Mickey Blue Eyes
There is no way I should like 'Arry Redknapp.......But, so help me, I do.
I struggle to explain this. Probably the only explanation is the one he would least like: he has the look and sound of a music hall parody selling knock-off to mugs dahn the Old Kent Road. Or, if my memory serves, Danny Williamson and Slaven Bilić to Us.However, you cannot deny how good he is at it. Ergo, he has the (unintended) comic fascination of George Cole's Flash Harry in the old St. Trinians films. Not that he takes it lying down. Which is where it gets interesting.
Last year a hapless post-match TV interviewer bore the brunt when he told 'Arry, "You have a reputation as a wheeler-dealer." 'Arry went ballistic: "Fack orf, I'm a fackn football manager yer can'." Still, it was refreshingly different from dreary PR clichés such as, "We came here and did a professional job" or "I didn't see it." It has worthy status with an equally marvellous starburst years ago at Derby when Yer 'Ammers lost to County thanks to 'keeper errors. Stupidly, the interviewer asked him why his team was beaten. 'Arry did a complete purple-faced Krakatoa number, yelling, "I'll fackn tell yer why we lorst, ar fackn 'keeper cudna 'andled a fackn balloon t'dye, the useless fackn can'." Plainly, he would be lethal within the radius of your grandma's hearing aid and aorta valve, let alone an unfiltered mic.
Anyway, on Saturday said 'Arry showed up leading basket-case, inflation-ridden, manager-changing, new-ownered QPR, while trailing an employment record that must have tested the resources of his local job centre; it certainly left the Hampshire coast, the Inland Revenue, and Daniel Levy in uproar. The previous week the unfortunate Londoners leaked a last minute equaliser to Wigan, which apparently condemned them to relegation. 'Arry, it seemed, was distraught, twitching out of control, articulation gorn. Problem is you are never sure whether he is making a pitch for the next Premier League manager vacancy. Alarmed, you think, "Christ, it could be Us if Moyesy leaves." 'Arry has that kind of effect. Twitching can be contagious. We hoped it didn't transfer to Our Boys, not while we still chase Europe qualification. We hope too 'Arry doesn't transfer to Us. It would be too grotesque for words.
And the day started so well. Once again bright sunshine and even a hint of warmth as we headed into the pub for a pre-game libation and a chat, one eye on the Bagpipe Cup semi final between Hibernian and Falkirk. Sadly, Jock footy doesn't amount to much these days and Hampden Park was less than half full. We didn't expect much and Falkirk quickly raced into a 3-0 lead; amid all the slow paced near-comic mediocrity a Hibs player named Griffiths kept missing glorious opportunities in the sun. He even missed a penalty. We quickly dubbed him "Griff." Hibs looked doomed, but we stayed watching amid the ale house hubbub, god-awful acid house "music," and the din from a corner gang of drunks led by a guy dressed as a chicken. Up in Caledonia limbs tired and cramped up with tension. By the time we left for our own match Falkirk had imploded and it was 3-3. Outside, we were in a different climate: low grey scudding clouds, a cold wind and slanting rain. By the time we reached The Old Lady we were all soaked and bloody cold. No wonder the Swedes say, "If you don't like the English weather...wait a minute."
It was pleasant to have Felli and Peanuts back and naturally they were restored at the expense of Ross Barkley and John Heitinga. QPR had all kinds of extremely expensive lazy no-marks in their team paid for by enormous hikes in their season tickets and seat prices. You had to feel a twinge of sympathy for their few hundred fans who made the trip, huddled in the Lower Bullens corner stand, and now faced with the serious prospect of relegation despite bankrolled "investment." These days it could easily be almost anybody, including Us. Still, once the match starts you forget all that and want to do them by four or five goals; they turned out to be a pretty disparate bunch, individually fairly accomplished but quite useless as a team. They look done for.
The conditions were awful. So bad, neighbour Plewsy disappeared inside his insulated winter jacket, collar turned up high, only shaved head and eyes visible, surrounded by exhale vapour, looking like a poached egg with a couple of raisins. Crowd mood was desultory and shivering, waiting for an incident to spark annoyance and some warmth. Every now and then someone would shout a disgusting expletive or two in an attempt to enliven things. It didn't work. Dan pronounced himself "Bored," at which point I thought of suggesting he squeeze a pimple or two to make it interesting. But that might have provoked a monosyllabic adolescent incident or a stamp off to the toilets.
Out on the pitch the players struggled to conquer the weather, understandably without quite managing it, though you had to admire their efforts. The result was a first half of ordinary spectacle, limited features and not much flow. QPR had the first opportunity with a praiseworthy wide-angle shot from their left that had Tim sailing through the air toward the opposite post. Fortunately the shot whistled narrowly wide. And that was it, really, from the enemy, except for one more excellent save from Tim. They managed nothing else until the start of the second half.
By comparison we had good team structure and fluency that looked as though it would probably tell if we could keep it up, especially down our right where Coleman and SuperKev were doing as much damage as Bainsey and Peanuts at their best. Raids down that side led to near missed attempted headers from Fellaini and Vic, then a quick shot from Gibbo that ricocheted wide off Sylvain Distin.
Once again it was noticeable how monster-like Vic Anichebe was, this despite being mostly up against an even more gargantuan Chris Samba. Seamus Coleman also seems to have listened to Finch Farm since he now has the body shape and play of a mature football athlete - he times his wing raids much better these days. Felli made all the difference in midfield, a formidable duo with Darron Gibson. Pienaar looked a little ring rusty at wide left but every now and then still managed some fine combination play with Bainsey. Kevin Mirallas always looked likely without ever achieving the heights of previous weeks, though he occasionally switched left with effect, and the conditions eventually got to him toward the end. At centre back the Jags-Sylvain combo made sure nothing threatening developed. So we looked solid and confident enough.
Despite that, the first goal had a touch of luck about it five minutes before half time. Mirallas joined in a move on the left with Pienaar and Baines that gradually threaded across via a rebound to Gibbo twenty metres out, right of the D. He smacked it right footed first time and it took a large hit off one of theirs and flew in the corner opposite their 'keeper's dive. It was a well deserved lead nevertheless.
A few minutes into the second half a move developed well down our left when Peanuts stole the ball in a tackle five metres inside their half at centre left mid and stuck a peach of a pass through to Mirallas at the left edge of the penalty area. He got to the goal line, dribbled almost effortlessly past their full back and pulled it back into the centre where Vic killed it, turned beautifully, left Samba on his arse, and hit it against their left post and out. Would have been a cracking goal. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.
Then a spell of pressure brought a series of right side corners. QPR looked set to crack. From one corner Distin made a tremendous header that brought an equally tremendous save from their 'keeper high up on his right. A few minutes later from another corner Sylvain did exactly the same thing but this time headed it down and into the centre, where Vic had his back to goal and managed to flick it onward left footed and into the left side for 2-0. Never was a goal more deserved.
Later, there was a small period of ball possession from the enemy and Tim had to make another excellent save after they broke through into the right side of the penalty area. But they were never really in it after the tempo stepped up in the second half.
All in all, a good win welcome for its manner in difficult conditions. We are still well in with a chance of qualification for Europe. Moreover the team and Moyesy deserve high praise for the way they recovered from the Wigan debacle. Like many other fans I half expected the arse to fall out of them. But it hasn't. If they can keep this up in forthcoming games who knows what they can manage before the end of the season. It could go either way. Next up, Arsenal on Tuesday.
After the game I couldn't wait to get to the warmth of hearth and home. The Sports News was on when I arrived. Griff had scored a blinder in extra time and Hibs had won through to the Scottish Cup Final 4-3. Gosh. You never can tell.
In closing, like everyone else I cannot avoid mentioning the demise of our former football-hating woman prime minister, the one who wanted all fans to carry identity cards, or even - real flash of insight this - all matches to be played behind closed doors, available only on subscription TV, sole broadcast rights to go to Rupert Murdoch or Daily Mail TV. So let me choose my words carefully: Good riddance.
However, what remains true is how wretchedly (what passes for) the Left dealt with her arrival. Catastrophically, almost everybody fell for the media shell game of a personality cult and attacked her, not the issues. Justified anger and outrage are understandable, even temporarily cathartic, but wasted if not properly directed. The result was mistimed and misdirected heroic opposition that inevitably succumbed to neocon media propaganda and the strategy of divide et impera supervised by a corrupt kettling police force, secret and otherwise. The sad truth is the Left was far too easily outflanked, betrayed of course by Labour's Right, and the battle - but not the war - lost because of it. Too much of it was self inflicted naiveté, a gross underestimate of the establishment. The roots of this run very deep in British culture and are too lengthy to describe here.
Meanwhile, the real enemy will always be immoral capitalism; its establishment has shown it will not brook even parliamentary social democracy, resulting in the kind of ur-fascist Little Englander authoritarian society described long ago by Umberto Eco; we are well down the road to much, much worse. Thatcher was a baddy alright, really evil, but ultimately nothing more than a hired hand disposed of as soon as - believing the nonsense of her own thick-headed propaganda - she attempted interference in global power centres more important than her stunted corner shop mentality and the tragic Falklands ruritanian sideshow. Her days were numbered the moment she thought she could bluster the Americans too. But if the Left cannot come up with viable alternatives the outlook is bleak indeed. Somehow the demoralised scrum will have to sort itself into a coherent articulate force or it will deteriorate into a useless commotion managed by agents provocateurs and Sky TV. Or, worse, by Ed Miliband and co. Revolutions are never easy. They require a great deal more than mere anger.