Posts Tagged ‘middlesbrough’
Long before my I used my computer for more constructive purposes such as writing this shit, I became dangerously entwined with football management simulator Championship Manager. To play it was to step onto the sort of temporal quicksands down which your very existence would be sucked away. The rope was only thrown in to fish me out when I started work (not as a bank clerk not a football manager) and began to interact with actual people I could see.
But I have fond memories of my stint in management and still look out for all the results of the teams I looked after. I’ve created a hall of fame in my head which includes my favourite teams, players and striking partnerships: Yorke and Kanu at Forest, Suker signed to join Shearer and Sutton at Blackburn to create a fearsome SASAS trio, Henry and Le Tissier at Middlesbrough.
But the duo that inspired the deepest affection were Jermain Defoe and Dean Ashton at West Ham. I signed Ashton as an unknown from Crewe and he immediately struck up a rapport with the more established star. And while Defoe accepted all the caps and awards, Ashton got on with the day-to-day task of scoring goals: 40 or more for five consecutive seasons. But the England call-up never came.
And so a deep and elemental love affair with Ashton began, sparked further when he signed for West Ham in the real world. I pondered whether I’d somehow magically precipitated the move with my own sage mouse-clickings. And he repaid our faith in him by setting about his business like a meaty Teddy Sheringham.
Ashton had a physique like prize bull: massive, muscular but with surprisingly dainty ankles. Which did for him in the end, aided in no small part by Shaun Wright-Phillips during a training session. On England duty. Poetic. He’d have been better off remaining in the international wilderness of my computer.
Naturally I’d was crestfallen to hear the news of his retirement yesterday, even if it had been predicted for months. I’ll be wearing a black armband next time I play Champ Man.
It’s coming to that time of year when one of those metaphorical gap-toothed ratty-tached fairground folk cranks up his engine and the transfer merry-go-round whirrs into dizzying life again.
It should gather pace in quick order: there is no international tournament to delay proceedings. Managers like to mooch and browse around the summer finals searching for a bargain like a schoolgirl choosing bangles in Top Shop. They should heed the caveat that a player’s form over handful of games in July for his country is not representative of his actual talents. Particularly if one of those fixtures is against England, who have the unhappy knack of making crap look like Cruyff.
Hence the questionable skills of the likes of Stephane Guivarc’h, Salif Diao and Karel Poborsky were hired to dilute the quality of the Premiership (although in fairness to Poborsky he proved his class in later spells with Benfica and Lazio).
So what can we expect from this summer’s activity? In most years, managers gather around the relegated teams to see what titbits they can scavenge. A bit like when the tramps fall upon the black bags on the pavement outside Pret A Manger to dine on their discarded sandwiches. This season that analogy probably does poor service to Pret’s estimable baguettes: there are slim pickings on offer from Newcastle, Middlesbrough and West Brom. It’s largely Benjis fare. With the odd exception: Stewart Downing probably, Obafemi Martins potentially, and David Wheater certainly. He’s apparently attracting covetous glances from Rafa Benitez.
It would come as no surprise to me to see a yellow Robin Reliant parked down White Hart Lane as football’s very own Derek Trotter, Harry Redknapp peddles his wares and puts his own mark on the Tottenham squad. In fact a lot of chairmen will be reaching their hands down the backs of their sofas to see if they can find some forgotten asset on the substitute bench or the reserve squad that they can cash in on. By selling it to Wolves.
Another modern trend in football is the long-running transfer saga, the developments of which are played out ad nauseam in the papers and websites until the football community unite in their boredom and nod off. So we’ll have to endure the ongoing soap operas surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Barry and new and exclusive this season, Carlos Tevez. Intriguingly Tevez is another linked with a move to Anfield. The big four in this England tend not to share their prized possessions, jealously guarding them from their rivals (unlike in Italy where the top clubs swap their stars like Panini stickers). This embargo is most strictly imposed between Manchester United and Liverpool. A player has not been directly transferred between the two teams since 1964. It was Phil Chisnall in case you ask.
Of course Tevez doesn’t technically belong to United. He’s the possession of a shady Iranian businessman who is reputed to have links with South American drugs-running and arms-trading. But that’s an entirely different saga. A whole new merry-go-round.