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The Kindergarten Cup

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Robbo Robson | 10:56 UK time, Thursday, 29 October 2009

It's the Carling Cup! Your chance to see some of the players that might be coming to your gaff on loan in the next month or two.

I enjoy the competition these days. All right so the big squads use it as a testing ground for some of their lesser lights - and Stoke do too. Although Tony Pulis making 11 changes is not quite the same is it? Might as well have sent his team out on to the Fratton Park pitch with 'spank me' sewn into the back of their shorts.

Even Kanu was able to burst clear of a static defence with 10 minutes to go and Nwankwo looks increasingly like a giraffe about to hit the deck under the influence of a recently fired tranquiliser dart. But there seems to be a spirit to the League Cup matches which is lacking in the Premier League grind and often in the FA Cup, too.

Teams, including Scunny and Posh, set their stalls out, as the current parlance has it, to 'play football'. Big Sam Allardyce would tell you through seven sticks of doublemint that his teams have always played football, so I think the phrase refers to good football as opposed to 10-year-olds aimlessly hoofing it around a windswept park.
Alberto Aquilani and Philippe SenderosAquilani gets the better of Senderos
It was good to see the likes of Sturridge, Obertan, Santa Cruz and even Aquilani get a start. There was one tasty-looking bicycle kick from Aquilani which Senderos only handled about seven times before catching it and dropping it in the penalty box. Mind you, it wasn't given because that porker Wiley was still getting his breath back from the last time he had to blow his whistle, eh Fergie?

He looks bright enough, though, Il Principino (which I think is the one with anchovies, olives and red peppers).

Of course, if you go to a Premier League club with an open mindset you're going to get thumped. It looks like the tickets for the quarter-finals ought to come with the guarantee of 'three free headers with every game.' The defenders lost their man more often than Calum Best's girlfriends. I mean at a lot of set-pieces the marking was positively zonal.

Arsene Wenger has changed the nature of this competition - at Arsenal it's known as the Kindergarten Cup. But you do get to see the likes of Craig Eastmond, Sanchez Watt and Fran Merida proving that Le Professeur can still find a good player on the cheap.

Whether these squad lads can stand the waiting - and at the moment they sit there for weeks on end with their tongues out like rabid Alsatians waiting for the Royal Mail postman - is open to question.

Maybe they should adopt the attitude of one Brad Guzan. Sheriff Friedel's deputy kept Sunderland at bay with saves so spectacular he could open his own circus. If this lad's a second XI keeper then my wife's a good judge of character.

Yes, everyone chills out in the Carling Cup, apart from Studsup Red Nev, whose dismissal was actually approved of by Sir Alex Ferguson. After I heard that I moved the family down to the cellar right quick and we waited for the sky to fall in.

Blackburn did well despite the swine flu concerns. Rovers could be so infectious they've been warned against gobbing on the pitch as it could spread the porcine pandemic even quicker. I knew there was a reason why El Hadj Diouf wasn't playing, eh?

Elsewhere, the big news is that Mike Ashley has taken Newcastle United off the market and put Chris Hughton in as permanent manager. As it is writ in the Gospel According to St. James's 'Chris has risen'. He's going to sell the naming rights to the Stadium, mind. If I had the money I'd take up the offer, Mike. First of all I'd build a canal all the way round the stadium and call it the Up-Yours-Barry Moat. We could get McDonald's as a sponsor, surely If only we could get King Kev back. (I'm lovin' it. I'm LOVIN' IT!!!).

But even more shocking this week was Andre Agassi's revelation that he took summat called crystal meth with his pal 'Slim'.

Apparently he felt great afterwards and was overwhelmed by a desire to do a lot of household cleaning. Crikey. I'm not touching the stuff then. A lunchtime pint on a Saturday is enough to get our house dusted and utterly sterilised. (I do the pint, the wife gets a monk on and takes it out on Mr Sheen.)

Posters on my previous blog have suggested that this drug-taking explains the marriage to Steffi (which is unfair to the great Ms Graf, particularly as she's doing her best in the Number 10 shirt at Liverpool.)
Andre Agassi in 1997Agassi's revelations have rocked the tennis world
The tennis world is said to be coming to terms with the shock news somehow. What, that a young man found fame and fortune and then took an illegal drug?

The ATP's got some answers it needs to come up with, but Agassi? The lad went on the Challenger circuit, revived his career and became one of the greatest players ever for a second time.

Jonathan Overend says it tarnishes his reputation - me, I reckon that it makes his achievements all the more commendable.

Do we think Botham's dalliance with cannabis, or indeed Michael Phelps's, has diminished their standing? Nah. It doesn't seem that crystal meth was performance-enhancing given his ranking dropped to 141. I'm not sure it's a big deal. Although I'm sure some of you lot will tell me different.

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