Well, that Friday feeling is back as we all nestle in the pre-match glow of expectation and foolhardy over-optimism regarding our special transfer picks that no one else has made…this is our week! Ostentatious rivalry in a digital game has us gripped to a frenzy. For me, it used to be marbles addiction, morning, noon and night.
A heady week for some, a headscratcher for others (that’ll be me then) saw The Mighty Beck brothers – Chris and Michael – jostling for top dog on 97 points, with Jelica (91) leading the chasing pack. Week one of February and its these three folks at the MoTM leaderboard. Overall, Michael has edged in front again (1,391 points) with Nick (1,383) and Mr. Wright (1,358) in hot pursuit.
I thought Ødegaard and his Arsenal mate Gabriel were looking jaded, and Arteta would pick them for cryotherapy chamber duties ahead of the game v Liverpool, but the machine wasn’t working apparently and so it proved, they were pants, but my saviour Jota would score six…. .Alas not. I bagged five points from five players from the Arsenal v Liverpool game as my tactics went awry, leaving a wholesome 23 points on the bench.
Arsenal got all giddy jiggly excited about their deserved victory over Liverpool, who were surprisingly lethargic. Having been part of a side that on at least one occasion reduced one of the world’s best goalkeepers and elegant, authoritative centre-halves to the status of epically hungover Sunday League cloggers, they were within their rights to celebrate a victory that will almost certainly be crucial to the outcome of the title race. Admittedly, only in so far as it will increase City’s margin of victory over Liverpool but crucial, nonetheless. Date for your diary: Etihad, 19 May to watch City celebrate their latest Premier League trophy-lift.
Arsenal’s final whistle celebrations introduced a Schrödinger’s cat of complexity into ‘we’ve won, now let’s get the tunnel for a nice hot shower’. If the only time certain players hit the target is when they are throwing darts, then they will never hit the (goal) target and so will never throw darts and will never hit the (darts) target. Are they both throwing and not throwing darts at the same time? Maybe I’m over analysing all of this.
Still, I now have evidence of what blathering looks like. I would have thought that the definition of blathering was adequately met by Gabriel Jesus saying more-or-less that he would henceforth try to score some goals in the post-match interview. Well not score in the post-match interview, rather on the pitch, but he blathered on and on so you could get to that conclusion from his blathering words.
The January transfer window was quiet, agents’ phones buzzed with less frequency than a hermit’s doorbell, the final tallies are in. After three consecutive record-breaking January spends on the bounce, financial outlay is way down. With a combined outlay of just £100m, Premier League teams spent £715m less than in the 2023 winter window. Including Chelsea and Big Jim’s United. Spare a thought for the Sky Sports News reporters strategically placed on grass verges outside training grounds the length and breadth of the country. And of the fabulously wealthy Saudi owners of Newcastle, whose bottomless reserves of wealth mean they have enough money to tempt any player on the planet to St James’ Park, but instead had to settle for loading Javier Manquillo into a crate plastered with the address of Celta Vigo’s Estadio de Balaídos.
It was a deadline day so quiet and dull that the only transfer announcement to pique even the slightest bit of interest involved a Formula One driver moving from one vroom-vroom team to another. Palace emerged as the surprise big spenders bringing Adam Wharton from the wastelands of Blackburn for £23.5m. Wharton is good, we’ve watched him from over the hill in Burnley, but I suspect the vast majority of you would admit that if, a week ago Wharton had walked into your kitchen in full kit, put the kettle on and made himself a cup of tea and set out a nice plate of biscuits, you wouldn’t have had the foggiest who he he was. So, £23.5m for an 18-year-old. Funniest non-transfer was at West Ham, who tried to ship Benrahma off to Lyon, only for the deal to collapse because somebody lost the WIFI password.
Alan Oakes was a stalwart for City, from his debut in 1959 until he left for Chester in 1976, playing 676 games. Overall, Oakes had an amazing City career and is the clubs’ record appearance holder. Until the more recent successes of the last decade, he was also City’s most decorated player winning the European Cup Winners Cup, League Championship, FA Cup, two League Cups and the Second Division Championship.
My friend, a City fan of some 50 years, recently took a hike to the top of Stoodley Pike, above Todmorden in West Yorkshire (it used to be in Lancashire, but we gave it to the Tykes in the 1974 boundary reorganisation) and sent me the photo above which maybe the oldest piece of football graffiti in existence. As Oakes left City in 1976, this inscription must be at least 48 years old, if not longer. Not bad going for something that sits 1,300 feet above sea level, fully exposed to the unforgiving Pennine weather.
My mum’s BFC mug It’s a dismal, dark and cold February morning as I scribble this update. I’m at my mum and dad’s house in a state of quiet panic. Liverpool away, followed by Arsenal at home Burnley will most likely lose to both these top of the table glory chasers. The writing is on the wall. I’m staring at a BFC mug, wondering how I can make the situation right again.
This mug, you see, is magic. My mum, despite not being a football fan, but Burnley being the family’s default club, she’d get the mug out at 2.55pm on a Saturday and, a few hours later, turn on Final Score to see the result. This started season 2022/23 when I bought it for my dad.
And something remarkable happened; Burnley under Vincent Kompany embarked on one of the greatest seasons in our history. While playing the sort of football we provincial club supporters can literally only dream of, we romped to the Championship title. The mug powered so many comebacks and late winners that it’s hard to keep count. Any of them in isolation would have been memorable in a normal season yet that year they just kept on coming. It was the season of seasons.
Our subsequent dismal failure in the Premier League can also be attributed to the mug. With kick-off times frequently moving away from the traditional Saturday 3pm slot, my mum often fails to realise Burnley are playing. Consequently, the mug remained in the cupboard, unused for her cup of tea. During our phone calls, I’d often hear her exclaim, I didn’t know Burnley were playing on Sunday!
In an attempt to change Burnley’s luck, I now call my mum on the morning of a match, and I feel a great sense of pressure with this responsibility. The stakes are high. So far, we’ve had two home draws and a narrow defeat (i.e. conceded less than five) to City. I’ll remind her for tomorrow.
Fan of the week award went to a Bolton Wanderers fan who flew 8,000 miles to an abandoned game Andy Bebbington said his trip was a nightmare, coming over from China to see his favourite team play, only for the game to be abandoned after just a few minutes. Teacher Andy and other Bolton fans only saw nine minutes of the League One game at Cambridge, heavy rain caused a waterlogged pitch, with the game called off.
It was a bit of a nightmare to be honest, said Mr Bebbington, I have been teaching English in China for the last five years – this time of the year is the Chinese New Year, so you get two weeks off. I looked at the fixture list and this popped up I thought Cambridge in February what could go wrong – it was just my luck. Mr Bebbington, who is based in the city of Suzhou, 30 minutes away from Shanghai, decided to look on the bright side because he’s got a ticket for Wanderer’s away match at Northampton on Saturday.
Blue cards Referees currently give out red and yellow cards for offences during games, now a trial sin-binning players and issuing blue cards will be announced on Friday by IFAB. Sin-bins have been used at grassroots level for dissent, but their use could be extended to cynical fouls as part of a trial. A player would spend 10 minutes in the technical area after being given a blue card. It is not yet clear when the trial will start and which competitions it will involve.
The Premier League has already ruled out being part of the initial trial. IFAB (International Football Association Board) is keen for trials at higher levels of the game. Sin-bins were piloted in 2018-19, with the Football Association reporting a 38% total reduction in dissent across 31 leagues. They were introduced across all levels of grassroots football from the 2019-20 season in an attempt to improve levels of respect and fair play. The rule change was then implemented up to step five of the National League system and tier three and below in women’s football.
This Weekend if you’re tempted by any Liverpool defenders ahead of their home game against Burnley on Saturday and then their double gameweek 25 which sees a trip to Brentford and a home fixture against Luton then think again. Burnley are about to embark on a goal fest, to date 24 goals in 23 games, and we’ve been somewhat goal shy, but Virgil, Trent and Allison have confessed to doing extra training this week.
Instead, look at Alfie Doughty of Luton. He’s got a home fixture against Sheffield United, his team will play two fixtures in each of gameweek 25 and 28, and his form is excellent having produced five attacking returns along with two clean sheets in the last six games – he’ll cost you just £4.6m.
Fancy a new striker? Toney is the more sensible pick, but Nunez has the better fixtures in the next two gameweeks. And despite the fact there’s more chance of rotation in that Liverpool frontline with the Carabao Cup final on the way and Salah coming back to fitness, a bet on the Uruguayan may be worthwhile when he turns all those expected goals into actual goals!
In Manchester, Højlund looks to have found his shooting boots, whilst Pep has shrugged off Spanish media reports that The Viking wishes to ditch Manchester City for Real and is unhappy living in the cold, wet and windy Mancunian climate. Erling started City’s win at Brentford on Monday, I think it’s time to give him the captaincy back for City’s home game against Everton.
Congratulations if you went with Phil Foden or Ollie Watkins last week but Erling’s had another game under his belt and those goals are surely just around the corner. Jota and Nunez are both good captaincy options against Burnley, as is Richarlison for Spurs’ home game against Brighton.
Other City shouts for Rodri, Bernardo, and Doku, but if you’re looking for an in-form striker who won’t break the bank then you could consider Brentford’s Neal Maupay, who’s scored three goals in his last three games. Wissa will provide competition for his spot when he’s available again after international duty, but Maupay’s looked like a player reborn since linking up with Toney on his return.