Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blue meets Yellow meets Keane

Linda and I recently went to see Vila-Real take on the petro-dollars of Manchester City in the Champions' League. City were favourites to win, having beaten Vila-Real in the home match and with the 'Submarino' suffering a number of important injuries. (I know, excuses!) Well, it turned out as predicted, 0-3 to City and Vila-Real's Champions' League journey over for this season.
What interested me almost as much as the match however, was what happened when the players weren't on the pitch. Near the corner flag by which we were sitting, ITV set up their pre-match 'chat-zone', populated by Adrian Chiles, Martin O'Neill, Gareth Southgate and... Roy Keane. As I sat munching my pre-match bag of crisps, I couldn't help wondering why ITV had chosen Keane to comment on Manchester City. As an ex-United player, I guessed that anything he said would only produce fury from Sky-Blue fans. I didn't have to guess the reaction he provoked in the ground...
Luckily for ITV, Vila-Real's 'Madrigal' ground houses away supporters in a high, 'caged' section, behind the goal, at the far end. Unluckily for ITV (and Roy Keane) about a hundred enterprising City fans had managed to buy seats in the main stand, right next to Chiles and company. As Keane walked onto the pitch with Southgate and O'Neill you could sense the disbelief among the City fans, who were close enough to recognise who he was... and make their feelings known to him.
The individual vitriol screamed at him was staggering, although the City fans managed to lighten the atmosphere with a few amusing anti-red chants. A popular and very topical one (after City's recent 1-6 victory against United) was, "Who put the ball in United's net? Half the f*ç%in' team did!" sung to the tune of "Skip to my Lou, my darling." (Go on, admit it. When you were a child, did you sing, 'Skip to the loo'? Thought so. So did we.)
The blue hoards were really finding their voices now, and regaled Keane with, "There's only one Alfie Haaland," a reference to that 'tackle' in 2001.
Then, as if our corner of the ground wasn't already volcanic, Patrick Viera appeared from the tunnel to huge applause from the City fans. Another song started, to the tune of Sloop-John-B. I initially thought they were singing, "He's worn a black tie," but having consulted with Linda, we agreed that the taunt was, "He's won it five times." Later research on Google suggested that this was a reference to Viera's haul of F.A. Cup winners' medals (to Keane's four).
Still, amidst all the hatred, there was a spark of humour. At half-time, as the pundits were leaving the pitch, the City fans began singing, (Keano, Keano, what's the score?) Keane showed that there were no hard feelings by indicating to the pale-blue mob that it was 2-0...

What the Vila-Real fans made of this rabid, arc-lit, parochial side-show kicking off whenever the teams were off the pitch is anybody's guess. The people sitting nearest us did a lot of shrugging while the rest of the crowd contented themselves with a few verses of, "Amarillo, submarino es," (Yellow, the submarine is) but were unable to make much of an impression on City ears.
All in all, not the best night in Europe ever for Vila-Real. It's one thing to be beaten at home in the Champions' League by Manchester City. It's quite another to be overshadowed by a retired Roy Keane, wearing a suit and tie, having a chat with Adrian Chiles.


 Roy Keane (centre) faces Adrian Chiles at the Madrigal.

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