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The Roker Ramble: Cardigans, skinheads and the Rafalution

Do boring people produce boring football? Why I don’t always hate Newcastle, and Thunderbirds are coming to London - it’s this week’s Roker Ramble.

Chelsea v Arsenal - Premier League
It’s M&S and I do all the buttons up myself
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

There’s a gene that’s present in some people which, when triggered, manifests itself into a very particular form of behaviour that’s easily recognisable, and it’s starting to find it’s way into football. The stimulus that acts upon this gene is when the person adopts a course of action that basically says:

I’m done - enough’s enough, I’ve achieved a lot so let’s chill. What’s the point of struggling on day in, day out, lets just kick back and takes things easy for a while.

At that point the gene springs into life.

And the individual goes out and buys a cardigan.

David Moyes had one at the SOL last season, and now Arsene Wenger has started wearing one as part of his match kit on the touchline, too. If there was ever anything that screamed, ‘just bundle me up and take me to the rest home now’, it’s a thin, grey cardigan hanging off a thin grey man who’s job it is to inspire the people he’s watching.

Why doesn’t he look around and see who else wears them? Outside of football, the only people I can picture wearing one would be those elderly middle class retirees who drive Toyota Hybrids with National Trust stickers in the back windows, driving at exactly the speed limit all of the time. Is that the sort of person who’s going to inspire Arsenal to stand up to Bayern Munich again come the knockout stages of the Champions League?

And it’s grey. Surely image is important as a motivational technique? I would’ve loved to have been in the room when the design company/bunch of lovelies sold the overall tracksuit concept to Arsenal. ‘And the colour blends in with the players strip, the pitch, the seating and it’s soothing on the eye, but yet stimulating and challenging’.

It’s grey – seeing the coaching staff and substitutes sitting on the touchline looks like an advert for anti-depressants before they take the pill, after which - ‘pow’, they’re all dressed in bright primary colours, and everyone’s happy, the sun comes out and the jingle kicks in.

But grey? Grey is long days without sunshine, it’s dullness, topor, apathy, it’s dragging yourself through another miserable day, it’s Doncaster bus station in the 70’s – and believe me, that was miserable. So, if I was a betting man, I wouldn’t put my money on Arsenal winning the title this year, and if asked why, I would just say – ‘it’s the cardigan’.

Crystal Palace v Arsenal - Premier League
‘It’s the new black’
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

No cardigans on Pep though, and City are looking really good at the moment – just as they did this time last season, so we won’t hold our breath. However, having both Manchester sides at the top of the table isn’t an unwelcome site for a Northerner. Even though I don’t support them, I would always side with a Manchester club, or Liverpool or Everton against a London club. It must be a north-south thing I guess, as well as being somewhat historical. But what I’ll admit to now, knowing it won’t be popular, is that as things stand I would probably side with Newcastle against a London club at the moment as well.

That hasn’t always been the case I hasten to add, and I would seek to clarify my position here. I left Sunderland at 18 – I’d only ever mixed with Sunderland supporters, so didn’t have to defend my position on a daily basis. In fact the only time I went to Newcastle was to see bands and it was fabulous, so I never had the influences playing on me that a lot of Sunderland fans do.

That being said there was a reason why there was only one Mag supporter in my school – who was tolerated, it had to be said. However, if Newcastle have good, genuine, talented players, and play attractive, attacking football which they have done occasionally over the years, then I’m not going to let social media pressure me into not appreciating them (as long as it’s not against us - obviously).

Which is how I’m starting to feel at the moment. Sure their owner is a cretin, their ground looks cheapened and tacky with all of his crass advertising, but Rafa’s a good coach and looks to be moulding the team into a solid outfit, and in Lascelles they seem to have a captain with real leadership quality - they may do well this season. And if so, I won’t hold it against them. As unpopular as that may be.

Newcastle United v Stoke City - Premier League
Not many Maggies popular up north.
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

So I watched the visually motivating Man City put six past Watford at the weekend, and the commentator kept referring to ‘Silva’. Now I knew that City are trying to corner the market in Silva’s - surely ‘Long John’ is nailed on for the January transfer window – so I assumed they were referring to one of their new signings. But when they confirmed it was David Silva, I realised that he’d shaven his head – what’s all that about?

He’s used to remind me a bit of George Best with his shirt hanging out, floppy hair and ability to go past people, so why shave his head – did he have nits?

And Wayne’s wailing following his driving ban and 120 hours of community service:

I have already said sorry to my family, my manager and chairman and everyone at Everton FC. Now I want to apologise to all the fans and everyone else who has followed and supported me throughout my career.

Well that seems to have covered the apologies – although that only covered the drink driving, not the fact that he was playing away at the time. Anyway, now they should make him come and play for us for 120 hours – we’re a community that definitely needs some bloody service.

And not content with having the biggest bar in the country, it’s own brewery, bakery and who knows what else, Spurs have just announced that their new pitch at White Hart Lane will be retractable – the turf will split into three sections and slide back under the seating area, no doubt allowing Thunderbird 2 to rise from the ground and speed off to save cardigan-wearing Toyota drivers everywhere.