Sunday 1 December
Another poor performance. The team play with no spirit or energy. The manager looks distraught on the touchline. Despite speaking bravely at the post match press conference he will probably be gone by the midweek match on Wednesday. In case you wondered, that’s Fulham and Martin Jol I’m talking about. I can’t fathom what’s gone wrong there since the change of ownership. Is it the curse of Michael Jackson? Jol was such a good manager at Spurs. [That didn’t take long. I wrote the start of this paragraph at 11.30 am. Sky announced Jol’s sacking at 4.20 pm. Let’s hope the new manager isn’t in place for Wednesday].
Having said that, the Sunday papers are also full of speculation about who will replace Andre Villas-Boas. Gus Hiddink? Fabio Capello? I am surprised they don’t mention Alf Ramsey. It would all look so different if we beat Man U at lunchtime. Don’t you just hate lunch time kick-offs? I know it’s the same for both teams but it must upset players’ body clocks. Their systems are just waking up as the match finishes. One bonus of me being prevented by the jobsworths from attending the game is that I don’t have to get up at some ungodly hour to be driven up in time to get a disabled parking space.
Watching the game as I eat Sunday lunch just doesn’t feel right and then there is the choking danger as I react to the Soldado blockbuster that is going to rocket in from 20 yards. Hmm. [Two hours later - Well I was close. It was a Sandro blockbuster but it had the same effect].
Who’d have believed it a month ago? Newcastle 5th. Alain Depardieu’s French players have scored more goals this season than any team in the French Ligue 1 but Lyon.
One of these days I’ll learn. Cardiff at home, so I had a punt in my Super 6 bet on them getting a draw as they have done so well there against both Manchesters and Chelsea. But this time it was Arsenal and despite having played in the Champions League in midweek they won 3-0 and are today 7 points clear. Everton continue to play attractive football as they thump Stoke, who have slipped into the same run of performances as most recent Mark Hughes teams. It makes a change this time around not to see him blaming the refs and bad luck for the defeats in the brief snippet of a post-match interview shown on MOTD. His pundit chums don’t criticise him on the basis that he is trying to change Stoke’s style of play. Later in the programme, when being interviewed by Gary Lineker, Tony Pulis pointed out that such tactics had kept Stoke in the league for six years running, got them to a cup final and into Europe. It will be interesting to see where he and Mark Hughes both end up by the end of May.
It is reported that Hull’s owners are prepared to sell the club because of the opposition to renaming it. Obviously scurrilous mischief making because nobody could be that stupid. Could they?
Sunday 11.20 amWhen AVB was at Chelsea, towards the end the players looked like they were deliberately playing to get him the sack. I am sure that wasn’t the case and their below par performances and on field demeanour must have been just a coincidence. He had clearly been instructed to clear out some of the old wood by the owner, even though that has proved since to be premature. The thing is, it has just struck me that is what our recent performances, particularly the one against Man City have reminded me of. Whether that is another coincidence will become clear over the next few hours.
In the end it was a much better performance against Manchester United, ending in a 2-2 draw. The ref let United off potential bookings in the first 10 minutes, one of which would have meant Evra being sent off in the 2nd half if it had been given. Look at this picture of Evra taking his legs when the ball was already 10 yards away and tell me how it is not a booking.
Unfortunately for us, Wayne Rooney had one of his best games and managed to keep his temper even when brushed aside by a resurgent Dembele. A good match and we played with pace and spirit for the first time in weeks. It could have gone either way. We should get 6 points from consecutive away games against Fulham and Sunderland and that should set us up nicely for the game against Liverpool.
Monday 2 December
Until recently AVB had been handling press conferences remarkably well, coming across as calm, urbane, even cool. Yesterday though he reacted to recent criticism in the Daily Mail by singling out journalists and Alan Sugar for criticising him and challenging his integrity. He sought out an on camera confrontation with Paul Hitchins accusing him of personal attacks. That has already prompted a reaction in the Telegraph suggesting his behaviour is verging on paranoia.
It’s a sad fact of life that you don’t win confrontations with the media, whether you are right or wrong. As a football manager, you will only get them off your back by winning and winning well. At the end of the day, their job is to write their opinions and that includes being critical. If you demonstrate they are wrong by the results you get and the way your team plays they’ll soon back off.