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West Ham's stadium issues laid bare


Shoots of recovery at Hull City

Hull City

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.

Let's all laugh, or sympathise, with Sunderland

When you're down you're down, and at this rate that's where Sunderland are heading. At least Roy Keane hung around to destroy whatever tiny strand of confidence the entire squad had to share between them before storming out at the merest hint of a mini-crisis. Good on you, Roy. Word has it morale in the Sunderland dressing room is about the same as in Gordon Ramsey's living room.

And just when those poor, rudderless players thought they were about to reinstate a little bit of pride by holding Manchester United to a mind-numbingly boring goalless draw at Old Trafford fate conspires to deflect Michael Carrick's shot onto the post at such an angle that the onrushing Nemanja Vidic gets a 92nd minute tap in.

Apparently, Roy Keane passed David Healy and Pascal Chimbonda - two of his more inspired purchases - on his way out of the Stadium of Light as they were being set upon by a gang of local yobs. "Shall we help?" asked chairman Niall Quinn. "Nah," replied Roy. "Five is enough."


Far be it from me to stick up for Emmanuel Eboue, who provokes about as much warmth as the prospect of a slap round the face from a particularly meaty turbot on a winter's morning, but even he surely didn't deserve to be booed off against Wigan by his own fans?

Yes, he misplaced some passes and has a rather naughty on-field persona but the lad was clearly bereft of any confidence, composure or guts after being roundly fingered as the target of William Gallas's misplaced ire, and having played a part in the catastrophic collapse at home to their north London rivals.

But what do fans hope to gain by barracking their own players? How on earth is it supposed to help? Arsenal's fans are notoriously quiet when it comes to backing their team, funny how they are so willing to pipe up when it comes to a poor showing from one of their own.

You're a joke Kinnear

"Stability needed, apply within," reads the post-it note stuck to St James' Park, from both frustrated fans and disgruntled players. But by handing Joe Kinnear a contract until the end of the season Mike Ashley has concocted a half baked, staccato-version. In truth, the only real stability at Newcastle comes in the shape of JFK's instability.

Don't forget when Kinnear clambered out of the footballing wilderness he arrived in Toon with two games of a four-match touchline ban still to serve for calling a referee "Coco the Clown". So, he dutifully serves his ban, then a few weeks later reacts to a dismal performance at Fulham by branding Martin Atkinson a "Mickey Mouse referee" for failing to spot a foul on one of his players in the move that led to a Fulham winner.

So, with that FA charge looming over him how does he decide to celebrate? By gobbing off at an assistant linesman and getting sent to the stands after his side collapsed pitifully at home - yet again - to deflect attention away from his and his team's short-comings. Ashley may as well donate his seat in the stands to big Joe. It has been empty for a while after all.

Chelsea's bridge over troubled water

A bit of history was made at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday. No, Bolton didn't get the ball down and play some neat stuff. Silly you. Instead, Chelsea cruised to their eleventh straight Premier League victory on the road. Quite some feat I'm sure you'll agree. Their victorious run spans games against Manchester City (twice), Everton, Newcastle, Wigan, Stoke, Middlesbrough, Hull, Blackburn, West Brom and Bolton. They've scored 26 goals in the process and conceded just one.

And let's face it, having already lost two league games at home and drawn three they'd be dead and buried without imperious form on their travels. They've already entertained Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool at home, scoring just two goals in the process and amassing a cool point. Not to mention the Burnley debacle. So, their impending trips to Old Trafford and Anfield will hold minimal trepidation I imagine. On the contrary, January's home FA cup tie with lowly Southend surely must be keeping Big Phil and the boys awake at night.

Ahh, Liverpool

I spy with my little eye something beginning with "Fernando Torres' injury and Robbie Keane's rubbish form means I'll be amazed if Liverpool are still top of the table by the middle of January. Err, despite their win at Blackburn". After all, before finding the net on Saturday they'd scored one goal in 270 minutes of so-called football.

The fact of the matter is notwithstanding Dirk Kuyt's recent spurt we all know he can't carry the burden of scoring the sheer weight of goals needed to propel Liverpool to the title alone. Robbie Keane's confidence is shot, Torres is crocked and Stevie G can't do everything. Whatever happened to Ryan Babel? Who the heck is David Ngog?

Now as you know, I'm not one to go out on a limb when it comes to Liverpool, but If I'm wrong I'll gather up all those nasty comments left for me below these articles by bitter and humourless Reds fans (Mrs Fifth Official is reduced to tears by the hostility on a weekly basis) and shove them down my own throat one by one. Happy now?


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