Gruel time again
ONCE again international football is sucking the life out of the footie season so instead of our usual diet of thrills and spills à la Premier League we have to suffer the thin gruel of the following: friendly tomorrow, 7pm Scotland v Portugal; Nations League, Monday 9.45pm Spain v England and Tuesday 9.45pm Republic of Ireland v Wales.
There have been small signs recently of a long-overdue Scots resurgence which will be put to the test by a Ronaldo-less but still reasonably potent Portugal. Obviously nothing can be read into a meaningless friendly but Scotland have a good opportunity to lay down a marker here. “The most senseless competition in football,” was Jürgen Klopp’s opinion of the Nations League and I’m in total agreement with him. He is of course concerned about his players possibly coming back to him injured, as I am about the Spurs players — particularly the five who will probably play against Spain on Monday. The last international break cost the Lilywhites the services of Dele Ali and the last thing Spurs need with four other first-teamers already out injured is something similar happening to Messrs Kane, Rose, Dier, Winks and Trippier. The time is coming when Premier League clubs will refuse to release players for nonevent games, and frankly it can’t come soon enough.
It pains me to say it but I have been quite impressed by the job Unai Emery is doing at Arsenal. Their 5-1 win at Fulham featured some great counter-attacking play with four of the goals being good examples of the genre and the other by Aaron Ramsey being the best team goal I’ve seen so far this season. It is of course still early days for the new Gooner manager, but with nine wins on the bounce and a relatively easy run of fixtures to come things look promising for the club that were victims of something akin to Stockholm Syndrome under Arsene Wenger’s reign over the past few years.
Team of the week
Rui Patricio, Wolves; Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea; Andrew Robertson, Liverpool; Aymeric Laporte, Citeh; Toby Alderweireld, Spurs; Harry Winks, Spurs; David Brooks, Bournemouth; Josh King, Bournemouth; Glen Murray, Brighton; Alexander Lacazette, Arsenal; Eden Hazard, Chelsea. Manager: Eddie Howe, Bournemouth.
The heading of this section is of course the internationally recognised word for, depending on your perspective, a) incoming, b) get the heck out of the way, c) duck!, d) an indication that a small, usually white object travelling at up to 180mph is heading in your general direction and you would be well-advised to take evasive action or just hit
The reason low-flying golf balls has become an issue is because at the recent Ryder Cup a female spectator was struck by a drive from American Brooks Koepka which resulted in her allegedly losing the sight in her right eye. If true, obviously this is tragic for the lady but the question is: was this a preventable accident? She certainly thinks so because she intends to sue the Ryder Cup organisers for “the marshals not communicating the intent of the players to go for the green on a drivable par four”, “for not warning the spectators that a ball was coming as spectators could not have heard shouts of ‘fore’ from the tee” and “that there was a lack of safety warnings on the ticket, and signage around the venue”.
So the question here is what are her chances of winning her case? In a sensible world she should have no chance, if only because it was her choice to stand where she was at an event where any number of spectators risk getting being struck because of their proximity to the action. However in our not-so-sensible world she may well win her case because the modern snowflake viewpoint is that individuals cannot be held accountable for their decisions, be they rash or otherwise.
If this is the case then it would be a game-changer for how we currently view live sport. Imagine no spectators at Lords watching the Ashes — nasty, hurtful things, cricket balls especially when they’ve just been lashed for six; definite danger for the crowd. Footie? Riyad Mahrez’s penalty last week at Anfield could have taken someone’s head off; Moussa Sissoko hitting row Z every time he shoots has to be a major threat to public safety; empty stadiums are the only answer. Baseball? See cricket.
All ice hockey arenas have screens around the ice but that’s not really practical at Lords, Wembley and Yankee Stadium, and it’s definitely a no-no on a golf course. At the end of the day it’s buyer beware; the woman concerned bought her own ticket, selected her viewing point and accordingly took her chances. People are hit by golf balls at most events but most are just bruised or suffer minor injuries that at worse require a few stitches. She was undoubtedly unlucky but no-one was to blame. It was just an unfortunate accident.
Last week I asked two questions that regularly pop up in pub quizzes. The first was how many teams in professional British football have J in their names? And the second was how many team names start and finish with the same letter?
St Johnstone are the only team with J in their name, while there are seven teams in British top-level footie that start and end with the same letter. They are: Liverpool, Aston Villa, Northampton Town, Kilmarnock, Celtic, Dundee United and Charlton Athletic. York City can also be added to the list if we accept that the National League comes into this category. My old mucker Steve Langbridge had the most correct answers while somehow I managed to forget Celtic of all teams.
This week: an easy one. Who scored seven goals in a cup tie and was on the losing side?
In what was a pretty uneventful week snooker provided my high (low) lights. The usually not very good Petal Pete racked up an astonishingly good break of 34, which was a huge shock to his opponent Deniz Aziz and a massive shock to yours truly. A couple of days prior to that Mike Rivet hammered Pete the Pot, which actually wasn’t that much of a shock though the sainted Christina was so impressed she penned a little ditty that went thus: “Pete the Pot lost the plot as Mike potted Pete’s pot two weeks on the trot. Mike potted Pete’s pot and Pete pottered off.” I can’t make my mind up whether this is inspired or just plain daft, either way I don’t think Pam Ayres should be too concerned about being knocked off her poetic perch.
This column wishes a very happy birthday on Friday to DJ and bingo caller extraordinaire Steve Male. Steve, who is a legend in his own lifetime, is a witty, debonair, bon viveur and raconteur who can frequently be found schmoozing his way around the bars and restaurants between Girne and Karflıyaka, usually until the wee small hours in the company of Gogglebox Lee Riley and a very motley assortment of acolytes. As charming and approachable as he undoubtedly is he does have one major flaw: he’s a fanatical Hull City fan. This just goes to show that nobody, not even Steve, is perfect.