Well said Jeff Shi.

Published: Monday, 08 April 2024

Well said Jeff Shi - Wolves chairman. If you missed it, this is what he said after seeing his side robbed of a perfectly good equaliser in the game v West Ham ‘when a goal is scored and not one person inside the stadium questions the validity of that goal, including both sets of players, coaches, fans and even the match officials themselves, it’s time to question whether someone remote disallowing that goal is really what football wants or needs’.

We all know the answer. No. It isn’t. It was never intended to be like this. I ask again - why are we trying to find so many ways to disallow goals? Why the forensic dissection to deny the one thing that supporters pay to see?

There was nothing wrong with that Kilman goal. The decision was compounded when the PGMOL issued a statement trying to defend the decision. They were wrong. There was no defence. The path of the ball was not over the head of the attacker and it was well to the right of the keeper. They were adrift on a matter of law.

I’ve got to admit I was a little disappointed in David Moyes’ reaction. His team have suffered a succession of bad calls recently - including one at Molineux. They too had a perfectly good goal disallowed, so why didn’t Moyes come out in support of Gary O’Neil and his team? He had nothing to lose. The game was over. It was a win/win for him had he backed O’Neil. The only way we’ll reign these refs in is if we pressure them together. Looking at that decision in the round would’ve been far more productive of Moyes.

Thanks goodness things worked out for everybody at Old Trafford. I thought Antony Taylor was terrific - one big call aside. Casemiro should’ve gone off for his late lunge. That was an awful challenge.

Utd/Liverpool is a huge game anyway but, of course, it comes with added pressure for Altrincham based Taylor.

Not for a moment do I think he would ever do anything but a professional job on it, but why put him under the added duress? It’s obstinate and arrogant of the PGMOL to keep doing it, knowing that something could go wrong. Just imagine if we were arguing over a similar decision to the one at Wolves following the game. Taylor would be slaughtered and it wouldn’t be his fault. It’s asking for trouble to keep appointing him to the fixture.

Palace should’ve had a pen v City. And was everybody in the bunker asleep when Maddison punched Ryan Yates off the ball at Spurs? It’s not so bad that Simon Hooper missed it - but it was as clear as day for VAR. Maddison should’ve been sent-off.

I’m told Jamie Redknapp didn’t want to make much of the incident on Sky. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that Maddison models for Redknapp’s clothing company? If that’s not a conflict of interest I don’t know what is.

I must say, Arsenal are looking good. There’s a very real chance now they really will have something to celebrate this season. 😂.

I noticed Newcastle posted another dressing room pic following their titanic win at…..Fulham. 🤷‍♂️ The win must’ve felt good. Not many pick up three points there. The Toon were only the sixth team to do it so far this season. Well worth a celebration pic eh?

Sadly we lost Joe Kinnear over the weekend. Joe wasn’t everybody’s favourite. He certainly failed to win many friends on Tyneside - but he was a good guy, very good company, a real character and his contribution to the PL era shouldn’t be forgotten. Spurs fans will remember him as a damned good full-back. RIP Joe.

The battle to get out of the C’ship is fascinating now. It’s impossible to call it - the race for automatic promotion - or a play-off place.

How well have Ipswich done? The defeat at Norwich was untimely, but Kieran McKenna deserves a whole lot of praise for another terrific - whatever happens now.

Leeds and Leicester are the other two jockeying for an automatic place. I’ve got to admit there’s something about Leicesters bid that I don’t like. It feels like 2003 all over again to me. Their promotion that year - after falling into administration - led to the current regulations about financial mis-management being brought in. Once again they’ve got some serious questions to answer about their finances.

Good luck to all our teams in Europe this week. I don’t care who it is - when English teams play a European tie I want them to win it. We’ve got it all covered on beINSPORTS of course and I’m looking forward to meeting Jojn Obi Mikel this week. Jon will be one of our CL guests, along with our regulars. Join us if you can. I always feel the competition comes to life at this stage after a very long winter.

What about Plan B City?

Published: Tuesday, 02 April 2024

There is no question that, at their very best, City can be irresistible. They were in the two CL semi-final games v Madrid last season. If you let them, they’ll tear you apart.

But, if they run into an immovable object, they struggle. There’s no Plan B.

United nearly did a job on them recently. Their problem though is that they’re not very good, so they were always going to get beaten. And that tends to be the case for most teams that go to The Etihad and just sit in.

But not Arsenal, who’ve got the tools to do the job properly. Not for a moment did I enjoy their suffocating performance, but I respect their right to play as they did and it was a job well done. But my word, it was dull. I’d add that if they’d had a go they might just have won it. City can be fragile - more this season than ever - if you get at them, so I’m sorry that Arsenal weren’t a little braver.

That’s what title teams do - win it for themselves, not rely on others to drop points. Get on the front foot. Ask questions. Believe in themselves. But, Arsenal got what they went for, so they’ll be delighted. Whether it turns out to be enough we won’t know for a while yet.

Here’s an interesting stat - City still haven’t beaten any of the top 5 this season. Think about that. Why?

For me (I always think about Alan Hansen when I say that - top guy) they don’t have a Plan B.

I refer back to what I said earlier, they can be devastating if they have things all their own way - and if teams turn up allowing themselves to be rolled over - playing ‘the right way’.

But if they come up against really solid resistance they can struggle. They had just one shot on target in nearly 100 minutes on Sunday. One shot. How can that be? We‘re talking about the champions here - some would say the best team in the world - playing at home. I’ll say it again because I still can’t quite believe it - one shot on target all afternoon. It’s staggering.

Why can’t Guardiola occasionally compromise and add a little muscle into the mix? He’s got a beast playing at centre-forward so why not get crosses in occasionally? Balls that a Shearer thrived on? ‘Just get it in’ would be the last thing Shearer would tell his mates as they left a tunnel. It worked out quite well for him as well didnt it?

Why don’t City just ‘get it in’ sometimes? Even when Guardiola made changes in the second-half he simply replicated what he had. Grealish offered nothing. His game consists now only of tippy-tappying inside or falling over. He never beats a man or gets a cross in. If he was as good as Beckham he wouldn’t have to beat anyone - just cross it, but he doesn’t even do that.

Guardiola put Doku on on the right - but he proved to be as ineffective as Grealish - always going inside and straight into traffic. Arsenal must’ve been delighted that he went that side. Doku’s best work this season has been on the left - striking a blow for ‘proper’ wingers.

It’s almost as though Guardiola sees going a bit ‘agricultural’ as a sell-out. He shouldn’t. There’s more than one way to play football. Everything City do has to be precise it seems. I’d love to see them scruffy things up occasionally and just ‘get it in’.

There’s a long way to go yet, but I hope that whichever team wins it does so by earning the right. In other words - having a go.

What a weekend it was for ref howlers. Mind you - when isn’t it?

In no particular order - Antony Gordon conned Rob Jones twice. Well - once. The hapless David Coote, in VAR, was to blame for the second error. What did you see that was ‘clear and obvious’ David? I saw simulation. So did everyone that wasn’t supporting Newcastle.

Why didn’t Jones send Dan Burn off for taking Kudas out when he was clean through? It was a denial. Burns made no attempt to play the ball. It was a clear red.

Mudryk pen? No chance. That was a joke award. Calvert-Lewin should’ve had one at Bournemouth though, but that one went unnoticed somehow. Salah could easily have had one at the Kop End, but Coote didn’t give that one - yet he intervened at Newcastle to turn the game on its head when West Ham led 3-1 and award Gordon the 2nd pen.

It was slide-rule stuff at Sheffield United to deny them a match-winning 4th goal. No wonder a raft of managers were bemused again - not least Chris Wilder. And you know something really is up when mild-mannered Kompany loses the plot. And I didnt blame him. I say the same thing every week - it’s simply not getting any better.

Speaking of refs, I see Bobby Madley has got a book out - entitled Barking Mad. Clever.

But as always when I see a ref release a book - I’m left wondering why Mark Halsey was denied his severance payment of £75,000 when he retired - for writing a book. For some reason the authorities didn’t like Halsey’s book. Perhaps because he was too honest - but isn’t that the idea of a memoir?

To my knowledge Halsey remains the only ref that has ever been denied his leaving package. £75,000 is life-changing money. It was an outrageous injustice, but there is still time to put matters right.

I wish Madley well and hope his book is a success, but somebody should look again at what they did to Halsey in a previous era.

Come on down….Gareth.

Published: Monday, 25 March 2024

So football’s worst kept secret is out. Manchester United have decided Gareth Southgate is the man to replace Erik ten Hag.

I get it. I can see why. Southgate is a nice guy. He gets on with everyone. He’s been a dream for the FA - very much their type of man. Southgate says all the right things and does all the right things. Most importantly - he’s got both players and press alike onside. So why not? What’s not to like?

Southgate certainly knows how to treat a modern player. Don’t test him. Don’t argue with him. Don’t fall out with him. Give him what he wants and give everybody a game as often as possible - a policy dressed up as ‘experimenting’. That way everybody wins.

On the field I’d say Southgate has had limited success, which has been spun by the legacy media into describing him England’s most successful coach since Sir Alf Ramsey. They’ve certainly got an argument. But it’s not one that I share.

Southgate’s is a luxurious existence. He doesn’t have any of the day to day hassle that a club coach has. He doesn’t deal with the mundane issues that players take to work every day. He doesn’t have to buy and sell. He gets the best to choose from every time he picks a team. It’s others that put in the hard yards developing, nurturing and maturing players.

Ok. I know. Somebody has got to do it - and Southgate has done ok.

If he fits the ‘model’ that Sunny Jim and Dave Brailsford (I still can’t believe that Brailsford is anywhere near professional sport) have worked out then Southgate it will be.

He’s smart enough to realise that it will be the right time to leave the England job after the WC. If he wins it (I hope he does, but I’m not convinced) then there’s nowhere to go. If he doesn’t - that will he three major tournaments he’s failed in. Again - there will be nowhere to go. He can’t stay on and run the risk of failing in four.

The United job will only ever come up once. If he doesn’t take it - that’s it. Despite the recent denials - make no mistake, he wants it. He won’t ever be coming from the same place of strength as he is now.

If I’m a United fan am I excited by this prospect? No, I’m not. I’m as numb as I would be if Graham Potter turned up.

Look. I like Southgate. He’s given England fans pride back in their team. England now go into tournaments with a belief to match the inevitable hype. It’s different. But - manager of Manchester United? Not for me.

United should be looking along the top shelf. I know that reduces the number of candidates, but there isn’t much real quality about.

Deschamps? Yes. Zidane? Yes. I was laughed out of court at the back end of last year when I said they should go and get Alonso - agree a deal with his ‘people’ and guarantee him five years to get it right.

My critics said ‘No. what’s he done? It’s too soon’. Really? Well 3 months on it’s not too soon for Liverpool to have got him to agree to become their next manager. As I always say when I share news like this - these big deals can always go wrong. There’s a lot to go wrong when they’re blue riband, whether it’s a player or coach/manager involved, but my information is that Alonso has decided on Liverpool.

If I’m a Liverpool fan - that excites me. What United have got to do is better that appointment. Would Southgate turning up at OT do that?

According to The Sun today there’s more bad news for United. They report that UEFA have decided to stay with the ban on clubs under the same ownership playing against each other in Europe.

UEFA’s new regulations about multi-club ownership, mean that clubs like Nice and United can play in Europe if they’re in different competitions, but they can’t take part in the same competition. In short - if United qualify for the CL and Nice the Europa League - that’s ok. But it’s not if they both qualify for the Europa.

The Sun go onto say that United could miss out all together if Nice finish the season 5th - which is where they are now (after just one win in seven) and United finish 6th. Nice would take precedent as the club ranked highest in their domestic championship.

So United need Nice to finish in a CL place, or win the FA Cup themselves. Btw - I hear United fans talking about buying tickets for the final already. Be careful guys. Beating Coventry is not a given.

A quick word of warning for Rehanne Skinner, coach of West Ham’s women’s team. After another poor decision went against her side in the defeat to Chelsea at the weekend, Skinner called for the introduction of VAR into their game. Careful Rehanne. Trust me - you’re better off without it.

And I see that Villa have got themselves a new shirt sponsor for next season - the Greek betting brand Betano - as well as a new Adidas kit.

Shirt sponsorship is an area that Villa haven’t done well in over recent years. The association with BK8 caused a real storm, just as it had at Norwich. Now they’ve got Betano on board.

Of course, Villa aren’t alone in selling their shirt to a gambling company. At the last count I think nine PL clubs had.

Yet they’ve all agreed a voluntary ban on gambling sponsors for 2026/27. Why? Why bother? It’s a smoke and mirrors exercise isn’t it in order to avoid legislation. Clearly none of them really cares about the damage gambling does to peoples lives. As ever - money talks - to the tune of £40m/year in Villa’s case.

The Cup got a long overdue re-boot. Now the Toon need one. Send for Mourinho.

Published: Monday, 18 March 2024

If ever a competition needed a re-boot it was the FA Cup. This weekend it got it. And in some style.

Three of the four quarter-finals were breathless affairs. Absolutely brilliant.

Wolves and Coventry set the bench mark. We weren’t working until later in the day at beINSPORTS, so I watched the game with Andy. I’ve got to be honest - when Wolves equalised I left the room. I knew they’d get a second and I thought once that happens we‘re done for. I know. Shameful, but I can’t take too much tension these days. I’m getting old.

Down the years it’s also been the case that if I walk away from a match that Coventry are involved in something good happens. It worked at Wembley last May when Gus Hamer got us an equaliser v Luton. I should really have gone for a walk during the shoot-out. I’ll always regret that!

Again. I know. What a load of bollocks, but it works. 😂.

Anyway. What happened next was stunning. I’m so pleased for the boys and Mark Robins. I’ve said many times before - he’s a top operator. He deserves some time in the spotlight again.

I’ll come back to City/Newcastle. Chelsea fans were driven to distraction by their team (again) but at least they made it. It’s a pity really. I fancied us having a go at Leicester at Wembley!

And although Liverpool should’ve won comfortably at OT - fair play to United, who made the most of the presents that Klopp’s side handed them with.

Just a foot-note re-that game. I felt for both Amad Diallo and ref John Brooks. Brooks had no choice but to send Diallo off, but would anyone have cared if he’d joined in the celebrations moments later? It was ridiculous that he had to stay in the dressing room while everyone else at OT drank in United’s best moment of the season.

Mac Allister doesn’t come out of what happened very well either. It was churlish of him to kick the ball at Diallo so he got booked - appearing to stop a free-kick being taken. I hate that kind of ‘professionalism’. Apolgies if it wasn’t Mac Allister, but it was bang out of order shithousery.

City/Newcastle was awful. City didn’t need to break sweat. The Toon were never in the game. They’ve gone backwards. The project up there has stalled. They need a re-boot as well.

I’m genuinely sorry that all the hard work Eddie Howe and his staff have put in has come to nothing. Another year has passed without silverware. How many more campaigns can they waste?

I was never convinced that Howe was the right man for Newcastle, but in fairness he did a terrific job last season. It was great to see them mixing with the big boys again. He restored pride and belief, but it’s time for change if they want to push on.

I really don’t think Howe can take them to the next level. His team reflect his personality. They’re ‘nice’. And nice doesn’t win at the very top. You need some devil. City can be easy on the eye, but they’ve got devil. All the best teams have.

My answer? Jose Mourinho. Few people know more about winning than he does. He’s done it everywhere he’s been - including ‘half a trophy’, as he puts it, at Spurs. What madness that was - sacking him in the week of a final.

I know there’s a view that Mourinho is finished. That the game has moved on. Bollocks. The game will never move on from winning. There are no guarantees in football - except that Mourinho will win you a trophy.

He would be perfect in the North East. He’d energise the place again. Set it alight. Eddie Howe is a good man, but everyone has fallen asleep on his watch.

If Newcastle want to sign top players they need a top coach to attract them. Geography plays a huge part these days when players are making decisions about which club to join. London is always favourite. The North West - Alderley Wedge and surrounding areas are popular - even for players at Liverpool and Everton.

Newcastle is a big ask. I’m sorry, but it is. Keegan’s magnetism drew players. Mourinho would have the same effect.

It’s ridiculous to think that Mourinho still needs to prove himself after all he’s done, but for some, it seems he does. Where better than with Newcastle? When he started winning - and bloodying the noses of United, Chelsea, City and the rest again, Newcastle fans would love him. When he delivered a trophy they’d adore him.

One last thing - with Klopp leaving us, our league needs Mourinho back

On another subject - I read today that Newcastle will meet Spurs in Melbourne three days after the season ends. Er - player fatigue guys? Let’s hear no more about that.

And I can’t imagine how David Moyes is feeling this morning. One big handball decision after another has gone against his team in their last few games. The last of them took a record 5 minutes 37 seconds to sort out.

What sort of madness is this?

It took over 4 mins to allow Coventry’s first at Wolves. This can’t go on. If it takes more than 30 seconds to make a VAR decision - forget it. Go with the onfield decision. It’s ridiculous to make us all wait any longer. It’s discourteous and arrogant in equal measure by VAR operators.

What did Klopp have for lunch?

Published: Monday, 11 March 2024

What did Jurgen Klopp have for lunch if he thought Stewart Attwell was going to tell Michael Oliver he’d made a mistake? There was no chance of that happening. Zero. None. Not Sunday. Not ever. And I’ve been telling you all this for months now.

Of course Liverpool should’ve had a late pen - but once Oliver had decided otherwise, Attwell was in a really invidious position. There was no way he was going to ask Oliver to go to the monitor.

Not since Saturday, September 4 2022 has that happened. Do you remember the incident? The match was Forest v Bournemouth. Forest were awarded a pen by Oliver when Bournemouth’s Lloyd Kelly handled.

Before the kick was taken, Oliver was invited to the monitor to review his decision. He decided his original call was correct. Of course he did.

At the time we all praised him for having the guts to stick with his decision. I believe it was the first time a ref had stayed with his on-field call after being sent to check it. Well - overturn it, because that always happens.

What isn’t so well known - but I’ve referred to it before - is that Oliver was furious he’d been asked to check his decision and he let his colleagues know, in no uncertain terms, at their next meeting. I can’t think of too many times since - if any - when Oliver has been back to a monitor. I would add that he’s one of the busiest when he’s in the bunker - but the message is clear when he’s got the whistle - don’t bother me.

I mentioned this only last week. I’ve lost count of the other occasions when I’ve referred to it. I’ve had people ridicule me for sticking to my guns on it - but now do you believe me?

Oliver is a fool to himself behaving the way he does. Perhaps he didn’t see Doku do his Nigel de Jong impression? What’s wrong with checking? Or perhaps Guardiola’s pre-match comments (which the FA should ask him for his observations on) were rolling around in his mind? Whatever - Attwell failed to do his job properly.

I read as I write that Attwell believed Doku’s foot was in a ‘reasonable position’. Please. Why do we go through this farce every week? You got it wrong guys. No amount of covering up or excuses will change that.

Oh. Craig Pawson got another one wrong as well. How on earth did Jakub Moder stay on the pitch at Brighton? Was his foot in an ‘reasonable position’ as well guys?

I guess you could argue that Pawson shouldn’t have been needed in the bunker, because Michael Salisbury should’ve shown red immediately that Moder assaulted Neco Williams. It’s worth pointing out that both refs have got form when it comes to howlers this season.

It isn’t getting any better Howard (showbiz showbiz showbiz) is it? But I guess they’re giving you plenty to go at on the next episode of Sorry! And get a grip on Oliver.

As for the game at Anfield - it was terrific. We really enjoyed it here in the Middle East. I went on air a little concerned that it might let us down - as so many big games have recently - but there was no need to worry. Everyone gave everything they’d got - except for Pep Guardiola post match - again.

What is it with this guy? Guardiola was just plain rude our reporter - the excellent Andy Kerr. If I’d been Kerr I’d have shut the interview down and walked away. And I told him as much afterwards.

Guardiola was a disgrace. He couldn’t be bothered. He offered nothing - just one-word answers and a daft smile. He looked at Kerr like he was a piece of shit on his shoe. He did the same last week. In fact - he does the same most weeks. I’m told he was just as dismissive to my mate Jan Fjortoft, but I haven’t spoken to Jan so I’m not certain.

Guardiola only talks to journos because he’s contracted to do so. He let his feelings about us be known at a press conference last week.

But here’s the thing Senor Guardiola. We’re all trying to do a job - just like you. Nobody, whilst doing that job, deserves to be ridiculed by you. Andy Kerr deserved better Sunday, not because you have a contractual obligation to speak to him - but because you have a moral obligation to treat him - and others - with manners and respect.

Andy is talking to you as a conduit between you and your supporters - and there are more of them in our broadcast area than anywhere else in the world.

I’ve suggested to my bosses that we should simply ignore you unless you come down off your high horse and behave. Sadly that won’t happen. But it should.

I could understand Guardiola’s attitude a little more if the pen had been given. If City had been beaten. If frustration had got the better of him - but none of those things applied.

When I watch him, Guardiola gives me the impression that nobody has a right to ask him questions, because none of us has the same lofty genius that he clearly believes elevates him above everybody else. He might be right - but, as my old mum used to say - good manners cost nothing.

We’ve got to mention Spurs. What a good job they did on Villa. They spanked them - and it had nothing to do with McGinn’s sending off. It had more to do with Emery getting it wrong in a big game again. That’s a worrying trend if you’re a Villa fan. But that shouldn’t detract from Spurs’ performance. They were great in that second-half.

I was going to have a little pop at Sunny Jim again today, but Andy Dunn got their first. I like Dunn’s stuff and he was spot on in The Mirror today. Read his column for yourselves…..


Brilliant. I couldn’t have put it any better. The only thing I’d add Andy, is that I’m not sure Seb Coe should be anywhere near the project. I like Coe as well, but the last project he was involved in led to the London Stadium being built - a hybrid athletics/football stadium that’s never been fit for purpose.

Finally, on the first day of Ramadan - may I wish all of you celebrating love and blessings, good desires and purity. Ramadan Kareem.

Yes. It was Man U not Sheff U

Published: Monday, 04 March 2024

Well now you all know what I’ve been telling you is accurate. It’s over. We’ve had a bit of fun with his name previously - which was perhaps a little naughty - but here we go for one last time. He’s now Erik ten Games. That’s just about all the time he’s got left.

The Dutchman wrote his resignation letter Sunday. United were awful. Wretched. Well - let’s give them some credit for a disciplined 45 minutes. They stuck rigidly to their jobs and frustrated City. And I’ve always believed that there’s more than one way to play the game. But that said - I had to keep reminding myself that I was watching Manchester United - not Sheffield United.

There can’t be a United fan on the planet that wasn’t embarrassed by the way ten Hag set his team up. To borrow a phrase from a U.K. pundit ‘this was Manchester Uniiiiiited’.

It was incredible. United - admitting that they are simply aren’t good enough to be on the same pitch as City anymore. That they can’t compete on equal terms. No wonder Rashford is pissed off. Can you blame him?

I’ve got a feeling that if United weren’t still in the FA Cup, ten Hag would be out already, but whilst there’s feint hope that they could somehow win the thing Sunny Jim will stick with him.

City were terrific. I said many many months ago that I can get bored watching them. (Others later repeated that view). City are often guilty of overplaying, but I they put on a master class to win Sunday. They were patient. Never once did they look desperate. They all believed that eventually they’d find a way through. And when they did it was with a spectacular goal from an absolute diamond. How Jack Grealish must wish he could conjure moments like Foden does in a City shirt.

From the dull tedium of watching United pretend that they still have a seat at the top table - to City proving why they could yet do another treble - it was a glorious transformation in the game. Stunning.

Just one other thing that I noticed. It was a terrific ball from Onana to Fernandes in the lead up to Rashford’s goal. But did you notice that the keeper had the ball in his hands for a full 17 before he delivered it?

Why does that matter? Well I thought it odd that IFAB announced the day before that they are going to trial an idea to extend the time a keeper can keep the ball from six seconds - to eight. Confused? Me too.

The last time I can remember a keeper being penalised for holding onto a ball too long was at Newcastle when Mike Riley was reffing. (Yes, him) Apparently the feeling is that awarding a direct free-kick for the offence is too strong a punishment so refs are hesitant to do it.

So the cunning IFAB plan is to extend the time to eight seconds and if a keeper hasn’t released the ball then, possession reverts to the opposition. I didn’t read how the opponent gets the ball back. I guess they’re still working on that bit.

It’s all to do with time-wasting of course. We can only wait with bated breath for this next dramatic change to the game. In the meantime I’d suggest that the current laws are enforced properly.

Other weekend highlights? It hurts a little bit because I don’t like to see Everton in as much trouble as they are - but I was pleased to see West Ham record a win that lifts them back into 7th. What are they doing in East London? Why haven’t they put a contract in front of Moyes yet? He’s right you know - never have West Ham enjoyed a time like the one he is delivering. Never. What Moyes has done at the club is incredible.

In some ways it was fitting that he made his point again at Everton. What would they give now for a time when they were finishing in the CL places and taking part in finals? Karen Brady would do well to learn a lesson from history. So would Hammers fans.

There was plenty this weekend for Howard Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) to get his teeth into on the next edition of Sorry! I’m not getting into the incident, but when I heard Paul Tierney had ignored his 4th at Forest before dropping an enormous bollock, Graham Poll came to mind.

Apparently Tierney told the Forest staff he’d ignored advice from Scott because ‘I’m the boss’. What arrogance. Poll reportedly did similar prior to his 3-yellow card trick. He told colleagues ‘don’t get involved with the bookkeeping. I’m good at that. I’ve never fucked up’. Really?

Keep an eye on the Championship this week. It’s going to be a fantastic finish in that division. What looked certain for Leicester is all of a sudden in the balance.

And finally….I see the PGMOL are planning to strengthen staff levels at their Stockley Park VAR hub next season. They’re looking for a new operations executive who will provide support to refs and video assistants. I’m not kidding. I’ve got a better idea - how about Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) gets a grip and raises standards? Refs would feel a whole lot better about themselves then.

It was a Cup final - not a PGMOL training exercise.

Published: Monday, 26 February 2024

It’ll make a great quiz question in years to come - ‘which player scored two perfectly good goals in a Cup final, but his team only won 1-0?’

Madness. Absolute madness. Football has grey areas. It always has had. And I’ve got news for the guys trying to turn it black and white - you can’t. You will kill it in the process.

I’ve never felt as flat as I did this weekend when the mood spoilers and nit pickers ruled out van Dijk’s first goal for Liverpool. Why are the operators of VAR always looking for ways to disallow goals? Their first instinct should be to find ways to give them - it’s what we pay to see. Goals.

There was nothing wrong with van Dijk’s first header. It was a Cup final for fucks sake - not a PGMOL training session. You do not - you can not - disallow a goal in a game of that magnitude for the offence that John Brooks spotted. Ok - by the letter of the law Endo made himself active by blocking Colwill after starting that phase of play offside. That’s exactly what Andy said on beINSPORTS as we watched the game. But come on - common sense should’ve prevailed. Touch guys. Feel. Please.

We see that happen every week - game in game out. We see worse from every set-piece Arsenal take. Watch Ben White the next time they have a corner. It’s part of the game. It’s a ‘grey area’. Football has lots of them. It’s not perfect. We don’t want it to be perfect.

Chris Kavanagh dutifully did as we knew he would once he’d been called to the monitor. Brilliant. Well done guys. Top marks - except that’s not what VAR was introduced for. The idea was that the technology would be used to correct clear errors - like Henry’s handball v Ireland. That was the birthplace of all this nonsense.

Did anyone complain about van Dijk’s goal? Nope. It was a perfectly good goal. Can you imagine that storm that would’ve broken out had van Dijk not got Kavanagh and Brooks out of jail with his 2nd goal. Incidentally, I’ve been critical of van Dijk in the past. He’s never struck me as a leader. I think he’s too selfish to be a ‘team’ captain - but he was enormous on Sunday.

I should add that Chelsea have cause to feel hard done by as well. Their goal should’ve stood. Again - what are we doing ruling a goal out because a hint of a shoulder is apparently offside? It really is a load of bollocks.

What Kavanagh and Brooks should’ve used the technology for was to send Caicedo off. That challenge on Gravenberch was a disgrace. There’s no place for that in the game. It met all the criteria for a red - except Kavanagh thought differently and his hapless mate in VAR did nothing. We asked why not? We were told by the matchday centre that Caicedo’s challenge was more of a ‘slipping motion’. What? Where does it say that in the laws of the game?

I’ll give Kavanagh an out - perhaps he wasn’t up with play? After all, this is a ref who started his season late because he failed fitness tests. But Brooks? You were looking at the pictures man. I wonder what both were thinking when Gravenberch was stretchered off?

Doubtless Kavanagh and Brooks will be lauded at the multi-million pound HQ designed to kill our game by their pen pushing bosses - but they won’t by people who love football - or by those who once did the job they now do a whole lot better. Read Mark Clattenburg and Keith Hackett in The Sun and The Telegraph respectively today (Monday).

In the end justice was done and Liverpool won the game. They deserved to. They were the better team. Chelsea didn’t ’bottle it’. They just weren’t good enough. And poor old Poch watched it all pass him by. I said Sunday - and I’ll repeat it here - he wouldn’t win the lottery if you gave him the winning ticket. Here’s a thought - how about Chelsea give the job to JT? Now he does know about winning.

Kavanagh and Brooks weren’t alone in their bungling this weekend. How did Harry Maguire stay on v Fulham? Michael Oliver should’ve sent him off. When he didn’t Rob Jones should’ve asked him to have a look at the challenge again - except Jones was scared to. No-one questions Oliver. He’s made sure of that. He hates being challenged by refs who he regards as inferior to himself - and that’s everybody in his view. So what’s the point of VAR when he’s reffing? This problem needs to be addressed. And it is a problem - I don’t make these things up.

Top marks to Tony Harrington, who did his job properly at Brighton. Gilmour had to go for his lunge on Onana. The irony is that it wasn’t as bad as Maguire’s or Caicedo’s.

It was good to see Oliver Glasner get off to a winning start at Palace, but as for the nonsense that he ‘took the handbrake off’ - he didn’t. Palace beat Burnley. Every team beats Burnley. It was a perfect game for Glasner. It’s just a pity that Steve Parrish didn’t give ot to Roy Hodgson. It would’ve been a perfect and fitting way for Roy to sign off.

Ten Hag was at it again. His players apparently ‘forgot their jobs’. Nothing to do with them not being good enough then Erik? Or the team you picked? Or the changes you made?

And I read about a £5000 match ticket at Chelsea. It’s the most expensive ticket ever. For your money you get to sit behind the Chelsea dug out for the game v Utd on April 3. I’m not joking. Perhaps they are? I wonder how many takers there will be? My guess is not many. £5000 to watch a team that is a shadow of what it once was - against another faded giant. No thanks.

Smarten up Gallagher.

Published: Monday, 19 February 2024

Well sock-gate got quite a bit of traction. And it turns out the majority are with me. I’ll get round to the subject again shortly.

Sadly, I can’t avoid mentioning our hapless refs and their even less proficient enablers in VAR - and if Howard Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) tries to defend what we saw at Newcastle in the next version of Sorry! then he should be fired.

Before I get to that it seems I need to explain a couple of things that accompany any mention of Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) and his programme Sorry! in this blog.

The programme title first - it was an 80’s sitcoms starring Ronnie Corbett. The content of the show doesn’t matter - I’ve stolen the title of it because Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) is constantly saying sorry. He’s always having to apologise. He should be on the phone to Brentford, Brighton, Bournemouth and perhaps even City as I write (Monday) to say it to all four clubs.

As for our headline chasing PGMOL chief and the reference to - ‘showbiz showbiz showbiz’ - well, it was a jingle that the brilliant Chris Tarrant would always play whenever anyone on his Capital breakfast show mentioned some C or D list celebrity hanging about at the opening of envelopes, hoping that someone would take their picture or ask them for an interview. It was a piss-take highlighting their desperation for publicity. Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) would’ve heard it a few times if ever he’d had a mention on Tarrant’s show. It still makes me chuckle even when I write it. So there we are Nabs.

To the incident at Newcastle then. You must’ve seen it? If not - this is what happened.

Newcastle drop a free-kick into an area on the edge of the Bournemouth box - which Schar tries to win. He’s off-side when the kick is taken. As he challenges for the ball his shirt is pulled and he falls over in the box. The flag goes up to signal that he’s off-side. The ref didn’t see his shirt being held, so off-side is given. It’s the correct decision.

But Rob Jones in VAR gets involved because he reckons Newcastle should have a pen. It takes four minutes for Michael Salisbury (yep - him again) and Jones to decide to give the pen.

Here’s the bit that is completely unfathomable. They agree Schar is off-side - but they say that he was ‘denied the chance to impact the play’. What? He was off-side for fucks sake. That’s the first offence. Give the decision. It’s easy. By the way - I’m not making this up. This is what the matchday centre tell beINSPORTS.

I understand that you can be in an off-side position and not be active. If Sxhar had been some distance from where the ball dropped - fine. But he wasn’t. He was the target. So he’s off-side. Andoni Iraola was totally bemused after clearly being given the same explanation as us.

This is why we need to be able to hear the conversations that take place at the monitor. What on earth were Salisbury and Jones discussing? And it took them four minutes to fuck it up. The level of incompetence is frightening. And I repeat - Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) can’t defend that decision.

Brentford should’ve had a pen. Robertson knew it was a pen. You can see that by the way he limply kicks the ball away after clattering Toney. The only person in the ground that didn’t think it was a pen was Michael Oliver. What happened to VAR? David Coote went missing because he knows that Oliver is never going to accept someone he regards as inferior to him sending him to a monitor. Operators are scared of Oliver so they back off. We know this because Mike Dean admitted as much early in the season. Refs help their mates out and duck controversy.

Brighton should’ve had a pen when Mitoma was bundled over. And City when Haaland was grappled to the floor. It’s not good is it? And it’s not getting any better.

Oh - one other thing. Fulham fans have got every right to ask why their club are always used as guinea pigs when it comes to giving new refs a run-out. Of course the process of finding new blood is important - but it doesn’t always have to be at Craven Cottage. Fulham’s games matter every bit as much as any other teams.

And a word of warning for West Ham supporters. I accept that they've got every right to express their frustration with recent results, but David Moyes is right - the Hammers have never had an era as good the one that Moyes has delivered. I’ve said it before - be careful what you wish for.

And so to sock-gate. I’m right. I know I am. The level of support I’ve had tells me I am.

I asked a top medic again today why players cut holes in the back of their socks. He confirmed what I’d previously been told. Apparently some believe the socks are too tight - and they stop the flow of blood to the calf. Bollocks. They don’t wear anything on their heads do they but clearly the flow of blood is restricted to that area of some of these young men.

It’s got to stop. This weekend Conor Gallagher resembled the poor lad who plays on Hackney Marshes every week that can’t afford kit. You’re a professional man. Look professional. You don’t see Messi or Ronaldo going round looking like they can’t afford socks do you? Perhaps Gallagher believes that players shouldn’t wear socks at all?

Gallagher will be at Wembley this weekend - the spiritual home of Bobby Moore - the greatest England captain ever to have played the game. Bob never once looked anything but immaculate on a football pitch. I hope Gallacher understands that - like it or not - he’s a role model who youngsters emulate and he could learn from Moore’s example. I get it that times and fashions change. There’s nothing wrong with that. But this trend is a nonsense. Smarten up man.

Top celebration Dec.

Published: Monday, 12 February 2024

Class, Dec. Real class. Of course, I’m referring to the ‘celebration’ after Rice smashed Arsenal’s sixth against West Ham.

I thought Rice had a thunderous impact on the game. He looked every inch the player that left West Ham and used to play like it every week in their colours. Perhaps it was because he was back on familiar territory, but Rice cajoled, hit probing passes and to some degree ran the game, in a way I haven’t seen him do often enough in an Arsenal jersey.

His goal topped it all off. He did everything I said he should be doing when I wrote about him being Declan Nice recently. And the celebration police were quite happy with what followed his goal. He was muted. Respectful. And classy.

On that subject Arteta proved that he can behave himself on a touchline. There were none of his usual tiresome antics - which he claims are because he’s an excitable character. Nonsense. 

I know why he behaved - because David Moyes was in the other technical area and he has too much respect for his old boss. So - try pretending he’s there every week Mikel. You looked dignified for once. Well done.

Has ten Hag stumbled on a team I wonder? I don’t think United have played all that well in recent games, but they’ve been nicking results by digging in and they look a far better unit than at any time during ten Hag’s tenure.

There’s no doubt that Villa were the better team across the piece, but why they backed off when they’d got United by the throat, after equalising, I just don’t know. My feeling watching Emery was that he was asking himself that very same question. Anyway - United won it and maybe - just maybe they’ve turned a corner? 

I’m so pleased for Harry Maguire. As I’ve said here often - he’s a top pro. He was immovable on Sunday. Awesome. A lesser man would’ve crumbled with what he’s been through. He deserves plaudits now.

A couple of other things - of course Casemiro was off-side from the free-kick that led to the corner - that led to the goal! BeINSPORTS viewers knew that on Sunday when Andy and I pointed it out.

The assistant should’ve seen it. Casemiro made himself active when he challenged for the ball. There was no way VAR could get involved though because the incident didn’t lead immediately to the goal. 

It was never a free-kick mind you. Having worked Fernandes out referees have got to be as strong with Rashford now. He should’ve been booked for diving, not rewarded for his cheating.

And finally on that game - isn’t it funny how life can work out? I’ll tell you this for a fact - if David Moyes had said ‘yes’ - McTominay would be at West Ham now.

Moyes chased him all last summer, but couldn’t agree a fee with United. They wanted £40m for McTominay - Moyes offered £30m. Because he got frustrated, Moyes went shopping elsewhere - only for United to offer the player for £30m on deadline day. By then it was too late. Ten Hag must be a very happy man that once again fate has served him well.

Antony Taylor had a shocker at Forest. What was it he didn’t see when Dubravka took Awoniyi down? It was a pen. Taylor was actually looking at it. VAR froze - of course they did. There was no way Tony Harrington was going to tell Taylor that he’d dropped a bollock. Like Michael Oliver - Taylor doesn’t take kindly to having his decision making questioned by people he regards as inferior to him. This is an another problem with VAR. And we know this, because Mike Dean said as much earlier in the season.

Burnley were unlucky as well. Never mind that Klopp was angry because he thought his team should’ve had a pen - Aaron Ramsey was clearly fouled by Mac Allister in the build-up to Liverpool’s 2nd. Why is it that more fuss isn’t made about situations like the one at Forest and this one?

It didn’t affect the result - but the boys in VAR had a bad day at Luton as well. There’s no way either pen should’ve been given. Neither was handball. VAR were far too busy. 

Our refs chief, Howard Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) will no doubt ignore all of the above when he sits down to get grilled (😂) by Michael Owen on the next edition of Sorry! I can’t wait.

Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) is going to have a busy month in March. I’ve been sent a flier for an evening he and his wife are hosting in Stockport for the Stockport Referees Society

Tickets are available at £6.00 each.

I don’t know where that money is going - perhaps it’s to cover the cost of food and organisation, but I’d hate to think Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) was taking a fee from the evening. I would love to know if that the case. If you do - please get in touch. 

WhatsApp Image 2024 02 12 at 16.43.53

I don’t know why it was sent to me. If the idea was that I should buy a ticket let me tell you right now - I’d rather spend the evening eating an out of date yoghurt. Webb should be concentrating more on doing his job and improving the standard of our refs than getting involved with stuff like this.

Poch wants out - so put him out of his misery.

Published: Wednesday, 07 February 2024

Jose Mourinho once called Arsene Wenger ‘an expert in failure’. The irony is that it was Mourinho who went on to become the expert - racking up £80m in pay-offs!

His latest sacking in Rome followed the usual pattern - row, rant, then retreat with the money.

He once told me he knew he’d be sacked at United for leaving Pogba out of three consecutive games - at a time when the Frenchman’s stock was at its highest. All planned. And it worked perfectly. He wanted the sack. He got it.

Never mind that he went on to say that his biggest regret at Old Trafford wasn’t that he should have left at the end of the first season - but taking the job in the first place. How does that sit with those suggesting he’s got ‘unfinished business’ at United?

I couldn’t help thinking about all of this when I looked at Pochettino in the dug out at Chelsea yesterday (v Wolves). He looked like he wanted to be anywhere in the world but at The Bridge. His body language screamed ‘sack me’.

He looked disinterested. Lacking ideas. Lacking motivation. Almost a ghost of a man. Short term he should perhaps ask Ben White or Jason Tindall which sunbed shops they use?

Pochettino looks shot. I said early in the season - wrong man at the wrong club. A guy who came third in a two-horse race. I haven’t changed my view. Chelsea should give him his wish - and fast.

It’s not all his fault of course. He wasn’t responsible for all of the £1b spend, but he should be able to get a better tune out what he’s got. The spend, of course, proved what we all knew - that Todd Boehly wasn’t going to re-write the rules that we’ve always played by in football. He didn’t have a magic formula to make Chelsea competitive again. He isn’t clever. He’s made a complete mess at the club. And where is he now? Missing is the answer. Oh - and let’s not forget that he was the current U.K. governments choice to buy Chelsea - proving that politicians should never be allowed anywhere near football either.

What’s the fix? Mourinho might just be, although I still think it’s more likely that he’ll turn up at Newcastle. He’s nowhere near finished. Chelsea fans would love to see him back. No matter where he’s been and what he’s done -Chelsea is still home for Mourinho.

If not Mourinho - perhaps it’s JT’s time? Maybe Mourinho and JT could sort it out together? They certainly couldn’t make it worse than it currently is. Something has got to be done.

My thanks to Paddy Power for the mention, but Odegaard’s celebrations didn’t bother me as much as others, who it seems now want to enrol in my celebration police. 😂. Sorry guys - it’s too late, but there’s bound to be something else that you can follow me on.

No. It wasn’t Odergaard, or his teammate's that annoyed me yesterday (Sunday), it was their classless coach. What on earth was he doing racing for up and down the touchline, clenched fists, celebrating like his team had just smashed a screamer into the top corner, to settle a final of some sort in added time?

I disagree with his view that Arsenal ‘went up a level’ to win that game. Yes, they were better than Liverpool, but that wasn’t hard. Liverpool were poor right across the park. I can’t think of one of their players that had a good game.

Arsenal were gifted the points by van Dijk and Alisson. You don’t celebrate a defensive howler, the likes of which those two conjured, by doing what Arteta did. He once again embarrassed The Arsenal. A proper club let’s not forget. One that has set the standards for behaviour down the years.

Show some dignity man. When have you ever seen Ancelotti do what Arteta did? The Italian has won the lot but never has he danced a ridiculous jig on the touchline whilst two top pros are trying to find somewhere to hide. It was poor. And so was Arteta’s behaviour on the touchline during the game. I thought we’d curbed his excesses? Clearly we need to again.

On another subject - one really disturbing story that I spotted today - according to The Sun (it’s the only paper I don’t buy - I read it online for free) we’ve got our first laughing gas addict.

Their story, by Richard Moriarty, claims a PL footballer has become the first to check into rehab facilities. Are we surprised? I guess not - football only mirrors society and vice versa, and we’ve seen plenty of players pictured using the substance. Those of us close to the sport also know that it’s used by many young players during down-time. But addiction is another level - albeit predictable I guess.

There was a terrific documentary series on the BBC recently entitled ‘Drugs Map of Britain’. You’ll find it on the iplayer. If you don’t know how dangerous this problem is - check it out. It’ll frighten the life out of you.

Whoever it is that’s been checked into the rehab facility - I wish him well. Sadly, he won’t be the last.