Oh dear diaries

The player's personal website: a wonderful way for starrs to keep in touch with their fans, or gigantic ego-trips by names big and small wth nothing worth saying? Ian Plenderleith examines the evidence

If footballers have anything of interest to say nowadays, they tend to keep it to themselves, or they save it for their post-retirement, tell-all memoirs. In the meantime, they offload their mental leftovers on to the internet. This month’s column takes you on a whistle-stop tour of players’ online diaries to save you the trouble of surfing the net for trite nothings.

Joe Cole – Let’s Hear It For The Bland
Joe’s subtle analysis and slashing insights are surely setting him up for a career in TV punditry. According to Joe’s revelatory cyber-journal, Michael Owen’s two goals for England against Argentina prove he is a quality striker. And Joe also expects Chelsea to win the league, despite losing to Man United.

Say it ain’t so, Joe: “Newcastle have got a lot of quality players and we will have to be at our best to come away with a victory.”

Antti Niemi – Sainted Glove
Diaries are kept by many as a means of catharsis after a traumatic event, to help them come to terms with a disaster by writing it out of their systems. What better way for a Southampton goalkeeper to wash his slippery hands of all blame after letting in four second-half goals in a 4-3 home defeat to Leeds?

It wasn’t my fault, boss, it was the defence: “I’d say that we gave away some stupid goals, but having looked at them on the video, I don’t think I could have done too much more to stop them.”

Jobi McAnuff – thenIscoredthewinnerwhichwasfortunate
A diary in which the player writes like he’s doing a live, on-air interview, and then has the audacity to place a copyright notice at the foot of several paragraphs of inane rambling.

So run us through the goal, Jobi:
“The next major incident saw Brighton defender Gary Hart sent off for his second booking of the game, that gave us a little boost and we made the extra man count when I was fortunate enough to grab an injury-time winner with a low drive.”

Michael Ballack – Arrogance At The Allianz
There’s nothing as pleasurable as reading the thoughts of a talented player at a huge club having a go at other teams for not being as good as the wealthiest and most powerful.

Never mind the Michaels, here’s the Bundesliga bitch (on Werder Bremen’s forthcoming visit): “It’ll be something new to welcome a team at our ground that doesn’t put every man behind the ball.”

Giovanni van Bronckhorst – We Are All Substitutes

Some of the more cryptic diaries come from players who are not actually playing. Giovanni van Bronckhorst reports repeatedly on how well “the squad” is doing at Barcelona, but you have to click back a few entries before you find out the truth. He’s on the bench.

It’s rotation, not because Deco’s better than me:
“The boss made it very clear to me that I haven’t been dropped because I’ve played badly, it’s simply that we have a lot of players and he wants to use them.”

Lothar Matthäus – Bostin’ Translation
The foreign star conceited enough to think he can translate himself directly into English is always entertaining. Although after excitedly announcing his English-language diary, Lothar has been very quiet for the past year. Probably too busy taking Hungary to the World Cup.

The entire Hungarian FA mixes Lothar a drink:
“On Monday 1.05.2004 was it so far. I had my first working day as the national coach of Hungary. The president of the federation, Dr Imre Bozoky, as well as further functionaries prepared a cordial receipt for me.”

Don Hutchison – Move Don Up
It’s handy to have a diary to put yourself in the shop window, even when you’re an ageing has-never-quite-been. When Hutchison, to a doubtless unsuspecting world, announced his departure “by mutual consent” from Millwall in late November, he put it down to “a lack of first-team football”.

“I’m sure a new exciting challenge is just around the corner for me. I still feel I have a lot to offer, and my fitness is very good. All I need is for a club out there to come in for me.”

Aki Riihilahti
– Finn And Tonic

Still the best, the most original, the most opinionated, the most incoherent, but more entertaining than all the English-language diarists put together. Passionate, sincere and funny. Where’s the autobiography?

Inflated Celery
(reflecting upon England’s World Cup qualification and the country’s reaction): “Why are you pissing into your own tent? I don’t understand your unreasonable negativity. You even pay miserable people hiding behind big tables to overanalyse. Or you with poisonous ink want just scandalous headlines. Most of you just moan in the closest pub. Many of you seem to voluntarily want to put celery into your own food. It’s almost an art how much you English people can criticise your own football national team.”

From WSC 227 January 2006. What was happening this month