Més Que Un Column

Match of the Day – Running Orders, Rice and Rafa

After a typically scattered festive fixture and a record-breaking third-round weekend which saw interest levels fall to their lowest since the war, a return to the standard 3pm kick-offs was as bland as expected for many.

Liverpool’s 1-0 victory over Brighton was far from a cracker. It was the type of match that commentators describe as ‘intriguing’ or ‘finely poised’ as the two teams jog back down the tunnel at half-time, trying to hide the fact that the game is yet to have its first shot on target, and that the highlight has been a middle-aged chav give the wanker gesture to the away side’s corner-taker.

However, that didn’t stop Liverpool from securing first place not just in the league, but on Match of the Day’s running-order as well.

The BBC seemed to lose interest in every team below Chelsea around late-September. Apparently, by April, they’ll just be showing City and Liverpool’s games before discussing David Silva’s hairline for the remaining hour.

It’s mad that the Reds were on first and look likely to get an early showing right through until May regardless of the actual entertainment value in their games. It was even madder given that their main title rivals don’t play until tonight.

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You deserved that, Dec ?

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There were a lot of other things Lineker and the gang could’ve shown first. Declan Rice ended speculation around his international future by scoring a goal that forced the FAI to make a statement withdrawing all interest in the player. They’ve realised Rice’s skill and potential as a footballer as well as the confidence he has in his ability just wouldn’t fit into the Irish system.

Rafa Benitez appeared furious after his side’s equaliser at Stamford Bridge, seemingly forgetting that it wasn’t a cup game and that Newcastle wouldn’t have to play a replay.

Schurrle scored a worldie for Fulham, though you can’t help but feel that losing 2-1 despite the opposition not having a shot-on-target is a sign you might be going down. Shane Long also scored his sixth goal in as many years as Southampton continued their revival under some Austrian lad who probably will have lost his job by this time next season.

But no, Jurgen Klopp’s title challengers topped the bill on Saturday evening. Although everyone enjoys watching the country’s favourite side win again and creep closer to a nineteenth league championship, it’d be quite nice to see some decent football before 11:30pm when I invariably get bored and go to bed.

Spygate – Relatively harmless event made controversial by use of the word ‘gate’

I thought the spying at Leeds was great. It’s the type of thing you’d hear about happening in the 80s and 90s, but think is long gone out of the game. Part of a bygone era.

Like players drinking cans of lager in the dressing room bath minutes after the final whistle, or fans scaling the walls of Wembley trying to ‘bunk in’ to the cup final. It’s probably morally wrong, but it’s good to see every once in a while.

The best bit about the whole “scandal” was that Leeds’ spy arrived armed with a set of wire cutters. In my mind, that’s about three steps away from just throwing caution to the wind and showing up with an axe.

I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Both Martin Keown and Frank Lampard condemned the act, accusing the Argentine of “breaking the moral code”. Behave, lads.

Bielsa appeared totally disinterested and didn’t even rule out sending more spies to Championship training grounds, almost as if he didn’t realise that spying would be frowned upon in England.

Surely there is a minimal amount to be learned from spying on a training session anyway. A warm-up, a few passing drills, a small-sided game and all the overweight lads conveniently ‘feeling something in their hamstring’ moments before the running drills start.

On the whole, it’s not that bad compared to clubs blatantly ignoring Financial Fair Play rules and openly engaging in monetary doping, is it?

It’s just another reason why people should want Leeds to get promoted. Why be arsed with Sean Dyche’s Burnley or a Cardiff City managed by Neil Warnock, when you could have Marcelo Bielsa’s gang of mavericks back in the big-time.

Warnock’s Hard-Brexit

Speaking of Warnock, he finally reached Bielsa levels of ‘not giving a shit’ on Saturday as it was revealed he’s one of the 27 people in the country who still think Brexit is a good idea.

He’s joined by ex-Sky pundit Andy Gray and former-Everton boss Sam Allardyce. Although strangely, not a single member of the Conservative parliamentary party features on the list.

Maybe he’s realised that Cardiff probably aren’t going to stay up, and he’s just looking for the sack and a compensation deal. He’s decided to say something vile and backwards. Instead of a racist slur or sexist abuse, he’s opted for backing Brexit as it should do the job quicker.

Warnock has surely just wiped out almost all of the supporters who still thought he was sound. He was starting to become a bit of a laugh for a while.

A harmless old-school manager who realises there’s more to life than football.

In reality, he’s already applied for a blue passport and definitely has a picture of Winston Churchill in his living room.