x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Premier League best and worst: Tim Howard keeps up the appearances

Everton's Tim Howard has the best camouflage; The Venky's are this week's worst foreign owners, and Andy Johnson and Frank Lampard prove the best throwbacks.

Best camouflage - Tim Howard

The Merseyside derby has always been football's version of a combat-zone - as evidenced by the fact it has seen more red cards than any other fixture in English professional history.

Tim Howard, the Everton goalkeeper, was suitable decked out for Saturday's encounter at Goodison Park, dressed as he was in a natty camouflage number.

The merits of trying to make your goalkeeper invisible might seem questionable, initially. After all, we are always told they want to make themselves big and imposing.

It worked like a charm when Liverpool were granted a penalty, however. Dirk Kuyt, the penalty-taker, must have thought he had a free goal to aim at as Howard blended in to the jungle-like background of the Park End.

The Dutchman's heart must have sank when he saw some bodiless gloves, like a goalkeeping mime-artist, diving across the goal to expertly paw away his mediocre spot kick.

Worst owners - Blackburn Rovers

Foreign owners are all the fashion. They are a little bit like an iPad 2: to those without one, they seem a little showy and unnecessary - but it would still be nice to have one.

Take Everton fans, for example. They know Bill Kenwright, their chairman, has a heart as blue as can be, yet a section of them would now prefer a benevolent sugar daddy from abroad to replace him.

You need to be careful what you wish for, however. Some overseas owners are brilliant, of course, bringing in a constellation of star players and building a posh new training centre to go with it, to make sure they do not neglect the local people.

Then you get owners like Blackburn's, who ship out a resourceful enough manager in favour of one who presumably is popular and well known in India, because he certainly is not in the north-west of England.

At least Rovers are going places: this week they head to India for a friendly which is hardly likely to ease their Premier League travails.

Best throwback - Andy Johnson

Footballers wearing sky blue earned a bad name for themselves last week. Spoilt, overpaid, prima donna was the general consensus which followed Carlos Tevez's midweek strop for Manchester City in Europe.

The rumpus provided a case study of how modern football engages in a fire fight. The player's representative quickly issued a statement on his behalf, using language the player never would, saying something that had seemed so black and white was actually a misunderstanding.

Then the manager was muzzled in his ensuing press briefing, in terms that were more legalese than football, so as not to jaundice the ongoing inquest. Happily for football, and Manchester City, their will-o'-the-wisp winger, Andy Johnson, provided a reminder of how such debates used to be resolved: by getting out on the field and scoring some goals.

Better still, a "wonder goal," as Steve Kean, the opposing manager, described Johnson's curling effort at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. Johnson has probably been picking a few too many splinters from the bench for his own liking lately. Rather than sulk, he scored. Simple.

Best throwback II - Frank Lampard

Perhaps Tevez's hissy fit would have been more palatable, or at least more credible, if he had played more than 350 games for his club, and scored a hundred-and-plenty goals in the process. From midfield.

If anybody could have been forgiven for sulking at a manager's decision to bench him, it was Frank Lampard.

He has given 10 years service to Chelsea, then some Johnny Come Lately manager who would have been in the same year as him at school comes in and tells him he is no longer an automatic first-team choice.

Did he stage a sit-in protest, then get his agent to stir up some unrest? Hardly. Try a hat-trick and a display of understated virtuosity away at Bolton Wanderers instead.

Worst grasp - Newcastle fans

To be fair to the Toon Army, it was not just them who were questioning the wisdom of appointing Alan Pardew as their new manager on a six-year deal last year.

Six years? Six months would be more like it at today's rates. And Pardew? Not exactly going to be sexy football, is it?

But then Newcastle United have been there once before, and if Ruud Gullit could not manage it, then perhaps they needed a more pragmatic alternative.

Against all expectations, and on a relative shoestring, Pardew has created a competitive Newcastle side. They currently have the best defensive record in the Premier League and are nestled quietly in the upper reaches of the league.

Pardew acknowledged his side had been lucky to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday. Better to be a lucky manager than a good one.


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