Monday, 27 September 2010

That bloke on the Spurs bench? Can't possibly be Joe Jordan!

em, what time's me cocoa being made, nurse?
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You know that Joe Jordan who sits next to Harry Redknapp on the Spurs bench each week? I've not taken my eye off football for 35 years - but I must've missed something.
Because that Joe Jordan on the Spurs bench can't possibly be the toothless Braveheart of Leeds, Manchester United and Scotland fame, can it?

I mean, after every game twentysomething Joe Jordan would tackle a live raging bull in the Elland Road dressing room and eat its hind leg -  while it was still alive. Billy Bremner would hide behind him!

Mel Gibson isn't man enough to play Joe.
Today's Jordan speaks just above a whimper - and only eats solids before 5pm.

I know Phil Thompson's changed his act since his "calm down, calm down" days as a permed Liverpool legend.

But it's still him. Pinocchio doesn't change his spots.

Nope, sorry. That just can't be Joe Jordan. Maybe Jordan is dead - just like Paul McCartney. Maybe the Joe Jordan sitting next to 'Arry is the Billy Shears of football.

Still no idea, Jeff.
Shears was reputedly the secret winner of a Macca lookalike competition, set up to replace dead Paul in the Beatles in the late sixties.
The One and Only Billy Shears!

And like Macca's questionnable songwriting skills after 1970, Jordan's rendition of "Nice One Cyril" is nowhere near as good as his seventies chanting of the "Leeds United Calypso".

I wonder what Faux Joe's real name is?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Remembering Hugh Johns

One-nothing, Leicester Siddy!
It's fair to say the likes of John Motson, Brian Moore and Kenneth Wolstenholme did enough in their careers to be remembered for decades to come.

But what about other equally high-profile, much-loved pros who've slipped from our collective psyche? As the years roll by and football reinvents itself with scant regard for how it got to this point of popularity in the first place, what about Hugh Johns?

Soccermongery remembers Hugh. He was just about the first football commentator I remember, growing up as I did in the ATV region.

No Big Match for us in the Midlands, oh no! it was Star Soccer presented by a twentysomething, Gary Newbon.

aaaiir, Noddinghan Fores'
The main commentary game on ATV, and it was a big one in those days with Forest, Albion and Villa dominating in England and Europe, was by Hugh Johns.

I swear I remember him declare "oy-ye-yoy!" when Andy Gray and John Richards failed to produce the finish to an intricate Wolves move, blazing over the bar when scoring seemed easier!

Marcus Stead, an avid TV and radio sports fan who grew up in South Wales writes:

"Hugh moved to HTV Wales in the early 1980s and he was working on local football on HTV Wales until the mid-late 1990s. He lived fairly near to me and I used to see him at Sophia Gardens cricket ground quite often.

Even during his ATV/ Central days, he still lived on the outskirts of Cardiff and commuted to the Midlands.

He had a few catchphrases, such as "One-nothing" and "Yes, Sir!".

My favourite quote, from his HTV Wales days, was "The ref looked at his whistle and blew his watch".

Listen!I know that in his later years he wasn't a fan of the modern game and would watch it on TV only occasionally.

About a year before he died, he made the front page of the local paper having a go at Gabby Logan. He called her a 'super lady' but said he just couldn't get used to a woman presenting football on TV.

Hugh was an interesting character- a heavy, life-long smoker who insisted on drinking several pints of Brains Bitter every day to keep his voice working properly.

He was also a very active Freemason in the South Wales area.

He'll be remembered as a football commentator, but also worked on boxing, bowls, snooker and darts.

Even when I was growing up in the 1990s his style sounded somewhat dated, but he was a true professional and I'm sure he'd have enjoyed listening to that."

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Monday, 20 September 2010

Berbatov was brilliant - but so was Gerrard

Smoked Bulgarian Cheese, please.
Manchester United's 3-2 win over Liverpool will be remembered for Dimitar Berbatov's hat-trick. The brilliant Bulgarian's shaken off whatever was bothering him at Old Trafford - and produced a performance worthy of his considerable talent.

But amid the fog of Liverpool's latest defeat, it's worth highlighting The Steven Gerrard Show. He turned in yet another captain's performance at Old Trafford. With typical one-man resilience, he struck twice to level the game when the Reds looked down and out at 2-nil down.

His free-kick to equalise at 2-all was particularly brilliant. Finding the only space available in the United wall to expertly place the ball past the unsighted Edwin Van der Sar.

Gerrard's love affair with Old Trafford. Sealed with a x.
It's a pity the Scouse warrior had to end up on the losing side but as his performance confirmed, he's playing the football of his life once more.

Soccermongery was critical of Steven Gerrard last season.  He looked off the pace and bothered by off-field problems. Now he's consigned those to the past and despite the ill winds of change swirling around Anfield, Liverpool can still reply on their talisman to deliver.

Not only is Gerrard turning in quality club performances, he's delivering for England too. Appointed captain because of the John Terry scandal and set free in midfield by the international absence of Frank Lampard, Gerrard keeps on playing himself into the lead role whoever he plays for.

It must be disspiriting for Gerrard to be playing at a club who can't arrest a decline which started in Rafa Benitez' last season in charge. I'm sure not even the most stringent Anfield loyalist would begrudge him leaving for pastures new (as long as it was abroad!)

Berbatov is also enjoying the limelight. Capitalising on wayward Wayne Rooney, the Bulgar can get on with his United career on a new footing. Don't be surprised if he outscores Wazza in United colours this season.

But Gerrard is too. To Liverpool and England, his contribution is priceless.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Allardyce is right to slam Wenger

Big Sam in his Sunderland playing days
Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce has accused Arsene Wenger of using the media to influence referees and make Arsenal players untouchable.  

The Gunners boss again hit out at heavy tackles on his players after Abou Diaby was injured against Bolton on Saturday.

Allardyce (left) said: "He's a very clever man in terms of influencing referees, officials and everybody in football.

"In saying people are trying to injure players he's trying, through the media, to influence referees."

Big Sam is absolutely right in this case. Bolton's Gary Cahill was sent off at the Emirates for that challenge which may well have resulted in only a yellow card with another referee.

Allardyce and Wenger have often clashed over their teams' style of play.

Sam and Dioufy reunited at Ewood
The Frenchman accused Allardyce's players of targeting his goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski at set-pieces during a 2-1 defeat at Ewood Park towards the end of last season.

Allardyce reignited their verbal feud, before Arsenal avenged that loss with a 2-1 win at Rovers in August, saying: "I have to remind Arsene about his team, which used to win the league, that was the dirtiest team in the league.

"If you cast your mind back to when they were winning the league, they had more sendings-off and bookings than anyone else."

And in his latest swipe, the former Bolton boss said: "Arsene is almost, almost, affecting the officials so that you can't tackle an Arsenal player.

"That's something he's very clever at working on and it's almost working in his favour, you can see that.

"There is a perception that we kick everybody and Arsenal's motivation is that you can't tackle us as you aren't supposed to." 
Wenger and Carlos Kickaball or somesuch.
There's definitely an arrogance to Wenger's comments. By insinuating rough play, he's comparing his Beautiful Game of pass and move, intricate skill and youthful touch with the barbarian spirit of lesser teams as he sees it.

But Allardyce insists that the days of players trying to injure their opponents are long gone.

"Wenger is deflecting attention from the situation which says the game of football is a contact sport. You have to try to win the ball at all costs and if someone doesn't get it quite right people get injured," he added.

"It was much more apparent in my day when people used to go out to try to hurt an opponent every week, but today it very rarely happens. 

"I completely deny that my team deliberately injures players, certainly not. In the Premier League the commitment and speed unfortunately brings players together at such pace that it's almost impossible to avoid injuries."

Wenger doesn't always see the other side of the argument.
Wenger said in his programme notes ahead of Arsenal's Champions League victory over Braga that Bolton goalkeeper Adam Bogdan should have been given a straight red card for his challenge on Diaby as the Gunners beat Allardyce's old club 4-1 on Saturday.

"My regret is that video evidence cannot be used in these cases afterwards," he said. 

"I can understand that the ref did not see it, because he was in a bad position, but frankly the Premier League should be in a position whether they can suspend players who do this kind of thing."

Earlier in the week, the Frenchman stated: "I love the way the English game is played in England, the one restriction has to be full commitment with the intention of going for the ball and only for the ball.

"Then, I prefer English football 10 times as much to the European game. The English game becomes dangerous when the players go to hurt each other."

They don't like each other. End of. Ne-e-e-e-xt!

Inside Stephen Ireland’s House

Jessica, a rat, Stephen.
In a flabbergasting splurge of nouveau riche taste, Soccermongery's found these fabulous "OK"-style shots of Stephen Ireland at home.

Click here for:

Inside Stephen Ireland’s House

For me, the baize on the pool table tops even the bedroom's decor.

Some new claret and blue theme wouldn't go amiss, eh Stephen? But tell me, is the spare bedroom for your grandmas?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Houllier's coronation looks better without Thompson

Houllier: any clues about who'll be assistant?
I originally declared disappointment at GĂ©rard Houllier's appointment as Aston Villa's first manager hired by Randy Lerner. Now I admit his arrival looks better that Phil Thompson's rejected the chance of joining him!

Our American owner wants a man with both Premier League experience and an international profile. Houllier ticks both of those boxes - but then again so do many other inappropriate figures in the game.

Thompson's turned down the chance because of his TV commitments. A one club man through and through, Thommo would've frankly looked out of place at Villa Park.

Phil Thompson: calm down, la!
Villa is in Birmingham with all its cultural and regional differences to Liverpool. Thommo firmly represents a Liverpool way. Villa are in no way a lesser pedigree of football club to Liverpool. But Thompson's arrival would've intimated that.

But what does Houllier do with Kevin MacDonald? Caretaker manager in the wake of Martin O'Neill's shock resignation, MacDonald's fifteen years at Villa gives him a special relationship with so many players and staff in the club.

MacDonald would make the Ticket look so much more rounded if he were to be Houllier's right-hand man. The Frenchman could do a whole lot worse than get over Thommo with I think, a much better coach.

Houllier is a spikey, divisive figure with a history of buying terrible players at Liverpool including Bruno Cheyrou, Titi Camara and Salif Diao.

Then again, he did produce a team which won the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup and finished fourth in the Premier League - all in one season (so technically qualifying for Europe in four different ways!)

His Anfield progress was disrupted by a heart problem. Nevertheless, he did make a full recovery and led Lyon to two French Ligue Championnats.

I don't want to be too critical - but I just have a bad feeling about this. It smells of a kneejerk appointment of the small pool of available bosses.

If O'Neill's untimely departure was designed to cause Villa damage, then the Ulsterman certainly put the club on the backfoot. 

Let's get behind Houllier because we have to - but Randy should keep one eye on the soul of the club as well as our supposed constituency of the watching football world.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Capello seems oblivious to how it works in England

Sid James with a wig
 Fabio Capello declares consternation at how the English press build him up to knock him down. After the comfortable 4-nil win over Bulgaria in England's first game of the Euro 2012 qualification campaign, Capello insists he will get on with the job of managing the team in the same way he's done all along.

The truth is Fabio, you've got to bend a bit to the way it works here, or you'll get into more trouble.

The only way the Italian can escape a huge media barrage - is to keep winning. I suppose the Euro 2012 campaign will keep the wolves from the door for the next couple of years, such is the comfort of the opposition we're pitted against. Unless of course, he endorses a product he shouldn't or gets up to some unnamed no good!

But Capello must learn to be more surefooted with English custom and the management of his players. What worked with provincial players at Roma certainly doesn't work with our pack of feral and insular millionaires from the Premier League.

The Capello Index was a huge cock-up and he should know better than to take on David Beckham. Telling Becks his career was over and offering him a testimonial was swiftly rejected by the former England skipper. It showed no sensitivity to the player's star quality and his near bodily commitment to the England cause.

Didn't Becks return from injury to steer Real Madrid to the Primera Liga after his Real boss Capello had written him off earlier in the season?

Now Capello will look suspect if he doesn't select Beckham when the LA Galaxy star does eventually return to full fitness.

Yes, a 4-nil win is good. We've come to see Capello knows how to manage us to tournaments, its when we get there we don't have a scooby.

But his thoughts on the English press show a lack of understanding of England, the culture and the job here and at 64, a stubborn steadfastness to values which don't belong here.

Fabio: on the salary you're on here, understand that you are fair game for the most vitriolic criticism! It's our team and you are a mere temporary custodian of it.

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Thursday, 2 September 2010

Avram Grant, football's most celebrated loser is a Lion Zion Iron!

You've got to love Avram Grant. He's a heady cocktail of the dour and doleful. He's lost every big game he's ever been charged with winning. Throw in a sex scandal too and you'd have thought he'd be jeered and ridiculed at every away ground on which he prowls the touchline.

I mean here's man who's been a loser in the finals of the Champions League, the FA Cup and Carling Cup and a Premier League runner-up.

But no. He's celebrated, nay feted!
As his West Ham career falters into gear, Soccermongery reckons he could've bagged an even bigger job on the continent such is his international standing and respect. Losing the Cup Final and finishing rock-bottom with Pompey apparently earned him the right!

So what's his appeal and why after Portsmouth's dog of a season has his stock never been higher?

Well, I'll tell you why. Grant joined Pompey too late. They were already doomed. He had to make do and mend with the squad he inherited. The wave of changes in ownership, financial misgivings and breaches of rules were too strong for the team to counter.

Yet Grant's Portsmouth played with commitment, organisation and vigour - and they won their fair share of matches, even though they crashed and burned in the league.

The FA Cup run showed their spirit proving that you took Grant's team lightly and you'd get beaten. Even in the league, they had their days in the sun. Just ask Wigan, Wolves, Birmingham and Spurs. Memorable wins for Pompey in both competitions.

Grant's rallying call to the Fratton Park faithful about not crushing their spirit even if everything else was taken away, is the stuff of the siege mentality all the big managers specialise in doling out to their players and the press.

I don't know either, mate!
Avram's got a big future - and if he can galvanize the Hammers into playing more spirited football than Gianfranco Zola did, there'll be a good few offers from some interesting leagues for the Israeli to ponder.
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