Last night didn't turn out to be the best evening for future multiple La Liga winner Sam Allardyce. There he was, standing on the touchline at the City of Manchester Stadium, trying his best to look agitated for the gallery as a shower of chancers, frauds and competition winners claiming to be West Ham United made a royal show of themselves in the League Cup semi-final, but not quite managing it. His best effort at theatrical rage was a brief frown which suggested the first rumblings of mild irk, and at one point he blew a bubble which popped in a slightly snappy manner, but other than that, nothing. Watching him, you could be forgiven for thinking he simply doesn't give a flying one any more. But that can't be the case. All very strange.
After the game – which Manchester City won 6-0, Edin Dzeko so bored we later found out he'd lost count at five – Allardyce let out an elongated yawn, in the style of someone who has just woken up from a seven-year coma and can't quite yet summon the energy to scratch their arse or get up to go potty. But listening carefully to the tape again, the reflex in fact turned out to be his post-match press conference. "What do you expect when you've got lads on free transfers playing against players that have cost hundreds and hundreds of millions of pounds?" he drawled. "We are not the first team to get beat here by many goals and we won't be the last." Fair points both, until you remember Crystal Palace managed to hold City to a single goal a fortnight ago, while League Cup semi-finals of the past have seen the likes of Bradford City win at Aston Villa, Rochdale beat Blackeye Rovers, and Walsall hold the old, good, 80s Liverpool at Anfield. In other words, there's no need to be shipping six goals in a major semi-final, at all, ever, no matter how you spin it.
West Ham fans have never been collectively convinced by Allardyce and his signature style of soccer, which might be good enough for the likes of Real Madrid but doesn't cut it at the Academy of Football. So it was little surprise that the club's travelling support, witnessing last night's debacle a mere 80 hours after watching their team get hammered by five at Nottingham Forest, broke into a chant which featured repeated uses of the word eff in a percussive style and detailed the quickest routes away from the Boleyn Ground if one is driving a removals van during rush hour. Allardyce insists he is going to dig in and fight, and he still has the backing of Gollivan, but a fourth consecutive loss on the road at Cardiff on Saturday could convince the club to let their manager go, with the odds on his being the next sacking now down to a pointless 1-5. With the big man odds-on to be back on the market very soon, poor Carlo Ancelotti will already be suffering sleepless nights.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"His contract will be changed and wages will be reduced by 50%. We would be delighted to get rid of him, but a football player with his reputation, there are no offers. He should play football and work hard, like his team-mates, but he clearly misses the Belgian cafes … Logically, football clubs don't generally offer contracts to players who love liquor and drive under the influence" – Terek Grozny president Magomed Daoudov unloads both barrels on Belgian player Jonathan Legear – who once crashed his Porsche into a petrol station – after he recently whinged about life at the Russian club in a magazine interview.
New Morton boss Kenny Shiels claims he has been advised to give up post-match interviews … by his doctor. "Every decision I make must be in the best interests of Morton and I'm very susceptible to being controversialised and it's happened to me in the past," he, er, raged. "I'm not going to go down that road anymore. There's a name for it – you can't help it. If someone asks you a question, you're emotionally imbalanced at that time and you feel an urge to tell the truth."
"Are West Ham missing a trick? With the amount of gum Big Sam chews, could he not chew enough to fashion a cover to stick over the West Ham goal, thus freeing up their goalkeeper to single-handedly take on opponents, much the same as he did last night?" – Chris Chadwick.
"Re: David Moyes's comment about referees: 'We're actually beginning to laugh at them' (yesterday's Bits and Bobs). What wasn't reported was that he added 'they'll soon know what it's like being Manchester United nowadays' …" – Tony Timms.
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BITS AND BOBS
Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has been described as "thoughtless" by a survivor of the 7 July London bombings after he dressed up as a 'suicide bomber'. "I do not think people who do these things mean any harm but unfortunately the effect it has on people like me and people who are in a worse position – those who lost loved ones – is hurtful," said Jacqui Putnam. Smalling's management said he had intended to make a pun on Jägerbomb by strapping bottles of the drink and Red Bull to his body.
Not content with signing their rivals' best players, Bayern Munich have upped the smug-o-meter by offering to subsidise their fans' £62 Big Cup tickets for the match against Arsenal. "This is intended to represent a small thank you for the great support of the followers," Bayern holier-than-thou'd.
Former Stoke City defender Danny Higginbotham has retired after revealing that life at Skrill North side Altrincham failed to live up to the heady highs of captaining invincible Gibraltar. "I always said I would play for the club I have always supported and I genuinely hoped it would prove the catalyst for firing me up again and getting me back to how I used to be. But the harsh reality is, it didn't," he parped.
Skrill Premier side Nuneaton have put their entire squad up for sale, believing it's in the best interests of the play-off-chasing club to sell all their players. "We should look to maximise the return to the club … none of this is rocket science," sniffed club owner Ian Neale.
Good news for Mr Roy dept: Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld has taken on the task of trolling World Cup venue Manaus. "I find it almost irresponsible that one has to play football in such a place, in the middle of the jungle, in the middle of the Amazon region," he growled.
Racing Santander fans stormed club president Angel Lavin's box and threw drinks at him after the club's players refused to kick off in their Copa del Rey match against Almeria in protest at not being paid.
Crystal Palace have parted company with Kevin Phillips, 89. "He wants to get closer to home, which is the Midlands," cheered Tony Pulis.
St Mirren's Paul McGowan has been sentenced to 130 hours' community service, rather than receiving a prison term, after admitting a double assault charge. "I would have taken that if you'd have asked me beforehand," said McGowan.
Brendan Rodgers has been handed an £8,000 bill for getting one or two things off his chest about ref Lee Mason after the 2-1 defeat at Manchester City.
And Lord Walton of Detchant has spoken against a government proposal under which courts could stop people being annoying in public, by pointing out that it would stop him from taunting Sunderland fans. "My friend Lord Shipley … is for reasons best known to him, … a Sunderland supporter. If I were to chide him and say that he is foolish to continue to support that team, which has been absolutely hopeless all season … he would reasonably regard me as a confounded nuisance. If one looks at this clause and interprets it in a strictly literal sense, I would potentially be in breach of this statute."
STILL WANT MORE?
Raphael Honigstein interviews Thomas Hitzlsperger, who tells him: "I preferred living with a man".
Neil Jones digs out the forgotten story of the death-cheatin', riot-survivin', Vietnam war-defyin' Dallas Tornado's 1967-68 world tour.
Eusébio's greatest hits and Belgium's version of the Soccer Sixes star in this week's Classic YouTube.
Find out how each of the Premier League's clubs have fared in the first half of the season, on one handy page of infographics.
Tenth in the Championship and the fact that home fans have stopped demonstrating so much outside the club ranks as something of an achievement for Blackeye Rovers this season, reckons Paul Wilson.
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