By Mike Smart
I’ve just had a week off work. Not a terribly relaxing week – I have three children – but a welcome change of scene, nonetheless, and the opportunity to experience new things. One such thing was a trip to the JJB Stadium; it will not live long in the memory. More memorable was my son Cameron’s two-year development check-up.
Most parents, I guess, think their two-year-old children are pretty clever, particularly if they don’t know any other two-year-olds; every step forward is seen as monumental in the eyes of the competitive parent, of which I, sadly, am one. For example, I’m sure Cameron was the first 22-month-old to be able to distinguish between a ‘yes/no’ question and an open question:
“Have you been good today, Cameron?”
“What did you do?”
“Are you hungry?”
“What do you want to eat?”
So Thursday was kind of a crucial day for us, as I knew there would be other two-year-olds present. There’s no secrecy about the check-up, and by the end of the afternoon I would know whether Cameron was overweight, of below average intelligence, inarticulate or, hopefully, none of the above.
When we arrived at the clinic, the trials Cameron and I were to be put through were evident; one lady struggled to entice ‘Sean’ onto the scales without the large teddy bear he was holding. Sean’s position seemed to be that losing the bear was a deal-breaker. Elsewhere, the Health Visitor was trying to explain to ‘Crystal’ that she needed to put the raisin into the bottle, her mouth being the only place Crystal seemed inclined to put it. So it was with smug satisfaction that I sat and watched Cameron stroll onto the scales (minus a bear, or any other appendage), put the raisin in the bottle at the first attempt and correctly identify the “happle”, “choo-choo” and “teethbrush” he was shown. He was outdone, though; as I was packing Cameron’s things back into his bag, ‘Jordan’ identified the boat that Cameron had been unable to. Glad to say he learned, though, and boats are now being pointed out in the Smart house at every opportunity.
That’s all you can ask for, really. Much of what Cameron says is still nonsense, but he is at least making progress, and – if Sean and Crystal are anything to go by – making good progress. He’s kinda cute, too, so he can get away with talking rubbish.
As football fans, we’re used to people talking crap, of course. Has there ever been anything more annoying than Alex Ferguson making some ridiculous comment about his team’s forthcoming opposition? Well, yes actually: The media drooling over said comments, saying “Ooh, he’s so good at those mind games,” before leaving for the bathroom to clean up their creamed pants. Thing is, though, as long as you’re winning, you can get away with talking crap.
A case in point: Adrian Boothroyd. He’s getting better at this ‘speaking in public’ business, but there’s still some way to go. Of course, his team has a handy habit of winning games, so he can talk all he wants about his “strengths and not strengths”. But it’d be good to refine his technique, because if the results take a turn for the worse, he isn’t half gonna look a pratt.
Handy, then, that on Tuesday, he can learn from the master. Ian Holloway has proved that talking crap can be an art-form as long as it’s entertaining crap. Who can forget him likening a narrow victory to pulling at a nightclub? “We’ve pulled. She’s not very good looking, but we’ve pulled, and that’s all that matters.” Brilliant. An oasis in the desert of Graeme Sounesses and Howard Wilkinsons. On Tuesday, he will attempt to 'pull' in Watford.
Mind you, if past form is anything to go by, it won’t just be three points Holloway will be after; Vicarage Road is his favourite shopping venue. Old boy Fuzzy will be missing this time, serving the first of a likely three-match ban following a dismissal at Derby on Saturday for violent conduct. Could be more, too, as it’s his second red card of the season. Still, at thirty-seven-years-old, the rest will probably do him good. Lee Cook, too, is likely to be absent, having pulled out of the Derby game at short notice with a groin strain. I was interested to read comments from Holloway to the effect that Cook could not play as a wing back, due to his lack of defensive ability.
The Rangers defence has had a very settled look, being unchanged for the last four games. Ian Evatt and Danny Shittu are flanked by Lloyd Dyer (on loan from West Brom) on the left and former Crewe man Marcus Bignot on the right. Matthew Hislop, Mauro Milanese, Dominic Shimmin and Nigerian Ugo Ukah are the main cover options. Ex-Arsenal man Matthew Rose is, sadly, a long-term injury victim, and is unlikely to feature for some time. Behind them, Simon Royce takes his place in goal. Understudy is Jake Cole, although Holloway seems unable to make up his mind as to whether or not to include a substitute ‘keeper on the bench. (If he doesn’t, you know what to do, Darius!)
The Hoops’ midfield is going to take some explaining; firstly, and most unbelievably, one-time Watford target Georges Santos is still persuading unsuspecting managers that he is a professional footballer, Ian Holloway being the latest victim of this cruel hoax. An appearance on Crimewatch is surely inevitable. Injuries will deprive Rangers of Steve Lomas and Martin Rowlands, probably Cook and possibly Marc Bircham, who missed the win at Derby. Marcus Bean, Adam Miller and Aaron Brown are all out on loan, leaving Santos (who is also an option to cover in defence, as much as he’s an option to do anything), Gareth Ainsworth, Tommy Doherty, Richard Langley and Kevin Gallen fighting for four places. Gallen seems to be a fixture as an attacking midfielder, and my guess is that Langley will be the man to miss out and take a place on the bench.
Ian Holloway appears to have graduated from the Neil Warnock school of striker acquisition. In addition to Furlong and Gallen, he has Dean Sturridge, Marc Nygaard, Stefan Moore and splendidly-named youngster Shabazz Baidoo to call upon. The favoured pairing has been Furlong and Nygaard, but with Fuzzy out, and Dane Nygaard possibly out, Sturridge is a certainty, and Moore may get a rare start.
Rangers are going well after a slow start, and this is a tough test. But I have it on good authority that we will be successful on Tuesday.
“Are we going to beat QPR?”
“What will the score be?”