(With apologies to Chris Charles)
So the hopeless hoops have plummeted down to the Championship.
Reading v QPR’s game on Sunday was the equivalent of a bunch of lads doing half-hearted keepy-uppies in a funeral cortege. Reading’s players were given more sympathy and that was almost right. Apart from the strange handling of their only saviour Adam Le Fondre – there was a period in the season where Adam was wandering around Berkshire supermarkets converting mineral water into Pinot Noir and reviving the sick – you can’t imagine there was much else Reading could’ve done to survive.
McDermott - still, I think, cruelly dismissed – created a strong team ethic that sustained throughout the season. The players simply weren’t good enough and the Reading faithful probably know that. In other words, they’re the polar opposite of QPR.
Rangers were simply a hired gang of mercenaries with no leader. The movie Wild Geese springs to mind. Loftus Road was a bit like a trashed South American economy where, if you were able to get in there quickly, you could make an awful lot of money with an equal lack of effort and get out of there before anyone really noticed you.
Here’s the squad that Harry had…
Green, Cerny, Murphy, Julio Cesar, Traore, Samba, Hill, Yun, Onouha, Bosingwa, Da Silva, Ben Haim, Magri, Diakite, Derry, Park, Taarabt, Wright-Philips, Granero, Jenas, Hoilett, Townsend, Mbia, Johnson, Mackie, Bothroyd, Remy, Zamora.
I’ve highlighted the ones who looked like they could give a shit. The others played in a state of permanent constipation. Hopefully, one of the facts that has been confirmed from this season is that Mark Hughes is a dull uninspiring manager - about as Sparky as a matchbox in a rainstorm.
Secondly, it seems obvious that high wages and a random collection of greedy people do not a football team make. Unless a Mourinho gets hold of ‘em, they won’t get too interested. Chris Samba may bleat all he likes about unfair criticism but the fact is that on £100K a week he should be playing better football in a better team.
Redknapp shouldn’t be getting away scot free. I think the wily old goat saw the great vacuum in the soul of the playing staff and flagged it up early doors, but these are not – on paper – poor players and you might ask why Harry’s record with them is no better than Hughes’s.
At least H is staying. But now begins the process of yanking various noses out of the west London trough and pointing them in the direction of less superior slops. Fernandes insists that he won’t sell anyone the manager wants to keep – an empty pledge when that probably amounts to no more than seven.
If buyers are interested in stumping up bloated salaries then Samba, Remy and Hoilett will have interest. The rest of ‘em…? Well they might just fancy sitting on fat salaries and doing about as much as they’ve done this season. It’s not as if the club have negotiated any reduction in wages for failure. One of the great new spin-offs from big business’s involvement with football is the assurance footballers – and their agents – have that even if they are downright fecking crap for a season their wages are protected by ludicrous contracts.
In marked contrast, a club that has a history of plunging headfirst into the transfer market in a desperate attempt to prove to its fanbase that it’s a serious player might just have turned a corner in a manner other clubs could aspire to.
Yes, whisper it quietly but Aston Villa might just stay up after all. And with a team full of children. The marquee buy Mr Bent has sat sulkily by. Mr Lambert has cut a slightly forlorn figure – at times looking less like a man with a vision and more like one of those householders whose home has just been flooded but who insists, bleakly, that he will carry on.
If you hark back to the League Cup semi-final defeat to Bradford City you could’ve been forgiven for thinking that here was a bloke waving his P-45 at the world. But the hilariously named Randy Lerner – yes he sounds like a frat kid from a Porkies movie – actually stood by his man.
Lambert has managed without Dunne. He has played three upfront, and built it all around Benteke, a man who started the season as ‘a bit of a handful’ and has ended it as a truckload of trouble.
The defence, as callow and sure-footed as a herd of stoned giraffes, had leaked like a child’s bath-toy but Lambert nobly stuck to his course like one of those pioneering sailors who insisted the world wasn’t flat. And sure enough, he hasn’t fallen over the edge. He’s only gone and come back round again.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not reckoning that Paul Lambert is the future of football. But it’s damn good thing that a coach who saw fit to invest in the young players at a club gets due reward for it – especially when its relegation rivals have been trawling through agents’ lists and scooping up whatever they can find.
It’s no accident that Ferguson manages to push through youth-team players into the full squad. It helps the team, if the players are good enough. Not that the Morphy Richards of Manchester is averse to spending a shedload when he needs to.
So I for one will be delighted if Villa survive (when McLeish was in charge I would have said the opposite.) Middlesbrough try their best to push thrpugh the local boys too. Whatever else it does, it doesn't half make you root even more for the team you love.