BLUES AND LOSE?
In 16 matches against Chelsea in all competitions, teams managed by Alan Pardew have won a respectable five times. Bottom of the table and seven points from what passes for the “safety” currently being enjoyed by Huddersfield, West Brom could certainly do with their manager increasing that record by one on Monday night, when his team visits Stamford Bridge. While Chelsea might normally be expected to swat the Baggies aside with a minimum of fuss, these are strange times for the Premier League champions. In their past two matches they have not just been beaten, but torn apart by Bournemouth and Watford under the stewardship of a weary Italian who could scarcely make his wish to get fired more clear if he spent 90 minutes standing motionless in his technical area, holding a placard bearing the slogan “ROMAN ABRAMOVICH SMELLS OF BOILED CABBAGES”.
Antonio Conte’s latest effort to earn his P45 and be escorted to the door marked “Do One” by goons with suspicious bulges under their suit jackets came in the form of a monologue about how terrible he is at convincing Chelsea’s hierarchy to sign players he wants, rather than those foisted upon him. “I think I’m a bit of a disaster [trying] to convince the club to buy the players,” he parped. “In this aspect I can improve a lot. I have to learn a lot from the other coaches, the other managers. I have to speak more with the managers who are very, very good to persuade their clubs to spend money and buy top players.” While it is easy to dismiss Conte’s gripes as those of a man complaining about his diamond shoes being too tight, and that his wallet isn’t big enough for his £100 notes, the Italian has been forced to make do with pale imitations of the signings he hoped to get and Chelsea’s title defence has suffered accordingly. As good as they are in their own special way, Álvaro Morata, Danny Drinkwater and Tiémoué Bakoyoko aren’t exactly the kind of guys who help teams with genuine title aspirati … oh.
Much has been made of the habit assorted clubs have of sacking their managers following failure to beat West Brom, with Leicester City’s Craig Shakespeare having been the most recent. André Villas-Boas and Bobby Di Matteo have both been sacked by Abramovich after unsatisfactory results against the Baggies. Quite why the Russian, among other owners, sees failure to beat the men from the Hawthorns as such a badge of shame is something of a mystery, but Pardew, his team, several thousand travelling fans and one blue-eyed 48-year-old from Lecce will be hoping the Chelsea owner’s patience will be tested again.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We had to learn about reindeer husbandry. Part of it was lassoing the reindeer so she said: ‘Who wants to have a go?’ She had a pair of antlers and said: ‘Put them on your head.’ I did while they got the lasso out. Only in Sweden” – Graham Potter on life at Östersunds as he prepares to take on Arsenal in Big Vase.
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“Surely we’ve overlooked the possibility that the Proclaimers (Fiver letters passim) were being cumulative over the course of their ditty and not just repetitive – in which case they seem to be willing to travel around 25,000 miles. Given the circumference of the Earth is also about 25,000 miles, this seems twice as far as anyone should logically be willing to walk to get anywhere, though” – Nick Livesey.
“Further to Nick Bawden (Friday’s letters), my goalkeeping idol growing up in south-west Surrey was also Woking legend Laurence Batty. I remember meeting ‘Big Lol’ in the buildup to Christmas in the mid-90s at the town’s Peac0cks shopping centre, where children were invited to take penalties against him in a five-a-side goal on the ground floor, just next to Spud-U-Like. They say never meet your heroes but Laurence was a joy and spent several hours letting local kids smash footballs at him while he dived around on a mat like his life depended on it. I think I scored one out of five and was genuinely delighted. I can’t imagine Thibaut Courtois doing that at the Putney Exchange. Great days” – Ben Williams.
“My heroes to this day remain the 1970 NASL champions Rochester Lancers. They practiced on my school field and I religiously attended, fetching poorly kicked balls for their stellar keeper, the great D1ck Howard. Imagine my delight when, that autumn, Mr Howard appears at the first day of practice for my university freshman team … as our manager. I tried to impress him with my keeping skills but he, astute as they come, immediately informed me I was rubbish. And by end of the training session he further stated that I could apparently be rubbish anywhere on the pitch. Then he said the kit I was wearing was rubbish, too. Ah, the memories. They stay with you forever” – Mike Fichtner.
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BITS AND BOBS
David Moyes says Gollivan will have less influence over Taxpayers FC signings in the future. “It’s going to come a little bit away from the chairman. The chairman is going to try to stand aside a bit from it,” whistled Moyes, while perhaps wondering whether he should have let his gums flap so freely.
Sam Allardyce concedes Everton’s £27m striker Cenk Tosun hasn’t got much horsepower. “He is struggling with the pace of the Premier League, which happens to more players than it doesn’t who come in January,” blathered Allardyce.
Mario Balotelli’s booking for complaining about alleged racist chanting by some right pieces of work during Nice’s defeat at Dijon has been described as “unacceptable and wrong” by Kick It Out.
José Mourinho dabbed his eyes and declared Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Manchester United a “beautiful thing”. “[Their] players and, of course, their staff gave what they have and what they don’t have,” sobbed Mourinho.
And Kieron Dyer has spoken of how Graeme Souness would gain the respect of Newcastle players by unleashing his awe-inducing pecs in training. “I owed him a lot. I liked his style. Sometimes he’d have his top off in the gym and be doing the chest press and it was like ‘boom’,” recalled Dyer.
STILL WANT MORE?
Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend.
Sid Lowe: Eibar.
Blair Newman: Napoli.
Andy Brassell: Leon Goretzka, Schalke and Bayern.
Adam White and Eric Devin: Toulouse.
Barry Glendenning: winter breaks.
Floating footballing brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson: Paul Pogba and Manchester United.
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