A time to take socks. Looking back, looking forward, looking good, looking bad.
Watershed 1. This was the season the back pages realised that the Prem is not the greatest league the world has ever seen. Otherwise, why have we not got the best players? We look around and see that almost every half-decent player in every Prem team is foreign – and in the case of the Spaniards, players who can’t even make their own country’s starting 11. Last season , Chelsea luckily winning in Europe delayed the self-realisation. Now it’s staring us in the face.
Watershed 2. Is Arsène a gooner, I mean, gonner? The tide of Arsenal opinion has suddenly turned, the clever columnists are joining in the kicking. I predict he will survive – and thrive.
Still with us. A V-B –which has surprised me. Early doors I went round the house saying gone by Halloween, you mark my words. Then I changed it to Xmas – you see, he’ll be orf. Got both wrong, which of course does not deter me. History by Easter. Trust me . . .
Coming soon? The Beckhams. This is a matter of vital cultural, economic and political importance, not just football. Think of all the headmasters this Xmas unable to sleep, having heard the pitter-patter of paps in the corridor –wanting it to happen, putting their crummy little fee-paying school on the map. And the estate agents, dreaming of that bonus. While at No 10 they have their fingers crossed – knowing they could be blessed by association, should the Golden Ones move to London and accept all their invites.
New players.Unknown to almost all of us, till this season. Raheem Sterling of Liverpool, just turned 18 (on 8 December), but looks like an England regular already. Michu, aged 26, of Swansea. Where did he suddenly come from? Spanish lower leagues, which is where he had spent most of his career so far.
Money matters. Remember that 2p piece thrown at Rio Ferdinand – and the £20 notes Liam Ridgewell of West Brom wiped his bum with? I immediately got out my calculator to work out the significance. A £20-note is 1,000 times more than a 2p piece. If the average fan’s take-home wage is £500 a week and the average Man United salary is £50,000 a week – then that’s also 1,000 times more. Says it all, really.
New styles. Nothing on the hair front, till Becks shows up but well done Berbatov getting into tights. Next, will he play in a skirt in the Fulham colours? The club shop will sell loads. Not sure about Villa’s away strip, that horrible lime green. Makes them look like sweeties.
Most worrying banner. The one in the crowd at Old Trafford that says “Man Utd. Kids. Wife.” It is carefully picked out, so the order of importance is clear. Is it sexist? In which case will the FA step in?
Best quotes from a commentator. “He just threw his head at it” – Gary Neville. “He opened his body and shot” – Jonathan Pearce. Messy business, football.
Most confusing chant. Watching Nottingham Forest play Derby County, I distinctly heard the home crowd shouting “Dirty Northern Bastards”. I put down my calculator and rushed to my gazetteer. Neither Derby nor Nottingham is northern, each side by the side somewhere in the East Midlands, nor is one perceptively further north than the other. Clearly generic not geographical abuse.
Best club slogan. At Man City, they now have a sign on the stadium that says “Show Your City”, which is a neat pun, poking sideways fun at United. Pity about the team. Load of mercenaries, going nowhere – and overweight as well. Or are the Touré brothers just knackered?
Best shirt sponsor. Sunderland has the most worthwhile one, a change from all those insidious betting firms, which says “Invest in Africa”. A bit vague – or are the Sunderland fans, watching another dreadful performance, meant to up sticks and emigrate?
Most aged in season. Andy Carroll – God, those bags under his eyes. Where is he anyway? Poorly or in an old folks’ home?
Nice moment. Villa fans, away to Liverpool, clapping on the 19th minute for their player Stiliyan Petrov who has leukemia – and, amazingly, the Liverpool fans joining in.
Best PA announcer. I do love the Anfield one, with his rich, deep, resonant, sexy scouse accent, but the best tune as the teams walk out is still Everton’s Z-Cars theme.
Xmas joke. Last year I did homemade crackers, which contained: “Why did Peter Crouch? Because he saw Darren Bent.” Now pretty meaningless, so here’s a new one. “Which Newcastle player doesn’t like Christmas? Ba, humbug.”