Manchester United 2 – 0 Wigan Athletic: Frankly Vulgar Matchday #2

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There are very few photos in existence that show the new chairman of The Football Association, Greg Dyke, looking this happy.

 

These big showpiece FA events are about as much fun as watching a ‘classic’ (e.g. a repeat) edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and generally about as memorable as the last thing Justin Bieber tweeted (incidentally his last tweet was this: “WE ON A BREAK!! #restandrelaxation – #unlessIhitthestudio” – I’m sure historians everywhere will be scrabbling to note that down for posterity). 

Today’s Community Shield match between Manchester United and Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium wasn’t much of an exception. A few old guys (who on this occasion looked a bit like the Chuckle Brothers) shuffle past the players offering weak handshakes, presumably just before being ushered to a euthanasia booth somewhere. Then the national anthem (that po-faced hymnal to our pointless monarchy) is sung, not by the fans, but by some opera singer who thinks she’s at the Super Bowl. If you happen to be on Twitter when one of these things starts brace yourself for the only actual legacy of the Olympics: a barrage of somnolent “jokes” about when Emeli Sandé will turn up to belt out that bloody Professor Green song

The actual match was decided by two goals from Robin Van Persie, underlining just how important he will be to ‘Man Yoo’ as they get ready for a post-Rooney future. The first, a languid header sent past Scott Carson just inside the right-hand post, was a typical example of his superb technical ability and his ghostly accuracy. The second which came just before the hour, was a scrappier affair. After some neat build-up play from United, Van Persie received the ball on the edge of the Wigan area, dropped a shoulder and shrugged the ball past Carson with the help of a deflection off James Perch. 

Looking at the starting teams I had a masochists excitement when I saw that Phil Jones and Grant Holt would be having what can be described as a fugly-off with each other. Such a clash would not be out of place on a mud-sodden battlefield during the Wars of The Roses, given the mutual, lumbering Englishness of their styles. Alas the promised confrontation never really arrived, principally because Wigan (unlike Holt’s former team Norwich) have not yet adjusted their game to get the best out of the big lad. 

New look Wigan are a very different prospect from the silkily doomed side managed by Roberto Martinez last term. Owen Coyle is building a side as British as getting savagely glassed on a freezing August evening in Leeds City Centre after a big night of binge drinking. His approach is typified by summer signings like Holt, Crainey, Perch, Carson and Barnett. Pick of the bunch is young James McClean, freshly arrived from Sunderland,  an Irish pugilist who specializes in running in straight lines and pushing people, qualities which ought to lead to great success for him in English football’s second tier. 

In fact, Wigan’s best chance of the game was created by McClean, who fired the ball dangerously across the six yard box after Smalling misjudged a long pass from Crainey. The cross/shot couldn’t be met by Holt, when only a touch would have plundered a cheap goal for the Latics. Set-pieces, long balls and looping crosses, nothing too fancy for Coyle and Wigan. 

United’s win was merely whelming. 39-year-old Ryan Giggs started here, still astonishingly pert and wiry, still urbane in his passing and movement, still inevitably amongst the best players on the pitch almost every time he plays. Ostensibly this is good for United, but it is also symptomatic of their weaknesses in midfield that their best player in that area (beige pass-o-meter Michael Carrick aside) will be 40 in November. It is actually difficult to imagine United not having a crap midfield, and even more difficult to imagine a player as accomplished as Cesc Fabregas taking touchline orders from new assistant coach Phil Neville. 

These pronounced weaknesses in midfield are a gnawing problem that David Moyes will have thought about long before the short period on either side of half-time when Wigan’s tinpot midfield was on top of United’s.

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David Moyes and Malcolm Tucker (above) have never been pictured together. Coincidence?

 

 

With the amount of opprobrium and obloquy that surely lies in wait for Moyes this season I almost expected his shirt to be blood red, prepared for all the knives and arrows that will be aimed at him, waiting for the first inevitable slip-up. As soon as that first fuck up comes I fully expect some clichéd American army guy (played by Stephan Lang) to appear at any moment just to fatuously utter in Moyes’ ear: “Davey, you ain’t in Kansas anymore.”  

Right now he is the mini-Ferg, the diet-Ferg – same stripey tie, same gum but will there be the same results, the same relentless ability to win that characterized real-Ferg? A look of distinct discomfort was briefly visible on Moyes’ face as he lifted his first trophy, before he returned to looking like a slightly healthier Malcolm Tucker. 

 

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Papiss Cissé and The Hypocritical World of Buffet Religion

Papiss has been rolling the dice with his Newcastle future during the off-season. (Photo: Guardian.)

Papiss has been rolling the dice with his Newcastle future during the off-season. (Photo: Guardian.)

Papiss Cissé is a striker for Newcastle United and he is a muslim. He could also probably apply for an honorary doctorate in hypocrisy if such things existed. Newcastle’s new shirt sponsorship by the pay day loan firm Wonga has conflicted with Cissé’s belief, common under some interpretations of Sharia law, that Muslims must not benefit from lending money. The row has reached a stage where the player left the club’s pre-season tour of Portugal as he continued his anti-Wonga stance, although he’s clearly not anti-wonga per se as he earns a not undismal £40,000 a week.

Cissé has already been accused in some quarters of a cynical attempt to force a move from Newcastle for two reasons: Firstly he had no problem abnegating his religious beliefs before when the club strip was branded with financial services like Northern Rock and Virgin Money (he wore both kits). Secondly all the other muslim players at Newcastle of which there are quite a few, like Hatem Ben Arfa, have no problem wearing the new kit.

Then it was revealed that old Papiss enjoyed doing stuff like this in his spare time:

Papiss, pictured here in the fetching black gilet, fingering some chips.

Papiss, pictured here in the fetching black gilet, fingering some chips.

 

A spokesperson for Aspers Casino described Cisse as “an occasional visitor” who was “very well behaved and very welcome”, but would not confirm whether or not he placed any bets.

In Islam gambling is an even more grievous sin (or so I’ve been told anyway) than money lending. In the Holy Qur’an it is labelled as “Ithm al-kabir”  or “a very great sin”, a description incidentally only used elsewhere for the practice of drinking (not rape or slavery or murder eh?) It is probably for the best that Cissé hasn’t been papped sporting a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale in the city centre somewhere.

The player’s actions have of course been granted with all the usual vehemence you’d expect. Newcastle city councillor Dipu Ahad had this nugget of wisdom to share with us:

“People will say, ‘look, this is Islam they can pick and choose whatever they want’, and Islam isn’t about picking and choosing”

Ahad is of course utterly wrong. Life and by extension, religion is about picking and choosing things, and the process easily makes hypocrites and liars of us all.  A short quote from Dostoyevsky ought to be sufficient to cool the councillor’s umbrage:

But,  finally, there are things that man is afraid of divulging even to himself and every decent man has quite an accumulation of them.

I’d love to find someone who could honestly say they were not the same as the above. We all do things we shouldn’t sometimes and often these are not things we want to share with anyone else. It is easy (and will no doubt be commonplace) to argue that Newcastle deserve better than such duplicitous treatment from one of their star players. The football cliché of choice would be that he has ‘sullied the shirt’ or whatever. Personally I’d argue that Cissé’s objection to Wonga is not entirely without justification as by all accounts they are a horrid company. Yet it is Cissé who has been damaged most in this affair, simply because he now appears a hypocrite to all the world, however noble his original intentions.

Papiss is no different to the vast majority of religious believers on earth. Only by being a product of Catholic education was I able to spend a great deal of time observing this ‘pick and choose’ phenomenon first hand, and in my time at school contradictions such as the one so aptly displayed by Newcastle’s want-away striker were as common as rain in Wales.

I’ve met many inspirational and intelligent Catholics and to a man and to a woman they were just as flawed as me, except that the flaw was dug even deeper into them by their poisonous subscription to a pointless faith. Some of these people, who professed to love everybody equally, would happily envisage condemning homosexuals to fiery torture sub specie aeternitatis. Religion makes it easy to believe and espouse two completely contradictory notions at the same time. Confront any believer with whatever obvious discrepancy of their faith you can find (there are thousands in Christianity alone) and you will be confronted with some wretched theodicy or breezily unsatisfying explanation. They may as well be as mute as a stone.

This kind of thing is not a good symptom for us humans. Samuel Butler claimed that life is a bit like playing the violin in public and learning the instrument as you go on. If we attempt to be the best we can be without recourse to the blood-flecked codicies and manuals of laughably primitive tribes, hypocrisy won’t disappear, but it will certainly be less pervasive as it is now amongst the parties of God. If Cissé had the good fortune to be an atheist he wouldn’t have been able to undermine his own cause quite so easily.

The Kind People have a Wonderful Dream – Thatcher’s Funeral

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Mastur-weeping: how the Chancellor rolls. (Photo from the Mirror.)

Yesterday was Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. You could almost hear Paul Dacre weeping as he masturbated. You could actually see George Osborne doing the very same thing during the service, live on national television.

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Guns. Lots of guns. Nothing says funeral as much as a shit load of guns.

London felt cold and hermetic yesterday. The sun dutifully refusing to break through the slate sky that Maggie made her final journey under. The usual modes of governance seemed to cease for the day, no PMQs, no toiling of Big Ben – instead the hawkish buzz of news copters and the sallow blue uniforms of the police and military lit by up by gunmetal. The minutes before and during the procession were a ten million pound suspension, a time machine, old Maggie allowed to hold office one last time. For a couple of hours Britain was a necrocracy, a mausolocracy.

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Spot the odd one out.

A old P.E. teacher of mine, a former marine, had a story about Maggie coming to their base and inspecting the troops – “My back has never been straighter” he would say proudly. According to him she was the strongest, the toughest Prime Minister we ever had, strength being the only quality he seemed to really appreciate. Yesterday I wondered whether he was near me somewhere on Fleet Street, ready to straighten that back again in respect and admiration for a final inspection.

Those who lined the route yesterday were called Thatcher’s ‘supporters’ by the media. This was partly true. There was a fat man in a dark suit sitting atop a red telephone box, legs outstretched like a parachutist, shouting and yelling and clapping “GO ON MAGGIE”. What a patriot. As if her passage to St. Pauls and then to be cremated was some necrotic team sport. Cheering the little box as it went by seemed inappropriate to me regardless of any political opinions.

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Everyone is a historian on days like this.

I wasn’t there as a ‘supporter’, like most others I came simply to observe the spectacle, to pay homage not to Thatcher but to the death of the kind of politician she represented. In a world of suits, deference and consensus her species has ceased to exist, the politician with conviction who allows it to drive decision making. The number of pictures taken and films made yesterday along the barrier at Fleet Street is a testament to this feeling.

In the last week we have been told countless times that we are ‘Thatcher’s Children’, but she was a matriarch not a mother. The applause as she rolled past yesterday was scattered – the applause given to one who is respected, not loved. How very British it was  to depart the world in such a way, to such strained and muted politeness.

Frankly Vulgar offers to improve the Oscars – free of charge

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It’s February 24th 2013. It is time for the 85th Academy Awards. It is the night where Seth McFarlane tries his utmost not to make a joke about the other Oscar in the news at the moment. If thats not enough to make the academy bosses who run the show nervous then the prospect of ever declining viewing figures which even the introduction of The Official Oscars App™ can’t stop must be truly terrifying. Short of having the indomitable, ego-puncturing Ricky Gervais host the glitzy ceremony I have some suggestions for how the whole five hour process could be improved to the point where it doesn’t feel like waiting in a really well upholstered, exclusively staffed by abnormally beautiful people, GP’s waiting room.

I think the biggest problem is the awards themselves. After 85 years in service they desperately need either some reinforcements in the form of new awards or retirement altogether. There is no jeopardy watching Daniel Day Lewis win yet an another Oscar – just make him ‘Best Actor’ for the rest of his wonderful fucking life. Frankly the awards as they are now are so moribundly American (according to the dictionary I have here this means they are po-faced and un-ironic) that they need changing.

Still this has to be an evolution not a revolution (that would be too un-American), the new awards have to be positive – this isn’t the Razzies. Lets get the more obvious categories out of the way. The award for Best Picture has to change. I propose a Best ‘Best’ Picture category ad well as an award for Best ‘Worst’ Picture. It makes sense, honestly it does. The first category is for films that are genuinely good, of actual artistic merit. They’re usually independent-ish films that cost nothing or studio prestige pictures made to win awards. Whatever. ‘Best ‘Worst’ Picture’ – thats an oxymoron right? To quote Arnie – wrong. This award will go to some shit films, maybe some really shit films that at the same time are utterly brilliant. Best ‘Worst’ Picture caters for the cinematic Big Macs of this world – yes it’s unhealthy, actually it’s really terrible but fuck me it’s tasty and I could have one right now quite easily. This award snatches the initiative back from crowd pleasing award-ceremonies like that MTV thing. In general, and in a way that isn’t dissimilar to some kind of algorithm that I wouldn’t understand anyway (Pythagoras’ theorem?), the shitter a film is the more people who watch it – when these films get nominated these people are more like to watch your show. Thats maths. Poor old John Stuart Mill will be turning in his grave – but who’s going to care when viewing figures increase. Mill’s been dead for ages anyway. 

Best Nicholas Cage Picture – a self-explanatory category. Cage is an actor of such intense, brain-meltingly stupid braggadocio that he deserves his own category. Given that he seemingly always makes more than one film a year it will always be a competitive field. The criteria are as follows: the more fucked up Nic gets in the film, be it through intensive crack cocaine use, genre-defining fear of honey, anger at filing systems – whatever, the more fucked up he gets the more likely your film is to take gallop home with the gong at a speed a findus horse lasagne would find obscene. Cage must accept the award via video-link and he must be accompanied by one of his pet lizards for the duration of his acceptance speech.

Best ‘Zinger’ in a Motion Picture – this award will probably be something of a dud. Despite it being completely against Academy regulations it will probably be one by this zinger every year (at 0.19 in this vid):

Best British Thespian in a Villainous Role – again, Alan Rickman will probably win this every year, but its worth having if anything, just to nullify a common British criticism of the Oscars – ‘why don’t we win as much as we should’, something that is wheeled out every year even though we win boatloads of the little gold statuettes.  Maybe it is just my fecund imagination getting ahead of reality but I’m pretty sure there is always some nonce on BBC Breakfast or The One Show bleating and bemoaning the fact that ‘we Brits’ lost out. Well, Best British Thespian in a Villainous Role award is designed to silence them and to reinforce some time worn American stereotypes that refuses to die like shape-shifting alien in ‘The Thing’ (I didn’t make a horse meat joke here because I’ve already made one, but please note that I could of).

Best ‘that should be my fucking award you ****’ Reaction Face – like any show on television thats been around for far too long (think The Simpsons) the Oscars needs to develop a desperate, knowing and self-reverential parody award. Face it – most people only sit through the four hour dirge that the ceremony actually is hoping to see two of two things – Halle Berry doing a Janet Jackson or those reaction mug shots of the likes of James Cameron dying inside as their former spouse wins an award they would kill battalions of schoolchildren to use as a paperweight. Seeing as I couldn’t think of an award to honour ‘Nipple Slips’ the award for Best ‘that should be my fucking award you ****’ Reaction Face will have to do. The best thing about the award is that all the reactions of the nominee’s when it is given out will be 100% real, as nobody will actually want to win this one.

Finally, The Mel Gibson Career Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Daily Mail Online Sidebar. This is an award for those stars in the firmament who like crashing cars, snorting suspicious white powders and getting caught having affairs (oh Kristen HOW COULD YOU). Without you guys popping up on the Mail Online sidebar I would probably be a far more productive, happier human being. Sincere and heartfelt thanks for keeping me in my present state – wearing pyjamas, eating shite and not working on my special project proposal. Lohan, Edward Furlong, Nick Stahl, Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise – I salute you, you’re the real heroes. God bless them, and God bless America.

Enjoy the show…