Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Shambles ahoy!

While we’re in a quiet midweek for actual football, the news headlines have kept things moving along nicely. If it’s not Rafa Benitez threatening legal action against Tom Hicks (of course he isn’t but don’t let that get in the way of a decent rumour), then we have Gerard Houllier lining up his second stint as a joint manager – together with Alan Shearer at Newcastle.

Considering that Geordies’ memories seem to centre on the period of the mid-to-late nineties, this move for Houllier and a joint manager isn’t actually too surprising. It was back in 1998 that Houllier and Roy Evans took their Liverpool side to St James’ Park and beat the home team 3-0 with a Michael Owen hat-trick.

Look at all the elements: St James’ Park; victory; Houllier; joint managers; and Michael Owen. Newcastle can surely bring happy times back to their grim home by re-creating this magical combination from a bygone age. Well, no they can’t. Anyone who could think that signing up Shearer or Houllier, never mind the two of them together, would be a good idea needs a lie down, shock therapy, another lie down, some stiff drinks and… what the hell, some more shock therapy.

A far better choice would be Mark Hughes, whose name is worth mentioning alone for this clip which Mark sent on to me earlier. The somewhat tedious search for Newcastle’s latest messiah is of course only a trial run for the real media hoopla when Rafa Benitez vacates the managerial office at Anfield this summer.

Despite Hicks’ remarkable admission to a Liverpool Echo reporter regarding talks with Jurgen Klinsmann, I don’t expect to see Benitez walk the plank until the end of the season. Over the horizon, if he can keep his grip for a few more weeks, is the Champions League and two enormous games with Inter Milan.

Yes the Italians are in the kind of form that would frighten the 1970 Brazil squad; yes they have a depth of talent that far outweighs Liverpool’s; and yes they have the points cushion at home to allow them to concentrate on Europe. But somehow you get the feeling Benitez may well pull off yet another great European result to keep him in charge a little longer.

But that won’t stretch beyond the summer, and barring a collapse of River Phoenix proportions by Man U, Arsenal and Chelsea to present them with the league title it appears even a second Champions League win won’t be enough to save Rafa. Although what with change of ownership rumoured as well as Jose Mourinho circling overhead there may be a few more twists before the season is out.

Good god, when it’s got to the stage that Liverpool fans take comfort in the fact that ‘at least Newcastle are more shambolic’ then things must be really bad.

Irish manager watch – day 1,058

Meanwhile, in a secret location in the hills of Bulgaria, Agent J. Tiberius Delaney sorted out Ireland’s qualification programme for the 2010 World Cup. Mission failed? Well maybe. Two nice trips to the eastern block to start; a massacre in Italy on April Fool’s Day and an ominous looking away day in Cyprus at the business end of the campaign.

In fairness to Delaney he was in some difficulty due to Croke Park’s unavailability during September and the strength of the campaign depends on many factors – new manager, bringing players through, keeping players away from injury et cetera. Let’s hope for our sake though that Delaney was too far away to hear those rumours of the Shearer/Houllier combination lest he decided that at last he has found the solution to Ireland’s problems. The search continues to day 1,059…

Here’s the full details of the qualifying games…
Sep 6 v Georgia (a)
Sep 10 v Montenegro (a)
Oct 15 v Cyprus (h)
Feb 11 v Georgia (h)
Mar 28 v v Bulgaria (h)
Apr 1 v Italy (a)
Jun 6 v Bulgaria (a)
Sep 5 v Cyprus (a)
Oct 10 v Italy (h)
Oct 14 v Montenegro (h)

Later, JJ
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Mark said...

how funny would it be to see ole Ged at Newcastle. Would he have a black & white scarf instead of red? i bet ya the intertoto cup would have been better celebrated too

also, if anyone is going to have a collapse of River Phoenix proportions, I imagine it would be Liverpool - after all Jermaine Pennant's father could supply the drugs form which the subsequent speedballs could be made

JJ said...

Mark that collapse happened over the past few weeks so no need for daddy pennant's gear. Luton are the footballing equivalent of methadone to ease them out of the pain.