Friday, January 27, 2006

Group D Provides Opportunity for Stan 'n' Bob

Euro 2008 Qualification - Group D
Czech Republic
San Marino

Not the absolute best we could have hoped for, but far from the worst. A quick glance over our shoulders at Group B and the fate of our 4th Seed companions, Scotland, should put perspective on this draw. Poor old Scotland, their draw - France, Italy, Ukraine, Lithuania, Georgia and the Faroe Islands - is almost staggering in its difficulty and could prove the biggest check on their ambitions since Edward Longshanks. Even the weakest team, the Faroes, hold nightmarish memories for the Scots.

England have their customary soft looking draw, with Russia and Croatia looking more awkward than outstanding in Group B, and Northern Ireland will return to their perpetual demoralising cycle of beatings from the likes of Spain and Denmark, never mind Sweden, in Group D.

Ireland's group can be classed as of medium difficulty, and looking at it optimistically, we should be competing with the Germans for second place, and at least clambering over Slovakia into third. That is supposing that the new management team manufactures an improvement in spirit after the meekness of the Brian Kerr era, from what looks as flimsy and callow a squad as Ireland have had in a long time.

One thing noticeable is, Cyprus apart, the lack of recent history in this group; thankfully no Switzerland this time, or troublesome trips to Macedonia, and also the happy absence of journeys into the heart of Asia, with Nicosia the furthest destination for the boys in green.

So what of the nations that provide the obstacles in Stan 'n' Bob's excellent adventure?

The top seeds have been one of Europe's top sides for several years now, beneficiaries of a golden generation of their own in the form of players like Pavel Nedved, Jan Koller, Karel Poborsky and Tomas Rosicky, accompanied more recently by Milan Baros, Jiri Jarosik and Petr Cech. However Nedved is likely to retire from international football after World Cup 2006, and the next generation lacks the pedigree of the previous one.

WC? Toiled past Norway in the play-offs, lost home and away to Holland, and away to Romania in the group, so maybe not as formidable as they once were.

Previous? Not much, a late Robbie Keane goal gave Ireland a 2-1 friendly victory two years ago as the Czech's warmed up for Euro 2004. In competitive terms you have to go back to 1969 when Czechoslovakia defeated us home and away in qualifying for Mexico 1970. (Ireland finished bottom of a four team group incidentally - have we found our level again?)

Skopje or Stuttgart? Ranked second in the world, but as good as they used to be. Still too strong, athletic and talented for us, and should be group winners

The great football cliche referring to the folly of writing off the Germans has taken something battering in recent years, as Germany endures a prolonged period of international mediocrity. After somehow spawning their way to the World Cup Final in 2002, their true worth was evident in their dismal Euro 2004 when they were eliminated at the group stage. Still, its all relative, and their demise is only from the status of football superpower - they will still feel superiority over little old Ireland. Will rely on Michael Ballack, Kevin Kuranyi, and Bastian Schweinsteiger, but still have too many uninspiring names in their ranks for a German national team.

WC? Hosts - could be on a roll from the national high of hosting a tournament when we meet them, or in depression following an humiliating exit.

Previous? That night in Ibaraki in 2002 is about it. A friendly win in 1994 before that. Apart from the whole gun running epsiode in 1916.

Skopje or Stuttgart? We should be able to compete with them, but they always qualify for tournaments and it is presumably hard-coded into their psyche to dispose of plucky upstarts like us. Just ask Poland. (enough historical references already - ed.)

The relative optimism at our draw pre-supposes that we will be able to take care of Slovakia, namely because we don't know much about them and so they can't be much cop. Well, they're ahead of us in the seedings, ergo, they are better than us. On the face of it, however, our confidence is understandable, given that Middlesbrough malingerer Szilard Nemeth and Robert Vittek and Marek Mintal of FC Nuremberg appear to be their main men.

WC? Hammered by Spain 6-2 on aggregate in the play-offs, after admirably holding of Russia for second place in their group. Like ourselves were draw specialists, tieing five times, suggesting stodginess rather than sleekness.

Previous? Zilch. See Czechoslovakia 1969, if you like.

Skopje or Stuttgart? If the new regime is to achieve anything in this campaign we must out this lot behind us comfortably, but could be just the sort of sticky opponent to undermine the fledgling regime.

Ideally you want to avoid these local affairs, as they tend to exacerbate the jingoism factor at the expense of footballing merit. Ireland and Wales won't be too testy however and the principality will be a good indicator of our progress. Have plenty of attacking talent among messrs Giggs, Bellamy, Hartson, and Earnshaw, but the quality drops off dramatically further back with the numbers being made up from the lower English leagues - and have been noticeably limp since John Toshack took over.

WC? Hugely disappointing fifth in group 6, especially the fact that they were beaten for fifth by Northern Ireland.

Previous? Little again, apart from a cold afternoon in March 1986....

Skopje or Stuttgart? Have enough to trouble us, and will be up for it at the Millenium, but lack sufficient quality to be anything other than a potential nuisance.

One for the fans: handy points, and work in a week in the sun around the away trip. Lovely. Thats the plan anyway, but last October we used up all our fortune to wrest a point from Nicosia.

WC? Didn't let any easy points leave the island, but a total of four points overall shows they remain minnows. A 2-2 draw at home against the Faroes puts Ireland's toil in October into perspective.

Previous? See above, also Roy Keane's rousing performance in 2001 to awaken a somnambulant Ireland in a 4-1 victory.

Skopje or Stuttgart? Again, the FAI's big gamble would want to be going seriously awry not to take six points from Cyprus.

Butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. There are easy games in international football.

WC? Played 10 Won 0 Drew 0 Lost 10 Goals For 2 Goals Against 40. Nuff said.

Previous? None

Skopje or Stuttgart? Won't be filling Croker for this one.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Some Movies Not in 2006 Oscar Contention

A thrilling tale of one football association's fearless struggle to uncover the hidden corruption in their country's game, leaving no stoned unturned in the hunt for truth.

Starring Kevin Costner as maverick FA Compliance Director Skip McGonagle, and Chris O'Donnell as his eager assistant Mike Newell.

Guest starring Christopher Walken as Sven Goran Eriksson

MULLET - The Revenge
Because great haircuts never die. Chuck Norris plays Shane Byrne, a washed up rugby player days from retirement, who risks it all in bloody style for the honour of the haircut he loved. Evil IRFU plotters are attempting to destroy the mullet - but haven't reckoned on one man's dream of a world where mullets run free.

Also starring Pete Postlethwaite as The Mullet

Using an ancient spell kept deep within the secret chambers of the Daily Mail offices, the English FA raise the great wartime leader from the dead to lead their team to glory and free them from the clutches of Scandinavian oppression, but live to regret their decision when, on the eve of the World Cup Final, Winston recalls the decaying corpse of General Montgomery to play on the left wing.

Guest starring Christopher Walken as Sven Goran Eriksson

The Crucible theatre in Sheffield is stunned when a gang of snooker playing kung-fu monks attempt to foil a plot to steal the World Championship trophy: Its end of break for the bad guys! Stephen Chow directs an all-star cast including Chow Yun-Fat as gang leader Steve Davis and Jackie Chan at his trick-shotting best as John Virgo.

Also starring Michelle Yeoh as that woman referee

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Gary and Gareth - Two of a Kind

I just couldn't put my finger on it. Who did he remind me of again? Was it a physical thing? Maybe. The mannerisms and attitude, though, that was it. That interview on Sky Sports before the Manchester United v Liverpool game the other day, it hit me then: Gary Neville is Gareth Keenan from The Office.

I don't know why I never spotted it before. Physically there's the gawky facial features, the wide, staring eyes and the helmet-like haircut. More than that, though, there's the delusions of grandeur: the self-appointed leader status, the paper-thin facade of machismo that gets undermined in hilarious circumstances (see Roy Keane getting stuck into Patrick Vieira for bullying our hero during the infamous tunnel stramash at Highbury last year). There's the deadly seriousness with which he takes himself and everything he does - you almost expect him to launch into an account of his exploits in the "Territorials" during interviews.

A key character trait that unites the shop steward of United and England and Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's wonderful creation is the fundamental immaturity that they both exhibit and that underpins their actions. Gareth's desire for power and respect sees him adopt the manner and lexicon of leadership, without the gravitas, charisma, status and, well, lack of idiocy that it requires. Gary's pronouncements on matters football carry the same desire for respectability; Neville walks the walk of the "senior pro", all furrowed brow and serious words.

And then, invariably, you see him acting like a prat like he did following United's late winner against Liverpool last Sunday. Will the real Gary Neville please stand up? Ah yes, gurning like a half-cut baboon, or more specifically, acting like the denizens of the Stretford End no doubt were at the same time.

And what the hell is wrong with that, I hear you cry? Isn't it great to see a footballer sharing the passion of the supporters for once, savouring success the way those in the stands do, in this age of overpaid, ambivalent mercenaries? Well, yes, it is - nothing wrong indeed. Every fan loves the heart-on-the-sleeve, lifelong fan-type player. As for the "incitement" allegations, even Liverpool fans would agree that this idea is nonsense - the likelihood of "the Great Gary Neville Riots of 2006" entering te history books is minimal.

It's just that Gary Neville's fundamental daftness shone through so clearly as to demonstrably undermine (in the same way as the "manual lifting training" scene did for Gareth Keenan) Neville's flimsy self-constructed veneer of masculinity and that laughable notion of him being the respected, august figure in the game that he seems to crave.

I keep thinking of the bit were Gareth is seen going home in the sidecar with the biker and his girlfriend....

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Provinces Answer Their Country's Call

In a trademark display of finger-on-the-pulse, perceptive analysis, TSA wrote rather dolefully a couple of weeks ago of the prospects for Leinster and Munster as the Heineken Cup's group stage double-header denouement loomed, immediately prior to both sides' breathtaking progression into the last eight of European rugby's blue riband tournament.

Damn strange game, rugby, and no mistake.

Just as the respective provinces' dim outlooks have been suddenly illuminated this last two weekends, so too the international camp must have been an infinitely jauntier set-up this morning than when they last met in November. One imagines that the only ones not smiling will be those who have enjoyed their club sides' qualification celebrations rather too much - well, them and perhaps the Ulster lads, although I'm sure they will be happy for their international colleagues. I mean its not like Ulster not to join in with the rest of..... ok, better stop there.

While Munster and Leinster's successes - or at least the style and nature of them - were surprising, they lay in both sides sudden ability to overturn the age old concerns that mitigated against them: namely, in Munster's case, the discovery of flair and verve in the backs to colour their forwards' dominance, and in Leinster's, the addition of enough doggedness and grit in the forwards to give their all-star back division a chance to shine.

Forwards aside, let's talk up Leinster's glory boys. Talking to the Irish Independent last week, Gordon D'Arcy alluded to a focus in their training on turning defence into attack, suggesting that even when focused on stopping the opposition's advances, Michael Cheika was looking for his side to be in constant readiness to counter, to look for and exploit any weaknesses when least expected. No accidents, then, Shane Horgan's try which began with a Felipe Contepomi tap-penalty in his own 22, and the Argentine's own try which came from his interception of an Olly Barkley pass.

But, alas, the weekend's garlands are still Munster's. Typical, really - despite Leinster's greatest performance in recent memory, they still manage to be trumped by the men in red. For all Leinster's fantastic achievement yesterday, note Sale and Bath's respective positions in the Guinness Premiership - 1st and 11th. Sale came with all the strut of England's finest and were laid waste in that distinctly recognisable way of Munster's at Thomond, where the oppostion invariably appears unsure as to exactly what just happened.

To return to the rough correlation made here a few weeks ago: Heineken success should mean international success, so there should be the hint of a smile on the face of the normally inscrutable Galwayman to whose team our attentions now fully shift.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006


In the dingy vaults of the Rio de Janeiro Immigration Registration Office, the Gaffer and his trusty, but aged, sidekick carefully leafed through the dusty tomes which documented the great influx of Irish emigrants to Brazil in the early twentieth century.

They'd been at it three weeks now, and nothing. The Gaffer was not, by his nature, a jovial type, and indeed tended toward cantankerousness in his more pleasant moods, so the long days spent slavishly seeking their quarry gnawed at his very soul and drenched his disposition in darker hues than even he had ever suffered. Only for the unceasing good nature of his beloved old friend alongside him he would have left this godforsaken lair weeks ago.

But then, just as the Gaffer was about to bring an end to the forlorn search, there it was. In black and white, faint now, but unmistakeable.

"Robson?", the Gaffer cried.

"What is it Gaffer?" replied the elderly factotum.

"I've found something. Look!"

He slowly raised his pale, bony finger, quivering now and damp from perspiration, carefully so as not to damage the delicate parchment, toward the source of his rare glee.

The gnarled servant beheld a name, at once both familiar and strange: "Seamus Ronaldinho. By gosh, I think we've got our man" .

And for the first time in many weeks, the Gaffer smiled.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Can We Come And Play At Your House?

So ten years after the rebuilding of Croke Park began, five years since Eircom Park permanently entered the architect's bin, four years after the demise of the Bertie Bowl and after a generation of Lansdowne Road being the greatest anachronism in modern sport, the elite of Irish soccer and rugby will finally be allowed to grace the country's most fitting arena.
It says something about the peculiarities, idiosyncracies and perversions of Irish sporting politics (and the more general kind) that what would seem at the outset such a logical and obvious arrangement has been greeted as an historic event, the complexity and delicacy of whose germination elicits wonder at its completion.
The national teams of our two most popular international sports (ticket demand for whose competitive games invariably exceeds supply) will play in an available 80,000 capacity stadium in our capital city while the stadium they normally play in is renovated. On the face of it, well, it's not exactly the Treaty of Versailles. But if you were to clip and collate in newsprint the story of how this arrangement came to pass..well, you'd probably give yourself repetitive strain disorder from all that clipping.
Remember Bernard O'Byrne and the shiny colouredy drawings of the new Home of Irish Football with fancy Academy and everything out the west of Dublin somewhere? Remember Bertie and the skullduggery of the bribe to the GAA at the Congress of 2001 in order to keep possible his marbled folly in Abbotstown? Remember the IRFU acting all dignified but sort of coming across like the befuddled old major in Fawlty Towers while Basil chased Manuel around him?
Remember the whole pitch dimensions argument? Namely (and this is from a joint IRFU/FAI statement in 2001) that soccer and rugby simply couldn't play in Croke Park anyway because the pitch was too big and the fans would be too far away and it would ruin the integrity of the games and that was reason enough to row in in support of the Emperor's Golden Palace of Sport just off the M50.
Remember those GAA ex-presidents, the japesters, on the Congress Motions Committee in 2004 who came up with the spiffing wheeze of chucking out on a technicality all the democratically raised motions for the opening of Croke Park before even allowing them onto the clar for Congress? Gas!
It's ok - it's over now, you can come out.
One aftershock I foresee in all this (apart from the grim, doleful spectre of the Lansdowne Road Residents Assocation) is the problem of getting the genie back into the bottle. The amendment to the GAA constitution allows for the opening of Croke Park only for the duration of the renovation of Lansdowne Road. Presumably then the soccer and rugby folk will toddle back to their new, well appointed, but more bijou residence and the twain, once more, never again shall meet.
But what if the concept of soccer and rugby internationals in Croke Park becomes such a success, what if the Irish cultural zeitgeist embraces the new sporting order with such enthusiasm that to banish them for good once more to the more compact surrounds of Dublin 4 is thought "a bit much", and "ah would you not let them use it for the England match, sure the tickets are only gold-dust!"...?
So will Gaeldom's new found ecumenism be a passing marriage of convenience, or have these doors we keep hearing about been opened for good?

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Sven Caught With Metaphorical Pants Down This Time

Sven, Sven, Sven.

Don't you just love the sniff of glamour, the thrill of intrigue, the frisson of illicit liaisons? Furtive meetings with influential movers and shakers; suggestive glances and snatched clinches with leggy lovelies.

It's the excitement isn't it? The popular conception of you as the mild-mannered accountant type, carefully stewarding the fortunes of English football in a calm and rational manner towards the logical conclusion of ultimate success - it's all facade, really, isn't it? You are, in fact, one of the great thrill-seekers of our times, the modern equivalent of those chaps who used to go over the Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Maybe you see yourself as a James Bond figure: jetting off to exotic locations for top secret rendezvous with strangely accented men of power, pausing only for a spot of rumpy with dusky harlots, before returning seamlessly into your studied public guise.

Was the most embarrassing fact about the "Fake Sheikh" affair not the publication of some rather banal, mostly self-evident assessments of your squad members, nor the startling fact that you may actually not be committing the rest of your working years to dearest Albion, but that the real purpose of your trip to Dubai was so very nearly exposed? Namely, of course, that you had just defused a nuclear bomb planted by a splinter group of megalomaniacal jihadists under a casino blackjack table with only one second left on the timer, while simultaneously casually sipping your vodka martini and winking at a curvy minor European royal across the table. Imagine if the NOTW had gotten hold of that one!

-A dashed close shave, old chap!

-Not at all M, I used the Sheikh as a decoy; escaped on the bugger's jet...

-Then how do you explain these, found in your attache case? (holds up pair of womens knickers - Sven smirks lasciviously.....)

It's little wonder that you leave the running of the mere English football team to David Beckham, what with the future of the free world resting in your hands. How can you be expected to spend your time considering whether accomodating Lampard and Gerrard in the centre of midfield and the resulting absence of a natural holding midfielder leaves the defence vulnerable to counter attacks, when there are psychotic criminal masterminds converting disused volcanoes into missile-launching evil citadels and barmy ex-KGB men conspiring with middle-eastern bastard statelets to create nuclear arsenals everywhere?!

People always wonder about Nancy though. You know, why does she stay with him? How can she put up with it all? But Nancy's no fool. Wasn't M a woman in the recent Bond movies?

Think about it......

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Friday, January 13, 2006

A Last Heineken for the Road?

Apropos of nothing really, a conversation today with man from Leinster rugby heartland, former Blackrock College pupil, oval ball afficionado type....

TSA: You going to the RDS tomorrow?

Man: Jesus no. Not going to support that lot till they start playing decent rugby.

TSA (chuckling amiably, but privately disdainful): What happened to faithful through good times and bad, thick and thin?

Man: I'm not like one of those f#cking Munster saps, following them all over the bloody place

TSA (attempting to uncover the inner child beneath the chilling adult cynicism) : Fair enough, but they play some entertaining rugby at times though

Man: F#ck that. I haven't gone to see them since they lost to Perpignan and I'm not going back till they win the European Cup......


All of which is not meant to illustrate conclusively that all Leinster rugby people lack the sense of communal bond, or pride of place, or tribal instinct, or value the individual and his right to personal fulfilment above that of the collective too much to develop the Leinster Rugby franchise into as coherent and stirring an entity as that of their southern counterparts.

Its just funny the things that people say.

All that said, the move to the RDS for Heineken Cup games this year has been a worthwhile one in countering the sense of displacement and inappropriateness that hitherto affected Lansdowne Road and Donnybrook respectively. Add the return of Brian O'Driscoll and Denis Hickie from injury, the emergence of young players like Robert Kearney and Jamie Heaslip and the relative calm of the new coaching regime and things should be rosey in the well appointed garden of Leinster rugby.

But then there's the unavoidable fact that Leinster's pack, never their prime weapon, is feebler than ever following the defections of the last close season. The home loss to Bath in the first game of the competition has hamstrung their European campaign and threatens to undermine a true sense of momentum for Michael Cheika's regime. This would be unfortunate, as even in that opening loss it was evident that has Leinster had the big finishing guns of O'Driscoll and D'Arcy they could have compensated for their drubbing up front, and in the event of improvement in the pack would be a real force in the latter stages of the competition.

Both Leinster and Munster, however, look to be in dire danger of failing to qualify for the quarter finals. Indeed, both are in the position of their fortunes being out of their own hands. The reality of having no Irish team in the quarter finals is no quirk of circumstance in a tournament increasingly the sole property of English and French clubs. The discrepancy in budgets, and the difference in structures mean that the Irish system of central contracts will only continue to struggle in opposition to the English and French regimes where the club is king.

A shame, as the halcyon days of European semi-finals and finals and the wave of enthusiasm that Irish rugby enjoyed through Heineken exploits could soon be a memory.


....TSA: Well you'll be waiting a long bloody time....

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Thursday, January 12, 2006


My tea's gone cold I'm wondering why I,
Left Walsall at all,
They couldn't get Martin O'Neill,
And prob'ly not even Alan Ball.
Don't know what to do with these bibs and cones,
but your picture on my wall
It reminds me, that it's not so bad,it's not so bad...

Dear Sir Bobby, I wrote you but you ain't callin,
I left me mobile number and even me Da's number in Dundalk at the bottom,
You see I need new cones for the training and the FAI say I can't have 'em,
Say I spent too much on sun cream for a training trip to Navan,
Its just that in Orlando against them Mexicans it was scorchin',
But anyways, feck it, what's been up? Man how's Elsie?
I need your help though, this managerial lark ain't healthy,
See my best player's Duffer and he ain't playin' well for Chelsea
And I don't have Keano,
Well I have one but can't keep him outta Lillie's Bordello,
And John O'Shea ain't been the same since Roy dissed him,
I know you probably hear this every day, but I'm your greatest fan,
I even read about you as a dashing forward at Fulham,
I got pictures of you with Brylcreem on from an old pack of Capstan,
You managed PSV, Barca and England too - you da man!
Anyways, I hope you get this man, hit me back,
just to chat tactics, truly yours, your biggest fan
This is Stan.

My tea's gone cold I'm wondering why I
Left Walsall at all,
They couldn't get Martin O'Neill,
And prob'ly not even Alan Ball.
Don't know what to do with these bibs and cones,
but your picture on my wall
It reminds me, that it's not so bad,
it's not so bad...

Dear Sir Bobby, you ain't called or wrote, I hope you have a chance
That's right I forgot - its Snowball night at the Bingo and then there's the pensioners dance,
But I really need your help man, I'll owe ya,
Last week we lost at home to Macedonia,
Thats the pits, man, the FAI are ragin' - those cones I wanted, they said had to come outta my wages!
You're supposed to be helping me out but you must be too busy,
Probably having tea and cakes with the Archbishop of Canterbury,
Or whatever you old guys do - please just answer me -
I don't wanna end up like my homie McCarthy!
See you're just like me as such
You were only thirty-six when you took over at Ipswich
And you nearly won the league and won the FA and Uefa Cup,
Think the way you ain't answerin' me is fecked up.
All I wanted was a lousy letter or a call,
Keep turning up for training and don't know what to do with the ball,
I make them run laps round the field until they can't hack it,
I thought being a manager was just standing round looking grumpy in a padded jacket!
Least that's what big Jack used to do and look where it got him,
A national hero and the freedom of Dublin!
But its all tactics and set-pieces and media backlash,
Its all your fault that our defence is so slapdash!
So thanks for nothing old man, they're gonna eat me alive -
Too late - here comes Delaney with the P45.

My tea's gone cold I'm wondering why I
Left Walsall at all,
They couldn't get Martin O'Neill,
And prob'ly not even Alan Ball.
Don't know what to do with these bibs and cones,
but your picture on my wall
It reminds me, that it's not so bad,
it's not so bad...

Dear Stan, I meant to write you sooner, I apologise for my tardiness,
But try getting the top off a Bic biro with my arthritis,
Anyway you say you've had some problems with your team's marking and passes,
Hold on a minute - Elsie, bring me my glasses!
Can't read anything anymore without my specs,
Not that I'd want to read the paper these days- its all violence and sex,
Now where we, ah yes cones and training gear...
Cones? Reminds me of 99s and summers at Blackpool pier!
Me and Elsie courting, now what was the year?
'53 wasn't it? Ah the Matthews Cup Final!
We danced to Bing Crosby, only 2 shillings on vinyl.
These days its compact thingmayjigs and digital whatsits,
My grandson talks like Em and Em or what ever you call it..
You got some issues Stan, I think you need some counseling
I never managed Ipswich did I? Oh wait I'm remembering!
Arnold Muhren what a player! From Amsterdam I reckon
Like those tulips I planted at the end of the decking.
Do you have a garden Stan? You'd find it rewarding.
What was it you wanted? Ah yes some advice,
Well the secret of my success was not to worry, be nice!
I was listening to the sports news on my old wireless - made me sick,
What was it? Some chap just like you got sacked, that was it!
Was tactically inept, didn't know what to do,
Come to think about, his name was.. it was you

© TSA 2006

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Monday, January 09, 2006

A TSA Ode to 2006

As TSA emerges blinking from its winter hibernation into the hopeful dawn of a shiny new year, it perches on a frost-coated branch, picks up its banjo and begins to pluck a plaintive air......

Come gather ye round, all sports fans and punters,
All you loyal die-hards and all glory-hunters,
A time for new heroes and victories to cheer
Its the dawn of a brand new sporting year!

Now 2005 was a vintage obscene
If you followed the fortunes of men dressed in green.
Be it soccer or rugby or international rules,
The men from dear Eire: invariably the fools!

Last year dashed all our great hopes,
Be they Grand Slams or World Cups, we were on the ropes,
And that old Boundary Commission served to conspire,
That an Irish team wouldn't even win Sam Maguire!

Consolation was found in matters equine,
In Cheltenham the Irish were first to the line,
Our steeds swept the boards, but did not compensate,
For the sad, sad loss of everyone's Best Mate.

This story so far has been largely of woe,
But not for the Red hordes, who to Turkey did go,
A game of two halves, you'd fall off your stool,
At the miraculous night in Old Istanbul.

But enough of old memories and last year's grim tales
2005 into history now pales,
This new year will pose questions and mysteries,
Aside from the fact that the Premiership's Chelsea's.

Will the callow Stan prove a successful gamble?
Will he stay awake if Sir Bobby starts to ramble?
Will the dream team get us into football's top echelon,
Despite our reliance on Clinton Morrison?

Will Ireland play rugby with elan and flair?
Or will Eddie O'Sullivan go the way of Brian Kerr?
Forced by the blazers to walk the plank,
Better hope that the Scots and Italians are rank...

September will fall and the fatcats will purr,
And sup free champagne from the Cup called Ryder,
Corporate Ireland will be contented and boozy,
If there's success 'gainst the Yanks for the team led by Woosie.

Now down in the Kingdom the wounds are being licked,
For they reckon last year their birthright was nicked,
By those men from Tyrone, brawny and bold,
They could do it again, though Canavan's now too old.

As the winter wind whistles and nights are still dark,
Seems such a long way from summer in Croke Park,
Where the hurlers of Ireland do all their best work,
Once again none better than Kilkenny and Cork.

But one prospect more than any gees us up,
Germany in June and the good ole World Cup,
No matter there's no Irish success we can toast,
Sure we've nearly the same flag as the Ivory Coast.

For sure the English believe its all fixed,
Just like Hastings and Wembley the year ends in six!
But we all know the truth, how mournful and sad,
The best they can hope for is a Pizza Hut ad.

Whether you kick for goal or wield a putter,
If you cheer on for fun or fancy a flutter,
May 2006 bring the success that you chase,
Now - can you get an each way bet on the Boat Race?

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