Fifth Official: A fond farewell to Robinho
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 weekend when the big freeze hit the Premier League.
Accrington Stanley? Who are they?
Fulham's band of intercontinental charlatans flounced into the Crown Ground with a look of horror on their supple, moisturised faces. The ramshackle stadium and ploughed field of a pitch belied the famous traditions of the Lancashire club, who shot to fame during an advert for milk in the 1980s, where one Scouse school kid says to his pal: "Ian Rush says if I don't drink lots of milk, when I grow up I'll only be good enough to play for Accrington Stanley." "Acccrington Stanley? Who are they?" his pal asks. "Exactly," comes the reply.
John Coleman's side may not be fond of cow juice, but they are fond of rattling the big boys, and Fulham had a testing first 45 minutes. Erik Nevland poked the visitors in front but Mark Schwarzer clearly felt the home side deserved to be level, so he threw James Ryan's cross into the path of Sean McConville, and Michael Symes did the rest.
Stanley's boss had obviously told his fired-up charges to get in Fulham's faces, which they duly did. Darren Kempson took this quite literally by smashing a forearm into Nevland's mush just before the half-hour mark and then tried to detach Zoltan Gera's leg from his hip with a quite horrendous challenge from behind in the second half. Coleman, clearly still smacked up on milk, screamed to the press how Stanley "had played them off the park" in the first half but his comments about referee Stuart Attwell (he of the phantom goal) were less convincing: "I think the referee will have to assess his own performance and he will have people assessing him." Ooh, John, you rotter.
Leeds march on
After their humiliation of Manchester United in the last round, I was praying Spurs would be next to feel the full wrath of League One's fallen giants Leeds United. And oh the sheer ecstasy that poured into one's heart when Alan Wiley paused, pondered, then peeped his peeper and pointed to the penalty spot in the 95th minute.
Leeds' travelling band of largely toothless, middle-aged males could hardly contain themselves - once upon the award and again when Jermaine Beckford showed top-flight composure to slam his spot kick into the top corner and show his namesake Defoe how it's done. Beckford rarely does interviews and has been described as 'shy' by some pundits who clearly haven't been present during his contract negotiations. A shrinking violet he is not but a player of some promise he remains, and a brace at Spurs will no doubt add a few zeros on to his weekly wage when he swaggers out the door in the summer, whether Simon Grayson's side go up or not.
Before the Whites turn their attention back to their promotion chase, Beckford and co will aim to dump the Lilywhites out on a night that is sure to reignite an atmosphere from the days of yore at Elland Road when the Kop was welcoming AC Milan and Barcelona rather than Hartlepool and Wycombe.
Gary Neville sucks socks
What a novelty for Manchester United to be playing on FA Cup fourth round weekend in the Premier League. After their humbling at the hands of Leeds, it was back to the bread and butter of Hull City and their sun-kissed manager. Rio returned, but given his early-season form, that was hardly a boost.
Wayne Rooney continued his imperious run with four well-taken goals but once again the pint-sized shadow of Carlos Tevez loomed little over his old stomping ground. After the shenanigans in United and City's tempestuous midweek cup tie, Tevez then went up in my estimations by, brilliantly, calling Gary Neville a "sock-sucker" and a "moron".
Now, I don't particularly care for Tevez but the one major thing he's got going for him is that he's not Gary Neville. If Neville was locked in battle for control of the earth with Satan, I reckon I'd still give Lucifer a fair hearing before making my mind up one way or t'other. After initially refusing to be drawn, Fergie waded in after the Hull game, saying Tevez should have been sent off after his high tackle on Wes Brown during the first leg. Given all the mud-slinging, the arguments about finances and Garry Cook wading in with some more 'We are Jesus' statements, this week's second leg is shaping up to be an all-out punch-up.
Sol's back... on his Arse
Sol Campbell showed he's a complete stranger to empathy recently by slapping former club Portsmouth with a £1.67 million bill for image rights when the club is battling to stay alive. This after he joined League Two side Notts County, who paid him a reported £40,000 a week, and are now fighting a winding-up order in the courts. All of which should make Arsenal a little twitchy, perhaps.
His signing was interpreted as a signal that Arsene Wenger had finally lost his marbles, but the Arsenal fans didn't seem to mind. In fact, the travelling Gooners roared his first touch at the Britannia with all the gusto of the Arsenal board whenever they punt on another one of their Highbury flats.
The last time he turned out in an Arsenal shirt was in the Champions League final in Paris in 2006. The last time he turned out for anyone was during Notts County's away defeat at Morecambe in September. And just 70 seconds into the cup tie at Stoke, Sol dithered like a geriatric pensioner in the snow as Ricardo Fuller nodded Rory Delap's throw-bomb into the net.
Wenger chose to replace three other players even though Sol was clearly flatlining in the centre circle, and it was a decision that proved to haunt him as Campbell somehow managed to lose that big lump of a striker Ricardo Fuller for the second, failed to stop Tuncay in his tracks for the third, and Arsenal went tumbling out of the cup, just like his long-term contract possibilities.
How do you solve a problem like Robinho?
If Sunday's cup tie at Glanford Park proves to be Robinho's last game for Manchester City then what a fitting stage for his shoddy, short-lived English career to bid farewell and naff off back to Brazil. He started the day by telling Brazilian radio he was heading back to Santos on loan for the rest of the season after saying he'd rather go fishing than head to Juventus.
Don't forget, the 25-year-old is still the most expensive player to ply his trade in this country, and no doubt his weekly wage packet could comfortably pay Scunny's entire squad for a month. Surprisingly, though, given his notorious shriveling routine away from home, he actually contributed more in 85 minutes in Scunthorpe than he did in most of last season's games on the road. And, of course, he scored. It was his first goal since May 2009 and, yes, that one was at home.
It was a pretty tidy finish in the end, but his trot across to City's travelling band of fans for a hug left a bitter taste in the mouth as well as sweaty BO stains on all those parker jackets he came into contact with. Roberto Mancini, in his pidgin English, insisted Robinho was staying, but that hardly counts as definitive. City's boss even had to ask his interpreter for help when faced with the question "Is Robinho staying?" so forgive me if his answers don't fill me with confidence.
If it is his last game, I shall miss him, but only because he is an easy target. Still, there are plenty more in the squad to take aim at.