Monday, 13 February 2012


While the precise qualities that make up good design can be as elusive as a false 9, False 9 is certainly an aficionado of good design, particularly of graphic design, and especially – though not exclusively – when the images have a sporting theme.

I mention this because I’ve not long since stumbled across the work of Steve Welsh, an illustrator whose Twitter handle and website name reveal where lie the man’s loyalties: @miniboro_com. He has interviewed Bob Mortimer on the subject of supporting the Teessiders and, if I’m not mistaken, is also involved in a side project chronicling the first 100 issues of Middlesbrough fanzine Fly Me to the Moon, named after a terrace chant spawned in the 1980s when then manager Bruce Rioch described current boss, his centre half, Tony Mowbray, as the kind of man you’d take to the moon with you.

Anyway, as you will see from the eight images I’ve chosen (from Brian Laudrup above, incorporating the classic 1986 strip, to the seven below), it really is an eye-catching and delightfully witty body of work: an attempt to render famous footballers and/or teams in poster form, often utilising a cryptic reference to their nickname, physical appearance or even a piece of commentary about them. Here they are, my favourites from the oeuvre, with a few notes… 

No, not the slain former drug baron and head of the Medellín cartel, Pablo, but his Colombian compatriot Andrés Escobar, who was of course the defender whose reward for scoring an own goal that eliminated his country at the 1994 World Cup in the USA was a bullet in the head…

Eschewing the obvious temptation to focus on Carlos Valderrama’s iconic hairstyle, Welsh instead replaces the outline of said mop of golden ringlets with an element taken from Colombia’s current strip’s badge design: namely, the three colours of the Colombian flag, in three-quarters of a circle.

Completing a hat-trick of Colombians, it’s Tino Asprilla. Nicknamed ‘The Black Gazelle’ and playing on these shores in the famous black-and-white Toon livery, Steve felt adidas had missed something of a marketing open goal.

Before the Belgravia Centre and Shane Warne brought hair replacement surgery into the mainstream, some men’s neurotic inability to face the irreversible process of hair-loss created several monstrosities (see 70s television). Bobby Charlton is perhaps the patron saint of the comb-over. What is especially brilliant about this image is that England’s leading international goalscorer did actually endorse a model of adidas boots.

Another Manchester United legend: ‘King’ Eric Cantona rendered as a playing card, with the elements from one of his pseudo-profound aperçus thrown in alongside a devil’s fork.

On to a former teammate of Eric’s in Marseille: the slovenly Chris Waddle, perhaps known to Brits outside the country’s footballing fraternity only as a name that emerges from the nonsensical Mediterranean glossolalia spoken by The Fast Show’s Channel 9, hence Steve’s inclusion of a faux motto under the iconic Sheffield Wednesday owl.

Next up: the other person to miss a penalty on that heartbreaking evening in Turin in 1990, a man about to interim-manage England in a friendly against the Dutch, Stuart Pearce. The visual style here recalls the posters of Hitchock’s regular collaborator, Saul Bass.

Penultimately, a player Pearce might encounter in that friendly, Manchester City’s Nigel de Jong, known as ‘The Lawnmower’, apparently, either on account of mowing down the opposition or, Walsh would rather believe, covering every blade, thus rendered in OPTA-style diagram

Finally, another Dutch midfield enforcer, former Ajax, Juventus, Milan, Inter, Barcelona, Spurs and, um, Crystal Palace star Edgar Davids, variously known as The Pitbull or Piranha.

So, if you are a lover of striking, elegant, and smart design, or are looking for a present for someone who is, then why not pick something out from Steve’s online shop (links below) and pat yourself on the back for supporting genuine talent and an independent cottage industry into the bargain.


Prints: $18 (or approx £11.40 at today’s exchange rate)
Framed Prints: $35 (£22.20)
Stretched Canvas: $85 (£53.95)
T-Shirts: £16.90

Saturday, 11 February 2012


Does anyone have a U and a T in this font?

In a list of the most repugnant individuals currently employed to make face in the mediasphere, it is difficult to know where, precisely, one would rank – and ‘rank’ is absolutely the mot juste – that astronomically repulsive twerp Piers Morgan, a man who truly does believe he farts cologne. It’s not important; he’s up near the top – which is where any self-respecting elitist is happiest. 

The most recent phase of Morgan’s journey unto repugnance – or what he calls his career – has seen him become a much sought-after opinioneer, first in Blighty then La-La Land, parping highly-remunerated ideas that come after us all through the ether and lodge themselves in the brain, later to be blurted out as our own: “Liiike, I fink vat…” Some people call it ‘mass entertainment’.

Like all cynically populist-yet-elitist right-wing figures – and as the editor of News of the World, he will have had ample practice at that posture – Morgan has to work quite hard to keep the sneer of contempt from his mug, something that the deadly combination of Twitter and his own limitless vanity will, I suspect, make increasingly difficult. (Although, given that his roughshod ride over celebrity privacy whilst on Fleet Street paved the way for our elevated culture of bin-emptying, knicker-sniffing, pap stalkers, I dare say he giveth nary a shit.)

What has any of this got to with football, you may wonder? Well, if you pipe down for a minute, I’ll tell you.

The FCF’s Hollywood correspondent, Murdoch Burdock (stress on first and second syllables respectively, naturally), brings news of Morgan ‘repositioning’ himself, false nine-style, as a football pundit. Not content with being final arbiter on Britain’s Talent – and certainly, we have been strongly tipped for medals in shooting and fencing at this year’s Olympics – he is now to be found saying stuff like “Mixer!” and “Good knock!” to a flummoxed American audience.

It would be easy to poke fun – and Lord knows I’ve gone out of my way not to keep abreast of his career (I think I accidentally caught 10 minutes of some arrant pre-US ‘documentary’ on Marbella’s nouveaux riches) – but the top of my head, and some brief research, tells me he has a prime-time CNN show, in the old Larry King 9pm slot, and that there have been a few faux pas of late. For instance, a Tea Party politician called Christine O’Donnell, the acceptable face of bigotry, walked off an interview because “he would not stop talking about sex,” and he infamously got the gender wrong of a recently deceased comedian, Patrice O’Neal, to whom he was attempting to pay tribute (grief-surf). Chris Morris was nowhere near either incident, Burdock reports.

One would expect all this of an imbecile, particularly one as shallow and deluded about his place in the world as the toerag formerly known as Piers Stephane Pughe-Morgan, but that hasn’t stopped him from turning his unctuous gaze toward O jogo bonito.

Credentials? Well, apart from slotting easily into the niche of ‘vituperative Limey’ (see: Mrs Robinson, S-Cowl), apparently Piers is an Arseho– …I mean, Arsenal supporter – which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense: he probably once had to review Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, however intellectually stretched; he certainly epitomises the post-Sky gentrification of football already skewered in The Fast Show; and he would thus have eenie-meanied a team when the glory still spurted from the Henry-Bergkamp axis. 

Piers: proof positive that Britain doesn't Got Talent...

You’ll not be surprised to learn, assuming you don’t already know, that Piers has a history of gushspouting footballistically on Twitter. During the recent Arsenal versus Man United match, during which Andrei Arshavin was roundly booed for, er, being told to go on the pitch by Wenger – a decision derided by Robin van Persie, too, remember – as replacement for tyro winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, widely regarded to have been the Gunners’ best player at that point, Morgan flicked the following spunk-gobbet at his Twitter Clarice Starlings: “I’m speechless. Never seen a worse substitution in my time as an #Arsenal fan. Shocking. And for Arshavin???? Nonsense, Wenger. NONSENSE.”

Burdock’s sources confirm it was all this football-related chatter – and maybe also the fact that we’re all so fucking dumb that we’ll tune in just to see how shit he is – that got him a job as guest pundit on ESPN. Imagine! It would be like having Ruby Wax or Jerry Springer commentate on the cricket. Anyway, the professional lasher-outer promptly tweeted of his new expertise, doubtless assuming there to have been a ceasefire in Syria out of respect for his epochal appearance or hoping the Twitterati would blow smoke up his ass and feed him grapes. Of all people, wee Michael Owen – who, despite the ongoing fizzle-out of his career, does exist – took virtual umbrage and defended Football’s territory from such impostures. Man-to-man, not zonal.

Here is the charming exchange from what soccer experts and media observer observers in those parts of the YooEssEh? where clichéd mobsters still go about their nefarious business are already calling “Soopoib Sunday”:

PM: 2 hours till I’m live on air as expert pundit re Chelsea/Man Utd for @FoxSoccer – be afraid @WayneRooney @RioFerdy5 @themichaelowen
MO: pundit maybe but please, you, an ‘expert’. Do us all a favour
MO: only in America could someone like you be asked to go on tv to talk about football
PM: careful Benchwarmer, or I’ll have to focus my expert eye on you to America later
MO: And that’s the problem in this world. Clueless people like you somehow get in a position to talk about something 
MO [cont]: they have no clue about in front of millions of people. Football is full of it. 
PM: thing is, Benchwarmer, I’m more likely to score a Prem League goal than you these days.


I’m not sure of any ‘previous’ – there are only so many minutes in the day; only so many Prozac this side of intensive care – but note his delightful facility with the put-downs. Heart-warming stuff. Lovely, cute bullying. The kind of man you’d want your daughter to marry…

Not content with picking a rumble with one cherubic favourite of the Mums of Middle England, Santa Banter (as he’s known to the Mexicans who clean his pool) then got embroiled in a spat with Gary Lineker, one that seemed to develop from the previous tête-à-chest between Owen and Morgan:

PM (straight tweet): Fox are airing Chelsea/United match on main network today, before Superbowl. Giving Americans the chance to watch some real football.
GL: Shame we don’t get Fox here. Would be intrigued to watch your analytical tactical input. Could be quite something.
PM: I’ll send a tape. They call me ‘Lineker with looks and brains’ over here.
GL: Must be down to your stunningly successful football career.

As is the way with Twitter, this then prompted a multi-sided exchange (slebs and plebs alike), for which we probably require a three-dimensional format in order to represent it adequately. Nevertheless, the meatiest part of said subsidiary ding-dong(-ding) was a spat between Piers and – I kid ye not – Lord Sugar, the latter having chimed in that Morgan’s punditry was “embarrassing to say the least” (Lineker: “Surely not?”), the former defending himself against the accusation that the Arsenal fans hate him, to which Sugar retorted: “deluded again, maybe hate is wrong word, they just think you talk double barrelled boll…”

And he was like “Everyone hates you, Peez”. And I was like, “Like, you best, like, fuck off, yeah?”

Lineker then suggests getting the pair of them on a MOTD spesh as pundits. As you’d imagine he would have been had the offer been to carry out a liver transplant, Piers, predictably, is up for it: “Let’s see who’s Top Dog, Shugs”.

So far, so banter… 

Perhaps drawn by the licentious description of “erudite entertainment,” he then posted a fawning blog on his Fox Soccer punditry (tagging Sugar, Lineker, and Owen in the tweet), at which point he’s again gently teased by Salt ‘n’ Lineker, before it all then prrrrroper kicks off, blud, ya get meh:

GL: You must have been up all night trying to find that blog
PM: They’re flooding in. Expecting the BBC to be in touch very soon.
GL: Spoke to the powers that be at the BBC and they are very interested in you… Staying in America
PM: I just spoke to the powers-that-be at CNN & Fox. And they said: ‘Gary who?’
GL: Ah well, there’s always the rest of the world
PM: I currently air in 200 territories / countries – how you getting on? #SmallPondMinnow
GL: I think the 2 world cups I played in probably edged that.
PM: Hmmm. Next time you’re in LA let’s stroll down Hollywood Boulevard together & see where the crowds surge, ‘Mr 2 World Cups’.
GL: You asking me out on a date.
PM: Yes. Mwah x
PM: We actually have a lot in common. Neither of us has ever won the World Cup, European Championships or Prem League/1st Div.
GL: Or have a golden boot… Oh sorry Piers I forgot I’ve got one in the attic
PM: Ah yes, here’s the fabled ‘golden boot’ in action [he posts a link to Lineker’s penalty miss vs. Brazil in 1992, one that would have equalled the England goalscoring record]
GL: I have no recollection of those images, didn’t fake them did you? [Deft use of satire from Lineker here, alluding to the Leveson Inquiry]

[At this juncture, a mystery racehorse owner from Chester appears]

MO: No surprise to see you have been on Twitter a week and Big Breasts has already started spouting his rubbish at you.
GL: I know, bless him. You can tell all he ever wanted to be was a footballer.
PM (to MO): Did you give Noddy’s pal tips on how to take penalties, Benchwarmer? [Link posted to Owen missing an open goal against Barcelona in a pre-season friendly!!
MO: Don’t need to lardy. He scored 48 goals for England, end of story.
PM (to GL): Of course, you’d never fake images – now would you, ‘National Treasure’? [bizarrely, he posts a link to GL in latex for a crispvert]
GL: You should see me now I’m working out.

Aside from the obvious question (whether Morgan had some flunky at hand to trawl YouTube on his behalf), you have to marvel at the abject peurility dribbling from Piers’ gob – truly, we are living a new Renaissance. I’m sure he never browbeat anyone, ever, for failing to be sufficiently patriotic when at the Screws or Mirror (research assistant is off sick today; will have to leave this as conjecture for the time being), so mocking Lineker for missing a penalty seems slightly cheap and dishonest.

It is all truly desperate, craven stuff. And behind the playground nastiness is the brazen smugness of Morgan – evidently, he thinks he’s now a player, a man of influence, maybe an icon. He has probably given his penis a nickname. He must be hoovering up gigantic quantities of boliviana to maintain such exorbitant levels of strutting narcissism. Did I mention he is friends with Kevin Pietersen? 

Anyway, like the true staminabeast he is, Piers promptly left his braying school chums to stuff $50 bills in the cunts of Russian strippers* and pootled on back to Twitter, where he found the eco-house-dwelling son of Neville Neville, fresh from a shift of proper punditry on Monday Night Football. Neville was ready. He’d decided to get tight, not let him turn, and generally show him on to his weaker side, at which our ever-loquacious, zeitgeist-riding hero offered this contribution to the social media site’s gemütlichkeit:

GN: Self-praise is no praise
PM: Not much danger of any form of ‘praise’ in your case, Ratface
GN: Don’t need praise. I’m not insecure. Hope this move is permanent to US
PM: I’d invite you out to Hollywood, but they’d only arrest you for possession of an offensive face in a built up glamorous area
GN: Happy in Lancashire thanks Piers. I’d invite you to Lancashire but you’d only end up chopped up inside some meat pies or eating them
PM: You should try a few pies, Ratface – fatten yourself up a bit. The Worzel Gummidge look is a bit last year
GN: Was widescreen tv invented for you. Is that life stories thing still on?
PM: I know one thing Ratface. You in High Def TV is the nearest thing to Dante’s Inferno I’ve ever seen. Life Stories back in 2 months
GN: Got any guests that don’t cry and we actually know on this series? #scrapingthebarrel
PM: By the way, who fights your battles for you now – since Uncle Roy fell out with Grandpa Alex?
PM: Why don’t you come on? Bring Uncle Roy to hold your hand for you if you’re too nervous
GN: I’d like to see you interviewing Roy. Hope your security is good
PM: It’s the best – my Chief Bodyguard is Patrick Vieira. Your [sic] remember him, the one who sent you running to Uncle Roy every 5 minutes?
GN: Was that the night we won 4-2 while I was supposedly bricking it? Don’t believe myth Piers he squirted a water bottle!
PM: At least he had a bottle – you used to lose yours the moment Vieira clapped eyes on you
GN: You been watching MU v Ars for the last ten years. We did alright on the physical front I felt. I Never felt uncomfortable. [It’s unclear whether the capital N is a deliberate pun on his name or a typo caused by that letter sequence always bringing the upper case out of him]

Cerebral stuff, this dribbling, splattering Twitterhoea. It’s like Baddiel and Skinner’s History Professors. “See that mug? That’s you, that is”. Edifying, it is not. One can only hope that HMCR don’t allow the oleaginous parper back in the country. Let’s face it – and this is the only absolute precept you should ever hold – anybody who describes anything as a bit “last year / month / week” quite frankly deserves to be shot before their pathetic neurotic bilge infects us all. Now is the new then

And spiritually, I'd add... 

OK, right, so we’re all agreed that, not to put too fine a point on it, he’s an absolute throbber. Good. All the fish in our barrel are dead.

Now, given the hyperspeed at which Slebdom works (I mean, @AnfieldCat already has over 50,000 Twitter followers), we could soon have made-for-TV career swapsies between Piers and Arsène Wenger – entirely plausible given that Le Prof started to consult Piers pretty regularly on footballing minutiae shortly after this August outburst of his (five months before the aforementioned tweet about The Ox): “Wenger signing ANOTHER kid for big money? When will he realize we need experienced defence, not more young strikers #Arsenal #Chamberlain”. Uncanny foresight.

Anyway, on this job-swap show, Wenger would go out to “a built up glamorous area” and interview vapid ‘entertainers’, while Morgan comes and manages Arsenal – or “Woolwich Arsenal” as he insists on calling them – for a season. The results would be hilarious. I imagine Piers would turn half the Emirates into a giant corporate lounge for the various neo-aristos with whom he fraternises, their easy and spontaneous creation of famebience captured by a special camera and beamed over the big screen whenever the match is in a lull. To make them happy. Happy and inferior. And happy about their inferiority. Furthermore, the rest of the stadium would have the already steep price of their tickets hiked further, he would build an imperial box (as seen in Roman coliseums) where the Arsenal bench used to be, and potential new signings would be forced to do a 7-minute slot of keepy-uppies in front of Morgan at Cobham, at the end of which he – and some famewhore-for-rent – would pronounce an inconsequential verdict, most of the words being sucked straight up his nose. Finally, whatever the problem, he would chuck some money at it. Literally.

Right, I’m off to commit suicide. Ciao.

* This image  the apparent misogyny of which is expressed from the POV of the probable worldview of Morgan s circle of friends  contains some artistic licence. Not unlike Piers’ punditry.

Originally published by The FCF

Thursday, 9 February 2012


Occasionally – very occasionally – False 9 gets it wrong. We had previously suggested that JT’s ouster as Il Capitano was Don Fabio’s doing, the result of crossed wires, language barriers. We thought it may also have had something to do with a bizarre strategy the Italian had been formulating, involving selection based solely on surnames. When the papers were leaked to False 9, we immediately believed them to be ‘surnamist’. 

No. It was all a game of Trading Places, as this image proves. Definitively.

So, Fabio’s gone. We are sure he’ll, uh, take it on the chin... 

As for ’Arry, we think that – should he be offered the England job, and not John ‘You Can Bring Your Fucking Dinner’ Sitton or Barry Fry – he ought to sit on the bench in a Pearly King outfit. And he should select Michael Brown’s mum, if only for the comedic possibilities that her getting leggy at the end of extra-time present... 

Congratulations, English Football. You’ve surpassed yourself again. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Conform, or ye shall be cast out...

As Nietzsche, the great philosopher of ‘herd instinct,’ knew only too well, the truly free thinker often speaks up when ‘his’ culture is at its cocksure, self-congratulatory zenith/nadir. Just as the England Test cricket team’s recent ascent to world number one status saw me adopt the apparently heretical view that the domestic county game still needed a radical overhaul (many saw causality not correlation in the latter’s apparent rude health), so Liverpool’s Week of Beating Manchester and romp past some lambs in Wolves’ clothing has left me feeling little different than I did ten days ago in the wake of that abject defeat at Bolton. At the time, I was bemoaning the team having the cutting edge of a space hopper, a position to which I’m still beholden, despite many – the dutiful, obedient herd – believing the grounds for argument have now been swept away.

Tempting as it is to paraphrase the old Club 18-30 slogan – two swallows don’t make a summer – I shall not be so churlish as to deny the importance of these major scalps. Nevertheless, a sense of proportion – a scarce quality in the excitable world of Premier League football – is one I’m trying to cling on to as the roiling rivers of righteousness rise and pick up speed. Thus, it seems to me that these victories do nothing to vitiate the feeling that had settled in me after seeing Liverpool fleeced by the Trotters as easily as was Trigger in The Nag’s Head, the sense that King Kenny’s Revolution [tempted to pun that as ‘Kevolution’, in the manner of Rafalution, but felt there were acronym-based drawbacks], if not running aground, was increasingly losing momentum. 


Yet before the naysayers parp indignant, what is undeniably more pressing than the arguments themselves – and of more urgency for the overheated psychological ghettoes of the fanatics of all stripes, all clubs – is whether such dissenting opinions can be voiced without risk of being wheeled off to the wrack, the asylum, or to some solemn auto-da-fé. (All this in theory, of course; I’m fully aware that nary a hair on the head of reality will be flustered by any of this.) Are our intimate, personal feelings merely reflex actions designed to keep us from ostracism? Is blind faith the only possible attitude one can adopt in order to be a true supporter? Credo, ergo sum. Nietzsche, again: “Everything unconditional belongs in pathology”. 

Let me be absolutely unambiguous: my wish to defend the right to be critical does not mean I covertly want(ed) Dalglish to be sacked. If there’s jerking to do here, it’ll be my cock, not my knee, ta.

What I’m saying is this: while ‘his’ ‘charisma’ was evidently crucial in steadying the ship last season, a task that may have proven beyond pretty much anyone else, and while his man management appears – insofar as this can be perceived from outside – to have been astute, there remain large question marks over his dealings in the transfer market (those Trotters, again) and thus valid doubts as to his ability to build a team: i.e. to select parts and make them best fit together as a whole. 


Yes, yes, I am aware of the mitigation. Either the recent results – which, pre-Wolves, was a run of 6 points from 18 in the league, including games against the other three of the bottom four – are due to Suárez’s prolonged absence (the answer to which is surely: “Like, hello!?! Er, contingency planning!?! Not having too many eggs in a particular basket ought to be a lesson learnt from the Rafa years…”). Or, the ideologues and apologists will say, the squad is the dastardly work of a combination of highly-paid list-writer Damien Comolli and badly applied Moneyball theories – the point of which was that Billy Beane paid under the odds for the quietly achieving and unheralded players that he picked up.

In fact, the shopping under Dalglish has recalled that Mark Williams’ character from The Fast Show, the one that’s asked to pop out for a loaf of bread and pint of milk (or any items belonging to the same phylum of consumer goods) but instead – “even better than that” – returns with castanets, a pestle-and-mortar, and some WD40. Or Downing, Henderson, and Carroll, as they’re better known… 

Andy runs from the petrol-wielders

Despite the goal against Wolves, Carroll of course remains the biggest blot on Dalglish’s copy book. He is to intelligent movement what Shanghai is to carbon neutrality. Notwithstanding his role in Saturday’s winner, he has generally cut a forlorn figure at Anfield: if not galumphing hither and thither, then harrumphing equally aimlessly. And he cost £35m, a purchase akin to a 16-day cocaine bender, when all you’ve got to show for it at the end is the business card of a cosmetic surgeon who promised vaguely to rebuild your septum.

Of course, I’m more than aware that the Liverpool faithful catechize thus: Suárez + Carroll = Torres + Babel, give or take a mill’ (I’m unsure whether that phrase in the equation has an appropriate Greek symbol). However, and even though economics has long since seen off psychoanalysis as the intellectual discipline housing the most blaggers and pseuds, the problem is clearly that the transaction sent a message to the market, much in the same way that Chelsea Regan, by allowing herself to get fingered on the stairs at Jordan Morgan’s party, might as well thereafter have gone everywhere in a SLAG T-shirt (a non-ironic one, I mean, the sort that would be worn by a Western woman who’d been naïve enough to flaunt kneecap while walking around central Tehran as she was bundled on State TV for a peremptory and unconvincing confession en route to her live stoning). Subsequent behaviour is affected by past actions: “precedents”, I believe they’re called. Hence the fees for Jordan and Downing.

Anyway, with his loping stride and uprightness and ponderousness and lack of mobility or speed of thought (or sense of where he might need to be in order to bring the degree of difficulty of his next headed chance to within the narrow latitude afforded by his form/talent), Carroll resembles nothing so much as a giant Penny Farthing. And is equally archaic. Now that the only club rich and/or gullible enough to take him has rejected the chance to swap him for their astronomically deluded, universally reviled and cosmically greedy ex-skipper, there seems only one possibility left for Liverpool. I thus await the day Mike Wedderburn announces that the Big Geordie has been destroyed in a blaze, a grubbily ill-conceived white-collar insurance job…only for there to emerge sightings of Carroll on Dartmoor, like an expensive, exotic pet – a lynx, say, or puma – that grew too large for owners who hadn’t properly thought through the purchase and were forced to let the beast to go feral, since when it has roamed the mossy uplands, hungry and able to think of nothing save killing (at which point he’d probably make a more than useful target man, I imagine…). 

Craig's list...

All of which has recently left Liverpool bereft of forward options. Granted, Craig Bellamy, while clearly one vertebra short of a spinal column, offers a distinct threat (no, not like that; I said distinct). But Dirk Kuyt, without the garnish of goals, has increasingly resembled a tired old lettuce – are those brown-fringed and mulchy leaves still usable? On Saturday, even Tuesday, yes, we bulked out an insipid fish finger sandwich. But for how much longer?

So, what can be said of both Liverpool’s football and the manager’s vision?

One would hardly expect Dalglish to own up to his mistakes; after all, his statements are bound by pragmatic concerns, not truth-telling. Even so, and despite the commendation of his man management above, the censure levelled at his players in the aftermath of the Bolton game was pragmatically illuminating. Accusing them of lacking the fundamental values of the club – respect for the opposition – invited a couple of immediate thoughts: first, surely he has ample opportunity to remind them of these values in the dressing room; second, is this a smokescreen for their lack of cutting edge? Blaming their absence of ‘values’ allows him to justify manoeuvring players toward the exit (whence the Carroll swap story), while simultaneously protecting his footballing judgment. 

What price piety?

 So, again: what can be said? What is permissible?

The eminently sane and invariably perceptive Iain MacIntosh, mobilizing something of a ‘don’t-be-lunatics’ argument amidst a delegitimation of dissensus, recently wrote, slightly browbeatingly: “When Dalglish took over from Roy Hodgson he inherited a club that was headed for a relegation battle. […] Dalglish saved the club, he lifted it up the table. He brought passing football and patient, intelligent play. He forged a defence that has conceded just 21 goals all season, a record bettered only by Manchester City”.

Yes, he did both of those things. But here’s the thing: not at the same time. First he created good football, then he ripped it up (not deliberately) for defensive solidity. Toward the end of last season, Liverpool hit a devastating patch of form, with Kuyt, the flaky-in-the-wrong-system Maxi, and the jettisoned (for a vastly inferior replacement) Meireles all feeding off, and rotating about, Suárez’s cunning and darting movement: a team characterized by electric final-third interplay, and all the better for Gerrard’s absence. This season has been largely lumpen, prosaic fare. Conclusion? When Kenny had to improvise, he was able to throw together a nice recipe for good football; since being given the keys to the piggy bank, he has so far been unable to construct coherent, progressive football.

Is the parade of ordinariness – and boy, when was the last time such a pedestrian, average Fergie team visited Anfield? – genuine cause for concern? If so, should we simply shrug like dutiful acolytes? How does it reflect on Dalglish? Spending £35m is hardly a minor decision for all but a couple of clubs in Europe. And it directly affects the speed of the team’s recovery.

Whether or not we think the divine body of Dalglish is the right man for this job – and I do, albeit with caveats – it would be wise to acknowledge the piety that might, a priori, lead to all manner of argumentative contortions and self-deceit, to what Nietzsche described in The Genealogy of Morals as an instinct “in which every lie is sanctified”. After all, let’s not forget the etymological link between credentials (often thought of as an entirely objective and measurable quality) and credulousness. Sometimes, we see what we want to believe, the ‘properties’ or ‘attributes’ that you wish to see (including ‘charisma’), especially when the fervour is strongest.

Perhaps every club has its prophets, its potential messiahs, yet the vehemence with which one must endorse their every last action and not venture any dissenting theories is not a healthy state of affairs. Football is still too pious. And frankly, it all seems too trivial.

It is not an easy thing to do, and should not be rushed, but it is possible to support your team at the same time as abandoning the reflex chirruping of the party line, to depart the now timorous, now tumescent herd, to live life as becoming, not belonging (no wonder that, in the Romance languages, ‘to experience’ is generally the same verb as ‘to experiment’). Tribalism is so un-becoming, with its top-down emotional prescriptions, its pantomime hatred, the utter subjection of thought and belief to a miserable sense of identity, the fetid interiority of it all. One only need look at recent events in Port Said to apprehend the cancerous ‘microfascism’ lurking within the herd and apt to appear when its us/them borders are rigid and the molecules within become overheated, unable to dissipate the identity-system’s energy… Desire is physics. So, try and turn down those passion taps, folks: pride is not a universal positive. Attain immanence, like Viv Anderson. No fixed attachments. Fuck it: let’s play as the UK. Who cares? Nations are artifices, a pious costume for the mute biological process that we are.

They say it’s a terrible thing, to lose one’s beliefs. It’s not. Not if the thing you believe in is a morass of lies, wish-fulfilling fantasies and subjugation mechanisms. Escape, escape! And allow football to escape with you. For, as football shows us every week, in grounds the length and breadth of the country, the last thing we need is the false togetherness of the herd. What we need are tools for conviviality.

Quite urgently.

Friday, 3 February 2012


I know it's over...

I realize there’s stuff and stuff going on in the world, but none of it is as important as football. So shut up. I have important news.

Apparently, according to sources, the real reason John Terry was stripped of the captaincy has nothing whatsoever to do with the perpetually haughty sneer plastered to his mug, nor the fact that the Society for People who Refuse to Shake John Terry’s Hand (SPRSJTH) has grown too big for its administrative infrastructure, its dues no longer enough to cover venue hire. 

No, the reason JT has been stripped of the captaincy – and it’s too early to tell whether that’s adequate compensation for those hoping he would be stripped of his supposedly superior white/pink skin – is, as one entirely sane Chelsea supporter put it, “because of that fackin’ foreign cunt we’ve got as fackin’ manager. What fackin’ right has he got…?”

“Fackin’ language barrier, innit?” spake another.

From what I can tell at this early stage  and using an interpreter (ironically, as you shall see) while down in That London  this is what happened…

Mr Capello was in the karsey at Kamikaze, a plush new Japanese restaurant in Notting Hill, contemplating his order – specifically, the amount of chilli he was going to put his sphincter through, or put through his sphincter, which he was giving a pep-talk, having told it to switch off its mobile phone. (“I gonna have arse like a Japanese fag”, the Italian would later accidentally multi-quip.)

When he returned, he asked the waiter what the day’s specials were.

The waiter, having announced himself as a Fulham supporter and speaking very slowly, said “Teriyaki Chicken”.

At that point, Capello’s innate defensiveness, his Latinate linguistic formation, and the fact that he’d sent his translator-flunky off to Christie’s to bid on a Kandinsky screen print all combined to create a perfect storm, one that would blow JT’s gaudy mansion of a reputation to smithereens. Thus, hearing what he believed to be a slur on his courage by having the England team led by JT – for Don Fabio heard “Terryarchy? Chicken!” – Capello promptly issued personal orders for the sacking. Not the FA, as has been reported.

Terryarchy – if Fabio can neologise that, he’s evidently got a better grasp of English than we thought.


Terryarchy n. sing.: rule by terries; from -archy: government, rule
Terry n. sing: a moronic Cockney fascist, subgenre of the chav and equivalent to a Glaswegian ned.