So, anything happen in the world of football this past weekend?
After an interesting but slightly underwhelming Saturday, all the focus shifted to the day of rest and the first real ‘Super Sunday’ of the season. United! Arsenal! Liverpool! City! Could you BE any more excited, as that irritating bloke from ‘Friends’ (weren’t they all irritating though? – Ed.) used to shout. Fair question, though for me Anfield always conjures up differing emotions than excitement.
How best to describe them, though? “Dread”? “Fear”? “Trepidation”? Whichever word for “nervous” you want to use, the frequent failures at Anfield have made this the league match that occupies my mind more than any other in the days/hours building up to it, and Sunday was no different in that respect.
Those feelings of anxiety weren’t eased when the team news began to dribble out of Anfield about an hour before kick-off. Giggs in the middle? No Vidic? Giggs in the middle? No DDG? Giggs in the frigging middle?! It was the stuff of nightmares, and sometimes you wonder whether Fergie just deliberately winds us all up by doing daft things at inappropriate moments, a bit like that creepy Uncle Brian you have who suddenly finds himself with wandering hands after having a drink or two. Giggs in the middle? In a two? “It makes no sense!” I kept on groaning as I put my hand to my head, a very strong headache suddenly materialising from nowhere. “We got overrun here last season with Carrick and Scholes, this is crazy!” was another lament, before a whimpering about “Liverpool’s pressing game” forced me to go and lie down in a dark room and compose myself a little.
I was back in time for kick-off. One of the things I love about the media is their obsession with bad news. “No news is good news” is the cliché, but for the press it’s “really terrible news is good news for us”. Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez were always going to shake hands on Sunday lunchtime, but that didn’t stop the press machine banging on about the possibility of it not happening all sodding week long. On the day itself, the pundits and presenters all fell over themselves to state how this was an irrelevance and not worthy of comparison to the Hillsborough findings (correct), but their hot air was soon completely undermined by Sky sticking a cameraman right under Patrice Evra’s nose as he lined up to shake hands. I almost felt like I could shake Suarez’s hand myself, he was that close to the players. As the palms of Evra and Suarez touched together, you could almost hear the hacks groan and begin to furiously hammer the backspace key on their laptops as the “bad news” story of the Evra and Suarez situation flaring up again dissipated into thin air. Shame.
So to the match itself, and the worries beforehand turned out to be justified. We couldn’t get the ball, it was a nightmare, we didn’t stand a chance, but thankfully the bad guy from ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ decided to help us out a bit by lunging in and getting himself sent off. A definite red card for me, although I’m not sure about the penalty decision. Soft, that one, and I would have been pissed if he’d given it against us. Nevertheless, you don’t spurn gifts like that at Anfield, and van Persie duly did the rest, even if I thought Reina had saved it and we’d missed yet another penner. Performance? Poor. Result? Wonderful. I’ll take that.
I’d originally planned the final section of this week’s column to be about Niall Quinn, the mad bastard, but last night’s shock news means I’ll leave him for another time. The spotlight for now is on England’s lionheart big brave John Terry TM, who’s effectively jumped before he was pushed, I reckon. He might be gloriously thick but he knows he’s in trouble with this FA hearing, so the smart thing to do is shout out a word like “untenable” and then go into hiding and hope to evade most of the flak that’s about to come his way. I don’t blame him, to be honest, but I do wish he’d just retire and go and live somewhere a long, long, long way away instead. What a thoroughly unlikable chap, and I imagine that the day you wake up and realise that Ashley Cole is your best mate is probably the day to look in the mirror and ask whether you’re proud of yourself or not. Would a footballer ever do that, though? Probably not, as that would involve self-awareness of which they, and particularly “JT”, have little of.
Talking about a lack of self-awareness, I’d like to end this week’s column with a little video for you. You might have seen this already, but if not – here’s a wannabe Dave Benson-Phillips going a little bit crazy about the match on Sunday. Enjoy!