Hullo again. Y’alright?
It’s a cold, misty day here in The Shire (yes, I’m a “plastic”, apologies) and whilst I usually type this nonsense wearing nothing but my birthday suit and a cheeky smile, today I’ve no choice but to wrap up warm and wait patiently for Spring to burst into life. As such, underneath my Christmas jumper I’m sporting a t-shirt which is not only a lovely shade of green but also contains the wisdom of noted philosopher and raconteur Michael Essien. Speaking on Christmas Eve 2006, the Ghanian stated that:
“We are much better than Manchester United. It’s just a matter of days before we are the leaders. I have done my calculations and we will finish at least five points clear of United at the top of the table.”
Essien was right about the winning margin – the champions ended the season six points ahead of the 2nd place team – but sadly for him the rest of his declaration was pretty misguided as Chelsea’s failure to beat Arsenal consigned them to the runners up position. The moral of the story then, as David “Bumble” Lloyd likes to say on those adverts, is never to count your chickens before they hatch.
Now listen, I know I’m a miserable, grumpy git at the best of times, but I feel I have a legitimate reason to start chucking some caution around here. After a superb run of results and the (relatively) comfortable win against West Brom, all you lot have rushed to the fixture list and got yourself into a right tizzy. Wolves! Blackburn! Wigan! QPR! Fulham at home! I know what you’re saying, don’t get me wrong – I know they’re all shite – but we’re not going to win all those games. We just simply aren’t, that’s not how football works. I’d love to know how many people genuinely predicted that Luke Moore would score the winner against City, or that Blackburn would beat us at home, to give you two examples. It’s a “funny old game” for a reason, and whilst I can’t stop you getting excited, please do try to keep your pants around your waist when loading up the fixtures on the BBC website.
Having said all that, there is reason to be proud at the end of the season whether we race in for #20 or end up at #2 in the hit parade. By most people’s reckoning, we have: one “dodgy” keeper, a left-back who looks defensively suspect, an injured captain, no permanent right-back, a player who we had to bring out of retirement, a 38 year old, a “shit” Michael Carrick, an ill Scottish captain, a one trick pony Mexican and an “overrated” Scouser. All that and we can still pip the greatest team this side of Spain to the league title? As Mr Belding used to say in ‘Saved by The Bell’, hey hey hey – what is going ON here?! Whatever happens over the course of the next 10 games, you get the feeling it’s going to be a lot of fun.
What wasn’t a lot of fun on the other hand was having our bottoms smacked by Bielsa’s Basque Bilbao boys. They were good, weren’t they? I’m particularly taken with the big man Llorente, with his lovely curls and blue eyes. I can see him as a model once he’s given up football, although the way he bullied our defence that won’t be for a while yet. A decent side playing decent football, I hope Bilbao go on and win it now, quite frankly, and to be honest I’m not too gutted we’ve gone out of the ol’ Europa. It was fun whilst it lasted -even for someone with the inability to feel “fun” like me -but these things never last. After our exit, city cunningly took the opportunity to hurl themselves out of it as well, meaning they also know which way their bread is buttered as we rapidly gallop towards “squeaky bum” time. It’s only sport, of course, but I’m finding that I can’t think about anything else at the moment, and the closer we get, the more the pressure builds. Ten games to go.