Spectator sport

As West Ham go for dull David Moyes, football badly needs more Pep talks

11 November 2017

9:00 AM

11 November 2017

9:00 AM

So West Ham took the least surprising option and sent for David Moyes. Same old same old. I have a feeling that if Theresa May fell on her, or anyone else’s, sword, we’d send for David Moyes and that familiar figure would be shuffling up Downing Street with his wrinkly-eyed grin, proclaiming outside No. 10: ‘We’re in a relegation battle here.’ He wouldn’t be wrong either.

Looking at West Ham’s lacklustre performances, with players sometimes putting on a bit of a reluctant jog in vague pursuit of opponents sprinting past, it’s easy to imagine them in the dressing room with a fag and some of owner David Sullivan’s old top-shelf magazines. Poor old Slaven Bilic: who needs enemies when he has friends like Ian Wright, who’s pleased he got the sack because ‘he needs a rest’.

You might not watch a David Moyes team if they played in your back garden, but let us celebrate the fact that Pep Guardiola has come among us. Manchester City are playing a kind of football you would pay handsomely to watch anywhere in the world. His explosion of frustration on the touchline last weekend when a woeful pass from Sterling failed to find Leroy Sane with the Arsenal goal beckoning was a joy. He even lost his water bottle. It was one of very few mistakes City made in 90 minutes of almost perfect, always absorbing and often thrilling football.

By the way, if England are serious about winning the World Cup any time soon they should make Gareth Southgate ‘manager emeritus’ or something, and give the job to Spurs’ Mauricio Pochettino, who has done more to develop English football than pretty much anyone since Sir Alf Ramsey. Watch Spurs’s first goal against Real Madrid, a piece of fluid brilliance featuring Kane, Winks, Trippier and Dele Alli, all English and all pin-sharp on the ball.

Well, the Ashes are going well so far. Half-centuries for Stoneman, Vince, Ballance and Malan are all very well but a history-making double hat-trick this week for Mitchell Starc in a Shield match should make Joe Root’s boys give their helmets a thorough check. This should be a thrilling series, despite the (temporary, I hope) loss of Stokes, but it could be one of those catastrophic wipe-outs. I wouldn’t be surprised, though I would be disappointed, if the meat of England’s tour comes in the five one-day 50-over games that follow in January. This may be the best format there has ever been, however much we old dinosaurs love our Tests. Younger audiences like their entertainment concise, neatly packaged and swiftly delivered. The 50-over format offers that by the barrel.

I have never understood the joys of Rugby League; lots of enormous inked blokes smashing into each other; the only game where the players sort out any crowd trouble. And isn’t the current RL World Cup something of a farce, despite the BBC’s best efforts to persuade us otherwise? England have played Lebanon, yes Lebanon, in a key match (come off it; three Scots were too pissed to get on the plane) and the whole thing started in October and ends in December: Henry Blofeld could have written a couple of cricket memoirs in that time.

Can’t we give Lewis Hamilton a break? He should tell the rest of us moaning about his tax to shove it where the sun don’t shine. Lewis lives in Monaco, his employers are German and his contract with them was drawn up in Guernsey. He spends about as much time in Britain as Donald Tusk. He’s not necessarily the most cuddly figure on Britain’s sporting roster, but provided he moves back to Britain when he’s old and gets a less garish jet, we can all start to love him and he can be knighted.

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