As those of you that watched “Match Of The Day” last night will be able to attest, this weekend has seen some pretty damn terrible weather, and there can be little doubt that this had an effect on the quality of football played yesterday afternoon. First up, congratulations to Swansea City and Nottingham Forest, who dumped Premiership clubs out on their big, pampered arses.
I have, over the course of the weekend, found a new team to despise more than any other, and that team is Sheffield United. They get a special mention for dropping eight of their regular team for their match against Swansea. I didn’t see the post-match interviews last night, but I dare say that Neil Warnock came up with the usual crap about fixture congestion and how important it is to stay in the Premiership, but I am largely of the opinion that perhaps Sheffield United FC need to have a long, hard look at themselves here. Has it come to the point at which finishing 17th in the Premiership is more important than trying to win a trophy? They should be ashamed of themselves. If the FA had any balls, they’d ban them from the Cup for five years, whether they’re relegated at the end of this season or not.
There were no such excuses for Charlton Athletic, whose wretchedness at Nottingham Forest yesterday bordered on farcical. They’d had a brief resurgence in the league recently, but I’m struggling to see how they’re going to be able to get enough out of their players to pull clear of the drop zone. Newcastle weren’t much better at Birmingham, where they were held to a draw in spite of having a one man advantage for much of the second half. Likewise, Middlesbrough made hard work of getting a draw at Hull City. Macclesfield gave Chelsea the fright of their lives for forty seconds (with the assistance of Ricardo Carvalho) at Stamford Bridge (there have been rumours that Andriy Shevchenko took a dive to get the Macclesfield goalkeeper sent off which, if true, are little more than an indication of how far his stock has plummeted – he’s already being discussed in some quarters as “the biggest waste of money in the history of the Premiership”, and his glee at having earned a penalty against a team 89 places below his team was a sure-fire sign that he’s feeling the pressure).
In the big match of the day, Arsenal dumped the holders Liverpool out. They were flattered somewhat by the 3-1 scoreline, but were helped on their way by Rafa Benitez’s decision to pick Jerzy Dudek, who gifted Arsenal all three of their goals (he was off his line for the first one, out of position for the second one, and allowed the third one to squirm under his body). This match was most notable Anfield’s co-ordinated protestations against the assertions made by the former editor of The Sun, Kelvin McKenzie, that he didn’t mean the apology that he was forced to offer the people of Liverpool after his paper asserted that, on the day of the Hillsborough disaster, Liverpool fans were seen urinating on the bodies of the dead and picking their pockets. Now, no-one needs to tell me that Kelvin McKenzie is an arsehole (if I recall correctly, he wanted to run as an MP for the Conservative party, but was rejected by them for having just too many odious opinions), and my understanding was also that is had been proved beyond reasons that none of the stories that The Sun ran about Hillsborough were true, but I’m left cold by the scale of these protests. Firstly, why give McKenzie the publicity, anyway? It’s hardly as if he’s a major player within the British media any more – indeed, if I was guessing at a reason why he said what he said, it would be precisely to provoke a reaction like this. Secondly, I’m no grievance counsellor, but isn’t about time that the closure process was carried out on this? Everybody bar Kelvin McKenzie knows what really did and didn’t happen at Hillsborough on that sad day. Are the best interests of the families of the victims really served by dragging it out this long? I don’t wish to sound insensitive here, but I think it might be time to move on, and leave the likes of McKenzie to his knuckle-dragging delusions.
At the time of writing, the Sunday matches are proving to be just as interesting. Manchester United should have battered Aston Villa at Old Trafford, but were instead reliant on “one of those moments” from Aston Villa’s Gabor Kiraly for a late, late winner (I’m sorry, but you simply can’t trust a goalkeeper who dresses like that) whilst, at Goodison Park, Everton appear to have imploded against Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City are being held at Hillsborough by Sheffield Wednesday (they used to be quite a big club, you know). Finally, and I haven’t mentioned this all week, Rangers sacked their manager, Paul Le Guen after he dropped captain Barry Ferguson (they call this sort of thing “losing the confidence of the dressing room”, but in reality it means that the players are bigger than the manager), brought Ferguson straight back in as captain for their Scottish Cup match away to Dunfermline this afternoon, and… lost 3-2.