Last look at the weekend

Fifth Official: End the Hart-ache

September 28, 2009
By The Fifth Official
(Archive)

After Saturday's defeat by Everton, Portsmouth now officially hold the record for the worst start to a top flight division since 1930, relieving a certain Manchester United of that most unwanted of accolades. Pompey have taken on Newcastle's mantle as the Premier League's comedy club to such an extent that all their games from this point on should be conducted in fast forward and accompanied by the Benny Hill theme tune.

Sulamain Al-Fahim, Peter Storrie
GettyImagesUneasy alliance: Sulamain Al-Fahim and Peter Storrie

The day before the game summed up the current farce under new owner Dr Sulaiman al-Fahim as rumours of administration surfaced on top of existing claims that chief exec and club stalwart, Peter Storrie, was on the verge of chucking in the towel. Fahim then cancelled an arranged meeting with fans, before reinstating it and announcing he was about to magic £50 million out of his pocket. No-one quite knows where from.

At least the flat-pack "build-it-yourself" squad they purchased from IKEA on transfer deadline day made a better fist of it on the pitch and almost claimed the club's first point, probably because they've had a bit longer this week to finally learn each other's names. Still, they lost, they still sit rock bottom and Paul Hart is braced for the inevitable. Joe Kinnear as his replacement anyone?

It's a Wonderful Life

Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane scored more goals between them on Saturday than Hull and Burnley have managed in their seven respective games to date. The Clarets can at least point to a 100% home record to excuse themselves from the doomsayers who dismiss them as Championship fodder, but what's Phil Brown's excuse?

Hull shipped six at Liverpool to add to the four they conceded in midweek against Everton. Add that to the five they let in against Spurs and the four they swallowed at Sunderland and that amounts to a goal difference of minus 13. Burnley can better that though, theirs is minus 14 after a run which has seen them lose 2-0 at Stoke, 3-0 at Chelsea, 4-0 at Liverpool and now 5-0 at Spurs. Coyle can take some comfort from his next trip though, Blackburn. Can't see Big Sam's army smashing in six, can you?

Despite goals flying in all over the place when Burnley or Hull are involved, you just know beyond all doubt that when they finally face each other at the of October, it'll be a game so gritty, so demoralising, and so short of goals that the Premier League should erect trauma tents outside Turf Moor, buy in a boat-load of valium and show "It's a Wonderful Life" on repeat to lighten the mood of bewildered fans staggering back out into the real world.

'Arry knows best

What a mindless, fickle bunch those Tottenham supporters are. Before the visit of Burnley they were whining - at a pitch so loudly only dogs could hear them - about why Robbie Keane should be dropped for having the audacity to score only one Premier League goal this season. The gangly, lurking threat to Spurs' captain came from goal-robot Peter Crouch who notched a hat-trick against Preston in midweek.

We all know what happened next, as Keane smashed four past Brian Jensen as those same fans backtracked, muttered "Peter who?" under their breath, before launching their entire repertoire of Keano songs. Then they all remembered why they aren't Premier League managers, and thankfully, why they never can be.

Harry Redknapp knew better than to listen to the idle crowing of the land's most turncoat fans anyway. After all, these are the same lot who were clamouring for Glenn Hoddle to get the job back in 2001, boasting about how they'd win the league and cup playing the best football for a century, before booing him out of a job two years later. So how did the current incumbent reflect on the whole Keane episode? "That's why I'm the manager," chortled 'Arry.

Where's the want?

Titus Bramble
GettyImagesTitus Bramble: Unlikely hero buried Chelsea's chase for perfection

There can only be one explanation for Chelsea's capitulation at Wigan; complacency. They clearly strolled into the DW Stadium expecting to be tickling Wigan tummies before they even reached half-time, and we all know, once Titus Bramble has fallen over he is liable to rock himself to sleep.

The Latics had failed to beat top four opposition in 35 games and had been on the end of spankings from Manchester United and Arsenal already this season. It started predictably, with Chelsea stepping up the gears until they switched off from a short corner and faced the indignity of big Titus scoring with a free header. It should have provoked a response, but all it seemed to inspire was a bout of dysentery, as Chelsea's megastars laboured around the field as if they were in constant danger of being reacquainted with their high-protein pasta lunch.

By the end they were a bona fide shambles, reduced to nine men, with John Terry employing his flailing elbows technique as a striker. Carlo Ancelotti only speaks Italian in the dressing room when he is angry, apparently, so I bet it was flying out machine-gun style post-match. As a result, every overpaid member of their squad is now acutely familiar with the Italian for "Where's the want, lads?"

Sir Bobby Robson: 1933-2009

The week began with 1,000 people cramming into Durham Cathedral for Sir Bobby Robson's memorial service; it ended with 27,000 fans singing his name as two of his former clubs, Ipswich and Newcastle met at Portman Road. As football's final tributes to the great man poured in I thought I'd pitch in with a few of my favourite Sir Bobby memories.

A Newcastle fan who had been on a flight to London with Robson and his Toon squad once told me that one of the players told the rest a joke in English. After he'd finished and the laughter died down Sir Bobby repeated the punch line in Spanish, French and Dutch just so his international players wouldn't miss out on the gag - a legacy of his international stature in the game.

But, of course, Sir Bobby was also known for those comic moments he produced inadvertently and none more so than this gem - another from his time on Tyneside. After a match a journalist asked Toon striker Shola Ameobi, "Do you have a nickname?" Ameobi said, "No, not really." The reporter enquired further, "What do the lads call you?" Ameobi replied, "Shola'. 'So what does Bobby Robson call you?" the reporter added. Shola said: "Carl Cort."