Kieran Davies looks back on seven strange days that concluded with a flat punchline.

Picture the scene, it’s the last game of a World Cup qualifying campaign and everything hangs in the balance. One goal could be the difference between dancing Samba girls or the FA dancing on the grave that was the manager’s England career. You’ve got 15 minutes to rally your troops and carry the nation across the line to a World Cup Finals. What wisdom can you draw upon to inspire your team, quotes from Sun Zhu’s ‘The Art of War’, battle cries from the great Winston Churchill when confronted with the might of the German Reich, or memories of 1966 and THAT win? Either way the passion comes from the heart and the words are driven by adrenalin and emotion. It’s not a best man’s speech that has been prepared months in advance its spontaneous. Yet at the end of a victory that means automatic qualification and avoiding the dreaded play offs, what is the talk of the media? A ‘racist’ comment by Roy Hodgson! Ludicrous and it really shows the levels the press will sink to in order to sell papers. This is ‘PC’ Britain at its worst. If, when you mention the word ‘monkey’ you are in fact referring to the actual animal commonly known as ‘monkey’ then that is not racist. If however you hear someone say the word ‘monkey’ and immediately think to yourself that this must be some sort of racial slur, then the racist in question is actually YOU.

If it is not bad enough that you cannot hide from this so called story, every sports channel you put on has Clarke Carlisle parading himself as the Malcolm X of the lower leagues. I have a dream, I have a dream where Clarke Carlisle only ever appears on Sky Sports News for scoring an overhead bicycle kick for Northampton Town. Thankfully the international break is over and we can get back to the real business of club football. To any real football fan, the international break is the football equivalent of the euphemism of ‘having the painters and decorators in’. Even the finals themselves struggle to offer the excitement of the Premier League calendar. The opening game of this weekend sees Newcastle host in form Liverpool. The Magpies will be hoping to avenge last season’s humiliating 6-0 defeat at home against the Anfield outfit. With injuries in defence their makeshift back four will have to deal with the SAS strike force of Sturridge and Suarez with Gerrard pulling the strings. If they are to have any chance of a positive result Cabaye will need to bring his ‘A-game’ as when he plays well so do Newcastle. Brendan Rodgers has really improved Liverpool’s away form and they are regularly picking up wins on the road now. They will need to maintain this if they are to achieve their goal of a Champions League qualification spot.

Arsenal may or may not be top of the table still come 3pm Saturday. Whether they are or not they will be confident that by 5pm they soon will be at the summit again. Norwich travel to the Emirates boasting a pretty poor record in this fixture. Goals seem as rare as a Gareth Bale Welsh cap currently and this will be a worry against the free scoring Gunners. Ozil will be key to Arsenal’s fortunes as he pulls the strings in the creativity department for Arsene’s team. Across London, Mourinho continues his own personal Mission Impossible in matching the success he enjoyed at his first stint at Stamford Bridge. The visitors, Cardiff City, will be glad to get out on the pitch and concentrate on football rather than madness happening in the boardrooms of the Cardiff City Stadium. Their owner Vincent Tan having got rid of Malky Mackay’s head of recruitment and replacing him with someone surely only Borat has ever heard of before. A Kazakhstani 23 year old is now the head of recruitment at Cardiff, who only recently was at the club on work experience and was painting the walls in the stadium before his acrimonious rise. Nobody seems to know who he is apart from the owner’s son who is very close friends with. It’s a tall order to hope Cardiff can get anything out of this game but for a newly promoted team, this a freebie enjoy it. No promoted team pinpoints these games as realistic opportunities to pick up the points they need to see a second season in the Premier League.  Roberto Martinez will hope his Everton team can bounce back from their first defeat of the season. With Darron Gibson a long term absentee as a result of an injury picked up on international duty, Gareth Barry’s return will be all the more welcome. Everton are unbeaten at home in 2013 and it will take something special from Steve Bruce’s men to come away with points here.

Meanwhile, Martinez’s predecessor David Moyes will be hoping to address his poor start as Man Utd manager as they host Southampton. According to Southampton’s manager, these two are fellow contenders for Champions League spots, personally I’d get back to you on this one at the end of the season. The defending champions have a great record against the south coast side having won the last 8 meetings since the Saints registered a win. Stoke and West Brom provided us with one of the most boring games of football in Premier League history earlier in the season, no doubt the Soccer Saturday panel will be drawing straws to see who gets lumbered with this one. Gus Poyet’s first game as Sunderland boss sees him travel to South Wales to take on Laudrup’s Swansea. A tough baptism for the Uruguayan but let’s not forget that ‘new manager factor’ which also saw a very successful start for Di Canio in the same situation. The late kick off Saturday will see West Ham take on Man City. This is a tough test for the Hammers who have had a very stuttering start to the season and with their main striker seeking physiotherapy geared for ballet dancers somehow I can’t see him leading the attack for a while. Pellegrini still doesn’t seem to know his best XI and maybe this will work against him unless he identifies this very soon.

Lambert’s Villa host Spurs in the Sunday game who will be spurned on by the scalp of Man City at Villa Park already this season and look to do the same against Spurs. One thing is for sure Tottenham won’t come here looking to get anything other than a win and they have been creating a lot of chances in their games so far this season. It is a very new squad which will take time to mould also which makes this the sort of game a team like Villa can capitalise on. Whether Benteke is fit will play a big part in Villa’s chances of grabbing all three points here. Finally Monday Night Football will ignite the passion of all of around 40,000 Londoners in the country but I can’t see many neutrals getting turned on by the thought of spending their Monday night watching this one. It’s an important game for both sides as Palace will see this as winnable where as Fulham will expect to beat a team of Palace’s stature in order to distance themselves from being grouped with the teams expected to be fighting for their Premier League survival.