Outside the Box: Shock defeats for Milibands as political football gets serious

  • @stevetongue

There were obviously mixed emotions in the Miliband household last Saturday night after the afternoon's shock result; whoever would have thought that David's favourites Arsenal would be beaten at home by West Bromwich Albion? No wonder he was having to put on such a brave face for the cameras. Ed, of course, was in much better form, after Leeds' late winner in the Yorkshire derby with Sheffield United, for we can confirm that it is at Elland Road where his heart lies (he might not have been feeling quite so smug after the astonishing 6-4 defeat at home to Preston in midweek). The Miliband family lived in Leeds during the 1970s and Ed is now a Doncaster MP. As Leeds followers sing whenever they play Donny: "You're just a town full of Leeds fans." Of the five candidates for the Labour party leadership, only Diane Abbott did not declare her football allegiance, although as the representative of Hackney North and Stoke Newington she could reasonably choose between Tottenham and Leyton Orient (tough call, Di). Andy Burnham, who recently said he would rather play for Everton in the FA Cup final than become Prime Minister, had a bad day last Saturday as he finished fourth out of five and the Blues hit rock bottom in the Premier League; the other candidate, Ed Balls, was also in mourning after Norwich managed to lose 2-0 at home to Hull.

Bristol bid a dog's breakfast

While the England 2018 bid has been sucking up to the influential Fifa executive committee member Jack Warner in Trinidad, a little local difficulty back home in Bristol, which was selected as one of the 12 potential host cities on the basis of Bristol City building a new stadium at Ashton Vale. Those plans have now been jeopardised by a government inspector agreeing with local residents that the proposed 42-acre site should be given "town and village green status", which is excellent news for dog walkers but less so for football fans. The deputy leader of Bristol City Council has admitted that it puts prospects of becoming a World Cup host "at serious risk". Derby, Hull and Leicester, all rejected despite having built smart new stadiums some time ago, will hardly be thrilled by the news either.

Shearer's in the pound seats

Alan Shearer, in the news after questions were belatedly raised about his usefulness as a television pundit, is the subject of an odd tale by the Blackpool striker Brett Ormerod. As his shirt-outside-shorts demeanour suggests, Ormerod is unfashionably old-school, and remembers days as an apprentice at his home-town club Blackburn Rovers when a Christmas bonus as boot cleaner for well-off England internationals was something to look forward to. The Shearer method of rewarding all the mud-scraping apparently involved producing three egg cups, beneath which lay £1, £40 and £90 respectively. The apprentice then had to choose one of the three. "In my first season I picked the one pound," Ormerod recalled. "Luckily for me he gave me the £40 instead." Not the £90, you note. It's a hard-knock life, as Shearer will doubtless tell us anytime soon on Match of the Day.

Stamford Bridge of sighs

From old-school footballer to old-school fans and a certain disillusionment, it seems, with the new generation of Chelsea supporters who can actually afford to watch home games these days. Writing in the club fanzine cfcuk, a correspondent styling himself Norvern Muppet berates "the ones that have turned my beloved Bridge into a morgue, worse than the [Arsenal] Library. I hate Stamford Bridge. I still go but for one reason only. To keep up my record of never missing a game there since 1971". Another article complains about the "35,000 stuffed shirts sitting on their hands and happily allowing a couple of minibuses full of Stoke to outsing us". With Arsenal's librarians due there this afternoon, it sounds as though Sky Sports technicians had better be prepared to turn up the effects microphones and hope to pick up something other than players screaming at the referee.