football_bloody_football_ident

I’M still struggling with the events at Anfield the last time the Reds played, y’know.

I mean, if you’d have said to me before kick-off that Liverpool would struggle to break down Crystal Palace, would concede from a corner, and would only be able to bring lads off the bench who have either very clearly been written off by the manager or who aren’t old enough to buy him a pint, I could have possibly foreseen a disappointing draw. But a defeat?! No chance, mate. The Reds are on a cracking run of form, Palace already have enough points to have secured their place in the league for next season, and the crowd will be right up for the occasion with Champions League football tantalisingly close once again.

And then. Then it happened. The Reds’ cracking form halted as every member of the side played like he hadn’t slept since the draw with Bournemouth. Palace (read, Allardyce) weren’t bothered about the league table and wanted to take the opportunity to show Liverpool up on their own turf. And the crowd. My God, the crowd. That was legitimately one of the worst atmospheres I’ve ever experienced. The air of resignation for the whole second-half and the funnelling out of the ground with ages left was embarrassing.

Can’t be arsed with Watford. It’s had defeat written all over it for months. And I absolutely cannot be dealing with the bloody Europa League games against lads from countries I’m not sure exist, either.

*Channels inner Gareth Roberts* JUST FUCKING WIN!

Barton’s Big Betting Ban:

OH, Joey. Have a day off, lad. Log off the Twitter. Stop talking. Take a bit of time to yourself and sort your head out. You don’t have to be the centre of attention all the time.

Yes, Joey Barton has been “banned from all football-related activity” for 18 months after the Football Association discovered he had made over 1,000 football bets between 2006 and 2016, a selection of which involved sides he was playing for.

Now, first things first, I’m always amused when the words “football-related activity” spring up. What does that even mean? Can he no longer train at the gym? Can he no longer attempt to lead Tranmere to a Premier League and European Cup double on Football Manager? Can he no longer throw a few quid on an eight-team acca on a Saturday aftern— oh, hang on…

Obviously, footballers are not allowed to bet on football matches. They are most certainly not allowed to bet on football matches in which they are involved. But Joey Barton decided to do just that. And he was bad at it. Really bad. Joey Barton placed 30 bets on games he was involved in over the course of that 10-year period, and he won only three of them. THREE! Jesus Christ. It’s one thing to flout the rules in an attempt to source minor monetary gain, but to do so and routinely fuck it up really does make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

I struggle with Barton, though. I think that at his core, he’s a decent man. His heart is, by and large, usually in the right place. He did an awful lot of good for the Hillsborough cause a few years back, is a patron for a couple of charities, and (in my view at least) is generally on the right side of the political debate. Yes, he’s frequently overly aggressive on a football pitch, has had run-ins with the law in the past, and is absolutely nowhere near as intelligent as he believes he is, but I don’t think that makes him an innately bad human being.

Despite the obvious rule breaking, the punishment does seem a touch heavy, doesn’t it? I personally can’t think of a football-related ban as severe as this in terms of length. Football has a poisonous relationship with gambling, which many of its most powerful institutions actively encourage for their own gain, and which actively seeks to exploit vulnerable people. The Football Association sitting atop their high-horse dishing out long suspensions, therefore, leaves a sour taste.

Overall, I think this whole episode is just a bit sad, really. He was making bets of values which, to him, are pennies. The man has a gambling addiction and was unable to stop himself. Loads of people on the internet seem to have revelled in the chance to call him names and laugh at his expense, which rankles a little bit. He’s a fella with a problem who made some mistakes, and is now being punished for them. His football career is almost certainly over.

Gone a bit morbid this column, hasn’t it? Moving swiftly along…

HMRC Get Arsey with Newcastle

AH, yes, here’s something a bit lighter. Within 36 hours of their promotion back to the big time, Newcastle United were bringing the banter back to the Barclays, as their offices were raided by HMRC and their Managing Director was arrested in some sort of a tax sting at the club’s stadium and training ground.

My first thought in this situation, as it often is when I wake up in the morning, is of Rafael Benitez. Just when it looks it’s going well for him again, just when it looks like he’s found a club and fan base that will adore and support him, and just when it looks like he might have tamed the wild machinations of Mike Ashley, he’s left paddling up shit creek once again. Stop taking jobs at clubs with notoriously unstable, maverick ownerships, mate. It’s not good for you.

Panic has been rife amongst Newcastle fans that the investigation could actually halt the Magpies’ progression to the top flight, which cannot be allowed to happen for two reasons. Firstly, it would be extremely harsh to punish the sporting success of the current squad and management for financial issues from years ago. And secondly, it would give the likes of Reading and Leeds United a higher probability of playing Premier League football next season, which is simply not acceptable to me.

Remember that Sylvain Marveaux tit that big Damo Comolli was after signing for the Reds for what like a lifetime circa 2011? You know the one… everyone on the internet was absolutely livid that Liverpool didn’t secure his signature in the January transfer window, and he went to another club and turned out to be shite?

Actually, that’s probably an eerily accurate description of at least 10 lads the club have chased over the years.

Anyway, his eventual transfer to St. James’ Park is one which has caught the attention of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and the Lorient winger was arrested and questioned in France earlier this week.

West Ham United are under investigation for similar reasons, but they have been bodied from pillar-to-post in this column on many previous occasions, and so I will not be wasting my breath on them again, as my feelings are patently clear.

Messi Makes his Mark

https://twitter.com/messi10stats/status/856511022470922240

UNLESS you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you will by now have seen Lionel Messi’s winner and subsequent celebration as he led Barcelona to victory against Real Madrid in the Bernebéu.

I just wanted to highlight it again. It is one of my favourite goals of all-time. Not aesthetically; it’s a decent counter and a good finish, but nothing to write home about. No, it’s for the needle. The way the Real players sink to the floor as the ball hits the net. The way the supporters behind the goal throw their heads in their heads in a manner not too dissimilar to the Gwladys Street at the culmination of multiple Merseyside derbies. The way Messi stands before thousands upon thousands of people who hate him with all their power and says “LOOK AT ME SHIRT, THERE. I’M THE FUCKING MAN AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT.”

I don’t usually watch games between these two anymore. It feels as if all the narratives have been exploited, I’ve seen all of the players at the peak of their powers, and so there’s nothing really left to surprise me. But it turns out the GOAT fella pulling out the GOAT celebration in the most exhilarating of circumstances, is still enough to make me smile.

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