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Defending The Delapidator

Robbo Robson | 12:53 UK time, Monday, 3 November 2008

I see Rory Delap's trying to assure all of us that Stoke City have more up their sleeve than his massive lobs into the box. Like hell they have. Watford's long ball specialists from yesteryear have nowt on Stoke's one and only route to goal.

The only real problem with it is it works. Not that we can judge the effectiveness of such a tactic against a defence as fluffy as Arsenal's. Cuddly toys the lot of them. Squid have got more spine.

You're left with the conclusion that Arsenal are the Keira Knightley of the Premier League. Lovely to look at but in desperate need of a pie or two to beef them up a bit.

The Unbeatables had Vieira and Petit in midfield, didn't they? Hard as nails them two and very much what Wenger needs right now. It's no coincidence that in the days of Adams, Keown and Winterburn they had no trouble winning ugly.

But back to Rory, a bloke who reminds me of that fella from The Verve. I mean he's always had a long throw but did he ever bung it this far before this season? Apart from anything else, I'm right jealous.

I mean if Delap got called up for the army you'd be moving your trenches back a hundred yards just to be on the safe side. It's not like he really seems to wind-up for it much either. Two or three steps and off it goes.
Rory Delap

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Rory tethers his hands to the advertising hoardings with a laggy band and just before he delivers the ball, some special Potters' agent cuts the elastic and PING! off she flies.

Throws-in were the bane of me bloody life when I got played at right-back in the school team. I could barely get it five yards, me - if there was anything like a head-wind you could already see our keeper getting edgy.

But let's not be too hard on Stoke, eh? I mean it's the sort of creative footie that intellectual upstarts like Wenger could never understand.

And don't forget there's more than just a huge wang of a football involved. There's the skill and nous it takes to buy seven or eight six-foot three-inch players and get them all to stand between the keeper and the goal. It's so deft and clever, isn't it?

Fans of the beautiful game can only marvel at its genius. Stoke City aren't complaining of course, but it's now summat like seven out of 13 goals that they've bagged this way, so someone's got to work out a way to defend it.

Standing in front of the thrower's one way - and tickling the exposed armpits in mid-throw is bound to inhibit Delap, although why anyone would want to get anywhere near a sweaty polyester-shirted footballer's pits is highly doubtful.

In fact while we are on the subject, is it absolutely necessary to make footie shirts out of the single most offensively-whiffing material known to man? I mean one drop of perspiration and your whole being transforms from lithe and fresh-scented football god into beer-soaked, stenching tramp (or is that just me?). What happened to that nice cotton, eh?

Another way to limit Delap is to organise for him to help put a few shelves up for a 'mate'. Footie players' hands are incredibly lightweight these days and an afternoon of turning a few screws into a box set of MDF would leave even someone of Delap's undoubted manliness with the sort of blisters that would make a WAG wince.

Other than that, it's hard to imagine how you might stifle Stoke's not-so-secret weapon. It's unlikely that Rory could be encouraged to grow a massive afro, and the police would get involved if you slipped Uhu into his hair-gel. (If you did that to Ronaldo he'd be like a walking sheet of fly-paper.)

So it looks like teams are going to have to practise a bit harder. So far it would appear the only practice put in by the likes of Almunia and Tim Howard involved aimless star jumps with their eyes closed. But it's not like you can find a carbon-copy Delap to practise against, is it?

He's as special in his own way as Warney. He's got a lot of variety and flight in his delivery and no-one else can send the ball even half as far.

Fortunately help is at hand from good old Robbo - I bring you... The Delapidator - a kind of football coaches' Merlyn. it can recreate the Delap delivery and give your team the edge when it comes to fighting the firepower that is in Rory's mighty arms.

(All right I half-inched one of them old massive catapults from Dover Castle but some football chairman or other with more money than sense will soon be after it for a cool £10m.)

Come to think of it, medieval is just about the best word to describe this mode of attack. It probably predates Route One by about a thousand years. And while you might say it acts as a bit of a leveller when Stoke come up against the rich kids, I have to say if footie gets reduced to this sort of brainless lob 'n' nod penalty box ping-pong, well.... I'd rather watch ducks scrapping over bits of bread, frankly.

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