I’m going to ease myself into this one with cunning use of football.
I’ve played six games of five-a-side (well, four games of fives and two of fours) in the last week, and I’m really starting to feel the benefits of it. I’ve never really been able to get a head of steam up to the gym unless I’m accompanied by some Drill Officer barking spit-covered invective in my ear; “Get back on that treadmill you horrible little maggot!”. Football therefore is a godsend for me, as not only am I interested in the subtelties of the game, but chasing a round spherical object around a football pitch in desperate pursuit of the fleeing, pointless glory of a goal or two does much more for my cardiovascular fitness and fat levels than any other form of exercise.
And yes, I am carrying an ankle injury at the moment (due to me kicking the ground while taking a shot in a warm up three weeks ago), but as I pounded around the fieldturf trying to close down John McG’s options, I could feel my stamina emerge from the bushel it has been hiding under for the best part of the last five years. We were down to four-a-side again today due to both Alans suffering injuries last night, and we’d acquired one full-time goalkeeper. So while most of the guys I was playing with tired towards the end of our allotted hour, I felt myself getting stronger and stronger. Though with the exception of Craig, they all are 20 years older than me. Hmmm. I did feel good though, and perhaps this was illustrated by me scoring a goal with the kind of shot I tend to only attempt when I am feeling confident. (Said shot is a bending effort with my left foot, which doesn’t veer into the middle of the goal and the keeper’s grateful arms.) Alright, we got beat by about nine goals, but it was fun, and that’s the important part, isn’t it?
I watched the Celtic game last night, and it was some ride. I was still on somewhat of a high after Rangers qualifying for the Champions League the night before, and so I was feeling philosophical regarding Celtic’s progress. While us qualifying and them not would allow us to catch up in financial terms (although I’m still not sure I entirely believe either clubs fiscal reports), them qualifying would add another face to their season’s campaign, as well as raise the profile and the coefficient of Scottish football. So either way I was on to a winner.
The game itself was mad. Utterly bonkers. Celtic conceded a penalty due to the most pedantic application of the law ever seen, which the Spartak player then cracked off the post instead of cracking it into the net. The Glasgow side then took the lead when Spartak’s hapless Roman Shishkin kebabed a clearance straight into the path of Celtic’s equally hopeless Scott McDonald, but for the only time in the game, the Australian found some composure to poke Celtic into the lead on the night. Just before half-time however, Spartak equalised through a fine individual effort by Roman Pavluchenko. Celtic were clearly rattled, and this was evidenced by Boruc and Naylor almost coming to blows after they’d conceded a corner.
The second half was very open, and despite having a man sent off for a professional foul when it could be argued he wasn’t the last man, Spartak continued to attack, and the gameplay reminded me of those ‘Long Big Punch-up’ sketches from the Fast Show. Whaddya mean, you can’t remember them? Extra-time was required, and when Scott Brown’s viscious shot hit a Spartak defender in the penalty area, Celtic were blessed with their own soft penalty. Vennegoor of Hesselink clearly has some professional respect for Pavluchenko as he too rattled his penalty off the woodwork instead of actually dispatching it. And then we had penalties, which after some fantastic, text-book spot kicks was settled by one of the poorest efforts all night. And Celtic went through to the Champion League proper, joining their inter-city rivals for only the second ever time.
I’m currently ‘watching’ Blackburn play MyPa 47 in the UEFA cup in a half-empty Ewood Park. It’s not very interesting…
Speaking of football, Oldham Athletic have signed former Coventry City and West Bromwich Albion striker Lee Hughes on his release from prison after serving half of a six-year sentence for dangerous driving. As you might expect, this had been a somewhat contentious decision by the Oldham board, but instead of passing comment on it myself, I am instead going to point you in the direction of an opinion piece on the issue posted on the Guardian website. The comments provide the interest here; the article, like most published by the Guardian I would be tempted to say, is quite poor. The fact that something like 90% of the comments disagree with the article is very intriguing.
I bought the Guardian yesterday, just to give it another little chance. It’s hard for me to explain why I loathe that particular paper so much given that it’s Britain’s only left-leaning broadsheet, and in theory, as someone who leans to the left myself (while all the time clinging on to the lamppost of political rationalism), this should be my paper of choice. But here I was provided with a life lesson; just because something is left-leaning doesn’t make it good, a point so patently obvious and elementary I really should have latched onto it a long time ago.
And the Guardian can be really bad at times. The Daily Mail and the Daily Express, rightly get given a going over at times in this country, but the standard of writing in the Guardian can be just as arrogant, smug and sloppily researched as any of the black-top tabloids. Some of the stuff the Guardian runs as comment is beyond belief at times; you wonder if the writer really thinks that, or if he or she is just being controversial. I think the piece they ran on the Rhys Jones killing, currently being dissected on FD was typical of their lazy, ridiculously liberal navel gazing nonsense. There aren’t enough answers in the world, we don’t need any more questions.