RG Fantasy League: When footballers were men
Please forgive a dose of nostalgia this week.
In an era where NFL “hazing” controversies rage, cricketer Kevin Pietersen claims he was the victim of a culture of bullying and Premier League footballers are often treated with kid gloves, the new documentary on Wimbledon’s FA Cup win in 1988 is an eye-opening reminder of a different era where tempers were short and shorts were even shorter.
The intimidation factor was a huge part of The Crazy Gang — both in their own dressing room and on the pitch.
I wonder what José Mourinho would make of watching one of his players get tied to the roof of a car and sped down the highway or having a hot cup of tea thrown in his face.
Those examples show how the amusing soon turns into abuse. If you weren’t able to deal with the “initiation” by your team-mates, you were soon told where the door was.
John Scales looks like he is in therapy as he details his mental disintegration at the hands of his team-mates upon joining, while John “Fash the Bash” Fashanu unwittingly parodies himself when he describes Wimbledon as “warlords” going into battle.
It is worth noting that midfielder Terry Gibson, who also played for Manchester United, has denounced the documentary, saying Vinnie Jones and Fashanu’s stories are “embellished with falsities” and Fashanu “really was and still is a clown”. It all adds to a fascinating underdog story, embellished or otherwise.
To say Wimbledon’s style of play was physical is a bit like saying Andy Carroll likes a selfie. And if you think the present Stoke City side are direct, brace yourself.
For those who know only of the Premier League era, check out the documentary on YouTube to get a sample — albeit an extreme one — of a side of English football before Sky Television money took hold.
11am kick offs unless stated
Sunderland v Liverpool
Despite a fortunate draw at home to Leicester City, Liverpool’s form has been on the up and Brendan Rodgers will expect that to continue.
Emre Can has improved the defence but one suspects taking Dejan Lovren out was enough to do that. Sunderland have won once in their past ten games.
Burnley v Queens Park Rangers
The two promoted sides go head-to-head and it is Burnley who will feel the more confident, mainly because of QPR’s away form — they have lost their past ten.
A win would propel Sean Dyche’s boys above their rivals. This is a huge game at the bottom of the table. Danny Ings to smash home the winner.
Chelsea v Newcastle
Fans got their wish when Alan Pardew left for Crystal Palace but now what? Another manager will be drafted in on the condition he keeps them in mid-table and sells off the best players for a profit? Probably.
Newcastle’s surprise win over Chelsea last time is unlikely to be repeated at Stamford Bridge.
Everton v Man City
Roberto Martínez’s Everton are starting to look suspiciously like Roberto Martínez’s Wigan Athletic — guilty of overplaying and disorganised at the back.
Striker Lukaku has even asked his manager to change his tactics and go more direct. It won’t help here.
Leicester City v Aston Villa
If you want goals, Villa are generally in the business of not delivering — at either end. Only 12 goals have been scored in the team’s past ten games. Snooze.
Leicester have been playing OK but remain bottom.
Swansea City v
West Ham United
West Ham are flying high but Swansea have lost just twice at home all season. The Welsh club, though, are preparing for life without leading scorer Wilfried Bony, who could be leaving for Manchester City. Should be a close battle this one.
West Bromwich Albion v Hull City
The Tony Pulis era begins in earnest at The Hawthorns and it would take a brave person to bet against the Welshman keeping WBA up.
The players will want to impress their new uncompromising chief. Bad timing for Hull!
Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hostspur
Spurs go to Selhurst Park on the back of one of the performances of the season, beating Chelsea 5-3.
Harry Kane has come of age and he should be able to lead his team to victory. This is, of course, Pardew’s homecoming and Palace will be no pushovers.
Arsenal v Stoke City
Different year, same troubles for Arsenal against Stoke? Looks likely.
Manchester United v Southampton
Victor Valdés’s arrival asks some interesting questions of David de Gea, who has been outstanding all season but now has some serious competition.
De Gea’s reaction over the coming games will be interesting. Southampton’s win over Arsenal last time out once again proved that they are the real deal under Ronald Koeman.
Congratulations to Richard Madeiros who led his Bermypool team to the top of our December standings with 389 points.
He follows Mike Harvey (October) and Filip Mangovic (November) in winning our monthly contest.
A $100 gift voucher prize awaits all three managers. email jburton@royalgazette for details.