by Steven S

A friend of mine went to see Cirque De Soleil’s tribute to Michael Jackson last week, paying through the nose for big tickets and finding himself sitting next to the one and only Egdar Davids. Apart from cracking onto my friend’s girl when his back was turned, Davids seemed like a pretty decent guy by all accounts and as we know he is over here to work as a player/manager with Barnet, although his own barnet still looks like the Predator. Why have I told you this half interesting story? Well, I couldn’t think of another opening and it’s the closest I’ve come to a football legend outside of a football stadium so the hope is, as all five of the Monday Review’s readers spread the word, I will replace my friend in the story and become part of the legend.  Chinese whispers and all that. And no, that is not sad at all.

So another week in the build up back to Premiership life and the murky cloud of racism continues to linger over the game in Europe and in our own backyard. After the chaotic scenes in the aftermath of the U-21 Championship qualifying game in Serbia, the subject has gathered momentum once more although the destination is unknown. As Danny Rose was sent off and subjected to disgusting abuse from what seemed like everywhere in the stadium, John Terry decided to leave his apology to the last minute before he accepted his four game ban from the FA. It was enough to swipe the rug from underneath anyone taking the moral high ground over central Europe. It was a quick reminder that problems still exist in the domestic game and enough to cause players such as Jason Roberts, Victor Anichebe, Kenwyne Jones and Rio Ferdinand to step away from the ‘on message’ of wearing pre-game anti-racism t-shirts. “He will be dealt with” said Alex Ferguson, embarrassed by the defender following the managers’ criticism of Roberts the day before – a fight with only one winner and puts a question mark over Rio’s future at the club.

Joleon Lescott hasn’t worn one for five years following the FA’s decision not to charge Emre Belozoglu, then of Newcastle, following the accusation of racial abuse toward Lescott’s then teammate Joseph Yobo. When Lazio came to White Hart Lane last month they also brought along a bunch of knuckle dragging buffoons who chanted racist abuse toward their black players. UEFA decided this week that £32,000 would send a sufficient message to the club and force them take action to prevent it taking place again. Let’s not forget Chelsea were fined £88,000 a few years back for ‘failing to control their players’ in the aftermath of their semi-final defeat at home to Barcelona. So it is good to see the European governing body of the game has got its priorities right. A similar fine is expected for the Serbian FA which will mean the perception that UEFA do not take the problem seriously will continue. Transparency is needed over the whole fine process to explain how they decided that small change fines will have any impact at all.

We hear Platini droning on about technology in the game far yet humane issues are troubling the game that if properly addressed could be eradicated. Racism will always exist but if you make people scared to shout about it outside of their home that will make life a far better place for everyone else. Chelsea and the FA look no better in their handling of the John Terry affair and as the Blues captain goes on to lift further trophies in the game, the amount of distrust and hatred towards the player will seal his exit from the game once he retires. At least we will be spared his thoughts on Sky every Sunday.

Jermaine Pennant has dropped a division to join Wolves on a 3 month emergency loan after being squeezed out of the influx of midfielders to arrive at Stoke whilst James McFadden is set to join Martin O’Neill at Sunderland after being released from Everton in the summer. Niles Ranger was found guilty on two counts of assault against police offers, told to pay £750 to each officer and given a 12-month conditional discharge, before being told to shape up by boss Alan Pardew. The 21-year old has a number of incidents with the police since he was a teenager and obviously has behavioural issues which the club should not leave up to him alone, so hopefully he is being given the support network to resolve them. His chances are decreasing by the game and slipping down a couple of divisions will end his big chance of a Premiership career – a chance thousands of players would give a right arm for.

Following Liverpool’s foray into the soap opera world on Channel 5, the dramas and sagas continue thick and fast for the club, although thankfully a 1-0 win over Reading with a strike from Raheem Sterling at least ended the week on a positive note. During the past seven days there have been plans for an Anfield stadium expansion, broken feet, hamstrings, a potential £8million loan repayment for the proposed Stanley Park stadium and Mafioso style threats to a supporter of the club. The Duncan Jenkins twitter blog apparently became wrapped up in an ongoing dialogue with Director of Communication Jen Chang over the effect his pseudonym was having over their transfer deals. Chang was accused of threatening to throw him to the dogs over the whole thing if the profile was not closed down.  In the aftermath of the Suarez affair it only adds to the mess the whole club is in on and off the pitch and the loveable El-Hadji Diouf decided to pitch in on Friday with another kick, or spit, at Liverpool. Stevie Me was his focus saying he would rather score and Liverpool lose the game, such was his self importance. Apparently none of the old mid-90’s team can stand him and he was jealous of Diouf’s status after the 2002 World Cup. Diouf of course has been much loved all around the country, now at his eighth club in ten years in the UK and his complete lack of irony will only endear him further to the Red half of Merseyside.

As Chelsea almost threw away a dominant first half performance against Tottenham, before eventually running out 4-2 winners at the Lane, their lone blonde haired £50m centre forward continues to be an enigma. Torres revealed this week how miserable he was last season sinking as low as not to care about how the team performed, before Paulo Ferreira showed him the light toward being a team player. There are still big question marks over Fernando as he works well within the team but seems to lack that individual dynamic spark that made his name in the Premiership.

Chelsea’s victory at Saturday lunchtime keeps them top of the table for yet another week, their midfield trio once again mesmerising opposition on the road to another tough away fixture. Manchester United’s defensive problems are still very apparent – Rio arguing with Fergie not withstanding – as they conceded another two goals despite sending four past Stoke in reply. That is eleven conceded already and unless stability and some sort of team shape is found at the back, it could be the decisive factor in not winning the Premiership again. Their rivals City stole a late 2-1 victory away to the impressive West Brom, although Lukaku done his best to miss almost every chance he was given to put them back in front following Dzeko’s first goal. Edin has looked far more composed and impressive this season after taking a lot of flack from his own and opposition fans last year, despite scoring 19 goals. He has scored some very important goals already for an underperforming team but he will find it hard to pin down a permanent place in the team with so much competition and Mancini’s insistence on rotating them almost every game. That lack of a recognised partnership for City is affecting their rhythm and will not be able to keep pulling late points out of the bag all season.

Swansea grabbed a much needed home win after a collapse in their form of the first couple of games, whilst West Ham continue to confound their critics and stay only one point from fourth place. They will of course hit a hard patch later in the season but by getting these points on board early, it will secure their safety. Chris Baird scored a rare goal for Fulham six minutes from time to beat Aston Villa, who are now just hovering over the bottom three. Norwich also took their first win of the season at home to Arsenal who looked a pale shadow of the team that rolled over West Ham a couple of weeks ago. Grant Holt was first to react to a long range shot spilled by Mannone and any sort of reaction from Arsenal was in very short supply. QPR meanwhile sit bottom with Reading following their draw at home to Everton and the pressure will only continue to increase on Mark Hughes as his side remain winless. The Tyne-Wear derby was low scoring but as high in entertainment as ever, with Sunderland dominating possession but once again struggling for goals outside of Fletcher. Cabaye put the barcodes in front before losing Tiote for a crazy challenge on Fletcher and they almost hang on until a late goal from O’Shea.

There was also some talk this week about sleeping and caffeine pills being routinely taken before and after Premiership goals following the revelation by England players on twitter as they were stuck in rainy Poland. Then John Terry took over the headlines yet again and nobody cared about that anymore. Quiet talks are also taking place over a mid-season winter break with initial proposals’ pointing toward sacrificing FA Cup replays completely, which looks far more acceptable.

The Champions and Europa League are back from Tuesday to Thursday so plenty of games to get our teeth into as we head toward the official end of summer and the dark harsh cold nights of football. A week without racism, handshakes or John bloody Terry would be warmly welcomed but maybe I’m asking too much. I’ll see you all back here, same time, same place next week my pets. Keep warm and er, stuff. Peace.