Tuesday, January 24, 2006

FA At The Crossroads.

So Sven has finally fallen on his sword (ish). I think it's obvious to all that were we not so close to a major competition he would have been pictured in an armlock with a security guard helping him find a cab home from Soho Square. I feel sorry for Sven; well, as much as you can feel sorry for someone with that much money (plus a £3m pay-off).
I feel sorry for him for our press and for his bungling foolish bosses at the FA. Once again, the two have conspired to rid us of another coach, perhaps in the vain hope that they can get Terry Venables back in the job. Salt of the earf innee, just wot we need. Proper English innee. Rubbish, we've just lost the best man for the job. The (basically) racist people who think that England should only be managed by an Englishman have neglected to realise that all the names in the frame HAVEN'T WON ANYTHING. Sven has had an exemplary record as a coach, the Northerm Ireland result notwithstanding. John Sadler said in The Sun that Sven owes it to us to win the World Cup now. What a load of piss. If we do win the World Cup, it would show what a stupid decision it was to offload a guy for being a bit foolish. So the guy's head gets turned by money and birds. Sounds like most blokes i know.

Let's look at the options.

Steve McLaren.
Oh dear, how he must be cursing his luck; just as his dream job comes up, Sven comes to see him lose 7-0 at Arsenal. (Though why was he there? Not too many England hopefuls there, unless he was keen to check Ray Parlour's rehabilitation. Surely Sven should have been at Liverpool v Spurs? Sack him!! oh....)
Anyway, back to McLaren; put simply, he buys decent players and turns them into crap ones. That trusted blend of youth and mercenary has seen his shoddy team slide inexorably towards the Championship. I'd like to see them go down, just in case any fools still think he's the man for the job. And watching Middlesbrough is painful. Still, it'd be good to see his coach Steve Harrison back in the England fold. I doubt the press have forgotten his plastic-cup stunt that went down so well (literally) in his previous tenure as England coach.
But McLaren has mates within the FA, so don't be surprised if it does happen...

Stuart Pearce.
Please, please not yet. Stuart Pearce has the potential to do a fantastic job as England manager one day. Let him learn his trade before we all go frothing off about Psycho this and Bulldog Spirit that. It's Manchester City he's managing. They have a habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, as any Citeh fan will tell you. If 5 years of the City job doesn't kill him, he'll be alright as
England boss. In fact, i table a motion that all England managers must complete 5 years at Man City, just so they discover every high and low of management.

Alan Curbishley
No thanks; if he was manager, we'd be fine for the first four of five games of a qualifying campaign, then slide into a dogfight for a play-off place (and there are no play-offs in the Euro 2008 qualifiers). I just don't think he's that good. Charlton are just ok. When your team play Charlton, are you genuinely worried? Would Italy, Brazil, Portugal and Spain be? Not a step forward.

Sam Allardyce.
Probably the best option of all English contenders. He's paid his dues, rattling tins on the streets of Limerick when he was boss there, just to keep the club going. He's got a good modern approach; and i don't think he'd be afraid to put in players like Kevin Nolan and Scott Parker, rather than kowtowing to the press over the team selection. But hasn't been in a situation yet where he's going for a trophy. If he was to get European Champions League experience and win the UEFA Cup maybe, then we'd have to look very seriously at him. Still don't like the bloke though.....

But why not another foreigner? There are plenty that are on offer; Ottmar Hitzfeld hasn't had a job since leaving Bayern Munich. He has the credentials, though the thought of a German in charge would be too much to stomach for the Billy Britain brigade, so let's discount him at this stage. Fabio Capello would be excellent. A born winner, superior knowledge of the World game, strong character, more than able to handle the inflated egos that pull on an England shirt these days. Guus Hiidink would be a good choice too, but he'd have to leave his club post as i don't think you can combine the two. I know he is doing so at present with Australia, but it's a ready made excuse if results start to falter; 'where do you're priorities lie?' Two other good young coaches are out there in Ralf Rangnick at Schalke (like Pearce, bit too soon for him too) and Paul Le Guen (though it seems he'll take up a big European post next). A good outside bet would be Luis Felipe Scolari. Big Phil would shake it up on the back pages, and has a cracking pedigree of playing good football.

The obvious and best choice is Arsene Wenger. They'd cut their throats to get him at the FA. But he won't go for the following reasons;
1. He would be incredibly bored at national level. He needs the daily fix that only club management can give.
2. He never leaves contracts. His Arsenal one runs out in 2008.
3. Why work for someone who has repeatedly stitched you up in the past for pathetic misdemeanours?
4. He sees first hand how the press in this country works. Who can forget his introduction to this country in 1996? He'd not been in the Arsenal job for 5 minutes and was forced to defend his name against bullshit rumours. That he did so so skilfully won't have been lost on the press and the FA, but i feel this man forgives but doesn't forget.

Fuck it, give em what they want. Get Venables back in. First headline 'Barmby and Anderton in line for England recall' .....We've got the basis of a squad that can challenge for the next three major tournaments. Let's sit back and watch the FA balls it up. Cheers.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

181 Days To Go.....

Anyone see that magician at the opening ceremony? Jesus....All these cermonies are the same aren't they? Waving, petrified children, shit jugglers (they're rubbish i mean, not that they skilfully keep three turds in the air), fire-eaters and embarrassed ex-footballers. Bizarre......

The excitement begins. Last night's draw in Leipzig threw up some potentially cracking ties for the first round. I've not had a good look at how England could progress should they negotiate Paraguay, Sweden and Trinidad & Tobago, but i'm sure i'll be commenting on that soon, once i've filled in my wallchart that is....

What is painfully predictable though, is television shots of morons in pubs baying at a 80 inch screen, sloshing 3 quid pints over everyone; having successfully convinced themselves that 'we're gonner winnit'. Although i'm probably being 'unpatriotic' saying that aren't i? Balls; i'm a realist. We've got a good team, good coach (i like Sven....sorry). But you need to be very good to win this. It's all a question of how we click on the day. God i hope so, y'know? But explosive montages set to a Rage Against The Machine track on Sky Sports is not going to convince me we're an amazing team. We have a chance; no more, no less.

There are a few better teams out there than England; and anyway, Paraguay are an unknown quantity to most of us; by no means the best in South America, but definitely not the worst team there. The old adage goes that South American teams aren't too hot in European tournaments, but that's a flawed argument now, as pretty much 80% of the squads comprise players who play club football in Europe.
We know all about Sweden of course, but still seem unable to beat them. Whichever pairing Sven goes with at the back (Terry and Campbell,(or Carragher if he's not fit)?), they'll have their hands full with Larsson and Ibrahimovic. Again, i'm not going to dismiss Trinidad & Tobago out of hand cos i know very little about them, but i can't imagine them rolling over having battled for 20 games (more than any other country) to get there.
A little word about the other games that have caught my eye. Brazil v Japan will see Zico managing a country against his homeland, and the same group throws up Brazil v Australia, so let's see if playing against the best team in the world can rouse Harry Kewell into giving a damp shit about playing out of his skin.
If there is a 'group of death' (bit harsh, that) then it's Group C. But balls to it, i cannot wait to see Argentina take on Holland and my dark horses Ivory Coast. Serbia and Montenegro will be a tough nut to crack, particularly if Mateja Kezman hits good form come June.
I've been looking at the venues for England's games. I've got to say all the stadia look fantastic for next year, not least the Allianz Arena, which is just a marvel of modern architechture.

First up is Paraguay on 10th June. Taking place in the Walstadion, home of Eintracht Frankfurt and holding 48,132 fans, it was the venue for the Confederations Cup game between Brazil and Argentina last summer. It looks to be a good tight stadium, with sharp corners; and judging by the atmosphere created by England fans at both the last European Championships and more recently in Geneva, should be a treat. The stadiums where England are playing in look very 'English', maybe with the exception of the Frankenstadion in Nuremburg, where we play Trinidad & Tobago on June 15th. That's more of a modern 'bowl'shape, where Walstadion and the Rhine Energy Stadium in Cologne (or Koln, where we face Sweden) are four-sided, compact and close to the pitch.

I'll devote a separate post to other countries chances and of course England, and my thoughts, hopes and fears for the squad, but there's plenty of time for all that But for now it's just exciting to know the who, when and where.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Top Strips.

With the World Cup coming on like a seventh sense, i'd like to indulge myself and open up the floor to talk about kits. I love football kits. Seeing my teams new kit still excites me like a kid. Here's a 16-strong squad of my favourites. Unfortunately, i haven't sussed how to post pics properly yet, but i will...Please feel free to disagree, or posts favourites of your own:

Argentina WC78
Brazil 1982 WC
Arsenal 71home or away.
Peru WC78
Boca Juniors 60s
Barcelona 83
Roma 60s
Sampdoria early 90s
Fluminense 70s
England 1982
Dinamo Moscow 60s
Crystal Palace 1980
Italy 1982
Udinese 2006
Brescia (white)
Liverpool away 1978

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Good The Bad And The Weird.

Tonight i've seen three football stories that will dominate over the next few days; in one instance a lot longer. And that is where i'll start......Manchester United are out of European football until next season. I'm going to type that again.
Manchester United are out of European football until next season.
That felt good.
But, y'know, i'm gonna try and keep a lid on my utter joy at that, and try and look at the reasons why. I'm sure the press in the UK will have the 'cracked badge' ready for tomorrow's back pages, but is this really cause for genuine alarm for Manchester United fans? A deeper malaise setting in at Theatre Of 'Dreams' (while we're on that phrase; who the fuck thought that up? And when did it become an accepted term for Old Trafford? It's all-too-common usage makes me bring up a bit of sick in my mouth. Theatre Of Dreams...pffff. Still, it sounds incredibly hollow tonight doesn't it)?
For my money, Ferguson (i will refuse to call him Sir, so don't anyone dare pick me up on that), has never replaced the fantastic crop of youngsters honed by Eric Harrison in the early 90's, when they reached a plateau about three years ago. Giggs by his own admission in his book hasn't run flat out due to injuries for ages, Scholes is half the player he was; funnily enough, his form seemed to nosedive once he'd quit playing for England. And i have never seen a worse tackler....and they've not replaced Beckham (Ronaldo is not in the same class. Yes, i'm a Beckham fan) and they will struggle to do likewise with Keane. For a combination of reasons; players as good as that are incredibly hard to replace, and if they were out there, they are off to Real, Juve, Barca, Milan and now Chelsea instead. See Michael Ballack, Arjen Robben, Robinho etc.

The team that won the title in 2003 hit a run that was buoyed by Arsenal's capitulation, but fair play, they deserved the title that season.

But there were murmurings even then, and considering the 55million GBP outlay on Ferdinand and Rooney (both outstanding players, though i still have misgivings about Rio occasionally for both club and country; he's fine with a leader next to him, but not as a leader.), you'd expect the self-anointed 'Biggest Club In't World' to have more than an FA Cup to show for it since then.

Ronaldo is a decent prospect, and has 'settled in well at United'. By which i mean he has become instantly punchable. They seem to have the most dislikeable players, from Barry Neville through to van Nistelrooy. Alan Smith, badge-kisser extraordinaire, Keane et al.

In a nutshell, they are an average team of good players. And for that, blame must lay at Ferguson's door. But the problem is that an ego like Ferguson's won't know when to call it a day. I don't think that Malcolm Glazer will have any problem telling him.
Another story that came to a head today was the Crystal Palace chairman, Simon Jordan, being slapped on the arse (guilty of 'improper conduct'? Improper Conduct? Sven got a pay-rise for that....) by the FA. Now i like Jordan, his dodgy shades notwithstanding. Anyone unfamiliar with his views should check out The Observer on a Sunday. The man talks a lot of sense about the modern game. A rarity amongst chairmen. The FA have attempted to gag him by suspending his fine of ten grand for 12 months.
Jordan's 'crime'? Slagging off refs. Since cloth-capped men pissed in the pocket of the bloke in front at football, refs have been slagged off. Because they make terrible decisions. Simple as that. Granted, they are getting better, but still, to fine someone for saying it is ludicrous, but is no surprise from the FA, surely the most inept body of men possible. "No dissention in the ranks there. Shut up, stop noticing we are rubbish. If we discourage people from saying it on Match of The Day, the man in the street will think we're doing a good job".
Well we don't; you're shit and you know you are.
And while we're at it, why do refs get retired at 47? Nowadays, a 47 year old bloke can run, skip jump, juggle etc. I appreciate that in 1962 47 year old men were virtually in a home for the visibly distressed, but why not run a series of tests (yes, including an eye test), to see whether they are fit to run a Premiership game for another season? They are appraised these days to the nth degree, so why not carry that on? Just as Paul Durkin became a good ref, having learned over a few shocking years in the Premiership, he had to retire. It's 45 in Italy! You'd think with their vastly superior diet that Collina would've been allowed to bring us all joy for a few more years, not hawking fucking Vauxhalls on TV.
The third story tonight is Harry Redknapp going back to Portsmouth. This is becoming a bad film. It's like Roy of The Rovers directed by Michael Bay. Yes, let's make it a film. Casting suggestions anyone? Good luck to Harry, he'll not be able to pronounce half of the players he's inherited, Dario Silva will be called 'Long John' or 'The Lad Darius'. And i'll have a fiver of anyone's money that Quashie follows him back there. I hope he keeps them up; just for the fact that i loved Roy Of The Rovers as a boy, and this has that kind of ending all ready and waiting. Michael Bay is shit though, isn't he?

Just an opening line to start you off. I'm new to all this blogging nonsense. As most blokes do, i only did it because my mates do it.
Anyway, this blog is about football. Hopelessly addicted to it i am. Have been for nearly thirty years. It'll become apparent who i support i think, but i'll not give it away just yet. While my support lies with one great club and i do harbour a good deal of hatred for certain clubs; i do try hard (and sometimes it is very difficult) to give credit where it is due.
I'm interested in hearing from people around the world about the game; mainly because there's a proportion of people in my home country of England who's view is tainted by the spurious bullshit that is spewed out on the back pages of the national press here. This, you'll come to realise, is a big deal to me; men (and occasionally women) paid handsomely to do a job that many knock a tooth out on the corner of a desk for, but instead think that sensationalist lies is what we all want to read. Er, no we don't.

So anyway. I'll start with Michael Essien. I'll not go into the ins and outs of his 'tackle' last night on Didi Hamann, if you've not seen it, seek it out. My main problem is that he didn't apologise to Hamann. He is a classless man, and those who follow the Premiership will know that this is not his first offence, nor the first time a Chelsea player has 'done' a Liverpool player. Golden Bollocks Frank Lampard got away with his assault on Xabi Alonso last year too. Chelsea do not seem to know how to play the game as Men. I capitalise the word, because there aren't too many Men in the game any more. Who carry themselves with any degree of style, grace and class.
I'm not a person who harks for 'The Good Old Days'. But there seems to be less and less likeable characters in the game anymore. and those that are (Peter Crouch anyone?) are pilloried. and no; i'm not a Liverpool fan.

Anyway, i could go on all day. But that's where you all come in....i look forward to hearing from you. Please don't confine topics to major Premiership stories, though they aren't off limits of course. I'm just as happy to talk about Newell's Old Boys, Accrington Stanley's back four (unless they play three at the back?) or anyone at all.