Brian Viner: The only things that deserve the drop are politically incorrect goal celebrations

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The Independent Football

Football fans divide into two main categories at this time of year; there are those who can't wait for this season to end, and those who can't wait for next season to start. Then there are Evertonians, who thought we belonged to the latter category but were nudged towards the former by Arsenal at Highbury on Wednesday night.

Football fans divide into two main categories at this time of year; there are those who can't wait for this season to end, and those who can't wait for next season to start. Then there are Evertonians, who thought we belonged to the latter category but were nudged towards the former by Arsenal at Highbury on Wednesday night.

Still, far from that merciless 7-0 thumping diminishing Everton's achievement in qualifying for the Champions' League, it magnifies it. Had those of us who witnessed Everton's first game of the season, a painful 4-1 drubbing by the Gunners at Goodison Park, known that the campaign's penultimate game against the same formidable team would end in even greater humiliation, we might have expected it to constitute the final nail in the relegation coffin. That 61 points and a top-four place were secured between the first and last whistles of that 11-1 aggregate battering confirms what Arsène Wenger himself has said, that David Moyes, not Jose Mourinho, is the most accomplished manager of the year.

On the other hand, a substantial case could be made for handing the managerial laurels to whichever of four anxious men ends up smiling at the conclusion of tomorrow's messy business.

Am I the only neutral who would like all four imperilled clubs to stay up? I admire the football Norwich have played, and I admire Delia Smith; I have a soft spot for Harry Redknapp, not least because my tape recorder and I once spent an enthralling afternoon on the terrace of his ersatz chateau overlooking Poole harbour; I think Iain Dowie deserves to be rewarded for getting Crystal Palace, contemplating relegation to the third tier of English football less than 18 months ago, to the last game of the Premiership season with survival still a possibility; and I don't want to see West Brom go down because I like Adrian Chiles, I like Frank Skinner, and I like my children's headmaster, another arch-Baggie, whose office has the Albion crest woven into the carpet (although it's a bit much to make pupils and other members of staff kiss it when they enter).

If things go right for West Brom I'll be delighted for Bryan Robson, too, despite the fact that he showed my tape recorder and me a much less convivial time than Harry Redknapp did, and got downright shirty when I gingerly raised the subject of his past reputation as a legendary boozer.

After all, Robson's other unwanted reputation was as a guileless, under-achieving manager, and I admit to being one of those who thought that hearts had out-manoeuvred heads when the Albion board installed a former player, albeit a hugely distinguished one, in succession to Gary Megson.

But Robson has confounded me and many other sceptics, not a few of them Baggies fans, by breathing life into what seemed to be a corpse.

I wish, though, that he would do something about Robert Earnshaw's goal celebrations. And if he doesn't, then the Football Association should. For the record, on hitting the back of the net Earnshaw turns a somersault, then mimes a strutting matador, followed by a mime of someone firing a machine gun. The odd thing is that Earnshaw is rather a shy little bloke, so why he feels the need to make such a huge arse of himself is anybody's guess. Precisely because he's a shy little bloke, I suppose.

Whatever, Sir Tom Finney, just to pluck a name out of the football annals, must watch this sort of thing in utter bewilderment. The somersault is fair enough, but the rest of it has got to stop. At the very least, if Earnshaw has to show us his inner Marcel Marceau, why must he pay homage to bullfighting and mass murder?

Am I missing something? Is it a reference to an Eminem lyric, perhaps? Can't he mime a more politically correct pursuit, like someone playing chess or doing their recycling?

Anyway, the point is that there's more than enough theatricality in football without that sort of nonsense. So there's something for the FA blazers to ask themselves this summer: why is it a bookable offence to remove your shirt after scoring a goal, but not to act out the St Valentine's Day Massacre?

Sorry, I have meandered so far away from my point that I can't even remember what it was, so let me conclude by praising my home-town team Southport, for gaining promotion back into the Conference. Southport had to win their final game of the Conference North season to be sure of going up, and duly trounced Harrogate 5-2, away.

Over 1,000 fans crossed the Pennines to watch them do it, including several mates whose allegiance is to big Premiership sides yet who reported having one of the best days out of their football-supporting lives. Re-entry into the Football League is potentially but a season away for Southport, whose place in the old Fourth Division was taken, in 1978, by Wigan Athletic.

Now, whatever happened to them?

b.viner@independent.co.uk

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