Last week Martin O’Neil sat behind a Homebase garden table strategically placed by ITV on Copacabana beach and put forward an impassioned argument against Louis Van Gaal, railing against his reputation as a tactical innovator and countering that ‘he didn’t invent football’. Perhaps his rant revealed some historical personal enmity towards the Dutchman, but we haven’t seen O’Neil on this kind of blistering form since he basically told Robbie Williams he was a talentless shit during the BBC coverage of the 1998 World Cup.
Last night, Van Gaal bolstered his reputation as a footballing pioneer by substituting his goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen off for Tim Krul in the last seconds of extra-time in readiness for the penalty shoot-out. Most pundits and journalists watching on have lauded this as a stroke of tactical genius, typical of his unique approach to the game, seemingly unaware that such a substitution has been tried before.
In 1996 Zeljko Kalac was brought on as a substitute goalkeeper for Kevin Poole in the last minute of Leicester City’s First Division (as it was then) play-off final against Crystal Palace. Steve Claridge intervened with a winner to avoid a penalty shoot-out thus denying the manager the opportunity to see whether his gamble had paid off.
And who was the inventive manager who assayed such a extraordinary gambit? Martin O’Neil.
It’s just possible (it probably isn’t) that last night we witnessed the most ballsy retort to a public dressing down ever. Louis Van Gaal, we salute you. You may not be the footballing futurist that you’re perceived to be, but you’ve a great sense of humour.
So Phil Neville responded to criticism of his monotonous debut in the co-commentator’s chair with the following:
“The feedback is that I need to show a bit more excitement, so I think you’ll see that more on Thursday night in the highlights show”
The promise of seeing ‘a bit more excitement’ is certainly enticing, but what on earth is it going to sound like?
CHRIST ALIVE! DID YOU SEE THAT! THE BALL WENT NEAR THE GOAL!
FUCK ME! WHAT. A. KICK. MUST HAVE GONE AT LEAST 40 YARDS! SOARING LIKE AN EAGLE STRAIGHT OUT OF PLAY!
WHOARRRRRRRRRGGGGHRRRRRAAAHH! IT’S A THROW-IN.
OFFSIDE! I LOVE THIS WORLD CUP! I LOVE FOOTBALL! I LOVE LIFE! I LOVE YOU GUY MOWBRAY!
IT’S A YELLOW CARD! YELLOW LIKE THE SUN AND THE DAFFODILS AND THE MARGARINE!
Word is that the BBC have recruited legendary Dutch commentator Jack Van Gelder, responsible for the demented outburst below, to coach Neville and the pair are currently having a one-on-one excitement training session by shouting at seagulls on Ipanema beach.
RAY LEWINGTON! RAY LEWINGTON! RAY LEWINGTON!
First an apology. This isn’t a thought about sport as the masthead promises.
I wrote a letter to East Coast trains to complain about an incident in which my head was caught in the doors. I could probably finish it there and it would be the funniest thing I’ve ever written.
They have recently sent me a standard class return ticket to anywhere in their network by way of compensation which means I can go to Inverness and back again for free if I want to. So they deserve the miniscule bit of good publicity I’m going to give them.
The letter was conceived as one of those complaint letters that you sometimes see circulated around the internet. I thought it might be looked on more favourably at East Coast trains, perhaps even responded to in kind. In fact I received a very long and humourless answer back. Some may argue that they did respond in kind.
Dear Sir or Madam
I am writing to complain about an incident which occurred while disembarking one of the 0835 from King’s Cross at Grantham station on Monday, 10 March. Around 50 of my colleagues and I were attending a ceremony to celebrate long service at a country hotel not far from Grantham and had travelled up from Kings Cross that morning.
The doors opened as usual once the train had pulled to a halt in the station. I was already stood in the area by the toilets waiting to step off the train. I allowed a lady to disembark first and then followed her off the train. To my surprise the doors closed as I was leaving the train and struck me on the neck. Gladly I was not decapitated by this as it may have put a dampener on my day out. If I’d have turned up at the hotel without a head then I would not have been able to enjoy the tea and shortbread that was served on arrival. Disregarding the shortbread and thinking more about long-term strategy, my head and body have worked well together as team previously and it certainly would have been a shame not to be able to continue with this arrangement.
It may also have had a negative impact on my marriage if I’d have returned home without a head. My head is one of the reasons my wife fell in love with me. God knows it wasn’t my body. I also think that my employers may have looked upon it dimly had I shown up to work without a head; it would negatively affect my capacity to fulfil my duties properly and also look a bit scruffy.
I’m being facetious. I can’t pretend that the impact of the door even hurt. But it was a shock. And I have a strong virile neck. If I was a little frail old lady with a little frail old neck then the ramifications could have been more serious.
Happily for me, the doors opened again and I was able to step down onto the platform. I was one of the lucky ones. Most of my colleagues were sat in a different carriage and had diligently gathered their luggage and queued to leave the train as it was pulling into the station. Unfortunately some at the back of queue were unable to leave before the doors closed again, this time permanently. 14 ladies made an unscheduled trip to Doncaster. I’ve heard that Doncaster is lovely in late winter, but when there is tea and shortbread promised on arrival at a hotel near Grantham then it’s not the ideal destination. Happily they were able to turn around and return to Grantham in time for lunch (rice, new potatoes, a selection of cold cuts).
Again I’m being facetious, but again there could have more serious implications. If a family had been disembarking and the children were allowed to get off first the doors may have closed behind them, temporarily orphaning them and sending their parents to Doncaster. The children would have been left to fend for themselves on the mean streets of Grantham with no-one to look after them but a little old lady with no head. Sorry, facetious again. Can’t help it.
When we remonstrated with the station guard he explained that there was nothing he could do. Apart from not blow his whistle perhaps. He offered nothing by way of apology. Perhaps he had a shiny new whistle which he couldn’t wait to blow. Or maybe he simply couldn’t conceive that 50 people actually wanted to get off the train to visit Grantham. He said that all passengers should be ready to disembark before the doors open – which is fine until 30 people want to step off the same carriage. They’re not circus performers, they can’t all get off at once.
One of the Doncaster crew spoke to the train attendant who explained that stations are fined if they keep the train in the station too long. If this is true then I would suggest that the guidelines are eased slightly to allow for common sense to be applied and to allow 50 people who just want to get off the train and eat a little bit of shortbread.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts
We’ve had a comment in from Joe Bloggs in response to an admittedly banal post I wrote about two years regarding the amount of traffic the blog was receiving from visitors typing in “Hazel Irvine tits” into search engines.
“Shut the fuck up you knob. so what we want to see a womens tits. Women dont show them on purpose to winde men up? no? Apart from breast feeding thats what their there for. What women dont look at mens arses on snooker or football? or Linford Christies willie. Go back to your Nunnery or monastery and bible bash a bit more”.
It’s great to hear from you, Joe!
It’s actually quite thrilling to be trolled in this way, properly trolled with swearing and poor grammar and everything, not like my mum trolls me. I think of it as a badge of honour.
It is my belief that Joe (if that is his real name) happened accidentally upon the post in the genuine search for images of Hazel Irvine’s naked breasts. In the hot flush of shame at being rumbled he may not have detected the trace of sarcasm in my words, unable to spot the faux-puritanism.
What Joe also doesn’t realise is that as the master of this blog, I have full editorial approval over comments sent in and can tweak them as I see fit. So I’ve edited Joe’s comment, changing the spelling and punctuation and all of the words and the entire meaning.
It now reads:
“Hiya! Great post! Funny thing is that I’m a big fan of Hazel Irvine myself. In fact I’ve cut a picture of her face out of a copy of the Radio Times and glued it into a doll I stole from my niece. I call her Wee Hazel Irvine. She’s my best friend. We go on adventures together in my mum’s garden and sometimes even on the pavement outside her house. We like to punch trees and chase next-door’s cat. Mum shouts at Wee Hazel and me because she says that I should get a job. But there’s plenty of time for that. I’m only 33!!!”
It’s probably highly unethical to change his comment in this way and I’ve probably violated his freedom of speech. But he can’t complain too much because I’ve showcased his original comment by framing it within an entire post. Plus the grammar is much better now.
I’m off to find a nun so we can abhor some shit together.
Like most visitors to this site I ambled on here yesterday for no reason other than my own boredom.
It was then I noticed a bizarre spike in the number of hits I’ve received in the last couple of months. Unless reading meaningless sport-burble from 2010 is now the fashion, it’s unfathomable. It’s seems that this blog is more popular when I’m not writing anything then when I wrote regularly. Okay maybe not that unfathomable.
I then became depressed at the thought of all these readers chancing on these pages looking for some relevant and incisive copy about the latest happenings in the world of sport and instead finding this decrepit old site and containing a fusty old piece about marathons. Like looking into the animal hutch outside the back-door and finding the corpse of an unloved pet rabbit festering under the piss-soaked hay.
So I’ve decided to write this to at least freshen it up, although admittedly that’s like dusting down the lifeless body of the rabbit, spraying it with Febreze and saying “it’s alive!”. Which is probably what my parents should have done.
I wish I could say nothing had happened in sport since I’d been away but that’s not true. English cricket has gone the way of the rabbit for a start. If there’s any truth in the adage that a team is cast in the image of its coach then it means we’ll be seeing a lot more of yesterday’s boundary-fumbling, which was enough to comprise a whole section on You’ve Been Framed.
It also means that the most interesting thing about this team is a misprint on a mug.
I’ve put down some words of advice for nervous London Marathon runners. It’s so indispensable it will probably be read out over a loudspeaker on the start line on Sunday. Regular readers will recognize it as a amalgamated revival of some posts I wrote a year ago. I would say about 50% of the text is new so you may just want to read every other word. Here it is.