Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Tip for the Carling Cup

Luton has a nice airport. Handy for cheap flights to Spain. Other than that it is a boring, horrid, town. Too far away from London to be cool. Too close to benefit from being out of it. It is a dreary suburban netherworld where tossers live. No wonder then that they are hoping for a good run in the Carling Cup. The second most pointless competition in domestic football, after the vase.

Everton's cup form is very dicey too. The attritional style football lends itself well to beleaguering league campaigns but less well to the cut and thrust of cup competition. Added to that Everton are also in the UEFA Also Rans and so a trifront campaign might well be beyond the limits of what is still quite a small squad. Luton are also playing at home. 1-0 to Luton after a dull hardfought borefest is the prediction. I am being a bit harsh on Everton here. Hiding my passion for them behind cynicism. Mcfadden is a flair player, and he is flickering encouragingly. Arteta is positively shining. Tim Cahill is back too.

This prediciton of course covers me emotionally for all eventualities. If Everton win I am happy. If Everton lose I am still happy as I am proved to be right. Peter Cook used to employ a similar logic betting against Spurs everytime they played.

The Carling Cup of course is part of a great tradition in football sponsorship in as much as it is sponsered by a brand that has nothing whatsoever to do with the idea of excercise. Mcdonalds, Playstation, and Coca Cola form the rest of the canon. While associating with the vitality, heroism, and excitement, that is football, these brands want nothing more than than for you to grow fat and old and broke having spent all your money on junk food and wasted your life sat in front of the idiot box. Well, I call that wasting, others of you might call it coping. Others yet might call it enjoying the trappings of modern Britain.

Before you all rush off to William Hills and stump up a proportion of your hard earned salary/unemployment benefits on a Luton win remember two things. Luton are 49 places below Everton in league placings. And the last time the two teams met Everton won 4-0.

HYPOCRISY ALERT: I might be carrying adverts for coco-cola by this time next week ;-)

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Brazil to host the World Cup

Coming as it did from a shortlist of 1 this is not the most unexpected story of the decade. Even the week. But things being certain there will be caipirianah, beach, and bikinis a plenty, come 2014. Tudo bem! Let the overfinacing of new football stadiums begin. Let the cleansing of the slums commence. If the Brits think redeveloping Hackney for the Olympics is costly just imagine applying the same principles to Rio. If we thought the new Wembley stadium deal was a bit dodge just imagine how much money will be skimmed off the top in the world's second capital of corruption? As many Latinos will tell you, 'all politicians are corrupt'.

Project developers and bankers active in the region are no doubt already smacking their lips at the juicy backhanders, and price inflations, on offer.

Wise career gamblers of course have probably already placed a bet for Brazil to win el mundial 2014 outright. With them being the 5 times world champions at home it seems worth a punt.

Monday, 29 October 2007

the Ipswich phenonema

One minute you're singing "we are the tractor boys", or something inane like that, and pulling one over Milan in the UEFA cup, then before you know it you are staring the championship playoffs right in the face. Bolton could well prove to be this year's Ipswich.

There are two crucial differences of course. The first taking the sullen, sulky, profile of Nicholas Anelka. Ipswich were not blessed with an embarresment of riches up front. But if Anelka turns out and plays week in week out, and "does what everybody knows he can do" then things might not appear so bleak after all.

On the other hand the second difference is the coach. Ipswich were guided by the reliable, occaisonally brilliant, George Burley, Bolton are lumped with Gary Megson. Megson's problem is not that he's a "ginger headed twat". That is just gingerist prejudice. It is more that, statistically, he only wins roughly 2 out of every 3 games. Reduce that by half for the premiership. That makes Bolton relegation fodder, or thereabouts, after the start they have had to the season. Given this record it seems that lots of Bolton's hopes rest with Nicolas Anelka this season.

The other big difference between the two teams, that will have no bearing on where they finish this season, is that Ipswich in their day attracted lots of neutral support. They are rural, and little, and nice, and play 'good' football. They even won the fair play league. Only Norwich saw fit to hate them. None of these could be accurately levelled at Bolton.

Ugh! while typing this just imagined Delia Smith and Sam Allardyce in the sack. I need to go and bleach my brain now.

Flair/Flare Play League Update:


Man U 33
Arsenal 31
Blackburn 29
Man City 26
Liverpool 26
Chelsea 25
Portsmouth 24
Newcastle 21
West Ham 20
Everton 19
Aston Villa 18
Tottenham 13
Fulham 13
Reading 13
Wigan 12
Sunderland 12
Midlesbrough 11
Bolton 11
Birmingham 10
Derby 8

In this sorry excuse for a world football seems more trivial than ever. It must be worse for Derby fans though.

Friday, 26 October 2007

What do Jurgen Klinsmann, Paul Gasgoine, and

Dean Perret all have in common? That's right. They are all Spurs signings. They all cost 2 million too. Martin Jol signed the latter.

Now I don't follow Spurs, I don't even follow football properly. So Perret could be turning out to be this season's revelation for all I know. But maybe here we have the architectural seeds of the reasons behind Jol's downfall. Spurs have not bought at all well as of late.

A diverting curry

While I am sure all none Everton fans would be thrilled to read a protracted match report on last night's Also Ran cup I will instead tell you all about the curry I cooked.

It turned out to be a slightly acidic madras/methi. Prepare the sauce as follows:
1/2 tsp of fenugreek seeds
about 10 split cardamon seeds
2 tbsp of madras mild curry powder
2 tbsp of paprika
ginger shavings
a touch of grated nutmeg
1 clove of garlic (could put more)
black pepper
1 chopped onion
1 large sliced carrot
3 chicken thighs
800ml of homemade chicken stock

Quite tasty it was too. I am sure however that curry chefs would snigger at this blatantly amateur effort. But over the course of time the recipe will be corrected and perfected. Any curry tips greatly appreciated.

Meanwhile Everton won 3-1 . The second half was exciting. Anichebe scored. Despite having a tricky foreign sounding name the Channel 5 commentators didn't call him Anchovy this time.

But just how meaningless is the UEFA Also Ran's Cup? (e.g. 3rd round tie: Reykavik Ladies vs Interpunk Bucharest), Yet, while it is regularly jeered and derided I note how few English Teams have won it over recent years, and not for lack of trying either. I recall how some idiots said "look how well Middesbrough are doing in the UEFA, of course Steve Mclaren is ready." If Mclaren could not even lead his team to glory in UEFA how was he ever ready for England? Surely a prequesite for international coaching should be that you must actually have won something, anything, at domestic level (apart from the Carling Cup). Hang on a sec...

Unable to organise my thoughts and say anything meaningfull about meaningless, relative meaningless, or the meanigfulness of meaninglesness, what we'll call the meaningfulality scale, I will instead end this piece with a heavy handed, haphazard, comparison. The UEFA Also Ran's Cup is Brighton Pier to the Champion's League Blackpool Pleasure Beach. The pleasure beach has the highest rollercoaster in Europe you know.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

When England are playing well:

when England are disappointing: en-guh-land.

For my part I only ever support England once Wales have been knocked out of the major tournaments i.e.always by the start of the the tournament proper. This means I miss out on the plunging all consuming lows that reach most international supporters. The closest I have ever come to it was when Wales were knocked out by Russia in the play-offs a couple of years back. Knocked out by Russia. There could be a mini-trend developing here.

Of course I support England and Wales jointly in the cricket as they have the same team, and only ever support Wales in the rugby. This is because English rugby players strike me as insufferable gits, and the Welsh are mostly all good comprehensive school lads, like myself.

What does all this prove? Other than that I am a bit of bi-partisan cunt. That nationality is a movable feast of course, like political or sexual persuasion. Oddly enough nationality is more flexible than team loyalty. While no-one really minds if I'm supporting England or Wales, or perversely both, or even if I become Uruguayan. But if I were to switch alliegances from Everton to say, Man U, that would mark me out as some kind of weird traitor.

Amazingly these kind of things do happen. I once met a lifelong Millwall fan who swapped sides. To Chelsea. "Millwall" he said, "were too boring." And that they were "painful to watch". Everyone he made the mistake of telling about this were aghast. General concensus was that if someone stuck his head on a pole in tower bridge it would be no bad thing (he was not just a footballing turncoat but also worked in IT). Knowing Millwall fans maybe someone already has.

John Barnes

John Barnes' run on Strictly Come Dancing will mirror that of his Enguhland career. Lots of promise, two good feet, but ultimate disappointment after flattery to deceive.


Striclty Come Dancing has much in common with football of course. Mincing primadonnas vaunting in fame's misdirected spotlight. Both ballroom dancing and football are the social cement that glue us in our mundane shaped cages. That said both are more compelling than a car crash. A beautiful car crash. The beautiful game.

The big 4

If you keep the Shift key pressed down when typing that phrase you get "THE BIG $". Co-incidence?

I am not believer in the myth of the big 4. Not a fundamentalist believer anyway. There was a time not long ago when Everton and Spurs boasted elite gold card membership to the big 5 (or BIG%). Then Arsenal were inpenetrable, then it was never, shortly after the deification of Alex Ferguson, that anyone could ever challenge the supremacy of the big 2 (BIG"). Then Liverpool won a unique (not meaningless, surely) quadruple .

Finally Roman Abramovic arrived with his literally billions and everyone predicted a thousand year reich at Chelsea.

Now, a good way into the season, we have Man City in there mixing it at the top. We will have to wait until the end of the season of course but remember that not too long ago Everton did the same, before predictable annilihation in Europe. (I am not going to mention Leeds, out of respect for those that have passed away).

This is not to say that the big 4 are not better than the other premiership teams at the moment. Over the course of the season they take more points off each other, and throw away less against the lessergods. It is just that they are not as untouchable as is made out. The big 4 will not be the big 4 forever. This period of dominance will last for probably just a few more seasons. Admittedly a few seaons is a long time in football years. It is an era.

This myth of big 4 omnipotence is the fault of sports commentators and pundits. The narrative dictates of sport require that you need elites, underdogs, plucky contenders, and also rans. Hovering around like cliches in archetypal fashion. Womens' tennis is a great example of this. Graf and Navaratolova were invincilbe, who the fuck was Zina Garrison though, or that weepy Novotna. Seles was all set to dominate forever, oh no, we actually mean that little swiss miss Hingis, we mean the Williams sisters and Davenport are too strong, no we mean THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING! oh. Robust competitivivty is simply not as interesting a concept as elites vs the rest. It removes the notions of triumph and dominance that make sporting stories pull at our primeval heart strings. To a point.

There are actually elites in sport. This is most apparent in the gap between the Premiership and the lower leagues. Earnings being the most telling example. The law of the market dictates that this creates a gulf in terms of quality.

So to see it in a biblical sense, returning briefly to my theme of fundamentalism.
Money begets earnings, earnings beget quality, quality begets elites, elites beget sporting narrative. A narrative which, by the way, everyone says they are bored with. As we want the teams in lower leagues to have a chance to make it all the way to the top, for Port Vale to pull one over Man U, or for Grimsby or Stoke to give a hiding to the Gunners. For Leeds to make it back into the Premiership. Fairytale land innit? The current Premier league financing system just doesn't permit it. (Well, maybe Leeds' wish might just come true).

The only way to bring about a change of this magnitude would be to radically redistribute football's wealth. For all the teams, across all leagues, to take an even percentage of the premiership pot. And European earnings. Let me just say that this is never going to happen. Although we might eventaully see a little more cash flow the way of the Championship, to even things out a little.

Staying in the realms of the fantastical though. What would happen if football added a more, uh, Marxist style of wealth redistribution. Undoubtedly there would be more grassroots investment, more homegrown talent and homespun support as a result of the inevitable dip in foreign transfer fees. We would see an awful lot less of lazy milionaire footaballers. That phrase really should be an oxymoron if it already isn't. Lazy and milionaire should never be seen together in the same sentence. We'd see less European success but more international achievement. And if this was combined with European labour laws being lifted for football, as does seem plausible, football would have a free moving paperless workforce exisiting in an absolute meritocracy. A totally level playing field (or should that be pitch). There would be no more big 4 (BIG$). In this way football could propose a revolutionairy economic alternative. But, as we kow, this ain't ever going to happen. Secretly we probably like the big 4 anyway. It gives us a sense of injustice and something to carp on about.

There will be some of course who say that these ideas are not just pie in the sky, but that they are plain unsound. We would just be rewarding mediocrity they would say. But, in a world where a filthy rich Stan Collymore was once caught dogging, a russian gangster nad Thai humanrights abuser are hailed as saviours, and lots of twats with good hand to foot co-ordination but limited social skills lounge around in swank luxury palaces banging page 3 girls (I guess, sometimes, maybe) would rewarding mediocrity really be such a bad thing? At least the best managed clubs would succeed and have their day of glory. Not just the best managed clubs that have the most money. The two do not always reflect one another.

All this brings us to the real reason why the big 4 are, right now, the big 4. It is very simple. They are the richest and best managed clubs. Newcastle, Spurs, and especially Leeds can tell you that money ain't everything.

Little known fact: Karl Marx (pictured above) was a regular at North London derbies

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

A lump in his throat

"At the moment I'm just swallowing it all as part of the humiliation. That's something one has to take in. "

These words were not uttered by an Iraqi detainee during yet another round robin excercise in torture and humilation at the hands (and other body parts) of the American and British forces. Indeed no, the realities of this situation scarcely ever reach our over-sensitived ears. They were in fact said by none other than Jans Lehmann, Arsenal's reserve goalkeeper. Shortly before he went looking for another toy he had discarded from his pram.

In other news Lehaman is the only ever goalkeeper ever to lose his place to a player whose name is partial anagram of a metallic element. Almunia.

Actually, is aluminuim a compound or an element?

Other players whose names loosely resemble elements and compounds include Carbone, Cole, and a number of Da Silvas.

The Flare/Flair Play League

It may border on the obvious. Even the axiomatic. But football can be boring. And not only because it is often sole topic of conversation between most males aged in between the 12years-80years bracket. As Pele says "the game needs goals", and as a physical contact sport defensive or negative, play is often unduly rewarded in scrappy 1-0 affairs or 0-0 at home contests.
It seems strange that while fans love teams that play exciting football UEFA or similar have so far found no way to commend it. Only the laughable Fair Play league makes any gesture towards it.
In light of this I have devised the Flare/Flair Play League. It does not yet reward flashy back heels or stepovers but attacking teams are allocated more points than those organised, yet dull, outfits that always seem to feature in the UEFA cup places come the end of season.
By this reckoning my team, Everton, would not be enjoying lofty pretensions. George Graham's Arsenal would have had a lesser dominion, and Kevin Keegan's Newcastle would probably have won the Premiership. We would hold that man in much higher esteem if this had been the case. Maybe this woudl be a good thing. He always struck me as more likeable than idiot. At the very best he would be a likeable idiot that once won the Premiership. It still recognises defensive superioty by only rewarding extra points for games one by clear goal margins. It works like this:

Under this system the current premiership looks like this (I think, my math might be skewiff).
Arsenal 29
Man U 28
Blackburn 26
Man City 26
Liverpool 24
Portsmouth 23
Newcastle 21
Chelsea 20
West Ham 19
Aston Villa 17
Everton 15
Totenham 13
Wigan 12
Middelsborough 11
Fulham 11
Sunderland 10
Reading 10
Bolton 9
Derby 8
Birmingham 7

Under this system most games would become much more attacking affairs. And it is likely that the yawn-induding Italian style football would become a thing of the past and there would be less sleepy end of season fixtures. Above all it is fair. Winning a game 4-0 is much harder than winning it 1-0.

A question for Spurs fans. If Totenham were sitting pretty in mid-table would Martin Jol still be about to be sacked?

P.S. In my work induced haze I cannot remember which version of flair/flare to use when describing flamboyant skill and panache. Hence the slash in flare/flair

"clattenburg is a c*nt"

David Moyes didn't say. Although he may as well have. I am sure he thought it. And it seems secretly a lot of people think so, hence the sidelining of Clattenburg this weekend.,,2197244,00.html. This is really the least you could expect because, as far as I know, WWF wrestling manuveures are not permitted in the Premiership, even if they are performed by Jamie Carragher. And two footed challenges should lead to straight reds. Even if you are Dirk Kuyt.
The phrase "Clattenburg is a c*nt" has a nice ring to it too. Granted it is not the most articulate statement ever penned. And it lacks degrees of philosophical depth. But it is aliterate. And it has a certain poignancy.

Ugliest Premiership Team

Professional footballers of course get all the luck. Talent, money, fame, and looks (um, actually,no). While the creamiest and most drooled over of our demigods grace the tabloids and glossies, and bag the the best of the B-List, lots of footballers would struggle to pull in a dark night at Ritzies. Or they would if their bank balances were diminished to the levels of us mere mortals.

This was brought to my attention last night while my girlfriend and I watched Man U thrash Sparta Prague. "Rooney is a monster" she gasped. "He looks like a baby troll".

"Ronaldo has a wicked and arrogant look" she said before adding "like the kind of guy you'd avoid on holiday."

"What about Rio Ferdinand?" I asked her.

"He is ugly too. But there could be something noble about him."

"Yeah, he does a lot for the kids. " I told her. Well, he might do, as far as I know. A little something for the kids of Moss Side and Newham.

Gary Neville of course was injured. So we couldn't recoil at him too. Indeed, there is a rolecall of fug-ugliness at Old Trafford. It has grown and become more apparent in the glamour vacuum created post-Beckham. So, if there were a competition for the ugliest team in the premiership, Man Utd would get my vote. You woud not catch me sucking Darren Fletcher's cock. (admitedly it would take an unlikely turn of events for this to enter the realms of desirable possibility, for either party) .

This of course is an opinion piece. Based on nothing more than my girlfriend and I's jabberings during a predictable match on a Tuesday night. I have not done any scientific research into Premeirship asymetry. So, if there is an uglier Premiership side out there, feel free to prove the matter.