Five things: Crouchy, Allen, Rafa, Boro, Rowlands

Luvfooty - Five Things

1. Return of the Robot

Crouch and WoodgateShould players never be allowed to party?

Tottenham players Peter Crouch and Jonathan Woodgate were pictured dancing to what looked like two complete different songs last weekend, leaving manager Harry Redknapp a bit miffed.  Redknapp does not mind players having a few quiet drinks but does not want them “rolling out of nightclubs at three in the morning“.

As a friend pointed out to me, it hardly seems fitting that a player who can’t get in the first team and a player recovering from injury should be out on the batter.  But the players – who were in a group with Robbie Keane, Jermaine Jenas and their significant others – maintain that they did not drink excessively.

So where should the line be drawn when it comes to young men enjoying themselves?  Redknapp seems a pretty fair bloke and, although somewhat rigorous, is not a total authoritarian a la Big Phil.  The players would do well to heed his warnings (which he made in the past after Ledley King got himself in bother) and knuckle down for what is a big season for all of them domestically and internationally.

Still, the picture is hilarious.

2. Martin Allen on gardening leave

Speaking of nightclub shenanigans, Cheltenham manager Martin Allen was asked not to come to work on Tuesday by the League Two club after a reported “incident”.

A doorman, who refused Allen entry to the Thirteen Degrees nightclub told a local paper: “There were racial undertones in the kind of language he was using and he referred to me as a black b******”

We’re not sure if Allen is alleged to have called him a “bastard” or a “bollocks”. Or a “bitch”. But either way it doesn’t sound very nice. The Cheltenham manager has not made any comment as of yet but if there’s any truth in the report then he’s in a lot of trouble indeed. There is no excuse for making racist comments.

Well there is I suppose – if you’re racist.

3. Results matter for Rafa

Angry RafaFour defeats in a row means that Rafa Benitez is under more pressure than ever at Liverpool.  He is looking increasingly resigned in interviews these days, relenting from his usual approach of lashing out at the referee, the linesman, the FA, his opponents or Alex Ferguson, and actually offering sincere, humble analysis of there being “too many mistakes” and much “disappointment”.

It’s no secret that his squad has some fairly ordinary players but most of these players played roles in the all-conquering Liverpool side of March-through-May last season and I didn’t hear many complaints then.

The unfortunate thing for Rafa is that his impressive spine of Reina, Carragher, Mascherano, Gerrard and Torres has been decimated this season.  The absence of the latter two combined with the poor form of both Carragher and (a distracted?) Mascherano has weakened his team so much that their inherent weaknesses have become amplified.

There’s a lack of presence with the hard-working Dirk Kuyt, Yossi Benayoun and Martin Skrtel, a lack of quality about Leiva Lucas and Andrei Voronin, too much inexperience in Emiliano Insua and David Ngog and too many question marks over Ryan Babel and Albert Riera.

The only way Rafa can fumble through this season and regroup again is to win games.  But the fact that he really only has two top class players at his disposal after five years means that he is the architect of  the current precariousness.

4. Gibson to entice the crowds back

Sacking Gareth Southgate after a home win that left them one point off the summit of the Championship might seem like odd timing from chairman Steve Gibson.  But after seeing the lowest ever league attendance at the Riverside witness the victory last night it was clear that the notably-loyal Gibson felt he had to make a business decision.

A clearer picture emerges when you consider that they were the first goals and points in four home games.  In the eyes of many Middlesbrough fans, faith in Southgate waned well before relegation from the Premier League was confirmed last season.  The failure of big money strikers Mido and Afonso Alvez saw Boro net only 28 times in 38 games; that failure more or less sealing their fate.

Gordon Strachan is the favourite to take over but I think Gibson needs to follow the lead of Leeds United, Leicester and West Brom who put their faith in what seem to be smart, tactically-astute managers Simon Grayson, Nigel Pearson and Roberto Di Matteo respectively.

That’s not to say Southgate wasn’t a gentleman and a credit to football.  He was.  Unfortunately he just does not seem to have the “it” factor – or “X Factor” as they call it now.

5. World Cup play-off analysis

Patrice Evra, Bacary Sagna, Lassana Diarra, Franck Ribéry, Theirry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, Karim Benzema.

Kevin Kilbane, Paul McShane, Keith Andrews, Darron Gibson, Martin Rowlands, Glenn Whelan, Leon Best.

You get the point.

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