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Sep 20, 2010

The Fifth Official: Play it again, Sham

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.

Big Sham

Why does he keep doing it to himself? Big Sham Allardyce, as he should forever be known, has been at it again, not so much blowing his own trumpet as attempting to play all the instruments in a 40-piece orchestra at once in a bid to squeeze out an ode to himself about possessing the Midas touch when it comes to winning football and securing trophies.

Sham reckons if he managed Real Madrid or Inter, he'd win the double every year. There are so many things wrong with that sentence it's baffling to know where to start. The only chance he'd ever get to coach either is if he won the lottery and bought one of them. He plays turgid, long ball football and has won precisely nothing during his management career. The closest he came to managing a 'big' club was at Newcastle where he squandered good money on players like Cacapa, David Rozenhal, Alan Smith and Mark Viduka. He lasted just over seven months.

And how did he demonstrate his superior managerial talents on Saturday? By labouring to a 1-1 draw at home to Fulham, which should have been a defeat. It seems the only way Rovers can score these days is for El-Hadji Diouf (a potent symbol of the Allardyce way - noisy but not very good) to body check goalkeepers while endless long balls are pumped into the box. Would they stand for that at the Bernabeu? Would they heck.

Weng's camp shove

Another of Sham's ludicrous comments claimed there was "not a chance" that Arsene Wenger is a better coach than he is, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Trophies won in England? Allardyce 0-7 Wenger. Yet for all their squabbling, the pair are similarly prone to bouts of incandescent rage, as could be seen at the Stadium of Plight on Saturday when Darren Bent's late equaliser pooped on Arsenal's parade.

Not only had their skipper Cesc Fabregas been struck with the curse of the pulled pork string, but the referee somehow saw fit to play until the Black Cats drew level. It's a sign of Wenger's all mouth and no trousers nature that he aimed a camp shove at the fourth official - a relatively safe battle - while last week David Moyes ran straight on with a burning face looking like he might rip the ref's eyes out with the tartan teaspoon he carries in his pocket.

Wenger's frustration was inched up a level by his side's missed penalty, when Tomas Rosicky attempted to make an imprint on the moon next to Buzz Aldrin's footprints. But while Wenger is bemoaning his bad luck, perhaps he should be thankful for a point, given that Fab's goal was about the flukiest you will ever see. And is it wrong that I found it even funnier given Simon Mignolet's mop of flame red hair? I fear it is.

The Berbs

No wonder Fergie and Big Sham get on so well - they clearly went to the same training course entitled: How to repeatedly spew noxious bile into the public consciousness. At least Manchester United's gaffer has the silverware to back it up but after his team had beaten the old enemy, thanks to Dimitar 'so laid back I'm horizontal' Berbatov, the gruff Glaswegian still felt it necessary to rant like a hormonally imbalanced teenager.

So instead of everyone talking about how wonderful Berbs is, and how shrewd Fergie was to coax the Bulgarian into the form of his life, we're left to dissect his skewed comments that United should have racked up 10 goals, that it would have been a "travesty" if they didn't win, and that Liverpool's comeback was inspired by a linesman. I suppose the last one is true to an extent, but only because the poor chap was giving entirely the correct decisions.

Fergie was clearly trying to spade salt into Liverpool's haemorrhaging wounds, but Uncle Roy Hodgson wouldn't rise to the bait, merely saying he disagreed with the grizzled Scot. Liverpool's boss is too nice a chap to resort to petty one liners or mudslinging. It makes you feel all the sorrier for him that he's embroiled in a relegation scrap.

We want one

Good old Blackpool, they never fail to cheer me up. Watching their attempt to rival Chelsea in the attacking stakes was like Ian Holloway challenging Carlo Ancelotti to a pasta cook-off, or an all-you-can-eat pizza contest. With less than 75 seconds on the clock Blackpool were trailing and already wishing it was over - probably like that lady Wayne Rooney has befriended recently.

At the end of a game that could have ended 14-0, it was at least comforting to hear the Tangerine Army were still in good spirits. As they had at Arsenal when losing 6-0, they chanted: "We want one," at their bedraggled, demoralised players - a sense of humour one feels they will need to keep handy as the campaign progresses.

As for Chelsea, they all adopted the Berbatov look in the second half, either too embarrassed to go for double figures or preserving energy for the real tests that lie ahead. Has their imperious early season form lulled them into a false sense of security? With easy wins over West Brom, Wigan, Stoke, West Ham and Blackpool - six sides that will surely finish in the lower reaches - the mercurial Manchester City should provide a slightly stiffer test of Chelsea's cakewalk credentials next week.

Did he just Vaart?

Looks like 'Arry Redknapp may well have gone and done it again eh? The cheeky Cockney chappy drove into Tottenham's training ground on transfer deadline day insisting he wouldn't be doing any business when we all knew the second he made it into Spurs Lodge there'd be an army of bargain hunters with headsets on to rival any call centre in downtown Delhi.

After a long day of scanning satellites and intercepting messages, his chairman managed to present 'Arry with Rafael van der Vaart, Real Madrid reject and yours for the princely sum of £8 million, which in today's Premier League poundage is the equivalent of paying for a house with a tricycle and four cans of bitter.

The boy looks seriously good, running the attacking show against Werder in midweek and Wolves on Saturday. But Spurs should make use of him while they can, before he leaves to form a boy band with the two other Dutch lads who got the heave-ho from Madrid, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben. Vaarty, who will quickly become known as the one with the hair, will take them on a world tour to showcase tracks from their debut album: Florentino Perez, You were wrong, you smug numpty.

• Don't forget, you can help The Fifth Official's bid to attract more followers on Twitter than Sepp Blatter at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial

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