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Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Touchline tantrums, doing the Wenger

The Fifth Official

Few of us like Monday Tuesday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

Park life

This is what the Premier League is all about, and it had nothing to do with the pitiful action on the pitch. With Maradona being entertained by the less intelligent Gallagher brother in a private box (Maradona shakes the Hand of God is how the oik described it on his Twitter page) Super Mario walking and winking his way up the touchline, thousands of Morrissey inspired haircuts lashing abuse at each other, the world watched on transfixed. Fergie had months to forge a battleplan and all he could come up with with Park Ji-Sung, like this was a Champions League semi-final in 2009. The other bits were clearly inspired by Steve Kean's tactical masterclass at Tottenham on Sunday, as the reigning Premier League champions defended on the edge of their box and failed to muster a single shot on target against the noisy neighbours they were so desperate to put back in their storage box. This was an epic failure on behalf of Glasgow's greatest grizzly bear - worse than the pummelling his side took at Old Trafford. He even lost the off-field scuffle, as both he and his better dressed counterpart engaged in the most angry rendition of the Birdie Song I've ever seen. Apparently, Roberto had been on at the officials all game. How dare he. You wouldn't catch Fergie doing that, repeatedly, over the last 25 years would you? But despite this double derby humiliation, there is still plenty of race to run before the blue half of Manchester can claim: "The City is ours."

Woy for England? Weally?

Roy Hodgson, England manager. Weally? The only attribute of his that deserves to be transported to a world stage is that maniacal head scratch thing he does when his team are failing to carry out his precise tactical instructions. One gets the feeling he will get plenty of chances to wheel it out over the coming months and years, starting promptly at the imminent disaster that will be England's Euro 2012 campaign. Even though he was on the shortlist, along with Alan Pardew and Terry Connor, it still came as a shock when the news was trumpeted from FA headquarters. Largely because they have been dancing provocatively around 'Arry Redknapp ever since Fabio Capello decided to stick up for a deposed England captain. Tottenham's form nosedived but perhaps the mooted 10 million compensation they'd have to stump up to get 'Arry swung the deal in Roy's favour. After all, he'll come on a free and is probably being paid in Saga vouchers. Perhaps it was that inspiring 0-0 draw with Aston Villa at the weekend that convinced them Roy was their man, or the way he failed to cope adequately with arguably his biggest job to date, in charge at Liverpool. Whatever the reasons, he now has about a month to compile a squad capable of preventing severe embarrassment at the Euros. I hear Paul Konchesky has kept his summer clear and is waiting nervously by the phone.

Rocking Rovers

After Blackburn's 4-0 stuffing at Swansea, Steve Kean celebrated the epiphany it stirred in his brain, as the footballing Gods mapped out exactly what Rovers needed to do to avoid a seemingly inevitable slump into the Championship. Somewhere between the home win over Norwich and the trip to Tottenham, Kean must have lost this shining light of clarity - either that or the 'experts' Venky's probably have working behind the scenes showed him a Premier League table from a month ago before he sent out his side for a meek surrender at White Hart Lane. Rovers did not manage one shot on goal in the entire match. Not one. It was the first time in eight years that had occurred in the top flight. The only time they looked remotely like scoring was when a Tottenham fan patted Morten Gamst Pedersen on the bum as he prepared to take a long throw. It was inexplicable, baffling and could only have been worse had Rovers trotted out of the tunnel waving minature white flags. "We've got to look at the positives," Kean maintained, failing completely to mention any positives. Quite how he imagines he will get the two "monumental" performances he stated as being necessary after this shotless debacle I do not know. The old fable has it that Venky's didn't realise relegation was a possibility - now they are about to go down the vindaloo, into the old division two. I thank you.

What a wonderful Wigan

Perhaps Barcelona should have waited to announce who would replace Pep Guardiola, because had they seen Wigan's demolition of Newcastle on Saturday, and the tika taka manner in which they played, Roberto Martinez would surely be Barca-bound on Sandro Rosell's private jet with Victor Moses, Shaun Maloney and Franco Di Santo stuffed in his hand luggage. Wigan, as a collective, are clearly the Premier League's expert escapologists, each season digging themselves into a deeper mire from which to impress us all by extricating themselves. This campaign they went as far as to lose eight consecutive games on the bounce in order to be written off as Championship fodder, only to rise, like a phoenix from the flames, playing the sort of stuff that couldn't even be better had Leo Messi pitched up and asked for a game (given Franco Di Santo's form, he'd probably have to make do with a place on the bench). This game also proved the old cliche that if you crap on about how good a team are for a week you can guarantee they'll get an almighty spanking the next time they have the temerity to take part in a game. Sports Direct Athletic took to the field like a set of strutting peacocks, not so much believing their own hype as taking it out for a series of candlelit dinners before stuffing it down the front of their shorts. It's fair to say it has dropped off a little now.

Let's all do the Wenger

Stoke hates Arsene Wenger, and it's safe to say Arsene Wenger hates Stoke. In an otherwise unremarkable game at the Britannia (you know the sort, Arsenal played some nice stuff without ever going anywhere, while Stoke peppered the box with long balls, throw ins and paper aeroplanes blah blah blah) a glorious slice of sideshow emerged late in the 1-1 draw. Having spent an entire week pumping his players up to such an extent that they took the field like a pack of angry, yet manicured, dachshunds, eager to tear any visible flesh limb from limb, Wenger lost the plot after the sort of innocuous foul in front of him that wouldn't even have registered a flicker on Tony Pulis' reducer Richter scale. Wenger reacted in his usual fashion, arms outstretched from that aircraft hangar of a jacket he insists on wearing, which delighted the Britannia so much they all started doing it as well. The Premier League has been largely brilliant this season, but the sight of 30,000 Potters waving their arms wildly in the air while hooting with laughter is one of the silliest and best sights of the year in my warped world. Don't forget, you can help The Fifth Official's bid to attract more followers on Twitter than Leon Knight at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial


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