25 Jan, 2007 @ 08:56
3 mins read

Don your cap to a boy called Neep

by Michael Byass

IT may have come a little too late to prevent another two-horse Premiership race but this weekend third beat second and fourth beat first. Late Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry goals overtook Wayne Rooney’s earlier headed goal for Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson’s face was as florid as it can be and the handshake between himself and Arsene Wenger would have been missed if one had blinked.

Van Persie suffered the same fate as so many English players in recent times as he broke that most famous of bones as he scored his goal: the fifth metatarsal (which I like to think of as ‘the little toe’).

The previous day Liverpool managed to beat Chelsea in the league for the first time since Rafael Benitez and Jose Mourinho became the managers 100 league games ago. Mourinho seemed to almost concede defeat prior to the match as he complained about the lack of money to spend on reserve central defenders. He had to make do with Michael Essien and Paulo Ferreira at the back. Liverpool duly scored twice early on and had the game won without having to play especially well. It is frequently being said at the moment that things are ‘unravelling’ at Stamford Bridge. Expensive signings are not performing well enough and questions are being asked as to who is having the final say regarding transfers. Chelsea are still in the hunt for four pieces of silverware this season however, so most clubs would gladly swap places with them.

The teams immediately behind the top four had an unexpectedly poor weekend. Portsmouth lost at home to Charlton and Bolton were thrashed 5-1 by Middlesbrough. The sometime England winger Stewart Downing put in one of his best performances for a long time to inspire Gareth Southgate’s team.

The 2-2 draw between Newcastle and West Ham provided an interesting talking point. James Milner scored on the stroke of half time for the Magpies. Scott Parker was standing in front of the West Ham keeper Roy Carroll in an offside position. He did not touch the ball but allowed it to pass through his legs and into the net. The assistant referee flagged for offside but the referee Uriah Rennie over-ruled him and allowed the goal to stand, presumably because he felt the player did not touch it so was therefore not interfering with play. This, of course, always provokes the cynical old professional players into saying things like: “If he was not interfering with play then what is he doing on the pitch.”

An interesting additional fact is that Rennie is likely to be demoted to the Championship where he will have to ply his trade for a while. Whether he can be promoted back into the Premiership automatically or via some play-offs has not been mentioned. This seems a bit disrespectful to the lower leagues. Refereeing requires the same degree of competence whatever level the football is being played at. It could be argued if you are refereeing amateur Sunday league football you need to be very good otherwise your personal safety could be compromised.

My best friend who answers to the exotic name of Neep is an excellent football fan. He knows his stuff, which is why he is doing much better than me in the Premiership predictions competition (I am almost as low down in this league as my team are in the Championship). But where Neep comes into his own is the extraordinary, and ever expanding, number of football teams he supports. The order in which he supports them occasional alters as well although it would be unfair to say he is a fair weather fan. The teams cover a wide area, from Aberdeen, down to Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol Rovers and finally across to Charlton. Neep has either lived close to or has some family connection to these teams so the reasons for his support are not too tenuous. He should really add Gillingham to his roster, as they are currently his local league team. Even more impressively, from a geographical point of view, Aberdeen and Wednesday football clubs are both to be found on the banks of rivers called The Don. Can anybody beat that? There must be a team in Rostov on the banks of the Don in Russia he can follow. Neep also supports two county cricket teams, two national football teams and one American football team.

Speaking of the USA, David Beckham’s move from Real Madrid to the Los Angeles Galaxy has created quite a bit of interest. It is quite a change of fortune, which has seen the celebrity with the ever-changing hairdo go from being England’s World Cup Captain to semi-retirement in the outer orbit of the football world in the space of half a year. Everyone seems to agree the money, fame, environment and lifestyle will suit the Beckhams down to the ground.

Quotation of the week comes from Everton’s Joleon Lescott when invited to comment on rumours linking him to Real Madrid: “The closest I get to them is on Pro Evolution on my Playstation”. Boom boom.

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