Despite His White Boots

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

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Another Job Well Jobbed

I suppose I should say something about QPR officially staying up after yesterday's 1-0 win over Cardiff. I wasn't there (hence no match report). Credit to John Gregory and the players for turning the season around. After a quick burst of "new manager" impetus sent us up to mid-table, a very hard winter raised serious concerns. Transfer window signings Danny Cullip and Adam Bolder helped turn it around though, and after one embarrassing defeat at Southend on the TV, all round commitment has been first class throughout the stretch.

Gregory made a pointed comment yesterday about "We had too many losers at this club but we’ve got them off our backs", which (not surprisingly) the club website omitted from its summary. Whether you like him or not (and I've warmed to him a fair bit) he's done a really good job and I'm fairly sure he will still be there next season. He certainly deserves to be. Whether Rangers can maintain the same level of effort for 46 games next season remains to be seen, and indeed what will happen if and when Lee Cook moves on to better things. For now, we have two whole games to enjoy before the spectre of relegation returns :-). I will be at the last game against Stoke to cheer them off.

Elsewhere, events at the very top are leaving me cold. Basically, it's no odds to me who wins the Premiership/FA Cup/Champions League. It's zero sum. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Mourinho dances on the pitch, Ferguson looks like he just caught someone shagging his dog, and/or vice versa. I do hope Sunderland can clinch promotion because Roy Keane has just done brilliantly there. His comments after yesterday's defeat were top notch, no excuses and credit for the opposition. Compare and contrast with Steve Bruce. The only downside to Birmingham missing out would be that we'll have to put up with them again next season. Still, perhaps he'll get the axe at last. He really ought to, the amount of money he's had to spend.

And with Rangers cruising away from the relegation zone smoking their cigars, it looks like a straight fight between Hull and Leeds for the last place. Please spare me all this "no one wants to see a club with great tradition in League One". Whether you like it or not, probably 90% of football fans do want to see exactly that. Obnoxious and often violent fans, Dennis Wise in charge, Ken Bates pulling the strings and everyone involved looking back with dewy-eyed nostalgia at their 70s glory team, who were probably the most cynical bunch of bastards ever to play the game. What's not to like ? I'm with this guy. Hooray for youtube.

Friday, April 20, 2007


This is freaky. Check out Lionel Messi's homage to Diego Maradona's goal against England in 1986 (the good one, not the handball).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Greatest TV Football Broadcaster Bar None

The legendary Jeff Stelling waits until he's off air before delivering his verdict on Barnet's winning goal against his beloved Hartlepool. That is, until he thinks he's off air.

Link brought to my attention by the excellent Football365.

Monday, April 09, 2007

QPR 3 Luton 2

This was a really weird game. It was like a nil-nil except with five goals. Does that make any sense ? What I mean is that both teams were almost completely devoid of any creativity, Rangers because they were missing Cook, Rowlands, Idiakez and (after 20 minutes) Ainsworth, and Luton because they sucked. I have to say though, we were terrible first half, Luton had loads of the ball but their forwards were practically cardboard cut-outs and they only actually looked vaguely threatening from set-pieces, Heikkenen sending a free header wide with their best chance.

Five minutes from the break though, the visiting defence were unable to clear from a long throw and Dexter Blackstock sidefooted home from 10 yards. This was a totally undeserved lead and so it was fair enough when Luton equalised deep in injury time with what was apparently a "glancing header" although from where I was it looked like everyone missed the cross and it went straight in. Against all the laws of cause and effect, Luton then took the lead on 50 minutes. Rangers had two perfectly good opportunities to clear their lines before a third cross came in. Danny Cullip was poised to make a routine clearance when Marc Nygaard threw himself at the ball and punched it away with his hand. Either he was fouled or it was monumentally incompetent. I'm saying 5/6 each of two. Some egg (what do I care who) slotted the penalty, and with news coming in that Barnsley and Leeds were in front, the relegation fight was back on.

It was a desperate slog from here. Through a combination of injuries, Rangers were down to two defensive centre midfielders, another centre midfielder on one wing and a half-fit centre forward on the other. Everyone had a go on the wing but nothing worked until, with time running out, the "12th man" of the home crowd intervened. It never does any harm to have a good penalty appeal or two, even when it clearly isn't a pen, because then when you have a chance for a real shout, it can be very convincing. So when Paul Furlong hit the deck going for Adam Bolder's inviting cross, the entire home support screamed for the decision and the referee, being only human, obliged. Was it really a pen ? Another 5/6 each of two ... Blackstock stepped up and after some extended scummy "gamesmanship" from the visitors, converted with a minimum of fuss for 2-2.

While all the kerfuffle was going on before the kick was taken, the scary bloke behind me (who had been giving Nygaard some fearful stick) declared "if this goes in we'll win". I couldn't see it myself but I declined to argue the point. And rightly so, because with 90 minutes on the clock Rangers managed to put together the one moment of quality in the whole game. Stefan Moore's flick gave Steve Lomas some space on the left wing, and Furlong met his cross with a diving header that just had enough legs to beat the keeper. Players, coaching staff and of course fans went ballistic and despite a late scare from a Luton free kick, the points were bagged and relegation almost certainly staved off. Hooray !

Like I said we didn't play well today but basically all our most creative players were missing and in any case results are everything at this stage. Luton are of course doomed but frankly they would have been anyway even if they had won, if they score two more goals in their last four games I'll be surprised. No one in W12 will shed any tears as they go home to their cold soup ; they're a bolshy lot the Luton fans and clearly most of them have given up already, given that they only took up 25% of their allocation. Preston brought more down on a Tuesday evening. All we need is Leeds to go down with them and the Championship will be a slightly nicer place next year. And nicest of all because of the continued presence of the Super Hoops.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Barnet 2 Hartlepool 1

An enjoyable afternoon at Underhill in the company of Stevie B and a couple of gambling acquaintances of his, all of whom have a lump on Hartlepool to win League Two. After about two minutes, one acquaintance laughed and said "what price laying Hartlepool today ?". The visitors were remarkably slow out of the traps and it wasn't a major surprise when Jason Puncheon's cross was headed towards the net by Liam Hatch, with Adam Birchall touching in from close range. Hatch missed with another header and a third was cleared off the line as Barnet controlled proceedings. Hartlepool fought their way back into the game, Richie Barker hesitated in a great position, allowing the excellent Ishmael Yakubu to make a last-ditch tackle. Eifion Williams crumpled onto the deck about two seconds after being challenged in the box and should have received a yellow card for his trouble, but that was just about the best the league leaders could manage in the first half.

Pool stepped it up a bit in the second half, with lots of possession and territorial advantage playing down the slope, but without raising too many alarms in the home defence. Birchall missed a great opportunity to double the lead with 15 minutes left and, as so often happens, Barnet were immediately punished when Williams wriggled free and rolled the ball inside the near post for 1-1. "We are unbeatable" crowed the visiting support, expecting to extend their unbeaten run to 25 games. Surprisingly though, it was Barnet who went straight onto the front foot after the goal, and after Pool failed to clear Puncheon made some space on the edge of the box and drilled home from 20 yards. Naturally the home fans chirped up with "We are unbeatable" and they had the last laugh as Barnet held on for a 2-1 win.

A win may have flattered the hosts slightly but a draw would have been perfectly fair, and the gamblers' consensus was that there was little between the sides on the day despite the 15 places separating them in the table. Hartlepool didn't really look like a title-winning team and the guys could have some nail-biting to do over the next month if that bet's going to come off.

Elsewhere Rangers scored a fine win at Coventry and one more ought to do the trick. A couple of surprise results in the Premiership too, although Stevie was lugubriously predicting the events at the Emirates almost from minute one. Defeat for United might remind Ferguson to mind his own instead of carping about fixtures and coming out with mealy-mouthed bullshit like "It's the Tottenham supporters I feel sorry for". Right, of course it is. Can we not arrange for the Premiership title to be withheld on account of the total obnoxiousness and lack of class displayed by all and sundry ? Well, if we did it this year, we'd have to do it every year I suppose ...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Easter Weekend

What could be better ? Football football football football football. I should be meeting up with Stevie B for Barnet's game with league leaders Hartlepool tomorrow, any readers at a loose end are of course welcome to join us. QPR take on bottom of the table Luton on Monday, and it's not totally impossible that I could make Charlton-Reading in the evening as well. I've always wanted to go to two games in one day, football decadence !

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

QPR 1 Preston 0

A massive win for Rangers, definitely the most important since clinching promotion 3 years ago. It could have been so different in the first 30 seconds ; England striker David Nugent was given the freedom of the Rangers box but he inexplicably poked a tame shot wide when he had plenty of time to take the ball down. Rangers settled down after the early scare and worked their way into the game without creating too much. Mark Nygaard latched onto Gareth Ainsworth's deflected cross but spooned his shot over, while Ainsworth and Dexter Blackstock both passed the ball to no-one when a shot on goal seemed to be called for. At the other end Lee Camp made a couple of saves from Simon Whaley (?) but Preston didn't threaten all that much.

Rangers suffered a double blow as neither Lee Cook nor Michael Mancienne reappeared for the second half. Five minutes in though, and the ground was brought to life by a stunning goal. Nygaard chased a defender back for a bit and then gave up, which left him free to receive the ball when Rangers won it back. Out of nothing, he floated a perfect 40-yard pass into Blackstock's path. The striker still had loads to do, but he made some space with a fine first touch and then lashed the ball into the net from 25 yards.

Once in front, the commitment and desire shown by every Rangers player was absolutely outstanding. Bodies were thrown in the way of everything, Nugent was invisible and the visitors only threatened from free-kicks. Michael Ricketts curled one just wide from 20 yards with Camp beaten, but the keeper was able to claw Patrick Agyemang's flicked header away from another set-piece delivery. Someone seemed to bat the ball down with a hand in the Rangers box but the ref waved it away.

Into injury time, Preston won another free kick in the Rangers half. Keeper Andy Lonergan looked set to come forward but Rangers bravely left Jimmy Smith upfield to forestall this, a smart move because set-pieces are so regimented today that everyone knows beforehand who they're supposed to mark, and when the keeper comes up it is very disruptive. Rangers managed to clear, Smith sprinted away and Blackstock almost added a second from his cross, Lonergan making a fine save. The five minutes finally ran out and home players and fans celebrated together at length.

As Harvey Keitel said in Pulp Fiction though (and this is the modern equivalent of "As God said in the Bible"), let's not start sucking each others dicks just yet gentlemen. There's plenty still to do but everyone in the ground was proud of the way the team performed last night and more of the same will see us safe.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Do Shut Up (2)

Bobby Charlton is wringing his hands again at those perfidious foreigners and their dastardly unsettlement of Cristiano Ronaldo.

"They link themselves to whoever they feel fit and it's not right," United legend Charlton told BBC Five Live. "I don't think it's a correct way to go about their business."

Charlton added: "I can see no reason at all why he should want to play for another club. It's really destabilising for both the club and the player to have all this speculation about his future. All of it is coming from abroad and none from our club."

Two words for you : Owen Hargreaves. Tell you what, four more : shut the fuck up. And what does this tell us about the state of the BBC ? How could anyone painstakingly write all that bollocks down in their notebook without being tempted to ask exactly how that's different to United tapping Hargreaves up. You'd think they have little to lose given that Alex Ferguson already refuses to speak to them. If I was the BBC (and I'd do the same with Bolton) I'd tell them where to go. If the organ grinder's not speaking to us, we're not wasting any time listening to the monkeys.