Liverpool got the 'fear' at times on Sunday, but Vincent Kompany was there to allow the little kid to carry on sprinting. The sort of mistake that wins or loses a title race...
The argument is not that Hughton should have been kept on because of his race, but the under-representation of certain demographics must be addressed once and for all...
The Premier League is the best League in the world, according to itself. It is helped in this boast by the hopeless vagueness of the word 'best', but also by the tradition of the festive fixture list. Like a lot of the nation's habits around this time, it's probably quite unhealthy, but while leagues across Europe put their feet up and rest their weary bones, England gorges on a fixture list stuffed tighter than a desperately contrived festive analogy.
Four games across 11 days is a recipe for precisely the kind of chaos that makes neutral diarists moist. Knackered players, random squad members, freak results: of such stuff are dreams made. And this weekend gone the whole circus kicked-off - literally HAHAHAHAHA oh mercy - with a collection of results that...went pretty much as you might expect. Bah. Still, there's chocolate coins to be earned. Let's Diarise!
DOWN on the south coast, Tottenham Hotspur arrived in disarray. Gone was the gravel-voiced genius/charlatan; in his place was Tim Sherwood, who is so new to this management business that he (a) completely forgot to select a defensive midfielder, contrary to Rule 12(c) of the Guide to Modern Football, and (b) completely forgot to sit on the bench. Silly Tim! You don't have to buy a ticket when you're in charge, Tim!
It wasn't too long before he remembered that he was meant to be standing in the technical area, shouting at people. It is with some regret that he did not embark on a long, meandering shamble through St. Mary's endless back corridors, hopelessly lost, shouting 'Football!' to gee himself up as he opened the door to yet another broom cupboard. Instead he found his way downstairs, and his heroically adventurous Tottenham side found their way to a messy and entertaining three points.
It might be suggested that the role of caretaker manager is, by virtue of being a temporary post that usually follows in the wake of failure, free from some of the stresses and strains that go with the real job. Have you ever cared about your job when you were temping? Exactly. For a start, the players are inevitably more relaxed; for a middle, there's less pressure to balance the short-term against the medium- and the long-; and for an ending, there's a certain value to be gained in just doing the opposite to the previous bloke. Like, say, picking Emmanuel Adebayor.
The occasional footballer scored twice, shimmered menacingly, and duly departed with the Man of the Match award. Though it's perhaps time to institute a new prize. When deciding their Person of the Year award, Time Magazine make their selection not on positive performance but on impact, regardless of whether said impact was good or bad. This makes it perhaps the only prize in history to have been won by both Mahatma Gandhi and Adolf Hitler.
All of which is to say: while Adebayor was excellent, the most important player on the pitch was Jos Hooiveld, who delivered a masterclass in the Art of Defending Like You've Never Before Seen Your Teammates Or A Football. By rights, he should have been leaving with a little trophy to mark his contribution. This was his day. This was a match of which he was very much the man. And it would have been one fantastically awkward post-match presentation.
Up in Liverpool, meanwhile, the self-titled Football Club FC helpfully demonstrated both why people are reluctantly admitting that yes, perhaps they are actually in with a sniff of the big shiny silver pot marked WINNERS, and also why people are reluctant to say 'they're going to get their hands on the big shiny silver pot marked WINNERS'. There's was a first half full of vim, verve, vigour, and Vjordan Vhenderson, then a second half full of nothing much beyond a bit of crap defending.
The real story, though, was the ongoing behind-the-scenes brouhaha of their opponents, Cardiff City. In the red corner, Vincent Tan, who in our collective head speaks, rather incongruously, with the voice of Vincent Price. In the blue corner - and oh, do you see what we did there? - stands their apparently doomed manager Malky Mackay, who may not be long for his job but can at least rely on the support of most Cardiff City fans, most neutral fans, most of the press, a majority of Parliament, the Territorial Army, the remaining members of the Doors, the memory of Princess Diana, and a small chihuahua named 'Lucky'.
It does seem a touch peculiar that we've reached peak outrage not over the change in shirt colour - an act of cultural vandalism that, though it might seem cosmetic to anybody that doesn't give a toss, strikes right to the very heart of identity and community and all those ill-defined, ambiguous things that underpin being a football fan - but over the prospect of a football manager losing his job, an occurrence that occurs every thirty three point seven four recurring seconds. We suspect that the difference in the media coverage and general attitude is that one is happening in the Premier League, while the other happened in a strange desolate hinterland called Not the Premier League*. Still, at least we can take from the whole mess a fundamental truth about humanity: if you let people treat things as toys, sometimes they will break them.
* We at the Premier League Diary would like to officially decry such short-sighted navel gazing.
Elsewhere, padding. Vincent Kompany scored an own goal of rare delicacy and joy as Manchester City broadened their assault on both columns of their goal balance, while Everton continued their bid to make David Moyes look a bit silly. David Moyes's own quest to make himself look a bit silly hit a snag, however, as Manchester United accidentally played some attractive and exciting football in the course of a comfortable home win. Sunderland and Norwich drew 0-0, a game that was less interesting than this sentence.
Unhelpfully, the Premier League have decided to schedule the weekend's most glamorous fixture - sorry, Stoke and Villa fans - some ten or so hours after our deadline, which makes it tricky to write about. Still, congratulations/commiserations to Chelsea/Arsenal on their convincing victory/irritating draw/thumping defeat. Most peculiar to see the side in fifth/fourth/first/second, given the start they've had/form they've shown/money they've spent. And what was John Terry/Laurent Koscielny thinking, eh? The pillock.
Andi Thomas and Alexander Netherton