1. Love Is Blind, Contempt Lucid
Should I ever consider staying up ‘til 4am to watch such a wretched display as tendered by West Ham at the weekend, I’ll do well to remember that I’m likely to derive as much pleasure from hammering cuff-links into my foot.
With my other foot, having just severed it with a plastic fork.
Has there ever been a better time to beat Man United? A team which began the match in the absence of Ferdinand, Vidic, Van Der Saar, Jonny Evans, John O’Shea and the Da Silva twins, ended with a back-four of Evra, Carrick, Fletcher and Giggs.
Both Jack Collison and Junior Stanislas were poor, the latter consistently making flawed choices despite the efforts of Guillermo Franco to provide decent opportunities. Franco should have been more selfish, and along with Scott Parker, was the only player to emerge with any credit.
Displays like that lead me to conclude that our best chance of survival this year lies solely in the hope there may just be three teams more inept than ourselves.
On current form, Birmingham City are not one of them.
The Blues have enjoyed a sustained purple patch, putting eight points between themselves and the relegation zone and securing a top half spot under the commendable tutelage of manager, Alex McLeish.
Unbeaten in six, with four wins and draws against Liverpool and Man City, McLeish has got Birmingham working for one-another
Ex-Hammer, Lee Bowyer, grasped the opportunity of regular football and flourished as a result, doing more for Birmingham this year than he ever did during his two spells at West Ham.
Unhampered by intellect, Bowyer has put in a few man-of-the-match performances, scored five goals in the process and was duly rewarded with a cemented berth in the midfield of my fantasy team – no mean feat, as I tinker more than Claudio Ranieri on soiled barbiturates.
Sebastian Larsson and James McFadden combine with Bowyer to form a competent midfield, accomplished in the fundamentals. They also comprise the club’s three top-scorers this season, picking up the slack from the under-firing front two of Cameron Jerome and Christian Benitez.
As the above suggests, in some ways Birmingham City are currently our antithesis – an average playing staff who constitute a team greater than the sum of their parts.
At present, we look every inch our rusted, malfunctioning, poor man’s Kwik-Fit, bargain bin selves.
In recent years, St. Andrews has proven a happy hunting ground. Last year saw us claim a 1-0 victory courtesy of a penalty after Craig Bellamy was very obviously brought down.
Fair-minded then manager, Steve Bruce, claimed that because the ball was headed for a goal kick, no penalty was warranted. One can only assume that Bruce was suffering from a particularly turbulent vortex at the end of his Angular Hooter™ that day.
4. Midfield Mire
Last week’s omni-shambles saw us regress into the midfield impotence that plagued us earlier this season.
While Kovac played probably as well as I’ve seen him, I will never condone a midfield which incorporates the regularly excellent Scott Parker alongside Kovac and/or Noble. I just don’t see how either of the other two provide anything that Parker can’t himself surpass.
It’s exactly like having just two filling options in a sandwich, choosing a delectably pungent mature cheddar and following up with a frugal, rubbery flap of ‘American cheese’. Absolute madness.
You could argue that with Behrami and Noble both injured, Kovac was a foregone conclusion, but where did that get us?
If Diamanti is fit, stick him in there for an hour. Yes, he’s erratic, occasionally reckless and half of his ‘incisive’ passes are more likely to incise your face, but he’s the only midfielder with the nerve to try something different.
Failing that, give The Spectral Embodiment of Luis Jiminez© a starting berth. A run of games can do him little harm and he has to be more offensively astute than Kovac/Noble. SURELY.
5. Case For The Defence
I was asked what I wanted for Christmas the other day. My response of ‘a few clean sheets’ raised unwarranted questions about my private life (which is nobody’s business), but the sentiment was sound.
Where to begin?
Danny Gabbidon’s hesitancy was obviously at fault for United’s second, and the inclusion of the emergent yet undeveloped James Tomkins in such a game at the expense of the up ‘til now decent Manuel da Costa, at a time when a succession of games was proving fruitful for the Portuguese, did neither party justice.
Hopefully Matthew Upson will brave the scolding abuse of his erstwhile employers and exert his influence to shore up a leaking back line.
My god, Robert Green was so disgusted with what lay before him on Saturday he had to go off the pitch and puke.
Add Zavon Hines to the list and what are we left with? The prospect of Kieron Dyer getting a nitrous oxide package on his mobility scooter to spring the offside trap.
With our defence in its current state and our midfield content to run in every direction but forward, poor Guillermo Franco must look back on the dearth of resources available to him in the Mexican slums as a time of wondrous plenty.
What are the most realistic options? Franco upfront alone? Nouble alongside him? Diamanti in the hole in support of Dyer and Franco? Mike Small wandering sufficiently offside to give Trevor Morley space to take the scissors out of his back?
I’m full of theories, but can’t honestly say I have any confidence in a single one of them.
7. Back In Black And Blue
Another week, another tale of a takeover.
Those fine footballing brains at Straumur have reportedly set a deadline of today for any and all takeover offers to be submitted, enlisting Rothschild to oversee any deals.
Our Icelandic overlords are themselves applying for a nine-month extension to the moratorium of their creditors, and while this is expected to be granted, its absence would demand a quick sale.
The only serious (at least, public) contenders are funnily enough, ex-Birmingham City owners David Sullivan and David Gold.
The Davids have promised January investment and the retention of our star-performers (whoever they are), so long as they can acquire the club for a nominal fee in light of our debts.
Straumur have thus far resisted and things will likely chug along with all concerned looking to exact their pound of flesh at the expense of the fans, while I’m left to rake up this muck again in a month or so.
8. You Can’t Beattie A Bit Of A Bully
Should there be any money available in January, in our current plight I think we could do worse than signing want-away Stoke City striker, James Beattie.
Beattie made the news this week after fisticuffs with his manager, Tony Pulis, post-Stoke’s defeat to Arsenal. Pulis had apparently apologised to the whole squad bar Beattie, latterly having a one-on-one with his frontman, and now claims the matter is over.
At 31, Beattie would be cheap and is no more a gamble than DiMichele, Tristan or Franco. Another alleged target, Adriano, is more likely to pile on 10-stone and be the latest in the line of ex-legends happy to collect a tidy West Ham pension.
While he is no goal machine, Beattie would provide some gumption upfront, put himself about and generally be a right pain in the arse for the opposition, thereby freeing up space for anyone who isn’t mincing sideways around the edge of the area like an effeminate crab.
My god, if there were dressing room altercations after every time we lost to Arsenal, we’d all be watching the game atop a stinking pile of corpses.
9. An Open Letter To Gianfranco Zola
Dear cheeky little Franco Zola,
Despite what have admittedly been some testing times, I remain a supporter of yours and still feel your overall service thus far justifies time in the job.
However, the next time your band of rascals put in a performance of galling inadequacy, please, please do not emerge from the dressing room gushing empty platitudes along the lines of:
‘I can’t fault the players, they were fantastic. They gave everything. They did everything I asked of them.’
This approach can only result in three possible outcomes:
(i) You look like you have no idea what you’re doing
(ii) You ruffle the fine winter plumage of your hitherto accommodating support and
(iii) I feel like squeezing your diminutive frame into a blender, which would be horrible for me as you have such an endearing, cheeky smile.
May I suggest that you either keep these fallacies to yourself and maybe watch a tape of the game when you get home, or give your staff the kick up the backside they merit.
Boleyn Beluga and his illusory readers.
10. Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life
So, more doom and gloom with not so much as a glimmer of hope on the horizon, but if we didn’t laugh, we’d cry.
In that spirit and in the season of Christmas cheer, Craig Bellamy has swine flu.
And Roy Hodgson made the most unenthusiastic and tempered endorsement for England selection in history from a manager in regard to one of his own players:
"You could make a case for one or two more unusual selections, players who have something a bit extra. If you perpetuated that argument, you might come up with an argument for someone like a Bobby Zamora."
Go on, put a smile on your face.