At least they’re consistent
1-6, 0-0, 0-1, 0-0, 0-0, 0-0, 0-0; these remarkably binary-like (with one exception) set of numbers represent Manchester United’s results against the rest of the so-called big six so far this season. Now I’m not saying that there aren’t any goals in the United line-up, but one goal in just seven games against the clubs that are supposed to be their biggest rivals suggests that scoring goals in big games may in fact be rather problematic. Especially as the one solitary goal they scored was to no-one’s surprise . . . a penalty.
Among UEFA’s many stipulations vis-à-vis the competitions the body oversees is that if two teams from the same city are drawn at home on the same match day, then one of the teams has to play on another day or play their first or second leg away from home. The latest example of this came last week when both north London clubs were indeed drawn at home for the Europa League last 32 second legs and so, as stated, Spurs played their match on Wednesday while Arsenal played their home leg the next day in . . . Athens (due to Covid restrictions). You couldn’t make it up could you? Another blow to the climate change tree huggers.
Teddy bears’ picnic
Calm down Rangers fans, but there’s a very real possibility that Steven Gerrard’s team can clinch the Scottish title this weekend. That will happen if Rangers beat St Mirren today and Celtic take less than three points at Dundee United tomorrow. If that is the case then the drinks will be on George Offord (yeah right, dream on), or at least they would be if the bars were open. That said, I suspect George would prefer to clinch the deal when Rangers are at Celtic in a fortnight.
Team of the week
Sam Johnstone West Brom, Sergio Reguilon Spurs, Davinson Sanchez Spurs, Ruben Diaz Citeh, John Stones Citeh, Keiran Tierney Arsenal, Curtis Jones Liverpool, Ruben Neves Wolves, Gareth Bale Spurs, Anwar El Ghazi Villa, Pepe Arsenal. Manager: Mikel Arteta Arsenal.
Another one gone
On Monday we got the sad news that Liverpool great Ian St John had passed away at the age of 82. The Saint was persuaded by Bill Shankly to move from home town club Motherwell to second division Liverpool in 1961, bucking the trend where Scotland’s finest were being snapped up by the first division giants. He, along with Ron Yeats, were the vital pieces in Shank’s plan for Liverpool to join the elite. Just three years later they won the league, repeating that feat two years onward. In between those championships St John scored the winner as Liverpool won the FA Cup for the first time in 1965. The Saint is rightly worshipped at Anfield but after his playing career and a short dalliance with management was over, he entertained us footie fanatics still further as one half of Saint and Greavsie, which ended in 1992. They were a great double act who brought us a lot of fun and some great memories. I highly recommend a search on YouTube for the clip where Jimmy is replaced by his Spitting Image puppet; great TV and St John’s efforts not to laugh are to be applauded. A life well lived.
And one more
The day before the news came through about Ian St John the football world also lost Glen Roeder at the age of 65. Roeder was a cultured defender who was a firm favourite with QPR and Newcastle fans and in my humble opinion was unfortunate not to earn full England caps, though it must be said at that time England had a lot of good central defenders so it’s perhaps understandable that he missed out. His managerial career was probably more miss than hit but he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2003 and that malady stayed with him until his passing last week. RIP.
This week’s games
Premier League today 2:30; Burnley vs Arsenal. 5pm; Sheffield United vs Southampton. 7:30; Villa vs Wolves. 10pm; Brighton vs Leicester. Tomorrow 2pm; West Brom vs Newcastle. 4pm; Liverpool vs Fulham. 6:30; Citeh vs United. 9:15; Spurs vs Palace. Monday 8pm; Chelsea vs Everton. 10pm; West Ham vs Leeds. Wednesday 8pm; Citeh vs Southampton. Friday 10pm; Newcastle vs Villa. Selected Championship today 2:30; Watford vs Forest. 5pm; Coventry vs Derby, Norwich vs Luton, Swansea vs Middlesbrough. Selected Scotland today 5pm; Rangers vs St Mirren, St Johnstone vs Hibs. Tomorrow 2pm; Dundee United vs Celtic. Games to watch; West Brom vs Newcastle, Citeh vs United, Rangers vs St Mirren, and Dundee United vs Celtic.
So it’s not just football
One of the constant refrains heard from footie people about VAR is why can’t football emulate rugby’s use of instant replay? Well, from what transpired in Cardiff last Saturday, particularly in the first half, I think it’s fair to say that if you’re looking for a good example of how to manage instant replay then you’d better forget about rugby. Farcical or even VARcical doesn’t come close to describing what went on between the referee and his TMO at the Principality Stadium in that opening 40 minutes. I’m not going to focus on the referees’ culpability (he later admitted that he was wrong on both occasions when he awarded tries to Wales) but I do find it astonishing that many pundits claimed that his clearly wrong decisions throughout the game came about because England didn’t know how to “manage” him. In my book the role of a referee is that of an unbiased arbiter who shows no favour to either side, but if he has to be “managed” then clearly rugby has a problem. That said there was simply no excuse for the continued ill-discipline that saw England yet again concede a ridiculous amount of penalties, particularly the ones conceded after they had hauled themselves back into the game at 24-24 with 20 minutes to go. All four penalties conceded from that point on were totally avoidable and that, rather than the officials, is what England should be focusing on. Ultimately the Welsh, with a little help from the man with the whistle, won the game because they were street smart while England were, quite frankly, dumb. It is what it is and it needs to be sorted and Eddie Jones should probably start by binning his underplayed Saracens who, through no fault of their own, are merely part time players now.
Last week’s question: two clubs in League two and one in the National league have won the FA Cup, name them. Bolton, Bradford City, and National League Notts County are the teams in question, with the Trotters doing so in 1923, 1926, 1929, 1958; Bradford in 1911; and County in 1894. This week: one April evening in 1965 a team featuring names such as Jimmy Greaves, Johnny Haynes, Bobby Moore, Alan Gilzean, Cliff Jones, Denis Law, and Bobby Charlton faced off against opponents featuring Lev Yashin, Ferenc Puskas, Jim Baxter, Willie Henderson, John Charles, Eusebio, and Alfredo Di Stefano. What was the occasion and who was in goal for the first named team plus, what was this game’s connection with It’s a Knockout?