The Obscurer

Red Devil's Advocate

Congratulations are due, after a fashion, to Manchester United for beating Chelsea yesterday in the premiership. I didn’t see much of the game, being engaged for most of the day at a naming ceremony for my mate’s daughter, but the consensus of opinion seems to be that Chelsea were the better side while United dug in to get a result and just about deserved it. Rumour has it that this match was one of those rare occasions where neutrals support United; if that is the case then include me out, although as a City fan perhaps I don’t count as a neutral in the first place. However, putting my objective hat on for a moment the result does fleetingly keep the title race open for a little while longer which must be a good thing; my one hope is that if United have kept the door ajar then it is only for Arsenal to charge through and take advantage of the result.

On 6-0-6 and the like Reds fans have been understandably crowing, and quite right too; but I wonder if, like me, you have noticed an inconsistency in many of their responses. How many United fans do you think have spent the past week defending Roy Keane’s censored outburst on MUTV where he is reported to have slagged off his team mates and named names? All the fans I know have sought to justify Keane’s antics, arguing that he was just saying what every supporter has been thinking. How many Reds fans have subsequently confirmed this view by joining in with Keane to criticise most of Alex Ferguson’s recent signings, then gone on to question his current tactics and even to wonder aloud just how long he can stay in his job? Again, the United supporters I’ve surveyed have argued these very points to a man.

So it will be interesting to see just how many United fans will now concur with the current popular opinion that with the Chelsea match the Reds have turned round and answered their critics in the best possible way, proving the doubters wrong. They will mean the evil media of course, and fans of other clubs, indicating that the recent pressures on the team has been unfair, undeserved and exerted from afar; wilfully ignoring the fact that in the past week much of the insurgency has been generated from a little closer to home.

Update 9/11/05: My thanks to Ken Owen for selecting this post for his brilliant new SportBlog Roundup feature. Most kind. If you have written a post about sport then why not send it in to Ken? It looks like it is going to be a fortnightly affair; next submissions to be in by 22nd November. Just cut ‘n’ paste your sporting post’s details and send to sportblog at googlemail dot com.

Get A Life

Let’s hear it for Westlife; something like seven years into their music career and yet still releasing records that jolt to Number 1 in the charts, as I learned when I watched Top Of The Pops yesterday for the first time in an age. In the fickle world of manufactured kiddie pop, their longevity is both remarkable and impressive.

They have broken all the rules and expectations of their musical genre. By now the typical boy band will have sacked their management and tried to run their own affairs (proving that as businessmen they make great pop idols); they will have experimented with different looks and sounds (with disastrous consequences); they will have tried to write their own songs (and will have failed, but still released them as singles); the interesting one in the band will have left for a solo career (an option not open to Westlife, who never actually had an interesting one); and then they will have split up (hurrah!).

But not Westlife; oh no, not they. Westlife have steadfastly and unquestioningly put into practice everything their management have instructed them to do. They are still wearing matching clothes as if dressed by their mothers, they still plonk themselves on stools while they intone their treacly ballads like some latter-day choreographed Val Doonicans (until they all stand up in unison for the “dramatic” final verse, like a troop of formation…oafs) and they are still happy to record insipid songs as chosen exclusively by their record company, be it cover versions unworthy of revival (eg. Mandy, Against All Odds) or “original” tracks that appear to have been written by committee (eg. Flying Without Wings, whose title even conjures up an image of a corporate brainstorming session, complete with flowchart, trying to combine the counterfeit emotion of Wind Beneath My Wings with the sheer blandness of I Believe I Can Fly).

Yes, congratulations Westlife, and many happy returns; now we know how Boyzone’s career would have turned out if they had been paying attention in class.