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What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

By Prometheus
From Issue 58, Autumn 2002

Did you know that Big Ed once appeared on Stars in their Eyes as Celine Dion? Or that I once appeared on You've Been Framed sticking forks into my bare bum? Or, how about, 'The Mancs don't have quite the same grip on the media that they used to have'. Only one of the above statements is true, and I'll give you a clue - it isn't either of the first two (sadly).

I first noticed it during the summer when the press started to say things about Roy Keane that we’ve said for years. His conduct in Saipan was condemned by all but the most obsessed sycophants. Unusually, very few commentators tried to argue his side of the Irish spat. How could they? It was 22-1 and even when the players went the extra mile and tried to keep the loner on board, their brave attempts at mediation were rudely thrown back in their faces and Keane went home.

Since then he has written a book (yeah - it took me a while to get my head around that too!) and the brown stuff really has hit the fan. His admission that he deliberately 'did' Haaland came as a surprise to some people. Yet anybody who has ever seen Keane play or was aware of the bad feeling which Keane had for Haaland (and pretty much everyone else on the planet too) was left in no doubt that this was a clear case of a score being settled in the most cynical and visceral way. He knew exactly what he was doing and waited until the end of the game before exacting his vengeance so that the dismissal which he knew was coming, wouldn't affect the outcome of the game. What I can't understand is why people (especially the FA) had to wait for Keane to virtually write them a letter before the penny dropped. As I write, the FA have yet to deliberate on what, if any, punishment they will dish out. I'm sure you will understand why I will be surprised if it is anything more than a verbal slap on the wrist.

That the Mancs have tried to evade his punishment by timing his operation to tie in with a suspension is out of order. At least the FA seem to be waiting until he is fit again before they slap on a lengthy ban. This isn't a vendetta against Keane. This is merely a plea from a supporter who thinks that football matches should be decided by skill, flair, tactics and commitment - WITHIN the rules of the game. Players who show as much contempt for the rules of the game as Keane has repeatedly done deserve neither respect or tolerance. If the FA allowed him to manipulate his way out of any punishment at all, it would have outraged every right minded supporter in the game.

Speaking of the FA, it is interesting to analyse what has been said. Keane is on trial not for doing what he did but for saying that he did it. Sorry, am I missing something here? Yes, I know Keane got a ban for his original sending off but given his latest admission, that ban must now be seen to have been quite inadequate? If the FA are as determined as they say they are to improve discipline on the pitch, then they must start with players like Keane and Vieira - serial thugs who have more scores to settle than Beethoven.

To hear Keane repeatedly described as 'great' in the press sickens me. It’s also an insult to those players who truly were great - players like Charlton, Callaghan or Moore. Great footballers who played within the rules. Keane is a cheat and a bully and the sooner he retires from the game the better.

Sunday 25th August - BBC1. 'There's Only One Man Utd': a programme to celebrate the centenary of the club. The Sunday Times previewed it thus: "The title should at least give comfort to the fans of every other team in the British Isles. All of this for a handful of decent players, a couple of good managers and a few trophies in the distant past". Yes!!! Now, I remind you that the Sunday Times is part of News International and connected to Sly Sports who once tried to BUY the Mancs, then you see just how far things have gone. The tide really does seem to have turned against them. When the PFA yes-man Taylor is obliged to condemn Keane over his feud with Haaland, then you know they are running out of friends.

Then on the last day of August, they went to the Stadium of Light and Roy was off again, this time settling scores with McAteer and Quinn. He knew exactly what he was doing and waited until the end of the game before exacting his vengeance so that the dismissal which he knew was coming, wouldn't affect the outcome of the game. Hang on - sounds familiar.…..He's a brave lad, Keane, isn't he - picking on poor 'Head and Shoulders' Jason. Trigger went up in my estimation though when he had the last laugh, flourishing an invisible pen and mouthing 'Put that in your book...' Oscar Wilde would have been proud of you mate.

Jason added insult to injury by declaring to the press that he would rather spend his money on a Bob the Builder tape for his three year old son than waste it on Keane's book. Understandable really; Bob the Builder is going to be written to a much higher standard and will contain a lot less @#$! than Keane's book.

Fergie's post match interview was worth a chapter on it's own. "I’m disappointed by McAteer's part in this. He went down like he had been shot in the back of the head. Roy put his hand across the boy's face but there's nothing in it. I will review it and see whether we should appeal. My gut feeling is that it was a very soft red card".

Wow. Where to start? But let's just

deconstruct that little tantrum. "Roy's disappointed with Jason's part in it". Not "Roy's disappointed that he's blown a fuse. Again". They always get to blame somebody else, don't they? It's not like McAteer butted Keane's elbow or anything. "McAteer went down like he had been shot in the back of the head". Well, very few players are able to take an elbow in the face when running at full speed and manage to remain upright. "Roy put his hand across the boy's face but there's nothing in it". What? There's nothing (like a stanley knife?) in his hand? Nobody said there was. It was his elbow that did the damage you bastard, and you insult me if you think you can tell me that I don't know what I saw.

"I will review it and see whether we should appeal". This is a beauty really, because it conveys the impression that Siralex is the one who will have the final say in this matter. I will review the tape - such arrogance - and no other opinion will matter. It's as if he knows he can go to the FA and tell them how they should deal with it - he will be the sole arbiter in this matter. Surely not? "My gut feeling is that it was a very soft red card". This is great because it contradicts all that has gone before and concedes (in the snidiest, most cowardly way) that perhaps the red card was valid after all. There are no degrees of red card - the offence was either a sending off offence or it wasn't. And as everybody knows, if you deliberately elbow somebody in the face, you're off.

The rest of football is sick to death of this team. Their arrogance, their cheating, the way the rules are bent for them and 'accommodations' reached. We just want to see them subject to the same rules as everybody else and where offenders like Keane show no sign of mending their ways, then you keep upping the punishment until the penny drops.

I'll be honest with you and say that I was never comfortable with our own illustrious hard men like Smith or Suness. They made crucial contributions to our cause but I never supported or condoned their conduct when they operated outside of the rules. It pleases me greatly that none of our existing squad have this tendency towards violence and if Stevie G settles down, then he will become great rather than just 'grate' when his enthusiasm oversteps the mark. This is Liverpool, where standards are just a little bit higher.

It was good to hear the great Elvis Costello's pronouncements on the Lee Bowyer affair when he played the 'summer pops' concert at the dock. "This was nearly the end of a forty year love affair……there’s no way we should EVER have been linked with that bastard". Couldn't have put it better myself. Violent thugs are not welcome at this club and the manager's stock fell sharply by even showing an interest in Bowyer.

It's not risen much since - has it? Our performances so far have suggested that we are in for another good season but that we lack the steel to go all the way. To my mind, the biggest problem is the size of the squad. It was apparent before a competitive ball had been kicked in anger. The need to give all 7,000 members of your squad a game reduces the point of playing friendlies because it means that nobody is getting to play full matches. And why give games to players like Diomede and Heggem when we all know they are nowhere near the first eleven?

More worrying still is that sub-standard players like Xavier, Smicer and Traore are considered to be first team material. They clearly aren't good enough - everybody you speak to can see it - so let's stop wasting time and points by playing them. To date we have thrown away leads against Blackburn, Newcastle and Birmingham because our full backs are hopeless. This is having an unsettling effect on Hyypia and Henchoz's games because they are distracted from their own duties, having one eye on where the full backs are and what they are doing.

Traore gave the ball away so much against Blackburn that I hoped somebody would tell him we were playing in Red. Xavier against Newcastle was hopeless. Even against Bolton we almost contrived to throw it away and only Heskey stood between us and our determination to settle for a draw. Poor Steven Wright must have been gutted if he thought that he couldn't get a game ahead of Xavier. No wonder he got off. Markus, please get yourself fit as a matter of urgency before we see another season wasted before it has begun. Elsewhere, anybody who understands the appeal of Smicer - answers on a postcard etc etc. He is to skilful, attacking football what Tracey Emin is to art.

The last edition of TTW&R read a bit like a school report for Emile Heskey. The theme of "tries hard but to little effect" seemed to keep recurring. I've been a fan of Heskey's since he was a youngster at Leicester. I was thrilled when we signed him and felt vindicated when he started banging in the goals as soon as he got