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FA Carling Premiership, 15/1/00
Big fat turkeys
By Matt Rowson

That's it. That's exactly what it was supposed to be like. Just read the fans' match reports on "The Mighty Reds"...a delightful mix of grudging respect, the sourest of grapes and stunned disbelief. Perfect. That's why we got promoted.

Getting promoted wasn't about feeling sorry for ourselves. Not about losing 2-0 at bloody Derby, not about having Ipswich fans (Ipswich fans) singing "Down with the Wednesday" at you in motorway service stations. (Why do smart retorts only occur to you half an hour down the motorway?)

Getting promoted was about pissing off complacent, overblown nonsense like Liverpool, pissing off the sort of people who deserve to get pissed off, the saps wandering down Bedford, Watford or any other High Street with random "big club" shirt on. (Liverpool are, of course, not the chief culprits here, which is why BBC's schedule of the past week has been such hilarious viewing. Oh, for a United preview now...never mind, I'll get round the awkwardness of the fixture list later).

There's not been enough of it, clearly. Not yet. There's still time, of course. Still plenty of big fat turkeys to swing a great sodding meat cleaver at. Saturday sees the return of big fat turkey number one, and though I try to steer away from making predictions it wouldn't remotely surprise me if we clobbered this lot again.

Regular visitors to Vicarage Road will rightly suspect that this bold assertion has little to do with our recent scintillating form. Nor does it have anything to do with the mooted arrival of Heidur Helgusson from Lillestrøm (unless Jimmy Gilligan tips off Platt at Forest first). I won't be guilty of unequal distribution of eggs to baskets again...I can still recall the scorn on my German mate Joe's face when I explained in 1988 how the signing of Stuart Rimmer from Chester City was going to turn around our last season in the top flight.

It also has precious little to do with Liverpool's recent form, non-existent as it has been. An impressive, surging run of results at the end of last year began to fizzle out with an unconvincing win over Wimbledon at Anfield, followed by an abject non-performance at White Hart Lane and ejection from the FA Cup at the hands of Blackburn this week. Fowler, Redknapp and Meijer are all unfit, Owen unlikely to play the whole game if at all following two weeks without training due to his persistent hamstring problem. Vladimir Smicer continues to play as if he'd rather be somewhere else, left-back Dominic Matteo's performances lead the Anfield faithful to wish he were somewhere else. Without Owen and Fowler, potentially a frightening combination, Titi Camara ploughs a lone furrow up front, a role that this elaborate, exotic diversion is clearly not made out for. He can confuse, perplex, and draw as many defenders as he wants to if nobody's taking advantage of the pandemonium he provokes.

(An aside...hilarious to read of Spurs fans booing Camara for diving at White Hart Lane. For diving badly rather than diving at all, one supposes....)

But no, none of this has anything to do with why we're beating Liverpool on Saturday. We'll beat Liverpool on Saturday because, for the second time this season - and Anfield was the first - I won't be at the bloody game.

No, I'll be in bloody Sheffield, where the smart alecs setting the distance learning curriculum persistently delight in clashing their exams with whichever relevant footballing event is around to be clashed with. Bastards. Man.United fans too, probably.

Consequently Watford will bloody beat bloody Liverpool because I won't bloody be there to see it.

The remainder of this preview is dedicated to an elucidation of Multivariate Methods in Statistics. If I've got to sacrifice Saturday for this crap, the least you can do is waste five minutes.


Cluster Analysis
A family of methods for separating objects or entities into groups on the basis of certain descriptors. Criticised for being a bit arbitrary, like the Club World Championship team selection, or half the referees in the Premiership.

Principal Components
Linear Combinations of a large number of variables or descriptors that "summarise" that information optimally. For example, in terms of social demographics, distance of residence from Manchester might be expected to correlate positively with likelihood of supporting the Red Filth... hence a single PC would probably represent both measures if present in the same summarised dataset.

Factor Analysis
Similar to PCA, except that the logic is that groups of related measures are "caused" by the same background factors, rather than merely following a similar pattern. So for example, the degree of media neglect of the FA Cup 4th Round, the number of annoying minutes that Barry Davies spends commentating on the BBC and the amount of laughter provoked by a Mexican who looks like Robert Carlyle after a particularly cruel stag-do are highly correlated. But caused by the same background factor.

Discriminant Analysis
A technique for establishing rules for discriminating between groups, e.g. have large group of schoolkids, how do I identify which are the Man.United fans? (Discriminant rule might, for example, be a function of body odour, number of friends, distance of school from Manchester (again) and so on).

That'll do. You get the idea.

Give them a shout from me.