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Jun 1, 2009

The last look at the final week

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 week.

Guus' Saturday Night Fever

Given that today marks the beginning of June, Chelsea may as well have brought their sleeping bags and flasks of cocoa to Wembley on Saturday, conducting their post-match party on the pitch before bedding down to catch a few hours kip prior to the Charity Shield kicking off. If next season finishes any later it'll clash with the flippin' World Cup.

A power nap will certainly be on the cards after riotous scenes of celebration in the victorious dressing room as we all saw a side of Guus Hiddink we never want to see again. Draped in what looked like a pink pashmina, Guus was choking on a fat Cuban cigar and pulling some outrageous shapes next to owner Roman Abramovich, who looked about as comfortable as a ballet dancer with a nettle in his knickers.

The FA Cup final wasn't the only prestigious prize on offer at the weekend though, as nearly 20 million people (how violently depressing) stayed up to watch the final of Britain's Got Talent. Perhaps this was Guus' early audition to become the 11th member of all-male dance divas Diversity, or just an attempt to woo a date out of 'plucky' runner-up Susan Boyle.

The Moyes is back in town

The pitch-side temperature on Saturday peaked at an oppressive 41 degrees, so it is perhaps no wonder Chelsea's legion of foreign stars coped better than Everton's freckled, frazzled, and largely British, squad.

The players didn't look much healthier than their red-faced fans, who had no doubt added to the problem by consuming their bodyweight in budget lager before entering the cauldron of heat. Those wearing curly wigs in tribute to Marouane Fellaini looked the most uncomfortable, but still not a patch on the man himself who had to carry around an extra two stone in sweat lodged in that bird's nest of his. David Moyes' crop of hair could only have burned brighter if someone had doused it in petrol and set it alight.

But it had all started so well, Louis Saha's record-breaking strike opening the door for an avalanche of preposterous pundits to trot out that tired old line: "they scored too early". I've never really understood that one myself, and couldn't help musing the score would have been exactly the same had Everton netted just before half time, or even in the last minute.

The Eternal Truth

Let's be honest; Barcelona probably wouldn't have made it to Rome had referee Tom Henning Ovrebo done his job properly at Stamford Bridge in the semi-final. But Pep and the boys made the most of their reprieve, and then made monkeys of out Manchester United, underlining the eternal truth in the Eternal city, that a team ethic is greater than any cult of personality.

For ten minutes Manchester United played with a swagger. They were confident, brisk and precise in possession and menacing going forward. Then Barca managed to cross the half way line and roles reversed instantly.

Barcelona returned home to a rapturous welcome; a million people lining the streets as they celebrated an unprecedented treble. United were gracious in defeat, realising instantly it had been an error to attempt to play the Catalan giants at their own mesmerising game.

They returned home to rather less fanfare, just the rather predictable utterances from Ronaldo, who again left the door ajar for Real Madrid. Don't worry United fans, he'll probably settle for about another £30k a week to stay put and that will be that. Until Christmas.

Special Agent Ashley

Sunderland's fans have a nickname for Newcastle United's soon to be ex-owner; Special Agent Ashley, convinced he's really a Makem sent to infiltrate Geordie ranks and bring them down from the inside. After his decision to place the Toon on the market this weekend the weight of evidence is stacking up.

Let's look at the facts: he snares the Messiah then employs Dennis Wise to force him out, allows the aforementioned Wise to splash huge sums on perma-tanned defenders and inept Spanish strikers, puts the entire squad up for sale less than two weeks into the season, gives forgotten man Joe Kinnear a job, flogs the league's best goalkeeper for a pittance, dawdles when the manager who has mustered only four wins in 18 league games falls ill, acts too late to bring in a replacement, then drones on about having a relegation plan before putting the club up for sale a week later.

The only surprise was the lack of a January move for Pascal Chimbonda and Djibril Cisse at a combined cost of £26m. The man does at least have a bit of class though, axing 120 administrative jobs at the club before having the gall to complain that his billionaire standing has now been downgraded to the mere multi-millionaire mark. Jog on Mike, jog on.

The fire Burnley's brightly

As Newcastle tumble further and further towards oblivion, Burnley's delirious squad passed them on the way up to battle the likes of Hull and Stoke, complete with a chairman at the helm who is the antithesis of Ashley the Blundergoon.

Barry Kilby made good on his vow to refund the 7,000 fans that paid up front for two years of season tickets before the 2008-09 campaign even kicked off, at an estimated cost to the club of £2m. Such a rare display of selflessness won't go down well with his money-grabbing Premier League brethren, who seem to care a little less about their fans' finances.

Burnley's victory in football's richest game drew fluttering eyes from Celtic after Gordon Strachan departed, but Clarets' boss Owen Coyle was quick to shun their advances stating that people had "put two and two together and come up with five". If the season ticket line is anything to go by, perhaps it was the chairman coming up with cock-eyed figures. And spare a thought for beaten finalists Sheffield United, who'll have to put up with the ghost of Carlos Tevez popping out of their knicker draw for another year at least.

And so, that is that for this season my friends. Whether you have loved or hated the TFO's rantings thank you for reading and commenting. Just remember, the game is all about opinions and you're all entitled to your incorrect ones. Joke. Summer well, and I'll meet you back here in August for more of the same.

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