Have I missed something? Am I reading the wrong newspapers, or watching the wrong TV channels? Here are some facts: Shearer had 8 games to save the season. They got 5 points - 1 win and 2 draws. They needed one more point. Against a Villa team with nothing but pride to play for, on a terrible run since February. They fail. With a whimper.
Am I the only one who thinks he did a crap job? 3-5-2 Alan? Duff at left back? Joey Barton? And then says yesterday - we weren't relegated today, we were relegated over the other 37 games! And, to compound the madness, odds are he's gonna stay on next season, once he received board assurances over how much money and control he'll have. Have Newcastle learned nothing the past few years? Does anyone seriously believe they'll be promotion candidates under Shearer?
Thanks to work I didn’t catch the entire UEFA Cup final last night but upon flicking on the TV I made a serious schoolboy error by settling on TV3. In case any viewers were in any doubt they reminded us time and time again that this was “the last UEFA cup final ever”. As if we were witnessing a moment in history equal with D-Day or the last episode of Cheers.
The more accurate truth, that the competition – which has had its heart ripped out and then been shat upon by UEFA – is being re-branded as the Europa League barely got a mention. Coming complete with a new 48-team group stage that will get about as many viewers as Network Two’s usual bi-monthly screening of Judge (“I am de laawww”) Dredd at two in the morning, next year’s competition is already looking like one of UEFA’s great follies.
Now, I’d never complain about there being too much football on TV but I think it is time to face up to the fact that next season there will be too much football on the wrong channels. TV3 have exclusive rights to the Europa League and, lest we forget, will also be broadcasting the Tuesday night games in the Champions League. Some may see them as an easy target but this is a channel that drowns out the sound of the crowd so we can get to hear their unfeasibly stupid commentator Trevor Welch above everything else. They think people want this. They think this improves the viewing experience. They are very, very wrong.
They hire Mark Lawrenson again and again even though he says even less than he does on the BBC (which some may see as a plus in fairness), indeed the former Liverpool defender is clearly there for a nixer he can’t believe is still going no matter how little he tries. We don’t know as yet if Packie Bonner will be on board but let’s hope if he is then he’s gotten over that terror that consumed him until (a) they went to the ads or, (b) they discussed a goalkeeping error.
Please say they’ve hired a few new editors at least. This, after all, is the channel who chopped up highlights of one of the great European games of the decade (Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Barcelona in 2005) so badly that at one point the footage jumped from a Barcelona attack petering out directly to Frank Lampard swinging in a corner which John Terry nodded in as Ricardo Carvalho nudged the Catalan’s keeper out of the way.
They Tallaght-based company also specialise in showing shots of the bench that include subs that have already been introduced onto the pitch. Minor quibble I know, but it reminds you of the sub-standard fare they serve up to the viewing public. We’re not asking for miracles here, just a few easy steps to make their football shows bearable.
At present though, are TV3 the worst channel around for sports coverage? ITV at least have better sound and… okay well, nothing else but they have better sound. Setanta possess the chunky but often funny freakshow of Phat Pat, and also have a near-instant highlights package of the goals from the other Champions League games, which you have to admit, is pretty decent.
Elsewhere, while RTE may have slipped in recent years, they have been bang on form again of late and even Sky Sports have the odd decent match-commentary team as long as you avoid the planks in the studio.
Shoddily run, annoying and continually pining for mediocrity with zero controversial punditry, last night confirmed that TV3 have learned nothing in the years since RTE won sole coverage of the Champions League. Next season will be the usual dull mix, with most of the commentary and studio chat focusing on the ‘hey, we’re TV3, we have coverage woo-hoo!’ angle rather than the actual game itself. Maybe they should get Vincent Browne on to host the thing instead of Packie actually; at this stage he couldn’t make it any worse.
“Now, John Toshack you’ve managed in Europe, your views on David Silva in a moment, but first the thorny issue of Libertas…”
Thankfully the ‘chumps’ section of this blog refers to footballers rather than predictions as I think even Lawro, with all worldly wisdom and bizarre hair, has had better luck than me on predicting the goings on of the Premier League this season.
However, unrepentant, I shall carry on, so first up a quick run through of possibilities for the weekend ahead…
Saturday Man United v Arsenal: The big one of the weekend comes first and just because I think I may get a few of the other results right I’ll sit back and enjoy getting this wholeheartedly wrong and go for an Arsenal win, 1-2. Bolton v Hull: Phil Brown returns to the old stomping ground and I think he’ll pick up a point here against an unmotivated Bolton side. 0-0 Everton v West Ham: With Everton players pulling out of tackles in order to survive ‘til cup final day, this may be a decent game and I’ll go for a draw here, 2-2. Middlesbrough v Aston Villa: Bye, bye Boro? Well, not today. 3-1 Newcastle v Fulham: Even a Fulham side with virtually nothing (or the Europa League as it’s also known) to play for should be good enough to beat this Newcastle side. But ya get the feeling Newcastle could get lucky here as well what with the momentum from the other night. Hmmm… I’ll hope Shearer’s overpaid twats lose this one, 0-2. Stoke v Wigan: Football is the winner here obviously. 1-1 Tottenham v Man City: Could be a great game, with Ledley King most likely not starting Spurs should be as leaky as his bladder for one. City were pretty toothless last week though, so maybe not a goal fest on second thoughts. Eh, clutching at straws, I’ll go for optimism 3-4
Sunday Chelsea v Blackburn: End of season pointless 3-0 for Chelsea fans. West Brom v Liverpool: End of season pointless 3-0 for Liverpool fans.
Monday Portsmouth v Sunderland: Sunderland could be well in the shit if results go against them, and considering there seems to be infighting galore going on up there I’d say the gloom may continue here. 2-0.
And now, to add to myself and Mark’s best teams of the season here’s a quickfire ‘failed to live up the hype 11’ from me.….
Steve Harper: Newcastle fans have been bleating on for years about the delights of having two ‘top quality’ Premier League goalkeepers but since Shay Given left Harper has been poor. Not helped by his defence obviously, but hardly an inspirational figure behind them is he? Right back
Jose Bosingwa: Only in here because people seemed to be sure he was some kind of football god after about three weeks of the season. He has since been shown up a weak tackler, a fairly headless runner once over the halfway line and an often woeful crosser of the ball. Left back
Sorry dude… it has to be Dossena. We’ll always have Old Trafford though Andrea.
David Wheater: Still the future of England’s defence? Hardly, Alan Hansen delighted in showing up his mistakes the other week.
Anton Ferdinand: One of Roy Keane’s great final mistakes, £6 million for a defender who barely looks awake half the time. Right winger
David Bentley: Hands up who didn’t see one that coming… Left winger
Nani: Still wasteful, still unpicked for the big games, his time may be up. Centre mid
Tom Huddlestone: His head got as big as gut apparently, never a good combo. Centre mid
Joey Barton: Anyone really need an explanation? Strikers:
Robbie Keane/Dimitar Berbatov: Continuing the Spurs theme of sorts, really at a combined £50 million plus a combined goals total of around about fuck all (Berbatov’s habit of scoring inconsequential goals late in the game has especially endeared him to Mark), there can be really no complaints folks.
Belated as it is (due mainly to an absolute balls of a week with work) this team of the season somehow feels a little more complete after last night’s game when United pretty much put the seal on a third title on the trot. For Liverpool fans, well it was kinda like the Shawshank Redemption in that it’s the hope that kills you. I also imagine a trip to Wigan to gain ultimate victory is a lot like the crawl through shit and piss that Andy Dufresne experienced during his escape to freedom. So, no end of parallels really.
Anyhoo, possible hate mail from Wigan folks aside, here’s my starting eleven of the season and, considering it’s pretty much how every side plays these days, it’ll have for be a four-four-one-one.
GK Mark Schwarzer: I’d nearly have him the job simply because of the amount of Fantasy League points he’s gained my team this season but besides for that, in the real world he’s given Fulham’s back four plenty of confidence due to his outstanding form, and with the exception of the FA Cup defeat to United he’s been excellent whenever I watched him. Also, kudos for being an Aussie player and not being a fat money grabbing dick, ala Mark Viduka, Harry ‘Can we train tomorrow’ Kewell and Lucas Neill.
LB* Stephen Warnock: One of the few Blackburn players who looked like they gave a shit the whole season long (what a shocker that Pederson started playing well when safety was nearly assured). He’s pushed Blackburn on forward from left back while saving their collective arses on lots of occasions so he deserves it.
RB John O’Shea: He’s played all over the place for United this season and deserves to be on somebody’s team of the season. Considering his standing in the game, it’s fitting that this honour should come with a place on the team of the season of a drink-fuelled blog. Congrats Johnner, we always said you’d make it.
CB Nemanja Vidic: Because he has to be in any team of the season, will be very interesting to see him line up against Torres next season. Could his capitulation to the Spaniard’s skills be his ‘Des Walker/Marc Overmars’ moment? Probably not, but it’ll be an intriguing match up anyway. Pretty much faultless otherwise this season and scored a big goal against Sunderland in injury time in the middle of winter when United weren’t exactly going all guns.
CB Rio Ferdinand: Duck-billed brilliance. As soon as he was restored alongside Vidic they made United look pretty much unbeatable. The run of clean sheets midway through the season never would have happened without these two punters and while other central defenders have been good these two have been pretty much perfect for 95% of the time. As an added bonus, near faultless club form can only mean an international fuck up is just around the corner.
Left wing Andrei Arshavin: He can’t understand why he’s playing on the left wing for Arsenal apparently, but I don’t care. Yes, I know he’s a late-comer to the season but frankly he’s been awesome nearly every time I’ve seen him play and has assumed a hugely important role in the way Arsenal put their side out. If Arsenal fans can have one major gripe with Arsene Wenger this year it’s not starting him against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi final. Shit singer though.
Centre mid Xabi Alonso: For all the revisionists, go back 12 months and if you’d have asked most Liverpool supporters if they would swap Alonso for £15 million and get Gareth Barry for £18 million they would have gone for it. It was the wake up call Alonso needed and he’s been superb all year long. Solid beard action as well. Solid.
Centre mid Danny Murphy: Absolutely brilliant every time I saw him play this year (and Fulham did seem to be on an inordinate amount of Super Sundays this season), his role in the side’s survival last year was overshadowed by the Cult of Bullard. No such issues this season. Absolute quality and still looks like ‘The Brain’ to Peter Crouch’s ‘Pinky’.
Right wing Ronal…. , nah fuck it – Stephen Ireland: The Corkman has to be in there somewhere and, despite a poor showing on Sunday at Old Trafford he’s been City’s player of the season and while annoyingly he refuses to play for his country he can never, ever, ever be as annoying as the Portuguese prat from the second richest side in Manchester.
‘The hole’ Steven Gerrard: Blatantly obvious and I hate agreeing with Andy ‘only a little Scottish willy’ Gray but Gerrard has to get in the side.
Striker Wayne Rooney: Fat balding git, great player though. Plus he’s played far more games than Torres so has to beat him to the award.
Supersub: Robinho: When he’s been up for it, the money grabbing team-name forgetting Brazilian has been fantastic and is just the man to bring on when this side is two to the good. Could organise a good Christmas party alongside Ferdinand as well. Probably.
‘Failed 11 on 08/09’ coming up in a few hours too…
Later folks, JJ
* Stephen Warnock was originally listed as a right back. I am an idiot. Think I was affected by the horrible memories of his terrible champions league performances for 'Pool a few years back. Onwards and upwards anyway.
Before I pick a team of the season I thought I’d club together a team of seasons past for some YouTubeTainment. Not the greatest side of all time or anything, just frankly a load of good footballers, mainly from the ‘90s that anybody’s day would be improved by watching. It’s a three-five-two combo for maximum midfield genius effect, so for those with a go slow day in work get yourself some…
GK: Packie Bonner: Forgive the somewhat dodgy soundtrack but that penalty save is buried somewhere in this nice bit of Reeling in the Years nostalgia. Quality keeper in his day too.
Right side of back three: Lilian Thuram: Only barely retired (though considering my choice on the left wing that’s hardly an issue), this guy was a fantastic player. Played in an excellent Parma side alongside Cannavaro and Buffon, then the three eventually joined up to win shitloads at Juve. Okay, he may have had to give back a league medal or two thanks to yer man Moggi, but we won’t hold it against him.
Left side of back three: Ronald Koeman: Fat chump of a manger who is working hard to ruin the memory of himself as a great player (see Michel Platini’s public standing for further reference). The truffle-shuffler could score free kicks though.
Centre back: Roy Keane: I’m going to keep the Rolls in the garage (thank you Eamon Dunphy). Or, alternatively, Tony Adams as the poor fucker hasn’t had much luck this past year.
Holding midfielder: Lothar Matthäus: Okay he wasn’t one in his peak but he became a decent holding midfielder before Makelele ‘invented’ the role, plus he always struck me as an absolute bastard which I admire in any German player. No one likes them anyway, so why not revel in it.
Right side, centre midfield: Zvonimir Boban: He gon’ fuck you up muthhafukka! Alright Boban may well have gained notoriety for kicking a cop who was beating seven shades of shit out of a Dinamo Zagreb supporter, but this guy was a superb player, who played for Milan at their peak, winning four league titles. Never a great goal scorer but rarely mis-hit a pass. And he kicked an Eastern European cop for fuck sake, have some respect; they make bodies disappear for sport.
Left side, centre midfield Peter Beardsley: Beyond the everlasting mystery of what exactly he did to his barber that led to that haircut; and indeed looking past the story that Craig Johnston was convinced to quit football after realising he didn’t want to end up anything like the Geordie; we should all remember that Beardsley was a superb player and a central part of one of the great Liverpool sides before a career renaissance in Kevin Keegan’s nearly great Newcastle team.
Right wing Dejan Savićević: What a player. A long time ODF favourite, he was an integral part in the European Cup-winning Red Star Belgrade side that, thankfully, neither Rob Smyth nor Jonathan Wilson will let people forget about. Of course, he then went on to Milan where… well he was this good.
Left wing: Ryan Giggs: Because the fucker ain’t getting in my team of the season so thought I’d throw him in with a load of legends. As a Liverpool fan, I hate that I can’t hate him.
Centre forward: Marco can Basten: As obvious as it necessary, the poor guy had to retire years too early and now has to suffer the humiliation of admitting he’s just not very good at coaching after fairly poor spells with Holland and Ajax. His name should ensure at least one more top job though – Frank Rijkaard of course came from putting Sparta Rotterdam into the Dutch second division to somehow get the Barca job so anything is possible. Well some things are only possible if you’re Marco van Basten.
Centre forward: Ronaldo: The real one, and the one from the 1996/97 season on this particular dream team.
Back with a slightly more humdrum team of this season later.
As is the style of the times, I'm going with a popular formation, 4-2-3-1
GK - Jussi Jääskeläinen (Bolton) - a choice for consistent excellency. Schwarzer has used the Schwartz at Fulham but I've a soft spot for Jussi.
RB - Glen Johnson (Portsmouth) - surely a move beckons in the summer, Johnson has started to fulfil the promise that originally earned him a move to Chelsea, being as good going forward as in defence.
CB - Nemanja Vidic (MU) - rightly derided for a shocker vs Liverpool, but it was virtually his only bad performance of the season. Excellent.
CB - Phil Jagielka (Everton) - a bargain £4m buy from Sheffield United, the all rounder has established himself as an England international and a quality defender.
LB - Gael Clichy (Arsenal) - I'll resist the many tortuous analogies I'm tempted to put down here. Clichy wins due being the best in the Arsenal defence, by a mile, and because Evra has been inconsistent, and Ashley Cole is disqualified from this list, due to bias.
DM - Michael Essien (Chelsea) - I know, I know, he's hardly played, but he is so far above his contemporaries that he deserves inclusion.
DM - Xabi Alonso (Liverpool) - turns out the threat of being sold last summer was instrumental in turning his Liverpool career around, he edges out Carrick by a) being better, and b) getting tackled horrendously in seemingly every game
AMR - Ronaldo (MU) - OK he wasn't as good as last season, and had a slow start, in part due to injury but 26 goals in 50 games proves his worth.
AMC - Stevie G (Liverpool) - the almost impossible to like player is also almost impossible to stop. His timed runs, link up play and long range shooting ability make him one of the best around.
AML - Ryan Giggs - just joking. This is the hardest position to decide on, I spent a lot of time thinking about this (well, 5 minutes), Van Persie has been injured too much, Malouda is crap, Arshavin has played too little, Modric is in a bad team, & Young has trailed off dramatically. So I'm going to plump for Rooney, who has 20 goals in 45 appearances, and while he's not having a vintage season, beats the competition here.
FC - Fernando Torres - not much to say here, one of the best strikers in the world.
JJ should be around later in the week with his team.
Was it karma? Were they screwed over? How funny was Drogba at the end? How racist are Sky? The question marks keeping coming… your thoughts folks on one of the funniest nights of football in years if you hate Didier Drogba.
For blanket coverage by the way, here's some good links...
Superb and, at odds with most coverage, balanced minute-by-minute from Paul Doyle here.
As for tonight, after last week when I was disgusted by Chelsea (see below for more) I have a horrible feeling they’ll go through this evening by a 3-2 scoreline or maybe 2-1. It has to be better than last week though, after all Guus Hiddink is a tactical genius right?
It’s not as if the broadsheet writers who laud him at present praised Scolari for “brilliantly” using Deco at the start of the season or praised Avram Grant for bringing “harmony” to the dressing room towards the end of last season… oh wait.
To be honest, the more I’ve thought about Chelsea this past week the more it’s clear that there’s a nucleus of players at the club who are happy to take on a manager’s ideas for a certain time until it starts to go wrong, at which point all the toys are thrown out of the pram and, most likely, into a disabled parking spot.
Rant over, come on Barcelona, knock these bastards out!
Well on the back of buying twenty 25cl bottles of ‘premium French lager’ at Superquinn for €10, here’s a quick run through of how I see the Premier League panning out this weekend.
Saturday Chelsea v Fulham: Finished 2-2 earlier on in the season and considering Chelsea may well rest a raft of stars for their, ahem, all out attacking policy next Wednesday, I can see Fulham getting a 1-1 draw here. Man City v Blackburn: Fat Sam to be humiliated. Even more so than a normal day. Big style. 4-0. Middlesbrough v Man Utd: Resting a lot of players, Boro tend to do well against the big sides, all the signs point towards… two-nil United. Watch out for little greaseball Kiko Macheeseball to score one. Portsmouth v Arsenal: Jesus it’s been a long, long year for Portsmouth. It feels like about ten years ago that they won the FA Cup and a good long while since ‘Arry was ‘appy with his lot down there (“walkin the dogs is just triffic innit”). The threat of relegation seems to be gone so they should be fairly relaxed here against an Arsenal side that, like United and Chelsea, will rest plenty of the first team. Hoping for a decent 3-2 to Pompey. Stoke v West Ham: God I hate Stoke, please let them be sucked into the relegation vortex. Please. Come on Gianfranco, do it for the game you love. 1-3. Tottenham v West Brom: Steamroll action from Spurs. The kind of occasion they’re built for and therein lies the reason why, after three or four years of false dawns on the trot, very little will pick them to break into the top four next year. 3-0. Wigan v Bolton: Eh… here’s a movie trailer to distract you. “I can feel it, comin’ in the air t’night…. Oh lord.” 1-1
Sunday Liverpool v Newcastle: Much as it would be like Liverpool over the last decade to foul this up I reckon they’ll get a tight win with a few nervy moments. 2-1. Now, everyone together: “Let’s all laugh at Shearer! Let’s all laugh at Shearer! La la la la! Hey!” Sunderland v Everton: Everton coming a little off the rails as the season comes to an end (they were hugely lucky Ferguson played the under-16s in the FA Cup semi final) so maybe a 1-0 for the home team. Monday Aston Villa v Hull: Bye, bye Hull. 2-0.