By Tony Stafford
After a month of agonising about events at The Bridge, we finally got to know who was revealed as the culprit. Red herrings were duly accepted and then rejected by the gullible audience over time, but in the end we found out that it was Emil Larsson, acting out his frustrations from his time in a Swedish orphanage, who had been on that killing spree.
Didn’t I tell you? My Saturday night BBC 4 detective mystery addiction has for the last month been sated by the Swedish-Danish-German co-production called The Bridge, revolving around a co-operative investigation by Swedish and Danish Police.
The cities of Malmo (Sweden) and Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, are linked by the 16-kilometre-long Oresund Bridge and detectives Saga Noren (Swedish) and Henrik Suboa (Danish) travel back and forth across the 52 Euro a time structure in their quest for the truth, often finding themselves in the same bed. Those Scandinavian prices make the M6 Toll road – the world’s greatest stretch of tarmac - look cheap.
For much of the past fortnight – two hour-long episodes a week made missing the start of Match of the Day inevitable – we were led by the nose thinking Claes Sandberg and Annika Melander, owner of a funeral business with the hots for businessman Claes, were united in the killings, but they too were innocent, if like everyone else, flawed characters.
The final scene, where Saga and Henrik sat opposite each other searching through years-old documents concerning the disappearance of Henrik’s two young daughters – his wife’s remains were discovered late into this the third series – missed the first two, typical – leaving the door obviously open for a fourth lot of Saturday night delight next year.
There was little disguising who were the culprits according to the crowd at the other Bridge in West London. Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa were named on several impromptu and rather scruffy posters, reinforced when the latter pair was roundly booed as they were substituted during Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Sunderland at a Jose-free Stamford Bridge, Hazard being off games after his not-off “injury” last week.
So Mourinho is off again, routinely it seems. After all, he completed his usual “wash” cycle whereby he goes into an already major club, puts in the powder for a first bedding-in season, cleans up with the fabric softener to win the domestic double before winding down with a spin-phase whimper and out the door clutching another multi-million pound pay-off.
Usually that coincides with another major club pathologically failing. Now there’s both Manchester United and Real Madrid in a slump, as two more of the inner circle of top-level managers, van Gaal and Benitez, are being exposed as unable to motivate the present-day crop of multi-millionaire young players. Sterile tactics and inflexible man management are shown to be less effective than say the relaxed outlook of Leicester City’s Claudio Ranieri.
But hang on. As Leicester enters the January transfer period atop the Premier League, it will come under incessant media pressure to buy and “strengthen” the squad. At the same time, the clamour will push the so-far refreshingly-uncomplicated club and its football style to “secure the futures” of its star players with improved contracts, making them more like the prima donnas on display so obviously everywhere else.
Most observers – including the bookmakers - are taking Manchester City and Arsenal as favourites for the first two places. Unless Manchester United wakes up they must be questionable for the top four. At present rate of progress, while I’ve been entranced by The Bridge, they’ve collected five points from their last five games. At that rate they’ll take nine to match Leicester’s 38 points and who knows how many more the King Power boys will have collected by then?
Tottenham and Crystal Palace are level with Manchester United on 29 and Watford (25) and Liverpool (24) would still be at least 10 and 11 points respectively adrift of Leicester if either wins today’s clash at Vicarage Road. If you think Leicester won’t be in the Champions League next year, think again.
Now The Bridge has finished I can get back to racing, football and of course England’s cricketers in South Africa, although Raymond Tooth’s action for 2015 ended when Harry Champion just failed to win his first handicap at Wolverhampton on Friday night. We have to wait until Wetherby on Jan 8 for the promising April Dusk’s next run.
I always enjoy Ascot’s pre-Christmas meeting with the usual big crowd entering into the seasonal jollities in suitably-freezing temperatures.
Except that it was 16 degrees Celcius, which sounds hot enough, but not as hot as 61 degrees Fahrenheit. Dan Skelton, hotfoot from Haydock where he had a winner, sported a lounge suit and new haircut and winter coats were hard to spot. Bet you Guus Hiddink was wearing his, though, at Stamford Bridge as he scrutinised the small print on his short-term contract. Surely not, Chelsea, he’s as old as me (actually eight months younger)!
Thistlecrack ran away with the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, no mean achievement as it required ending Reve de Sivola’s stranglehold on the race. Colin Tizzard has handled that emerging staying star with sure steps and will be hoping that the revitalised Cue Card can win Boxing Day’s King George VI Chase at Kempton.
In between there’s the Arsenal –Manchester City clash on Monday night, involving two more of that inner circle of management veteran top-earners. One, the always-gracious Manuel Pellegrini, seems to be endlessly on the brink of being usurped whenever his team shows the slightest sign of faltering, and Arsene Wenger, Mourinho’s favourite target for insults, personal and professional.
The one thing Mourinho did get right about the man who has found it impossible to beat him in Chelsea – Arsenal League matches, is that he’s probably the only manager who is guaranteed not to be sacked. Right so far, Jose, but I reckon Ranieri and Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe are not far short of inviolable either.