(This article appeared in The New Paper, Singapore, on January 12, 2011)
Lionel Messi’s Ballon D’or victory on Monday night was just another step on the road to immortality. The pint-sized forward is a talent of staggering proportions and a footballer without equal on this earth. For two decades, when we have debated the identity of the best player of all time, it has been a straight battle between Diego Maradona and Pele. Messi is the only player out there who could make it a three horse race.
(This article appeared in The New Paper, Singapore, on January 9, 2011)
It had to end. Roy Hodgson was out of friends, out of luck and out of time. When the axe finally fell on Saturday morning, the only surprise was that it had taken so long. From the moment that George Gillett and Tom Hicks were booted out of the backdoor of Anfield, Hodgson’s days in charge of Liverpool were numbered. NESV were supportive and dignified, but it was inevitable that they would eventually make changes and bring in their own man. Hodgson’s failure to motivate his players against the most mediocre of opposition only hastened his exit.
(This article appeared in The New Paper, Singapore, on January 7, 2011)
Manchester City are not going to win many friends playing like that. Lining up with what, at times, appeared to be a 9-0-1 formation, Roberto Mancini’s side failed to put a single shot on target all night, dropped as deep as a book of French poetry to soak up Arsenal’s attacking and were booed off the field at the end by the home fans. But if this is the kind of result that wins City their first title for decades, will their own supporters really care?
(This article appeared in The New Paper, Singapore, on January 6, 2011)
David Beckham’s proposed move to Tottenham Hotspur has been sanctioned by LA Galaxy, but Harry Redknapp should be careful. Spurs don’t need the former England captain and there’s a chance that his arrival could cause more problems than it solves.
(This article appeared in The New Paper, Singapore, on January 5, 2011)
Somewhere, in an empty office in the bowels of Ewood Park, a keyboard clatters away of its own accord. It’s the Blackburn Rovers sitcom and it’s writing itself. This glorious work of farce will be the salutary lesson that the wise father teaches his son. It will be the alarm bell sounding out across the oceans to moguls and millionaires around the world. The message is clear. Don’t buy into a business if you know nothing about it.
There is a look exclusive to the dying. You see it in hospitals, on the wards where the old people cough. It’s an almost imperceptible gloom behind the eyes, a dimming of the fires in readiness for the reaper. Staring into it is to stare into death itself, to hang vicariously above the abyss of mortality, to glimpse the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns. It’s a lot like watching Fulham.
Imagine. It’s a cold afternoon in Lancashire and the wind howls menacingly around Ewood Park, screaming through the gaps between the stands, turning the blood to ice. On the frozen pitch, Christopher Samba attempts to trap the ball but succeeds only in shinning it off towards the touchline. Like an eager puppy, a squat, dark haired man leaps from the bench and scampers towards it. He flicks it up with his right foot, catches it on his left knee and holds it there, arms outstretched, before sending it zipping through the air back to Samba. The crowd go wild, the squat man salutes them and there’s a dull thud as the ball bounces off the side of a spellbound Samba’s head. This is as good as it will get for Diego Maradona in England.
Three days have passed since FIFA dropped its bombshell, but the anger and outrage in England shows no sign of abating. From the highest official down, the nation is absolutely furious at the way the world’s governing body treated it in Zurich. Make no mistake, there will be bitter reprisals for this humiliation.