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Jan 10, 2011

King Kenny the usurper

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 brimming with potential victims.

Only one duck down

The plastic ducks at the fairground shooting gallery were Messrs Hodgson, Houllier, Grant and Ancelotti going into this FA Cup weekend; all apparently staring down their whispering cork-gun toting chairmen with just Richard Bevan from the League Manager's Association for protection, holding a flimsy placard written on the back of a napkin that screamed "Don't Fire!"

And bang, it happened, even before the slitheriest of lifelines in the form of an FA Cup third-round tie at Old Trafford. Roy, gone. With no real time to build his own team, the Grandad you love but you wouldn't leave to make the Sunday dinner by himself had been dumped and Liverpool's sentimental support (who played an all-important part in his unceremonious dumping, don't forget) were already choked up and ready for some magic dust from fairy godmother Kenny Dalglish.

Is there anything more at work than fan appeasement, feel-good factor and faith in Liverpool's underachieving players finally remembering the history of the shirt they sweat into? No, but who ever said football involved reason. It's goodbye to friendly Roy, and welcome back to Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish, a legend - albeit a legend who has been idle for ten years. This can only end one way.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Kenny said as much pre-match. Incredibly chipper, he faced the cameras and just kept answering every question the same. Apparently if Liverpool smile more, everything is going to be just fine. He'd been on holiday in Dubai with Big Sam when he had heard the news and he was just delighted, suntanned, smiley and brilliant. It was all a bit unnerving.

That is until Dimitar Berbatov ghosted in like an anaemic pickpocket to con a match-winning penalty from 12-yard Old Trafford sniper Howard Webb with a lazy wobble-and-drop routine 31 seconds into the game. He then coasted around the park in his lounge slippers and cashmere rollneck smoking cheroots for the rest of the afternoon. Twitching and scratching the back of his head he denied diving as he accepted the Man of the Match champagne afterwards. If you want lessons in how not to act in an arrest scenario my friends, watch it back. Spacey in the Usual Suspects it was not.

Talking of arrest scenarios, all the excitement was enough to make Steven Gerrard see red. No doubt he wailed to the heavens: "That one was for Roy," just after he'd nailed Michael Carrick. Shifty Avram Grant's West Ham won ugly, but he is still the bookies favourite to follow Woy, and might yet be next to go on holiday with Big Sam. Avram would prefer Thailand to Dubai though Sam.

Rolling Stones and Sliding Turds

Another set of fans never shy to whinge climbed onto their team's back as early as 60 minutes in and only 1-0 down at the Emirates. There too it had an impact on the field, Andrei Arshavin in particular looked drained of confidence, the only thing threatening to come off for the little wizard was himself as he tried to escape the field when Marouane Chamakh's number was held up.

Even that failed, and soon Arsenal passes were sliding off the Emirates turf like turds off an ice-rink, each petering foray greeted by groans and skull-clutching disbelief from the North London faithful. After all, they had only slogged through four games in ten days like the rest of their top-flight brothers.

As the moans got bleaker than an early morning walk down the Holloway Road, Theo Walcott's pace did just enough to force a penalty and an unwanted replay, although Arsenal could and should have sneaked an undeserved win. Luckily for Simon Grayson and Leeds, Nicklas Bendtner may play with the pout of a young Mick Jagger but he's got all the finishing ability of an old Keith Richards.

Chris Hugh?

A strange calm had settled over Newcastle post assassination of Chris Hughton. Which of course meant something really, really bad must be just around the corner. Lets just examine the evidence.

Alan Pardew has been all pursed lips and purpose since arriving at the club in a hail of spat out Geordie Bovril. The world-class talent that is Hatem Ben Arfa signed a long-term deal, following Steven Taylor's contract extension. Joey Barton's well deserved beatification ceremony to become Saint Joey is to come later in the year in the Vatican.

But what's this I see in the Fifth's crystal ball? It looks like May 2011. Ben Arfa has swung a quality ball towards the head of their talismanic No.9. Except it's not No.9 (he went to Spurs in January), it's No. 23, and Shola Ameobi has just tripped over Leon Best and headed it down into his own balls. Following the limp exit to Stevenage in the cup, Newcastle have gone into freefall. Newly appointed caretaker boss Joe Kinnear is swearing at the linesman under a scalding rain of SportsDirect-sponsored Bovril after Joey Barton's red card for breaking Steven Taylor's jaw. Ah yes, that's more like it.

Blackburn Pleasure Beach

The Premier League has a new Delia Smith. Delia you will remember once took to the pitch with microphone in hand to rouse Norwich's fans to life, inspired it appeared by too much sloe gin and an idea of football fans taken from a 1980s hooligan drama she once saw on the TV round at her friend Derek's house. "Let's be having you," she slurred at 20,000 quizzical, East Anglian farmers.

Anuradha Desai doesn't need any gin to make a tit of herself it seems. A self proclaimed "good listener" who likes hockey and chickens, it didn't take her much listening to realise that Big Sham's transfer ideas were a poisoned batch of birdfeed, so she can't be all bad; its just her own transfer targets sound like they've come from ten-year-old posters on her daughter's wall. Ronaldinho, David Beckham and Damien Duff are all as past it as Michel Salgado.

The only Kean still in a meaningful football job is being showered with praise by Desai too. "He thinks well... mark my words, he thinks well," she said lovingly of boss Steve Kean this week while drawing circles in the newspaper around Roy Keane, Kevin Pietersen and Sachin Tendulkar as the next potential big signings to help the Indian market get a handle on who and what Blackburn Rovers actually are.

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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