The Miss Family Gerrard
Few of us like a Monday morning, but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.
A family affair
Football can be a cruel mistress at times. This Christmas, Anthony Gerrard will no doubt have his vacant eyes fixed on the latest shiny nugget of silverware in cousin Steven's Southport mansion after Liverpool secured the Carling Cup on their first visit to Wembley since 1996, when the Spice Boys set the British fashion industry back 15 years with their garish, cream/ivory/off-white Armani suits.
For years Anthony must have sat stony-faced as Steven regaled the Gerrard family with tales of Champions League victories, FA Cup medals, League Cup triumphs, UEFA Cup wins, World Cup campaigns and, of course, his love for Phil Collins. Yet even though both missed from the spot, the elder statesman came out on top once again. One lonely chap shoulders the blame in situations like this, but Anthony took a bullet for quite a few others, including Charlie Adam, who obviously honed his penalty routine after watching videos of Chris Waddle in Italia '90.
After 120 minutes of moderately enthralling, neck-and-neck, Mickey-Mouse Cup football, it was brave Cardiff who fell at the last as Kenny enshrined his Anfield legacy even further with the club's first silverware in six years. It may only be the Carling Cup but it still represents a silver sliver of success - isn't that right Arsenal fans?
The wonder of Walcott
It's a measure of how crackers the north London derby was on Sunday that you genuinely felt the game was still anybody's, even with the score at 5-2, such was the criminal neglect afforded to either team's defensive line. The Premier League may be taking a kicking in the Champions League but it doesn't half make for some entertainment on home soil.
Arsenal's transformation was summed up by the dramatic metamorphosis that occurred in Theo Walcott. For most of the first half, he played like a competition winner suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, for a three minute spell in the second half he played like a 21-year-old Pele on steroids. His altered state owed much to an inadvertent touch ahead of his first goal that opened up the angle, and moments later, drunk on confidence, his second was perfection itself. From chump to champ in a split second.
Walcott's rebirth quietened the rising mutiny that had been evident for much of the first half, as an ageing Louis Saha and a swan-diving Gareth Bale punished an Arsenal back line that could have been marketed as a new type of Swiss cheese. But even at 2-0 'Arry said he had the jitters, just like Arsene did when it was 4-2. This was back from the brink Arsenal style, a joyous battering of their noisy, and currently loftier, neighbours in which even Tomas Rosicky scored. And all this in a week in which they managed to finally ship Andrei Arshavin back to Russia. Not a bad few days.
Look Hughes losing
Whatever the result of Mark Hughes' first six months at QPR, whether he lies in the Championship or the Premier League next season, it is imperative he spends a sizeable chunk of the summer learning how to shake an opposing manager's hand quickly, fairly, properly and without any of the fuss that has followed the Welshman's palm greasing in the past few seasons.
How hard can it be? If he's not accusing Roberto Mancini of failing to stare longingly into his eyes upon the final whistle, he's giving daggers at Tony Pulis for gripping his hand a little too tightly. Hughesy cemented his title as king of the haughty handshake at Craven Cottage, but then he had just witnessed his new cash-rich club get mugged by the one he left due to their lack of ambition.
At present, only one side looks upwardly mobile. Fulham are pretty much guaranteed to be in the top flight next year, and seem capable of keeping eleven men on the pitch at all times. Moussa Dembele's delightful piece of skill to tee up Pavel Pogrebnyak came before Samba Diakite's series of what I like to call 'washing-line tackles', the like of which Hughes should have impressed upon his recruit were mostly illegal. Detention for him, alongside Djibril Cisse.
It must be said Martin Jol was hardly blameless in 'handshake-gate mark XVII' either. As admirable as his intention to lovingly cup the ear of a notorious footballing hard man was, it was tantamount to challenging a chainsaw to an arm wrestle.
AVB don't like me
See Naples and die, goes the famous saying. After Andre Villas-Boas' suicidal team selection on Wednesday saw Chelsea slump to a miserable 3-1 defeat to Napoli, he looked like a dead man walking. But he and Roman Abramovich came to a unique agreement that suits both parties - AVB will concentrate on prancing about the touchline looking agitated, while the Russian will pick the team and choose the tactics.
One of the first names on Roman's team-sheet was Frank Lampard, chief cheerleader in briefing behind the scenes midweek, when he, Michael Essien and Ashley Cole found themselves warming the bench. As is customary against Bolton, he found the net, then laid bare the contempt he and most of the squad clearly feel for their manager.
But while half of them would clearly love to see AVB get the heave-ho, the fear of God must have been struck into them as word filtered through that Rafael Benitez was being lined up as a replacement.
Lampard and his geriatric gang clearly know they are for the high jump if their gaffer manages to cling onto his job until the summer, but is it any wonder they feel marginalised and discriminated against when they cast jealous glances up to Manchester, where Fergie treats his senior brigade like princes and is rewarded with big goals at Norwich from two players with a combined age of 75?
I'm looking for Terry Connor
I can only presume after their torturous two-week search for a new manager, Wolves' HR department were all dismissed the instant the club appointed Terry Connor as their new gaffer. A hilarious trawl that took in first interviews, wizened Premier League bosses, second interviews, wet-behind the ears Championship novices, third interviews, and much floundering ended when the club appointed the man who had spent the last five years sitting precisely a foot from Mick McCarthy.
Having suffered the ignominy of a rebuff from Alan '12/1' Curbishley, and been horrified by the fans' equally horrified response to talk that Steve Bruce might be parachuted in (in a heavily reinforced chute of course), Wolves summoned up the spirit of Ricky Sbragia and gave it to a man it is impossible to dislike, or to envisage handing out the sort of face-melting rockets that were Mick's dish of the day.
But things did not start well for El Tel, as the first 20 minutes at Sports Tat Arena brought two goals and fears that Alan Pardew's Geordie boys would spend the afternoon taking Papiss. They needn't have worried, as a galvanised Wolves showed the fighting spirit that was so scarce when they were thumped by West Brom last time out - a result that cost one gruff Yorkshireman his job. His name is Terry Connor, and look out Premier League survival, because he is gonna hunt you down.
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