Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Inquest

Another international tournament and England are knocked out by one of the usual suspects.

Should we really be that surprised?

I was over it in less than a day. Can't say the same about Forest's play off woe which took about a month.

We all live in hope that England might do it, and the performances in qualifying added to that hope, but anyone taking a cursory glance at the other top teams knew that we don't have the same kind of depth of class as Spain, Brazil and Argentina. The Germans are about equal on paper, possibly slightly less talent throughout their squad, but they're always more than the some of their parts - the stereotypes of discipline, organisation and efficiency always seem to ring true for them in football tournaments.

From reading the press however you'd think we sent out 11 dead pigeons. The performance against the Germans was described as 'abysmal' in some quarters. This is quite harsh. Germany had a gameplan and stuck to it - let us attack, close us down and hit us on the counter attack. They did this again and again. It seems Beckenbauer pranked us with his 'kick and rush' jibes as that's exactly how they beat us - long balls from their half after an English attack.

Capello is taking most of the flak for the exit with three main reasons repeatedly dragged out, which are frankly bollocks:

442: Many seem to have decided that 442 is outdated, and that Capello's unwillingness to switch to the papers preferred 451 is his downfall. Last time I checked there were still a lot of top teams using 442. Premier League Chelsea for half of last season for a start, and Champions League finalists Bayern Munich and winners Inter Milan both used it as various points in time last season.

Emile Heskey: At times he was our best player. Rooney was awful throughout, leaving Capello's gameplan largely doomed without him collecting Heskey's knockdowns. Various idiots were calling for Heskey to be dropped, when it's Rooney who should have been on the bench.

Gerrard on the left: When he actually stayed on the left the system worked. When he decided he was going to wander everywhere we were left exposed. The question of England lacking a great left sided midfielder has been swept under the carpet of late, largely due to the performances in qualifying where various central and right sided players have filled in. If Gerrard can't play in a disciplined manner at the age of 29 he's got nothing left to offer anyone. Perhaps that's why he's been crap at Liverpool all season - deciding he knows best at the cost of the manager's job.

Capello did make mistakes - they seem to be related to listening to the idiots rather than doing his thing. He didn't dare to drop Rooney, he sacrificed Heskey, and he bowed the to pressure to include Joe Cole, who wasn't particularly effective. There's been suggestions that they players wanted a 451 with Joe Cole on the left - this seems most unlikely. Bringing back Carragher was a terrible idea, possibly the biggest mistake. I'd rather have taken Gary Neville, and that's saying something.

I would rather Capello stuck around to start the overhaul which is needed but this is looking very unlikely. As usual the FA have ballsed this process up, and with it taking 2 weeks for the FA to sharpen their axe (how blunt is it?!) it looks like we’ll miss out on Roy Hodgson for the England job (damn Liverpool!) and have to put up with dodgy ‘Arry Redknapp for a couple of years. The same Harry Redknapp who plays the 442 the idiots whinge about and has won a grand total of 1 FA cup as a manager.

If Capello is pragmatic and sacks off the England job for a much higher paying job elsewhere in the few days we might still get Woy, but even then we have to rely on the FA actually appointing him (popular in the game, proven track record at international level), instead of Redknapp (popular with the media... oh bugger..). Apparently The Sun are asking for David Beckham......... I think that says all that needs to be said about their football coverage.

The first people that need sacking are the entire FA board for taking 2 weeks about it. Back or sack, not procrastinate and dawdle!

What needs to change:

The England squad is now ready for a drastic overhaul. The majority of Capello's first team will be well into their 30s by the time the Euros come around, and have definitely played their last World Cup match. At least Italy's old guard won the thing. I fully expect some international retirements.

At this point I'll rake through some previously covered ground.

Joe Hart should be made England's first choice goalkeeper now. He's good enough to do it and he'll last a generation or two, so lets get him in there early. David James is a retirement candidate, and Rob Green's England career is likely to go the way of Paul Robinson and Scott Carson, so Hart should be in now, maybe with Foster as second choice depending on how he does next season - he might be another false hope.

Glen Johnson is young enough to keep the right back spot until 2014, although a great youngster could energe. Dawson is ready to become first choice centre back - either Terry or Ferdinand might retire, but we cetainly can't play them both together ever again without conceeding to any team with a stiker who can run. Carragher will go back into retirement, Upson will possibly remain in squads. It might be time for the likes of Ryan Shawcross and David Wheater to step up, and maybe Micah Richards will have a decent reason. At left back Ashley Cole might well continue, but Keiron Gibbs is looking like a potential long term replacement. Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock aren't in the same class really but may be vying for a spot on the left. Nedum Onouha looks like he'll end up playing for Nigeria sadly.

Either Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard will retire. I wouldn't put money on it, but I think it's likely. If Gerrard doesn't go first I think Frank will. Milner is still one for the future, and will be a first teamer from this point onwards. Barry will last til the Euros but perhaps not much longer after that. Hargreaves is fucked, and isn't getting any younger. Perhaps it's time for Lee Cattermole (Cat or Mole?) to stake his claim. Yes he's a bit brutal in the tackle, but has you seen Javier Mascherano lately? Wright Phillips has probably played his last world cup too - he's 29 this year despite looking about 10. Lennon will stick around, Walcott will be back, and will Johnson. Stewert Downing and Ashley Young might step up. Jack Wilshire continues to impress and it's probably only a matter of time before he gets called up.

As for the strikers, Heskey will surely retire - for a start he's getting on a bit and the abuse he getting is shocking considering the effort he puts in. Rooney will hopefully become the player he thinks he is, he should be hitting his peak over the next two tournaments. Zamora might get a couple of games but he's no long term solution. Defoe and Crouch mioght be there or thereabouts. Darren Bent doesn't seem to impress England managers for whatever reason. Of the young ones coming through there's no one who's really shining yet, so it's a matter of waiting for someone to emerge. Perhaps Matt Derbyshire's time in Greece has been the making of him. Agbonlahor is another option, although he's yet to have a consistent season.

Of course what we really need to crack on with is capping as many eligible foreigners as we can. Everyone else is doing it, we'd be mugs not to. Mikel Arteta is the obvious choice, what with him having no chance of getting in the Spanish midfield (although he's 28 so perhaps not much use in the long run), and Charles N'Zogbia has even expressed an interest (24, good on the left wing...), but there's plenty of young players in the top squads who are quite poachable for England. Everyone else has a Brazilian, why can't we?! We could have had Carlo Cudicini in goal for the last 7 years, the once excellent Edu in midfield, Steed Malbranque on the left and the occasionally fit Louis Saha up front. We can be suckers or we can do what everyone else does - remember the 'French' greats Veira, Zindane etc..... Can't we sign up some Ghanaians, or maybe blag some Argentinians via the Falklands?

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A Guide to World Cup Idiots

I love the World Cup. It's generally a fantastic competition.

What I don't love is the idiots that creep out of the woodwork at this time.

And what a lot of idiots there are.

Here's a look at the different varieties of World Cup idiot. These can be spotted in any pub in England over the next month.

NB: I'm talking about English people here: we've come to expect that the Irish, Scots and Welsh have no desire to see England win at anything.

Instant Expert
This is (generally) a man who has spent the period between tournaments watching almost no football, but suddenly develops very strong opinions around the time of a World Cup match. These opinions are remarkably similar to those of certain tabloid newspapers. It's almost as if they'd read something somewhere and decided to repeat it. Again and again. For a month. Last time it was all about how 'Crouchy' was England's best player ever. This years pearls of wisdom are likely to include "Rooney needs to calm down", "Gerrard and Lampard can't play together" and "Emile Heskey? Pah! Peter Crouch should be first choice! *does robot dance*"

Anyone But England
Comes in two flavours:
"Not bothered" i.e. Claims not to like football or doesn't follow it but has expressed a desire to support any other team.
"Glory hunter" i.e. claims to like football and has expressed a desire to support the 'best' team (presumably they've just switched allegiance from Man U to Chelsea again, or from Barcelona to Inter, or both).
Reasons given are usually a mixture of the wishy washy bullshit usually espoused by idiots and outright snobbery, i.e. the assumption that anyone who supports the England football team is a racist hooligan and is 'working class'. Parts of the media has decided that 'working class' and 'racist' are the same thing and the aforementioned idiots are quite happy to believe this. It appears to have become fashionable. I am wholeheartedly against this as I believe a big part of football's enjoyment is actually giving a shit about the result. When I watch Forest or England I actually care who wins, more so than the vague support I'll lend in any other match. If you don't really care, don't watch, and don't get involved. I'd rather a thousands pseudo experts that one of you.

Club Only Fans
Generally exclusive to the top end of the prem: supporters who not only don't support their country, but actively moan when their clubs' players play for their country. I for one used to be delighted when players at Forest used to get picked (used to be a regular occurrence 15 years ago!) whereas you'll find Arsenal fans delighted than Walcott isn't going and Man U fans hoping Rooney gets sent off as quickly as possible so he doesn't pick up an injury. A few years ago I remember a particularly contrary Man U fan cheering on Portugal against England because Ronaldo was playing. The fact that England had 2-3 Man U players in the team at the time (5-6 in the squad) seemed to make no difference. He wasn't even the stereotype Man U fan: he had a season ticket and was from somewhere near Manchester, as opposed to having a SKy box and being from Dagenham/Kuala Lumpar.

Stereotype Woman
Possibly only exists in adverts. Seems to think that men should earn the right to watch football by buying shoes or something. Women should be genuinely offended by this, and men should continue to be sick of adverts that make us out to be fucking morons. Future wife is as excited as I am by the World Cup. I work in an office which is 70% women and almost all of them have at least half an interest in England doing well, the others fall into the ABE category, complete indifference and the Irish. There's a Scottish lady who actually wants us to win so we'll stop banging on about 1966.

The Papers
Who spend there every moment trying to tear strips off the team until the World Cup, at which point it's 'support our boys' for a couple of weeks until the games start at which point they're 'not fit to wear the shirt'. A lot of the tabloids sell on the basis of their football coverage, much of which amounts to gossip. Essentially it's like 'Heat' magazine for men.

Here's the short version of the world cup year, as reported by the tabloids:
  • "Sack the captain, (how dare he get jiggy with an ex teammates ex girlfriend, which has EVERYTHING to do with how he plays football)"
  • "Sack the FA Chairman, (he said something controversial in private and we decided to print it in full knowledge of the fact it would have an adverse effect on the world cup preparations)"
  • "Manager doesn't know what he's doing, (didn't give us advance warning of who we has going to pick, journalist's toys thrown from pram)"
  • "SUPPORT OUR BOYS! FREE CAR FLAG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
  • "New captain injured, team doomed"
  • "Rooney has a temper, team doomed"
  • And from the Express: "Ghost of Diana says Rooney is a liability"

Ing-Ger-Land Hooligan Types
The insufferable ones who give us all a bad name, the ones who start fights in pub/at football matches/in tournament hosting countries, start running battles in town centres, threaten foriegn people who show their colours here, basically the people who the ABEs thing represent all England fans but are actually a tiny but very vocal minority.
As heard during the 2002 World Cup:
"what time is kick off?"
"About 5 minutes after the match."
Thw pub doors were locked shortly after this.

The Sheffield Wednesday Band
Learn some new songs for fucks sake.

Getting a reprieve are:

Clueless Girl Fan
She doesn't know what's going on but doesn't pretend to either and at least she's got into the spirit of the thing.

Vaguely Nostalgic Old Bloke
"I remember 1966.../He's no Booby Charlton.../etc"
That's nice, I wasn't born then, well done on surviving for another 44 years.

Completely Indifferent Person
Fair enough. As long as you don't keep telling us every 5 minutes about how you don't like football we'll let you off. No celebrating if we win though.

A late addition: Anti-football wind up merchants
I'm looking at you, tiny bassplayer lady. I'm letting you off because you're trying to wind up the idiots.