Long Uneven Lines

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark
(Philip Larkin, MCMXIV)

I thought it was time for a football rumour column that you can actually believe. Or ought to believe.

We begin with good news: Frank Lampard is off to Barcelona, a £16m move funded by the sale of Deco to Inter Milan. To be blunt, Lampard needs the move. He’s spent the whole of his life in London in a mockney bubble. That’s not good for anyone. It’ll be a change from his weekends running fast past bawling, neckless skinheads and will help him overcome his present England travails.

Fernando Torres is going to be the latest striker to delay Michael Owen’s return to Liverpool (which now looks as though it won’t happen until Rafa returns to Spain). Liverpool is no club for a goalscorer at the moment – the only man to thrive there is Peter Crouch, but it’s obvious by now that Crouch could thrive parked on a deep sea vent. Morientes, Fowler Redux, Cisse and Kuyt have all failed; so will Torres.

Although Nigel Reo-Coker is being linked with Aston Villa, and now Manchester City, the likelihood is that his nightmare will come to pass and he will spend the bulk of the season on West Ham’s reserve bench. This in spite of his generally encouraging performances for England’s Under 21s.

Michael Henderson, in the Telegraph, is wrong about Sven but right in saying farewell to the light blues:

He began to realise that there is no special virtue in following a particular team. Either you support a club, or you don’t. The special pleading of some City fans struck him as rather odd. It was as if they were saying: “Give us marks for not supporting Manchester United”.

Indeed, the hatred aimed at their neighbours was indicative of a craven mentality that only football inspires, and which the game has never done enough to eradicate. An afternoon four years ago at Fulham remains fresh, like a wound. Hundreds of City fans, their faces contorted with anger, spent two hours competing with one another to be ever more offensive. At such moments a sense of fellowship evaporates.

What happened to Beckham last season will happen to Sven in this. But not to Arsene Wenger, who will leave Arsenal shortly and take a brief sabbatical before taking over from Steve McClaren in January. Guus Hiddinck is thought to be Peter Hill-Wood’s favoured successor, probably in partnership with Tony Adams.

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6 responses to “Long Uneven Lines

  1. To my inexpert eye, the beanpole has always looked a pretty good player (though his actions do sometimes reveal the inadequacies of his teammates). Why do his managers lack faith in him? Is it cos I is wrong?

  2. Given that Crouch’s great strength is with the ball at his feet, the lack of faith you refer can only be due to one or both of two possible causes:
    (1) Crouch’s managers have been too thick to use him properly
    and/or
    (2) Crouch’s team mates have been too thick to understand instructions to use him properly.

    Crouch HAS succeeded in the big-man-hold-the-ball-up role: e.g. against Portugal in the World Cup. But point (2) still applies. No point holding the ball up for Lampard and Gerrard if they have no intention of arriving, and Gerrard’s determination to win the game with “heroic” 20 yard drives in particular ensured all Crouch’s efforts would be in vain. Vain indeed.

  3. Crouch has great touch but lacks speed and the ability to impose himself but surely that was clear to everyone. He’s still a good player.

  4. I love the fact that he criticises Sven for being a mercenary, a ‘soldier of fortune’. Who currently operating in top class football is not a mercenary? They’re all in it for the money. Few managers and even fewer players stick with a club purely from loyalty. One could cite Alex Ferguson and Ryan Giggs at Manchester United, but they are both very well paid for their loyalty, and it’s not too hard to be loyal when you’re at the best club anyway. Dario Gradi would be a good example, but Crewe were hardly top-class, for all their achievement.
    I really don’t understand the English attitude towards Sven. He is a manager for hire, and a very good one at that (at club level if not necesarily at international). His personal life intrudes far too much on his career, but that is another matter. I do not recall many of our football columnists criticising Curbishley or Redknapp (or Allardyce) for jumping ship. Could it be because Sven is a foreigner? I wonder…

  5. Spot on about Crouch. His record is extremely good, and its a travesty that he wasn’t used in the European cup final. Mclaren’s apparent desire to play anyone BUT Crouch leaves England far too often with no centre forward at all – Rooney and Dyer are decent enough players, but they won’t lead the attack.

    Lampard’s wife is Spanish, isn’t she? So he might be one of the only English players who adapts well to the lifestyle, language, etc, although his playing style might not cut it.

  6. No point holding the ball up for Lampard and Gerrard if they have no intention of arriving,

    Heh heh!

    Lampard’s wife is Spanish, isn’t she? So he might be one of the only English players who adapts well to the lifestyle, language, etc, although his playing style might not cut it.

    Oddly for a floppy-haired Scouser who looks as daft as a brush, I believe Steve McManamman learned Spanish and used to pen a column for one of the British papers during his time an Spain. Good on him, I thought.