LARRY RYAN: Returning to core values

As Pete Townshend and the lads put it; we won’t get fooled again. We are a chastened people, with watchdogs in place to rein us in, to stop us making the same old mistakes.

We are aware now that when things appear to be going great; when it looks, for all the world, as though we have never had it better; it is the first sign that there is something drastically, dangerously wrong.

So we should really have copped it immediately — the giddier we became through an exhilarating, novelty-laden hurling summer, the clearer it should have been that we were actually deep in crisis.

But we all partied — except, maybe, the bookies’ favourites.

Thankfully, before it started up again, a few sage voices have put us right.

The fundamentals are not sound. The Manliness Index is at an all-time low. And manliness, as we know, is next to Godliness.

As the scales fall from our eyes, it is hard to know if the league should go ahead at all until something is done.

Sure, we might see breathtaking skill and other fripperies, but after every score, only one question will hang persistently in the air. Why didn’t someone give him a dunt? Or, failing that, a bigger dunt?

As we struggle to figure out where all the dunts have gone — or attempt to preserve the ethos of physicality and manliness, as we prefer to put it — one magnificently simple solution has been presented.

Instead of writing down a man’s name and showing him a yellow card if he dispenses an illegal dunt, we should persevere with the documentation, but abandon the visual defamation of the card an ugly, unmanly import from soccer that impugns the gallantry of men who always have the best of intentions.

It is a solution so beautifully simple that the simple-minded are tempted to ask what difference would it make? On the face of it, none. But this subtle adjustment would lay the welcome mat for an old friend that saw us through many a crisis. The fudge.

If the crowd, and better still the pundits and journalists, have no idea who has been booked, how will they have any complaints when a man isn’t sent off for persistent shows of manliness? So we’ll have a little leeway, a little discretion. And eventually, hopefully, we’ll reach a stage where the whole thing is self-policing. Where we accept the bona fides of these gallant men. Where a referee, when he reaches the scene of a dunt or a skelp, is trained to first ask the obvious question: “Sure you didn’t mean anything by it, did you? Good lad.”

That’s if we must have a referee at all. As Dennis Rodman once put it: “I’ll be the judge of my own manliness.”

That’s the dream. Failing that, we should at least see a gradual return to first principles, where the objective isn’t so much to outscore your opponent as to establish how many of them are windy bastards.

Other measures will surely follow to undo the damage caused during the effete bubble.

Grassroots work — in the Cúl Camps and the development squads — must enshrine and protect the core skills of rooting, tearing, jostling, flaking, mullocking, dunting and skelping.

Some will call it a cosmetic exercise, but it will be no harm either if nets are torn from stanchions, another superfluous intrusion from the garrison game. The odd roar of ‘wide ball, wide effing ball’ notwithstanding, surely these men are manly and gallant enough to accept when a goal is conceded?

There will have to be suitable counselling for the victims. We will have to be patient with small, knacky men who are felled by dunts and skelps; try to find out what is wrong with them, discover what kind of television programmes they are watching, establish just how much soccer they are being exposed to.

It will take patience and determination and a lot of manliness but at least we have applied the brakes in time.

It is not a soft landing we want this time.

Aren’t we gone soft enough?

None so cool as those rolling stones in Sochi

The skidding and sliding is proving enjoyable, even if you haven’t a notion what’s going on in Sochi.

Admittedly, there’s disappointment, every four years, to remember that the magnificent men, and now women, on the ski-jump are subjected to the indignity of a style assessment.

Surely, they should be let at it, bald-headed, without regard for aesthetics. Is there any need to make it faster, higher, stronger, tidier?

For all the daredevil stunts and dramatic spills on offer, the most absorbing human drama comes at the curling rink, as BBC commentator Steve Cram is learning about curling at the rate his co-commentator says things about curling.

Much of the appeal lies in the unglamorous bickering and passive aggression between the skip and the minions. “It looks heavy to me but... if you’re sure.”

And a few times every match, we are treated to the greatest show of power and influence you’ll see anywhere — when the skip calls timeout and the coach traipses leisurely from the stand to deliver a verdict.

He has 60 seconds when he arrives and Cram nailed the scam. “He’s walking slowly so they have more time to figure it out themselves, isn’t he?”

It might be that. Or it may just be the intoxicating spotlight on that long, long walk. These lads might be back at work Monday week, but you suspect Mourinho or Rodgers et al would give up all the millions for the odd entrance like that.

Rodgers a winner on all fronts

It gets worse for Moyesy. His Evertonisation of Man United might be almost complete with the crossing binge against Fulham and the retreat at the Emirates. But if there is anything that will stir his Lordship in the stands into action, it is surely the looming prospect of Liverpool putting one foot back on the perch. Or might that be the final piece in Fergie’s appreciate-me masterplan? Hard to decide.

There is no mistaking, meanwhile, where it is all going right at Anfield. BRod is making sure of that.

From back to front, the credits and debits all tend to leave Brendan’s account in the black. “Yes, they were disappointing goals. We’ve defended poorly at times this season, it has not been structurally but mistakes and individual errors.

“But thankfully we’re a very aggressive and offensive team going forward, so we have goals in the team.That’s something I’ve been trying to build since I’ve been here.”

Whoever’s name is in the envelope come May, it sure won’t be Brendan’s.

HEROES & VILLAINS

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN:

Joseph Minala:
Leave the kid alone. Haven’t Lazio just got their hands on the kind of prized asset everyone wants; an old head on young shoulders?

Richard Moller Nielsen: If, as Novalis put it, character and fate are two words for the same thing; the late Dane showed the strength of his by turning the opportunity delivered by Balkans conflict into his nation’s finest footballing hour.

HELL IN A HANDCART:

Arsene Wenger:
We heard, last week, how Ray Parlour once drank five pints before coming on as sub at Anfield. What a time for Arsene to start listening to his former players.

Luis Suarez: Of course it makes sense to bring it all up again. Any chance BRod could be tempted into a t-shirt?


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