Early Doors

All hail the Ginger Prince

Early Doors

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Paul Scholes played his 600th game for Manchester United
last night. Yet all Early Doors can do is wonder why he is nearly 200 behind Ryan
Giggs, who has chugged on to 799.

ED isn't very
keen on these numerical milestones. They give a vague satisfaction akin to
watching your car's mile counter
click over, but they don't actually
mean anything.

And if we operated in, say, base seven instead of base
10, Scholes would be on 1,515 appearances and last night's
run-out would have been entirely irrelevant.

Whatever ED's
landmark-related gripes, there is no doubt that United's older players have contributed
enormously to the club, which has rightly treated them well in return.

Nobody would argue that Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan
Giggs are automatic first-team selections or that they are the players they
were at their peak. Yet their value remains.

had a superb game against Portsmouth
last night. It is impossible to quantify how much he benefits from Scholes's
example - both his attitude and the extraordinary natural ability that allows
him to ping 80 yard balls at team-mates taking a leak by the side of the pitch
in training and whack them on the back of the head.

Compare that to Arsenal, where players over 30 are
treated as damaged goods and begrudgingly offered a one-year contract and a Zimmer
frame. Even if they are Dennis Bergkamp.

Watching Denilson get outmuscled against Chelsea and Liverpool, it
was impossible not to wonder how much more savvy and steely the Brazilian might be had
Patrick Vieira tutored him through the early years of his career.

Admittedly, Vieira couldn't
make him grow six inches or put on two stones of muscle, but you get the idea.

Despite his penchant for abysmally-timed, leg-breaking
tackles, there is nobody more respected by his fellow professionals than
, yet he retains his complete antipathy towards and the perks of being a
superstar footballer. Like money.

In 2005 when Rio Ferdinand (recently returned from an
eight-month ban for missing a drug test) was haggling over the details of his
bumper £100,000-a-week* contract, United quietly got Scholes in and the
midfielder duly signed the first piece of paper that was put in front of him.

The problem was, Scholes's deal was worth only £70,000-a-week*.
Not a bad wage, admittedly, but over £1 million less than Ferdinand took home
every year, and all because Rio is a greedy
beggar with a ball-breaking agent.

If it were up to Early Doors, and this statement alone
probably proves why it is not, Scholes would always be the highest player at
his club.

What better way to reward loyalty than to take the man
with no agent, no PR machine and no interest in negotiation and give him
£200,000 every week?

Want to get top dollar, Rio?
Sack your agent, stop funding violent gangster movies while simultaneously
campaigning against knife crime, shut down your preposterous lifestyle magazine
and get your bloody head down.

*These figures have been plucked out of a tabloid
newspaper at best, or thin air at worst.

- - -

Actually, ED doesn't
really have a problem with footballers pursuing outside interests. They only
work two or three hours a day, so life can get pretty boring unless you have an
extra-curricular schedule packed full of self-promoting guff.

The excellent 1963 documentary Six Days To Saturday
followed a week in the lives of the Swindon
Town squad, and revealed that
Mike Summerbee spent his afternoons at the local sweet shop chatting awkwardly
with the proprietor. Ernie Hunt, of later 'donkey
kick' fame, went down the bookies.

Incidentally the film, which ED urges you to watch, was made by John Boorman who went on to direct cinematic gems such as hick-strewn rapefest Deliverance. The two aren't much alike.

The point is that footballers have always had a lot of
time on their hands, and ED certainly doesn't
want them to live like monks - it was the monastic combination of sitting
around a well-appointed old building, brewing your own beer and contemplating the
nature of existence that formed the basis of many clubs'
drinking culture in the 1980s.

- - -

Roy Keane is back in football. Just four months after quitting a struggling
Premier League club, he has taken over a struggling Championship club and he
claims he couldn't be happier.

ED was tickled by the picture of Keane that accompanies the announcement on Ipswich's
official site
Their new manager appears wild-eyed, heavily bearded and one misplaced backpass
away from going on a killing spree.

If it were any other manager, they would make him have a
shave and a haircut before making him pose for a proper photo, but nobody dares
mess with Keane.

He is a bit like football's
answer to Osama Bin Laden. He is rarely sighted in public (even the dog-walking
seems to have died a death if not, hopefully, the dog), most pictures of him
are clearly out of date; you might even start to wonder whether he is really

No doubt Keane will reveal himself at some tetchy press
conference. He does not seem the ideal match for Ipswich,
who are well-liked and generally seen as a 'nice' club.

There is more chance of Keane duetting with Susan Boyle
in the Britain's Got Talent final than there is of him using the
pleasantly self-deprecating 'Tractor
Boys' nickname.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Newcastle assistant manager Iain Dowie
defends Michael Owen against accusations that he is rubbish: "It's almost a British thing now, we like to knock our
great goalscorers." Yes, that's
right. Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker, Ian Rush, Denis Law... we love to knock
them. Obviously the criticism of Owen has nothing to do with his passable
impression of a concrete bollard against Spurs on Sunday.

Real Madrid defender Pepe comes over all
remorseful after kicking seven shades of snot out of Getafe's
Javier Casquero on Tuesday night in a bizarre on-field attack: "These are the worst days of my
life. I do not have any desire to return to playing football."

COMING UP: There is more continental action
tonight with Racing Santander v Atletico Madrid
in La Liga and the Coppa Italia semi-final Internazionale v Sampdoria. Plus
continued coverage of the World Championship snooker from the Crucible.

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