Sometimes the Diggity Doc and Wildcard talk to each other...
Diggity Doc - Dearest Wildcard, how go thee? You've done a piece on Chelsea and how they went about winning the English Premier League but I want to ask about the next few teams down the ladder. Both Arsenal and Manchester United seem to have turned their respective corners while Manchester City have a few key decisions to make over the summer and who knows how a Steven Gerrard-less Liverpool would look. Who is in the best shape right now to mount a challenge against Chelsea and do what are your transfer moves that you think will/need to happen?
Wildcard - Thee go-eth well, Doc. Very well indeed. Yeah, I penned a lil tribute to Chelsea's title winning journey, and the scary thing is that this team can get a lot better. They trailed off as Costa got injured later on in the season, plus they haven't always had the depth they want. Still look for two or three new signings there. But other teams are catching up too. I'm curious how Manchester City go, it sounds like Pellegrini's gonna stay one more year so how that affects things will be anyone's guess. Whether they can balance that squad is the real issue, grab a defender or two, replace Yaya if he goes. It's Man United and Arsenal that are the best poised. Arsenal's squad is already pretty handy, maybe a defender and a defensive midfielder might help (as like every year), while MUFC are gonna need at least one quality striker, a Carrick understudy, a right back and possibly an experienced centre-back too. Still a few steps off, but they have the cash and the ambitions to go for it. Chelsea will be favourites again next season, no doubt, but the rest have plenty of hope. As for Liverpool? They were better without Gerrard most of this season anyway. What they need is some kind of cyborg version of Dan Sturridge that doesn't get injured every time the wind changes or the temperature drops.
DD - And it sounds as though there's plenty of talented footballers being sought after by England's top tier which will make things very interesting. What do you make of Gareth Bale's position at Real Madrid? You've got the Spanish media who aren't too fond of him, you've got the English media who cream their undies at the thought of him returning (kinda like Australian media and Sam Burgess), which are both rather comical but then you've got his manager who won't shut up either! He'll probably stay with Madrid for a wee while yet, but as a United fan, who appear to be his biggest suitor, how ya feeling?
WC - Hey, I'd love Gareth Bale an United. What a player! But I'm sceptical over the chances. It's crazy that a guy as obviously brilliant as him can be so despised by Real Madrid fans (who, let's be honest, are pretty spoiled). He missed a number of chances in the second leg against Juventus, a couple of which he should probably have scored, and that's been a recurring thing with him. The results aren't matching the enthusiasm and enterprise. Plus for some reason he's been placed in opposition to Ronaldo which is a no-win situation. You kinda get the feeling that if Ronaldo offered a little public support for Gazza then things may be different but that's not his style, is it? The whole situation is dumb but the main thing is that Bale wants to stay and fight and win stuff. All power to him, I guess. I think from United's side, it's more telling that they're throwing their name in the hat as contenders, it's a show of power and ambition more than actual intention.
DD - Well who's the bloke saying that Ronaldo doesn't pass Bale the ball!? His agent/manager guy, which is awfully dumb but I think we're all rooting for the happy family angle and for Gazza, as you call him to stick it out. Hey, who do you reckon will have a better run at their respective World Cups; The ladies or the Under 20s lads?
WC - Haha yeah, well we all know that Spanish footy is a bit of a mess sometimes. They've only just avoided a strike that would've ended the season with two rounds to go. Tell ya what, I reckon the ladies will rip it up something great. It's a shame, really, that our women's football teams don't get more credit for what they do. I mean, they compete with the best in the word, what more can you ask from a couple islands in the South Pacific? But them U20s, that's a handy looking squad too. Bill Tuiloma as captain, several overseas based guys and a bunch with academy contracts at the Phoenix. Plus a fair few players who've already had senior team call-ups. They'll go alright, though up against some of the best young players in the world I'm not gonna hold my breath. If they get out of their group, that's a massive achievement.
DD - Yeah I reckon they are both very strong squads and it's hard to argue that football in Aotearoa is doing pretty damn well. The ladies will be interesting, they got touched up by the USA a month or so ago which showed a slight gulf in class but give them a few weeks together and I reckon they'll put on a strong showing throughout the World Cup. Sticking with the round ball, who ya got in the A-League final?
WC - Ooh, gotta stick with the Vic, I reckon. Melbourne Victory, they've been the best team all season (except for a couple weeks of The Nix, naturally) and should have it in them to overpower Sydney, but it'll be a great game all the same. The two most talented sides, can't really argue with it. Who've you got there? Also, what do ya reckon about the Kiwis topping the Rugby League world rankings all of a sudden? Does it mean anything at all? Nice for bragging rights at least.
DD - Yeah I'm rocking with the Victory as well, for two reasons; Kosta and Gui Finkler. I just love the Fink. Rankings schmankings, who cares. All that matters in international rugby league is who wins games, not who is ranked where and it puzzles me as to why people make a huff and a puff about this. Especially given that, despite the smaller nations definitely getting better, at the end of the day there's only really three teams. Rankings only matter in sports that are truly worldwide which I hope rugby league is moving towards. Beating Australia three times in a row should tell any dummy that the Kiwis are currently the bestest.
WC - Dunno I can get on board with the Gooey Finkler stuff, but I'll grant you Kosta. Viva Kosta. Well, you know why people are making a huff and a puff about these rankings, kiwis like to feel like they're competing with the big boys. We're the Scrappy Doo's of the world. Rankings are pretty dumb in Rugby League for the exact reasons you mention, like I didn't even know they HAD rankings until we got to number one. But even in football, the biggest sport in the world, those FIFA rankings are the square root of bollocks beyond the top 30 or so. The All Whites will win a couple games against Fiji or something and rise to 100 or so, then not play for a few months and rise some more, then they'll get a draw or a close loss against some top Asian side and fall 25 places or whatever. Results are the only things that matter, everything else is fluff.
DD - I feel ya, I think that Test cricket rankings are the only ones that really matter. And that's because there's no other fucking way to judge who is the best. I reckon rankings are silly in any sport with a World Cup/World Championship or the Olympics as we all know that you're not truly the best unless you win a title.
WC - Yes. So, so true. Test cricket's a great example too because there's been talk of some kind of championship to usurp the ratings system but it's pretty hard to organise a tournament when each game takes up to five days. Just shows what fans value more, and we know which one the players value more. At least the cricket rankings are pretty accurate in how their formula represents which teams actually are the best. This is the sport that gifted us the Duckworth/Lewis system after all. Although let's not get started on the ridiculous ICC player rankings.
DD - That's equally as funny when you see a kerfuffle in the news - 'Jimbo Green has climbed to 7th in the ODI bowling rankings!'. Alrighty what are you looked forward to the most this weekend?
WC - Or 'Kyle Mills is the best ODI bowler on the planet...'
Hmm, well I'm always partial to some English footy, and having grown up in the Ruud Van Nistelrooy/Thierry Henry era, few ties are as tasty as Arsenal vs Manchester United. But I'm also pumped for some NBA playoffs, some NRL battles and maaaaybe some Cricinfo refreshes on the last Blackcaps tour match before the test series in England, which is quietly creeping up on us. Look, we had an incredible time at the World Cup, but there's nothing compared to the opening morning at Lords, sitting up late at night on the other side of the world with a cup of tea (and maybe a lil Irish if the mood is right) and eventually falling asleep in front of the telly to the hypnotic rhythm of leather on willow. Nothing on earth.
DD - The idea of that question was for you to pick one but you blew that out of the water. Ya know what rivals your Test cricket in England fantasy? Laying in bed listening to it on the radio. There's something equally majestic about that. Well I hope you enjoy that smorgesboard of sport, as you know, the peptide business never stops so I'll be a busy man. Ciao for now xo.
WC - Oh for sure. Aggers and Blowers on the BBC cricket commentary, that's something special too. And come on, mate, there's never just one thing to look forward to each weekend, not in this day and age. Adios, mi amigo, I've got deadlines to meet.