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Football ’98 — from A to Z

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Dermot Clarke

A is for Arsenal — Double winners ’97-’98. New boss Arsene Wenger is hailed as a genius, even tough the capturing of the difficult half of that double (the League Championship) was as much down to the collapse of Manchester United as to the skills of Mr. Wenger. I think, though, that if Arsenal were to sign the Brazilian team en Bloc, they would still find a way to bore us to tears. Will somebody please tell them that when they appear live to us poor souls in New York; it’s only 10 a.m.

B is for Brazil — Hot favorites for the World Cup, but came a cropper in the final, losing 3-0 to the host nation France, a game for which Messrs. Ronaldo and Carlos failed to show up. B is also for Bilic and Blanc, the former having deprived us of seeing the latter’s silken skills in that final, when his play acting fooled the referee into red carding poor old Laurent, the man who had scored the World Cup Final’s first golden goal against Paraguay.

C is for Chelsea — Happy days are back again at the Bridge. A Cup winners Cup win and then the subsequent European Club Champions victory over Real Madrid. The Blues look set for another big year under the tutelage of Gianluca Vialli. Now there’s an exciting team from London.

D is for Defender — Not a decent one in the Premiership. Question — when was the last time a 30-something reformed alcoholic stood head and shoulders above the rest? D is also for offender in the shape of the enigmatic di Canio, Paulo that is, he of Sheffield Wednesday, who felled a referee in a moment of madness. In fairness, though, I will never tire of seeing the incident, I don’t know why, but it just gets funnier and funnier. "When the ref takes a fall, he’s not hit by the ball — it’s di Canio. When he falls to the floor, it’s not Stan Collymore, it’s di Canio." To the air of "That’s Amore."

E is for Eng-er-land — Could have done so much better in the World Cup but for three reasons: Refusal to start Michael Owen and Steve McManaman, lest they excite their fans into exhaustion and spoil the after match tete-a-tete with reluctant opposing supporters in doing so. The sending off of David Beckham for what can only be described as justifiable retaliation. Beckham’s hair was completely tossed in the tackle. The third reason — a penalty shoot-out, England don’t win those. The reason — bottle, my son!

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F is for Finally! A title for The Bhoys — Celtic win the League in Scotland after ten years in solitude. Proof that there is somebody up there monitoring events.

G is for Gazza — Sent home from the World Cup by Gleeful Glen. Should he have stayed? Was he drinking? Should they all have had a few? Could he have come on and wrapped up the game against Argentina, and in doing so, carry his team on to a possible penalty shoot-out defeat by Holland? We’ll never know.

H is for Holland — Another "let’s shoot ourselves in the foot Nation Brimful, talent, strength in reserve the lot. Time and time again though, they fail at the final or penultimate hurdle.

I is for Ince — Please! Please! Please! Get rid of him Liverpool.

J is for Juventus — "Ouch my foot!" See Holland above. Have they really got that much money to waste? Do people still buy Fiat’s?

K is for Kerr — Brian Kerr, King of the Kids. Probably the most successful underage of all time, a genius. But the man who has made flippancy such an endearing trait just shrugs his shoulders and gets on with it. K is also for Keane. The Rob-Roy show began in earnest in 98. Roy has shaped into a player who would undoubtedly figure in most of the experts World XI’s. Robbie is our Michael Owen, as exciting a prospect as we’ve had since Brady, Stapleton and O’Leary wore the green. I seem to remember enjoying watching Arsenal then also.

L is for Liverpool — The weakest defense since O.J. Simpson. But he got away with it, so you never know do you?

M is for McCarthy — Mick that is. The man who up until a few weeks back didn’t know that it was an offense to be born in Barnsley, is beginning to get it right with Ireland. Come the end of the year we may well have qualified for yet another Major. Good luck Mick.

N is for Netherlands — aka Holland, aka Underachievers, aka the shoot-in-the-footmeisters. OK, so I had a few bob on them to win the World Cup, and I know that I mentioned them before, but I mean to say . . .

O is for Owen — Too young to start for England in the World Cup. Old enough for Brazil though. Already a phenomenon. Plays for Liverpool. There’s hope for us yet.

P is for Paul — The Black Pearl of Inchicore, Paul McGrath. The Genius retired from the game last year, was there ever a more popular Irishman?

Q is for Quintessential — Anyone who uses this particular word in a speech is talking crap, according to Irish boss Mick McCarthy. Q is also for Niall Quinn, nice to see him back in the Irish shirt against Malta.

R is for Ronaldo — The greatest player in the world failed on the greatest stage. Had us all confused before the final: first he wasn’t playing, then he was, then he did, then he didn’t, if you know what I mean.

S is for Sack — Almost every World Cup manager got it, or "resigned," after the event.

T is for Tedium (see Arsenal)

U is for Upset — F.A. Cup fourth round Manchester United vs. Liverpool at Old Trafford. Please!

V is for Villa — The unlikely leaders of the Premiership. They have a man called Dublin who is capable of keeping them there, but they also have a man called Collymore, alas.

W is for World Cup — Bereft of the Irish and the wonderful support, it was still a great event. Nice to see the host nation prevail also. There was a certain arrogance about this Brazilian team that turned most of us neutrals in favor of the French.

X is for Xausa — David Xausa. Signed for Port Vale on a free transfer from Vancouver in January. Went to Stoke City on a free from Port Vale in February. A few weeks later he moved on to St. Johnstone in Scotland, again the fee-Zilch. Hobbies include, football, travel and living on a shoestring budget. Gets in because I can’t think of any other "X’s."

Y is for "You’ll never beat the Irish" — There could soon be cause for us to bring back this old favorite, so don’t forget the words, will you?

Z is for Zidane — His two goals in the final won the World Cup for France, great stuff! Great year.

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