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The year is 2020. Professional human being Mario Balotelli celebrates the 30th anniversary of his re-spawn into current shape and form. Here’s a look back at the 9 years since his 21st birthday:
2011– Studying footage of the Manchester riots, Greater Manchester Police are bemused and baffled to see footage of a balaclava-clad Balotelli entering a recently-looted shop and re-stocking its shelves with TVs, Blu-Ray DVD players and over-sized headphones. Previous footage had shown Mario taking 15 minutes to put on the balaclava. A friendly passer-by overcame hysterical laughter to put it on for him.
In football, he improves his game by shadowing Micah Richards in training and re-brands himself as a no-nonsense right-back. Wins Northern Reserve Premier League with Manchester City Reserves.
Birthday Present – Balotelli’s mother bought him Joey Barton to be his spiritual and philosophical guidance minister.
New Allergy – Socks
2012 – Balotelli jailed for 6 months for water-boarding a school bully. With his Manchester City contract cancelled, Mario becomes the Prison Chaplain. Spends second-half of the year playing keepy-uppies using just the back of his heel.
Birthday present – Necklace created from an old Ferrari tyre
New Allergy – Skin
2013 – Balotelli given sensational return to football with FC United of Manchester after being kicked out of the Church of England for denouncing God’s dress-sense. Releases soul album entitled Balotelling It How It Is. Scores 14 goals and picks up 7 red cards (from right-back) in FCUM’s promotion season.
Birthday Present – The invention of a new colour for his hair.
New Allergy – Chewits
2014 – Successive promotions with FC United of Manchester see Balotelli appointed Mayor of Manchester on a 5 year deal. Disbands Manchester City FC and moves every tramp in Manchester to new, plush, free accommodation at the newly renovated Eastlands Hotel. Teaches them individually how to read and write Italian and English. Sacked after executing the city’s parking attendants.
Birthday Present – A towel (recession)
New Allergy – Darts
2015 – Balotelli decides to revert to playing as a striker but, after a 19 hour goal drought and one substitution too many, he cancels his contract at FC United of Manchester and flees back to Milan. Appointed as Marco Matterazzi’s assistant manager at struggling Inter, the pair tattoo each other’s faces on their foreheads as a sign as solidarity and team spirit. Inter win the Scudetto.
Birthday present – Matterazzi’s self-severed ear on a plinth
New Allergy – Ink
2016 – The night befre Inter Milan’s Champions League Final against Malaga, Balotelli abducts both star striker Carlton Cole and manager Marco Matterazzi, announcing himself player/manager and saying he will start the Final up front for Inter. Wearing a skirt and a leather jacket, Balotelli back-heels the winner past Malaga goal-keeper Edwin van der Sar and celebrates by urinating into his own mouth.
Birthday present – Mouthwash
New Allergy – Nostril Hair
2017 – Now a Champions League Winner and serial bigamist, Balotelli takes the year off to visit space in Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Shuttle. Underwhelmed by The Moon and ambivalent towards Mars, Balotelli asks to be dropped off at Jupiter, claiming he will find his own way home. Despite the crew’s best efforts to talk him round, he escapes and leaps towards Jupiter.
Birthday Present – Sir Richard Branson’s Wig
New Allergy – Hydrogen (Science Joke)
2018 – Mario is missing, presumed dead. The Pope presides over his funeral. Joey Barton reads the eulogy. A former Manchester City youth-teamer weeps out of his one remaining eye. The bullied child that Balotelli helped back in 2011, is now The Pope.
In July, Ghana win the 2018 World Cup in the Qatar, who purchased the tournament off Russia in order to practice for the 2022 World Cup. As they lift the trophy, the manager Marco Matterazzi peels off his skin to reveal Mario Barwuah Balotelli underneath. He smiles and winks at the camera. Then all the lights in the stadium go out. When they are turned back on, he is nowhere to be seen, and Matterazzi’s skin lies bereft on the artificial pitch.
Birthday Present – A complete system reboot, reverting him to factory settings
New Allergy – Grass (again)
2019 – Balotelli becomes a homosexual for Lent. The News of the Sun newspaper runs an exclusive on Easter Day, listing his Lent sexual conquests. Joey Barton, Ousmane Dabo, Sir Richard Branson, Caster Semenya and Aston from JLS all tell how Mario promised them the world, and a Ferrari for their birthday, before smiling, winking, extinguishing all light, and vanishing.
Birthday Present – Tickets to Billy Elliot
New Allergy – Wood
2020 – Balotelli turns 30 and, realising he still hasn’t won the Premier League, bizarrely cobbles together a team consisting of players whose names rhyme with ‘ALA’ or ‘AMBA’, to be managed by himself. Mario changes his name by deed poll to ‘Balatelli’ in order to gain respect from his players.
The starting XI:
Bambara, Samba, Bamba, Alaba,
Shikabala, Muamba, Tshabalala,
Tshibamba, Kitambala, Ba
Docked 5 points for the ineligibility of Demba Ba (his name neither contains nor rhymes with ‘ALA’ or ‘AMBA’), Balotelli drafts in CM 01/02 prodigy Cherno Samba.
On the last day of the season Balatelli’s side play Marco Matterazzi’s FC United of Manchester in a game that they must win in order to seize the title. Golden Boot winner Cherno Samba is played in by Tshabalala and, inexplicably, attempts a sort of turkey-twizzle back-heel shot, which dribbles tamely wide.
Mario Balatelli turns and smiles, winks at the camera, and……………
Callum Maclean has been kind enough to offer his expertise to TMR! A student of journalism and media, he’s our second guest writer, and gives us some background on the most famous ‘assistants turned managers’.
With all this talk of André Villas-Boas being the next ‘special one’, I thought that I’d look at those who have gone from assisting and coaching to forging their own managerial career. To start off with, we’ll look at the special one himself, José Mourinho. Before being a manager, he had an unsuccessful playing career, ending it at the age of 23. He was then a youth coach at Vitoria Setubal, and then assisted the manager’s duties at Estrela da Amadora. Then, after meeting the late Sir Bobby Robson, he joined the English legend at Sporting Lisbon, Porto, and finally Barcelona, where he became ‘the translator’. Expect this to be mentioned at least three or four times by ‘in-the-know’ commentators whenever Mourinho manages against Barcelona. His first managerial job, at Benfica, only lasted nine league games. However, he moved onto better things, winning six domestic titles across Europe and the Champions’ League twice, by the age of 48.
Trivia – Was offered a role as Newcastle United’s assistant when Sir Bobby Robson moved there, with a view to becoming manager the season after when Robson was to move upstairs. Mourinho turned it down saying that he knew Robson would never step down from the club that he loved.
Next up, Villas-Boas. Seen as the next José Mourinho by many (Yet not himself, saying he is probably something very different) as he followed Mourinho from Porto to Chelsea and then Inter. Yet, his talent is owed to more than just Mourinho. Like with the Special One, Villas-Boas owes success to Sir Bobby, who gave him his first shot in football who placed him as a trainee with Porto’s youth team when he was in charge. With a bright future ahead of him, Villas-Boas has already won four trophies in his first year in charge of Porto.
Trivia – Porto won the league with a 21 point lead over second placed Benfica, the biggest margin ever in the Primera Liga.
Another assistant that went off to do his own thing is the ‘Wally with the Brolly’, Steve McClaren. Before being Middlesbrough, England, Twente and Wolfsburg manager, he worked with Denis Smith as Youth and Reserve team coach at lowly Oxford United. He then went to work with another Smith, Jim, at Derby, and won promotion to the Premier League in his first season. It wasn’t until 1999 where he started to make a name for himself, as Manchester United won the treble at the end of his first season in the position of assistant manager. In 2001 he went out on his own and gave Middlesbrough their most successful period, reaching the UEFA Cup final and winning the League Cup – Their first major trophy. Then, after having assisting Sven-Göran Eriksson at England, he took his first and only international job, but his reputation was lessened after a poor EURO 2008 qualification campaign. But, he picked himself back up, put on a new accent and went to FC Twente, and won the Eredivisie for the first time in their history. He then went to Wolfsburg, but only spent nine months there, and was sacked after a poor run of results.
Trivia – Was introduced by Martin Edwards, then chairman of Manchester United, as ‘Steve McClaridge’.
Another England manager who started off as an assistant is Sven-Göran Eriksson. Before winning trophies with Göteborg, Benfica, Roma, Sampdoria and Lazio, along with being a director of football at lower league Notts County and then onto his current club Leicester City, the Swede was assistant to Tord Grip at Degerfors IF.
Trivia – Since Sven moved to Lazio, Grip, the man who asked Sven to assist him in his duties, had been Sven’s assistant everywhere he had been, until Sven moved to Leicester.
Arséne Wenger also was, at one point, an assistant coach, working with Cannes for a short while, after having been doing the same thing for a short time with Strasbourg. After assisting, he took up full-time management in France until 1995. after a brief spell in Japan with Nagoya Grampus Eight, Wenger moved to Arsenal, where he managed a double winning side in his second season in charge. He has since gone on to win nine more trophies, and although he hasn’t won anything in the past six seasons, he has changed the way football is managed forever with his strict diet and drinking policy.
Trivia – Is known as ‘the professor’, and has degrees in both Engineering and Economics from Strasbourg University.
And then Wenger’s great rival, Sir Alex Ferguson, also started as a player coach at Falkirk, before finishing his career at Ayr United. He then became a manager with East Stirlingshire and St. Mirren, before finding European success with Aberdeen, before winning 36 trophies with Manchester United in a 24 year stay, making him the longest serving Manchester United manager. He’s controversial, speaks out often against referees that don’t favour him and has his own special stopwatch for when he’s behind in a game, but the most decorated British manager in history surely is the person managers look up to.
Trivia – Sir Alex has a rare copy of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s wedding certificate.
I know there are other managers that have come from assisting roles to the managerial limelight, but I’d be writing forever if I did every single one. But before this is fully wrapped up, and, from the ones selected, who is the greatest assistant turned manager (Villas-Boas is exempt due to being a new manager)?
1.Sir Alex Ferguson
Who: Stuart Edward Ripley
What: Flying Winger
Where: Middlesbrough, Blackburn, Southampton (Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday, Bolton on loan)
“Night Mum, night Dad”, mumbled 5 year-old TMR as the door closed, before adding in a whisper, “Night Stewie”. And with that, little TMR, all bowl hair-cuts, pirate outfits and lisps, picked his nose, wiped the residue on the under-side of his bedside table, and drifted off to sleep…
This was ‘Stewie Wipley’:
There were many factors that co-operated like a regiment of Navy SEALS to infiltrate TMR’s brain and infect it with the ‘football bug’. Daddy TMR and older brother TMR were fanatics; there was always a ball around the house, blah blah blah. The real commander of this regiment was Stuart Ripley. Or rather, the Merlin football sticker depicting him that I owned – which can be seen above – and that was stuck to my bedside table (the upwards-facing side, obviously I didn’t stick it on the bottom with the…..ewwww). He was the first footballer that TheMakéléléRole ever knew and ever set eyes on and thus, by default, he was TMR’s favourite. Ironically it was the man who broke his Blackburn record signing fee, Alan Shearer, who later replaced him as TMR’s most cherished. Every night, we’d trade glances, two men who could not have been more opposite. He was incredibly fast; I could barely walk. He had an England cap; mine had Mickey Mouse on it. He loved Postman Pat; I was ‘Fireman Sam ‘till I die’. Yet this was the man who, through the medium of stickers, influenced TheMakéléléRole to the point where becoming ‘a student of the game’ seemed as logical as wiping the bogey on the bottom of the table. After all, what other options were there?!
On a more serious note, it was only when researching this article that my love for Stewie Ripley returned, and with it an admiration that stems not from his medal, caps and goals, but for his humility, honesty and sense of the real world which TMR can’t help but feel is lacking in many current England-capped, Premier League winning players (or as they’d prefer, ‘legends’, a word tossed around more than an Olympic stadium-related West Ham joke). This is a man who, having represented his country twice – for many the pinnacle of a successful playing career – freely admits that: “If I’m truthful and objective I didn’t deserve to be in the squad…I felt I got in the England squad on the back of Alan Shearer’s success at Blackburn that season. I wasn’t playing to a standard were I justified a place.”
Where to start? OBJECTIVE?! Maybe we’re looking in the wrong place, but TMR can’t think of another footballer who could deploy such a word with ease and nonchalance. But it’s also rare and refreshing to see someone so realistic about their ability. You wouldn’t see Rohan Ricketts admitting that, if he’s honest, with his career performances to date (albeit with some nasty injuries), the Oberliga Nord (IV) is about the right level for him. Moreover, he seemed to know exactly when it was time to retire, and made his decision without fuss (Fat Ronaldo, take note), saying about a match against Arsenal aged 34: “I always considered myself to be a quick player but that fixture was a defining moment for me. Early on, I went to challenge Thierry Henry, but he just dropped his shoulders, flew past me like a gazelle and was six yards up the pitch before I could blink. His phenomenal speed took my breath away. I ran after him but I felt like I had a fridge on my back. I’d played in the Premier League for 10 years and I’d never experienced that sort of blistering pace and turn before from any player. I was 34 and there comes a moment when you realise that you are unable to compete at that level. “
Now, TheMakéléléRole thinks he’s almost being a bit too modest. Ripley had blistering pace, a catalogue of viciously curling crosses and a Herculean work-rate. (Incidentally, was Hercules’ work-rate actually all that great? Anyone got a YouTube compilation?) He was certainly a more important member of Dalglish’s 94/95 Premier League winning Blackburn side than he gives himself credit for.
Frankly, TheMakéléléRole loves Stewie Ripley so much that, were he to have flitted about post-retirement, speaking between courses and telling old, exaggerated anecdotes about Shearer’s early-nights and Jason Wilcox’s party tricks, we would have forgiven him, listened and laughed repeatedly and then moved on to the cheese platter. However, we needn’t have underestimated him. For Stuart Ripley’s business cards do not say ‘Former footballer, available for anything, even Europa League on Five’. They say ‘Stuart Ripley, Solicitor’. That’s right; the former flying winger has turned his hand to law. What else did we expect?
There’s very little more that TheMakéléléRole can say. This was a footballer who had the decency to watch over a young boy each night, bogeys and all. Who had the tenacity to use what skills he did have, and carve a very successful career out of it. Who had the level-headedness never to let that success get to his head, and the sense to retire at the top. A man who now has the fight, the brain and, more impressively, the motivation to become an expert of law. Most of you will have already closed the tab by now, muttering ‘What will he tell us next? That Ripley graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in 2007, with a first class combined honours degree in Law and French? Pah!’
What a LEGEND. To quote a Scotsman who would have loved to have been on the end of your crosses, and who could probably use your solicitor’s skill: Take a bow, Stewie Ripley. And I mean that.
I said in my introduction post that TheMakéléléRole did not have a theme. However, what it does have is an abundance of ideas for ‘series’. This is a short post introducing these ‘series’ (or categories) and explaining what they will contain, so that you can have a look at what is to come and decide whether this might be the blog for you!
Opinion: These will be articles written by me, reflecting my thoughts and views. TheMakéléléRole will try to keep moaning to a minimum, and to make its point as un-biasedly as possible. No promises though!
Reviews: This section will contain articles looking back matches that I’ve watched from the stands or on Sky Sports 1 (or even HD1!). Not just that, there will be season summaries of as many leagues as I can manage this summer.
Exciting Matches – From Perth Glory to Peterhead, every team has had a match which will never be forgotten by the fans, for historical reasons, for triumphant reasons, or just for sheer entertainment value. For example, TheMakéléléRole is contemplating writing one such article on the Grêmio v Náutico Serie B play-off match in 2005, nicknamed Batalha dos Aflitos (Battle of the Afflicted), which ended with 17 players on the pitch and one (very important) goal scored by a young player who now plies his trade in a certain Theatre of Dreams.
Player Profiles – It could be a player you haven’t heard of, or perhaps a world-renowned, award-wining superstar. But if TheMakéléléRole think they deserve to be written about, then it shall be so. Current plans are to explore the careers of some of the Ballon d’Or winners from the mid-2oth Century, and of course to do some ‘One to Watch’ profiles – where would football blogs be without them?!
Team Guides – Similar to Player Profiles, but these Team Guides will be looking back on a single club’s history, fans, heros, villains, rivalries and glories. Off the top of TheMakéléléRole’s perfectly round, bald head? Dukla Prague. European Cup and Cup Winners Cup semi-finalists in the 60s, and owners of a Ballon D’Or winner. Where are they now? TheMakéléléRole will be happy to tell you if you stop fidgeting and keep reading.
Misc – Misc was created out of panic when I realised my introduction post had nowhere to live. Always one to help the homeless, TheMakéléléRole took pity, and out of this beautiful, selfless act was born ‘Misc’. ‘Misc’ will, from now on, become the refuge for both the homeless posts and those maverick posts whose genius can and will never be categorised. Now wipe awaythat tear, becausenext up is the category that TheMakéléléRole is most excited about!
Championship and Football Manager Legends – Where are they now? – If you have no interest in, or have never heard of the Championship Manager and Football Manager series, then frankly, you and TheMakéléléRole won’t get on. Let’s not cause a scene – it’s been a lovely evening and thank you for the wine, but no, I don’t want coffee, I just want to go home and guide my Ajax team (with an average age of 22) to another Eredivise and Champions League title.
Yes, this section will be attempting to track down all those great CM/FM players, that perhaps never went on to fulfill their -10 potential, perhaps never made a stadium gasp in awe or applaud in admiration. But by God did we love them, sitting in our suits, notebook in hand in front of our Windows 97 computer that has long since been recycled into lego. TheMakéléléRole is getting a tear of nostalgia just thinking about Tonton Zola Mokoukou, To Madeira, Tom Youngs. But what happened to them in ‘real life’? Were they even real? TheMakéléléRole puts on it’s detective hat and finds out…