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Where are the Premier League pantomime villains?
As a United fan, I know it’s contentious to say this but I’m actually quite OK with Liverpool getting the title were the league to remain unfinished. For starters, there’s the hilarious asterisk that’ll haunt the club and its fans forever. Imagine lifting the This Means More Trophy in an empty stadium. More importantly, I’ve spent the last few months making my peace with it. It is what it is. I’d rather not go through all of this again next season.
But there’s another factor, which is that this Liverpool squad is largely unobjectionable. I quite like Salah and Mane (sue me), and I don’t have any special hatred for the rest of them. Sure, Klopp gets away with a fair amount of petulance thanks to his “big, loony German” persona, and the players are prone to bouts of unbearable smugness and entitlement but, if I keep my loyalties aside, there are no real baddies in the squad as such.
Which makes me wonder: Where are the Premier League pantomime villains? I grew up watching Keane get in everyone’s faces, Rooney diving around and screaming “f**k off” to no one, Marouane ‘Elbows’ Fellaini, Tevez both for and against, Gary Neville being Gary Neville. Viera picking fights with corner flags. Pires and (controversial pick) Ljungberg pissing me off with their superiority complex. Shearer literally kicking someone in the head.
Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer self-destructing on the pitch. Lehmann and his antics. Dennis Wise. Mourinho building a whole team of obnoxious anti-heroes, marshalled by Terry, Lampard, and Drogba. Adebayor winding up the Arsenal crowd. Gerrard and Carragher being dirty bastards. Luis Suarez scoring relentlessly and being a relentless tool at the same time. Stoke’s long-throw merchants. Diego F Costa. Even Poch’s Spurs had the tendency to become petulant dicks when things weren’t going their way; that bloodbath against Chelsea comes to mind.
The individual names may differ based on club loyalties and personal dislikes, but there have always been players in the league that rival fans will hate and jeer at. They’re good at football and just complete w*nks on the field, whose very existence pisses crowds off. At my own club, the most recent example of this was Ander Herrera — we loved his shithousery, everyone else hated him.
But — and I haven’t thought about this a lot — I can’t think of any universal pantomime villains in the league currently. The glorious masters of the dark arts. The closest is perhaps Jamie Vardy, but his remarkable rise and time spent under Uncle Claudio sort of counters his nastiness; in fact, I find him quite likeable. Sterling gets a lot of stick too, but I don’t think it comes from the same harmless place I’m talking about.
Man City, for all their success, still retain a largely benign set of players in terms of personality and their standout player is an aloof ginger; Chelsea have a bunch of youngsters who are easy to like. United’s current best player — usually a prime candidate for this role — happens to be the lovely Bruno Fernandes; anyone who tells Pep to shut his gob gets a pass. Plus we have a manager who can’t stop smiling — and Juan Mata! — which filters through to how the players are perceived as well. As you go lower down the table, Troy Deeney, Dele Alli, Guendouzi come close but not quite. And there have been recent rumblings that Son at Spurs might not be the nicest guy in football after all.
But for the most part, the PL remains a largely sanitised place. (In fairness, Jose Mourinho is probably working on it as we speak.) In these fallow times, I’m wondering who the snide little shits in the league are today.
Akhil, Man Utd, New Delhi
Super Crystal Palace…
I have finally cracked how to finish the season and allocate the champions league places. With Crystal Palace promising to pay staff in full during the down period the places should be allocated based on the order which clubs will confirm that they will pay their staff and contractors in full and at least the living wage.
As much as it pains me as a Liverpool fan to say it the Premier League now reads:
- Crystal Palace
With those Champions League places still up for grabs it all eyes on social media for those confirmations. Going to better than transfer deadline day.
And for two Crystal Palace comments in one mail, nice Warhammer reference…
Alex, South London
Finishing this season…
I have to disagree with Sarah Winterburn and the general consensus that this season needs to be completed no matter what.
Most of the ideas branded about seem to be designed to avoid an asterisk being put beside this season but all to the detriment of next, I don’t understand why this season is being valued more than the next one. Yes I get that the season is three quarters of the way complete but if it can’t be completed by the end of June it should be void. If not, if we complete games in September, or next march what happens to next season? Why should teams next year have a disclaimer beside their achievements just to validate this seasons leagues? Why should teams only have half the amount of games to fight against relegation?
If the season can’t be completed in a timely manner, we will need to give teams time to prepare for next season. The powers that be will have an opportunity to put proper plans in place if the situation is on-going or flares up again in 12 months time. All that can only really come once we are out from under the shadow of this season.
If it becomes clear that the leagues can’t be completed by July the season should be voided. The best solution I can see is to have no relegations from any leagues. If the leagues below the Premier League promote the same number of teams to the league above this won’t effect their structure. I would say promote 4 teams each. That would leave all four league with 24 teams next season, meaning that there is an even number of teams to play each other on a weekly basis. If the premier league where to then relegate 5 teams the following season while only taking in the 3 promoted clubs that would reduce it to 22 teams the following season and then 20 the season after that (22/23).
If the leagues feel they need to give out silverware fine only the most one eyed fans would have an issue with that. In terms of play offs, teams that currently sit in the play off places would play a one off game with the winner of each one gaining promotion. If games can’t be played draw lots. European qualification is more difficult to work out but I am sure clubs will come to some arrangement.
There is no ideal situation here, and I’m sure people will have issues with my solution but I do feel its fairer than the threat of an never ending season.
Paul (Ireland) Stay safe everyone
There is still some football taking place, with the Australian A-League in action. Stick on a bet with Bet365 and you can actually watch it and get your fix. We fancy Central Coast Mariners.
1993 US Cup
“Odd year” tournaments, you say? How about the US Cup in 1993? England went there as part of their preparations for World Cup ’94 (ha!) along with Germany and Brazil. England lost to the USA, giving rise to the famous headline “Yanks 2 Planks 0”. Alexi Lalas, looking more like a rock guitarist, scored one of the goals. England also drew with Brazil before losing to Germany – John Barnes played a sloppy square pass for Christian Ziege (future Middlesbrough legend) who went on a great solo run which led to Klinsmann scoring. Big Ron was on co-commentary and was still bitter about Italia 90 saying that Germany “weren’t the most popular winners”, with Brian Moore talking about them “flying around looking for penalties”, although both of them complimented the Germans for playing properly now. I only remember seeing the England games. I don’t think ITV showed the other games but I looked up the scores and it seemed like some pretty good action. Brazil were 3-0 up against Germany with 25 minutes to go before the Germans came back to draw 3-3. The Germans then led 4-1 against the USA but only scraped home 4-3 – foreshadowing the World Cup ’94 game against South Korea when a 3-0 cruise became a 3-2 scramble.
United v Arsenal
Just a quick one on the Arsenal whining regarding that game, Rooney dived, where did you expect him to go when Campbell sticks out his leg? Arsenal players never dive though do they? cough cough. As to the rough house tactics, wrong I know but after the way Ruud was treated by your lot previously then you haven’t got a leg to stand on. As for shocking ref games what about the PSG let’s let Barca win no matter what game? Two dodgy penalties, ghost free kicks and general shit decisions, as a United fan though the Galatasaray game where Eric was punched by a copper sticks in the mind, cheating, diving, faining injury and the ref did the sum total of bugger all.
Stay safe everybody.
Paul Murphy, Manchester
Worst refereeing performances
While I am sure another Gooner will bring up the performance of Swiss referee Massimo Busacca in the Nou Camp in 2011 (he of sending off RVP for nothing fame – still angers me 9 years later!!), I also want to speak about South Korea in the 2002 World Cup.
Fresh from robbing the Italians in the 2nd round, South Korea were up against Spain in the quarters. Spain, at the time were regular quarter-finalists and even though they had the likes of prime Raul, Morientes, Luis Enrique, Casillas, Hierro, Mendieta, Tristan (he was great for a while) and a young Xavi Hernandez, were beaten 5-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
In that game, 2 legitimate goals were disallowed (one for offside and another for the ball crossing the byline just before it was crossed in), and even my 9 year old self could see something wasn’t quite right here. The referee, Egyptian Gamal Al-Ghandour, and his linesmen were to blame and interestingly, I do believe that was the ref’s last ever match. Suspicious to say the least. My memory fails me and that game was nearly 18 years ago now(!!) , but reading a report of the game also mentions that the Spanish forwards were “caught offside” multiple times.
On a lighter note, I miss the legend that was Pierluigi Collina – man so good, he joined Totti and Henry on the cover of Pro Evolution Soccer 4.
Chaddo, Cape Town Gooner (stay safe people)
Sridhar (Banglalore) asks why other leagues cope better with VAR than we do. The answer was in the absolutely correct mail from Josh, Dubai. The man in charge of our VAR is non other than Mike Reilly. The man was and obviously still is a complete and utter incompetent who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near our beautiful game .
Di Canio, world class?
Just in reply to James (CFC of course) Gravesend, re players who always play well against your team: Did you really describe Di Canio as (possibly) world class?
That is the never internationally capped Paolo Di Canio?
The Paolo Di Canio who won a total of 4 medals in his career?
Di Canio was a decent player, but let’s not go overboard. He was a forward who scored 149 goals in his entire career. That’s a ratio of one goal for every 4.5 games he played.
He was a decent journeyman forward, whose reputation in England outgrew his ability for some reason.
When all this finishes…
When this all finishes, and we emerge in this post Coronavirus world. We all have mad max hair and fetching 80s leather motorcycle jackets and American football pads. And newspapers are just about being printed again. The first sports headline on the back page will read “Sneijder to Man Utd?”
JC STFC (quick google search but I couldn’t find your old article with the description of this so I ad-libbed a bit)