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Roker Ramble: Winter Is Coming

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A tale of ice and fire - and chewing gum.

Liverpool v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Looking like a cross between a French mime artist and a Milk Tray advert, Swansea’s Bob Bradley took his place on the touchline for his inaugural Premier League game this week. He could have chosen an easier fixture - Arsenal at The Emirates - but you know what they say about ‘when the going gets tough’... something to do with shopping I think.

Unfortunately his visit corresponded with the rebirth of Theo Walcott as an attacking force, a leap in form that the player attributes to a change in attitude. ‘Me and the Manager sat down and I’ve just looked at myself’, said Walcott. Well, as long as there was no touching involved. But it seems to be working - he has seven goals in all competitions this season, and he should have had a couple more. Personally, I think it’s more to do with the fact that he’s now playing centrally and isn’t injured all the time but I wasn’t in the room when he was looking at himself.

Not all are impressed though. The happy, smiley, eager to please Mr Roy Keane had this to say:

It's taken him a while to get settled at the club, hasn't it? Ten years? I wouldn't get carried away about Walcott.

I should point out at this juncture that the last time Roy said anything nice about Arsenal, Bobby Charlton had a fringe. He went on…

But the crunch games are coming up for them over the next few months, when the cold nights come in and we'll see half the Arsenal players with their gloves on.

Roy’s not one to pander to the namby-pamby modern day footballer as we know from his time on Wearside, when by all accounts he had them chewing gravel whilst naked in an ice-bath during the warm-up.

So, he must have been spitting blood to see Paul Pogba wearing gloves during the Liverpool – United game on Monday, and I have to agree with him; what’s that all about? Jose had already had them jumping around the hotel car park trying to keep warm – it’s late summer for God’s sake! The leaves are still on the trees, the clocks haven’t gone back and I’ve not got my jumpers out of the loft yet. What are they going to do in a couple of months time when you have to have the floodlights on for a lunch-time kick-off and clear the snow off the pitch to see the markings – wear heated underwear?

But at least he could run around. Rooney was perched on the bench dressed like Ranulph Fiennes crossing the Greenland ice pack. Wayne is waning. Waning Wayne has been dropped for his last four games for club and country, a point seemingly missed by Jose. “At Man United he didn’t lose his place. Not at all, for me, he’s first-choice.” When it was put to him that Rooney hadn’t started any of the last three games, the head coach said: “That’s my job. That’s a choice. I have 24 players.” Suck on that then Wayne.

Wayne is also in pain – to the tune of £3.5 million that the HMRC say he owes them after uncovering a tax avoidance scheme in which he was the highest investor. The scheme would have enabled him to avoid tax legally on his then £4 million annual salary at Manchester United for three years. It’s the fifth time in four years that he’s been investigated.

Morally I find it reprehensible that people like Rooney can successfully avoid paying tax, so in order to clamp down on these schemes can we at least pay the guys as much money to uncover them as the other guys are paid to think them up in the first place? And if we can’t, then the next time he gets a game maybe both sets of supporters can throw piggy banks at him as a protest?

Mike Phelan finally got the job as Hull City Manager, just in time to get tonked 6-1 by Bournemouth. Phelan - and the research has been exhaustive on this - since the demise of Big Sam, is the last of the great masticating English League managers. In a rich vein of history going back through Allardyce, Ferguson, Atkinson and beyond, Wrigleys have played a major role in the landscape of Saturday afternoons, but alas no more. Modern young managers are too cool to chew, too calculating to chomp frantically, and if they thought it would help, they’d probably have someone to do it for them.

Which Phelan doesn’t have. No sooner had he got the full-time job, that his backroom staff stood up and walked out to join Mr Bruce at Villa. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? The new slim Mr Bruce has lost weight whilst he’s been out of the game. Now that’s he’s back in it, we think he’ll find it again. Perhaps he should start chewing gum.

No chewing for Eddie Howe of course, he’s the man of the moment, the heir apparent for the tortuous journey into Mordor that is the England managers job. But is he? I have two concerns. First, the whole tracksuit thing with his backroom staff – really? When they all jump up to celebrate they look like something from a 1980’s kids TV series featuring Noel Edmonds.

Secondly, he’s only really been successful at Bournemouth. He was a player at Bournemouth, he was the league's youngest manager at Bournemouth, he’s been immensely successful at Bournemouth, and when things didn’t work out at Burnley he came back to Bournemouth. But what was wrong with Burnley? Not too cold was it?

Finally, the whole Ched Evans thing has been in the headlines (for what feels like forever), and I know that there are serious issues all over it, but surely there’s room for one small point that seems to have been totally missed.

Where did he get a name like ‘Ched’ from? Who else is called ‘Ched’? I thought it must be a nickname, but it’s short for ‘Chedwyn’. Is it me or is he the only person in the world called ‘Chedwyn’ and if so, isn’t it worth knowing why?