Monday, October 31, 2011

Gareth Bale for Tottenham Hotspur (vs QPR), 30th October 2011

I know he's not everyone's cup of tea, but I like Neil Warnock.  After yesterday's 3-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur, Warnock had this to say in his post-match press interview:

"I found myself clapping when the third goal went in it was such a fantastic goal by Bale. It’s a pity he’s not English."

Neil Warnock is hardly immune from the usual post-match criticisms of referees and opposition players, but in a world of bland, nothing statements and unseen controversies, it's nice to see someone in football tell it how it is, even if that means saying something nice about one of your opponents.

Well played Gareth Bale and well done Neil Warnock.

It's a shame Lionel Messi isn't English too, by the way.....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jordan Rhodes for Huddersfield Town (v Scunthorpe Utd), 25 October 2011

As Swisslet correctly pointed out here, blanket and hysterical coverage of the Premier League pretty much dominates the media these days, and so the achievements of lesser known clubs often go unheralded.

Last night, Huddersfield Town drew 2-2 with Scunthorpe. It's a result that would have barely registered with anyone outside Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, but it marked Huddersfield's 40th unbeaten league match. That's right. The Terriers, under the management of Lee Clark, haven't lost in the league since they were beaten 4-1 by Southampton on 28th December last year. Unsurprisingly, it's smashed the previous club record.

Clark's side sit second in League One and look good for promotion to the Championship under the 38 year old rookie manager. So, perhaps we could have less coverage about Carlos Tevez suing his manager and Mario Balotelli buying a trampoline and more on the superb achievements of less fashionable clubs?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rafael Van der Vaart for Tottenham Hotspur (vs Blackburn Rovers), 23rd October 2011

I spent a couple of hours in the car on Sunday afternoon driving home after a weekend away.  I was feeling a little bit jaded, so to keep myself entertained, I had the radio tuned into BBC Radio Five Live to while away the time and to keep my brain engaged. 

I like Five Live.  There's a good mix of news and sport, and I vastly prefer their more informal style of broadcasting to that to be found on Radio 4.  Sure, there are bits of it that annoy me (Steve Claridge), but on the whole it's a good listen (shifting seamlessly to outstanding whenever Danny Baker is on). 

Just recently though, I've noticed a distinct change in the tenor of the sports programming.  Football has always formed a bedrock of the station's coverage: until recently, this was the one national radio station where you could hear coverage of almost every big Premier League game.... but you also got pretty good coverage from the other leagues around England and Scotland.  The theme tune to sports report on a Saturday afternoon, with James Alexander Gordon reading out the classified results.... it's all a cherished part of our shared national heritage, and it's one of the great things about the BBC that all of this is still intact.

That's not the problem.

What's starting to annoy me is that there seems to have been a shift into a more hysterical style of reporting, particularly about football.  The top division of the English league has always been covered in depth, of course, but it seems that now that coverage is not so much focused on reporting what happened at the games as feeding the myth of the English Premier League as being BIGGER and BETTER and MORE IMPORTANT than anything else.  The BBC now seem to play a full part in pumping up these players as the new Gods of our society, and when they inevitably fall short of the holy status that we've given them, the BBC now hosts seemingly endless discussions with experts to pick apart quite how badly we've been let down as a nation by these players.  Before the last England game I listened to long panel conversations about why Wayne Rooney's personal life wouldn't affect the way he played... and then after the game, more panel discussions about why he in fact he should never have played in the first place and should now be omitted from Capello's squad for the Summer, when clearly he won't be.  Frank Lampard was past it, and then he wasn't.... the source of these circular, self-fuelling discussions is seemingly bottomless.  Have your say; text us what you think; message us on twitter.... even the most brainless, one-eyed idiot is now qualified to get involved.

By the time I got into my car on Sunday, the Manchester derby was over, but the full, in-depth analysis of events and what they meant was yet to come.  The game between QPR and Chelsea was broken up by a half-time interview with Sir Alex Ferguson, and the game between Blackburn and Spurs seemed to be barely reported at all except to fuel the fire of the sub-plot as to whether 100 or so fans demonsrating after the game could get Steve Kean sacked.  Mark Pougatch, anchoring the programme, seemed dazed; he was simply unable to comprehend the magnitude of that result at Old Trafford and said so, repeatedly.  No matter how many City players and officials queued up to be interviewed saying that it was just a game and was only worth 3 points and didn't win them anything, Pougatch only seemed interested in speculating whether this was the end of a dynasty and a passing of the baton across Manchester.

Lots of other things happened on Sunday in the sporting world: a rider was killed in the Moto GP, New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup.... in the two hours I was listening, neither of these two things were mentioned at all.  According to Five Live, it was football or bust. Not just any football either, but only a selective reading of the day's games.  We had lots from Old Trafford, of course, together with the commentary from QPR.  We heard about Rangers and Celtic... but without a single mention of Motherwell, who are currently 2nd in the SPL, and inconveniently still above Celtic in the league. Not a bloody word.  They are simply not on the agenda as it's all about the Big Two.

Seriously, I like football, but there's enough hysterical coverage on Sky to last any sane person a lifetime.... please not the BBC too.  In the end, I was saved from my mounting annoyance by my arrival home.  I wasn't at all sorry to be leaving Mark Pougatch and his disbelief at the Manchester Utd result in the car.

Imagine my delight when I switched the radio on this morning to discover that Pougatch was presenting Five Live Breakfast, and that he apparently still couldn't believe the result at Old Trafford.....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

David Silva for Spain (vs Scotland), 11th October 2011

"Who is the coach of the World and European Champions?"

If you are asked that question in a pub quiz, then you're going to be reasonably confident of getting the answer right.  No?

Vincente Del Bosque.



....That's what he used to be called, anyway, when he was a humble commoner.  As of February this year, thanks to the King of Spain (a football fan and very much the man who puts the "Real" into Real Madrid), he's now apparently officially known as the Ilustrísimo Señor Don Vicente del Bosque y González, Marqués de Del Bosque.

Wow.  That's quite a title.... (and, to be honest, much though I'm sure he's an outstanding manager, don't you reckon you might have been able to win at least a couple of those titles with the players that he had at Madrid and has with Spain?)

The only other man I can think of in football with an actual, honest-to-goodness title (beyond a knighthood, anyway) is the Lord of the Manor at Frodsham, Jibberish Seaside.  As the Queen is apparently an Arsenal fan (as if she didn't have enough problems), perhaps we should expect a dukedom for Tony Adams in the New Year's Honours list? A baronetcy for Ray Parlour, perhaps? Viscount Perry Groves of Bow?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gary Lineker for England (vs Republic of Ireland), 26th March 1985

Forgive me, but I haven't watched Match of the Day for a few weeks.  Imagine my surprise when I turned on the BBC's coverage of the Spain vs Scotland game during the week to find that Gary Lineker looked somehow different.

At first, I wasn't really sure what it was, and then - when I looked a bit more closely - I realised that there appeared to be something on his face.  I wasn't quite sure what it was at first, but on reflection, I believe that it may have been a beard.... something I believe that the 50 year-old has been trying to grow since his Leicester City debut in the 1978/79 season.

I can't think of any other explanation for the sudden appearance of this growth.... unless perhaps it's professional envy of the new pundit on the block....

Surely it's not a mid-life crisis?

Whatever the reason for it, I imagine that it probably looks a whole lot more impressive in high definition and AMAZING in 3-D.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Kyle Walker (for Tottenham Hotspur) v Arsenal, 2 October 2011

Look, I told you we were going to persist with this 'hatred of Barry Davies' nonsense. Don't say you weren't warned...

You may want to see here first.

Mr & Mrs Davies – Part 2: At the Beach

Maureen: “What a lovely day.”

Barry: “yes, you join us on this lovely Sunday afternoon with the sun blazing high in the bright blue sky. The temperature is noticeably hotter than it has been over recent days, I was walking past here yesterday and it certainly wasn’t this warm.”

Maureen: “Can you put me some sun tan lotion on my back?”

Barry: “Oh no. Oh no. I can’t believe that decision. Factor 8 when it should clearly be Factor 4. I remember in 1972 when the lotion was chosen with much more care than in is in the modern world. Terrible. Terrible.”

Maureen: “Ah, look at that little lad over there.”

[Barry looks at the boy playing with his bucket and spade for eight minutes]

Barry: “Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooof! Marvellous! Marvellous!”

Monday, October 03, 2011

Chris Burke for Birmingham City (v Nottingham Forest), 2 October 2011

Steve McLaren, 30 August, 2011: "What happens over the next few days will decide whether we can win promotion or not. Absolutely it will, without a shadow of a doubt. What we do now, over the next few days, will determine whether we are good enough to challenge or whether we are scrapping to get into the play-offs. I don't want that. So, I will be making it quite clear what we need. Deliver it or it is going to be a long season.

"We have been saying it for long enough. You [the press] say that Billy Davies was saying it for two years previously, I don't know about that. But I can see it. Over the next few days, we will see the ambition of this club. That is the key thing we will see. We need to go the extra step now."

Just five weeks later, the former England manager has resigned from his position at the City Ground, with chairman Nigel Doughty also set to step down at the end of the season after a decade at the helm.

Davies and McLaren may be very different types of manager but their complains about Forest are eerily similar. Both have voiced their concerns about the lack of investment in the team and both believe that the ambition of the club falls some way short of their own. Davies took Forest to the play-offs twice and was then sacked - presumably the board were fed up with his constant griping - whereas McLaren has now walked just 111 days into his tenure citing the very same problems.

I rate McLaren and I do not blame him one bit from walking away from a club who clearly promised him the earth before delivering next to nothing. To lose one manager may be regarded as misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness. Ex-Forest legends Garry Birtles and Kenny Burns also agree that McLaren was perfectly within his rights to walk.

It looks to me that the Forest board has fundamentally no idea what they are doing and I'm not even a supporter. For lifelong fans seeing the same grumbles and same issues continue to rear their heads must be unbelievably frustrating.

Forest are clearly never going to emulate the success of the Clough era. But, they could be a solid mid-table Premier League side if anyone at board level actually believed that was possible. Until they do, perhaps they should employ a boss for whom Championship survival and a balanced budget would constitute success and then everyone's ambitions would be aligned?