Heroes & Villains: Gary Glitter, Kryptonite, hypocrisy & bad suits

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Hello, hello - it’s good to be back, it’s good to be back. No, not Gary Glitter - he’s never coming back - rather Heroes and Villains, which makes its long-awaited return to following a snow/eggnog/FA Cup-enforced month-long hiatus.


Raul Meireles

Sure, Fernando Torres scored twice and looked hungry and driven on a football pitch for the first time in 18 months, while Kenny Dalglish has undoubtedly lifted the gloom that has engulfed Anfield over a similar period. But Saturday was still Meireles’ day.

A superb performance capped with what is almost certain to be one of the goals of the season left Reds fans wondering why the bloody hell he hadn’t looked anywhere near capable of such brilliance in his first five months on Merseyside.

The answer, almost certainly, is tactical. Meireles suits a team playing the ball on the deck and unlocking defences with tidy and efficient passing - a culture Dalglish will look to reintroduce. Apart from anything else, for Meireles it means the ball isn’t flying over his head for 90 minutes.

Interestingly, the Portuguese has benefited from the absence of the suspended Steven Gerrard, having been given the freedom to play in a more advanced role than he had previously done for Liverpool. When Captain Marvel returns for Wednesday’s visit of Fulham, Dalglish has a choice to make: shift Meireles back to accommodate Gerrard just off Torres, or rein in the skipper's 'Roy of the Rovers’ style by instructing him to play deeper. Good luck with that one, Kenneth...

Look, it's Liverpool - and they're smiling and everything...

Dimitar Berbatov

If Berbatov was less lazy he’d probably have scored six hat-tricks so far this season - but no, he insists on nonchalantly traipsing about, barely managing to lead the Premier League goalscoring charts by three goals.

Indeed, he’s scored as many Premier League hat-tricks this season as Wayne Rooney has Premier League goals. Perhaps more than Rooney's fall from grace, it's a telling sign of Berbatov's rise to pre-eminence.

To be fair to the pug-eared, pug-faced little chap, he was heavily involved in United’s best moments of the match - especially for Ryan Giggs' superb goal, for which he exchanged passes with the Bulgarian, who had casually tackled David Murphy while sprawled face-down on the floor. Who says he's too laid-back?

Aaron Lennon

Tottenham’s wing-whippet has developed a handy knack of popping up late to rescue his side in times of need - sort of like Superman swooping in at the last second to catch a train plunging from a bridge, except Lennon could probably handle a teenie bit of Kryptonite. His last-gasp leveller at Newcastle keeps Spurs in the Champions League hunt, but unless Chelsea’s malaise continues for a good few weeks yet, you have to wonder whether Harry Redknapp’s side can achieve a second successive top-four finish while coping with the distraction of European football.

Aston Villa’s centre-backs

...all four of them. While Darren Bent grabbed the headlines with his crucial debut goal, it was the performances of Villa’s back four - particularly the duo that actually played centrally on the night, James Collins and Richard Dunne - that ultimately unhinged Manchester City.

That’s not to say occasional right-back Carlos Cuellar and auxiliary left-back Ciaran Clark didn’t have a good evening.

Clark - fresh from getting a body part in the way of pretty much every David Bentley cross in last weekend’s derby at Birmingham - even had the composure to deflect Nigel de Jong’s drilled 30-yard effort onto the base of the post using his backside. Either that or it was a fluke.

Robin van Persie

The Dutchman netted his first Sky League treble as Arsenal kept up the pressure on Manchester United in the Premier League’s ever-dwindling title race with a 3-0 win over Wigan, continuing his own mini renaissance in the process.

This match-winning performance followed another against West Ham in the Gunners’ last league outing - an encouraging sign for Arsene Wenger and the Emirates faithful, with the Premier League still there to be won.

The frustrating thing for Arsenal is that he’s less likely to be ever-present than to miss half a dozen games through injury between now and May - which would leave Arsene reliant on Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner.

"Findus Crispy Pancakes for tea - GET IN!"

David 'Junior' Hoillet

Worth his place simply for seeing off West Brom with a quite stunning goal - sorry - GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL. Unusual to see that number of Os in a word and not see an exclamation mark at the end, but we’re not bloody savages now, are we?


Kieran Richardson

A slight tweak in Sunderland’s post-Bent system saw the former Manchester United trainee pushed up into a more advanced role supporting Asamoah Gyan. Happily for Steve Bruce, it paid off, with Richardson gliding onto the end of Gyan’s through ball to put the Black Cats ahead, before sweeping home a Steed Malbranque pass at the near post to double Sunderland's lead.

But wait, you cry in confusion - this is the 'villains’ section. Yes, that’s because Richardson’s opener came only after the former England international had booted Blackpool defender Neil Eardley square in the schnozzle - leaving the dazed Welshman to have his bloodied nose tended to on the touchline while Richardson exploited the gaping hole in the hosts' back line.

To add insult to injury - in as literally a sense as is realistically possible without being El Hadji Diouf - Richardson then celebrated in a chest-pumping, pouty fashion with neither guilt nor decorum. Still, two down, 23 more to go of Bent’s now-missing 25 goals a season...

Wolves full-backs

If there’s one thing you have to do when playing offside with a high defensive line, it’s make sure one of your full-backs isn’t ambling about 15 yards behind everybody else, playing the world, his dog and Dirk Kuyt onside. If Liverpool’s second goal was unstoppable, their first and third were eminently avoidable, and Mick McCarthy will presumably be highly concerned that his defence was in such a shambolic state.

Ian Holloway

Olly has been hauled into the FourFourTwo High Court for villainous villains for the first time this season, after regular dashes with hero-dom. His crime? Hypocrisy - and we don’t look too kindly on hypocrites in these parts (side note apropos nothing: if we say something that negates something else we have said at some point, it was intentional and we were being all ironic and stuff).

Holloway has made a huge embarrassing drunk uncle-style song and dance about rival Premier League clubs sniffing around midfielder Charlie Adam and making what he has called ‘offensive’ offers for the player.

Funnily enough, Peterborough weren’t too happy when Holloway’s interest in George Boyd manifested itself in a bid less than those they had received for the same player a year before. Director of Football Barry Fry dismissed the Tangerines' £2 million bid by stating "We wouldn't sell Boyd for £2 million anyway. We turned down £2.5 million last season so why would we sell him for less now?”

Now who's playing hard-ball?

"Four and a half million? It's raaaaaaang..."

Seamus Coleman

The Irish full-back-come-winger was blessed with the chance to re-create his recent goal against Spurs in Saturday’s draw with West Ham, but instead proceeded to awkwardly blast the ball over the crossbar rather than nod past a stranded keeper. Bad choice...

Keith Fahey

Coleman’s blushes were spared somewhat by compatriot Keith Fahey - who missed a chance at least 100 times more gilt-edged. Sure, the ball may have been played in just behind him, but he was four yards from goal with the nearest half of the net to aim at, but miscontrolled. Let’s be honest though, it would have been little more than a shiny penny sticking out of the steaming pile of dog poop that was Birmingham's day.

Freddie Piquionne

Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Although in this instance the 'player’ is the referee and 'the game’ the rules. Confusing? Evidently so for tabloid chumps who like nothing better than prattling on about the game's lack of 'common sense’.

The Frenchman knew that jumping into the crowd - even in the throes of post-goal elation - would probably result in a yellow card. Having been booked minutes earlier, he was taking a stupid risk, and suffered the ultimate penalty (well, apart from the death penalty, but even Pierluigi Collina didn't award those).

Granted, it’s a stupid rule, but it is a rule nonetheless. And pundits: you can't have both 'consistency' and 'common sense'. In fact, it would help if you could provide either. Speaking of which...

Andy Gray and Richard Keys

If there's any justice in the world, by the time you read this blog these two misogynist meatheads would have been sacked for their astonishing sexist duologue against fully-trained Premier League official Sian Massey.

The sad reality is that they'll get away with it because 'it was just a bit of banter', despite that defence not having saved Rodney Marsh or Ron Atkinson from the dole queue (as we write this, we hear the dunderheaded duo may be 'suspended' for tonight's match between Bolton and Chelsea).

Bear in mind these hateful words (just listen to Keys’ voice, there’s hate there) came from Andy Gray - a man who, given his constant blathering about ‘daylight’ evidently doesn’t understand the offside rule himself, and Richard Keys - who, let’s face it, is a just a drum-banging cheerleader in a bad suit.

"...and put the kettle on, love!"

You could almost understand there being a bit of a hoo-haa about a Premier League match being officiated by a female assistant... had it not first happened 12 years ago. (To put that into context for Sky, that was seven years after the inauguration of the Premier League, and therefore football.)

Not that such tripe would be excusable had Wendy Toms never existed; this is 2011, more than 30 years since Britain elected a female Prime Minister.

Perhaps subconsciously trying to counteract the dinosaur duo’s abhorrent bigotry, other parts of the media slightly patronised Massey, most notably when she correctly spotted that Raul Meireles was onside in the build-up to Liverpool’s opener at Wolves. "He's just onside - she's got it right!" Match of the Day commentator Steve Bower over-emphasised.

That said, maybe people were right to be surprised, considering Massey has had the same training as the Premier League’s other officials...