Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: Never mind tax, it’s Mario’s stamp duty that’s overdue

I'll be honest, I’ve never really been sure what Skype is and only recently was I taken to one side and told it’s something to do with phoning people and not something to expect between 1.00 and 6.00pm on certain Sundays.

Last weekend witnessed one such Sunday, it was Sky hype with Payback and nothing to do with cheap calls, although there was to be a cheap shot . . . but more of that later.

It was quite the day for the Premier League, Spurs looking to show they’re a really big team with a visit to Manchester City.

It was never going to be under-hyped, let’s be honest, but this is Sky and they weren’t going to miss a chance.

Fortress Etihad — 10 games, 10 wins, and some lovely graphics to illustrate the point. We’ll conveniently gloss over the fact that City had lost their previous two games on home turf but this is Sky and it was time for payback not factual accuracy.

Before United and Arsenal, it was the turn of City and Spurs and “could this be the day when the new kids on the block step out of their shadow?,” mused Alan Parry. Well, it was a time for Hangin’ Tough and taking it Step by Step, or a big stamp, if you’re that way inclined.

It was quite the game, almost as entertaining as Harry Redknapp’s tax returns, and there was Mario Balotelli, a man who could start a row in a graveyard.

Sky, not wanting to cause a row, forgot to ask Mario about whether he’d tried to decapitate Scott Parker with a playful attempted stamp.

A Parker hasn’t been treated so badly since that never broadcast episode of Thunderbirds where Lady Penelope, having watched Vinnie Jones on Lock, Stock and Four Smokin’ Barrels, bashed in the papier-mâché bonce of her old faithful chauffeur in the door of FAB1.

Someone even scarier than Vinnie wasn’t fobbed off so easily, Graeme Souness blasting “he’s a car crash waiting to happen,” and when he’d calmed down a wee bit later had a pop at Howard Webb.

“I think he should have been sent off,” he barked. “He knew what he was doing. If the referee deems that isn’t a sending off, then he shouldn’t be refereeing football matches, let alone World Cup finals.”

The FA took these comments to heart and immediately banished Webb to another country — making him referee the big game between Cardiff City and Crystal Palace, or the Carling Cup third/fourth place play-off as it’s better known.

We could depend on the more morally upstanding citizens of the BBC to come out and slam this heinous crime on Sunday though.

Later in the evening, when the dust had settled a little, MOTD2 got the chance to kick it all up again and pundit and City fan Lee Dixon was scathing in his condemnation of Balotelli.

“He’s certainly an entertainer – for all sorts of reasons,” he said.

Certainly if you find clog dancing entertaining then he is that, I’ll grant you, but at least Alan Hansen was more hard-hitting: “I think he stamps on him.”

Well worth all that dough.

Anyhow, part two of this more super of Sundays came at Arsenal and Ed Chamberlain commented on Sir Alex Ferguson arriving at the Emirates Stadium and ruffling the hair of a wee lad and shaking the paw of Gunnersaurus, or ‘meeting children and dinosaurs alike’.

I had to look twice just to make sure he wasn’t with Chicarito and Paul Scholes, but it seems it’s Arsene Wenger who is nearing extinction as he took off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Perhaps he hadn’t seen how well he was playing but he certainly couldn’t have missed the reaction of the Gunners faithful who don’t seem to want Arsene about anymore.

Sky did their bit by allowing Arsenal to field their first choice commentary team but by the end, Martin Tyler and Alan Smith couldn’t have sounded more morose than if it had been announced that Andriy Arshavin had signed a new 15-year contract.

“You never criticise other players . . . but . . . he looks the most disinterested player in the league to me . . . he doesn’t want to be here . . . he don’t like London, he don’t like England, he thinks our women are ugly . . . I think he wants to go back to Russia. Well, go back!” hinted Red Gary Neville.

Andriy, if you’re going, you couldn’t give a wee Italian chap a lift back, could you.

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