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David Dunn Chicken

POULTRY IN MOTION – Picture courtesy of http://www.elrooneyoillustrations.tumblr.com

Sometimes, life is so absurd you just have to laugh. Trod in dog shit just before that big job interview? Chortle the pain away! Got caught by the tabloids playing strip poker in Vegas? Have a chuckle and try not to let it ruin your day. A bunch of inept clowns take over your beloved football club, make them the laughing stock of the country and appoint a cretinous stooge of a manager who promptly relegates them to the Championship in his first full season? Hmmm. Even we would find that a bit hard to laugh off. However, there were plenty of people (particularly Burnley fans) who were willing to indulge in a spot of chicken based shaudenfraude by having a laugh or two at the farcical fate of Blackburn Rovers to make up for it. Having started their season in somewhat erratic form under the stewardship of the preposterous Steve Kean and his chicken peddling paymasters Venky’s, things still seem pretty dire at Ewood Park.

Here at In Off the Ghost we can sympathise with Rovers fans. We too are powerless as we watch people scurrying around destroying the things we loved and worked hard to create during our days on the planet. However, most of the stoical ghouls here still try their best to take some comfort in a laugh or two. So in this spirit we have spoken to erstwhile comedian and legendary funny-man Tommy Cooper about the plight of Blackburn Rovers to see if he can bring a touch of humour to an otherwise bleak situation.

Tommy Cooper – ‘Just like that!’

“I know with relegation and the protests and all that, Steve Kean hasn’t had a great time at Blackburn” understated Cooper, adjusting his fez,”but to be fair the owners have always stood by Steve Kean’s side. They had to really. They’ve only got one chair.

“Kean’s been unlucky with injuries too. Apparently, when Leon Best went to the club doctor with his injury, the doctor said, ‘It’s your anterior cruciate ligament.’ Steve Kean wasn’t too happy, and he said he wanted a second opinion. The doctor said: ‘Alright then – he can’t finish either.

“But Rovers injury problems should improve soon though. Kean has fired the club masseuse. Apparently he rubbed him up the wrong way. And in a bid to improve the fitness of his players the manager is always open to innovative nutrition ideas. David Dunn said he wanted breakfast in bed on match days, so Kean told him to sleep in the kitchen.”

“It’s been a difficult summer for Rovers. I heard the chairman told Kean to do a bit of window shopping before the deadline. He came back with four windows. They lost a few players in the transfer window too though. Apparently Kean and Nzonzi were fighting like hammer and tongs before his move to Stoke. Nzonzi won. He had the hammer. They get a bad press, but Venky’s are always looking for innovative ways to inject some cash into the club. The chairman even went for a job as a gold prospector, but it didn’t pan out.

“I worry some of the Rovers players haven’t got to guts to be footballers in the Championship. Apparently Morten Gamst Pedersen wanted to be a milkman rather than a footballer when he was a kid but he didn’t have the bottle. But I reckon Blackburn will bounce straight back to the Premier League. I know it’s early days but their football so far this season has been like poultry in motion.

“Just like that!”

(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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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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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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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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Premier League Predictions

'Who needs Mark Lawrenson?'

Many years ago, when I first shuffled off the mortal coil, I was quite fed up. However, I have come to realise the being dead has certain advantages. I no longer have to worry about my weight, the excruciating pain of toe stubbing and, perhaps chief of all, I no longer have to rely on Mark Lawrenson for my Premier League predictions. The afterlife has no end of people infinitely more qualified to share their paranormal predictions on the latest set of Premier League fixtures with In Off The Ghost.

This week, our supernatural speculations will come from George Orwell, the author of the visionary dystopian novel 1984.

Premier League Predictions

'Do I have to watch Bolton v Hull?'

Aston Villa v Liverpool

‘The idea of someone else other than the ‘Big Four’ qualifying for the Champions League is tantamount to thoughtcrime and Benitez runs the risk of being becoming an unperson if they miss out. Oldthinkers may be hoping that Villa will be a danger to the ‘Big Four’ Innerparty.  I am backing the established regime.’

Prediction: 0-2

Blackburn v Sunderland

‘After the fans reaction to the draw with Everton this weekend, Sunderland boss Steve Bruce commited facecrimes of every possible description. Still, Blackburn’s recent ungood form will continue and I predict that the Sunderland fans will once again be vocalising in a more happywise fashion after this game.’

Prediction: 1-2

Bolton v Hull

‘To know how both of these teams play and still believe that this game will be anything other than awful would be doublethink of the highest order. Watching this will feel like a 90 minute stint at a joycamp.’

Prediction: 0-0

Chelsea v Fulham

‘Fulham are another member of the Outerparty that have dared to challenge the dominance of the Innerparty without the appropriate upsub. I having a feeling that their resistance will be vaporized at Stamford Bridge.’

Prediction: 3-0

Everton v Burnley

‘I have come to bellyfeel Burnley’s status as a Premier League side. Still, an away win for them does not seem to be part of the PremSoc agenda. The chances of a home win are doubleplusgood.’

Prediction: 2-0

Stoke v Birmingham

‘Another game that is unlikely to feature highly on the BBC’s prolfeed. The recdep informs me that Birmingham have the second best defence in the league and Stoke have scored the fewest goals. Still, you can’t always trust everything you hear can you?’

Prediction: 4-0

Tottenham v West Ham

‘Jermaine Defoe visits his former club still looking to cement a place in the Airstrip One first team. Former West Ham boss Harry Redknapp is a goodthinker and won’t follow through on any threat to the Innerparty’s top four territory.’

Prediction: 1-2

Wolves v Man City

‘After the vaporizing of the previous non person Mark Hughes, new boss Roberto Mancini will want to continue his good start. I fullwise expect Man City to continue in their attempt to enter the Golden Country.’

Prediction: 0-3

(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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Premier League Review

'Now where did I put my scalpel?'

Now that this round of fixtures are over, the time has come for the resident In Off The Ghost pathologist to snap on a pair of rubber gloves, grab the scalpel and dissect the bloated corpse that is this week’s Premier League action.

Birmingham 0 – 0 Chelsea

Birmingham City held the league leaders to a scoreless draw at St. Andrews after an unfairly disallowed goal for Birmingham’s absurdly monikered Christian ‘ChuCho’ Benitez and some wayward finishing from Ancelotti’s outfit.

Deceased: Chelsea’s record of scoring in every game this season.

Cause of Death: The centre back pairing of Roger Johnson and Scott Dann accompanied by keeper Joe Hart did enough to starve the Londoners of a much-needed goal. Malouda missing a sitter late on added insult to injury.

Burnley 1 – 1 Bolton

David Nugent - Rubbish.

Burnley clawed their way back from the brink of defeat thanks to a David Nugent header cancelling out a lethal Matthew ‘Matty’ Taylor free kick.

Deceased: Those jokes about David Nugent being rubbish (well for a day or two at least).

Cause of Death: Nugent propelling his squama frontalis into a Wade Elliot cross. A stunning display of defensive rigor mortis from Bolton’s Gretar Steinsson was also a contributing factor.

Fulham 0 – 0 Tottenham

Stalemate at Craven Cottage as any decent opportunities were duly snuffed out by in form keepers.

Deceased: Tottenham’s swashbuckling, free scoring football.

Cause of Death: A well organised and hard-working Fulham rear guard action and some top-notch goal-keeping prevented anyone striking first blood.

Liverpool 2 – 0 Wolves

Steven Gerrard heads Liverpool's opener

How to get ahead.

Liverpool return to winnings ways after the horror show at Fratton Park, killing off a Wolves side weakened by the loss of Stephen Ward to a red card.

Deceased: Steven Gerrard’s recent poor form and Andre Marriner’s vision.

Cause of Death: Steven Gerrard turned in a glorious performance and got higher than heavenly Hendrix to head home Liverpool’s opening goal. Andre Marriner however must have been hoping for Anfield to swallow him up after booking Christophe Berra instead of Stephen Ward.

Man City 2 – 0 Stoke

Roberto Mancini’s Man City reign began with a victory as Martin Petrov (remember him?) and Carlos Tevez struck to seal Stoke’s fate.

Deceased: The Mark Hughes era at City was laid to rest at Eastlands.

Cause of Death: The spectre of ghoulish defending that has haunted Man City’s season so far was banished by a solid display from Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure. Also the absence of Micah Richards for the first 66 minutes may have helped.

Sunderland 1 – 1 Everton

Marouane Felliani’s thumping 86th minute equaliser salvaged a point for Everton after cancelling out Darren Bent’s 17th minute opener.

Deceased: Steve Bruce’s composure appears to be on its last legs after seeing his Sunderland side booed off for drawing at home to Everton.

Cause of Death: In a game with more twists than Steve Bruce’s nose, Felliani and Stephen Pienaar were the stand out performers as Everton outplayed the Black Cats. Unrealistic expectations from some sections of the Sunderland faithful are only adding to the gloom at the Stadium of Light.

West Ham 2 – 0 Portsmouth

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola

Just shave it off.

An Alessandro Diamante penalty and a bullet header from Radoslav Kovac fire West Ham to victory and blow a hole in Portsmouth’s survival hopes.

Deceased: The brittle confidence that Pompey had mustered after their win over Liverpool was smashed by defeat in this relegation six pointer.

Cause of Death: The midfield dynamism of Scott Parker coupled with the creativity of Diamante enabled West Ham to claim the points. The return of the influential Jack Collision will be welcome to a West Ham squad thinner than Gianfranco Zola’s hairline.

Wigan 1 – 1 Blackburn

Hugo Rodellega buried Maynor Figueroa’s cross to cancel out an early Benni McCarthy strike as the points were shared at the DW Stadium.

Deceased: Benni McCarthy’s barren run in front of goal bit the dust as he scored his first goal of the season.

Cause of Death: Transparent marking allowed McCarthy to ghost in behind the Wigan defence and score. A fine save from Chris Kirkland was needed to deny McCarthy an acrobatic winner.

Arsenal 3 -0 Aston Villa

Fabregas bags a brace for Arsenal

Let's talk about Cesc baby.

A 27 minute cameo appearance from Cesc Fabregas stopped Aston Villa dead in their tracks as the Arsenal captain bags a brace before limping off with a hamstring injury.

Deceased: Aston Villa’s run of 8 games without defeat and 5 games without conceding a goal comes to an abrupt end at the Emirates.

Cause of Death: The introduction of Fabregas served to unravel a resolute Villa defence and provided the best 30 minute Spanish show since the demise of Eldorado. Abou Diaby fired home a third as Aston Villa gave up the ghost, however Villa are still firmly in the hunt for the hallowed ground of fourth place.

Hull 1 – 3 Man Utd

Wayne Rooney had a hand in all four goals as the Champions overcame a spirited Hull City at the KC Stadium.

Deceased: Manchester United’s defensive worries appear to be coming to an end as both Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic impress.

Cause of Death: Rooney scored United’s first before playing a catastrophic back pass which led to a penalty for Hull. Rooney made amends for his error in the second half by creating both of United’s subsequent goals. This mercurial performance was apparently spurred on by the fear of the famous hairdryer treatment from Ferguson. This comes as some surprise as he has told us before that he finds the sound of a hairdryer quite soothing.

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