Squeaky Bum Town, Spurs crumbling
Few of us like Monday 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.
Five minutes Fergie time
With 20 minutes or so to go at Old Trafford, and Manchester United 4-2 up, Fergie afforded himself a luxury - a joke with the fourth official he usually spends all game trying to provoke to a nervous breakdown. But at the full-time whistle, even after five minutes special Fergie time, the Glaswegian's sour puss returned, as he considered how a team with nothing to play for had made his central defensive pairing look like Cheech and Chong. A travesty, he called it. Poetry, I call it.
This is the title that no-one from Manchester seems to want to win. Whoever hits the front seems to wobble more than a drunk, three-legged donkey. Twice Fergie's lot were two goals up, twice they were pegged back by a team who surrendered meekly in last week's FA Cup semi-final. And all this after City's collective confidence seemed to have done a Carlos Tevez, packed its bags and effed off to Argentina for a few weeks. But, back in second, they are on song again, a regulation win at Molineux taking them to within three points of the top.
All of which means next week's Manchester derby is approaching seismic proportions. I warn you now, what will follow in the next seven days will be a stinging torrent of hype. It will feel like the end of all days when in reality it is just 22 overpaid men knocking a pig's bladder about. That's not to say it won't be interesting - I'm sure it will. It'll be the night Manchester stops being Manchester, and officially becomes Squeaky Bum Town.
The big choke
A similar case of chokery is occurring in the race for those filthy-money top four slots. Half way through the first half of Arsenal's game with Chelsea I had to check with the chap next to me in the pub that they hadn't brought the Emirates Trophy forward, such was the casual indifference being displayed by both teams. It had such a pre-season friendly feel to it you almost thought Lukasz Fabianski might be given a run out at any moment.
It would have been understandable on Chelsea's part, had they been nestled in the top four as per usual, but someone clearly neglected to tell Roberto Di Matteo that they are fifth, and in serious danger of missing out on next season's Champions League. I am, of course, discounting the fact that having scraped a 1-0 win over Barcelona in the first leg of their semi they are now the best team in the world bar none and will surely win the competition.
But the team in the worst form is Tottenham, with one win in nine games. When Fabio Capello quit, they were still mentioned in title talk, now they'll be lucky to make the Intertoto Cup. How fitting that it was a player 'Arry decried as a "fruitcake" who consigned them to defeat at QPR. That fruitcake came back to bite his former club, whose 11 players operated as if they had each eaten a soggy Battenberg before kick-off. A season that promised so much is disintegrating bit by bit, just like their gaffer's hopes of landing the England gig.
Sports Direct to Europe
The beneficiaries of this chronic indifference to Champions League football are Newcastle Sports Virgin Direct Corporation Ltd and their increasingly smug gaffer. He might carry a facial expression like it was he who created the entire universe, not God, but he sure seems to know what he is doing on a football pitch. He's banded together a series of cheapies, freebies and heeby jeebies into Champions League hostages to fortune.
If Alan 'I beg your' Pardew's team operated in the mirror image of his arrogant expression, Stoke's performance was as far removed from their manager's 'I'd love to kick you in the face' face as you can get. Stand out again were a cast of players whose combined cost is about the same as one of Andy Carroll's useless legs - proof that there is still room for genuine scouting, and not just conducting research on Football Manager.
There is now a real prospect the team largely referred to as Newcastle United Comedy Club in their disastrous relegation season under Joe "f****g" Kinnear just three years ago, will be plonking their peachy bumcheeks around the top table of European football next season. All that and even Mike Ashley has lost some weight. Wonders will never cease.
Wedemption for Woy
At least someone knows how to get three points at Anfield, and his name is Roy Hodgson. He now has won as many Premier League games there as Kenny Dalglish has managed in the whole of 2012. West Brom's first win at Liverpool for 45 years - about the same time Roy was in charge at Inter - also delivered a massive up yours to everyone at the club who treated a proud old man extremely badly during his all too brief tenure.
During what was a toxic time at the end of the Gillett and Hicks regime - the twin-twit express - the poor old chap was relentlessly heckled, harassed and eventually hounded out of a job before he'd even had time to change the name on the door of the manager's office. All the while, lurking in the background was King Kenny, the sentimental choice, who now has a far worse record than Roy ever did.
It was a familiar tale at Anfield, the post rattled with startling efficiency by a team who hold the record for hitting the frame of the goal more times than anyone in a season since 2000 - 30 times they have done it. And before anyone starts warbling, it is not bad luck, it is incompetence. West Brom are now one point behind the team they vanquished and are on the up. Liverpool, most definitely, are not.
Wolves to the slaughter
At one point during his post-match interview, I thought the moment had finally arrived when all those months of demoralising displays and defeats would provoke a flood of Terry Connor tears. I was willing it to happen, not because I want to see the man upset you understand, but because I'm pretty damn sure he'd feel better once he'd let all that hurt out.
Whereas once Wolves were renowned for a fighting spirit so intense you'd have thought Casper was their morale coach, they have exited the Premier League with little more than a whimper. Again, it is important to stress that the architect of this stinking mess is not TC. Mick McCarthy deserves a good 10% of the blame but the remaining 90% is laid squarely at the feet of chairman Steve Morgan, who sacked his gaffer without a Plan A, let alone B or C.
Their ninth home defeat in a row was their 22nd overall and their goal difference is 12 worse than even Bolton. They were the worst Premier League team by a mile. And as their top flight sojourn came to an end, the heavens opened, showering all those loyal fans in hail stones the size of a small child's fist. A biblical storm to put an end to what has been a screw up of biblical proportions.
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