It’s thirty years ago now, but it feels like yesterday. I was at Nottingham Forest’s training ground interviewing Brian Clough, so I asked him what made his teams so successful. He put down his glass, more or less looked me in the eye and said, “Young Man – it’s all about good ‘abits”. And with that he was off to sign a couple more plug ugly Scotsmen, leaving me to cadge a fag off John Robertson and reflect on the great man’s wisdom.
Come the end of August, football teams good ‘abits start to shine through, so which clubs are the dental flossers and which the nose-pickers after this round of Premier League games.
Business as usual at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea’s habit of not losing at home continued as they beat Portsmouth one-nil to go top, which pleased (if not exactly entertained) the fans and left journalists wondering whether to bother going any more. At the Emirates, Little Cesc seems to have developed the excellent habit of scoring goals which will double the transfer fee next summer if it continues - his goal was enough to burst Sven’s bubble. Liverpool continue to kick off at times better suited to the first race at Haydock, but secured the win at soon-to-be-in-crisis Sunderland. Andriy Voronin continues to impress as much as his fellow Ukrainian at Chelsea doesn’t, although he does look like roadie at a Barbra Streisand concert – now there’s a singer.
Amongst the also-rans and no-hopers, Little Sam kept his job for another week with a 3-0 win against inconsistent Reading. Aston Villa climbed to tenth, where they will stay give or take a place for the next 34 games, with a late winner against 11 players I’ve never heard of representing Fulham. In the big game of the Championship season 2008-2009, Derby lost to Steve Bruce’s Birmingham at Pride Park. Alas at Upton Park instead of Chancery Lane, West Ham played out a predictable draw against Wigan, as the Hammers dutifully collect points now before Charltoning down the table after Christmas, before East End fervour kicks in to rescue them yet again. Uefa Cup place squabblers Everton and Blackburn drew 1-1 amidst more emotion at the finally doomed Goodison Park than a sports hack can describe.
I’d hardly tucked into the (British) steak and yorkshire pudding, before Big Sam’s Neaderthal cranium was filling the screen (and covering all those adverts behind it – Ha!) as he sent out his Geordie boys against whatever Middlesborough boys are called, for the dullest 2-2 I’ve ever seen. Middlesborough stay 16th where they appear to have been since being promoted.
In the last match of this long weekend, not-quite-in-crisis Manchester United gallantly refused to field any proper forwards, but were rewarded with a 1-0 win against going nowhere Spurs.
I’m spending the week watching the World Athletics Championships from Osaka, where I shall continue my lifelong study of the techniques employed in the women’s high jump and invest a little in buying the spread on doping disqualifications.