Big Guns’ struggles put England’s point in context

So the first set of group games is done and dusted and there are few who would claim it has been scintillating thus far. After all the soul-searching that followed England’s draw with the USA, what has been most interesting to me has been the performances of the other leading nations.

Like England, Argentina squandered a host of chances in their 1-0 win over Nigeria (though as I write this, they are giving South Korea a lesson), Brazil could not break free of North Korea and conceded meekly in their 2-1 victory. Elsewhere, Portugal’s 0-0 with Ivory Coast was perhaps duller than watching Val Kilmer in ‘The Doors’ and as for Spain, well, pretty football is nothing without end product and their lack of respect for the Swiss was directly responsible for their defeat. The Italians plyed well only sporadically, the French were utterly awful and the Dutch did no more than was required – mind you, at least they looked a team that knew what to do.

Sure, the Germans gave the Aussies a hiding but our antipodean friends look pretty poor and the Germans have had six months more than the rest of us to practice with the new ball…. but that is another subject. Overall, though, the fancied countries were far more scared of losing than being desirous of victory.

And you can put England in that category. We didn’t really get out and chase a second goal when the first went in and ultimately paid the price for profligacy in front of goal and that keeping blunder. But we didn’t lose, have the group’s destiny in our hands and can play Algeria needing to win which would have been the expectation had we beaten the US 15-0.

And might I court controversy by saying that the draw will have done us a lot of good. Expectations are not sky high as a result. Fans are being that bit more realistic and the team know that 100% concentration and more aggression are required against every opposition.

I have never been less than certain that we will top our group and I have seen nothing to dissuade me of that notion. Nor have I seen any team that should scare us. All are vulnerable, all can be beaten and it leaves the tournament refreshingly open into the knockout stages.

And finally, my tip for a dark horse to go far and upset one of the major favourites – Chile.

• June 17th, 2010 • Posted in Football • Comments: 0

World Cup 2010 reports of few words – Uruguay v France

Yawn. Both sides desperate not to lose making this a monumentally dull game. Don’t think France managed a single shot on target. Diego Forlan was the only decent player on show. Terrible.

• June 11th, 2010 • Posted in Football • Comments: 0

World Cup 2010 reports of few words – South Africa v Mexico

Lively, open and entertaining. And sadly, these words will be used rarely in other reports. Cracking opening goal from South Africa and a deserved equaliser from Mexico. Neither team has realistic aspirations of progressing all that far and I think that manifested itself in the lack of fear on display. Mind you, neither team has anything to fear from France or Uruguay based on their turgid, soporofic match.

• June 11th, 2010 • Posted in Football • Comments: 0

I fear being eaten, says ref

I wrote a piece for the Daily Mash (the excellent satirical website, see the link to the right) which they chose not to publish so I thought I’d sneak it up here. It’s all in fun, all totally ficticious and not meant to cause offence etc etc, utterly harmless and I hope it makes you chortle a bit. It’s in response to this article.


Leading premiership referee, Steve Bennett says he risks his life every time he takes the field because players want to sink their teeth into his flesh when he makes a contentious decision.

‘It’s just a matter of time before a referee is consumed live on Sky Sports on a Sunday afternoon,’ he said. ‘Not something you want to see on a mouthful of roast chicken and parsnips is it?’

Bennett says managers encourage players to consider cannibalism to get a decision changed by leaping up and down on the touchline like in some hideous tribal pre-dinner dance.

‘You think it’s sponge and spray in the trainer’s bag do you? Well I’ve seen inside. And it’s napkins and cruet sets. Salt and bastard pepper. Tesco finest onion fucking relish.’

‘I used to think being manhandled by angry players was some kind of homosexual advance. But it’s not. They’re feeling out the best cuts. Fucking hell, I’ve seen them lick their lips and salivate.’

‘They’re sharpening knives in the dressing rooms. Ice buckets are for my vital organs. Help me. For the love of God, help me!’ he added.

Referees’ boss, Keith Hackett commented. ‘Bennett’s a streaky piece of piss. It’s the lardy bloaters that have to worry. And the incompetent tossers who deserve nothing more than a set of gnashers in the neck.

‘Lord knows there are enough of those. Fuck ‘em. It’s a jungle out there. Live with it.’

A television spokesman added. ‘A blood-crazed gang of highly paid premiership footballers stalking and bringing down a referee in an orgy of gore and intestines would be fantastic for ratings.’

• November 19th, 2008 • Posted in Football • Comments: 0

Has the penny dropped yet?

Sometimes you are left to wonder at the intelligence of football players, their clubs and their personal management. All right, often, you are left to wonder. No, sorry, you don’t wonder any more, you just know they are all just stupid. This story seals it for me.

So. Liverpool players get burgled when they are playing football. Eight so far. It seems that some fiendishly clever crooks have worked out that when players are playing football in the evening, quite often live on telly, they aren’t at home. Smart stuff.

Tragically, the players, staff and agents of Liverpool players appparently have not grasped that when players are playing football in the evening, quite often live on telly, their homes are vulnerable to fiendish crooks.

I know we only have eight examples and perhaps we should wait for the full first eleven but really, for pity’s sake, have they really no answer? Is it too hard to organise private security to be in and around the properties of absent players, when players are playing football in the evening, quite often live on telly?

Is it just me, or should even Rio Ferdinand get this? I know he didn’t understand having a wee at the training ground when told to but this is far, far simpler. And, on a serious note, for those Liverpool (and Man Utd or anyone come to that) players not yet victims, what about the wives and families in your houses? Keep them safe. You can afford it, really you can.

Jeez, must we lead them by the nose to everything except the trough of money?

• November 7th, 2008 • Posted in Football • Comments: 0

See? It wasn’t our fault, that Argie’s to blame

This ruling by the FA’s arbitration idiots allows anyone to blame anyone else for their short comings.

Let’s get away from all the bluster about Carlos Tevez’s transfer to West Ham a couple of seasons ago, its legality etc and look at what the judgement means. It means that Sheffield United can claim £30 million on the back of assumption and conjecture. Worse still, they have been allowed to blame their mulitple failings in their Premier League season on someone else.

To say that Carlos Tevez is the sole reason they got relegated is to view the rest of the season as some sort of fantasy land where results didn’t matter. Sheffield United had 38 games in which to score enough points to stay up. They did not. Never mind what other teams didor did not do. They were not good enough to stay up.

Sure, West Ham staged a remarkable recovery but can it be proved beyond any doubt that this would not have happend without Tevez? Of course it can’t. It’s a kind of retrospective crystal ball gazing and does football no credit whatever. The fact is that the FA should have punished West Ham more severely during the season. They chose not to. Yes West Ham broke the rules and have already paid. Everything else is irrelevant and cannot be proved.

What next, a relegated club taking another side to court because they claim an injury to a player was instrumental in their downfall? Because fouling a player is against the riles too, is it not?

I am now considering launching an appeal against Ipswich Town’s last relegation. I shall conveniently ignore the fact that we were bloody useless for half the season and examine footage until I discover an erroneous decision that might have prevented a goal that would therefore have changed a result and made someone lose and someone else win and so muck up someone’s mental attitude so they lost their next match and so didn’t get enough points and so we should have finished 17th. See?


• September 24th, 2008 • Posted in Football • Comments: 0

Come on now, be honest

The dear old Beeb are doing their best. They’re trying desperately to gather interest in Euro 2008 with their ‘Who will you support?’ campaign. And last Friday there was chatter on Five Live with various people saying things like… ‘Actually, it’ll be nice. No pressure, no heartache. I’m really looking forward to it. We can just watch a football tournament as neutrals and fans of the sport.’

What utter, utter bollocks.

Never mind that failure to qualify meant England could get shot of Maclaren, the fact is, as the tournament looms ever larger, the reality is starting to bite. We will not be there. Couldn’t care less about the other home nations these days by the way. England aren’t there and that renders the tournament dull and uninteresting. And there is no true England fan who would dispute that. I went to the World Cup Japan in 2002, to Euro 2004 in Portugal. And I’m upgrading to englandfans+ so I can go travelling again. All in the knowledge that abject failure is staring me in the face as it so often has…

Of course we wouldn’t have won Euro 2008. Of course we’d have suffered penalty heartbreak. Of course we’d all have been put through the wringer as we got out of our group by the absolute skin of our teeth. This is what supporting England football is all about. And people are trying to say they won’t miss it? Bull shit. I love that gut-wrenching agony. The nerves as kick off comes round and the spectre of depression looms just 90 minutes away. There’s even a perverse part of me that enjoys the empty feeling after the inevitable quarter final elimination. The kindred spirits you see all about you with the long faces. The sad looking flags fluttering dispiritedly from the backs of cars from those who will not be bowed by defeat.

Who would not rather have all that to face than Lineker failing to get excited about Russia and Croatia playing teams we should have faced. Yes, we’d almost certainly under-achieve and darkness would grip the nation for a few days but always, always if you’re in the tournament, there is a chance. And one day, my friends, one day…

• June 2nd, 2008 • Posted in Football • Comments: 0

Avram Grant – victim of a bit of mud

So the ludicrous nature of football mangement comes to this. Avram Grant was sacked because John Terry slipped on a muddy piece of turf by a penalty spot. Let’s not hide from this truth. Because had Chelsea won the Champs League, Abramovich, running the Thai bloke a close second in daftness, would not have been able to sack him.

And one of the most depressing about this sorry affair is that all the pundits I heard kept on saying. ‘well, it was inevitable’, shrugged their shoulders and started speculating about whether Ronaldo would go ro Real or not. Not a one mentioned that Grant’s sacking is an absolute outrage with no basis in footballing terms whatever. Chelsea feel they have a divine right to win a trophy every season. They do not. What Grant did in his nine months in charge was take a team that was not his, get them to one domestic final, to the final day in the premiership with hope of winning it and to the final of the Champions League (something ego Jose failed to do), the blue riband event of European club football. This is a fantastic achievement and a more solid platform from which to win multiple trophies next season is difficult to build.

Yet he was sacked because of some mud. I note Arsenal won nothing this season. Wisely, they did not sack Wenger. And back in the days of Fergie’s early tenure at Man Utd, they stuck with him when to sack him would not have been wholly unreasonable. It doesn’t take a footballing genius, nor a statistician to work it out. Keep faith with a boss who is doing a good job and building for success and you will achieve success. Rocket science it ain’t.

Sorry, Chelsea fans, but I hope your club has a dreadful, underperforming season next time round, I really do. Man Utd will be better than you. So will Arsenal and I hope both Liverpool and Everton nudge you aside too. How do you fancy the UEFA Cup in 2009/10? Perhaps you’ll have to sweat on entry via the fair play league. So, no chance then.

• May 27th, 2008 • Posted in Football • Comments: 0

End the penalties nightmare

The Champions League Final was a proper football match. Two teams trying to win, not trying to avoid defeat. It was nerveless English league football at its best. Ebb and flow, chances, petulant players, whining managers and some fabulous skill on display. But never mind that. Like so many big finals, this one had to be settled on penalties, reducing a team game to a one-on-one lottery. I find it unacceptable.

Yes, I know it’s dramatic and all that but it isn’t football. There are no team tactics, and the only skill is in hitting a ball from 12 yards and hoping your standing foot doesn’t slide. Because in the end, this final was settled by a patch of mud beneath the boot of John Terry during an artificial ending to an exhilarating match. Shouldn’t be this way, if you ask me. John Terry was disconsolate, clearly blaming himself for losing the match. Wrongly. He had a great game but he is now forced to carry the can for events beyond the final whistle.

So what should we do? Well, fundamentally, the game needs to go on until someone scores. But of course, there has to be a conclusion in a reasonable time. So, some artificiality is necessary but it must retain the team ethic and skill of player and manager. Tactics should be evident right until the end. Now this is not a new idea, but at the start of extra time, each team should be reduced to ten men (red cards not withstanding). Every ten minutes, a further player is withdrawn. The decisions on who is withdrawn will win the match for one side or another. They are not arbitrary and they do not leave one man carrying the can for a spot kick failure. Football is played until the game is decided by that single golden goal.

I think what’s key to this is that at the outset, every player knows that the game will be settled during play, not by a fairground sideshow. So there is no ‘playing for penalties’. This forces endeavour during extra time. Results will come quickly. Defending will win you nothing.

So, debate away… what are the strengths and flaws of this? Can it work?

• May 22nd, 2008 • Posted in Football • Comments: 2

Thai bloke wants to sell his squad. His WHOLE squad.

Read this, laugh and then spare a thought for City fans

If true there can only be one conclusion, which is that the Thai bloke is a complete twat.

• May 16th, 2008 • Posted in Football • Comments: 0