Premier League Team of the Week
Some of you may never have heard of Ross Turnbull, and the lad himself may have been pleased to keep his head down and quietly graft away out of the full glare of the spotlight. But those days are gone now he has earnt his first ever TOTW call-up. Now he'll be getting snapped by the pap's whenever he leaves his house or whenever he pops out for a burger in the Boro. And quite right too because in the face of an onslaught at Wigan Turnbull excelled, and even got his face in the way of one goal bound effort from Emile Heskey. As the ball looped into the six-yard box Turnbull galloped out and threw himself in the face of danger, keeping the ballout with his big moon-face - a display of bravery many other keepers would have failed to muster in similar circumstances.
But for Leighton Baines Everton would be smarting from a European exit and then yet another home defeat at the hands of comedy-crisis club Newcastle United. Baines cleared off his own line not once but TWICE, repelling a goal bound Steven Taylor effort and an 'oh-my-word-he-must-score' tap-in from Charles N'Zogbia - the second one especially a contender for goal line clearance of the season. Not content with that, Baines won his side a penalty, bursting into the box and tempting Nicky Butt into a challenge he was never going to win, then he supplied the cross that allowed Marouane Fellaini to make it two. He'll be chucking the daggers at the rest of his defenders in the dressing room and wondering how on earth he ended up drawing the game.
After the departure of Alan Shearer, Steven Taylor is the only true local hero left in the Newcastle side and he sometimes plays like he's got the entire weight of Tyneside on his shoulders. Never lacking in desire, and always with an outrageous 'Platoon' style dive in the locker, he is always the first to front up when the going gets tough. So as Newcastle battled to a well-earned point at Goodison Park it was no surprise Taylor had a big Geordie hand in it. In the space of two minutes that straddled half-time he powerfully nodded home a Geremi cross for the first Toon goal, then marauded down the right and picked Damien Duff who levelled up the scores. He then went into 'throw-meself-in-front-of-everything' mode to make sure Joe Kinnear got his first points as Toon boss.
He's a big, ugly brute, but my word David Wheater takes no prisoners. The centre-half is exactly the sort of chap needed for a backs-to-the wall battle and that is precisely what Middlesbro' had to endure at the JJB Stadium. Up against a pair of uncompromising strikers in Heskey and Zaki both Wheater and Chris Riggott had to man up and take all the flailing elbows that were bound to come their way. They did, and were the reason that Aliadiere's late goal proved the winner.
Andy Dawson was unfortunate not to sneak his way into the last TOTW after a sterling performance against Arsenal, but it'll be joy unconfined in the Dawson household this evening after he sees his name in bright lights. Upstaging his brother, Spurs' Michael no less, Andy was again the epitome of hard work, hassling, harrying and heckling any Tottenham player who advanced down his left flank. Last week it was Theo Walcott he shackled, this time it was Aaron Lennon, as he snuffed out any supply line to Pavlyuchenko, Bent or Campbell, forcing the winger to be substituted. Mama Dawson will have to keep the peace over dinner this week one feels.
Armand Traore terrorised Stoke City on Sunday, as poor old Andy Griffin took an absolute battering. Griffin has honed his hatred of left-wingers carefully over the years. He chinned Laurent Robert once, even though they were on the same side, such is his dislike of those tricky dicky's. Someone had better keep him away from Traore after Sunday's game because the on-loan Arsenal teenager made him look like a right chump. Both Papa Bouba Diop and Jermain Defoe should have converted from chances created by Traore as the Frenchman makes Harry Redknapp's decision to kidnap him for a season look increasingly astute.
Many people thought Chelsea's long unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge may well come to an end with the visit of high-flying Aston Villa. Instead, it was time for Chelsea to show their class, not to mention strength in depth. Key to their demolition of Martin O'Neill's side was Frank Lampard. He may not be universally popular - certainly not at international level - but he rarely has a poor game for Chelsea and once again, he was the cornerstone of a near-complete performance. Everything that was positive came through him, as did the first goal as he released Joe Cole who smashed home from close range. Amid all the injuries, he truly is one podgy face Big Phil Scolari could not live without for long.
Champions League football is heading to Hull, and if they manage to hang on in those top four spots until the end of season (cat in hell's chance by the way) then I guarantee you Geovanni will get free entry to the city's world-famous aquarium, The Deep, for life. How up to speed the Brazilian is on marine life I'm not sure, but he knows how to punt the ball in the net from 30 yards doesn't he? One again he made hay in north London as rudderless Spurs were sent packing, just like Arsenal were last week, and if I see a better free-kick than his at any point in the rest of the season I'll not only be surprised, but highly delighted too.
It could easily have been his team mate Jermain Defoe, but then he didn't stick an overhead kick into the net to give his side the lead did he? Fair enough he did set one up and score the winner but he got in last week so this time it's the turn of gangly freak Peter Crouch. He gets in for an acrobatic and quite brilliant goal against Stoke City. Defoe's looping cross was behind him but no matter, he launched himself into the air and made perfect contact to send the ball flying past a static Steve Simonsen. And you can't say it's a fluke either because the lad has scored plenty similar in the past. Altogether now, "he's got good feet for a big man."
At half time Liverpool's title charge was over. Finding themselves 2-0 down away at Manchester City the headline writers had their poisoned pens, err, poised. But then what happened? Well, Fernando Torres happened, that's what. Liverpool's talismanic Spanish striker thought to himself, "Oi, oi, I ain't 'aving this," and promptly set about changing the game, and those critical Fleet-Street taglines. Bundling home an Arbeloa cross to cut the arrears, he then smashed a header past Joe Hart from a Stevie G corner before causing havoc in the City box in injury time to allow the prolific Dirk Kuyt to bag the winner. Title tilt, ON.
I bet when Wayne Rooney hobbled off against Aalborg in the Champions League he could never have dreamed he'd be making our star-studded Team of the Week, but old ginger beard is nothing if not resilient. Comforted by the presence of Dimitar Berbatov, Rooney has thrown off the shackles and is speeding back towards his devastating best. It was an everyman display at Blackburn, he was the link, the architect and the finisher - his goal a perfect example of his instinctive class as he swept a Ronaldo cross into the corner of the net.
As for our rabble rouser it has to be the manager of the moment - Hull City's Phil Brown. Not only are Hull sitting third in the table, they've now travelled to Spurs, Arsenal and Newcastle and made off with the points. All memories of that 5-0 home defeat to Wigan are now well and truly banished as the Tigers go on a Premier League rampage, pouncing on any floundering reputation and squeezing the life out of them. Although it almost certainly won't, long may it continue.