Smarten up Gallagher.

Published: Monday, 19 February 2024

Well sock-gate got quite a bit of traction. And it turns out the majority are with me. I’ll get round to the subject again shortly.

Sadly, I can’t avoid mentioning our hapless refs and their even less proficient enablers in VAR - and if Howard Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) tries to defend what we saw at Newcastle in the next version of Sorry! then he should be fired.

Before I get to that it seems I need to explain a couple of things that accompany any mention of Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) and his programme Sorry! in this blog.

The programme title first - it was an 80’s sitcoms starring Ronnie Corbett. The content of the show doesn’t matter - I’ve stolen the title of it because Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) is constantly saying sorry. He’s always having to apologise. He should be on the phone to Brentford, Brighton, Bournemouth and perhaps even City as I write (Monday) to say it to all four clubs.

As for our headline chasing PGMOL chief and the reference to - ‘showbiz showbiz showbiz’ - well, it was a jingle that the brilliant Chris Tarrant would always play whenever anyone on his Capital breakfast show mentioned some C or D list celebrity hanging about at the opening of envelopes, hoping that someone would take their picture or ask them for an interview. It was a piss-take highlighting their desperation for publicity. Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) would’ve heard it a few times if ever he’d had a mention on Tarrant’s show. It still makes me chuckle even when I write it. So there we are Nabs.

To the incident at Newcastle then. You must’ve seen it? If not - this is what happened.

Newcastle drop a free-kick into an area on the edge of the Bournemouth box - which Schar tries to win. He’s off-side when the kick is taken. As he challenges for the ball his shirt is pulled and he falls over in the box. The flag goes up to signal that he’s off-side. The ref didn’t see his shirt being held, so off-side is given. It’s the correct decision.

But Rob Jones in VAR gets involved because he reckons Newcastle should have a pen. It takes four minutes for Michael Salisbury (yep - him again) and Jones to decide to give the pen.

Here’s the bit that is completely unfathomable. They agree Schar is off-side - but they say that he was ‘denied the chance to impact the play’. What? He was off-side for fucks sake. That’s the first offence. Give the decision. It’s easy. By the way - I’m not making this up. This is what the matchday centre tell beINSPORTS.

I understand that you can be in an off-side position and not be active. If Sxhar had been some distance from where the ball dropped - fine. But he wasn’t. He was the target. So he’s off-side. Andoni Iraola was totally bemused after clearly being given the same explanation as us.

This is why we need to be able to hear the conversations that take place at the monitor. What on earth were Salisbury and Jones discussing? And it took them four minutes to fuck it up. The level of incompetence is frightening. And I repeat - Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) can’t defend that decision.

Brentford should’ve had a pen. Robertson knew it was a pen. You can see that by the way he limply kicks the ball away after clattering Toney. The only person in the ground that didn’t think it was a pen was Michael Oliver. What happened to VAR? David Coote went missing because he knows that Oliver is never going to accept someone he regards as inferior to him sending him to a monitor. Operators are scared of Oliver so they back off. We know this because Mike Dean admitted as much early in the season. Refs help their mates out and duck controversy.

Brighton should’ve had a pen when Mitoma was bundled over. And City when Haaland was grappled to the floor. It’s not good is it? And it’s not getting any better.

Oh - one other thing. Fulham fans have got every right to ask why their club are always used as guinea pigs when it comes to giving new refs a run-out. Of course the process of finding new blood is important - but it doesn’t always have to be at Craven Cottage. Fulham’s games matter every bit as much as any other teams.

And a word of warning for West Ham supporters. I accept that they've got every right to express their frustration with recent results, but David Moyes is right - the Hammers have never had an era as good the one that Moyes has delivered. I’ve said it before - be careful what you wish for.

And so to sock-gate. I’m right. I know I am. The level of support I’ve had tells me I am.

I asked a top medic again today why players cut holes in the back of their socks. He confirmed what I’d previously been told. Apparently some believe the socks are too tight - and they stop the flow of blood to the calf. Bollocks. They don’t wear anything on their heads do they but clearly the flow of blood is restricted to that area of some of these young men.

It’s got to stop. This weekend Conor Gallagher resembled the poor lad who plays on Hackney Marshes every week that can’t afford kit. You’re a professional man. Look professional. You don’t see Messi or Ronaldo going round looking like they can’t afford socks do you? Perhaps Gallagher believes that players shouldn’t wear socks at all?

Gallagher will be at Wembley this weekend - the spiritual home of Bobby Moore - the greatest England captain ever to have played the game. Bob never once looked anything but immaculate on a football pitch. I hope Gallacher understands that - like it or not - he’s a role model who youngsters emulate and he could learn from Moore’s example. I get it that times and fashions change. There’s nothing wrong with that. But this trend is a nonsense. Smarten up man.

Top celebration Dec.

Published: Monday, 12 February 2024

Class, Dec. Real class. Of course, I’m referring to the ‘celebration’ after Rice smashed Arsenal’s sixth against West Ham.

I thought Rice had a thunderous impact on the game. He looked every inch the player that left West Ham and used to play like it every week in their colours. Perhaps it was because he was back on familiar territory, but Rice cajoled, hit probing passes and to some degree ran the game, in a way I haven’t seen him do often enough in an Arsenal jersey.

His goal topped it all off. He did everything I said he should be doing when I wrote about him being Declan Nice recently. And the celebration police were quite happy with what followed his goal. He was muted. Respectful. And classy.

On that subject Arteta proved that he can behave himself on a touchline. There were none of his usual tiresome antics - which he claims are because he’s an excitable character. Nonsense. 

I know why he behaved - because David Moyes was in the other technical area and he has too much respect for his old boss. So - try pretending he’s there every week Mikel. You looked dignified for once. Well done.

Has ten Hag stumbled on a team I wonder? I don’t think United have played all that well in recent games, but they’ve been nicking results by digging in and they look a far better unit than at any time during ten Hag’s tenure.

There’s no doubt that Villa were the better team across the piece, but why they backed off when they’d got United by the throat, after equalising, I just don’t know. My feeling watching Emery was that he was asking himself that very same question. Anyway - United won it and maybe - just maybe they’ve turned a corner? 

I’m so pleased for Harry Maguire. As I’ve said here often - he’s a top pro. He was immovable on Sunday. Awesome. A lesser man would’ve crumbled with what he’s been through. He deserves plaudits now.

A couple of other things - of course Casemiro was off-side from the free-kick that led to the corner - that led to the goal! BeINSPORTS viewers knew that on Sunday when Andy and I pointed it out.

The assistant should’ve seen it. Casemiro made himself active when he challenged for the ball. There was no way VAR could get involved though because the incident didn’t lead immediately to the goal. 

It was never a free-kick mind you. Having worked Fernandes out referees have got to be as strong with Rashford now. He should’ve been booked for diving, not rewarded for his cheating.

And finally on that game - isn’t it funny how life can work out? I’ll tell you this for a fact - if David Moyes had said ‘yes’ - McTominay would be at West Ham now.

Moyes chased him all last summer, but couldn’t agree a fee with United. They wanted £40m for McTominay - Moyes offered £30m. Because he got frustrated, Moyes went shopping elsewhere - only for United to offer the player for £30m on deadline day. By then it was too late. Ten Hag must be a very happy man that once again fate has served him well.

Antony Taylor had a shocker at Forest. What was it he didn’t see when Dubravka took Awoniyi down? It was a pen. Taylor was actually looking at it. VAR froze - of course they did. There was no way Tony Harrington was going to tell Taylor that he’d dropped a bollock. Like Michael Oliver - Taylor doesn’t take kindly to having his decision making questioned by people he regards as inferior to him. This is an another problem with VAR. And we know this, because Mike Dean said as much earlier in the season.

Burnley were unlucky as well. Never mind that Klopp was angry because he thought his team should’ve had a pen - Aaron Ramsey was clearly fouled by Mac Allister in the build-up to Liverpool’s 2nd. Why is it that more fuss isn’t made about situations like the one at Forest and this one?

It didn’t affect the result - but the boys in VAR had a bad day at Luton as well. There’s no way either pen should’ve been given. Neither was handball. VAR were far too busy. 

Our refs chief, Howard Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) will no doubt ignore all of the above when he sits down to get grilled (😂) by Michael Owen on the next edition of Sorry! I can’t wait.

Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) is going to have a busy month in March. I’ve been sent a flier for an evening he and his wife are hosting in Stockport for the Stockport Referees Society

Tickets are available at £6.00 each.

I don’t know where that money is going - perhaps it’s to cover the cost of food and organisation, but I’d hate to think Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) was taking a fee from the evening. I would love to know if that the case. If you do - please get in touch. 

WhatsApp Image 2024 02 12 at 16.43.53

I don’t know why it was sent to me. If the idea was that I should buy a ticket let me tell you right now - I’d rather spend the evening eating an out of date yoghurt. Webb should be concentrating more on doing his job and improving the standard of our refs than getting involved with stuff like this.

Poch wants out - so put him out of his misery.

Published: Wednesday, 07 February 2024

Jose Mourinho once called Arsene Wenger ‘an expert in failure’. The irony is that it was Mourinho who went on to become the expert - racking up £80m in pay-offs!

His latest sacking in Rome followed the usual pattern - row, rant, then retreat with the money.

He once told me he knew he’d be sacked at United for leaving Pogba out of three consecutive games - at a time when the Frenchman’s stock was at its highest. All planned. And it worked perfectly. He wanted the sack. He got it.

Never mind that he went on to say that his biggest regret at Old Trafford wasn’t that he should have left at the end of the first season - but taking the job in the first place. How does that sit with those suggesting he’s got ‘unfinished business’ at United?

I couldn’t help thinking about all of this when I looked at Pochettino in the dug out at Chelsea yesterday (v Wolves). He looked like he wanted to be anywhere in the world but at The Bridge. His body language screamed ‘sack me’.

He looked disinterested. Lacking ideas. Lacking motivation. Almost a ghost of a man. Short term he should perhaps ask Ben White or Jason Tindall which sunbed shops they use?

Pochettino looks shot. I said early in the season - wrong man at the wrong club. A guy who came third in a two-horse race. I haven’t changed my view. Chelsea should give him his wish - and fast.

It’s not all his fault of course. He wasn’t responsible for all of the £1b spend, but he should be able to get a better tune out what he’s got. The spend, of course, proved what we all knew - that Todd Boehly wasn’t going to re-write the rules that we’ve always played by in football. He didn’t have a magic formula to make Chelsea competitive again. He isn’t clever. He’s made a complete mess at the club. And where is he now? Missing is the answer. Oh - and let’s not forget that he was the current U.K. governments choice to buy Chelsea - proving that politicians should never be allowed anywhere near football either.

What’s the fix? Mourinho might just be, although I still think it’s more likely that he’ll turn up at Newcastle. He’s nowhere near finished. Chelsea fans would love to see him back. No matter where he’s been and what he’s done -Chelsea is still home for Mourinho.

If not Mourinho - perhaps it’s JT’s time? Maybe Mourinho and JT could sort it out together? They certainly couldn’t make it worse than it currently is. Something has got to be done.

My thanks to Paddy Power for the mention, but Odegaard’s celebrations didn’t bother me as much as others, who it seems now want to enrol in my celebration police. 😂. Sorry guys - it’s too late, but there’s bound to be something else that you can follow me on.

No. It wasn’t Odergaard, or his teammate's that annoyed me yesterday (Sunday), it was their classless coach. What on earth was he doing racing for up and down the touchline, clenched fists, celebrating like his team had just smashed a screamer into the top corner, to settle a final of some sort in added time?

I disagree with his view that Arsenal ‘went up a level’ to win that game. Yes, they were better than Liverpool, but that wasn’t hard. Liverpool were poor right across the park. I can’t think of one of their players that had a good game.

Arsenal were gifted the points by van Dijk and Alisson. You don’t celebrate a defensive howler, the likes of which those two conjured, by doing what Arteta did. He once again embarrassed The Arsenal. A proper club let’s not forget. One that has set the standards for behaviour down the years.

Show some dignity man. When have you ever seen Ancelotti do what Arteta did? The Italian has won the lot but never has he danced a ridiculous jig on the touchline whilst two top pros are trying to find somewhere to hide. It was poor. And so was Arteta’s behaviour on the touchline during the game. I thought we’d curbed his excesses? Clearly we need to again.

On another subject - one really disturbing story that I spotted today - according to The Sun (it’s the only paper I don’t buy - I read it online for free) we’ve got our first laughing gas addict.

Their story, by Richard Moriarty, claims a PL footballer has become the first to check into rehab facilities. Are we surprised? I guess not - football only mirrors society and vice versa, and we’ve seen plenty of players pictured using the substance. Those of us close to the sport also know that it’s used by many young players during down-time. But addiction is another level - albeit predictable I guess.

There was a terrific documentary series on the BBC recently entitled ‘Drugs Map of Britain’. You’ll find it on the iplayer. If you don’t know how dangerous this problem is - check it out. It’ll frighten the life out of you.

Whoever it is that’s been checked into the rehab facility - I wish him well. Sadly, he won’t be the last.

Please. Give us a break Howard (showbiz showbiz showbiz) and get your boys to get something right.

Published: Monday, 22 January 2024

No. No. I can’t. Not again. It’s too much. It really is. Every fucking week. I spent all Sunday evening considering what I could concentrate on today, but no matter how hard I tried, I realised I was going to have talk about our hapless refs again. Honestly - I don’t want to, but I’ve got to.

I bet you’re thinking ‘oh, give us a break Keysie’. And I agree. I’d love to. But I can’t. It’s Howard Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) and his motley crew who should be finding ways to give us a break.

Despite the millions spent on their fancy VAR bunker, facilities in general, Webb’s (showbiz showbiz showbiz) return, smart diets, fitness training, coaching (don’t laugh - these guys are coached) it’s just not getting any better.

I’ll repeat what I’ve often said - this generation of referees is the worst in PL history. Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) isn’t responsible for that, but it is his fault that we’ve seen not a jot of progress towards making things better since he took over at the PGMOL.

Alan Pardew was with Andy and myself on beIN SPORTS last weekend. He’s great company. He’s got some great stories as well. He’s also had a very good coaching career. It’s a mystery to me that he doesn’t have a job. Anyway - I digress as usual.

As we watched replays of that mad final few minutes at Bramhall Lane, he sighed and said ‘you know, I speak to all sorts of different PL managers all the time. They’ve given up’. No. They can’t. It’s why I decided to talk refs again today. We have to continue to demand that they get better.

As we were talking, right on cue, David Moyes joined us. He said the standard of refereeing now has left him ‘shrugging his shoulders’. He was both restrained and polite, but you could see he was seething. Once again it was a pity that, in a country that defends the right to free speech, a PL manager wasn’t allowed to tell the supporters of his club exactly how he felt about what had just happened to their team.

Let me quote what Mark Clattenburg said about Michael Salisbury’s decision to award Sheff Utd a pen in stoppage time. Btw - the game was deep in added time to added time, because Salisbury needed VAR to convince him that Rhian Brewster had to go for his assault on Emerson. I haven’t seen a clearer red all season. Why did Salisbury need VAR to convince him to upgrade his original decision? It beggars belief.

Sorry. Back to Clattenburg in The Mail ‘It is a foul by McBurnie on Areola. If you know football, know Sheff Utd and know McBurnie, you know he is going to try to disrupt the goalkeeper. It should’ve been a free-kick to West Ham’. Correct. Andy said the same as we watched it.

The key thing here the phrase ‘know football’. They don’t. The same thing happened at Burnley last weekend when Adebayo fouled Trafford, allowing Morris to score for Luton. Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) said that challenge was good on his show Sorry! He was wrong. Salisbury was wrong at Sheff Utd, but doubtless he had his gaffers words ringing in his ears when he made the call. Sorry!

But Salisbury wasn’t done yet. There was time enough left for Utd’s captain Ahmedhodzic to wrestle Bowen to the ground in the box, as he tried to get on the end of Johnson’s cross. Now this was a pen. As we know, Salisbury gave Utd a free-kick. Clattenburg’s view of this one - ‘appallingly wrong decision’.

Before we mention Toney’s antics, let’s not forget Kleivert’s leg-breaker on Diaz that went unpunished in the Bournemouth/Liverpool game. It was just like Disasi’s in the Chelsea/Fulham match the previous week, that had Marco Silva in a fury. Antony Taylor got that one wrong. This time it was Andy Madley who failed to do his job. What is it these guys don’t see - even with the help of VAR?

As for Toney’s antics - I’m torn on that. On the one hand you’d have to say ‘top marks’. Who doesn’t remember Gary McAllister moving the ball 10 yards nearer Everton’s goal when he nicked a late winner for Liverpool in a Merseyside derby? It’s clever of you can get away with it.

The difference between that one and Toney’s is that we didn’t have VAR when McAllister got up to his antics. Toney was smart, but I can understand Forest’s complaints. VAR should’ve intervened and ruled the goal out. Having said that - Forest were asleep.

I have to thank our bustling and busy stats dept for this one - having made a goal for Nunez at Bournemouth, Joe Gomez now has as many assists this season as £100m Jack Grealish at City - one. I know. 🤷‍♂️.

And how about this from today’s (Monday’s) Telegraph, which deserves a wider audience……

‘The Government is adamant Manchester City’s PL financial charges were not discussed during a meeting between the club and the sports minister last spring.

Stuart Andrew held talks in May with Simon Cliff, City Football Group’s general counsel, to discuss football governance reform’.

Really? Do we believe that? I don’t. But the Department for Culture, Media and Sport could prove me wrong. How? They could publish the minutes of the meeting. So far they’ve refused to do so. Why? What have they got to hide?

Keep going Russell Scott, who the Telegraph reveal is the investigative journalist asking the freedom of information questions.

And finally….a word of warning for those both hoping - and writing Jose Mourinho off. He is far from finished.


Published: Monday, 15 January 2024

How many of us are old enough to remember the 80’s sitcom Sorry!, starring Ronnie Corbett?

Actually, it doesn’t matter too much. It’s the name of the show that I’m more interested in. Watching the latest weekend of howlers from our officials it occurred to me that Howard Webb’s (showbiz showbiz showbiz) little programme with Michael Owen should perhaps be called that now - because he’s going to be doing an awful lot of apologising in the next episode - and much more going forward, unless he gets a grip on what’s going on at the PGMOL.

I know you don’t believe me when I say I really wish I could talk about something else - and I try, I really do. But how can I when week after week after week we’ve got mistake after mistake after mistake and the ineffective use of VAR blighting our game?

Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) inherited a shambles from Mike Riley. There’s no other way to put it. But what has he done about it? Nothing is the answer. Nothing that I can see anyway.

Matchweek 21 started at Turf Moor, where Burnley should’ve beaten Luton. Where Burnley would’ve beaten Luton if the officials had done their jobs properly. Sorry!

We’ve all seen it. Adebayo fouled James Trafford. Ref Tony Harrington should see it. Somehow he doesn’t, so he waits for Peter Bankes in VAR to get him off the hook. But Bankes didn’t see a reason to overturn the decision to allow Morris’s equaliser. Vincent Kompany called the decisions ‘a joke’. They were - except they weren’t funny. Sorry!

Inexplicably two of our elite group of refs couldn’t see what everybody else saw. It was a foul. End of. No debate. I just can’t get my head round how that can happen. How these mistakes keep on happening. These guys simply aren’t good enough and Webb ( showbiz showbiz showbiz) is doing nothing to improve matters. Sorry!

Fast forward to Goodison. Villa think they’ve scored when Moreno sticks the ball in the net. Ok. Goal given, but we need VAR, of course, to be certain.

Bailey is clearly offside when he receives the ball as Villa pop it about from a corner. You can see he’s offside by the cut of the grass. He’s ahead Everton’s last man - Danjuma.

What emerges from the first replay though is that Danjuma is fouled as he tries to clear the box with the rest of Everton’s defence. Lenglet grabs him and holds onto him so that Villa can remain onside from their little set-piece movement. It’s a foul. It’s clearly and obviously a foul - so all Paul Tierney in VAR has to do is call it - but oh no - he wants to check for offside. He wants to put lines on - which aren’t needed.

When he sees that Bailey is offside he wants to check if it was in an APP - attacking phase of play. I know - but I’m not making this up. He decides it was. Well done Paul. Spot on. But he’s not finished yet - he then wants to see if Lenglet is blocking Jordan Pickford’s view of the ball. Why? None of this matters. Sorry!

The best part of four minutes is wasted as Tierney runs these checks and both sets of fans - Evertonians as well - start chanting ‘fuck VAR’. Paying supporters appear not to matter to these guys.

None of Tierney’s checks were necessary. Lenglet fouled Danjuma on the first post. Dyche saw it - we all saw it - except Tierney. Why didn’t he see it? And here’s a question. What if Bailey had kept himself onside? If Lenglet had kept Danjuma, who Tierney used to draw his lines from, just a little bit closer to the goal? Would Tierney have then acknowledged the foul? It came first - so there was no need for an offside check. It’s scary. Sorry!

Is there any need to mention that Gusto should’ve seen red at Chelsea? Both coaches agreed on that. Somehow Anthony Taylor and Michael Salisbury didn’t. Sorry!

I saw the game at OT described as a ‘thriller’ by one newspaper. No it wasn’t. A thriller needs two teams to be involved in the game. United weren’t. As Andy said to me on beINSPORTS - if Son had played Spurs would’ve won that game comfortably.

Consider this - United touched the ball only twice in Spurs’ box in 50 second half minutes. Twice - and the 2nd touch was McTominay’s header, that he should’ve scored with, in the last minute. So just two touches in the box - at the Stretford End. It beggars belief.

I heard ten Hag whining about wanting a pen for something or other. No Erik. You can’t have a pen every time one of your players goes down after being sneezed on. Not unless Anthony Taylor is reffing anyway.

What game it is that ten Hag watches when United play? I know he’s desperate to convince us that he’s getting it right - after 18 months - but he isn’t. He isn’t fooling anyone. Oh - and Antony’s poor form has nothing to do with abuse claims made against him Erik. He’s simply not very good.

What a comeback by City at Newcastle. Top marks - although the Toon were out on their feet after 60 minutes. It was great to see de Bruyne back on the field, but introducing him when he did doesn’t make Guardiola a genius. What other coach in the world wouldn’t have made the same decision if they’d had the Belgian sitting behind them? Let’s keep some perspective please.

I’m Sorry! I haven’t spent any time talking about Saturday’s ‘big story’ - you know, the pitch invasion at Reading. Not too many other people are talking about it either. Perhaps there’s a reason for that?

Just in case you missed it - the other big story no-one is talking about was Hartlepool’s FA Trophy defeat at home to Hampton and Richmond Borough FC.

Why is VAR used in FA Cup?

Published: Monday, 08 January 2024

It’s the most basic of principles in any sporting contest - a level playing field. Agreed? Why then is the FA Cup played with one rule for some teams and another for the rest?

You know what I’m referring to? Of course - VAR. Whatever did we do when we allowed paper shufflers and nerds to ruin our game with its implementation? But that’s another question. We’ve introduced it and it’s not going away - even though its operators in England remain bemused by it and bemusing in its use.

I stray again. Sorry. Here’s the point. How on earth can we be using it in some games - at PL grounds - and not at others in the FA Cup? This is the same point I made a year ago, yet here we are again.

How? It’s not right. Look. I agree with those of you who believe that games are better without it. The derby at Sunderland was a barn-stormer, a proper football match, all the better for not having it. It ebbed and flowed - there were tackles that had people out of their seats, scraps and no interminable delays when a goal was scored, because someone in the bunker was trying to find a way to disallow what we all pay to see. It was a joy. I’m convinced that the lack of VAR is one reason Championship football is so popular now. No VAR - that’s the point - not whether the system is good or bad.

Ironically, there was VAR at Kenilworth Road, but even then they couldn’t get it right. Luton were left fuming because they felt they should’ve had a penalty when Alfie Doughty was fouled in the box. Andy Madley thought differently and VAR didn’t get involved - doubtless because they felt they hadn’t seen a ‘clear and obvious’ error. What a load of bollocks that is. It’s not hard - if an injustice is seen - correct it. Doughty was definitely fouled. Never mind ‘protocol’, which is the refuge sought by inadequate operators.

In fairness the Bolton boss Ian Evatt - experiencing VAR for the first time - understood Rob Edwards’ frustration at not getting the decision, but he went on to point out that there should be consistency with VAR in a single competition. He’s right. It won’t be used in the replay of course.

Mind you - don’t mention VAR to Sean Dyche, who’s ready to explode on the subject. How on earth did Calvert-Lewin get sent-off at Palace? We’ve all seen a few howlers engineered by VAR, but that decision was a belter.

Post-match Dyche was polite but you could feel his frustration ‘I remain a fan’, he said (of course he is - that’s what everyone who was wrong about the introduction of the technology always says) ‘but it’s beginning to test my patience’ he added.

The bottom line here is drop VAR for the entire competition (and give us all a break). It isn’t used in the Carabao Cup because, quite rightly, the EFL wanted to create that ‘level playing field’ that I started by talking about - and deemed it to be unfair unless every team was treated the same. It‘s a decision that makes perfect sense.

It could be used in three out of the four semi-final games, but because Middlesbrough don’t have it - it won’t be. That’s only right, but sadly it will be used for the final.

On the subject of Palace/Everton, what on earth were tv execs thinking when they chose that game to kick-off a weekend of FA Cup coverage? It looked drab on paper. It was drab in practice. It was a howler to cover it.

I guess decisions like that are driven by ego. ITV don’t get much live football these days - no PL football at all - so I suppose they want to chose a PL looking fixture where and when they can, as part of their FA Cup coverage. The BBC are as bad in fairness.

If we truly believe there is still ‘magic’ to be found on 3rd round day - gamble - go and find it. The Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash was right, after his team’s brilliant win over Stevenage, when he said ‘most people are amazed that the cameras weren’t here’.

He added ‘the competition is all about a game like ours’. Spot on Mr Ash. The broadcasters should be forced to make 3rd round picks like Maidstone v Stevenage in the contracts that they sign when rights deals are done. When I was at Sky we always went looking for stories like Maidstone’s before going to one of the big clubs. You can do that in the later rounds.

I had to laugh at The Telegraph’s headline after Sheffield Utd’s win at Gillingham. It screamed ‘Wilder delighted to get in winning habit’. I’m sorry? Winning habit? That was their 2nd win in 10 in all comps. 🤷‍♂️.

And come on Newcastle. That picture on the pitch at Sunderland was embarrassing. Save it until you end the trophy drought. It was crass - inflaming the home crowd and making yourselves look daft at the same time.

So Jordan Henderson wants to end his ‘Saudi hell’ and return to the PL? Really? What makes him think he’s still good enough? After six months playing the equivalent of League 1 football does he still have what it takes?

Another story that I was interested to read this past week was that the PL chief Richard Masters has been ‘summoned before MP’s to explain the delay on agreeing a financial settlement with the EFL’. You know the one - talks that would see £915m handed over to EFL clubs by the big boys.

If I was Masters the first thing I’d ask when I got there was ‘could you guys please explain to me why funds from the sale of Chelsea still haven’t found their way to Ukraine?’ They’ve got a nerve these people.

What is the point of Declan Nice?

Published: Monday, 01 January 2024

Let’s get this clear straight away, I’m a huge fan of Declan Rice. I think he’s a Rolls-Royce. I said when Arsenal signed him that he was the best piece of business any club had done in that window. He’s class. But he’s also wasted playing for Arsenal right now.

What is the point of paying £110m for a player only to get him to tippy-tappy about in mid-field doing what a bang ordinary jobber could do?

I’ve watched Rice closely this season - very closely on Sunday at Fulham. All he did for 90 minutes at Craven Cottage was drop between his centre-backs, pick up a sideways pass from them - knock it into Odegaard - get it back - knock it sideways or back again, before repeating the process time and time again. Why?

I remember Graeme Souness telling me what happened after his debut at Liverpool, when he’d done that for an entire 90 minutes. Liverpool’s scary coach then was a guy called Ronnie Moran. No-one messed with Moran.

He pulled Graeme after that first game and asked him what on earth he was doing dropping deep to take the ball off Emlyn Hughes? ‘He plays for his country son’, he told Souness. ‘Don’t you think he can pass a ball sideways and backwards across 10 yards? He doesn’t need you to help him do it’.

The message was clear - get up the field and do some damage where you can really hurt people. He didn’t mean physically - he meant with his football. It’s often overlooked that Souness was a top player as well as an occasional classy thug. 😂.

Rice didn’t do anything to hurt Fulham. Nothing. Not one raking pass. Not one crunching challenge. Not one shot at goal. Nothing. So what’s the point of him? He’s become Declan Nice.

He’s got everything required to be a top footballer. He should be getting hold of games the way Vieira used to. The way Souness did. The way so many other 6’s have down the years. He’s got the lot - height and energy. He can see a proper pass. And he’s got the muscle to get into people and break attacks down. But he doesn’t do anything at the moment except trickle balls sideways and backwards.

It’s a travesty. I know why he does it - because he plays in a ‘nice’ team for a ‘nice’ manager, who played ‘nice’ football himself. And ‘nice’ can be very easy on the eye. City play that way - so did Barcelona and I guess mini-me wants to replicate what Guardiola has done with his teams - except he forgets that Barca had Busquets and City had Fernandinho before Rodri. All three could play a bit as well as do the dirty things. Guardiola has always built teams that had an edge.

If Rice wants to be mentioned in the same breath as those players he’s got to step up to another level. He’s coasting right now. Whether that’s because mini-me only wants that I don’t know, but it seems an awful waste of a top player and £110m - a guy that got his move to Arsenal because of the way he played at West Ham - driving them to a European trophy last season and helping turn them into a real presence in the PL. Come on Dec - your country will need you next summer and Arsenal do right now.

At the time of writing Liverpool haven’t played, but it’s been a great Christmas for them. Only City have turned the heat up. Villa were poor against Luton and how on earth did they get beaten by United? They were cruising at 2-0 but imploded. United didn’t win that game - Villa lost it, gift wrapping the three goals that beat them.

And they weren’t much better in the Burnley game - needing a very generous pen to get over the line. I hope they keep their challenge up, but they might need re-enforcements to do it and a different philosophy if they’re going to manage games properly.

I’ve nothing to say about United - other than - the manager is deluded and somebody should put both him and United’s long suffering fans out of their misery. Is there anyone left that doesn’t agree with me now about the Dutchman?

I mentioned Newcastle’s issues in my last blog. I hope Eddie Howe sorts them out but it’s not looking good is it?

Roy Hodgson ploughs on despite the speculation that Palace might be making a change. Good on him. And well done Steve Parrish for not panicking.

Nuno couldn’t have had a much better start. I must admit that I was a bit surprised by Forest’s choice to replace Steve Cooper, but so far so good.

As for Cooper - he can hold his head high knowing that he couldn’t have done any more at Forest. Perhaps it was the right call to take him out of the firing line, but he’ll be back and on his own terms. He’s earned the right to dictate what comes next.

Chelsea Tenth stumble on - with a Poch no nearer to finding a settled team. Cole Palmer remains the only good thing that’s happened so far in their season.

What a job Gary O’Neil continues to do at Wolves. And despite the set-back at Spurs, fair play to Andoni Iraola at Bournemouth, but I think he’ll need to hang on to Dominic Solanke to keep it going.

As you all know, I’ve never had any doubts about Everton, despite the 10-point deduction, but they’ve got to be careful now. They need a couple of big results again when we get going after the FA Cup break.

And finally - a mention for two Nigel‘s. Check out Mansfield and Tranmere in League Two. Nigel Clough is simply class - a real gentleman with honourable principles. It’s brilliant to see his team chasing an automatic promotion place.

As for Nigel Adkins (the physio) - he’s had a few ups and downs in his career. He was on his arse when he got the Tranmere job again - and so were they. Not anymore. Is a play-off place out of the question. I hope not. Adkins and my old mate Mark Palios would deserve that.

Have Utd found a new leader?

Published: Monday, 18 December 2023

Come on Mikel. You sat in the stands last weekend and in the same week somehow got away with your rant at Newcastle. Don’t get me wrong - I’m glad you did. I have always defended a managers’ right to express his thoughts after a game. But stop it. Stop behaving like a fool in your technical area - and stop taking us all for fools. It’s not clever. It’s not necessary. And you can control it. You deserved your latest booking. Let’s make it the last one eh?

The fool at Anfield was Michael Oliver. What was that all about - booking Dalot twice inside 10 seconds? Why? Ok - the first one was justified, although Dalot’s frustration was understandable because the throw-in should’ve been Utd’s after that race into the corner at the Anfield Road end.

Andy summed up best what happened after the first card. He said on beinSPORTS that it was Oliver that showed the petulance. He was correct. Oliver couldn’t wait to get his cards out again. It was poor refereeing. Oliver could’ve managed the situation so much better. A quiet word as he passed Dalot would’ve done the job.

The game was poor. Liverpool weren’t at it, but I’m with van Dijk. Only one team tried to win the game and they would’ve done so had they been a bit sharper and a bit more clinical. Utd put on a show that Crystal Palace would’ve been proud of. How far have they fallen when leaving Anfield with a goalless draw is defended by ten Hag apologists as a triumph?

The only positive I could see for Utd was Scott McTominay’s performance. He’s not one for putting in a shift defensively. I’ve heard him described as ‘economical’ in that respect. He’s a 10 really, which is how Scotland use him. United should as well now. Play him in that role and give him the armband permanently. He spoke so well after the game. He IS a leader - everything that the moody, petulant Fernandes isn’t.

It’s strange how quickly things change in football. If West Ham had come up with £30m on deadline day - and they hadn’t done other business - McTominay would be a Hammer now.

What 10-point deduction? It’s as if it never happened. Everton were fantastic at Burnley. I said last week - Sean Dyche really has got something going at Goodison. I’ve got a sneaky feeling they might very well win the LC you know. If they get past Fulham this week - you watch. They’ll take some beating, whoever they play in the semi-finals.

It’s a crucial week for Newcastle in that respect. Eddie Howe really needs to win the competition. As we all know, Newcastle fans are desperate for a trophy. If I were Howe I’d throw everything at it now - starting at Chelsea. There’s no reason not to. In fact, it’s his best way of convincing his guv’nors that he is the man to take the Toon to the next level.

He did a wonderful job landing a CL place last season, but it all went horribly flat didn’t it? It turned out that there was a world of difference between the romance of it all - and the reality. Newcastle simply weren’t good enough.

There are some big decisions to be made now at St. James’. Can Howe take them on again? Can he convince top players to join the Saudi revolution? It will take more than just money to do that. Or will Newcastle have to find themselves a ‘super-coach’ in order to push on? If that’s a decision they’re considering - who might that be? Don’t rule out Jose Mourinho. And if it happens, remember where you read it first.

A couple of tv stories back home got my attention this week. So QoS has come to the end of its impressive run. I’m not surprised. It was time. In its day it was a fantastic product - we shouldn’t forget David Vine was the first host, but it was David Coleman and Sue Barker who made sure that it will always have a special place in our hearts.

But the show was of its time. It had run out of steam and the decision to let it pass peacefully is the right one.

It’s what happened to Grandstand, which was buried when Sky’s Soccer Saturday got into its stride. Things change. Institutions come and go - just like any of us.

And Ian Wright has called time on his MotD career - again. I say again because everyone seems to have forgotten that the first walked away a decade or so back.

We all love Wrighty. He’s lived as he played, scratching, biting and fighting for every break he got. He was great to watch on a football pitch - a real entertainer as well as a lethal goalscorer A legend at Arsenal. And he was never afraid to call it as he saw it when he stopped playing.

But let me explain ‘again’. It was back in 2012/13ish when he first walked away from MotD complaining that no-one on the show took him seriously- that by the time Alan Hansen had finished with his analysis he had nowhere to go - nor anything to add. He got frustrated because he thought the hosts viewed him simply as the joker. He wanted to be more than that. He wanted to be taken seriously.

How do I know? Because he told me and Andy when we got him to Qatar shortly after he’d pulled the plug first time round. Eventually he was great company for the few days that he was with us, but he was on the floor when he arrived. We spent hours putting him back together and convincing him that he had something to offer tv. Mind you - he didn’t like it when we trapped him in the hotel ice room. 😂. I’ve never heard a man make so much noise as Wrighty did trying to break out.

I’m glad he gave it another go - and he owes ITV for giving him that chance. He also deserves the many kind words that have been said about him following the announcement of his latest decision.

I’m also glad that Andy and I may have played a small part in putting him back together, which is why I was particularly disappointed when Wrighty too quickly and rudely dismissed my colleague Aaron Summers’ polite request for an interview when he was in Qatar for the WC a year ago. Maybe there’s still time Wrighty? Anyway - enjoy whatever comes next.

If you had to do the same again Fernandes - would you?

Published: Monday, 11 December 2023

What’s going on? It’s been another fabulous weekend of football - despite the best efforts of the operators of VAR to ruin it. I feel we’ve got to make that distinction now. The technology works - it’s the operators that are flawed. That’s it. No more on the subject this week.

So Liverpool go top again - for the first time since May 2022, when they finished a point behind City. And when they were really good. 

Do you remember the Covid season when they lost six in a row at home? None of us had ever seen anything like it. The wheels were well and truly off the Klopp bandwagon. He appeared bemused at times on the touchline back then. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking that it looked as thought he’d had enough.

But not a bit of it. What we now know is that he was actually planning on how to go again. The re-build has been seamless. Everybody at the club should take great pride in the fact that Liverpool 2.0 appear to be worthy successors to the title side.

Of course - there’s a long way to go, but this team has inherited one of its predecessors great strengths - they don’t know when they’re beaten.

I must admit I wasn’t convinced they’d kept the right one when they let Mane go. But they had. Salah has been enormous at the club. I hope he gets another title medal to leave with next May. Somehow finding a way to persuade him to stay, when he was nailed on to leave for Saudi last summer, was the best piece of business Liverpool did in the rebuild.

I want to mention Fulham this week. Marco Silva has done a top job at The Cottage. He was on his arse when Everton sacked him, but he hasn’t sulked - he got back at it and he’s another one that deserves huge credit for what’s he’s done.

Losing Mitrovic could’ve been a terminal blow to Fulham’s chances of staying in the PL, but they haven’t missed him. They’re banging goals in from everywhere now - as West Ham found out Sunday. As pleased as I was for Silva, I can’t pretend that I didn’t feel for David Moyes and his team. I’ve had a real soft spot for the Hammers since Moyes took over there.

Andoni Iraola (who?) is slowly proving a few of us wrong at Bournemouth. What a win that was at OT. It wasn’t lucky. It was throughly deserved and it could easily have been more than three.

Iraola has slowly put his stamp on the Cherries. It wasn’t his fault that Gary O’Neil was shabbily treated - and O’Neil is back in work with a much better job now - so we’ll cut Iraola some slack Pipes.

What about United? Everyone at the club has got a huge seven days ahead of them now. If it goes wrong - ten Hag could easily be out of work this time next week. 

Ten Hag is a busted flush, but I did feel for him as we watched him watch his captain rule himself out of the game at Liverpool. What was Fernandes thinking when he spat his dummy and went into the book with Utd three-down and with just seven minutes to go in the Bournemouth game? Fernandes was stupid. Getting booked when he did - moaning - was a dereliction of his duty to his manager and his club.

If he’d been complaining about a match-defining incident in stoppage time - ok. Not wise, but as we saw at City the previous week, it happens. Emotions can get the better of players. But that wasn’t the case this time. 

It’s inconceivable Fernandes didn’t know that getting booked meant he’d be suspended for the game at Liverpool. Impossible. So why do it?

I see my good mate Phil Nev reared up when I suggested Fernandes had done it on purpose - perhaps not wanting to be on the wrong end of another 7-0, on a ground where he manhandled an official last season - somehow getting away with it - and where he simply gave up desperately keen to get himself off the pitch as United imploded last season.

All those things were in my mind when I said on BeINSPORTS that Fernandes had got booked on purpose, but after what Phil said I’m happy to withdraw the allegation and apologise to Fernandes. Let’s leave it at him being downright irresponsible. Oh, and I read in the Mail’s Sports Agenda column today that Sunny Jim isn’t a fan either of Fernandes either - a view formed after that game at Liverpool. 

Fernandes is such a good player. If he concentrated on doing the opposition damage, with the abundance of talent that he’s got, he’d have far more impact on games - rather than falling over all the time and chipping away at refs. They’re onto him. Collapsing holding his shin or face doesn’t work anymore. The days when Fernandes, Pogba and Rashford were winning pens every week are over.

Spurs were good. Well - to be specific - Son was very good. Newcastle couldn’t handle him. Should we be worried about them? They look a shadow of the team that finished in the top four last season. All the same - I wish them luck in Europe this week.

After 15 games in charge at Chelsea, Pochettino has two points less than Graham Potter had 16 games in - anand that after a £1b spend. I don’t share the argument that he needs time. Big Ange got things moving at Spurs pretty quickly.  And Unai Emery turned things round at Villa the moment he walked in. What a week they’ve had. Onto them in a minute. Poch wants more players I see. Are you serious Poch? You can’t get a tune out of those you’ve already got. How many do you want? 

Villa have been brilliant these past few days. Wins over City and Arsenal in successive home games. Wow.   

I thought the win over Arsenal was the more impressive. Villa were really good the night they beat City. The champions couldn’t handle them, but they had to dig in to wrestle the three points off Arsenal. It was a very different win. And what a dignified celebration Unai. Just a fist pump - and a walk to the tunnel, where he later shook hands with everyone on the Gunners‘ coaching staff. That’s the way to do it. The Celebration Police were very impressed. 😂.

Finally…a word for big Dychey. The Toffees are out of the bottom three and the points deduction is all but forgotten. I’ve never doubted that Everton would be ok. They’ll finish 10th/12th-ish. Dyche looks so comfortable in their technical area. This time it’s the right man in the right place very much at the right time. Dyche could yet go on to make himself a legend at Goodison. 

What a terrific weekend…..

Published: Monday, 04 December 2023

What a wonderful day of football Sunday gave us.  Only West Ham and Palace failed to get the memo! The rest went at it with a ferver that did the best league in the world justice.  

I don’t think another dramatic Anfield finish surprised anyone. There have been many down the years, but the latest is right up there with the best - although Tsimikas did foul De Cordova-Reid just before Alexander-Arnold hit the late winner. There was no way VAR was going to rule it out though after the way the ground erupted. No way at all - and that’s not a failing with the technology - it was a lack of courage and poor decision making that so often leads to the big boys getting big decisions. Have another look if you missed it - it’s a clear foul. Fulham deserved something from the game, but we’ve said that many times about the underdogs in big arenas down the years.

I don’t want to make too much of it, but it really isn’t right. Covid games proved that it happens - scientifically.

Researchers from the Frontiers in Sports and Active Living journal did a study analysing 1286 Covid ‘ghost games’, played in empty stadia, in the top leagues in England, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Austria and the Czech Republic - so pretty comprehensive - and came to the following conclusions 

Home teams had significantly more players booked because of what was described as ‘decreased social pressure’. In other words - refs weren’t bullied by home crowds. The lack of ‘social pressure’ also led to an impact on home advantage. There were no significant changes in decisions against away teams so the obvious conclusion was a ‘reduction of unconscious favouritism of referees for home teams’. Put that another way - the officials shit it at Anfield! Small teams don’t want favours, they simply want what they’re due.

Mind you - that was nothing compared to Simon Hooper’s howler at City. That’s both sides of Manchester that he’s pissed off now. Remember - he was the hapless ref that should’ve sent Onana off, and given Wolves a penalty, in the opening game of the season at Old Trafford. He was demoted for not doing so, although I’m never quite sure why that happens.

Why curse the C’ship with these guys when they’ve fucked up? Do C’ship games not mean as much as PL matches? Antony Taylor ‘the master and commander who knows everything’ (as Pep Guardiola called him in an interview with beINSPORTS Andy Kerr - brilliant Andy) was sent down to the C’ship recently after costing Wolves with another really poor call - and immediately he did it again - giving Preston a pen in their game v Coventry. It was a terrible decision and led to the PGMOL apologising to Mark Robins. Demotion doesn’t make them better. Leave them out. Rest them. Coach them Don’t inflict them on C’ship teams.

Anyway - what was Hooper thinking when he stopped Grealish in his tracks? As we all saw - initially he plays a great advantage, so what went through his mind when he pulled it back? It’ll be interesting to see what Howard Webb has to say about it. 

I read Chris Sutton in The Mail today tearing into Haaland for his reaction. Yes - the social media abuse can be ‘grotesque’ - but you played at the highest level Chris and you know very well how players react in moments like that. It’s emotion and Haaland and City knew that they’d been robbed of a chance to win the game. Referees can’t be allowed to make such match-defining errors as that. The abuse? I’m with you there, but The Mail’s campaign addresses the affects not the causes - which are a group of officials that aren’t good enough. They’ve shown that to be the case week after week. That’s where we need change. That’s the campaign to run. 

Addressing the affects is a bit like lambasting Rashford for his form - instead of asking ‘what’s the issue’? I’ll tell you. He’s bored shitless going to work every day for ten Hag. And he’s not alone. It must be mind numbing working with the Dutchman round the clock.  

So that’s the cause. Then you’ve got to ask ‘what’s the solution?’ - because we’re having these same conversations about a different Utd manager every 18 months.

I’d go and get Xavi Alonso. I’d offer him Saudi league money and guarantee him five years in charge. He’s about the only way Utd will ever re-join the elite group and he’d give them a chance of attracting big names to the club again - not ageing mis-fits and babies. 

I floated this theory on air this past weekend and had a hard time selling it. ‘He’s not ready’ I was told. Really? Let me ask this - if Klopp quit at the end of the season who would Liverpool want to appoint? Exactly. Alonso. Of course he’s ready. 

Are Villa title contenders? I’m pretty sure Emery won’t want to hear talk like that, but right now they’re in the mix. Imagine that they beat City at Villa Park on Wednesday. Why not? They’ve won their last 13 there - 14 would equal a 92-year-old club record. If they did win they’d be right in amongst the challengers. I’m not saying that they would stay the course, but I’d love to see them have a go. 

And finally….. again this weekend we saw far too many VAR delays as operators tried to turn our game black and white - which can’t happen. It never will. Football is not an exact science. But they keep trying. There was a three and a half minute delay at Anfield to check a goal and another of similar length at Bournemouth. 

As we know - unlike the CL and the recent WC - we’re not using automated off-side technology in the PL. I was told why this week. It‘s the ball. We use an adidas ball in the other two competitions and Adidas have developed the technology that allows it. We use a Nike ball in the PL. They haven’t. I’m sure someone will tell me I’m wrong. I’m happy to accept I am if that’s the case. But prove it please.