Monday, June 28, 2010

28 June 2010: Autopsy

What I said before.

And the strange thing is the reaction of many in the media. The end of the Golden Generation is one common theme (along with the seeming dearth of English footballers coming through) and the other is that the Premier League is to blame: no winter break, no requirement for a certain percentage of home-grown players etc etc. Among the more ridiculous suggestions is the notion that Germany beat England because the German game is more measured and collected, compared to the England game of 100 miles per hour action. So that'll be why English clubs struggle so much in European club competitions then, is it? The problem isn't the way the game is played - the problem seems to be somehow smaller and localized in this squad and this coach.

I say that because prior to this World Cup, England were actually doing pretty well. One of the best qualifying campaigns in a long time - never any question of failing to make it. Beat Croatia home and away, and frankly they're probably better than Germany right now. What happened to that qualifying team? Not sure, but while some of the blame can be put down to player fatigue, it seems there's some bad feeling in the camp, factioning of players and an underlying mistrust between the coach and the squad. It's not the end of the world, and these players didn't become dreadful overnight. It's just Euro 2000 again, that's all. The investigations that should take place need to be ones into the preparation, the handling of the squad in South Africa and the fairly obvious feelings of resentment and frustration within the squad. Specifically, they need to talk to the players one by one, anonymously if necessary, and get their side of the story.

If the problems that were hinted at by James, Terry et al during the competition are even halfway true, then Capello also has to go, and go soon.

As for the end of the Golden Generation, well - I see no reason why Gerrard shouldn't be central to Euro 2012, and looking beyond that there's no reason to assume Rooney will not pick his form back up, especially as he's still only 24. Lampard did little enough that he won't be missed, Joe Cole's time is probably past - shame for him, as he was possibly the most talented of his generation, yet he was overlooked too often - and at the back, Rio and Terry may or may not still be around next time. Someone with a little more pace might be handy though. Crouch also may have his days numbered now, leaving him with the best scoring record of any England player ever in terms of matches started: 17 goals in 18 starts.

But then I think back to the qualifying campaign and the away win over Croatia, probably Capello's high-point as England manager. But that day it was Theo Walcott with the hat-trick, and he hasn't been quite back to par since his injury this year. However, all talk is of whether he or Lennon is to be the Pointless Winger in the future England line-up. To me, the response to that has to be 'derrrrrrrr' since Walcott's best position, by a country mile, is as a striker. Remember that Thierry Henry used to play on the wing until they discovered he could score. Ian Wright as another example. Garry Nelson, if you want an Argyle perspective. I'm looking for Wenger to start being a little more creative with Theo and then we'll see what he's capable of. We know he can score goals.

One more thing. When the fourth goal went in, Capello responded immediately by hauling off Defoe and bringing on Heskey. Anyone who does that should be told he has to resign immediately. What did he expect Heskey to do? Lard them to death or something? When David Cameron gets back from swimming in Canada or whatever it was he was doing, he should immediately introduce legislation to ban Heskey from ever playing for England again. Or maybe just ban Heskey from ever playing again. Or maybe just ban Heskey.

"Emile Heskey's somewhat dubious England career of two goals in seven hundred games came to a rapid conclusion when the British government made it a criminal offence to be Emile Heskey. As a result, Heskey was forced to grow a large beard and he lived out the rest of his life as a recluse hermit in Basingstoke."

Sounds like a plan to me.

Friday, June 25, 2010

25 June 2010: Reid

As Becky points out, managerless relegated Plymouth Argyle have appointed a manager.

Peter Reid, mentioned briefly in this blog a week or so ago, has been brought in. Unlike in 1986, he isn't coming in to play midfield general as a replacement for Bryan Robson, but instead is coming in as only-person-who-didn't-say-no to work alongside 1982 England World Cup star (well, 'player' rather than 'star' I suppose) Paul Mariner and assistant John Carver. Presumably he's happy to work alongside a team already in place?

Reaction from the fans is generally positive - Reid has had success with Sunderland, after all - although his recent history hasn't been so good. (Hint: last time we appointed a manager with that kind of record it didn't work out - his name was Paul Sturrock). Generally, of course, the appointment has been overshadowed by the World Cup, especially with France and Italy going out and one of USA, South Korea, Ghana and Uruguay guaranteed to be in the semis (against Brazil, you'd imagine)... but maybe that's what Argyle need.

Meantime fixtures were released and Argyle's first game of the new League One campaign is against... Saints! Argh! I hate that game - never know who to cheer for, especially when the tackles are flying in. And naturally, being such a high profile game, it's going to be shown live on Sky.

No, seriously, it is.

Saturday August 7th, 12.15pm kick-off at St Mary's. Wonder if ESPN3 will pick it up over here?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

23 June 2010: Brackets

So as the final whistle went on one television, a goal went in on the other.

We had a room of US fans along with me shouting at Rooney on the smaller TV, but we were mostly cordial (mainly as we just had a full English breakfast, so nobody dared complain). I wanted the US to go through, but I didn't want them to win the group. Why? That would mean a second round against quite probably Germany, and if you survive that then it's flippin' Argentina in the quarter-finals. The US meantime face probably Ghana and then Uruguay. I know which 'bracket' I'd rather be in, especially with Argentina in the form they are. On the other side of the draw, I'd have been only concerned about the semi against Brazil.

"Cooking on gas" says a caller on six-o-six. I don't know about that - Milner crossing to Defoe for the only goal, and neither of those are established England players and didn't start the last game. Still, I'll be in Texas on Sunday morning for the nine a.m. game. Maybe Germany will lose this afternoon.

Can't see it happening, can you? Germany... Argentina... it's written in stone, isn't it? The only question is which one we'll lose to on penalties.

Update: Of course it's England v Germany. Now, who's going to miss the penalties this time?

Friday, June 18, 2010

18 June 2010: James

More worrying, perhaps, was David James' interview afterwards on 5Live.

Interviewer: The manager says the players are putting a lot of pressure on themselves.
David James: Does he? [pause] OK. [silence]


Interviewer: When did you find out that you were playing?
David James: I found out five minutes before we got on the bus. Usual standard.

The interviewer, incidentally, was the ever-excellent Charlotte Nicholl, who once got griped at for being a woman after asking a tough question to Neil Warnock. Not Paxman, but she doesn't let them hide.

Meantime, Graham Taylor says he thinks there's something very wrong in the England camp, but he won't say what it is. And let's face it, he knows a thing or two about rubbish England teams.

18 June 2010: Algeria

The thing is, if you play that badly you deserve to go home.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

12 June 2010: Umm

OK, as I write this there's still 37 minutes to go. But: Green's goalkeeping aside... Heskey clean through and did that with the side of his foot? Milner doing nothing except getting booked before going off? King injured too? Barry not really fit either? And this is the best - the best - we have to offer, the culmination of two years of preparation?

I'm not sure, but it could either be a disaster or, well... remember 1986? (Maybe you do.) England started badly then... Wilkins got sent off, Robson injured, Peter Reid brought in to run the show? Then Lineker got the hat-trick and the rest is history, all the way up to the hand of God in the quarter-final. So there's hope.

Except of course, we want to do better than the quarter-final, don't we?

Update: game over now, and to me all this game speaks of is doubt in the mind of Capello. That isn't going to win the World Cup.

12 June 2010: Global

So the World Cup started yesterday. For those with any interest in the beautiful game, it's a chance to see who's really any good and find out how England will manage to disappoint in new and exciting ways. (The way the draw works out, it's pretty difficult for England to lose to Portugal on penalties this time, which means they'll have to think of something new).

South Africa v Mexico was a good start: that goal from Shalalalala (start humming 'Is This The Way To Amarillo') was pretty special. I kept thinking 1990 and Cameroon v Argentina, but South Africa were not ruthless enough in defence (for which read: didn't get players sent off for battery and assault) so the equaliser came. That could be an interesting group: I'd assumed it would be France and Uruguay through, and it may well the case, but from what I could tell, France looked a bit lacklustre in that game and that means (1) I'm not so afraid of England playing them in the QFs (assuming both with their groups) and (2) maybe France won't win their group. Maybe they'll go out at the group stage, a la 2002?

Meantime South Korea and Greece are at half-time as I write this: South Korea winning and I'm back to puzzling how much bribery money changed hands in 2002 to get them as far as they did that year. No enquiry was ever launched, but some of those refereeing decisions in favour of the Koreans back then made Maradona's hand of God look positively regulation. And England-USA to follow later, of course.

But I won't blog too much about results etc: you can get that from the BBC site. This blog, if it's about anything, is about bringing unique and different insights from my brain or other inside sources (usually the Saints forum) so you can be a little ahead of the curve. So what can I offer on the World Cup that you can't get? Well, for those in the UK, how about a British view of American World Cup coverage?

The World Cup is being shown here - every match - on either free-to-air or basic cable. So, not quite as good as most places in the world, but not bad. The contract is held by Disney (believe it or not), but that means ABC for free-to-air games and ESPN for the rest. ABC, naturally, are showing England-USA this afternoon, along with a bizarre variety of other games and then most of the main ones as we get towards the end of the tournament. Clearly however, the schedulers know little about the World Cup because they've also scheduled the most pointless, unwatched game in the tournament - the playoff for 3rd and 4th place between the semi-final losers - to be shown live on ABC. Nobody cares about that game, nobody watches it and even the teams are made up of squad players. In 1990, England played in that game and I believe Tony Dorigo actually got picked. That's how nothing of a game it is.

The other good news - and news that might make UK fans jealous - is that while you Brits have to listen to John Motson and Clive Tyldesley -
sheesh, two-nil to South Korea now -
we get to have Martin Tyler doing the commentary. (Favourite all-time Clive Tyldesly quote: "on a scale of one to ten, you'd have to say Wimbledon have done pretty well".) The rest of the team are the usual ESPN suspects led by Derek Rae, but I'm pretty happy with that.

The downside, however, is that due to Comcast cable TV performing a digital switchover last month, our ESPN and ESPN2 is currently off, pending us figuring out with the landlords how to get hold of a digital box from the cable company. So that means I'm watching it on (which is pretty good) or - and here's the irony - using my secret method of watching UK TV online (no I'm not going to tell you how I do it). So as of right now, I'm hearing Jon Champion commentating for ITV on the Korean onslaught, and have to wait for this afternoon before the free-to-air ABC lets me get back to the American coverage for the big game.

Andy M visited last week and we discussed what it means in today's world to be living in a different country but still very tied to where you came from. For me, it remains weird: we're clearly in Indiana, clearly established in our community and work, clearly familiar with local events ('Ribfest' today outside our place... the noisiest and rowdiest festival of the year, which two years ago finished with police chasing people through the alley and in the car park)... and yet I'm watching Come Dine With Me or Time Team on Channel 4, eating Lincolnshire-style sausages and dry-cure back bacon and writing a blog that's mainly read by Brits. When you emigrate, you were traditionally supposed to leave - to make a clean break, and maybe go through some culture-shock training first. For us, the internet has meant that British life is so close that the things we miss - walking down the street to the greengrocer or butcher, Big George's tandoori chicken kebabs, Shahi takeaway on Lodge Road, walking or cycling in the New Forest - are fewer in number and don't seem as far away. Which makes homesickness different - more specific,maybe - but also means it happens less, I think.

Hard to tell. Still, this afternoon I'll clearly be backing England over the USA, even if he does pick Heskey.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

3 June 2010: Nine

Not much time for blogging. But in a curious twist today it appears that Peter Crouch has finally received some kind of credit from the England manager for his somewhat remarkable (why does everyone say 'surprising'?) scoring record for his country.

He has 21 goals in 38 games. Of those 38, he has started 18. In those 18, he has scored 17. Not bad for a man who gets dropped in favour of Heskey on a regular basis.

So what credit has he received? Well, not much, but today Capello revealed the squad numbers for the World Cup, and Crouch got number nine. Doesn't mean anything too much in these days of squad numbers - indeed, I fully expect Crouch to play perhaps one game in the competition and Rooney spend most of the time up on his own, or watching Heskey fall over. But it's something.

Shame Theo didn't make it, but he'll be back... he's just too good. Watching him play for England on the wing (by the way, he's a better centre-forward than winger) and Crouch up front was like watching Saints reserves from a few years ago. All we need is Garry Monk in there and we'd be sorted.

Meantime there are rumours of HMRC launching two legal actions against the Premier League and Football League, one linked directly to the Pompey fiasco and one less directly linked. Maybe Pompey aren't out of the woods yet?