The Fifth Official

Fergie's phone and life thru a Jens

March 21, 2011
By The Fifth Official
(Archive)

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.

Hanging on the telephone

Sir Alex Ferguson embraces technology
PA PhotosSir Alex Ferguson embraces technology in a bid to circumvent his ban

So this was Fergie's penance for repeatedly engaging his loose gob; an unedifying clamber into the gods to join the prawn sandwich brigade where he was forced to deliver his tactical treasures to mastermind victory over Bolton down an oversized telephone that looked like it has been lying around the manager's office since he first walked through the door in 1986. I bet he's still got a typewriter in there too. And a gramophone.

His presence was hardly missed on the touchline though; in fact it was positively embraced by the officials, who could dispense with the standard issue earplugs they usually get for a trip to Old Trafford. I'm sure at one point, just after Johnny Evans was rightly dismissed, Fergie tried to persuade Mike Phelan to hand the phone to the fourth official just so he could shout at him.

Still, the spirit of 'the crap invincibles who are slightly less invincible than they were two weeks ago but still possess a canny knack of winning when they are playing averagely' lives on, largely thanks to Jussi Jaaskelainen's impression of Inter keeper Julio Cesar and Dimitar Berbatov's tap in. A rather large three points.

Life thru a Jens

I still can't quite believe he's back, and neither can Manuel Almunia. Arsenal's silverware meltdown over the last month has clearly sent Arsene Wenger doolally if he thinks the peepee-loving, boot-chucking, spectacle-snatching Jens Lehmann can rescue the Gunners' crumbling season.

Wenger insisted his crazy idea to bring Wacky Jens out of retirement would inspire Almunia to greater heights. He was right, though I'm not sure greater heights of stupidity were what he was looking for. With Jens back in the fold, Almunia clearly felt forced to up his game. Maybe that's why he attempted to show he can also operate as a deep-lying sweeper when gifting Peter Odemwingie the goal that cost Arsenal precious ground on the league leaders.

So Jens has gone from the obscurity of retirement to Arsenal's number one in the space of a week and all it took was a few moody glares in his rival's general direction. Given his repeated refusal to purchase a keeper worth his salt at any time in the last five years, Wenger is now gambling his title bid on a 41-year-old who is a few bratwursts short of a picnic. A horrible notion for Gooner fans, but great entertainment for the rest of us.

Balotelli's bib is a Sideshow Bob

It doesn't seem like there was much point blowing £50 million on a striker who can't score when the centre-back Chelsea bought for half that is slotting home important goals all over the place. Perhaps Roman Abramovich would have been better off using the cash spent on Fernando Torres researching a way to clone David Luiz so one could play at the back and one could play up front.

The Sideshow Bob lookalike has been a revelation for Chelsea; Torres has been an embarrassment. Just like City's overpriced turkey Edin Dzeko, the Spaniard looks less mobile and less interested with each passing game. And both seem to have employed Teflon as their boot sponsor, given that nothing stuck to them all afternoon. Still, at least Torres is employed in a team that actually seeks to get over the halfway line - Lionel Messi would have toiled alone up front given the backwards tactics Mancini employed.

Additional sub-plots came with the return of John Terry as England captain, the perfect ambassador for our nation's out-of-touch and arrogant game, and the freezing out of Mario Balotelli after his brainless sending off cost City a Europa League last-eight berth on Thursday. Apparently, Mancini was so angry with the Italian starlet, that he threw a suitcase at him after the match. But anyone who saw the glorious footage of Balotelli's grapple with a bib before the game, will understand how futile a gesture that was, given that he seems unable to dress himself or behave in a reasonable manner for more than five minutes at a time. Now Mancini is warbling on about Super Mario being a liability. Hands up who saw that one coming? Oh, every single one of you.

Treacherous Tottenham

Harry Redknapp: Champions League quarter-final not good enough for some people
GettyImagesHarry Redknapp: Champions League or bust for him this season

Whoever you are in life and wherever you find yourself just be thankful that you aren't a Tottenham fan, because it seems for these most fickle of creatures nothing is ever good enough. I've known gnats that are more patient and loyal than some Lilywhite fans, and they only live for about a day.

For a large section of them, lying fifth, within striking distance of both Manchester City and Chelsea, and pulling Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in their first ever foray into the competition, isn't good enough for a club who sat bottom of the table just two-and-a-half years ago, as they registered their displeasure at a 0-0 draw with West Ham, despite their team having 31 shots on goal. Even news of Gareth Bale's new contract couldn't diffuse their ire.

No wonder 'Arry is cracking up, though perhaps he should take some of the blame, given that in the middle of his broadside at those who think the club is underachieving he mentioned that he reckons Tottenham can win the title in the next few years. It's not his fault he repeatedly sends out mixed messages though, given that he can't remember what he said five minutes ago.

North East numpties

Perhaps Steve Bruce should get straight onto presidential hopeful Mohammed Bin Hammam this morning and lobby him to embrace technology a little faster than Sepp Blatter, the man almost the whole world hopes has entered the final straight of his FIFA presidency. A swift video replay certainly would have been a friend to referee Kevin on Saturday, as he became the latest official to lose his marbles in the strange vortex that engulfs the Stadium of Light whenever Liverpool roll into town.

To be fair to the ref, he was content that John Mensah's tackle on new Anfield pin-up Jay Spearing was outside the box before his nosy linesman stuck his oar in from 60 yards away to ensure the wrong decision prevailed. Within 15 seconds Bruce had seen the replay on the touchline and was considering body-slamming fourth official Martin Atkinson. Luis Suarez's cheeky second made it five defeats in six for Sunderland, who are now looking suspiciously over their shoulder, just like Mr T does during the opening credits of the A-Team.

At least Bruce can take solace from the fact that Newcastle also seem to be intent on shunning a life of mid-table mediocrity in favour of a flirt with the drop after they handed Stoke their first ever four-goal haul in the Premier League. The main culprit was a clueless, ageing Sol Campbell, who gifted the Potters two goals. If he carries on like this, he'll have Arsene Wenger on the phone in no time.

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