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Dark Forces Afoot

By Nick Entwistle :  04/02/2008 :  Comments (33) :
I began to compose this article at the half way point in the season, around the time of the Christmas fixtures. Though it was the actions surrounding Saturday?s game that had led me to place it back on my to-do list. Here it is complete, if somewhat later than expected. But maybe just that little bit more relevant....

As the Premiership reaches the final leg of this long hard and enjoyable season, the run-in to the final positions come this May will be keenly contested with many twist and turns in the final 13 games. As usual, the Big 4 are considered favourites by the pundits to remain in the top 4, but the race for the those prestigious places come the end of the season could throw a surprise new twist in the repetitive story of top end Premier League football.

Tottenham and Everton have come a rogue quiche slice away in recent seasons to perhaps taking down a top four straggler, but this year not just maybe two clubs, but a possible ?Threatening Five? can been seen as real contenders for the elusive 4th spot. Everton, Aston Villa, Man City, Blackburn and Portsmouth; as of the weekend they are all within 6 points of 4th and though some may seem to be fading, the injection of new faces through January will try to reverse that trend. How good a season this is? Can you remember the last time that 4th spot was so hotly contested? More than likely in the days when 4th spot didn?t mean jack?

The Threatening Five are teams with talented squads on an upward curve in progression. Man City have arguably the best manager in the league and Martin O?Neil is showing why he?s a Big 4 manager but without a Big 4 team. Blackburn are treading the slowly-but-surely path such as we... and as for Portsmouth, well, when you but 100 players a season the chances are some of them will turn out to be a bit tasty.

In the past though this alone has not been enough to beat a Big 4 team who have all the perks of Champions League status. Ok, if you?re thinking of Everton 2005 put your hands down a moment for here is the similarity between this season and that one. Liverpool are struggling. Comparatively of course, but Liverpool are not so much a Big 4 team, more the Big 4th. Rotating away with Europe in mind, they never look likely to win the Championship but a healthy bank balance and Champions League year-in, year-out see them cementing 4th spot with annoying repetition. But is this the season when priorities in Europe undermine the very reason for being there?

There?s a blood thirsty pack after 4th spot and Liverpool are looking much like a flagging wildebeest. It could be supper time for a lucky other.

Everton qualified 4th back in 2005 but this was not the victory for those in favour of a meritocratic balance to the Premiership as one might have hoped. Liverpool flexed their G14 muscle and wheedled their way back in and just as hope was there for of the rest of us, we saw what the crux of this article is, Everton were escorted out of Europe in circumstances which were more suspicious than Mulder and Skully in Area 51. So are there dark processes afoot to make sure the status-quo remains? It wouldn?t surprise me in the least!

For those dark processes to be afoot you of course have to ask yourself: Why would there be? It was the reason for the Premier League coming into existence, it was the reason for the European Cup evolving into the Champions League, it was the soon to be defunct G14?s sole purpose to protect it and protect it for themselves; Money! Everything is about money. You got to get the money first. Then when you get the money you get the power. Then when you get the power, you get the women? oops, sorry, little off track there!

The FA is bringing untold riches into the league and their main selling point from the Asian cash cow is a reliance of the top four staying just that. Why continue with a failing Liverpool when you can simply change to Real Madrid instead? Said one Malaysian to a Chinaman. I?m sure Uefa don?t want the rather unsexy Blackburn playing midweek European football on TV sets in Asia when it could be the Reds either.

So with the ?Threatening Five? casting a shadow over the playground of the rich and infamous, what will the FA conspire to keep the hitherto milk and honey quartet?

The FA like to look whiter than white, and with BBC wishing to keep their last decent sporting rights on the channel and Every Sunday is Super Sunday on Sky, they get to do so with no questions asked TV coverage. But scratch beneath the surface and things get a little gray.

Diving is 90% the sole reserve of the Big 4. Ask anyone who they think are the biggest divers in the Premier League and the list of players and teams will be remarkably similar. And just how many extra points do these teams add to their final haul through this Machiavellian pursuit? Enough to keep them from looking over their shoulders at the chasing pack that?s for sure. And why do they do it? Because they keep getting away with it when other teams do not. We know the injustices that go in favour of the Big 4 compared to us little teams and the system doesn?t help either ? and isn?t supposed to.

In fact the disciplinary system is set up in a way that if a player has cheated by diving and the referee has wrongly interpreted this as foul, there are no laws post-match they can use to take action and it is considered done and dusted. How sweet for the FA! The FA could bring in post match TV evidence to stop this blatant cheating in an instant. They do not. The FA could easily bring in goal line technology as in rugby, or Hawk Eye as in cricket or tennis. They do not. That would of course be one step too close to bringing in post match TV evidence for the result effecting diving. Oh and why have a disputed goal settled accurately by precise technology when the refs can decide in the Big 4?s favour along with the diving that goes on as well?

Uefa are taking issue with match-fixing through betting syndicates, but surely diving and the inability to punish should be of the same imperative? It?s in-house and has more of a say on league standings than a million bets placed in the Far East. Platini?s desire to move away from an elitist form of football is all very well but all that has done is given England an extra qualifying round for the 4th place team and the G14 will from the 15th February expand to 100 clubs. Yet we know some will be more equal than others. It?s not in their interests either, so don?t expect change where the money is.

The system is set up to keep the top teams at the top; do not kid yourselves that we are not being manipulated into accepting this from the powers at be. How they must love it every time a rent-a-quote pundit says ?He should have been more clever and gone down there?. Conformity is a blessing for them.

If righteousness prevails, and Liverpool through football fail to qualify for the Champions League, with the upsurge in billionaire owners and quality teams below that of the Big 4 The FA will fear one thing happening to them:

The four minute mile was once considered impossible, couldn?t be done. For decades it was the barrier which showed the limit of human endurance. However, contrary to popular belief, in 1954 Roger Bannister cracked the 4 minute mile by 0.6 seconds. The impossible happened!

This however was not the only astonishing feat associated with this sporting milestone. By the end of the year ,16 sub-4-minute miles were recorded around the world. It wasn?t just the physical impossibility that had been conquered but the psychological barrier as well. Mentalities changed, the impossible was now just an achievable challenge. Is this what those in power fear? Where as Premier League?s bottom 16 knew their place, now the top four could be running scared that the private party may soon be over.

We are possibly entering into one of the most important eras of top flight football since it all kicked off in 1888. Does the Premier League stay the fruitful playground of the few, or will we see it get blown right open in the next few seasons and true competition returns to what was once a great sport to follow?

You may or may not agree with me but I ask one thing. Keep one eye on the circumstances surrounding the diving incidents and refereeing decisions with the Big 4 and especially Liverpool. Perhaps the disciplinary actions and reds and yellows awarded towards those below may be of interest. They will play a big part too.

And of course the Big 4 do not need to be involved with a game for this dark effect to come into practice, we saw with AJ?s goal on Saturday that referees can make decisions through nothing more than a whim or a fancy. But what do the media care for a disallowed goal between Blackburn and Everton?

When the final standings are settled come May, they might just show in some way that this is not too far from the truth.

Reader Comments

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Derek Thomas
1   Posted 05/02/2008 at 04:45:44

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Well put. and you managed to stay in the none freaky sensible portion of the conspiracy spectrum.

You’re right, there needs to be a mental shift and once one is proved beyond all doubt, many others will follow, they can’t ALL be the football equiv. of weather balloons for UFO’’s.

The spin of the wheel, rub of the green, bounce of the ball etc. etc. always balances out in time to red and black, or in our case red and Blue!...

Your name can only be ’ on ’ so many cups, so many times.

Where is OUR Roger Bannister ??
Michael Hunt
2   Posted 05/02/2008 at 07:58:32

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Spot on Nick, great article. Wouldn’t it be great if the media could pick up and run with this issue for the good of the game. I won’t hold my breath!
3   Posted 05/02/2008 at 08:34:01

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Sensible? Are you isane?

Chelsea emerged out of nowhere and are now considered a big 4 team. Who would have wanted to watch them 20 years ago?It just takes time, noney and vision

Graham Weigh
4   Posted 05/02/2008 at 09:03:05

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I further evidence was required , take a look at all the dubious incidents are hyperthetically reversed .Lo and behold the RS have 5 points less than in the "real" league
Wayne Smyth
5   Posted 05/02/2008 at 09:46:15

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Sorry Nick, but despite what derek said, it still sounds too much like a far-fetched conspiracy theory to me.

There is a principle known as occams razor, which basically states that if there are two possible causes for something, the simplest is usually correct.

In this case, there could be some dodgy goings on with the FA, referees & sky to keep the status quo, but I really doubt it.

More likley, the reason for the "big" teams getting favourable treatment is down to the fact that they get more press coverage, so any injustices they experience will result in more shit hitting someones fan.

Its the same principle that sees the home team usually get more of the split decisions; better to be unpopular with 5000 than 35000. Its not fair or correct, but it is understandable and I dont think there is anything sinister going on.
Kevin Jones
6   Posted 05/02/2008 at 09:58:19

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Why don’t Davie Moyes, Bill Kenwright Ian Ross or Keith Wyness make a statement to the press saying, if the Premier League only want the self proclaimed big 4 representing them in the Champions League why don’t they just come out and say it, the rest of us can then concentrate on coming 5th, maybe we can have a trophy sponsored by Andrex. If the FA fine us so what
sam morrison
7   Posted 05/02/2008 at 10:17:45

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Very entertaining Nick. However though conspiracies are pleasing in a way as it makes us feel we know what’s "really going on", it does sound a bit too far-fetched.

What I do agree with, however, is that the constant media (and fan, to be fair) perpetuation of the big four, whilst not impacting DIRECTLY on the league table, can pressurise referees into being less likely to give a penalty or critical decision against a ’big’ side, no matter how subconscious that motivation is.

This happens to a certain extent with home teams anyway (witness Blackburn v Everton) but I would agree against the ’big four’ it’s rife. How often to Man Utd concede penalties at home? How many penalties should have been awarded against Jamie Carragher this season?

So I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, but there is definitely an effect. Large crowds, managers adept at trowelling on the mind games, and media coverage all put a massive amount of pressure on the refs. In that respect I agree with your call for technology. In an ideal world the FA would also set out some kind of charter to ensure that no club gets what could be widely construed as preferential treatment (note: WIDELY, ie not decided by the losing manager). But that would be hard to develop and, let’s face it, probably impossible to enforce in the real world.
sam morrison
8   Posted 05/02/2008 at 10:17:45

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Very entertaining Nick. However though conspiracies are pleasing in a way as it makes us feel we know what’s "really going on", it does sound a bit too far-fetched.

What I do agree with, however, is that the constant media (and fan, to be fair) perpetuation of the big four, whilst not impacting DIRECTLY on the league table, can pressurise referees into being less likely to give a penalty or critical decision against a ’big’ side, no matter how subconscious that motivation is.

This happens to a certain extent with home teams anyway (witness Blackburn v Everton) but I would agree against the ’big four’ it’s rife. How often to Man Utd concede penalties at home? How many penalties should have been awarded against Jamie Carragher this season?

So I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, but there is definitely an effect. Large crowds, managers adept at trowelling on the mind games, and media coverage all put a massive amount of pressure on the refs. In that respect I agree with your call for technology. In an ideal world the FA would also set out some kind of charter to ensure that no club gets what could be widely construed as preferential treatment (note: WIDELY, ie not decided by the losing manager). But that would be hard to develop and, let’s face it, probably impossible to enforce in the real world.
sam morrison
9   Posted 05/02/2008 at 10:33:23

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so there
Peter Hall
10   Posted 05/02/2008 at 10:42:10

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A tiny grain of truth spread thinly over a wide canvass IMHO.

One way to make sure we don’t break in to the top few again is to believe everyone is against us. But I agree that little things favour the establishment, and that these little things add up. For instance if a referee gets a bad report from Steve Bruce or Paul Jewell does it matter as much as one from Ferige or Wenger? I doubt it.

But we just have to get there the hard way.
Nick Entwistle
11   Posted 05/02/2008 at 11:21:30

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Hey Matt,

Chelsea were winning European competitions back in the 90’s, and have been title contenders since Gullit and Vialli were in charge... remember? All before a Russian and a Portuguese dude arrived on the scene.
The Big Four became just that when Leeds and Newcastle imploded.
Ben Howard
12   Posted 05/02/2008 at 11:20:02

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Good article Nick. I enjoyed that.

For what it’s worth, when it comes to other European leagues, I’m only interested when there’s a team nudging the elite out of the way (as Seville have done in the past few seasons). Who wants to see the same teams fighting it out at the top in whatever league?

But maybe you are right and fans in other countries will change their allegiance from Liverchelseanal United (I’m copywriting that!) and follow a Spanish or Italian team. I don’t give 2 shits if they do though!!!
Martin Doherty
13   Posted 05/02/2008 at 11:01:18

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Great article, this issue has bugged me for some time. I firmly believe that there is a conspiracy against, not just us, but anyone who threatens the status quo. We will not be allowed to finish fourth. There have been too many ’bad decisions’ against us to call it coincidence. Collina, Clattenberg and 3 poor game changing decisions last Saturday. How many penalties have we won in the Premiership this season? Zero! Compare that to what we’ve had in Europe in less games. Its not just us. Dont forget when Tottenham had the audacity to challenge last season. they were brought down to earth nicely by that food poisoning episode.
Don’t be surprised that if we do manage to finish fourth then Platini will rush through his rule change that FA Cup winners qualify for the Champions League instead of fourth place finishers. Put your money on the RS winning the cup
Nick Flack
14   Posted 05/02/2008 at 12:59:26

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After reading that last comment, I?m looking for phone numbers for Mulder and Scully.....

Tony Fryer
15   Posted 05/02/2008 at 14:29:07

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Any article that questions the validity of the holders of the Champions league being allowed access into the competition the following year has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Will people stop going on about that. If it was any other club than Liverpool that it happened to then noone would have even questioned the decision for a moment.
Tom Martin
16   Posted 05/02/2008 at 15:30:20

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We WILL break into the top four, and it will be all the more sweet becuse we will have had no help from th FA, UEFA or anyone else. We’ll be there on merit, unlike the red scum.
Brian Waring
17   Posted 05/02/2008 at 16:01:15

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Nick, I don’t believe all this ’conspiracy ’
stuff. The top and bottom of it, is that, outside of the so called top 4, the rest of the prem haven’t been good enough.
Jeff Leahey
18   Posted 05/02/2008 at 15:54:00

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These referees seem to be star struck to me .Had Ronaldo scored an identical goal to that one scored by AJ i’v no doubt it would of been given,and then all the plaudits given to Rooney or Tevez for chasing down and delivering a cracking cross ,During the season decisions even themselves up, but to tell you the truth at this time of posting, i feel Everton get the shit end of the stick more often than not.
Peter Laing
19   Posted 05/02/2008 at 16:24:08

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I would have to go along with your theory Nick and would further add that Everton have been on the dubious end of unfair and corrupt refereeing decisions for many a year. Many of these incidents are well documented but for those doubters here goes ;

Don Hutchison goal disallowed by ’Liver-Poll’ in the Derby

Steven Gerrard horror tackle on Gary Naysmith

Collina’s swansong against Villareal

Shoela Ameobi’s miles offside goal against Newcastle

Clattenburg’s performance in this year’s derby

Numerous clear-cut penalty decisions not given to Andy Johnson

Johnson’s goal against Blackburn

If any of these decisions had been given against any of the top four including Liverpool it would be making all the headlines. The Spurs over the line goal against Man United ruled out at Old Trafford would also reaffirm this theory.

Peter Nickson
20   Posted 05/02/2008 at 18:33:46

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If you mentioned conspiracy or G14 a few years ago, people used to cry madness or Gwho? Now many fans believe that there is manipulation. I think the question is really on whether it is deliberate ie bent/bought/biased officials - or whether it is psychological - vague rules and starstruck officials. I just don’t know, but lots of good comments here and a good article.
scott eaton
21   Posted 05/02/2008 at 19:32:20

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Whereas im not keen on conspiracy theories,certain decisions over the season have led me to beleive it can only be one of two things.Either top flight referreeing and general officiating are getting worse.Or its a case of downright cheating that goes all the way up to the top to protect their precious money clubs.
John de Frece
22   Posted 05/02/2008 at 20:18:35

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First class article
Of course its not exactly beyond the realm of possibillity the the so called big 4 will hive off to establish a Euro super league and thus leave an inferior domestic league for everybody else
Personally i am getting so sick of the perverse decisions week in week out that I’m beginning to think that the 16 " also rans " should have off and reestablish " League division 1"
Steve Carter
23   Posted 05/02/2008 at 20:54:40

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Entirely agree, John de Frece: "so called big 4" fuck off and leave it to the rest of us. Yes, we’ll lose the very top players, but that’ll be more than compensated by the increased interest factor of not actually knowing who’s going to finish in the top 3 before the season starts. And I think the novelty for Shite, Manure et. al. fans of playing against exotic foreign teams week in weak out will wear off pretty quickly, and they’ll be longing for the good old days - particularly derby days. About "G14 will from the 15th February expand to 100 clubs": what other English clubs are in the 100? Are we included (given that KPMG or Deloitte (or who ever it is) puts us in the 20 wealthiest clubs in Europe)?
Peter Bradshaw
24   Posted 05/02/2008 at 23:01:28

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Okay hands up who started reading the advert on the Iphone halfway through and at the end realised that you would have to read again. This read like a notice in the doctors waiting room, you are watching too much tele.There isnt any grassy noll in the premiership, we all know that the officials dont like Moyes because he ripps them another arse at half time and full time it will always come back to bite us. Just enjoy the rollercoaster while its on the up
James Martin
25   Posted 05/02/2008 at 23:14:17

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Tony Fryer.
Really speaking, The first article which questioned the validity of the CL winners entering the competition the following year was in the Uefa rules. The article stated that each individual FA should decide which clubs from their league will represent them in European competition. The FA decided early on, that the first four placed teams in the PL, would represent England in the following years CL. Obviously based on the assumption that there was no way Everton could hold on to a top 4 spot or that Liverpool could win the CL. When both miracles happened the wheels were set in motion and Uefa rules were changed.
ron leith
26   Posted 06/02/2008 at 09:08:39

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I do not think it is a Big 4 thing. It is a Liverpool Man United thing. Liverpool had a penaltly given gainst them by Styles. Chelsea won. The media hype was incredible, I thought Styles was going to be exicuted at dawn. Instead he had to issue an apology and was dropped. My brother a Liverpool fan could see nothing wrong in this this because it might cost them the Premier league. Well EFC have got Wiley to thank for not sending off Scholes against Man Utd and giving them all the decisions and Clattenburgh for being a paid employee of the reds. I believe the conspiracy theories because otherwise it means all these refs are just completely incompetent. The Tevez affair, the Benjani affair etc all show that rules are there to be bent when it suites.
Daniel Marfany
27   Posted 06/02/2008 at 13:36:30

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The point Moyes was making the other day about refereeing decisions costing us a place in the top 4 was almost implying the same conspiracy but stopped well short of it obviously. He also trod a fine line in comments about Clattenburg in particular. However, he was right in saying that the only way in is to play so well and score such clear goals that we achieve the position on merit against the secret backroom odds. Sky TV and FA would have no choice but to start treating us like they now treat Chelsea (who used to have a similar status to MIllwall in popularity stakes).
Pete Gunby
28   Posted 06/02/2008 at 15:24:31

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All this conspirency nonsense makes me laugh. We all know that.....sorry I’ve got to go now. I think there is someone following me.
Colin Garland
29   Posted 06/02/2008 at 18:41:48

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Isn’t it about time that we stopped adding to the already super inflated and misguided Kopite egos. Lets kick out this media habit of talking about the top four. We all know that the red shite are also rans who have stumbled through the last twenty years with an unusually larger slice of luck than any other club. If we have to make mention the super rich, lets start calling them the BIG THREE. Hopefully, it will not be to long before Stadler and Waldorf (and long may they remain), bankrupt the shite. With a little luck we may even see the Russian getting fed up with wasting his money on the London Spivs.
Bruce Rumble
30   Posted 07/02/2008 at 02:04:30

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Top four, scmop 4....

Really, and I say this as a through and through aussie Everton supporter (can’t wait to see my first Everton match live at end of this year!!!)... We’re on the up, and have been since Moyesy started... we have a top manager, who is amassing a great squd of troops, who not only are osme of the best in the premier league, but also play for the team, as a team, and win & lose as a team...

Added to that, we have what I believe are the best fanbase in the world. Supporters who have hearts. Many a toffee I know here in aus who stay uo, along with myself, watching the toffees play at all ours of the morning, loggin on to live internet streaming ebsites to watch a match in the UEFA cup...

I wont go on about the RS, not worth mentioning as prefer not to discuss them... "I’d rather walk alone" hehe
But hardly any of them I know stay up to watch their team...

Bottom line I think is we are going places with a great squad who WANT to play for Everton.. the future is bright!!!

mat jennions
31   Posted 07/02/2008 at 08:26:45

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no sorry don’t believe it there would have to be too many people involved therefore meaning there would one who was stupid and greedy! greedy person would think they could make a quick buck selling to the media and so we would of heard about it!
Trudy Boston
32   Posted 07/02/2008 at 17:32:36

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this club gets its fair share of bad decisions but its hardly unknown is it. Just for relevance sakes what about the argentina incident in mexico, or at wembley against the germans 20 years before? And that spurs player who scored from the half way line and the referee cuts it off, even if the ball is one foot over the line.

Its all to easy to whinge and moan about the injustices we have witnessed thus far and i feel it like the next supporter but when a referee makes a decision they are not going to change their minds.

I said before if we do indeed make 4th place this season it will be a greater achievement what with all the injustices we have had to endure from those responsible.

That which does not kill you makes you stronger.
Chris Briddon
33   Posted 08/02/2008 at 11:14:56

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I still can’t believe people are trying to claim a conspiracy just cos we had a few dodgy decisions go against us.

There was interesting list that someone wrote earlier on in this piece but we could do a different one if you like.

Everton penalty v Watford - handball by Chris Powell - clearly off his head!

Lescotts goal v Man City - marginally offside

Everton Penaly v Zenit St Petersburg & player sent off - clearly not handball

You see, rose-tinted specs only get you so far in this game, sooner or later somebody points out the dodgy decisions that go in your favour too.

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