Hmm, Chappers, isn’t it?

"For God's sake don't catch his eye."

“For God’s sake don’t catch his eye.”

And so, with grim inevitability the axe has fallen on stalwart cynic Mark Lawrenson, leaving a profound sadness amongst his few remaining advocates, of which I proudly include myself. But even Lawro’s most ardent backers would never have expected that dire wardrobe to have outlasted the regrettable pillars of Match Of The Day, Alan n’ Alan; console your grief by imagining his response to being told he was being substituted, which I’m guessing went along the lines of: “So?”

That Lawro is to “appear less” on MOTD is the most significant change made to the BBC’s football coverage ahead of the 2013/14 season. Additions of note are in short supply, and those that have been acquired cut a sorry sight, and indeed sound.

In place of Colin Murray, Mark ‘Chappers’ Chapman will be bringing droves of everyman nothing – his bafflingly successful stock in trade – to the role of MOTD2 compere, a task he’ll presumably juggle with the 10 O’clock News and the Culture Show, before receiving the hallowed Top Gear money shot. Just exactly what indiscretion ‘Chappers’ or his agent caught BBC bigwigs in the act of committing one can only speculate, though given the corporation’s recent fall from grace certain suggestions spring readily to mind. I personally wouldn’t have given Chappers the gig for the simple reason that all the evidence suggests he’s spent an inordinate amount of time in the company of Robbie Savage, which one imagines is the mental equivalent of subjecting your body to a week of sunbathing in Chernobyl.

Anyway, ‘Chappers’ it is, and anyone hoping for a glimpse of the sort of progressive tactical mind and incisive questioning Rochdale’s favourite son will grant the MOTD2 audience can slake their curiosity with his ‘Heroes, Headbands and Hissy Fits’ tome (haven’t read it, apologies), which the BBC describes with concomitant reverence:It is football as we know it, told from the heart” (again, sorry – could be seminal).

Chappers = from The North = from the heart.

‘As we know it’, though. We. You and me; inseparable lives, shared experience. ‘We’ love heroes. ‘We’ hate headbands. ‘We’ despise hissy fits; it’s football as we know it…

What, you don’t remember? Yeah you do, we met in The Queen’s Ankle last week. I was talking about how most of the so-called ‘reductions’ on yellow-stickered ready meals in Britain’s major supermarkets were actually, when all said and done, fairly negligible. No? Seriously? I don’t fucking believe this.

Turbo gob Ian Wright has had the honour of presenting the relentless torrent of vacuity that is 606 bestowed upon him – if the cap fits etc. I realise little needs to be said on this appointment, and one assumes the 5 live press officer will be spending the days up until the season frantically drafting a series of contingency letters, perhaps along the lines of ‘Ian Wright did not mean to cause offence when he a) [insert faux pas here], b) [insert faux pas here] or c) [insert faux pas here]’ and ‘Ian Wright would like to state that he is not in any way shape or form a [insert Bad Thing here]. How could he be? He has lots of [insert subject of prejudice relating to Bad Thing here] friends. He does, however, freely admit to being a fucking terrible human.’

Still, if you thought the BBC’s contempt for its audience was bad enough, console yourself with the fact that it doesn’t cost as much as BT’s offering, the tragedy-in-waiting that appears to have wasted no time in channelling Setanta’s long-departed spirit, and one that will hopefully only stretch to one season-long act.

I didn’t catch their coverage of the Emirates Cup, but a colleague who did said it was poor, and given that I once asked him whether it would be worth me wearing a jumper outside, and he said no you’ll be fine, and so I didn’t, and I was, I’m not going to start questioning his judgement now.

The BT roster is a Who’s Who of crap, fronted by Jake ‘what’s Wetherspoon’s?’ Humphrey, on whose sofa Rio Ferdinand + gaudy watch will presumably be reclining. Is there a less edifying 34-year-old on these Isles? (Rio, that is.) The fervour with which he courts publicity is nothing short of terrifying, and must hint at a deep malaise of character, and one that doesn’t appear to be subsiding with age. He takes any opportunity to align himself with the popular establishment, whether it be Manchester United, hip-hop or Twitter, in a forlorn attempt to achieve some sort of death-defying permanence.

There are rumours that Ferdinand, who has left West Ham United and Leeds in his career to date – and was clearly harbouring after a move to Chelsea a while back – has apparently fallen out with Wayne Rooney over the striker’s desire to leave the club, energies that in the modern era would be just as well spent slating people for drinking orange juice.

No one attempts to rewrite history quite like Rio, who now strives to evoke an urbane velvet-clad persona that lies wholly at odds with the corn-rowed fool mirroring himself on 50 Cent in the Noughties – I think he even started a label. He curries favour at Old Trafford by waxing lyrical about introverted characters such as Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs (this is excruciating by the way), before going on to making eponymous TV shows and establish himself as a brand in his own right, purging what’s left of his personality in the process. But perhaps you don’t find this reprehensible and think it takes all sorts to make a world. The sad thing is you’re right.

BT have unwittingly surrendered to Sky before the battle has begun, and kick off the Premier League season with Liverpool v Stoke, a fixture that unites football’s least and most self-aware institutions respectively, opposing qualities that both seem an equally fitting description of Ferdinand.

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Overseas: a tough place to go

Pleat

Pleat, whose career took in spells in Nottingham AND Luton, bids to expand his horisons even further with friends

To the mind of David Pleat, Gareth Bale is too young to move to Madrid; at just 24 years of age, naive Gareth has designs on prematurely relinquishing his mother’s bosom and mixing it up in Spain.

“I doubt he’d find it easy. Many have failed when they have moved overseas,” Pleat said, demonstrating a quite exhilarating zest for life.

On this logic Bale would be gambling on the success of his playing career if he moved to Ireland. Pleat imbues ‘overseas’ with a sense of foreboding usually reserved for undiscovered lands, for which pioneering explorers gamble everything on the presence of food, morality and E! TV.

As I said, Bale is 24. To put that in some sort of perspective, at 20 Alexander the Great was the ruler of Macedonia, and at 25, he had created a city in his own name. The Premier League itself is chocker with players who left home as youths in a bid to become professional footballers; as far as intrepid exploration goes, kicking a football in Madrid for a few hours a day is hardly ballsy, and at most ‘a bit different’.

However, Pleat does feel Bale will be old enough… Next year. Agreed – I think we can all agree that the transformation between the 25th and 26th year is the most drastic in a man’s life.

Where the green 24-year-old sees optimism and unbound possibility owing to his being at a physical zenith and possessing an intrinsically positive regard for his fellow man, the 25-year-old sees only sadness and regret, forever hampered by chronic bitterness owing to a gruelling 52 extra weeks of existence. Steep decline in sexual prowess; a plethora of failed marriages; thwarted career ambitions; the unwritten novel; abandoned trips to Thorpe Park – 25 really is the new 40.

To be fair to Pleat, while he doesn’t seem to have spoken a word to Bale and was merely giving the standard ex-pro from-the-bog interview, entirely bereft of considered thought and nuance, one suspects that with his track record he more than any would know the specific differences between a 24 and a 25-year-old.

Having shown such a penchant for the arbitrary one could quite easily imagine the erstwhile Spurs boss losing his rag at things like The 100 Greatest Adverts, The 100 Greatest Football Players, or any other vacuous telly evening hosted by some appalling T4 commodity. He no doubt looks to eat in one of the world’s 100 Greatest Restaurants, lent its name by one of the 100 Greatest Chefs, on the banks of a river in one of 100 Greatest Cities.

This unfounded fixation on age also suggests that he’s one of those who attributes John Terry letting a harmless through-ball roll out of play for a goal kick to experience, and any defender-induced goal to David de Gea’s naivety. Pleat himself is 68, meaning that he wakes up in the morning assured that he knows slightly more about everything than a 67-year-old, but slightly less than someone of 69.

Quite where on the globe he imagines Madrid to reside one can only guess, but I’d imagine it’s a two-and-a-half hour flight from London, which is like going to Newcastle but getting there an hour earlier than you expected. David envisions Gareth walking into the dressing room on his first morning, only to be brutally bombarded with leeks by a Spanish cabal as they taunt him over his pale complexion.

As language is the only means of communicating with our fellow man, Bale would find himself In Crisis sooner rather than later. His 25th birthday in Madrid would turn into an eerily existential affair, what with there being no phone signal on the continent and commercial air travel soon to be rendered illegal. He’ll be sat in a cafe in a deserted Plaza Mayor during the siesta – a cultural habit no one will have been able to communicate to him, or that he’d be able to comprehend even if they had – as a begrudging senorita brings him a magdalena with an unlit candle on top, and the Spanish for “Fuck Off Gareth” written in ornate icing.

That he has already spent a few years plying his trade with Luka Modric seems to have been forgotten by Pleat. After all, the diminutive midfielder is Croatian, and seemingly never spoke a word of English in his time at Spurs – I doubt he’d remember Gareth at all, and one assumes he just buried his head in a suitcase full of fifties whenever he wasn’t playing football.

Perennial wild child Michael Owen also threw his euros into the mix: “Any player going from over here to Spain, it’s a lot different to what you imagine. It’s a slow pace of life. I was in a hotel for six months with a young child. It’s very difficult.”

Buy a house Michael. Just buy a house. Bale comes across as notably more intelligent and grounded than the average Premier League ambassador, and strikes you as the sort of bloke who’s got friends. I can’t think of one group of football fans in the entire world who feel any sort of genuine affection for Michael Owen, so for that reason I’m going to confidently assume no one came over to visit him. Judging by the quote above, even his wife couldn’t be arsed.

Tottenham aren’t playing Champions League football next season, while Real Madrid are. An injury could quite conceivably end Real’s interest in him. It makes absolutely no sense for him to postpone a move away from north London, and if it wasn’t Daniel Levy in charge, one suspects he’d already be there; the prices being quoted sound more than fair. If Levy was 52 he’d understand.

Too Cescy for his shirt

Fabregas

The End… We thought.

I hereby declare war with Spain. Or Catalunya, at least. I don’t need Cameron or Hague’s blessing, and that wimp Hammond would probably be more of a hindrance than a help. It should be eminently winnable for one 100% British man considering their piteous financial state, slothful nature and chronic diving tendencies.

Cesc Fabregas will be the first casualty. Actually, when Cesc is safely on his way down the Styx, I’ll immediately declare the conflict over – cue booze, bunting, ‘Gotcha!’ etc.

I’m sure the basis for this ire is shared across the nation, or at least by anyone who reads newspapers, has adequate broadband, or owns a radio. Media coverage is sure to give this most noble endeavour a double thumbs-up – in the short term at least – as we haven’t had a war people can really get behind for quite some time now, and this way they can indulge their Fab fetish further by spreading the 26-year-old all over the front pages as well the rear. Perhaps his lifeless corpse could be used in a shocking Page 3 twist.

The Fabregas to Man Yoo saga already is quickly catching up with the Fabregas to Barcelona horror for ennui, and one potentially painful irony of the whole hellish narrative is that the midfielder ends up back at the Emirates… Before inevitably bleating about trivial things like: his heart, the Barca DNA that coarses through his veins, his family and… you know, it would just be sort of… I dunno, cool, if I could… go back for a bit – just see people, ya know? Catch up, swig a few cervezas, man. I’ll definitely come back, like, honestly I will.

I don’t doubt it for a minute Cesc, it’s as if you’d never left. The Spaniard is already in our debt to the tune of two summers – I fear he won’t be able to repay a third – and should this speculation resurface in 2014 I may have to turn to rugby. Union. Twickers.

The old maxim that today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper ironically hasn’t found it’s way to Fleet Street, which appears to be shooting itself in the foot royally with its Cesc addiction. No wonder no one’s interested their wares anymore – no matter how beautiful you thought the prose you wouldn’t buy a daily copy of The Great Gatsby; few eyebrows would be raised if distributors of the nation’s dailies started cutting out the consumer middle man and going to straight to chippies.

Now obviously this isn’t entirely Fabregas’s fault – you just wish he’d drop that perpetual on-the-verge-of-tears countenance and openly embrace the concept of fightin’ for ya place – and his sanctioned death is by no means an attack on him, rather a means of securing salvation for us – your classic ends justifying the means scenario. It’s largely United’s.

Barcelona were managerless until their recent appointment (apparently this Martino nobody’s got the gig, another cruel and unforeseen blow to top, top gaffer ‘Arry) and it would have been quite some feat of incompetence had they sold off key assets while conducting the search for Vilanova’s replacement, akin to Darcy informing Liz Bennet that he sold Pemberley while he was wooing her fine self down in that Longbourn, as she alights the carriage to discover that she’s living in a two-up two-down affair some ghastly estate backwater – a full five miles from ‘society’, no less – and may as well be shagging the gamekeeper.

We read this morning that the club have said no, which only prompts idiots nationwide to spout meaningless drivel along the lines of “everyone has their price”. According to ESPN, United are preparing a third bid, which seems staggeringly hubristic. No simply doesn’t mean no in this day and age – a truism I never fail to stand by when chasing maidens round London’s parks.

Barcelona’s repeated rebuttals are falling on deaf ears, so to really nip this at the top of the canopy, Fabregas needs to hold an impromptu iphone conference from the privacy of his own loo, where he implores Moyes to learn that just because his pockets are a little bigger than they used to be he’s still yet to win so much as a raffle in football, and that being at a Big Club doesn’t mean you have to spend money to justify your position. It’s as if Moyes feels he won’t become the manager at Old Trafford in earnest until he’s splashed out a load of zeros on some foreigner with a lovely tan. Hopefully Cesc’s oration will be carried out in English (everyone speaks English) so that the fourth estate don’t decide to lose the “Fabregas Says Spanish Words” scoop somewhere in the culture section.

At a human level – irrelevant, I know – one has to question the Manchester club’s decision to relentlessly bang down the doors of a club whose former manager was rendered redundant due to cancer, which seemed to have been doomed to poor taste from the off…

He’ll probably go there now.

***

Apparently some bird’s had a baby, which we’re being told to believe is Our William’s. My personal opinion is that we’ll have to wait until we know the sprog’s hair colour before rushing to judgement, as many sages seemed to do after the ‘Harry is Ginger = It’s Hewitt’s’ pub theory propagated in the Eighties.

Either way, with his nominal dad an ardent Villan and myself a salt of the earth lager-drinking tax payer, I fully expect the nameless Royal to abide by the status quo and adopt his father’s choice of team. Nothing would do more for ensuring the longevity of the Windsor dynasty than releasing photos of the lad in a ‘N’Zgobia’ adorned away shirt, or naming him Stiliyan, or perhaps, when he’s of suitable age, he could tweet photos of himself on the bus, larger-ed up to eyeballs with the boys, “#fuckingM6” etc.

But let’s face it, the poor sod will probably end up at as a perennial guest of honour in JT’s depraved box at Stamford Bridge, while the rambunctuous host ribs him about his handsome mother, and he is driven to question the metaphysical implications of somewhere called Birmingham.

***

This summer’s runner-up saga is unquestionably Our Wayne to everyone’s favourite community club Chelsea, which comfortably beat Luis Suarez to Anywhere Else. There can be little doubt that we’re in for long haul on this one.

If the sight of CFC-4-life’s JT and Super Fucking Awful Frankie Lampard arm-in-arm, hogging the lion’s share of the Stone Island-clad cheers of the Bridge for goals scored by Didier Drogba and set up by Juan Mata didn’t manage to incite an interminable nausea in you, do now join the rest of us with the news that Wazza is going to be thrown into that most potent mix. Or will he? Find out in tomorrow’s Sun!

When Dimbleby met Lewandowski

Upsetting scenes on the Mall

While the Jubilee is all frivolous historical nothings and ultimately just an opportunity to showcase their roster of jack-of-all-trades airheads, the Euros present an altogether more solemn affair, imbued with unshakeable grandeur – and the Beeb’s opportunity to wheel out sage old pundits for whom the advent of a European tournament that dates all the way back to 1960 – making it substantially more historical than the monarchy, which didn’t commence until 1997.

For proof that football coverage lies beyond meddling to BBC bigwigs, look no further than Alan Hansen’s £2, 500, 000 a year contract; a small price to pay for such eloquent dissections of the use of the back-pass in that pre-Diana Liverpool side, I’m sure you’d agree. Not for football’s finer exponents a painfully misappropriated title from some vacuous what-shall-we-plonk-him-on-next face.

“And there goes Michel Platini, a former winner of The Making The Ball Hit The Back Of The Net Most Times Award during France’s 1984 triumph.”

“The What?”

“The Making The Ball Hit The Back Of The Net Most Times Award.”

“Christ. It’s called the Golden Boot, Jake.”

“Same thing you big pedant. Anyway Lawro, who do you reckon will win the European Cup?” And so on…

In hindsight, a simple solution would be to have the editors and producers of both teams simply swap sides. Had the Jubilee been broadcast with the gravitas Guy Mowbray usually reserves for West Brom versus Sunderland, complaints may have may been reduced to those who suffered an uncomfortable excess of feeling.

The crowds would be fairly similar, the only difference being that English racism is obviously far more reserved and dignified than in Poland and the Ukraine, occurring in professional, as opposed to leisure arenas.

The chanting of “Philip, Philip, Philip” that reverberated up through the Mall after Prince Charles’ mention of his father’s illness was perhaps the first time I’d ever heard that particular grandee referred to informally, and one suspects the Duke was appalled at so many prols addressing him on first name terms. Still, if he’s lucky he won’t have to experience such flagrant hubris again.

It would have been easy to forget that this is the man who is frequently ridiculed – probably by the mob on the Mall in their less euphoric moments, for that matter – and in that regard “Philip” has become an honorary footballer, for he experienced the sort of extreme reception usually only reserved for Tevez & Co.

He got an injury, and had his name chanted. If he does his day job badly (whatever that is) he gets slaughtered by the public and the press, who say he has too much money and is clearly “out of touch” (whatever that is). A new title should perhaps read: ‘HRH the Duke and Holding Midfielder of Edinburgh’; his grave: ‘He gave 110% for his country.’

With this in mind, I’d be keen to see Fearne Cotton interviewing racists in Ukraine, dolled up in a Dynamo Kiev away shirt and conical white headgear; assimilation similar to the Lady Penelope-esque makeover she underwent at the weekend.

But back to Football equalling Seriousness, and one worries that the question: “What will Jordan Henderson offer this England side?” won’t be met with howls of derisive laughter and wet pants this weekend, but rather genuine, rational analysis; which will force pundits to attempt Blowers-esque levels of digression by essentially saying nothing over a considerable period of time. Not that this is usually a problem.

With the severity bestowed upon ‘our national game’ in mind, can it be much longer until the first pundit just keels over in studio, his poor exhausted heart finally capitulating after a series of debatable substitutions in the Palace/ Swindon Carling Cup tie? My money would be on the humourless Garth Crooks (is he going over there? Tough call for someone), who seems to take Mario Balotelli’s very existence as a personal affront. The concept of an individualist on the field of play is too abhorrent for most BBC pundits, employed for their willingness to tow the line. It says much about the charisma vacuum amongst Mark Bright et al that the corporation had to send Noel Gallagher to prise the occasional grunt from the Italian “madman”. Presumably Gallagher matched the ‘able to speak to people who think there’s more to life than football’ job spec.

As a fan, I want to see silly guides to silly cities with Frank Skinner. I want Ray Winstone arm wrestling his Ukranian equivalent; a prize for the England fan donning the shirt of the lowest ranking team on these shores last season. “Congratulations Gary, here’s your victory pint – and we wish The Poppies the best of luck for next season.” Not vox pops where Polish fans say Poland will win the tournament, and Spanish fans say Spain will, and Danish fans say D… I suspect you’ve seen where this is going. We’ve got Alan Shearer for banal nonsense. Big Al has predicted Roy’s boys will find themselves in the semi-finals. And why such unfettered optimism? Well none other than that timeless homage to reason: “I’m a patriot.”

The rumour that there’s more to life than football has been given greater backing by UK Ministers’ decision not to travel to England’s group games. I daresay Shearer will be largely ignorant of the plight suffered by Ukranian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko – which is hardly surprising when you bear in mind he didn’t know who Hatem Ben Arfa was – so expect a look of disappointed betrayal to find its way to his countenance, complemented by a spoken “it’s a sad state of affairs”; a reaction he can usually be found demonstrating for events such as Djibril Cisse kicking the ball away once the whistle has sounded. Of Foreign Secretary William Hague he’ll opine: “He’s not just a perpetrator of treason, he’s a perpetrator of great treason.”

Organisations who will be going all out on “it’s just a bit of banter” – and have indeed already started – are the governments of Poland and Ukraine, who have brushed off the BBC’s footage of anti-Semitic chanting and Pakistani-supporter-bashing via the old “typical overreaction” line – as utilised to such good effect by any number of right-thinking torch-bearers for the beautiful game; Keys, Gray and Jimmy Hill, to name but a few.

Taken as a whole, UK MPs have essentially elected not to watch 270 minutes of two-banks-of-four-oh-yes-‘ard-to-beat-that-is football, for fear that it might be seen as an endorsement of the Ukranian government’s behaviour. From a global warming angle this is highly admirable, but I do wish they’d get some perspective: this could be JT’s last international tournament.

The 1056th amateurish critique of JT in Munich.

Of course it’s banal to slate JT after his post-match conduct on Saturday evening, but – in addition to finding no one more self-servingly satisfying and easy to scribble about – there was something especially unsettling about a man prancing round Munich attempting to conceal racial prejudice in an Olympic year, declaring himself the most superior thing in Europe whilst all the while claiming to speak on behalf of other people.

“I’ve sat there and seen other players miss out on the opportunity to go and do what I’ve done.”

Eh?

“The last thing you want to do is see players in suits and stuff like that,” he said, so wrongly in fact, that to even to contemplate correcting him would have been folly. In football parlance, “the last thing you want to see” is a phrase usually reserved for two-footed tackles bound for an Arsenal hotshot’s knee, flagrant diving, or a standard season ticket-holder at The Britannia. Needless to say, it enables the speaker to offer an unmistakable sense of sympathy or disgust on behalf of the collective. Who knows – had Winston Smith, upon entering ‘Room 101’, been forced to mingle with “players in suits and stuff like that”, I’m sure Nineteen Eighty-Four would have gone down as a great novel.

I for one did want to see JT in a suit. Admittedly one saturated with the wearer’s blood and perforated with bullet-holes, but just a bog-standard number would have sufficed. I suppose I’ll get my wish after the Euros, but as a nod to dignity, a sneak preview would have been much appreciated.

That he went to the lengths of donning shin pads in Munich speaks volumes (how long can this depth-plunging continue?) about the man, and I fear this will have a negative effect on the spirits during my rare jaunts around Northampton’s town centre. After all, I would propose that there’s no image with the ability to conjure warmth in the viewer so ably as little lads, usually seven or eight years young, dressed from top to bottom in their team’s replica kit. Prior to Munich 2012, if I saw a lad drinking from a Capri-Sun pouch, being carted round Debenhams by his feckless mother, I would have had nothing but the utmost respect for him.

But that affection resides no more, for in making sure that his shins were amply protected for something as non-penetrative as a Geoff Shreeves interview, JT has imbued those kids with: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony; to name a few. I’d initially hoped it would go the other way, and that I could have viewed he himself with the admiration I had for aforementioned lads. But it hasn’t – and I regretfully find myself inclined to hate them. I’m sure JT would claim that he was “just setting a good example to the kids” in popping a couple of bits of plastic down his socks, but one has to wonder what lengths he went to that we didn’t find out about?

I’ve little doubt he made Di Matteo’s job at half time more arduous that it need to have been, but I’m more concerned with minutiae – for only in those can we appreciate the true meticulousness of JT’s awfulness. Did he get the referee to check that his studs were legal before running onto the pitch? Did he do ten minutes on an exercise bike, so as to be out of breath and perspiring at full time? Did he receive treatment for cramp during the shoot out? Anyway, with this in mind, I’ve decided to embellish my CV with a Champions League Winner’s Medal too, on the basis that: I watched the game in a tracksuit (was up North), was spouting nonsense after the game, and no one likes me.

Will he turn up to court in kit to answer his charges of racial aggravation, becoming smarter and smarter as the case progresses? The odds must surely be on a Savile Row tailored JT stealing thunder from the hands of Mr Fancy Dan Oxbridge QC on the steps outside The Law Courts.

“This is the best legal team I’ve ever captained. It’s a proud day for me and all the lawyers involved. The last thing you want to see is lawyers walking round in football kit and stuff like that. Haha! Look at this wig… it’s mental.”

Everyman David Cameron has been criticised for speaking about Terry, reportedly being caught on camera saying: “He’s said some bad things” to the German left winger Angela Merkel; provoking crudely contrived and opportunistic outrage from Labour MP Steve Rotherham – a man pathetic enough to rename himself after a dive in a bid to woo low-income voters.

“Somebody like David Cameron should know better. No matter what happens the trial has not taken place yet.”

Well Steve, therein lies the beauty of John George Terry: DC could have talking about almost anything to have ever slipped out of his trap.

***

In response to the disinterest in the manager’s job at Liverpool – and the fact that they haven’t been in the news for 37 seconds – the city’s newspaper is reporting that Bob Paisely has been offered the vacant position. Ronald de Boer and Didier Deschamps and numerous reputable others have passed the initial test, by saying that they don’t want the job; thereby paradoxically rendering them intelligent enough to be offered it. A good manager doesn’t want to have to answer the what-the-fuck-do-I-do-with-Downing/Henderson question; and one worries for Roberto Martinez’s credentials, as he appears to think it would be a step up from Wigan. Having said that, the interviews are apparently taking place in the States, so anyone putting themselves in the frame is clearly looking for an expenses paid holiday, and will do admirably well to hold a straight face when relaying their “Yeah I’ve got big plans for Andy C” lie to the bemused Americans.

Paisley, dead for 16 years, is yet to confirm his interest, but it’s believed he would be keen if the club made an offer. Unsurprisingly, the Anfield faithful are firmly behind the move.

“Yeah of course we’d have him back,” Idiot A said earlier. “I’m not convinced he’d want it, but his record speaks for itself.”

“I don’t care what happens,” sighed Idiot B, “as long as it’s carried out via our tangible modus operandi: The Liverpool Way.”

“Big club big club big club Europe Europe Europe Dalglish Daglish Dalglish,” reasoned another, simultaneously attempting to lick his own elbow.

More sinned against than sinning.

Kenny Dalglish has flown to Boston for talks with Liverpool’s owners J.W. Henry, Tom Werner and Lebron James.

JW: So… Kenny. The King. K-D. Kenny-nio. Um… that wasn’t quite what we had in mind.

KD: The Sixth Sense? I know, right? What a twist.

JW: No, this past season.

KD: Spring? I know. Chucked it down every day. What drought, eh!?

JW: Do you see any cause for optimism?

KD: Yes. Germany won’t let Greece go under, I’m positive about that. This won’t be the end of the Euro.

JW: Concerning the football club?

KD: Yes, the new kit is ghastly.

JW: Concerning the players?

KD: You’ll be delighted to find out that I’ve just signed Ian Rush from his wife for 50 million pounds. The Ian Rush.

LBJ: Why did you so ardently defend Luis Suarez?

KD: Haven’t you asked me this before?

JW: What is the Carling Cup?

KD: It’s like the Champions League, only more elite. Juventus, Real Madrid and Brazil didn’t even get to the first round.

JW: Who is Jay Spearing?

KD: The bassist in Cast.

TW: We’re going to be appointing a new manager.

KD: Like with Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier? Cool, I’m on board. Who ya thinkin’ of?

JW: No, you’re being sacked. Have been sacked? (Puzzled look to TW, similarly floundering in the depths of this linguistic nightmare). Are currently being sacked. Have literally just been sacked… as of now.

KD: Well I appreciate your kindness, but I can’t accept a pay-rise.

JW: We’re not offering you a pay-rise. We just fired you.

KD: Sure, I’ll dine with you.

JW: Kenny this isn’t working.

KD: Just hold the ‘menu’ button down for five seconds and it should restart.

Leader of the Oppothition

Hilarious.

I’d be delighted if Ed Miliband won the next general election. Not for reasons political you’ll understand, rather aural/ optical. He however, may not be.

THITH ITH THE BETHT DAY IN HITHTORY

(We’ll thort the countrieth financeth out!)

Yes, Miliband is the gift that keeps on giving. You’ve probably not stopped laughing since observational wits made note of his physical resemblance to Wallace, of Wallace and Gromit fame, but I’m afraid you’re about to go through another pair of tousers. Ed has a lisp. Ha! Imagine him saying that. He’d say “listhp”, wouldn’t he?

While the six year olds who evidently dwell in the editor’s office at The Sun may not be particularly erudite in expressing their political affinities, my God do they hang their victims out to dry on aesthetics. The good thing for Roy is that he won’t have to put up with any childish behaviour from the pack of lions he takes to the Euros, albeit mainly because children don’t drink, rape and pillage. Well, not in the Middle England bubble anyway.

As a hypothetical six year old, I’m actually a bit annoyed with The Sun for not also pointing out the fact that Roy’s also got an excessively wobbly neck. And while we’re at it, he also has very thin grey hair. And he looks like an owl. “Look at the old owl man who can’t speak properly,” they guffaw in Sun editorial chinwags. “With his thin grey hair and wobbly neck!” Fans of cerebral comedy can now relax safe in the knowledge that headlines such as “Hodgson flying”/ “Hodgson tawny between Gerrard and Parker” are but a month away. I’m sure the FA weren’t expecting to have to defend their man until news comes through that Theo Walcott was seen embarking the plane to Poland, but Fleet Street’s finest patriots have accelerated the process.

“We are delighted at the media response to Roy’s appointment but are disappointed with the headline in The Sun, which we consider is in poor taste and disrespectful,” said David Bernstein, which, all things considered, makes a welcome change to: “No, we didn’t speak to ‘Arry.” Women’s dignity aside, The Sun is a perennial stranger to ‘poor taste’ – in a literal sense at least – as anyone who’s read Alex James’s food criticism will know.

“When it’s busy in a Michelin kitchen, all the chefs are doing is putting pre-prepared parts of a meal together, which is essentially the same as McDonald’s.”

I’ll leave that with you.

It was nice to see Gary Neville calling for the dissolution of The Sun, and he has since been rendered a temporary Scouser, an un-coveted prize for which he and his family are due to receive five minutes respite from LFC internet trolls. He showed a commendable willingness to go against the major shareholder of his new employers BSkyB; the most brand-orientated organisation I’ve ever come across. His outrage was unsurprisingly not in sync however, with the tepidly gutless way in which Murdoch stable-mate Sky News reported The Sun’s latest barrel-scrape:

“The Football Association has criticised The Sun newspaper over its headline about new England manager Roy Hodgson which appeared to play on how he talks.”

Well thank God for Brave Journalism. You make your own mind up, reader. It’s not for the humble Sky News team to arrive at conclusions without hard evidence… which reminded me of a particularly newsworthy event that occurred last weekend.

I was in the garage, and dad asked me for the spade. He pointed directly at it. It certainly did look like a spade.

“Pass me that spade,” he said.

“This one,” I queried, hoping to confirm my earlier suspicions.

“Yes,” he said.

“You mean the one with the square head, that’s roughly twelve inches long by eight inches wide, with the green handle?”

“Oh stop messing around and give it here.”

“I just want to be sure that this is the spade you want, for while it does appear to be a spade, and you and I are both agreed that it is, I would be more comfortable if we sought mum’s opinion too – just to be sure.”

“You will never amount to anything.”

***

The Hodgson appointment has done nothing but highlight the tragic gulf in quality and, yes, sacrilege ahoy, importance between international and club football. Proud Roy probably wouldn’t get a look in at a ‘top club’, whatever that means, and prior to his appointment as England boss seemed likely to spend the rest of his professional days touring the mid-ranking sides in the midlands, on an everlasting merry-go round with Steve Bruce and Mick McCarthy. Some would say, perhaps harshly, that he still is. I’d probably agree, and not purely on the basis of some flippant but plausible reasoning about England being crap.

Un-simply put, England is just not a week by week, totalising concern for supporters (or indeed players). It exists for fleeting spells, generally two weeks in length, occurring no more regularly than every couple of years. People tend to be on holiday when England play, and to this observer, it is consequently associated with leisure time. Club football is dealt with during months of work and earning, and is thus imbued with similar characteristics.

Like the individual supporter’s career, progress can be gleaned and assessed on a week by week basis in club football, and Saturdays could be said to be an extension of the working week. You commute somewhere you don’t want to go to, get tired and come back on the first available train. At the end of a season you can look back and think: “Play-offs and a pay rise – if you’d offered me that at the start of the season Clive I’d have taken it,” or something. You can relate job offers to games, if you’re that way inclined: “Remember that brilliant weekend? I got promoted and then we got promoted.” Players have good and bad weeks, just like you. It almost makes sense.

England however, is a time for letting your hair down as opposed to serious thought. Success in tournament football often depends on getting the rub of the green: a dubious penalty shout, a player’s timely return from injury perhaps. It renders deep analysis largely futile, thereby vindicating the presence of Alan Shearer in the studio at the taxpayer’s expense. Premier League form is judged over the ‘last six games’, which is number of games the final two teams will play in the Euros. If you hit the ground running, you’ll probably do well. If your players are tired, you probably won’t.

Many will watch the games in the searing heat of the Costa del Romford, in the knowledge that winning or losing invariably means drinking to excess and giving “Manuel” – the hard-up proprietor of the fans’ favourite tapas bar – a harrowing wedgie in front of his young family; the only people in the locale who know that his actual name is Francisco. Either way, they’re in holiday mode, and so subsequently the football isn’t the be all and end all.

“I’ll tell you one thing amigo, I am fahkin hangin’. Sorry fella, did we do this?” says West-Ham-till-I-die’s Gary Watson, slapping the diminutive Spaniard hard on the shoulder as he attempts to glue a pint glass back together. “Still, at least we’re out the tournament, eh? Anyway, I gotta go toilet.”

England is watched with blurred summery vision, the games offering our public a marker by which the individual can know when to start clambering out of drunken stupor, and get back to renewing their season ticket at Griffin Park.

***

The heartening general reaction to this week’s balls up from News International appears to be along the lines of “if we don’t get behind this man, how will we stand a chance?” Indeed. As Ed Miliband might say, had he not spent his life in Hampstead and Oxford: let’s get behind Roy and stand a chance. Let’s stand a bloody good chance. But of what? You know that at least one idiot will say it. Winning, that is. Obviously Botham’s a given, but I mean some one in the football world. Ironically it’ll probably be Shunned ‘Arry, who I’m sure has copywrited his signature “we’ve got some fantastic players in this country” battle cry. If he hasn’t, he really ought to – those lawyers can’t have been cheap. Just hearing the word “England” brings it out of him.

In a candid moment on the South Coast ladies-that-lunch scene, Sandra once revealed that ’Arry has to sleep in the guest room during major tournaments due to his excessively wriggly dreaming and incessant sleep commentary; and was apparently left bemused on a holiday to New England, which he’d been under the impression was a metaphor.