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The Importance of Sport (NEW CONCEPTS)
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Mick Harper
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Brighton vs Arsenal

I just can't bear it. From Day One of Arteta's reign, they play it around smoothly for fifteen minutes, looking like the half-a-billion pound squad they are against some gimcrack outfit. Then the other side get fed up with this and send a couple of men up the park to stick their tongue out at the goalie who starts hoofing it up the park. Not just now and again, every bleedin' time. The one thing cheapo outfits can deal with is long balls coming out of the sky with nippy little international superstars like Aubameyang and Saka looking on helplessly.

I understand that neither Arteta nor the Arsenal hierarchy could do anything during that first week. Maybe it would take a fortnight on the training ground to sort it out. All right, yes, possibly the purchase of an extra Flowmaster for the whiteboard. But it's been eighty weeks of this exact pattern. Though only thirty minutes of this particular match. I'm not saying we won't win it. Blimey, if your players are a different league from the opposition you will from time to time but why should I get a sore throat screaming, "Look, he's standing there. Give it to him. He can hoof it as well as you can if he has to. Don't hoof it yourself... he's hoofed it... he's only gone and hoofed it."

The only way we're going to get possession on the halfway line is if Brighton score a goal.
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Mick Harper
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The blessed Wrighty actually said we done well. Us being 'a young side' and all. I suppose he's wright. Arteta's young for a manager himself. He decided to freshen things up after the break by bringing off someone who's just made his debut for Belgium, the number one team in the world, and bringing on another young chap who cost more than the entire Brighton team. No wonder we eked out a fighting goal-less draw with the bottomless moneybags of American Express. I used to pass their building everyday on my way to work at Sergeant Yorke's casino in Queen's Road. Next to the station, opposite the Glass Animal Man's shop.
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Mick Harper
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Liverpool 2 Man City 2

The sainted Jermaine pointed out that even a moderate striker would score twenty goals a season for Man City -- and an expensive one, forty. This was particularly glaring as an outclassed Liverpool got a point simply by having not one, not two but three strikers. City meanwhile had Jack Grealish leading the line. The irony though is that their yearned-for Harry Kane is no longer a striker, apart from being goal-less in the Premiership.

How many false Number Nines can you cram in, Pep? We'll swap you Aubameyang for Grealish if you ask nicely. But only if you take Lacazette on a free as well. Oh, and re-appoint Arteta as your Number Two obviously.

PS Yes I understand the argument that having a plethora of false nines is why City outclassed Liverpool but if that is the case why are they trying to buy Kane?
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Mick Harper
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The World of American World Records

So the passing record (80,358 yards) is currently held by Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints). Coming up fast is Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) on 80,038 and expected to break it in today's game against New England Patriots. Convention has it that when such a milestone is reached, the game stops and there are (to everyone but Americans) interminable ceremonies of mawkish over-the-top celebrations.

Eight minutes in Tom throws the ball. The ump measures it, he's a yard shy. The ref remeasures it, he's now tied. Nobody knows what to do. There is no ceremony for ties -- which Americans abhor ("It's like kissing your sister" as they always put it which is a weird thing to say according to us Cornishmen.) Next throw, he breaks it but the moment has passed. In any case the New England crowd have been booing Brady throughout ('cos he won six Super Bowls with the Patriots) and they have already held a mawkish over-the-top ceremony for his return to Foxboro so they'll wait until they get back to wherever Tampa Bay is. All I know is that when they play the Green Bay Packers (not to be confused with the Milwaukee Fork-Lift Truck Drivers) they actually call it The Battle of the Bays.

Besides, besides, as the commentator points out, if Brady duffs the next pass he could actually lose yardage and then they would have to have another ceremony for Drew Brees (prowling the sidelines for NBC) regaining the record. Then another one for Tom on his next successful throw. Meanwhile it's the end of the first quarter and my lads are down a field goal so I don't give a rat's arse for any of it. Let 'em kiss whoever they like, I say.
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Mick Harper
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I'm really surprised the people of Newcastle have agreed to a mass conversion to Islam. What if some even bigger moneybags such as President Xi comes along and insists they adopt Confucian Marxism? They will find that conversion from Islam is a capital offence. I just hope the Gallowgate End does not live up to its name.

But meanwhile we must wish them well because of the government's 'levelling up' policies. It is high time the dominance of Manchester and Liverpool was redressed. Mr bin Salman will no doubt fund an extension of HSR-2.
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Grant



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Remind me what Saudi Arabia have done wrong. We have, after all, been allies for seventy years whilst the Saudis were promoting terrorism, chopping off heads, and stopping women from driving. But the Crown Prince murders a journalist we had never heard of and we are all supposed to be shocked.

It was amusing to watch the BBC try to find a Newcastle fan who gave a shit about Jamal Khashoggi.
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Mick Harper
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Excellent points but there is a difference. It may be worth using careful ignoral to Saudi wretchedness if it means the British aerospace industry remains in being but does this apply to increasing the Big Six into the Big Seven? Are we a Fit & Proper country? We have such low moral values anyway that, personally, I'm prepared to swallow a Kashoggi to get Mbappé, Neymar and Messi singing the Blaydon Races. Though not if a BBC reporter asks me. We have to maintain standards in that Lunnon. Plus we've got three teams that might get edged out of the Big Six.
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Mick Harper
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Notes from the International Break

1. There can no longer be any question that Grealish and Foden must start every match. It may turn out to be a Gerrard/Lampard situation but until that proves to be the case, they must both be automatic and all other considerations of personnel and tactics sacrificed ruthlessly to it.

2. Racism news: I'm very glad Grealish and Foden are white. Sorry, Saka, just because you're my favourite doesn't stop blood crying to blood occasionally. But Sancho? You've got a terrible petulant streak which will get us all in trouble one day. Worse than Sterling. Reminded me of early Rooney. And middle to late Rooney. Andorra? Not a black face in sight so down among the Hungarians ye shall dwell. Tomori of AC Milan came on in the sixtieth minute... for England! Who's next, Dradzvilli of Dynamo Azerbaijan?

3. Women referees. She didn't do badly but women in general should avoid Napoleon Reflex, that is trying to make up for not being men by being more like men than men. Yesterday's ref reminded me of those small choleric Welshmen that used to scurry around trying to get Dave Mackay sent off. Remember, poppets, male footballers are unreconstructed twats (apparently only one member of the England squad had been double-jabbed) so they will respond much better to a blend of matron and ingenue.

4. Artificial pitch? Who noticed? Roll it up and take it home.

5. A full strength England still can't compete with the Big Chaps if France vs Belgium and Italy vs Spain was anything to go by.

6. Scotland and Wales were unexpectedly good. I may even hold out the hand of friendship. No...it's passed.
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Grant



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Speaking as a short-arse myself, it was reassuring to see a tall goalkeeper instead of that shrieking midget between the sticks
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Mick Harper
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I am always being complimented on my long arse but that's not the point here. I was pleased to see a goalkeeper of any stature not hoofing it up the park. Not that Andorra were pressing with any great ardency. Not that the goalie had the ball more than that one time when the back three/four/five got in a dither when an Andorran got in amongst them. But it was OK, he was being substituted and had taken the long way round to milk some applause from the crowd.

PS I would have been the Andorran goalie if I had been brought up there. After all, I got a trial for Lewisham (population 220,000) primary schools which would have made me a racing certainty when my cohort grew up to take our allotted places as contenders in the sporting life of Andorra (population 70,000). Me and Marlon Brando, eh? Now he's got a short arse but that's not the point here.
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Mick Harper
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You Are The Arbitrator (1)

Arthur Git runs a large pub in Lincolnshire. He starts showing Premiership matches on Sky without permission. Sky's lawyers serve him with a cease-and-desist and he desists. He then puts up a giant receiver on his roof and starts showing the same matches but as shown on Dutch TV. Sky men-in-black make a visit only this time he doesn't desist and is taken to court. "Nothing I can do," says the judge. "No doubt he's infringing Dutch copyright but that's for them."

Arthur starts selling mini-receivers to his neighbours who can now all watch the Premiership for nothing. This goes on for ten years. Mr Git makes so much money he applies to take over his local professional football team. Is he a fit and proper person?
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Mick Harper
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You Are The Arbitrator (2)

The al-Saud family run a large country in the middle east. They hate the liberal neighbouring state which owns all the football rights for the entire region. Football is wildly popular in their country but rather than pay money to their despised neighbour, the al-Sauds build a giant transmitter and start broadcasting football not only to their own citizens but to others in the region without paying a penny to any.

FIFA sends many delegations to protest at this behaviour from one of their own members but the al-Sauds know who's the Big Banana round here and always tell them to take a hike. This goes on for ten years and they make so much money that eventually they are able to buy Newcastle United football club. Are they fit and proper persons?
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Mick Harper
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We need to get the right people in the right jobs: people that care about Newcastle and are not just doing it for the sake of a job. Rob Lee The Guardian

No, Rob, that is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Pay top whack to get in people who do it for a living and don't give a monkeys about Newcastle. (No offence, Hartlepool.) The only people who care about Newcastle are the people of Newcastle and I wouldn't trust them with anything more complex than spending their dole money in the city centre on a Friday night and then sicking it up in a shop doorway over an eighteen-year-old (she says) who was hoping for a stand-up but all right if it has to be on the floor...

And you an ex-Charlton man as well.
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Mick Harper
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England 1 Hungary 1

So how did the first experiment with my demand that Grealish and Foden play together from the off go? Badly. El Wescotto ignored the sub-clause
and all other considerations of personnel and tactics sacrificed ruthlessly to it

Look, Garotto, you can't play Grealish and Foden and Mount and Sterling and wing backs. Not just because Rice will be exposed but because you've got six men doing four jobs. Now if English footballers were intelligent they could cope, even confuse the opposition by interchanging, but they aren't, they just get in each other's way and sulk.

Obviously, drop Sterling is the first step and replace him with some woodenly dependable midfield plonker. I'll leave who to you, you were one yourself so I'll trust you with that. That frees up a space on the right. But neither Grealish, Foden nor Mount are naturals for the spot, so drop Mount as worst-of-three. Still doesn't solve the problem. I'll get back to you.

I'm back. What about playing Grealish and Foden as theoretical left and right flank players and trusting them to know when one or other or both need to move inside and the wing backs know when to surge and when not, then play two strikers, one out-and-out, the other Kane who can't score goals but can make them? I know, requires IQ's in the high nineties. For Chrissake, it's early days. I can't work miracles to order.

Well I can but there's something else to worry about. We might not qualify. Unless we beat Albania we'll end up playing Spain or Portugal or Croatia or somesuch in the play-offs. This is no time for experimentation. Drop Grealish and Foden. Luxuries, both.
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Chad


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Given Gareth’s desire to accommodate as many wide players as possible, I think he should be more adventurous and adopt my revolutionary new formation. I’m going to call it the “4-2-4”… four down the left flank, two in the middle, four down the right.

My starting line-up for the next match would be: Foden, Grealish, Rashford and Shaw down the left, Sterling, Greenwood, Sancho and Trippier down the right, and Kane and Maguire in the middle.

The flankers must stay on their own side of the pitch but can interact and exchange places with their nearest fellow flanker, by interlocking elbows and doing a little twirl (in the style of a Morris dancer). The middlemen, Kane (who likes to drop deep) and Maguire (who likes to get forward) are not allowed to interchange, but must always do a funny handshake, whenever they happen across each other in the centre circle.

The keeper will of course always be Pickford, who will adopt the nickname “Picker”... as his main role will be to retrieve the ball from the back of his net.
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