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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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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.)

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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.)

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