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TV Review: English football shows the hypocrisy of its moralising to Bielsa

Rio Ferdinand, Richard Keys, Andy Gray, and Neil Warnock showed the standard by which Marcelo Bielsa should be held.

Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa (centre) this weekend got a taster for English football culture.
Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa (centre) this weekend got a taster for English football culture.

“THE MORAL CODE of sport has been severely breached,” thundered Martin Keown in his solemn, solicitous way.

Had Keown been born centuries earlier, you can imagine him informing the Queen’s Court of some heavy losses at the front while gently beseeching her to send some more men to their bloody, ungainly end.

Yet he ended up marshalling another kind of Arsenal, so Her Majesty’s Keown had to defend British interests from the battlements of Football Focus.

“I’m not happy about it… I’ve lost a little bit of respect for him I have to say,” Keown cavilled in relation to Marcelo Bielsa’s newly-rumbled custom of sending furtive men to spy on opposition training.

Having been caught out, Bielsa did not apologise but did say he wouldn’t justify his actions as he needed to “respect the norms that are applied in the country where I work”.

Happily, a multitude of English football personalities then did Bielsa a favour by spending the weekend parading some of these norms by which Bielsa should abide.

On BT Sport, Rio Ferdinand told Newcastle fans that they should “feel lucky” to have a custodian as venerable and benevolent as Roald Dahl metaphor Mike Ashley.

“He’s got them to a point now where they’re back in the Premier League and they’re consolidating to a certain extent,” explained Rio. “He’s not going to go spend his own money.”

Bielsa may wonder why here, in the cradle of the game, supporters of one of the biggest and most historic clubs should feel privileged to experience the grotesque, unhappy ardour of a relegation battle against some of the worst teams ever to play in the league… but that’s how it is.

At this point, Bielsa may rise from his upturned bucket and peer through the glasses on the edge of his nose to argue that Ashley could surely be doing more. For example, Ashley took £10 million out of the club last summer, only last October clarified that his company SportsDirect are now actually paying for hugely-valuable advertising at St James’ Park, and has presided over the lowest net spend in the division across the last three transfer windows.

‘Afraid not, Marcelo mate. Newcastle are living the Premier League dream! Oh, and none of this has to do with the fact SportsDirect are stocking my clothing range.’

Given that Newcastle fans last knew happiness in the 1990s, they gave Rio quite a bit of stick before their attention was snaffled by a man of that era: Reliable Lightning Rod, Richard Keys.

Keys tweeted his total support for Rio, saying that if Rafa Benitez really wanted to sign some players, then he could bloody well pay for them himself.

Bielsa might be startled at this English norm of employees acting on their complaints by committing to multi-million pound outlays and probable bankruptcy, but then again this is the England of Dickens and Oliver Twist, the eponymous orphan who asked for a little more gruel and then responded like any right-thinking, feeble and emaciated libertarian would: he raised sufficient capital to purchase the workhouse, assumed its debts and took on responsibility for the running of all of its day-to-day affairs.

Elsewhere, Keys’ ally Andy Gray warned Mo Salah to “be careful” of earning a reputation as a diver after winning a penalty against Brighton, having been blatantly and repeatedly fouled by Paschal Gross. Another good lesson for Bielsa here, to avoid coming over here as one of those foreigners with a keen respect for the law of gravity.

If all of these fragments were illuminating for Bielsa, perhaps even more useful was the striding forth of someone who embodies many of them. Neil Warnock positioned himself as that man in using the aftermath of his team’s highly fortunate draw with Huddersfield to propound his support for Brexit, saying ‘to hell with the rest of the world’ in front of a sign literally reading ‘Visit Malaysia’.

Bielsa, a denizen of said Rest of the World, may be surprised by this, coming as it does from a man he and his fellow citizens have never heard of.

He may also be startled to hear of Warnock’s support for Brexit, given the man is seemingly so committed to allowing the free movement of people in the Cardiff City penalty area.

Nonetheless, it was an important educational weekend for Marcelo Bielsa, who should now know that the English game has far too much respect for itself to tolerate a Leeds United employee posing as a shrub on opposition premises.

‘Marcelo, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room!’

Jonathan Pearce makes friends

Jonathan Pearce is, at heart, a ludicrous man. After Liverpool’s win over Brighton, he spoke to Jurgen Klopp for Match of the Day. “Good to see you smiling, because usually my face makes people laugh.” Klopp then continued to smile politely into the camera, at which point a gurning Pearce leaped into shot.

Capture Jonathan Pearce gets friendly with Jurgen Klopp on Match of the Day Source: BBC Match of the Day

Pearce has also seemingly nailed his colours to the mast in the title race, referring to Liverpool as the “champions” during the course of his commentary. Far be it from us to mock Pearce, however: this is the only BBC commentator to have been heard on The Sopranos

Monty does Mastermind 

Among Pearce’s other TV credits is an appearance on Mastermind, and his was far more successful than Monty Panesar’s. The cricketer popped up on the show last week, and answered precisely zero of his general knowledge questions correctly. Some highlights: 

John Humphrys: What is the title of the first volume of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia to be published? Chronologically, it follows The Magician’s Nephew.

Monty Panesar: C.J. Lewis.

JH: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

JH: In an 1819 poem, what season of the year does Keats describe as ‘a season of mist and mellow fruitfulness’?

MP: Oliver Twist.

JH: Autumn.

JH: In which city is the television comedy series, Cheers, set?

MP: America.

JH: Boston.

Cringe through it all below.

Source: Fred Boycott/YouTube

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