Date: 21st May 2010 at 10:33am
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Football is such a widely discussed and dissected game because it provides such a fascinating microcosm of life. Depending on your viewpoint, one man`s hero is another man`s villain (as Arsenal fans for instance, we loved Jens Lehmann as a character. Had he played for any other Premiership team we all know full well that we would have willfully despised him). Football is a fascinating cavalcade of characters that paint their personalities across the canvas of a never ending soap opera. To paraphrase Peter de Vries, it`s a zoo in a jungle. Which brings me onto my favourite retrospective article of any summer. Bellend of the season.
Last summer, the bar for bellendery was set stupendously high with the installation of Phil Brown as head wazzock. And he wasn`t willing to surrender his tenure without a fight. Not satisfied with appointing Nick Barmby as his captain in October, despite having seen fit to only start him for a solitary league game in the two months previous, Brown went from Alistair Campbell levels of unpleasantness to the Tracy Emin plateau of bat shit crazy in October when he claimed he rescued a woman from leaping off of the Humber Bridge to her death. (The woman has never been tracked down and there were no eye witnesses). Though in fairness, if I saw Phil Brown walking towards me whilst strolling on an elevated platform such as a bridge, I think my first inclination would be to try and jump off. Right after I`d set my own knackers on fire. Phil Brown had also spent the summer putting a positive spin on being given the hands off by Michael Owen, declaring, “To be in a two-horse race with Manchester United for an England international gives me great pride.
‘He was ready to consider coming to Hull City but he has joined the champions of England. You can’t argue with that but for me it was positive to see us in the running.”
Further to that I would like to add that it was an unbridled pleasure to be involved in a two horse race for Angelina Jolie with Brad Pitt. Obviously, in the end she plumped for the good looking multi million dollar toting star of the screen, but it represents great progress for me that I got a semi on looking at one of her pictures. The price Brown paid for his idiocy was with his job. As well as being a headpiece wearing, third person referring, tango faced cuntbiscuit from below stairs, he also became a spectacularly shit football manager with Hull mustering 7 wins in 60 odd games. How bloody, pant wettingly beautiful that his last act as Hull manager was to look on aghast as Nicklas Bendtner buried a 93rd minute winner before having to watch the young Dane celebrate by pulling down his shorts, bending over and farting a word perfect rendition of “You`re getting sacked in the morning” right in his stupid orange face. (O.K. I didn`t actually see Bendtner`s celebration because I was too busy leaping up and down with joy like Tiger Woods in a brothel, but I`m reliably informed by impartial friends that that celebration did happen).

However, Brown`s crown has slipped for 2009-10 despite his best efforts. He has been outstripped by a number of candidates. He has literally been outstripped by a good portion of the Chelsea squad, but whilst Cashley and JT`s extra marital misdemeanors are revealing of a couple of rather unsavoury characters, their off field shenanigans are not nearly enough to earn them this prize. Really, it`s sub day time TV, housewife, heat magazine tabloid fodder. In the age of instant internet porn, is anyone genuinely titillated by this sort of headline burgling shit anymore? (Didn`t stop me vocally taking the piss out of Terry at Stamford Bridge mind). With Newcastle relegated, the Premiership has been short of a few candidates this season (last season they provided Joey Barton, Mike Ashley, Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer to the Premiership`s buffet of bellendery- mighty hard acts to follow), but the always entertaining Gary Cook has stepped into the chasm left by Peter Kenyon as one of football`s most dependable berks. Firstly, at a pre season dinner with City supporters last August, he introduced, “Manchester United legend Uwe Rosler” to an unsuspecting audience. He then hilariously told a crowd of gathered Yanks about City`s impending world domination in hushed tones and then with a straight face, triumphantly declared, “When City beat United this Wednesday, not if.” Hmmm, how did that one go dickhead?

But this year`s Bellend of the Season is a clear and unopposed winner. (Though the thought of him forming some kind of bellend coalition with Phil Brown makes me break out in hives). In fact, Bellend of the Season is probably too jolly and genteel an anointment for this particular fuckwit. Maybe “Baseball Cap Wearing, Shit Stirring, Self Pitying Neanderthal Thug Apologist of the Year” would be a more appropriate title. You guessed, everyone`s favourite soothsayer of footballing progress and invention, Tony Pulis. At this point I want to bullwhip my own retinas for mentioning him in glowing terms in my Manager of the Season article last year. (Fortunately, last year I gave it to the altogether more pleasant and affable Roy Hogdson). Yes, if you like your unrestrained thuggery served up with a steaming side order of self pitying, small man syndrome bollocks, the Stoke manager is the go to man. The Mecca of mendacity. The sultan of shit. The undisputed bellend of the ball. Before any opposing supporters start taking predictable, tabloid fed pot shots, hear this. I don`t have any problems with Stoke playing long ball tactics, the fact that they pack their side with atomic mutant supermen or Rory Delap`s long throws. (Though I do take umbrage with referees the nation over allowing him 25 minutes to fuck about with his hair and make up before taking every throw in. JUST THROW THE BALL YOU JUG EARED TWAT! So I can quickly acquaint myself with another Arsenal keeper making a proper dog`s dinner of it and we can get on with trying to equalize). That is utterly their prerogative and anything that is within the rules of association football is utterly fine and dandy.

Where I do take umbrage is with having watched four separate Arsenal players leave the Britannia Stadium pitch on stretchers in the space of fourteen months. I know we Arsenal fans have a reputation for being a bit precious (not entirely unjustified), but do excuse us if we get a bit sensitive about seeing young men`s legs contort into sickening shapes only to hear how the perpetrator is really nice to his mum and that our manager should be chided for using that horrendously strong adjective “unacceptable” in describing the tackle that caused it. Of course Pulis` bellendery began well before Shawcross` thousand mile an hour launch on Ramsey`s leg. So endemic is the culture of pre historic knuckle dragging at his club, that Ricardo Fuller and Andy Griffin came to blows on the pitch at Upton Park, Abdoulaye Faye and Glenn Whelan had a dressing room bout of fisticuffs over flip flops, whilst in one of the more priapic expressions of male aggression, Tony Pulis himself head butted striker James Beattie in the nuddy. (I bet he was still wearing that stupid fucking baseball cap though). Of course Pulis sagely told gathered reporters back in December that Wenger had been “moaning like a drain” with regards to Wolves having their bellies tickled at Old Trafford. The comments that extracted such irritation? When asked his feelings on the matter by a reporter on the spot, Arsene responded with a wry smile, “That`s o.k.; we`ll compete with United over 37 games instead.” Hardly lengthy enough a throwaway comment to constitute, “moaning like a drain.” In fact, what it is up with that epithet? Do drains moan?

But of course Pulis` true colours really came grunting to the fore in the wake of the Ryan Shawcross challenge that left Aaron Ramsey`s leg in pieces. As is English football`s wont, instead of acknowledging that, while Shawcross clearly didn`t mean to hurt Ramsey as badly as he did and that there was no need to go crashing into a challenge in an innocuous area of the pitch at that velocity, we got embroiled in this bizarre and very British rush to protect Shawcross` character. The “isn`t he a lovely lad” stories were typically being frantically trotted out before the surgeon had the chance to wield the knife. Football believes it operates in this little bubble whereby “Ryan came off the pitch broken hearted, he has met his mum and gone home” cuts it as an explanation for a piece of recklessness that leaves a young man`s career in the balance. Next time you`re driving at 100mph and you knock a pedestrian down let`s see how far you get with a judge with that one Mr. Pulis. I think I speak for most Arsenal fans when I say I don`t really give a monkey`s ballbag, nor does it matter, how lovely a boy Shawcross is or how good his intentions were. Pulis and the dishonourable rabble known as journalists mouthed mealy mouthed, one line platitudes of condolence to Aaron Ramsey through gritted teeth before then going on to extricate lengthy bile at Arsene Wenger and Arsenal for daring to let one of their most prodigal sons let his mangled limbs get in the way of “the British way.”

Pulis did much the same, a swift “never mind, get better soon eh, Aaron” was followed by a tirade at Arsene Wenger, “He cannot comment on my players, he doesn`t know what my players are about or made of. So his opinions on my players aren`t worth tuppence to me. Ryan comes from a lovely family and he`s a smashing, smashing kid.” The comment that drew Pulis to this bile laced rant? When Wenger was asked what he thought of the tackle he replied, “It was unacceptable.” Comments made about Shawcross` character? None. Comments made about his family? Zilcho. But of course that didn`t stop the British media following Pulis` lead in going loco at Arsene and Arsenal for daring to call a tackle that snapped a leg in half as “unacceptable.” Arsene largely let the incident die a death, barely being drawn to speak on it again other than to ask the media accusingly why it was he who was taking the stand and being questioned.

Pulis however, did not let the incident die. Painting Shawcross as the timid victim, there were a torrent of stories about how Ryan would be o.k.; how supportive everyone had been, how many e mails and text messages and facebook wall posts he`d had in this trying time. “He`s had at least 300 e mails from Arsenal fans everyone has rallied around him and I know Sir Alex Ferguson`s call was helpful. He`s got an old head on young shoulders and has dealt with it pretty well.” Well blessed be, thank Christ for that. We were all scared he`d never come back the same. Typically, by not being made to face up to his responsibility (and nobody`s asking for the lad to be dragged across the coals here, just a realization that that type of tackle was unnecessary in that context), Shawcross has been bullish, “I will be the same as ever when I next play. The fans and a lot of people around me have been fantastic in their support. It (the tackle) was an accident.” Of course, a decent man and a good manager would coach Shawcross that, errrm, the point of accidents is that you learn something from them and adapt your behaviour accordingly. To rehash the analogy, if you drive at 100mph and knock someone over, the next time you get back behind the wheel, you think twice before you reach so liberally for the accelerator do you not? To prove my point, Pulis trotted out the same old tired sentiments after a league game at the Britannia in November 2008 when Walcott, Sagna and Adebayor were all stretchered off as a result of “industrial challenges.” Speaking of a Rory Delap tackle that ended up dislocating Walcott`s shoulder (the ball was on the floor at the time and Walcott dislocated his shoulder, without digging the footage out, you can probably deduce that that`s a bad tackle) and another that gave Sagna an unsightly six inch gash on Sagna`s ankle, Pulis was forthright, “As for Rory Delap`s tackles on Sagna and Walcott, Rory is as honest and committed as they come. They were free kicks, but Rory would never go out to injure a professional player, it`s just not in Rory`s nature.” It never fucking is, is it?

All the time Pulis led this bizarre media circus, Wenger kept a dignified silence (though the press have tried to manipulate an alternative impression). However, even when the fall out from that incident began to ember and die away as winter gave way to spring, Pulis was still lining up his pot shots. In March, despite Wenger not saying a word to or about Stoke since describing a certain challenge as “unacceptable”, Pulis and his gargantuan persecution complex were blathering on yet again, “It wasn`t in the script for us to be competitive, that`s why you get people like Arsene Wenger moaning on at you- because we have made it difficult for them and we`re not supposed to do that.” Well, I guess by putting four of our players on stretchers, you did make things a bit difficult for us. Would I be speaking out of line if I were to confirm that, NO, YOU`RE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT YOU IMEBCILE! Pulis reminds me of one of those zealots that lock arms across abortion clinics or that block stem cell research. He wants the trappings of the Premiership and all the money brought to it by progressive minds like Wenger, yet he wants to chide that progress as sinful and hark back into his cave, knuckles dragging across the floor to feast on the corpse of an antelope. If Wenger`s convictions are hills that he looks from, Pulis` are caves that he hides in. So congratulations Mr. Pulis on winning bellend of the season. I think I speak for most of the Arsenal fraternity when I say, stick it up your arse with your baseball cap you cretinous, unctuous, self pitying idiot.LD.