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Why Can’t Footballers Have Opinions?

In Football on September 22, 2011 at 9:46 am

Another furore over Twitter. An investigation looms. A young professional footballer faces a hefty fine, or perhaps even worse, over expressing an opinion that breaks no laws. If this sounds like a bullet point of several stories that have run over the past few months, that probably because it is. Yet, ultimately what is it about footballers that should preclude them from expressing an opinion publicly? Why is it that they are subjected to a higher level of censorship than Joe Public?

The latest storm in an e-cup revolves around Nathan Ecclestone, a 20 year old player who has only made nine appearances for his club, Liverpool. Despite the fact he is far from high profile, a possible future star at best, he has 39,000 followers who all seem intent on hearing what he has to say on a daily basis. What pressure then to entertain. The life of the average 20 year old is far from interesting and there is a tedious mundanity about the grind of being a professional foorballer. It can’t all be mobile phones up arses, roasting drunk girls, crashing sportscars. For some it’s wake up, train hard, go home, wait to see if your name appears on the Saturday team sheet.

But of course you still have opinions, so why not share them? After all, this is probably the one good thing about the internet. While politicians and hysterical tabloids will tell you it’s nothing more than a delivery vehicle for child porn and terrorist activity, it is primarily used for the rapid exchange of information and opinions. It’s what we all use it for.

And footballers are no different. Yet whenever a footballer, or indeed any high profile sporting celebrity, chooses to express an honest opinion about their industry that might deviate from the one commonly held by the public, the uproar doesn’t go away until someone has been forced into action or an apology. Whether it’s Paul Dalglish expressing his distaste at Howard Webb being made an MBE, Glenn Johnson pointing out Paul Merson might have had a bit of a gambling problem, Wojciech Szczesny suggesting that maybe Man Utd get the rub of the green in big decisions, it’s not long before it’s being investigated.

Mind you, at least those all revolve around their sport. Now it seems that footballers can’t even have opinions about politics or world events. Forget Carlton Cole casting aspersions on the legitimacy of the average Ghanian’s right to be in this country, Ecclestone’s offending tweet about September 11th reads “I ain’t going to say attack don’t let the media make u believe that was terrorist that did it. #OTIS”, the acronym at the end standing for “only The Illuminati succeed.”

Nathan is a 20 year old footballer, not a political analyst, not an eminent historian, not a seasoned journalist. He, like many others, clearly believes there’s more to the September 11th attacks than meets the eye. Many won’t have done much more than light reading on the matter as they don’t fall into any of those alternative careers. Regardless, the internet is awash with conspiracy theories that range from the vaguely plausible to the ridiculous. Flag-sucking patriots may find some of them offensive, families of the victims might not enjoy such speculation about the factors behind the deaths of their loved ones but freedom of speech is protected in the west, prized above almost all other freedoms.

Why then have Liverpool had to release a statement reading “The club takes this matter extremely seriously and senior club officials have informed Nathan Eccleston that we are undertaking an investigation into the circumstances surrounding these postings and will decide on an appropriate course of action.” What exactly does the investigation entail? Has it now become some form of professional misconduct to state your views about anything that may be construed as vaguely controversial outside of your work place? Evidently it has and most clubs are now looking at imposing a Twitter ban, a ridiculous measure.

Of course, here’s the real reason why this matter always manages to grab people’s attention – the petty jealousy of the mindless fools that make up the followers. They sit there, like some form of cyber-Stasi, waiting for someone to say something they disagree with. Then, en mass, they decry it as being wrong, as being unprofessional, as being offensive. The next move is to find who they can complain to, where to send that e-mail, which newspaper to contact. It all happens so quickly that before the footballer can delete the tweet in question, the damage is already done.

The thought process of the average moron that engages in this activity is quite transparent. Footballers earn exorbitant wages for kicking a ball. My job requires more hard work than theirs and I get less money. This is not fair. In that case they should be held up to a much higher standard of behaviour… Plus they’re role models to children, so yeah, if they step out of line in any way, fuck them. Take their money away, take their sponsors away, force them into humiliating public contrition. This slightly redresses the balance because I’m free to do all of the things I demand they don’t.

These people try and edge the spheres of their non-compatible, irrelevant arguments towards the discussion surrounding the endless Twitter controversies. The only discussion that is worth having is whether or not you believe profession dictates your right to freedom of speech. What you earn, what you do, who you are just shouldn’t come into it and all the bleating sermonising about what’s the “right” thing to do does not alter that.

While I have no doubt that Ecclestone had no idea his tweet would cause such consequences it at least might finally lead to something comprehensive being decided on the issue. Clearly, if clubs and the FA start to impede the rights of players to express political views it won’t take long for a legal team to overturn it. And when that happens the floodgates will finally be open. This oppressed profession will be free at last, free to spout their stupefyingly ill-informed views, free to speculate wildly about what it all means and free to moan about the way a game panned out the same as any fan can. Would that really be so terrible?

I have no idea how it got to the stage where clubs can take it upon themselves to investigate the political sympathies of players. If you do think this is correct picture this scenario – next time you’re shuffling papers in your office nine to five you get a tap on the shoulder. It’s your boss. They haul you into the free room, the plastic furniture laminated with the tears of the dismissed. Someone has sent them a screenshot of you saying something negative about Israel and how they should get out of Palestine. What have you got to say for yourself?

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Cosmic Forces, Newcastle Versus Villa & The Children Of Pardew

In Football on September 20, 2011 at 4:38 pm

It was judgement day in the house, the twice a season moment when the relationship gets strained. As an estranged Geordie living in Birmingham having shacked up with a Villa fan there was the possibility that it would add an extra element of spice to the fixture. Instead, it has become an exercise in diplomacy, a constant forced grin fixed to my face and having to mumble platitudes to the other half as the game goes on, only to get dagger stares when I accidentally yelp “Have it you cunts” when we bang in that vital goal.

The penalty for defeat is worse than another three points surrendered in a season that screams impending mid-table mediocrity. It will be a week of that kind of smug consolation that women do so well… “Don’t worry about it baby. You’ll get a result next week” with a smirk on her face that can freeze over even the warmest heart. Do the players even know what is at stake here?

The game itself was always destined to be a boring one. It had earlier been tweeted by the MOTD production that Aston Villa would pretty much always be the last match and it’s easy to understand why, The McLeish brand of anti-football is now well documented and his shameless slither across to Villa from Blues is probably the most disgusting thing I’ve seen in the modern game. Having been forced into watching Villa a few times this season I can honestly say it’s never been pleasant viewing. Like a flair vacuum, the McLeish ethos simply sucks the life out of any team he presides over, making me wonder exactly what a training session comprises of.

“Ach, no… Ye passed it forward laddie… That’ll never do”

And while Villa fans have my deepest sympathies, the same sympathies extended to me when it was announced we’d be taking on Alan Pardew, this brand of cloggery isn’t welcome when my beloved team come to town.

We’ve hardly been setting the world alight ourselves, our last match seeing us get humbled by the mighty Q.P.R. as we trundled to a 0-0 draw. The week before that we had to rely on Leon Best being hypnotised into believing he was Messi to come up good against Fulham. I know we’re unbeaten and I know we’re riding up in the Champions League spots but a long, long season awaits, make no mistake about it.

The good news was that Pardew, who declared Shola “Sho Stopper” Ameobi to be one of the bets professionals he’d worked with, finally realised he is shit and dropped him for a player that almost single-handedly kept West Ham up in the form of Demba Ba. He was the one bit of business that excited me in our transfer dealings that seemed content to make us twinned with some shit team in France. Having come off the bench to turn the screws on Fulham with his pace and power he has to be preferred to a player who is only remarkable for the fact he’s stuck around so long. Probably because no-one else wants him.

I wanted to hate Pardew when he came in but all things considered he’s probably the perfect manager to work under a chairman who is as demented as he is overweight. Pardew is “the company man”, that middle-tier manager in the office who continues to apply for promotion while endlessly being passed over for younger candidates. He’s solid and steady so it’s probably understandable that the team we’ve become reflects that. But Newcastle fans get restless with such consistency. We want the terrifying highs, the giddy lows, the constant tabloid inches. We’re simply not used to anything else.

The team lacks invention too and the compact midfield is incapable of supplying Demba Ba in the same way that even West Ham could. Check Tiote is rapidly becoming the next David Batty, unaware of the art of forward passing and good only for a yellow card. Since his goal against Arsenal, which was rewarded with a massive deal and contract, he’s started leading a sedentary lifestyle in midfield. When you couple that with Obertan – a player that has less awareness than Milan Baros, all head down and running in a straight line – and Cabaye, a player whose most spectacular thing about him is his name, you’re not going to create a lot of chances. Probably something that is highlighted by Leon Best being our top goalscorer with three.

A lot of pressure rests on Jonas Guttierez but it’s clear that he is also struggling to find his best form in this new look team. When he first came to the club he was described as “electrifying”. When we went to into The Championship he was “electric”. Now he’s being described as “tricky” and he struggled to make the most of a Villa defence that can be generous despite McLeish being billed as some sort of ginger defensive mastermind.

It’s not as if we’ve got a solid defence ourselves. While it’s clear that our foreign players actively benefitted from the season in The Championship, adapting to the physicality and bringing it back up to the prem, we’ve still got problems. As demonstrated in this game we can’t deal with pace, we can’t deal with strength and we like to be the architects of our own downfall. This was ably demonstrated this game by Steven Taylor, the most disloyal “loyal” player in the game (kissing the badge one minute, transfer requests the next, his agent linking him with Barcelona and a host of other clubs that would never touch him before contract negotiations) when he almost gave away a goal. He made up for it by putting it out for a corner when it was going wide anyway.

We could also use a reliable keeper. Aston Villa have got ours. Ah, Shay… How I miss you. His performance in this game showing that Villa got themselves a keeper that is capable of winning matches on his own, something he’d have done for us more often if we’d actually had defenders instead of applicants for clown college. This is the keeper that somehow managed to keep clean sheets despite playing behind the brothers of destruction Boumsong and Bramble, players that put in as many tackles on each other as they did opposition attackers. I felt his absence more acutely each time Tim Krul came to play out a backpass and winced.

So yes, our team is very much a product of Pardew. Average, steady, opportunistic. There’s no-one exceptional in any position but, I suppose, it is better than having a blend of players too good for the club being made to feel that fact every day by having to play with the bungling and inept. It’d just be nice if I believed that he could be inspiring. Clearly he can’t. His soft whispering voice before the game and at half time clearly put the players into a coma that it took twenty minutes to wake up from each time. Not even Paul McKenna can do that.

What did I learn about Villa? Well, obviously I’ve had the misfortune to watch them a few times this season because of the connection with her indoors. I honestly believe McLeish will do to this team what he did to Birmingham and Villa fans need to be wary of that before backing their man. He simply doesn’t know how to play in a manner that will see an abundance of chances and that wastes the attributes of the best players in the Villa squad. He will have to rely on the form of players like Agbonlahor.

He was the main talking point around the Villa half of Birmingham, whether or not he should be starting for England. As much as he worked our defence he’s not an international class player. He has pace and he’s getting better and holding the ball up but ultimately that’s all he can do. The interview with him on Football Focus before the match showed he lacks the brain power to add much more to his repertoire.

The reality he is that he has come to the forefront simply because Darren Bent has taken so many steps backwards. He doesn’t look anything like the player he was last season and missed a sitter that would have surely wrapped the game up. In previous fixtures this season he’d been caught offside often, his eagerness getting the better of him, or perhaps a lack of concentration. Against Newcastle he played deep and seemed to be disinterested. Worrying times because when he gets like this he’s normally setting himself up for a big money move, much like he did to enable him to move to Villa, a club that were battling relegation as opposed to the team he left that were challenging for Europe.

A draw was a fair result all round, even if we could have nicked it and it looks like we’ll be finishing above Villa this season on this evidence. Certainly our brand of slow and steady seems to be less problematic than the one McLeish is forcing down the throats of the Villa faithful. The result puts Newcastle fourth in the table, a massive over-exaggeration of the footballing side we are, but it’s still a sign of a progress of sorts even if the glory days of the Keegan era remain a distant dream.

As for the relationship with the missus? She and I left the bar and I was allowed to put my arm around her. Indeed, I didn’t mind touching her at all. We were still friends and neither of us had lost anything. The draw was completely fair and the only result that could have created this pleasant outcome. It won’t always be like this but maybe, just maybe, some cosmic force wants this relationship to work out.

The Worst Footballing Debuts Of All Time

In Football on September 19, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Your club has just forked out its entire transfer kitty on a new superstar signing. After a fairly uneventful pre-season, which means nothing anyway, you see your new hero step on to the pitch for the first time wearing your colours. This is where it matters, this is where the season begins, this is where your team proves it finally has the balance required to make a push for honours. He strides out, imperious, and applauds his new set of fans as he takes his position on the field of play. Then, somehow it all goes horribly wrong, a hideous display of ineptitude that makes you want to strip the replica shirt bearing his name from your back and burn it.

Here’s the worst footballing of all time…

Jonathan Woodgate, Real Madrid

Defensive debuts don’t really get worse than this but it’s especially nightmarish if you take into account how long the fans had to wait to see their inexplicably popular British import represent the club.

After being signed in August 2004 from Newcastle for a then costly £13.4 million it took Woodgate over a year to even make his first appearance for the Spanish giants and when he did the crowd certainly wished he hadn’t.

He opened the scoring with a spectacular own goal putting Athletic Bilbao 1-0 up at the Bernabéu. Desperately trying to atone for this cardinal sin the defender started throwing in some fairly needless challenges and inevitably was sent off after acquiring two yellow cards with twenty five minutes of the game left.

Just to underline how utterly unnecessary to his teams efforts he was, they still managed to win 3-1 despite his contribution. It was only one of nine appearances, memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Ali Dia, Southampton

Not only one of the worst debuts of all time but perhaps the most embarrassing transfer in English football and it’s all thanks to the hardest of the Chuckle Brothers, Graeme Souness.

Then the manager of Southampton, Souness received a phone call from someone claiming to be Liberian legend George Weah. Although the details of the phone call have never entirely been made public, the person who made the call – likely Dia himself – stated that Dia was Weah’s cousin, had been capped by Senegal 13 times and had at one time been on the books for Paris Saint-Germaine. It was all grade A bullshit that Souness bought wholesale.

Thinking he was getting some sort of bargain he immediately picked up Dia on a free transfer and registered him in time for the game against Leeds, seemingly without ever having seen him play or train.

He came on as a substitute, for the great Matthew Le Tissier no less, and was hilariously below Premier League standard. Lacking fitness, pace, touch and passing ability, Souness was left with no other choice but to substitute him later on in the game. Southampton lost 2-0.

Le Tissier would later talk about the embarrassing incident on an interview on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyT1r_oVcdA) where he said “it was unbelievable. He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice; it was very, very embarrassing to watch.”

The 22 minutes live on in infamy and left Souness’s credibility in tatters. Things didn’t get much better for the player either, who went on to play a few games for non-league team Gateshead before they too deemed him not up to standard. Dia by name, dire by nature.

Mike Salmon, Oxford United

OK, keepers do have a tough time of it. We all know that. Every mistake is highlighted because it usually leads to a goal or looks so hilariously bad that even someone as inherently laughable as Mark Lawrenson can feel safe to criticise it. Still, to play only one game and be voted the club’s worst ever player in a magazine poll? That takes some spectacular kind of ineptitude.

And indeed it was. Salmon, looking every bit the proverbial fish out of water, made his debut the day after signing on loan for the club against Birmingham City. Straight in the starting line-up he put on a display so wretched that it contributed to what still remains Oxford’s largest defeat as they were mauled 7-1 at the hands of the blues.

Salmon is now the goalkeeping coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS league.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, AC Milan

When Milan managed to secure the loan of a player that was coveted by top European clubs and had already played for the world’s best, they believed it was something of a coup, a move that would alter their fortunes in the league and rejuvenate their aging squad.

His debut was against the comparative minnows and Serie-A debutants of Cesena. A quiet first half from the Rossoneri somehow saw the underdogs 2-0 up at half time, with Ibrahimovic having rarely threatened the opponent’s goal.

Still, on they plodded and in the 88th minute Milan were awarded a penalty for a clumsy challenge in the box. Up steps their newly acquired £60 million rated striker to set up a barnstorming finish… Except he missed the penalty and Milan lost the game.

This debut didn’t stop the club making the move permanent at the start of this season.

Wayne Bridge, West Ham

Bridge had been in the newspapers for all the wrong reasons prior to his move to West Ham. The player that will likely be remembered for little else except bringing the “bro code” to professional football.

West Ham fans might remember him for something a little bit different with what is likely to go down in history as the worst defensive debut the Premier League has seen and is likely to see. In a game where West Ham lost 3-0 it was the debutant that was to blame for all three of the goals they conceded.

The first goal was bad but perhaps forgivable for a player starved of first team football at Man City. Failure to get anywhere near the pacey Theo Walcott allowed the winger to whip in a cross for an Arsenal lead. Just before half time his leaden legs struck again when he failed to move as Van Persie cut a ball back from the byline returning the favour for Walcott.

The most catastrophic of his errors came in the 77th minute where, again skinned for pace by Walcott, he tackled the player from behind and gave away a penalty. He was hauled off in the last minute of the game but the damage was done. West Ham fans looked aghast, even more so when it was revealed in the papers he was allegedly being paid £90,000 a week.

Henrik Larsson, Celtic

It might seem amazing to think that any Celtic fan could have anything bad to say about the hoops legend but after his debut many were left shaking their heads thinking they had acquired yet another dodgy foreign import.

Coming on as a late substitute against Hibernian with the game tied at 1-1 the man who would become Celtic’s top scorer of all time made the decisive play of the match… By passing to Hibs midfielder Chic Charnely who scored to award the game to his side. His European debut wasn’t much better, scoring an own goal against Tirol Innsbruck in a macth Celtic won 6-3.

Still, his quality came to the forefront as the season progressed, banging in eighteen goals in all competitions and laying the foundations for what would be a glittering career with the club. Proof that debuts aren’t always the best indicator of whether or not your team has bought a lemon.

Redknapp Is Not The Man For England

In Football on September 14, 2011 at 11:48 am

We’ve already seen the damage that can be done when managers are talked into jobs by their friends in the media. The most recent example was Roy Hodgson’s move to Liverpool. A mediocre, journeyman gaffer suddenly talked up as manager of the year for a lower mid-table finish and getting thumped in the UEFA Europa League final and then given the reigns of power at a big club he should never have been at.

Now it seems the same thing is poised to happen with England. Despite it being a long way off, the successor for Capello’s departure seems to have already been decided. But should Harry Redknapp, known to his friends as simply ‘Arry, really be given the most difficult job in world football? Here’s some reasons why it will likely be an unmitigated disaster.

Wheeling & Dealing

When you’re an international manager you can’t simply take to the transfer market, signing every African midfielder that’s available in an attempt to rejuvenate an already swollen squad. You have to work with what is there, which for the most part will be the same old names that have been there for the past decade or so. It’s doubtless that someone who revels in their image being the equivalent of a used car salesman will find this mundane reality particularly stimulating.

Can a man whose instinct told him to look abroad when he was managing a team with one of the best young squads in Britain – West Ham – really be the man to help assemble a consistent England squad? Will the temptation to tinker and pick some wild selections prove too great? Just who would be the UK equivalent of Marco Boogers and Florin Raducioiu anyway? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Wild Excuses

He’s always got one, hasn’t he? And to be fair, England fans are sick of hearing them from a string of manager’s that simply can’t put their hands up and say they are out of their depth. Already he’s been at it this season having the audacity to claim that having one player in his squad “tapped up” is the reason for a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of a superior Man City. Then after agreeing to sell vast swathes of his squad players before the transfer deadline he then bemoans what a small squad he actually has, setting up future excuses as they may be required.

Of course, by having friends in the media, these outbursts are glossed over as him simply being plain speaking. However, will people want to hear about the “lack of available players” or “congested domestic schedule” after crashing out of the qualifiers for an international tournament? Doubtful. We’ve heard it all before.

Antiquated Tactics

Everyone would agree that football has come a long way in the last thirty or forty years. The modern game is as much about tactics as it is about having the playing staff, the proof of this being numerous in the new breed of football manager typified by Mourinho. Do England then really want a manager who thinks it’s all as simple as having a couple of quick wingers, a large centre forward to aim crosses at and a small, rapid striker to feed balls through to? Don’t forget the combative midfielder.

While such dull and often trotted out truisms such as “you can’t beat pace in the premier league” are all well and good, do we really want to see England relying on the same game plan it had before it finally decided that maybe foreign coaches were the way to go? Tottenham may well be labelled an attacking side and an entertaining one to watch but that is more down to the staff they have in the ranks (emerging talent such as Bale who was being touted as heading on loan to Birmingham back in 2009, the mercurial talent of Modric) rather than any genuine tactical innovation.

By his own admission they’ve suffered due to not being able to field their big players – in the international world where injuries and suspensions define whole tournaments, a genuine general is going to be required for success.

Blind Loyalty

Everyone knows Ledley King has no knees. I don’t mean “no knees” in the same way a fat bloater huffing and puffing around the Sunday league pitch has no knees. I actually mean he has no knees. If he plays one game, he’s invariably out for three… If he makes training at the start of the week, he’s resting by the end of it.

I know all this because Harry Redknapp never stops talking about it. We get it. It’s a real tragedy. Ledley King isn’t the first talented player to have limitations put on his career by physical problems and he won’t be the last. The real question though has to be why, knowing that he has no knees, Redknapp has made no real effort to replace him. Why does he allow him to remain on the payroll? Why doesn’t he just cut his losses? Why doesn’t he put the arm round the shoulder and tell him it’s time for retirement but not to worry as he can coach the kids, who do have knees?

It’s because Ledley “is a great lad”, which is probably true. Still, you want a manager to make the tough decisions. If I worked in a call centre and had no vocal chords, great lad or not, I’d expect the gaffer to tell me I should probably go and flip burgers instead.

Taking injury prone players to international events because they’re great lads is a surefire recipe for disaster and not one I trust Redknapp to steer clear of.

Old Grudges

While on the one hand he’ll be loyal to players who can’t play, it’s a fact that Redknapp has also has some pretty unsavoury run-ins with his fellow managers. Always one for the dodgy deal, several managers have accused Redknapp of unsettling players and has left whole clubs cursing the day he had dealings with them.

Given that the relationship between the national manager and those at club level has to be one of give and take, can Redknapp smooth over some of the past transgressions in order to ensure that he can have those players free for a friendly, or take someone recovering from injury into a competition?

Would he even want to is another question. He can be every bit as cantankerous as you’d expect a human Bagpuss lookalike to be. Old arguments would likely lead to the standpoint of cutting off his nose to spite his weathered face.

Self Interest

Whatever anyone says about the England manager’s job, it being labelled as a poison chalice for anyone who takes it could not be truer. Whether it’s the comedic ineptitude of Graham Taylor, the emotional fragility of Kevin Keegan or the voodoo fixated Glenn Hoddle, the scrutiny and pressure makes fools of them all. Look at the fate of Steve McClaren, once touted as the best modern coach England had produced, now reduced to impersonating the Dutch and managing Forest.

Ultimately no job in football carries a heavier penalty for failure, which is all well and good, yet Redknapp always seems to emerge from even the worst of situations looking immaculate and this is largely down to him always acting based on his own self interest. His track record within club football points to a manager who persuades chairmen to part with vast sums of money, presides over a period of success and then, the minute the peak has reached, plots his next big money move to a new home to repeat the cycle again.

Given that managing England is likely to be his last job in football, is it not entirely likely that when the going gets tough, Redknapp will walk out just as his country could really use him? And that would be the end, with him accepting a huge advance to write his memoirs like a disgraced politician, being drafted in by Sky Sports as a pundit for England games so he can criticise his successor and sit next to his son, like some hideous advert for the ravages of time.

The Ten Most Bitter Sporting Feuds – Part 2

In Boxing, Football, Uncategorized on July 27, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Ayrton Senna Vs Alain Prost

It shouldn’t be surprising that one of the most dangerous and glamorous sports in the world produced a rivalry with all the elements to make it the key component of a Hollywood movie. It’s not difficult to see why either – in the space of a few years the story saw friends turned into bitter enemies and it ended in tragedy.

Having formed a dream partnership together at McLaren in 1988 the two drivers contrasting styles saw them take fifteen out of sixteen wins in that season between them. Prost was methodical and mature, the thinking man’s racer whose attention to detail in set-up was the stuff of legend. Senna was younger, a more brash and flamboyant driver and come the end of the season it would be him who would win the title. Prost didn’t seem to harbour too much of a grudge about it conceding that Senna had been “too good”.

Yet, Senna’s aggression had angered Prost and the rivalry was truly born when Senna reneged on their gentleman’s agreement to let whoever was in the lead from the first lap maintain that lead without challenge. During the second round of the 1989 San Marino Grand Prix it was Senna who took the lead, only for the race to be restarted due to a crash. This time it was Prost who took the lead but Senna was having none of it, overtaking his teammate and speeding off into the distance.

What followed down the years was as intense a rivalry as sports had seen, both drivers publicly denigrating the other with numeorus barbs at press conferences off the track and battling each other with risky overtaking and vehicle collisions on it. Both also battled each other for titles, something that continued until Prost’s retirement at the end of the 1993 season.

Although Senna had never indicated it during their time as competitors he was heard saying on radio at the 1994 at San Marion, where the rivalry was born, “A special Hello to my dear friend Alain. We all miss you.” It was to prove to be Senna’s last race when his life was claimed in the last fatal crash that the sport has seen. Prost paid him the only tribute he knew how – “I have lost my greatest rival. The only driver that I ever respected…”

Muhammed Ali Vs Joe Frazier

A lot of the trash talking that surrounds boxers is there purely for hyping the fights. Even when it has genuine sentiment behind it, the general consensus is that any ill feeling is left in the ring, the true indicator of boxing’s roots as a sport fixated with gentlemanly conduct. Not so between two of the greatest names the fight game has ever seen, the rivalry still simmering now even in their old age.

Naturally it was Ali who started it. The “greatest of all time” before he was the greatest of all time always abused his opponents pre-fight but before his first encounter with Frazier he seemed to cross a line when he referred to him as “too dumb” to be champion and an “Uncle Tom”. Frazier wasn’t short of ammunition calling Ali a draft dodger and goading him by refusing to refer to him by his Islamic name and still using Casius Clay throughout the build up. Both fighters were undefeated and in the bout dubbed “The Fight Of The Century” it was Frazier who took both of Ali’s titles in a unanimous decision.

A rematch in 1974 went the way of Ali and it set up their third and final fight, The Thrilla in Manila. If there was any chance that Ali would have gained some respect for his opponent after having lost to him once before, it wasn’t evident from the way he continued to speak about Smokin’ Joe. He said he was “over the hill” and called him a gorilla. The 1975 fight was another classic, Ali earning a TKO in the 14th and it would be the last time they met but not the last time they battled.

Upon learning that Ali had Parkinsons in 1996 Frazier said “’They want me to love him but I’ll open up the graveyard and bury his ass when the good Lord chooses to take him.” Ali offered an apology in 2001, which Frazier was said to have accepted without comment.

Brian Clough Vs Don Revie

The most famous managerial rivalry in football and one that makes Wenger and Fergie look like firm friends, these two unashamedly spoke of their great dislike of one another in public at every given opportunity.

While manager at Derby Clough was extremely vocal about Revie’s Leeds team who he saw as being an overly negative and “dirty” team who used questionable tactics to win games at all costs. As he berated both their methods and success he held himself up as a champion of stylish football. He even put his name to an article that appeared in the Sunday Express that called for Revie to be fined and Leeds to be relegated to Division 2. It was an unprecedented outburst.

Revie had little time for Clough’s criticism seeing the disrespect as both foolish and unprofessional. A staunch believer in winning at all costs he saw his Leeds team as one to be applauded for their never say die attitude and couldn’t understand how someone who wanted to win as much as he did couldn’t appreciate the virtues of the team.

When Revie was left Leeds and given the job Clough always wanted as manager of England, Clough became his successor and the madness that followed in a 44 day tenure has been well documented, spawning an award winning book and a spin-off movie in “The Damned United”. Clough had no love in the dressing room from players he’d previously berated and tried to make wholesale changes. Revie saw this as a pathetic attempt to destroy his legacy.

While the feud would last throughout the lives its most memorable moment came when both confronted each other in an interview on Yorkshire Television in 1974. Coming after Clough had left Leeds, what he saw as his only failure, the two tore strips off each other and left the hapless interviewer a bystander.

Ashely Cole Declares Himself “Not Infallible”

In Football on July 8, 2011 at 12:33 am

If ever there was any proof that the modern day footballer is divorced from reality it has to be Ashley Cole. The reputation he has acquired for himself has completely offset any positive praise he would ordinarily receive for being the best left-back of his generation. Instead he finds himself universally despised, reviled by the club that made him, booed by the fans of the country he represents and treated like an unwanted stepchild by supporters of the club he currently plays for.

Yet despite this being entirely his own doing, Cole recently sat down with the BBC for an interview where he revealed that he was at a loss to explain it all. “”I’ve made mistakes and have just got to live with it” he said, as if he was some kind of victim in all of his past transgressions. Of course the interview itself was motivated completely from a point of self interest – Only a few days prior to it the new Chelsea manager, Andre Villas-Boas, had said he wanted his players to be role models.

Knowing he might not be seen as a sympathetic character he diverted attention to how much the stories were hurting his mother. “What parent wouldn’t [find reading them difficult]” he lamented, without ever making the connection in his mind that as he was the person causing the stories in the first place perhaps he should shoulder some of the blame for it all.

What exactly is the fuss about? Well, with Cole it’s difficult to know where to begin. So many almost certainly true stories can’t even be printed but anyone who has stood on the terraces and listened to the chants could probably fill in some of the details. Still, if we only want to operate in the realms of proven fact – wise to do in this age of super injunctions – then here’s what we do know. He was a player who betrayed the club that had nurtured his talent and given him a platform to play his way into the England squad when he held secret talks with Chelsea while still under contract. The move was completely financially motivated and was so successful that the £100,000 he was fined for being in breach of FA regulations regarding contract was likely made up in his first few weeks at his new home.

On the pitch there are numerous examples of petulance and ill temper. The 2008 tie between Chelsea and Tottenham resulted in a horror tackle on Alan Hutton that sent the defender to the hospital. Under the advisement of his club he came out and made a public apology. The club then said this was indicative of a new, mature Cole and applauded him for doing what they had told him to.

Perhaps they were right though… Gone was the arrogant person who couldn’t understand the criticism he received from teammates when he released an autobiography aged just 25. Alternatively though he was the same old Cole. Certainly that maturity seemed lacking when he was arrested for swearing at a police officer while coming out of a nightclub the following year. Or when he was convicted of a speeding offence – doing over twice the 50 MPH speed limit – only a few months after that.

Then there was the serial infidelity to his wife Cheryl that seemed to make the tabloids every few months or so. It took a while but a very public divorce began. In a time when England footballers were having the captaincy stripped from them for simply having sexual relations with a teammates ex, Cole again seemed unaware of the significance of what it all meant in terms of his image.

Eclipsing all his previous acts of stupidity though had to be shooting a student on work experience with an air rifle. Yes, flying in the face of other footballers lending the name to anti-gun crime drives, Ashley was instead larking about with an air rifle and decided to shoot the lucky trainee in the next. Quite an experience to take away from his time at the football club.

In the interview Cole explained that it was just some sort of weird accident, a freak occurrence he was powerless to prevent:

“If someone had actually seen the incident – you wouldn’t laugh because it was a stupid thing to do – but the whole situation was crazy. Of course it was an accident.”

At least it wasn’t malicious then, which is perhaps something that had been lost in the clamour to smear Cole’s good name – had anyone actually asked if he had deliberately shot the individual, who needed medical attention after the incident? Well, sure a few did. Many didn’t think to. The presumption was it had to be an accident but still one caused by negligence and stupidity. Cole doesn’t feel he has to defend these, only intent. This is a huge part of the psyche that makes him disliked by even those with memories that only go back as far as his last appearance in the red tops.

“…at the end of the day I just want to play football, I’m here to play football. I just wish people would judge me more on football and speak about football more than a life that people don’t really know.”

He added this heartfelt plea before going on to talk about the restaurant he was launching with Jay-Z, one that would provide jobs for underprivileged kids and certainly give Cole some positive press this time around.

Oh yes, Cole is all about the football and he on occasion makes a mistake or two. What’s the problem?

No More Heroes Any More

In Football on February 5, 2011 at 8:17 pm

The Sporting Eye has made its view on the action in the January transfer window quite clear… Players it seems are now driven by big money moves rather than ones based on opportunity or prestige. The days of the club hero are dead and this transfer window activity underlined it with all the brutality of a nanny shaking a baby until its brain disconnects.

 


The first chief offender was of course Darren Bent, who casually turned his back on a team that had taken him on when he had been marginalised by another and had given him a platform to play himself into England contention. His reward to his fans and teammates was to manufacture a transfer to a club that is – or at least was – battling against relegation and was one place above the drop zone. Even if his quotes about them being in a false position (as if such a thing ever exists in league football) turn out to be prophetic, his move was as cynical and unambitious as they come.

 
Still, it was hard to take Steve Bruce’s sermonising about his lack of loyalty when he himself had proven what a mercenary he could be when he took the reigns at Wigan for just 8 games before defecting to Crystal Palace, before doing the same to them 18 games later when he moved to Birmingham. It’s also a certainty that it is Bruce’s interaction with Bent that caused him to have one eye on the door, an example of which was when he publicly lambasted the striker for allowing his struggling team-mate Kenwyn Jones to take a penalty in a game Sunderland won at a canter. It wasn’t the only time he was critical of his players in public and indeed it seems he learned nothing from his old boss over at Man Utd, given his eagerness to shift blame onto players when results weren’t going his way.

 
The Fernando Torres situation was a lot more obvious and it’s clear that despite the Liverpool fans wanting to make him another one of their striker heroes, he was always passing through that club. His love affair with Liverpool ended round about the time a flailing Rafa Benitez insisted on playing him injured and delaying surgery, something that contributed to a lack of form and meant he was a bystander as his nation won the world cup. While he may have kissed the badge, he would have taken a move anywhere that could have offered him an improved chance of winning trophies, which right now even extends as far as Birmingham City.

 
Torres was never the hero type… If you’re not convinced ask any Atletico Madrid fan who had to see the player, who was named the club captain at just 19 years of age, turn his back on them for a big money move to Liverpool after just six years at his “boyhood” club. Until then they had been on an upward trajectory, having achieved their highest finish since being promoted in 2001/2002. The club weren’t even properly compensated, the fee having not been disclosed but was in the region of £15 million. He will be well suited to Chelsea and they will get good mileage out of him for two or three years before he decides to return to Spain. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him pull on the white of Real in one final career affront to fans that want to believe.

 
The really shocking move had to be that of Andy Carroll, a player who had enjoyed a fairly average career up until Newcastle returned to the Premier League. The club had stuck by a player that had made little impact in the reserves, who had been deemed surplus to requirements by key members of the coaching staff and who had failed to deliver on his promise as a youth. However, he was a local lad, Gateshead born, and it was felt that his heart would always be in the club. When his contract was renewed it was hardly a great cause for celebration as the player then went on to be involved in a series of disciplinary issues, including breaking a team-mates jaw and then being arrested and bailed for assault twice, the first time for a nightclub incident and the most recent supposedly to do with his partner. Having to live with the club captain, the club stood by him and continued to play him and never once criticised him publicly for his questionable lifestyle. He did give his all on the pitch and his performances, only possible due to the loyalty shown by the club he’d been at all his life, earned him his first international cap.

 
Then on transfer deadline day, despite his insistence earlier in the season that he wanted to become a Newcastle legend in the same manner of Alan Shearer and Jackie Milburn, he was suddenly flying to Liverpool in a helicopter after submitting a transfer request. He can text all the local press he wants, but the fact of the matter is – as much as I or any Newcastle fan would like to believe to the contrary – he went because he wanted to. Mike Ashley knows St. James is a powederkeg and having £35 million he can’t spend is no comfort to the tenuous hold he has over the club after a string of lies and ineptitude. Selling Carroll on transfer deadline day could have easily lead to scenes akin to the Bastille.

 
Naturally he didn’t want the move to affect his already rocky personal life but the facts are he simply cannot expect to retain the love of the fans and play for another club. It doesn’t work like that unless you leave under some pretty exceptional circumstances and Carroll, like most footballers these days, had not put in enough time for those to come to pass. Maybe he’ll do that at Liverpool but it won’t mean as much as it would had he stayed.

 
But this is the face of the modern game. Players like Raul, Del Piero, Shearer, Scholes, Giggs, Le Tissier, Maldini, Strand, Harazi, Totti… These are a dying breed and they were rare to begin with in the first place. Now everyone follows the David Beckham model… You get the big moves, you do the big business, you think of profile, image rights and signing on fees before a legacy. That is the nature of the beast and it’s only going to get worse.
Newcastle fans might not even know it but they actually do have a hero at the club. They may never sing his name, they might not even care for him when he plays, yet for sixteen years – with huge periods of that being on the bench – he has remained faithful to the club and continues to do so. Steve Harper will never command a £35 million transfer fee but its players like him that the fans should be talking about rather than those who see you as a differently coloured stepping stone to a bigger bank balance.

 

The Premier League Escort Agency

In Football on February 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Gareth Wood on the whorish behaviour on Premier League transfer deadline day

 

I paced the hotel room with a swill of rum vaulting listlessly from the rim of the dirty glass.  Outside, burning cars lit up the Liverpool skyline like wild amber faces laughing maniacally at my vacuous expression; the drunk in the glass is a pig in a pen.

 


I was staying at the Eleanor Rigby; a hideous Beatles-themed hotel just outside Lime Street station; the concrete grew upwards and enveloped the sky like nasty mud-laden fingers.  It was truly an awful hotel; the plastic, tacky, limp stolid wretchedness of it all was like someone else’s bile being slowly forced in your mouth via a straw that has been used to tickle the treacly colon of a tramp, I heaved just to be there.

 
The bell-hops wore mop-tops and a memorabilia shop stocked the lot from monogrammed socks to cock-warmers with effigies of Ringo Starr staring either up or down, depending on arousal.  I had been to this place twice before.  The first unfortunate occasion was a result of temporary house arrest.  I had been accosted by the law for proclaiming that it is indeed possible to walk alone in Liverpool…as long as you are walking to work.  As you can imagine, I was chased through the city by scousers brandishing burning giros and forced to take refuge in a dilapidated cathedral like Frankenstein’s Monster.

 
The second visit to this most ugly of dens came about when I was attempting to climb the frame of a fine Japanese exchange student.  She was, in typical style, fascinated with The Beatles so, being the unfathomable genius I am, I thought ‘Ah’, take her to the Eleanor Rigby and watch her underwear melt away like the frost of a February midday.  She was enamoured with the constant Beatles references, the smutty glutinous daubing of collectors items and the questionable heritage of those that worked there however, whilst I was in the room polishing one off in anticipation she was being seduced by the night porter and his Lennon like affectation.  He wore those pathetic circular glasses that the wearer believes denotes a curious creative intelligence, when in fact if you believe an item of appendage will imbue you with creative intelligence it is apparent that you will never possess any.  He told her of his new stage play, ‘The 5th Beatle’, a one-man show in which he recounts -via each of their tracks- episodes of his life and the connection to their music thusly.  ‘What a brutal and lousy cunt’ I mused as I wiped the semen from the bathroom mirror and replaced it with disappointment.

 
Anyway, so despondent was I that I decided to abandon my seductive behaviour and get heavily mixed up with what liquor and drugs I had to hand.  Some stinking AK-47 Birmingham-built marijuana and a few slugs of Bushmill’s with beer chasers found me bounding around the suite with the duel feeling of arousal and cruelty surging through me like a funnelled fire.  It was then that I decided to order an escort, or, in the honest parlance, a whore.  I called Sultan Marigold, a friend in the area, who, as I well knew, was locked in to the abuse scene and could get me a piece of hole-cake as quick as I could piss on the bed sheets.  He threw me a number. Said it was the Premier League Escort Agency, told me to call and enjoy.  I dialled nervously and a gruff voice answered.  We discussed prices before the line-up and I proceeded with trepidation.  The voice recommended a young Spaniard, said she was around 22, blonde with freckles and legs like tanned water; I was in, gave my details and waited half-hard with fear for the knock.  When the door was tapped I opened, there she stood; proud, hot and utterly addictive.  Leaning in she proffered a hand and said ‘Hola, Me Llamo Torrez Fernando…’

 
Well.  I was back there again; last week, four years on, the world’s gruesome ballet had spun me into this foul corner once again; spared the void for the cell.  I though of Torrez and her lithe frame dancing around me, stepping over my thrusts and tackle, how I crossed her body with sweat before shooting fiercely into the top bag.  I became twitchy; it was apparent that I needed to see her and, after a stiffener from a nearby bottle I reached into my pocket and pulled out the crumpled and aged paper that held the number still upon it.

 
The gruff voice answered; ‘Premier League Escorts.’‘Hello…’ I began, ‘I’d like to get a girl to my room at the Eleanor Rigby.’‘What girl?’ the voice spat back, ‘Do you want to hear the list?’Not quite knowing why, I said ‘yes’ and the voice reeled off…‘I’ve got a very experienced Irish piece; Keaney we call her, 31 years old; been passed around like a good joke and knows her way around a prick.’‘What does she look like?’‘Short. Spiky hair, face like a squashed bee, pale skin but, like I said, can choke a chicken with a sideways glance…’‘No!’ I yelled, ‘no’ softer, ‘no thank you’.‘Well’ he continued, ‘There’s a pock-marked trollop called K Miller who-‘‘Look! Is there anyone good available?’ I snapped.‘Well, there’s a tall Geordie girl called Carroll.  Brunette, long hair, a little green to the game but early reports have been positive; knows how to finish a chance, if you know what I mean…doesn’t come cheap though…’‘Why so expensive?’ I enquired distractedly, already sure that I’d ask for Torrez regardless of what was thrown up. ‘It’s all down to potential’ the voice imparted, its tone like a blackboard being scratched by a vulture; almost tubercular with wheezing; a lunger for sure; not long to linger in this awful trade.  ‘It’s the potential that does it.  Sure, she’s not prick-savvy now but she can drink a coke with no hands, and that kind of trick shows promise.’‘I’ll pass’ I injected, ‘I was hoping for something more…European.’The voice paused and said, ‘What about Uruguayan?’South American I thought; could be worth hearing the description. ‘Do tell.’‘Louise Suarez; 24, dark as a Poe short story; fiery, ride you like a mountain bike and probably wander off with your dick still inside; raw power’‘A savage time eh?’‘You’ll be lucky to live’ he stated.‘No, I want to die by my own hand; not the clam of a hooker.’‘Look’ the voice grew in exasperation ‘What about something different?’‘Go on…’‘Bent Darren; she’s a he and he’s a winner! Likes to play games with bottles…as long as they’re fine champagnes-‘‘No! Oh no, not that, thanks. What about Torrez Fernando? She still on your books?’A knowing laugh dribbled through the receiver.  ‘She is still with us.  Been regular business but has had a couple of lean years; still good work though; starting to get a reputation back amongst the high rollers.  Not cheap though…’‘I’ll pay it.’ I said, ‘just send her over…’Phone hung up, silence again, waiting began.The door to my suite rattled as though an impish summer breeze has brushed the beads in a Latino doorway.  I pushed my member towards my left pocket and, straightening my shirt, opened the door.  For a moment I wasn’t sure it was her; the hair was darker now, brown, the figure was the same in stature but somehow different, as though it hadn’t slept for a long time.  She was dressed well; the same red strip, the same leather shoes.  ‘Come in’ I said, wandering if she remembered me, or if all the swaying cocks in her world had wiped away my memory like a worn rag.  I poured her a drink as she surveyed the room. There was a slightly perturbed sigh as she looked upon the crusty tissues from my warm-up and the empty bottles that lay on the plush carpet like bullet casings.  Passing her the drink I asked ‘Can we get started?’ She tossed the warm booze back as though she was recoiling from heading a ball and –leaning forward- began to unzip my fly; the dull throb felt as though it could be felt in the frightened taxis below and I knew that I was going to get the same service as before….

 
Just as she was about to bless my wand with a gaping mouth her mobile phone began to ring in a stunted symphony of electric dings.  She leant back and answered in pigeon English; ‘Yes…this is Torrez…Que? Sorry, what? For how much? In the same Hotel? Bien, muy bien, gracias senor.’‘What’s happening?’ I asked as she stood up and straightened her crimson garments in the reflection of a signed Paul McCartney poster.‘A grande offer, baby…la Russian amigo y Italian amigo es…penthouse.’‘What!?’ but I’d agreed the evening? I thought we had a deal? You can’t go now; there’s not enough time to get someone else, someone as good…’‘Por Favor…Sorry senor; Buenos noches.’ And with that she left; off to a bigger room with richer men and a night of violation on a more comfortable bed.

 
As I lay in the low-light of shattered lamps scoring the eyes from the McCartney picture with a smashed bottle neck I thought of her; pictured her compressed like an accordion; the fat Italian at one end, the Russian at the other, their eyes meeting in the throws, knowing they’d taken this Spaniard from a cheaper room.  I wandered how, when I’d excused her failings; the lessening of her effervescence since I first met her four years back, she could just walk out on me and stroll to someone in the same hotel.  Was the coin that great? Was the offer so much better than the prospect of a few hours in my company? I guess it must have been…
The night climbed in like a starving cat.  I swayed on the carpet; an upturned boat on the waves; my thoughts swam in smoke and sea as I reeled the phone in by its coiled line.  The ringing died in a soft distance and that gruff voice reappeared;

 
‘Premier League Escort Agency’

 
‘Is Bent Darren still available?’

 
Lights Out

 

Richard Keys In… The Devil Rides Out

In Football on January 28, 2011 at 10:33 am

Gareth Wood completes his hat-trick with his take on Richard Keys and his resignation

 

‘There are dark forces at work here…’

 

Richard Keys: Fearing the occult?

 

Some nights you just can’t keep the monster away.  You stroll the house aimlessly kicking stray objects against stained walls and ingesting substances to steady your mood.  I found myself in such a tumultuous funk only last night…

 

The walls were barbed with ugly remnants of previous outbursts; fist holes looked back at me from the feeble masonry like the gaping mouths of inflatable sex-dolls and I fingered them in the same way.  The cracked shards of bare brick felt good on my throbbing skin and my tension eased slightly.  I drank a pale ale and smoked two or three cones of strong weed…my mood eased even more, even to the point where my woman felt it was okay to take the bolt of the bathroom door and peer out into the ether to see whether my rampage had ceased…even my dog peeked from beneath our sofa with a humble, expectant concern seeping from his baleful gaze.  Things had alleviated…

 

We attempted to continue our evening in the normal way however, when I happened upon Jamie Oliver’s imperfect faux-Londoner jabbering on the television screen I once again began to transform into a werewolf and, for the love of my kin, decided it was time to go out.

 

In the cool vale of darkness I climbed the fence to a nearby park and resolved to do some pull-ups on the monkey-bars of a children’s playground.  The gates were sealed but I scaled them with my superhuman abilities.  The park was a tomb; no-one but dead memories stirred amidst the pining wind and blue flares of long-off strobe lights.  I began my exercise, pulling up and lowering with a rhythmic ease, my transformed muscles ripping and repairing, sending endorphins to my boggled mind and –to a degree- making me somewhat less murderous.

 

Having decided to stop for a rest I was immediately aware that I was being watched.  ‘Come out you fucking pig!’ I howled; the yelp of my voice sounding like a hundred burning infants.  An overcoat appeared from the cover of brush and slinked towards me, ‘dear god’ I thought, ‘I’m about to be raped; a twisted punishment for my equality piece’.  As the figure approached I recognised the unsettling stare, the pallid grill and the slithering shape…it was Richard Keys.

 

As he got within three feet of me I warned him, ‘Don’t come any closer Keys! I’m a werewolf! I will literally rip you to pieces with my teeth…none of this media punishment! My shit is real!’
He spoke; ‘I’m not here to hurt you’ he began, ‘I’m looking for a virgin…’ ‘Oh Richard’ I said wearily as though all the sadness in the world had just been ejaculated in my face, ‘Richard, Richard, your career is still salvageable, you don’t have to take the Gary Glitter route, why don’t you contact that human shit finger Max Clifford and see if he can get you embroiled in a scandal where you are the victim…pop on a few pounds maybe and the cunt can get you onto Celebrity Fit Club…’‘No!’ he protested, the fear in his eyes like frozen piss, ‘I’m no pervert…I need the child for a…ritual…’

 

As you can image, for several minutes there were no words spoken between us.  I was doing my level best to transform into a lycanthrope, for self-defence purposes, but all the straining just made my ass hurt.  Keys, meanwhile, was edgily looking around him, feverish with fright like a mouse eating a morsel in the open air.  As soon as he realised that we were truly alone he enlightened me…

 

‘It’s the dark forces…they are at work…they have come for Andy Gray and now they want me…I have a friend with a conservatory and we have 12 members ready to call…ready to call up…Satan.  We will bargain with him, proffer a sacrifice and in return he will see to it that I am reinstated on Sky Sports…’

 

I told him in no uncertain terms that he was misinformed.  ‘You need a circle of 13 in order to perform such a ritual and, whilst Satan will grant you an audience, it is only a possibility that he will repair your shattered life’.

 

‘It’s worth a fucking shot!’ he said desperately. ‘Will you be the 13th…Wolfman?’

 

I agreed.

 

The hunt for a child was a simple one.  There is a 24 hour Asian supermarket only a moment away, the owners small son usually sits on a chair near the counter eating sugary treats and playing with a Batman figure.  We walked in and I did the talking, ‘Hassan, I need to take your son.’ I had to be candid; I knew he’d appreciate my honesty.  He also knew of my being a werewolf and didn’t want his life and business risked by acquiring such a dangerous foe. ‘Please don’t hurt him’ he said.  I gave him my word as a liar that I would not kill him, however, Keys promised no such thing.

 

We arrived at the mansion and a hooded servant opened the door with a slow lingering motion not unlike a geriatric wiping his arse.  I could have sworn it was Paul Merson by the way a front tooth fell to the ground as he greeted us but, as Keys had explained, we’d all agreed a vow of anonymity.  Placing Hassan’s son in the centre of the pentagram we took our seats.  Keys began reading the incantation, wan shadows danced in the corners of the room, lights flickered in distant butcher shops and the moon itself juddered like a shimmering sea.  A cloud of ashen dust began to rise from the ground, Hassan’s son played with his toy utterly uninterested and totally unaware of the impending danger…

 

…the dusted smoke formed a figure and, as its features became apparent, it had an air of wretched familiarity that could not be denied.  The images below, almost too shocking to look upon, are the closest approximations to the terrifying and gruesome manifestation that we beheld…

 

…Yes! The demon had appeared…It looked upon us with a curious gaze; as though it was not quite sure why it had been summoned.  Keys immediately fell to his knees and said ‘Oh, Dark Lord! I have brought you a sacrifice soust thoust spare my career onst Sky…’

 

‘Why are you talking in that way?’ the creature asked in a booming Northern voice.

 

‘I…I thought that’s how you…’ Keys mumbled.

 

‘Nonsense!’ the creature protested.  ‘And what is this?’ he enquired, pointing to the young boy.

 

‘He’s the sacrifice oh Dark Lord oh…’ Keys whispered in an embarrassed tone.

 

‘Sacrifice?’ the beast snarled, ‘What about an ipod or a fucking guitar? I don’t want a boy.  I’ve got enough boys here from the Hitler Youth.’

 

Keys was understandably disappointed.  The beast began to leave.  ‘Wait!’ screamed Keys, ‘What about my career, my life, my future?!’

 

The beast turned, ran his fingers through his thick lacquered hair and said ‘You can’t expect me to save you; it’s not as though you murdered a man or ate a baby…you passed a slight remark against a female official you filthy deviant…you are finished Keys…finished…’

 

And with that he was gone.

 

I returned Hassan’s son as the light broke for dawn.  He asked no questions and I gave him no information; I imagine he was pleased enough to see his son again without any missing limbs, machete-carved insignias or scorched eyes.  What of Keys? You ask.  Well the last I saw of him he was attempting to persuade the other 11 at the ritual to help him find the arc of the covenant…or at least give him a lift to ESPN…they were struggling to understand him though; he was speaking in tongues.  A tragic turn really, but let’s face it; he was a smarmy snake-oiled pimp to begin with and perhaps the dark forces that he so feared have done us a solid…

 

As for me…I’m done with the occult.  The lycanthropy persists to a degree but I’ve managed to cover the rage holes in my living room with photographs of angels and, at least for the time being, that might be enough to keep my powder dry.  But, it’s a full-moon tonight, the sky is ablaze with a Hessian of smog and fire and I can feel the curvature of my bones altering to that of an animal…and somewhere, beneath the same canopy under which you lie, Richard Keys is wandering dark parks speaking in tongues and hoping his next leap will be the leap home…

Equality Is A Double Ended Dildo

In Football on January 26, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Guest writer Gareth Wood gives his views on the firing of Andy Gray

 

I was recently attacked by the equality bug…

 

…It’s really more of a slow-burning AIDS type infection, rather than one of those gruesome jungle mites that scramble the brains and flesh of hulking ebony tribesmen in the far-off landscapes of documentary-town; a brutal place where female castration and cannibalism run rife throughout.

 

My experience, if you can call it that, was initially brief; staccato, punchy even, but the ramifications of the initial move caused a transformation in me that no moral hypothesis could detect.  It was a week or so ago.  I was bored, ball-scratching, coffee-drinking, window-watching bored.  ‘How can I alleviate this turgid grey?’ I questioned as the day slunk into blue sheets like a doorway-dweller.  ‘Ah!’ It came to me with the velocity of a bullet, ‘I’ll commit a sex crime!’

 

It was as simple as that.  I planned my actions, went strolling the fall-away streets looking for a target.  There she was; a well-to-do housewife, overcoat wrapped tightly, weighted with Waitro’s bags and humming a joyful sonata.  Perfect.  I approached; offered to carry her bags.  She saw immediately through my charade; my feverish red-eyes and bulging tumescent groin were clear signs that I had designs on her cooch.  I was practically elliptical with arousal, my entire body swollen and blood-hungry.  She protested, of course, her husband and reading circle friends would expect nothing else, but BAM! I was in no mood for a discussion.  I forced her into a parked taxi, paid the driver £2 to look the other way and ravaged her whilst we drove laps of a Catholic school; a perfect ordeal.  Afterwards I thanked her with a thumbs-up and offered to carry her shopping, assuring her that I didn’t have the energy to jump her again.  She politely refused and we went our separate ways.

 

It was later that night that equality came calling.  I was reclining in my worn armchair and suddenly it came to me…why did you savage a woman!? Well, I thought, I’m a heterosexual male and…and…well, that was it.  It made sense but something was gnawing away at me like one of those filthy jungle-bugs.  I couldn’t properly relax.  I felt like I’d done something wrong but couldn’t put my finger on it.  For several days I brooded and then it really hit home.  ‘You should do a man’ I said to myself, ‘just to even the score’.  That would be the fairest way to proceed.  ‘Okay’ I thought with a heavy heart and limp dick, ‘I’ll do a guy, equality, just for you’.

 

So, following my earlier precedent, I set out.  The night was kind.  I followed a barrister from a silver City wine bar and quickly sodomized him against the window of a ‘Toni & Guy’ hair salon…Sure, the folks paying over the odds for a haircut looked at me askance, but I continued until I’d finished.  ‘Now, now’ I said to him, ‘it’s the only way to go; it’s equality brother…pure and simple’.  When it was all done I returned home and popped on the TV, catch some news with my cocoa.  To my surprise, equality was all over the screen like a multicoloured cumshot.

 

Andy Gray (Pictured below) had stepped in a mud-pile of controversy after casting aspersions on a female linesperson’s ability to judge whether a player was off-side.  Ridiculous! I stated, ‘The man’s always been a buffoon, he has a face like conjoined testees or a swollen thumb’ and, after years of watching his pointless analysis and general ignorance, I figured they would make their excuses and let Old Lego Head off with a slap on the penis…little did I know…

 

When I awoke yesterday morning the situation had worsened and, as the picture below confirms, so had Mr Gray’s condition…

 

 

Yes, this is how Andy Gray looks now.  A hideous, looming, malevolent despot, bent on the hellacious destruction of females everywhere! It will take more that Egon Spengler and his band of slightly out-of-shape colleagues to rid the world of this furrowed relic…

 

So, is Andy the Carpathian the creature that the media have now labelled him? It’s a Yes with a but, and a No with a maybe.

 

Lets make a couple of things clear in this opaque fog of sensationalist dribble.  To see the same media that flood their sullied pages with topless grinning women decry Gray for his admittedly sexist jibes is as ridiculous as a sex-attacker deciding that he has to even the score of his initial female rape with the rape of a ma…ahem…It‘s plain ridiculous.  The tabloid media and its gruesome radio cousins will on one hand belittle females and endorse wave after wave of sexist advertising without a second (or first) thought however, the minute they can climb on a rickety bandwagon to gain enough height to cover passers-by in shit, they will.  So ignore them, use your own mind to decide the severity of a crime and do not listen to the bawling jackals wailing from fleet-street rooftops.

 

Then the real issue; is what Gray said wrong? Yes, it is.  There is no ground to attack an official based on what they are packing in their smalls.  Cunt or Cock, Prick or Pussy, Club or Cunny, that should never affect our ability to decide.  However, if women want genuine equality in football they should consider this parting missive…

 

How man times in any given week are the decisions and ability of male officials called into question? I’ll tell you how many, as many times as there are games being played.  Not one football match goes by where a decision by a male linesman isn’t questioned by the players, the crowd, the pundits and the papers.  If a referee rules a player to have fouled there are outrages, complaints, boos and moans.  If a linesman rules an attacker off-side chants of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ rain down liker ticker-tape on John F Kennedy’s shattered skull.  Is it not equally offensive to question male officials learned ability and decision making? Equality, as I know it, essentially demands the same rules for all, male or female, black or white, Martian and Venusian…fuck one, fuck all.  Yes, Gray’s an archaic cretin who’s had this shit coming for years and Richard Keys, Yes you Wolfman! You will get your salad tossed soon enough my friend, but we are all ignoring the true trespasses of the matter…If you want equality then take it across the board, over and under punches, take the good with the bad, the thorns with the flowers.  That’s all.

 

As for me, my balls are itching as I drink this coffee and stare from my misted window.  I’m drawing crude sexual organs in the condensation that my heavy breath has created and, if I’m not still hallucinating, I think I see a well-to-do couple struggling down the street with their M&S shopping bags…perhaps they need a lesson…IN EQUALITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!