THERE’S one question which every football journalist will be asked at some point in their careers. It is: Which team do you support? Well, I think it’s time I set the record straight.
I can reveal that all football reporters, including me, actually support the same team. And that team is: Your deadliest rivals.
That’s right. Your deadliest rivals. You hate them; I love them. Can’t get enough of them. In fact, my dream job would be to spend every Saturday and midweek watching your deadliest rivals, eulogising about how great they are.
And you know their star player? The one you hate more than any other living being? Well, he’s may favourite player. I would happily crawl on all fours across a field filled with broken light bulbs, gin traps and diseased pig manure just to scrape his boots clean with my finger nails.
Anyway, to the point. About 15 years ago, I was watching my favourite team, cheering on their every attack with a zeal that would make your skin crawl. The match itself, an early-season 3-0 win, was enjoyable enough. But what made the night stick in the memory was my encounter with Mr. Comically Unlucky.
Mr. Comically Unlucky was another fan, sitting in the seat in front of me that night. He missed the first goal, having turned up late (“I didn’t get away from work on time,” he said). Then, to beat the half-time rush, he went down to get a coffee a couple of minutes before the interval, and missed the second goal. With our team cruising at 2-0 throughout a tepid second half, he decided to leave just before the end (“I’m going to head off to beat the traffic”). Once he was safely out of the ground, the team went and scored a late third.
I had forgotten all about Mr. Comically Unlucky’s uncanny knack of missing all the best bits of our team’s matches. And then Gareth Bale came along.
Tonight’s final match: Everton 0 Tottenham 0
Commentator: Alistair Mann
Gareth Bale joined Tottenham from Southampton for an initial payment of £5million in May 2007. Two years on, he has still not appeared on the winning side for Spurs in a Premier League game.
It’s quite an achievement. Since Bale joined Tottenham, they have won 24 Premier League games, and have failed to win 50. Of the 24 wins, Bale has played in none. Of the 50 games not won, Bale has played in 23.
Now I know a little bit about statistics and probability, as I have an A-level in Maths. And statistical analysis does allow for seemingly unlikely bunchings of events. Nonetheless, Bale could be forgiven for wondering if he is cursed.
I should point out that the 19-year-old has been on the winning side for Tottenham in cup games. Indeed, he has featured in 17 cup matches for Spurs, of which they have won 10. So it’s not as if his appearance on the team sheet sends his dressing room colleagues into the slough of despond. And it’s not as if he’s rubbish, either.
But in the Premier League, it just hasn’t happened for him. Today’s goalless draw at Everton was, as I stated earlier, his 23rd consecutive winless league appearance. It is the longest any player has ever had to wait for their first Premier League win.
His closest rival in that respect is Giles Barnes, who is still waiting for his first victory, having played 21 games during Derby’s hopeless campaign last season. By my reckoning, Rangers striker Kenny Miller holds the overall record, having played 29 consecutive Premier League games without a win in the same Derby side – but of course, he had experienced victory in top-flight matches before.
Bale is getting closer and closer to Miller’s record, after today’s 0-0 draw at Everton. And that was despite whipping in an early free kick which missed Everton keeper Tim Howard’s crossbar by about an inch. “The look on his face is one of immense disappointment,” said Alistair Mann. No, I think that’s just his natural look these days, Ally.
Other highlights? Well, there weren’t that many. Tottenham keeper Heurelho Gomes almost embarrassed himself by trying to dribble around Jo roughly 15 yards from his own goal, while Dan Gosling hit the post for Everton in the second half. And there was no win bonus for poor Gareth.
Bale did break one duck tonight, though. It was the first time he has ever featured in a game which has been last on Match of the Day. And although Tottenham have no chance of finishing top of the Gubbometer this season, Bale’s debut appearance on it has thrown the race to finish top wide open.
Had their game against Aston Villa been on last, Fulham could have effectively secured the Gubbometer’s imaginary trophy. (I haven’t had one made. Can you imagine me trying to persuade any Premier League club to allow me to present it to them?) And with the game having no impact on the title race or the relegation battle, there was a fair chance it might have been on last had it finished 0-0.
But it didn’t. Fulham won 3-1, and it was a very good game.
And so, with two weekends of the season to go, there is still a chance that Wigan could snatch the imaginary trophy at the death. You can be assured that I will do my very best to remain neutral. It should be fairly easy, as I don’t support either team. Honest.
1. Fulham: 9 (GD: +1; CD: +1)
2. Wigan: 8 (GD: 0; CD: +2)
3. West Brom: 7 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
4=. Middlesbrough: 7 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
4=. Bolton: 7 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
6. Capello: 5 (GD: +1; CD: +5)
7. West Ham: 5 (GD: +1; CD: +2)
8. Arsenal: 4 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
9. Blackburn: 4 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
10. Gubba: 3 (GD: +3; CD: +1)
11. Tottenham: 3 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
12=. Newcastle: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
12=. Hull: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
12=. Stoke: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
15=. Aston Villa: 2 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
15=. Portsmouth: 2 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
17=. Everton: 2 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
17=. Sunderland: 2 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
18. Manchester City: 1 (GD: +1; CD +1)
20=. Chelsea: 0
20=. Liverpool: 0
20=. Manchester United: 0
(NB: Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference: the number of times a team is last on Match of the Day with Tony Gubba commentating. If they are still level, they will be separated by Capello difference: the number of times a team is last on MOTD with Fabio Capello present.)