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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Outside the Box – Football on TV: Michael Owen ensures we’ll remember, remember the fright of Movember


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When the wise Jedi minds of future generations look back at the metrosexual, iPad-obsessed, self-serving era we currently reside in, they will quite rightly grimace and ask just what the hell we accomplished. We allowed Piers Morgan to prosper when he really shouldn’t have; we created and fostered a corrupt capitalist economy that permits those with the very most to be the very least accountable; oh, but on the plus side we did manage to squash a whole traditional English breakfast into one easy tin, so swings and roundabouts I guess.

However there is one other gallant crusade that those futuristic minds will look back upon with sense of paternal pride and perplexed curiosity: Movember. That’s right, you can’t fail to have noticed that several thousand men (and the odd old lady) resolved to pack away their Gillette Mach-7 blade on the first day of this month and by now have a huge hairy growth perched menacingly above their top lips.  As ever, the world of football can boast many willing participants again this year. Most of Stoke’s squad, perhaps in an attempt to balance their other eleven months of uncharitable hostility, are doing their bit, as are many top players, pundits and press men around the Premiership.

It wasn’t until last Wednesday and Man City v Real Madrid – Live that I really got a sense of the sacrifice some were making in the spirit of Movember. While host Jeff Stelling was trying to ramp up the excitement for the massive game taking place between Mourinho’s macho masters and Mancini’s misfiring men, the rest of us were struggling to concentrate on anything other than the jet black rodent living on guest pundit Michael Owen’s face. Sure, he was making valid and interesting points regarding City’s lack of tactical awareness in this season’s Champions’ League; and that any chance Mancini had of a famous win against Madrid would hinge on the battle between Maicon and Cristiano Ronaldo. But all the time he was talking, the nation’s eyes were transfixed on his upper lip, wondering how such an impressive clump of hair had grown so swiftly upon the face of one so boyishly slight.

Owen’s ridiculously remarkable moustache was made all the more extraordinary when compared to the bloke sitting next to him. Graeme Souness, a man so dispassionately gruff that he has literally never smiled, has also been growing a Movember tache, but to a far less inspiring standard to the young buck sat next to him. I suspect that the humiliation Souness felt with his inferior attempt to grow a worthwhile moustache, particularly with the memory of that iconic beast adorning his face in his youth, was up there with the time he was managing Southampton and was conned into signing Ali Dia. At least Souness’ Movember attempt wasn’t the worst of the bunch. I actually thought that the wispy fluff on Gary Neville’s top lip was his pitiful attempt to join in the fun, but I’m reliably informed that it’s nothing to do with Movember and he’s actually been growing that since he was sixteen.

On to Saturday then and the hairy creature with a Michael Owen attached to the bottom was guesting on Match Of The Day too. After a successful Movember last year, the MOTD lot are sitting this one out so Owen was left to carry the fight alone, although fellow MOTD debutant Dion Dublin did try to take some of the heat by turning up with bird poo on his shoulder. The two first timers did a decent job alongside Lineker, and it’s a good job too. With Harry deciding to plunder the rest of his reputation into the doomed chasm of QPR, the MOTD sofa is looking a little light on talent and a couple of fresh faces are very welcome, even if you can’t see Owen’s at the moment.

There were problems of a different kind a day later during Live Ford Super Sunday. You may have heard that former Fergie-botherer Rafa Benitez was appointed Chelsea boss last week, and that the decision has proved to be about as popular as diarrhoea among the fans. Sky’s roving reporter Geoff Shreeves certainly took the fight to Benitez before and after Sunday’s game with a barrage of bullishness. He lambasted the former Liverpool manager’s penchant for an overly defensive mindset; he exaggerated the volume of the home fans’ booing in an attempt to unsettle Benitez; and even called him Manuel at one point. Ok, I made that last one up, but he might well have done. Shreeves has rightly attracted plaudits over the years for not shirking the difficult questions with the likes of Ferguson and Mourinho, but the unnecessarily harsh grilling of Benitez on Sunday was altogether more sinister. Almost as sinister as Michael Owen at the moment. Still, only three days left now chaps.

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Chris Pettitt

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