Gruel time again

Cyprus Today - - SPORT -

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.

Im­pres­sive

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.

Fore!

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 deck.

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.

And fi­nally

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.

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