Why we watch football

At half time, I thought what everyone probably thought…Chelsea are the only team to challenge Milan here. I waited through half time though, even as the clock lumbered past 4.30am. 3-0 against Milan. The game was as near as over but I stayed. Most of the Liverpool fans, those dedicated bunch who sent most of the first half deriding their players, repeating the same chants, pissed beyond remission, left at half time. The game was over right?

But then Benitez showed tactical nous and when Gerrard flicked in their first in the 54th minute, I had this funny feeling the game had turned and Liverpool would win. I didn’t whether to believe what happened over the next 10 minutes but Milan fell apart and apart from Shevchenko, Milan seemed at a loss. When they introduced the Danish TV Presenter Tomasson, THEY WERE NEVER GONNA SCORE.

I dashed to work and caught the penalties which went in and didn’t and Liverpool Football Club get to keep the European Cup. Thinking it over, I’m glad Liverpool beat Chelsea. The fairytale of a former great club returning to glory is far superior to a bought fantasy built on dodgy Russian oil deals with a chairman who would have bought one team or another as a play thing. That’s why we watch football.

The season coming and gone

The season coming and gone

So another season has rolled by. From a distance (as they all tend to be these days), it seemed quite a boring season. Chelsea, with its defence first, clean methodical approach, walked away with the league. Sure they looked good as the season wore on but even from this far away I could hear I was the only who wanted Liverpool to beat them in the Champion’s League semi. Considering how arrogant (and openly racist) Chelsea fans are, a dynasty is really not a pleasant thought.

Arsenal played like defensive children, missing Campbell and more importantly Gilberto Silva, a player I rate highly. He allows Vieira more forward space to play in. As usual, they need a defender and a goalkeeper. They still play the best football in the Premiership though.

Man U….I dunno. I haven’t been convinced of them defensively since the replaced Stam with a mix of Rio and Silvestre (a player who still looks like a slightly better Traore to me). The midfield looks okay though they got to replace them soon. Giggs, 31, Scholes, 30, Keane, 33. And if you buy players who play for the world cup winners, like Kleberson, stop playing them against WBA only. Upfront United need like but consistency from Van Nist and anything from Saha or maybe the old Ole back. Though looking at La Liga top goalscorers and seeing Forlan is no surprise to anyone. To survive in the Premiership, he just needed to be played and get a haircut.

Rooney looks truly special but they need a leader at the back, a goalkeeper and a future Keane. Easy eh? But its going to be more difficult for united to attract the glamour players to them. In the past, it was Arsenal or Man U with Chelsea third (if you wanted wages and a nice lifestyle with little hope of consistency) But now with Mourinho, times have changed there.

Relegation: well I got 2/3. Who couldn’t? Congrats to WBA to struggle next year.

Then onto the circus known as NUFC. The great thing back about Newcastle are the many facets that make up our season. The season started badly when Solano was no longer there. A team player loved by players and fans alike and one of the best crosser in the game. Sold because…he kept disappearing off to a country Bobby had never heard of to play for his country. An achievement that Bobby and other managers have always lauded as the highest point in a player’s career. Then Bobby was sacked after a few games, genius Freddie, we got rejected by a plethora of decent managers and ending up (there’s no other verb for it) with Souness.

We lost Bellamy, one of our few effective creative players, arsehole is apt, had under-performing and overpaid talents such as Dyer, Jenas, Bowyer, Robert and Butt. That’s called our entire midfield folks. The defence conceded 57 goals in 38 league games, only Boumsong escapes criticism. He must wonder why he joined. The rest of us wonder how long he’ll stay. There’s even talk that Given has played his last game for us to raise funds. Raise funds? This is NUFC, a team who gets 53,000 week in, week out. What happened? But Shay, a great keeper, I can only wish him luck.

Upfront, Shearer’s days are numbered, Kluivert, great touch but no motivation. Then we’re down to Ameobi (not good enough) and Chopra (first division). Massive investment is needed especially in motivation. I’m willing to give Souness next season, allow his the pre-season to make the changes he wants and hope that it makes the difference. 14th is not good enough. Ever. As Everton showed, it doesn’t take amazing money or talent to build a team but tactics, organisation, discipline and belief. We had none and that’s been true for three or four years.

Where do the fundamental problems lie? Fingers can get pointed everywhere. Our team is full of so many different or indifferent elements, from the racists (Bowyer) to the fighters (Bowyer) to the car racers (Jenas, Dyer) to the pure lazy (Butt, Ameobi, Babayaro, Robert, Kluivert) to the disruptive (Robert, Bowyer, Dyer and dare I say Shearer). Our board, full of classic fat capitalists from a by-gone era. God, is there a benefactor out there for us? Please. The ground and facilities have moved on light years but board is too high profile, too old style, too interfering and arrogant. But also even the faithful have to take some flak. We seen some great days over the last 13 years, nay 20 years when Keegan saved us from relegation. But this is the low. And it’s been spiralling for a 5 years at least. We need to be more critical, less taken-in by signings and more demanding. For years now, we’ve virtually got nothing out of a player like Dyer. You wonder what Ferguson or Arsene would do with him but the lack of interest from the top managers is no accident.

If Souness can show real motivation skill coupled with a tactical nous, then we can improve. But there’s a long way to go. The best we can hope for are a few solid signing (by the manger, not the board), a good defensive system, a new striker, and a good start to the season. I hope we aren’t selected for the Intertoto Cup. Let’s focus on the league and move on up to our rightful place and give Sunderland a couple of thrashings on the way

“I wanna make a white gang”

…said the bespectacled guy I was playing pool with the other night. I acted as if I didn’t hear him. He moved away from his shot, intensely looked at me, while holding his cue tight. “We gotta stop these Koreans fucking with us.” I didn’t quite know what to say.

He was a university teacher, round glasses sat on his mouse-like face. I know he’d been drinking alone but he obviously been thinking in a vacuum too. While I have reservations about certain facets about Korean society, I couldn’t find the need for a gang. The only street violence I’ve seen is usually carried out by the Kiwis but even that is rare. The occasionally paralytic drunk fight between older Koreans which usually descends into torrents of tears and beating of the ground by both men, concluding with them staggering away arm in arm.

But the more I looked at his rodent features, his forearms protruded out of shirt like balloons. He worked out. And gave him a false sense of power and importance in a foreign land. But he clearly thought he wasn’t getting the respect he deserved here, the respect he wouldn’t never receive at home. It’s a common theme amongst ex-pats. Guys getting laid a lot, getting paid well, able to get drunk nightly, all without the mortgage, responsibility. Living selfishly, mostly in transition but slowly excluded from their homeland’s everyday culture. Left floating, somewhere.

Sun? Smile? Seoul?

After a week or so in Phuket and a quick though thorough beer with Tom and Christine and a run-in with a lovely, we made it to Bangkok airport for the midnight flight. Just. Last call etc. Both Christine and I, though tired, were apprehensive about going back to Seoul. We left it in winter, crisp and depressing, having spent a year and a packet, trying to enjoy ourselves. For me, it was the city and the people, for Christine, her job and the city. We just could find a lot to do here except drink. And we tried and tried to find stuff to do. So we consoled our souls with the thought we’d see some friends and only be back for a five weeks at best. I left, vowing to be back soon.

Arriving at 7am in Seoul, the expected happened. We waited and waited and waited while immigration had one gate open for foreigners and ten, yes ten for Koreans. Sure there were more Koreans, naturally as few foreigners come to Seoul, but not that many. It took 50 minutes to get through. 45 minutes waiting in the one line, then 5 minutes when the fat controller waited until the Korean lines were completely empty and then he changed one gate to foreigners. Just one though. “Have to remind foreigners that they are outsiders, don’t we?” Christine and I along with the other foreigners wondered why we had come to Korea in the first place.

Getting back and meeting Dave proved a sea change. Not only that but we had brought the weather with us to Seoul and basked in 30C, drinking beer, sambucca and tequilas from lunch till 4am Sunday. I managed to see everybody I wanted bar two and felt good about Seoul for the first time in five years (when I came for a visit).

The mood continues. I beg it not to stop. Please. Work is a breeze and the warm weather continues to raise my spirit, though interestingly not those who are in the situation I was a few months back. I think I’ll go outside now and enjoy myself. Why? Cos I feel like I can. Laters….