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Archive for January, 2010

Nicolas Anelka

Even though the score was 7-2, the goalkeeper was Sunderland's star man.

The Big Smoke has seen its fair share of crime. From the Gunpowder Plot to the Kray Twins, the capital has been a hotbed for all sorts of illicit activity. However, even London has rarely seen a case of exploitation as blatant as was on display at Stamford Bridge this weekend. Sunderland were like a blindfolded tourist, waving around their valuables and staggering into the HQ of Roman’s ruffians, begging to be taken advantage of. Chelsea duly obliged and helped themselves to a gluttonous 7-2 slaughtering of the Black Cats.

So after witnessing the ugliest annihlation in the capital since the days of Queen Victoria we recieved a letter from a man who knows all about preying on the weak in London town: notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper.

Jack the Ripper

Doctor, murderer, football pundit, a real Jack of all trades.

‘Dear Boss,

I was very impressed with the clinical accuracy with which Chelsea went for the throats of Sunderland’ wrote ‘Saucy’ Jack who, for obvious reasons, wished to remain anonymous.

‘They tore the Mackems open, right through the middle. I bet Bruce was gutted, ha ha! Time and time again Cole, Malouda and Lampard all sliced their way through the Sunderland defence with sadistic ease. McCartney and Da Silva were so hapless! They reminded me of the London Met’s finest scrambling around after me back in the 1880s. And that Anelka boy is as sharp as my knife. Sunderland were flat on their backs and begging to be beaten; who would pass up that opportunity?

Until the next time, good Luck In Off The Ghost.

Yours Truly,

Jack the Ripper.’

(All material in this blog is entirely fictional and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone, alive or dead, other than those of the author)

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James Milner

'Everybody dance now!'

Here at In Off The Ghost we work hard and we play hard. We are not alone either, the whole of the afterlife is like one giant steel mill. But this kind of work ethic is not only restricted to the realm of the dead. There are plenty of people amongst the living that aren’t afraid of putting in a shift or two, and one player in particular has caught the eye of the football’s most ethereal enthusiasts. After his performance in Aston Villa’s 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers in the Carling Cup, James Milner seems to be the most industrious man in the Midlands since Matthew Boulton. His manager Martin O’Neill was full of praise for the 24-year-old England international:

Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill - prone to exaggeration.

‘James has been playing splendidly. He has settled into central midfield as if he’s been playing there all his life. He always felt there were goals in his game and he’s really enjoying himself at the moment.

He’s playing brilliantly, so he’s a brilliant player. Does playing great make a great player? No, I accept your point, but he is a great player.’

Although Martin O’Neill is no stranger to hyperbole, his comments started off an intense discussion here in football’s Elysium. What qualities does a player need to be considered great? We decided to get the answer straight from the corpse’s mouth, and spoke with famous Greek warrior King, Alexander the Great.

Alexander the Great

Military leader Alexander the Great, depicted here without his armies.

‘To be truly great you must be brave in battle and lead by action. I was known as Great in the world of the living because I conquered the entire of the Persian Empire. Milner has not conquered all before him yet, and he must do so to share my title.

I was indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well. No man could wish for a better teacher than Aristotle. However, Martin O’Neill seems like a close second,’ mused our Persian pestering pundit.

‘Milner is the kind of man a leader loves. He works stoutly and knows his place in an organised attack. But he must remember that upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all. Heed my advice and nothing is impossible to him who will try.’

After hearing the opinion of one of history’s greatest and having seen his recent performances, In Off The Ghost is convinced that James Milner most definitely has what it takes to achieve true greatness.

(All material in this blog is entirely fictional and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone, alive or dead, other than those of the author.)

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Sol Campbell

Sol Campbell - Mr. Popular.

When I was but a child in the world of the living, my father gave me two pieces of advice that I took with me to my grave: ‘always be loyal to those closest to you’ and ‘never go back’. As a young boy, I tried my best to follow these words of wisdom. However, I soon learned that not everybody adheres to these rules. Sol Campbell broke the first rule back in 2001 when he left Tottenham Hotspur for fierce rivals Arsenal, and today he broke the second with the sensational news that he has rejoined the Gunners after his ill-advised stint at Notts County.

Since his decision to spurn the Spurs and join Wenger’s boys, Campbell, 35, has been the subject of some of the most poisonous venom that the terraces have ever produced. The news of his return today has captured the imagination of my fellow spirits, and In Off the Ghost was contacted by none other than the legendary Guy Fawkes, who was dying to tell us what he thought of Campbell’s move.

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes - an explosive character.

‘I sympathise with Sol, I really do,’ said Fawkes, who coincidently was also 35 when he had a disastrous dealing with an arsenal.

‘I was also accused of treason and treachery, and I too was hated and reviled by my rivals. But Sol has to do what he feels is right for him. Regardless of what Spurs fans say, after his move to Arsenal his career sky-rocketed. He won the Premier League, the FA Cup and scored in the European Cup final. His performances fizzled out somewhat a few years ago, but I think that this move might just put a spark back into his game  and a fire in his belly. On his day there isn’t a defender in the league who can hold a Roman Candle to Sol, and I back him to come back with a bang against Bolton.’

It is a risky plan by Wenger, but if Campbell can replicate the form of his prime this might be one plot that proves successful.

(All material in this blog is entirely fictional and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone, alive or dead, other than those of the author.)

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'Please God, don't send me back to the Galaxy.'

When I was lying on my deathbed, one of my many regrets was that I had never travelled the world. I had never experienced the cultural wonders of the continent, had never been harassed by street performers or relieved of extortionate amounts of money for local delicacies.

However, my time in the afterlife has given me the chance to discuss all things football with the late and great of many nationalities. So now In Off The Ghost can share with you, the world of the living, their opinions on the latest European news.

The biggest story in Europe at the moment is David Beckham’s return to the Serie A with AC Milan after his self-imposed purgatory in the MLS. Beckham helped the Rossoneri to a 5-2 victory over Genoa at the San Siro. I asked legendary opera singer and Italian football enthusiast Luciano Pavarotti what he thought of the performance:

Pavarotti

'I bet you a tenor that Beckham gets in the England Squad.'

“I love the English, they are eccellente!” boomed the tenor. “Signor Beckham showed more invention than Da Vinci against Genoa! He has class and beauty, much like some of the other Inglese I have met. It also helps that his fan base is bigger than my waistline! Ha-ha! And Milan need all the popularity it can get with Signor Berlusconi as the owner.”

In Off The Ghost’s Spanish Football correspondent is famous Spanish painter Salvador Dali, who watched a surreal round of Copa Del Rey matches this week. Atletico Madrid were murdered by second division Recreativio 3-0 and Barcelona were beaten 2-1 in their first leg by Sevilla:

Dali - Strange

“The thermometer of success is merely the jealousy of the malcontents, and this was running high after Barcelona’s performance last year. Now the celoso are delighted  after this result.” pondered Dali, twirling his moustache around his fingers.

“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision. These results go to show that the big teams can be demolished by brave conquistadors!”

A final delve into the catacombs of European football takes us to the Bundesliga, where we have non other than 80’s Europop sensation Falco, who conquered the world with his smash hit ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ and was an avid follower of both the Austrian and German Bundesligas.

Falco - Impressed by a Leverkusen starke mannschaft.

“This season has been über competitive again, with Bayern München down in third and Bayer Leverkusen playing some wunderbar fußbal this season. In fact they have rocked me all the way to the top! Their goal keeper has been especially impressive. Come on rock me Rene Adler, ja!”

When I asked Austrian born Falco what he thought Leverkusen’s chances were of finally winning the Bundesliga, he was quietly confident:

“Like the Berlin wall, Leverkusen’s Bundesliga hopes normally start to crumble in November and are rubble by the summer. But this year they seem to have a more starke mannschaft so they might finally be champions.”

(All material in this blog is entirely fictional and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone, alive or dead, other than those of the author.)

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'Now which is the quickest way to the January transfer window?'

Despite almost being bored to another death by the FA Cup third round last Saturday, I settled myself in to watch Manchester United v Leeds United on the afterlife sports channel ‘Styx Sports’. After witnessing Leeds crush the ‘Red Devils’ by playing with more pace and energy than a whippet race, I felt the need for some match analysis from the football’s very own Valhalla, In Off The Ghost.

As we strive to bring you the best spiritual perspective on the football news of the day, we managed to chat with legendary former King of England, Richard III. Richard was delighted with the result as he was himself a veteran of several fierce battles between Yorkshire and Lancashire, and he was arguably even less successful in these encounters than Leeds United used to be at Old Trafford.

Richard III - Even less popular than Leeds United

‘Was ever a match in this humour won in such a manner? Woe to the club that is defended still by Gary Neville. And Jermaine Beckford! So wise so young, they say, never stay in League 1 long. Thou cam’st on Earth to make it their hell, and my heaven! And yet Sir Alex is always determined to prove a villian. Talkest thou to me of ‘ifs’ and ‘not enough injury time’? I had no time added on at Bosworth Field! Harp not on that string Ferguson. I will say but one more thing, as an honest tale speeds best, being plainly told.

Every week! Every week! My Kingdom to play thee every week!’

So as Richard’s final battle saw the decline in the House of York, Sunday’s match put an end to Sir Alex’s FA Cup hopes. With a result like this, some fans are starting to believe that it may also be the beginning of the end for United’s stranglehold over English football.

(All material in this blog is entirely fictional and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone, alive or dead, other than those of the author.)

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William Wordsworth

'Methinks that there abides in thee, a love for the FA Cup round three!'

For some, the magic of the FA Cup has breathed its last. The once great competition is but a bloated, inconvenient corpse exuding a fetid stench of deathly decay amid more fragrant and important competitions.

But for others, the drama and romance of the world’s oldest cup competition lives on. That is why In Off The Ghost has decided to feature a round-up of the recent FA Cup third round ties from someone who can really appreciate romance, former poet laureate William Wordsworth.

‘Oh reader! The FA Cup returns! No competition in any walk of life that pits men against men in the game of football conjures the qualities in humanity that are so beautiful. The passion of the players, the joy of victory and the despair in defeat. From the Bescott Stadium to Bramall Lane, from Anfield to Sixfields. The FA Cup third round, above all other things, makes me wish with all my heart that I was alive again, to smell the atmosphere, to be a part of the unified voice of the common man in the sell out crowd. To hear them cheering their team on to impossible victory filled by hope’s perpetual breath. To witness that most wonderous of football phenomena: the FA Cup giant killing.

This year the third round has once again proven wrong those who doubt that the FA Cup is still the world’s premier football competition. There was a rollercoaster of wonder and excitement in the top tie of the round as the nation witnessed Man Utd 0-1 Leeds. Jermaine Beckford danced past the Man Utd defence with divine grace and rolled the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak to give the League 1 side a majestic scalp of the most sublime proportions. Dull would he be of soul who could pass by a sight so touching in its majesty!

Another tremendous encounter that my heart leapt up to behold was Reading 1-1 Liverpool. Simon Church’s goal had Rafa Benitez praying his side could redeem themselves as Grzegorz Rasiak wandered lonely as a cloud at the back post to provide the assist. However, salvation came in the form of Steven Gerrard, as he gracefully sent a shot skimming across the lush green turf of the Madejski Stadium to crush the tender hope blooming in Reading hearts.

Other results of note on this most magical of days include Portsmouth 1-1 Coventry, with another Championship side valiantly defying a Premiership outfit entry to the fourth round. The fact that the Premiership team was Portsmouth does not diminish this tremendous display of heroism and pride as a goal from City’s David Bell almost provided the upset we all expect to see from the famous FA Cup third round. But a header from Kevin Prince Boateng levelled the scores for struggling Pompey and sent the terraces into wild spasms of unmitigated ecstasy.

Finally, my heart cannot help but mention courageous Carlisle, who almost rocked the footballing world at Goodison park until being narrowly defeated as their game finished Everton 3-1 Carlisle.’

‘Here are the results in full of a momentous, magical, magnificent FA Cup third round:

Accrington P-P Gillingham
Aston Villa 3-1 Blackburn
Blackpool 1-2 Ipswich
Bolton 4-0 Lincoln
Brentford P-P Doncaster
Bristol City P-P Cardiff
Chelsea 5 – 0 Watford
Everton 3-1 Carlisle
Fulham 1-0 Swindon
Huddersfield 0-2 West Brom
Leicester 2-1 Swansea
Manchester Utd 0–1 Leeds Utd
Middlesbrough 0-1 Man City
Millwall 1-1 Derby
MK Dons 1-2 Burnley
Nottm Forest 0-0 Birmingham
Notts Co P-P Forest Green
Plymouth 0-0 Newcastle
Portsmouth 1-1 Coventry
Preston 7-0 Colchester
Reading 1-1 Liverpool
Scunthorpe 1-0 Barnsley
Sheff Utd 1-1 QPR
Sheff Wed 1-2 Crystal Palace
Southampton 1-0 Luton Town
Stoke 3-1 York
Sunderland 3-0 Barrow
Torquay United 0-1 Brighton
Tottenham 4-0 Peterborough
Tranmere 0 – 1 Wolves
West Ham Utd 1 – 2 Arsenal
Wigan 4-1 Hull

It has oft been said that nothing can breed such fear and awe, as that which falls upon us often when we see the FA Cup fourth round draw:

Southampton v Ipswich
Reading/Liverpool v Burnley
Millwall/Derby v Brentford/Doncaster
Bristol City/Cardiff v Leicester
Stoke v Arsenal
Notts County/Forest Green v Wigan
Scunthorpe v Man City
West Brom v Plymouth/Newcastle
Everton v Nottm Forest/Birmingham
Accrington/Gillingham v Fulham
Bolton v Sheff Utd/QPR
Portsmouth/Coventry v Sunderland
Preston v Chelsea
Aston Villa v Brighton
Wolves v Crystal Palace
Tottenham v Leeds’

(All material in this blog is entirely fictional and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone, alive or dead, other than those of the author.)

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