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.