Archive for December, 2010

Paul Dickov

A Dickov the old block.

Merry Christmas from In Off the Ghost to the world of the living!

Here in the football graveyard of In Off the Ghost, we celebrate Christmas a little differently. We don’t have turkey any more, and being dead means we also escape the grind of the Queen’s speech, the misery of Eastenders, and we even get to dodge the annual Christmas sprout. However, one aspect of Christmas that the afterlife shares with the world of the living is that everyone gathers round their translucent television screens to watch the bonanza of yuletide football action. Well, unless it’s snowing of course.

So, as a special seasonal treat for our followers, this instalment of In Off the Ghost features a Christmas edition of ‘The Obituary’, where our ghoulish guests fondly remember a favourite player from the catacombs of football. And who better to offer up this seasonal segment of festive football frivolity than Victorian novelist and author of ‘A Christmas Carol’, Charles Dickens! Mr. Dickens prepared a eulogy for his favourite striker Paul Dickov for your reading pleasure.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens - The ghost of football past

“Oh my friends, the down-trodden operatives of the internet! I am going to reprise the role of one of my favourite characters, the ghost of football past, to sing the praises of my favourite footballer, Mr. Paul Dickov” began Dickens, before opening a mammoth book entitled ‘The Life and Adventures of Paul Dickov’.

“Paul began life in the small town of Livingston in West Lothian, to honest hardworking parents. His early life was unremarkable, gaining a respectable education where he excelled at his favourite sport. The loveable little scamp had an appetite for goals even then, though he didn’t grow to be much taller. I learnt in life never to take anything on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule. Arsenal also thought this to be true and before long Master Dickov had moved down to the smog and smoke of London town. However, even though many had great expectations for Dickov, he was cast aside by his cruel taskmasters and forced to ply his trade for a meagre wage elsewhere.

“Fortunately for Paul, this was a remarkable turn of events, and his career from here on in was mainly a tale of two cities, Manchester and Leicester. His time at Maine Road was the best of times for Dickov personally, but it was the worst of times for the club as they plummeted to the third tier of English football. Our prolific protagonist scored 35 goals in 158 games for the blues, and the highlight of his City career would be artfully dodging through the Gillingham defence to score this goal in the playoff final at Wembley in 1999.

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together, and Master Paul moved on to Filbert Street, where he scored another 37 goals in 89 games, the most prolific spell of his career. However, Paul also suffered some hard times at Filbert Street, seeing the club relegated and enter into administration. After a moderately successful spell with Blackburn Rovers, he learned that the pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again, rejoining Man City in 2006 and Leicester City in 2008.

“Paul Dickov has now entered a new stage of his career as manager of Oldham Athletic. A fine fellow and a tremendous striker in his prime, he is a character I shall always remember. However, whether Dickov shall turn out to be the hero of my own afterlife, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, the future will only show!”

(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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Chamakh and Evra

Arsenal slip up again with a defeat at Old Trafford

Here at In Off the Ghost, we are all too aware that the body is a weak and frail vessel. But although the body is fragile and temporary, the mind endures. All we think and feel, as well as our memories and personalities, travel through space and time to the endless terraces of football’s Valhalla. Recollections of wheeling away in celebration after your first goal in the school playground, the intoxication of your first visit to a football match, the first time you realised that, unless you’re one of a privileged few, football is a hideous, evil addiction that causes little but agonising fear and worry, and everything else that your mind holds goes with you after the final whistle.

However, the mind is a complex beast. Rather than help you, it often goes out of its way to make things as difficult as possible. Ask Arsene Wenger. His Arsenal side proved their mental fragility yet again by pathetically limping to a 1-0 defeat to Man Utd this Monday. A turgid, unimaginative Gunners outfit couldn’t even trouble a United defence that has looked creakier than Rio Ferdinand’s knees this season.

Fans, pundits and commentators both in the world of the living and the dead are perplexed by Wenger’s boys inability to perform on the big stage. However, In Off the Ghost, can go one better than most football blogs and call upon a plethora of posthumous pundits for their opinions. This week, we have called in the controversial expertise of infamous neurologist and father of the psychoanalytic school of psychiatry Sigmund Freud in an attempt to get to the bottom of Arsenal’s mental misfortunes.

Sigmund Freud

Freud - A complex individual.

“Arsenal’s young players suffered a footballing castration at the hands of Man Utd on Monday” began Freud, “and they lacked the thrust and penetration they so clearly desired. Many people blame Arsenal’s players for their brittle mentality. This is wrong. Wenger is the father of this team. Young players are completely egoistic; they feel their needs intensely and strive ruthlessly to satisfy them, but Wenger is a master at restraining these needs and forcing them into silly, never ending triangles of fruitless passes. The tendency to aggression is an innate, independent, instinctual disposition in man, and many teams in the Premier League, including Man Utd, harness this instinct to Arsenal’s deficit. It constitutes a powerful obstacle to their cultured, yet trophyless style.”

Surprised by Freud’s diagnosis of the cause of Arsenal’s troubles, I asked Freud to elaborate on his theory that the Gunner’s lack of success is in fact down to Arsene Wenger’s mental state, rather than that of his players. Freud pushed his spectacles back onto his nose, and replied.

“Wenger’s incessant fixation on their style of play has become a form of neurosis. Neurotics complain of their illness, but they make the most of it, and when it comes to talking it away from them they will defend it like Nemanja Vidic defends a set piece. We have long observed that every neurosis has the result, and therefore probably the purpose, of forcing the patient out of real life, of alienating him from actuality. This is classic Wenger. He cannot face the reality that his choice of players is not good enough to bring major domestic and European success to the Emirates. So he blames the referee or the pitch, anything to nurture his neurosis.”

Finally, I asked Freud what he thought Arsenal need to do in order to finally break their trophy drought.

“It is a complex issue. Initially, being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise. Wenger needs to confront his delusions of grandeur and style and rebuild his Arsenal side. Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with the reality of Man Utd or Chelsea, against which they are invariably dashed to pieces. The opponent that Arsenal must defeat is Wenger’s ego, only then can they face up to to the failures that his sub conscious must already understand, and perhaps satisfy their long repressed desire for trophies. I think it highly likely that the Arsenal board will sack Wenger..oh no, wait, I meant back Wenger. Sorry my mistake!”

(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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So Nero yet so far for Hughton...

The restless spirit of In Off the Ghost has possessed fellow football website footballfarrago!

Click here to read former Roman emperor Nero defend Mike Ashley’s decision to sack Chris Hughton. And while you’re there, check out the other great articles too!

More posts from the only insight into the footballing culture of the afterlife will be coming next week exclusively through the medium of www.inofftheghost.wordpress.com, so be sure to come again soon!

(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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Sam Allardyce

"Oi Salgado! Remember what we learned in training... F = ma! F=MA!"

There are forces of nature in life that don’t have the same impact here in Football’s elysium. Take gravity for example. Our friends here at In Off the Ghost no longer have to worry about the heavy hand of gravity weighing them down. Floating at the back post for a header is no problem for even the shortest of our ghostly guests.

However, in the world of football the laws of gravity and motion are still very much a force to be reckoned with, and it is clear that no one in the Premier League knows how to exploit these better than Sam Allardyce. After Blackburn’s 3-0 victory over fellow footballing pragmatist Mick McCarthy’s Wolverhampton Wanderers, ‘Big’ Sam’s men took advantage of a Wolves defence leakier than the US Department of State to climb to ninth in the table and leave Wolves rooted to the bottom of the league.

After this weekend’s games, In Off the Ghost was contacted by a spirit who knows more about the forces of nature than most in football’s Valhalla so that he could give our readers a unique insight into Big Sam’s tactics. A cold welcome to legendary physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, theologian and long ball enthusiast, Sir Isaac Newton.

Sir Isaac Newton

Newton - Understands the gravity of the situation.

“I have always said, Plato is my friend — Aristotle is my friend — but my greatest friend is the hoof, and I for one am a fan of Sam Allardyce and his team’s style of play. If Blackburn have progressed further this weekend it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants such as Christopher Samba and Jason Roberts.” Mused Newton, his ghostly hand on his chin in deep thought.

“To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction; or, the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts. When Salgado put his foot through the ball for Blackburn’s second goal, it was bound to be launched far into the opposition’s territory where players such as Jason Roberts and Brett Emerton can take advantage. As my law of gravity is so often succinctly surmised: what goes up, must come down.

“The laws of physics are undeniable, and Allardyce uses them perfectly to advance up the pitch as swiftly as possible. Blackburn’s exploitation of Morten Gamst Pedersen’s set pieces are also a wonderful example of the maxim that every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it, and for Rovers, that force is normally the enormous head of a giant centre back, in this case Ryan Nelsen.”

I asked Sir Isaac what he thought of those who criticize big Sam’s direct approach to the game. He bristled and boomed out in anger:

“I can calculate the motions of erratic stars, but not the madness of the multitude who condemn perfectly legitimate styles of play. Some jest that you need to be an astronomer to follow some of Blackburn’s high balls, but rarely do Sam Allardyce’s teams overcomplicate matters in the fashion of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. Maybe Allardyce and myself are kindred spirits, he must feel as assured as I do in the belief that truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”

(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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Iker Casillas

Real Madrid get their Casillas kicked by Barcelona

‘The Death Rattle’ is a new feature from your favourite biologically challenged blog, and it gives two of our posthumous pundits the chance to engage in a deathly debate about the coldest football stories.

Even though the football phantoms that frequent In Off the Ghost have left their mortal vessels, their basic human instincts are still harboured in the spirit that lingers on after death. Fear, boredom, rage, that feeling when you get a sneeze stuck, they all still exist in the afterlife. So as you might expect, the partisan nature of football supporters also thrives in football’s Valhalla, and no game in European football separates fans like Barcelona vs Real Madrid. Supporters watch in their millions to admire the passion, talent, and occasional pig head on display, and last Monday’s ‘El Clásico’ pitted two teams against each other who have a rivalry more fierce than a Joey Barton temper tantrum. The game resulted in a spectacular 5-0 victory for the Catalans as Xavi, Pedrito, Villa and Jeffren all netted to crush Madrid’s fans, Cristiano Ronaldo, and the ‘Special One’ too.

In response to this incredible game, In Off the Ghost has contacted two post-humous pundits to discuss the match from their own differing perspectives. A big welcome to Irish writer, poet and prominent aesthete Oscar Wilde, and legendary, cerebral comic juggernaut Bob Monkhouse.

Oscar Wilde

Wilde Wilde Guest

WILDE: “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best. That is why I watch Barcelona. Their passing was beautiful, their finishing sublime, scoring with each of their first four shots on target. They turn football into an art form, to watch Xavi and Iniesta is like giving oneself over to pleasure.”

MONKHOUSE: “Real Madrid’s performance in ‘El Clásico’ was a joke. I heard that Mourinho tried to hit Carvalho after the game. It was only once, but mind you he was in a Volvo.”

WILDE: “Erm, yes, Madrid were horrendous, I am glad you do not try to defend their performance, Bob. The way they throw their money at players who are in form is ludicrous. They are nothing but fashion victims and, from the artistic point of view, fashion is usually a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

MONKHOUSE: It’s true, Madrid do like to chop and change, and Mourinho is worried about getting the boot too. Apparently when he got into the dressing room, the ‘Special One’ turned to his assistant manager and said “how long do you reckon I have left at Madrid after that performance?” His coach replied “ten.” Mourinho looked puzzled and said “ten what? Weeks? Games?” The coach looked at his watch and mumbled “nine…eight…seven…”

WILDE: “Oh dear, that was awful. Do not get me started on the subject of Mourinho, he is nothing but a cynic. And what is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Why does he continue to waste the talent of Benzema?

Bob Monkhouse

Monkhouse: "Last time I saw a football match a dog ran onto the pitch. The ref booked it for fouling in the penalty area"

MONKHOUSE: And why does he play Carvalho at the back? That guy is so old he remembers the first of the Mohicans.

WILDE: Please stop! Anyway, I can’t understand why Mourinho had Madrid playing a high line without a second row of midfielders to press their opponents. It seemed to me that after such a humiliating defeat the Madrid side were all in the gutter, and the stars they were looking at were the brilliant Barcelona players. Lionel Messi is such a prodigious talent that now I have nothing to declare except his genius!

MONKHOUSE: That Messi chap isn’t all that great. I heard that the last time he was injured he said to the club doctor, “do you treat small players?” The Doctor said, “yes, but you have to be a little patient.”

WILDE: Right! That’s it, I’ve had enough. I’m going.

So while it’s all smiles at the Camp Nou, no one will be laughing at the Santiago Bernabeu for some time after this humiliating defeat. However, with Real Madrid two points off the top of the league and going strong in the Champions League, it would take a brave man to bet against Mourinho bringing trophies back to Madrid and restoring grins to the faces of the Los Merengues.

(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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