Thursday, April 3, 2008

Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a season

I had a text message from a friend after the game last night. It read: "As we say in the Netherlands: even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a season."

I don't think that's really a Dutch proverb, but it was a good night for me. Did you hear how quiet the stadium went after I scored? I don't think anyone could quite believe what they had seen (I call it The Barnsley Effect) and - before you ask - yes: I did get the last touch; and no: it definitely wasn't a penalty.

Pieter Vink is the best referee in the Netherlands. He is from Noordwijkerhout, only a few miles from Katwijk and was a policeman there for many years. I have great respect for him. He started refereeing when I joined Quick Boys as a school boy and our careers have followed the same upward path ever since. I met him several times while playing in the Eredivisie.

The fans, cruelly, call him 'Blinde' Vink. You need a great mentality to be a referee and to overcome these taunts from fans and players. I thought Pieter showed that he has this strong mentality by not awarding the penalty. I'm sure it had nothing to do with our acquaintance...

...but I will ask my mother to take him round some home baking just in case. Dank u Pieter!

Tot de volgende keer

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The drop that floods the bucket

"De druppel die de emmer doet overlopen," as we say in the Netherlands.

A great sadness overcame me after the Manchester trip. I had built up such high hopes that this season could be the one where we might cause an upset. Instead, we lose our heads and the match in humiliating fashion.

I felt I took Harry's strategy to new levels against United, but it did not pay dividends as I had hoped it might. Stevie had clearly tired of giving me as many opportunities as he did against Inter and opted instead to pass the ball straight to the opposition. I'm not sure if the chance of them losing possession in dangerous areas was any greater than the chance of me doing something useful in dangerous areas, but I took the hint and Stevie and I have not spoken since.

It is not within my nature to give up like this, but the dark nights are getting to me. The gaffer talks about the "dark mondays"; I have dark Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays too. Sometimes I cry. I'm not ashamed to admit it: real men, cry. Every missed opportunity brings a tear, which annoys Gertrude because she constantly has to change the pillow cases in the middle of the night.

So it was a big effort to raise my head for the derby. And I'm not sure what to say about the game: we controlled it absolutely; we won; my Katwijian ball control provided Fernando with an assist; and yet...

...when I got home from the match, Gertrude had left me a whole new set of pillow cases.


Tot de volgende keer

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hope springs eternal

"Hoop doet leven," as we say in the Netherlands

We have just arrived in Manchester and I am sneaking this opportunity to let you know my feelings before today's big game. The gaffer has not named the team yet, but I am hopeful. Against the big teams, like United, he likes hard-workers running around all afternoon and no one, I think, can criticise me for a lack of that!

Darren Bent and Michael Chopra (both enthusiastic applauders of the fans - they've read my handbook) scored yesterday, which has really put the pressure on. They are two of the worst strikers I have ever seen and I frequently rely on the incompetence of them and others to make my mishaps less noteworthy (I was devestated, for instance, when Samaras left Man City).

So there is much to prove today and much that could prove my undoing. A big game, as they say.

Tot de volgende keer

PS. Chopra also has this bottom that's totally out of proportion with the rest of his body. Look at it next time you see him: it's huge!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Even a fisherman drops an eel once a while

"Ook een visser ontglipt wel eens een aal," as we say in the Netherlands.

I am the linch-pin of this team. "Dirk," I hear you cry, "that's simply ridiculous." I know how it sounds but using simple economic theory, I can prove it. Here's how...

As the supply of quality football from me dries up, the demand for it from my teammates rises. I am therefore directly responsible for the continual improvement of the players around me. As you'll have noticed, the results of the team vary inversely to my own personal performance. Take Barnsley, for example, I score my first goal in months and the team crashes out the cup.

Fernando has just become the first Liverpool player for over a decade to score twenty league goals in a season: it's because I've been playing alongside him!

So it was to everyone's benefit and no-one's surprise that I missed that header yesterday. Had I done the easiest thing - score - we would, in all likeliness, have lost the game. Instead, with an effort that I couldn't repeat if I tried, I have saved us the ignomony of a Reading double.

Tot de volgende keer

Thursday, March 13, 2008

To fish behind the net

"Achter het net vissen," as we say in the Netherlands.

What an evening I had on Tuesday! A deft touch here, forty-yard pass there, control, defending from the front, leading from the front. Yes, it seems there is nothing Steven Gerrard cannot do.

As for me; well...I have found the fatal flaw in Harry's strategy of not playing any significant part in the game: it's if the rest of the lads aren't in on the plan! Hugging the touchline and trying not to cock up anything for anyone, I inadvertantly found myself in acres of space.

Time after time Stevie picked me out with raking forty-yard cross-field passes. I waited in desperation for someone to come tearing down the inside channel offering me an overlap or the chance of an easy short pass. With Carra as my wing-man, however...

Skipping past players to the byline has never been my forte and my evening quickly unravelled. The less said about the quality of my crossing the better. Even by the standards of a difficult season, this was a shocker! I hardly had the heart to applaud any of the fans as I left the field.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sitting down beside the boxes

Harry and I finished breakfast and headed for the table-tennis table at the far end of the canteen. I have been most discouraged this weekend: "Bij de pakken neerzitten," as we say in The Netherlands. Harry always has good advice: he knows the pressure over under-achievement.

"Twenty-spot a set?" He always wants to play for money.

"Ten", I said, conscious of Gertrude's disapproval of gambling and my increasingly desperate attempts to explain away the shortfall in my wages.

When I first moved to Utrecht from Katwijk, I was astonished to find that players moved in with and had children with their partners before they were married. How ungodly, I thought at the time. My father would always counsel me during those moments of doubt. Now look at me: throwing money away on table-tennis games that I stood no chance of winning.

"I'd get better odds of me scoring a hat-trick tomorrow," I protested. Someone standing by the toaster sniggered.

I have grown to love table tennis, although I'm not very good at it. Harry uses me as his whipping boy when he's got a big match looming against ‘Ginge’. He says it gets his confidence up and it's one of the few games he can play without injuring himself.

"I can't understand the gaffer," I said. "How am I expected to score if he only plays one striker?"


"You have to look at it positively. If you aren't playing and missing sitters, then no one can question your ability," he explained. "Your games to goals ratio doesn't suffer and you can use all kind of excuses about only being used as a substitute and being played in the wrong position to cover the cracks...


...or as many of them as possible," he said with a wink.


"I've been dodging bullets like that all season!" I said, completely losing control of the bat and almost taking Yossi and his tea right out of commission.


"The less you're exposed the better," he continued. "I've been really impressed with the way you've ducked the criticism. It's only in the last few weeks you've drawn attention to yourself by scoring two goals. If you can avoid playing any significant part in a game, then you keep yourself out of the papers. Just look like you're working hard and release the odd press statement about your level of fitness. And keep up the applauding: that was a stroke of genius."


"And don't give the ball away too much. The fans hate it"

The ball flew past me, bounced off Carra's head and rolled under the vending machine. It's the second time in as many weeks he's thrown me that look.


Crouchie's the only one who can get the ball back when it goes under the vending machine and he was talking to the gaffer. We gave up on the game and made our way out to the pitches.

"I am starting to understand how Crouchie must have felt for so long," I whispered, nodding in his direction.

"Yeah, if there's one thing worse than cocking it up completely on the pitch, it’s having to sit on the sidelines watching someone else cock it up and knowing you could do it ten times better."

I hope he wasn't referring to me there. That wasn't really what I meant. Talk about kicking a man when he's down.

"At least he has a song though,” I sighed. "Did you hear Fernando's new song at the weekend?"

"Don't worry about the songs. Some of the best players are often the ones that get ignored. Michael Owen never really had a song and he scored hundreds of goals."

If he scored "hundreds" what chance do I have, I thought. By way of making me feel better Harry told me a story about Gary Neville:

Gary Neville, apparently, has always had a thing about being under-appreciated. One weekend he played an absolute blinder. After the game he was the first one out of the ground and rushed into Manchester to pick up a copy of the Evening News. Stopping at the first vendor he found, he grabbed a newspaper and went straight to the pink sports pages. Looking down the match review Neville suddenly ripped up the paper, threw it down and marched back to his car. "What’s the problem with you?" shouted the vendor. "It doesn't matter how well I play," Neville yelled back, "They always give me a f*cking 6."

For all the Liverpool fans dislike Gary Neville, I kind of got Harry's point. He might be an object of national ridicule; awkward-looking and never really achieving anything of noticeable significance on the pitch; but to the United fans who really know, he is a legend.

Tot de volgende keer

Monday, March 3, 2008

Like a snail on a barrel of tar

I am overwhelmed with your messages of support; they mean a lot this week because I have had another run-in with Doyle at The Gaurdian: my nemesis! Last week he could not hide his surprise at my great strike against Inter. This week he is confounded by the noticeable drop in quality after my substitution. He mocks Carra and me for being "the slowest wing-combination in Europe": Als een slak op een teerton, as we say in the Netherlands. Our wing combination has the biggest heart in Europe, Paul Doyle of The Manchester Guraidan, and that means everything to our fans.,,2261506,00.html

For sure, it is more difficult to get among the goals when the gaffer keeps me on the right wing. Marco has always preferred me playing on the right wing when I turn out for my country and Rafa seems to want to do the same. I am happy with that if it helps the team and the gaffer's tactics yesterday were spot on. I did have a difficult chance to score and struck the post, but the ball fell kindly for Ryan and I don't begrudge my countryman his goal. He had a terrific game and I got an assist for my dream team; everyone wins!

The Reebok is not an easy place to visit and I have never had the experience of winning there. Bolton are a very physical team: players like Davies are "all elbows and knees", as I heard a commentator once say, and as a striker you also have to listen to Jussi Jaaskelainen complaining all afternoon. So it was great to go there this weekend and win so easily. I did feel sorry for Jussi after his calamitous own goal: I mis-control the ball like that dozens of times every game, but fortunately I am a striker and not a goalkeeper so no-one notices as long as I keep appluading all four stands at Anfield each week.

The lads had a great game all round. We looked a bit shaky at set pieces but the midfield were so dynamic going forward down the left that it was only a matter of time before someone scored. I am also starting to think that Javier Mascherano might not be human.

West Ham on Wednesday. I hope to show Paul Doyle what my game is all about.

To de volgende keer

PS. If "lol" means "laugh out loud" what did Alex from Manchester mean?