Last on MOTD: Men with beards

BOLTON goalkeeper Jussi Jasskelainen has developed a mightly-impressive fisherman’s beard of late. I don’t know why. But Graham Taylor would be concerned.

Taylor (and his wife will back him up on this) once came up with a theory that a man who grows a beard is trying to deal with some kind of psychological trouble. (Well, Bolton are fighting relegation, so there may be something in it.)

The former England manager developed his theory when close friend of this blog Roy Keane started to develop an Oliver-Reed-in-Castaway look during his final weeks in charge of Sunderland.

“People may laugh at this and say it is absolutely silly, but he changed his personality when that beard was grown,” Taylor said (about Keane, not Reed).

“My wife will tell you the truth. When I saw the beard, I told her there were problems. I do think there is a psychological problem when people grow beards for no reason.”

I think Taylor meant to say “when men grow beards”, although if I do bump into any bearded ladies any time soon, I shall keep a careful eye out for psychological problems.

Perhaps Jaaskelainen’s thick beard is, on a subconscious level, intended to provide an extra layer of protection as Bolton bid to stay in the Premier League. Perhaps it is intended to send out the message to opposing forwards: You must not just beat me, you must beat my beard too. Perhaps he saw Adrian Chiles’ beard on Match of the Day 2 and thought: “That’s the look for me.” Or perhaps he’s just lost his razor.

Last night’s final match: West Ham 1 Bolton 2
Commentator: Steve Bower

Taylor would have had not one, not two, but three beards to analyse at Upton Park yesterday. West Ham had more beards than Bolton (two to one) but lost the match (two to one). Hmm, maybe there is something in Taylor’s theory.

At one stage, the match threatened to become a battle of the beards, as Jaaskelainen’s facial furniture took on the much wispier, distressed-1970s-tennis-star effort of West Ham’s Alessandro Diamanti.

The Italian midfielder, who most certainly did not have a beard when he joined West Ham from Livorno in August, troubled Jaaskelainen with a decent first-half free kick. But by then, the Hammers were already 2-0 down.

After the very much beardless Kevin Davies had risen magnificently to head in Lee Chung Yong’s cross, Jack Wilshere – who is barely old enough to shave – volleyed in a second.

In the stand, a second West Ham beard watched on. Co-owner David Gold has had a neatly-trimmed beard for as long as I can remember, so I don’t think he really fits into Taylor’s theory. Unless he’s permanently stressed out.

Admittedly, the underlying tone of many of Gold’s public pronouncements at Birmingham last season seemed to be: “Aaaaaaarrrrrggggh! We might not get promoted! Aaaaaaarrrrrggggh!” And the underlying tone of many of his public pronouncements since arriving at West Ham seems to be: “Aaaaaaarrrrrggggh! We’ve got no money! Aaaaaaarrrrrggggh!”

But then lots of other football club owners and chairmen spent a large chunk of their time thinking similar thoughts, and they don’t have beards. All I’ll say on the matter is that if Taylor’s beard theory does apply to club boards, then Manchester United are in deep, deep trouble.

West Ham were given hope when Bolton midfielder Tamir Cohen, who experimented with some pretty heavy stubble earlier this season, was sent off for two bookable offences.

And with two minutes to go, Ol’ Wispy Beard gave West Ham hope with a smart finish. There was even time for Junior Stanislas to hit the bar for the Hammers – but it would have seemed wrong, somehow, if a man with no beard had been allowed to have the last word in this relegation scrap.

Certainly as things stand, West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola is more likely to start experimenting with facial hair over the next few weeks than Bolton’s Owen Coyle.


1. Blackburn: 6 (GD: 1. 2L: 3.)
2. West Ham: 6 (GD: 1. 2L: 2.)
3. Portsmouth: 6 (GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
4. Stoke: 6 (GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
5. Everton: 5 (GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
6. Wigan: 5 (GD: 0. 2L: 3.)
7. Bolton: 4 (GD: 0. 2L: 7.)
8. Hull: 4 (GD: 0. 2L: 6.)
9. Fulham: 3 (GD: 0. 2L: 5.)
10. Aston Villa: 3 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
11. Gubba: 2 (GD: 2. 2L: 3.)
12. Wolves: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 7.)
13. Burnley: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 6.)
14. Birmingham: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 5.)
15. Tottenham: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
16. Arsenal: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
17. Liverpool: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
18. Sunderland: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 6.)
19. Manchester United: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
20. Chelsea: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
21. Manchester City: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)

GD = Gubba difference
2L = On second last (Last night’s penultimate match was: Wolves 0 Manchester United 1.)

(NB. Teams will receive one point for every time they appear last on MOTD. Appearances on MOTD2 are not included. Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference – the number of times a team is on last with Tony Gubba commentating. Teams still level will then be separated by the number of times they appear second last on MOTD.)


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