Clattenburg's Halloween horror show
Few of us like Mondays 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 the past week in football.
Clattenberg out, Battenberg in
As the witching hour drew closer, once again Mark Clattenberg proved powerless to resist its charms. Soon the authorities will have to erect a gravestone in the centre circle at Old Trafford to mark the exact spot when his career finally had a stake driven through its heart. The man is so inept I'm going to start a Facebook campaign to replace Clattenberg with a slice of Battenberg. At least we'd have a modicum of consistency - and I'm not just talking about the marzipan.
Don't forget this is the clown who presided over the Pedro Mendes affair in 2005 and once again, he acted as if the rolling fog around the ground had been piped in directly from 'Attack of the Killer Zombies', turning his brain into pease pudding as he watched Nani-gate unfold.
Fergie summed it up best when he shuffled over to Harry Redknapp at full time and mumbled: "I've no f***ing idea what happened there." His sheepish exterior had evaporated just like the late October mist when the television cameras caught up with him though, as he pointed the finger of blame squarely at Heurelho Gomes - a decent idea given the big Brazilian has a list of previous longer than his arm.
While some blame must go the 'keeper for not playing to the whistle, most of it has to be directed at the referee, who is there precisely to prevent farcical scenes like this. And given that Spurs already have a chip on their shoulder from previous injustices at Old Trafford, the sight of Rio Ferdinand being allowed to join in Clattenberg's discussion with his equally inept linesman in the aftermath will only add fuel to their rage. No wonder 'Arry's chin was wobbling more furiously than a Turkey's on Christmas eve.
With a big-money takeover in the pipeline, Big Sham should have been in a cracking mood this week, but like the big girl's blouse he is he refused to take questions on the subject. Perhaps it had something to do with the underwhelming pledges coming from Indian chicken specialists and prospective owners Venky's, and their promise of just £5 million to spend on new players. Now that is poultry.
The firm could clearly do with an extra body in their PR department if the most tantalising sound bites one of their top people - Anuradha Desai - can muster is as follows: "We won't need to buy expensive players, we can always lease them." She makes the process sound so easy, like hiring a power tool from B&Q. But she wasn't finished there: "We don't expect to be in the top five of the Premier League. We will be happy to be in the top 10-12." Hardly reaching for the stars is it?
Lower mid-table is exactly where Rovers will be if they continue to rely on ageing plodders like Jason Roberts and Benjani to score their goals. Fair enough, the Zimbabwean got on the scoresheet, thanks to his shoulder, but expect Roberts to be bundled off to a League One side in January after his horror miss cost Sham dear. At least the gaffer got his analysis spot on: "Jason did everything right ... apart from hitting it six inches wide."
It was left to Branislav Ivanovic to show Roberts how it is done with a clinical, get out of jail, header. Sham still blew his own trumpet about Rovers' display, as he only he can. As for Roberts, the only thing he'll be blowing is a raspberry at Sham as he is ushered out of the ground on New Year's Day.
Spirit not spirits
I had suspected Roberto Mancini didn't really have much of a clue what was going on even before he admitted as much after Manchester City sunk to a dismal defeat at Wolves, despite the fact they should have been 8-0 up inside 25 minutes.
The Italian's modus operandi as manager seems to trump the stand-offishness of his egomaniacs by trying to out-aloof them. This tactic again led to him rolling out his booze-Britain mantra before the game after rumours, and grainy mobile phone footage, emerged purporting to show Gareth Barry, Shay Given, Joe Hart and Adam Johnson lashing it up at a student hovel in Scotland during the week before the match (did they invite Alan McGregor and Barry Ferguson I wonder? Rude not to).
Perhaps their preponderance for the odd Martini explains their capitulation at Molineux, seeing as how they ran out of gas a third into the match. It was like the tipping point on a night out when you've had just enough grog to be effusive and entertaining, before the pivot pint turns you into an ugly, dribbling mess.
With morale plumbing new depths, and players turning on each other - Milner v Yaya Toure at Arsenal followed by Kompany and Adebayor at Wolves - it's no wonder they fell to a less talented, but far more cohesive team on Saturday. Mick McCarthy may have assembled his squad with IOU's and bits of thread, but he has forged something money can't buy in his players: spirit. Mancini's lot seem far more concerned with spirits.
On a Car-roll
A late opportunity presented itself to accompany a pal to the Tyne-Wear derby and being the connoisseur of football that I am, I gleefully accepted, on the strength that it afforded me a chance to witness first-hand the burgeoning love story of the season as Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan - the Premier League's hottest roomies - wreaked havoc on their hapless north-east neighbours.
And what an entertaining afternoon. The clichés about the folk in the nether regions of England are mostly true; far too much naked flesh was on display despite the ten-degree temperatures and most fired indecipherable, machine-gun Geordie at scary decibels throughout the match and intermittently waved their keys at the Mackems in the corner (it's something to do with the difference in accent apparently) as the Toon ripped the Elephant Man's team apart (his words not mine).
My impression may have been tainted by hearty pre-match hospitality and the two affable gentlemen next to me. Both three sheets to the wind prior to kick-off, one preceded to miss the first and third goals due to a toilet break, then celebrated the fourth so vigorously he fell and dislocated his shoulder, thereby missing the fifth as he was having it strapped up by the St John's Ambulance crew. Still, he hobbled back to his seat just before the end to flash me a toothy grin and say: "That was without doubt, one of the best afternoons of me life."
Going for a Song
At this rate, Rob Green will have to do away with his current voodoo doll in favour of a voodoo manikin, given the amount of people the shredded dummy is supposed to represent as he drives pins into it late at night in his Essex townhouse. I imagine Fabio Capello is the upper torso, the British press are the rump, Clint Dempsey is the head and now Alex Song is the ulna, after his late winner denied the West Ham (and England?) 'keeper a clean sheet he thoroughly deserved.
There is clearly something about Arsenal that brings the best out of our old pal Greeno, given that he performed similar heroics a few seasons back when relegation-threatened West Ham (sound familiar?) earned a precious win at the Emirates and threatened to kill off Arsenal's fading top-four hopes (sound familiar?).
I quite fancy this match will serve as a precursor for West Ham's brave, but ultimately fruitless attempt to beat the drop. Like Green, they'll thrash about with something resembling purpose in the odd game only to be cursed at the last, and plummet into the Championship. Sadly for Gooner fans, the match analogy won't stretch to their title ambitions.
They might win it next year though, perhaps with Rob Green as their new No. 1? Stranger things have happened after all...
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