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Dec 22, 2008

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.

So now you're back, from outer space

You can't keep a chubby, arrogant man down can you? Lord knows, I wish you could. But no, Big Sam is back and sporting that same inane grin he always has. The only shred of comfort in Allardyce's return is that he won't be appearing as frequently on my television screen as a pathetic and misinformed pundit. Given the speed at which his appointment was made I'll wager he was hiding behind the chairman's car poised with blue-and-white scarf aloft just as Paul Ince sped out of Ewood Park for the last time.

Then he rolls (quite literally) into action on a tidal wave of delight, denying any of the problems at Newcastle were his fault, thinking he's still the mutt's nuts and despite being battered for most of the opening half by Stoke City he somehow manages to inspire his new team to rattle in three goals in 17 minutes and procure Blackburn's first win in 12 games. That man is unbelievable.

Regular Liverpool baiting section

Never quite sparked into life at the Emirates did it? Yes we got two splendid goals and a sending off but it didn't have the grandeur of the Arsenal-Chelsea clash, or the sheer unadulterated pleasure of the Arsenal-Manchester United encounter did it? I think that's largely because Liverpool were involved.

Of the red card, Emmanuel Adebayor certainly wasn't chuffed with Alvaro Arbeloa, who he accused of going down like he'd been "knifed". That's par for the course these days with most players. The majority of them go down as if they've been knifed, shot, maced, Chinese-burned and beaten with a poo-ey stick at the same time. Arbeloa didn't quite get the indignant, "howling in pain as if your arm's just been torn off by a shredder" face right though. He'd better study some Ronaldo videos to perfect that art.

Even with Arsenal down to ten men after an hour Liverpool appeared content to station nine men behind the ball and play on the counter attack rather than kill the Gunners' title ambitions off for good. Surely despite passing some impossibly painful kidney stones in his hospital bed even Rafa Benitez could have bashed out a text that read "Oi, Sam-e go 442 nw, c u l8r Raf". Maybe he had a bad signal back on Merseyside, seeing as the Reds only plumped to go two up top in the 88th minute. My word, if they win the title (which they won't), they'll bore us to death doing it.

The Sbragia Effect

Ok, so he's a Scottish coach with an Italian name who's now in charge of Sunderland. However on earth you say his name I'll never know but I do know this, Ricky Sbragia has lifted the fug of fear that had been chucking up over the Stadium of Plight for months. Finally, none of the squad think they'll be next to be devoured by that most destructive of all cannibals, Sir Roy of Keano.

And Sbragia has done this via a revolutionary coaching technique whereby he sees his players more than once a week and actually spends time on the training pitch with them, teaching them things. I know! What a crazy ba***rd! He has shunned Keano's favoured tactic of growling at the squad five minutes before a match and five minutes after (after they've lost) before waving them goodbye until the following week. And look how delicate little flowers like Steed Malbranque and Djibril Cisse are responding. Amazing.

Oh dear Tony Adams, oh dear

To the naked eye Tony Adams appears as if he's got lots more going for him than 'Arry Redknapp. For a start he can string a coherent sentence together. None of this cockerney-babble a la 'Arry: "The lad done better than what he done last week. In fact, he done fantastic." And I'm sure Adams manages to get a basic tactical message across to the players in the dressing room with a dash more sapience than Harry's devastatingly insightful instruction to Roman Pavlyuchenko earlier in the season: "Roman, just f***ing run about".

But no matter their methods some people are cut out for the job and some aren't. Adams fits into the latter category, alongside managerial heavyweights Les Reid and Chris Hutchings. Adams sat stony-faced on the bench against Bolton after his side went 2-0 down within four minutes. The rage eventually became too much as he leapt to his feet to deliver some positional alterations, his blurred hands firing off instructions like a speed sign-language champion to a perplexed looking Sean Davis. Mind you, that lad permanently sports a perplexed look as if he's wondering whether he left the gas on when he left the house that morning.

It's a good job Harry left them with a decent enough haul of points before he swanned off to Spurs. Surely even big Tone can't screw it up from here. Or can he?

And finally - an apology

Last weekend I had the fortune to be luxuriating in that most cosmopolitan and beautiful of Spanish cities, Seville, the proud capital of Andalucia. My intention was to take in Sevilla's game with Villarreal and wire a sparkling despatch providing a detailed, and vaguely amusing, insight into the Spanish game and all that comes with it, along with my usual tat about the Premier League. Then I thought I'd indulge in a copa or two of the local brew on the afternoon before the game…..

Sadly, I was forced to abandon plans to relay my innermost musings on Sevilla's 1-0 victory due to an incident which won't have done much for Anglo-Spanish relations. This was due in no small part to a confrontation in my hostelry at 6am on Monday morning as I attempted to focus on the keyboard to transcribe said missive, at which point my esteemed travelling companion (who shall remain nameless) dropped a bottle of Cruzcampo lager over our balcony and into reception, smashing it and affording us the delight of being ejected from our lodgings six hours earlier than we had expected. As such I would like to take this chance to offer my sincere and most humble apologies. To the whole of Spain. It won't happen again.

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