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Introducing Kriss Sprules... The Joey Barton of columnists

You might not have heard of Kriss Sprules before. He has had some relatively 'minor' success as a non-league player - but where he really excels is by making Joey Barton's Twitter ramblings dull by comparison to what he has to say.

Kriss Sprules – Total Football's 'Joey Barton of columnists' – graced the heights of the North West Counties Division One and Hellenic League West as a player. But his real talent is using words that spark a debate, get people talking and, just like our friend Mr Barton, provide a source of strong opinions.

Kriss now works as a journalist, screenwriter and occasional stand-up comic whilst following (what he genuinely believes is) the world’s greatest football team, Swindon Town, from the comfort of his Oxford home.

Today he embarks on a journey with his new column. His sole objective is to stir up controversy and spark a reaction - and he starts his new series with some non-mincing of words about Rio Ferdinand...

The Kriss Sprules Column: The Summer of Love (and hate)

Welcome to the first instalment of my new column here on TFM, where each week I’ll be taking an irreverent and off-beat look at the goings on in the world of the beautiful game. I’ll be commenting on the big news, the transfers and whatever else needs a swipe taken at it during the course of the coming season.

With the 2011/12 Premier League season already being called the greatest in the league’s history, it was only natural that the afterglow should be ruined by arguments, footballing stupidity and the traditional bi-annual failing of the England team.

The biggest drama of the close-season started long before most of us had bought the sunscreen that would see us through the 17 minutes of British summer; the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand saga had already seen petty arguments about handshakes long before the case ended up in court. With Terry acquitted, it was only a matter of time before the legal judgement got turned into farce.

With JT freed on the basis of testimony from Ashley Cole, it was only a matter of time before everybody’s favourite football genius, Anton’s brother Rio (new nickname: Towelhead), stuck his oar in.

Better to keep your mouth shut Rio?

Quick quiz for you: Your brother has accused the former England captain of racially abusing him and has been declared innocent in a court of law thanks to evidence given, under oath, by his team-mate. Do you a) accept that, given the fact you were over a hundred miles away at the time and didn’t see the incident, you should keep your mouth shut, b) support your brother whilst avoiding controversy or c) racially abuse Ashley Cole on Twitter?

If you chose A or B, congratulations: you’re an intelligent, well-adjusted human being. If you chose C, you’re a bitter former England captain desperate to grind an axe against the man who replaced you.

I’m not saying for one moment that I’m blindly backing Terry in this matter, and I’m certainly all for kicking racism out of the game, but for Rio to assume he knows better than the 22 players on the field, the referee and his assistants, the half-dozen lip-readers and the Metropolitan Police and to express his views in such a way in public forum is the biggest disgrace to the game of the entire affair.

As if things weren’t being made bad enough by the Manchester United centre half, the FA have decided that they aren’t happy with the court’s decision either, and will have an independent investigation into the matter. Aside from the fact that this is going to ruin the new season by dragging out the whole sordid affair, the arrogance of the men in charge of the game to assume that they’re better equipped to deal with this than the justice system is an image that the FA were supposed to be working hard to dispel.

I can’t help but wonder why they’re so determined to drag this circus out; is it to prove their determination to ‘kick it out’ or some sadomasochistic need to discredit the Chelsea captain? Only those at Soho Square can answer this, and I hope they do so soon.

Footballing stupidity - Joey Barton

Talking of footballing stupidity, once again Joey Barton managed to end the season by proving his determination to maintain an IQ lower than his shirt number, behaving like a child and assaulting Manchester City players on the closing day of the season.

While his twelve-game suspension is certainly justified, I can only hope that the best thing to come from this is his being forced to spend pre-season training with Fleetwood Town. Perhaps exposure to a group of players who earn less in a year than he does every week will humble him.

Who knows? Maybe spending time with players for whom even having the opportunity to play the game for a living is still a privilege will teach him how lucky he is. Let’s not kid ourselves: Joey Barton is an exceptional talent who, if he were able to keep his mouth shut and stop acting like an extra from Green Street, would probably have been in the running to captain England by now.

And his need to try and prove himself intelligent by Googling quotes to tweet? “Egotism is the anaesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity” – Frank Leahy

It’s not all doom and gloom; after going into Euro 2012 with the lowest expectations in living memory, the England team still managed to disappoint us by losing in the quarterfinals to a lacklustre Italian side. The very fact that the Azzurri went on to reach the final shows just how winnable the tournament should have been for us. Unfortunately, our tactical ineptitude cost us dearly. Leaving Andrea Pirlo, the tournament’s best player, enough space to build an Olympic Village in was absolutely farcical.

Why the FA got it wrong with the Olympics

Talking of the Olympics, I’ve got my own axe to grind with the FA here. Whose stupid idea was it to announce that the players in the Euro squad were to be exempt from selection in the Olympic squad?

As well as Team GB performed under the circumstances, surely there isn’t a fan in the nation who can make a solid argument for the exclusion of Martin Kelly, Theo Walcott, Jordan Henderson, Andy Carroll, Phil Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck from the Olympic team. Would playing another seven games this summer really have killed them? Kelly and Jones didn’t even get on the field. I’m sure they’d all have loved the chance to play in both tournaments, and we probably could’ve won another gold medal if they had.

Also, for what it’s worth, the Olympics gave us yet another reason to compare Gareth Bale and Ryan Giggs: feigning an injury to get out of international squads used to be Giggsy’s trademark too, remember?

I’ll be back next week with my take on week one of the new season. Until then, bet the house on United. Signing RVP has sealed it.

Kriss Sprules – the Joey Barton of columnists – is a former non-league player, who now works as a journalist, screenwriter and occasional stand-up comic. Find him on the web at or - and on Twitter @ChasingLamely

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