There are any number of reasons to dislike Rio Ferdinand. From his failed attempt to become football’s equivalent of Mike Murphy in ‘Rio’s World Cup Wind-Ups’, to missing a drugs test due to a shopping trip, to kicking female stewards, he really does his best to test the public’s tolerance of him. Not to mention video-recorded frolics whilst holidaying with choirboys Kieron Dyer and Jody Morris amongst others, and a drink driving charge at the age of 18, which postponed an international debut. Before this descends into a rant, I must stop myself here. But you get the general idea. However, more worrying developments for Ferdinand is his on the field performances. His dip in form has been well documented, but is there any way way back for a player that 12 months ago was arguably the best centre-half in world football.
At approximately 14: 07 CET on Monday afternoon, there was a collective sigh around the country. The Republic of Ireland were drawn against France in the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Play-off. ”Feck it anyway” we muttered. But of the 4 potential opponents in the draw for Ireland, 3 of them would have provoked a similar reaction. Having avoided facing the freezing cold of an away leg on a plastic pitch in Russia, and sidestepped the now strangely likeable Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, now we must turn our attentions to the French and analyse the dangers posed by Raymond Domenech’s mismanaged side.
As age catches up with us, cynicism is a number of unwanted traits we acquire. Suddenly, scanning through the history of our lives, we focus on memories of our younger years. We scoff at our previous pastimes, hobbies, favoured television programmes, fashion sense and cringe at times when we embarrassed ourselves through the folly of our youth. It seems like a different life. However, this transformation into a cynic can bring us to realise that certain things we were enthralled by at this early stage in our lives were not all they were cracked up to be. Like the Republic of Ireland under Jack Charlton.
It was the sort of goal that you would expect the team leading 2-1, rather than those chasing the game at the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline, to get. Catching the opposition out on the break with a swift counter-attack in the 90th minute to put the gloss on a convincing 3-1 triumph. However, this is Ireland we are discussing here, and for the old habit of magically turning wins into draws has again reared its ugly head. But from the slick move that resulted in Vincenzo Iaquinta setting up Alberto Gilardino for Italy’s equaliser, there are valuable lessons to be learned. And one’s that Giovanni Trapattoni must teach his players before next month’s play-offs.
What a difference a couple of days make. Whilst in the midst of the worst start to a season in England’s top division since 1930, news filtered out of Fratton Park that the players and staff of Portsmouth Football Club had not been paid. Rogue owner Sulaiman al-Fahim, complete with replica shirt with his own name on it (still better than Mike Ashley’s ‘Smith 17’ effort) comes out with mixed messages regarding the funds available for reinforcements in January. Then manager Paul Hart enlightens us all with this beauty:
”You put one fire out and another starts up in the corner. That’s how it has been in my tenure as manager. But you can spit your dummy out and throw your toys out of the pram, or take it as another fire, put it out and get going again”
However, a corner has been turned in the South-East of England in recent days, both on and off the pitch.