Nice one UEFA, but not far enough. We have some ideas to make the Europa League better as well as more views on Wayne Rooney, Vermaelen in midfield and...
Each club in the top five needs a new striker this summer, so Matt Stanger evaluates the different options. Lewandowski to United? Should Chelsea sign Gomez?
The Club World Club Cup Championship Cup World Club Club is not the easiest tournament with which to fall in love - unless, by all accounts, you are Brazilian - but we have enjoyed having live football to watch of a morning. Chelsea took on mighty Monterrey (Monterrey in Mexico - not to be confused with the Monterey in California that hosted the 1967 pop festival from which a scorching Hendrix live record remains). It was on at 10.30 on Thursday morning, making it an ideal filler for under-employed wastrels, and a welcome diversion from the beastly business of work for those stuck in an office cranking out quarterly audit memo-farts and pondering the savage alcohol-and-frostbite glory that is December office work in the UK.
A mid-morning crew of Mark Chapman, Pat Nevin and Robbie Savage assembled behind the Red Button, and while we normally find Savage is best enjoyed with a feisty, four-pint buzz on, the preposterous Welshman was a tolerable enough weekday morning presence despite being dressed and made-up like a woman of easy virtue. Wee Pat Nevin, with his sensible lesbian glasses, is excellent TV company at any time of day or night, and Chapman is our favourite of the crop of 40-ish, affable, ever-so-slightly alternative football presenters. Given that other things we have done on weekday mid-mornings this week have included: killing household pests, digging carrots out of frozen earth, staring in hung-over fury at young people in a coffee shop and wondering who on earth it is that deliberately watches 'Two And A Half Men', live football was a welcome treat.
Not for everyone, though. Naturally, the weight of the world was upon the shoulders of co-commentator Mark Lawrenson, who had been forced to FLY on a PLANE to an exotic location to YAK about football for a few minutes. The veteran central-defensive camp-meister has become near-Greenian in recent years with his lack of joie de vivre, which can be mildly entertaining at night time, but just seems needlessly grouchy in what passes for daylight hours at this time of year. Not for Lawro a sense that, in this morning chance to see Chelsea possibly slip up amusingly against a team you have only barely heard of, the viewers might be getting a slightly unusual treat. Unless you consider Lawro's moaning a slightly unusual treat in the way that a cold sore is a slightly unusual treat.
This was a shame, because the daytime fun brought back many a happy memory of timezone-freaky football tournaments from years gone by. We always have a soft spot in our hearts for Japorea 2002; not because it was a particularly good tournament, but because the sheer joy of rolling into work for a can of lager or two and a watch of a football match before the shops open is never to be underestimated.
Of course for many of you this will already be your football reality, not least if you live on the left coast of America. Many is the time we have found ourselves watching football in a bar in California enjoying a breakfast livener to wash down an eight egg omelette brought to our table in a wheelbarrow by a woman so massive that, if hog-tied and roasted, could feed the whole of the Philippines for a year.
Back in the day we favoured a place in Santa Monica for this called Ye Olde King's Head (it really wasn't that olde, having been established as a place for British rock 'n' rollers to hang out in the mid-70s) and would arrive fresh from a night of various forms of pleasuring and intoxication badly in need of the hair of the dog, ironically probably after playing a ragged version of Nazareth's excellent number, 'Hair Of The Dog'. On the East Coast the time difference is a little less pronounced, but any number of Irish or Anglophile juicers will have the game on. The Red Lion (Hey, it's a name Americans can dig on) on Bleecker and, until recently, Nevada Smith's on The Bowery in the East Village are among the places that have provided a warm welcome, a cold beer and RED HOT QPR VERSUS SUNDERLAND ACTION when most decent folk are in church or bed.
Starting the day with football is the world turned upside down, disturbing and yet wonderful. It should happen more regularly. We already know the British have an appetite for the freaky start time - just go to any distant holiday resort and see how many Brits are watching any football that might be being broadcast no matter what time of day it is.
Early or late, it matters not. As long as alcohol is available, a Brit will haul his belly there and stare unblinking at a screen, even if the commentary is incomprehensible and sounds like tree frogs arguing.
We recall sitting in a Las Vegas casino watching a 1.30pm UK time kick off between West Brom and Newcastle. In Las Vegas it was 5.30am and there we were, so far from sober it would have taken 20 years for sober's light to reach us. We'd been up all night, if not exactly conscious for some parts of it. The casino was fairly quiet but around the TV showing the football was a small coterie of obviously British people keen to get a fix. Somehow, even the most ordinary games have a more exotic tang from 6,000 miles away. So we watched it holding a four-foot long plastic tube filled with some sort of frankly unmanly-sounding cocktail which had been given to us free of charge because we'd blown a stack of cash and the management thought it best to sedate customers who have lost a lot of money with cheap booze.
Overall, we think that football should be played at as many unusual times as possible. In this day and age - rightly or wrongly - the Saturday 3pm kick off has gone the way of Betamax, porn mags and The Hoffmeister Bear - terribly dated and, although missed to some extent, largely replaced by sexier, more modern alternatives. Why not have a SUPER TUESDAY MORNING every now and again and get the Stoke v Wigans out of the way with a 9am midweek? The novelty value could boost viewing figures, and if nothing else, it at least keeps footballers out of the bookies and each other's wives for a few hours.
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Give the gift of Tyers this Christmas - especially to people you don't like.
Read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here
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or Johnny here