Prepare the champagne!
It’s never anything less than a total and utter joy to hear from a member of the growing Interestment family, and today we welcome back Eliot – a magnificent football writer with a busy, whirring mind. He had this to say about the looming Premier League season…
The new season. All that sweat and hard labour for busy footballers who really don’t have the time for it all. The cost to supporters of nine months travel up and down the country. All those Saturday night television hours that could be put to better use with shows such as Hole in the Wall. They might as well call the whole thing off – we here at Interestment know how it will finish anyway.
League Table 2010 (in 10 words)
The best team last year will have learnt from mistakes.
Arshavin Arshavin Arshavin Arshavin. You get the idea with that.
3. Manchester United
16 single-goal wins last season. 18 goals lost to Real.
Mourinho only Premiership winner on debut. Ancelotti not as special.
Moyes’s twelve month audition for the Utd job. Added incentive.
6. Manchester City
How many of the newbies would start for Manchester United?
7. Aston Villa
Captain retired. Vice-captain gone too. Best chance in the cups.
8. Tottenham Hostpur
Huntelaar, Young, Vieira all targeted. Sheffield United players arrived instead.
Thin squad may suffer from a lengthy Europa League run.
10. Blackburn Rovers
1.3 point average under Allardyce in 08/09. Enough for mid-table.
11. Bolton Wanderers
If Elmander settles, Bolton’s frontmen will ensure another decent season.
12. West Ham United
Defend well unlike many teams around them. Clarke’s influence critical.
Darren Bent scores goals wherever he goes. Money well spent.
Strong Cup showings last season against Premiership opposition bodes well.
15. Birmingham City
Will benefit from one of the weakest Premier Leagues ever.
16. Stoke City
Second season syndrome a factor but should still have enough.
17. Wigan Athletic
Lost many good players. Martinez should just keep them up.
Disarray defined as Portsmouth in the Oxford Dictionary. 09/10’s Toon.
19. Wolverhampton Wanderers
No Premiership experience. Experience of Premiership relegation doesn’t really count.
20. Hull City
The surprise factor well and truly departed. Down by Easter.
Not that kind of window, la’, the Transfer Window!
It’s with the usual shot of tequila and gigantic man-hug that we welcome Eliot this morning. Here, he’s talking about Liverpool Football Club. The greatest club of them all…
What they need
The same as they have needed every year since Rob Jones retired, namely a decent right back. Benitez goes through full backs like they’re Pringles, with Glen Johnson set to become the new Vegard Heggem.
Who they don’t need
Deep breath – Arbeloa, Babel, Degen, Dossena, el Zhar, Itandje, Lucas, Ngog, Pennant and Voronin. Gerrard and Torres are constantly surrounded by more rubbish than Oscar the Grouch.
Debt. In the draw for foriegn owners, Liverpool drew a straw so short, scientists have yet to invent a microscope through which one can see it. Skint – check. Ignorant – check. Not on speaking terms – check.
Inevitably linked with
Gareth Barry (still). David Silva. Michael Owen.
Any other business
The finances of LFC remain a puzzle. One day last summer they couldn’t afford £18m for Gareth Barry; the next they spunked £20m on Robbie Keane. This summer, one day they are selling the Big Issue on the streets, the next they are overpaying by about £10m for Glen Johnson.
Not that kind of window, dur-brain, the Transfer Window!
It’s with the usual unreserved jumping for joy that we welcome Eliot into our lives for another glorious day. He’s a brilliant football writer, and had this to say about Everton’s current wants…
What they need
The obvious place to start with the Toffees is at right full back. There were matches last season where Tony Hibbert (pictured) had such a tough time against his winger that he was pulled off early, most noticeably at Villa Park in April against Ashley Young. Baines, Lescott and Jagielka need a final piece to what could be an outstanding jigsaw.
Who they don’t need
Nuno Valente and Andy van der Meyde persist in picking up a payslip each week in contradiction to their actual industrial output. Aside from whom, the Everton squad is lean enough.
Big money moves. Whilst Tottenham’s persistent knocking on the door of the top four, led only to the sale of Berbatov, Keane and Carrick to the big four, and Villa’s ascent last season has meant the exit door for Barry and now possibly Ashley Young, Everton have got off lightly thus far in spite of their growing status. Yet this summer, rumours are rife linking Lescott to Man City, as well as Liverpool with Mikel Arteta (pictured). Keeping hold of players could be more critical than who Moyes brings in.
Inevitably linked with
The best of the Championship. The best of the SPL. Fallen stars in need of redemption.
Any other business
Whilst many posit Arsene Wenger’s transfer record as the best out there, David Moyes certainly has a case that he reigns supreme. His signings of £1million+ over the past three years have all come off without exception.
Yes, this is one of them…
As ever, it’s with a great big cheer and a shot of the strong stuff that we welcome Eliot back to the Interestment fold – he’s got a gigantic brain stuffed to the brim with news and opinions about sport. He had this to say about his top ten people made famous by the year in football…
1. Tom Henning Ovrebo
One minute you have a meagre three line entry on Wikipedia, the next you are responsible for the worst swearing on ITV since Gordon Ramsay ceased his tiresome and rather blue, attention-seeking routine. Ovrebro certainly didnt have the Semi Final second leg between Chelsea and Barca under control, but that was no excuse for the sanctimonious outburst from Jamie Redknapp in the Sky studio post-match. Fuming that dear cousin Frank would miss out on yet another ill-deserved medal, Redknapp railed against the craziness of UEFA in allowing someone from little old Norway to officiate in such a big match. Much better allow an Italian. Roberto Rosetti perhaps, whose ludicrous sending off of Darren Fletcher cost Manchester United a ball-winning midfielder in the final, and possibly the trophy itself.
2. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Not as easy on the tongue as previous owner Franny Lee, and no less easier on the human rights abuses than previous incumbent Thaksin Shinawatra either. But this is the football world we live in today, a mad world where a man with a towel on his head is hailed as a Messiah (a concept he wouldn’t believe in) and whom one of the club’s centre half (Tal Ben-Haim) would be banned from visiting at home due to his nationality. Take a glance out the window to your left, and that would be the recently defenstrated ethics in football flying past.
3. Federico Macheda
Such is the hype and comprehensive coverage of football these days, it is rare a player that nobody has heard of makes a name for himself in a big fixture. With reserve team football live on television and even Youth Cup Final rights battled over by Sky/Setanta, players tend to emerge onto the stage fully born, with the football pitch being more reminiscent of pantomine (“I’ve seen him in something else”) than an obscure production of Midsummer Night’s Dream at a provincial theatre in Somerset (“I’ve never seen this Bottom before”) Joe Cole, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen were all new Gazzas whilst barely out of school, and Arsene Wenger uses the Carling Cup to saucily hitch up the skirt and give us a flash of his next generation. So although he scored a goal in the most commercial league in the most commerical arena, in a minute of injury time that existed purely in the mind of Mike Riley, there was something beautiful about Macheda sending Luke Young the wrong way, and curling the ball past Brad Friedel. That goal meant the title was heading back to Old Trafford, and the banner on the Stretford End will now read Twenty Years and Waiting from August.
4. Brede Hangeland
Although he signed for Fulham last January, it arguably wasnt until the 1-0 home victory against Arsenal in August, that Brede Hangelandshot to national prominence. Having scored the winner in a Man of the Match display, short of lining up the post-match roast, there is very little extra a modern day footballer can do in a game. It’s easy to laugh at Roy Hodgson – although Jonathan Ross arguably owes his career to the bloke whose lisp he has aped all these years – but his itinerant time in management has certainly paid off. At Viking FK he first coached Hangeland, and ultimately signed him for Fulham. At Inter Milan, he won the UEFA Cup. As manager of the United Arab Emirates, he made a lot of money. Trophies, knowledge and hard shekels – Roy Hodgson, Interestment salutes you.
5. Dan Gosling
It was a cold February night, a cracking cup-tie between the fiercest of rivals on Merseyside, set for penalties with just seconds on the clock. Then a ball over… the tic tacs are a refreshing sweet, suprisingly low in calories and perfect for refreshing… and jubilant scenes around Goodison.
6. Amir Zaki
Egyptian centre forwards – occasionally brilliant, frequently temperamental, but every so often struggle with the concept of stepping on a plane marked for Heathrow. Amir Zaki certainly isnt one to rebuff a streotype, starting brilliantly with that goal at Anfield – a goal so good that we all questioned our very existence in its aftermath – before spending much of the winter sulking, eventually vanishing home. Yet there can be no doubt Zaki is a decent player, and it will be interesting to see whether Steve Bruce, who played such a part in the Egyptian’s falling out with Wigan, attempts to sign him up top for Sunderland. If Amir thought living in Wigan was a long way from Cairo….
7. Charles Insomnia
A man we still wouldn’t have heard of were it not for Joe F*Kin’near’s tremendous Wordsworthesque pun, describing his winger Charles N’Zogbia in terms symptomatic of his tiresome whinging. Back in the 90s, when Kinnear was last managing a club in the top 6 of the Premier League, it was appropriate to mock foriegners with exotic names. Those days, alas, are no more, despite rumours of keeper Georg Koch signing for Hull City. So who was the eventual winner in this tiff? Well, Kinnear ended up with a triple bypass, N’Zogbia ended up at Wigan Athletic. Lets call that a no-score draw shall we?
8. Sandra Redknapp
Given young Jamie’s domestic bliss, it is hard to imagine Harry not enjoying a similar status – lovely palatial gaff, a couple of top top ornaments, and a cracking wife. Alas Harry revealed earlier in the season that his wife is in fact adroit in the air at the far post, as following Darren Bent’s lamentable miss in the match against Portsmouth, he claimed spouse Sandra (above, left) would have put it away. We now imagine Sandra as a Peter Withe figure, irrepressible from a decent cross with a large sweatband around her prominent bonce.
Redknapp is often hailed as the archetypal hand-round-the-shoulder man manager. Quite how Darren Bent felt after this snide cheapshot is perhaps best left unsaid. Top, top stuff Harry.
9. Ched Evans
Not since Anna Friel’s lesbian kiss on Brookside has there been such a storm over a sex act on primetime television. Michael Essien’s “raping” of young Man City striker Ched Evans caused such a furore, that one half-expected a re-enactment on Crimewatch the following evening. As it was, all we got was a remorseful Alan Pardew, a man who allegedly once shared a bellydancer with Xabi Alonso. More than that, however, we were worthy of a tremendous insight into the common football vernacular, with the training ground perhaps the last bastion of political incorrectness in the workplace.
10. Susan Boyle
Well everyone else has jumped on the bandwagon so we might as well. And it’s not as if all this attention is doing her any harm….
Echo & The Bunnymen, The Game/Lips Like Sugar
Although, as a child, the bitter disappointment of not seeing a rabbit on guitar or a big brown hare on drums was pretty hard to swallow, we couldn’t fault these guys as a band. Possibly the best British guitar band of their generation. Brilliant.
Even this man was too old…
Did anyone see Arsenal at the weekend? Wow. The average age of the team was something like 14, and yet they still managed to win. Win real good. Of course, it’s nothing new for young footballers to destroy older teams, just visit a park on any given weekend and you’ll spot decrepit alcoholics getting hammered ten-nil by teenage glue sniffers – with their hooded tops, and their crunk music. Still, we thought it high time to compile the greatest young England team ever…
Goalkeeper, Peter Shilton, 21 years old (1970)
In goalkeeping terms, 21 is literally embryonic. Yet, that was Shilts back in 1970 when he first pulled on an England shirt. Young, dumb, and full of enthusiasm. He did, of course, go on to afro wigs, and allowing Maradona to humiliate him. Twice.
Right Back, Micah Richards, 18 years old (2006)
What’s happened to Micah Richards? Just a couple of years ago he was the teen sensation galloping up the right hand side like a maniac. We thought he was the new Jesus Christ. Now he’s just some grumpy old soothsayer going around Manchester shouting at people. At just 20.
Centre Back, Jonathan Woodgate, 19 years old (1999)
Just before he decided to dabble in race hate, Woodgate looked like a shoo-in for the England defence for years to come. But he didn’t – he went loco, then got mangled, then he upped and left to Real Madrid to concentrate on growing his hair. Now he’s back in Blighty with Spurs, and when he’s not sobbing in sick bay demanding that Nurse rub some more Deep Heat into his aching groin, he’s still pretty good at football.
Centre Back, Rio Ferdinand, 19 years old (1997)
He’s been around for ages, that Rio Ferdinand, but there was a time when he was just a strange shaven-headed boy from West Ham attempting to make friends with Sol Campbell. Tough gig. He’s since gone on to outshine his former defensive partner, both on the pitch, and when it comes to merking people.
Left Back, Gareth Barry, 19 years old (2000)
It’s easy to forget that before he became the sturdy oak in midfield, Barry was a zippy left back with a strange face – like something from the mind of Edvard Munch. Little Kevin Keegs gave him a run out in 2000, which is enough to keep out Ashley Cole – who, by the way, is a loathesome little oik who once stopped midway through sexual intercourse with a hairdresser to be sick, before carrying on. Behind his wife’s back.
Right Midfield, Theo Walcott, 17 years old (2006)
Everyone went barmy when Walcott kept Defoe out of the 2006 World Cup squad, but now it looks more like a masterstroke. Now shifted out right for the sake of his football education, he still has the face of a confused 7-year-old French exchange student, which is fitting, because he looks all set to morph into England’s version of France’s Thierry Henry.
Centre Midfield, Joe Cole, 19 years old (2001)
For so long, little Joe Cole was the New Gazza, with his zany box of tricks and cheeky little face. Of course, becoming the New Gazza is getting less and less appealing these days. He just looks so thin. Becoming the new Joe Cole on the other hand…
Centre Midfield, Steven Gerrard, 20 years old (2000)
The old man of the team, Gerrard made his England debut one whole day after his 20th birthday. As everyone knows, he has since gone on to replace Robbie Fowler as the closest thing Liverpool has to the lord God him/herself. A man never without a curious furrow in his gentle brow.
Left Midfield, Aaron Lennon, 19 years old (2006)
Like Micah Richards, Aaron went a little skewiff after his early England games, zooming down the wing like an angry mouse on a motorbike. He was great. The good news is that he’s starting to resemble that young man once again. The bad news is that he still spends at least two hours every morning carefully applying completely pointless go-faster stripes in his eyebrows. Crazy.
Centre Forward, Wayne Rooney, 17 years old (2003)
Rooney has always been terrifying, but never more so than when he was a 17-year-old former boxer looking for a fight. What a great Euro 2004 he had. It was around that time that he also discovered his lust for old women prostitutes.
Centre Forward, Michael Owen, 18 years old (1998)
To look at Michael Owen now – with his miserable face, his robotronic voice, his Phil Collins CDs – you’d never think that he once lit up the entire planet with his electrifying football. And yet he did. He absolutely did. He was so quick.
These men are small, but effective…
If you think that height equates to success, you’re wrong. Look at Hollywood – Tom Cruise is as small as a pigeon, Al Pacino can go eyeball-to-eyeball with a toddler. The men are literally elves, or hobgoblins if you have to get all politically correct about it. Even Daniel Day Lewis is barely bigger than a packet of cigarettes. And so to the football pitch, where strapping athletes thunder around trying to boot a sphere into an onion bag for points. You’d think that only the biggest would survive, but again, you’re totally wrong. Here’s a team of near-midgets that could literally thrash anyone…
Goalkeeper, Rene Higuita, Colombia
Already a veteran of our Football Haircut XI, Higuita was 5 ft 9 inches, which is unthinkably tiny for a modern goalkeeper. He made up for his lack of height by behaving like a total mentalist.
Right Back, Paul Parker, England
A fantastic little player, Parker was a big hit at Man United until Gary Neville came along with his rat-like face and ruined the party. Still, for a time, this 5 foot 7 inch marvel was the best right back in Blighty.
Centre Back, Roberto Ayala, Argentina
In real life, at 5 foot 9 inches, Roberto wouldn’t attract the baffled stares of tactless children. But on a football pitch, faced with towering strikers, he had the look of a terrier yapping at a lamp post.
Centre Back, Fabio Cannavaro, Italy
Like Ayala, Cannavaro isn’t absurdly short for a human being – at 5 foot 9 inches – but in central defender terms, he’s a dwarf. Or even a baby dwarf. Once crowned World Player of The Year.
Left Back, Roberto Carlos, Brazil
Roberto, for those who remember, is the zippy defender who once scored a curling free kick that he’s spent the rest of his career attempting to repeat. It was astonishing. Especially to those watching from the cheap seats at the back, wondering how a 5 foot 6 inch munchkin could play to such a high level.
Right Wing, Lionel Messi, Argentina
Like so many geniuses (or geniae?), Lionel was told when he was a child that he would never be any good at football, because his growth hormones were all buggered, and he’d be too small. Now he’s the best player in the world, and stands at a whopping 5 foot 7 inches. Take that, science!
Centre Midfield, Edgar Davids, Holland
Not only did Davids – a fearsome midfielder – have magnificent hair, but he also wore shades to play football. Not, unfortunately, because he was cool. It was his glaucoma playing up. At the height of his playing career, he stood 5 foot 7 inches tall in studs.
Centre Midfield, Claude Makelele, France
To hear people talk of his dominance as a holding midfielder, you’d think that Makelele was a giant barking hound protecting the gates of Hell. Not a dinky little French guy – 5 foot 7 inches – with a supermodel girlfriend. As is the reality.
Left Wing, Andrei Arshavin, Russia
Arsenal’s latest import looks like a fantastic buy, and with his flair for fashion design, he should be right at home in North London. At 5 foot 7 inches tall, he makes up the remainder of this tiny little midfield quartet.
Striker, Kenny Dalglish, Scotland
It was a close call for the second striker spot, with Romario, Zola, Kevin Keegan and Peter Beardsley all just missing out. That’s because, at 5 foot 8 inches, Dalglish qualifies as a relatively short striker, and they don’t come much better. A brilliant player.
Striker, Diego Maradona, Argentina
Simply put, Maradona is the greatest footballer there has ever been, and that is unlikely to change any time soon. Before he went on to bloated bellies and swollen nostrils, he was literally the best thing on the planet – at just 5 foot 5 inches tall to boot.
No room for Mr Topless…
It’s always magnificent to hear from a member of the fine Interestment family, and today Eliot – a keen wit, with an eye for sports – has turned his arched eyebrow onto the world of football. He had this to say…
Goalkeeper, Gerald Gansterer
All too often these days, a terrible tackle is accompanied by chest-beating apologetics, and the claim from the player, “I played the ball ref”, and from the pundits, “no malice was meant.” Austria remains a no-nonsense sort of place; authoritarian enough to cosy up to Hitler in 1938, but as history has always simply blamed the Germans, the approbation and guilt hasn’t washed it all away yet like their friendly, sausage-loving neighbours. In that spirit, here is the LASK Linz goalkeeper, keeping his eyes firmly on the player, and even waiting until the ball had sailed firmly out of play before assaulting the opposing centre forward. Amazingly, the keeper stayed on the field to face the penalty. Didn’t save it mind. That would have been rubbing it in.
Centre Back, Phil Jagielka
Here though is a man who does know how to rub it in. Not content with giving away a blatant penalty in the FA Cup Semi Final, an appeal waved away by Mike Riley (why is that expression waved away always used – it makes referees sound awfully camp), old Jags landed the knockout blow in the shoot-out.
Centre Back, Arnaud Le Lan
See Lorik Cana (below) to see why this Lorient full back makes this week’s cut.
Centre Back, Domingos
And see Diego Souza (below) to see why the Santos centre-half has been summoned to this illustrious side.
Right Midfield, Cristiano Ronaldo
Proving casinos in the North aren’t just the preserve of ostentatious, seedy, preeners… oh hang on a sec. Casino 235 in Manchester was the venue for Ronnie to drop over 1k a time on the roulette tables according to yesterday’s Daily Mail. Red or Black Ronaldo? All of which is a nice change from the option of Red or White he will be dithering over quite publicly this Summer.
Centre Midfield, Lorik Cana
Isnt it annoying when a throw-in decision goes against you? Here is Marseille’s Albanian skipper Lorik Cana holding the ball a little too tight, much to the chagrin of Lorient’s le Lan. Incidentally, what is the French word for chagrin? Leave it lads – c’est ridicule apparently (sound required).
Centre Midfield, Frank Lampard
Currently squiring James Blunt’s sister, a lovely looking blonde by the name of Daisy Blount. No – that isn’t yet another typo from the easily distracted Interestment editor, that is genuinely the family surname, which James doctored so he wouldn’t sound silly. Insert punchline of your choice.
According to the august journal that is the Daily Mail, Blount runs Belvedere Properties, a small private concierge business that locates luxurious chalets, villas and boat trips for its wealthy members. Said paper goes on to add unnecessarily, “This enterprise was started by her parents.” Great – can’t think how she managed to land that gig.
Left Midfield, Francis Lee
You know the drill by now kids.
Striker, Diego Souza
And you thought Zinedine Zidane over-reacted to something whispered gently in his ear. Here is some harmless chaos from Palemiras v Santos. Having just come on for the away side, defender Domingos ran straight over to Diego Souza, almost as if his sole purpose for joining the game was to antagonise his compatriot. Souza took the bait and retaliated violently to some obviously choice words.
Having rolled over like he’d been thumped by a London policeman, Domingos continued to attract Souza’s ire even after red cards had been shown, and the frontman eventually broke free of team-mates clutches to re-enter the field and attack Domingos properly this time
Striker, Lauri Dalla Valle
The Liverpool striker may go on to have a long and fruitful career in front of goal, but it is unlikely he will bag a goal as simple as this third in Liverpool’s 3-0 first leg FA Youth Cup semi-final, as Blues keeper Dean Lyness decided to use the first televised match of his life to make the biggest blunder of his career to date. Wikipedia informs us that Dalla Valle’s father was the head of a mushroom company, and perhaps Lyness had been dabbling in a few ‘shrooms prior to kick off.
Striker Dimitar Berbatov
Finally it appears that someone has pointed out the emperor doesn’t have any clothes. Berbatov was a flat-track bully at Spurs – he only scored one goal against clubs in the top half during his first season there – and has now been found out. His style of play is sulky and enigmatic apparently, although I think we all know that if Mr Berbatov was African and played in the same languid way (a la Didier Drogba) these adjectives would soon turn to, disinterested and lazy.
No room for certain ladies…
It is with absolute joy that we welcome Eliot, fantastic writer of sport, back from his holiday and straight into the Interestment fold. With so much to play for between Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal, he thought he’d have a go at compiling the best combo team imaginable. He had this to say…
Goalkeeper, Pepe Reina, Liverpool
Although Edwin van der Sar could have grown a beard to rival W.G. Grace in that long hiatus he had between having to pick the ball out of the net earlier this year, the best goalkeeper in the Top 4 remains Pepe Reina. His qualities are endless – this paragraph luckily isn’t, however, so let’s simply highlight how he is never flustered, how expert he is at saving penalties and also how surprisingly tall he is at 6ft2 (which itself reminds us of the golden rule that bald goalkeepers always look small; Barthez, de Goey and now Reina – all 6ft+, all looked like Borrowers in the goal.) Reina just pips Manuel Almunia, one reason being that with the imminent release of the Sacha Baron Cohen film Bruno, you will be more than fed up of Bruno/Almunia lookalikes pinging their way to your inbox. So Manuel will get his turn in the spotlight shortly. Reina’s turn first.
Right Back, Rafael da Silva, Man United
On the basis that members of the PFA fill in their voting slips between breaks filling in Danielle Lloyd, it is a tribute to the ability of the young full back that said footballers could be bothered to write such a lengthy name on the form in such a short space of time. Rafael, whose younger brother Fabio is rumoured to be “even better” – yawn – came to prominence in the Carling Cup. No really. The highlight of his season was this dipping volley at the Emirates, albeit in a losing cause.
Left Back, Fabio Aurelio, Liverpool
The second Samba selection, proving that Brazilians really do produce the best full backs, although whether full backs produce the best Brazilians is a question best left rhetorical. Having mooched around Anfield unnoticed for the past three years, perhaps offering the odd biscuit to Robbie Keane, Aurelio looked all set to add his name to an already lengthy list of Benitez full back shame, including such memorable characters as Josemi and Kromkamp. Yet the free kick at Old Trafford was merely indicative of the former Valencia man finally getting into the swing of it all, and his crossing has managed to make redundant the absence of Steve Finnan’s deadly balls into the box.
Centre Back, Rio Ferdinand, Man United
Whilst the great and the good of the punditocracy (not you Shearer) ponder the reason for United’s recent defensive frailty (is it the keeper? Is it the lack of a defensive screen blah blah?), us mere mortals prefer instead to point out the absence of England’s best defender since Bobby Moore. Rio has come a long way since filming Kieron Dyer slapping his manhood on a woman’s head in Ibiza. For Kieron Dyer however, that was as good as it got.
Centre Back, Nemanja Vidic, Man United
A tougher call this, as Gallas, Martin Hurt-all and Alex have all stood out at the back for their respective clubs this season. Yet Nemanja just edges it, playing the more rugged Danni to Rio’s stylish Kylie. Shoo-in for PFA Footballer of the Year, and a rare popular Eastern European immigrant.
Right Midfield, Dirk Kuyt, Liverpool
Kuyt’s transition from workhorse, goal-shy fish out of water to workhorse, goal-shy fish out of water has not gone unnoticed this season. Yet all of a sudden, in a season of unrelenting mediocrity from the Top Four, the striker who scores no goals has become the connoisseurs’ (not you Shearer) must-have item. All of which leaves just one question – why the long face Dirk?
Left Midfield, Cristiano Ronaldo, Man United
Whilst he has failed to hit the heights of the past two years (probably deliberately in an attempt to lower his valuation within the range of Real Madrid), Ronaldo has still scored more goals than anyone else in the Premier League. If he hadn’t scaled such vertiginous summits in 08, the spectre of a midfielder topping the scoring charts would have us all giddy, fanning ourselves whilst a dashing gentleman pulls up a conveniently placed chair. Yet we take him for granted, and as such, our league will feel as empty as Damien McBride’s inbox next season when He heads to Madrid. Although probably not as empty as our summers will feel, having to read about that transfer every day. Again.
Centre Midfield, Michael Essien, Chelsea
So good they gave him two nicknames. The Bison may not have played a match until March but he returned just in time to steal (at Anfield appropriately enough) the crown of World’s Best Midfielder off the head of Steven Gerrard, and place it onto his own sweat-drenched brow. One suspects The Train will be pulling into Rome on May 27th, although planned engineering works loom in the shape of Messi, Henry and co in the semi final. Useless fact alert – Essien claims to sleep 15 hours a day – the perfect rejoinder for teenagers across the land still enjoying a lie-in.
Centre Midfield, Javier Mascherano, Liverpool
Its bizarre to think that Mascherano couldn’t replace Hayden Mullins in the West Ham first team just two short years ago. It equally too serves as an indictment on coach Alan Pardew, a man who had the initials AP sowed into the seating of his Ferrari, but couldn’t get this Rolls Royce of a footballer purring. In other Pardew/Liverpool midfielder-related news, the former Charlton gaffer had a falling out with Xabi Alonso, as they were both contemporaneously enjoying the pleasures of an exotic dancer on Merseyside. Allegedly.
ITH, Steven Gerrard, Liverpool
In The Hole of course, that imaginary piece of terrain usually host to a wily, albeit slightly chubby continental. Over the last eight months, Gerrard has shown the added bonus of having an athlete in that position, his link-up play with Torres the calling card of Liverpool’s victories this season. Such performances have even induced the reticent Rafa to reluctantly describe him through gritted teeth whilst frowning as the best player in the world. Just don’t play Phil Collins in his presence, whatever you do.
Striker, Robin van Persie, Arsenal
Included ahead of Anelka and Torres as otherwise this would be a Top 3 team only and Mr Interestment would duly sack me. Van Persie suffers more cuts than Bank of England interest rates yet keeps coming back from his injury breaks as good as ever, banging in both goals and assists in an otherwise impotent Arsenal attack. In the unlikely event Aston Villa pip Arsenal to 4th spot, take out RVP and slot in John Carew, the best target man in the country. I think that has covered all bases, pesky Everton aside.
Not including this maniac…
With usual writer of excellent sporting insight, Eliot, away on holiday, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to honour some footballers. But rather than concentrate on the current crop – with their big watches and expensive club memberships – we thought we’d shine a spotlight on the warriors of old. Focusing mainly on their lovely hairstyles.
Hence, football’s greatest Haircut XI reads thusly…
Goalkeeper, Rene Higuita
The handsome Columbian goalie is just as famous for his great saves as he is for his gorgeous dark curly hair. The kind you could lose a stroking hand in.
Right Back, Sergio Ramos
An incredible lover of women, Ramos is famous in Spain for his prolific sex life. And is it any wonder when he has a brilliant Rachel Cut?
Centre Back, Barry Venison
Before he became a serious pundit with a normal hairstyle, Venison used to adopt womanly cuts to fool opposition attackers into thinking he might be a walkover. More fool them.
Centre Back, Des Walker
One of the first footballers to steal heavily from hip hop stylings, Des went for a flat top with an interesting kink in it.
Left Back, Alexi Lalas
Probably the most famous American footballer, he was relatively good in defence, but even better when it came to maintaining complicated hair and a manly beard. Solid.
Right Midfield, Tony Daley
This guy was like grease lightening, and just edges out Beckham, thanks to his classic toupee look.
Centre Midfield, Carlos Valderrama
The reigning champion of football haircuts, Valderrama captains the side, with his glorious My Little Pony mane. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.
Centre Midfield, Bobby Charlton
It’s easy to forget that footballers didn’t used to be totally vain. Bobby is here to remind us of that with his strange, elderly gentleman hair.
Left Midfield, Chris Waddle
The only thing more striking and elusive than Chris’ football skills was his actual hair. Sometimes excellent, often weird, it drew the crowds.
Centre Forward, Ruud Gullit
Gullit could play pretty much anywhere on the pitch, he was totally brilliant. His trademark locks were universally applauded as well.
Centre Forward, Kevin Keegan
It was never in doubt, Keegan was always going to lead the line. A small, strange man, he made up for his lack of natural talent by working very very hard, and striding into a local barbers and demanding something a little bit permed and unusual.
England’s best never manager plays up front…
Just as the rain started coming down, threatening to dampen our cheerful Monday spirits, in pinged another dose of sports writing from excellent contributor, Eliot, to lift our mood. Great stuff. He had this to say about the weekend’s 3-4-3…
For the minority of readers for whom the name is not interesting enough, the Benfica goalkeeper also happened to save three spot kicks after the Portugese Carlsberg Cup Final went to penalties on Saturday.
Right Back, Nigel ReoCoker
A man as deserving of his weekly payslip as Fred Goodwin. ReoCoker’s blunders cost Aston Villa the first three goals shipped at Anfield this weekend, although he, disappointingly for the perfectionists amongst us, wasn’t involved in the final two goals of the game. For those bandwagonners who have raced out and put what remains of their mortgage on Liverpool for the title, look at it this way. Nine goals against Manchester United and Villa sounds good. But both vanquished sides played with ten men, and the nine included 3 penalties, 3 goals from free kicks, two from goal kicks and one big ricket from Vidic. Money wasted – its United’s title.
Left Back, Pawel Sasin
To paraphrase S Club 7, there ain’t no derby like a Krakow derby, and the city which rather optimistically is twinned with Milan according to its official website, produced another Krakow Cracker on the weekend.
Following a period of play John Motson would no doubt describe as “scrappy”, the Cracovia left back scored an astonishing goal to give his side the lead at Wisla. Rule of thumb – never over-celebrate an early goal, and true to form, Sasin’s group orgy by the dugout looked foolish by full time, as Wisla slammed in four without further reply.
Centre Back, Abdou Mangane
In pretentious acting schools across the country, strange-looking creatures wearing scarves indoors teach various emotions – hurt, joy, revulsion to name but three. Abdou Mangane obviously paid careful attention to Lesson 17 – bewilderment. After snapping Valenciennes’ midfielder Jonathan Lacourt in half, the expression on Mangane’s face is akin to what one would expect had the referee produced a large tub of Ben & Jerry’s from his top pocket. Indeed, rather than leave the crime scene in a hurry, Mangane then hangs around for an age, standing his ground as if needing anatomical proof Lacourt’s limbs are no longer in one piece, before eventually departing.
Centre Back, Vincent Enyeama
Typically a goalkeeper but the Hapoel Tel Aviv man’s penalty prowess displayed here qualifies the Nigerian to feature as what a seven year old would call, a rush goalie. But what sort of two-bob website do you think this is – leave that rhetorical. A keeper scoring a penalty isn’t interesting enough for us. We get sent tapes of number ones banging away pendos as often as we get the urge to urinate. What makes Enyeama a star this weekend, is this tremendously unnecessary hurling of a ball at Bnei Yehuda’s Kobi Moyal, in the closing seconds of the big match in the Holyland this weekend.
Right Midfield, Jermaine Pennant
In more modest times, a broken engagement was the scene for tears, embarrassed calls to the caterers, and a period of quiet introspection from the couple regarding what went wrong. We live in less modest times. Following the wholly unexpected ending to Jermaine Pennant and Amii Grove’s life-affirming romance, she put his ring on ebay, whilst he started ramming a girl from Hollyoaks. Sigh.
Centre Midfield, Pavel Nedved
Yes, we thought he had retired too. And although this left foot volley is perfect, and a 4-1 win in the Stadio Olympico is a true occasion to behold, there is no need for such vigorous bottom patting from the left back Christian Molinaro.
Left Midfield, Francis Lee
Striker, Kenny Cooper
The opening week of the MLS – one would think it exactly what America needed to distract itself from the worst economic situation since the Great Depression. Dogs caught Frisbees, Kenny Cooper gave Dallas the lead against Chicago with a brilliant long-range strike, and a nation turned over to watch Oprah.
Striker, Brian Clough
In honour of the Damned United released on Friday, here is a terrific Brian Clough story as told in Roy Keane’s autobiography, cleverly titled Keane: the Autobiography.
In 1992, Graham Taylor, then the England manager, had come to watch Clough’s side to check on the form of England regulars Stuart Pearce and Nigel Clough. Before leaving the dressing room after the match, Clough snr told Keane (back then a mere impressionable youngster) to wait outside his office, and warn him when he saw Graham Taylor approach. He was also to inform him when he left.
Twenty minutes later, a suited Keane spotted Taylor emerge around the corner, striding chirpily to see Clough, keen to discuss the latest form of his English stars. The young midfielder dashed into the office – “Mr Clough, Graham is around the corner.” Leaping out of his seat, Clough turned off the lights and lay down under the desk.
Taylor entered the office, and seeing no sign of life, assumed Clough was still in the dressing room with his players, and hence waited outside with Keane. Taylor and Keane exchanged awkward pleasantries for two whole hours whilst Clough remained under the desk, before Taylor finally piped up, “Tell your manager I popped round would you. I have a train to catch.”
As Taylor left the building, Keane told his manager, as instructed, that the England boss had gone. Casual as you like, Clough got up, brushed himself down, and said, “Thank you young man. He does go on a bit does our Graham.”
Clough himself of course was no mug as a centre forward, scoring 197 goals in 213 games for Middlesbrough.
Striker, Admir Aganovic
The regular feature now of a goal from the Belgian League, just to ensure nobody forgets about the country. Here is Dender’s Bosnian striker Admir Aganovic, equalising against Westerlo, in a game they would go on to lose 3-1.
No room for these heroes…
As ever, our terrific football expert Eliot has been casting a very intrigued eye over the weekend’s football. It’s great to hear from him again. He had this to say of his weekend’s 3-5-2…
Goalkeeper, Dave Seaman
Old Safe Hands himself, whose mitts appear to be slightly less secure when it comes to keeping hold of his women. Having split with first wife Sandra fifteen years ago, Seaman has now sacked it off with second hunch Debbie.
Seaman’s agent told the NOTW that his client was simply “bored” – a chivalrous and charming statement if ever there was one. Given the same paper sums up the ex-England keeper’s last few years as “indulging his hobbies of fly-fishing and golf and he also competed in ITV1’s hit Dancing on Ice show in 2006” the agent may wish to consider how secure his own position alongside Seaman is.
This in a nutshell is the problem for former keepers. Living in their own world throughout their playing days, they can’t turn their hand to management, general coaching gophery, or even punditry. So they are forced to walk out on their kids to alleviate the boredom. Mankind must find a cure to this potentially damaging social ill.
Of even more concern to the planet’s premier species, is that 36 people found the time on their Sunday afternoon to comment on a story involving the marriage of two people they have never met.
Centre Back, Heiko Westermann
Continuing our theme of defenders scoring tremendous goals, Westermann banged in his ninth of the season as Schalke took the lead at Wolfsburg. But one of the many surprise packages of this season’s Bundesliga hit back and eventually won 4-3. There is no joke in this small paragraph; the Germans take their volleys most seriously.
Centre Back, Nemanja Vidic
Not Nemanja’s finest hour: at fault for the first goal, getting sent off for a cynical foul on Steven Gerrard, which itself resulted in Liverpool’s third, as they ran riot at Old Trafford. Vidic aside, the result proved Rafa Benitez once and for all as the Mark Zuckerberg of the Premier League; forever meddling unnecessarily, but eventually, after much dismay and complaint, it all seems to make sense.
Centre Back, Ray Wilkins
Raymond as Gianluca Vialli calls him, features this week as the captain of the last team to win 4-1 at Old Trafford, when his QPR side romped home back on New Years Day 1992, in front of a gushing Elton Welsby. Hat-trickster in that match was Dennis Bailey who revealed after the match, ” I go to the Pentecostal in Brixton every Sunday when I reflect on the week just passed.” Whatever happened to religious top-flight footballers in Britain? Come on the new generation; lets invoke the Lord more often. QPR winning 4-1 at Manchester United does smack of a miracle after all.
Right Midfield, Wayne Rooney
We’re playing Rooney out wide (which he HATES) as punishment for naughtily telling the world that he hates Liverpool, comments that were hastily edited out of the Manchester United website from whence they came. Lord Fergie himself clarified claiming that Rooney didn’t mean hate; rather its just that the word dislike has fallen out of fashion amongst the nation’s youths. I blame Kelis – “I dislike you so much right now” would have sent a far better example to the listening youngsters on Merseyside.
Centre Midfield, Eric Cantona
Nicole? Papa? Non- c’est Eric. Pourquoi? Je ne sais pas.
Centre Midfield, Francesco Favasuli
This is a strange goal indeed in the Cavese vs Juve Stabia match. The ball disappears off the foot of Serie C dynamo Favasuli, comes down a few seconds later with some debris from Mars, and slap, nestles in the old onion bag. Incidentally, following this incident at the weekend, the Oxford Dictionary have replaced the current definition of the word hapless and replaced it with a picture of the Juve Stabia goalkeeper as the ball loops over him.
Centre Midfield, Francis Lee
Nope – his inclusion last week wasn’t a mistake from the lazy editor. This remains interesting. Very interesting in fact.
Left Midfield, Morten Gamst Pedersen
Abraham Lincoln once remarked, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Diving like this will not fool any people at any time. Better luck next time MGP.
Striker, Giuseppe Mascara
A second Interestment XI appearance for the Catania man, as he scored another cracker at the weekend. Of more importance, this of course is also an opportunity to include those missed puns from last time, such as pointing out how made up Catania fans were, how it was one in the eye for the opposition Udinese, and how his goals are fast becoming the foundation of Catania’s successful fight against relegation.
Striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
For those still hunting Mourinho’s “best player in Europe” following his latent appearances against Manchester United in recent weeks, here is Zlatan Ibrahimovic doing what he does best; scoring astounding goals against mediocre teams in largely insignificant matches.
The Coral, Dreaming of You
Of course, Merseyside has a great tradition in churning out fantastic pop groups, and this is one of the best since The Beatles. Above is their most catchy tune so far. Fabulous.
Dayward, Ice Cream
At 38, Stan Collymore should still be playing professional football for England, but instead he’s living it up as a pundit, and today he’s celebrating his birthday. As ever, a bloodbath ensued when presents were mentioned, one half violently protesting in favour of an excellent new song from Bristol, while the other half became hysterical, screaming something about a twenty pound book token. In the end, a truce was called, and we got him both. Happy Birthday Stan!
Can you guess who number one might be?
Don’t be frightened if you find yourself in Liverpool and someone comes up to you and starts snorting, hacking, clearing their throat, sniffing and coughing – it’s just their way of saying “hello”. What they’re actually doing is talking. It’s weird. Equally weird is that such strange and indecipherable speaking voices can make for totally amazing singing voices. We’re thinking of Elvis Costello, the guy with the hair from The Zutons, the young scientists in Atomic Kitten. And yet, sadly, none of those people made the cut. The best second best bands from Liverpool read like this: