It may be a time for Yuletide festivities, but there was not
much Christmas cheer anywhere over the weekend.
A recap of the action at home and abroad reads like the script
of an EastEnders episode where a knees-up down the Vic descends into conflict, recriminations and usually arson.
We begin with Stoke
City's 'party-gate' incident, which heralds the start of one of ED's favourite times of year.
Who can forget those classic Christmas party moments - like Chelsea's fancy dress do in 2007 at which John Terry turned
up in a Mr Incredible outfit, Frank Lampard dressed as a French dandy and Andriy
Shevchenko pitched up wearing a polo-neck jumper. It's
the costume that says 'I'm going back to Milan'.
Or Tottenham's tear-up
last year in which legendary party animal Ledley King was upstaged by Giovani dos
Santos, who fell over, threw up on his shirt and was bundled into a waiting
vehicle by burly minders, who put his coat over his head like he was a child
molester awaiting trial.
How about West Ham's
2006 party at which several players booed their manager Alan Pardew, or
Blackburn's booze-up in Dublin last year, from
which they returned to discover Paul Ince had been sacked.
And it would be remiss of ED not to mention Manchester
United's £100,000 blow-out, arranged
by Rio Ferdinand Party Liaison, to which wives and girlfriends were not invited
but trouble most definitely was.
Anyway, Stoke got the party season off to a cracking start
on Saturday, when Tony Pulis and James Beattie had to be separated during a
bust-up over the club's festivities
- scheduled for last night in London.
Pulis told the squad in the aftermath of Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Arsenal that he wanted them to
report for training on Monday morning, about which Beattie was not best
The pair apparently squared up, and some reports claim Pulis
attempted to head-butt the striker.
It is a sign of the times that the pair were eventually
separated by a masseur.
- - -
Mind you, it would be wrong to assume that masseurs are the natural peacemakers
of the modern dressing room.
When pushed, some of them will put down the soothing oils,
turn off the whale music and throw hands.
Robson is one man who apparently believes Shiatsu is a martial art as well as a
treatment for back pain, and managed to get sent off during an extraordinary
brawl at the end of yesterday's game
Robson was given his marching orders following a fracas in
the tunnel, bringing to five the number of reds shown to Hearts - two players
were sent off during the game, two after the brawl.
- - -
Further aggro took place - inevitably - in Brazil, where
trouble flared following Fluminense's
relegation-decider against Coritiba.
The 1-1 draw meant Coritiba went down and their fans,
showing typical South American restraint, promptly invaded the pitch and
clashed with police.
- - -
And there was yet more gnashing of teeth in Italy's
Serie B, where an act of sportsmanship by Ascoli provoked furious protests from
the club's fans.
Early in the first half, Reggina's
Carlos Valdez pulled up and attempted to put the ball out of play, but failed.
Sommese played on and set up a goal for team-mate Mirko Antenucci.
A brawl ensued - during which Reggina's
Andrea Costa was sent off for smacking Sommese - and Ascoli eventually agreed
to stand aside and let their opponents score an unopposed goal.
Struggling Ascoli went on to lose 3-1, and were locked in
the dressing room for two hours after the game to protect them from their own
supporters' angry protests.
Adding insult to injury is the prospect of an enquiry into
whether the decision to allow Reggina to score constituted a breach of fair
Ascoly manager Bepi Pillon said: "It's not fun like this."
- - -
Looks like Early Doors was not the only turned off by the
interminable build-up to the World Cup draw.
Wayne Rooney has admitted he fell asleep and missed the
Rooney, who must have had a few sleepness nights with young
Kai around, said he turned the TV on in his hotel room ahead of Manchester
United's game at West Ham, and
promptly had a five-hour kip.
"We got to the hotel about 5pm and I lay down on my bed
to watch TV. I fell asleep and didn't
find out what the draw was until five hours later," he said.
- - -
In further World Cup news, the omen police were loving Tim Howard's penalty save from Jermain Defoe yesterday.
The pair may well be facing each other in Rustenburg on June
12 and, given England's historical ineptitude from 12 yards, the American
keeper's stop from Spurs' England
striker caused a few murmurs.
Although it was nice to see on Saturday that Frank Lampard
is capable of missing a penalty outside a World Cup quarter-final.
- - -
Defoe and Lampard were in good company, mind, as Cristiano Ronaldo also missed
a penalty for Real Madrid on Saturday.
Ronaldo stepped up with Real drawing 2-2 with Almeria in the 82nd
minute, and saw his effort saved. Karim Benzema knocked in the rebound, but did
Ronaldo celebrate? Did he heck.
In the eight remaining minutes, the chastened Portuguese
scored, got booked for taking his shirt off, then saw red for kicking an