Early Doors

It’s nothing personal

Early Doors

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Football may well be a funny old game but some things, it seems, are never going to change.

Alex Ferguson venting his spleen at any official who dares cross him is one. Arsene Wenger's myopia is another. Sepp Blatter's incessant ramblings yet another.

And, sadly, Middlesbrough's penchant for giving their critics far too much ammunition to fire at them falls into the same category.

For a glorious, mad 24 hours over the weekend, it seemed that Boro were in with a real chance of winning the FA Cup following the exits of both Manchester United and Chelsea.

With just one top flight side left in the competition by Saturday evening - and not even a big four one at that - Boro fans could have been forgiven for getting all excited about winning only their second ever trophy.

We all know what happened next.

Now, Early Doors has been saddled with a reputation for not appreciating the merits of Gareth Southgate's side of late. Nothing of the sort.

It's not that we have anything in particular against them, it just seems that since our inception we have had the misfortune to watch Boro put in more dreadfully uninspiring performances than most other clubs.

Sunday was a fine example, even by their own standards. Boro capitulated in spectacular fashion to a side currently occupying 14th place in the Championship with barely a whimper.

Admittedly Cardiff played out of their skin - probably the best they've played all season - but surely they were expecting to come up against slightly stiffer opposition. Or perhaps not. Maybe they had seen a tape of Boro's dreadful two-legged last 16 tie with Sheffield United and actually were expecting the walk in the park they got.

But they were not the only side to add their two penneth to 'the magic of the FA Cup' by embarrassing themselves against lower division opposition.

The Chelsea millionaires were at it too after Avram Grant's side clearly showed they did not fancy roughing it 'oop North' for the day. Barnsley's a great place - you can get a pint for less than two quid, a generously proportioned house for the equivalent of a Chelsea player's weekly wage and, even better, a decent conversation in the corner shop - but for someone more used to the Kings Road, it's as foreign as the majority of their squad.

But again, it takes two to tango, let alone do the foxtrot, and Chelsea would not have lost if it were not for a stirring display from the Tykes.

Indeed, such was the, er, brilliance (resilience, more like) of Barnsley's play, Her In Doors was compelled to ask why Chelsea were playing Barcelona on a Saturday evening. Early Doors's better half, bless her cotton socks, had mistaken South Yorkshire's finest for the Catalan giants thanks to the BBC score graphic that displayed the abbreviation BAR.

An easy mistake to make, particularly considering the outcome of the game - and the Barnsley fans' chants of "it's just like watching Brazil".

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The anti-referee tirade launched by Alex Ferguson - ably aided and abetted by his highly strung assistant Carlos Queiroz - after the defeat to Pompey is sure to land United in hot water later on this week.

The double-pronged attack on Martin Atkinson and his boss Keith Hackett was out of order and vicious, but thankfully only in the verbal sense.

Not so the case in both Bulgaria and Italy recently, as two unsavoury incidents brought the safety of the men in black (and red, yellow or green) into sharp focus.

Just before the weekend, unlucky Bulgarian referee Valeri Petrovski was hospitalised after being brutally assaulted by "two men with baseball bats and knuckledusters" while it has been revealed that an Italian man - a bank manager, no less - was attacked by a group of fans who had mistaken him for an official. The real ref was later sent into hiding for his own safety.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND I: "There's some people on the p...." John Motson stops himself from plagiarising one of the most famous commentaries ever just in the nick of time as Barnsley fans invaded the Oakwell pitch.

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND II: "We are retiring the team. We are tired of having to submit to injustices every Sunday." Franco De Rose, president of Doria, announcing the Italian minor league club's decision to pull out of competition due to a lack of faith in refereeing decisions.

FOREIGN VIEW: Germany have chosen the phrase "Kleiner wankt" as their official slogan for this summer's Euro 2008. Stop the sniggering at the back please, it means "standing firm" and is a reference to an inspirational snippet of German commentary. At least they're going to the tournament.

SNUB OF THE WEEKEND: The Observer Magazine ran 'the world's 50 most powerful blogs (and the people behind them)' on Sunday. Surprisingly, Early Doors failed to feature on the list, although we can neither confirm nor deny reports we missed out by a whisker, coming in 51st.

DEBATE OF THE DAY: It seems like an age ago now, but last week's discussion on what aspect of rugby could be incorporated into football prompted some amusing responses, not least from apparent rugger fanatic screamouk: "you can't polish a wet turd".

Today's talking point: Are referees getting abused too much? Is their treatment by players, managers and fans becoming dangerous?

COMING UP: We've got all the usual Monday features for you, including Team of the Week, Winners and Losers and Behind Enemy Lines, plus the draw for the star-studded FA Cup semi-finals. Follow all the 'action' on eurosport.yahoo.com at 13:25 GMT.

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