5-A-Pied

Five fantasy footballers that might have been swerved by the mainstreamers but if you’re caught sleeping on these lads, you *might regret it. (*probably won’t)

It’s back, finally… no, mate not just my articles, apologies for the lack of uploads but I had so many episodes of The Bill on record I just couldn’t stop watching, REAL football is back.

I’ve taken a breather from Sun Hill now so forget your dodgy reality TV and our bang average summer because it’s time to get serious and focus on the real world of… Fantasy football… that sounded better in my head to be honest.

Everything is on the line – bragging rights in the office, the wittiest team names, a few quid on the line and most importantly a money-can’t-buy (non-existent) crown to the 2017/18 champion.

I compare my fantasy football skills to my culinary prowess, it starts off as a great idea, then I realise I’ve no idea what I’m doing before googling the answer and making do with a mediocre mess in front of me. But this year is going to be different!

I’ve done my scouting (by that I mean I’ve been so desperate for football I ended up watching highlights of Huddersfield, Swansea and Bournemouth’s pre-season campaigns… I know but it’s that or Love Island, mate and I refuse to succumb to peer pressure.)

I’ve had a word with a few experts (well, TalkSport have given some tips and I’ve read Paul Merson’s column) and most importantly I’ve got my team name sorted, Pathetico Madrid. Decent.

Ready for my five golden picks you need to weave into your XI? These aren’t the ones that jump off the page but they’re decent value, will score points on a regular basis and will allow you the freedom to go and pick yourself some bigheads.

Picking a team on a budget and refusing to pay the big bucks? Sounds like a Tottenham Hotspur pre-season briefing doesn’t it? But you have my word, these lads won’t bottle it at the tail end of the season.

Some similarities though, Danny Rose didn’t want to be in my fantasy team either…

The GK you need in is Wayne Hennessey. Palace look well set up under Frank DeBoer and will need to be well drilled to stop another relegation threatened season. At £4.5million, stick him between the sticks and watch him palm some points your way. This one is a bit of a gamble tbf but with newly promoted Huddersfield on the opening day I’d back the Eagles for a clean sheet.

One defender that gets overlooked a lot is Christian Fuchs at Leicester. Last year was a torrid season for the former champions but they now look more settled under Shakespeare so I’d fancy them for a mid-table finish and Fuchs will be instrumental to that. With the addition of Maguire to the heart of the Foxes defence, they’ll concede less so assists, clean sheets and the odd goal could be headed your way provided you don’t ‘Fuch him off’.

In the middle of the park we’ve gone for an ever-present in the Rafa revolution, Matt Richie. This lad has a wand of a left peg and will be lining up every set-piece the Toon have. Rafa is an intelligent man so be prepared for a lot of well-worked set-piece maneuvers with Richie at the heart of them. At £6million a lot of Newcastle’s survival will rely on his quality so get him in your squad and save yourself some dough at the same time.

Now, here’s where the fun begins, our guy up top. We’ve picked a plucky Italian who finished last year averaging a goal every other game. Add to that four bonus points and an assist this could be the season of Manolo Gabbiadini. £7million is a shed load cheaper than the big hitters and whilst everyone sneaks in Kane, Aguero and Lukaku you could nab some secret points from the Saints hit-man. If you ignore all of the above, this is the lad you’ll regret sleeping on most.

Now, last year my picks flopped hard so take all of these with a pinch of salt and I have tried to give some alternative players.

It’s easy to say ‘Select Kane’ ‘Get DeBruyne in’ or ‘Stick Alonso as Captain opening day against Burnley’. But realistically everyone is doing the same and the difference between Champions League and Sunday League will be who you can have picking up points that they don’t have, so shop around.

I don’t want to be hypocritical so I’ll come clean, I’ve only got one of these four in my squad (I won’t tell you which one though) However I can assure you once the opening weekend is out the way I’ll be thundering a few of these into my XI.

Good luck for the campaign, unless you’re in my work league, in which case, why are you snaking my tips for, get out!

Stay clever,

Thanks for reading,

Take it easy.

A Glossary Of Terrace Talk

Something a little different this week. Instead of me ranting, moaning and complaining about some minor football issue we’ve seen this weekend I thought I’d open up into the world of footballing phrases.

These are the ones you hear spat out in every level from Sunday league right up to Europe’s elite sides. From pundits to press officers, they all love a coded phrase, so here are ten of my faves, translated into every day language… Manager jargon can be interpreted slightly differently.

Firstly let’s get warmed up with a few words that are often used in football chat. Worldie means very good and Stanchion are the weird brackets in the back top corners of the goal, just a few very simple, relevant words you’ll probably hear if you get dug into a conversation, they’re all yours now, enjoy.

We won’t go through all the usual ‘It’s a game of two halves’ sayings because they’ve been done a million times over so I’ve selected a few that have been heard recently and may not be most common.

 

“He’s just not that sort of player” – One you will have heard a lot in recent weeks since the Neil Taylor leg-breaking challenge on Seamus Coleman. Usually spouted in defence of the offender by a manager or fan or pundit. Ask yourself have you ever heard of a player that is that type of player?

Translation – It was probably accidental because he’s not plastered in tattoos, sacrificing chickens on Saturday and burning out a Harley Davidson outside a council estate.

 

“Can he do it on a cold, wet Tuesday night in Stoke” – Without doubt, the best phrase used by football fans. It’s usually in jest of a top quality player playing abroad questioning whether his hat-trick in the Champions League is enough proof of his ability. Until he can wrestle free of Ryan Shawcross’ man marking, dart towards the ball, flick it up and smash a bicycle kick into the postage stamp, is he even worth talking about?

Translation – This lad is exceptionally good, but let’s not give him too much credit until he’s turned water into wine and fed a village of 900.

 

“I didn’t see it” – Aaahhh the Arsene Wenger go to. He loves this one (once he’s found the zipper on his coat) usually referring to another theatrical performance from one of his players or a hideous decision from the officials. Usually balanced out with a rhetorical, smug answer of “I did see it but I prefer not to speak about this” (Aka, the Mourinho).

Translation – Everyone saw it. It was completely the wrong decision, you don’t need to ask me that and if I respond I’ll get in trouble. Do you want to pay the £25,000 fine for me? No? Well then, move on.

 

“He’s a quiet lad with a good head on his shoulders” – Usually in reference to an academy graduate breaking into the first team. Yet to buy his ninth Rolex and Overfinch Range but still got the tramlines cut into his barnet. Could be a baller in the making if they can keep his attitude problem a secret and flog him to the highest bidder next summer.

Translation – Usually the geekiest looking youngster on the circuit, in bed by 10pm except on a Friday when he pops down the local for an orange juice and swans in just a smidge past 11… Lad.

 

“I have never seen anything like that before” – Whether it be a worldie from 25-yards into the stanchion or a two-footed lunge go unpunished, we’ve seen almost everything now. Unless Mike Dean rises like a salmon at the far stick three minutes into injury time to nick a winner for Spurs, we’ve probably seen something similar happen before, so leave it out.

Translation – We haven’t seen anything like this since, well, erm last weekend probably. Yeah, then I remember vaguely something similar happening, but that was the first one I’d seen since, well the week before that… etc. etc.

 

“He’s lost the dressing room” or “The players aren’t playing for him” – Referring to the manager’s lack of influence over his playing staff when results are going down the pan. It’s a huge cop out used by fans because their gaffer isn’t prancing along the touchline smashing water-bottles into Row Z. One of the most overused terms used by under-qualified fans, how on earth would any of us know if he had “lost the dressing room”… Unless you’re reading this and you’ve got a squad number, if you are, what are you doing reading this? Get back to training and stop slacking.

Translation – The players have gone back to their useless selves. He conjured up a minor miracle and made them decent, now look, they’re back to being wack. SACK THE BOARD.

 

He’s a “No nonsense” or “old-fashioned player” – Basically, he smashes challenges like he’s breaking into an Easter egg, takes pride in clearing the ball out of the stadium and doesn’t wear gloves (even when it’s snowing…). Blood stains on his t-shirt, a nose more crooked than Sepp Blatter and plain black, leather boots. None of this fancy gold trim on his wheels, oh no, a good solid pair of Puma Kings with each of his victims… I mean, opponents, squad numbers carved into the tongue.

Translation – No-one will ever buy him from this team. He was born here, he will die here. He has kicked the ball less times than the oppositions striker so far this season and in his ten appearances he’s been sent off four times (all of which he claimed to have ‘got the ball’ and the other lad ‘made a meal of it’)

 

“He’s got an absolute wand of a left peg” – A term only ever heard about a lefty. For some reason seeing a goal scored with the left foot looks 10x better than a right footer, no idea why, it just does. It’s an accurate description of anyone who can strike a ball on their left side from 30-yards.

Translation – He can score with his left foot from anywhere outside the area. Goalkicks, he’ll take em’ and probably score. Throw-ins? Drop them too his feet and watch him fizz a diag to the opposite flank.

 

“They’re a team that like to play football” – Obvious one? Not quite. Talking about your Barcelona’s, your Bayern Munich’s, your Arsenal’s, side’s that don’t mind knocking the ball about for 20 minutes solid. The most ridiculous phrase ever used though, everyone likes playing football, that’s why they play football… well that and the £200k a week wage might sweeten the pot. Never in reference to a side that is physical, strong or assertive it’s about the cute, pretty sides that keep the ball on the floor and never shoot from more than 15 yards away.

Translation – They pass a lot, and I mean a lot. I once went for a hotdog on 15 minutes, came back at 27 and Pique and Mascherano we’re still doing one-twos on the edge of the box.

 

“The club is in crisis” – Fam, blood, fam, fam, fam, Wenger Out fam. Arsenal is a prime cause of this term being used weekly. Arsenal Fan TV does some superb work talking to fans where there is a genuine split of opinion. It is a crisis if Arsenal don’t finish in the top four because that is the size of that club, when people claim that you can’t have a crisis unless your going out of business it makes me laugh. Why not? It’s like saying you can’t say your hungry unless you haven’t had a meal in 3 weeks and are starving to death. Context is everything.

Translation – It’s pretty bad in terms of football but in the real world, these
problems are minor. Unless you are at a club in a genuine state, but usually these are the fans that moan and sensationalise the least.

 

Well, I hope these have been useful next time you’re sat in the boozer watching Soccer Saturday and just a little extra piece of jargon busting, ignore every tip Paul Merson gives you. Amazing pundit, top class footballer but dreadful luck in predicting results.

Thanks for reading,

Take it easy.

Friend or Defoe?

There is a Jermain sized headache appearing for gaffer Gareth after veteran poachers Wembley opener.

Thank god that’s over, International football is such a drag isn’t it but don’t worry the Premier League returns in a matter of days.

We dug a win out over some European minnows and played our part in another dull friendly which doubled up as Lukas Podolski’s over the top testimonial (the gladiator music was a bit much wasn’t it…) but we will come on to that, let’s start with the positives.

Gareth Southgate is fitting into international football pretty naturally so far, he did initially have a kind of teaching assistant deputising feel to start with but now he’s gone fully fledged Geography lecturer on us with his ‘do it yourself’ hair cut and brown shoe combo.

There’s a video doing the rounds which is from Gareth’s playing career where he states he only drinks water in the week but will have a few beers at the weekend… suddenly Wayne Rooney’s omission makes sense.

I’m giving him a bit of a hard time already and oddly enough I’m pretty impressed with what he has done so far… I know, what’s happening, England and positive in the same sentence, I’ve not heard that since they started drug testing Sunday morning “footballers”.

We have to remember that Germany are a class above, we are brilliantly deluded in this country into thinking our footballing elite are on a par with the best in the planet… no chance.

We know our place, we know our potential and we have to build on that so pessimistically looking at a game against the world champions ‘B’ team was a pretty even affair, bloody dull, but even.

So positives to be had from Dortmund on Wednesday night? I thought our new shape was encouraging and gave us a fresh, enthusiastic approach to the game. We see it deployed week in, week out by Antonio Conte at the Bridge and it’s been excellent to watch. A solid, disciplined base with captain Cahill leading and debutant Michael Keane slotting into like an old glove.

The most demanding role is the wing-back/wide midfielder roles but with players like Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand as options there, we have the quality to play with this shape.

It also allows our attacking players, where we’re probably most gifted, to get on the ball more, drift into areas they can’t on a more rigid formation and be more expansive. Playing this way with the form Dele Alli and Adam Lallana are in is certainly very encouraging and Southgate has to be applauded for acknowledging this early doors.

Then we get to the negative side. England letting us down In someway shape or form on the international stage is about as predictable as Gordon Ramsay’s swear jar being full.

Let’s quickly breeze over this because it’s been covered by proper publications and I don’t want to give the idiots any more time then they’ve already stolen but there were some unsavoury sights midweek that brought shame, once again, on our footballing brand.

The lack of respect, the chanting and the despicable behaviour by some of the England fans in Dortmund on Wednesday night was deplorable. We have some of the greatest fans on the planet who travel coast to coast to see our boys play and then we have some morons who continuously embarrass us by representing the country in completely the wrong way. I don’t know how you can pinpoint this issue and completely abolish it from the game but it needs to happen, and fast.

Now onto Lukas Podolski. What a career, what a character and what a left foot. The boy has got a wand of a left peg and, as he has his entire career, dealt a sledgehammer of a strike right into the postage stamp to decide the game on the night. Congrats Lukas, you’ve represented your country well.

Niceties aside, was that really the gladiator music they played when he got subbed off? Is this where football is heading?

It would be funny if we now had players with their own theme tunes as they were introduced or substituted tho, Wayne Rooney would have Smashmouth (because of the Shrek reference, harsh I know), Dele would have Sandi Thom ‘I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker’ (that video of him singing it is still a belter) and Raheem Sterling would probably have Jessie J ‘Price Tag’ (One for you Liverpool fans out there). If you have any suggestions for more footballer theme tunes feel free to tweet me them @_ItsJJ.

I just hope next time we get an invite to a retirement party they lay on some sausage rolls because that, a 90’s cheese disco and an old, former employee cracking his trousers down for a funny photocopying prank are the only things that could have saved another instalment of ITV’s dullest midweek internationals.

Sometimes I think the only way I could care less about switching it on would be if Harry Hill started to commentate like You’ve Been Framed, that’d tip me over the edge.

It may not have been a blockbuster of a game but it was mildly encouraging in patches so ahead of the Lithuania game, surely, we were oozing confidence.

Foolishly, once again, I had a flutter on England to win 4-0 and Dele first goalscorer… That’ll teach me to be ambitious.

We got the result, that’s the main thing.

Only two things to pick out from the game worth mentioning, really, Jermain Defoe being the headline.

What a wonderful player he is. Without doubt jumping straight to the top of the pile as my favourite international moment was little Bradley Lowery leading England out alongside his best mate Jermain Defoe.

A beautiful moment, a wonderful gesture from captain Joe Hart too.

Defoe did what Defoe does and now Gareth has a bit of a headache.

He will be 36-years-old when the next international tournament rolls around, will that be asking a bit much from him to contribute? Not for me, if he’s scoring, get him on the plane.

Age is but a number, I mean, don’t give Bobby Charlton the nod because his goal scoring is probably on top of him now (somewhere his hair has never been) but as long as they are playing top-flight football and performing at that level weekly why would their age concern us?

The other thing was Jamie Vardy taking the opportunity to launch his new range of guyliner, which will be on sale from all Bargain Booze outlets. Opening day offer of a free pen with every crate of WKD purchased, use the code ‘Get Banged’ for a further 10% off.

One step closer to qualification, that’s probably the bottom line and the only thing we can really learn from the past weeks football is Russell Crowe is just a poor mans Lukas Podolski.

Just a quick side note too, I’m sure you will echo this, best wishes to Seamus Coleman who suffered a hideous double leg break in Ireland’s draw with Wales on Friday night. A brilliant captain for his country, a dependable full-back for his club and we wish him a speedy recovery.

Thanks for reading,

Take it easy.

 

 

FA’ing Us Over, Again.

Another meaningless International friendly, another absurdly expensive kit and no doubt further embarrassment to follow, a day in the life of an FA executive.

Congratulations once again to the Football Association for sweeping under the carpet last years abysmal failings in France by binning the £60 away shirt. We royally capitulated in… If we can’t see it anymore, it didn’t happen in the first place, did it?

Welcome to the table a new shirt unveiled this morning that should be made of Velcro, at least then you know it’s a rip off.

Tactical Nous or Typical Nonsense.

Maybe this is all a ploy to lure the Germans into a false sense of security and the new midnight navy blue trim will form some kind of stealthy barrier for us to sneak a 1-0 win under.

Or, more likely, is it another way for the FA to rinse the English football fan of their hard earned money… Yeah, that’ll be it of course, no brainer, right?

Value for money in 2017, impossible?

Well, on the scale of one to Paul Pogba… No, it’s still a rip off.

The last kit – £101RRP all in, for shirt, shorts and socks, god forbid you wanted ‘Chamberlain’ or ‘Henderson’ plastered on the back that’ll set you back closer to £125.

But, to be fair, we did lift the European Championshi… Nope, that didn’t happen.

We did put in some memorable performances in the previous kit, it must be haggered with all that blood, sweat and tears in… Again, with the exception of the tears, the kit is still hanging on the washing line clean as a whistle.

The classic white home kit was worn a heroic NINE times that’s roughly £11.20 per game if you’d been out and bought the entire strip. Someone give David Dickinson a bell, I’ve found the real deal he’s always on about.

Granted the white kit is still in use and we may see it a few more times but the FA love a few quid in their sky rocket so don’t bank on it lasting too long.

The flarey (now redundant) red away kit was debuted in the 3-2 away win in Germany prior to Euro 2016 (even now, looking back at that night it pains me how optimistic I was for France) and with a further four games in the lively rouge, as a kit, our record stands strong. Three wins, two draws and zero defeats… Read that again, ZERO defeats, in an England kit, that’s unheard of!

That is just FIVE games in the away kit. I’m no Rachel Riley but with the help of a calculator that’s just over £20 per outing! Imagine when you were a kid wearing a kit five times and then saying you wanted a new one, nah mate, get some use out of that and keep playing.

It’s All About The Money

I’m not prehistoric, I understand that football is driven by money and, in this country especially, football fans are milked like cows for every bean they’ve got, but for our governing body to lead that movement, is sickening.

Football kits change year in, year out and for a Premier League side, it’s almost accepted. Manchester United for example, their home shirt will have you shell out £60 at the start of the season but for that you get (at least) 19 home league games, a Europa League campaign, EFL cup games and an FA Cup run, it’s still hardly a dream but in 2017 that’s as close to value as your going to see.

Your country is a different matter. If a kit was released at the beginning of every qualifying campaign or ahead of a tournament, you’d understand that, generate revenue and build hype ahead of the tournament. But to drop kits out whenever they fancy to earn a few more quid just leaves a poor taste.

Our rose is Red, our kit is blue, It’s probably not Wayne Rooney who will score against you…

Let’s talk about more encouraging matters, the squad.

Another snoozefest of an International break to contend with now (fantastic). It’s the only week of the year DIY and a big food shop seems appealing but we’ll get through it hopefully without a pasting from the Germans.

It’s of course a new error era for the national team with a new man in the dugout and a few fresh faces in the squad, so it’s not all doom and gloom… Unless he digs out a brolly in Dortmund on Wednesday night, then we’re all in trouble.

Initially I thought hiring Gareth Southgate to lead our bright and prosperous future was like decorating your man cave with a deep luscious shade of magnolia but I’ve been proved wrong already, it seems.

His prior experience as U21 gaffer has given his first (proper) squad a real youthful exuberance to the team sheet and he’s handing out caps like a TK Maxx clearance sale.

WBA’s Jake Livermore gets then nod in the holding role, veteran goal machine Jermaine Defoe is the only one old enough to remember Southgate’s penalty and Southampton trio Redmond, Ward-Prowse & Bertrand all included after impressing in the league.

Gutting for Michael Antonio who looks set to miss out after a slight knock at the weekend but pleasing to see his form rewarded with another call-up.

All in all, it’s a pretty exciting squad… Which probably says more about the recent state of national football than it does about those included in it but without Kane, Rooney, Sturridge and Walcott we’ve a chance for some new blood to step up to the plate.

Adam Lallana, recently named England’s player of the year (considering the 12 months we’ve had that’s about the equivalent of winning some pork from the Sunday meat raffle at your local Conservative Club) is one of a cluster of attacking options for Southgate as we await his tactical decision.

Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Ward-Prowse all, once again, on form at the weekend etching their names onto the scoresheet so guessing the starting XI is about as tough as predicting Lingard’s next celebration.

Ross Barkley has been welcomed back into the fold too, after a few months in the Merseyside wilderness, but his flamboyant form for his club has seen him force his way back into the gaffers plans.

For once, I’m pretty optimistic in the side. The fact we’ve actually backed our younger players for a change is very pleasing. It’s an opportunity to rid the dead wood who’ve been living on reputation and with 14 of the 23 man squad 25 or under it’s a good opportunity to build on some blossoming talents breaking through.

Aside from all the threaded negativity above, if anyone wants to buy me the new strip, I bloody love midnight blue.

Thanks for reading,

Take it easy.

 

Horsing Around At The Races

The clueless guide to Cheltenham.

Race season is officially here and as I had a pretty class winner on the football last weekend, obviously that qualifies me as a semi-pro informant (not sure that’s the correct phrase but I’m watching re-runs of The Bill whilst writing this so I’ve got informants on the brain!) I’m ready to help (more to hinder) anyone who’ll listen.

First thing I must say is, do not listen to any of these “tips” because they are in no way helpful, in no way thought out and in no way going to win you any money!

Secondly, If you are over 18 please gamble responsibly and if you are under 18 please be responsible, don’t gamble and have a butchers at some of the other nonsense I’ve written instead of this one, please – nice one.

And finally (get all the paperwork out the way first) if you are looking for serious tips on Cheltenham then have a poke about all the usual outlets. You can usually find John McCririck outside any paddock or on Sunday’s picking up litter on Wimbledon common… He does look a bit like a womble but the man is a legend so no offence intended.

Here we go then, we are racing.

Bet You Already Knew This…
So, you’re in front of that mouthy bloke with a board, beside the horses, there’s so many numbers and heaps of tweed knocking about you become a bit dizzy and bottle it. Next thing you know the horse you fancied the name of, canters away and wins by a furlong (it’s a racing term for the distance, not the QPR fullback).

I know it can look confusing but betting is pretty straightforward once it’s simplified. If the odds state 3/1, that means put £1 on and win £3. (You always get your stake money back though so you’d actually get £4) The second number after the / always indicates how much you would place and the first number is the return from that stake.

Be clever with your betting, set yourself a limit and don’t go over it, no matter what. Even if one horse looks like Shirley Carter off EastEnders and you once shared a Jaegerbomb in Yates with her, that isn’t a good enough excuse to break your barrier – stay strong. If that’s £10 for three days racing then pick and chose your races at a lower stake, don’t blow the whole tenner on the very first race.

You Dun’alf pick’em
Don’t ever Always base your bets on instinct. Ignore the form, ignore the fact there is one horse running with a two-ton chariot attached or that the jockey is afraid of heights – just back the one with the funny name.

It doesn’t always work, granted (In fact it never works), Hoof Hearted is a blinding name but a terrible racehorse, so be aware.

If you’re really looking for how to pick them, watching to see which horse goes for a slash just before bolting into the race doesn’t help either, yes it will be lighter but It’s a horse, not a camel and it might even run quicker because it’s desperate to finish and go to the toilet… Did you think of that?

If you want to do a quick home experiment, give your younger sibling a large glass of water (this can vary depending on who you live with) then go for a shower… Watch how quick they sprint to the bathroom once you’re out. Compare that with a usual waltz to the loo and you have your answer.

I also heard that they always place a 100/1 winner in the very first race to hook you in. Well, that’s what the shifty bloke outside Subway said in town the other week, and he looked like he’d spent the night in a stable so he must be on to something!

You’re a Winner!!!
Well, that’s what everyone always tells the group chat regardless of their horse finishing 6th. The amount of time I’ve heard “Yeah, Yeah I had him at 14/1”, course you did pal, course you did.

It’s okay, everyone stretches the truth from time to time but don’t be that guy that aaaalways has a winner yet never pulls out his wallet for a round!

The favorite doesn’t always win and if you want more chance of actually winning then you can select a horse to place (varying on which service you are betting with some will payout if the horse finishes 1st to 4th).

Unless you’re a jockey, owner or professional undercover scam artist don’t take it too seriously, it should always be a bit of fun so just enjoy it… I enjoy winning though so I’d like to once again remind you that nothing in this article will ever help you win a race.

Ready For The Photo-Finish?
If, like me, half of your life is spent on social media you’ll know many of those who go to the races only go for the glam. Outfits, hats, tweed suits and the odd glass of champers make it into the caption and it’s an essential part of the game.

Everyone goes looking sharp in a clean suit or a swanky dress so why not up your game and take home the spoils?

Dive into a fancy dress shop, grab you and your lot some smurf costumes and really up the anti! You’ve seen the darts; those who dress up get the camera time. Time for you to steal the show!

… Originally I’d left out this last line but I thought on the off chance someone is reading this that may be off to the races, I better clarify, above everything else in this article, please, please, please do not dress up as a smurf. You won’t be let in, you’ll have wasted a lot of money on a ticket and transport and as funny as it would be, I don’t want that on my conscience!!

Having A Mare
The races aren’t for everyone. You may be allergic to tweed or physically gag everytime to hear someone say the word “Yar” … (More VIP terms but still made me nauseous even typing it out) so don’t feel pressured into joining the hype.

Unless you’re Jay from the Inbetweeners saying that you “won too much money last year so are banned from ever going again” won’t hold up. It’s alright – nothing can last forever, unless you’re Arsene Wenger’s deluded faith in Mesut Ozil, so swerving the races isn’t uncommon.

If this is based on a previous failing, dig deep and say it how it is “I had a torrid, I didn’t win a bean and I’d rather waste my money in the boozer” – simple way out!

Or, if you’re avoiding the races because you simply don’t like the sport, again, say it how it is, but avoid lambasting those who do enjoy it, it’s all legal, everything is above board and the horses are well looked after.

Disclaimer…
For the record, all of the above goes out the window when it comes to the Grand National, you’re on your own there, smash out the sweepstake, find one named after your second cousin who now lives in Bermuda (because that’s obviously a sign) and cross your fingers.

All in all the races can be a right laugh so ignore everything stated above, enjoy it and be sensible.

Stay clever,

Thanks for reading,

Take it easy.

Tanline technology

What happens on a referee’s stag do?

Another weekend of controversy in the Premier League. Same as usual then, but not quite, this week many are blaming the lack of quality officiating on… A midweek stag do.

Indeed. Congrats Anthony Taylor, he’s bagged himself a bride. Imagine the scenes when we have a ‘Referee’s Wives’ reality show picked up, already sounds E4 ready doesn’t it.

So, the burning question, what happens on the stag do of a Premier League official? Well I’ve done some research (none) and I know (completely false) everything that goes on. Strap in team, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

03:00 – Alarm goes off and all referees wake up to the blow of a whistle and a small chorus of you’ll never walk alone belted out of their iPhone.

They’re up ridiculously early for their flight, obv, purely because they can only set the alarm for 3am by switching from their PM Premier League KO setting, it was this, 5:30 or 7:45 and we all know getting to Gatwick on a Monday morning is a mission.

3:50am – After some plain Weetabix (no milk) and a glass of room temperature tap water they book an Addison Lee, not Uber, too many horror stories and you get free Wi-Fi with Ad Lee.

5:20am – Picked up by Malcolm on the ninth hour of his twelve hour slog talking about a nightmare pick up he had in Slough with a former Arsenal player from the 70’s. “Yeah mate, but that’s what the game was like in those day’s they didn’t mind you having 11 pints after a home game, it was the culture”, sure, Malcolm.

6:50am – Arrive at Gatwick, straight to the check in desk (priority boarding, obv) to drop off the cases. Quirky bag selection from most officials emblzened with “The referee is always right, unless his wife says different” sticker on the front, classic.

7:10am – Through to the airport lounge for the carnage to commence.

7:20am – They’re all punctual and before long the entire squad is in attendance and they dust out the Pineapple juice for an early morning toast “What happens on tour… Stays on tour, but please remain in control of your body at all times and anything deemed reckless will receive a caution or immediate dismissal depending on severity at the discretion of the official.” LADS, LADS, LADS.

8:00am – The juice is flowing, the Guardian pull out decimated in the middle of the table and tunes blaring, it’s all going on. Just before the end of the ninth successive Dido record one pipes up “Lads, I know it’s a bit naughty but I’ve got us some liveners for the flight” … Without a second glance, all the refs simultaneously burst out laughing before diving into their bag (bookable offence) and slamming seven bags of Werthers Originals on the table. Utter scenes.

10:00 – A few more hours discussing how one of the nutters once switched ‘Magnolia’ for ‘Magenta’ on the shelves in Wickes and the PA announces it’s boarding time.

10:35 – A slight discussion once on board because all seven had requested seats by the emergency exits (just incase) but after pulling rank the Stag, Best Man and referee of the year get the nod and force the four other disgruntled officials into the middle row… No case for appeal.

14:50 – Steady flight, made easier by the Werthers and the fact Titanic was on demand. Nothing to note apart from a little rumble of turbulence but after the best man had a brief word with the pilot regarding his conduct, they steered in safely. They like a party these boys but no one stood up until the plane had come to a complete stop and the seat belt signed flashed off, they love a rule.

16:20 – Bags collected, rental car picked up (Nice roomy Zafira, spacious, economical, Sat-Nav included and enough boot room for their luggage and ego’s) they began tearing up the open road.

17:50 – Arrived at the hotel in perfect time. Sat-Nav said it was a 38 minute journey but sticking to the speed limit is essential and they stopped twice to allow ducks to cross the road.

18:00 – No time for niceties, bags dropped, tour tee’s slung on and bosh, they’re out for the night.

18:15 – They’d anticipated this time to the seconds so a booking at a local fish restaurant came in handy as they all sat down in their luminous yellow tour tee’s with ‘PL Playboys’ (In official Premier League lettering) strewn across the rear.

18:20 – No need for a second look at the menu, they guess what’s being served based on observation and feedback from one another. Clean Green Salad with extra anchovies and sparkling water ordered for all. Except one (Clatts like character, Brylcreem gushing from his fringe) who’s gone for a Lobster straddling a unicorn breast with a champagne cocktail, two umbrella’s and a spiral straw.

19:00 – Mains demolished, Bill split evenly seven ways (including 15% service charge and not a penny more) it’s time. Win or Lose, get on the booze.

19:15 – The first club they arrive at, bit too busy (Despite no-one being out at this time and just the staff inside), the DJ was wearing a snapback and playing house, no chance, straight out the door.

19:20 – Second option, €20 entry fee, NEXT.

19:25 – They spot it in the distance, an old haggard building with no queue. No fancy fake velvet rope, no steroid-throbbing bouncers, not a single Calvin Harris fan in sight. A traditional wooden sign, creaking in the wind, read ‘Jazz Club’… OIOI.

20:50 – They’ve made friends with Fritz the resident saxophonist who knew his way around a scrabble board too which erupted into a full blown tournament. A few dodgy words went down but ‘Play On’ the advantage was allowed before being brought back when ‘Swazz’ was put down.

21:15 – Getting late for the boys now but they’re loving it. One lad in the bar had one too many and whipped his shirt off swinging it around above his head. First booking, before repeatedly asking the barman for another drink resulted in his dismissal for dissent. Trudging out the door he appeared to flick a finger up at the group but the CCTV was no use as it was forbidden and their view was impeded by a wobbly barstool.

21:30 – Another contentious incident when the aforementioned barstool came crashing down after a collision with a new entrant to the club. Immediate action taken and a red card was brandished by the best man (he always carries his cards, once sent a courier off for delivering his parcel seven minutes before the allocated delivery time. Had to collect the parcel from the depot after an altercation but he didn’t regret a thing). Great banter.

22:05 – Five minutes into injury time and the best man calls time on the night out. Hands shook, a scrabble letter in the hand of one for three successive wins in the tournament and a wonderful evening all round.

22:30 – After a quick Horlics nightcap they stagger off to bed, smiles beaming on a job well done knowing that something special happened tonight and they were apart of it.

The morning greeted the referees with sunshine piercing through the curtains.

They may not have a hangover thanks to the Banana, paracetamol and large glass of water they left beside their bed last night but they had a story and they had to get home, they had a Premier League game to call tomorrow afternoon.

If you’ve got this far into this you’ll probably be aware of a few things. One I’m not the biggest supporter of referee’s and secondly it’s all in jest.

This is what we think a referee’s stag do should be like, right?

I mean, god forbid they actually are allowed a personal and private life off the pitch. Who do they think they are enjoying themselves on their days off between work, how dare they.

Give them a break, yes they make mistakes and I’m the biggest hypocrite in the world because I batter them for the slightest error but 90% of them are genuine, hard working professionals who get hung out to dry by their employer.

The FA need to act quickly on the escalating issues in the Premier League. Whether that is with TV reviews, more clarity on a number of rules and regulations or just further support for officials.

We need to be holding the players responsible too, however. The Ibrahimovic and Mings situation for one, both players will be retrospectively banned for their part in proceedings at Old Trafford this weekend but neither should have acted the way they did, allow the officials to officiate.

The ‘Respect Campaign’ didn’t work, booking players constantly for minor offences doesn’t work. Retrospective action doesn’t work. Until the risk outweighs the reward we will struggle to stamp out any wrongdoings or misdemeanors.

I’ve come up with not a single solution to this problem so if you’ve read this hoping for one I apologise but I’m not paid to conclude or fix the problem, the Football Association are.

Until there is a change we will consistently see refereeing errors (ironic, aye) because their job is monumentally hard but we do need to highlight how wrong some decisions are and how they cost teams because until it’s made apparent how much this is effecting our game we will not see anything done about it.

Thanks for reading,

Take it easy.

The Great British Fake Off

Yes, it’s happened, I’ve succumbed to the overwhelming GBBO hype.

Well, actually that’s a lie, it’s just an excuse to share with you a cooking article I wrote whilst at University.

I am notoriously bad at cooking. If there was a fairy-tale book for cookery, I would be the one mothers and fathers warn their children about crossing on the plate.

I’m a food villain, the devil with a spatula some may say.

To ensure we get off on the right foot I want to categorically confirm I am a bad chef.

It’s an ugly word but I have previously tortured recipes to the point of extinction.

I like greasy, unhealthy, irresponsible foods and I’m not ashamed of that.

However, like all supervillians I have attempted (kind of) to change my ways.

My first effort of creation was a healthy, encouraging, pride-filled attempt (well, pride filled by my very low standards anyway).

We start with the starter, why you ask? Pretty self-explanatory, it’s a starter.

I always feel like I’m showing off ordering a starter in a restaurant, I’m sure I’m not the only one who sits around the table awaiting someone to perk up with “Is anyone going to get a starter” and that’s always returned with the polite phrase, “I will if you will”.

I feel it’s more of a behavioral gesture to show that although it’s your meal, I’ll take an interest in not only what you’re having but the reasons behind your selection.

I’m making this, so why not, in for a penny, in for a pound.

Grilled Halloumi on a bed of rocket.

Not bad for a novice, aye?

Okay, I doubt Heston Bloomenthal is quaking in his boots about my apparent effort of innovation but I think it’s a platform I can begin to improve on in the future.

Despite it’s lack of size and weight the cheese gave up quite a fight.

Grilled to give it a browning coat on top of its cushioney pale interior.

It wasn’t rubbery but it sqwelched when I bit down, it was a challenge with a smile.

The flavours were quiet and shy in forthcoming but once you’d bravely decimated the dish, alongside the salad, it gave you a balance of the cheesy, silkly, elegance and a peppery twang from the rocket.

Proud of the start, it’s time for the main event.

I feel like this is a Mayweather Pacquiao moment.

I’ve been talking about giving this cooking-lark a go for a while but never actually put my food where my mouth is.

Now… “Let’s get ready to rumble.”

First of all, fish.

We start with the fish because, let’s be honest, it’s the headline act.

I’m a big fan of fish, it’s like meat but scalier.

Throw into the mix the purest side dish on the planet, rice, and you have yourself a heavyweight contender.

Okay, admittedly the rice was Uncle Bens in the microwave, but we’ve all got to start somewhere, I mean Gordon Ramsey didn’t just turn up to a kitchen one day, start swearing and grab a Michelin star now did he?

The fish however didn’t come from an invitingly coloured packet.

Wheeling my trolley around the supermarket, swerving to avoid the upperclass mums with little Humphrey throwing grapes from the tail end, I headed for the fridges.

Oh yes, Captain Birdseye you’ve had your time, I’m going to get a fish so fresh it’s still got tanlines from the pacific ocean’s glare.

I started snobbily dismissing foods without a fully green dietary wheel on the packaging which is when I came across ‘Tunafish steaks’.

The reason for my selection; it ticked all the green boxes in terms of healthy eating and it had ‘steak’ in the name. Game Changer.

A thin layer of fry light sunflower oil was sprayed into a pre-heated pan until it began to sizzle.

Dodging the spits from the pan as if I were in the Matrix I set the fillets down until they began to brown.

Minutes later, out it came.

I went all out on this dish, even to the extent of sculpting the pearlescent rice into a triangle shape and popping a torn piece of shrubbery on top.

I don’t know why I did this, I’d seen it on masterchef, Greg and John approved, that’s good enough for me and to be honest I was getting carried away.

Of course I didn’t eat it, that was tossed aside as soon as my cutlery hit the table.

The first scuba-like-dive into the fish was mesmerising.

Juices oozed out the bottom like sodden sponge and my fork returned with a flakey piece of perfection attached.

It needed a few chews, just enough to realise you were involved in a battle but not too many; stubborn but forgiving, like a hormonal teenager.

It was glorious.

Just as the pallet began to dry, from the fishy main, my pre-readied dessert entered the fray.

I’ll call it London-mess.

It’s basically Eton mess but I don’t think I’m fooling anyone by slapping a pompous name on the front.

Gooey marshmellow standing shoulder to shoulder with an army of light, fluffy, crisp meringue pieces all set off by the vibrant addition of some hand picked garden fruits.

Ideally, I would be making this later in the year, but once I’d seen the Strawberry’s glint the tiniest shade of rouge from my kitchen window I stripped them from the stem and got busy.

Thinly sliced alongside whole punchy raspberries.

I had to make sure my healthy plans didn’t completely evaporate, didn’t I?

Now, I know I sound like that Sunday league footballer who thinks he’s Lionel Messi with a better barnet and a right foot but I must express again, the success of my meal so far, is as unexpected as snow in July.

The sharpness of the fresh fruit forced my tongue to recoil in shock upon it’s first meeting.

It felt like an explosion.

It’s nice but nasty if you get what I’m saying, like that awkward moment you can’t tell if you should laugh at somebody stumbling in the street because they might genuinely be hurt.

Then the sweet messy guilt overloads the pain.

A response from heaven, like swallowing a cloud.

It was too light to bite but too thick and luscious to drink, that middle tier of pursed lips swelling to ground down the crunchiness and appreciate the buoyant texture of the course.

I’ll be honest, I struggled to finish it.

That’s not an admission of me not liking what I’d produced, out of pride alone I wish I would have finished it just to brag some more, but then when all was said and done and I was just about to pat myself on the back and fill out a Great British Bake Off application form I realised something.

Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would have to wait a bit longer, I wasn’t perfect just yet.

I’d forgotten the veg.

Ah well, Rome wasn’t built in a day I suppose, there’s always next time.

If there is a next time.

To be continued… Maybe (probably not).