Capello’s migraine, Barcelona at Nuneaton & the Bulgarian Maradona

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I can’t remember how I came to be on Marcello Lippi’s yacht which was, presumably, moored off the coast near his hometown Viareggio. Nor can I say precisely when Fabio Capello came storming on deck complaining vehemently about his migraine.

But I can still vividly recall Don Fabio spurning suggestions that he seek medical advice insisting that the best way to cure his migraine was to shout at it.

As football dreams go, that was one of my more extravagant ones, matched recently only by snatches of a dream in which, on some familiar but different version of Channel 4’s ubiquitous Come Dine With Me, the Minogue sisters dropped into UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh’s terraced house, cooked him a slap-up meal and insisted on cleaning the windows afterwards.

No wonder I won’t hear a word said against Kylie and Danni.

"Hold on ladies, let me just get the Windex..."

I dream about football much more than I used to. Don’t know why. These dreams have evolved from standard stuff – yours truly has chance to score on England debut but mysteriously comes over all leggy and fails to reach the ball with the goal at his mercy – into far richer, stranger visions.

Last month I dreamed that England lost on penalties to France in the last 16 in South Africa after a 1-1 draw. I was moderately depressed when I woke, cheered slightly when I checked that we couldn’t meet les Bleus in the first knockout round and then felt irrationally troubled when I realised we could meet them in the last eight.

If this prediction comes true, remember you read it here first. If it doesn’t, file and forget.

If you have ever had any football dreams as daft as mine do share them. Don’t be shy - you have nothing to lose but your self-respect, the esteem of your peers, and your standing in society.

Typical Ferguson.

Enough already with the "typical" stuff. Various writers have already ensured that Sir Alex Ferguson’s “typical Germans” remark has been spun, toyed with and over-used more often than his eloquent verdict on the 1999 UEFA Champions League final: “Football, bloody hell”.

We’ve already had typical Germans (ad nauseam), typical Ferguson, typical Argentinians, typical podsters and indeed typical Mexican.

Up the Boro part 72

Nuneaton Town (nee Borough) v Farnborough Town at the weekend saw three generations of the Simpsons and assorted in-laws at Nuneaton’s Liberty Way on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon to watch an odd game that ended fairly all square at 1-1.

My son looked on with commendable restraint, restricting himself to one can of Coke for the duration.

My father, with an authority I had not seen since I met the great Rinus Michels at a conference, dissected the inadequacies in Nuneaton’s play. “He,” he said pointing at a Town/Boro midfielder with the conviction of someone who had been a midfield general in the school playground in the 1940s, “should be up here”, indicating a spot ten yards in front.

Michels: Sure he was great, but could he have cut it at Nuneaton?

He had a point. The Boro (as they were called till the FA made them change their name to Town as a punishment for the usual financial irregularities) were not moving up as a unit and the left and right halves of the team were unbalanced so they rarely attacked, as it were, in stereo and too often lost possession.

Farnborough are leaders of the league which changes its name and sponsor every season but is just one rung below the Conference North and South. They won the tactical battle, forcing Nuneaton to switch from a lacklustre 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 and shrewdly deciding that if they packed the middle, their opponents wouldn’t trouble them on the flanks.

They were also, it must be said, masters of the concealed elbow, the persistent push and, when required, a spot of Graeco-Roman wrestling. But they are efficient, have two nifty forwards – Bradley Bubb who scored the goal was especially impressive – and cause havoc with long balls on the counterattack.

Apart from dad’s tactical laments, the highlight for me was the assistant referee who flagged a player offside after he ran onto his own pass.

In the second half, standing behind a Boro fan in a Barcelona shirt, I wondered idly if there is any football ground in the world that has not been, to use a word much used by commentators addicted to martial and sexual metaphor, ‘penetrated’ by a Barcelona shirt. I fear not.

Maradonas, fat ladies and Guardiola effects

The new Maradona isn’t Messi but Iliyan Micanski. The 24-year-old Bulgarian striker has scored seven goals in seven games for Zaglebie Lubin in Poland.

The most spectacular – a 65-yard dash and finish against KSP Polonia Warszawa on 20 March – earned him the tag “the Maradona of Lubin”.

As Lubin only has 77,000 inhabitants, this isn’t as good as being the “Maradona of the Carpathians”, like Gheorghe Hagi, but it’s better than nothing. The goal is on YouTube but all the clips froze my shoddy computer (sadly, below is the best we could find - ed).

In Luxembourg, meanwhile, a Turkish-Belgian playmaker called Yasin Karaca has thrown open the title race since signing for F91 Dudelange and proved that some football clichés really are universal, telling “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”.

The fat lady has sung in Greece where Panathinaikos have done rather better out of the ‘Guardiola effect’ than Juventus or, so far, Milan.

When Pana fell to second in November, coach Henk Ten Cate was replaced by Nikos Noplias, a club legend whose managerial experience began and ended with Greece’s Under-19s and Under-21s.

Noplias is now the second man – after Juan Ramon Rocha – to win the Greek championship as player and coach with Panathinaikos. Maybe Greek football is finally discovering that it doesn’t have to import coaches to win stuff. More to read...
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