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Juan Mata Chelsea

EL MATA – Picture courtesy of http://www.elrooneyoillustrations.tumblr.com

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Not many of us are fans. The uncertainty, the anxiety, the rubbish situation that makes you need to change in the first place. It’s rarely good news. However, there are a few people that thrive on change. These revolutionary spirits like to break things down just for the fun of building them back up again. The first few weeks of the 2012/13 Premier League season have revealed Roberto Di Matteo as a man with a passion for reform, transforming Chelsea from the combative, direct and repugnant side of yester-year to an aesthetically pleasing, creative and fractionally less repugnant (they still have Cole and Terry after all) team with a seemingly insatiable craving for spectacular goals and three points.

However, Robbie’s revolution took a major blow this weekend as Manchester United pitched up at Stamford Bridge and crushed the Blues 3-2 in a controversial Sunday afternoon showdown. Here at In Off the Ghost, we don’t want to focus on farcical refereeing and shameful racism. We will let proper football websites do that. All we want to do is make terrible puns and talk to dead people about football. So who better to discuss the potential impact of the game on Di Matteo’s aesthetic revolution at Stamford Bridge than perhaps the most famous revolutionary of all time? A cold welcome to Argentinian Marxist revolutionary and cigar enthusiast Che Guevara!

Che Guevara

Guevara – Close but no cigar

“I hate Chelsea and everything the club stands for. It is the embodiment of capitalist exploitation, and John Terry is still their captain” said Guevara, pale fist defiantly in the air, ragged beard floating through the ether, “but I can’t help but admire Roberto Di Matteo’s stylistic revolution at Stamford Bridge. However, yesterday’s defeat to Manchester United is a significant set-back for the Italian. Revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall. Clearly Fernando Torres is the only one at Chelsea who understands this concept. He was making himself fall all afternoon.”

“I have always said that the ultimate and most important revolutionary aspiration is to see human beings liberated from their alienation. The self-pitying isolation of Torres has become commonplace, but the listless figures of Hazard and Oscar was painful to watch. With the exception of Mata’s sublime free-kick, Chelsea failed to liberate the Subbuteo sized standard bearers of their tactical reformation and consequently were made to pay the price by Fergie’s flying wingers. But that shouldn’t set them back too much, Roman’s still sitting on enough ill-gotten petrodollars to pay the price a billion times over.

“Look Torres, if I send you off I’d be doing you a favour.”

“The basic clay of revolutionary work is the youth; we place our hope in it and prepare it to take the banner from our hands. This applies to Di Matteo too, although he might have to fight John Terry first. Di Matteo must trust his revolution to his youngsters, but with the exception Daniel Sturridge. Judging by his performances this season, if the revolution was handed to him he would probably run around like a headless chicken for ten minutes and then punt it out for a throw in.

“After this painful defeat to their title rivals, Chelsea must remember that the road is long and full of difficulties, but I have one bit of advice for Roberto before I go – liberate comrades Mata, Oscar and Hazard and hasta la victoria siempre!”

 (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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UNCHARTED TERRITORY – Picture courtesy of http://www.elrooneyoillustrations.tumblr.com

The desire to explore is deeply embedded within human nature. Many of us have experienced the longing to branch out and adventure beyond our usual surroundings, master virgin territories, maybe even try the new takeaway that’s opened up down the road. This instinct was crucial for our survival as a species. However, sometimes this desire for pastures new is so strong that it goes beyond survival, pushing ordinary folk to undertake astonishing feats of reckless endeavour to be able to say that they conquered nature and its most treacherous obstacles.

Here at In Off the Ghost our days of exploration are sadly over. Destined to haunt the same 115×74 yards of football’s Elysium for all eternity, we must satisfy our desire for the thrill of adventure vicariously. This season we have been getting our fix from the intrepid explorations of West Brom up into the rarefied air of third place in the Premier League table, unleashing an outbreak of nosebleeds across the blue and white half of the Black Country. Inspired by the Baggies sensational form, we spoke to a posthumous pundit with a genuine love of exploration and adventure. A cold welcome to legendary polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton!

Ernest Shackleton

Sir Ernest Shackleton – Pole Dancer

Men wanted for hazardous season. Small wages. Long months of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success. This is the advert I put in the local newspaper before my expedition to the South Pole.” said Shackleton, resplendent in his ethereal long-johns “and I suspect West Brom may have recruited many a player under a similar brief over the past decade. My nickname for Albion used to be ‘the seals’ because they were beaten by clubs so often.”

“But things started to get better after they appointed the well-travelled Roy Hodgson. Now with the arrival of Steve Clarke and some superhuman effort from his players, West Brom find themselves exploring the harsh, unforgiving terrain at the top of the Premier League table. We all know superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results, just ask Park Ji-Sung at QPR, but the Baggies are finally wracking up the wins that make their efforts all worthwhile. People are saying it’s too difficult for Albion to be in a Champions League place come May, but that’s exactly what they said to me about exploring the Arctic. My advice to Steve Clarke is to turn a deaf ear. Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.

James Morrisson

Albion’s James Morrisshhhhhhhon.

“Optimism is true moral courage. Even so, to suggest Albion have the players to conquer the summit of the Premier League, the pinnacle upon which the great round globe of football turns, is like tipping Garth Crooks to win a Pulitzer. However they must now have the belief that they can reach the Europa League positions come May. At the very least they are in pole position to be top dogs in the Midlands.

“We all know nature can be more brutal than a late Peter Odemwinge studs up special. However, so far this season the industry of players like Shane Long and Youssuf Mulumbu has shown that it is by endurance we conquer. Despite their good start the Baggies and Steve Clarke must not be under any illusions – it’s early days and they’ve still got a long hard road 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.)

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BEAUTY – Picture courtesy of http://www.elrooneyoillustrations.tumblr.com

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

Football, we are so often told, is the beautiful game. It is undoubtably true that, whether it’s the graceful stride and epic cheekbones of Edinson Cavani, or misty memories of Iain Dowie and Steve Ogrizovic wrapped in a muddy goal mouth scramble at a rain soaked Loftus Road, the cliche of beauty residing in the eye of the beholder is rarely more applicable than in football. There are few other facets of our society that can evoke such contrasting opinions amongst otherwise like minded individuals.

However subjectivity, aesthetic value and the ability to serve up absolute dirge and charge a fortune to see it are all things that football has in common with it’s distant cousins the arts. Here at In Off the Ghost we rarely give two hoots about the art, but today is different. We have been contacted by an posthumous painter who has expressed his wish to share with us a eulogy for a footballer whose success, much like his own, was often tainted by accusations of ugliness. So for the fifth instalment of our Obituary series, please welcome Pablo Picasso with his tribute to his favourite footballer; Peter Beardsley!

Pablo Picasso

Picasso – No oil painting

“Some philistines joke about Beardsley’s lack of beauty, but he is the truest embodiment of art in football.” said Picasso, with a wave of this paranormal palette. “Peter Beardsley is proof that the conventional thinking on beauty is false. We have been misled, but so completely misled that we can no longer find so much as a shadow of a truth again. Beckham, Ronaldo, Aguero; these faces do not represent the beauty of human experience. Their superficial beauty is redundant in the face of Peter Beardsley in his majestic pomp.

“Whether he wants it or not, man is the instrument of nature; she imposes on him character and appearance. Nature may not have been kind to Beardsley in terms of looks, but her gifts were offered with abundant generosity on the pitch. Many teams found out the hard way that you cannot defy nature. She is stronger than the strongest of men.

“I would have loved to have painted a portrait of Beardsley. With me, a picture is a sum of destructions. I do a picture, then I destroy it. But with Beardsley I wouldn’t have had to change much at all. And his art was the same as mine, he could destroy defences with a deft dribble or a perfectly weighted through ball.

Peter Beardsley Liverpool

Beardsley – Eye-Candy

“When I created my Cubist paintings, my intention was not to produce Cubist paintings but to express what was within me. With balletic footwork and sublime vision, Beardsley was a kindred spirit, his internal expression manifesting itself into countless beautiful goals and assists for the likes of Rush and Lineker that defied the asymmetrical nature of his exterior projection.

“Pundits who tried to explain a game in which Beardsley was playing were usually barking up the wrong tree. Football isn’t about false nines and inside out wingers, just like art it’s a form of magic designed as mediator between this strange hostile world and us. In my opinion Beardsley was the most perfect embodiment of the art of football that the world has ever seen.”

(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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Neil Adkins

DIAL R FOR RELEGATION – Picture courtesy of http://www.elrooneyoillustrations.tumblr.com

This post has an accompanying soundtrack. Please click here before you read if you wish to hear it (a youtube video will open in a new window/tab).

Fear. Life is full of it. Spine-tingling, gut-twisting, pant-soiling terror lurks around every corner just waiting to pounce. Everybody on the planet is scared of something, be it spiders, heights or Iain Dowie. However, here in the afterlife there’s nothing for us ethereal spirits to fear. You would be forgiven for thinking that this might be a desirable state of being, but you would be wrong. It is in fact terribly boring. What we would give to feel a thrill of bottom-quaking horror at the sight of Lee Cattermole thundering toward us. However, the closest thing we get to fear in Football’s Valhalla is seeing Robbie Savage’s horrendous outfits on Football Focus.

So imagine our jealousy as the sporting spectres at In Off the Ghost tuned in to Match of the Day on Saturday night to see fear flooding the eyes of the Southampton back four as they were mercilessly violated time and again by Arsenal during their 6-1 defeat at the Emirates Stadium. The bludgeoning bestowed upon Nigel Adkins’s perky early season optimism was so brutal, the highlights should’ve been given an 18 certificate.

So in the interest of providing an alternative to the insipid analysis offered up by the Match of the Day stiffs (punditry so dull it makes us look back on our death throws with misty eyed nostalgia) we sought the views of a pundit who is something of an expert on fear and excessive violence. A cold welcome to fear-peddler and director of classic horror films Psycho, Dial M for Murder and The BirdsAlfred Hitchcock!

Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock – A hit with the birds.

“Seeing one team murder another on television like Arsenal did Southampton this week can help work off one’s antagonisms” started Hitchcock, his ethereal presence still managing to cast his famous rotund silhouette, “and in the case of Match of the Day, if you haven’t any antagonisms already, Alan Shearer’s post match ‘punditry’ will surely give you some.

“When I was making my thrillers, I wanted to give the audience pleasure, but the same kind of pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare. Unfortunately for the Southampton fans, they experienced the nightmare, but there was no waking up and certainly no pleasure. Wenger’s side did a fantastic job of making his visiting audience suffer as much as possible as they rained blow after blow upon the fragile Saints defence.

“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it. Arsenal’s cultured passing and movement only extended the anguish for the Saints, whose performance was so poor that they even made Gervinho look like a star. In my films blondes tended to make the best victims, but in this display the Saints served just as well. Adkins and his young, inexperienced side were like virgin snow that showed up the bloody bootprints of Podolski, Cazorla, Walcott and Gervinho.

“Hopefully the Southampton manager has come to realise what I did: that the only way to get rid of your fears is to make films about them. He needs to take a video of this horror show back to the training ground, channel his inner Norman Bates and teach Maya Yoshida how to defend. This defeat needs to be an important lesson, for if they don’t improve Southampton will be dialling R for Relegation.”

(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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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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Arsene Wenger

FORMLESSNESS – Picture courtesy of  www.elrooneyoillustrations.tumblr.com

So a new season of Premier League action has begun and it seems evident from the first three fixtures that the league will be more fiercely contested than ever. Unless of course you’re Charles N’Zogbia, who judging by his performance for Aston Villa has not just lost the will to win, but seemingly the will to live too.

After a summer of inspiring and uplifting sport featuring our brave, dignified Olympians, we for one are delighted to see some good old fashioned violence, diving and cheating on offer from the Premier League’s finest (and of course Swansea’s Chico Flores). As the opening matches have seen a truck load of controversy and more penalties than Mario Ballotelli’s driving license, the deceased denizens of football’s first spiritual supporters group have been asking one question in particular: ‘does football have to be so attritional?’ In Off the Ghost went searching for answers, and we were contacted by legendary Chinese General, military strategist and author of the The Art of War, Sun Tzu, a posthumous pundit with a background in the rigours of battle.

Sun Tzu – ‘Tzu – nil! To the Arsenal!’

“These days, every game in the Premier League is a battle in a war for untold riches.” began Tzu, “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles. After three games and the end of the transfer window the Premier League sides are all starting to learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

“Although they have only won one of their first three games, Arsenal have impressed me so far. I have always said that to be successful in battle you must be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Wenger has followed this rule with blind devotion in recent years, but with Cazorla, Diaby and Podolski he seems to have got the balance right. The Arsenal will be challenging come May. Obviously, the Manchester clubs will also be dangerous. Although they both have defensive concerns, a team defends when their strength is inadequate, and they attack when it is abundant. With the additions of Van Persie and Garcia to already fierce battalions, their power is there for their enemies to see.”

In a sudden fit of rage that would make Paulo Di Canio blush, Tzu tried to throw a tea cup at the wall, only for it to float gently across the room.

“I have been greatly disappointed with Liverpool’s failure so far! Downing at left back? Martin Skrtel trying to pass it about like some sort of mutant Franz Beckenbauer? I see that Liverpool and Brendan Rogers have much to learn. What is essential in battle is victory, not prolonged passing operations. Speed is the essence of war. Too frequent rewards indicate that a General is at the end of his resources. With Carroll gone and no new strikers in to replace him, Liverpool and General Rodgers should expect to receive scant reward for his intricate tactics.”

Sun Tzu signed off with a final word of advice for all of the managers in the Premier League.

“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons and they will follow you into the deepest valley. But if your words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the General is to blame. AVB I’m looking at you – you won’t be able to fall back on the old ‘transitional period’ excuse forever.”

(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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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.)

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