x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Wrong order on the table

Blackburn's new owners will not get much time to rest after Manchester United's rude awakening for the club.

Blackburn Rovers had little to celebrate after their thrashing by Manchester United.
Blackburn Rovers had little to celebrate after their thrashing by Manchester United.

Anuradha Desai, the chairman of the Indian poultry business Venkateshwara Hatcheries, said last week that she bought Blackburn Rovers with no intention of being a "sleeping partner".

Well, that is fortunate, because on Saturday it would have been difficult to snooze amid the din of Manchester United fans cheering another goal every 12.85 minutes, on average.

The score was 7-1, with Dimitar Berbatov bagging five goals.

He could easily have scored seven, were it not for a fine save by Paul Robinson, the Blackburn goalkeeper, and a cynical foul by Michel Salgado, which brutally snuffed out a mesmeric display of dribbling prowess.

In poultry terms, Manchester United's performance was like that succulent, golden, plump-breasted turkey served up to Bob Cratchit's family in the final scene of A Christmas Carol.

Rovers, on the other hand, were more like the last nugget in the box: cold, meagre and unappetising.

Yes, there were mitigating factors which help to explain Blackburn's, ahem, paltry display.

Firstly, the injury-plagued Blackburn team were unfortunate to be on the receiving end of a Manchester United which, for the first time this season, appeared to be firing on all cylinders.

Rooney's passing was masterful, Nani's pace was scorching. At one point, I swear I even saw Berbatov break into a gentle jog.

Secondly, due to an administrative error, Blackburn fielded the wrong Pascal Chimbonda.

Instead of putting Pascal Chimbonda, the muscular and skilful professional footballer, on the coach to Old Trafford, they apparently sent the other Pascal Chimbonda, a blind and slightly arthritic piano tuner who happens to live near Ewood Park (or should that be Venky's Ewood Park?).

I can think of no other explanation for the defender's performance.

After such a mismatch, one questions why any business would wish to associate its name with Blackburn Rovers. It makes me wonder if the club motto, Arte Et Labore, is not Latin for "By skill and hard work" but Lancastrian for "Isn't it a bore".

Yes, India is a huge marketplace but what does that mean to Blackburn in terms of a fan base? Surely the growing numbers of football lovers on the subcontinent will choose which team to support on entertainment value, rather than a fierce pride in their national nugget industry.

Still, Ms Desai is optimistic. "Most of the time, the team has been between eighth and 10th in the rankings," she said.

"With the right motivation I feel they can go higher than eighth. Who is to say they cannot do better than that, say fifth or sixth position, why not?"

Well, most sane football fans would say they cannot, and here is why not. Blackburn may have spent a lot of time "between eighth and 10th" but their average finish over the past decade is 10.44. Officially, that puts them in the bottom half of the table.

They achieved this feat mainly before the renaissance of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City as top four contenders, and before the ongoing development of like-minded utilitarian teams, like Stoke City, Bolton Wanderers, Birmingham City, even Blackpool, who can play Rovers at their own dull game.

Under such conditions, Blackburn should think themselves lucky if they cling to mid-table obscurity, and Ms Desai should heed an old proverb she may have heard before: "Don't count your chickens until they are hatched."

Manic Monday in Spain could lead to a chart-topping fan anthem

Sir Bob Geldof has been profiting in recent days from a national calamity.

Thankfully it is not a real calamity this time, with dead people and the like, although you might not know it from the hysterical gnashing of teeth in Spain, where football fans are incensed at the decision to schedule the Real Madrid-Barcelona clash tonight – on a Monday  – instead of its usual weekend slot.

Now, I know what you are thinking: what does that have to do with poor, blameless, big-hearted Sir Bob?

Well, he is reaping in the airplay royalties from his 1981 Boomtown Rats single, I Don’t Like Mondays, which has been used by countless television and radio shows covering the furore.

Ironically, Sir Bob wrote the song about a shooting spree, which is not something one ever expects to see when watching a team coached by the defensively minded Jose Mourinho. The most likely outcome for this self-styled “Match of the Century” is a 0-0 scoreline.

Still, those radio and television producers should be grateful that el clasico was not scheduled for a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, as they would have had no music at all to illustrate the debate, with those mid-week days being notoriously ignored by songwriters.

This unexpected boon for the Boomtown Rats – possibly Ireland’s only source of income at present – gives me an idea.

There is obviously a huge gap in the market for pop songs which can also be used on broadcast media to encapsulate the regular, generic whining of football fans.

We need a stirring rock anthem with the sing-a-long chorus of “This used to be the people’s game”, an emotional power ballad titled “They treat proper fans like dirt”, or possibly a novelty rap track called “Just another example of why we need goal-line technology.”

Simon Cowell, take note.