Despite His White Boots

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

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Barnet 1 Chester 0

Another game, another two penalties. And a sending off. All of which makes it sound rather more exciting than it actually was, but a much-needed 3 points for the Bees. In brief, some geezer airkicked in front of an open goal for Chester after about 5 minutes, then nothing much happened until Dean Sinclair hit the deck on the half hour and tucked in the resultant penalty. In the second half, the game could have turned inside two minutes, but didn't. First of all Barnet won another penalty which, surprisingly, was taken by Nicky Bailey instead. He missed it. Chester went straight up to the other end and some geezer (possibly even the same one) headed over from 4 yards. Martinez was sent off for two innocuous yellow cards and Barnet held on fairly comfortably for a first win in 8 games. Having King and Yakubu back at centre half helped a lot.

What amused me in the second half (I was mostly finding my own entertainment by this time) was when Paul Warhurst came on as substitute for Barnet to play up front. Several fans greeted this with scorn, ridicule and "I won't believe it if Warhurst scores", as he has only played at the back for the Bees. But if these people weren't complete eggs they would know that for about half a season Warhurst was the hottest striker in the country. It was incredible, he scored something ridiculous like 18 goals in 20 games for Sheffield Wednesday, at the top level. If I remember correctly he then picked up an injury and was never able to repeat this hot streak. And he didn't score yesterday either, for what it's worth :-)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Leyton Orient 2 Cheltenham 0

Keeping it real in League One, the first game I've seen in that division since Rangers saw it off a couple of seasons ago. As before, the standard was better than League Two but not as good as The Championship. That always surprises me for some reason.

Briefly, Orient played the better football throughout, without exactly bringing to mind beach football on the Copacabana. With 3 lumbering behemoths of centre-forwards on show, it was fitting that the one forward with a degree of skill, Orient's Gary Alexander, juggled a ball over his shoulder and slammed a half-volley into the top corner from 8 yards, an excellent goal. Cheltenham were very physical throughout and could perhaps have done better by supplying tidy midfielder Grant McCann with more of the ball instead of whacking it over his head. They had their chance early in the second half when someone handled the ball in the Orient area and the referee decided that the hand in question belonged to the home side's lumbering behemoth Jabo Ibehre. I'm not saying that it was or wasn't a penalty, it was one of those where clearly someone handled it, it was just very hard to say who. Unfortunately McCann lost a point on my scouting report by missing the penalty. He went for the blast down the middle which usually does the trick if it's on target but Garner pulled off a fine block.

Buoyed by the miss, Orient started to play with a degree of confidence and won a penalty of their own for god knows what, it was at the far end and I couldn't really see. The shout was for handball again. Lockwood knocked it in and that was pretty much that. I hadn't done any homework before this game and was surprised to read when I got home that this was Orient's first win in 12 games, as I said they played with a fair amount of confidence. Lockwood caught the eye at left back, he has always looked solid every time I've seen him play, and has a good left foot for this level. Funnily enough he was released by QPR without coming anywhere near the first team, I say funnily because right now Rangers don't have a left back worthy of the name. I've seen a lot worse, although to be fair it's all very well looking solid against Barnet and Cheltenham, it might be a different story in the Championship against the likes of Huckerby and Parry.

So not too bad an afternoon, although slightly soured by a post-match treble of defeats for Rangers and Barnet and an utter soaking for me on the way back to the tube station. You know when it rains so hard that it gets in your eyes and you can hardly see ? Like that. I need to grow my hair back again for this eventuality.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Championship Managers

You might describe this year's Championship as open and exciting ; you might also describe it as being below the usual standard. But with Cardiff, Preston, Burnley and Plymouth in the top six at the moment, no one could describe it as predictable.

Is it that much of a surprise ? Plymouth maybe. I do respect Ian Holloway as a manager, but I'm not sure if they'll stay the course as high as that. Certainly with the other three clubs, it's maybe not quite such a surprise that three good managers are getting on with the job and doing it well. Experience counts for a lot in this league and, whatever happened last night, it seems clear that Rangers made the right decision to replace Gary Waddock. Have a look at how the wheels have fallen off at Ipswich this week, two home defeats with 8 goals conceded ; and Leeds, basically without a manager and in apparent freefall.

Then again, Norwich and West Brom have already swung the axe on their experienced managers, with immediate effect. I'm sure the Canaries were disappointed not to win at Rangers on Saturday, and last night they saw Birmingham off at St Andrews. Which brings me to their manager in residence, Steve Bruce. Tempting as it is to stick the boot in yet again, we'll wait and see what happens there. One thing I can tell you is that, new manager or not, if you can't score at home to Norwich it says very little for your promotion credentials. The interesting thing about this is that even after 7 games when City were in second place, fans were ringing up Talk Sport (the only tolerable phone-in show) to say how poorly they were playing, only to be fobbed off with "but they're second, cah, there's no pleasing some people". Well, sometimes people who are watching every game know a bit more about a team than those who are just reading the league table, whatever caps and qualifications the latter may have. Some fans are idiots and some aren't - just like the rest of the population. In this case, 2 points from the succeeding 5 games indicate that the talk show hosts might owe an apology or two. Yeah, that'll happen, and Barnet for the Champions League :-)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Small World

I thought there was something familiar about the fierce-looking bald bloke who had suddenly popped up on the QPR bench under John Gregory, but at first just put it down to the fact that fierce-looking bald blokes are ten a penny on football benches these days. Yesterday, though, it finally clicked that I had seen the guy before somewhere. Richard Hill is his name and he was manager at Stevenage Borough for a spell when I lived in Hertford and used to pop up to Stevenage every now and then. A quick bit of googling brought it back, Hill succeeded Paul Fairclough as Stevenage manager. You may remember that under Fairclough, Stevenage won the Conference but were denied entry to the league because their ground wasn't up to scratch [1]. They also famously drew 1-1 with Newcastle in the FA Cup when the Premiership club and in particular Kenny Dalglish plumbed new depths of classless boorishness.

In Hill's second season Boro won their first six games and looked odds-on to go up. However they tailed off badly from that point and Hill didn't even see the season out. I do remember him copping a lot of stick from the fans at one point.

The other amusing fact that I googled up while searching this out is that Martin Rowlands was at Wycombe as a youngster but Gregory, under the recommendation of Hill, let him go. Rowlands went to Farnborough before coming back into the league at Brentford. I expect that bygones are bygones by now but you have to wonder what Rowlands thought privately when first Gregory and then Hill arrived at QPR !

[1] Coincidentally (it may even qualify as light irony) Fairclough now manages Barnet whose ground doesn't meet league specifications but they were allowed to come back up because they were doing their best to remedy the situation.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

QPR 3 Norwich 3

Well I thought this should be a good game, although it has to be said that there was some very ropey defending on show from both sides. Straight away, Huckerby was given the freedom of Loftus Road to slot past Jones for 1-0. Jones also saved well from Earnshaw's header and Rangers were grateful to keep it to one down before forcing their way back into the game. Cook fired over after a rare excursion down the right wing, and then drew the defence in before releasing Jimmy Smith who finished smartly from 15 yards. A Chelsea midfielder with an eye for goal, there's a thing !

Rangers then had much the best of it and took the lead with a howitzer free kick from Rowlands just before the break. Into the second half and the combination of lively wingers and shambolic defending on both sides promised more goals. Rowlands was denied by Gallagher before Croft skipped around Jones and then inexplicably sliced wide of an open goal. Unfortunately Dion Dublin came on to show him how to do it with a calm finish from 10 yards, 2-2. With 10 minutes left I suggested to The Camel that Norwich looked the more likely. His unusually prescient response was that he wouldn't be surprised if it ended 3-3 the way both teams were defending. And so it came to pass. Earnshaw scored from the spot after a piece of defending from Rehman that was so appalling I don't even want to describe it. Rangers threw men forward more in hope than expectation and Rowlands equalised with a near post shot in injury time. Hooray !

Huckerby was excellent for Norwich throughout, a real threat every time he picked the ball up. For Rangers, Cook was good as ever and Rowlands also top notch. The nippy winger is a breed that seems to be dying out, especially in the Premiership where strength and power are usually preferred, which is a real shame. But if that means we can watch players like Cook, Rowlands and Huckerby in the Championship then so much the better.


I wasn't going to post bets here this season but there are two stand-out bets in the Premiership today based on what I've seen so far this season. Portsmouth are big value at 2.22 to beat West Ham at Fratton Park and likewise Aston Villa at 2.5 at home to Tottenham. I wouldn't put anyone off QPR today at 2.44 against Norwich, although the visitors do have a new manager in place - I shall abstain from this particular bet though and just enjoy the game, it should be a good one.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

If It's Wednesday, This Must Be Croatia

And it must be time for me to have a rant about these stupid internationals wasting a perfectly good October weekend. I'll tell you what England's problem is, if you like. Their best player, Rooney, has become as selfish as the rest of them. They are such fucking prima donnas. Where's Tony Adams ? Where's Terry Butcher ? Where's Bryan Robson ? Who's going to play through the pain barrier ? Who's going to say "Blood ? Never mind, patch me up and send me back on". None of them. Listen to Gerrard today, moaning about being booked. Listen to Lampard, if you can hold back the bile, talking about sitting on the plane home from Germany thinking all about how he didn't score. They are coddled, they are surrounded by agents telling them take this deal, take that deal, write the book, I know the extra money makes no difference to you but I'm on five per cent here.

Anyone who thought things were going to change with McLaren was kidding himself. McLaren did all the coaching under Ericsson. If anyone was telling them "When you go one up, drop back to your own penalty area and invite constant pressure by giving the ball away" it was him. Everyone goes on about who should be the 23rd man in the squad and who should be third choice on the left wing as if it was the key issue. It's not. The key issue is that throughout the core of that team, there are selfish tarts instead of leaders, with the possible exception of Terry. Look, just scrape a point off Croatia and fuck off so we can get back to some proper football. And I'll tell you who else can fuck off as well, everyone on TV and in the media who talk about Macedonia as if they're Blyth fucking Spartans in the FA Cup when any fule kan see that they are skilful, organised and most of all committed enough to put the likes of England to shame.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

We Don't Have Time To Be Impatient

Poor old Nigel Worthington got the chop today. The lamb chop, with fricasee potatoes and garlic runner beans. Boom Boom. Surely there can be no greater humiliation in football than being sacked by Delia Smith. Mean-spirited as I am though, I quite enjoyed this, from Football 365's report :

"The Northern Irishman was given a two-match ultimatum by majority shareholders Michael Wynn Jones and Delia Smith following last Saturday's loss at Plymouth, but the board have lost patience after just one game due to the abject nature of Sunday's defeat."

Damn, that's impatient. I was hoping for at least one more abject capitulation from the Canaries [1], as their next game is a trip to Fortress Loftus Road. Slightly more seriously, it does seem harsh. Are Norwich any worse off now than when Worthington took over ? And I would have said, not a bad trip in between, they cruised the Championship in great style and had a decent go against the big nobs. Management's a tough game alright. Try not to succeed too much, or you'll pay for it later.

Meanwhile I was so impatient to have my fun at Norwich's expense, I forgot the best bit. Gary Doherty in today's The League Paper (which I highly recommend) :

"The ultimate responsibility lies with the players ... we are killing our gaffer through poor performances and results ... I can only apologise to everyone concerned, and we have to put the situation right, and quickly ... There can be no doubting how big this game is ... our season must start against Burnley."

That result again : Norwich 1 Burnley 4 (Doherty sent off 60 mins). I'm such a bitch.

[1] Not the most intimidating nickname is it ? Well lads, last week it was the Tigers, next week we're away to the Lions, but luckily it's only the Canaries today.