A Selection Box of Belgians

Astonishingly, given that Belgium haven’t been regulars at international football tournaments for a while, it’s possible to construct a rather decent first XI of Belgian players in the Premier League. We gave this team to my brother to use in his office Fantasy Football; he has called his team “Beer & Waffles” and in his email he referred to me as one of the most footballingly expert people he knows. Hurrah!

This is that team, reimagined in delicious confectionary form, as befits a collection of Belgians.

Goalkeeper (GobSTOPPER): Simon Mignolet

Recently leaving the Black Cats to join Merseyside’s second best team, Simon Mignolet has played a few years’ of first team football in the Premier League, and now replaces Pepe Reina, a man unfavoured by Brendan Rogers. Mean Brendan Rogers. No, you like him, you said that his face looks like it has been carved out of a sad potato. Hopefully Mignolet will settle in and be a happy chicory, or as the US refer to that vegetable, BELGIAN endive.

Defender (the Green Triangle from Quality Street): Vincent Kompany

Loath as we are to admit it, the Captain of Every-Man-For-Himself City is a player of undoubted quality. Also his head is sort of shaped like a triangle.


Defenders (Toffee and Coffee): Vertonghen and Vermaelen

Two defenders with extremely similar names – an easy case of mistaken identity. Like when you are expecting a lovely sweet toffee and end up with a horrible bitter coffee by mistake. Or when you’re anticipating an aromatic coffee and find yourself mired in disgusting toffee.

Midfield (Chocolate topped with a big decorative nut): Marouane Fellaini

A player for whom David Moyes has developed quite a taste, Fellaini is a conspicuous presence on the pitch due to his epic Belgianfro.

Midfield: (Lemon) Moussa Dembele

Dembele wears a white strip at Spurs and is one of the less expensive players in our XI.

Midfield: Eden Hazard (may contain nuts)

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard sent a few opposing players into anaphylactic shock last season. Or were they just diving?

Midfield/Bench: Kevin Mirallas, Kevin De Bruyne, Nacar Chadli…those chocolates that someone has to eat before you can get to the second layer

These guys, whilst definitely in the squad, would probably start on the bench. The bench! What depth in this imaginary team!

Forward (Fudge): Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku has just come back from loan at West Brom, so as someone linked to the West Country, which is famous for dairy, he can be delicious creamy fudge. Wait – West Brom isn’t in the West Country. But it’s WEST Brom. That doesn’t mean the West Country! What about “West” Hampstead? West Hampstead don’t have a football team.

Forward (Vanilla): Christian Benteke

Easy. Benteke plays for Aston Vanilla. Close enough.

What do you think?

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Greece Erase Deficit to Stay in Euros

56 minutes: Samaras equalised on the break. 1-1.

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Quis Commentatiet Ipsos Commentates

or, Who Commentates on the Commentators?

We are watching a lot of football at the moment. Not that our TV gets a lot of use – it’s basically only even tuned to cooking or football competitions, and after the end of the Premier League season we may be giving up football completely out of disgust. (Following football, not playing football – otherwise the semi-annual church football afternoon on the weekend away would be…slightly less characterised by wife-on-husband fouls)

Anyway, with the Euros on almost nightly we are having some quality television time. For the England/Sweden game, we symbolically defeated our opponents by having meatballs for dinner. One of us can be quite a noisy football watcher. I don’t think they minded…

A quiet night in tonight as the Husband is just back from a work trip. Portugal is trying to manoeuvre Ronaldo around the bus the Czech players have parked in front of the goal. Petr Čech, is actually Czech – wonder if there are any other internationals named after their countries?

The commentators are not overly helpful, I think. Being stuck at the stove during the England game meant that I couldn’t watch the action, but I could hear the commentary. They could have been watching any game, or any sport in fact. It could have been two people in a room with blindfolds on, having a competition to see who could remember the most clichés. Astonishing.

One commentator has just said “[banal observation], it has to be said.”

Oh really? It has to be said? Well what a relief you are hear to make these crucial observations, industrial parasite, in fact if you hadn’t pointed out your own necessity I might have made the mistake of regarding you as entirely superfluous. How embarrassing.

In fact, Stephen Ireland is Irish.


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Ghosting Footballers: David De Gea

A month in the life of David De Gea

Wednesday 7 December 2011: Basel 2-1 Man Utd

Got up. Shaved sideburns. Should have saved Streller’s goal. Still low on confidence so the Mister [Sir Alex Ferguson] encouraged me to visualise lifting the trophy. But the thought of touching that silver cup fills me with dread. Don’t know why.

Saturday 10 December 2011: Man Utd 4-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Got up. Shaved sideburns. After the game I walked into the away dressing room with the Wolves players by mistake. I explained to the Mister that I followed the “pack” on autopilot – don’t know why I said that.

Sunday 18 December 2011: QPR 0-2 Man Utd

Got up. Shaved sideburns yet again. I have to do that every day now and still they grow back by the afternoon. Weird. Had a good game and was praised for my animal-like agility.

Wednesday 21 December 2011 (full moon): Fulham 0-5 Man Utd

Had a strange night – was in bed thinking that the full moon made it too bright to sleep and then I don’t remember anything. Woke up this morning feeling like after a long workout. Got up. Shaved sideburns. Felt like I’m under a curse all day. The Mister saw something was up and picked Anders instead.

Monday 26 December 2011: Man Utd 5-0 Wigan

Got up. Shaved sideburns. Still struggling to piece together last Wednesday. Anders in goal again, just because he had an easy game last week. Also because I got injured in training, though the physio said he’d never seen anyone heal as quickly as me.

Saturday 31 December 2011: Man Utd 2-3 Blackburn

Got up. Shaved sideburns. Frustrated to lose out to Hanley from the corner for his goal. Seems like everyone has the misconception that I don’t like crosses. Tried to chat up this girl called Bella at NYE party but she said I’m not her type and left with a guy named Edward.

Wednesday 4 January 2012: Newcastle 3-0 Man Utd


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Praying for Muamba

The collapse of Fabrice Muamba goes against our sense of fairness. Physically fit and at the start of his career, it is simply not right for this “genuine, warm boy” to be fighting for his life. There is clearly something wrong with a world in which this can happen.

Muamba’s plight is not the result of anything that he has done, but it is a symptom of the problem that we all share – taking our lives for granted without serving the God who gave it to us. Praise God, who is committed to getting rid of all suffering by regenerating the world.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4, the Bible

So committed was God that he sent his perfect son to undergo all of the pain caused by the world’s rebellion against him.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” – 1 Peter 3:18, the Bible

Please pray for Fabrice Muamba and his family today.

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Oh Captain, My Captain: John Terry

Captain John Terry (Chelsea) vs. Captain Birdseye (potato waffles)

I can’t even imagine where you’re going with this one.

How about this. Captain Birds’ Eye, grammatically speaking, has an eye of the birds and John Terry has an eye for the birds, such as his teammates’ girlfriends.

That’s right. You are absolutely right.

A rare win!

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Ghosting Footballers: Luis Suárez

This series is effectively our unsolicited audition to ghostwrite the memoirs of prominent football personalities by demonstrating how well we can get inside their heads and write with their authentic voices.

We present a first draft (with author and editor notes) of…

Luis Suárez: Put Your Hands In the Air

When I joined the Premier League in 2011, I was still euphoric of our supremacy at the 2010 World Cup, (Ed: But Uruguay finished 4th, not 1st in the World Cup. LS: That is not the supremacy to which I was referring) and my own contribution to the campaign, not just in terms of my team’s performance, but the wider campaign. (Ed: Do you want to be more specific about what other campaign this is? LS: I would, but my professional sponsors prefer not) 

I knew that playing in the Premier League would be a test of both my strength and my character. I told myself, Luis, if you ever face the choice between what is right, and what is in the interests of your people (Ed: Would “your team” be better? LS: How about my “nation”?) then remember that there is no alternative but to take matters into your own hands. So whenever I felt doubtful in my first season I would just think back to that moment when I raised the “Hand of God” against those Black *****. (Ed: Luis we absolutely CANNOT publish that and I have to say I’m personally appalled. LS: What do you mean, aren’t Ghana nicknamed the “Black Stars”?)

I was faced with this choice when I was persecuted by Patrice Evra, after having spoken to him in a friendly manner and pinched his skin to make him feel better. (Ed: Consistency with the FA’s record of the persecution? LS: whose autobiography is this? mine or theirs?) So we were lining up to shake hands. I was with my team mates Blondie, Grandote and, er…, Glen Johnson.

“I would refer to Glen Johnson as ‘negro’ in the same way that I might refer to Dirk Kuyt as ‘Blondie’ – because he has blond hair, or Andy Carroll as ‘Grandote’ – ‘Big Man’ – because he is very tall.” – Luis Suárez (Independent Regulatory Commission report)

The whole world saw what happened next.

But everyone agreed that I came out of it with my integrity and dignity intact. I know many will have bought my memoirs purely to read what I have to say about this incident. But I believe the right thing to do is to take a “hands off” approach and let the records speak for themselves. (Ed: People aren’t going to be happy unless you apologise. LS: I refer you to the statement published by Liverpool FC via their website. Ed: But that statement includes an apology to Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool FC but nothing to Manchester United and certainly nothing to Patrice Evra. LS: Whatever – you’re the one who’s read it.)

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Oh Captain, My Captain: Scott Pardew

Captain Scott Pardew (Newcastle United) vs. Captain Boromir (Lord of the Rings)

Because Boromir was captain of a castle and Scott Pardew is captain of Newcastle.

Well before we get into the details of that statement, how about a photo?


So this is Boromir, but I couldn’t find a photo of Scott Pardew.

I think I can explain why. Alan Pardew is manager of Newcastle. Scott Parker used to play for Newcastle.

And Scott Pardew…?

There is no Scott Pardew.

Oh, never mind then.

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The Super Tactic? It’s All About Balance

A super tactic once guided Nuneaton Borough from the Conference to the Premier League in just four glory-filled seasons of Championship Manager. But where is that winning formation when we really need it? How should England line up at the European Championships this summer?

To find the best formation lets look to the best teams and managers. The tricky thing is that titles can be won by great players in spite of, rather than because of, a team’s tactics. To get round this problem lets look at the record breakingly good teams. They must have had top players AND (crucially) a winning strategy.

As a geek of 90s and 00s football I’m picking, as the templates of how to win, Ferguson’s treble winners, Wenger’s invincibles, Mourinho’s Chelski and Guardiola’s Barca. Each of these teams won their league scoring at least 90 points. Here they are (where a team score 90 points more than once, I’ve shown the first XI from the season where they scored the most points):

On the face of it, they use different formations but, there is a framework that lies beneath them all. Straight away we can see that a back four is preferred. (It also seems to be a good idea to pick a Cole). But what about the rest of the team?

It’s all about balance. Importantly, it’s the attacking balance that is far more important than left-right. If we broadly categorise players by how attacking they are, our template teams share the exact same balance. Specifically there should be one defensive midfielder, two all-round midfielders (i.e. can play central midfield), two forwards (i.e. a winger or a support striker) and one striker. That gives us a 4-1-2-2-1.

José Mourinho is now using the same philosophy at Real Madrid that he used at Chelsea. With 12 games to go (at the time of writing) they have 70 points and are well on their way to a 90+ points total.  Here is how the 4-1-2-2-1 looks for them:

So England should go for a 4-1-2-2-1 this summer!


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Oh Captain, My Captain: Ledley King

Captain Ledley King (Tottenham Hotspur) vs. Captain Long John Silver (Treasure Island)

So the thing Ledley King is known for is having dodgy knees…

That’s the defining thing he is known for?

Yes. Anyway, Ledley King has dodgy knees and Long John Silver had a wooden leg.

“His left leg was cut off close by the hip, and under the left shoulder he carried a crutch, which he managed with wonderful dexterity, hopping about upon it like a bird.” (Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island)

Right. Was Long John Silver even the captain of a ship? Check Wikipedia.

Oh. Never mind then.

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