Ah, I love the smell of burning egos in the morning. I don’t know if it was the time of year, the new moon, the climax of Strictly or just ‘national manager whinge at referees’ weekend, but everyone was at it. And probably the one with the most genuine cause to complain was the most dignified.
Roy Hodgson has much to moan about. He’s Palace manager for a start, so there can’t be many smiles around his house. He inherited a team that had scored fewer goals than James Vaughan at the time (i.e. one), has Patrick van Aanholt in his squad, and were propping up the league having won fewer games than, well, anyone. Ever. Actually - none.
But he’s done great things and is moving them in the right direction, so what he doesn’t need is the sort of refereeing decisions that allowed Defoe to score Bournemouth’s first goal on Saturday.
A Palace defender was blatantly held back from challenging Defoe in the sort of situation that makes you think officials finish their training at the Guide Dogs for the Blind, which had it been correctly disallowed, would have given Palace a critical victory.
However, all Hodgson had to say on the matter was:
Bad decisions are part of a football match and we accept that.
He might be senile, of course, but I choose to think that given his experience he could view these instances in a more measured way. He was slightly more forthcoming about the ridiculous action by Benteke to take the last minute penalty, and miss, but was no doubt calmed by the fact that Connor Wickham is nearly due back from long-term injury.
If only his compatriots were so understanding.
Now, to be a football manager, one has to have an ego. To openly welcome all of that attention down on you, it has to come naturally. Different personalities handle it in different ways. To some the ego is controlled, stable, kept in its place. Sean Dyche springs to mind, Claude Puel, Manuel Pellegrini. For others, it’s about as stable as weapons-grade plutonium - step forward Roy Keane. To others, it’s so intertwined with their psyche that it’s nearly impossible to know when you’re listening to the man or talking to the ego. Sort of like Gollum in Lord of the Rings but with more hair. In most cases.
Marco Silva has been the picture of control since he took the Premier League by storm, but even he was forced to question the referee’s decision to send off his man despite the fact he kicked the Burnley player about six feet up in the air:
Harsh, harsh, harsh, harsh, harsh, harsh, harsh. Harsh.
Now I know he knows more words than that so he was clearly upset. Probably something to do with being stuck at Watford for the rest of the season, but I hope he comes around - I’ve always had him chalked up as one of the good guys.
Not so much for Neil Warnock, though, who if given a bigger platform could easily become a rampaging pain in the backside. A bit like Godzilla with haemorrhoids. In Cardiff's match against Reading, he was sent to the stands by the referee and wasn’t impressed, claiming:
It’s the first time I’ve been sent off for asking a fourth official in a sensible way about a player arching their back.
Which begs two questions – how many times has he spoken to an official about players arching their back, and can he describe how to do it in a less than sensible way? Presumably by assuming the guise of Quasimodo and looning up and down the touchline mumbling about bells until the official gets the point.
I’m 69, I’ve been in the game 37 years and I’ve never been sent off for anything as trivial as that.
Which means that he almost definitely wasn’t.
However, I would be interested in knowing how many times he uses the line “I’m 69, I’ve been in the game 37 years” in interviews before the end of the season.
Jurgen Klopp must practice for hours in front of a mirror each morning to suppress his ego. His public persona is one of a jolly, philosophical, caring and sharing sort of guy whatever the circumstances. But his ego must be the size of a planet. I bet he’s a right b*stard when he’s had a few too many.
So, when he completely screws up in one of the most important home games of the season – the Merseyside derby, he’s going to have to come up with something good as an excuse.
Thus, the last minute penalty decision in Everton’s favour which gave the Blues an unlikely draw provided the perfect vehicle.
I didn’t think it was a penalty, did you?
He asked of a room full of journalists, most of whom said they did.
There was no push, just body contact.
Now my ego isn’t massaged by 50,000 adoring fans every other week, so I may have the advantage of clarity over Jurgen here. I also once queued for a chair-lift at a French ski resort in 1981 so I know a few things about jostling and I’m pretty sure that the difference between a ‘push’ and ‘body contact’ is largely academic and focuses primarily on which part of the body is involved.
However, whatever spin he wanted to put on it, it was a nailed-on penalty, and he couldn’t direct attention away from the fact that he left his top scoring front row on the bench and then removed his goal machine, Mo Salah, when only 1-0 up.
The attitude of the boys was outstanding... and we controlled the game apart from one situation.
But attitude doesn’t win you matches, goals do, and the Liverpool players missed chance after chance to finish the game. Which is the whole point. Think about that in the mirror tomorrow morning, mate, and maybe front up and admit you were wrong?
Sam Allardyce, of course, lapped it all up - he is as egotistical as the rest of them, which provided his downfall as England manager - but in his new guise has something new.
He has an earpiece.
At first I thought he’d gone deaf, but then it transpired that when he got the old band back together for the Everton gig, he decided to send Craig Shakespeare up into the stands with a radio mic to give him a birds-eye view of the games.
So what must it be like to go a match and find out that you’re sitting next to Craig Shakespeare? Wouldn’t it just drive you insane?
OK, now Rooney needs to drop deeper and cut inside more, the midfield needs to press higher up the pitch and Lennon needs to track their centre-half back every time.
Oh just shut the f**k up, will you?
And why don’t the opposition have their own man with a radio sitting behind him passing on all the information going to Sam back to their own guy? And why, in this day and age of managers and coaches all talking behind their hands to maintain secrecy is it ok to have the footballing equivalent of Fat Boy Slim broadcasting from the Director’s box to anyone who wants to listen?
But of course the clash of the ego titans was reserved for Old Trafford, and outside of the football itself, it’s all becoming a bit predictable. The former 'golden boy' of British football was fighting against the newcomer encroaching on his turf. It was like the golden ego versus the bald-headed ego, and Pep is supremely confident, pretty much unruffable. All his plans have paid off, he’s top totty - and, he’s making a lot more sense.
I think last season when so many people were questioning his methods, his ego would short circuit and he’d come out with lots of words, some of which hadn’t necessarily passed the final common sense quality check. This year however, his team do all the talking.
Jose is now so far from being the Special One his ego may actually be planning to leave him. If he’s not getting his fix from being the brightest star in the footballing firmament, how’s he going to get it? Well, he could start a brawl with the City players in the tunnel, and there’s always Strictly, but until then I think he’ll just keep coming out with outrageous quotations designed to grab the headlines.
Or he could see a shrink, learn to control his rampant self-promotion, start hugging trees, retire to the country and knit yoghurt. Personally, I’d go for the latter.
Finally, this week has seen more players pulling their socks right up over their knees for matches – I still don’t know why they do it or how they stay up, but I do know that you can’t do a celebratory goal slide in them.
And now, so also do Riyad Mahrez and Nicolas Otamendi.
To crown your ego-bursting, goal-scoring achievement with a triumphant run into the corner and swooping down onto your knees before suddenly stopping stone dead and burying your face in the turf is a lesson that the ego is going to learn very soon. But then, we are talking about the ego here....