x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Premier League: best and worst of the week

Andy Carroll's appearance and price tag make him a target of the terraces, but few would mind having his job.

Andy Carroll gracefully sat through the taunts of Queens Park Rangers' fans.
Andy Carroll gracefully sat through the taunts of Queens Park Rangers' fans.

Best reunion - Stoke players

Football punditry and interviews are awash with cliches, with perhaps the most well-worn being the description of any given away fixture as a "tough place to go".

That is presumably as opposed to those away grounds in the league which are "easy places to go". A game at the Britannia Stadium is genuinely one of those awkward fixtures that test the mental and physical fortitude of players.

The Stoke crowd need little incentive to work themselves into a frenzy but the presence of four former Tottenham Hotspur players in the home squad added that extra bit of piquancy yesterday.

It was therefore no surprise two of them, Peter Crouch and Matthew Etherington, combined for the opening goal. Etherington has now scored four goals against Spurs, more than against any other Premier League side.

Best response - Andy Carroll

Players and managers are subjected to all sorts of vitriolic abuse- just ask Emmanuel Adebayor and Arsene Wenger.

Most manage to commendably keep their cool in trying circumstances. Some, such as Luis Suarez, who made an offensive gesture to the Fulham crowd on Monday, and Eric Cantona, who kung-fu kicked a supporter, do not. Andy Carroll, to his enormous credit, falls into the first category.

Fans of Queens Park Rangers questioned his gender (presumably because of his ponytail), and whether his talent is commensurate with the £35 million (Dh201m) Liverpool paid Newcastle United for him.

An amused Carroll responded with a wry smile. Perhaps he was laughing at his manager's attempt to justify his price tag by claiming he cost "minus 15m" because they sold Fernando Torres for £50m.

Or that he gets paid a significant six-figure sum every week for basically warming the bench.

Nice work if you can get it.

Best reaction - Stephen Reid

When a penalty is awarded against the home side, particularly at Manchester United's Old Trafford, it is normally followed by some distasteful haranguing of the referee in the futile attempt that the official will change his decision.

And just for good measure the manager normally launches a character assassination of the referee in the post-match press conference.

It was therefore hugely refreshing to see West Bromwich Albion's Stephen Reid have the good grace to accept the penalty decision awarded against him for a foul of Wigan Athletic's Victor Moses on Saturday, but also admonish himself in the process.

He deserves as much credit for that as he does for his magnificent free kick.

Best nomad - Nicolas Anelka

The Frenchman features in several Premier League trivia quiz questions, and it is normally a job naming the clubs he has played for in England, let alone in Europe.

For the record, he has worn the strips of Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton Wanderers, Fenerbahce and Chelsea. In years to come you suspect you will not remember the name of his latest and possibly final club, Shanghai Shenua.

The 32 year old still has the tools to trouble the best defenders in England but he has been lured to China, you suspect, for the money, a reported £200,000 (Dh734,600) a week.

This in a country where the average disposable monthly income for urban dwellers is just 1,592 yuan (Dh992).

"That's eight million yuan a month ... Are you kidding me?" one user wrote on Sina's weibo, China's most popular Twitter-like service.

Worst language - Craig Bellamy

Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager, left the Wales striker out of the team to face Manchester City recently following the tragic death of Gary Speed, Bellamy's national team manager and friend.

On Saturday's evidence, it was probably wise. Bellamy only played the last 12 minutes of the match against Queens Park Rangers at Anfield, but was spoiling for an argument from the moment he entered the pitch.

He picked a fight with several opposition players and hurled a series of expletives at Lee Mason, the referee, who showed great restraint when Bellamy ignored his request for a talking to.

Mason finally lost patience with the tetchy striker minutes later and cautioned him after a spat with Joey Barton.

There are not many players who can make Barton appear placid and mild-mannered, but Bellamy achieved it on Saturday.