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Roker Ramble: The China Syndrome; Christmas Football Is Confusing!

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Christmas and China, beards and balls - Happy New Year!

Arsenal v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Football at Christmas confuses me.

For most of the year it’s easy - Saturday is footie day, I structure my week around it, things get done when they should, I’m in more-or-less the right place at the right time.

I know when and where I’m going to watch the game and that in turn dictates whether or not I’ll be watching Match of the Day that week and how much I’m going to drink. It’s a sort of weekly circadian rhythm, it’s nature and there’s a price to be paid when it’s messed with.

Christmas Day is bad enough because that's when the days of the week become irrelevant. Then bank holidays kick in as well and I am all lost at sea - only recourse to the Radio Times gives me some idea of what day it should be back in the real world.

If only the match was at 3.00pm on the Saturday of Christmas week, I'd be fine. It'd be the lighthouse that the churning sea of festivities would break against. I could fix on that one point and everything else would drop into place around it.

But it’s not like that. There are matches on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and the day after, and just when you think that the football is over, they start again, and you don’t know if it’s the first lot of games finishing or the second lot starting. And you can’t watch MOTD when you want to because ‘it’s Christmas’ and people want to watch Downton bloody Abbey or something. But then the programme isn’t on at a regular time anyway, so you’re not sure which games are covered in which episode, or which ones are on MOTD2, then the repeats at 0730 the next morning are recorded as well, so you soon have eight unwatched episodes and you don’t know where the game is that you don’t want to watch, and your Fantasy Football team is two weeks out of date and you’re dropping points faster than Newcastle – and it really doesn’t do me any good at all.

So it was good to see Messrs Klopp and Guardiola in a similar state after their Christmas as well.

Jürgen was livid that his team had to play twice in forty-eight hours - strange then that he basically picked the same team that had beaten Manchester City to play at the Stadium of Light. Wouldn’t a few pairs of fresh legs have made a difference? It did to us.

He was also furious that the referee had given a free kick that led to our second penalty and I agree with him, it probably wasn’t a free kick. But what about the previous handball with Emre Can – which Stevie Wonder was furious about by the way - is he so blinkered that he can’t see that justice was done? Where’s all the hugging gone now, bonny lad?

Guardiola, I think is suffering from FSAD – Football Seasonal Affective Disorder. He was distraught that they had beaten Burnley at the weekend (oops – sorry, there I go again). And I concur, there’s nothing worse at Christmas than beating Burnley, I hate it, I couldn’t have been happier with our performance at Turf Moor and if I ever find out which MOTD it’s on, I’ll sit through it all again.

Pep's now making noises about retirement and could do worse than look east to the ‘Ping An Chinese Football Association Football League ‘– or ‘Chinese Super League’ as people with less time on their hands like to call it. Their season starts in February or March and ends in November or December so has the dual benefits of pretty much fitting in with whenever you can make it, as well as guaranteed Christmas holidays.

Currently home to Filipe Scolari, Sven-Göran Eriksson and Manuel Pellegrini, I think Guardiola will fit right in, and he can have his pick of players if current trends continue. Hot on the heels of Oscars move to the mystic east comes news of Carlos Tevez, being forced away from family, friends and all he holds dear to ply his trade in the fleshpots of Shanghai for a meagre £625,000 a week.

Forget Syria, forget the homeless, this is how modern day footballers have to prostitute themselves in order to earn a living; crossing continents, uprooting their loved ones, continually having to move to follow paid work. It’s like 'The Grapes of Wrath' with air miles.

And it’s not just the players. News this week that the tattooed man in black himself, Mark Clattenburg would be willing to give it all up to lend his assistance to the worthy cause.

If an opportunity came along I am contracted to the Premier League but I have to look at the long-term strategy of my career,” Clattenburg said.

There is no offer on the table but if they made an offer it would be under consideration.

So at least that clarifies it, he wouldn’t be going for the money, but for the ‘long-term strategy of his career’. A career that currently involves refereeing the top games in the world, but jacking it all in to work in a country where they bribe referees to fix the coin-toss. Shrewd career move – and so unselfish.

So, if he wants guaranteed referee decisions in his favour, China’s probably the place for Jürgen as well, and he can agree in advance how the match is going to go before it even starts.

Well, they’re taking the managers, the players and the referees – who’ll be next? The journalists and the pundits? No loss according to Zlatan –

I came to the Premier League and everyone thought it would not be possible but like always I make them eat their balls.

‘Footballs’ – we’re pretty sure he means ‘footballs’.

Arsène Wenger described Olivier Giroud’s spectacular ‘scorpion’ goal as ‘a work of art’. And for sure it was something to see, but in the outpouring of love that was the goal celebration, did anyone else just think – ‘the man looks like a smurf’.

‘Swarthy’ – is a good look for a footballer – think Diego Costa, ‘unshaven’ – fine, but it stops short of looking like an extra in ‘The Revenant’. And some beards do work – Zlatan’s is ok, I think anything that defines the jaw line you can probably get away with as a professional sportsman. But unless you’re cutting logs, a beard that reaches down to the chest just looks like you’re auditioning for a Ray Mears bush craft course. Or living in Islington.