1. Just Before We Begin
I read with great amusement this morning that Teddy Sheringham (40) has been told to grow up and act his age by Cesc Fabregas's daddy (39).
"Waiter - what is that, it's delicious"
"That's known as 'irony', Sir".
I wonder if Wenger has rung up Pardew and told him that "my dad is bigger than yours"?
2. And We Begin
Gareth Southgate should not even be in charge of Boro, according to the Premier League's own criteria that he must have successfully obtained a UEFA Pro Coaching License. (Glenn Roeder doesn't have one either to the surprise of no football fan with eyesight).
Boro argue he has not had time to pass the course, as Southgate was playing right up until he was asked to take on the role of Boro manager, when Steve McClaren left to decimate what is left of England's young footballing talent.
The amusing part about this whole affair is that to pass the course one simply has to attend the course. It is not examination based, which sounds rather like an R.E GCSE to me. And anyway, how can a professional footballer not have time to do anything? The hours aren't exactly taxing. 9-12, 4 days a week, one half day at weekends and a month off in the summer. I think I'd get by.
So the upshot is - in the UK, you require a licence to watch TV and a licence to manage Middlesbrough, but they'll let anyone have children. This column's suddenly gone all Daily Mail.
3. The History
The two clubs have now settled into a routine rather similar to the one we have with Blackburn. We win at home and lose away. Usually in as dismal a fashion as possible.
Last year we went down 2-0 at the Riverside, to goals by Hasselbaink and Maccarone. Now allowing Jimmy Floyd to score against us is par for the course but letting Maccarone do it is equivalent to surviving a shipwreck, swimming through shark infested waters and being run over by an ambulance when you get to the beach.
Our last victory at Boro came in March 1990. Ho, and indeed, hum.
4. Semi. Final.
We did beat them 1-0 at Villa Park in the FA Cup semi final though. Which was nice.
As much as anything that game will be remembered for lovely, innocent Marlon Harewood answering the question "Marlon, is it fair to say that West Ham only really turned up at half time today?" with the immortal response - "No way! We've been here all day!".
I love that man-child.
5. An Interesting Comparison
Against the Premiership's Big 4 (Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd) have a look at the records of the following 4 strikers:
Player A - Games: 29 Goals : 5 (0.17 goals per game)
Player B - Games : 10 Goals : 3 (0.30 goals per game)
Player C - Games :40 Goals : 11 (0.27 goals per game)
Player D - Games : 35 Goals :3 (0.08 goals per game)
Based on the commonly held belief that top strikers score against top teams you would therefore think that these games would be be a reaonable indicator of what a striker is capable of producing in the Premier League. So what can we deduce from the following?
Player A = Wayne Rooney
Player B = Marlon Harewood
Player C = Jermain Defoe
Player D = Craig Bellamy
Marlon is twice as good as Wayne Rooney? Yep, that'll be it.
In case you're interested 8 of Defoe's goals against the best teams came whilst playing for West Ham. I don't know what to deduce from that, but I'm fairly certain it supports my theory that they are destroying him over there.
And by the way - what does a proper striker do against the Big 4? Step forward Thierry Henry and your 25 goals in 46 games (0.54 goals per game). He might just have a future, that lad.
6. Onward Christian, Soldier
If Anton Ferdinand is injured for tomorrows game I would rather play Christian Dailly than George McCartney in his place. I can't deny that the former Sunderland and Northern Ireland captain (these are not actually honours, as such) undeniably played well last week but I have no faith that he can continue in the same vein against Boro.
You see, Mark Viduka might be a rather rotund Hobbit and I'm fairly certain that Malcolm Christie is little more than a theoretical concept, but Yakubu is a high class Premiership forward after all.
7. What If?
Off topic slightly but who do we think suffer more? Our strikers because they have to play against proper defences every week and never get the chance to play against ours? Or the defenders who never keep clean sheets but might if they were able to mark our strikers each week?
8. England Expects
Stewart Downing is in the England squad.
*Repeats to himself* - "I can win a Nobel Prize for Literature. I can win a Nobel Prize for Literature, I can ......."