• Winter Is Coming (how many more years of hurt?)

    Squad:

    Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Tom Heaton (Burnley).

    Defenders: Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool).

    Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).

    Strikers: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United).

    So the young knights from Old Albion are gathering in Kingslanding (St George's Park) readying themselves for battle. Fare Thee Well, men....

    Will they end 50 years of Hurt, though, Henry? Winter is coming, so the expression goes on the hit TV show Game of Thrones, and my pitch is that ‘you know nothing, Roy Hodge!’ Like an agricultural labourer tending delicate orchids, how likely is it that Hodgson's flowers can survive the harsh environment of tournament football in France? Picking Jack Wilshire, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge has meant leaving out the Premier League fitness of Danny Drinkwater. This seems imprudent: any England centre back pairing looks fragile already not withstanding any injury worries (i.e. Eric Dier could be playing centre back before the group games are out). Drinkwater would then be the premier choice for an in-form defensive midfield role, would he not?

    Drinkwater’Gate’ goes deeper. Should Rashford have gone with Gareth Southgate to the undercard tournament and become a France EuroU21 winner, for example? Is it better to have the experience of winning a tournament or be a ‘tourist’ in another unsuccessful squad? It’s unlikely Rashford will get much game-time at France 2016, given that Vardy, Kane, Sturridge and Rooney - who lest we forget has been picked as a striker - are of a higher order in Hodgson’s pack of cards. So, by taking Rashford as an extra striker [who may not play] has the Hodgson shuffle unbalanced the squad by knocking out Drinkwater?

    Of course, Roy Hodgson knows more about football than I ever will. That said, it's as clear now as it has been throughout his career that his decision making is not the greatest. Replacing Hodgson with the next fool is not going to change England's fortunes until the structural problems are fixed, but in the interim I do believe in performance related pay. Senior stakeholders at St Georges Park think that England will win a major tournament in the 2020s. Do you?

    The choice is stark: do we continue hanging on in quiet desparation [the English way?] or, after France 2016, do we boycott international football altogether? Until the Garcia report is published in full and we have transformational change in Fifa and world football what is the point? Ok - it's the economy, stupid, I heard someone say, but we can't just carry on with this can we? Carry on with what, exactly [i.e. see Henry Winter, 50YoH, p 162...]

    Winter is coming. Remember: life [at FIFA] is strange and life keeps getting stranger every day. And yet we still allow the procession to move on to Russia 2018, where the stakeholders and tournament selection process - and those doing the selecting - all have a case to answer. In this ultra competitive over-commercialised sporting arena, where England's 'White Walkers' and the true spirit of football in Old Albion are on ice, the biggest statement you can make is to turn your back on football’s product placement.

    Have your say on the FA - link here

    Monday 13th June update:

    Life at UEFA gets stranger every day, too. For example, the press are reporting that Vitaly Mutko, the Russian politician for Sport, Tourism and Youth policy, was in the stadium and seen applauding the balaclava-clad ultras that charged England supporters at the end of the match between England v Russia Sat 11 June. I find it astonishing that despite there being a bit of noise about this in the press in the days afterwards there is no actual sanction for Mutko or Russia overall. It seems like there is a new story almost every day in the press that point towards foul play. This Geo-Political phase of play is in need of some new players and a new strategy, it seems:

    FIFA WC 2018 (Russia) does not compute!

    FIFA WC 2022 in Qatar? Nope - in tatters!

    By tolerating this procession of corruption it brings shame on all of us. I say we can not 'Carry on Regardless'. Some might say that it’s only football and is not that important. If that is true then it can only be in the context of life itself being not that important. Football is beautifully inclusive (i.e. no expensive specialisation of kit required and even the ball itself can be improvised from other materials, if required). It may be the best chance we have of fostering a spirit of brotherhood/ sisterhood to celebrate diversity, love and life.

    If we tolerate this (i.e. these corrupt western business practices and bad governance from our football administrators), then radicalisation and intolerance of western culture as a whole will be next. This is not someone else’s problem. This is your problem. This is our problem across the generations now and in future. The universe might be expanding, but here on earth we are rubbing shoulders with each other more and more and we need now - more than ever - to learn how to get along.

    #Footballandthefuturegame

    Tuesday June 28th - update:

    Let's not have the discussion about changing the manager. Let's have the discussion about the FA themselves - front and centre. The patient (England) is sick and the condition seems terminal. There is a cancer within the body of the Football Association and the patient doesn't look to have the mental resilience for the fight.

    Should we turn off the life support machine [money] and build a new Jerusalem of which we can be a proud football people in the 21st Century?

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  • FIFA: A Football Bucks Fizz

    Stars in your eyes, Gianni

    Where do you go to dream?

    To a place we all know

    The land of make believe

    ARE YOU FIFA?

    WHERE'S THE GARCIA Rpt?

    "...the only [football] people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

    This was Sepp Blatter's response at the news of Gianni Infantino's Fifa Presidential election victory, as I understand it. "He has all the qualities to continue my work,” said Blatter. Maybe Blatter’s ego was the reason for saying this to secure his own idea of his [Blatter's] own legacy. Or, perhaps Blatter thinks that his fellow countryman is just the type of puppet needed to ensure that the ‘Sepp Blatter Football Mission' is continued from beyond the gold bars or the grave: place your bets!

    The Swiss home towns of Infantino (Brig) and Blatter (Visp) are less than 10kms apart. Ordinarily, this would be enough to preclude Infantino from the top job due to his past and potential future dealings with those previously at the very top of UEFA and FIFA who now have been disgraced. That Infantino's victory looks positive is only in the context of the pre-election favourite Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa having been defeated saving Fifa and football from the surrounding controversies that undoubtedly would have impacted Qatar WC2022, too.

    So Infantino is the least worst option at this time. What can we expect? Let's see:

    A World Cup expanded to 40 teams? No thanks. Oh wait: we could expand it to 64 teams and co-locate the Women's World Cup in to the same tournament (a real football family...?). That would be progressive. Would Swiss Gianni's heritage countenance that? Let us remember that Switzerland only gave women the vote in 1971 and Infantino was billed as the progressive candidate in this sham election.

    I say bring on the Garcia report now and let us see the facts and have justice done.

    ARE YOU FIFA? You should have video [evidence].

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  • England a V ec France

    Tues 17 Nov 2015:

    The game was unimportant. The symbolism of the occasion was all...

    Mon 23 Nov update:

    I must have been watching a different game to most of the people who have commentated on the game in the last week. During the first half I thought that despite England doing quite well in the opening exchanges, France were soon proving to be the better side, despite their lack of appetite for the game. I'm sure I heard Glenn Hoddle complaining about Rooney not doing enough more than once, even though after the game many commentators were saying Rooney should be the first name on the team sheet based on that performance (eh?).

    I think the new Tottenham England saviour - Deli Alli - would have been booked for his challenge which preceded his goal in tournament conditions. It seemed to me that when Deli shot he was not addressing the ball correctly and was off balance. The ITV commentator said that despite the [slight] deflection it didn't affect the flight of the ball. On the contrary, any rudimentary physics investigation would demonstrate that Loris would have reached the ball without the deflection so the goal was lucky (snap Rooney's in the Maracana, if you remember..?). Alli missed the biggest moment of the half when he failed to take down the cross from Kane that a good first touch would have presented. Is Deli Alli the new Andros Townsend (i.e. the new media humpty dumpty)? I say, 'Whoaaaa - let's see where we are in May 2016'.

    All things being equal and if everyone was fit for France 2016 I would go with the following:

    Hart

    Clyne/ Stones/ Smalling/ ?

    Barkley/ Henderson/ Wilshire

    Walcott/ Sturridge/ Sterling

    That said, Sterling was rubbish and currently looks like he's got a 49KG wallet in his pocket and he's wondering what to spend it on. Maybe players like Alli, Dyer and Vardy will still be flying next May and if they are let's play them in France. I get the sense that Gary Neville would have no problem trying to 'win something with kids'. Does Roy Hodgson have the same fearless approach, I wonder?

    The game's symobolism was the only game in town last week and to think otherwise is delusional. Loris as good as said that the French players did not want to play the match. That they did in the fashion they did is testament to their superior technique and tactical ability. The French pattern of play conveyed the national shock and grief of the preceding days: when they ventured forward they didn't quite know where they were going and why. Paul Pogba's 2nd half performance illuminated the difference between the sides and was a signal of how things might go next summer.

    So the match didn't matter because we were all reminded that football doesn't matter in the face of the Atrocity Exhibition. And yet it does. To my mind, inequality in the football pyramid reminds me that inequality in society is being fuelled by the neoliberal project, which continues to search out new markets and territories whether those being subjected to it want it or not.

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  • Straight Outta Top Trumps (part 3.0)

    Happy Birthday, Wayne.

    The ease with which I assume I can send you salutations on your birthday, Wayne, surprises even me. I suppose it must get on your nerves; this over familiarity from everyone, like we’re all old street-style soccer mates together. I get the sense, though, that you don’t mind too much, ‘...a decent guy’, you’ll hope they’ll say, after watching the doco (Rooney - The Man Behind The Goals). You know that’s the trade off - as does Colleen in her own way - and you are both happy to continue for a while longer waiting for it all to blow out.

    Hurricane Patricia weakened rapidly on your 30th birthday. It made me wonder about you. At the start on the edge of your storm you seemed to be a force of nature across old Albion the like of which we had not seen these long years. We were enthralled: that goal against Arsenal; the perfect first touch, second touch close to scan; I bet you were excited to see the Arsenal back line dropping off leaving you a lot of space to move in to. Then, playing your third touch far forward to allow you to accelerate and move at speed in to that space the next decision was never in doubt for you; such confidence, such exuberance in the execution.

    There have been many great games and moments. You can retire happy in the knowledge that you have been a great player. When I first saw you and your physique I thought you might be done by twenty five so the fact that you are still playing at thirty is a bonus (to the tune of 60 months x £1M at your current rate card).

    And here, for me, the problems begin. I know that the documentary wasn’t designed for it, but I would have liked to have heard more from The Man Behind The Man Behind The Goals. It seems to me that Paul Stretford has done a disservice to you. You two-timed United and I would like to know more about Paul Stretford’s role in this. Personally, I thought United had been in decline, too, and I was amazed that Man City let van Persie go to United. If City had signed van Persie as I expected them to do it would have finally choked off the supply line of players and your argument would have gained weight.

    It’s interesting that you seemed to wither as van Persie got stronger. This struck me as a similar dynamic to when Ronaldo really took flight. Have you got an inferiority complex, Wayne? If you were to say yes everyone could accept that. How could we not? Ronaldo and Messi have been debating the ballon d’or across the despatch box for so long in this two party politics of World Class players (by their own standards there are only two world class players).

    Making sense of the pecking order and trying to reconcile your value and worth in terms of any agreed contract must be stressful. Yes, you can get £250k per week, plus add-ons. You might even get the clause that states you must be the highest paid player. But that is worth nought when the heat is on in tournament football. I loved you once, but I've been hurt too many times and I don’t have the heart to give you one more chance. I am looking to trade you in for a younger model.

    I pitched this thing as a Top Trumps hat-trick because it was clear that you would take Bobby Charlton’s England record in this cycle. My kids were going nuts for Top trumps in the half term. They couldn’t decide which to get (i.e. cars, Nerf-guns, football) so we got some two-for-ones and I got a football pack: Messi (yes), Ronaldo (yes), then another, then another and another and another and still more until, finally, you appeared. It made me wonder if these had been independently judged and ranked in this order (i.e. Messi first, Ronaldo second, etc, etc). To that end, it could be worse: if you did have an inferiority complex as a result of Ronaldo then look what Messi has done to him! It seems a hard gig on one level, this football super star life you lead. Remember Ronaldo Mk1 being forced on to the pitch at the France ’98 Final? Are you now caught in the same brand ambassador trap, I wonder?

    Is it nailed on that you’ll beat Charlton’s Man U record? I’m not sure. Your performance in the derby might be instructive. I wonder whether, like Hurricane Patricia, you might remain front of stage a while longer, but fade away to give football fans a topical depression. It’s lucky for you that Hodgson has hung on to the England job to give you game time to get more goals. In fact, it’s interesting that you say you like playing under Roy the best - I suspect that’s because he’s in awe of you and terrified of dropping you. Anyway, Roy and the United Superstore keep calling on you, presumably because the FA and the United Finance departments have got their sums wrong. Let's see how it all plays out from here through to Euro 2016, shall we?

    Until then, Wayne, to salute what you had in a way you like I give you for your birthday this poem:

    He will shower youse

    moist with memories. Rooney:

    Edge Of Seventeen.

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  • Straight Outta Top Trumps (pt 2)

    Goals scored - 50

    There it is, then. Are you happy now? Well.., you got one shot at it now, kid (Euro 2016)...

    Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.

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