Friday, 18 November 2011

Everything Must Go

I was getting the impression that it was all going far too well up in Newcastle.....

The Toon army are sitting pretty at 3rd in the table, only 1 point behind Manchester United and boasting one of the best defences in the land, concedding only 8 goals all season. However, the dark overlord that is Mike Ashley has threatened to throw a giant money shaped spanner into the works.
Newcastle United have in the last week announced that St James Park, which will now be known as the Sports Direct Arena, a move aimed at prospective companies who are willing to make an investment to the club to the tune of around £10 million per year in exchange for the naming rights of the stadium.

This is a practice that has been particularly prevalent with our Trans-Atlantic bretheren for many years. Not only has this been pretty vital in the development of the now blossoming MLS, but it has also bestowed upon us some of the most humorous stadium names that you are ever likely to hear (see Dallas FC's Pizza Hut park, and the magnificent Dick's sporting goods park, home of the Collorado Rapids)
However, the practice of stadium soul-selling has become more and more popular back on our own shores, possibly as an antidote of the self inflicted wound that is huge hemorrhaging wage bills amongst the country's top clubs.
Manchester City and Arsenal have tied up multi million pound deals in the last years for stadium naming rights, and York City magnificently renamed their stadium "KitKat Crescent", possibly in exchange for a bag of confectionery rather than a bag of cash.

Newcastle will need to tread carefully in these kind of dealings. The Geordie fans are not the keenest to "outsiders" messing with their baby, as seen with there quest for the removal of the so called "Cockney Mafia". I'm sure it will be pointed out, as it always is, by every pundit in Britain, that Newcastle fans are the most passionate in the land and that "football is a religion / way of life". As much as this cliché is wheeled out, there is some truth in it, and Newcastle fans do generally feel that what is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Size does matter

Subject A: "Do you love me"
Subject B "Of course I do"
Subject A: "Why do you love me"

I'm guessing that a few have you may have found yourselves in this position before, either in the guise of subject A or B. I'm also willing to go further and suggest that some of you may have broken into a fit of excessive perspiration and nervousness as you struggle to find an answer. Well shame on you. Do better!
It could also be prudent to examine that question when applied to your "other" significant other. Football.

The game of football has many intricate nuances that we can all appreciate and admire, but what about what we really love. Your manager may have introduced a defensive midfielder into your team to neutralise the attacking threat of the creative opposition, but has he brought your goalkeeper off the bench and put him on up front to try and get a goal? Well Stuart Pearce did when he was Manchester City manager, and i bloody love him for it! (that and lots more besides of course)
The point I'm trying to get to here is that the vast majority of football fans initially find their love of the game in the playground. As children. Wildly chasing a ball around the playground in a sunny delight fuelled madness pretending to be their favourite player (Lee Sharpe in my case.)
But somewhere along the line, on the way to the miserable, inevitable drudgery that is adult life, something changes. We feel a kind of social obligation to treat football as an art form, and give more presidence to tactics, formation and football politics. I say that, as important as those things are in enjoying watching your beloved sport, there must also be a hell of a lot more room for some edge of the seat style action that reminds us all of just why we love this game so much. 
And of course, their can be nothing that describes that better than the big score!
I think we all know what I'm referring to when i say "big score". 3-0 is a good win, 4-0 is a great win, but 5-0 is a BIG win. If you tell a pal in the pub that your team scored 5, not only does it come with a sharp intake of breath or a chuckle of appreciation, but it even comes with it's only unique lexicon. 
" We smashed them 5!" or "They shipped 5!"
The lovers of the big score have been somewhat spoiled this season, what with the two Manchester teams sharing 13 goals between them in one day, and Fulham and Chelsea doing something similar recently to beleaguered QPR and Bolton sides respectively. 
Of course, This is not at all a new phenomenon. The true glory days of the big score must be reserved for people who are old enough to remember the glory days of the original BBC vidi-printer. Nothing can equate with the sheer giddy pleasure you experience when your team has scored so many that it requires the score to be spelt out, as to stop the viewer rubbing their eyes like a cartoon Garfield that's just seen a fresh lasagne placed on the window to cool. 
There are of course times when the big score can mutilate like a radioactive super hero, into a GIGANTIC score, and of course, these are all the more satisfying!
The best known example of this is probably the behemoth Abroath 36 - Bon Accord 0, a score line which can very generously be described as a bad day at the office for the Bon Accord boys. But here is something that you may not know......
That particular game took place on 12th September 1885. A mere 17 miles down the road on the same day Dundee Harps were entertaining Aberdeen Rovers. Actually, Aberdeen Rovers were probably the only people in the stadium not being entertained, as they lost by a mere 35-0 ! No chance of either of games being shown last on Match Of The Day that night I'm guessing?
So the plea is this. Keep your eyes peeled this weekend for a biggie! Examine with forensic detail, delight in the increasing exasperation of the beleaguered defenders as each goal flies in, and simply enjoy it for all it's worth, like you were a kid again. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

You wanna bet on it..... You Bet !

Unless you are one of the savvy few that have recently taken advantage of 100% discounts on major brand electronics in the consumer worlds unusual riot promotion, the majority of us are sharing in a common problem.....The Recession ! we are all potless. brasick. skint eastwood.
What is the answer. The prudent financialishta's out there will tell you that it's to work hard, save more and invest in blue chip corporations. But i ask you, where is the fun in that?
I have an alternative solution. Keep this on the down-low, but there are people out there that are prepared to take a small amount of money from you, and then give you back more money on the proviso that you can guess whats going to happen in the football. i believe that the kids call it "betting"
I jest of course, we all know what betting is, you clever chaps. So lets run through the wager's that are going to buy you a jet pack and gold plated house this season.

Premier league top goalscorer: Luis Suarez - 9/1
A man that looked electrifying at the tale end of last season in a beleaguered Liverpool side. A genuine goal threat and a player that has a track record, all be it in the dutch league of scoring a bucket load of goals. Has even started the new season in the same vein with a goal (and admittedly a missed penalty) against Sunderland on the opening weekend. Manchester United's pocket poacher Javier Hernadez is also available at 9/1

Relegated from Premier league: Blackburn - 2/1
I feel for Blackburn fans, i really do. I imagine supporting Blackburn not to be a choice, more of a terrible affliction (i thinks its a hangover from the Allerdyce days)
That aside Blackburn have now been lumped with the equally un-inspiring Steve Kean. With little investment made in an ageing squad (aside from the relatively unproven David Goodwillie) don't be surprised to see Rovers get dragged into a relegation dog fight that they don't have the stomach for. as a tasty little accompaniment to this bet, can i interest you in Steve Keen to be the first manager in the PL to lose his job. Yours at a mere 13/8

Championship winners: Leicester - 5/1
A very decent price for a side that have shelled out more that Shelly MccShellyson, manager of schelling at scehllo's peanut company. Quality premier league talent in the shape of Nugent, Konchesky, Vassell and Pantsil to add to the nucleus of an already decent squad, all under the stewardship of Papa Ericsson. Lovely stuff. Also worth a punt for promotion are newcomers Brighton @ 4/1. If Will Buckley and Craig Mackail Smith fire on all cylinders, they could be irresistible.

Championship Top Scorer: Kevin Phillips: - 14/1
Age ain't nothin but a number. Not just something said by perverted old granny's out to get some young greased up cock, but something that might be echoed by former European golden boot winner Kevin Phillips.
Yes, he maybe older than time itself, but his pedigree is proven in no uncertain terms. Two goals on his Blackpool debut will only add to this man's brimming confidence. Phillips and Holloway could be a matched made in Heaven.

League one winners: Charlton - 6/1
Chris Powell looks like he might have the addicks playing the way he wants and if they can keep hold of the more talented of the Wright-Phillips brothers, they should have a decent chance of the title.

League Two winners: Crawley Town - 11/4
Right fact fan, here's one for you. Crawley Town spent more money on players last season than all of the league two teams...... PUT TOGETHER! Money like that really does talk. Matthew Tubbs looks like he could make the step up from non league comfortably and could also be a good bet for top scorer @ 13/2

FA Cup winners: Liverpool - 10/1
Liverpool have gone a bit bonkers in the transfer window and have added some strength in depth to some talented individual players. If they can utilise the whole squad, that could allow them to fight on multiple fronts this season.

So, let's look at that betting slip.

Premier league top goalscorer: Luis Suarez / Javier Hernadez- 9/1
Relegated from Premier league: Blackburn - 2/1
First Sacking: Steve Kean: 13/8
Leicester to win the championship - 5/1
Brighton to be promoted: 4/1
Championship top scorer: Kevin Phillips - 14/1
League one winners: Charlton - 6/1
League two winner: Crawley Town - 11/4
League two top scorer: Matthew Tubs -13/2
FA cup winners: Liverpool - 10/1

So take your pick from the above, who knows it could make you a rich bitch. Or alternatively a £1 accumulator on all ten bets would return a not too shabby £76 Million pounds! Don't worry though, I'll only take a 10% "administration" fee. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Nukecastle United

What in the name of living Jebus Christ is happening at Newcastle!

That statement in itself that has a lot of legs. This of course being a club that has only been outdone in mentalness in the last few decades by Sky1's Harchester United. However, the past week or so has seen the ROFL-copters circling St James Park at full tilt,with their LMAO-cannons being manned by the playing staff aimed squarely at the management.
As has been widely reported, certain players have taken to twitter to participate in territorial tree pissing and generally dick swingary. If you happen to have missed these shenanigans, a quick re-cap......

Nile Ranger:
Most used sub in the prem last season.. Now I'm struggling to even get a pre season game.. haha.. #laughORcry what a joke.

Jose Enrique:
The club is allowing all the major players of the team to go. Do you think it is the fault of the players? Andy (Carroll), Nobby (Kevin Nolan).
‘This club will never fight to be among the top six again with this policy. You fans are the best and you deserve the best, not what they are doing with the club.’

And last but not least......
Joey Barton:
Ha ha the inevitable, 2 weeks wages fine has just arrived. Needless to say it shall be appealed forthwith. #kickingamanwhilsthesdownha”

Made to train alone today, how predictable.........

Now, as stated in previous blogs, I am all for players that have something to say for themselves instead of the usually dreary "at the end of the day it's a great result for the lads", however any comments need to be justified and valid and i have to say, these comments (with the possible exception of Enrique's) just aren't.

The comments made by Jose Enrique could possibly be best described as a good point gone wrong. A player certainly has the right to question the future direction of the team, but it's possibly not the best idea to express those views via the medium of social networking. That being said, i imagine if those points had been conveyed personally to Alan Pardew, he would have stared blankly around the room before dribbling profusely and plunging his face into a bowl of tomato soup.

Whilst the comments of Nile Ranger can be marked in the "idiotic and ridiculously unprofessional" file, it is surely the comments of Tyneside's pantomime villain Joey Barton that must be the most worrying. Not necessarily for the players, coaches, management or directors of NUFC, but surely for himself.....

Even before JB googled "latin phrases" and made it official, It was clearly evident that he was (as he himself so eloquently put it) Persona non grata at Newcastle. Thus, unless he decides to start a new carer as an Orwellian style author, he will be in need of a new club.
I don't even feel i need to bring Joey's more than chequered past in to the argument, as it's something that we have all been assured he is trying to conquer, but what manager in their right mind would want to bring a player to their club that boots up the laptop and goes into a nationwide, weeklong twitter frenzy when he has an issue. Barton has effectively put himself in the shop window, pissed on the customers and shat down his own legs.

The North-East Mourinho, Alan Pardew has also hardly covered himself in glory in the whole episode, effectively saying something along the lines of "players should be careful about what they say on twitter"
Pardew needs to get amongst em and start cracking a few skulls before he loses the dressing room entirely (if he hasn't already)

Newcastle must now look to settle down and bring back some much needed stability to the club, and there can only be one way for that to now happen.
Pardew out, KEEGAN IN !!!!!!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Pre-mental tension

In the words of Emerson, Lake and Palmer...... Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!

It's pre-season, my second favourite part of the footballing calender (after the actual season) and the time of the year when we all dream of what our teams can achieve in the coming season. Don't worry though, those hopes and dreams will invariably come crashing down around your ears after your side gets stuffed in your first two games, your start striker is sold and your manager quits to become a priest.

So what have we to expect from the forthcoming season? Well not the biggest crop of foreign stars like we have witnessed in years gone by. There was a time in the not to distant past where the brightest stars from around the world came to ebb away their twilight years and bang in the goals (and not to mention Lols)

However, this season, the premier league has decided to do away with the conventional transfer system and instead introduce a merlin sticker album swapshop to decide who gets who. This pre-season has seen a large number of teams go "inter-departmental" and raid the premier league bargain bin like a bad dad on Christmas eve. The 104 year old Brad Freidel has nipped over to white hart lane, whilst Jonathan Woodgate has left the London town for the potteries, carrying his knees over his shoulder in a sports bag.

Sunderland have clearly embraced the theory of "Howay the chequebook" and have gone player mad, making 8 signings to date. The black cats have made some very shrude signings in the shape of experienced pro's and exciting young talent and in my opinion could be a contender to push for a european place this season (mark my words, you heard it here first!)

Manchester United have quietly gone about their business of spunking over 50 million squids to strengthen their credentials, whilst fans of Chelsea and Arsenal must be worried by their sides lack of transfer activity (especially for the latter if they lose Fabregas and Nasri too)

The two teams possibly expected to spend the big bucks, Manchester City and QPR have also been relatively quiet. The worry of course here being their benevelant benefactors have got bored of football and decided to start a new sport on the moon, just because they can.

One thing however we can rely on of course is a new season of bat-shit mental kits, the best (or worst) of which you can devour with your eyes below.

So welcome back old friends, it's gonna be another fun one.

Brighton's Lime cough sweet strip

Villa's Checker board disaster

And my beloved Gillingham. How could you !

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The play off's just don't pay off

Had this pass through the ABITB offices today...

Happy to help Sepp my old sausage. But i will be getting back to him over his shoddy spelling and grammar in that e-mail. Must have been those Martini's he has at lunch.
Now I'm not sure why this is Sepp's current flight of fancy, but I'm prepared to give it a bit of thought, and i think i can come up with a few reasons. 
Firstly, Surely no one can argue with the theatre of the play off's. You would think that in games with so much at stake, teams would take a steady approach and shut up shop, where even one misplaced pass could be the difference between death or glory. However, recent play off finals have seen some of the most expansive, enthralling, exciting, nerve wrenching, arse clenching, vomit enducingly brilliant games you are ever likely to see. For example....
Reading 3 Bolton 4
Swindon 4 Leicester Ciy 3
Charlton 4 Sunderland 4
Gillingham 2 Manchester City 2 
All games that would send any supporter of the teams involved to the local A&E department with a heart affliction that even Dr House would struggle to figure out. 
But we also can't ignore the elephant in the room here. The play off's are inherently unfair. As the great man himself, the own goals zeitgeist himself, Mr Danny Baker once pointed out.....
The play offs are the equivalent to Muhammad Ali going 12 bruising rounds with George Foreman before being declared the winner, only for a bloke to jump in the ring and shout " hold on Ali, we got a couple of more blokes for you to have a go at "
I don't see any rational reason why a team that has expelled copious amounts of blood, sweat and tears all season and battled away to finish a deserved and respectable 3rd should then be told "hold on a second pal, you know that team that were fairly ordinary all year? well they won their last 3 games so they get to go up instead of you"
Blimey, this has got my blood boiling! i can see why Sepp wants me to sort this out now. So what are the alternatives.....

Pitch Battles (Version 1):
A simple solution this one, the final automatic promotion place will be awarded to the team with the greenest and lush-est playing surface. Golf tournaments are awarded to the courses that are kept in the best condition, so why not in football. Anyway, a well kept playing surface is surely more conducive to attractive passing football, so everyone's a winner.

Pitch Battles (Version 2):
Slightly less sophisticated this one, Basically a massive tear up between fans of the two teams, one leg each on either side's "manor". Each set of fans would also be able to pick one of their teams players as a star guest to help in the battle. Imagine a cross between the scene in the football factory and the fight between the different news channels in Anchorman and your pretty much there (and who wouldn't want to see Carlos Tevez wielding a trident)
Royal Rumble:
This is possibly my favourite idea, the last promotion spot is decided by a carbon copy replica of the famous WWE Royal Rumble. A wrestling ring is set up in the middle of wembley stadium and the manager of each team in the league enters the ring with the intention of dumping their opposite numbers over the ropes and onto their arse's in order to be the victor and send their side soaring into the next division. Entrance music and tight Lycra wrestling suits are of course mandatory.

Mascot Derby:
An idea pinched from the world of cricket's 20/20 finals day. Each team in the league send their club mascot off to the new Olympic stadium for a 100m dash to promotion victory. I am for some reason picturing this being officiated by John Anderson of TV's Gladiator's, which surely can only make this idea better.

Top gear test track:
In association with the BBC and top gear, we send a player from each team off to the top gear test track on a weekly basis so that they can whizz around the track in the reasonably priced Kia Cee'd, ably assisted by Sir Stiggerson. 
"Some say if you see into his eyes you turn to stone and he had a playboy magazine in his hands when he was born. all we know he's called Robbie Savage"

 So there you have it, a few things for Monsieur Blatter to mull over. I hope the mad old bastard doesn't actually see this though, otherwise next years play off final will be replaced with Arsenal's Gunnersauraus racing Neil Warnock around Wembley in a Datsun Sunny.  

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Ulubatlı Souness!

Ulubatlı Hasan (sometimes written as Uluabatlı Hasan) (1428 – May 29, 1453) was a Timarli Sipâhî in the service of Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire who achieved legendary status as a heroic Turkish martyr at the successful Siege of Constantinople.
At the age of 25 he was present at the Siege of Constantinople (April 6, 1453 – May 29, 1453)On the early morning of the last day of the siege, May 29, after the morning prayers, the Ottoman military band started to play one of their songs and the city was stormed. Ulubatlı Hasan was among the first to climb the walls of Constantinople followed closely by thirty of his friends. He carried only a sword, a small shield and the Ottoman Flag. He climbed the wall, under showers of arrows, stones, spears and bullets. He reached the top and he placed the flag, which he defended until his 12 remaining friends arrived. After that he collapsed with 27 arrows still in his body. Seeing the Ottoman flag inspired the Ottoman troops and kept their spirits up until they had conquered Constantinople.

I know what your thinking, clearly not your own words, clearly lifted straight from Wikipedia and clearly irrelevant. Well yes, yes.....and not necessarily. So pens out and open your History text books to page 52 as we take you back to admire and marvel in one of the most idiotic, marvellous, ballsy and genius things ever to happen on a football pitch. now everyone in the tardis as we travel back through time and space to Turkey, Circa 1994......
The lion king and Forrest Gump are smashing it up at the box office, Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin sign the Kremlin accord and the world has not yet heard of Kerry Katona. in short, it was a simpler and better time. But the actions of a certain Scot in 1994 meant that times would not be as rosey for everyone.
Let me set the scene..... It's the Turkish Cup final, set to be contested between Fenerbahce and Galatasaray. A veritable tinderbox of a fixture at the best of times, but only made more volatile in this instance due to the fact that Galatasaray had narrowly pipped Fenerbahce to the Turkish Süper Lig only weeks before.
Galatasaray at the time are being managed by Scottish firebrand Graeme Souness. Souness had just come off the back of an eventful spell as head honcho at Anfield. Although Souness was able to deliver some success in the form of the FA cup, He was not the most popular man around Stanley Park after selling Kop favourite Dean Saunders to Aston Villa, and giving an extremely ill-advised interview to The Sun on the third anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, the latter possibly the biggest no-no on Mersyside since Jon Venables and Robert Thompson decided to go into amateur childcare.
But this was a fresh start for Souness. A new land to impose his strict nature, and more importantly his Tom Selleck moustache.
In those days, the Turkish cup final was a two legged affair, one leg each being played at the home ground of both sides. The first leg was played in Galatasaray and Souness's men managed to squeeze a 1-0 victory to take a slender advantage into the second leg. What follows next is the stuff dreams/nightmares/legends are made of!
Another tight encountered followed as Fenerbahce grabbed a goal to take the tie into extra time. With but moments of the game remaining, the inevitable happened. Galatasaray score and make it 2-1 on aggregate to win the Turkish cup.
Now, for most, winning the domestic cup against your fiercest rivals on their home ground, weeks after pipping them to the league would be quite sufficient. But not for Souness.....
The mad bastard, for reason surely only known by him, decides to rub some large rock salt into an already gaping wound! Souness produces a Galatasaray flag and proceeds to run, full tilt towards the centre circle and plant the flag bang in the centre spot, like some bizarre Neil Armstrong on crack! needless to say, a near riot ensues and Souness is declared a hero amongst the Galatasaray faithful forever. A more ill-judged move on a football pitch has surely not been seen before or since.
So next time you are watching manager-bot 3.5 give his next mind numbing post match interview, take solace in the fact that football has given us this exceptional moment and that we can all bask in it's glory for all time. 

Monday, 11 April 2011

Seaside special: The Gus Bus and Holloway's Helicopter

B.E.A utiful - Brighton's finest - or is it?
A-Ha once said that "The Sun always shines on TV". But the Norwegian pop synth legends failed to mention that the sun is far less frequent on our British shores. 
The last week or so has been an exception, with our big yellow friend peaking his giant face out of the clouds to shower the UK in glorious sunshine. Of course, being British, we assume (probably correctly) that this is the only sunshine we will see all year, grab our buckets and spades and head of to the seaside where we indulge in general drinking, smoking and straight south coasting. 
But there may be a better reason to head to the coastal regions this year rather than just eating callipo's and getting fingered under the pier. A couple of the country's coastal sides are getting there fan's excited, but for very different reasons. 
Home of Brighton pier, the royal pavilion and of course, the gay. 
Brighton and Hove Albion FC - A team that have put their loyal support through a lot over recent years. After the sale of the Goldstone ground, a subsequent ground share with local (ish) counterparts Gillingham and years of yo-yo-ing between the divisions has left the seasiders fans bewildered and bemused. The fact that they have been playing their football at one of the football league's worst grounds has probably also not helped the cause. However, out of the darkness has emerged the god like figure of the ever likeable Gus Poyet. Ably assisted by another ex premier league heavyweight in Mauricio Taricco and Brighton legend Charlie Oatway (or to give him his full name Anthony Philip David Terry Frank Donald Stanley Gerry Gordon Stephen James Oatway - Don't ask) Brighton have been playing a brand of football not seen since the halcyon days of the early 1980's, when Brighton were a Gordon Smith finish away from Beating Ron Atkinson's Manchester United to the FA cup. 
The tactical nous of Poyet alongside some shrewd signings (mainly former Leeds keeper Casper Ankergren) have seen Brighton run away with League 1 this season, and with the new state of the art 25,000 seater stadium at Falmer ready to greet them into the championship, the future looks brighter than ever for those blue and white striped scamps from the south coast.

Now, join me on the Gus Bus as we travel north to our next seaside destination.....
The boys from Bloomfield road have been living a tangerine dream this season. Although the season has arguably seen more down's than up's the Blackpool fans have relished the challenge of even rubbing shoulders with the best teams in the land. The team, manager and fans have all approached their inaugural premier league season in exactly the right manor. Low expectations and high enjoyment! 
This coupled with Ian Holloway's insistence on the team attempting to play decent, attacking football has also meant that the 'Pool have upset the apple cart on more than one occasion. An opening day demolition of Wigan, win's over Newcastle, Tottenham and the famous double over Liverpool have sent the Bloomfield road faithful into a giddy glee!
Ok, the lack of consistency and a clear niaveity will probably result in relegation. But honestly, can any team say that they have had more fun along the way !
Now let's all slap on the factor 50 and go grab an ice cream, last one to the arcade's is a bender!

Thursday, 31 March 2011

It's just so unexpected

April is almost upon us, and it's coming to that time of the season when fans up and down the country are biting their nails down to their elbows and discreetly messing themselves regarding the fate of their beloved teams. Whether your side is clambering for the last European place (Aston Villa) or despretly trying to fight off relegation (Aston Villa) the end of the season is also a time for reflection. Maybe an end of session DVD to relive the glories of the season past, or some two bit z-lister cashing in on your teams failings by bringing out a compilation of your centre half smashing the ball into his own face and into the net. (if you haven't yet seen the infamous Chris Brass own goal, I suggest you toddle off to YouTube immediately)
But how about we all take this time to sit back with a cold one and all enjoy the first annual.....
Let's get things started with tonights first award......

The Max Clifford Public relations award:
A tough category this year. With a generation of footballers who are so proud of the genitalia that they feel the need to text evidence of their lengthy appendage to any willing young strumpet, the competition has been fierce.
But the award must go to liverpool newcomer and all round disappointment Jonjo Shelvey, who thought that it would be selfish to share the wealth (as it were) with just one young lucky lady, but instead thought that all of his twitter followers would benefit from a viewing of his man-piece. God bless you Jonjo, a deserved winner!

The runaway train award:
An award befitting a team that has demolished all comers and dominated the league proceedings. With the premier league being as open as as a cheap hooker, and the Scottish premier being the closest in a while (relatively speaking) we are forced to look elsewhere.
QPR (or Adel Taarabt United) have had a suprisingly stable season under the stewardship of football's most unstable man, but surely the award must go to League 2 leaders Chesterfield who have merked the opposition left right and centre all season and look certs to make the jump out of the basement. Look out Southampton, the Spireites are coming!

Goal of the season:
Wayne Rooney vs Manchester City. Neeeeeeext!

Game of the season/decade/millenium:
Now i can't claim to be any kind of art critic, and wouldn't be in a position to actually judge what constitutes art, but surely this game cannot be far away.
Barcelona 5 Real Madrid 0
A true masterpiece of a match. Any Barca/Madrid game is always a huge spectacle, but this one was massive! Two teams that had been in imperious form all year and had scored exactly 4 billion goals between them. A close and nervy tactical exchange was surely expected between two young managers desprate for bragging rights. Instead Pep's posse turned football into pornography and turned Real Madrid into the dog and duck.

The Dick Van Dyke one man band award:
Tottenham Hotspur were cutting a forlorn figure at the San Siro. 3-0 down in the early stages and looking like a side with no route back into the game. Up step Gareth Bale. A boy that came of age that night in Milan and showed the world what he was capable of. Although not enough to save Spurs on the night, but enough to show their intentions of competing with the big boys of Europe.

The "it's not you, it's me" award:
Things were looking so rosey in the garden of Villa park. The appointment of an experienced tactician in the shape of Gerard Houllier, a man who could bring a prosperous and trophy filled future to the midlands. 8 months in and things have already taken a sharp "turnez a droit" for Monsieur Houllier. A string of poor results, the criticism of players, and an army of angry brummies baying for your blood. Not exactly the match made in heaven Villa fans were looking for.

That completes the first annual A boy in the bath award ceremony. Please feel free to pick up your complementary goodie bag and finger a celebrity on your way out.

See you next year!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Oh Captain, My Captain

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”
Mohandas Gandhi

Ohhhh look at you, quotes from Gandhi in your rubbish little football blog eh? You’ve changed!
I can assure you I haven’t, I was always this much of a pretentious cock!
But I offer up this quote as tasty little amuse-bouche for the topic of today’s blog. The role of captaincy.
In the lead up to the Euro 2012 qualifier between Wales and England, both teams have made big decisions regarding the captaincy of their teams. Fabio Capello has handed back the full time stewardship of the national team to serial sex pest, and all round good egg John Terry, whilst Wales have quietly snuck in 20 year old midfielder Aaron Ramsey, one of a few shining beacons to emerge from the foggy welsh valleys, as the man to take over the captains armband.
A fair amount of poo has been slung in the direction of Capello and Terry over the current situation, but the more important point here is the progressive step taken by Gary Speed of appointing a very talented 20 year old to lead his country. I have always been of the way of thinking that your captain should be your best player. Pre world cup 2010, I was a big advocate of placing the England captain’s armband on Wayne Rooney, a man that had spent the 2009-2010 season generally terrorising premiership defensives. And who’s to say that the added responsibility and pride of leading your team out at a world cup would have meant that Rooney may not have played the whole tournament like a man with his legs tied together, and also may not have turned on the England fans who had the down right cheek to spend their life savings blindly following a team that lets them down more often than a beach ball with a puncture.
The English mentality seems to be that we are looking for another Richard the Lionheart to lead our brave soldiers into battle. A Warrior, who will fall on his own sword to lead Blighty to illustrious victory! John Terry, Stuart Pearce, Tony Adams……
The problem with this is, I’m not sure it’s working (or ever has)
Do we instead need inspiration from our youngest and brightest to lead the way into a new era of footballing prosperity? And more importantly, do we need to be focusing on talent and skill more than bringing up the next generation of the bulldog breed and stepping away from the win at all cost mentality?
This is a problem of course not just consigned to football, but to British sport in general. How many of us sat on “Murray Mound” at Wimbledon cheering on the plucky Scot, or roared along with “Tiger Tim”, knowing full well that underdog spirit would simply not be enough to carry them through against the superior talents of the likes of Federer and Nadal.
So maybe Gandhi did have it right, Gone are the days when we can simply rely on being the biggest and baddest.
How about we just try to focus on being the best?

Monday, 21 March 2011

Goals, Moles and lols

As we approach the business end of the season, the most important day of the footballing calender is right around the corner. I am of course referring to April fools day!
A day that we can, as a nation, pull people's chairs from under them and shake up their fizzy drinks without being accused of being a total and utter bell end!
And the world of football is not immune to this type of skullduggery. Notable wind up's of recent years include The Sun announcing the unveiling of a predator headband to aid in swerving headers around the opposition, Manchester City worrying fans with news that their prize winning pitch had been invaded by moles, and Bristol Rovers showing of their new bright pink kit on their website (this one backfiring quite hilariously, as the response was so approving that rovers were forced to release the kit for real!)
But does this tomfoolery give a glimpse into a side of the modern day footballer that we rarely see.....
The ability to be human !
The modern day professional seems to be somewhat of an enigma. A dark and mysterious character who is only wheeled out post match to give the same old generic responses.
"oh yeah well I would have liked a goal but the three points is more important."
Generally today's players can be seen as quite a miserale and dislikeable lot.
A player you could well include in this category is Cristiano Ronaldo. Arguably one of the finest players in the world, but gives the impressions to fans that he is signing on the dole and scrapping through the bins for scraps of food rather than being a young millionaire playboy with the world at his feet. A man that I have always liked to describe as having a "very punchable face"
However, after seeing this clip, it makes you wonder if all you think that you know about the man is ill judged (probably not though)

And who can forget the classic quip from Peter Crouch. He was quizzed over what he would have been if he had not made it as a footballer. A stock answer? Not from Crouchy. " A virgin probably"
Now after hearing that, who wouldn't want to give the lanky bugger a big old hug?
In each others company, I can only imagine footballers to have a whale of a time (or as it is correctly described, a lovely bit of banter) so why not share some of this glee and merriment with us average Joe's so that we may no longer see you as a sulking little whatsname, but rather as someone we admire and can watch with a smile on our faces. That's surely what it's all about eh?
In the mean time, we can only wait with baited breath for the 1st of April to see what comedy gold is unveiled. I mean, what could we possibly be expecting?
Well keep it under your hat's, but I've heard on the grapevine that Arsenal will be announcing that they have re-signed Jens Lehman!
Oh the Larks !

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Big Fin in a small pond

You know, I feel a bit sorry for Jussi Jaaskelainen....

And not just for the fact that a large proportion of his life has been spent living and working in Bolton, or even that for most of that period, he also had to listen to and (horrendously) look at Sam Allardyce.

Jaaskelainen celebrated his 500th appearance for Bolton on Saturday by doning a pair of oil soaked gloves, and spilling a shot at the feet of the Bulgarian workhorse Dimitar Berbatov, to gift a 1-0 victory to Manchester United
Of course, besides this and a couple of other minor hiccups along the way, Jaaskelainen has proved himself not only to be one of the biggest bargains in premier league history (signed for £100,000 from Vaasan Palloseura in 1997) but also proved himself to be a player of immense quality and presence.

Which brings me to my point.....

Mr Jaaskelainen, Surley must feel a touch aggrieved that he has never had the opportunity to challenge for any major honours in his career. Not only that, but any chance of even pitting his wits against the talents of Europe have been restricted to handful of Uefa cup appearances.
We must assume that it has been the decision of Jaaskelainen to stay put at Bolton for all this time, and for that I do not blame him in the slightest. To be a big fish in a small footballing pond must be a very gratifying experience, but when your retired and have the wee little Jaaskelainen's on your knee, what would you rather be showing them, your Champions League and FA Cup winners medals, or your key to the Smithills brewery and your free pass to any concert at the orchard theatre?
Famously, the position of goalkeeper is a notoriously difficult one to fill. Look at the struggles Manchester United went through to find a replacement for the great Peter Schmeichel. During that transitional period, who was one of the names that was being banded around the Old Trafford corridors? You guessed it, Jussi Jaaskelainen. Wisely, they went for Massimo Taibi instead. Thank god that all went to plan.
But United weren't the only ones. Celtic, AC Milan and Juventus were also doing more sniffing around than a police dog going through Peter Doherty's bins,

Maybe I am being too cynical. In a world where loyalty amongst footballers is a particulary rare commodity, 14 years service and 500 appearances is in itself the reward. And at least the good people at BWFC gave Jussi the most fitting of testimonials for one of the greatest servants in the clubs history. "Only the best for you Jussi" they said, "your off to Easter Road to play Hibernian!"

And will Zinedine Zidane ever beam with pride as he tells the tale of the day that he walked up the hallowed steps of Bolton City Hall to collect his 1997 Supporters player of the year trophy?

Pffft, he wishes !

Friday, 18 March 2011

Bib bib! All aboard the Balotelli hate train

Bib gate? The vest is history?

Regardless of which terrible pun the tabloid press choose to go with, last nights Europa league tie between Manchester City and Dynamo Kiev saw a man unable to put on an item of clothing, which led another, older, uglier, more unfashionable and certainly less talented man/bee gee to split his sides in hysterics.
I am in no way debating the hilariousness of the incident, but this will probably set about a wave of journalists and fans alike to be calling for the head of super mario, which is possibly a tad harsh on this cheery little Italian lad.
Granted, if you were a football club chairman I wouldn't blame you for not falling over your chequebook in giddy excitement to splash out £24m on a player who is allergic to the very substance that football is played upon, has the temperament of a protesting student, and cannot operate a piece of clothing usually worn by scaffolders.
However, I think it's more important to look at a few other facts. Balotelli is still only a 20 year old man who has had a very challenging and tumultuous upbringing. As more educated men than me have already pointed out, human beings have human failings. Professional footballers are surely no different? The fact that Balotelli is also playing in a different country at such a young age can surely only makes things worse.
It would be difficult for anybody to question the talents of a man who made his inter debut at the age of 17 and has a scoring ratio just shy of a very respectable 1 in 2 at city. Despite this I think that we will not see the talents of this Travis Bickle styled maverick on our shores for too much longer

It's often said about footballers (usually by Paul Merson) that some players need need a kick up the backside, and some need an arm around the shoulder.....
In Mario's case, I sincerely feel that he and his talent desperately need the latter.