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Whittaker: Deserved win at Man City

Stoke 22 hours ago
Read
Feb 9, 2009

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.

Another one bites the dust

So poor old Tony Adams has been made to walk the plank by Portsmouth, who gave him a grand total of 21 games and three months to prove himself while sneakily removing his two best players in the hope he wouldn't notice. It's easy to kick a man when he's down, so I'll only do a tiny bit of it, but when you walk into a job like the one at Portsmouth, however tongue-in-cheek it may be, don't phone up the manager of Arsenal and say "I'm coming for ya," then tell the press about it. A bad start.

Adams obviously has to shoulder his share of the blame, but so should the likes of Peter Crouch and Sylvain Distin. Had it not been for their woeful, and completely avoidable, errors on Saturday night Portsmouth would surely have beaten Liverpool and Big Tone would still be in gainful employment. Distin especially should hang his head in shame. He was a world beater under Harry but started whining the second he left. His recent performances have been bordering on scandalous.

Consolation may come with the news that Adams has been instantly catapulted into a Champions League slot in the 'Great players who've made rubbish managers' table, nudging Bryan Robson out of third position. He should be a great boss though. For a start, his triangle of schooling was perfect for the job. He was captain under Arsene Wenger when they won the double in 1997/98 and 2001/02; he'd have introduced him to the technical and sciencey bits. He had a stint at Feyenoord who ingrained in him the culture and style of the game, and he finished up under the tutelage of a pupil from the old school, and one of finest man managers in the Premier League to boot.

But time is a commodity rarely afforded the modern day manager and as soon as the faint scent of relegation infiltrates a chairman's nostrils it's game over. Sadly Tone, your latest 15 minutes of fame is up.

Rafa gets lucky. Again.

One wonders how many 'Get out of Jail' cards Rafa Benitez has left. His ill considered Fergie rant has unwittingly ensured he is the story every time Liverpool take the field. And far from shying away from controversy he appears hell bent on plucking increasingly outlandish decisions out of thin air just so he can sit there with that smug 'I told you so' face on when he is proved right.

His starting XI at Pompey boasted just five Premier League goals all season. Riera, Alonso, Torres and Kuyt were left on the bench, David N'gog got a start he barely warranted and Liverpool began the match with three centre-halves on the pitch. Benitez said the quartet needed a rest, but there's a time and a place. Thanks to their limp FA Cup exit at the hands of rivals Everton last week Liverpool have a free weekend fast approaching, so there was plenty of rest time ahead. Would it not make more sense to start all of his big guns against a side bereft of confidence, get the job done early, and then bring them off with points secured? Oh no, Rafa likes to stick a million on black just for a laugh.

The manager's warped logic surely would have cost him had Portsmouth's defence - and Sylvain Distin especially - not been so utterly lamentable. Yet Adams' mob somehow conspired to lose ensuring Rafa's belligerent indifference lives to fight the next vat of brown stuff coming his way.

JFK visits ICU

You can accuse Newcastle United of many things, but leading a quiet life is not one of them. Since we last spoke, two of their longest serving ex-players have delivered damning verdicts on the club's hierarchy. Then, before their relegation twelve-pointer with West Brom the manager's blood pressure goes through the roof and he's carted off to hospital.

With Joe safely ensconced in West Bromwich RVI some strange things happened at The Hawthorns. Firstly, Newcastle won. Secondly, no-one was sent to the stands facing a lengthy touchline ban and, thirdly, you couldn't buy a swear word around the place.

That United did win of course was largely due to some of the most generous defending ever seen in the top flight as Leon Barnett and Abdoulaye Meite stumbled, miskicked and shanked their way into trouble. Essentially, Newcastle triumphed largely due to being less rubbish than their opponents.

Of course we all wish JFK the best for a speedy recovery. Mind you, many Toon fans would rejoice if the medical powers that be delivered him a clean bill of health, then a few choice words of advice. "Retire. Immediately."

Stamford Bridge is falling down

Chelsea are fast turning into the bloke you dislike that lives in the flat above you, who got rich and pulled a lot of ladies, before turning podgy and petulant. Like their fans, too many of their players expect to be able to sit back and wait for the magic to happen these days.

Lording it over them is a manager who looks increasingly muddled. Everyone outside Chelsea likes Big Phil; he's your favourite, punchy uncle. The popular dad who agrees to don the Father Christmas robes at yuletide to amuse the kids. All very well, but he doesn't seem to be able to grab his dressing room full of prima-donnas by the short and curlies when needs must.

So while Uncle Phil deals with his sulky millionaires Mikel and Drogba, it seems that billionaire sugar granddaddy Roman has cut off their pocket money and headed off to find better entertainment elsewhere. Like the Golden Hands massage parlour. Perhaps.

So, just like the Roman Empire, the fat and debauched go through the motions as the coliseum falls quiet and the empire crumbles.

Eboue: A banker

There are games which players suit and those which they don't. Emmanuel Eboue and the north London derby are NOT, I repeat, NOT a good match. Take a hot-headed irritant, who gets up the nose of his own fans as easily as opposition supporters, mix with a combustible atmosphere and snappy challenges galore and that's right! Congratulations! You've just created a disaster waiting to happen!

Everyone could see he was going to get sent off. Even Gary Neville and Jamie Redknapp took a break from muttering banalities to a largely disinterested TV audience to pass judgement that Eboue was a "banker" for a red card. And yes, I'm pretty sure that's how they spelt it.

I actually stuck up for the lad when all and sundry at The Emirates were booing him off in shame after a few stray passes against Wigan in December - but you'll find no misplaced solidarity here because you can forgive a player for a lack of ability, as long as he's trying his hardest, but what you can't forgive is eye watering stupidity. So, sorry Emmanuel. You're on your own this time sunshine.

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