Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday September 26 2008
Verbal diarrhoea seems to be once again the order of the week this week (which is just as well, usually I`d do a classic encounter slot on a Friday, but I don`t think Arsenal have played Hull City in my lifetime). Who better to kick the pattern of a barmy week for football off than football`s answer to George Bush, step forward Mr. Pratini. The ex Juventus (whereabouts in France is Turin Michel?) of course launched a baffling and quite personal attack on the eminently more successful and better looking Arsene Wenger this week. 48 hours after Wenger had launched a broadside against billionaire owners and having been frequently lampooned by most for his frugality in the transfer market and his preference for developing players over waving a big, fat paycheque about, Pratini labelled Wenger a "businessman." Pratini was keen to then anoint himself as football laureate. Of course, Mr. Pratini was not forthcoming with his motives for moving to the cash drenched Serie A in the 1980s. After being lambasted by the LMA and the footballing world in general, Pratini showed the sturdy leadership associated with a man of his office by being forced into a humiliating climb down…….by his Dad! That`s right, the head of UEFA was sent to bed without his broccoli soup and had his x-box360 removed from his bedroom. When your own father tells you to get a bloody grip on football`s governing body, you know you`re in trouble. (Even George Bush Jnr. Has yet to suffer that particular indignity).
Mr. Pratini, having successfully reinserted his dummy, couldn`t submit the apology when some 'Kevin the Teenager` style backbiting. His bizarre justification for the broadside was that he couldn`t stand the practise of young players joining big clubs from other academies! So presumably everybody should just keep turning out for the Cub Scout under XIs until they come of age then? Pratini of course neglected to mention that he twice had trials with Metz at the age of 16 when he was playing for his local side AS Jouef, before joining Nancy`s academy at the age of 17. Maybe his disastrous stint as France coach from 1988 to 1992 explains his disdain for France`s most iconic managerial son? Or maybe he saw Arsene in a locker room once and now he feels a wee bit inadequate in the face of Wenger`s mighty pork sword? Who knows?
And if appalling motives are your bag then Kevin Nolan treated you all to a double whammy. Despite Gary Megson`s Saturday evening assertion that "we never even talk of intimidation", his club captain didn`t so much cross the party line as take a damn great chainsaw to it by confessing he told his team mate JJloyd Samuel to give Theo Walcott "a little kick." Probably not the greatest idea to reveal such tactile team talks when your lumbering oaf of a centre forward has put an opponent in hospital. Of course the ever authoritative Football Association have yet to comment on where exactly Mr. Nolan`s confession that he instructed his team mates to play outside the laws of the game fits within the context of the 'Respect The Refs` initiative. Support was swift from bastion of manhood (dig that moustache) Mr. Lawrenson, who supported Nolan`s claim that English football was in danger of losing the "roughing up of people" aspect by voicing his own rational fear that the game was in danger of being over run by "Jessies." Presumably Mr. Lawrenson smirked to himself on Tuesday evening when Emmanuel 'Mad Dog` Pogatetz put a United youngster in hospital with an even more malicious challenge. Poisebon, you big Jesse son, sort yourself out! Going over the top of the ball and attempting to maim your opponent is a man`s practise you know? Just like kicking a man already on the ground in a macho street brawl. Coincidentally enough, hours after Nolan`s little missive, Arsenal`s team talk sheet was leaked to the press from a Lancashire hotel. Alistair Campbell? Is that you?
Now Tigers (grrrrrrrrrr) boss Phil Brown is in on the act with his act. His time spent as Allardyce`s number two (stop sniggering in the back) has left him with a lubricious appetite for the studs up challenge, declaring, 'Last week Arsenal were unhappy with a tackle from Kevin Davies but there was nothing wrong with it.
'If you allow Arsenal to dictate that tackle goes out of the game, then we are finished.
'We have got that tackle on our side - they have got the technical side of the game on their side.
'If they are allowed to express that technical side without tackling, without physical contact, we might as well not turn up.' Obviously they have difficulty understanding the difference between a hard and fair challenge for the ball and a studs up lunge which takes out someone`s shinbone when the ball is on the ground in not so Big Phil's headquarters. Presumably messrs Brown, Lawrenson and Nolan have trouble deciphering the difference between a fatal stabbing and a flick on the earlobe in December too? Tune in next week as Lawrenson confuses himself with a decent football pundit, Brown mistakes a turd for Lincolnshire sausage and Nolan accidentally cops a feel of Danny Le Roo.
Newcastle have also given us their usual slice of entertainment this week. The appointment of Kevin Keegan back in January appeared to be a result of some kind of temporary amnesia where the club`s top brass mistook the year to be 1996. It seems the crème de la crème at Geordie towers refuse to let go of their kangol bucket hats as the boardroom rages with debate as to who is better; Oasis or Blur. Their flick through the Rothman`s 1996 Football Annual dragged up the names Venables, Hoddle, Bassett, O` Leary and Graham as prospective interims. Forgive me for being a little cynical, but if my club were in the midst of fiduciary crises, Venables and Graham would not be respective paw prints I would want within sneezing distance of the club. After being served the ultimate indignity of being turned down by El Tel (seriously, I`ve been turned down by some real huffers in the nightspots of Croydon in the past, but that`s gotta hurt!), they ditched their copy of the 1996 Rothman`s Annual in favour of 'Where`s Wally?` They`ve found him, apparently it`s Joe Kinnear. With Newcastle`s current predicament marginally keeping Tottenham off the premier perch as the league`s comedy club, Didier Zokora was determined not to be outdone with his latest press junket by declaring, wait for it, "We want to try to play in the Champions League next season. It's possible because there are 33 games still to go.' In fairness, Didier and his band of hapless chums might be looking to the example of last season`s campaign to inform him of this unshakable belief. I hear both Berbatov and Keane are playing Champions League football this season.LD.
Date:Friday September 26 2008
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