The Monday Column

Last updated : 19 September 2005 By Keith Allman

(Once again, as with last week, this article is by Jim Foster and not by Keith Allman. A special mention to Peter Tse who e-mailed me during the week to say, "If you can't change the banner to credit the journalist, should you be an editor? Please learn some basic web skills." I have taken your comments on board and come to the conclusion that such a minor issue is really not worth getting excited about, but thanks for your message all the same. Anyway, enough chit-chat).

1. Rant About Refs
Right, I'm going to have a rant about a two things: referees and away kits (in particular the person responsible for designing Pompey's red and gold monstrosity).

But first of all let's look at referees, as I'd like to send an official note to the Premier League to tell them that Dermot Gallacher should definitely have gone to Spec-Savers. Either that or refereeing school, if there is one. After the Birmingham match, people were saying in the top of the North Stand as I slowly filed out of the ground that you shouldn't blame a referee for not winning a match. It was Pompey's own fault that they didn't take all three points.

In truth, they are probably right. If Vukic had taken his chance, if Gary O'Neil had taken his and if Dario Silva had tucked his away, we would have won. I know that, but it's not going to stop me from blaming Dermot anyway! Or Mr 'I wouldn't know the meaning of the word consistency if it came up and bit me on the arse', as he should be known.

The next time you read his name on the programme notes as referee for a home game at Fratton, beware! Some decisions are bound to be so baffling you won't know why they were made. And that is bound to have some influence on the players and the match, and incite the crowd into chanting some rather rude words about the referee and his liking for self-abuse. Let's look at some of the evidence on Saturday that suggests Dermot isn't very good at his job.

It's mid-way through the first half and 'hi-ho' Silva is chopped down mercilessly on the edge of the Brummie area. Ok, he rolls around a bit like a ballet dancer who's been shot in the testicles with an air gun, but it was a clear foul - the defender was nowhere near getting the ball. Then we go down the other end five minutes later and Forsell is on the ball just outside our area. A tiny nudge from behind and he falls like a bag of shit. The shrill sound of a whistle follows and good old Dermot has blown for a Brummie free-kick. You what? Come on Dermot, let's have some consistency. I can take the ref making the odd mistake in a match, that's part and parcel of football, but you - you make too many errors. Both fouls could have justified free kicks, so why did you give theirs and not ours?

As another example, we have the advantage rule. Does our Dermot understand it?

Let's look at the evidence. One minute O'Brien is clearly impeded just outside our own area. Dermot recognises it's a foul, but lets play go on. A hairy moment ensues a couple of seconds later when Brum almost win the ball back 30 yards out from goal, but we get away with it as Vignal hoofs the ball into touch to cries of 'Ave it!' from the crowd. Where is the advantage to us in Dermot playing the advantage right on the edge of our own area, with the likes of Forsell, Heskey and Julian Gray around? The clearer advantage would be to give us a free-kick to alleviate the pressure. Commonsense refereeing some people would call it. But not our Dermot.

Then Lualua was bursting forward from the half way line. He was clearly fouled by a Brummie midfielder but gets past him with the ball anyway and moves into 46 yards of space (working on the Steve Bruce school of distance. Did you hear him claim on Radio 5 afterwards that the linesman was 60 yards away from the Butt sending-off incident?). Anyway, with Lualua in so much space, a clear advantage to us is present if Mr Gallacher plays it so. But he doesn't. The man in black blows up for a free-kick instead. Thanks for that.

Funnily enough, the one decision he probably did get right was the Butt sending off. I didn't see it clearly from where I was, but Butt's kick on Silva apparently deserved a red card. Mind you, I say that Dermot got that decision right. But he didn't really, did he? It was the linesman who called it from around 20 yards away (how Steve Bruce could think that there is a 60-yard gap between corner flag and the near post, where the indiscretion occurred, is beyond me. Buy yourself a friggin' tape measure, man)! And then Bruce rampages onto the pitch at half time like a headless chicken to complain to the ref. I know how you feel, Steve, believe me. I think there were over 19,000 of us at the end of the match who wanted to do exactly the same thing.

Hey, all this and I haven't even mentioned the cast-iron penalty that we should have had when 'hi-ho'Silva was fouled in the box. Who said Pompey only had themselves to blame for not winning?

2. Rant About Kit
Apart from Mr Gallacher, something else really really really annoyed me at Fratton on Saturday afternoon. It was deep into the second half and the stadium announcer comes on to tell us that the new away kit is now for sale outside the ground.
Wow! Great! Wonderful! As if I want to wear a kit that looks like someone's puked all over it before dragging it through a vat of caked blood.

We must have the worst away kit in history. It really is vile. And our home kit isn't much better. The thing is, the club obviously knows this, or it wouldn't be making desperate attempts to flog the top at every opportunity. Now, for me there are two serious aspects to the issue of crap tops. Firstly, the financial one. You are always going to get people who support their club by buying replica kits, no matter what they look like. I was one of them until the red-and-gold thing arrived.
But there are going to be a lot of people too who will only buy a kit if it's a decent-looking outfit that could be seen to be trendy. Therefore, I think the club's going to lose out with this kit - simply because it looks awful. Whoever designed it needs to be forced to wear it all day every day for a year. They'd soon realise the error of their ways!

The second serious aspect to this is the effect wearing a crap kit might have on the players. Ok, I agree, they are pros and wearing a rubbish kit shouldn't affect form in any way. They get paid thousands of pounds a week and should play well anyhow.
But think about it. The world doesn't work like that. Imagine how good you feel after a shopping trip to buy the latest fashions. An awesome new shirt from Next, or Calvin Klein, or a pair of great Deisel jeans. You wear your new 'kit' that night in the local club down the Guildhall Walk and you pull a bird from Southsea who's well up for a bit of hanky panky on the beach at 2am. In short, you're a winner, because the new clothes you were wearing looked great and gave you added confidence which the bird from Southsea obviously latched onto.

So what effect could this red-and-gold kit have? Well, hopefully none. But you never know. If you put a good-looking kit on a footballer, he's more likely to feel good, and possibly play better as a result, even if it's only sub-consciously. Put him in a crap kit and... well, it's a theory. Probably a load of nonsense, but hey! I think we all agree that our current away kit is the worst since Micky Quinn, Noel Blake, Vince Hilaire et al sported the salmon pink thing of the late 1980s.

3. West Ham - The New Pompey
Those of you who read my column last week will remember that I said I worked in an office of 70 or so employees, a lot of whom are fellow footie supporters. Well, my young assistant - bless him - is a West Ham man, even though he couldn't tell me whereabouts in London Upton Park was. He keeps on and on at the moment about how well the Irons are doing, and I can't argue. The Hammers are indeed blowing plenty of bubbles at the moment. The way they are playing and the accolades they are getting in the press remind me of PFC two years ago, in our debut Premier League season under 'Arry and Jim.

We walloped Bolton 4-0 in our third game (I think) just like the Hammers have just walloped Villa 4-0. We were near the top of the table after five games or so, just like they are.But beware Hammers fans! It can all go tits-up fairly quickly! A couple of injuries and a couple of losses and you'll be sinking down that table like a stone. Heaven forbid you get a French manager who buys some foreign players. before you know it your 'media darling' status will be down the shitter before you know it and it'll be more a case of the 'no-one likes us, we don't care' scenario we currently have at PFC.

4. Dario Silva
He wears his shorts awfully high up his stomach, doesn't he? Makes him look like the Simon Cowell of football. Come on Dario, that might be the trend in Uruguay, but it's not over here. Get them shorts down a bit. But not too far or Butt might get more excited the next time he marks you at a corner.

5. Mbesuma Watch
Where is he? Who is he? Will he ever play for us again (not that he played much in the first place anyway)? The date for his supposed debut was set at the 10th September. We're now M-day minus 9 days in the wait for his next appearance in the first team. Rumour has it that Lualua has fallen out with Reggie following our lack of a victory at Brum. If this is the case (and it would make sense following the bizarre substitution of Lualua, even though he was our most threatening player on Saturday) then maybe Collins might be playing soon.

6. The Office Interview
Every week I said I'd be interviewing a fellow footie fan in my office. Preferably someone who supports the team we've just played against. Well, we don't have any Brummies here, so what I've done is interview one of my editors, Gareth Purnell, who is a Villain.

Name: Gareth Purnell
Occupation: Editor, Midland and Southern Angler Magazines (!)

Jim Foster (JF): So, you're a Villain then. How did you get into supporting them?

GP: Urm, been going since I was about 8 years old. My mum was a big fan, she's still a season ticket holder.

JF: Best season?

GP: The year we won the championship - I think 1980-81. I went to the final game at Highbury which we managed to lose. We were going for the title with Ipswich, but they lost too - so we won it! I was about 15 at the time and got pissed on the way home. And I got a snog off a bird on the train home.

JF: Awesome! Then you won the European Cup the next season. Happy days. What about when you first started going to Villa Park?

GP: When I first started going to Villa Park we were in the third division and were getting crowds of 30,000-odd.

JF: When was the last time you saw them play?

GP: Two seasons ago I was a season ticket holder, but I now live near Peterborough so I don't go as much. I saw Villa play at Stamford Bridge last season. That was the last time I saw them.

JF: How's Berger doing these days? Injured already or playing a key role in post-Solano Villa?

GP: He's coming on as sub and doing ok. I guess he's not match-fit at the moment. We quite like him - he did well against Spurs on Saturday. Plus he has a new haircut, which has to be a plus.

JF: What was your take on your 1-1 draw at Fratton recently?

GP: General opinion among the press is that Pompey are the worst side in the Premier League. So I thought at the time it was a bad result.

JF: Eh! Careful you bugger or you won't get a pay rise next year.

GP: Umm, well, given you just beat Everton and apparently played well against Birmingham at times, I don't know that you are the worst team in the Premier Leagure any more.

JF: That's better. Did Nobby deserve to be sent off against us?

GP: It was an elbow, wasn't it? Of course he didn't deserve it. Your boy dived.

JF: And how comes he ended back at Newcastle? That was an unexpected one.

GP: His contract was due to run out at the end of this season. So we cashed in. He was voted the best player at Villa Park last season, so we were sorry to see him go. He also made a number of promises not to be travelling to Peru all the time, but I don't think he was telling the whole truth. The Geordies will have the same problem.

JF: You must be gutted about the Spurs result. £6 million Milan Baros missed a sitter!

GP: Game of two halves. We were awesome in the first half and could have been three up. Then we ran out of steam. I think 1-1 was a fair result in the end.

JF: Who would you rather have as a chairman - Milan Manderdic or Deadly Doug?

GP: Pass.

JF: Where in the table do you think PFC and Villa will be at the end of the season?

GP: Villa will be around 10th, Pompey will be below us.

JF: How far below?

GP: 14th.

JF: You're into a bet, I hear.

GP: Been known to make an investment or two.

JF: Have you some good tips for this season?

GP: Millwall to go down is a certainty.

JF: Good!

GP: I've also backed Arsenal not to finish in the top two on the spreads, and I've backed Doncaster on the spreads as I think they're going to go on a run. More bizarrely I've backed Stenhousemuir in one of the Scottish leagues.

JF: Bloody hell. Never heard of them. Who's the worst player that plays for Villa at the moment and why?

GP: J Lloyd Samuel. He came on as sub against Spurs and we quickly conceded a goal. He always gives away a goal in every game he plays. He really is pants.

JF: And the best?

GP: Gareth Barry. He's on top form at the moment. He should be in the England squad, seeing as we need a left-sided player.

JF: I'll call Sven. What's this about the Russians coming to Villa thing?

GP: Delusions dear boy. Weren't they supposed to go to West Ham as well?

JF: Ummm... Bloody Russians. I blame them for the curse of the 4-5-1 formation. Anyway, thanks for your time. You've been very considerate in your comments about Pompey so I'll consider you for a pay rise this January.

See you all next week!