Rafa rage

I GENERALLY steer clear of blogging about the Premier League’s big four (which is not the same as the top four). Firstly, because everyone’s at it, and secondly, because I start to feel after a while as if I might as well be blogging about The X Factor.

If Wenger’s not having a pop at Fergie, then Fergie’s having a go at Rafa, or Chelsea, or referees, or Diana Vickers’ singing style and idiosyncratic hand gestures, and Rafa’s claiming it was all Big Phil’s fault that Laura White got voted off instead of that pub singer.

Well, I’m going to make an exception here by discussing Rafa’s verbal attack on Fergie, which I somehow ended up discussing live on Talksport this afternoon while sitting in a car park in Lancashire.

Benitez, getting all excited ahead of his team’s trip to Stoke tomorrow, was asked to respond to Ferguson’s comment that Liverpool might get nervous in the title run-in.

Benitez responded by claiming that Ferguson was “killing referees” (metaphorically, I assume), before pulling out a sheet of paper and reading a list of accusations regarding the Manchester United manager’s behaviour regarding referees, the Respect campaign and the Premier League fixture list.

Ferguson had said last week that he was going to send an observer to the drawing up of next season’s Premier League fixture list, having complained that United always get away games after travelling abroad for Champions Lea . . . Oh, what’s the point? We could keep going back further and further until we got all the way back to The Big Bang. And even then, someone will claim that should have been disallowed.

As regular readers of this blog will know, every so often I get asked to go on the radio. The producer will tell me it’s because they want an expert view on some footballing matter or other, but I suspect it’s actually because they haven’t managed to sell enough adverts or find a more respectable guest, and need someone to pad out two minutes of airtime.

Anyway, I had agreed to appear on Talksport this afternoon to discuss Manchester City’s attempts to sign Roque Santa Cruz from Blackburn.

It was the second week running I had appeared on the station. The previous Friday, I had guested on their evening show, phoning in live from the car park at Bolton Services, and doing a dodgy Cockney accent at Danny Kelly’s request (it’s too long a story, even for this blog), before getting into a heated discussion with Stan Collymore about City’s chances of signing Kaka.

(I’m now waiting for an invite on to George Galloway’s show to discuss whether the Israel-Palestine conflict hampered Kettering’s chances of getting their FA Cup fourth-round tie at home to Fulham televised live. It could happen.)

This time, I was introduced to hosts Paul Hawksbee and Andy Jacobs, and immediately asked for my views on Rafa’s rant. As I shared them with Talskport’s listeners, it’s only fair I share them with you. There are as follows:

“I don’t understand why Rafa is getting involved in this. Sir Alex has been playing these kind of mind games for years. I’m astonished that anyone is falling for them. Anyway, I’d have thought that Rafa would want to take it easy after his kidney stones. But perhaps Rafa is trying to play Sir Alex at his own game by using this row as a diversionary tactic to take the focus off his team.”

After waffling on a bit longer about United’s title chances, I was then asked about the Santa Cruz situation, the topic I had been invited on to discuss in the first place. Unfortunately, just as I was getting into full flow, technical gremlins intervened and I was cut off. At least, I think they were technical gremlins.

Big Phil is the one manager among the big four who seems to have kept his dignity amid the spats, rows and tantrums surrounding the title race. For goodness sake, he even wished the press a Happy New Year after his team had lost two points late on at Fulham a couple of weeks ago.

His reward? A slew of articles questioning whether he has a long-term future at Stamford Bridge after they only drew with Southend in the FA Cup. Perhaps Scolari would fare better if he joined the ruck. But I’m glad he hasn’t.


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