IF THERE’S one thing that’s boring about British football it’s the predictability of it all.
For years the English have mocked the Scots about the Celtic-Rangers duopoly, but it’s impossible to deny that since Alan Shearer inspired multi-millionaire Jack Walker’s Blackburn Rovers to the title nearly 15 years ago, the Premier League has had a monotonous ring to it.
When Manchester United haven’t won it, Chelsea have, and it now seems an eternity since Arsenal were the ‘Invincibles’.
As for Liverpool there isn’t a teenager alive who can recall their halcyon days.
So it was mightily refreshing for those of us who believe in equal opportunity and competition to see Sunderland beat Liverpool, even if it was with a beach ball, and Aston Villa beat Chelsea last week.
Chelsea also lost to Wigan recently, and Liverpool, who lost only two matches all season last time out, have already lost twice as many this.
Even United have struggled to a string of single-goal wins and been held at Old Trafford by Sunderland.
A couple of seasons ago the elite four were beaten only by each other – not once did any of them succumb to the other 16 that made up the supporting cast – indeed Wigan’s recent triumph over Chelsea was their first in 34 games against that quartet and Sunderland’s weekend success against Liverpool their first for seven years.
After Bolton’s narrow defeat to United, Zat Knight proclaimed there is no longer a fear factor in going to Fergie’s ‘Theatre of Dreams’, while the United manager himself has conceded his side is no longer capable of rolling teams over.
At the start of the campaign I predicted United would find life more difficult without the goals of Ronaldo, and with the ageing limbs of Neville, Scholes and Giggs.
I hadn’t expected Ferdinand to become a soft centre but the concession of seven goals in front of their home fans has become another reason for his ruddy-faced manager to reach for the tranquillisers.
United, though, are still top of the table, whereas Liverpool, again unsurprisingly to me, are almost mid-table sandwiched between Sunderland and Stoke.
Take Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard out and there are no world-class players left for Rafa Benitez to choose from.
I’m sticking by my forecast of Chelsea for the title despite the hiccups at Wigan and Villa.
They have strengthened up but don’t be surprised if this year’s champions drop quite a few more points along the way.
Burnley have proved they can beat anyone at Turf Moor, for instance Manchester United, and the levelling out in this year’s Premier League is the best news it has delivered this millennium.
ONE OF the most heinous crimes in sport is to deliberately stamp on an opponent.
It happens on the rugby field, almost inevitably as great tree trunks of manhood grapple to dig an oval ball out of a maul, and worryingly it seems to be becoming more prevalent on a soccer pitch.
Jermain Defoe let the occasion get to him on his return to Fratton Park with Tottenham.
A villain already in the eyes of Pompey fans after his acrimonious departure, he earned even greater derision with his reckless leaving of stud marks on Aaron Mokoena, for which he earned a rollicking from boss Harry Redknapp.
By all accounts Wade Elliott was extremely fortunate to escape a red card for a similar physical attack on a Blackburn player – that didn’t surprise me because the Burnley v Blackburn derby makes the Old Firm clash or the Merseyside meetings look like a choirboys’ convention.
I’ve never known a more hostile environment than I experienced at Turf Moor on a day when Kevin Ball came close to knee-capping David Dunn.
Manchester City’s Emmanuel Adebayor was guilty of a stamping offence on Arsenal’s Robin van Persie recently, and in an age where players can get sent off for putting shirts over their heads or ripping them off in celebration of a goal it’s time to get our priorities right.
AMID the euphoria for Jenson Button and Beth Tweddle’s world champion winning feats I was even more pleased by Lee Westwood’s triumph in the Portugal Masters.
That’s partly because I know nothing about motor racing or gymnastics, and partly because I do know Lee, pictured, and he’s a regular good-guy.
He’s also one hell of a good golfer who should have won more tournaments as 23 top 10 finishes in the last two years testifies.
Now he’s found that winning habit again our prospects of regaining the Ryder Cup are enhanced no end.
He leads the Road to Dubai race with a £9m pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but more importantly we now have the nucleus of a magnificent side in Westwood, Garcia, Harrington, Donald, Kaymer, Rose, Poulter, McIlroy et al.