Apparently today is the most depressing day of the year in the UK, at least that’s what I heard on Radio 2 this morning before realising with bleak dejection that I was listening to Radio 2 on a Monday morning and had irrevocably become old. Old. I tried Radio 1 but that was just noise. Old. Still, it’s at times like this that football really comes into its own, offering the brief euphoria of victory to those with nothing ahead but a cold, unaffordable winter in Newcastle, or the healthy distraction of ranting to those unlucky souls who were born to support Spurs.
Down Chelsea way though, we love Blue Monday. If we could have a Blue Monday every week we’d take it. So long as Blue Monday followed overturning a one nil deficit away to snaffle all three points. Saturday’s performance was an exemplary team display where instead of poncing around egotistically, the players simply knuckled down and got the job done. Cap that with yet another excellent performance from Yury Zhirkov and there’s cause for optimism. That said, there’s a lot of chatter going on about Chelsea not playing well but winning anyway, which I’m always nervous about. That’s only half a sentence away from Chelsea not playing well and losing, which itself is only half a sentence away from Chelsea losing the title. But what do half sentences know anyhow? only that half a sentence…
The truth is, after the easy opposition we enjoyed at the start of the season and the inevitable accumulation of injuries, it’s only natural we’ll see games become tougher. I don’t think this is a dip in form, I think this is the Chelsea we’ll see for the most part of the season. It was the six nil drubbings that were the anomaly. The good news is everyone is suffering the same unpredictability. Liverpool are farcical, Man U are directionless, Arsenal are only just clinging on and Manchester City have bumped back down to reality. If anything it bodes for a nerve-jangling season, so brace yourselves now.
The only thing that seems consistent is Mark Clattenberg’s nutsy refereeing decisions against Spurs at Old Trafford, which I think I’ve figured out. Old Clatsy’s probably got shares in a company that specialises in live televised replays and for him to cash in he needs FIFA to make the inevitable rule change. The trouble is, FIFA aren’t playing ball. Cue another mental decision at the biggest ground in England.
And yet still FIFA won’t budge. Why? Well a glimpse of NFL last night offered a possible explanation. In American Football (which I’ve studied intricately through repeated viewing of The Replacements, The Waterboy and Burt Reynolds’s Mean Machine) replays are called by the referees themselves. This only happens when they’re unsure on something, so most of the time they make a call right there on the field. Opposition coaches who feel they’ve been hard done by can question the decision and demand a replay, but if they get this challenge wrong they lose a timeout, or yardage or some such thing. The trouble is the nature of our football (football) precludes a team being penalised in this way. You can’t dock a team timeouts or yardage or anything meaningful, so you can’t stop them slowing up the game with requests for replays. And we’ve seen from tennis and cricket that the threat of losing the challenges themselves is useless: in those sports players willfully manipulate the system to slow things up. So I’m afraid Clatsy might as well flog his shares now before he embarrasses himself any more.
Another thing I noticed, by the way, is the propensity American Footballers have for patting each other on the bum. Ever since they banned elaborate celebrations in the sport the players have developed two distinct routines: clunk heads together when celebrating something big, like a touchdown, or pat each other on the bum when celebrating something minor, like chasing someone out of play. My guess is they’re like magpies and can’t resist the shininess of their pants.