The afternoon mailbox has plenty more views on the fixture list. Plus, a sublime piece of skill from Emile Heskey, more cool 'ballers and dull football matches...
A Gooner in the Mailbox seems to genuinely think that the world/fixture computer is against his team. Sigh. That, plus more cool footballers & Mike Ashley: Supervillain...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Answer: Any Good Steak Restaurant
Where can one go to worship Nick Miller?
The Only Candidate
You have to ask: Who would want to take the Chelsea job given how much of a poisoned chalice it is?
They'd have to be a bit nuts.
They'd have to have an enormous ego.
They'd have to have an ideology the fans could get behind.
Step forward Paolo Di Canio.
Match made in heaven.
Kris, LFC, Manchester
Dear Steve Kean,
I am in the market for a manager with the following attributes:
1) must be prepared to follow my orders without hesitation or question.
2) must be able to pretend not to hear frequent and vociferous booing in all post-match interviews.
3) must place blind faith in certain team members (JT is quite a step-up from Bradley Orr but you know what I mean...)
I have heard great things about you and believe you have ample experienced in these areas.
I look forward to hearing from you soon
One Of Many
Steve McBain, if Benitez 'fluked' the 2005 Champions League with Liverpool, which adjective would you use to describe the revered Roberto di Matteo's capture of the same trophy?
Good At Football, Bad At Media
As a Rafa fan, I have to say that last night is entirely why I wouldn't want him back at Liverpool. Like the 'rant' in the '09 season, it was incredibly measured, entirely reasonable, and perfectly logical. But there was little point in saying it, it was only ever going to make it worse, and the press don't need an excuse to get on his back.
But, to Steve McBain, you've messed up a decent point with a draconian statement. Just because Rafa isn't doing well, doesn't mean he's not very good. If I were a Chelsea fan, I'd stop worrying about the calibre of the next manager and start worrying why the last two haven't found success at the Bridge when they have elsewhere.
The counter argument to your point about Rafa would be he inherited a Valencia side run by lunatics, with a team built around Mendieta who they sold. He delivered their first league title in a generation, then did it again two years later and left them with the Uefa cup too. The football they played was phenomenal. He took them forward.
When he came to Liverpool we reached the final of both domestic cup competitions in his first two seasons. In Europe we went from losing UEFA Cup games (whilst spitting) to Celtic, to expecting (and getting) Champions League away wins at Barca, Madrid, Inter...: European Cup semi-finals were minimum expectations after only three years, and Rafa was unlucky not to reach Moscow with Riise's unforced own goal ultimately taking Chelsea through. He delivered our first genuine title challenge in 20 years so to say he wasn't taking Liverpool forward is frankly beyond laughable. The squad he bequeathed to Hodgson was infinitely better than the one he inherited from Gerard, and the youth team he had charge of for just one year had potential that is now coming through. The only poor season Rafa had was his last. He was not blameless by a long shot, but you mention he had difficult circumstances to work with as a throwaway line! By the time H&G were finally kicked out, we were weeks away from full bankruptcy for goodness sake, and yet Rafa was criticised for voicing his serious concern to the fans about the owners - unlike Hodgson, Purslow et al.
It does baffle me that Rafa's accomplishments always appear to be put down to luck. That could be said of every manager in a cup game, surely. Let's not forget how lucky Di Matteo - and Ferguson - have been in their respective cup successes. Back in the heady days of 2009 The
He's a good manager, he can't handle the media, and Chelsea have far more serious problems than Rafa. These are all facts.
Finding Fault With Rafa's Words
I do have a bit of sympathy with Rafa, but you can't tell me he didn't know what he was getting into when he took the 'interim' manager's job.
He obviously saw the opportunity to take over one of the most talented squads in the Premier League, asquad that when he took over were still involved in five competitions, and with the players at his disposal had a good chance of winning all five. He clearly saw the opportunity to win a couple of cups and improve his CV, perhaps get the job on a full-time basis or get himself in the frame for the Real Madrid job.
It's not really gone to plan though, has it? The first thing he said after the initial fans' reaction was that the only thing he could do is try to win games, but Chelsea's record under Benitez is worse than under Di Matteo.
He said in his rant that he remains professional, but criticising the club and the fans certainly isn't professional.
He's reverted to his behaviour at the end of his reign at Liverpool, where nothing is his fault, he's doing the best job he can, and there are other factors (fans, club's hierarchy) that are the reason for the team's below-par performances. How does he think criticising the fans will help matters? What on earth does he think the reaction will be at the Bridge this weekend?
He's not happy at being labelled an 'interim' manager, yet Di Matteo was given the same job title last season and seemed to do okay.
He spouted about all the trophies he won in the past, and this means he should have respect, then tells Chelsea fans to forget the past and get behind the team. Well as a Chelsea fan, I only care about the job he is doing right now and it's not great. Making eight changes to the team for a game in the one competition we can realistically win, then watching us really struggle for the first 45 mins and not changing things at half-time is not the best management. Every game no matter who we play, how we play, what the score is, he makes the same like-for-like substitutions around the 70-minute mark. Throwing away two-goal leads against relegation candidates, losing at home to relegation candidates, truly uninspiring! All of this is the fans' and club's fault, not his tactics, team selection and substitutions of course.
The whole situation has backfired. The only thing he said that I agree with is the club has to take some responsibility for the situation, well they do, if he is still in charge at the end of the season I'll be amazed.
"If we cannot achieve what we expect to achieve, that is to be in the top four and be in the Champions League for next year, I will leave; they will stay in the Europa League."
Basically he's saying ah well, nevermind, I'm off anyway, we'll have a go but I don't give two sh*ts whether we get in the top four or not. Well if that's the case, get rid *now. Perhaps another season of Europa League football is the price our itchy-trigger-finger Russian overlord has to pay for his decision to not back the manager that won our first ever European Cup.
* When I say 'get rid now' don't have him killed off and his body placed in a dumpster, Roman.
Will, Chelsea fan
...I've never been a fan of Rafa Benitez. To me, he always seemed a bit like a man with an inferiority complex. Someone who would start an argument in an empty room, accusing people of being out to get him. I've also never really rated his management skills. If one were to make up a bracket of Champions League winning coaches, I'm sure he'd be near the bottom.
Regardless, I fail to see what his issue at the moment is. He objects to being labelled an interim manager. Well, when all the papers reported that he'd been hired as interim manager back in November, did he simply stick his head in the sand and ignore them? Did he think that the board were contemplating a long and fruitful relationship, as evidenced by his wonderful six-month contract? What on earth did he think his future was going to be? He is probably the only person in this country, nay the world, that thought he might be a success at the Bridge and earn himself a more permanent contract. Not that contracts mean anything, mind.
He then has the temerity to burn his bridges (no pun intended) with the supporters. This bulls**t claim that the supporters should blindly support the team regardless of who is in charge and how they are managing the club is utter tosh. Why should the supporters praise a man who is clearly doing a below-average job (let alone a man they didn't want to see in the dugout in the first place). Blind allegiance is a dangerous thing in life, let alone football. The simple fact, as stated many times is that Chelsea have regressed since Bentez took over, and do they really look like their going to be moving forward anytime soon? The answer to that question is no.
The description of a club in transition is utter nonsense as well. Chelsea have been in transition since the halcyon days of Mourinho. Sure the merry-g- round of managers hasn't helped that transition, as no single manager has been able to implement any kind of long-term plans, but that's the chance you take when you go work for an eccentric billionaire from, let's be honest, one of the most corrupt nations in the world. If poor old Rafa doesn't get his way, he blames everyone but himself. He pulled the same stunt at Liverpool, blaming the (admittedly s**t) American owners for not backing him in the transfer market. The Liverpool transfer spending figures during his time are well known, so it wasn't that he wasn't given funds, it's just that what funds he did have he spunked on a load of average players, many of whom aren't at the club anymore. I dread to think of the damage he could do to Roman's bank account if properly backed in the transfer market.
Chelsea fans have every right to be upset. Their owner installed an unpopular manager who has seen fit to move the club backwards. If Benitez drags Chelsea out of the top four I wouldn't expect his next job to be anywhere near Real Madrid, as he clearly hopes. I can't imagine even they're mad enough to take a punt on a distinctly average manager.
Is That Really A Rant?
After going to bed a bit early after making merry on St Olafemi's Day with some Spurs supporting friends of mine (a day which is new but joyfully celebrated by them) l awoke to hear about the latest 'rant' from the current Chelsea Interim Manager.
Expecting something very reminicent of Howard Beale in the film 'Network' or at least the sweary musing of Joe Kinnear l was pretty disapointed to hear what was basically the football equivalent (minus the swearing) of Glen Cullen's drama queen stomp off in the last episode of 'The Thick Of It'.
I don't like Benitez and I don't like Chelsea, expecially after the backing of their odious captain but there is no real way you can call this a 'rant'. With Benitez, everything which goes wrong is everyone else's fault, and he may have been right that to put 'Interim' in front of his title hamstrung him BUT he was the one who was desperate and he took the Chelsea job knowing who the owner was and knowing what the fans thought of him, let alone what he thought of the fans. A major rival impolding is great as is the war of words that is going to be coming between Chelsea and Liverpool fans (let alone the musing from the always hilarious @RAWK_Meltdown twitter feed). This is where you are going to see some real "ranting".
Israel (There are just some days where you have to sit there and wonder how things line up just to make you smile) MUFC since 1977
What a bunch of deluded classless fools Chelsea fans are.
Benitez may have his faults but the disrespect shown to him is cringe-worthy.
The one person to blame for their predicament (wow, only in the top four in the league, in the Europa Cup and through to the next round of the FA Cup, how f*cking terrible) is Abramovich, but hey, he holds the purse strings so don't go upsetting him.
He is the person you should be protesting against - not the hapless Benitez.
What about a nice shiny laminated A4 'Abramovich out' poster for the next home game?
No, thought not. You sold what little soul you had years ago and this is the consequence.
Lambert: He's Rather Good
Having read the Top Ten creators feature, I was intrigued at who was nominated as the surprise package for the list, I thought it was someone left field like Shaun Maloney or something. Turns out it was the rather handy Rickie Lambert.
I think Martin Laurence rather underestimates our ability to see, because through the miracle of sight it is plainly obvious that Rickie Lambert was going to figure high on the list. I must admit I came to the party rather late, I only began to take notice of him after I placed him in my Fantasy League team at the turn of the year, but he's been brilliant.
I enjoy his selfless running of the channels, always pulling wide, ready to knock on a diagonal ball from the wing yet still having the temerity to get on the end of anything around the box to finish. He's pretty handy at free-kicks too, with an impressive curler in his arsenal, however always a bit too soft to really score often.
I too nodded sagely when F365 (Ms Winterburn I think?) wasn't too keen on the idea of Lambert for England, but then with Defoe injured, Crouch a poorer version of Lambert and Welbeck still inconsistent, what has Hodgson to lose giving him a cap? My Fantasy League wallet thanks him and I'm pretty sure there are some Southampton fans out there mighty pleased with him.
Bigging Up The Saints Academy
This doesn't really have much to do with anything but I was reading how Clive Woodward was going on about how Gareth Bale/GazBaz2/CR7 2.0 and Theo Walcott were 'destined' for the top, and I couldn't help but wonder how good Southampton would be if they'd have kept hold of their best players in recent years.
A front six of Schneiderlin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Ramirez, Bale and Lambert would inspire fear in defences everywhere.
Which leads me on to a question: Has anyone other than Barcelona and probably Borussia Dortmund had a better academy in recent years than the Saints? Possibly Bayern too.
A Thunderb**tard XI
After watching Cisse's stunner of a volley, Rafael's screamer and Gareth Bale's quite frankly obscene winner against West Ham, I started to think about other players that had/have a canon instead of a foot.
Ladies and gents, may I present to you my all time Premier League 'Thunderbastards' XI:
GK - Jose Chilavert
RB - Rafael
CB - Julian Dicks
CB - Neil 'Razor' Ruddock
LB - Riise
RCM - Steven Gerrard
CM - Darren Gibson
LCM - Matt Taylor
RF - Matt Le Tissier
CF - Alan Shearer
LF - Tony Yeboah
Not much finesse but who would want to play in goal against these nutters?!
Who would fellow mailbox readers recommend?
Theo (I wish Chilavert had played in the Premiership) LFC
For The Footy Playlist...
The Lightening Seeds: The Life of Riley - was used as the backing music for MOTD's 'Goal of the Month' competition. Other backing music hasn't come close in my opinion.
...No mention of Chicory Tip's Son Of My Father or The Dubliners' Wild Rover? I don't think there's a club in the country that doesnt have at least one variation of each of these songs as a chant.
...Have to correct Andy Greer and his straw clutching but it was actually Pro Evo 5 that Clubfoot by Kasabian was featured in.
And to insure this mail doesn't end up in pedants' corner, I'll have to nominate Tom Hark by the Piranhas as another quintessential song to associate football with.
Martin Todoroski, MCFC
Star-Struck By Fabio
Villa fan, 18's story about Fabio Cannavaro reminded me of the time I met the great man (sort of) just after he'd won the World Cup with Italy in 2006.
I was on holiday in a sleepy Greek village on the island of Kefalonia. The place was nothing more than a few restaurants and some slabs of rock in place of a beach, but it did have a good turnover of posh looking boats which would come into the cove for a day or two before heading off again.
One evening I was going to the cash point to get some money for our dinner, when I saw a chap on a child's scooter, his son perched in front of him, speeding down the hill towards the small marina. Nothing special there you might think, but I did a double-take when I clocked who it was and immediately left my wife hanging while I scarpered after him in my flip-flops to get a closer view. Cannavaro had won the World Cup literally a week earlier and was probably the most famous man on the planet at the time, but here he was in my sleepy holiday village!
I found his huge speedboat moored up and tried to say hello. However, this is where I can relate completely to Villa fan's story, as I simply had no idea what to say. Perhaps Fabio has some kind of mystic power over crazy fans, or perhaps it's simply the man-love many (including me) feel for him. Whatever, all I could muster was an embarrassed 'bravo', before the great man smiled and headed back into the comfort of his boat, just as my wife caught me up and berated me for leaving my card in the ATM.
The next day I saw the boat pulling out of the marina. Once it got past the speed-limit mark and into deep water, Fabio must have put the pedal to the metal because it stood almost upright on its engine and tore out of the cove - taking a little piece of my heart with it forever.
Ricky Treadwell ( _ ), SE London Gooner
Filthy Minds, The Lot Of You
Dear Villa fan...
'Really good friends...' He's Italian, she's a woman, you do the maths. Or should that be the biology. Anyway, I'd get myself down to a training ground sharpish, you could be the next Fabio Cannavaro. You'll almost certainly be better than Ali Dia.
Indie, North London
..'Really good friends'? Sounds like Fabio Cannavaro might be (Villa Fan, 18)'s half brother.