by Michael Byass
THIS last week has been lit up by an amusing suggestion by Sky Television’s Andy Gray. Or perhaps it was meant seriously as a way to lead to further tabloidisation of football. Anyway, the idea of making goals larger so as to create higher scoring games would allow a football highlights show to be called Mega Marvellous Super Superb Wonder Weekend. Gray’s comments were apparently partly based on the fact that since it was decided the goals should be the size and shape that they presently are the average height of goalkeepers has increased by many inches. Many responses to this were quite comical, along the lines of: “Whatever next? Goalkeepers having to wear an eye patch!”
However, the serious debate was well-represented by both sides of the fence. Some thought it was fair enough and that all sports evolve in a positive way to reflect various changes in audience or demand. Cricket, for example, has enjoyed a prolonged spell of popularity due to the boundaries becoming shorter, which has resulted in faster scoring. On the other hand, some of the very best football matches involve low scoring encounters and what we treasure so much risks being devalued if goals are being banged in left, right and centre. I personally think that wearing comedy clowns shoes, the length of which is determined by how many goals they scored the previous season, should be used to handicap strikers. Imagine how this would make Thierry Henry’s shrugs and frowns even more poignant.
Meanwhile, another ‘epic encounter’ has sent its final echo into the Catalan sky. All the important pre-match preparation took place and vital advice was given to the players regarding how to cheat and influence the referee. It is interesting how Barcelona and Chelsea have developed such a dislike for each other on and off the pitch. Jose Mourinho is still riled by the taunts directed towards him that serve as a reminder of his humble non-footballing beginnings as Bobby Robson’s translator at the Camp Nou. But he
had the final laugh as Didier Drogba scored a late equaliser and celebrated by sliding across the turf and dirtying his expensive trousers. All that was needed was for him pull his shirt up over his head.
What else have we learnt recently? Joey Barton owns a pair of the most talked about buttocks in the English Premiership and Wayne Rooney is a fantastic player who has just come out of a slump that covered roughly one quarter of his career to date. There is also a significant recent trend in football that links the above two players and Newcastle manager Glen Roeder. All have responded in a relatively inoffensive way to pretty severe provocation from what we still nostalgically call ‘The Terraces.’ Barton’s cheeky riposte came about after he had suffered an afternoon of abuse due to a (admittedly heinous) crime perpetrated by his brother. Rooney was guilty of flicking a V, or possibly a rod, towards an England
fan who had allegedly displayed an X-rated part of his anatomy to the under-performing England team as they sloped off the pitch in Croatia. After spending an afternoon at his old club and having West Ham fans refer to his brain tumour in very un-complimentary terms, Roeder had the absolute temerity to wave at Newcastle fans in the away section. This harmless gesture initiated a wave of bile and vitriol. This most recent weekend of football resulted in two players seeming to have coins thrown at them.
Wayne Rooney has now rediscovered his mojo along with a surprisingly ginger display of fluff on his face that seems to come and go quite disconcertingly. His recent goals and performances have reminded us what a special talent he has. He is an individual whose body language is as easy to read as a celebrity magazine. When the magic is flowing through his boots he is a smiling and joking little lad next-door character. But
we have all seen the scowling petulant bloke that you would cross over the road to avoid; expect to slap an Antisocial Behaviour Order on him.
Manchester United are now three points clear at the top of the Premiership pile from Chelsea who were very unfortunate to have both keepers stretchered off against Reading recently. Both incidents appeared fairly innocuous but Petr Cech in particular appears to have suffered a serious head injury. Reading are doing quite well for a team who have the responsibility of debuting the capital letter ‘R’ in the English top flight. Chelsea also come unstuck against Tottenham who recorded their first league victory against their London rivals for 16 years.
Finally, for those people who are bothered about such things, I was imprecise four weeks ago in describing the scoring system in the prediction malarkey that yours truly is embroiled in. Three points are gained for predicting the correct score with one point for the correct result. This recent round of ten Premiership matches gave me a not inconsiderable seventeen points. Maybe football is predictable after all. And to think I was on the verge of asking for some expert advice the other weekend.
PS. What do York City, Aston Villa and Northampton Town have in common?