Villa Park (Philip Larkin MCMXIV)
Don’t believe the broadsheets all the time. Leighton Baines’ left foot is NOT “used as a model for physical perfection in some art history courses” (the Guardian), although Sunderland’s probably abortive interest in him is one more facet of that now very apparent perfect fit between the club and their young manager, Roy Keane, whom the entire place is coming to resemble.
Sadly, one of the summer’s themes is turning out to be the fate of once-promising English strikers. Manchester United’s swap deal of Alan Smith for Blackburn’s Francis Jeffers involves two of them, but the sadder move is that of Malcolm Christie to Nottingham Forest. Frankly, it’s hard to work out what that’s going to do for either club or player. Of course, Nottingham is home to England’s oldest pub outside Lincoln, and the city features heavily in the Mitchell and Kenyon films, and both drink and history hang heavy in footballers’ minds, so we’ll have to put it down to trams and beer, whilst acknowledging that the basic mystery remains unsolved.
It turns out that Thierry Henry’s departure from Arsenal had a lot more behind it than the demise of David Dein: Henry was driven out of the club, fans will be proud to note, by his loyalty to ancient Highbury tradition. Ever since the days when the lingering members of Chapman’s pre-War side were lighting up austerity London, and, let’s face it, something had to, Arsenal has been a faithful user of the Leishmann/Spender Rilke. You’ll already know that at least two of the Neue Gedichte show the influence of the young David Jack. But with the move to the Emirates came change, and Henry, as club captain, is understood to have made a stand against the adoption of a modern translation by Babette Deutsch. The troublesome Deutsch is a paperback edition, but Henry has nothing to fear from his new home: Barcelona stick to the original Insel Verlag.
It looks as if Robert Earnshaw is going to sign for Derby: by the time you read this, the deal might be complete. Earnshaw was born in Zambia, and apart from spells at Norwich, WBA and Cardiff City has spent the whole of his playing career in the lower divisions of the Scottish Football League. I think his recruitment by Billy Davies is a welcome sign that the Premiership is opening up to the best young British talent at last, and it means that Craig Bellamy has some competition up front as Wales enter the crucial part of their Euro 2008 qualifiers.
Match of the Day’s determination to refresh its lineup and its presentation received a blow last night with the news that architect Ptolemy Dean has ruled himself out of the frame for the Saturday evening programme. It is now thought that Alan Shearer will be joining Gary Lineker and independent television’s Jonathan Dimbleby. Contrary to common opinion, Match of the Day is a live programme, and it’s thought that the pressures of broadcasting straight to camera late on a Saturday evening are offputting to prospective pundits. The popular call to switch Match of the Day with the Match of the Day Two (also live) lineup will be ignored owing to the BBC’s large pre-existing investment in the salaries of Lineker and Shearer in particular.
Sven Goran Eriksson’s move to Manchester City is under threat: money deposited in this country by the club’s putative new owner, Thaksin Shinawatra, has been queried by British law enforcement agencies and referred back to Thailand. In any event, Eriksson is a target for Brian Barwick at the FA as England seeks a successor for Steve McClaren. Eriksson, a successful club manager with extensive international managerial experience, is well known to many players in the England squad, and it’s thought that these existing contacts could promote the City manager in waiting, who is Swedish, over the heads of Martin Jol and Arsene Wenger.
The FA are discussing the introduction of a choir at the new Wembley stadium in order to turn it into a fortress. They really are hideously confused within themselves, aren’t they? But it’s true:
“Following feedback from members on the fans’ forum, we have nominated a ‘singing section’ for this match,” the FA told members of englandfans.
English football needs an Alan Sokal. And surely easier just to pack the place with Leeds, Millwall and Chelsea fans, or am I confusing fortress with gaol?
Newcastle United have signed defender David Rozenhal, 26, for just under £3 million, but will not now make an offer for Brazilian striker Edmilson who will be out for six months following knee surgery.