Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Strictly Stressful Saturday!

I have come to a conclusion - Life is undeniably stressful on a continual basis, in otherwards all of the time!
Everybody is stressed 24/7, and the pressure to be successful is forever unforgiving!
Why is there so much emphasis on bringing home such a substantial slice of the bacon?
Is it in order to pay for.......the nanny, the chef, the housekeeper, the gardener, holidays to exotic far away destinations, the flash motor or two, the country retreat in Berkshire and the chalet in Verbier?

All for what? In a penny-pinching attempt to keep up with the Joneses.

That is of course in between the winter showers, the freezing days and nights, and all of the seven hours of daylight we get at this time of year!
Nobody has any spare time!
(Nobody has any manners! That is a whole subject in itself, but I'm not going down that road now, perhaps a topic for discussion at a later date).

Monday to Friday is habitually monotonous - up, work, home, eat, bed.....roll on the next day!

After a painfully busy first week in a new job that incorporated the standard 'virgin new boy' artificial pleasantries and introductions that accompany any new vocation, namely 'this is the coffee machine,' 'that's the bog,' 'meet the team' and the added bonus of 'we don't talk social topics of conversation to our fellow colleagues during office hours, irrespective of your persona.'

The reason, because these people are all so damm self-righteous, they live to work and do so assiduously, in between kissing the Company's backside.
All very noble......I think not!

Then only a few days into my first week the opening test of my own persona was bestowed upon me - 'The Xmas Work Bash' on Thursday evening, (where I must have known all of 3 people).
It was so appalling that I might just need counselling if I am ever to contemplate attending another one by choice!

Think Boy George meets the Spice Girls and allow a bunch of inebriated suits the opportunity to shrill, screech and whine away with the aid of a geriatric karaoke machine. Throw in some sesame toast and spring rolls smothered in acidic red ketchup, and wash it down with the poison of choice, tawdry vino and warm beer. All this on a dancefloor covered in rancid vomit.

Visualise, and the words cheap and nasty spring to mind!

And then to have to go into the office the next morning (Friday) pretending you enjoyed yourself and then finding yourself with no option but to agree with people you have never spoken to before (let alone know their names) that it was without a shadow of doubt the best soiree of the year - better than any Hollywood showbiz shin dig of the modern era.

The euphoria I felt as the clocked ticked around to 5.30pm on Friday was short lived for by the time I rocked up at home I felt too dog-tired to go out socially, and with the usual chores to do before footy on Saturday praying on my mind I decided on a relatively early night, so I could wake up fresh as a daisy in the morning and raring to go!

But I overslept on Saturday and time was against me. I looked at my 'to do' list, attempted to prioritize my chores and off I went with purpose.....initially.

First stop, the barbers, but inevitably on a Saturday there is a queue, not a substantial one, but a wait of sorts. As I leave I look at my watch and the pressure is on. I'm running late now.
The wait combined with not getting up as early as I had intended meant I had no time to do anything else.
I was due to meet the boys in a pub in South Norwood before the game at about 1pm for a bevy, and to watch our South London rivals, the Addicks hopefully get tonked by the Albion in the lunchtime kick-off on Sky.

The combination of heavy Xmas traffic and the propensity of public transport to let you down ( particularly it seems when you require it most) added to the frustration, and meant I arrived later than planned at the pub and as a result was faced with a heaving, dogged throng of like minded fans all wanting the same thing - beer!

To the match. 1-0 down early on to the Yorkies of Wednesday and the day was already spiraling inordinately downhill at rollercoater pace.
Wednesday fans are giving us plenty of stick but then we get an equalizer and a bit of respite.
In the 2nd half the tension mounts, the opposition graze the woodwork twice and Speroni dives full length to tip one over the bar - are we heading for a first defeat in eight games.....and thus spending the evening looking pitifully into the bottom of our post match beer glass for an answer?
No, because 17 yr old Sean Scannell comes to the rescue and gets the Eagles' winning goal a minute from time, with a sublime chip.

We breathe a huge sigh of relief, combined with a slight sense of 'we got out of jail' & then the inevitable elation that accompanies any positive result.
Off back to the pub to meet the boys again, one of whom has just become a father for the first time.
Who needs an excuse but we had one......lets paint the town red (& blue).

We leave sumptuous South Norwood about 7pm and headed at pace for the salubrious surroundings of The London Borough of Bromley.
Anyway three of us did, as we hailed a taxi to take us to one of our regular haunts.

Ten minutes later we were inside and comfortably perched at the bar.
We sank a few more pints, nailed some shots, toasted baby Alice umpteen times and then proceeded to get thrown out!
Ok so we were a little the worse for wear, but we were behaving, our language was clean and we were generally minding our own business.
It wasn't like we were manhandling the ladies, nicking other peoples drinks or riding unicycles through the bar whilst fire-eating.

Anyway there we are standing on the pavement outside scratching our heads - did we really get chucked out and if so why?
So I walked up to the entrance ushered to one of the meatheads on the door, who was then immediately joined by a fellow meathead and said in basic Anglo-Saxon English, 'Why did u throw us all out?'
I then said relatively calmly, 'my pal has just become a father and we were wetting the baby's head.'
He tells me my pal was asleep on the bar. 'No I said he did at one stage have his hands against his ears and elbows on the bar, but he wasn't asleep and so what?'

Feeling a little peeved and forlorn the three of us dejectedly trudged away shaking our heads in disbelief at the turn of events!

My pals and I on the odd occasion used to get thrown out of bars when we were in our teens & twenties, not in our forties!
So financially light and brassed off we headed our separate ways home and it was still only 10.30pm or thereabouts!

What a farce?

You go out to enjoy yourself, you're not bothering anyone, you're relaxing in good company and the above happens.

As I made my way home I considered my day.......then I reflected on all the stress, strain, tension, frustration, conflict, hassle, pressure and anxiety that had multiplied itself throughout the day.
It was a Saturday, no work, the opportunity to socialise with friends, watch footy, have a beer, and generally unwind.
The CHANCE to enjoy yourself away from the Monday to Friday rat race. FAT CHANCE!

As I neared my front door, Sunday was almost upon me, and I had calculated that there were only nine shopping days remaining until Xmas and I hadn't yet sent a card, let alone bought any presents!

Ok I'm a guy and we don't multi-task (according to women & scientists that is) and ok maybe, and perhaps in some people's eyes I had got my priorities wrong.
Maybe I should have forgone my real passion on a Saturday - not going to footy and meeting up with my pals, and instead gone Xmas shopping with the rest of the planet. But no I work all week, get up at 5.30 each morning, am I not supposed to use my weekends to do things I don't normally get to do in the week like socialize (work get-togethers definitely do NOT count).

With all the pressure and stress of my own weekend up to thus point, which had not included anything along the lines of shopping, household chores, or preparing for Xmas etc, I think work MIGHT in fact be more conducive to normality than one realizes!

Its predictable, admittedly dull, sometimes repetitive, but you know where you stand, what to expect, what time you start and finish, and of course it pays the bills......like next year's season ticket!

Anyway I'll be there next Saturday, at football that is, not doing chores or Xmas shopping!

Friday, December 07, 2007

'Capped & Crap' - The All-Time Worst England Team.

Since the recent debacle of the national team in failing to qualify for the European Championship Finals of 2008, I felt it only right and topical to put together my 'all-time worst' team to don an England shirt.

These players are by no means the only 'time wasters' who should never have been selected to play for England, but in my opinion they remain the most 'inept' examples.
However I understand that every football fan will have their own thoughts and views on the subject, so I would therefore encourage you to leave me a comment if you feel I have chosen a player who in your opinion does not deserve to be included, or quite the reverse, if you feel I have left out a player who should most definitely be a candidate for England's 'all-time worst' XI.

This topic took up a fair bit of time in terms of research and deliberation.
Surprisingly however I have not included any of the squad from the infamous 3-2 defeat to Croatia on the 21st November 2007.
This says a lot about either my delusional state of mind in thinking that the current crop of players have at least the potential to succeed, or just how bad the players I have chosen really were!

All the players chosen are from our era, as I did not think it was fair to deride players that you or I have never seen.

Even at their peak this 'incompetent' bunch would have struggled to win a Sunday pub league.

Dave Beasant

David Bardsley...Zat Knight...Steve Foster...Paul Konchesky

Michael Phealan...Barry Venison...Andy Gray...David White

Peter Ward.........Michael Ricketts

Dave Beasant - 2 Caps, v. Italy in 1989 in a friendly & v. Yugoslavia in 1989 also in a friendly (both as a substitute). At the time he was playing club football for Chelsea.
David Bardsley - 2 Caps, v. Spain (as a substitute in 1992) in a friendly & v. Poland in 1993 in a World Cup qualifier. At the time he was playing club football for QPR.
Zat Knight - 2 Caps, v. USA (as a substitute in 2005) in a friendly & v. Columbia in 2005 also in a friendly. At the time he was playing club football for Fulham.
Steve Foster - 3 Caps, v. N.Ireland in the Home Championships, v. Holland in a friendly & v. Kuwait in the World Cup Finals, all in 1982. At the time he was playing club football for Brighton & Hove Albion.
Paul Konchesky - 2 Caps, v. Australia in 2003 in a friendly & v. Argentina in 2005 in a friendly (both as a substitute). Against Australia he was playing his club football for Charlton Athletic & against Argentina he was playing his club football for West Ham.
Michael Phealan - 1 cap, v. Italy (as a substitute in 1989) in a friendly. At the time he was playing club football for Man Utd.
Barry Venison - 2 Caps, v. USA in 1994 in a friendly & v. Uruguay in 1995 in a friendly. At the time he was playing club football for Newcastle Utd.
Andy Gray - 1 Cap, v. Poland in 1991 in a European Championship qualifier. At the time he was playing club football for Crystal Palace.
David White - 1 Cap, v. Spain in 1992 in a friendly. At the time he was playing club football for Man City.
Peter Ward - 1 Cap, v. Australia (as a substitute in 1980) in a friendly. At the time he was playing club football for Brighton & Hove Albion.
Michael Ricketts - 1 Cap, v. Holland in 2002 in a friendly. At the time he was playing club football for Bolton Wanderers.

Between 1980 & 2005 these players amassed a total of 18 Caps, (8 of these as substitute appearances), all bar 4 of these caps were won for appearances in friendly internationals, & they combined to score a total of 0 goals.

Why did the England managers at the time select these players?

Beasant was nervy & error prone, Bardsley was nondescript, Zat Knight was over-rated, Steve Foster was both cumbersome & slow, & compounded his lack of ability by wearing that preposterous headband. Paul Konchesky made two appearances both in friendlies, both times as a substitute, with nearly three years elapsing between his debut and his only other appearance. Michael Phealan looked a half-decent player at Norwich but became a laughing stock at Old Trafford, Barry Venison with his long flowing peroxide hair looked more like 80's pop star Limahl out of Kajagoogoo than a footballer, Andy Gray was selected on the basis of getting to the 1990 FA Cup Final & David White was never ever a player of international class. Peter Ward was picked because....he was a 'style icon' with his permed hair & Michael Ricketts was selected on the back of a scoring streak at Bolton that ended when he earned his only cap and became an 'international.'

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Fine Art Of The Goal Celebration

Who knows where it all started?

Charlie George lying flat out on the Wembley turf after firing the winner for Arsenal against Liverpool in the 1971 FA Cup Final?

Most celebrations are modest and merely involve the goalscorer being congratulated by team-mates, however over recent years the amateur dramatics of the modern day goalscorer has become almost as momentous as the art of scoring itself, as players & teams alike try to outshine their colleagues whether it be within their own club or that of another.

Players must spend hours thinking up, then rehearsing or practicing their celebrations and routines!

In many cases these celebrations don't involve just the goalscorer, on occasions the entire team get involved in complicated routines.

Perhaps the most bizarre team routine was Chelsea's reproduction of a classical painting following a goal by Roberto de Matteo.

One of the most memorable choreographed celebrations came when Paul Gascoigne scored against Scotland during the Euro 96 championships. He lay on his back while other England players (including Teddy Sheringham and Gary Neville) grabbed water bottles from the touchline and poured water into his open mouth. This celebration mimicked a controversial pre-tournament incident when England players were photographed in a nightclub, sitting in a dentist's chair having alcoholic drinks poured down their throats.

The 1982 World Cup saw one of the most memorable celebrations of all-time from Italian midfielder Marco Tardelli after he scored Italy's second goal against West Germany in the final. With tears in his eyes, he sprinted into his own half, fists beating against his chest, tears pouring down his face, screaming his name as he shook his head wildly. This is also called the 'Tardelli cry.'

Another famous celebration, especially in the United States, is the shirt-stripping moment by American Brandi Chastain after she converted the winning penalty in the 1999 Women's World Cup final against China. The image of Chastain with her shirt off and revealing her toned tummy and her sports bra, immortalized on the covers of Time, Newsweek, People, and Sports Illustrated, is one of the most famous in women's sports history.

In 2006, Peter Crouch's 'robo-kop' goal celebration became a fad across England, and at the same time added a new and grim chapter to the annals of terrible goal celebrations.
His 'robot dance' which was first unveiled after the Liverpool striker scored England’s third goal in a friendly against Hungary, was supposedly a reprise of Crouch’s 'performance' on the dancefloor at the Beckhams' gala party the previous weekend.
The call from 'Strictly Come Dancing' was, one presumes, not forthcoming.

Other famous celebrations in England include the Aylesbury United team, nicknamed The Ducks, going down on their knees, and waddling in a line, with their elbows flapping.

Basir "Bas" Savage of Brighton & Hove Albion celebrates by performing either the standard moonwalk, the moonwalk 360 or the side glide. This has gained him a regular spot on TV's Soccer AM with the section 'I Wanna be like Bas.'

Craig Bellamy of Liverpool celebrated his goal against Barcelona, simulating a golf swing, due to media speculation into a fight between him and teammate, John Arne Riise, at a karaoke night near their training ground in Portugal, where he allegedly tried to hit Riise with a golf club.

Tottenham Hotspur striker Robbie Keane has one of the more distinctive goal celebrations in the modern game, running to one side of the field to perform a round-off to a front somersault on the pitch, ending on one knee, and then mimicking the firing of a rifle or an arrow from a bow after he scores.

Australian players sometimes 'box' the corner flag, Rocky style, in celebration of a goal. Most notably Tim Cahill, who ran to box the corner flag when he scored Australia's first ever World Cup goal in the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Now you can witness the Cahill celebration anytime he scores for his club side Everton.
The corner flag is often used by players to celebrate a goal. Roger Milla the Cameroon International famously used to dance around the flag, while Lee Sharpe posed around the corner flag after scoring, using it as a microphone as he mimed to a song in celebration.

A player rocking his arms from side to side, as though rocking a baby, usually signifies that the scorer recently became a parent, whether or not for the first time. This is a classic celebration, a beautiful moment of tender paternal love.......er in the midst of the maelstrom of a World Cup tournament match!
Brazil striker Bebeto’s baby-rocking celebration of his goal against Holland in the 1994 World Cup finals is condemned not for itself, but for the license it gave every footballer who has managed to procreate, to burden us with their indecorous familial bliss. And as we all know, there is nothing worse than other people’s babies. The whole genre, however, was redeemed by Fred, Lyon’s Brazilian striker, who during a Champions League game at last gave it a different spin by concealing a 'dummy' in his shorts, which he promptly stuck in his mouth upon scoring.

'Diving' onto the pitch with arms and legs outstretched. Supposedly first done by Jürgen Klinsmann, shortly after he joined Tottenham. Klinsmann was actually performing this goal celebration to satire his own (in his belief unjustified) reputation for diving to win free-kicks and penalties. It became known as 'doing a Klinsmann.'

Albanian-born Finnish striker Shefki Kuqi jumps with arms open wide in the air and then falls down in the grass, landing heavily.

There are some celebrations which are distinctive if only for the fact they are banal and monotonous.

Such celebrations include:
The scorer putting a finger to his mouth, as if telling the (opposition) crowd to be quiet.
The scorer putting his hand to his ear, taunting the opposing supporters for having suddenly gone silent following his goal.
The scorer kissing the club badge on his or her shirt, to show his or her love for the club.

In recent seasons, The Football Association have tried to crack down on some of the more enthusiastic celebrations in the FA Premier League. If a player incites the crowd and/or takes his shirt off after scoring a goal he is likely to get booked by the referee (e.g., Bastian Schweinsteiger during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Marlon Harewood for West Ham after scoring in the 2006 FA Cup Semi-Final against Boro, and Carlos Alberto Gomes during the 2004 UEFA Champions League Final, to name but a few).

This can cause huge controversy if the player has already been booked, since he would then be sent off. Similarly, in American women's soccer at school and collegiate levels, the practice of taking the shirt off to celebrate a goal (made popular by Brandi Chastain), has been prohibited.
However, some players get around this rule by pulling the hem of their shirts over the head, without taking the shirt off entirely, but this is not always overturned by the referees as shown by Italian Stefano Farina, referee of the 28th October 2006 famous Milan Derby which Inter won 4-3 away in San Siro, he gave Marco Materazzi a second booking and thus a red card for doing that exact act after Materazzi gave Inter a 4-1 lead over Milan.

Jumping into the crowd is also a bookable offence ('deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee's permission', as identified in Law 12), one which caused Arjen Robben to be sent off in a Premier League match in 2006. Shevchenko and Carlos Tevez also got booked when both dived into the crowd in Premier League games in 2007.

In 1999 former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler was fined £60,000 by his club and the FA Premier League for having celebrated his penalty goal against Everton by getting down on all fours and miming the snorting of cocaine off of the white touchline. Although it was seen as Fowler's response to being accused of drug abuse in the tabloid press, then-manager Gérard Houllier famously claimed that he was merely imitating 'a cow eating grass' which, Houllier claimed, teammate Rigobert Song had regularly joked about in training.

If you click on the 'article title' at the top of this piece you can view a short video compilation of varied goal celebrations from the sublime to the ridiculous & in some cases downright dangerous!
'Artists' include: Kanu, Gazza, Crouch, Bellamy, Cahill, Cisse, Fowler & Robbie Keane.