First of all apologies for the chasm of time it’s taken to get a new blog out. There are reasons for this. First, the computer got a virus. Second it passed it on to me. To be honest I haven’t quite got rid of the damn vyyv£"""£%^&&&*$E^E£&I *R yet
Of course, football has been idling along without me, not least in terms of two draws for European competition which seemed to be a response to a Cameron veto. Take that you smooth-browed quasi-Christian right-wing toff!
Cameron doing a sly 'wanker' gesture in the direction of France
Chelsea and Arsenal get the toughest fixtures possible. And Stoke, United and City pretty much match that in the Europa League. After the next rounds of both we could have no interest in what Europe does whatsoever and turn into a strange nation of hermits gathering on street-corners and buffing up our last pound coins while William Hague pads about in that baseball cap saying ‘I told you so!’
Of course fans of the Manchester clubs are managing to make upbeat noises about the Europa League now there in that particular kettle of fish. You’re not kidding anyone. Harry Redknapp may not have enjoyed the Shamrocking he got in Dublin but I dare say he doesn’t give a dry shit about not having to pop onto a plane every other Thursday morning.
Such is City’s strength in depth that they won’t mind having a little sideline to give their millionaire third-teamers a little run-out. United won’t last long given that injuries and illnesses have left Fergie’s cupboard looking barer than Carlos Tevez’s bookshelves.
To Stoke City, revived under Tony Pulis, the Valencia double-header will be immense fun. AS a Boro fan who watched awestruck as we marched to the final a while back, I have to say that the Europa League’s only raison d’etre is to give fans of the smaller clubs a little bit of the limelight. (Nevertheless it’s such a bloated, lifeless crock of crap for most of its duration that metaphorically it’s hard not to think of Robert Maxwell floating on the briny.)
I know scientists at CERN think they’ve found proof that the the so-called “God particle” exists, despite Jose Mourinho’s insistence that he is the Higgs Boson. But they’ve also isolated the gene for “no-nonsenseness” and it turns out Tony Pulis has no other genetic matter in his system.
Here's Pulis dressed like a twat - it's the only such picture ever taken.
Wenger and the increasingly fractious Andre Villas-Boas have trips to Milan and Naples. This means the Blue Bell will be running its ITV sweepstake for how many times Peter Drury uses the phrase ‘Italian Job’. Yawn. Personally I can’t see either of ‘em getting through. And I’m not bothered either.
There seems no doubt that if the draw keeps them apart then the final will be Real v Barca. And yeah, I’m sure they’ll be some nice stuff played n that, especially now Jose has let his team express itself a bit more, it is becoming a little too bleedin’ predictable for my liking. I mean I’m sure Sebastian Vettel’s a lovely man and an excellent driver but I don’t want to see him win every bloody race.
(Actually that’s a bad analogy cos I don’t want to watch F1 full stop and anyone who does should be taken out and shot in front of Jeremy Clarkson’s family.)
The gloryseekers abroad are as nothing compared to the burgeoning relegation dogfight that is already cranked up to breaking point this season.
Tuesday night is the must-see Lancashire Hotch-Potch derby: Blackburn Rovers v Bolton Wanderers. The two clubs have many things in common – geography, ineptitude... but more than that a couple of Scottish managers who are, regardless of circumstances, relentlessly positive.
If Steve Kean’s house caught fire he’d be happy that for at least one night the neighbours had saved on their heating bills. If Owen Coyle fell off a cliff he’d still be hoping to pick himself up and go again when he was halfway down.
I mean I’m no psychiatrist (and if you’re thinking you need one then I advise you to watch this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYLMTvxOaeE ) but surely there comes a point when positivity in word but not in deed becomes a hollow joke.
Coyle at least has started to spread the blame amongst his players, but truth be told I’ve seen more creativity in an actuaries’ brainstorming session. No Holden, no Korean lad, no Elmander If Chris Eagles, worthy though he is, is your main spark then your matchbox is a bit on the damp side.
Steve Kean, meanwhile, has become pathologically upbeat, as if to admit for more than a second that second from bottom is pretty shit would mean the Lancastrian skies would come crashing down on top of him.
Hoillett apart there’s not much going for ‘em up front and Ryan Nelsen has been a huge miss. Scott Dann may have appeared a perfect match for Samba, but maybe he’s more ballroom and less Latin. Above all else you’d have thought that Formica would be good on the counter.
In the teeth of another gale of abuse from the Rovers faithless, it’s hard not to be impressed by the Kean’s fortitude. Blackburn have had a fair bit of misfortune and conceded a lot of late goals. I seem to remember that Boro would’ve stayed up not so long ago if football matches were 80 minutes long.
"Och we've just let in another but it only meks me more positive!"
Nevertheless you do get the impression that Kean’s position is secure only cos it would cost the Venky’s owners too much to sack him. And while he’s a focus for the fans’ ire, the poultry pedlars can hide behind him and use him, in a phrase once uttered by Lord Brown to describe his role as head of BP, as a ‘shit umbrella’.
Personally I think a shit umbrella is one with loads of holes in it. Which is a good way to describe the defences of both Bolton and Blackburn. One of em’s doomed. And the other’s not safe. It’ll be a superb, terrible football match. A reet old classico.