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Feb 8, 2010

Fifth Official: Team Terry out in full force

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 in which the John Terry scandal showed no sign of running out of steam.

John Terry is The Fugitive

If anyone had lingering doubts over Don Fabio's decision to axe John Terry as England skipper they surely were erased after one scan of Sunday's newspapers. If the tabloids are to be believed, it's a miracle JT has managed to make it out on the pitch so regularly in the last few years. He makes John Lennon look positively bed-scared.

Not only did Fab recoup a little of the respect attached to the armband that Terry seemed intent on destroying but he reinforced the point that, even for today's pampered and petulant multi-millionaires, he'll take no flak whatsoever. A sign of how tainted the skipper-ship had become is that Rio Ferdinand, complete with his murky background, comes as a something of a relief.

Whatever Fabio and the FA think, the good people at Chelsea don't seem to care if their captain can't help himself. Far from it. They just think he's a chip off the old block. The Shed End cheered his every touch, sang 'There's only one England captain' and lapped it up when JT chucked his shirt into the crowd, slapped his chest a bit and looked as if he was close to tears. By the way they were all carrying on you'd have thought JT was at the centre of the biggest miscarriage of justice since Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. It all made me feel rather queasy.

Where's Walcott?

What the hell has happened to Theo Walcott? Was his clinical hat-trick against Croatia last year a mirage? Well, I had been on the cider that afternoon I seem to recall. At Stamford Bridge he epitomised Arsenal's meek surrender of their distant title ambitions with a woeful display. He was so bad, those in blue were content to let him receive the ball safe in the knowledge that he'd either kill the move stone dead or launch a Blues counter attack by mistake.

Once again Arsenal's soft underbelly was exposed by a far more ruthless outfit. Word has it that Arsene Wenger has a Euromillions-style jackpot burning a hole in his ill-fitting tweed slacks; why he didn't feel the need to use it on a burly striker during the month of January is beyond me. Arshavin may be a decent player but he's hardly going to trouble Chelsea's centre backs, who tower about three feet above him.

Chelsea may have surrendered plenty of possession to the Gunners, as is their want, but they had Didier Drogba up front, a turf-eating drama queen perhaps, but also as clinical as they come. Within 23 minutes Arsenal's creaking defence had been breached twice. Funny that Wenger is so critical of Drogba; he's precisely the type of player who could turn his side from top four just-abouts into title contenders.

No win, no fee

I was surprised not to see a gaggle of personal injury lawyers hanging round the Anfield tunnel like a bad stench as Everton and Liverpool's battered and bruised limped off the pitch clutching arms, knees, faces and groins after 90 minutes of football that was more like watching two drunk cage fighters batter each other after an all-day drinking session.

Pride and passion are pre-requisite characteristics for local derbies but surely gum shields and metal body armour needn't be. Within a particularly spiteful ten minutes we saw Marouane Fellaini actually try to kick Dirk Kuyt's face clean off, then Steven Pienaar pretend Javier Mascherano's knee was the Hollywood walk of fame as he tried to leave an imprint of his fancy boots on the Argentine's patella. For once, Masch's histrionics could be forgiven.

Then, just four minutes after that, you could tell what was coming as two of the Premier League's most brutish characters filed towards each other like raging bulls. If I had my way, we'd have flicked a switch and they'd instantly be clothed in those massive, inflatable sumo suits just before impact. As it was, Kyrgiakos went in two-footed, Fellaini stamped on his leg and both should have walked.

Liverpool won the game, thanks to Dirk the destroyer, but Everton won the fight.

Pompey's OG

Another week, another new owner and another demoralising defeat for relegation certainties Portsmouth. The new man in charge doesn't even want to be the owner, the manager is on the verge of walking out and judging by Saturday's pitiful effort the players can't even be bothered either.

Perhaps Avram Grant's visits to the massage parlour are rubbing off (ahem) on his squad, given their immensely accommodating attitude at Old Trafford. The moment any lingering hopes about their survival were extinguished came when Dimitar Berbatov was allowed to control the ball, do two fancy pirouettes inside the area, then amble outside before firing into the corner as six Pompey defenders acted like they were waiting in line at the Fratton Park canteen.

I think Pompey should sack Grant and employ his wife instead. They say opposites attract and my word they must in this case, seeing as Avram's got no personality and his wife has got about seven. After all, this is a woman who has necked her own urine on television, as well as lounging in a bath of chocolate and spaghetti. Her response when Avram mentioned the massage parlour visits? "He phoned me to warn me about the publication and my response was ''Yes, and?' If he has gone to a brothel it is no one's business. He needs a massage not from one woman but two. Morning and night. He's a great manager with amazing potential who is stuck in a s****y team.''

I think I love her.

I fought the Laws but the Laws won

He's only gone and done it. After five attempts, Brian 'pinch me I'm a Premier League manager' Laws finally has a victory to his name, and it was achieved largely through three of his own signings. It wasn't so much a look of joy as a look of incredulity on the gaffer's chops after Danny Fox scored a pearler and set one up for another loan purchase, David Nugent. When Leon Cort cleared one off the line it looked like burly Brian was about to burst.

Of course, one man's gain is another man's loss as Gianfranco Zola found out to his cost. Even his three average striking recruits couldn't land him a draw, though they all had glorious chances. The strain on the Premier League's nicest manager was all too evident when he started arguing with the fourth official, though he still couldn't bring himself to shout, swear or point. The Italian merely shook his head, as if he was trying to shame the assistant into giving him a penalty.

Phil Orange at Hull is also sunning himself in the same warm glow as Laws after taking four points from the pointless looking visits of Chelsea and Manchester City. Confronted with both Team Terry and Team Bridge in the space of four days, the good folk at the KC couldn't believe their luck and dished out more abuse than ever before. Phil can only hope that, before their next home game, an Aston Villa player is caught in flagrante just to whip the crowd into a frenzy. Maybe Martin O'Neill could aid the cause and sign Katie Price on a free?

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