Friday, October 28, 2011


I gave my inflatable banana away to a Dutch girl called Saskia, who seemed to be both passionately in love with AC Milan (Gullit, Rijkaard and The Other Fellow were there at the time) and on the point of perhaps considering shedding some of the flimsier items she was wearing at the time. In a fit of true stupidity and (possibly) overcome by a bubbling tsunami of hormones, I handed it over to her, fully inflated. It was late at night. We were in her flat. I had delivered all the lines about literature and philosophy, about the environment and adventure. I had dropped the names of Johnny Rep and Johan Neeskens into the conversation and said politely positive things about Queen Beatrix and her concrete hair. I had bought dinner and not hogged the wine too much, but still she was completely, utterly, fully dressed.
A Symphony in yellow: the author is 16th on the left, back row

A fully inflated banana.I know what made me do it and all I can say is, all these years later, I feel dirty, shallow and ever so slightly feeble. I want my banana back.

I will never see it again. I bought it somewhere down the side of the Arndale Centre, as you do. Or at least, as you did. I took it out of its package, feeling like a prize plum, and self-consciously gave a tug on its nipple (yes, I know). I had never tried to blow a banana up in central Manchester before. Even the Jacket Potato Man gave me a funny look and I had become quite used to our relationship being completely the other way round. Me: striding past confidently, humming New Order, fairly snazzy shoes, hair dancing and prancing. Jacket Potato Man: listless slightly slimy hair, joke jacket, Thompson Twins on his radio, stuck in a flourescent 4be4 caravan in the middle of the pedestrian zone with his baked beans filling going crispy because the heat on his calor gas burner wasn't properly regulated. Health + Safety would have taken one look at him and towed him away to Runcorn, where Jacket Potato Caravans go to rest.

On a good day he would have a trail of fat lasses on their healthy option day out, slapping their tats with mustard, mayo and ketchup. He'd be active then, parping out the sauce for those flabby armed girls who needed assistance, jumping forward with those pathetic little wooden forklets that you couldn't stab an ant with. "Here girl, grab this in your sausage-shaped fingers and try eating my scolding hot tat, dripping with colourless gravy and scorched beans whilst tottering down to M+S in a howling gale." I used to think the whole things was hilarious. The lasses would have volcanic hot flavourless brown gunk down their boobtubes before they'd even got as far as HMV.

But now he was smirking at me, with his bean stained pinny and his sweaty armpits. I gave it a yank and blew. Up it came like a flower in spring. You have to understand that Manchester in the 80s allowed this sort of thing to happen without a full scale riot and scorching of King Street's shirt shops. Morrissey was busy with his gladioli, there were jerks in jumpers everywhere, New Romantics with ruffs and puffed trousers looked like effete pirates who had pooed their pants. All in all, the scene was ready for bananas. And swimming pools. And fried eggs. And T-Rexes. It was about to get right out of hand.

From Gary James seminal Maine Road Men to Banana Citizens
And how we gave them bananas. My God. I may have felt like a prize Jeremy Clarkson in front of the Arndale with my yellow accomplice that day, but the nearer you got to the ground, the more obvious it got that you were in fact part of a vanguard of hipsters bringing something fresh and new to 80s football, a thing - don't forget - so shop soiled, it was ripe for the tip. Football hooligans had moved on from biff and bosh to rip and shred, casuals were all around, the glint of cold steel, the snide question "where you from, mate?", the little feral packs of spotty aces breathing down your neck on the way to the game.

I remember the rainswept scene down Claremont Road before the second division game with Chelsea, a big top of the table clash, with 40,000 expected and a heap of trouble to boot. Mad packs of scavenging hyenas everywhere you looked. Rain sleeting down, that slate grey vista all the way down Lloyd Street, with the coppers on horseback and the Pink Final man shouting his dues. An atmosphere of malevolent calm hanging over the place, as Maine Road cranked itself up for another of those steaming dripping bad-tempered second divison afternoons out. The distant clipped roar of the Chelsea mob floated over the top of the square riggged North Stand architecture, a set of plastic and corrugated iron struts that must have been chic at one point or another.

Once inside the ground, the threat of violence evaporated and the quality of football on show allowed you all the time in the world to wallow in the stunning visual effect of thousands of inflatables waging war on each other across the ground. It started at Oldham, took off at the Hawthorns with an unseemly scrap between a dinosaur and a giant cigarette, soon attracted paddling pools and six foot snakes and had its finest moment at the Victoria Ground where 12,000 City fans turned up in fancy dress clutching every kind of inflatable known to man. Naturally, City lost 3-1. There was also a home game (Leicester in the cup?) where the players emerged from the tunnel with a banana each, which were hurled into the Kippax. I well remember Ian Brightwell had chosen to carry a five foot banana instead of the "normal" ones and he looked like it was carrying him. Halcyon Days, indeed. Here are a couple of sharp memories from the era:

I also had rhino which the filth took off me at Watford, a game I seem to remember we lost 2-0."
Frank Newton: his fault
I remember the Banana being at the Plymouth Game, first of the season in 1987/8. We won 2-1 with Stewart and Varadi scoring I think in a late comeback and the "Big Banana" - the 5 foot type - was in the old Windy Corner between the Kippax and North Stands, later to become one of the Gene Kelly's. I am assuming this must have been Frank Newton.

At a time when the whole country is sitting up and taking notice and the football family is at last taking dear daft old Manchester City seriously, it might be worth remembering how we got this far without going completely nuts: what drove us to carry these things under our arms at a time when the rest of the country were chasing each other with carpet knives, where Blue Moon comes from, and the Invisible Man.

You have to laugh, and if at all possible, the best place to start is with yourself.

  • Were you there? Did you do something embarrassing? Have you been waiting 25 years to unburden yourself? Is it still lying in the bottom of a cupboard somewhere? Frightened to tell the wife? Did the police take a five foot inflatable rhino off you at Watford? Get in touch. You are not alone.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Looked agile and alert and cannot be faulted for any of the six goals that rocketed past his jumpy, shell-shocked form to nestle in the back of his forlorn, bedraggled, windswept net. Hair stood up to the test, maintaining its stiffness throughout what was an absolute shellacking of the first order. Good communication with his defenders, including the slightly high-pitched "What are you doeeeng?!" after an hour or so and a lively star jump in front of Very Smalling after the 6th (or 5th, there were so many, they merge into each other after a while)
Very very long legs, exceedingly long legs which he stuck out to the best of his ability but could not seem to catch Small and Spanish where he needed to be caught, right in the Brussels sprouts. Forged forward, legged it back, turned around and pop, the ball was in the back of the net again.
rio fortygrand: 6
The man for the big occasion. England's Mr Occasion. An occasion just waiting to happen. Would have got a much higher score but for his below average impression of a quayside bollard. Until he threw that risky impersonation around the 4th minute, he was doing so well alongside the ever-dependable Jonny Evans.
Scene in the Utd penalty area after Balotelli goal
Talk of the devil, here he is. Game hinged on his unfortunate red card when the two-faced arsonist Balotelli tricked him into thinking Saturn was revolving around his Uranus. If he had stayed on, it was clear United were heading for a cricket score. Came very close with a sizzling swashbuckling miss-kick from Rooney's knock-back. Unlucky with that one. Ball, leg, swing, ah bugga. Will now have to wait for his hair to grow back after being talked to by The Manager after the game.
But was he playing? I don't think so. There's a mistake here. Hang on, just check the programme. Yep, he was out there. Five it is then! Very good. Just like the Invisible Man.
Was asked to cause havoc down the wings and carried out his instructions to the letter. On both the left, when he was there and the right, when he switched, there was absolute and utter chaos. Very nice indeed. Made a beautiful egg custard at half time with some of the eggs that the manager had laid. Delicious.
Goal of the game from "Fletch", a player who is so much more than just a water-carrier and so much less than a proper effective professional footballer in the crunch of the really big occasion.
Cannot be given a mark as he was put in a small perspex box after 22 minutes of the game and shot off towards the Moon with one of sly, skullduggery-man Balotelli's "Ultra Catherine Wheels" attached to it. Will almost certainly fall back to Earth eventually and, when he does, there will still be plenty of people hanging about ready to laugh at him.
Beautiful frocks, just enough frills, just enough embroidery, just enough latticework in the bodice, if you know what I mean. Could have made a nice cushion cover out of some of those crosses. Really quite fetching. When in full flight, it all sort of flew up around his thighs, which was less nice.
Tonking. Not put off by the glare from his wife's party make-up, pasted on by a fleet of McAlpine dumper trucks as the match progressed. Kept running, but mainly in the wrong direction to fetch Anderson's passes. Still can't fault his energy, attitude or indeed his lovely full bonce of auburn hair. Reminded me of Ginger Rogers with a Digestive Biscuit Eating Disorder.
Showed distinct signs that he really is the real deal. Really. Really real deal. Ploughing a lone furrow upfront cannot be easy, but that is what you have to do when you are away to Inter Milan. Oh hang on...

Some others:
Didn't see him make one good save all game. Will have to up his performances if he wants to one day play for England.
Forgot all about his defensive duties and pushed way up the pitch like a runaway tractor. No 2nd gear, does everything at an enormous gallop. Felt very sorry for Ninny Nani Nonny, who must have been perplexed by the full back's odd positioning way up the right wing. At one point appeared to be trying to rip his way through entire defence. Absolutely reckless attitude to such a big game.
Got far too close to Rooney almost every time, meaning that Rooney had to drop unfeasibly deep far too often and ended up having the ball nicked from his toes just as he was going to produce something artistic and sumptuous for the Asian viewing public to coo at. This spoilt the game for a significant number of viewers in Thailand almost completely. kompany must learn to back off and let Rooney shoot a bit more. 
Played almost completely spoiling role, which was a shame for a central defender. Relies almost completely on his left foot, with a little bit of right and a tiny bit of head. This meant that he was often seen turning in little tight circles which made it difficult for the impressive Welbeck to get the ball back, which spoilt what was supposed to be an evenly matched fight.

Seems to have lost all of his Arsenal prowess, where he would run away from the ball constantly and let giant inviting spaces open up between himself and any number of dreamy creamy central defenders with names like Cushion, Poem and Pamphlet. Like Richards, he often looked like a winger, which is ridiculous in a tight match where he was expected to defend resolutely. Poor.
Expected much more from Milner. Here is a player who could, with his height, play the Crouch role, and with his bulk, also do what Yakubu does so well at Whipsnade Zoo, but he persists in running around until his lungs burst, playing fidgety little one-twos with that little Spanish guy and steaming into open spaces with only one thing on his mind: crossing to someone else! He has to wise up, slow down and be more greedy, or he will be on the way out.
Here's another one. Did anybody see him out there? Me neither. Neither here nor there, given the run around by Anderson, until he was mysteriously shipped off in his little skypod to the Moon. Disappointing afternoon counting sheep for Gareth. Also wore terrible trousers to Rooney's birthday party.
What does he do exactly? What is his role in the team? Is he a bulky bastion of defence or a bulky invading Viking? Too often he just appears for the big matches and stamps his authority on things without the least permission. He is also far too fast for a big lad. Where was he today, when the little men were threatening to take over? More questions than answers here, I'm afraid, and questions that will have to be answered by someone wiser than me in the weeks to come.
This little man could eventually be a good player, if he would just indulge himself a bit more. We saw from Ninny Nani Nonny how to do interminable stepovers then get clouted into touch, how to do the wibble-wobble then fall over yourself, how to track back without getting your hair wet, but Small and Spanish didn't pick up on any of these little tricks and was the worse for wear as a consequence. No shimmies, no ineffectual waving of the right leg, no poncy poker straight legs before hitting a freekick towards the flagpoles on the roof. All in all, very Spanish and thus deeply disappointing.
He burnt his house down on the eve of the match. What can I say? Should not really have been on the pitch, as his mind was obviously elsewhere. Sixes and Evans clearly affected by the Italian's antics, which were bordering on gamesmanship in my books. At one point was seen to take a small box of matches from his back pocket, making Evans veer away wildly with his arms in the air. This led to the space which led to the other thing going wrong, which ended up in poor distracted United conceding the 4th goal (or was it the sixth, I've lost count)
Mesmerised by his thighs. Sadly, he did not do much with them. Pumped up and down a bit, but only managed one goal, which is a poor return.
Another ineffectual display. Came on and missed two gilt-edged sitters with his first two touches. By the time he had warmed up, the game was almost over and he could only get himself the two goals, one of which came off his knee, the other off his foot.

Extremely poor performance from this usually one-eyed, one-sided, hey-look-at-me ref. Usually so sure in his early pointing, his manly gesticulating and his gentlemanly leaning towards the home side. Today, nothing went right for the Gateshead Grimace, from the rash of wrongly produced cards to missing five crucial offsides for City's goals.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Now would be a good time to take in a sharp breath or two, before any bubbles that might be clouding the vision fade and pop in front of the eyes, making us blink like a March hare. Taking a swift glance at this will not help much, mind you:

Premier League table

Saturday, 15 October 2011 
Position Team P GD PTS
1 Man City 8 21 22
2 Man Utd 8 19 20
3 Chelsea 8 11 19
4 Newcastle 7 5 15
5 Liverpool 8 2 14
6 Tottenham 6 1 12
7 Stoke 8 -2 12
8 Aston Villa 8 1 11
9 Norwich 8 -1 11
10 QPR 8 -8 9
11 Swansea 8 -5 8
12 Fulham 8 1 7
13 Everton 7 -4 7
14 Wolves 7 -4 7
15 Arsenal 7 -6 7
16 Sunderland 7 1 6
17 Bolton 8 -10 6
18 West Brom 7 -5 5
19 Wigan 8 -8 5
20 Blackburn 8 -9 5

Quite something, I think you'll agree.I'm not sure any of us quite believed in even our giddiest moments on the magic juice that it might come to this. On the brink of a Manchester derby (that's a proper derby, Mr Ferguson, where you play your proper first team and make proper excuses afterwards) on enemy territory, we prepare to enter the field top of the table, two points clear of our hosts with a better goal difference. Forget not that the United juggernaut put eight past Arsene's stunned crew earlier last month, but still live in our shadow by two goals. And two points. After eight games. Seven wins and an unseemly scramble at Craven Cottage, which should also have garnered three points.

Suddenly, what might have been the crowning glory of a Champions League game at home to a decent Spanish outfit, can't be swept aside quickly enough. That's all very well, your Rossi and your Yellow Submarines but looming on our horizon is one of those epoch-defining games that make your trousers stand up even when they are not being worn by anyone.

They're just names
As is customary at these times, our opponents-to-be have outdone themselves in lethargic one-liners to the press and wacky team formations in "their most important game of the season".  How long, one wonders, can Ferguson perpetuate this nonsense before someone (hopefully wearing an Elizabethan cape, tortoise-shell shoes and a stethoscope) runs up and blows an enormous whistle right in his face? Liverpool -Man United, that age-old squabble, took place in bright sunlight, but with little or no illumination.
In his unparalleled, impartial way, gary neville's column - naturally backing up all Glaswegian ethical codes regarding Liverpool (toughest game), team tinkering (right to rotate) and Wayne Rooney (got to go to Poland/Ukraine) - confirms what we know already. United are inhabiting a world of increasingly ill-formed and ridiculous denial.

Liverpool v United was a study in the Incapable versus the Unwilling, nothing more. If United want to try and convince themselves that a Liverpool so timid, so cautiously structured, so reluctant to push more than two men forward into attack, is the acid test, then they've badly mixed up their "sulphuric" with their "hydrochloric".

In a moment of weakness, I sought comfort in this cutting from 1998 (above). Only 13 years ago. Click on it and treat yourself to the names in the immediate environs of Manchester City. They make pretty hilarious reading. We are in the third column right over to the edge of the's a little blurred in order to protect those still with a weak heart after all these years.

Far be it from me to wander the corridors of the past, slamming doors, opening windows, fanning fresh air into murky, queer-smelling corners, but 1998 was not so long ago. A year of Pollock, of walking aggressively, of Bristol Rovers and Chesterfield, of tears, stale bread and the loudest wake up call since they attached an alarm clock to the side of Pluto's head and let him walk clean off the end of the pier.

Instead of Michael Branch winging it past some nutjob assassin from Gillingham, we now have the sumptuously impudent Mario Balotelli larging it in front of the Villa fans. He skids to a halt, they jeer, he tells them to watch it, they tell him to go screw himself, he nearly scores immediately, then performs an overhead kick in front of them to put City one up. If this sequence had been enacted in 1998, or 1997, or 1996, the script would have been so different, as Jamie Pollock will tell you: fall over your own feet, crowd laughs (that's your own crowd laughing), stand up and rub yourself down, realise half of your arse crack is showing, go up for heroic clearance, flounce ball comically from twenty yards into your own net, crowd disintegrates, giant clap of thunder resonates, stadium folds like little cardboard animation, feeble pre-pubescent voice shrieks "Fail" in the background....

The tide that went out such an unfathomably long way on that sunny day versus Queen's Park Rangers, is now flooding back in. It has been on its way in for a good while now, but the surge is beginning to become a wide wall, a long liquid barrier of tossing spray, a fully-fledged sky-blue curler. The question is, will that mountain of perfect, symmetrical turquoise water come crashing down next weekend and obliterate all in front of it or not? The time feels right. Surf's up.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Joseph Barton yesterday
AN APOLOGY The Desert Dispatch regrets that the actions of a few misguided louts during the summer made it impossible to publish as usual during June and was it July and perhaps even August. Owing to the rank misbehaviour of one such behooded youth, our office window was smashed and the Mother Computer stolen, resulting in the loss of vital data and my interesting photograph collection (mainly of rare butterflies but nevertheless...). Police are looking for a young man with a stacked, gelled and obscurely constructed quiff and what might loosely be called "a Liverpool accent" last seen using his computer (our computer more like) to communicate through Twitter “like an over-excited ten year old might”. The texts of various love poems, some deeply incoherent book reviews, The World Compendium of Quotes for Quoting and an old Scrapbook of Nietzsche and Simone de Beauvoire cuttings were stolen. 
Did he wipe away a tear as the Giant Fokker GF33 took to the grey-laden sky this evening or was it a spec of dust? Did he wave a little St George’s flag or was it just a hanky with a splatter of nose-bleed in the middle? Did he write “love you” in the condensated window or did it say something else less fragrant back to front? Was that a smile playing across his lower jaw or was he having his usual problems with the airline lasagne? Did he leave each supporter who made the trip to Munich a little envelope containing a few pennies as a gesture of contrition or was it just the key to his Bismark Humdinger 4x4? We will possibly never know, but he sure did leave a nasty smell behind in Terminal 3.

ENGLAND CALLING by Excited Dicky O’Donnald of The Mirror
After their scintillating league cup win over downtrodden and humdrum Leeds, it came as quite a SHOCK that Michael Owen didn’t get a long overdue and well deserved call up to play for England again. He has shown time and again that there is not a better and more clinically adept footballer who plays three times a season anywhere in Britain and probably the world. A call-up would almost certainly have put him in the running for Player of the Year too, but CRUSHINGLY this will all be put on ice until he POPS UP AGAIN sometime in March to notch the third goal in a 5-0 win at Fulham. In the meantime all votes should be diverted to Ryan Giggs as usual.


Carlos Tevez has been feted on arrival in Katakunga National Park, where thousands of local children people have made the 30 - 55 kilometre...22 - 34 mile trek, stagger, arid walk across barren wasted yet strangely peaceful scrubland with 50 degree heat, hot, hoover, no water and the ever-present threat of attack by lion, cheetah or scurrilous bugs, bugles and candyfloss salespeople. Carlos said on arrival/departure: "I am happy/sad to be here and it makes me want to believe/chuck up in this fucking heat. If it wasn't for Colonel Gadaafi and Nicolae Caeucesu and Phil Neal, this continent or quarry or very deep pit with water in it would be a nice and voluptuous place to have a weekend break/mushroom omelette in. Oooh, my kidneys/intestines/home made apple pie! Mancini you are a very unkind man" (this translation delivered by *Joorabchian2011TranslatorSystem* 

GUEST PIECE by Mark Church Organ of the Daily Telegraph
SCHOLESY UNDERSTANDS DEMENTED TEVEZ  It seems such a vast barren horribly empty space of time since Paul “Scholesy” Scholes, that archetypal footballers’ footballer hung up his boots and how we all deeply and dearly miss him... (Oh, Christ, get him off, pull this piece please, tell him the cheque’s in the post – Ed)

When you turn Rooney upside down, the effect is stunning
HAIRY ALLOVER  After Wayne Rooney’s hugely successful hair transplant, the results of which prove that it is after all possible to waste more money than Victoria Beckham on vacuous vanity projects that make you look even more stupid than when you FIRST STARTED, it is being reported by some sources that ex-Manchester Utd footballer turned impartial Sky football pundit Gary Neville will be next to prostrate himself under the surgeon’s trembling TWEEZERS. Rooney, meanwhile, has been FORCED to have his hair DYED after the £30,000 transplant caused the bare scrub that was left to go GREY. We asked Forbes Phillipson Carcrash of Hair for Men to run his man eye over the new Rooney. “Why bother touching up your hair for thirty grand when your head’s like a giant potato?" he asked us. "The poor dear’s face looks like three-day-old snow after someone’s had a dump in it”.
Neville Junior, meanwhile, whose heroes in 80s Bury included Ron Atkinson, Arthur Albiston and Remi Moses, all of whom carried massive bushy facial and cranial furniture around the grounds of England at one time or another (Atkinson’s famous roll-over the top hair do featured finely interwoven hairs from 85 MONGOLIAN RED PANDAS and his mocassins were constructed from the finest platypus bladder.)  was beset with acne and whispy hair - known as bumfluff in the medical profession- as a teenager and, whilst the greasy SPOTS eventually cleared up, he has carried the Other Burden with him into his late 30s. "Some males just never get beyond producing the little daisy tufts that look like they have sprouted from a pre-pubescent girl's armpit," said Carcrash. The painful medical procedure he may well go through requires tough, dark hairs to be taken from another part of the donor’s body and transplanted one by one into the upper lip of the patient. “In this case I think it’s safe to say we’ll just delve into his underpants and see what we can find.” said eminent physician Padraig Crerand.

Old rascal Sepp Blatter's newly arranged "council of wisdom" whose job it will be to advise the FIFA president on how to speak at the top of his voice when allegations of corruption are put to him, are to be joined by new members. Unsure as to whether the weighty intellect and hearty vocal chords of Henry Kissinger, Johan Cruyff and Placido Domingo would suffice, word on the street in Zurich is that they will be joined soon by Sacha Distell, Eddie the Eagle and the Archbishop of Galway, the very reverend Terry  and June, to bolster the ranks with a touch of theatricality, yarn spinning and TOUGH REALISM. In another scintillating development, the FIFA executive appointed to head the Olympic football tournament in London is still under investigation by the International Olympic Committee's ethics commission over corruption allegations, a spokesman for the IOC has confirmed. Itsa Potato, the president of the Confederation of African Football, has been appointed by Fifa to head the organising committee for the tournament and as the new chairman of the Goal Bureau, which distributes Fifa money for development projects. That’s “distributes FIFA money for development projects”. Selection Board member Ronnie Corbett said, “It’s the way we tell them. Most people were laughing when they heard we are all comedians on the selection board. Well they’re not laughing now! Boo-boom”.

Ah yes. Well, no. But, there again. No, definitely not. 'Kin thruppeny bit.

Smallish Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Luka Modric has aimed SHARP criticism at Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy after he went back on a deal to allow Modric to break his own contract with the club. The tiny Croatian Mastermind contestant was BITTERLY CONFUSED and AWFULLY UPSET after having his earlier agreement with the chairman reneged upon. “If this is how chairpersons around the football world are going to behave, I fear for the sport,” he giggled seriously. “Showing a modicum of decency and understanding would have allowed me to leave this glorious club for one even more glorious. Where’s that upright British behaviour when you need it,” he sqeaked excitedly. “One broken agreement should not necessarily lead straight to another one. Otherwise we are all in a pickle of eggs and cauliflower,” he said before driving off in his Tritonia Humdinger 4x4, trailing many cans of pop and other fruit-flavoured light refreshments from the back bumper.

Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez will not be here any longer than necessary after he fired off another BROADSIDE about living conditions in Manchester. “Nothing has changed,” said the little striker, fondling his beard. “Manchester is still as stinking awful as it was last year and the year before that.”. I was brought up in a slum in Buenos Aires and cannot adjust to this kind of place at all. Nothing could have prepared me for what I found here when I first arrived”. Speaking of Manchester’s two restaurants, Tevez explained: “I no like chicka tikka massala and I no like fishy chips”. 
No like it
Tevez told the press that “my family is very important to me, or at least some of them. Those small ones in the tennis socks. They cannot live here. It is full of English and Manchestrians. It is not just the food. It is the weather, the luxury hotels, people bowing and scraping and shaking hands all the time. It’s the club falling over itself to accommodate even my most stupid whims. I am an Apache not an Afghan hound. I need open spaces not MUSHY PEAS on a big plate.” (through an interpreter)
POSTSCRIPT: After his interview, Tevez left with the squad to play in Munich. Or not play. It turned out to be the latter, although it was a close run thing, when Mancini pulled him to his feet and tried to unzip his tracksuit. Like any decent four year old, Tevez immediately put a plan into operation: SPAGHETTI LEGS and SLIPPERY ARMS. Unable to get him to his feet, Mancini took the only option open to him: Aleksander Kolarov.

Afterwards, Bill Buggermee of Ancoats said: “I can understand Carlos’s predicament. You have to put yourself in his shoes. I mean, us lot, we just turn up drink and shout a lot. We’ve just spent an entire month’s salary to be here tonight and personally, I’ll never forget the show Tevez put on for us. His spirit is just on another level, isn’t it?”


The donuts: clearly the hole has been stolen
Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, allegedly caught stealing a donut or doughnut from an Altrincham supermarket, has been acquitted by local magistrates after it was found the case for the prosecution had a hole in it. An alleged assault on a fig roll was curtailed when De Gea realised just in time that it tasted of tar. The disappearance of a slice of Battenburg from Timperley High Street is also being treated as suspicious.


Titus Bramble would like to assure all fans, particularly of his current club Schlunderland, and his former club Newpinkrodents that the alleged drugs found on his person have had no effect on his playing style whatsoever. Dwooob dwooob.

Carlos Tevez arrived unexpectedly in Kitakunga National Park late last night, where the locals turned out in force to dance around him and wave coloured sticks with crepe paper at him. Due to a mistranslation by one of his crack team of aides, they now believe he is The Rice God.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


And that, lads and lasses, is how to put to bed the most troublesome of weeks.

It started with a low rumbling, white static, the sound of the tide crashing up the beach, water flowing into places it shouldn't really get to. Then the warm embrace of Lancashire sun, 7,000 hands clapping, gulls clamouring, the sound of raucous laughter coming through the paperthin walls. It's a Ferrari shifting gears, the gentle clunk clunk of a slice of Mendelsohn, a young woman fiddling with her skirt.

Then crash. It steps up a gear and thunders into sight, menace replacing beauty, thrust replacing grace.It's upon you with a thud. Yaya Touré with DirectionFinder turned off.

Roberto Mancini leaves Ewood Park with his ears glowing from the tributes rolling down off the packed away end of travelling Blues. This was just the tonic he and everyone else needed after the rocky road through Bavaria nearly brought the mast down from the good vessel Manchester City. Stormy waters and a strong foul-smelling wind from the South Atlantic notwithstanding, this was a broad reach all the way home.

Suddenly some of Silva's slide rules passes may be slightly skewed and Yaya's compass has taken a smack, but still they form a hub of short simple passes that simultaneously gets the team out of trouble, creates space and time to think and launches the next foray northwards. It is the essential middle cog of this well-oiled machine and, even when it is slightly below par, as it was in midweek and in places at Ewood, it does the business. With the addition here of a second half Nasri and a fully-alive Balotelli, we were treated to a waltz of growing beauty.

We will have to -slowly at first, perhaps - accept that this City squad is not for shifting from the top of the table, not about to descend into nerve-ridden bad form, not about to be shaken up by their anxious Champions League debut. This squad is strong in length, breadth and depth, stands up to be counted and comes back for more when the dice are loaded. And the dice were loaded today. Witness the throng of journalists waiting for a good news story from the Blues this weekend.

Today's showing at Ewood Park began with the by-now accustomed assured, possession-filled start and moved on to a second half of sumptuous attacking, counter-attacking, one-touch passing and unerring finishing. The sight of the ball pinging around from City shirt to City shirt with such speed and accuracy, devastating in its precision and beautiful in its accomplishment, still makes me want to rub my eyes and recheck the colour of the shirts. Brought up on Danny Granville, Niel Heaney and any number of other willing pros that were "less than comfortable in possession", this chicken tikka taka is pure nectar, a kind of salve to the eyes after watching Stuart Pearce's muscly favourites welly it into the zones and charge after it like a pack of underfed schoolkids.

If Bayern's crisp possession made City look pedestrian on Tuesday, this was the same trick reheated and served on the humble men of Blackburn. What Bayern might do to Blackburn doesn't bear thinking about, but it would surely end with a humane killing. The week then has taught us several lessons: 1) the Champions League is a different place 2) The Premier League is not 3) Savic will be a big star very soon and 4) a team performing for each other is a team going places.

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