Friday, June 29, 2007

The Branston Rabids Files x5 - file

A Fistful of Dogbra's

Previously at the Rabids …our lowland hero was left naked and dazed on a Mediterranean beach. Hercules “Eckle” Profiterole, the Belgian centre-half and private eye, was struggling to remember how he’d got there.

Just as Eckle was also starting to wonder how he was going to make it back to Strappon Alley, home of the Rabids, a helicopter appeared on the sand in front of him.

"Come on Eckle," beamed Sir Derek Tannic-Stanza leaning out of the door: "No hard feelings, boys will be boys, 1066 and all that. Bit of a misunderstanding don’t you know?"

"Oh, ok," said Eckle breezily and cheerily took his chairman’s hand up in to the waiting chopper.
Sir Derek plonked Eckle in the Fetid Borg rehabilitation centre and went back to his stainless steel office. After an hour of fingering his executive toy he sighed.

"Oh for a hostile takeover by an American porn star or a Russian milk magnate. Why does my door never knock-knock?"

Knock knock, there’s a knocking at his door.

"Er, yes come in," he looks up.

"Ah, harroo…?"

It was the snake-eyed exiled ex-president of Cimabui.

"Oh, Dr Toxic I was just thinking about you," said the chairman. "Come in, come in, Werthers?"

"So," said the wily business shark: "how much?"

Sir Derek sat down, cradled his fingers and started purring softly. The telephone rang.

"Stanza," he drawled: "Really? Well nice to hear from you … er… Titus, how can I help?"

"How much?" the Rabids chairman blurted: "Gosh, well I’m here with Doc Tox who may have something to say about that offer, he he," he was almost beside himself with glee, bidding war?

Just at that moment his latest long-legged incarnation of a secretary, Ms Fairy Alka-Selza, walked in with bosoms and a telegram from the Mexican bone giant Slam Haggle.

It said: "Will buy Rabids stop fistful of dogbras stop meet me at Guadalameandjulio in the desert at noon on the stop ninth stop make happy bastard stop Slam."

Tannic-Stanza had to sit down before his greedy knees gave way.

"Ah Dr Toxic perhaps you’d like to join us for a meeting on the ninth …"

Haggle had chosen the location carefully to welcome his guests to Mexico. The abandoned and crumbling lonely village of Guadelameandjulio had actually never seen better days. It had been lost somewhere in the Pinacate Desert with the tumbleweeds and the dust and no-one, before Senor Haggle, had ever gone looking for it.

Sir Derek brushed the sand off his ex-black Armani jacket for the hundredth time and mopped his growing forehead. Unfortunately the only way to get there was by pack mule, or so they had told him.

As his donkey carried him lolling into town, he noticed a movement in the bullet-ridden clock tower. He could just make out the shoulder and arm of someone there squinting back at him.

They pulled up at the broken taverna and in the shadows of an upstairs window Sir Derek thought he caught a glimpse of Doc Tox, but it was too quick to be sure. He ran a finger round his sweating neck and went into the freely ventilated bar.

He saw his host, in identical Armani black, sat waiting on the one good chair.

"Ah, Meester Stoner I’m soo pleased to meet you at last!" effused Haggle; "Welcome, welcome to the very first ICE HOTEL MEXICO! What do you think?"

"It’s very nice," said the Branston chairman not even looking around: "Did you bring the money?"

The frozen smile melted slowly from the bone merchant’s face and he gave an almost indistinguishable nod. The bell rang out in the dead desert air and Doc Tox manifested himself out of thin air right in Sir Derek’s face.

"Think of the future of the Asian market…" he smiled like a small carnivorous skunk in an oversize black Armani suit.

Then they heard the sound of angels … moaning. He turned around to see Titus Groans, the evangelist adult movie star who’d been ‘Porn Again’, naked but for a shiny rhinestone willy warmer.

"Fun for all the Branstone Families…" he nodded grinning.

"I’ll give you Diddyman Dogbra," said Slam.

The room seem to spin in front of the greedy chairman, in a heat haze he saw the bidders flashing past his eyes in a kaleidoscopic whirl that seemed to outline their various bids.

"Branston lottery…" said Doc Tox.

"Spiritual growth…" from Titus.

"Multi-storey car park…" from the Mexican.

"Pension funds …"

"Karma soccer…"


Just as Sir Derek was starting to teeter, as his eyes were beginning to roll, a chair was found for him. It only had 3 legs but was ok if he pressed a bit with his right foot and leaned back.

"Well, that’s all very good I’m sure…" he panted: "but how much?"

There was a shuffling of billionaires. Doc Tox gave a dry cackle.

"Not so fast Englander, where’s Dude Diligence?"

"I called him an hour ago," said Slam: "He was in a rush and he caught the wrong donkey."
There was a rolling in the hills and the ground shook to very heavy footsteps coming from far away.

"Ah, the Egg-man cometh," said Senor Haggle and Sir Derek curled a lip.

As Slam was offering Diddyman Dogbra as a sweetener, the Gorky Blu Meanies would have to have a representative present. Dogbra had been spotted playing for the Knotty Ash snuff quarry works team by a Meanies scout and he’d taken the Divisionship by storm in his first season.

The thunderous echoing in the valleys was none other than the simply enormous GBM chief executive Kiefer "The Egg-man" Banyan.

"SLAAAM!" boomed the Egg-man: "How the devil are you? Good. Howdy Des, would you like a toffee?" and he ruffled Sir Derek Tannic-Stanza’s hair playfully. The knight’s skin crawled.

Then they all loafed around listlessly for a few hours more in the heat, flies buzzing around their eyes, profits on their mind, still waiting for Dude Diligence …

When a stranger rode into town…

Well, two actually and they weren’t exactly strangers either.

Eckle wore a crushed raspberry suede Stetson with matching jacket and pants, set off by cascading diamante tassels and violent pink boots; it was a very Belgian expression of Mexican cowboy style.

Warsaw was wearing an old Brazil shirt and a huge sombrero lagging just behind on a buckled donkey.

"Wot the f’ack are you doing here?" snarled Sir Derek.

Eckle took a piece of damp paper from his inside pocket and, in a flat monotone, reminded the chairman of a clause in the ownership of Branston Rabids. The clubs founder Fagan Tannic had given the right of veto to a supporter’s representative in the event of any sale as he feared: "Some scaly arsed liming salacious fop of a Tannic wannabe future ancestor," would one day try to offload the club.

"And, prey tell," growled the albatross encumbered chairman whose big day was rapidly going down hill: "Why you felt the need to come here and tell us this?"

"Bob Tressell couldn’t make it guv’, so he sent me and Warsaw’d never seen Mexico…"

Sir Derek looked to the heavens; Eckle sat down on the one good chair and rolled up his crinoline sleeves.

They looked at the man in raspberry, he looked at them.

"Soo, who wants it then?"

"Oi!" said Sir Derek: "You can only veto a deal that I," jabbing his own chest furiously with a bony finger: "Put together!"

He looks around and realizes they are alone already; black beetley shapes are scuttling over the hills and far away, were they ever really there?

Eckle is humming softly, playing with his tassels.

Sir Derek opens his mouth with obvious violent intent, and closes it again and opens it…"Argh!" he said finally with venom as he remembered he has no cover for central defence and that it’s really Tressell he should be disemboweling.

He picked up his copy of "Gay Gas and Warfare" and stormed out to find his ass.

Warsaw, meanwhile, has been practicing his whistle; the lonely cry of The Man with No Name. It’s getting better, dogs start howling.

"Come on Warsaw, our work is done here. Let’s get back to Branston."

Warsaw doesn’t hear him, the howling’s getting louder and nearer.

"WARSAW?" shouted Eckle: "WARSAW STOP!"

But it’s too late really, there are at least thirty straining Mexican street dogs now at the windows and doors of the broken bar, they see Eckle’s sparkling tassels and, almost playfully, they charge.

"Bloody hell!" screamed Eckle: "It’s like deja Mourir all over again!"

From nowhere, it seems, there is an ear-splitting CRACK, WHiiiSHHH, CRACK, YELP. Warsaw has found a thick and vicious bull whip and the strapping black Russian looks somehow comfortable and happy lashing the beasts.

They make it outside and untie the horse and donkey but Warsaw whips too near their flanks and the panicking beasts bolt for it.

Quick as a flash Warsaw grabs a saddle and bounces one side and then the other and on to the saddle, legs akimbo holding on and heading into the sunset screaming with a gaining pack of angry dogs on his trail.

Eckle, half way up a stage post with a nasty piebald brute ragging his tassels, tries to sing the dog to sleep: "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide…"

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Invincible no more - Ebren

In 2003/4 Arsenal got through an entire league season without a defeat, winning the league at a canter. They have done less well since.

Fourth and struggling to finish in the Champions League spots for the last two seasons, despite a shiny new (and very impressive) stadium and a good run in the Champions League they have seemed too fragile too often to be considered anything close to league winners or the best side in the country.

They remain, on their day, beautiful to behold - a 4-0 win over Reading immediately springing to mind. But being "good on their day" is a very long way from being good enough to end a season with a zero in the loss column.

And it's hardly surprising.

Only five players remain from the Invincibles: the increasingly veteran Lehman; Gilberto; Ljunberg - who is being linked with Portsmouth; the impressive Toure; and bit-part player Clichy.

A lot of noise has been made of Arsenal's wonderful young players - but sometimes overlooked are the players they let go.

Goal scoring and penalty-winning match-winners such as Pires, Kanu, Reyes, and Wiltord have gone. Steel has gone too. Vieira is the obvious name, but Campbell, Parlour, Edu, and Keown all added ballast to the artists ahead of them. Ashley Cole might not be the most popular man in English football - but he was in 2004 one of the best left-backs in the world.

Of course there are two names I am yet to mention - Cygan and Aliadiare.

Henry or Bergkamp weren't useless either. They were two of the finest footballers to ever ply their trade in England - or anywhere for that matter. They - along with Vieira - were the heart of Arsenal, behind large parts of two title-winning teams, with only Henry missing from Arsene's other title winners.

This triumvirate - Vieira, Henry, Bergkamp - combine the very best of Wenger teams with something more. An end product.

Other players that drove success in early years moved on - Overmars, Petit, Adams (well, the whole back four), Seaman, Wright, Anelka. But each time others came in almost as capable or better.

But you don't get better than Henry, Bergkamp or Vieira.

And that is the fear. Arsenal still play some beautiful football. Still pass and move and counter punch with immeasurable elegance. But when the pressure is on, when the game is going away from you, who will win it in this new young team?

During the unbeaten season there were a few games where it was going badly wrong. 1-0 down to Portsmouth. Pires hits the deck, Henry scores the equaliser. 1-0 down against Liverpool away, Pires scores the winner.

Edu and Henry saw Arsenal come from behind to beat Chelsea, Henry equalised against Charlton; Pires equalised against Spurs in the 69th minute; a Bergkamp strike won the game against Blackburn in December; Pires scored away against Bolton and then the winner against Southampton. Vieira equalised against Chelsea away, Edu scored the winner. Henry and Pires shared the goals to come from 2-1 down to beat Liverpool 4-2. And on the final day of the season, 1-0 down at half time Cole falls, Henry scores the penalty, before Bergkamp unleashed Vieira for the winner.

The kids are good - but away to Bolton and Blackburn in December Begkamp and Pires won the games. Against Manchester City none of the current team found the back of the net, nor could they at West Ham (twice), Sheffield United, or Everton - all these games were lost.

When you look at the skill, fight, and goal scoring ability of the players that have gone it becomes clear why Arsenal are no longer even close to invincible.

Invincibles that have left:
Henry, Bergkamp, Cole, Pires, Vieira, Edu, Campbell, Parlour, Kanu, Reyes, Aliadiere, Keown, Wiltord, Cygan

Invincibles remaining:
Lehman, Gilberto; Ljunberg, Toure, Clichy.

New players:
Fàbregas, Senderos, Rosický, Gallas, van Persie, Hleb, Denílson, Flamini, Diaby, Djourou, Adebayor, Eboué, Hoyte, Walcott, Bendtner, Song.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Chanelle, Titi and la règle hors-jeu

Regular readers of Pseuds will remember our young friend Chanelle. She has been chatting again to Zephirine.

“OMG Thierry’s leaving, Alicia and I were like speechless. Well not for long lol. But it’s like end of a thing yeah, whatsit, era. I used to love him sooo much like I had pictures of him all over my room and even though I’m older now it’s like he belongs to us what is he doing going away??? Well of course making about four million squid a year and hoping to win big shiny trophies is what he’s doing but all the same. You see this is why I used to say to Karl the football anorak, yeah, I was like don’t care so much about it Karl cos football will break your heart yeah and here is the proof.

“Cos this is my theory right, that apart from having too much importance in the universe yeah, football is like it says in poetry a cruel mistress. All these blokes are so in love with their team yeah and they give it all this loyalty and stuff and does it care? And like mathematically yeah most football fans are guaranteed to be miserable most of the time right cos only a few teams win everything and everybody else like suffers. So they’re like pouring all this emotion down the drain really, but as Alicia says yeah if they didn’t have football men would never speak to each other at all right so I suppose then the world would like grind to a halt.

“Anyway we were down the pub yeah with Alicia’s boyfriend Gavin and some French bloke he’s picked up with. Now you might remember Gavin is Mr Knows About Sport yeah, on account of that’s all they did at the Academy of Snot or whatever his posh school was called. And the frog guy seemed to be like pretty much the same. And they were arguing about some offside decision or other and like ignoring us.

“Now there is a thing where Alicia and me disagree right, which is this. Alicia’s really smart yeah, all her family’s the same they can put two and two together make five and sell it back to you for seven if you know what I mean. But when there’s blokes about she just like puts her brain away in her bag for later yeah. And I don’t see the point of that right cos who wants to be around a bloke who thinks you’re stupid? Well, her obviously lol. So when I tried to join in the conversation she kicked me a bit yeah but I carried on and then the frog guy was like “Ah, so you understand ze offside rule Chanelle?” in a really patronising voice and I’m like “Yeah”. Cos what’s so difficult yeah, Karl explained it to me, if you’re like involved in any serious action you’ve got to have more than two of the other blokes between you and the goal so like is that like complex?

“So I said what is the French for offside anyway and he said what sounded like Roger. So I thought typical frog yeah they can’t even think up their own words for stuff but as Alicia said later yeah cos she likes the French cos they had a house there she said yeah but we use their words like boutique and crème caramel so I had to admit she was right cos a world without boutiques would be a sad place lol.

“When we got back from the pub I was well pissed off with Gav and Froggo treating me like a moron yeah so I called Karl the football anorak and said like “Karl I’m soooo depressed about TH14 leaving yeah can we talk about it?” And he ran round to my place quicker than old Thierry himself so we are again an item and all’s well that, you know, whatever.”

Donington Park: Wet, not the best, but fascinating - Mimitig

This weekend The Park has again been host to the very finest of motor-cycle racers, enthusiasts and fans for the British round of MotoGP 2007. Over 100,000 visitors grace this Leicestershire race-track when the engines roar, and they come with love in their hearts for the great Tom Wheatcroft who rescued DP in the 1970s and made it into a world-famous venue. 1993 took the track into the headlines as Ayrton Senna drove to victory in what has been described as one of his best ever drives in a Formula One car - in rain that current MotoGP commentator, former tin-top driver and all-round top Aussie Charlie Cox, would describe as being of “biblical proportions”.

MotoGP arrived here earlier this week and I took time out yesterday to see what the boys were saying about the first sessions and watch an extremely exciting qualifying session. Naturally, there was no criticism of the circuit - it’s a fabulous race-track with no hugely long straights to favour horse-power, and only a little bit of the mickey-mouse stuff that is now de rigueur in high-speed motor racing of any sort. The Craner Curves must rate up there with any pieces of tarmac that these boys race on (except maybe the “Corkscrew” at Laguna Seca - the most truly heart-in-mouth place on the racing calendar). Redgate and Coppice are pretty exciting too, and it’s no surprise that “old” pro Valentino rates the circuit up near the top of his favourites. However, young Casey had a lot to say about the condition of the tarmac. Reckoned it was slippery, like riding on a greased track - as Mr Parrish said, that’ll be all the oil and fat from the burger vans then! We understand that at the latest music bash (as much as motor-sport, Donington is about music - big, loud music) the food wagons were stationed on the track itself. Well, it didn’t stop the Texas Tornado (Colin Edwards) from blasting to his second pole of the season, and our boy Vale (he has a home in London) nicely rounding out the 1-2 for Yamaha. The boy-wonder Stoner could only finish in 5th, on the second row of the grid.

On Sunday afternoon, with rain hammering it down outside my window, I rather hoped for similar weather down south. A totally wet race was bound to be exciting - they always are. A disappointment then, to find the worst sort of conditions prevailing. Drizzling rain, the track wet enough to demand full-cut wet tyres, but all signs that during the 30 laps, it would begin to dry. However, there’s always a chance of surprises at the first corner, and we did get a few. Edwards was off from pole like a harpoon but Rossi got a bit duffed up while Nicky Hayden (reigning World Champ) made up places - before chucking it off at Coppice a few laps later. Others binned it as well, including Loris Capirossi - who had been going very nicely, and GP debutant Anthony West, coming in to Kawasaki for the injured Olivier Jacques. West got back on, and having only had a couple of days testing on a GP bike, hauled himself back to 11th by the end. I think we’ll see him back for the next race.

With 15 laps to go, Edwards seemed to allow Casey Stoner past without a fight. Tyre problems beginning to bite had led to a small mistake, but it would only have been a matter of time. No one could match the Wizard from Oz on his Ducati today, and in the closing stages another Aussie, Chris Vermuelen mugged Rossi for the final podium place.

All in all, it was a bit of a damp squib of a race compared to the preceding 7, but it’s possible that we have seen the changing of the guard. Stoner rode like the veteran he most certainly is not, but it seems, this season, that he can take everything thrown at him, and answer back in spades.

Perfect 10 – Ebren

In a ten-over innings at the Brit Oval today ND Doshi explained to the world why spin is a potent force whether we are talking politics or the shortest form of cricket around.

As players, captains, coaches and fans have been getting more used to Twenty20 in the last four years, the initial stereotypes have fallen faster than the wickets of the England tail end.

Today Surrey took on Hampshire with the innings restricted to ten overs, three with restrictions, and no more than two overs per bowler.

And as soon as the field restrictions were over Surrey captain Mark Butcher brought on his spinners. Two leg-spinners in a ten over game.

Back when Twenty20 was conceived a hard-running slash and slog fest was expected. Bottom hand heavy strokes and people flaying not playing their way in. It was what was expected under the floodlights in the bright kits that were unveiled.

Flight, bounce, turn, and - most important of all - a brain were not requirements.

But today, Nayan Dilip Doshi showed how wrong those predictions were.

In front of around 20,000 fans ND Doshi took three wickets in two overs for six runs. In doing so he became the first bowler to take 50 wickets in this concentrated form of the game. He was backed up at the other end by Chris Schofield taking two for 16. In four overs they broke the back of Hampshire and effectively won the game. Bowling left arm orthdox spin.

"Sometimes the only options are the right ones," Butcher explained of his decision to play spin that early.

But Doshi was far more eloquent.

This Londoner, son of Dilip Doshi - who took 114 test wickets for India at 30.71 and 22 one day wickets at 23.81 - explained the secrets of his success.

And it was all in the mind. Out-thinking the batsman, mixing it up, watching his feet on the run-in for signs of a reverse sweep, tempting, teasing, and the pouncing.

And his were a wonderful 13 balls bowled (Doshi's second over lasted for seven balls, if it had been the regulation six his figures would have been 3 for 4). Pitched up, floated, drifting balls. Hanging in the air for and age before dropping, hitting and pitching before anyone knew what happened.

Doshi took to the crease at 36-1, and tempted Voges forward in his second delivery. Voges missed the ball completely his bails came next as Batty whipped them away. 37-2. Tremlett fell for two in Doshi's second over as the dip, flight, and straighter ball confused him and his attempted pull met fresh air. The ball found the stumps far better. The very next shot Lamb was caught behind off an inside edge. By this stage it was 46 for 6 and Hampshire were a broken team with Schofield removing Carberry and England new-boy Mascarenhas in his first over at the other end.

With the inaugural Twent20 World Cup taking place in South Africa this September we are guaranteed shots, sixes, fours and some top-notch fielding - but look out for the spinners because as Doshi proved today cricket, in any form, will always be a game of the mind, and the ability to tempt, trick and above all out-think opponents mean spin is a deadly weapon even in a ten over game.

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