All in the game


A soccer miscellany

Riot: Blues in the dark

NOVEMBER 20th: The reputation theyve gained over the years is being hostile, volatile, but not in a nasty way.”

– Birmingham manager Alex McLeish paying tribute to the club’s fans ahead of the League Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa.

December 1st: We don’t condone that behaviour, it’s a return to the dark ages.”

– Birmingham manager Alex McLeish condemning the club’s fans after the League Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa. Well, the ones who invaded the pitch and attacked the Villa fans. More than a thousand home supporters ran on to the pitch after the game and confronted away fans housed in the Gil Merrick Stand.

Failed World Cup bid: Just not English enough for Fifa 

SO, who or what was to blame for England not getting the 2018 World Cup gig?

Well, the Daily Mailreckoned it might have been down to “the very un-English presentation” to the Fifa delegates on Thursday, the paper asking, “was this the video that cost us?”

“Gosh, didn’t we look global. So multicultural, so diverse,” they said of the three-minute film that was the centrepiece of the presentation.

They were happy enough with the start of the video, which featured a little English boy, but “then we’re off to somewhere else in the world (maybe the Third World) to watch some kids have a kickabout in the street.”

There was even, they noted, a clip “depicting a Muslim country”.

And “a range of ethnically diverse figures celebrating our national game from afar”.

What should the video have shown?

“Grenadier Guards in their bearskins . . . the smiling British Bobby . . . our legendary cuisine.”

Yep, that would have done the trick with Sepp and the lads alright.

Wrong call: Misplaced trust

THE day before that Fifa vote on the hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals, The Sunsent out an appeal to Sepp Blatter and the boys, asking them not to be put off England’s bid “by the BBC’s rehashing of ancient history”.

“Sabotage,” they called the Panoramaprogramme aired earlier in the week, but “despite BBC muckraking, the Suntrusts Fifa to put football first tomorrow. That means awarding the 2018 World Cup to the best bid. England’s.”

Next day? “THEY STINK, IT’S ALL OVER!” “PARTNERS IN SLIME”, read the headline over a photo of Blatter shaking hands with Vladimir Putin. Crikey, that trust broke down awful quick.

Quotes: Of the week

I love Fifa dearly . . . Fifa is a clean institution . . . Fifa values honesty, Fifa works for football and for the world . . . you have already heard enough slander in the media, the bidding process is clean regardless of what they say.

– Fifa member Angel Villar Llona, who played for Spain during the 1970s. It’s the way he tells ’em.

When the chips are down, the top dogs usually come up smelling of roses.

– QPR manager Neil Warnock showers his team with metaphor-mixing praise.

“Apparently England had a good bid but they didn’t do it. Get over it, nobody died.”

– Yep, Roy Keane.

Lineker comes 'clean': Ireland faced a messy situation

LOOKING back on that 1990 World Cup game between the Republic of Ireland and England in Cagliari, did you think the marking on Gary Lineker was a little loose at times? Well, last week, in an interview with the BBC, he – and we really, really wish he hadn’t – explained why.

“I was not very well, I was poorly at half-time, there was a ball down the left-hand side, I tried to tackle someone, stretched, and then relaxed myself.

“I was very fortunate it rained that night as it allowed me to do something about it, but it was messy – it just happened. I tell you I have never had so much space in a match as I did after that.”

Lineker, of course, scored early on in that game.

Type “Gary Lineker poos himself at World Cup 1990” in to your YouTube search box, if you’re brave enough.

Mercifully, you don’t actually see the you-know-what, but you are treated to the sight of the clean-up operation. Mercy.

Rio rap: More Tweets

MUCH to our shame, we haven’t been keeping an eye on Rio Ferdinand’s Twitter feed, but the Daily Mirror, thankfully, has been more attentive.

Two recent Tweets from “Old Trafford’s Jeremy Paxman”.

“I really hope this N.Korea + S.Korea situation doesn’t escalate to all-out war – where’s the love in this world? Talk it out don’t fight it out”.

“Shout-out 2 the 29 miners who lost their lives in New Zealand, so sad to see this kind of thing happen.”

As the Mirror put it, “a fitting tribute, with the ‘shout-out’ only slightly spoiled by the fact that the tragic workers were unlikely to have heard it”.


Presents: How about a pooping reindeer? 

STRUGGLING to decide what Christmas present to get your Manchester United-supporting loved one?

How about a jigsaw of Phil Townsend, the club’s director of communications? Alas, it’s unavailable on Amazon’s site, but hopefully they’ll restock soon – judging by the customer comments on the page it’s a must-have item.

“I had been looking for a 300 piece Phil Townsend jigsaw for most of my adult life . . . Now bring on the tea lady and the car park attendant. God I love this . . . It simply is the best Phil Townsend jigsaw on the market.”

The only complaint, really, was that with all those empty red seats behind Phil, the jigsaw is quite tricky to complete.

“I started it 12 months ago. I’ve currently got his eyes and a little part of the seating in the background. I desperately want to finish it by the time I’m 70, I’ve got 15 years so here’s hoping.”

This buyer, though, fared a little better: “Was really impressed with myself, I completed this jigsaw in just over 4 months. It said 12 years or over on the box.”

Other United jigsaws in the range include one showing the commercial director speaking at a press conference to announce Air Asia as a new “partner”, while another shows a woman clapping during a game against Aston Villa.

While they might be exciting gifts, we’re not sure they match the official United reindeer on sale in the club’s online shop. “The Pooping Reindeer is a sweet dispenser with a twist,” they explain. “It dispenses fruit flavoured candy from its rear and is dressed in a Manchester United Scarf.”

Wrong message: Ronaldo's warning slightly off the mark

“Anyone who doesn’t like me can either shut their eyes, shut their mouths or sit at home and turn off the TV because we are coming to Barcelona to win.”

– Cristiano Ronaldo’s message to Barcelona fans ahead of Monday’s La Liga game. Ooops.

“Once he said to me: ‘Wesley you look tired. Take a few days off.

Go get some sun with your wife and child.’ So I went to Ibiza for three days. When I got back, I was prepared to kill and die for him.”

– Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder on his murderous love for Jose Mourinho.

“It is a little bit like training with your dad.”

– Manchester United baby goalkeeper Ben Amos (20) on hanging out with Edwin van der Sar (40).

“Don’t get me started. I don’t know how they do it. It’s very strange. Gloves, scarves, I think somebody came on a few weeks ago for Manchester City who had a hat on. They’ve all gone soft.”

– Roy Keane on footballers who wrap up warm.

“I see this punishment as a medal. I’m pleased there is one rule for Jose Mourinho and one for the other coaches. I can’t leave the technical area, others can. I can’t pick up a ball an adversary wants, others can. I can’t speak with the fourth official, others can. They are medals so, no worries.”

– Jose Mourinho thanks Uefa for his two-match ban.

“The BBC is ridiculously unpatriotic . . . They’ve got exactly what they wanted.”

– Ian “Bulldog” Wright, who reckoned there were “champagne corks popping” at the Beeb on Thursday.

“I saw him score two goals. He played also well. But not midfielder. He plays midfield, but he’s not a midfielder.

And you saw also yesterday midfielders of Real and Barcelona. Tat tat tat tat.”

– Giovanni Trapattoni on Aston Villa’s Ciarán Clark. Possibly.