Monthly Archives: September 2012

United stumble onwards whilst JT jumps before he’s pushed…

OK, so today’s football agenda has been hijacked by the news that John Terry has got his retaliation in first by calling time on his England career, which is a probable indication that the F.A. are about to find him guilty of racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand in last season’s Loftus Road encounter – something that would prevent Roy Hodgson from picking him for the England squad for the forseeable future. 

Despite (or perhaps because of) all that has been said in the media and the courtroom on this issue, I think most people have already made their own mind up about John Terry.  For most people this latest strategy, which in effect blames the F.A. for his ‘problems’,  is a typical JT ploy that seeks to portray him as the noble and falsely besmirched ‘et tu, Brute?’ victim of some bureaucratic conspiracy.   Sorry, JT, but like Luis Suarez, we know what you are……

How he would like us to remember him……

Though there will be denizens of the Matthew Harding Stand who will continue to buy into JT’s manicured mask of affronted dignity, most people know him for what he is – a talented footballer, now past his best, who has misused his influential position and allowed his true nature to seep through into his public persona rather too often; in short, a wide boy, a chancer and probably not a particularly pleasant person .  JT tends to reinforce rather than confound the stereotype of the ‘thick’ working-class oaf who somehow made it to the top of the English game but who has now become a kind of ‘anti-Bobby Moore’.  He also has a habit of turning up for trophy presentations fully kitted-up when he has sat in the stand to watch the game.  Sorry, JT, but we are all going to remember that you were banned for the 2012 Champions League Final; at least back in 1999, Paul Scholes and Roy Keane only showed up (very reluctantly) in their club suits and only due to the demands of the United fans.  There’s class….and then there’s second class…and we all know which one JT is.

…but we’ll most likely remember him like this – missing a crucial penalty in the Moscow rain back in 2008….

The newspapers are full of hand-wringing pieces about how Roy Hodgson will miss JT’s on-field influence, but in truth he is a declining force even at Chelsea.  On the field, he won’t be missed for long and off it, everyone connected with Team England will probably sleep a lot easier from now on. 

Away from the JT show, there are lots of conflicting pieces in today’s papers about yesterday’s Liverpool vs United confrontation at the Dipperdrome.  The powers-that-be from both clubs are playing things with a straight bat and insisting that both sets of fans observed the niceties of the occasion, but I would beg to differ.  Unless I am suffering aural hallucinations, I would say that the fragile peace between the 2 sets of fans lasted for about 10 minutes into yesterday’s game.  There may (or may not) have been a temporary cessation of Hillsborough/Munich songs but other prejudices were well to the fore, with Patrice Evra getting booed every time he touched the ball and the United fans reminding Luis Suarez that they know what he is.  So much for those two observing the pre-match handshake ritual….

The fact is that for all the talking heads wheeled out on both sides and the media wagging its warning finger at those naughty fans, love was never likely to break out  between these 2 obdurate sets of hardliners.  There has been too much bad blood over the years for the cracks to be papered over for long. Expect normal service to be resumed from now onwards.

Events on the pitch would certainly have played into the perpetually simmering sense of Scouse injustice, with Liverpool losing a game by 2-1 that they should probably have won and a number of key decisions going against them.  Shelvey was sent off for a wild lunge on Jonny Evans, where a more sympathetic ref might have given both players a yellow card.  Suarez actually won a genuine penalty, but predictably over-reacted in Oscar-winning style, thereby ensuring he didn’t get the decision – a  satisfying case of his reputation for histrionics working against him.

Rafael da Silva equalises with an absolute screamer

United were woeful until Ferguson introduced Scholes in place of the abject Nani  at the start of the second half.  In the first half, only Ferdinand, Lindegaard and Rafael da Silva did themselves justice.  The peripheral Kagawa again looked worryingly lightweight and the whole team were guilty of giving the ball away with monotonous regularity.  A better team than Liverpool would surely have taken United to the cleaners, but they continue to get away with it and are somehow poised on Chelsea’s shoulder in second place in the table.  This is right up there with the Bermuda Triangle and the whereabouts of Lord Lucan as one of the mysteries of the modern age

The fact that we are still so reliant on Paul Scholes’ Indian Summer should worry any United fan and is also an accusatory finger pointing at Ferguson for his ongoing, dismal failure to address the enduring weakness in the centre of United’s midfield.  The old curmudgeon continues to get away with it for now, but the feeling persists that someone is going to catch up with us eventually and dish out a right hammering.  Also, any medium to long-term injury to Scholes and our season will be on the skids. 

Meanwhile,  the harsh truth for Brendan Rogers and his new Liverpool regime is that his team simply weren’t able to match us even when we play as badly as we did yesterday.  Liverpool’s decline into mid-table mediocrity continues apace and let that be a warning to us all…..

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The Perfect (Mis) Match and other footballing miscellanea

A busy footballing week for those at the top table  of European football with the Champions League revving up for another season.  Also a busy week for Liverpool fans with the details of the Hillsborough Disaster finally released, a Europa  League  game in Switzerland on Thursday and a first confrontation with United at the Dipperdrome on Sunday.

Every dog and his missus seem to have had their say about Hillsborough, but I will disqualify myself on the grounds that I simply do not  possess enough information to make any credible contribution.  All I would say is that I hope that the families of the 96 poor folk that lost their lives can now get some closure.  It would be very sad to see a rash of financial compensation claims trailing through the courts and further prolonging their agony.  Time to move on if they can….

Talking of which, there have been a lot of hits on this site over the last week for a piece I wrote on last season’s Suarez Debacle entitled  ‘It’s never their fault, they’re always the victims, it’s never their fault…..’ (14/2/12), probably relating to negative publicity for some United fans who were singing that song during Saturday’s home game vs Wigan.   

Whilst I have no doubt that this song is not specifically connected to what happened at Hillsborough and is more of a general appraisal of Merseyside Attitudes, I think it would be disingenuous to suggest that the timing of its re-emergence is coincidental.     Anyway, there are strong rumours emerging from The Vatican this afternoon that Suarez & Evra have agreed to kiss and make up before Sunday’s game.  Set against what happened at Hillsborough, this would be a positive and appropriate gesture by all concerned and, frankly, long overdue.  Let’s hope it happens so we can focus on the football.

Having said that, after last weekend’s double snub of John Terry and Ashley Cole by Anton Ferdinand, I think the FA should do themselves a big favour and dispense with this empty pre-match handshake ritual immediately.

On the field of play, I would have to say that the Champions League got off to an absolutely cracking start, thanks to a tremendous contest between the old money of Real Madrid and les nouveaux riches from Eastlands at the Bernabeu Stadium last night – unless you’re a City fan, this was pretty much the Perfect Match. 

Not so sad this time; Ronny celebrates the winning goal…

City were quite clearly second best for most of the game, yet somehow led 2-1 going in to the final 5 minutes thanks to a Yaya Toure-inspired breakaway and a freakish Kolarov free-kick.  As daylight robberies go, it would have been right up there, but we were treated to 2 superb pieces of finishing; the first from Benzema, who curled a low shot just inside the post after a wonderful turn on the edge of the City area and the second from that boy Ronaldo,  who dipped a curling shot past a flapping Joe Hart with just seconds left.  A marvellous game and justice done at the end of the day, with an ex-United hero scoring the decisive goal.  Also, I have to say that there was something rather gratifying about Joe Hart’s ‘hissy fit’ post-match interview and all the City fans consoling themselves today with how far they have come to be so disappointed at losing in the Bernabeu.  Frankly, if I’d spent as much money as City have in recent years, I’d be disappointed, too.

Lastly, a word to lament the passing of sports journalist Brian Woolnough, who hosted Sky’s impressive ‘Sunday Supplement’ programme right up until May and had of course been a top tabloid scribe for many years.  I never took much notice of his writing, but always enjoyed ‘Sunday Supplement’ whenever I could get to see it.

Brian Woolnough hosting ‘ Sunday Supplement’ – R.I.P.