Early Doors

What you didn’t miss at the weekend

Gareth Bale spells out H-A-P-P-Y-B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y-N-A-N. Maybe. (Reuters)

It felt like a long weekend without football.

We tried to fill the gap with England’s cricketing ineptitude and a motor race in which one driver got told off for overtaking another, but there were those terrifying moments when we actually had to spend time with our families.

Football widows and widowers were reunited with their loved ones, and swiftly realised why they drifted apart in the first place.

Fans ran out of excuses to dodge a Saturday afternoon trip to the out-of-town shopping complex - a grey, soulless, overpriced retail experience located just off the motorway. Pretty much home from home if you support Reading.

But if the prospect of five more days without club football fills you with dread, if you shudder at the idea of a week consisting of one England game and six million hours of radio prattle about Rio Ferdinand, Early Doors is here to help.

Let’s just imagine there had been Premier League action. What would have happened? Well, pretty much the same as every weekend.

Here’s what you didn’t miss:

Another Joe Hart clanger sees Manchester City drop more points. Roberto Mancini again delegates post-match media duties to David Platt, who in turn palms the job off on Brian Kidd. This sparks a chain reaction of delegation that results in Ricky Hatton and Churchill the dog giving interviews. Mancini sacked? Ohhhh yessss.

Sir Alex Ferguson takes his quirky team selections to strange new heights, picking David De Gea in central midfield. “The boy’s got great feet, there’s no doubt about that. And it’s a marvellous opportunity for Anderson to play in nets,” says Fergie. Manchester United come from a goal down to win 2-1 and go 18 points clear.

Bored of his current celebratory hand gestures (the heart and the ‘A’), Gareth Bale takes it upon himself to score enough goals to spell out ‘Happy Birthday Nan’ one letter at a time. He accidentally overdoes it, so marks his 17th goal with a smiley face emoticon. Bale is booked for diving...

...as is Luis Suarez, whose manager Brendan Rodgers claims Suarez gets picked on because he comes from South America. “If the boy were, say, Welsh, nobody would even mention the diving,” says Rodgers, adding: "Trust, encouragement, reward, loyalty... satisfaction. Trust people and they'll be true to you. Treat them greatly, and they will show themselves to be great."

Trailing 2-0 early in the second half, Rafa Benitez brings on John Obi Mikel and Eden Hazard, prompting a stream of vicious abuse from disgruntled Chelsea fans. The pair transform the game and spark a memorable comeback. Benitez’s tactical masterstroke is rewarded with zero praise. No, wait, that’s a real one.

QPR lose to West Brom in a game of controversial refereeing decisions. Harry Redknapp says: “I hate hearing managers moan about decisions and getting robbed. I don't do that or slag referees off or moan about decisions ... I think they were awful decisions. I think the ref got it completely wrong. I asked the linesman how did he not see the penalty, Ridgewell's hand was up there, it's the most blatant handball and he couldn't see it. The linesman said it was murky down in that corner and he couldn't see it, maybe he should go to Specsavers or somewhere.'' Sorry, that’s another real one.

Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere is sawn clean in half by a waist-high challenge from a notorious hard man whose manager declares him: “Not that sort of player. He hasn’t got a malicious bone in his body.” As two separate ambulances take Wilshere to hospital, Arsene Wenger says he hopes to have the England midfielder back by the start of April.

The Match of the Day team spend 15 minutes patronising Sian Massey when she gets a routine offside call right. Although all six lose, and mathematically at least two of them must go down, Mark Lawrenson dismisses the relegation fears of West Ham, Sunderland, Southampton, Aston Villa, Wigan and Reading with a curt: "They’ll be fine." 160,000 people awake drowsily on their sofas to see Manish Bhasin talking at them. They mutter, "s***, missed the Swansea game" and stumble to bed.

- - -

GUESS WHO? England record since the start of Fabio Capello’s reign in 2008.

PLAYER A
With: P37, W25, D6, L6, Win 67.6%, Clean sheet 40.5%
Without: P20, W12, D6, L2, Win 60%, Clean sheet 40%

PLAYER B
With: P17, W10, D4, L3, Win 58.8%, Clean sheet 23.5%
Without: P40, W27, D8, L5, Win 67.5%, Clean sheet 47.5%

Answer at the bottom of the page.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: "I have not closed the door on management. I find it hard to say no to people. If someone offers you a good job, I'd think, 'I would love to do that'." Michael Owen finds it hard to say no to people? Time to ask him if he fancies investing in Early Doors’s range of Italian-inspired shampoos - new scents: garlic, king prawn and fennel.

FOREIGN VIEW: This is odd, yet strangely compelling.

- - -

PLAYER A is Gareth Barry
PLAYER B is Rio Ferdinand

- - -

Alex Chick - Twitter @alexchick81