Monday, September 17, 2012
Justice for the 96
The Fifth Official
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.
Justice for the 96
The truth is finally out, now justice must fall swiftly on those individuals that concocted, then perpetuated, the grievous myths about Hillsborough that have stood firm for 23 years. Only after those responsible are fully investigated and prosecuted can this country go any way to correcting nearly a quarter of a century of deceit that shamefully prolonged the pain of the families who lost loved ones at a football match.
This was a week that shamed football and stunned its followers. The revelations contained within the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report uncovered the contempt with which fans were treated before during and after the tragedy. The contrition that should have poured forth from those whose neglect contributed to the disaster was instead replaced with a web of lies as a concerted effort was made to blame those fans for their own deaths. A truly despicable act.
But amid the shock, the disbelief and the disgust there was hope. Hope that families of the 96 will now get the justice that has been shielded from them within the establishment for so long. That their persistence and quest to remove even the slightest smear from the names of those that died is backed wholeheartedly not only by the city of Liverpool, but by every right minded football fan in this country.
As they march towards the justice that has for so long been out of their grasp, they shall not walk alone.
You've been Crouched
Chalk and cheese would be a good way to sum up Manchester City's second successive hard-earned point at the Britannia. Last season Roberto Mancini's side rescued a point after Peter Crouch offered up one of the goals of the season. This time around they battled back for a draw after Crouch handballed, fouled and lolloped his way to point blank range.
A disgruntled Mancini inadvertently hit upon a cracking idea in his post-match diatribe at Stoke - that Crouch's unique modus operandi might be better suited to the NBA. He obviously has the height, and due to his lanky frame, also has the perfect brand of pointy elbows to make a thorough nuisance of himself. His ball control isn't too shabby either, as he twice manoeuvred it past an opponent in a manner reminiscent of Thierry Henry before planting the ball past Joe Hart.
With the job of denying City victory almost complete, another chalk and cheese moment emerged as Crouch was replaced by someone who is half the man he is - quite literally. We are all very pleased for Michael Owen that he has found a new club to fleece but it is an odd marriage isn't it? He got his debut with the clock reading 89 minutes and 49 seconds and didn't touch the ball once. It's good to have him back.
Handshake-gate: Episode 23
It is a wonder the Premier League persists with the forced pre-match handshake routine, given the amount of controversy it causes. If they do insist it remains then perhaps it would be prudent to pass a law that states John Terry can only enter the field of play after the formalities have been completed, given that he seems to be at the centre of so many of the instances.
The allegation at the heart of their dispute is a serious one, of course, but it is almost reduced to farce in these circumstances as Anton Ferdinand's refusal to shake hands with Terry, and his character witness Ashley Cole, was cheered by QPR fans in the stands. Even more bizarre was the sight of little Park Ji-Sung getting in on the act, refusing to shake Terry's hand even though as captain of his club he is expected to do so twice.
This was always going to be manna from heaven for the tabloids, and after 90 minutes of turgid action, it played right into their hands that the real moments of intrigue came before the game even kicked off. The handshake premise is a nice fluffy one; the reality is that it causes far more problems than it solves. Ferdinand and Terry's reconciliation is one that could take a long time and it shouldn't be for the footballing authorities to impose a time limit on them.
Dimitar Berbatov, remember him? His laconic style can now be seen in operation at Craven Cottage - a suitably sleepy setting for his unique brand of lethargy. After his pan-European record for the amount of medicals one player can undertake in a day, he has ended up on the banks of the Thames and feels wanted again. Fulham's fans clearly aren't perturbed by his apparent lack of effort - half of them are asleep most of the time anyway.
Another striker rejuvenated is Jermain Defoe, a player that must have led a confused life under good old 'Arry Redknapp, who loved buying the striker for big money but hardly ever played him. Defoe has five goals to his name already this season and is bound to score eventually if played regularly due to the amount of pot shots he takes on goal - nine alone against Reading.
It wasn't such a good weekend for Peter Odemwingie though, who lasted about 40 minutes against Fulham before a wild hack on Sascha Riether earned him an early bath. At least the Nigerian fronted up after the game, apologising in a round of television interviews in which he admitted he had come to the conclusion that "now I think it was my fault." Well done, Peter, well done indeed.
Do the Benteke
Is the earth still revolving on its axis? I only ask because Aston Villa have won a match for the first time since March. It is truly amazing how quickly things can turn around in football - one minute their melancholy fans are resigning themselves to another gruelling campaign after two opening defeats, the next they are dreaming of Europa League glory after four points from two games.
And what made their victory even more remarkable was the fact they did it with a clutch of players I have never even heard of. Who the heck is Christian Benteke? Where on earth did Jordan Bowery come from? And which obscure league was Karim El Ahmadi operating in? And why did no-one snap up Matt Lowton sooner when he can score goals like the one against Swansea?
Lambert described Benteke as "an absolute threat" and he's probably right. How are defenders supposed to try and stop him when they've never seen him play before? Paul Lambert has assembled a crack team of nobody's desperate to make themselves somebody's and it is so barmy it might just work. I always knew Ashley Westwood had it in him anyway.
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