Some casual, unstructured observations from today's FA Cup game between Mansfield Town and Middlesbrough, live on the BBC. I'll try and avoid addressing the usual Cup clichés, as that would, in turn, be an act of cliché in itself:
2 mins - Martin Keown, today's co-commentator, contends that the "swirling wind" will be a problem for the Midlesbrough defence. Therefore, watch out for a plucky Mansfield defender getting caught out by the swirling wind at some point.
5 mins - BBC coverage of a lower-league side hosting an FA Cup match is not complete without some young scamps (probably on the Beeb playroll for the afternoon) clambering up a tree outside the ground. This will, whatever its position, be described by the tradition-struck commentator as "the best seat in the house".
7 mins - David Wheater, apparently, has impressed this season. Why? The young, English, homegrown local lad has scored FOUR goals this season, making him the club's joint-top scorer. Oh, right. He can't manage to stop his side conceding to drag them away from the dropzone, but he has scored 4 goals. That's what he's in the side for, obviously.
This is typical. No defending can really catch the eye of any pundits, but a couple of goals will always be conspicuous for a defender. Furthermore, as soon as one media outlet describes him as "having an outstanding season", others will blindly follow.
My advice to any young defender would be to go up for a few corners. Get lucky at some set-pieces, and the media will be all over you.
17 mins - In a massive turn-up for the books, Mansfield's bright start has been followed by a straightforward Middlesbrough goal, caused by the Mansfield defence getting caught out by the swirling wind. The opener is "barely deserved", of course, because Mansfield have had a couple of corners at the other end.
25 mins - Robert Huth is booked for clearing the ball and following through on Michael Boulding's midriff. Cue horrified yelps from the commentators, convinced that a red card should have been issued. You wonder, if a Mansfield player had done the same, if the incident would have been dismissed as "clumsy". But no, Huth's foot "cut Michael Boulding in two".
47 mins - The second half begins with another bright start by Mansfield. A couple of corners brings about an "air of belief" at Field Mill.
60 mins - Mansfield embark on a "magnificent spell" of two corners and zero shots on goal.
73 mins - Martin Keown shares a joke with the commentator about the size of the latter's car. The nation can breathe a sigh of relief as it collectively ticks the box marked "Self-Deprecatory Joke between Commentators".
81 mins - Gareth Southgate demonstrates the modern skill common amongst aspirational, young English managers - standing up from the bench and clapping earnestly towards one or more of his players.
84 mins - A Mansfield defender commits an "understandable" foul, to go with the home side's "unfortunate" individual errors and under-hit set-pieces, which have been "a shame".
86 mins - Mansfield score an own-goal. "Cruel".
The Speculatrum ranges from the most solid rebuttal of media rumours (the upper red region) to the most flimsy wafting away of the mounting reports (yellow/green), before eventually reaching the stage where the candidate in question is reported to be "mulling over" an offer from the desperate club.
Ruled himself out - In theory at least, this is the most unequivocal response to media speculation. Gerard Houllier was among those who effectively ruled themselves out of the running for the Newcastle job.
Poured scorn on speculation - A delightful turn of phrase. The act of scorn-pouring can be performed not only by managers linked to a position, but also the chairmen of the clubs involved. Interestingly, Newcastle poured scorn on reports that Sam Allardyce only had six games to save his job.
Called for an end to speculation - A good indication that the manager in question is getting distinctly sick and tired of the media whispers regarding his future. Recently, Rafael Benitez desperately called for an end to speculation that he was to leave Liverpool. This, as with any other example of this request, will be universally ignored.
Scotched rumours - To scotch, the dictionary says, is to "bring an abrupt end to" something. Useful for nipping in the bud more unlikely rumours like, say, Kevin Keegan coming out of the managerial wilderness to rejoin Newcastle.
Quashed rumours - A similar act to scotching, although this one is apparently borrowed from media coverage of the legal system.
Dismissed reports - A club or organisation may take it upon themselves to further echo a manager's negative reaction to speculation by dismissing reports. The French FA were quick to dismiss reports that Houllier was bound for the St James' Park hotseat.
Rubbished reports - Clearly a more suitably casual rebuttal to more outlandish rumours. Such rumours will also be referred to as "utter nonsense" or "pure fantasy".
Quelled speculation - Reserved for more negative speculation. Clubs may need to quell fears that a player may miss the rest of the season with an injury.
Laughed off rumours - Rumours of audacious or cheeky bids can be easily laughed off in jovial press conferences.
"I have not spoken to anyone from Newcastle, I spoke to my chairman last night
and he has had no contact, and I don’t think there will be any contact.
Alternatively, managers may attempt to avoid talking directly about the vacancy by mumbling something about not wanting to comment on "hypothetical situations". Yep, Mark Hughes had a crack at this one, too...