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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.)

 

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Darren Bent

Darren Bent delivers a £24M money shot.

Do you remember the first time? It may have been many moons ago for the deathly denizens of In Off the Ghost, but we still remember it well. The overwhelming anticipation, the tantalising potential of success and the nerve shredding prospect of humiliating failure. There is no getting away from the fact that the first time is crucial. If you make a flop of your first impression there may be no recovering. Forever judged on your earliest performances you could be earmarked for failure, cast aside and ridiculed. However, get it right first time and the possibilities for future success are endless.

It makes us nervous just thinking about it. So imagine how Darren Bent must have been feeling. With the weight of anywhere between £18 and £24 million pounds resting firmly on his shoulders before his debut for Aston Villa against Manchester City, expectation was astronomical. There was also much excitement here on the eternal terraces of In Off the Ghost, with our posthumous punters eager to see if Bent could up his game or whether Villa Park would witness the biggest balls up outside of a Labour Party shadow cabinet re-shuffle. As it turned out, Bent scored the winner in a hard fought 1-0 victory for Gerrard Houllier’s struggling side, leaving Roberto Mancini’s men empty handed. We were contacted by the afterlife’s most prominent Man City fan to discuss the game, a cold welcome to Venetian adventurer, author and notorious ladies man Giacomo Casanova!

Casanova

Casanova - No stranger to a blue moon.

“Although it pains me to say it, Bent made all the right moves on his big night. He was in the right place at the right time to ruthlessly pound the ball past Hart and exploit City’s loose defending. He didn’t let the pressure to perform get to him and he took his chance to make a good first impression with relish. He seems to have already seduced the Villa faithful who were chanting his name throughout” said Casanova, with a gleam in his eye and his hands in his pockets.

“Bent seems to be a man after my own heart,” added Casanova, leaving us to wonder whether he knew something we didn’t about Bent’s private life, “he takes great delight in scoring goals and he makes cultivating the most pleasure possible his chief business. Clearly economy in pleasure is not to his taste either, as his potency is there for all to see in his goal scoring record. 128 goals in 308 games shows that he is no stranger to indulging his lust for putting the ball in the back of the net.”

“Alas, for my beautiful Man City, it was clearly a frustrating night. We came so close so often, but we couldn’t quite muster the penetration our efforts deserved. After such a successful season I am not used to having my desires left so unfulfilled. I guess I’ll have to direct my energies somewhere else until our next fixture.”

So with City succumbing to Bent’s advances, the Villa faithful will be hoping that their new signing will bag the goals to thrust them up the division into the warm bosom of mid-table mediocrity and Premier League survival.

(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 Dean

James Dean - Live fast, die young. Then report for In Off the Ghost.

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

Click here to read legendary actor and Hollywood icon James Dean’s predictions for the upcoming January transfer window. 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 soon exclusively at www.inofftheghost.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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Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin - Naturally selected the best young players around

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

Click here to read In Off the Ghost’s Charles Darwin and his views on the evolution of four of England’s brightest young players, as well as other great articles!

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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Emile Heskey and Gerard Houllier

Gerard Houllier - Making the most of limited resources.

After eagerly awaiting yesterday’s midweek round of Premier League fixtures, the dearly departed here in football’s Elysium felt mixed emotions. Many spectral supporters were wailing and moaning after watching the fetid corpse of the Manchester derby stink up their spiritual screens. However, I had the ghoulishly good fortune of watching Aston Villa scrape past a weakened Blackpool side 3-2 after an eighty-ninth minute header from Welsh centre-back James Collins sealed the points for the Midlands side. Although they have been scoring less than Anne Widdicombe of late, there are signs that Villa’s newly installed French boss Gerard Houllier is putting in motion the beginnings of a stylistic revolution at Villa Park.

As soon as the words “French” and “revolution” came together, one candidate predictably came forward to speak to In Off the Ghost about the game of the week. Step forward Napoleon Bonaparte!

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon - "Making Villa a success again is a tall-order."

“I have been watching Houllier’s progress at Aston Villa with great interest since he arrived at the club” started Napoleon, the vertically challenged former Emperor of the French. “I can see many similarities between the Midlands club and France during the glorious revolution! Players who were in the side as favourites of Martin O’Neill are being given a short-shrift now that his traditionally British style of football has been given the chop by Houllier. It is more glorious to merit a place in the team than to possess one, and young players like Ciaran Clark, Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan are finally earning their places in the side. Some previously established first team players like John Carew are learning that ability is nothing without opportunity, and Stephen Ireland personifies my maxim that going from the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step-over.”

As a great military leader and tactician, I asked Napoleon what advice he would give Houllier in his quest to bring the glory days back to Aston Villa.

“I like Houllier, but he still has much to learn in my opinion. In football as in battle, he who fears being conquered is certain of defeat. Houllier’s defensive tactics have stunted his progress before. Changing from the defensive to the offensive is one of the most delicate operations in war, and Houllier must learn to do this more effectively or the people of Birmingham may be calling for his head sooner rather than later. Villa fans tend to exercise their memory much more than their judgment, and their temper is short. What Houlier has done up to now is nothing and only just conquering a weakened Blackpool side on home soil is not a thing to boast of. However, the Villa faithful should give Houllier time. Impatience is a great obstacle to success and he is only at the beginning of the course he must run. Making Villa a success again is a tall-order.” Napoleon continued, floating back and forth, one ghostly hand gesturing wildy, the other tucked into his replica Villa shirt.

“I never was truly my own master but was always ruled by circumstances. Houllier however, is ruled by the Randy Lerner. I always respected the Americans, but Mr. Lerner must give Houllier funds in the transfer window to take his revolution to great heights. Everything tells me Houllier will succeed, but will Lerner prevent him from doing so for the want of £100 million?

Finally, I asked Napoleon how far he feels Houllier can take Aston Villa in the coming years.

“I think that Houllier can take Villa to the Champions League or, who knows, maybe even the title itself! Some would scoff at the idea, but remember, “Le mot impossible n’est pas français!”

(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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In Off The Ghost Premier League Obituaries

'Ashes to ashes, Wigan to Wolves'

Friends, family and fans. The time has come for In Off The Ghost to pay its last respects to the final round of festive Premier League matches. Some of you will look back fondly at the good times. For others however, the pain will still be too fresh (our thoughts are with Wolves and Portsmouth fans in particular).

Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool

A Fernando Torres goal at the death snatched a vital win for Liverpool against Champions League rivals Aston Villa, who will be left mourning Richard Dunne’s untimely stumble.

This match is survived by: A sense of sympathy for Villa and especially the impressive Richard Dunne, who did not deserve to be the fall guy.

Blackburn 2-2 Sunderland

Darren Bent

'Balls'

A Darren Bent brace was not enough to earn a much-needed three points for Sunderland as fan favourite and all round nice chap El Hadji Diouf provided a lifeline for Blackburn.

This match is survived by: Unease from both sets of supporters as early season promise dies a slow and painful death.

Bolton 2-2 Hull

Bolton threw away a two goal lead, conceding two Stephen Hunt goals in seven minutes after Ivan Klasnic and the evergreen elbows of Kevin Davies had given them the lead.

This match is survived by: Bolton’s search for a new manager after the news that Gary Megson’s reign as boss had bitten the dust. Megson spent a significant amount of the Trotter’s cash during his tenure, with nothing to show but a Bolton side that are as potent as Pele after an all night drinking session.

Chelsea 2-1 Fulham

Didier Drogba

'Argh, there's my plane!'

A masterful Didier Drogba performance and an own goal from debutant Chris Smalling put a resilient Fulham to the sword after Zoltan Gera had given the Cottagers an early lead.

This match is survived by: The feeling that Drogba going to the African Cup of Nations will be the worst withdrawal at Chelsea since Adrian Mutu went cold turkey.

Everton 2-0 Burnley

Two goals in the final ten minutes from James Vaughan and Stephen Pienaar sealed Burnley’s fate and condemned them to a ninth successive league game without a win.

This match is survived by: Burnley’s capitulation after an impressive start to the season, as their league form plummets faster than the house prices. Fortunately, Burnley’s good fortunes at their home show no signs of fading.

Stoke 0-1 Birmingham

Alex McLeish

'Hmmm, what else I can sell?'

A scrappy Cameron Jerome goal was the final nail in Stoke’s Christmas coffin as Birmingham marched on to an eleventh game unbeaten.

This match is survived by: The growing certainty that Alex McLeish must have sold his soul to turn City into contenders for European football.

Tottenham 2-0 West Ham

The returning Luca Modric and West Ham favourite Jermaine Defoe netted to finish off a lifeless West Ham.

This match is survived by: Confidence in the Spurs camp. After a day of returns, Tottenham show no signs of leaving the Champions League places anytime soon.

Wolves 0-3 Man City

Jody Craddock

'Oh God, here he comes again!'

Wolves were led to the slaughter by two goals from a rampaging Carlos Tevez and a cunning Javier Garrido free-kick. Craig Bellamy exorcised the spectre of Robinho by consistently slaughtering poor Jody Craddock.

This match is survived by: The need for someone to tell Roberto Mancini that it takes more than beating Wolves to turn a ragtag bunch of millionaires into title winners.

Portsmouth 1-4 Arsenal

A Fabregas deprived Arsenal murdered bottom of the table Portsmouth at Fratton Park, with Eduardo, Samir Nasri, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Song all accomplices.

This match is survived by: The feeling that despite the potential of Arsenal’s exciting young prospects, they will inevitably flatter to deceive. Portsmouth seem to be on their last legs and the vultures are circling. Both rival clubs and the administrators look set to be knocking on the door of Fratton Park in 2010.

Man Utd 5-0 Wigan

Titus Bramble

Hands up if you belong in the Championship.

Another trouncing for Wigan as they continue to haemorrhage goals. The champions maintain their recent good form thanks to goals from Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Rafael Da Silva, Dimitar Berbatov and Antonio Valencia.

This match is survived by: Alex Ferguson’s belief that his side will only get stronger after this mauling. However, Fergie should take any result against a side with Titus Bramble and Emerson Boyce in defence with a large heap of salt.

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