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Roker Ramble: T’was the Season to be Jolly, tra la la la la, la la la la!

The Ramble’s irreverent Christmas review - Pantomimes, nativities, fairy godmothers, blockbusters and regenerations.

Watford v Swansea City - Premier League
Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Dung-de-dung, dung-de-dung, dung-de-dung, g-dung-de-dung, g-dung-de-dung

Dung-de-dung, dung-de-dung, dung-de-dung, g-dung-de-dung - whee-oooo’*

Almost everyone likes a bit of Dr Who at Christmas, and this year was extra special as he became a woman.

I’m not sure if this was meant as a statement in support of the LBGT community, but even if not, it mirrored the football world quite well, because a lot of teams, players, managers, and who knows, sexual orientations came out of the celebrations very different to how they went in.

Take Swansea, for instance.

I’m sure Paul Clement wasn’t surprised by getting the sack in his sock, but who could’ve foreseen Carlos Carvalhal coming in as the Christmas fairy? Now this is good and bad news – good, because how many Championship managers make it up to the Premier League? Bad, if you’re a Swansea fan, as he’d just been sacked by Sheffield Wednesday for not being good enough. Duh.

Watford v Swansea City - Premier League
It’s bloody Swansea, for God’s sake....
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

I’m not wishing to write the guy off, as he did win his first game in charge against Watford, but it does smack of a ‘Bob Bradley’ type appointment.

And talking of Watford, Marco Silva’s halo slipped noticeably over the festering period, and if he wants to continue to be the shining star of the Premier League then he’d better address his team’s sudden failings pretty soon.

If anyone was going to play the Virgin Mary in the Football Nativity it would be Steve Gibson of Middlesbrough.

The man is lauded as a saint – in which case he couldn’t be the Virgin Mary, unless she’s now a saint - but to make the point, he was a good guy going into Christmas.

Honest - I put Steve Gibson into the search engine and this is what came out.
Photo by Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images

But then, he just ups and goes and sacks (the nice) Garry Monk, who wasn’t as bad as most of Middlesbrough’s previous managers, just after he’d won a game. Hell, we build statues of people who win games round our way.

But this is where the nativity turns into a pantomime, because waiting in the wings (booo, hissss!) was none other than the man with the twisty moustache and dark cloak - Tony Pulis (BOOO, HISSS) who stole Act 3 by stealing (nice) Garry’s job! Boooo!

But... unlike most - sorry - all pantomimes, Tony’s not going to get his comeuppance in Act 4, because he’s a much better manager than Garry, and Steve Gibson did a shrewd and clever thing for the club by snatching Pulis when he became available.

2017 EFL Championship Football Middlesbrough v Aston Villa Dec 30th
And you lot better get used to it.
Photo by Lee Parker/Action Plus via Getty Images

Act 4 could therefore be very happy for Boro supporters indeed - inlike Act 5-88, where the level of football entertainment sinks to the point where supporters consider death to be a viable alternative to yet another defensive away game.

Mark Hughes. Now there’s a man who holds the record for not smiling. Ever. And just as well that he’s had a lot of practice, because right now is not fluffy bunny time for Stoke City.

They have a goal difference of -24, the worst in the league, and he volunteered up another five to Chelsea over the weekend as he fielded a weakened side.

Huddersfield Town v Stoke City - Premier League
And now my hand is stuck to my head.
Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

He did so to rest his best players for the next game against Newcastle, which being Christmas and a time for giving, he then lost. He then lost it personally by storming out of the press conference because people kept asking him why he kept losing. Tough times for Mark, but I feel he may have a long period coming up when he can practice his cheesy ‘come and employ me’ grin.

The wise old man of the Premier League has to be Roy Hodgson.

He was wise going into the Christmas period, and whilst he certainly seems to look older each time I see him, he’s done nothing but enhance his reputation.

Jeez, if he could only get a decent penalty taker he’d be half-way up the table, he would’ve taken away Pep’s unbeaten record and he’d be a shoe-in for manager of the season, which I think he is anyway.

Crystal Palace v Manchester City - Premier League
And I was in this bar with Stan Matthews....
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

West Brom haven’t needed a decent penalty-taker, because before last Saturday they hadn’t had one for 56 games - since September 2016. It’s quite a shocking statistic until you realise the manager was Tony Pulis (booo, hiss) so they were never in the oppositions box anyway.

Those are not the tactics we can expect from the handsome ruffian Alan Pardew, oh no - young Alan is going to change everything round at The Hawthorns, starting with taking them into the Championship.

Swansea City v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League
And this one’s of you with that physio at the Christmas party...
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

And he’s been accompanied by John Carver, late of the Mike Ashley dynasty of youthful, inspired and gifted managers of Newcastle United.

John Carver?! I thought he’d slunk off-stage never to return.

But, Alan sees something in him:

In his managerial experience at Newcastle, John Carver understood what it’s like as a manager.

I think they probably deserve each other.

Arsene went into the holiday period as the second most experienced manager in Premier League history and, with one wave of his fairy godmother’s wand, he came out as the Number one! Dah dah! It’s a miracle, is it not?

Well, no it’s not actually, because yes, he’s now managed more games than Ferguson in the Premier League, but Ferguson still has another six years on Wenger and 500 more games managed in British football, including 225 in the top flight.

Close but no cigar, bonny lad – does that count as fake news then?

Crystal Palace v Arsenal - Premier League
And if you count my games in Scandinavia, I’m miles ahead of you as well....
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

It’s also the transfer season, and Barcelona’s kit manufacturer have already started advertising Philippe Coutinho shirts. Jurgen doesn’t care:

I couldn’t be less interested in anything in the world but somebody told me and I thought ‘wow’.

Now, point of principle here. If this was the thing that interested him least – in the whole world – why did he say ‘wow’? Even whispered sarcastically, ‘wow’ is a positive expletive, and if this was your starting point, you’re leaving yourself a lot of expletives to find as you work your way up to things you are genuinely interested in - and lets not even start on stuff he’s really excited about.

What I take from this is that Premier League managers have to sit through far too many interviews, and I need to get out a bit more.

As if to confirm the latter, I’ve made a note this week that Jean Paul Gaultier is starting to look like Peter Reid.

Bristol City v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship
And all anyone asks me about is Madonna’s bra....
Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Before we finish I must mention Jose again, who’s kicking off against Paul Scholes.

The former Manchester United and England midfielder criticised Paul Pogba for being ‘pants’, and Jose’s not having it:

If Paul one day decides to be a manager, I wish that he can be 25% as successful as myself. 50% of that is 12.5 silverware, 25% is around 6.

What?! Scholes will be devastated.

Then he finished off by accusing former United players of having an agenda against him, because they want to return and work at the Club and he’s not having it.

Because who wouldn’t want to work with an unassuming but inspiring, happy-go-lucky genius who comes out with quotes like that?

Sorry, still haven’t gone - Trevor Sinclair, and the best quote in the paper all week:

The TV pundit, 44, asked the officer if he was being arrested because he was black, accusing the police of racism before urinating in a police car.

West Ham United v Manchester City - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round
You can cuff me now....
Photo by James Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images

Top man - I’ll never criticise his ability to repeat what Alan Shearer’s just said again.

Yellow is the new black - and I don’t have time to investigate why match officials change their black outfits for yellow or pink when neither of the teams are wearing dark strips. I have my suspicions, but it’ll have to wait.

For the record, I don’t watch Dr Who. I think it’s just silly and has become a bit of an institution. And I already watch an institution that wears red and white stripes and they’re scary enough around Saturday teatime anyway.

*Also for the record, it’s very difficult to maintain a written version of the Dr Who theme without it descending into James Bond, which is ‘Dunga-dundun dun, dun-dun-dunga-dundun, dun, dun-dun-dunga-dundun, dun, dun-dun- dunga-dundun, dun dun dun - whee-ooo’.

It’s not important but I thought you should know the sort of lengths that are gone to in order to produce this article.

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