Pray for Muamba
Few of us like a Monday morning, 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.
This weekend proved for the second time in the space of five months that no matter how caught up one gets on events in football, they can be rendered utterly inconsequential in a split second. As Fabrice Muamba fell to the floor on Saturday tea time those stunned fans in the stadium and the millions watching on the television were left to ponder how a 23-year-old, playing the game he loves, was reduced to battling for his life on the turf at White Hart Lane.
As distressing at the situation clearly was, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The medical teams involved in treating Muamba in those critical first few minutes helped to save his life, while the reactions of both referee Howard Webb and Tottenham's fans, players and management was a credit to the game of football in this country. As for Bolton, there is no finer person to lead the club through such a crisis than Owen Coyle, who has exuded all the class and dignity you'd expect from a man plunged into such a terrible position.
As things stand Muamba - a father, a son, a brother and seemingly a friend to all those who crossed his path - is still critically ill in hospital. One only hopes the fact that the entire footballing world is willing him onto recovery can provide some solace for his bewildered family, who have remained by his bedside since Saturday night. Anyone who has seen him play will contend Muamba's hard work and battling nature underpin his game - qualities we can only hope and pray serve him well in the hours and days ahead.
Europa League: Manchester Untied
Welcome to Manchester: the former home of the Europa League. After having their high-profile bottoms slapped in midweek by mid-table plodders from Spain and Portugal, United and City can now return their attentions to a two-way tussle for the title, which has twisted on its profitable axis in the past few weeks.
After their two-legged mauling by Athletic, Fergie could not have wished for an easier game than one away at Wolves, a side so rudderless it's a surprise the squad can make their way to the ground unsupervised. All those pockmarked players in red whose shoulders slumped in the Basque country had their chests puffed out once again by some calamitous defending and a series of lunging assaults by Ronald Zubar. Five net bulges later, the red half were four points clear of City and only three goals behind.
Mancini's mob now have to wait until Wednesday to attempt to strike back at the empire, ensuring despair will sit heavier in the pit of their guts like the several (ahem) pints of Guinness did in mine on St Patrick's Day evening. Trust me, it's not a nice feeling. Perhaps the most depressing aspect of City's recent malaise is that former outcast and full time parasite Carlos Tevez is now being looked upon as some kind of returning saviour, back to bolster their flagging season.
Terry Connor aka Les Reed
This is getting beyond cruel for Terry Connor, the man battling Leswyn Reed for the most disastrous spell in charge of a Premier League football club at Charlton. The poor chap has been parachuted into a complete mess, entirely of chairman Steve Morgan's making. Mick McCarthy was already in charge when he bought the club back in 2007, so Tel remains his one managerial appointment to date. And what a belter it has been.
The club duly hit rock bottom after their five-goal thumping at home - a sixth reverse in a row at Molineux – as they replaced Wigan at the pit of the Premier League. They have conceded 63 goals this season, more than Everton and Sunderland put together. Tel maintains he is enjoying himself though and at least their fans, who never seem to open their gobs unless it is to boo their own players, stayed with their team - even if it was in an ironic sense.
So where now after a thumping by a team who are so fond of slumping out of Europe they decided to do it twice? Leave the likeable Tel in charge and start planning for life in the Championship or recruit immediately? Trouble is, no-one that made their round of 17 interviews is going to take them on now. Even Gary Megson reportedly turned his nose up at it. There is one solution that might work though, because if you have a problem and no-one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you could hire Alan Shearer and Iain Dowie.
He scores when he wants
It's been a long while since Chelsea could claim to have had a decent week but isn't it funny how those little things like desire and determination come flooding back once you've managed to shuffle off the fresh-faced young gaffer who had the temerity to offer up a short-term, medium-term and long-term plan for the Blues that failed to involve any of the players who think they run the football club.
Reaping the reward of this rediscovered vigour is John Terry's puppet Roberto di Matteo, who has even managed to unlock the complex cranial conundrum that is Fernando Torres. As the former striker scuffed his shot into the net against Leicester, ending nearly 26 hours of hurt, Chelsea's fans broke into a delicious rendition of "He scores when he wants". When his second went in, that lovely line about London buses - you wait ages for one then two come along at once - was on the tip of everyone's tongue.
At least RDM managed to rein in his goal celebrations this time, after he abandoned his previously 'too cool for school' demeanour during the midweek vanquishing of Champions League virgins Napoli. That game also gave us a little snapshot of the real inner workings at Chelsea, as Terry substituted himself, primarily so he wouldn't be tempted to take a penalty in any possible shoot-out, but also so he could deliver his tactical instructions far more clearly and without distraction on the touchline.
Moyes picked the wrong boys
The week started with Everton fans lauding David Moyes for his ten years of service to the club, but all the sentimental razzle dazzle that goes with such anniversaries was halted in its tracks the second his team for the Merseyside derby revealed he'd left six of his best players on the bench. Even after offering up bragging rights to Liverpool on a plate, all could have been saved had he won his FA Cup tie with Sunderland. Except he didn't, he drew, and now faces a tricky trip to Wearside instead of Wembley.
In the red half of Merseyside, Kenny has enjoyed a pretty fruitful week as his side showed what a derby demolition can do for confidence, as Anfield witnessed something seldom seen in modern football - an actual goal from Stewart Downing. Luis Suarez was also on target as he misjudged an attempt to break a world record for the amount of times one man can hit the frame of the goal in a season, and found the bottom corner instead.
Amongst these two important victories, Kenny still found time to opine on his favourite topic - those who seek to denigrate his beloved club (essentially, me), because apparently it is "disrespectful" to judge success by Premier League position only, despite Liverpool's owner saying the priority for the season was to finish in the top four.
It's fitting the only success he can boast to date is the Mickey Mouse Cup, because that seems to sum up his approach to public relations. But can't talk now, I'm off for my "intelligence test". I shall report back.
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