Anorak

Sports | Anorak - Part 20

Sports Category

Sports news, commentary and scores with wit and added value. We compare and contrast the best and worst sports reporting in the mainstream press, blogs, TV and online. We love the English Premier League (Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs, Manchester United and Manchester City) and all things football but we cover cricket, rugby, the Olympics, tennis, golf, F1 and highlights of the sporting year.

Dirty tackle: Manchester United’s Ander Herrera gets inside Chelsea’s Hazard

Manchester United beat Chelsea 2-0 in yesterday’s Premier League clash. The result puts United in position for a charge into the top four and thus qualification to next season’s Champions League and reduces Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table to just four points over a buoyant Spurs.

The game also coughed up two images, both of which feature on the back pages.  The Mirror calls is “Squeaky Bum time”, a headline more suited to the image on the Times’s back page.

 

manchester united chelsea manchester united chelsea

 

As United’s Ander Herrera finds work as proctologist, we recall an other great Manchester United meeting, when the club’s Rio Ferdinand got a thorough going over from Man City’s Carlos Tevez.

 

Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League

 

File under: Dirty Tackle.

Posted: 17th, April 2017 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Kelvin MacKenzie calls Everton’s mixed-race footballer Ross Barkley a ‘Gorilla’

They’ve only gone and called the police to investigate Sun columnist Kelvin Mackenzie on suspicion of being a racist. Former editor Kelvin MacKenzie used his column in the paper to liken Everton footballer Ross Barkley to a gorilla. Barkley is mixed race by way of a Nigerian grandfather. MacKenzie, reviled on Merseyside for his leading part in the Sun’s appalling Hillsborough coverage, has behaved despicably. The Guardian says he claimed Barkley “had deserved to be punched at a nightclub because he was similar to an animal in a zoo”.

MacKenzie wrote in the Sun:

“Perhaps unfairly, I have always judged Ross Barkley as one of our dimmest footballers. There is something about the lack of reflection in his eyes which makes me certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home.

“I get a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo. The physique is magnificent but it’s the eyes that tell the story.”

Hideous, reprehensible comment. For added spite – and this on the eve of the Hillsborough anniversary –  Mackenzie aimed a few low blows at the people of Liverpool:

kelvin mackenzie ross everton gorilla

 

It’s pathetic tripe.

But narking to the police is weird and unsettling. It suggests we can’t police ourselves, that we aren’t robust enough to spot a berk in the crowd when we see one and treat them with derision and ridicule. We need official back up. We need our words policed.

The Bizzies.

The same police who treated dying fans at Hillsborough as a public order problem will now police speech and thoughts. The State’s enforcers who perpetuated the biggest police cover-up in British history have been called in to investigate a man who approved and defended a shameful article that smeared the innocent dead. (Although, a mere 23 years after “The Truth” even Mackenzie apologised.) Never mind that Hillsborough can be linked to the State’s war on football fans, on whom all draconian forms of control could be tested, just get a load of that big mouthed media goon. He’s the real problem. Well, so says the media, which likes nothing more than talking about itself.

The Troll

The Sun’s “The Truth” report on Hillsborough was revolting. To anyone sane the paper’s lies always have been indefensible. The Sun‘s infamous headline and lies weren’t produced in isolation – the paper colluded with police and politicians to criminalise the victims. Society raged loudly about the paper. Meanwhile, it took decades for the dignified bereaved to drag the police to court. After a mere 27 years of struggle, the State decided the dead were blameless. What we knew was only now official. Even now the survivors and the people who lost so much in 1989 are waiting for justice.

In the meantime, Kelvin Mackenzie makes for an inviting (and deserving) Aunt Sally.

 

kelvin mackenzie ross everton gorilla

 

The Allegation

Merseyside police say they received an online complaint from a member of the public alleging that “comments written about a third party constituted a racial hate crime”. If you think it’s a hate crime, then it is one. Maybe.

And it’s politicised. Liverpool mayor, Joe Anderson, tweeted to say he had reported the article to Merseyside police and the Press Complaints Commission for being a “racial slur”.

He then criticised Everton for not copying Liverpool, which banned the Sun from matches and press conferences. Liverpool has also blocked the Sun from interviewing its manager and players. “@Everton 😱Your lack of action in banning the S*n from your press conferences is a smack in the face to our City”, he tweeted.

MacKenzie might well worry when Joey Barton, someone who knows more than most about smacks to the face, becomes the voice of reason. The Scouse footballer tweeted: “Those comments about Ross Barkley, a young working class lad are disgusting. Then add in the fact he is mixed race! It’s becomes outrageous.”

It is. It’s abysmal. It’s incredible the Sun published it. But it’s not a crime. It’s one man’s idiotic, rude and ugly to-deadline opinion.

UPDATE: the Sun has suspended Kelvin MacKenzie.

Posted: 14th, April 2017 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports | Comment


Manchester United: failing Mourinho uses Luke Shaw as his ‘punchbag’

Jose Mourinho might be every bit as irritating, self-serving and sly to his Manchester United team as he appears to most football fans. On Monday, before Manchester United drew 1-1 with Everton, Mourinho was using Luke Shaw as a cautionary tale to the rest of his squad.

“It’s difficult for him [Luke Shaw] to be on the bench,” said Mourinho. “Because I cannot compare him with Ashley Young, or with Matteo Darmian, or with Daley Blind. I cannot compare the way he trains, the way he commits, the focus, the ambition. I cannot compare. He is a long way behind.”

Or to put it another way, they are a long way ahead in the contest to be United’s left back. So all eyes were on Shaw where he played in the Everton match, coming on as replacement for Ashley Young with 25 minutes to go and United trailing. “He had a good performance,” said Mourinho,” but it was his body with my brain. He was in front of me and I was making every decision for him. He was in front of me and I was making every decision for him. He has to change his football brain.”

Is this kind of public humiliation going to help Shaw improve? Is yet another verbal attack going to help a talented but rusty player striving for form and confidence after the trauma of a double leg break two seasons ago? The feeling is that Shaw has become Mourinho’s “punchbag”, as TV pundit Trevor Sinclair put it. The feeling’s right. It’s ugly.

Posted: 5th, April 2017 | In: manchester united, Sports | Comment


The righteous fight to give David Moyes a slap

Sunderland manager David Moyes is sorry for telling a BBC Sport reporter she “might get a slap” with her line of questioning. Following Sunderland’s 0-0 draw with Burnley, journalist Vicki Sparks asked the former Everton and Manchester United coach if the knowing club owner Ellis Short was looking on from the stands made him feel uncomfortable.

“No, none at all,” said Moyes. With the BBC cameras no longer filming, he continued: “Just getting a wee bit naughty at the end there so just watch yourself. You still might get a slap even though you’re a woman.”

But someone was filming on a camera phone.

 

 

Sparks made no complaints. But others were upset. The Sunderland spokesman tells us: “David and the reporter spoke to one another subsequently and the matter was resolved amicably.”

Vivki Sparks, a woman in a man’s world, where undemanding, bland, blokey banter is the rule, is robust. Let’s hope Moyes’ questionable humour doesn’t stymie her journalism and she keeps asking challenging questions. She’s not there to do David Moyes’ PR – there’s already a silo of clubby ex-pros sat on the BBC’s cosy Match Of The Day chairs to deliver anodyne match summaries and big up their mates. She’s also not there to be the BBC’s token ‘bird’ who needs looking after and watching lest a footballer say something inappropriate to her delicate ears. She’s a journalist after a story. That someone else chose to make her the story is odd.

And it isn’t over. The Football Association has invited David Moyes in for a light interrogation. They want to know if Moyes is a sexist. What they might be better off asking is why football is now so corporate that an off-the-record chat can blow up into a scandal. A pundit on Sky News this morning said Moyes “deserved to be reputationally damaged”, making this not a story of being civil to one another and gender equality – “even thought you’re a woman” is a crass comment –  but about branding.

Fans of rival clubs might laugh. One popular chant aimed at Sunderland fans chimes, “You all beat up your women, you’re all the fu**ing same.” So much for cheeky irreverence. Football is the nation’s role model. Mind your language. Football’s not a fun leisure pursuit and a chance to let off steam. It’s very serious stuff.

Posted: 4th, April 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Sports | Comment


Arsenal fans will only get change when the owners lose money

Arsenal have the exact same Premier League points tally as they did at this stage of last season. Arsène Wenger is both the model of consistency, Old Father Time pointing the way forwards to more of the same, and the staid boss of a club becalmed in routine.

Ivan Gazidis , the club’s uninspiring chief executive, assures supporters that if Wenger accepts the two-year contract he’s been offered, there will be big changes on the field. Tomorrow will be much better or else, says Gazidis as he pleads with Wenger to sign the deal that will see the fading manager earn over £8m a year. Gazidis is talking to the fans, of course. It’s season ticket renewal time. Only a fool would think the same manager will bring about dramatic improvement when the familiar is enough for the greedy shareholders and dividend takers who want him to stay.

Gazidis hopes fans take the bait. The pursuit of money not glory is the Arsenal way under the current regime.

After the Gunners had stumbled to a 2-2 draw the Manchester City, a number of fans went on an anti-Wenger match. There was a van bedecked with anti-Wenger slogans, leaflets urging supporters to contact the club’s sponsors and tell them to stop backing the club until Wenger goes.

“I must say, despite all that happens on the fans front, I felt our fans were fantastic today,” said Wenger at his monocular best. “In the very difficult moments in the first half, I felt they could have turned against us but they were absolutely sensational and helped the team to get through those difficult moments.”

The fans support the club through thick and thin. It’s not the players they want gone; it’s the manager and the palsied board that can’t see the decline and move strongly to check it.

Arsenal look set to miss out on the Champions League for the first time in Wenger’s tenure. They are behind Man City, in fourth place, by seven points with a game in hand. Can they rally and come fourth, giving the fans another season of Champions’ League football? Many fans will be hoping they don’t. If the board can’t see that what Wenger once brought to the club no longer cuts it, a decline in their considerable income should.

 

Posted: 3rd, April 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Media balls: Arsenal on course for second after a lucky draw with hopeful Manchester City

Media Balls: a look at biased football reporting. Today in the Premier League, Arsenal drew 2-2 with Manchester City. Arsenal are in no state of crisis, whatever the media tell us. The Gunners have the same number of points after 28 games this season as they did in season 2015/16.

Last season after 28 matches players, Arsenal were on 51 points – just 6 points behind eventual champions Leicester City. This term, the Gunners are on 51 point – 17 behind Chelsea. Arsenal under Arsene Wenger are the very model of consistency.

Can the Gunners secure that top four spot that secures Champions’ League football next season?

Manchester City, under a new manager, are a project. Pep Guardiola, for it is he, is no flop, despite the the Sun naming him “the biggest disappointment in the battle of the Premier League managerial superstars”. City are fourth in the PL table – five points ahead of Manchester United – and in the semi-final of the FA Cup. What else do the reporters tell us?

Manchester City’s first goal – the game’s opening strike.

The London Evening Standard: “Kevin de Bruyne… played a hopeful ball forward…”

The Manchester Evening Post: “Leroy Sane raced onto Kevin De Bruyne’s fine ball out of defence…”

A prod forward or a lovely pass?

Manchester City penalty appeal.

In the game’s finale minutes, did the ball strike Nacho Monreal on the hand as he defended in the Arsenal box?

London Evening Standard: “Arsenal were fortunate to escape a strong handball appeal in stoppage time”

Manchester City website: “Late penalty appeals against Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal were waved away as City pushed for the winner”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola: “I know this referee because we have had him before but I don’t want to discuss the penalty.”

The BBC: “Handball? Did Nacho Monreal punch that? That looked very, very much like a hand in the box…”

The Guardian: “It was clumsy and really did seem like it struck his flailing arm. Arsenal appear to have been lucky to get away with that there.”

Arsenal website:  Not a word on the incident.

Islington Gazette: No word on the appeal.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 2nd, April 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Manchester City | Comment


England, Millwall and Spurs fans sing what they want to

Still no news on what the police and FA are going to do about Millwall fans shouting “DVD” at Spurs’ South Korean “labrador muncher” * Son Heung-Min. No news either on those Spurs fans who called Millwall supporters “pikies”.

You’d think that with Spurs and Millwall “in the dock” over such terrible racism, England’s other football fans would button their collective lip. But no. They only went and sung songs when England played Germany in the Fatherland. The Independent was horrified. “English football dragged through the mud once again by braying beer-fuelled scum who sing anti-German war songs,” the paper chimed.

 

achtung germany england

 

One writer on the Sun, the paper which this week beamed its logo onto the White Cliffs of Dover to mark Brexitnoted: “There, hundreds of boorish, inebriated men continued to glory in a world war which ended 70 years ago, bellowing out tedious chants about German bombers and swaying around, mimicking aircraft.”

Right now the Football Association is studying police videos for signs of a member of The England Supporters Travel Club making offensive chants and not simply joining those righteous minds in “do-do..do-do-do-do..da-da..da-da..da-da,da,do-doing” along to the god-awful supporters’ bands’ rendition of the theme to Escape to Victory.

“Unfortunately, little of the wit and imagination that goes into our club football songs is reflected at England games,” stated the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF). Crap songs, yes. But crap fans?

Surely the point is to goad the opposition. Spreading your arms like one of those “Ten German Bombers” or hymning the historical fact of “Two World War One World Cup” could do with an update. But until some bright spark creates songs mocking the Germans’ EU-backed battering of Greece or Boris Becker’s latest jacket, we might have to make do with the jingoism.

It’s not easy coming up with insults that are catchy and popular but not insulting enough to be offensive. Maybe the Germans can help? After all, their English is often better than ours. As an Arsenal fan it’s often been my lot to be serenaded by Bayern Munich fans’ chants of “You’re not very good”, “We can see you sneaking out” and “Can we play you every week?”.

Of course, what this is is the latest episode in the State’s purge on people like ‘them’ at football grounds.  Those “scum” who use vulgar words and say nasty things, who emply mockery and insults to taunt other fans in the pantomime of football need hosing down.

But the people who dish it at the match can also take it. “The Germans I spoke to were not offended by the puerile chanting, they were just embarrassed for us,” said one Daily Mirror writer. If grown men and women want to behave sadly, let them. It’s their right to sing what they want to, however stupid, witless and arcane.

* That’s how some Tottenham fans refer to Son in the chant: “He’ll shoot / He’ll score / He’ll eat your Labrador / Son Heung-Min.”

Posted: 31st, March 2017 | In: Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


New Cristiano Ronaldo statue captures his trademark squint

ronaldo statue

 

A statue of Portuguese legend Cristiano Ronaldo has been unveiled at Maderia’s international airport, now called the Cristiano Ronaldo Airport. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa met the Real Madrid superstar and looked on as a statue was unveiled on the concourse outside.

Reaction to this latest Ronaldo statue has been mixed.

Some see a dynamic footballer, one of the world’s greatest athlete’s captured in his native deep bronze. Others wonder if the artist did justice to Ronaldo’s trademark cross-eyed squint, bulging forehead and teeth any red snapper would be proud to call their own.

 

ronaldo statue

 

Statues divide opinion, which is why its always safer to make them in retrospect once the subject has shuffled off and can’t be stood next to it.

Of course, what and who we see in the Ronaldo statue can reveal more about us than it does the player. Football website Pies sees Raoul Moat, the murderer. Our Marbella correspondent, Alex Ness, sees Niall Quinn. One of our writers sees Chelsea defender Gary Cahill watching David Luiz putting his hair in a bun. Another looked at it and said she never does any ironing and neither does Ronaldo because it looks as though he’s swallowed his iron.

Meanwhile, that bloke in Bridlington who says he looks a bit like Ronaldo if you’ve had a few pints and the lights are dimmed can now point to the statue and say: “You see. It is me!”

Posted: 29th, March 2017 | In: Sports | Comment


Chelsea ‘nark’ sets the police on rude Manchester United supporters

Looking for offence in dust is a full-time job. Today brings news that one sensitive Chelsea fan has given full throat to his upset that Manchester United fans referred to the Blues as “Chelsea rent boys” during the teams’ recent FA Cup match.

Rent boys is an old-fashioned term, for sure, but it is entirely in keeping with the way football fans model chants to the tunes of 1960s songs. The correct and up-to-date term is “male sex worker”. And it’s not even a term of abuse. It’s a career choice and should be legalised and taxed.

manchester united

 

The Sun says a police officer told the complainant that the chant “Chelsea rent boys” is “unacceptable” – but not for the reasons mentioned above. It’s because calling Chelsea fans “Chelsea rent boys” is offensive and intended to cause upset.

Writing in the Sun, Mick Hume wonders: “What next? Chelsea fans probed for animal welfare offences for shouting ‘sheep, sheep, sheep-s******s’ at supporters of less fashionable provincial clubs?”

Winding up the opposition is part and parcel of the game. The FA says it is bent on “eradicating all discriminatory and offensive chanting from football”. Mick adds: “But equating discrimination and offence is like giving a player a red card for nutmegging an opponent.”

We’d advocate going for the full Cruyff turn. Go beyond those arcane and sanitised rent-boy chants. That one only upset one Chelsea fan. It’s time fans upped their game.

PS: Stand up for free speech and the right to be offensive by buying Boy Mick Hume’s book here.

 

Posted: 28th, March 2017 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Key Posts, manchester united, News, Sports | Comment


Arsenal’s Ozil needs to be more like Spurs’ Dele Alli if he wants to succeed says BBC pundit

News from Germany is that Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil, 28, will “talk soon” to the club about extending his current deal.  The Mirror says Arsenal have offered the German midfielder £280,000-a-week to stay at The Emirates. Having previously said he’d be inclined to remain at the club if Arsene Wenger did likewise, and with the Frenchman now committed to a further two years in charge, Ozil looks set to stay.

Although if Ozil does leave, the Sun says Jack Wilshere is keen to prove he is a “ready-made replacement”. Arsenal fans booing Ozil should read that and wonder how Wilshere, currently being mediocre at Bournemouth, would make the Gunners a better side.

But to BBC pundit Lee Dixon the biggest question is how Ozil can improve his game? And Dixon knows how. He says the German needs to learn from Deli Alli, the Spurs tyro and red-card-in-waiting.

“He’s playing in the first team long-term because he’s doing something right,” says Dixon of Alli on the BBC. “The fact that he’s come into the Tottenham team and they’re building a team around him, his talent is unlimited. If he [Ozil] had half of what Dele Alli has got, that nasty streak, he would be ten times a better player than he is because he hasn’t got what Dele Alli has.”

He’d also be getting sent off for nasty fouls and, well, not win anything. It’s tempting to think that the biggest asset Alli has over Ozil is a British passport and the right to wear an England shirt.

Posted: 27th, March 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Clickbait balls: Express tricks Liverpool fans with bullshit.com Alonso story

Click Balls: The Daily Express is at the forefront of the dead tree press’s battle for online clicks. Yesterday the self-styled “World’s Greatest Newspaper” had news to set Liverpool fans’ hearts aflutter. “Liverpool News: Xabi Alonso reveals he will be at Anfield next season,” declared the newspaper.

Alonso, the terrific Spanish midfielder playing at Bayern Munich, who was no less excellent in Liverpool red, is going to rejoin the Premier League club? Sounds like it. He has, after all, “revealed” his return to Anfield next season.

 

DAily Express SEO

 

One clue that this story was constructed in an SEO’s wet dream comes via the URL at the top of the page. It runs:

http://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/783228/Liverpool-Xabi-Alonso-News-Anfield-Jurgen-Klopp-Premier-League-Bayern-Munich

It’s just a collection of SEO-happy buzzwords. There is no story anything other than a Google bot can make any sense of.

 

daily express seo

 

And then comes the small print below that seductive headline:

Xabi Alonso: I will be at Liverpool next season

XABI ALONSO has revealed he will visit Liverpool next season.

Alonso is not coming to Liverpool to play for the club. Express writer Jack Otway tells his readers that some people have made that link:

The ex-Spain international has often been linked with an emotional return to Anfield.

Failing to add “See above”, Otway then explains the substance of his story:

And the 35-year-old veteran has admitted to still loving his former club and revealed a visit to watch them play with son Jontxu next season is on the cards.

Xavi Alsono might take his son to watch Liverpool net year. That’s a story first reported in the Liverpool Echo. “We are really looking forward to going back. I have heard great things about the new Main Stand,” Alonso tells the paper. “My son is desperate to go. He’s Liverpool born and always asks: ‘Dad. when are we going to Liverpool?’ I say: ‘Okay, but at the moment I have busy weekends! We will go, don’t worry.’”

The SEO-led Daily Express reports Alonso’s trip to see the new stand at Anfield as: “Liverpool News: Xabi Alonso reveals he will be at Anfield next season.”

The trend is to talk about fake news – but it’s good to see the Express going with the tried and tested bullshit.com model.

 

Posted: 25th, March 2017 | In: Liverpool, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: The Arsenal summer target list

May’s when Arsenal season tickets holders get a reminder that it’s time to hand over the cash and renew membership. In the run-up to that, Arsenal need to point to the season ahead being one of glory and wonder.  Which brings us to the Mirror’s news that Arsenal have drawn up a long lost of transfer targets.

The paper’s headline says “Alexandre Lacazette and Kylian Mbappe top Arsenal transfer target list as Arsene Wenger plots rebuilding job”. Yeah, Wenger’s staying. The Mirror was wrong about him leaving on June 30 2017. But the Mirror is positive it knows what talent the Gunners are recruiting.

And that’s not all. The Mirror says the list also features the names: Marco Reus, Moussa Dembele, Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford, Joe Hart, Kieran Tierney, Jose Gaya and Ross Barkley.

Of course, it might be better than that. No press picked up the story of Mesut Ozil nor Alexis Sanchez joining Arsenal before those deals were almost done. And if the Gunners are prepared to offer Ozil £280,000 a week – which the Mirror say they have done – there’s the very real possibility of bigger, starrier names coming.

It’s all exciting, right? And with any luck it will ensure Arsenal fans renew those pricey season tickets and keep all that money rolling into the owners’ burgeoning coffers.

The Times says Arsenal will offer £25m offer for Barcelona’s Turkey midfielder Arda Turan.

The Metro says Arsenal will spend part of the summer chasing Leon Goretzka.

The Daily Star says the Gunners are after Lorenzo Insigne.

Posted: 23rd, March 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: Wenger stays, PSG make an approach and Allegri sits on his hands

Having yesterday told readers Arsene Wenger is staying at Arsenal for a further two seasons (at least), today’s Sun leads with news that he’s not. Maybe. Apparently, PSG have offered Wenger a two-year deal to manage their project to turn the Paris club into France’s answer to Barcelona instead of France’s answer to Glasgow Celtic.

However, the Sun concedes that ‘indications’ point to Wenger staying at Arsenal. Those would be hints like ‘ARSENAL BOMBSHELL’ , ‘He’s Staying’ and a back page speech bubble in which Wenger is telling West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis “See you next year mate”.

The Sun doesn’t do subtle. And it doesn’t have the foggiest idea what Wenger will or will not do. This is apparent when it tells readers that Juventus manager Max Allegri ‘remains at the top of the Gunners’ list of preferred candidates, though they will await Wenger’s decision before engaging in negotiations.’ Indeed, it’s tricky to negotiate Allegri’s recruitment when there’s no vacancy. How do you say ‘Thanks for your time, keep in touch’ in Italian?

Over in the Mirror, John Cross has an ‘exclusive’. He says, Wenger has ‘made it clear he wants to stay’.

Cross, whose paper told us Wenger was leaving the club on June 30 2017, has changed his tune. He says Wenger will be given lots of money to rebuild the team after he’s offloaded ‘superstar duo’ Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Ozil is no superstar. Arenal have two world-class players. Ozil is not one of them. Laurent Koscielny is the player Arsenal need to keep hold of. Wenger spotted him and made him into a top player. Now he needs to repeat that trick with around, say, 9 others.

 

Posted: 21st, March 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Everton deserve better than Lukaku’s lack of respect

There are few things more irritating than hearing a top footballer saying he wants to satiate his craving for trophies by leaving one big club to join a rival. And so it is with Everton’s Romelu Lukaku, who having invited his agent to negotiate a massive £130,000-a-week deal to remain on Merseyside for five more years, decided he was destined for better things.

The agent, Mino Riola, had assured Everton’s fans and suits that his client was 99.99% certain to commit his future to the club. And then Lukaku said he was not prepared to sign a new deal.

Lukaku will find a sympathetic ear with his current manager Ronald Koeman. “No, because I am the manager of Southampton, and I have the contract for two years more,” said the Dutchman in April 2015 when asked about his future. “I have to respect my contract, I like to respect my contract and I am very happy.” And very soon after he was gone to Everton, where he earns a lot more money.

Koeman’s in it for the long haul, right? “Everybody knows you can’t do this in one year,” he said of Everton’s target. “It takes time. How long did it take for Tottenham to be where they are now? Three or four years. You can’t do it in one year.”

Anyone want to bet Koeman will be at Everton in three years time?

Of course, the big difference between Koeman and Lukaku is that one is in a position of authority, trusted by the owners to build a winning team to their budget, and the other is there to execute the manager’s tactics to the best of his abilities.

Lukaku’s misstep was to question whether Everton share his ambitions to win trophies and play Champions’ League football. “I don’t know, I don’t know what the board’s plan is. I don’t really know,” he opined, seeming to suggest the owners should keep their striker in the loop and maybe invite him into the boardroom to discuss everything from the new ground to catering facilities.

Of course the club wants to be successful. It’s why Everton are offering to make him the best-paid player. But Lukaku thinks he should be calling the shots not just making them. “Obviously, stuff is changing and stuff is happening but there were some players that we could have got, that I knew the club could have got, and they didn’t get,” said Lukaku to media invited to visit Everton’s training ground for an anti-racism event. “And they are playing in this league. I am not saying names but they are doing well.”

Before Romelu gets a job as Everton’s chief negotiator, he should look at the players Everton did get:  Yannick Bolasie was bought for £25m, Morgan Schneidelin arrived for £20m and a further £10m brought in Ademola Lookman.

“No matter where you play you want to be remembered,” he continued with no pause for self-reflection, modesty and respect for the shirt. “You cannot only be remembered by scoring goals, you want to be remembered by winning trophies. That is what the fans want. So instead of living in the past, you have to think ahead. How this club has to grow, how this club has to improve, which player does it want to bring in so you can challenge for the big trophies?”

You, Romelu. They are offering you over £30m in wages to be the club’s totem pole – which is a pretty literal description because although powerful Lukaku is a terrific finisher he’s not the most mobile 23-year-old. There is room for improvement.

Lukaku can, of course, seek a better deal and an improved chance of winning trophies wherever he likes. He does not have to wait for Everton to reach the Champions’ League before he plays in it.

But he’d be well advised not to bemoan his lot and forget why it was that Chelsea got rid of him and Everton moved to make him key to their ambitions. He can do better than that.

 

Posted: 20th, March 2017 | In: Back pages, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: Wenger’s staying and leaving on June 30, 2017

Arsenal fans calling for Arsene Wenger to be sacked will be able to wave their banners for a further two seasons. News is that the Frenchman will sign a new deal. Wenger’s staying. It’s a fact. Well, it is is you believe the unimpeachable word of Tony Pulis, the West Bromwich Albion boss, who after his functional side had beaten a dysfunctional Arsenal 3-1 told media: “I’ll be surprised if he goes.” Did Wenger say he was staying? “Yeah,” said Pulis, “because he told me.”

 

wenger staying arsenal

The Sun calls this an ‘Arsenal bombshell’. How times have altered, eh. Before this season, the bombshell would have pertained to Wenger’s departure. The Sun says Wenger used to be a decent manager. But now Arsenal ‘is rotten to the core’. The club are sixth in the Premier League. They are in the semi-final of the FA Cup. But Ashton says Wenger would be sacked were he the manager of any club other than Arsenal.

 

wenger the sun staying arsenal

 

Ashton then has it both ways. Having wondered why Wenger is still in a job and said ‘once upon a time Wenger was a decent manager’, Ashton opines: ‘The modern world, what with social media, will stop at nothing to get him out.’ A pox on the modern world and that social media. Why not let the old media that used to mutate manager’s into root vegetables call for a man to lose his job. ‘GUILTY’ yells the Sun by a close-up of Wenger looking like a police enforcer from Les Miserables.

Ashton ends by telling his readers that at Arsenal ‘everything is up in the air’. But it’s not. Because one page across is the news that Wenger is staying on. Less up in the air, then, than in the filing cabinet.

That the tabloids have not the foggiest about what’s going on at Arsenal is no more apparent than in the Mirror. It leads with news that Wenger is ‘STAYING’.

 

wenger stays arsenal

 

Or as the Mirror reported previous – he’s going:

 

daily mirror wenger quits sack resigns arsenal

 

Such are the facts.

 

Posted: 20th, March 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: Wenger and Kroenke are on a hiding to nothing

Is Arsene Wenger leaving Arsenal? To paraphrase the banner that used to point to Arsenal victories at the club’s old Highbury stadium, “Arsene Knows”. But he’s not telling the Press. He’s most likely told Stan Kroenke, the businessman who owns the biggest grasp of shares in Arsenal.  But the man nicknamed ‘Silent’ Stan won’t be telling the tabloids, either.  The papers could try door-stepping Kroenke, but last year he bought a Texas ranch worth about £500m and locating him in 865,000 acres of garden is no easy thing.

 

arsenal daily star

 

So Arsenal fans bumble on, wondering if the man who helped transform the club from perennial also-rans into occasional winners will accept the deal and sign on for a further two years.

The club is torn. In the skies over the Hawthons as a wilted Arsenal succumbed 3-1 to an ordinary West Brom, fans made their own entertainment. They craned their necks and looked up, much as they did when the likes of David O’Leary used to deliver one of those huge hoofs into the opposition’s half in the 1970s and 1980s and in matches when Tony Pulis, now at West Brom, managed Stoke City RFC. Overhead was not a Johnny Jensen effort on goal and Peter Crouch’s head, but two planes: one trailing a banner for Wenger to stay; one calling for him to get thee hence.

What kind of fan hires a plane and buzzes the ground is something psychoanalysts can help the sane to understand. That these two planes were duelling offered hope that the rich fools’ vanity show would achieve some kind of finale at something other than a small regional airport. But there was no spectacular crash and dog fight. The planes were a novel distraction, expressing bold statements loudly before their endless whining became irritating and everyone wished they’d go away. Chelsea fans who endured Jose Mourinho will know the feeling well.

So is he going or not? The Mail says losing to West Brom was an ‘historic low” for the club. Well, the fourth defeat in five Premier League games is extraordinary so long as you’ve only watched Arsenal in HD. For those fans who watched Arsenal when they were routinely mediocre, the current poor run is remarkable for how long it’s taken to return after so many seasons of style, dash and hope.

 

Posted: 19th, March 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Key Posts, Sports | Comment


Michael Owen’s Dubai Tourist Board video best thing you’ll see all day

Former Liverpool, Newcastle and England striker stars in this video for the Dubai Tourist Board. It is the best thing you’ll see all day.

 

Spotter: SportingAwayDays

Posted: 18th, March 2017 | In: Sports | Comment


Spurs balls: Spain and England fight for Harry Winks

Good news for Spain is that Spurs midfielder Harry Winks is one of your own. Well, so says John Cross on the Daily Mirror’s back page.

 

harry winks spurs spain

 

In ‘Spain tip Winks for a call-up’, Cross tells readers that Hertfordshire-born Spurs fan Winks’s ‘Spanish grandparents’ mean he’s eligible to play for the mighty Spain. This is bad news for England because ‘reports suggest’ the FA have been looking at the talented and likeable Winks to play for them. Spain’s interest will ‘set alarm bells ringing  at the English FA’, says Cross. After all, Winks is ‘regarded as Spurs’ next big prospect’.

Spain are not exactly short on midfield talent. Tottenham’s Winks must be brilliant.

 

harry winks the sun spurs

 

But hold the phone. A source oft-cited by the British press as being knowledgable on Spanish football says Winks’ grandparents are not Spanish.

 

spain harry winks spurs
Looks like Spain’s midfield will have to muddle along with Bruno Soriano, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fàbregas, Andrés Iniesta, Koke, David Silva, Thiago Alcántara, Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, Isco, Pedro, Sergi Roberto and more.

Posted: 15th, March 2017 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


FA’s cultural expert wonders if Millwall and Spurs fans are racists

The Football Association is enlisting the advice of a ‘cultural expert’ (Daily Mail) to forensically examine if Millwall fans regaling Spurs’ South Korean forward Son Heung-Min with chants of “DVD” and “He’s selling three for a fiver” amounted to racism.

Furthermore, Spurs are being investigated because some of their fans chanted “no noise from the pikey boys” at Millwall’s travelling supporters.

The Irish Independent says Millwall fans have heaped ‘shame’ on their club and returned to ‘the bad old days of English football’, those murky times when The Sunday Times called football a “slum sport played in slum stadiums increasingly watched by slum people”.

Apparently the police are now involved in this search for racism in the dust of an FA Cup quarter-final. Although can we be certain the top coppers and football power brokers will be able to spot racism when they see it?

There are no black managers in the Premier League and no black chief executives in the boardrooms. According to the August 2016 Parliamentary report ‘BME representation in police forces’ there is ‘not a single, non-white face among all the chief constables and all the police and crime commissioners… and one BME person out of the 59 members of the National Police Chiefs’ Council in 2015.’ There are, however, plenty of black players and black supporters.

The search to root out racism could begin closer to home for both the FA and the police, if those in power will allow it – which they won’t because it’s easier to test new forms of control on the slum-swelling Untermensh and use them to showcase your anti-racist credentials than it is to investigate your own prejudices.

PS: Maybe the FA’s cultural expert can investigate the culture of football while they’re at it, in which chants – including the boorish, obscene, unfunny, vulgar, witless and anachronistic ones – are part and parcel of the game.

Posted: 14th, March 2017 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Chelsea and Manchester United robbed of excitement by fourth official

Pity that fourth official Mike Jones stepped between Manchester United’s sulky manager Jose Mourinho and nylon-haired Chelsea boss Antonio Conte? If two grown men want to have a row on the touchline, then let them. Sneaky Mourinho, all sly digs and bitchiness in a well-padded jacket; raging Conte puffing out his chest and testing the buttons on his shrink-to-fit suit. All of us watching at home would have loved it. The fans calling Mourinho “Judas” would have been delighted. The Sun says Jones ‘had to step in to separate the warring managers’. But he didn’t. He just wanted to.

In the age of ‘You can’t say that’, officials are swarming over football. The Sun employs former referee Mark Halsey to tell us if the game’s actual ref got the big decisions right. The biggest of which was referee Michael Oliver sending off United’s Ander Herrera. Halsey says Herrera’s first yellow-card foul on Hazard was merited. It was a ‘clear barge into the body’. The Spaniard’s second yellow for fouling Hazard was ‘not a cautionable offence’.

The Mail’s former referee, Graham Poll, aka ‘The Thing from Tring’, says United set out to commit ‘team fouls’, taking turns to take out Hazard. He points to this being part of the Mourinho game plan, which if true, makes the the new United boss very much Alex Ferguson’s heir.

But the policy of kicking Hazard out of the game backfired when Oliver noticed it, telling United captain Christ Smalling to cut it out or else. Poll was ‘amazed that, within seconds [of speaking to Smalling], Herrerra fouled Hazard again. He could have been cautioned for stupidity.’ Oliver was ‘spot on’.

The upshot is that down to 10 men, United looked even less potent than they did with 11. The game’s best player, N’Golo Kante, scored the winner, and Manchester United were out of the FA Cup, so depriving Mourinho another ‘title’ (the desperate Portuguese loves to bill everything he wins as a ‘title’, including, laughably, the Community Shield charity match) and setting Chelsea on course for a semi-final with Spurs at Wembley.

It promises to be a thrilling encounter – and a great chance for celebrity officials to raise their profiles.

Posted: 14th, March 2017 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, manchester united, Sports | Comment


The myth of Millwall’s racist abuse at Spurs

When Spurs played Millwall in the FA Cup – final score: 6-0 – the Guardian heard ‘racist’ abuse from the South Londoners. So bad was it that rather than lead with a match report or news on Harry Kane’s injury, the Guardian opted to tell readers that the FA is investigating the ‘racist chants’. ‘FA is aware of chants and awaiting reports from referee and police,’ the paper announces. Once more lowbrow football is in the dock for racism. Yippee!

 

spurs son millwall racism the guardian

 

Given that this is about Spurs, where the ‘self-styled ‘Yid Army’ hold sway, you might suppose the Millwall berks opted for a spout of anti-Semitism. But you’d be wrong. The alleged racism was directed at Tottenham’s South Korean forward Son Heung-Min. The Mirror says, ‘Chants of “DVD” and “three for a fiver”, apparently in reference to the sale of pirated films, coursed through the away end each time Son touched the ball in the last-eight clash.’

The Guardian tells its readers, who don’t partake of white working-class leisure pursuits and buy the Guardian because of its platoon of black and Asian board members (number of non-white faces in the paper’s twelve-strong boardroom: nil): ‘The reference to selling DVDs is considered to be a racist slur when directed at an Asian person.’

Millwall fans are so regressive. Piracy is all about downloads and streaming from Russia and Israel nowadays, lads. If you want to goad and upset the opposition’s most threatening player with a tasteless chant, why not lampoon his countrymen’s appetite for dog meat? You can try this chant:

Son, Son, Wherever You May Be
You eat dogs in your country!
It could be worse, you could be Scouse,
Eating rats in your council house!

On second thoughts, best not to. Manchester United fans used to sing that tune about Park Ji Sung, a player they loved. He never complained. He’s a robust adult who saw it for what it was: a friendly bout of un-PC banter. It’s just that given United’s love of branding, the song’s most likely copyrighted and singing it will require a licence and large fee.

Better to echo what Spurs fans serenade Son with:

“He’ll shoot, he’ll score, he’ll eat your Labrador.”

Over in the Mail, we read that those Millwall chants about knock-off films and video games spoilt everything. The paper notes:

Millwall supporters should’ve been celebrating their wonderful FA Cup run but racist chants of ‘DVD’ and ‘three for a fiver’ towards Tottenham’s Son Heung-min ruined it.

Those would be the same multi-cultural Millwall fans who were watching their multi-cultural club get thrashed and Son score a hat-trick? The Mail thinks Millwall’s ‘racist’ fans should have been celebrating their team’s annihilation rather than trying to upset Son and Spurs.

Says the Mail:

Millwall’s supporters wonder why no-one likes them but showed exactly the reason with the disgraceful abuse directed at Tottenham forward Son Heung-min during their FA Cup quarter-final defeat.

What utter balls. Millwall fans don’t wonder why no-one like them – they celebrate the fact. It’s part of their identity to cock a snook at authority. Their chants are supposed to be vulgar, offensive and tasteless.

So dumb is the entire story of racism at White Hart Lane that the Indy can’t even decide what is and what isn’t racist. ‘Millwall could face FA action after fans appear to racially abuse Tottenham striker Son Heung-min,’ it says. For those of us who can recall the 1970s and 1980, when racism at football was loud, nasty and obvious – just as it was in society – the verbals aimed at Son are weaker than Millwall’s performance in the match.

To the people who seek out racism in dust, who view fans as suspects and seek to buttress their own superior morals in commands to ‘Kick It Out’, who investigate every word for offence – who reduce Son, an energetic, tough and skilled footballer to the role of victim – we wonder what planet they’re from and who invited them to join this one?

 

Posted: 13th, March 2017 | In: Back pages, Key Posts, News, Sports, Spurs | Comments (15)


Arsenal balls: Wenger stays and Allegri agrees to take over

It’s been a huge two days for Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. Only yesterday, the Star was pleading with Wenger to make up his mind and tell everyone if he was going to sign a new contract and stay at Arsenal for a further two years.

The paper said Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri was tired to waiting to get the call to move up from the Italian giants to English football’s also-rans. The Star thundered:

EXCLUSIVE: Massimiliano Allegri sends ‘come and get me’ plea to Arsenal

 

wenger daily star

 

Words from Allegri on his dream to manage Arsenal: none.

Of course, the Star is a rich source of fake news. On February 28, the Star told its readers ‘Allegri confirms he’s joining Arsenal’.

 

daily star arsenal fake news wenger

 

You click on that news headline and you get told on the Star’s website: ‘Calciomercato has this afternoon sensationally claimed Allegri, 49, will join the Gunners this summer.’ On that Italian site, we’re told:

The news comes from his hometown of Livorno, where reports are circulating that the manager let this story slip at dinner with friends.

And that’s it. No quotes. No links.

Looking for more, a search for ‘Allegri’ and ‘Livorno’ produces a story on another Italian news site. It says the Allegri to Arsenal news is sourced in the – get this – Daily Express, sister organ to the Daily Star. In the Express we learn that Allegri and Arsenal have agreed a deal.

 

 

daily express arsenal fake news wenger

 

All done and dusted, then. No dithering at all. Allegri in. Wenger out. Which brings us to today Daily Star story that Wenger is, er, staying at Arsenal.

 

arsene wenger daily star

 

All utter balls, then.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 12th, March 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comments (2)


Bruno Fernandes should quit football and get a job in the media

Brazilian footballer Bruno Fernandes admitted ordering the killing of girlfriend Eliza Samudio and feeding her body to dogs. He’s a nutter. Having served 7 years of a 22 years sentence, Bruno is out of prison. He has served his time. And now that he’s out, he can seek work. The Sun hears of Bruno’s agent, Lucio Veloso Coutinho, who reportedly said: “Almost 10 clubs have already shown interest. We cannot mention them all now for contractual reasons.”

As Mr 15% makes loud no comment, the Guardian is aghast:

There’s a problem with Murdering Bruno returning to football. No, not mass protests, a life ban and questions in parliament. The problem is he’s not quite match fit. Just give it a few weeks, his agent says. He’s back, baby. Murdering Bruno is back.

What’s Bruno’s job got to do with parliament? It’s a matter between him and his employers.

Or is somehow different when you’re a footballer? The Sun has employed a known killer. The Guardian has promoted the work of reformed violent criminals who have written books and worked on TV.

If the media’s big and robust enough to accept the work of former criminals, why is it so troubled if a football club does the same?

 

Posted: 11th, March 2017 | In: Broadsheets, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Barcelona cheated and won: PSG were robbed

Incredible scenes at Barcelona’s Camp Nou earlier this week. It really was shocking and amazing. How the hell did Luis Suarez’s dive win a penalty? Paris Saint-Germain’s travelling supporters have every right to feel cheated. They were.

As the plaudits hail down on Barcelona, it’s worth looking at the two spot kicks that played a big part in their unlikely Champions’ League comeback from a 0-4 deficit to win 6-5.

Penalty 1: PSG’s Thomas Meunier falls over. Barcelona’s Neymar falls over him.

Penalty 2: Luis Suárez gets in front of Marquinhos. He falls. As he falls, Suarez clutches his head, then his neck and contorts his face into a look of outrage, shock and appeal. Suarez had already dived once in the match. That one earned him a yellow card. So this second dive had better be very good or else he’s off. But it’s awful. It’s blatant. It might even be hammy. Yet somehow the referee gives the penalty. The message is clear: cheats do prosper.

The bigger message, however, is that, aside from PSG fans, we all loved it. A spot of gamesmanship gets the pulse racing. Barcelona won and it was thrilling; but Barcelona also cheated so most of us who don’t support them can hurl insults and loathe their moral rectitude.

And who better than unlovely, charmless Luis Suarez to play the gall guy? Well, Wayne Rooney, perhaps, but to paraphrase the old saying: you need to be in it, to cheat it.

 

Posted: 10th, March 2017 | In: Back pages, Sports | Comment


Manchester United’s thought police ban a fan for a tweet

Manchester United have extended the rule governing football fans – Rule 1: sit down; shut up (unless it’s for the national anthem) – to censoring what supporters can say when they’re not at the match. Football fans have long been subjected to new forms of control. Portrayed as a mob inherently given to violence and a moral threat to society, deserving for tear gas, metal cages, water cannon and ID cards, Manchester United have taken up the State’s cosh against their own fans.

When one Manchester United season ticket holder heard the club were adding 300 places for disabled fans, causing 2,600 season ticket holders to be relocated elsewhere inside Old Trafford, he tweeted: ”Fuck em, gona go ticket office, and tell them they are retards, cheeky cunts.”

Somehow Manchester United’s moralists saw the tweet and wrote to the fan, who is a season ticket holder. They told him they’d revoked his season ticket for the remainder of this season – with a refund of £190 – and suspended him from watching his club home and away matches for the next three years.

The letter told him: “Manchester United is wholly committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. The club will continue to address any inappropriate or discriminatory behaviour that we are made aware of.”

We should all be concerned when a football club polices what we say on social media. The fan is being banned for speaking freely. That’s what we do in a free society. Inside the stadium, the club can keep order as it sees fit. We might not like being told to sit down and not sing that but we’re on their property, so we wear it. But when did the internet come part of the club’s remit?

Moreover, silencing unwholesome thoughts and censoring the wrong words amplifies the offence into a cause. Was the fan actually going to abuse disabled supporters? We don’t know. What we say and what we do are not one and the same. So, what was his crime?

The club’s reaction to a tweet has become a way to showcase its own sound morals, a spot of PR from the marketeers who run the game. But it also reveals the club’s malicious mistrust of its own fans, a malevolent mob in need of civilising.

If you go looking for offensive words at the football, you can be sure to find them. But most if it – however cruel and stupid – can be ignored or dealt with by other supporters.

If anti-discrimination were still a progressive force, the club would encourage dialogue.

What’s troubling is that the authorities that lay at the heart of racism and all forms of discrimination when campaigning for equality was brutal and brave, remain the bastions of all that is right and proper. They still don’t listen. They just tell.

Football used be be about fun, escape and letting off steam. It was a leisure pursuit. Now it’s a symbol of your moral code and your words are policed by your own club.

We should tweet what we want to.

 

Posted: 10th, March 2017 | In: Key Posts, manchester united, News, Sports | Comment