- PSV thrown out of Dutch Cup for fielding an ineligible player – Portuguese defender Manuel da Costa is the subject of derision here. In truth, a simple matter really: the player was given 2 yellow cards in the competition last year and hence, would not be allowed to play for at least one earliest Cup match this season. But the sheer simplicity and stupidity at how the PSV coaching staff excused this fact is not possible. Granted, this is not Football Manager – where automatic suspensions and player ineligibility are kept track by the game system and no room for such slip-ups; but at the very least, at least the player himself knows that he’s not supposed to play. Talk about breastfeeding young players! PSV’s official explanation was ok and plausible enough but I don’t think we’ve heard the last of the situation.
- Jose Mourinho. Colourful, brilliant and controversial. I adore him because of his superb win over the Man Ures in Porto’s European Champions League victory back in the 2003/2004 season. I absolutely detest him over his ‘voyeur’ comments of Wenger. There are splendid collections of his wisdoms encapsulated in the annals of football history – the most notable being the ‘eggs and omelettes’; the infamous ‘voyeur’ snide and his 2 cents regarding the prelude to Didier Drogba’s sending off by Anders Frisk. His own Mourinho reign in the Abramovich Empire has been nothing short of excellent and I’d not believe any other manager would be able to emulate his success, even when granted the massive transfer sums entrusted to him. I’m certain that his well-known spat with Abramovich is not the best-kept secret in the world but his Chelski exit is riddled with doubtful circumstances – the events after the Aston Villa defeat, the must-win Blackburn game and his ‘omelettes’ comment about Waitrose and 3rd class eggs. Avram Grant did a fine job so far, losing only to a Man Ure side in a lacklustre game and defeating Valencia CF in Europe. There were not much transfer options left for the Israeli coach but if he can hold his side together, it’s not hard to see him leading his team to further league challenges. But is Avram Grant the right man to replace the enigmatic Portuguese badmouth? His dull, dour outlook meant that he is boring and his lack of personality is obvious. Ferguson had the hair-dryer remedy and his mind-games tendency; Wenger had the nurturing attitude which made young players jump at the chance of joining the Arsenal ranks and his counter mind games; while Mourinho is a fantastic bastard. Grant exudes little charisma to hang onto the job. That is evidence enough.
- Dida the Thespian. Celtic Park was a theatre of sorts for legendary football stars of the Celtic side such as Jock Stein, Henrik Larsson and more. But Dida probably brought shame to this famous theatre of football by feigning injury in the worst possible way. Are Brazilians that bad in acting? Remember Rivaldo’s famous ham-acting to get Hakan Ünsal (Turkey) in the World Cup 2002, sent-off? Hakan kicked the ball at Rivaldo, hitting the actor in the thigh but the Brazilian star held his head as if a Thai kickboxer has aimed a well-placed blow to his shrewd cranium. The sly Dida was rather more obvious in his acting skills – Celtic fan Robert McHendry tapped the actor in adoration on the lower part of the face and somewhere in the neck; Dida gave chase, almost ruining his little game, and fell dramatically on the soaked pitch after a quick sprint. His legs probably cried out for rest after a gruelling match, but his sly mind is probably better than his footballing brain. Seizing the situation where he could, if he just could, possibly salvage something from the game when the idiot ran on the pitch. Pitch invasions are no-no and are taken seriously in European football. This is not Argentina where pitch invasions are the norm rather than the exception so Dida was probably justiifed in taking his role to poor perfection. Dida possibly had AC Milan’s best interests at heart but fairplay has been thrown out of the window. I’m not averse to say that I remember Rivaldo now for his Turkish bluff and don’t respect him as much as before. We’ve seen Arjen Robben doing the Scouse bluff before with Pepe Reina sent off for a challenge to his legs, but the Dutch movie star clutched his neck as if he has been strangled with a Spanish garotte. Worst moments in football for sure, but is this how winning means to this players?
- The tale of 2 old, bald men fighting over a comb. Jens Lehmann and Oliver Kahn here to provide some comic relief. Both of these keepers are perpetually at loggerheads over the Mannschaft goal custodian position and World Cup 2006 in Germany brought out the best and worst in both men. Oli is possibly at the twilight of his career as is Jens Lehmann. Kahn’s delight at seeing his perennial rival screw up his first 2 EPL games was too much to resist – he sent a jibe to the bemused Lehmann that one could not expect to sit on the bench and be first choice goalkeeper for the Mannschaft. Lehmann’s response was equally childish – Kahn was apparently taking himself too seriously and ‘glorifying’ himself. Jens ended by saying that he ‘hates people glorifying themselves’. An educated response if a little redundant. Lehmann screwed up the Blackburn game and that is what matters. The Arsenal could have hauled themselves a four-point lead at the top of the table with a game in hand over the Man Ure. Manuel Almunia may not be the best goalkeeper to man the posts but if he’s doing a decent job and keeping the shots out, Lehmann may be waiting on the bench for a while yet.
- 8 goals at the Lane. Superb comeback by Spurs or disaster for Aston Villa? Villa raced to a 4-1 lead after halftime only for a spirited fightback from the beleaguered Spurs team eking results way below their potential. It was an exciting match for the neutrals but one can’t help but get confused at the strange joy the Spurs fans exuded at the end of the match – as if they have won the game itself. For Martin Jol, his time is probably up but Paul Robinson’s howlers are comparable to Lehmann’s. The fault of his selection is not his defenders but his side’s vulnerability to set-pieces and corner kicks. Aside from that, Spurs probably could be justified in expecting victory on that day. Now back to the Spurs fans. It’s palpable relief but it’s not good to assume that the team is safe. If the club is Sunderland or Derby County, they are well entitled to rejoicing but to concede 4 goals at home and hook up a draw for a team desperately needing points, it seemed safe to say that the Spurs fans have buried their pre-season hype and concentrate on spurring the team on getting another UEFA Cup spot. But it was a great game of football if little else could be digested of its comical defending.
- Henk ten Cate – back to the events at the Abramovich dynasty. Apparently ten Cate was given the go ahead to talk to Chelski with a view to appointment to backroom staff. The autumn clearout of the backroom people at the club is to streamline the process of the post-Mourinho era but this Ajax manager (or ex-manager, rather) is at the helm of the team fighting for Dutch honours. It’s shameful that ten Cate did not lead Ajax to a Champions League spot at the expense of Slavia Prague and even bowed out of the UEFA Cup to Dinamo Zagreb. Ajax is only fighting for domestic silverware then. What is absurd is that the power of the ‘big clubs’ have intimidated the smaller clubs and insulting them for their puny nature. Ajax is no longer the great club in European eyes – note that PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord Rotterdam are also way off the mark in European landmark competitions; but for a bully club like Chelsea to go straight for a manager at this time of the season at times of their own crisis is absurd. Ajax’s own statement of the affair is one reeking of helplessness and playing the victim. Sounds familiar? PSV had the same experience with the Korean Park Ji-Sung – PSV intended to hang onto this Asian delight but because ‘Manchester has already asked about him’ that the Dutch clubs showed that they pissed their pants and bowed to the English clubs. But wait – I admired the Dutch for practicing tolerance in a manner which is superb – rather than keeping an unhappy player, they’d rather cash in on him and move on. Centuries of battling the floods and fighting rising water levels in the tiny nation moulded their survival skills for generations and this is where the Dutch excelled. Hanging on to ten Cate may have been a gamble anyway – first for technical reasons and the other for mental ones; Ajax is out of European football and the stage where they should reimpose themselves. Failure was not an option and ten Cate is probably ill-suited to managing the team. Ten Cate has done well in the league though and this should not come as a surprise but Ajax did not do well against Slavia Prague and that has cost the team dearly. Ten Cate may also be relishing a challenge abroad – this is not strange given that he hasn’t done well at Ajax the previous season and might well want a change of environment. He may possibly be happy at playing the assistant role rather than being the one calling the shots at team management but that is besides the point. The entire point is – Chelsea is at it again; not playing fairly and approaching people with wanton disregard for the conduct of fairplay. Had Chelski made the approach for a normal coach, this is perfectly understandable and acceptable but to zero in on a above average club with tradition and seizing their manager rebuilding the club is far too much. With this kind of karma, it’s perfectly understood that they would never play the kind of football the Arsenal would have – replacing staff who did a great job and then firing them for a bad patch of form and taking on individuals who are greedy by nature is recipe for continued seasons of discontent. Mark this observation.
There are probably more stories to tell – Man Ure scoring 1-0 wins and playing dull football with their form beginning to pick up with a careless 4-0 Wigan win. Really, it’s time that the EPL be sized down to just 15 teams or less to provide more excitement and greater level of competitive football. I mean – is Derby County there in the Premiership to gain unnecessary accolades as the ‘worst Premier League team ever’ which may variously change hands with (take your pick) say Sunderland, Norwich, West Bromwich Albion, etc. Are these teams too good to play for the Championship but far too damned lousy to survive in the Premiership? Then it’s a chain of dominoes – size down every league and you can be sure that every team plays to their very best and trying hard to survive. This plan may backfire though – many cash-strapped teams may fall into financial difficulties with the cut in the TV revenue and match-day attendances and the entire plague may spread. It could only be bad for football. Sadly, this is the story for Championship teams who are newly promoted – Wigan and Reading shocked doubters and naysayers with their mid-table performances while some other teams simply petered out and fight a long and protracted relegation battle.
The pick of the week is by far the amusing Dida affair. Cheats are everywhere but to cheat in front of so many million viewers of European elite football is disgraceful and unbecoming of a professional. This is not for Dida alone but for cheats everywhere – Arjen Robben and co are famous cheats. So is Roy Carroll languishing in a mid-level team he deserved – in 2005 the Spurs v. Man Ure game where he was keeping goal and a marvellous Pedro Mendes shot went past him but he slyly picked the ball from past the goal line and showed the linesman that he had saved it! Disgusting Man Ure attitude which sums up all that is bad at the club led by the Alex ‘Arsehole’ Ferguson.
Chelski is also one example of what is ugly in football these days – the approach for staff they want even if it meant breaking gentlemanly conduct and fairplay. Ok, so Sven-Goran Eriksson has done that before with Nancy dell’Olio by meeting her ex-husband for lunch and asking for the wife’s hand in romantic companionship. Audacious (and probably admirable) for an individual but ridiculous for a sneaky club with a history of ‘tapping up’ like Chelski. Ajax were predictably furious at the nature of the appointment but the Dutch club resisted keeping a staff who desired to leave. You can’t force a horse to drink water if there is no such intention but the fact that Chelski can always get away with it meant that the true spirit of competition is thrown out the window and you can only blame that on the jinx that is Roman Abramovich.
Before the power oligarchs with big cash polluting football as we know it then came, football was hardly tainted with such unreasonable approaches. This is where Arsehole Ferguson comes into the picture again – his constant voyeurism at PSV meant that his underhanded tactics often go unpunished. He signed Stam in dubious conditions, he waited like a whore on van Nistelrooy to recover before shelling out 19 million quid. And how on earth did he get this so-called ‘first-option’ principle all the time? Luckily both Dutchmen bit his arse and made him swear never to sign another Dutchman which he duly forgot when he signed Dutch keeper Edwin van der Sar. This arsehole Ferguson also destroyed player’s careers by buying them and sitting them on the bench – Eric Djemba-Djemba and Kleberson. They were blooming talents in football back in 2002 and needed to play important games for their clubs but Ferguson liked his seats warmed by talented butts so he took the sting out of them. If they don’t have enough quality to play for the Man Ure, don’t buy them in the first place. The simple principle is that if they aren’t talanted enough, there’s no obligation to sign them and effectively consigning them to the dugout while waiting for them to ripen. With Wenger, this should work but with the Arsehole, everything is purged out clumsily.
It’s bad that Dutch clubs have to play supply-men to these big clubs but it’s ingenious that these same clubs chose to sell players with an eye on cash and little in terms of integrity. Van Nistelrooy fell out favor in the end; Stam criticised the Arsehole in his book; Robben was not a great success at Chelsea, Mateja Kezman is now learning Turkish at Fenerbahce. The Dutch has the last laugh.