It all became abundantly clear at the City of Manchester Stadium on Saturday: the reverse psychologists are up to their old tricks again.
For a sixth miserable week in a row, all but a few lucky predictors are sat glumly in a large circle with a humiliating finger being wagged in their faces for their low-scoring antics. This weekâ€™s ringleader-in-chief is Hull Cityâ€™s penalty-taking maestro Jimmy Bullard, with a copy of David Robertsâ€™ latest best-seller, Reverse Psychologists Of The World Unite, tucked snugly under one arm and a cannily-positioned earpiece to the undercover author himself, barking out orders to his disciple from seat 110 in row Z, where he is flanked by Thaksin â€˜Frank Sinatraâ€™ Shinawatra, former Prime Minister of Thailand, and new Man. City moneybags man Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, owner of the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment and, more memorably, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family.
Rumours in this ugly game spread faster than a Jermain Defoe hat-trick and the long-suffering Janet Roberts has been whispering to close friends and anyone else whoâ€™ll listen since the start of the season that she suspected David was skipping Vicarage Road, his usual Saturday afternoon haunt, in favour of a quick dash north to the Phil Brown finishing school in Humberside.
Evidently, the Chairman learnt two valuable lessons in Hull: 1. Take every opportunity to abuse your power with some carefully chosen words designed to flummox even the toughest of opponent. 2. Never attempt to walk across the Humber Bridge in a gale-force wind. OK, I made the last one up.
â€œThis weekâ€™s 10 fixtures donâ€™t look quite so Thaksin to me,â€ argued David â€“ complete with his shiny new coaching badge pinned to his garish yellow Watford strip – at the top of last weekâ€™s fixtures e-mail. â€œIf I hadnâ€™t already done so, I think I might have been tempted to play my joker. Iâ€™m even thinking, for the first time ever, they could all be draws, which is bad news for the 1-0, 2-0 and 2-1 brigadeâ€.
Calls for the Chairman to be publicly guillotined and his head spit-roasted on an open fire outside Predictorship HQ went up a decibel or two this week when the week 16 table â€“ showing David up three places to fifth â€“ was leaked to the press. â€œClearly the man is bonkers for suggesting all 10 games would end as draws,â€ said celebrity fan Dizzee Rascal. â€œAnd clearly his antiquated thinking has influenced the prediction-making process of his Predictorship rivals. It smacks of desperation, without a league title to his name since the 2001-02 seasonâ€.
In the interest of impartiality, I present to you the cold, hard week 16 facts. Draws predicted by David: Not 10, but 4 (Aston Villa, Blackburn, West Ham, Wigan). Actual draws: 4. Players â€œtempted to play their jokersâ€ in light of the Chairmanâ€™s comments: 0. Members of the â€œ1-0, 2-0 and 2-1 brigadeâ€ (essentially Dave and Jill Taylor and Janet) who abandoned their predictable digits and went back to the draw-ing board: 0. Chairmanâ€™s respect-o-meter rating among his Predictorship peers as a percentage: 0.
So, while Janet saw her husbandâ€™s premeditated trash talk coming from a mile off (funnily enough, itâ€™s about the same distance to the confectionery aisle at her local Tesco), it appears that nobody else took a blind bit of notice of his musings either, leaving the Chairman with several smelly, out-of-date and intensively-farmed eggs on his beetroot-coloured face. [The beetroot reference is just for you, Moonerazzi – hope you appreciate it.]
Meanwhile, in the US of A, Evertonâ€™s Hope Arnold was up to her usual Thanksgiving trick, getting her priorities horribly mixed up by stuffing the turkey and downing a few bowls of festive brew instead of submitting her predictions. Remarkably, Hope hits a new seasonal high league position this week, 23rd, despite destroying her 100% attendance record. I imagine sheâ€™ll be giving thanks for that.
Week 16 Stats
* Top score: 8 â€“ Alex Iskandar Liew & Dave Taylor
* Total players: 40/42
* Total points scored: 173
* Average score: 4.32
* Total correct scores: 25, including 8 for Wigan 1 Sunderland 0
* 2 correct scores: Simon Gold (Aston Villa, Wolves), Tom Palmer (Fulham, Wigan), Saleel Sathe (Wigan, Wolves), Nicola Savage (Aston Villa, Blackburn) & Dave Taylor (Wigan, Wolves)
* Predictions of the week: Rob Molloy for Portsmouth 1 Manchester United 4 & Marek Phillips for Everton 0 Liverpool 2
* Fact of the week: League strugglers Marek Phillips (39th) and Andrew Thraves (41st) amassed two points each, with both of their points coming from a single game, Everton-Liverpool and Fulham-Bolton respectively. However, Marek only has himself to blame for failing to replace Birminghamâ€™s â€˜Xâ€™ with a number, thus forsaking a potential point or two
* Jokers: 0
* Yellow cards: 2
* Red cards: 0
* Quote of the week: “On the whole, women do tend to resent their men going out of the home to enjoy themselves – and this applies to football matches too. Women themselves do not display much interest in football” – The findings of a 1962 survey conducted by the Football League. Thank your lucky stars if your better half is a) a woman and b) loves her football as much as you do. Speaking from bitter experience, a Radio 5 Live match commentary and the Ceefax Rolling Videprinter are the last thing on my wife’s mind on a Saturday afternoon …
See you all for The Predictorship Cup in January!
Matt â€˜the Statâ€™ Wayne