Daily Archives: 14/09/2013

Moyes Faithfully Following Fergie Methods to Achieve Success – by Rob Atkinson

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One thing stood out plain and clear from today’s insipid victory for Man U over newly-promoted Crystal Palace – it’s going to be the tried and trusted route to success for Devon’s finest, especially at the Theatre of Hollow Myths.

It was the classic Man U home game against stubborn opposition bent on making things tough for the media’s darlings. Batter away, secure a dodgy penalty and if at all possible, have a complaisant ref who’s well-briefed enough to be aware of his responsibilities and who will obligingly reduce the away side to ten men, consigning the rest of the game to the status of a non-contest. It’s a reliable enough game plan, though depending heavily upon Ashley Young’s talent for ending up prone in the penalty area, regardless of where the alleged foul took place. It’s happened time and time again, prompting embarrassed “hem hems” in the commentary box, and a general air in the press of hoping that people won’t notice, no matter how often the same scenario plays itself out. It’s depressing, but modern football is modern business, and markets speak louder than words. Those shirts and the other Man U tat won’t just sell itself, don’t you know – and there’s warehouses full of the stuff all over the hotbeds of support across the South of England.

As they travel back to London after the match, fans of both teams might agree on one thing: Old Trafford isn’t quite the place it used to be. Time was it would be described as a fortress, albeit a pretty quiet one. But there’s always been that suspicion that “fortress” was not a very apt description, indeed that “bent crap table with loaded dice” would be far more accurate, the local management usually ending up happy, by hook or by crook. That reputation preceded Fergie, but certainly flourished under his tyrannical reign, his use of bluster, threats and intimidation to ensure that press and officials were all singing from the Man U song sheet.

As I’ve already mentioned elsewhere, new boss Moyes appears to have shed his former “quite nice guy” image, and reinvented himself as a Fergie Lite. Given the relative paucity of quality in his current squad, as compared to the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and City, this would appear to be his best bet – take those boys on at Football, and the modern-day, post-Taggart Man U would be in danger of some humiliating batterings. Already, Moyes’ paranoid pre-season whinge about having to play three Big Clubs in their first five fixtures appears prophetic. Two home points dropped against Chelsea, defeat away to the historical masters Liverpool. Better then, surely, to rely on the admittedly shady measures that brought so much undeserved success over the past twenty years of Murdoch-sponsored domination. After all – what’s a global franchise supposed to do? It’s win or, quite possibly, bust.

Whether a continuation of the same old, same old routine down Salford way can really take a sub-standard Man U squad to their accustomed honours must be open to doubt. The transfer window was a sobering experience for die-hard Nitid devotees from Torquay to Jakarta. City have secured diamonds, Arsenal have a pearl in Ozil, Liverpool are improved beyond all recognition and Chelsea have The Special One – ’nuff said. Man U meanwhile experienced a long and ongoing tragedy of a window, a car-crash experience of humiliating failure and rejection – ending up with someone in Fellaini whose best chance of a major role at the Theatre of Hollow Myths would appear to be sticking his head down the toilet and giving that U-bend a good going-over. Even Champions League pariahs Tottenham fared much better than that, and could well be dark horses for a top-four place this time around, particularly if favourable officiating and Moyes’ pallid impersonation of Nasty Alex isn’t enough to raise Man U out of sub-top six mediocrity.

And what if Man U really do fail – as their lack of quality and surfeit of internal strife might suggest they will? What then for former nice-guy Moyes? Is he destined to be the 21st Century Wilf McGuiness? Will “Sir” Fergie be tempted back to reprise Busby’s early 70’s attempted rescue act? It all remains to be seen, but the harrassed and worried glory-hunters on their long trip back to the south can be reassured after today’s standard-issue double-whammy of penalty and red card against opposition who threatened to frustrate them, that some things at least haven’t changed.

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Will West Ham “Pull It Off” at Southampton – Or Will the Clean-cut, Virtuous Saints Prevail? – by Rob Atkinson

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In a rare look at the no-hopers’ stratum of the Premier League, “Life, Leeds United, the Universe and Everything” will focus today on that most archetypal of mid-table fixtures, tomorrow’s clash of mediocrities at St Mary’s, as The Saints face sinners West Ham.

What? Sinners?? I hear you ask, probably with a bemused look on your face as you think of the ‘Appy ‘Ammers’ “World Cup Winners” and of course the Most Holy Sir Trevor Brooking Himself.  Well, I mean no real criticism of the traditional playing habits of The Academy of Football (Finishing Third Or Lower Since Formation).  Give or take Julian Dicks and Paolo di Canio, they’ve generally been one of the less offensive clubs around, and certainly my own beloved Leeds United have usually found West Ham to be a pleasantly soft touch down the years.  No, it’s the somewhat less savoury figureheads at the top of the club who tend to give the lie to any perception of the Irons as a tasteful family outfit.  The embarrassing fact of a pair of former soft-porn barons as co-chairmen rather shatters any such cosy image.  It’s perhaps ironic that these two share the Chairman title whilst the formerly scrumptious Karren Brady has to put up with being Vice Chairman.  It’s an incongruous contradiction that will not be lost on anyone who used to drool over the non-textual output of the Daily Sport.

In any event, misty-eyed memories of the likes of Brooking, Alan Devonshire, the Hurst/Peters/Moore triumvirate, Patsy Holland (Patsy??  Yes, Patsy, for crying out loud) and even more recent alumni such as Frank Lampard Jr. and Rio Ferdinand, have tended to disappear under the more muscular style favoured by one-time Fergie lapdog Sam Allardyce.  Fat Sam, as he is fondly known, is a realist.  He went for the most direct route out of the Championship, gaining a promotion that, while it offended the eyes of the old-timer Upton Park purists, nevertheless elevated them to the level of top-flight strugglers, the usual high-water mark of their less than spectacular history.  Fat Sam knows that, in this company, survival is all that can reasonably be expected of him, and he has accordingly taken the pragmatic approach to recruitment and tactics.  The abandonment of the old “Academy” tradition is mourned by many, but it’s all about money these days and the ‘Ammers need to cling on to their Premier League nose-bleed status for as long as possible.  Historically, this has tended to mean a few years of struggle among the game’s big boys before inevitable relegation and the start of a struggle to get back.  Such has been the pedigree, for want of a better word, of West Ham United.

Fat Sam’s current problems seem to revolve around the perennial injury problems of striker Andy Carroll, who is hors de combat yet again and therefore unable to provide the fulcrum needed for the Allardyce game plan to stand any real chance of success against all but the more inept of the Premier League roster.  The Saints’ own old-fashioned centre-forward, Ricky Lambert has looked a much better bet recently, thriving in international company for England where he has snapped up a couple of goal chances and shown a happy knack of threading an accurate pass through for runners into the box.  This key advantage, as well as a slightly healthier state of affairs surrounding the home side, leads me to conclude that the ‘Ammers chances of returning to Albert Square with anything other than a chastening defeat are quite slim.  My prediction is a comfortable enough 2-0 victory for Southampton, and the jellied eels to taste sour and as nauseating as they look in the Rose and Crahn tomorrow evening.

The ‘Ammers’ prospects for the season ahead would seem to be rather up in the air.  Fat Sam will stick to his script and he’ll hope that his more effective players can steer clear of injury for enough of the campaign to secure another year at the Top Table.  That’s a pretty encouraging prognosis for London’s paupers, who will be looking ahead at their move to the Olympic facility as a chance to elevate their status.  If West Ham can make that move still in possession of their hard-won Premier League status – well that’s enough to give even an aging porn baron’s libido a jolt and maybe even provide a suitable climax to what has been a less-than-palatable career.