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Down the pub. What Untold columnists are debating as we gather in the Depths of Despair

By Billy the Dog McGraw

Editor in chief, and Prince of the market gardners.

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Obviously to be able to write Untold, as we do, those of us involved in this site read the press, watch TV and watch the games, as well as take the occasional drink.

But it has become our habit to gather from time to time (de temps en temps as they say in the Arsenal dressing room) at the Depths of Despair, a well known watering hole in Wapping Swamp, to discuss great matters of the day, question who had the unpronounceable liqueur and argue about the bar bill.

After all, there’s no way we are going to be able to interview the likes of Alan Pardew or the awfully funny chaps who run Chelsea and Tottenham (well at least not since that last unfortunate incident with Tony, the beagle, Mr Redknapp and the jaffa cake.)   We can’t even get an interview at Man City ever since I addressed their Great Leader as “Your Sheikness,” and asked him if he would consider paying the British taxpayers back for the cost of building the stadium.

But generally I think we’ve all taken it that neither the media nor those who work in football clubs would be bothered with reading the likes of us.  We do get a lot of hits on the site (just under half a million hits a month at the last count) but we are way outside the mainstream when it comes to commentating on football.

And yet, and yet, then I read a piece that said that Alan Pardew had woken up to the fact that if Chelsea win the Champs League and come fifth, the fourth placed team in the league goes into the Europa (that’s the competition that Man C and Man U set alight this season) rather than the Champs.

Now that, you may recall, was a story that Untold ran a few weeks ago.  Of course I am sure other places ran it too – although I don’t recall seeing too many of them.  If I had, I wouldn’t have written it – we are after all, “Untold”.

But now Mr Pardew is getting interested in the prospect.  Did he read us?  Or someone who wrote a piece who copied us?   I dunno, and it doesn’t matter, but it did give Mr Pardew a chance to make one of his quotes:

“Chelsea haven’t won it yet,” said Pardew (according to the Guardian).  So now we know.

Meanwhile, people are talking about referees quite a lot, as you will have noticed.  And where is the home of referee talk?  Well, here.  Roberto Mancini said recently “the rules are not the same for everyone,” which is pretty much what we have been saying for 3 years, and about which for three years supporters of other clubs have been telling us that we only say this when we lose, and that we don’t have proof.

He also said, “When I was in Italy I always thought here there were the best referees. My idea has changed, probably.”

Which was somewhat more coherent than the ramble of Kenny Dalglish recently – although to be fair that is probably because Mancini speaks better English than Dalglish.

But then, in considering Dalglish, as the more literate members of the Untold gang pointed out, the Guardian did a strange piece on how a conspiracy among refs would work, put forward various approaches, and then said none of them could apply here, while noting in passing that Steven Gerrard has used the standard, “these things even themselves out over the course of a season” explanation.
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Mark Hughes also had a bash the other day saying that managers have lost faith in the refs in this country and Roberto Martínez asked for a clear out of officials.  Hmmmm.
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So down in the Depths of Despair we began to think that the way the press want to play this is interesting, in the light of this week’s revelations on Untold about how the shadowy PGMOL organisation seeks to manipulate the media.  The press remain, with TV, resolutely against any thought that maybe there is an Italian style fixing process going on in English football.  Because they won’t acknowledge the possibility they won’t look at our figures.
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In fact it is also interesting that we have started to get commentaries in, which say that no matter what our figures show, they are no good, because we start from the point of view of bias in favour of Arsenal and Mr Wenger.   Which I suppose is a bit like saying that physicists looking for the Higgs Boson are all utterly misguided because they start from the premise of believing in the standard model of particle physics.  (Our secretary at that point asked who Higgs Boson played for, and she was quietly led away to lie down by the soothing sound of the Thames).
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What these people (the AAA not our secretary) do is always cite their own credentials first (that is how you spot them).  A bit like the Anti-Arsenal Arsenal people who say, “I have been a season ticket holder since we played in Woolwich” or something, these guys now say, “I have been an industrial chemist since the discovery of oxygen, and I can tell you…”
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Yes, well, after the first couple of arguments it is not too hard to spot a campaign.  Just like the guys who used to write in from multiple email addresses and have debates between themselves about how bad for the club Mr Wenger was.

But some good is emerging in that people are talking in the media about the fact that Mr Wenger was fined by Uefa double the amount Porto was fined.  Mr Wenger was fined for questioning the referee.  Porto for the monkey chants of their supporters.  Time was when Uefa was not a subject for ridicule and debate.  No more it seems, and maybe we can take a tiny bit of credit for that.  (I always wanted to have a chant before each Champs League match to the tune of the conga which went, “Let’s laugh at Uefa, Let’s laugh at Uefa, da da da da, da da da da.)

And in the midst of this the Guardian did take us all at the Depths of Despair backwards a few steps.  Look at this comment from the paper last week…
“It would have taken the patience of a saint, for example, to remain calm and dispassionate after what happened to Robin van Persie against Barcelona last season.”
Maybe it is just a wave, and we are up on it.  But there’s always a chance that we are, week by week, having a little bit more influence on what subjects should be discussed in football.
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A nice thought.    Your round I think?

29 comments to Down the pub. What Untold columnists are debating as we gather in the Depths of Despair

  • avatar Sebastian

    Why do managers and players always say “things even themselves out over the season”?

    Where is the proof that this is the case? I do not see that it does. How does it? Do you reckon 2 players will dive against Man Utd in the remaining games to get penalties to cancel out Ashley Youngs?

    Its complete football-talk drivel. They do not even themselves out, Man Utd get many many more decisions than everyone else.

  • avatar g clarke

    sky sports and their rag the sun done their best to bring wenger down at start of season and are def m u bias as for fefs it was took for granted that if m u was loosing m u would have extra extra time. the worse anti arsenal blog has to be arsenal truth, nutter

  • avatar nicky

    @Sebastian,
    Couldn’t agree more. The day when totally honest and competent referees will be spawned will, IMO, never come. Our only hope will be increased technology.

  • avatar king gooner

    MANURE GET SO MANY DECISIONS BECAUSE THEY ARE THE MEDIA DARLINGS & SO THE REFS ,FA LOVE ‘EM-ON TOP OF THAT,THEY (THE MEN IN BLACK)ARE SHIT SCARED OF UPSETTING OLD RED NOSE & GETTING THE “HAIR DRYER”& SUBSEQUENT REMOVAL FROM FUTURE MATCHES,WHICH OF COURSE.HITS THEM(THE REFS)IN THE POCKET.I HAVE LONG ADVOCATED A PANEL OF FOREIGN REFS(NOT ALL ARE PERFECT)TO BE USED FOR ALL TOP SIX MATCHES,PROB NOT PRACTICAL BUT IT WOULD GET RID OF THE DROSS & BLATANT BIAS,ANTI ARSENAL THAT IS RILEY,WEBBO,DOWD,ATKINSON,MARINER,DEAN & CO.THE LIST GOES ON & ON…JUST A THOUGHT!

  • avatar chris from Cambridge

    The biggest joke of the lot is that wimpish little Man. U. fearing dickhead is now Head of Referees or something.

  • It’s certainly interesting how much ref talk there is in the press… I note Fergie regularly mentions “it all evens out” whenever he is asked about the topic… I wonder why!

    At least people are talking about the issues, interesting to note that Wenger came out strongly for video tech, and Vermaelen today is quoted on the official site speaking about it. Are the club doing their best to raise awareness of the issues?

  • avatar Jacobite Gunner

    “You get bad decisions and good ones. Believe me, it does even itself out.”
    Ferguson (20/04/2012)

    The most overused and most ridiculous football generalisation ever!

    It does my head in when even people I know say this and because it is the thought of the majority in football culture it is the prevailing line of thought on the matter.

    With what is at stake, how come football teams or the FA have not sanctioned research into it (to prove if it is true or not)?
    -Oh wait, i know….

  • avatar Shakabula Gooner

    Yes, good idea to move the campaign to club level.
    Already, a few Club owners too have spoken up: Fulham’s and Wigan’s.
    We should campaign for:
    1. Introduction of Comprehensive Video technology and not just goal line technology.
    2. Proper referree schedule that “evens out” referrees assigned for each Club’s games.
    3. Independent Referree Performance assessment.
    4. Annual referree courses, training and bi-annual reaccreditation exams.

  • avatar robl

    If you say something enough people may end up believing it. Anyone remember “you’ve never had it so good!”?

  • avatar rusty

    I’m still irritated by what happened to Robin in Barca.

  • avatar bob

    Billy the Dog,
    What are you drinking in the Depths of Despair????:
    That Manchester Guardian’s article that you cite from LAST WEEK
    was from 2011 !!!!:

    This copied from the byline:

    Jamie Jackson at the Camp Nou
    The Guardian, Tuesday 8 March 2011

    WTF?? Were you all taken aback, or taken back to the future? (Saturday) :)

    The Manchester Guardian’s have rarely if ever since give Arsene a full airing of his criticisms of refshite, so I’m a bit up in arms (if out of my tree) about the clean sheet you seem to be giving them here. Then again, I’m capable of jumping the gun, but would be glad for your response in any case.

  • Bob, I have investigated on Billy’s behalf, and it appears he was confusing a recent issue of the paper with the one that he wrapped his fish and chips up in.

    I think actually the stuff about refs in general was quite recent by one of their lady reporters, and that article actually cited the commentary on the Van P incident.

    But I shall tell Billy that you read his commentary most seriously. When he wakes up.

  • avatar bob

    Tony,
    LOL! Maybe the current article was from Amy Lawrence (I live in hopes), sending it in from the witness protection program (after having crossed their line with one-too-many fair pieces about Arsene/AFC)? In any case, at least their football pages finally are going to good use, what with wrapping Billy’s fish n’chips and such.

  • avatar Stuart

    G Clarke

    I just had to have a look at that Arsenal Truth site and I agree with you that it is the most negative. I now need anti depressants before I jump off my balcony head first.

  • avatar bob

    (Stuart,
    If you really must jump, pleeeeeezzzzzzzeeeee take a certain man in black along. Happy landings, for you though!) :)

  • avatar bob

    Tony,
    as a p.s., I’ve been asking hereabouts for absent-Amy Lawrence to show us a sign. Maybe that’s it!, and she’s done so! Please tell Billy to find the article, so I can rest easy, and we’ll know that just perhaps, Amy has signaled (from the belly of the beast) that she’s onside once again.

  • avatar bob

    In my pub, here’s the buzz: A Tale of Two Divers (from the bowels of today’s Manchester [ManUre's, that is] Guardian’s football department; a real-life tale of Frontier Justice on the Road to the Rednose XX:

    DIVER ONE: Gets a Card!:
    Roberto Mancini has voiced his frustration with the standard of refereeing in England and claimed “the rules are not the same for everyone”. “The Manchester City manager did not want to comment on specific incidents but City’s title rivals, Manchester United, have benefited from two controversial penalty decisions in the past fortnight. City, who trail United by five points at the top of the Premier League, also felt wronged when the striker Carlos Tevez was harshly booked for diving in last week’s defeat of Norwich City.

    DIVER TWO: Gets a Word!:
    Sir Alex Ferguson ‘has word’ with Ashley Young over diving accusations, says the headline. “I have had a word with Ashley,” the manager said. “He understands where we are coming from. Hopefully it makes a difference.”

    In sum: The Ref gives card to Tevez; Don Fungus gives Word to Young. Fair and balanced. Everything evens out. (Had enough yet?)

  • avatar Anne

    @Billy:

    Loved this. Entertaining and well written. In fact, great content overall today on Untold (although this is one area where my analysis might be biased :)). Cheers.

  • avatar Arvind

    @bob: If Ronaldo hadn’t been from ManU he too would have been hounded out and been far less successful than he eventually was. Join ManU if you want to get away with anything…anything at all…

  • avatar El Gringo

    Yes, bob, you’re right.

    Here’s my reconstruction of the “word” that was had:

    SAF: Now look here Ashley, I’m glad you got the penalties and all, but you need to work on your technique a bit. You’re getting too obvious, so next time keep your arms closer to your sides and drag one foot on the ground so the commentators won’t have to mention anything. A few of them have texted to apologise, but I see where they’re coming from. Even they can’t ignore how clumsy your dives have gotten. I’ve got a theatre director coming in this afternoon to tighten things up.

    AY: Sorry gaffer. I’ll do better Saturday.

  • avatar bob

    El Gringo,
    Too true to be good!
    (well done! :) )

  • avatar bob

    Arvind,
    Yes, it’s a hounding they do. I love using that word for their actual media campaigns, and all while Dermot the Perfumer tidies up at their latreen.

  • avatar bob

    or is it latrine (sorry, got carried away with the vision of Dermot tidying up after THE DEAN’S leavings on the pitch)

  • avatar bob

    El Gringo,
    One thing: the Identity of that theatre director?

  • avatar Mahdain

    look at this fluke
    footballisfixed.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/what-incredible-fluke-xliv.html?m=1

  • avatar El Gringo

    A figment of my imagination. I’m sure the PFA and the Managers Association have their links though =)

  • avatar Anne

    @Mahdain:

    Good link.

  • avatar marcus

    “The rules are not the same for everyone”

    Mancini is funny! (And I thought he was a jazz composer)

    I’m not a big Python fan, but it is almost Pythonesque these days. I’m sure John Cleese could do it all justice.

    “The Rules Of Football”

    Part 1

    Cleese…” Ah! The rules of football. Well, the red card. A red card is given for a serious offence. Say the last defender rugby tackling an opponent”

    Interlocutor: “So why doesn’t Vidic get red card?”

    Cleese: ” AH! Well that’s completely different.”

    Interlocutor: Why is that completely different?

    Cleese: “Because it is”

    Interlocutor: But why?

    Cleese: “Because it purely and simply, objectively, is”

    (and so on)