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A Small Minority of Idiots

Five Reasons to Watch Football This Weekend

Phil Jones running into Yaya Toure is the closest thing to glamour we have.

Illustration by Sam Taylor

The Manchester Derby
With Chelsea's overall spend being in the negative this summer, Liverpool plumbing the downmarket brands and Arsene Wenger phoning up Mick McCarthy to ask him if he knows of any defenders going on frees, this is the closest thing the Premier League has to last week's Clasico. That said, Di Maria, Falcao, Aguero, Toure and Jones can't quite match the sheen of Ronaldo, Suarez, Neymar and Messi. And there's a bigger problem with pegging this as the Premier League's glamour tie at the moment. It's kind of hard to market a game as showcasing the best the league has to offer when both of the teams involved are, basically, shite.


But then the Premier League can never compete with Real Madrid and Barcelona for the true greats, so why bother? Shouldn't it have something more resolutely British? Good news, because it's all here - joy in the misfortune of the successful; blind narrow-minded optimism in the face of incompetence; and United having a frontline resembling someone's Anzhi Makhachkala FM2012 save but still retaining the option of putting their tallest player up front for the last few minutes to nick a point against West Brom. The raw heart of English football is still beating in Manchester.

The Annual Liverpool-Newcastle Nostalgia-fest
Sky Sports was one of the many parts of the rich tapestry of English football culture that made me decide to emigrate. And since it's Liverpool-Newcastle this weekend, you Anglos can probably look forward to the annual misty-eyed, sticky-trousered look back on Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle from 1996, with Sky desperately pinning their brand to it like Jonathan Wilkes clamped himself to Robbie Williams in the early '00s.

It's hard to say what exactly about this match has embedded it so firmly as, supposedly, the greatest game of all time. It wasn't as important or as fun as it's now portrayed, and it took place between two desperately flawed sides who ultimately went on to achieve nothing. I know that pretty much every part of mainstream British culture is clouded by the fact everybody wishes it was the mid-90s, but there's no need here. We've had bigger, better games before and since.


Hi five for Pardew? Anyone? Anyone….? :/ #NUFC

- FootySays (@Footysays) October 30, 2014

If we're going to exalt games between two sides that weren't good enough, let's do it for this weekend: a game between two desperately poor teams helmed by men whose entire lives appear to be falling apart around them and are probably only one defeat away from a breakdown. It's what Kevin would have wanted.

Whatever the German for "Clasico" Is
It's weird that, in the post-Pep hangover, we were actively being sold the Bundesliga on the basis of its competitiveness. Bayern earned about three times as much money as anybody else, and it was only their weird tendency to appoint a clown as manager and finish 7th every two or three years that was keeping it alive. With that gone, we're left with a one-horse canter that makes the SPL title race look like Ali-Frazier.

Jurgen Klopp was high last night!

- Footy Vines (@Footy_Vines) September 17, 2014

Dortmund have kept it interesting this year, however. Instead of attempting to keep up with Bayern, they've just decided to sack off domestic football to concentrate on Europe. Most interesting will be to see what happens to Jurgen Klopp - it seemed pretty obvious that he should've left the club by now, probably a year ago. We don't like to revel in a man's downfall, but it would be fitting to see the - for want of a better expression - original football hipster get his comeuppance by failing to know when it was time to leave the party.


The Princes of Mid-Table
We're well into the mid-season lull, folks, and what better way to cope with a dry spell than with a fawning love-letter to an old flame? Here's why Steve Bruce is fucking great.

It's not that your club's manager isn't very nice and all, but is he a thrice-published novelist? Did he ever defend a miserable, dour performance with "our team is from a tough working-class area and our fans want a team that reflects that"? And is he the only man to ever surpass the achievements of Phil Brown?

Hull looked like a hasty move for the pudding-faced one back in 2012, but rather than scrabbling around to keep Stoke up each year, it looks like he just needed a project. And this time, he's managed to do it without any weird signings from Honduras or Egypt. In the old days, the England manager's job would be beckoning, Now, he'll probably end up at Newcastle, for the most depressing boyhood-dream-made-good till Robbie Keane signs for Delhi Dynamos in 2018.

Aston Villa vs. Tottenham
When I started this column, I didn't think the first person to complain about me having an agenda against their team would be a Spurs fan. Somehow, they've pipped the classic choices like Liverpool and Celtic to the prize. Maybe they've just been ground down over the years and need a rebrand into pure emotion, and we'll get long poems written about Emmanuel Adebayor having found his true home on Spurs forums in the coming months.


But their opponents are probably even more in need of a rebrand. It's got to be one of the most depressing fates to befall any supporter when they realise their club couldn't cope with the departure of Martin O'Neill, and Villa look like they could probably do with a relegation to get themselves in shape. A solid, organised team has given way to has-beens, a bunch of unknown lower-league youngsters, and now some freakish combination of the two, the Darren Bent-Joe Cole substitution last weekend bringing up the same joke in everyone's head.

Darren Bent & Joe Cole is a great double substitution If this game was being played in 2005

- Baeden Flint (@louishatton23) October 27, 2014

Aston Villa bring on Darren Bent and Joe Cole. What is this - 2006?!

- Normal Football Guy (@normalfootyguy) October 27, 2014

Imagine looking to your bench and having Joe Cole and Darren Bent but then realising it isn't 2007.

- J Carroll (@JoeyViking) October 27, 2014

Darren Bent and Joe Cole, 2008 called and asked for its substitutes back

- Steve Grant (@SteveGrant1983) October 27, 2014

There's perhaps something to be said about not getting carried away too early given the few "So Aston Villa looking pretty good this year, huh haters?" thinkpieces at the start of the season. But really, we're just worried about Roy Keane. This could kill any chance of him managing in the Premier League again, and we're looking forward to that reunion with the Class of '92 far too much.



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