Fifth official: The last look at the weekend
Few of us like Monday 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 five-star weekend.
The Roon is on fire
Apparently the key to Wayne Rooney's recent form is a pair of clippers. So perturbed was our Wayne with his rapidly receding hairline he bought himself a razor and lopped it all off. And now he's got the Travis Bickle hairdo to go with the Travis Bickle temperament. After four goals in two games with England as those European heavyweights Belarus and Kazakhstan were dispatched with minimal fuss, Rooney returned to action with Manchester United and gave West Brom's back-line the sort of spanking usually associated with Max Moseley's derriere. Allegedly. Joke. Allegedly. Please don't sue us.
Moving on swiftly, the Roonatic's rampage continued in Manchester as he scored one and set-up two more for his similarly over-paid and precious colleagues. Even Wayne himself admitted he's in the best form of his life, and he's only 22. He's the type of talented individual people of limited-footballing ability like me hate. He's got everything. Pace, power, vision and stamina; he can finish, link play and pick out a precision pass in an instant. At least he's ugly. The rest of us can at least feel better about that.
50p for your thoughts
As a fully paid up member of the 'officialdom' fraternity I've no option but to unleash a steaming pile of venom in the direction of the plonker who thought it'd be a solid idea to extract a 50 pence piece from their pocket and lob it at the referee's assistant at Villa Park. We officials have it hard enough as it is. We are constantly abused by crowds who question our decisions, our integrity, and quite often, our sexuality. Then, in this age of saturated television coverage, our performances are taken to pieces bit-by-bit by a blood-hungry media who can't wait to get on our backs at the merest hint of injustice. Never once do you see a back-page headline that screams, "Ref plays a blinder," or "Managers lavish praise on un-noticeable ref". Now we are being deluged by heptagonal coins. The shame of it. Let's hope they find whichever moron hurled it and ban them for life.
Spursgate: Episode 4,782
Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Hull City, Stoke. Is this my list of relegation contenders you may enquire? Well, no, it isn't. It's the list of unfashionable teams that have beaten Spurs already this season. The Spurs saga is just too funny for words now. I'm going to set up my own cable channel, show all their games this season back-to-back and call it Car Crash TV. And what a pantomime it turned out to be at The Britannia. Two of their players sent off, two penalties conceded, one of their defenders carted off to hospital and an astonishing 11 minutes of added time at the end of the game. Poor old Juande Ramos' face was priceless. It simply can't get any funnier. Or can it? Bolton at home next then Arsenal I hear you cry....
Liverpool, back from the dead
What is with Liverpool this season? Are they intent on plunging headfirst into one seemingly irretrievable mess after another just to prove they can extricate themselves? They went behind against Manchester United, Boro and Marseille and won. At Man City they shipped two before they started playing, then against Wigan they went behind twice before pulling it out of the fire in the last nanosecond. Yes, they relied on a sending off to spark their comeback but still, it's pretty impressive stuff. Perhaps next week against Chelsea they'll go 8-0 down on purpose at half-time just to see if they can retrieve the situation. And what on earth has happened to Dirk Kuyt? Did they cryogenically freeze last season's Dirk Kuyt and speed-breed a clone over the summer with some of Marco van Basten's DNA mixed in? Perhaps I only have myself to blame for his resurgence. After labelling him a donkey a while back he's been on a one-man mission to prove he's the greatest footballer man has ever known.
You can't beat a good old shoeing. It's great to watch the spirit and resilience of a side pour out as rapidly as a leaky tap. Boro were plenty chipper before the game mind, as we were reminded how many times the big four sides have come a cropper at the Riverside. Oh, and weren't Chelsea facing an injury crisis? Let's just recap on who they were missing: Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack, Ricardo Carvalho, Cole A, Cole J, Michael Essien and Petr Cech. Optimism engulfed Smoggyland. Well, it took approximately 14 minutes to burst that particular bubble.
Then, after toying with Southgate's shambles for the next 40 minutes, Scolari's charges finally put Boro out of their misery with a four-goal burst in 15 minutes. Southgate was so shell-shocked he even brought someone on called John Johnson. At least give the penalty-choker credit for not rolling out the usual platitudes when a team is on the wrong end of a paggering. "It's a humiliation," he said. "I don't think they had to be at their best, and yet they annihilated us.'' Too true Gareth, too true.
And finally, a nod to the whacky world of woodwork. When was the last time a Premier League weekend featured not one, but TWO incidents where the ball hit the woodwork three times within three seconds? Probably never. So savour the moments at Stoke and Fulham my friends. We may never see their like again.