One would imagine that a good few pub conversations on Saturday night might have gone a little bit like this :
Bloke A – “Did you see today’s results?”
Bloke B – “Yeah. Henry got a hat-trick against Norwich didn’t he?!”
Bloke A – “Uhuh. Never does it against the big boys though does he?”
Bloke B – “Nah. Hey, did you see Bowyer lamp Dyer?”
Etc etc, repeat ad nauseum from Shepherds Bush to Bethnal Green.
Is this really fair? Here is a footballer who arrives on these shores in 1999 with his confidence shot after a horror season at Juventus, whereupon his new manager converts him from winger back to centre forward and hey presto, he starts to bang in goal after goal. He is the top scorer in the county in 2002 and 2004 as he rapidly zeroes in on his club’s all-time scoring record and he also sets up most of his team’s other goals. He is instrumental in capturing two Premiership titles and two FA Cup Final wins and is the first player in the country to be voted both PFA and Writers’ Player of the Year two seasons in a row. Not only that, but he also marries an Englishwoman, falls in love with our city and looks good in everything he wears, godammit! AND…he scores some of the most beautiful and stylish goals English football has ever seen.
And yet we still give him stick for supposedly disappearing against the ‘big boys’. Disappearing indeed. Is THIS disappearing? What about THIS ? And had you forgotten THIS ? Aye carumba, what else does he have to do? Make the Central Line run on time? Listen, Arsenal are schizophrenia in the shape of a football team. When they are good, they are a pure delight, but when they are bad, they really do suck big time. As a team, they are yet to work out how to translate Premiership rhapsody into European grit and until they do, their main man is still going to flonder on occasion. Having said all that, he really does need to produce it for ‘les bleus’ if he is going to go down as an all-time great…so, on second thoughts, I take it all back. Thierry Henry is completely overrated, let’s move on.
Now that spring is with us and winter is but a distant memory, our thoughts invariably turn to speculating on which London teams are going to be celebrating come May. We want trophies. We want champagne. We want players doing that funny dance that Waddle and Butcher performed at Italia ’90. Well, Barnet are going to clinch promotion to the League any weekend now, and Chelsea are going to claim their first championship since 1955 (with possibly the European Cup to boot), so that’s all good news. But who else?
Arsenal. With that waste of space Thierry Henry firing on all cylinders and the injury list starting to clear up, the Gooners are surely going to storm their way to the Millenium Stadium and gain sweet revenge on Manchester United by beating them in the FA Cup Final. Trust us, part two of the pizza party is most definitely ON. There’s also Brentford, whose promotion push is still going strong after Saturday’s win at Stockport. Providing they can secure a place in the top six, Martin Allen is exactly the kind of manager who’d actually enjoy the pressure and chaos of the play-offs. Don’t bet against them.
And finally there’s West Ham. ‘What!?!’ – we hear you cry, ‘West Ham?There’s no way they can pull this one off, they’re doomed…they’re the new Notts Forest!’ Maybe. But the romantic in us says that they can silence the doubters (mainly their own fans ) and win their place in the Premiership back. After all, they’ve got Teddy Sheringham, who was superb against the mighty Wigan Athletic on Saturday and despite being 39, is still so good that Michael Owen should be licking his boots. Teddy is a footballing God and is due one last hurrah. This could be it.
And what about the rest? How did they get on this weekend? Who cares. As Queen once sang, we’ve no time for losers. Ta ra.