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Premiership Parade Vol 7 - A striking weekend's action

October 19 2004

Djibril Cisse - The sly sleeve thief struck again

Djibril Cisse - The sly sleeve thief struck again

Defenders and goalkeepers will always delight in telling anyone they can find that strikers are glory-boys and take all the acclaim, while they work tirelessly at the back. There's a reason for strikers being noticed – they’re far more interesting…

Take the Fulham vs Liverpool match this weekend. Fulham went 2-0 up in the first half, both goals being scored by Luis Boa Morte, but at the start of the second half Rafael Benitez took the game by the scruff of the neck, replacing Salif Diao – who had clearly snuck onto the team sheet by some horrible mistake - with Xabi Alonso.

Inspired, Liverpool won the game 4-2. A more remarkable comeback has not been seen since Travolta decided to film Pulp Fiction.

Yet what stuck in my mind was the fact that Liverpool’s replacement for Michael Owen, Djibril Cisse – who incidentally did not score one of their four goals - looks the spitting image of former Liverpool defender Abel Xavier, but with slightly shorter hair.

Take a look next time he’s standing near the penalty area not threatening to get a shot on target, increase the volume of barnet and suggest to yourself that he is even worse than he appears and it could be that the inadequate, muppet-a-like Portuguese fullback has reinvented himself as an inadequate French striker in the vain attempt that someone might think his choice of peroxide-enriched hair styles looks good.

The other striking striker stat from the Cottage, was that lining up for Fulham against the Scousers was a front pairing of Brian McBride and Tomas Radzinski. They’re both from across the Atlantic, both not particularly prolific in front of goal, but also both ex-Evertonians.

Strangely they didn’t show any more passion than any of their teammates against the reds, but apparently the rest of the Fulham squad have noticed a spate of car stereo thefts since the strikers joined the club.

Other clubs, it seems, have greater problems than Liverpool and Everton with their strikers. Mourinho’s Paintdrying Utd has the money to bring in the best scorers the world has to offer, yet – and is anyone remotely surprised at this – they failed to score a single, solitary goal this weekend.

What’s more, their iron curtain-style defence was breached by ‘high-flying’ Man City meaning – are you still with me – the Blues lost for the first time this season. (I’m even getting bored just thinking about them). In an attempt to break through City’s defence, football’s best dressed man brought on Joe Cole. Unfortunately he was so worried about his defensive game he didn’t leave his own half.

As if on cue, Chelsea’s greatest striker of recent years, and the one they let go in the summer, Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink popped up to score a hat-trick for Middlesbrough. Jimmy’s attacking flair, pace, skill and killer instinct – possibly the very reasons Mourinho sold him - may have had something to do with the truck-load of goals scored by the Teesside club, but it might also have something to do with their strange tactical choice of trying to put the ball past the opposition’s goalkeeper and into the back of that net-type thing. Are you taking notes Mr Mourinho? It’s not there as mosquito protection you know.

No doubt Nigel Worthington would happily take one of Chelsea’s cast off’s to try and solve his striker crisis. He already has two of South London’s finest in his ranks in the form of Leon McKenzie and Matt Svensson, but neither of these two manage to be the spectacle that Darren Huckerby is; he twists, he turns, he’s got pace and a bigger box of tricks than Paul Daniels.

However, when none of these work and Division 1’s finest realizes he might not cut it in the Premiership yet again, he has to try something truly spectacular to get his name in the papers. So, his world famous impressions of former England stars come to the fore. This week saw the crowd treated to his Geoff Thomas impression.

Yes, as Darren went one-on-one with the goalkeeper he stumbled upon the perfect chance to recreate one of the Selhurst legend’s finest moments, shooting the ball closer to the corner flag than the far post.

At least Norwich, like Kelly Brooke, have a fit pair up front. A friend told me this week that Birmingham didn’t have a decent, fit striker left on their books, so when I saw Heskey and Yorke lining up at the weekend I realized he was quite right.

Southampton really don’t have any striker’s left to play, forcing them to give Premiership debut’s to 18-year-olds Leon Best and Dexter Blackstock. Sadly, the teenagers couldn’t net a goal for the Saints – making them just as good as James Beattie and Kevin Phillips – and Everton nicked a late winner through Leon Osman. Southampton are now scrapping among the relegation contenders.

Craig Bellamy is in trouble after swearing while leaving the pitch, after being substituted against Charlton. If he was cursing Souness for replacing him with Shola Ameobi – and who could blame him – the hot-headed Scot may come down hard on the party boy. But my guess is that Bellamy caught sight of his own reflection and was fuming at how ridiculous his barber made him look.

At the Reebok stadium, things were not happy. Palace got caught out in first half stoppage time and never managed to get back on terms. Bolton’s galactico’s might have a head for heights now, but Gary Speed seems to have a head for anything, including knocking in a nail by the looks of things.

When he went up for a header with Ben Watson and Ivan Campo, Campo came off much the worse, blood pouring from his head. Think of him as a Spanish Toby Jug if you will. Luckily, there was no fracture of the eye socket, but Ivan has undergone plastic surgery to fix the damage.

We wish him well, and would never want any sickening injury like this to appear on a football pitch, but can’t help thinking that Gary Speed may have received a brown paper bag full of cash courtesy of Mrs Campo who is now contemplating the new, handsome Ivan coming home.

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