Despite His White Boots

Football, football, football and, if the mood takes me, more football.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Last Kick Of The Game

Props to Wigan for their dramatic last-minute "winner" at Highbury. The away goals rule can throw people off sometimes, and last night was no exception. When Arsenal scored the second, it put them in front BUT it didn't change the fact that one Wigan goal would send them through instead. It was just that if Wigan didn't score, Arsenal would now win instead of needing a penalty shootout. A fact that had obviously escaped many in the crowd who were "Ole"-ing as if it was 7-0 again like last week.

Keeper Mike Pollit admitted that he was expecting a penalty shootout and, according to the report I read, rentaquote chairman Dave Whelan looked rather perplexed when everyone was celebrating at the final whistle. The best story I have heard along these lines though was told to me by a relative of one of Carlisle United's coaching staff. Their Auto Windscreens Final against Birmingham was the first game ever to be decided on the "golden goal" rule (remember that, you never know when you might need that one in a football quiz). There being no score after 90 minutes, the game went to sudden death. Birmingham scored, cue wild celebrations and 10 Carlisle players slumping to the turf. The one exception, whose name sadly escapes me, ran back to the goal, picked up the ball and shouted "come on lads, we can still win this".

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Take It Like A Man

What are the skills you have to master to be a top football manager ? Talent-spotting, man-management, tactical awareness and motivational skills ? Or the art of spin-doctoring after the event ?

I'm beginning to wonder. Steve McLaren after Middlesboro were spanked 7-0 at Highbury today :

"Down to 10 men with six teenagers on the park it was always going to be difficult"

I suppose it would be, however, closer scrutiny reveals that Doriva was sent off after 68 minutes, and two of the teenagers came on as substitutes immediately afterwards. The score at that point ? 6-0.

Earlier in the day Alex Ferguson left Wes Brown out of the starting line-up in the Manchester derby in favour of Mikael Silvestre. Brown by all accounts is in excellent form. Silvestre, er, isn't. Ferguson's rationale for the change was that debutant Patrice Evra spoke no English and needed someone to talk him through the game. Evra was removed at half-time and Silvestre had a shocker for the whole 90. After the game, did Ferguson admit to a mistake ? No, he made a shameful and pathetic insinuation about the referee and Manchester City's hospitality.

I caught the last 10 minutes of the game in the gym, and was pleased for City and Stuart Pearce. You have to see him practically body-surfing in the crowd when Fowler made it 3-1 ! Pearce always had my respect as a player, triple hard and fair with it. As a manager he's even better. He doesn't make excuses and will come out and say "Fair enough, they were better than us". Blustering managers could take a tip from the better poker players. Those who know that an outward show of strength usually conceals a weak foundation. For God's sake would it kill you to say "We lost to the better team". And some of the excuses and spin insult our intelligence as much as they do the victorious opponents. We might never have played professional football but that doesn't make us idiots.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Stand By Your Manager

More nonsense in BBC Sport. The gist of it, if you rightly can't be arsed, is that

"clubs who part company with their managers regularly are less likely to succeed than those who stand by their man"

Does it not occur to anybody that they're mixing up cause and effect here ? If your manager isn't up to it, you have to boot him out. This usually happens in mid-season when all the good managers are still employed. So you're forced to either employ one of the failed out-of-work managers, e.g. Peter Reid, God help you, or gamble on an unknown like Adrian Boothroyd (kerching !) or Alan Perrin (Doh !). If the next one doesn't work out, round you go again, until you find a manager who is good enough to bring you success but not so good that he moves onwards and upwards. Basically, for every Alex Ferguson who came through a period of extreme pressure to deliver, there have been 20 no-marks who would have ruined their clubs if they hadn't been removed before it was too late.

Stand by your manager providing he is good enough. Sunderland are standing by Mick McCarthy, for example. Birmingham are standing by Steve Bruce (and long may they do so). I don't know why the "League Managers Association" and their cohorts get upset anyway. Crap manager gets a big payoff, and someone else can have a go. Kerching all round I would have thought. Except for us mugs who are paying for it.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Chinese Whispers

Ian Holloway as quoted on the QPR website :

"I'm sick and tired of it, it seems every man, dingo and his dog is linked with my job. I've got it and you just try and take it off me if you can!

"Whereas BBC Sport reports :"I'm sick and tired of every Tom, Dick and Harry getting linked with my job every day. Well ding, dang, doo. It's my job, I own it and it's up to anyone else to take it off me"

Seeing as it's Holloway it's hard to be sure. I'm going

4/6 "dingo and his dog"
2/1 "ding dang doo"
6/1 both in separate interviews.

Oh and Happy New Year. I'm still up because I just busted on Paradise and there's no point going to bed until the whizz bangs have stopped.