Movie? More like a soap opera

Last updated : 02 April 2004 By Martyn Elliott

Regular readers will have noticed that this site has not been updated for around a week, which has been due to a combination of technical difficulties, Bolton-induced apathy and some Bowyer-esque lazyitis on my part.

And we’ve certainly missed enough news as United continue to be part top football club, part laughing-stock and part tabloid freak show.

First there was Craig Bellamy’s minor disagreement with John Carver, which had mutated into a mini-riot by the time it reached the tabloids. Clearly Bellamy doesn’t help himself with some of his behaviour, but his treatment by the press is scandalous.

There is something immoral about the way in which pro-George W Bush papers pick on a footballer that has been involved in an argument in a bar or with a colleague and suddenly portray him as the devil incarnate. Surely there are plenty of people in the world who are far more worthy of vilification than a gobby sportsman.

Anyway, as a supporter I wouldn’t care if the whole squad are kicking lumps out of each other in the week as long as they all showed the same determination to win as Bellamy during games.

On a more positive note United cruised into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup, but even then the press tried to stir up trouble amongst the team by claiming that they had refused to celebrate with Bellamy.

You expect exaggeration and inaccuracies in the tabloids but not from The Times, whose United reporter George Caulkin now seems to be touting for a move to the Daily Star. I can remember when Caulkin used to write about the matches rather than rumours - I used to enjoy it.

There was a genuine moment of discord in Mallorca though as Laurent Robert refused to shake Sir Bobby’s hand after being substituted. It was certainly petulant, but hardly serious. Surely we need players who want to be on the pitch all the time?

Anyway Robert, who only seems to have his sulks when he is playing poorly, eventually apologised to Sir Bobby. He then launched into a top notch anti-Bruno Cheyrou rant, for which he should be applauded.

Then came the Bolton debacle. No disrespect to Wanderers, who fully deserved their victory, but we really should be beating teams like that.

Jemaine Jenas followed a couple of decent games with a shocker of a display, Bellamy missed a sitter, Robert did nothing and Titus Bramble again took the brunt of the blame from people who weren’t at the game.

But by far the worst thing about the defeat was the truly abject performance of Lee Bowyer, whose return to the first-team was about as welcome as Busted’s version of Teenage Kicks.

Bowyer, an international footballer, was given the task of protecting a teenage defender who was playing out of position on his debut. Instead he looked totally disinterested by events on the pitch and let his young team-mate down by leaving him exposed time and again.

Congratulations to Steven Taylor though for sticking to his task and recovering from his early error to produce a composed second-half display and prove exactly why he is so highly rated.

Afterwards Sir Bobby claimed that Henrik Pedersen had fouled Taylor in the build up to the goal. Technically he was correct, but in reality it was just the kind of clever forward play that Alan Shearer uses all the time. I suspect the excuse was just to try and protect Taylor from blame. Not that anyone should have been pointing the finger at Taylor, as the blame clearly lay with a manager who was out-thought tactically by his opposite number and with the senior players who produced 90 minutes of dross.

And surprise, surprise the match was followed by more Bellamy controversy as he was pulled out of the Wales squad to face Hungary. Mark Hughes bleated about it, but until the FAW start to pay the wages of players who are injured on international duty United are morally right and they are in the wrong. Whatever FIFA say.

Next up was the news that a big-budget movie is to be filmed at St James’ Park, complete with a cameo role for Freddie Shepherd and some body double work for Hugo Viana, although impersonating a footballer might prove tricky for him unless he’s got a long memory.

Shepherd claims that the film will hand United worldwide exposure and boost the club’s finances. Whether this was the persuading factor for him in the deal is open to debate - his ego will undoubtedly have been attracted to the idea of a cameo appearance.

And just for a change Newcastle are being linked with a summer move for Leeds United striker Alan Smith.

A quiet week all told.