Friday, April 03, 2020
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For all the ex-pro pundits lamenting the fact that young British managers aren't given long enough (often citing the tired fact that Ferguson was a Mark Robins goal away from getting the sack a few centuries ago), Premier League chairmen have to look after the best interests of their clubs and can't afford for the likes of Ince & Keane to learn on the job at the expense of their teams flirting with relegation. John Williams has been lambasted for speedily dispensing with the services of the snarling Guv'nor, but new broom 'big' Sam Allardyce has immediately helped to justify the decision to install him after a year’s exile from management by triumphing in his first fixture.

A home game against Stoke is not exactly a baptism of fire, but you can only beat who is in front of you and Rovers clearly responded to the new man at the helm. The scoreline of 3-0 may slightly flatter them as Stoke dominated for long periods, but Blackburn plundered the Potters and seemed to score from every raid into the opposition half, with Benni McCarthy & Jason Roberts making the Rovers fans say Roque Santa Who-z? The way Stoke were defending though, I'm sure Roque Santa Claus could've stuffed one past them.

Allardyce is already ringing the changes, with Robbie Fowler being released and 'special defensive coach' Nigel Winterburn being told by Sam "from my point of view, in terms of specialist defensive coaching, I think I can look after that area myself now." Old Nige has hardly had time to wipe his feet at Ewood Park and I'm sure his BBC punditry chair alongside his old pals Dixon & Keown is still warm.

The other member of that famed Arsenal back line could soon be joining them. If ever there was a man better suited to punditry than management, it is wannabe philospher/warbling bullsh***er, Tony Adams. A philanthropic and magnanimous Adams cheerfully waved off Lassana Diarra, saying that he wouldn't dream of standing in the way of the Frenchman’s £20 million move to Madrid, but not before he made a final cameo in Portsmouths 2-1 defeat at Bolton.

Megson’s men made a ligtning start, going 2 up in the first 3 minutes, Pompey old boy Matt Taylor & Riccardo Gardner grabbing the goals. Peter Crouch reduced the deficit to make the scoreline respectable (never thought I'd write a sentence containing both the words 'Crouch' and 'respectable') but it was a game largely dominated by the Trotters, which should have seen a far wider winning margin for them.

When questioned after, a dopey looking Adams stated that he would have "every penny" of the Diarra transfer money available to him to spend on new players. Given Portsmouth’s widely reported financial woes if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. Pompey full back Lauren certainly doesn't, claiming that a January exodus will see him, Glenn Johnson and Jermain Defoe all depart Fratton Park.

Back to new brooms and caretaker Ricky Sbraglia has clearly brushed the dust off his Sunderland strike force’s goal-scoring boots. 8 in 2 games for the Black Cats, with a 4-1 demolition of Hull this weekend. The rout was started by Steed Malbranque before forgotten man Nick Barmby replied for his home town club. A late Sunderland surge saw both frontmen Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse (whose green hair this week was possibly inspired by the UK snooker championships) amongst the goals and the bookies now think that Sbraglia is likely to get the management role full time.

At the top of the table, Man Utd must have been laughing into their raw fish over in Japan as the other Big 4 members failed to capitalise on their absence. Arsenal and Liverpool shared the spoils whilst Chelsea were held by Everton.

At the Emirates, Robbie Keane could've been forgiven for wondering which set of fans were singing "what a waste of money," before he thumped home a goal to equalise Robin Van Persie’s chocolate foot effort. A double blow for Arsenal as Cesc Fabregas is now crocked for four months and Emmanuel Adebayor faces suspension following a foolish double booking leading to a red. Despite having ten men for half an hour, Arsenal probably showed more endeavor than a very tentative Liverpool side, which speaks volumes about the legitimacy of the front runners title challenge.

What amused me about the game was the farcical micro management of the absent Rafa Benitez. At one point the camera showed one of the Liverpool coaches having a long chat on his mobile, his mouth hidden by a piece of paper. The coach then surreptitiously conveyed this message to Sammy Lee, who nodded along sagely. Lee then goes up to the touchline, moves his hands together in a vice like motion and shouts "compact".

Phil Scolari, no longer big now that Allardyce is back in town, will no doubt become Irate Phil or Sullen Phil if he keeps up his recent record of press no shows. The Brazilian is becoming increasingly angry at refereeing decisions that he perceives to be going constantly against his team. This week, he has a bee in his bonnet about the sending off of John Terry, who saw red for a wild lunge on Leon Osman as the Blues incredible away wins record finally came to an end at Goodison Park.

Meanwhile, two big clubs were hamstrung by late goals. Last minute heartbreakers have dampened the Christmas cheer for Tottenham and Man City, who lost to Newcastle and West Brom respectively. The Redknapp bandwagon has showed signs of slowing in recent weeks and after Damien Duff secured victory for the Geordies you can bet that Harry will be looking forward to dabbling in the January sales if his famed and somewhat hackneyed wheeler dealer persona is accurate.

Over at Middle Eastlands, Mark Hughes has to be concerned about the Arab owners putting his head on the chopping block after a woeful performance saw them lose away at West Brom. It was a first win since early October for the Baggies, who will be bottom at Christmas, but still harbouring hopes that they can repeat the exploits of their great escape season in 2005, when they became the first team to stay up having been last in the league during the festive period.

The other two games saw Fulham’s revival under Roy Hodgson continue with a comfortable 3-0 home win over Middlesbrough, whilst Aston Villa carried on their excellent season by beating West Ham at Upton Park, albeit via a James Milner shot wickedly deflected off Lucas Neill.

I certainly live in hope rather than expectation that this fantastic form in the league will continue and could certainly end up with egg on my face after all my passing of the torch jibes when Villa play Arsenal this boxing day. Like at Portsmouth, it is rumoured that there will be an Upton Park exodus and one player tipped to leave is Craig Bellamy, with it suggested in today’s papers that Martin O'Neill may take a punt on him to strengthen our squad in order to maintain our league position. The little s**t could start an argument in an empty room, please don't do it Martin!

Results: Blackburn 3-0 Stoke, Bolton 2-1 portsmouth, Fulham 3-0 Middlesbrough, Hull 1-4 Sunderland, West Ham 0-1 Aston Villa, Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool, Newcastle 2-1 Tottenham, West Brom 2-1 Man City, Everton 0-0 Chelsea.

PS - For any regular readers, the most boring transfer saga since Hercules’ protracted move from Olympiakos to AEK Athens, the Ronaldo to Madrid debacle, once again reared its dull head this week with reports of secret deals being struck. So despite him being out of the country, the fact that I have had to read this rubbish makes Ronaldo a w**ker by proxy.

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