Robbo 10: W**kin Frankel - Click On My Face To Listen!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Ricketty Rooney

It's hard watching England, almost all the time. But currently we have a new problem. The three lions are going to be up against five sets of donkeys. And given the lions are tired and toothless it's a bit like watching a veterans' match at the Coliseum circa 50 BC.

San Marino turn up first, the punchbags of international football. You'd be better off fielding eleven boxes of tissue paper. It's not their fault. The Most Serene Republic (and during previous clogging sessions against them I've wondered where all that serenity goes) is small and its team has two professionals in it. That, in short, is why they're shit. 5-0 is a pretty pathetic effort, but, you know, it's all about the three points at the end of the day and a clean sheet is always welcome.

(By the way this: 

doesn't make that seem like an achievement. In fact it just shows you how much assistance is required.)

Then came Estonia, one of a pair of utter Baltics that our boys must tackle. A bigger test, we're told. This team had achieved notable results against Holland and Italy in recent years and, well, there's more people live there than in San Marino.

They'll press hard and get two banks of four and it might be tricky. And two of their players are named after legendary circus performers Vunk and Pikk. In the end Estonia were bloody awful. They even helped by losing their best player with forty minutes to go.

And in return England got remorselessly worse and worse. It was a weird feeling watching them - a bit like waking up in a tent and realising that your airbed has got a slow puncture and having to lie there and accept that by the end of the night you're going to feel bloody uncomfortable.

Of course you can't really criticise the defence - except for Calum Chambers who, poor lad, is continuing the England manager's preference for playing centre-halves as right-backs. Jones, Smalling, Stones - they've all had a chacne to prove that they're not as good as Nathaniel Clyne and they've done it.

With any luck Chambers and Stones will form a dependable centre-back partnership in the future but, Jeez, Woy, pick a bloody right-back to play right-back.

I slated Wilshere last game but he looked much perkier last night, although he does have the odd dozy moment. Lallana did little to suggest that Oxlade-Chamberlain or Sterling shouldn't have started in his stead.

Up front we had the Danny Welbeck that can reduce you to ripping up telephone directories with your teeth. Little tippy-tappy balls that even Mr Magoo could see coming. Dispossessed so easily you'd think he was an eel trying to keep hold of a bar of soap. Just a terrifying turn of speed to worry the defence but keep him in front of you and you're laughing.

As for Rooney, well I've said it before but the lad - or dad if you're Jack Wilshere - is simply not all that good a player. Trouble is, we all thought he was when he was 17. It's not turned out that way.

Look he's not bad. That was a decent free-kick, even if the goalie dropped like a felled redwood before fumbling it in. But he missed a hatful and if that was Ronaldo, or Messi, or anyone who is extremely good, he'd be booking himself for serious counselling. Trouble with Wazza is, like Welbeck or even Sturridge, we're not surprised.

We should remember of course that here is a lad who earns sequescadillions of quids a week and is captain of Manchester United and England. And frankly it's debatable whether he should be in either side (bans permitting). There are times when he looks laboured in movement and thought and even the gifted right foot can't stop a football from escaping him like an unreined toddler in a shopping mall.

The trouble is, England still want him as a focal point and he's not up to it. As an out and out forward he's never reached the heights of his teenage years. There are better players in that squad - he knows it - and that's why his confidence is shot.

Still, you can't drop Dad, but you can, apparently, drop the stroppy tired teenager Raheem if he tells you he's like, you know, knackered. He's 19!!! How's he going to feel when he's 49? I've every right to wake up feeling cream-crackered.

Maybe that bouffant Pepe Le Peu job is a lot of weight to carry around? Or maybe he's got a manager urging him to keep his powder dry and that ain't Hodgson. Whatever it is, it's a ludicrous state of affairs and if he keeps belly-aching like that even Nigel Farage might suggest that we don't want to keep Sterling after all.

But any road, people, we've got several more of this grinding bores to get through. They'll tell us absolutely nowt about the team's capacity to progress in the tournament proper. (Mind you Capello's England qualified in rampant fashion, and then slid way like shite on a continental toilet when the real business began, so who knows?)

Suffice to say, it's nice to have some proper footy to watch at the weekend.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014


How do. Been a couple of weeks and more and I can only apologise, unless you're among the ones who feel that the break has been quite a relief.

It's probably taken me that long to get over Middlesbrough's penalty shoot-out loss at the home of the honeymoon blues, Merseyside. Some of you might think it's exciting to be involved in such a major piece of football history. Bugger that. We lost. Folks used to say the same about Malcolm Nash (Glamorgan bowler hit for 6 sixes by Gary Sobers). It's the kind of recognition you don't want.

Still Merseyside is an eerily edgy location if you're a football fan right ow. On the one hand, there's Brendan Rogers, a man who looked for all the while like some kind of footballing saviour last season.

There he was galloping off with the Premier League title, a string of English steeds trotting in his wake, a bite-less bandito taking lumps out of the opposition in respectable ways (that was before the Spaghetti Chiellini of course). It was 25 years since Hillsborough too. There was a neatness, a poetry, a romance about the whole thing that most of us thought football had long since lost.

All of us, even me, were swept along in the wake of this inevitable outcome. And then came three goals in fifteen minutes at Selhurst Park and the whole edifice crumbled like so much team spirit in an English cricket team's dressing room.

Now the gaucho is grazing pastures new, and Brendan has armed himself with questionable replacements. Gerrard looks more and more like that other Scouse hero Red Rum. Soon there'll be the Anfield statue to welcome you and the real Gerrard will be moving slightly more slowly during the game.

I'm not having a pop, it's just the old fella's last hurrah isn't far off. Injuries haven't helped and you can tell how worried Rodgers is cos he won't allow Sturridge to have some shooting practice against San Marino - which is a bit like not letting your toddler play on the lawn cos of the sharpness of the blades of grass.

That rallying cry from last season 'We Go Again!'? It's been replaced by a somewhat crestfallen 'Here We Go Again...' Still at least they can beat Boro. After thirty bloody penalties.

Meanwhile the blue half are undergoing a transformation from swaggering speedy top-four fanciers to relegation dog-fighters. Those that worried that Martinez had arrived from a demoted club may about to be vindicated. There is something remarkably Wiganesque about Everton's defending at the moment.

Baines and Jagielka look a little scarred from being, well, a bit shit for England over the summer, and there seems little prospect of it getting better when Roberto is intent on keeping his better players on the pitch for the endless unappetising finger buffet that is the Europa League.

Indeed both clubs have not found the transition from  domestic competition to Europe and back again very easy at all. All right they're doing better than Man Citeh, but the list of crocks grows longer by the week and neither of them look like they have the energy to prosper in the League this season.

The sooner both leave the European adventure behind and get back to having a rest in the week the better.

Of course Chelsea don't seem to be too bothered by such distractions. But then they have a squad that's deeper than a Siberian lake and Mourinho's found a centre-forward. Frankly if they'd have had a number nine last year who could get on the pitch without trying his shoelaces together they'd be champions now.

Diego Costa is the difference, and one wonders how crocked he was for Spain during the World Cup for all the difference he made. Mind you he was feeding off tippy-tappy scraps there, whereas, with Fabregas and Hazard moving the ball much more quickly, here he's got time and space to pick his moment and when the chance arrives he finishes like Danny Welbeck... has done... once. Or maybe twice.

Chelsea look like they could be champs by Christmas, although there's always Man United. They're positively buzzing now they've got away with an offside and their keeper's diverted bullets like Wonderwoman used to.

(And let's pause there and think about Lynda Carter). 

What's certain about United, with Di Maria showboating like he's wandered out of the circus, Rooney hacking away at knees like his kicking the heads of dandelions, and the defenders looking like the're trying to find their way out of a maze, they ain't going to be dull.

And to be fair, entertainment allied to failure is a winning combination in this country. Look at Keegan's Newcastle. Redknapp's Spurs, Rodgers' Liverpool.  Barely won a thing between 'em. And we love 'em. Hell if Van Gaal can keep this up we might even warm to United a little.

And I guess we should spare a little thought here for Kevin Pietersen, a man who still clearly has no idea how he comes across. Here's a clue KP - when someone so ridiculously blessed with talent becomes dispensable, it's cos you're one heck of a knob. The fact that there are other pillocks in that dressing-room who aren't much better doesn't in any way validate your point-of-view.

By the way, Middlesbrough are a point off top-spot. Just saying.

Monday, 22 September 2014

In Defence of the Defence

Well the Premier League is more than living up to its reputation - not always earned - for entertainment. I've heard the word 'goal' uttered almost as often as the word 'Scotland' over the weekend.

(And by the way, thank you for voting 'No' and my sympathies for still being under the rule of the pompous, patronising pricks that pass for parliamentarians these days. Let us continue to suffer together.)

Jose Mourinho says the Premier League is 'crazy'. It's hard to disagree. Except Mourinho's comments, decorated by a smile full of smuggery, seem to be based on some eternal truths that appear to be time-limited.

So here are the new facts about Premier League footy.

1. Beating Manchester United is not what it used to be. 

The post-Fergie slump seems to have been ignored by everyone. It's only a matter of time before Normal Service Is Resumed. Just what is it about the past year of United performances makes people think it's going to change soon?

One 4-0 victory against a QPR side that was so standoffish against United that they looked like Downton Abbey toffs walking through the servants quarters, and United are 'rejuvenated', Which is like saying that one night off the booze makes you teetotal.

Now you may point to a good coach - and Van Gaal looks more and more like a man who spends his week hitting himself in the face with a frying pan (which, given his team's form, is almost certainly true).

You may point to £150 million worth of raw talent - but not of that is defensive nature. Indeed the Sighing Dutchman's persistence with a back three in which not one of the defenders involved has any authority whatsoever, is beginning to look suicidal. Yesterday, Leicester's admittedly ludicrous penalty kick led to defenders wandering around like daleks do when you've covered their eye socket over.

I mean it made Brazil's World Cup semifinal look, well, sensible. All that cash, and Louis couldn't coax Vlaar out of Villa to bark some orders at the other dimwits? Fact is, United may have extraordinary talent in whatever front five they put out, but the defense its as ever to pierce as microwaved clingfilm. There for the taking.

2. If You've Got Lots of Money You Should Play Entertaining Football 

At least that seems to be Manuel Pellegrini's take on the Chelsea performance at the Etihad. It is, of course, garbage. Mourinho proved last season that when it comes to taking on title rivals, he's the biggest brain out there. And more often than not he goes for a mean, niggardly charmless game-plan. And it works.

Now Pellegrini says it was like playing Stoke. Si, Manuel, and how did Stoke do the other week at your gaff? Ermmm... oh, they won 1-0. Two banks of four, or even five, work hard, hit em on the break. Works for Simeone at Atletico, it's worked for Mourinho when he's needed it. Perhaps Pellegrini needs to kick chaps like Yaya up the arse and get them to be a little more inspirational rather than blaming the negativity of others.

3. The Europa League's Gonna Kill You

Oh this bloody tournament is a total nightmare. Everton and Spurs come back from a Thursday night running their backsides off and both of them play terribly or at least tiredly, on a Sunday afternoon. This has happened year after year and for these two it's only going to get harder.

Martinez stated he wanted to win the tournament, which is tantamount to accepting midtable obscurity if you ask me. Why the Europa League needs to be such a bloating seventeen course banquet of none too appetising fare is beyond me. (Yes, just more coffers passing through UEFA's fingers, the coins reflecting in glints and glimmers off the faces of FIFA-funded wrist-watches).

But why not a straightforward knock-out tournament? And why do the also-rans of the Chamions League group stage get a free pass into this inferior competition. It's like being told that you've not got into the Michelin-starred kitchen but don't worry, KFC is looking for someone.

The fact is the squads that make it to this grim endurance test are usually a little too thin to maintain a challenge on all fronts. A knock-out competition would be fairer, and frankly better.

4. Possession isn't nine-tenths of the law

Perhaps Pellegrini thinks you're a small team if you don't get to have the ball much. Like, for example this weekend with West Ham (38% - won 3-1), West Brom (34% - won 1-0) or Crystal Palace (a staggering 24% - won 3-2).

Arsenal fans can tell you that just having the ball means nowt. Ever since coaches started to try and figure out how to beat Barcelona when the ball appeared in your possession with the frequency of Halley's Comet, how you play without it has become the trademark of a top side.

Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather watch Di Maria scoop a lob over a keeper while running at 25mph (that lad has a golf club for a left peg) than admire the dogged devotion to duty of Nemanja Matic, but the fact is stopping the opposition is becoming the most potent quality you can have in this league. Palace proved that last year.

Liverpool, Everton and Man U are really poor at the back right now. Poor Alan Hansen must be in bed with a fever, bless 'im. Chelsea, when they set their minds to it, are excellent at it. They can be ruthless and expressive up front, but when push comes to shove, Jose's got his Pulisian Plan B ready. And that's why, even now, you can't see anyone winning the title but them.

No wonder he likes it 'crazy'. It makes his 'sensible' look very good indeed.