Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Remember, remember............

We're @ that time of year when the clocks go back and Winter draws on, footballing wise the trusty yellow ball is bought out to play and on the terraces as layers are piled on, autumnal fashion of a different kind can be seen as facial hair starts sprouting out like the first snowdrops of the season. But it's not just the women donning their winter coats, the men are joining in, as with recent years we see the start of Movember.......

Up and down the country top lip caterpillars can be spotted along with handlebar and porn star alike, but whereas it's now become a seasonal thing once upon a time in Football the moustache really was where it's at and so we pay tribute to those hirsute heroes of years gone by.

In the 50's a finely waxed moustache was the sign of a gentleman and back in the day football was a game for gents, everyone had a jolly good time on the pitch and smoked a packet of fags together afterwards in the communal baths.
The 60's & 70's were a hairier time both on and off the pitch, with free love in the air on the terraces tussled tressed hooligans ruled. Within the game itself moustaches had reached their prime and up and down the country hair was protruding from top lips at an alarming rate.

The ultimate team of 'taches surely was Liverpool of the 70's and 80's, a whole starting eleven could have been made up of mustachioed men alone, with the likes of Grobbelaar, Lawrenson, Rush and Aldridge all in favour of the lady tickler.
Throughout the seventies - the heyday of the nose neighbour - any form of facial hair (on a man at least) was seen as a sign of virility and in that glam rock era the hard men of football wore their 'taches with pride..........before a different kind of pride made them slightly less masculine. 
But you'd hardly want to point this out the Greame Souness

Souness - Hard

Though the moustache faded (or was it bleached) from the English game as the years went on, in some of those more liberal countries it gained a new lease of life, Ruud Gullitt setting off his porn star 'tache with a matching set of dreadlocks, while in Germany Ruddi Voller favoured the even more hardcore perm/tache combo. Elsewhere in the darkened corners of Eastern Europe we could still marvel at a lovely handlebar tash whenever the English clubs travelled abroad and with World Cups every four years those South Americans could always be relied on for a hirsute fix.

Nowadays the moustache is almost extinct with of late only Gary Neville @ Man Utd giving it a go, although even the scourge of football grounds and England Squads alike couldn't quite pull it off without resorting to a goatee to back it up.
Which leaves just everyone's favourite bad boy Joey Barton as the last recognised purveyor of facial fungus in football but even then he shaved it off after The Toon won a game.........let's just hope that when Movember rolls around and the bum fluff reappears some footballers man up and keep their 'tashs firmly placed on their top lips for seasons to come.

A Movember Masterpiece

The Midweeker

It's that time of the week... the midweeker has entered the building, covered in what can only be described as a manly musky smell! after a bit of banter with Edison the tea boy, he heads to his desk which has been covered in post-it notes and betting slips since the day we opened!

I'm only predicting the League Cup this week lads, and i can see Swindon doing Villa and Norwich getting the better of Spurs, as for Chelsea they need to man up, who reports a ref for swearing? bunch of kids!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Steven Fletcher's Pink Y-Fronts............

So with fingers hovering over the keyboard in a dinghy East London pub where Wi-Fi has only just been invented, our two old skool pundits with the help of Edison the tea boy translating and typing chew the fat over the latest footballing events...........

The Midweeker : Before we get started, my word Edgar Davids has made a difference to Barnet! He maybe 90 odd, but already in the 2 games he has kicked a ball, Barnet have looked like world beaters! It wont be long before the skillful icon takes the Bee's into the top flight of the English game (OK a slight exaggeration lets start with getting them promoted to league one!)

Meanwhile in Ipswich, it's all gone a bit wrong...... last nights defeat was the last straw and Jewell found himself out of a job again, fans where up in arms, I mean the amount of dosh they have splashed out yet if anything they have gone backwards not forwards, a bit like the latest muse album! Rumours have it that the tractor boys are screaming for Mick ' I can smell round corners' McCarthy!

The Weekender : Muse?? Don't try and get down with the kids, you don't want to get caught up in those Jimmy Savile rumours! My money's on Redknapp for the Tractor Boys, lives just down the round and look's like a mashed swede the fans are gonna love him!

Shame to see Jimmy Bullard call it a day now there was a looker and had cult written all over him, nice to see someone play with a smile on their face! That's one thing you can say about the lower leagues there's none of these fancy dan prima donas like we get in The Premiership.

MW: Yeah and while we're on the subject did Jim fix it for you? I tell you what else gets my goat up, bloody multi-coloured footy boots, i mean whats wrong with the old Adidas world cup classics? Brian Clough would turn in his grave if he could see the state of the game these days! Our mate Martin O'Neil ain't a fan of them either, rumour has it that he fines Sunderland players for wearing them! While we're on the topic of Sunderland, I can't believe Steven Fletcher wears pink y-fronts when he enters the field of play, apparently he has a pair of lucky pants, which were white until a recent washing mix up, his Missus put her red socks in with them!
WE : What's all this argy bargy with John Terry, he was found not guilty in court and then found guilty by the FA! But still certain players have beef with them? We all know the FA couldn't organise a p*ss up in a brewery but they've served the punishment so it should be end of! Mind you back in our day it was all sorted out on the pitch, players had more respect for each other and if they didn't they'd get clobbered off the ball with and not even get a yellow card........bring back Tommy Smith or Ron 'Chopper' Harris they'd sort 'em out!

And while we're at it I thought I was still watching Tom Daley the other week, turns out it was just MOTD with Suarez and Bale diving all over the place........STAY ON YOUR FEET as our mate Wilkins would say!

MW : Yeah just picture this, Tom Daley steps up to the diving board and then pulls out from behind his skin tight speedos a size 5 football and boots it into the crowd! Diving should be kept in a pool and football on the pitch! Not sure why players feel the need to dive! I mean now with sky live pause you can watch it in slow mo, and the expression on the players face is almost believable, although they do look a bit special! Oh and before I forget according to Neil Warnock, even goalkeepers are playing up to the camera! Just ask Chris Kirkland! he went down like a sack of spuds!
WE : Was good to see St James' Park go back to it's proper name after all that "www.bollocks.com stadium" malarkey the other day! With all this naming rights's bull the heart is being ripped out the game and in this age of instant success it's good to see that Alan Pardew has been signed up for virtually the rest of his life! The fans will change their tune about the 'cockney mafia' once the success starts coming in..........

MW : The final thought of tonight goes to our QPR fans.... how long can Mark Hughes last @ QPR, i mean the bloke is proper w**k! The best thing for him is to hold his hands up and just admit that he ain't got a clue what his doing! Could 'Arry end up at Loftus Road or will Joey Barton make a shock return as player manager?
WE : As always mate, it's been emotional.......   

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Midweeker

After his pie and mash session down the pub @ the weekend, the Midweeker returns with his 'midweek tips!'

Some interesting predictions, and some questionable tactics, but this man knows more than most about the beautiful game!

Cheeky £5 bet anyone?

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Unsung Hero - Laurie Cunningham

Ok, Pub Quiz............
Who was the first black player to play for England? Viv Anderson? Wrong! It was Laurie Cunningham, first player black player to play for England @ any level (Under 21) and in a competitive match.
First English player to play for Real Madrid then? John Charles? Wrong! He was Welsh.......Laurie led the way again on the England front when he went to Spain in 1979.

The Mighty O's of Leyton must have rubbed their hands with glee as Arsenal turned away the Archway schoolboy and @ Brisbane Lane Cunningham soon honed his blistering wing play, creative spark and deadly finishing that was to make up his game. Inevitably this sort of talent didn't go unnoticed and it was West Bromwich Albion who came calling with a chance for Laurie to take the next step up in his career.

When Big Ron came bowling into town in '78 he would not only turn the teams fortunes around but unite Cunningham with two fellow black players, Cyrille Regis & Brendon Batson christening them "The Three Degrees"*
With attitudes different back then (although after recent events you wouldn't know it!) having three black players in one team was a revelation for a football team, but this was no gimmick as they could play a bit too. West Brom arguably played the best football of their existence during that period and it was one particular performance during the UEFA Cup that changed Cunningham's footballing destiny forever.

The 90 minutes he put in against the Spanish side of Valencia promoted him on a bigger stage, attracting Real Madrid in the process. One of the rumours @ the time suggested that Cunningham heard of their interest and popped in to see the President @ the Bernabeu while on his holiday to hurry the deal through!
With the deal sealed in Big Ron's living room the former Baggie made an instant impact in Spain, it was also at this time that his first England call up came.

At the age of 22 he won the League & Cup double in Spain and was earning rave reviews, but then the injuries set in. These along with the pressure of putting in top quality performances that had become expected of him week in week out stated to take it's toll.
After four years abroad and with his fall down the pecking order he was eventually reunited with Big Ron this time on loan @ Man Utd only an injury prevented him from playing in the '83 FA Cup final, but it was to be the '88 FA Final that would prove to be his swansong from the English game after coming on as a sub for Wimbledon in their historical win over Liverpool.

Now a bit of a journeyman footballer Cunningham was on the verge of resurrecting his career in Spain with Rayo Vallecano after firing them to promotion, but alas he was tragically killed in a car accident before he could see that through.

Although never really reaching his full early potential, he was an inspiration to many a black football fan who saw his performances and decided to give it a go themselves a generation of players did just that........
*an all black girl group big in the seventies...........ask yer Dad!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Close but no cigar.......

Today in the office we've been talking about the nearly men of football, those that didn't quite reach their initial promise, maybe hyped up too much by the media? Or took their eye off the (foot) ball during their early career? Maybe a career wrecked by injury, anyway here's a few noteworthy suggestions...

Chris Kirkland

Touted in his early career as the next great hope for English goalkeeping his potential @ Coventry was spotted by Liverpool and he made the trip to Anfield to follow in the glove prints of other keeping greats such as Ray Clemence, Bruce Grobbelaar and David James.
At the time his fee of £6 million was a record for a 'keeper, but this was a position that the Reds needed to strengthen, as consistant performances from the men between the sticks had become something of a rarity @ Anfield and it was due to some dodgy keeping from Jerzy Dudek that saw Kirkland get his chance.
But with his stick like frame and almost constant injuries the fans on The Kop could of been forgiven for thinking Kirkland was made of matchsticks, a run in the side saw him once again in the England reckoning but still that elusive cap eluded him.
It wasn't until he moved on to Wigan and almost as the forgotten man made his one and only appearance for the Three Lions coming on as a sub against Greece, winning his Dad ten grand in the process after he'd put a bet on his son as an eleven year old that he would play for England.........some cynics would suggest that the then national team boss Sven Goran Eriksson got a cut of the dosh..

Lee Sharpe

Though not coming through the youth ranks he was still considered one of 'Fergie's fledgings', the golden generation which included Beckham, Giggs, Scholes and Butt. A wide man who appeared in the side before Beckham and might have had his fame and success if he had managed himself better. Sir Alex's no nonsense approach to his starlets plus ironically the emergence of fellow fledgling Ryan Giggs soon saw Sharpe in and out of the side, this wasn't helped by growing injury concerns and was eventually shipped out to Leeds.
Still remembered fondly with the Man U faithful for performances in the Cup Winners Cup and League Cup, maybe if he had concentrated solely on the football he may have stayed around and prolonged his career.
Any player with skill and flair catch the eye upon their arrival on the scene but for Sharpe it all ended at Bradford City and after football catching the eye of Abi Tittmus on Celebrity Love Island.....

Joe Cole

Every few seasons a player comes along that is seen as the next big thing, Joe Cole had his time as that very player. With Gazza a dewy eyed distant memory much was hoped for from the pint sized midfielder from Paddington. His prodigious talent saw him raved about while still a schoolboy - scoring seven goals in an England Youth game does that sort of thing and a reported £10 million bid from Man Utd when only 16 also doesn't help with all the hype. He stayed at West Ham though and was captaining the side @ the age of 21 before childhood club Chelsea came knocking.

The Blues provided his most successful spell, but with Chelsea's revolving door policy of both managers and foreign players he didn't stand much chance in the end, although when he made his free transfer move to Liverpool he was still highly regarded, maybe a different team may have seen a different outcome but from his first appearance (that ended with a sending off) the writing was on the wall, at West Ham there had been less competition for places time out with injuries didn't help and after a loan spell @ French club Lille Cole is now looking at a new start back @ Liverpool at the age of 30.

Paul Gascoigne

Maybe not an obvious choice, but Gazza really did have the world @ his feet. Arguably the greatest talent to come out of the British Isles since George Best, Gascoigne had the advantage of playing for England. Meaning a place on the world stage eventually beckoned and it was @ Italia '90 that he came of age, with him England's dreaming almost became a reality, close but no cigar. But it was in his failure and resulting tears for souvenirs that Gazzamania was truly launched, scenes reminiscent of a boy band concert at White Hart Lane the following season were witnessed and he was everywhere from chat shows to Top of The Pops.
From the streets of Newcastle - and eventually starring for his boyhood team, he played the game with the same schoolboy enthusiasm throughout his career moving on the Tottenham after being scouted by the legendary Bill Nicholson.
From then on, we all know how it ended. Though his career briefly peaked with a trip North of the Border with Rangers and proving to be the Scots undoing with that goal @ Euro '96 he really wasn't the same player after his - some would say self inflicted injury during the '91 FA Cup Final. With his demons off the pitch that we couldn't possibly try to go into or solve on this blog, we see him now as a shadow of his former self with a tinge of regret of what might have been