The Cracker-Pulling Premier Previews

Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!

What? Too early, you say? Well, I’m not here next week – face facts now, you shouldn’t be reading this blog on Christmas Day.

Come in, everybody – make yourselves at home. It’s my annual Christmas party for Premier League managers.

Oh, it’s great fun. We play Pin The Tail On Tony Adams.

Come in, come in. Yes, you’re first, Carlo. Don’t worry, Sir Alex will be here soon.

Wait, who’s this? Steve Bruce? You’re a bit early, chum! Oh dear, and you’re a bit drunk already. Looks like you’ve peaked too soon. Go and have a sit down – yes, in the middle there.

Avram! Good of you to make it again. You’re at the foot of the table, over there.

Have you heard from Mick McCarthy yet? What do you mean he’s not coming? Resting?! Oh, another big party coming up, has he? I see.

Right, I think everybody’s here at last. Let’s crack open those crackers, delve deep into Santa’s sack and see what we find, shall we?

A previous Christmas party. Don't fancy yours much...

Saturday

Arsenal vs Hull

What’s Santa brought Phil Brown then? A redundancy package? No, it’s a new pair of knees for Jimmy Bullard. Oh no, they’ve broken in the sleigh.

Luckily Santa has a back-up present for Browny: a year’s supply of permatan. Lovely.

And for Arsey Arsene, an enema for his fixture congestion.

Christmas cracker: Wenger wins the tug o’ war but complains of exhaustion – this is his third cracker pull in a week.

Out falls a novelty headset and a joke, which reads simply “Phil Brown." Well, that’s not in the spirit of Christmas, is it?

Aston Villa vs Stoke

The evening’s grand prize – the Manager of the Month Award – deservingly goes to Martin O’Neill, while Tony Pulis has to settle for a Thomas Sorensen Stretch Armstrong doll.

“Bah humbug,” he’s heard to mutter.

Christmas cracker: O’Neill wrestles the three-pointed cracker out of Pulis’s grasp and paws over the goodies.

The toy is a novelty hairclip, which he promptly gives to his opposite number, and the joke reads: “What’s the difference between an angry accountant and Tony Pulis? One’s a warring banker and the other’s a boring wa – ” – oh come now, there’s no need for that.

Blackburn vs Spurs

Oh, what a lovely present for Harry Redknapp – a mocked-up end-of-season league table with Spurs in fourth.

But what’s this? It’s crumbled to dust! What shoddy workmanship! Honestly, these elves.

Big Sam gets a blood pressure monitor. Aw, that’s nice.

Christmas cracker: It’s a battle of the heavyweights as ’Arry and Big Sam grasp each end of the cracker with their massive, meaty hands. But it’s ’Arry who prevails, and Big Sam falls over backwards with the effort, clutching his chest.

The toy is a miniature postcard of White Hart Lane for Paul Robinson. It reads "Wish you were here?" "Yes," he sobs.

Fulham vs Manchester United

Roy Hodgson is given an England shirt with ‘Zamora’ printed on the back, and as the hand goes into Santa’s sack once more Fergie prays for a defence-making kit.

But no, it’s Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – that heartwarming tale about a man who spends his life overworking, moaning about everything and everyone, until one night…

“Are you trying to make a point?” asks Fergs, throwing it on the fire.

Christmas cracker: Crackerjack! Against all odds, Hodgson nabs the cracker out of Fergie’s sweaty palms.

The United manager rips up the joke and furiously grabs the toy – a miniature watch.

Manchester City vs Sunderland

Mark Hughes’s present: a nice pair of rose-tinted glasses. Steve Bruce’s gift is a bag of grit, to stop him slipping and sliding down the table.

Christmas cracker: Bruce hopes for his first win in five games (uh, of cracker-pulling) but it’s Sparky Marky who reaps the rewards.

The toy is a miniature doodle pad. Ideal for those who love to draw.

Portsmouth vs Liverpool

Paul Hart has written Avram Grant’s Christmas card, and very heartfelt it is too.

“Come near me again and I’ll kill you,” it reads. Such a nice man – I hope he enjoys his two months at QPR.

For Rafa Benitez, in his best ‘Top Four Or Bust’ jumper, it’s a hardback collection of Famous Last Words.

Christmas cracker: Rafa grabs the cracker, dances around the room and repeatedly tells everyone he’s back in business (good to see that car dealership’s still going then).

Grant gives up on bringing Glen Johnson back to Pompey and falls asleep in front of The Great Escape.

Sunday

Wolves vs Burnley

Santa brings a jigsaw puzzle for Owen Coyle. There's also one for the absent Mick McCarthy, but all the important pieces are missing.

Christmas cracker: A slightly bizarre contest as neither side turns up. Officials declare it a draw.

Meanwhile, Wolves supporter chief Arthur Williams wins Idiotic Quote Of The Week for saying, “Hopefully [McCarthy] will pick a full-strength team against Burnley and make amends.”

Well, yes, that was the point.

Everton vs Birmingham

David Moyes gets an odd present from Santa: it’s an American firecracker with an expiry date of March. Hope he gets some use from that before it’s too late.Alex McLeish begrudgingly accepts some crampons, to help keep his feet on the ground as he attempts to climb with unsuitable equipment.

Christmas cracker: Moyes knuckles down and McLeish readies himself for another victory but it’s one of those rubbish crackers that doesn’t go bang. Nobody wins.

West Ham vs Chelsea

It’s a much-needed first aid kit for Gianfranco Zola (signed, bizarrely, by Dean Ashton), and Carlo Ancelotti is given a brand new cologne called Ruthlessness.

Small bottle, though – not sure if it will last until June.

Christmas cracker: An all-Italian battle ends in triumph for Carlo and despair for Franco against his former buddies. The toy is a plastic Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Oh, there’s a joke in this one! “Why didn’t Nicolas Anelka go to the Christmas party? Because nobody likes him.” That’s not very nice, Santa.

Monday

Wigan vs Bolton

Santa brings Roberto Martinez the Rage Against The Machine single (it’s his favourite) but Gary Megson’s present is a lump of coal! Boooo. He must have been a naughty boy.

Christmas cracker: Megson gets stuck into the sherry after losing another cracker pull.

Martinez is pleased but the joke confuses him:  “What’s the difference between Tiger Woods and Maynor Figueroa? Figueroa can drive a ball 60 yards and doesn’t have 15 mistresses.”

I don’t get it.

But Tiger does.

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