Then Saturday Comes… the half decent football blog

April 10, 2009, 4:50 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog



While Leicester City, Peterborough, Millwall , Scunthorpe, Leeds and MK Dons are in a six-way scramble to get into old division two, there is an even more manic battle from teams trying keep away from that league.

This weekend sees every team in the relegation mix-up playing each other, apart from Sunderland who are hosting Premier League whipping boys Manchester United.  If ever there was a chance to pick up points, it’s over this (second) most holiest of weekends.

Middlesbrough vs Hull City

Pompey vs West Brom

Sunderland vs Manchester United

Stoke vs Newcastle

My prediction is that Portsmouth and Stoke will win their home games, essentially making them all-but safe from the drop.  Boro will draw, which won’t do them or opponents Hull any favours.  Sunderland will emphatically lose to Manchester United, in what will probably be Ricky Sbragia’s last game in charge.

The other two losing teams, Newcastle and West Brom, have very different chances of survival.  To tie it into a religious context, they are very much analogous to Jesus vs Barabbas.

Much like our Lord and saviour, West Brom have been very decent sports this season.  They have constantly turned the other cheek and accepted defeats left, right and centre.  Their style of football is pleasing on the eye, and Tony Mowbray is a well known proponent of the ethos of forgiveness (how else could Abdoulaye Meite keep his place every week?).  Essentially though, they seem doomed.

On the other hand, Newcastle United represent the same position as Barabbas.  A consistent criminal who has been on the gallows before but is forever saved from execution due to a partisan and unexplicable home support.  He probably deserves to be sent to his death the most, but eventually will be spared while better men take his place.  Newcastle, like Barabbas, will survive, with Geordies everywhere bellowing “Let his blood be upon us and upon our children”.

Is it blasphemous to make a footballing analogy on Easter weekend?  I hope not, but I don’t think I’ve said anything offensive anyway so hopefully I won’t be getting a Papal Edict in the post.


Adriano is a very hungry and well-rounded footballer

Adriano is a very hungry and well-rounded footballer


In a move that will surprise nobody who has seen him play in the Champion’ League this year, Big Fat Adriano has announced he has lost his love for football and is planning an unpaid break from the game.

And good for him.

Yes, all the boreish hacks will, like my headline, jump down the cliched route of “oh dear another lazy footballer, what half the world wouldn’t give to be in his position.”  Of course, these are the same people that criticise infamously unambitious WBs Winston Bogarde and Wayne Bridge for sitting on fat cheques and not making the effort to improve.

Adriano purportedly has mental health problems, which is an issue that confuses many of these rent-an-opinion journalists.  The brain is a physical organ, and having a mental problem should be no less accepted than breaking a rib or a leg.

A sabbatical is completely accepted in other creative pursuits.  Musicians, authors and actors all take breaks to recharge their batteries when they are worn out.  Even superhuman Arnie Schwarzenneger is on a sabbatical at the moment, most recently chilling out in some office job in California.  So what problems are really brought up by Fatty Adj having a bit of fishing for a few months before coming back next season?

Jose Mourinho, often criticised for his spartan managerial approaches, is actually one of the few genuine intellects in football.  His quote on the matter says more concisely what I have tried to get accross in a half-dozen paragraphs: “If he’s happy like this, if you lose the player but the man is happy, perfect”.

Can you imagine what Harry Redknapp would say in a similar situation?



While the whole fotoballing world rubs Guus Hiddink’s admittedly amiable cheeks, there is one other variable that has co-incided with Chelsea’s return to form: Michael Essien.

Unlike Avram Grant, Hiddink has wisely noticed that Essien is the best central midfielder in England, if not the world.  While Grant perplexingly placed Essien at right back (presumeably to appease the combustable tempers of Lampard, Ballack and Mikel), Hiddink has put him back into the centre of things.  The excellent 3-1 win at Anfield on Wednesday was testament to Essien being so good it’s a crime not to build the team around him.

For the past four seasons the Ghanaian has lit up Stamford Bridge with his energetic displays that allow Fat Frank to not bother tracking back and Michael Ballack hide his noticeable descent into average-ness.  Yet Mickey E never gets the credit he deserves.

True, he doesn’t score that many goals (11 in 96 appearances), but what he brings to that team is far far more than that.  Thierry Henry said this week that “you can talk tactics and systems all you want, but at the end of the day football is all about running.”  Essien is the most energetic footballer I think I have ever seen (with the possible exception of Patrick Vieira), and the amount of ground he covers in a match is scary.

He may never win Player of the Year (or even get in the Team of the Year), but Chelsea would be morons not to build their team around Essien next season.  What a fella.


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