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.