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Author Topic: Season's Greetings - getting to know our opponents  (Read 388 times)

Online dave.woodhall

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Season's Greetings - getting to know our opponents
« on: May 05, 2020, 12:55:08 AM »
From no. 175 - August 2012.

So August is here and the football season upon us again, like summer flu or a new flavour of J2O. But unlike those last two, men are allowed to talk about it without fear of ridicule by others. But wait! What if you’ve forgotten who we’re locking horns with over the next ten months? Luckily, here’s a handy guide to help you avoid humiliation on the terraces:

Arsenal – The neutral’s choice, if only because their constant presence on the back pages every summer constitutes a kind of blockbuster disaster movie from which the hero always escapes. Managed by a man who believes shooting from outside the area is a form of witchcraft, they play a modified version of Total Football. Does anybody want to tell them the Holland team they aim to emulate won nothing as well?

Chelsea – Holders of the Dick Turpin Award for Most Undeserved Piece of Silverware, the Blues are on the crest of a wave. In keeping with their recent Russian origins, their history seems to have been airbrushed so thoroughly that any mention of division two or Micky Droy will have you exiled to Loftus Road. Have more nasty pieces of work in their squad than a drinks party hosted by Idi Amin.

Everton“Please Sir, can I have some more?” Perpetually broke yet have the most lucrative sofa in Britain, where £10 million plus can regularly be found for yet another journeyman striker every transfer window. In a city famous for transit, are content to play the personnel equivalent of a ferry port. Form one half of the most regular league fixture in the world, and doesn’t it always feel like it?

Fulham – the Hyacinth Bucket to their dear neighbours, like to see themselves as a cut above. Johnny Hayes, the maximum wage, Hugh Grant. Does nothing to hide the petit bourgeois frustration of a life still being lived at a pre-war pace while being wedged between two annoying yuppies with lurid neon Cavaliers in the front drive. The Premier League are thinking of retiring eleventh place as a tribute.

Liverpool – You’ll never walk alone, apparently, mainly because you decided to pull out your mobile and walk down a sparsely populated street in their home city. Cliche FC own the rights to football misery and since 1990 have pulled at Excalibur from the opposite end of the M62. Happily, it’s stuck fast and no amount of whinging will shift it. Possibly the only club ever to win the biggest trophy in football multiple times then obsess about the relative booby prize.

Manchester City – Ever had one of those hangover-fuelled recollections where you find your pocket full of loose change, then recall you fed £30 into a fruit machine and won £1.50 in ten pees? The economy of this team is so skewed that even the tea lady dunks her digestives in champagne. The high-speed rail link between London and the North is being exclusively financed by their new biggest fans.

Manchester United – What kind of a sick world is it where United are now the lesser of two evils? A club beyond parody, any misery they endure is balm for the rest of the league. Inevitably the choice of any child or non-Englishman, they are applying to restyle their badge so they’ll be known as ‘Manchester United Second’. Old Trafford would be handy to shelter in during a nuclear attack, since you always get an extra six minutes.

Newcastle – Everybody’s second favourite team. Alan Shearer was in raptures after a fluky season, meaning he smiled a bit. Somehow convinced everybody that fat blokes with tattooed tits are worth emulating. Team and fans are utterly sure league domination is inevitable after signing another striker from Bundesliga 2. They provided proof of karma when they received £35 million for Andy Carroll a couple of seasons after relegation.

Norwich – Played utterly sublime football last season, with a well-blended squad, enthusiastic fans and a talented manager. Unfortunately, they were unable to hold onto the latter so all that automatically transfers to B6. Now managed by the football equivalent of Andy Dufresne, who spent a season up to his eyelashes in effluent and came out clean. A yellow spot on the rump of Britain. I bet their pies are crap, in a nice ironic twist.

QPR – Their new fiscal pride seems to have turned their fans into the most patronising in the league, patting everyone else’s head with their cute grounds, ramshackle facilities and Corinthian squads. It’ll take more than a lick of paint to make Loftus Road the National Gallery though. For some reason, they view their kick-and-rush as nectar from football’s teat and are always on the cusp of signing a re-energised Pele. Currently in talks with Ray Winstone.

Reading – Recipient of a myth that they can choose not to play in their away kit because they play in the Queen’s County of Berkshire, the Biscuitmen are like an annoying fly on a summer’s day: they buzz and get in your face, then you forget about them and when you next see them they’re dead on the windowsill. Usually flog their star striker to a Black Country team, so Walsall have kept a space free in the dressing room.

Southampton – Like a womens’ magazine story, this lot can boast the banner headline “We were managed by Harry Redknapp... and survived!” Their old ground used to defy the laws of physics, in that it always kept them up. Everyone wants to play them in August or May so they can have a trip to the seaside.

Stoke – You’ve got to give them their due, they annoy Arsene Wenger. If Sturk were an ice cream flavour, they’d be Praline & Brick, and never has the old line about the club DVD - 100 Greatest Throw Ins been so merited. Tony Pulis has never met a no-score draw he didn’t like and that baseball cap has the properties of Billy’s Boots. Wouldn’t be surprised if the programme carries a comic strip called ‘Tony’s Hat’ which awards the team unwarranted free-kicks.

Sunderland – It’s like walking down the street, suddenly seeing your ex with her new bloke, and he turns out to have wonky teeth, or jug ears, or a Sunderland shirt on. Pound shops in the Wearside area are stocking up on Irish or Scottish flags and the local airport has closed down its International Arrivals desk. Likely to feature near the start of Match of the Day for the standard three year period.

Swansea – It was an unexpected pleasure to see Cardiff so close to promotion for years then Swansea nail it at the first attempt. Last season’s wearer of the “You know who I think could do well next season?” sash, they’ve lost their manager and will lose most of their squad by 1st September but will never lose their freedom. I’ll always be grateful to them for showing Lerner & Faulkner that winning at Chelsea was an aberration, not the norm.

Tottenham – Your New Favourite Band. They believe everyone, deep down, is a Spurs lover and everything they do is a football miracle. It’ll be interesting to see who the rest of the league plan to sign now Harry Redknapp is no longer slowing down for reporters outside the training ground. Famous fans include Chas & Dave and Richard Littlejohn. If that’s not the warning sign you need then you deserve everything you get.

West Brom – Had their Halley’s Comet moment last season, when they finished above Villa. The open-top bus tour which followed gladdened hearts as far away as Old Hill. Mumbling something about playing football the right way, they followed the Hodgson  Planof six foot six defenders, midfielders with busy elbows and a clutch of injury-prone strikers to lower mid-table glory. Now managed by Steve Clark, who I think was in some rock band or other.

West Ham – They won the World Cup, but has anybody discovered who stole it and if they were Wet Spam fans? Maximum tediousness about the Academy of Football notwithstanding, the Hammers are a weak facsimile of everything: nicked kit, soon to be nicked ground, nicked Londoners (their heartlands being Essex). Enveloped in myths about East London, financed by smut, and unwelcome anywhere west of Canning Town? Barbara Windsor FC it is, then.

Wigan – Obviously, we’d be laughing into our sleeves should this shower be relegated. But I like Dave Whelan. He reminds me that no matter how much guff I talk when drinking, there’s always one idiot who says worse when sober. Record crowd is over forty thousand, when the ground hosted a Wigan Casino reunion. Record football crowd remains in four figures.                                 

Chris Stanley


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