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Lionel Messi Champions League Final

Messi - Lionel's riches.

This week’s UEFA Champions League Final held football’s Valhalla in thrall as two of Europe’s biggest clubs prepared to do battle at Wembley for the first time since 1992. And as in 1992, England prepared itself for an invasion of a Spanish force feared across Europe as Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona looked to defeat Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in their own country. Although Barcelona were clear favourites, many of the spectral football enthusiasts here at In Off the Ghost fancied Manchester United to give Barcelona a stern test following their defeat at the hands of the Catalans in the 2009 final. However, United’s Champions League hopes sank faster than the Mary Celeste as Barcelona romped to a 3-1 victory with goals from Pedro, Messi and Villa.

After the game we were contacted by a spirit who knows all about Anglo-Spanish battles, and was livid with the capitulation of Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. A cold welcome to Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth I!

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I - Even less penetration than United

“My loving people, I watched with baited breath the invasion of the Spanish forces onto British soil, hoping for a repeat of our famous victory at the Armada in 1588” spoke Queen Elizabeth I, majestic in full amour aloft a ghostly gelding, “I thought with foul scorn that Barcelona, or any other of the princes of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm and carry away the European Cup at the expense of an English club. I thought that Manchester United could compete with the Catalans as a side who had been recently amassed a record amount of English football’s riches. But brass shines as fair to the ignorant as gold to the goldsmiths. The Spaniards routed our forces, battering United 3-1 and conquering the Wembley turf.

“A fool too late bewares when all the peril is past, and Ferguson must now rue his team selection. Sir Alex, may God forgive you for picking Giggs and Carrick to face Xavi and Iniesta, for I never can. United had no man of the stature of Sir Francis Drake to lead them to victory. In the midst and heat of the battle, one man with a head on his shoulders is worth a dozen without. Xavi controlled the midfield battle whilst the United midfield were crestfallen. They could not live with the devastation caused by the Spaniards most lethal weapon, Lionel Messi. I know it may look as if Messi has the body and haircut of a weak and feeble woman, but he has the heart and stomach of a king, and the ability to match the sport’s greatest ever players.

“However this game was not about individuals, and as a team Barcelona were imperious. Pique and Mascherano were like a rock that bends to no wind. With masterful displays from Abidal, Alves and Villa they used every one of their virtues on the field. Their superiority comes from many years of preparation, and now the end crowneth the work. It is a dark day for our nation. The Spanish forces and their merciless talisman Messi look set to dominate all of Europe for years to come.”

(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.)

Cristiano Ronaldo

Pissed-iano Ronaldo

This week saw a nation grind to a halt as the grandest, most expensive and ludicrously over-hyped coming together of two national treasures captured the imagination of the world. We think there might have been a royal wedding as well, but none of the deceased denizens of In Off the Ghost could give two hoots. Football’s afterlife was buzzing with talk about the latest El Clásico, with Madrid losing 2-0 to bitter rivals Barcelonathanks to two spectacular goals from the phenomenal Leo Messi. José Mourinho also added extra spice to the second leg with cries of conspiracy, accusing UEFA of favouring Barcelona with controversial refereeing decisions.

With Mourinho deploying tactics as cynical as we are about his conspiracy theories, it seems all but certain that we will see a Manchester United v Barcelona Champions League final in May. So, with all of this excitement already seen and with a second leg still to come, we spoke to a posthumous pundit who knows a thing or two about conspiracies, as well as being a leader of a group of people with vast amounts of money and an even greater sense of self entitlement. Please give a cold welcome to the 35th President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy!

JFK

JFK - "I wonder how many Madrid players will get sent off this time?"

“Conspiracy theories will always abound when people confront things they cannot understand,” said JFK with a brilliant smile and statesmanlike dignity, “but they are nearly always a mask for ignorance. Some people can’t understand why Lee Harvey Oswald wanted to kill me, so the conspiracy theories live on. Not much is different in Mourinho’s case. He can’t understand why he can’t outwit Barcelona, so he has turned to conspiracy to defend himself. The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Mourinho has created a mythology of Madrid fighting against the corruption of UEFA and Barcelona.

“Mourinho says his defensive tactics are necessary to face the passing play of his Catalan rivals. A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality. But if the methods are so abhorrent and the results so underwhelming, perhaps he must change. Mourinho must lead Madrid as I led the United States of America. In short, we must face problems which do not lend themselves to easy or quick or permanent solutions. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms.

“23% possession, 3 shots on target, 18 fouls? For Madrid this is not good enough. For of those to whom much is given, much is required. Madrid must put an end to this war-like football or this war-like football will put an end to the might of Madrid. Mourinho is a brilliant tactician and a knowledgeable student of the game. However, with his cynical style we see that the more his knowledge increases, the greater his ignorance unfolds.

We asked JFK whether Real Madrid and José Mourinho were in crisis. He rubbed in his chin, smiled and replied: “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word “crisis”. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity. Mourinho has the opportunity to become a legend at the biggest club in the world if he can overthrow the superpower that is Guardiola’s Barcelona.

“I believe that Madrid as a club should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of besting Barcelona, winning the Spanish League and returning safely to the pinnacle of European football. No single football project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the career of José Mourinho; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

“The second leg must see a change in both playing style and personal behaviour. Courage— judgement—integrity—dedication—these are the historic qualities which, with their managers help, must characterize the final instalment of the El Clásico quadruple that lies ahead.”

(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.)

Mario Balotelli

Balotelli - Too hard to be bothered.

It’s spring time in the world of the living, a time for rebirth, April showers and FA Cup semi-finals. Unfortunately for the rotting residents of In Off the Ghost, sunshine is a thing of the past. As for rebirth, well, we can but dream. But never mind, at least we get to dust ourselves off and watch the inevitable march of one of the Premier League’s ‘Big Four’ to yet another piece of silverware for their bulging trophy cabinets. Well, at least that was what we thought. However, this year has been a little different.

While basking in an unseasonable weekend of glorious April sunshine at Wembley Stadium, Manchester City swept aside bitter rivals Manchester United with a 1-0 victory thanks to an opportunistic Yaya Touré strike, and Stoke City crushed Bolton Wanderers 5-0 with a display of unexpected brilliance to book their places in the final. So instead of fighting against the landslide of guff about the romance of the FA Cup, we decided to join in with the torrent of clichés and take our own stab at lazy journalism. But here at In Off the Ghost we have the advantage of being able to call upon a real expert in the field of romance. A cold welcome to terribly famous English romance novelist Jane Austen!

Jane Austen

Austen - Who says romance is dead? Oh...

“What a weekend readers! The Manchester City fans were ecstatic with joy after their 1-0 victory,” said Austen, twirling her paranormal parasol in a thoroughly lady-like fashion, “it must have been the happiest day of their lives. For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours and laugh at them in our turn? For City fans life has seemed but a quick succession of busy nothings, but now the romance of the FA Cup has sprinkled magic onto their season.

“I have always said that a large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of, and with their wonderfully expensive squad of talented fellows Man City have reached their first FA Cup final since 1981. And they have such strapping, handsome gentlemen on their side, gentleman one would love to dance with. My idea of good company is the company of Vincent Kompany.

“But the Manchester derby was not the only event of the weekend. Sunday brought another captivating occasion with Stoke City crushing hapless Bolton Wanderers 5-0. Exquisite joy for the Potters as they finally reached an FA Cup final, the last of the founding League members to do so, but hideous misery for the Trotters as their dreams lie in tatters. Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. Stoke prepared the better for this game, and how often is happiness destroyed by preparation. They played in the unfashionable style recently discarded by Bolton and derided by their peers. But how quick came the reasons for approving of the long ball! 3-0 in the first 30 minutes!

“This weekend one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other. The beauty of the FA Cup leaves Man City and Stoke fans in raptures as United and Bolton fans are truly distraught. Now we can look forward to the social event of the season; the FA Cup final on Saturday 14th May! Stoke and Tony Pulis will have nothing to lose, and the pressure will be on the terribly dashing yet intriguingly broody Roberto Mancini. I’m an admirer of Mr. Mancini, but even if Man City win the FA Cup, will it be enough for Sheikh Mansour? As many Chelsea managers have found to their detriment, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of the Champions League.”

(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.)

The fight for survival - At first they were afraid, now they are petrified...

When the posthumous pundits at In Off the Ghost were alive, we took Mother Nature and all of her wonders for granted. Now we would give anything to feel the wind blowing through our thinning hair, the sun warm our sagging faces, or the grass tickle our knobbly knees, all as we get humiliated again at Sunday League football. But alas, we felt the wrath of Mother Nature and we were hurled, head first, into football’s Valhalla.

But there is still a lot we can learn from nature, which we can then apply to our pursuit of eternal contentment, or more likely to our half baked analysis of the latest football action. Yes, every day creatures great and small battle for survival, some gloriously snatching safety from the jaws of death, while others plummet into the void of extinction. Just like the Barclays Premier League you might say, which currently features the most thrilling relegation battle in years. There are currently only six points separating the bottom seven sides with six games left, and here at In Off the Ghost we have been so excited by the run in at the wrong end of the table that we have contacted one of our favourite conservationists to give us his predictions on this epic fight for survival. A cold welcome to legendary Australian wildlife expert, conservationist and croc-wrestling TV personality Steve Irwin!

Irwin - "Crikey!"

Aston Villa:

“Villa have looked as dangerous as a new born koala bear at times this season, but thanks to some serious conservation work in Darren Bent and Jean Makoun, Gerard Houllier seems to have steered them clear of danger. The chances of Villa getting relegated now are about as realistic as a Home and Away plot line.”

Steve Irwin’s relegation rating 2.5/5

Birmingham City:

“After that bonza League Cup win, the Blues seem to have ran out of puff. But I reckon with Obafemi ‘the cheetah’ Martins, Nikola ‘the giraffe’ Žigić and Ben ‘the octopus’ Foster they will fine. Well, as long as that bloomin’ drongo Liam Ridgewell doesn’t keep dropping clangers!”

Steve Irwin’s relegation rating 3/5

Blackburn Rovers:

“Crikey! You’re far safer dealing with crocodiles and western diamondback rattlesnakes than the Blackburn defence of Christopher Samba and Ryan Nelson, those boys are tough! But they have lost their pack leader in ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce and Steve Kean looks like a little boy lost in the outback.”

Steve Irwin’s relegation rating 3.5/5

Blackpool:

“If Blackpool were an exotic croc-like reptile, I’d be so worried about their survival that I’d be down to the pleasure beach like a giant flamin’ gala on a litre of Red Bull! Ian Holloway’s guys have had some season. I mean, I’m a thrill seeker, but strewth, Blackpool are even too much for me! Charlie Adam might look like a shaved gorilla, but blimey he can pass a ball. Still he can’t didgeridoo it all on his own now can he?”

Steve Irwin’s relegation rating 3.5/5

Parker - "XXXX!"

West Ham United

“West Ham might be moving to a new Olympic habitat in the next few years, however they’ve a lot of hard work to do if they want to have top flight football to show off to the new neighbours when they move in. But crikey, with the tireless Scott Parker, crafty Robbie Keane and the pacey Demba Ba, they can look more dangerous than a boxing kangaroo after a six pack of Castlemain XXXX!”

Steve Irwin’s relegation rating 3.5/5

Wigan Athletic:

“Wigan are looking more endangered than a Bridled Nail-Tail Wallaby. With players like Hugo Rodallega and Charles N’Zogbia they have a bit of a sting in their tail, but they also have a tough run of games. People are already saying that Wigan are destined for a sticky end, but then everyone said “we knew a croc would get him!” about me and they were wrong…a stingray did!”

Steve Irwin’s relegation rating 4.5/5

Wolverhampton Wanderers:

“Wolves are in serious danger of Premier League extinction. Mick McCarthy reminds me a bit of yours truly. We were both warriors. I was a wildlife warrior and Mick was a soccer warrior. Still, with Kevin Doyle laid up and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Steven Fletcher looking about as useful as a straight boomerang, I can’t see Wanderers making it out of this scrap alive.”

Steve Irwin’s relegation rating 4.5/5

(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.)

 

Rooney swearing

Rooney: Candid Camera

The internet necromancers at In Off the Ghost appreciate the power of language. Without language civilisation, and more importantly football, would never have been possible. Language is so varied and versatile that even the dead pop up in the never ending stream of words that accompany the beautiful game, from “ghost goals” and “team spirit” to “ghosting in at the back post” and “dead balls”. But the power of language is not always used for good. Ask the Football Association. They have got into such a towering funk of rage at Wayne Rooney’s gutter-mouthed celebration during Man Utd’s 2-4 victory over West Ham this weekend, they have started disciplinary proceedings against the granny bothering England striker, who now faces a two match ban.

Rooney isn’t the first man to have caused a stir over his use of the Queen’s English. Many others have also seen the fruit of their talents eclipsed by their descent into vulgarity. In the midst of the evangelical, sensationalist, Daily Mail led media storm that has been whipped up around the rant, the fantastic performances of both Rooney and Man Utd appear to have been forgotten. The spectral spectators here at In Off the Ghost know a dirty word or two, and we were contacted by a spirit who’s flagrant disregard for civilized language saw his publisher hauled up in front of the powers that be. A cold welcome for novelist, poet, playwright, essayist and literary critic D.H. Lawrence!

D.H. Lawrence

Lawrence: Profane pundit

“I contacted In Off the Ghost because I wanted to defend Wayne Rooney,” said Lawrence “I empathise with his plight. When my novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published they censored it, banned it, and called me a pornographer. My work was more than just a profanity filled bonk-fest, it was art. But it was ignored, just like Rooney’s exquisite performance against West Ham on Saturday. I have always believed that you should be still when you have nothing to say; but when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot. The FA may punish him, but it’s better to be suspended than live mechanically a life that is a repetition of repetitions.”

“This ridiculous “Respect” campaign is a sign of the times we live in. Ours is essentially a tragic age, but we refuse to take it tragically. To the puritans at the FA all things are impure, and may God help you if you display a little passion. The more scholastically educated a man is generally, the more he is an emotional bore. So how can you blame Rooney for being so lively? Leave the dull decency to the insipid intellectuals on the Match of the Day sofa.

“It makes me sad to think that the censors at the FA will once again dampen the emotion and humanity of football. Censors are dead men, set up to judge between life and death. For no live, sunny man would be an FA suit, he’d just laugh.”

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.)

Ruel Fox

Fox - Too Ruel for school

This week’s paranormal post from the tomb of football is the fifth instalment of ‘The Obituary’ series, where one of our posthumous pundits puts forward a eulogy for their favourite player in football history.

When the fanatical football fiends here at In Off the Ghost are bored, we sometimes think of the stories we heard, read or watched during our days on Earth to pass the time. Seeing as this weekend has been full of international football action, we have had plenty of time to think about our favourite tales. The stories that stay with us the most are the ones from our childhood, we vividly remember hearing about Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, or the last time Manchester City won a trophy. How those ancient tales filled us with wonder and amazement.

In fact, these childhood legends had such an impact on us that when we were offered the chance to interview one of our favourite yarn spinners for this week’s Obituary, we jumped at the chance to relive the innocent, ectoplasm free days of our youth. This week’s posthumous pundit wanted to talk to us about Subbuteo sized, former Norwich City, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion winger Ruel Fox. A cold welcome to former fighter pilot, screen writer and famous children’s writer, Roald Dahl!

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl - Tangfabulous Whizzpopper

“Hello my fellow Hornswagglers!” started Dahl, jiggling about with child-like excitement, “I want to tell you about my favourite ever footballer, Fantastic Mr. Ruel Fox. He was a player so fast he ran as if he was being pushed along by atomic whizzpoppers! When he was at Norwich City, he was the most wonderous whangdoodle in the Premier League. A great player in a great team with Chris Sutton, Jeremy Goss and of course the BFG, Bryan ‘Fantabulous’ Gunn. He could do it all, cross, score goals and he dribbled more than a kid chewing on a block of ‘Willy Wonka’s Super Sticky Stickjaw Toffee’. When he left to join Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United it seemed like a dream come true for our Mr. Fox, but things started to go a bit wrong. Football managers are complicated creatures, full of quirks and secrets. Why Keegan lost faith in Mr. Fox, my dear readers, we will never know. He was a wonderful player, he just needed his manager to believe in his magic. But some people absolutely refuse to believe in anything unless they are actually seeing it right in front of their own schnozzles. So Keegan signed David ‘Champion of the World’ Ginola, and sent poor Mr. Fox packing to Spurs and Gerry Francis.

“Mr. Fox flourished for a while thanks to Gerry’s Marvellous Medicine, but nasty George Graham took over as boss and eventually he stopped playing Mr. Fox too. Quite frankly, I think Mr. Graham was a twit. He was born a twit and when he sold Mr. Fox at the age of fifty-five, he was a bigger twit than ever. Nasty old George Graham got the boot not long after, but two rights don’t equal a left.”

“So our Mr. Fox ended up at West Brom, and he played like he would’ve rather been fried alive and eaten by Mexicans. Mr. Fox could’ve had a glittering career if it wasn’t for the Schnozzlebonkers who always said ‘I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m big and you’re small, and there’s nothing you can do about it.’”

“He may not have won many trophies or prizes, but to me Mr. Fox will always be fantastic.”

(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.)

John Terry

John Terry - While my skipper gently weeps.

When the ghouls at In Off the Ghost were alive and kicking, there were certain rules everyone had to abide by. “Work hard” we were told, “don’t take what isn’t yours” and “make sure you don’t give away silly free-kicks against Stoke”. However, there were some people who didn’t pay much heed to daft things like rules or laws. They refused to work, stole everything they could get their hands on and generally did the dirty on everyone they came into contact with. Thankfully, the long arm of the law would normally get to these ruffians and deliver swift and brutal justice in the form of community service or meaningless ASBOs, allowing them to carry on with their lives having thoroughly learned their lesson.

Football is no different. After indulging in both debauchery and buffoonery on an epic scale, John Terry was stripped of his England captaincy as punishment. Now thirteen months later, strict disciplinarian Fabio Capello has decided that “J.T” has been left out in the cold long enough, reinstating the Chelsea centre-back to his former role as England captain. After much negative press attention this week, some at Stamford Bridge were concerned that the news may have an adverse affect on Terry’s performance in the crunch Premier League game against Man City this Sunday. As it turned out, the new(ish) England captain put in a flawless performance as Ancellotti’s team brushed Mancini’s men to one side in a 2-0 victory, thanks to goals from David Luiz and Ramires.

After this week’s events we were contacted by a spirit who was incensed by Capello’s decision to reinstate Terry as England captain. Please give a cold welcome to infamous pirate and captain of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Edward Teach, more commonly known as Blackbeard the pirate!

 

Blackbeard

Blackbeard - Not such a jolly roger after this week's events

Captain Blackbeard has asked for his interview with In Off the Ghost to have an accompanying soundtrack. Please click here before you read if you wish to hear it. (WARNING – this soundtrack may begin to irritate some readers after a short while…)

“Yarrr!” began the captain, with a swish of his crumb collector, which seems more grey than black these days. “I cannot believe that John Terry is the new England captain, when I heard the news it sent a shiver down me timbers. I was proud of being the most loathed captain in all of history, now I have been replaced by this blundering oaf!

“Although, as much as it pains me to say it, we do have some things in common. We don’t let morals or ethics stand in the way of what we want, we have ridiculous nicknames and, of course, we love to plunder booty that doesn’t belong to us. However, there is one big difference between me and John Terry. I didn’t turn into a lily livered land blubberer when things didn’t go my way. Terry has shed more salt water in the last few years than I sailed across during my entire career as a pirate. Rio Ferdinand must be as sick as my parrot after being replaced by that scurvy dog.

“Even though I have nothing but contempt for Terry as a man, he showed his qualities as a footballer in Sunday’s match against Manchester City. Unlike myself he took no prisoners and he was the rudder that guided Chelsea through the waves of Man City attacks. He even battled on after being injured by YarrrrrrrYarrrrrrr Touré. Aye, it was a good win matey, and one that couldn’t have happened without Terry, but there is no way he should be England captain and I still think Capello should be made to take a long walk off a short plank.”

(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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