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Feb 14, 2011

Rampant Rooney and a Roy-al return

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 week brimming with potential victims.

Overhead over heels

It was a goal so sublime that Manchester United's fans, and even his own wife, probably thought for a split second about forgiving Wayne Rooney. A goal so majestic that even I will give the granny-fancying turncoat a week off (sorry, old habits die hard).

Given his chunky build it was a shock to see him suspended in mid-air, Matrix-style, with his back to Joe Hart before he unleashed the kind of overhead kick that only comes off once or twice in a career. Any such effort that finds the net is worth applauding but the ferocity at which the ball sped into the top corner was breath-taking. Mind you, the man does have a frame like King Kong.

A stunned Roberto Mancini, who saw City's laughable title hopes evaporate upon Rooney's galactico strike, said all he could do was applaud the winner. Sir Alex Ferguson, however, showed it is never too late to shock an OAP, as he shunned admiring applause for bobbing up and down on the spot while repeatedly shouting: "F***ing hell, f***ing hell." Hardly a celebration befitting a knight of the realm. Lambs to the slaughter

Great to see Arsenal back to winning ways after their humiliating capitulation from 4-0 up at Newcastle last week. I don't say that because I want them to win, only because now they have we'll be afforded a few days off from their whingeing about how all the country's referees are united in a covert plot to prolong their embarrassing trophy drought. After all, it's far easier to blame the officials than your own shoddy defence.

Daddy TFO's theory is this: that after a while a team and their supporters begin to ape the characteristics of the most important man at the football club - the manager. And listening to the moaning and sniping after last week's disintegration, he may have a point (was that a demonstration of how sharp my old man is, or a shallow attempt to share the inevitable backlash from Gooner fans in the comments section? You decide).

Credit to Wolves though whose feeble surrender in the face of gloriously attractive, flowing football demonstrated perfectly how Arsenal will feel at 9.30pm on Wednesday after they have been torn to shreds - again - by Barcelona.

A Roy-al return

It's a warm welcome back to these pages for the erstwhile Roy Hodgson - the sexagenarian the Premier League just can't seem to shake off. Dumped after a disastrous spell at Liverpool, where his public pronouncements became as defensive and nonsensical as the UK's coalition government when they are defending their latest hatchet job on public services, he has now popped up at West Brom.

They do say you've got to get back on the horse as soon as you fall off, but it must be more than a little demeaning to haul yourself up there (probably with the help of a winch in Roy's case) and realise the saddle is still warm from the clench of Chris Hughton's shapely buttocks. Still, even if you are second choice, any job will do in this current climate.

Roy took his seat in the stands for the clash with West Ham under a helpful advertising hoarding that screamed "fix it" before aiming a limp wave at a bemused set of fans who were generally pretty pleased with Roberto Di Matteo. Roy then sank deep into discussion with the chap next to him, probably about stamps or pace-makers, until said chap introduced himself as Baggies' technical director, Dan Ashworth, and said he quite fancied a chat about football.

By the end Roy was reduced to babbling audibly to himself, as Ashworth looked on bemused, much like John W. Henry did in the last few months at Anfield. Although that may not have been helped by the result.

Park it, Avram

After 45 minutes Roy was probably quite chuffed at what he had seen and delighted to take the credit for it, merely due to his jaded presence. Little did he know that in West Ham's changing room, Scott Parker and the rest of West Ham's players were having a group cry that was to transform the contest.

Such is Avram Grant's limited influence at West Ham he is now forbidden from speaking during the interval, a trend John Terry started during the Israeli's tenure at Chelsea. After the Hammers had been humbled in the opening 45 minutes, Parker delivered a Napoleon-like battle cry, which from outside the dressing room sounded like a succession of whimpering sobs, while Avram was bound and gagged in the physio's room.

"We were diabolical but at half-time Scott was inspirational," said Carlton Cole. "If you were there you would have had a tear in your eye." I very much doubt that Carlton - I'd more than likely have wet my pants due to the sheer physical impact of cowering in the corner desperately trying to suppress a fit of the giggles.

Sunday Massey

So, the patronising pattern is set. Whenever Sian Massey runs the line at a Premier League game, managers of both sides will be quizzed on her performance, while a salivating press wait for them to deliver a thinly veiled half-sexist jibe so they can repeat their merciless flogging of disgraced Sky duo Richard Keys and Andy Gray.

Sadly for those with poison pens the headline: "Lineswoman fulfils duties competently and without fuss," won't have punters hurrying to buy the red tops like one that reads, "Scantily-clad lineswoman inserts flag up Bent's lower intestine." Both Ian Holloway and Gerard Houllier agreed that, shock horror, she was good at her job, as if it hadn't dawned on anybody to check that out before handing her a flag. Holloway also panned a pathetic airing of 'There's only one Andy Gray,' from the terraces, presumably because it wasn't funny enough.

With all this lazy sexism floating around I'm just waiting for someone to make the time-honoured gag that Massey must have been embarrassed on Saturday to turn up and discover that referee Howard Webb and the other linesman were wearing exactly the same outfit as her! I, for one, won't be falling into that trap.

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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