.

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All Things Footie | Tuesday, January 11 | Jordan

Rejoice! I’m back!

I know it’s been a while, and most of you have probably eloped with another more regularly updated footie site, but for the benefit of my loyal readership—I know who you two are—I bring you some new scribbles. you may also have noticed a slight addition to the top right of all things footie (if you haven’t, notice it now!).

It’s half way through the season—wouldn’t it be great if there was some sort of christmas season style awards? Well, wouldn’t it?

Player of the (half) season

There’s some stiff (and unusual) competition in this category. For lethal, ruthless efficieny and ability to dazzle while not playing particularly well—how can you look further than Thierry Henry? Top scorer by three and top in assists too. For unexpected, underdog-does-good and plain-bloke whips the superstars style then Andy Johnson surely fits the bill? For expensive dutchman balding at 21 and scoring a load of pretty spectacular goals then it’s Arjen Robben of course! How about precocious seventeen year old bosses Premiership Champions’ midfield? Cesc Fabregas it is then. In truth, for me anyway, it’s a straight shootout between two Englishmen at very opposite ends of the specturm in terms of playing style, but not actually that far off each other in the goalscoring stakes.

My player(s) of the half-season goes emphatically to Shaun Wright-Phillips and John Terry, a tiny wee box of tricks with a thunderous right foot and a gritty, hard as nails terrier of a defender (excuse the pun). Wright-Phillips’ form thus far has been exceptional, with a sackful of goals (every one a screamer too) a willingness to run, no fear of the bigger teams, he’s really beginning to mature. Terry is the rock that Chelsea’s top of the table position is built on. Forget Lampard, forget Robben, forget Duff, forget Makelele. If I can pay a bigger compliment to a defender than that he reminds me of Tony Adams then I don’t know what it is.

Young player of the (half) season

Cesc Fabregas, no competition. Well, there is a little competition: Robben’s done exceptionally well recently, Gabriel Heinze’s impressed at United, but no one really comes close to Cesc. With ‘young player’ awards, it’s tempting to start or end sentences with ‘for his age’, but there’s no age-handicapping going on when rating Fabregas’ performances in the Arsenal midfield this season. With Patrick Vieira either injured or off form, Edu and Gilberto injured, Ljungberg injured, Pires off form (despite being the third highest golascorer in the Premiership with more goals than Drogba, Gudjonsen and Kezman combined) and only Flamini for company, Fabregas has carried Arsenal’s midfield through the first half of the season. A daunting task for anyone, let alone a teenager with no Premiership starts under his belt at the start of the season.

Central midfield is one of—if not the—toughest jobs in football. Why else are players like Keane, Gerrard, Vieira and Lampard so jealously protected by their managers? These players are the heartbeats of the team, the ones that make the other 9 outfield players tick. Someone asked me how good this Spanish kid was before the start of the season; having only seen him a few times in the Worthington Cup and for the reserves, all I could offer was “he’s supposed to be great, in a couple of years he’ll be a regular—when Vieira’s past it.”

Well, I was half right.

Senior player of the (half) season

After a month it was Dennis Bergkamp, no question, but now? It’s difficult. The Premiership is getting younger by the season, Arsenal fielded a back four with an average age of about 14 the other week, and I don’t think Chelsea own a defender over 25 (unless Gallas is more mature than I thought). Centre forwards seem to be promoted to the first team out of nappies and most wide players and full backs are still growing into their boots.

Now I come to think of it—I can’t think of one player over the age of 33 that’s had any significant impact on the Premiership so far. Suggetsions welcome.

Manager of the (half) season

It’s a battle of the Ms. Mourinho and Moyes. It has to be Moyes for me though. can’t fault Mourinho’s record, but then again he did get to spend fifty million-ish over the summer, and though Everton have had a little blip recently, their record over the season has been phenomenal. Just about every punter (including—disgraced as I am to admit it—myself) had them to go down at the start of the season, and far from struggle, the Rooneyless wonders have thrived and given the teams just behind Arsenal and Chelsea something serious to think about. Moyes has strengthened well in January too, the signing of James Beattie adressing their main weakness (than an injury to Marcus Bent would have left them dead in the water).

Maybe it’s unfair that I’ve excluded Tim Cahill, Thomas Gravesen and Lee Carsley from the discussion on the player of the (half) season; but I’m sure Everton fans have long been used to being unfairly ignored!

Looking forward

Without getting too clichéd, it looks like it may be a pretty riveting end of season—with the bottom of the table pretty tight, and the top of unbelievable quality, It’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out. Did I say interesting? I meant stressful.

PS Congrats to exeter, and will you EVER get bored of seeing this?

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