Cashing in on their credits

Tottenham's luck was in, while an Uzbekistan-born Nigerian is a new hero at The Hawthorns, writes Paul Radley.

Could Anelka care less about the 18-match international ban meted out to him by the French Football Federation last week? Clearly not, judging by the striker's rampant display in Chelsea's 6-0 thrashing of Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium on Saturday. His preparation had not exactly been disrupted by the furore back home in France in the lead up to the game.

Anelka had not bothered to return to Paris for the disciplinary hearing into his part in France's World Cup farce where he was banished from Raymond Domenech's squad after a blazing half-time row with the coach during the group stage defeat to Mexico. When told about his suspension, he was quoted as saying: "These people are clowns, I am dying with laughter." He was soon to have reasons to smile on the field, too, as Wigan's hologram defence offered him the chance to net twice for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

Football fans everywhere are grateful for the fact that the vivid tangerine of Blackpool's playing colours is nowhere near the most colourful thing about them. Any interview with Holloway, their wacky manager, usually ranks among the most anticipated features of a match-day. Much hilarity often ensues, for example when he starts comparing defeats to his do-it-yourself chicken coop, but the West Countryman does a good line in magnanimity as well as humour. "I thought some of their football was scintillating, if I can use that word?" he enthused, in the aftermath of his side's 6-0 trouncing by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. "Let's get on with it. We'll go back to work and try and emulate what they are doing because it is beautiful to watch." Football could do with a few more like "Olly".

The adage goes that luck evens itself out across the course of a football season. If so, then Tottenham Hotspur cashed in all the credits they had earned seven days earlier against Manchester City as they beat Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.

Bale was the tormentor-in-chief against the Manchester side, but ended up empty-handed thanks largely to the efforts of the outstanding Joe Hart in the City goal. This time, he scored one in off his nose, and later ended up on the winning team despite Stoke believing they had scored a late equaliser through Kevin Walters, which Chris Foy, the referee, deemed not to have crossed the line. If his first goal was ridiculous, Bale's second was sublime. Aaron Lennon supplied the cross which Bale sweetly volleyed from the edge of the box, arrowing just inside the apex of post and crossbar. Bale was once sent off at the Britannia Stadium in his rather less glorious early days with Spurs. Scoring the winner this time will have gone a long way to erasing that dark memory.

Roberto Di Matteo, the West Bromwich Albion manager, was in desperate need of something positive to cling to after his side's chastening 6-0 loss at Chelsea on the opening day of the season. He came up with Peter Odemwingie.

As heroes go, West Brom's new Uzbekistan-born Nigerian striker - with Russian citizenship - was definitely straight out of the "But who is he exactly, though?" category. Freshly imported from Lokomotiv Moscow, and with the ink still drying on his visa papers, Odemwingie announced himself as the new Baggies idol by striking the winner against Sunderland. As West Brom's players wheeled away in jubilation, they looked all set to launch into a specially-choreographed goal celebration routine. In fact, most of them were just trying to introduce themselves to their new colleague.

Wigan are quite a conundrum. Last season, the Latics managed to get thrashed 9-1 by Spurs at White Hart Lane, but later in the campaign overturn a 2-0 deficit to beat Arsenal at home. As such, their opening couple of fixtures in the new campaign were perhaps not as easy to pick as the form guide would otherwise have us believe. While the 6-0 demolition by Chelsea was to be expected, the 4-0 opening day loss to the modestly-resourced Blackpool - a side playing in the Premier League for the first time after their promotion from the Championship - was a real low.

If any manager is on borrowed time, it is Roberto Martinez. "I can't waste time or energy worrying about [getting the sack]," he was quoted as saying after his side's latest capitulation. Affability will only take you so far in Premier League management, and Martinez's bosses will know that nice guys often finish last. pradley@thenational.ae

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