ANY Premier League manager who has signed an African player over the last few years will have done so expecting to lose them for much of January and February. (Although to listen to some of those bosses, you’d think they had never heard of the African Cup of Nations.)
So imagine Arsene Wenger’s surprise and delight when Togo failed to qualify for the tournament, leaving Emmanuel Adebayor free to play for Arsenal.
Similarly, when I set up the Gubbometer back in August, I did so expecting that Match of the Day would lose Tony Gubba for much of January and February while he crossed over to ITV to throw together a series of random skating cliches on Dancing On Ice.
So imagine my surprise and delight when ITV decided to move their celebrity skatefest from Saturday to Sunday nights, leaving Gubba free to carry on doing the football on Saturdays at his spiritual home.
Today, Adebayor took advantage of his stay in England by scoring two headed goals in Arsenal’s 3-1 win at Fulham. And Gubba took advantage of his stay on Match of the Day by moving up to sixth on the Gubbometer.
Tonight’s final match: Portsmouth 3 Derby 1. Commentator: Tony Gubba.
Harry Redknapp has, of course, lost four players to the African Cup of Nations: Nigerian pair Kanu and John Utaka, Ghana’s Sulley Muntari and Senegal’s Papa Bouba Diop.
Without them, Portsmouth managed to score at home in a league game for the first time since September 29 (that crazy 7-4 win over Reading). Which was seven days after the last time Gubba commentated on the final game on MOTD (Reading’s not-so-crazy 2-1 win over Wigan). It’s been a long, long wait; for Portsmouth, for the Gubbometer.
“Well, they’ve both set about this game as if they want it to finish 10-10,” said Gubba after a paticularly exciting passage of play early on, when Derby still looked as if they had a reasonable chance of getting something from the game.
But even though Lewis Nyatanga gave them an early lead, Derby are starting to look as if they will never win again.
“You wait for one for weeks, and then three come along at the same time,” said Gubba as Benjani – another player who would have been lost to the African Cup of Nations, had Zimbabwe qualified – scored his hat-trick goal.
That hat-trick condemned Derby to another defeat, and it’s now one point from 13 games. At this rate, they’ll be mathematically down by March.
But look on the bright side, Derby fans. You’re now well clear at the top of the Gubbometer. And as relegation draws ever closer and your games become less and less important on a national scale, there’s a very good chance you’ll be last on MOTD most weeks between now and the end of the season. The Gubbometer is yours for the taking.
Unless Gubba makes a late run, of course.
1. Derby: 7 (Gubba difference: +1)
2=. Fulham: 5 (GD: +1)
2=. Reading: 5 (GD: +1)
2=. Wigan: 5 (GD: +1)
5. Birmingham: 4 (GD: 0)
6. Gubba: 3
7. Bolton: 3 (GD: +1)
8=. Aston Villa: 3 (GD: 0)
8=. West Ham: 3 (GD: 0)
10. Portsmouth: 2 (GD: +1)
11=. Chelsea: 2 (GD: 0)
11=. Sunderland: 2 (GD: 0)
11=. Millwall: 2 (GD: 0)
11=. Walsall: 2 (GD: 0)
15=. Everton: 1
15=. Middlesbrough: 1
15=. Newcastle: 1
15=. Bury: 1
15=. Workington: 1
15=. Huddersfield: 1
15=. Grimsby: 1
(NB. Where teams are level, positions are decided by Gubba Difference; the number of times a team is on Match of the Day last with Tony Gubba commentating.)