Qatar problems, bad hair play and Waddle’s muddle

Wotcha fink so far? The season, I mean: good, bad, middling, piddling? All our four Prem clubs in the Champions League have progressed in Europe, which is good, whereas Italy and Spain have three left, France and Germany two, Russia one and Denmark one. So we can tell ourselves that England is not totally rubbish. (Which we are.) Or that no one likes us. (Which is certainly true.)

Hurrah for Russia - getting the World Cup in 2018. I was genuinely pleased for them, a big country, with a long football tradition going back to 1912 when their FA was founded and they joined Fifa. My earliest conscious football memory was Moscow Dynamo in 1945 touring Britain after the war - and I've felt warm towards them ever since. I think it was giving out flowers to the Chelsea players that did it.

Qatar. Do me a favour. It's a joke, innit? Not just the heat, the sand, a population less than our house at Xmas - it's that anything can happen in the next 12 years, such as a new form of energy is discovered, no one then wants Qatar's gas and oil any more, the country goes bust.

New this season. Rory Delap is now wearing some sort of voluminous undershirt, the better to wipe the ball before a throw-in. Or is he pregnant?

New next season. Snoods were in, till the mockery started, so look out for Barbours in the new year, as worn by all jessies.

Haircuts. Very poor season, bring back Becks, how we miss him. Chamakh of Arsenal is trying hard with his punky crop but it's a bit half-hearted, needs love and attention. Well done Scott Carson for persevering with the beard, straight from the Players packet. Remember them? Very big at the time of Dynamo's visit.

Best players. Messi (pictured), of course, no competition really, so consistently brilliant. In England, only small shoots of recovery from Wayne and Torres. Gareth Bale has been the star of the half-season, but could fade as he gets rumbled. Also Nasri of Arsenal done good.

Disappointments. Joe Cole, poor lad. Is that it, then? Arshavin, not totally disappointing, but nothing like we expected. Mysteries. There was this
home-made advert, held up in the Liverpool crowd when they were playing Chelsea, which read "FRESH JUICY MANGOS £5 EACH". No name, no clues, so what on earth did it mean? It could have been espionage, aimed at a House of Commons personal researcher. Or a coded message for Sepp Blatter, telling him where Qatar has left the money.

Another mystery. Whenever there is a foul in the area and the ref points to the spot, Chris Waddle exclaims, "Pelanty!"

The mystery is how he gets his tongue round it when the correct version is so much easier.

Further mystery. When Ricardo Carvalho was at Chelsea, he was a baldie heed. Since joining Real Madrid, his bonce has sprouted a luxurious growth. All that heat, the healing hands of Ronaldo, or a transplant?

Top strips. Well done to Barça for having managed for so long to be the only team on the globe not to have a nasty, commercial name on their shirt - being sponsored instead by Unicef. Now they have caved in and have agreed to accept £25m a year from, who else, Qatar.

Prettiest strips. Fulham's third kit - ever so tasteful dark green shirts, shorts and matching sox. Harrods green, of course.

Longest strip. It was in 1995 that Eddie Stobart first sponsored Carlisle United and their name is still on their strip. Must be the longest-running sponsor in football? More sightings, please.

Top TV quotes. "Just the sort of start you'd expect Stoke to start" - Dwight Yorke, Sky. "We're either going to get an Arsenal goal or a Newcastle goal" - Martin Tyler, Sky, during the, er, Arsenal-Newcastle Carling Cup game.

Manager speak. All season I've heard Harry Redknapp going on about "Charlie", worried that it could refer to something dodgy. The penny has dropped at last. It's what he calls Corluka. l
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