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Roker Ramble: Go on, own up - which players can you really not stand at all?

In today’s Roker Ramble: Which players cause the mist to descend for you? Neymar gets in a food fight, the most stupid question ever, Shearer fronts up and Southgate talks out of his trousers.

Middlesbrough v Stoke City - Premier League
Just a quick smack in the mouth......
Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

Do you have a player, who, for whatever reason, makes you want to punch them in the face should the opportunity arise? Who only has to appear in your line of sight and your blood boils and thoughts stray to the infliction of pain? Who turns your stomach and twists your insides just by their very presence on the pitch?

I do, and I’ve felt a terrible guilt about it for some time. So much so that I’ve not shared this information with anyone until now.

My bête noire is Xherdan Shaqiri of Stoke City, and not just because he doesn’t have a ‘u’ after the’ q’ in his surname - although were I not the placid, even-tempered, understanding possum that I am, this would surely be enough.

No, what makes me want to wreak violence is his manner of ‘Germanic pomposity’, and, yes I know he’s Swiss, but it’s a personality trait rather than a nationalistic one.

When he scores, he adopts this arrogant Prussian preening pose, and struts about the pitch consumed with self-importance, similar to the way that Eric Cantona did from time to time.

The difference was that Cantona had style, had class, and although it came across as arrogant of course, you could buy into it. With Shaqiri it just comes across as smug, overbearing egotism and I really want to punch him in the face. Or at least throw a bucket of water over him.

Switzerland v Poland - Round of 16: UEFA Euro 2016
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

And, not usually prone to such feelings, I've felt guilty about letting my emotions get the better of me. However, events this week have changed my mind.

World Cup playoffs, part one - Northern Ireland at home to Switzerland and our little chappie. The Swiss were the better team but it was 0-0 deep into the second half when the referee gave the Swiss a penalty for nothing.

You’ve probably all seen it, read about it - it was a disgrace. And, having now played part two and drawn 0-0, it’s knocked Northern Ireland out of the World Cup.

However, straight after the first leg when the world’s sympathy was with the distraught Irish players and the injustice of the decision against them, what did Shaqiri come out and say?

It’s going to be a nice party when we qualify.

What a git. He’s got no empathy for the Irish or the situation, no tact, no understanding. And in a minute my guilt vanished. I still want to shut the horrible little man up by fair means or foul, but I really no longer feel guilty about it.

So, Michael O’Neill, Northern Ireland manager is apparently now wanted by Scotland. Meanwhile, his name-sake Martin O’Neill’s Ireland lost to Denmark in their second leg on Tuesday. Is it just me, or did anyone else not make the connection that there were two people called O’Neill managing the Irish teams at the same time?

Republic of Ireland v Iceland - International Friendly
‘And you’re called ‘O’Neill’ as well then’?
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

Just me then? Fine.

So, wanting to watch some football on TV but not being able to face England v Germany, I found myself watching Football Focus on BBC iPlayer, which was memorable for two reasons.

Firstly, it was quite probably Trevor Sinclair’s last appearance as a pundit following his subsequent arrest on suspicion of drink-driving, common assault and criminal damage. He’s a nice man on the face of it, but by God he brought nothing to the table football-wise.

The second reason was the most stupid question I’ve heard in the history of interviews – ever. And not just football interviews – any interview, conversation or casual remark even.

They were previewing the first leg of the Denmark-Ireland game from Copenhagen and Dan Walker was talking to a non-playing Jon Walters when he came out with the following:

What is a good result for you tonight?

It deserved an answer along the lines of:

Well, as the visitors we’re hoping for a 0-46 then the away goals rule will give us a slight edge in the home leg next Tuesday.

But the opportunity was spurned. One can only have wished that the same question had been asked of Roy Keane.

The juries out on whether he’s been the sort of player that normally acquiescent supporters suddenly want to punch in the face or whether he’s misunderstood and homesick - but if you ask the French, the answer will definitely be the former, because Neymar revealed this week that they’ve been throwing baguettes at him.

Japan v Brazil - International Friendly
‘And then this Ploughmans Pickle came out of nowhere....’
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Say what you like about the French, but they know how to protest, they know how to let off steam and if they don’t like someone, they don’t hold back.

At this week’s PSG match in Marseille, riot police had to shield Neymar when he tried to take a corner, from the fusillade of missiles raining down on him, many of which were in fact from the Pret a Manger Specialist Range of Football Projectiles.

As you would expect, this is having a devastating effect on him and he broke down in a press conference this week, leaving the room in tears just as a well-placed egg mayonnaise on organic brown was lobbed forward from the back of the room by the Chief Sports Writer of ‘La Monde’.

And you would think that crowd behaviour like that would result in decisive swift action by the French FA (L’effay). But they’re probably just as useless as the English equivalent, as Alan Shearer exposed this week in his admirable documentary on dementia and it’s links to heading a ball. The FA knew about the links fifteen years ago but let an initial study fizzle out and have done nothing about it since.

Fair play to Shearer for asking some difficult questions and he deserves credit for raising the profile of this issue to front and centre – but, with the best will in the world he’d not going to be the new David Attenborough. Which is a worry, because placing footballing issues to one side for a minute – lets ask the question – who is going to be the new David Attenborough?

The man’s about 120 years old and if we’re not careful we’re going to have Motson narrating Blue Planet III – try selling that to two hundred countries around the world.

So. Gareth Southgate firmly quashed rumours about his best England players choosing club over country this week, despite most of his best players dropping out of the squad citing injuries that may not have been obvious to the untrained eye previously.

And I bet as the list grew that everyone but everyone felt that they were pulling a fast one, that they would rather rest and save themselves for their club than risk (further) injury in a less important game.

England Media Access
‘I know he said he was injured, but trust me - that’s Harry Kane’.
Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

At the press conference before the Germany game, Southgate made a point of stressing that he’d talked to all of the withdrawing players and that:

As a manager I have a duty of care to my players.

And he convinced me. I felt like here was a manager with a fresh approach based on the players best interests and it increased my respect for Gareth Southgate. Then when I saw him bringing in young players, it increased it still further.

Then yesterday he stated that the increased competition for places by bringing in younger players will ensure players think twice about withdrawing from squads, and I was back to square one. So I shall continue to be a sceptic on this topic until someone can convince me otherwise.

Close to where I live is a shopping centre called ‘Southgate’ but I think it’s just a coincidence. Had there been another in the vicinity called ‘Allardyce’ it would have raised suspicions. But there isn’t.

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