All 9 entries tagged England

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February 07, 2010

Does this really help?

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As I write this piece, we are at the end of the first month of this World Cup year and the build up is slowly starting to crank up. By June, it will be at fever pitch. After all, within a month or so, we will be starting to get our free wall charts and some retro football stickers complete with a glossy brochure of the ‘players to watch’ during the tournament.

October 23, 2009

So What Is So Wrong With Rio Ferdinand

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Does football need Rio Ferdinand? For some fans, I sense that they would not be particularly concerned if he shuffled off the international stage and Old Trafford down the lower leagues, to Notts County and finish his career with a little bit of ITV punditry. I had never realised that Rio Ferdinand could provoke the same level of passionate hatred that I had always believed was exclusively reserved for a certain set of players including Frank Lampard. 

October 15, 2009

Football Via The Click Of Your Mouse

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A couple of nicely direct questions to kick off. Were you one of the fans that were glued in front of your computer screen on Friday night to catch the England Under 21s versus the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Under 21s via Chelsea TV? Did you decide that you’d had enough of Strictly or the X Factor on Saturday night and paid the £11:99 for the privilege of Ukraine v England via Kentaro?  

September 17, 2009

We Are Off To South Africa!

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Two days had passed since that Wednesday night at Wembley, and as we trudged up the stairs to start another day at work, a colleague turned to me and wondered what I thought about England’s recent victory against Croatia? There have been many occasions during my lifetime when that question would have provoked an emotional rant about what went wrong with the team, and why I believed that England were an embarrassment to world football as well as the nation. I would finish my screams with the wish that I was born in Brazil, so would be assured that my team would get to the World Cup and be a serious bet to win the tournament.

August 17, 2009

What Do We Want From England?

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A couple of years ago, I was watching a pretty boring England friendly, and, I decided to text a friend who is a devout England fan, to commune together about the misery that was being played out in front of us. The response was short and blunt. He had given up on watching any England friendly, and dismissed these games as money making exercises for the FA, with little relevance to the national team.

August 01, 2009

Farewell Sir Bobby

Farewell Sir Bobby!

In a weird way, it was not that unexpected. The papers had a picture of Sir Bobby at a charity match last weekend, and the great man looked very frail. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, his eyes still had the determination and the resolve that characterised so much of his football career.

It was an emotional sight but there was a strong sense of respect. Being an Ipswich Town fan, I know all about the legacy that Sir Bobby left to this club. It is just a shame that I was born in 1980 and can not remember those glory days of the seventies and early eighties. It was a startling achievement to take this club to FA Cup and UEFA Cup glory in 1978 and 1981, as well as preside over Ipswich’s domination of the leagues nearly thirty years ago.

There is a large statue on

Portman Road that sits opposite the Cobbold Stand. Sir Bobby has been sculptured in a questioning finger-pointing pose, and the face is etched in excitement as if he is enjoying the action on the pitch. It is a fantastic piece of artwork and became a focal point for people’s remembrance in Suffolk, as the sad news was released.

Before the recent pre--season game against Real Valladolid, I stood at the statue whilst the local TV stations did their broadcasts, young Town fans carefully draping their shirts around the statue base, and older fans quietly remembered those games that defined this proud family club, when Robson strode the touch line and coaxed the best out of legends including John Wark, Kevin Beattie, Paul Mariner and Arnold Muhren.

There was a sense of careful order amongst the grief. The one minute silence was impeccably observed. The only sound was a seagull flying across the pitch and wondering what was going on beside the wide patch of grass. The rigging of the half-mast flags was gently tingling above the Cobbold Stand. There was a sense of emotion but an appreciation and a respect for a football gentleman that defined four decades of the national game.

Sir Bobby seemed to straddle football clubs in the UK and across the world, and I do not believe that it was merely due to his position as England football manager from 1982 to 1990. The semi final against West Germany during the 1990 World Cup was the first national game that deeply entered my consciousness.

It is not hard to watch videotape footage of that dramatic game, and to watch the missed England penalties flying into the sky. It is also not hard to respect the measured attitude of Sir Bobby, who seemed to display an impressively calm demeanour and an offer of a comforting arm around his players, even if he was a raging volcano of emotion. He also seemed to adopt a shockingly measured approach in the 1986 World Cup, despite Maradona having scored a questionable goal in that searing heat of Mexico.

When you caught a sight of Sir Bobby, you knew that you could hear the words of a genuine football man who had a passion about the game. Instead of the rent-a-quote panellists that have grown like algae through the studios and the message boards, Sir Bobby always had something worthwhile to say coupled with a few memorable quotes that would liven up the dullest of matches.

The word ‘legend’ is overused in football. A player can become a ‘legend’ on the execution of one pass or a particular save. A manager can become a ‘legend’ after guiding his team to one fluky victory against the arch rivals. We can have a ‘legendary’ burger outside the ground when we build up to our match day experience.

We struggle to understand who is a legend and who is not, and we only begin to realise our heroes when they have to leave the pitch for the final time. Rest assured, we lost a legend in English and European football as the 2009-2010 season is about to spring into action, but we will never forget him.

June 10, 2009

I Predict– Fixture Congestion

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Life is certainly busy in the newspapers in June 2009, whether at Westminster or in the Britain’s Got Talent studio, but fast forward yourself to June 2010. There is a chance that your mind will (hopefully) be focused on the England team and the World Cup. Memories of World Cup qualifiers will (hopefully) be a distant memory, and England will (hopefully) play well and (hopefully) survive further than a quarter final penalty shootout.

May 28, 2009

Michael Owen: The End of an Era?

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THERE were only three times during the recent Villa versus Newcastle game, when I realised that Michael Owen had actually travelled to the West Midlands for the day. During a game that was mostly a blur in the late May sunshine, the TV camera panned to a morose-looking Owen on the steps of the dugout. After another period of ineffectual Newcastle pressure, I caught Michael Owen doing a gentle jog and star jump routine on the touchline. Then I saw Owen doing a high five with Kevin Nolan before jogging onto the pitch.

June 08, 2008

England and Euro 2008

It’s like nothing has changed

It is three days into the Euro 2008 championships, and I am in a parallel universe. I have managed to forget about Big Brother but I have been less successful in forgetting about the lack an international team in Austria and Switzerland. You know who I mean! The side plays their matches at Wembley stadium, wear a white shirt emblazoned with three lions, and once won a trophy when my parents were in their teenage years.

In a weird way it is quite relaxing that there is no home interest in the tournament. I did not realise how good I look in a Spanish football shirt (!) and I have not had to build myself up into an emotional frenzy that crashes within the first seconds of an England game after the first tepid back pass to goal. I do not have to treat ‘news from the England camp’ with the same importance as one of those alarming adverts of the 1970s that told you to hide under a bridge during nuclear fallout. .

This year, I do not need to believe that this will be ‘England’s year’ after what I believe is a convincing win against a difficult opposition ends in the following match with a heartbreaking penalty shootout. I do not need to waste the next two days on Internet forums discussing why England cannot take penalties. I believe that England in an international football tournament has become as predictable as an Eastenders plot line.

Despite my relaxation, I was obviously disappointed that England did not qualify, but I did not believe that hell had frozen over because my national team had failed to qualify for a tournament that is arguably more difficult then a World Cup. I believed that it was a case of short term pain for long gain. For at least the last decade, or probably longer, England had been bereft of ideas and had been living on past glories of Euro 96, which some observers still believe that England won in all but name.


With the lack of home interest, I optimistically hoped that Gerrard, Terry, Lampard, Rooney and the rest would be locked into barren rooms that played constant Euro 2008 coverage, to help them understand their failure to qualify for a tournament. I did not want to see Theo Walcott on All Star Mr and Mrs, Peter Crouch frolicking around a beach without a care in the world and Wayne Rooney’s stag night.

I wanted Steve McClaren to have spent the months since that Croatia game considering how he had effectively failed to lead his team to Austria and Switzerland. I did not want to see a ‘media’ campaign that was about as reflective in tone as stagnant water, which announced that McClaren was back and ready for job offers. The whole sorry episode reminded me of Del Boy trying to sell a battered Robin Reliant.

My therapy after last November’s Croatia game was helped by the appointment of Fabio Capello. I optimistically believed that the new manager would bring some fresh ideas to the table. I even believed that England could actually play in a formation that was not 4-4-2 and that young players could get a chance to shine in preparation for the World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign. I believed that I could sit down and enjoy Euro 2008, with the thought that everything was ticking along nicely at home, and I could enjoy an England campaign in 2010 that would not collapse into acrimony at the quarter final stage.

The warning signs were there when Beckham played in an England friendly within Paris at the end of March. I was pleased to see Beckham get his sort-after cap and I applauded his contribution to club and country over the last decade or so. I was surprised to see Beckham return for the further friendly matches and concerned to see that ‘Becks’ had re-established himself to the right of the midfield. I do not doubt his ability as a dead ball specialist, but does England have no emerging right wing talent that could be at the peak of their powers for World Cup 2010.

I can not help but feel that an opportunity has already been lost in failing to try out some young talent in the England ranks. Trying out means not just calling up young turks like Joe Hart and Gabby Agbonlahor for a training session. Trying out does not mean an 89th minute cameo like a Britain’s Got Talent act but giving at least 45 minutes of action for these young and enthusiastic players. Remember the revelation in World Cup 2006 matches, when we discovered that Aaron Lennon was able to run at defences?

I now read that Steven Gerrard is now being primed for the left wing side of the midfield. This move smacks of desperation on the same level as Coca Cola’s attempts in 1985 to convince a sceptical public about the taste of ‘New Coke.’ Why change a winning formula? Find me a Liverpool fan who can earnestly tell me that Gerrard can perform at his best on the left wing, and I will run naked up

Wembley Way.

I can offer some more concerns about England’s game, but I think that these are old concerns, and the will starts draining from you when the same issues return again and again. I guess that the jury is out until the World Cup qualifying games. I also have to wonder whether I would have been so pessimistic if England had been in Austria and Switzerland this summer.

I can be assured that Euro 2008 has to be a sobering experience for everyone connected with the England national team from the fans through to the FA hierarchy. The lack of action in June 2008 does not just means some breathing space for the football suits to work out how to get the World Cup to England in 2018.

It is probable till 29th June that none of us can forget about the fact that England are not at the tournament. We can try and support a random foreign team, and I am following Spain because I believe that their football should be of the style that should be adopted by England. We have to hope the lessons of Euro 2008 will be learnt and this great footballing nation will come back stronger in 2010. After all, missing out on one tournament can be regarded as unfortunate; two will be seen as a crisis.

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