STARTLING statement of the week, on Match of the Day, from Les Ferdinand on Nicolas Anelka.
“He’s a great signing for Chelsea,” Ferdinand said. “I’m really surprised that Bolton let him go.”
I imagine the £15m transfer fee and Anelka’s desire to move to a club in the Champions League might have had something to do with it, Les.
Ferdinand’s statement came during the discussion on tonight’s final game on Match of the Day, where the programme’s editor made a rather smart move: the day’s two live BBC games were put on at the end of the show, after the goals round-up.
After all, who can complain about being last on MOTD when the BBC have already shown their match live?
So after watching Middlesbrough stutter past a Mansfield side who may well be in the Conference next season, the show was rounded off with Anelka-inspired Chelsea’s not-so-inspiring win at Wigan.
Last night’s final match: Wigan 1 Chelsea 2.
Commentators: John Motson and Mark Lawrenson
Inevitably, when a 90-minute match is edited down to just over two-and-a-half minutes, things get left out. Nonetheless, I was a little disappointed that all of Mark Lawrenson’s bon mots hit the cuting room floor.
My favourite came in the second half, when Jason Koumas’ rather tame free kick was easily held by Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.
“Like page three of the Beano,” Lawrenson said. “Easily read.”
Cue several seconds of silence from Motson, presumably too baffled to respond.
Whether page three was the easiest section of the Beano to read is open to debate, I feel. As a child of the 1980s, I seem to remember that page three was generally the home of Rodger the Dodger or Calamity James, neither of which I particularly enjoyed. I was always more of a Bash Street Kids fan. Then I discovered Viz, Billy the Fish, Buster Gonad, Sid the Sexist and Top Tips, and Dennis the Menace never seemed quite the same.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Lawrenson got a Viz reference into one of his commentaries before the end of the season. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it went completely over Motty’s head.
Lawrenson’s commentaries are increasingly coming to resemble the missing link between Les Dawson and Geoffrey Boycott: he seems permanently perched on the precipice of exasperation.
I haven’t forgotten his comment on Steve Bennett’s over-officious refereeing during last month’s Carling Cup quarter-final between Manchester City: “This referee can’t wait to get his cards out. It’s like a toaster; they keep popping up.”
By comparison, Motty seems to have resigned himself to playing the straight man, chuckling along at Lawrenson’s asides, not always sure whether he is the brunt of them.
Motty sounded as if he was been strangled when Anelka gave Chelsea the lead, his voice just about holding out.
Anelka then set up Shaun Wright-Phillips for the second, before Antoine Sibierski pulled one back for Wigan. Sibierski’s goal, a turn and shot from the edge of the box, was a mini-miracle given that all the JJB Stadium pitch needs to turn it into an allotment is a few carrots in the goalmouth and a shed by the corner flag.
Chelsea boss Avram Grant seems to be getting chirpier in his post-match interviews, even though it not always clear exactly what he’s saying. (Even so, his English is still a lot better than my Modern Hebrew.) But what he seemed to be saying, with the appropriate diplomacy and caveats, was: “Who would have thought we’d cope without Jose Mourinho as well as this? Who’s the Special One now? Eh?”
I think you should be thanking Bolton for letting Anelka go, Avram.
1. Derby: 7 (Gubba difference: +1)
2. Wigan: 6 (GD: +1)
3=. Fulham: 5 (GD: +1)
3=. Reading: 5 (GD: +1)
5. Birmingham: 4 (GD: 0)
6. Gubba: 3
7. Bolton: 3 (GD: +1)
8=. Aston Villa: 3 (GD: 0)
8=. Chelsea: 3 (GD: 0)
8=. West Ham: 3 (GD: 0)
11. Portsmouth: 2 (GD: +1)
12=. Sunderland: 2 (GD: 0)
12=. Millwall: 2 (GD: 0)
12=. 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.)