Thursday, 30 June 2011

England's women follow traditional path

The men do it all the time, the youngsters did it a couple of weeks ago, and now it's the women's turn.

I'm talking about their failure to grasp a tournament by the scruff of the neck - and actuall win the first game.

At last year's World Cup England's men took an early lead only to end up drawing against USA 1-1 (a match they were expected to win). Although they qualified from the group the stumble meantr that they had to face Germany in the first knock-out match and they lost 4-1.

At the recent Under-21 European Championship the men actually did rather well to draw 1-1 with Spain in their opening game, but they then failed to beat the Ukraine (a match they were expected to win) and went out with a defeat to the Czech Republic.

And now the women are doing the same. They drew their opening World Cup match on Monday, 1-1 with Mexico (a match they were expected to win) , and now face a 'must-win' game against New Zealand tomorrow.

Sorry to be cynical, but I can already read the headlines ...

Monday, 20 June 2011

England's youngsters come home

For the English the football season finally came to an end yesterday as England Under-21s crashed out of the UEFA Under-21 Championship in Denmark.

Needing a win, England were leading 1-0 with a minute to go when the Czech Republic equalised and  then moments later stole a winner to go through and send the English youngsters home. It was a disappointment for manager Stuart Pearce who must have thought his boys were on the verge on a semi-final spot.

But it was not to be.

Pearce said: "It was probably the best performance of the tournament. But perhaps us going home now was symptomatic of us not passing the ball well enough in the first two games."

So it's holiday time for these boys with most of the rest already on hot beaches. Pre-season training will sart in early July, and the first Premier League games are on 13 August (some of these players will start in the Championship a week earlier).

Until then, relax.

Mind you, the Women's World Cup starts next Sunday in Germany, with England's women having an outside chance (they're rated 10th in the world). Good Luck to them!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Managerial merry-go-round in full panic

The madness of the managerial merry-go-round is in full swing.

Carlo Ancelotti sacked at Chelsea. No appointment yet
Mark Hughes resigned at Fulham. Martin Jol appointed at Fulham.
Gerard Houllier resigned at Aston Villa.
Billy Davies sacked at Nottingham Forest. Steve MacClaren appointed at Forest.
Alex McLeish resigned as manager of Birmingham City. Resignation rejected.
Aston Villa have now asked to talk to McLeish.

Fun, isn't it?
And funny how clubs believe that managers who have failed at other clubs will succeed at theirs. It was the old manager's fault that he failed at their club. It was the old club's that the new manager failed there.

Blind optimism? Blind panic? Blind stupidity?

There's got to be some fun during the summer when there are no games to keep us occupied!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Pearce bemoans England's absentees

The European Under-21 Championships open in Denmark this weekend. England's under-21 team is one of eight competing. The other seven are: Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Belarus (Group A), and Spain, Czech Republic and Ukraine with England in Group B.

England under-21 boss Stuart Pearce is unhappy that several of England's top young players have withdrawn from the squad. Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Micah Richards and Andy Carroll are the big four names - all with senior international experience - who have pulled out.

"We've probably got the biggest number of absentees who have represented the seniors," Pearce said. "We need to make sure that when we turn up to these tournaments that the big, big players are here."

He went on to say that experience gainmed from such a tournament didn't have a downside. "It adds value to the players, which obviously the club pick up on as well.
"I'll still deem that there's a real learning curve from the tournament like this. It's really high-profile, it's gaining in momentum profile-wise every two years."

It's a shame that so many of England's top youngsters will miss the trip. Invaluable experience will be lost, which could have stood them in good stead for future senior tournaments.

Nevertheless, others will gain from - such as Jordan Henderson, now of Liverpool, and Scott Sinclair of newly promoted Swansea City.

We wish them well.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The insanity of a mid-winter break

Talk of a mid-winter break in the English Premier League has reared its head again.

Sir Alex Ferguson mentioned it after Manchester United were crushed by Barcelona; England players have talked about it after their embarrassing draw against Switzerland last week; Fabio Capello said England players looked tired in that game.

But a mid-winter break simply would not work.

First of all - when IS mid-winter? November suffered snow in 2010; but so also did February 2010. So when do you break? December?

Secondly, the game is all about money and attendances at games on Boxing Day and New Year's Day are always at a peak. This might not matter to clubs whose stadiums are full every week, but it will certainly matter to the Wigans and Fulhams of this world.

Thirdly, it is not the breaks that matter, but the number of games. There are 38 Premier League games, as many as 19 Champions League games, plus possibly 11 cup games. So that's 60+ games in a season of around 41 weeks. That's not mentioning the half-dozen pre-season games, of course. What are we suggesting with a mid-winter break? That we cram those 60+ games into two or three fewer weeks?

Fourthly, the truth is that there will be no mid-winter break for players. If there is a break in the Premier League, then the clubs will whisk their players off to Thailand, Japan, USA for a lucrative mini-tour to ensure that revenue is boosted. Add three more games to the schedule.

Talk of a mid-winter break is misguided foolishness. Forget it now.

Monday, 6 June 2011

England end on a poor note

And so another football season comes to a close, and it ended, for Englnad, on a pretty gloomy note. The performance in the 2-2 draw at home to Switzerland in Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier was poor, to say the least.

Excuses of tiredness; some lame claims that they had done well to come back from 2-0 down, can't disguise the fact that a home draw against the Swiss is simply not good enough.

There was some respite in the group as Montenegro could only draw at home to Bulgaria, and so missed their own chance to claim top spot ahead of England.

So what's wrong with England? People like to blame the manager and his tactics ("too cautious"). Tiredness has been blamed. Apparently England players averaged 46 games to Switzerland's 31. Yet, Glen Johnson has missed half the season, as has Rio Ferdinand; Milner's not a regular at Manchester City, and Scott Parker has missed several games for West Ham. For Switzerland, Senderos, Djourou and Behrami all played in the Premiership last year, so I'm not sure about that stat.

It was supposed to be a good thing that Ferdinand and Terry were back together in central defence; that Wilshere was playing; that England played 4-3-3 (4-5-1, take your pick). They were all "good things" until Switzerland took a quick-fire two-goal lead in the first half. The recovery to grab a draw only partly disguised the dismal performance.

Top passers in the England team were John Terry (71) and Rio Ferdinand (57). Why? Because they spent most of the game passing to each other! Why? Because there's little or no significant movement ahead of them. They are then left to chip the ball forward (England's disease) and possession is lost.

We have no thrusting midfielders; none who can make a 20-yard run so that our possession is in the middle of the opposition half rather than in the middle of our own (indeed the Swiss had several who could do this: Shaqiri and Xhaka being two); none who slip quietly into open space in dangerous positions (like Xavi or Iniesta of Barcelona); none who can play quick one-twos to open up the opposition; and, more crucuially, none who can instantly control a ball and be ready for the next pass or move immediately. They call it technique and they've been going on about it for years, but nothing improves.

I think England fans live on in (blind) optimism that things will get better, but really they know they won't. We want England to be good, but we don't really believe they are or can be.

Teams like Switzerland are better than we are.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Blatter back in as FIFA president

So Sepp Blatter was re-elected unopposed as President of FIFA yesterday.

The FA's "too-little-too-late" attempt to postpone the election in the light of corruption investigations and unopposed candidacy was mocked and scorned by a succession of speakers from Haiti, Congo, Fiji, Benin and Cyprus. They called the FA's stance unconstituional and said that the interference from media and politicians was unwarranted. I'll bet.

The FA went out on a limb, with little support, and their position was defeated as 172 delegates (of 206) voted to continue to the election. Blatter was re-elected. "Today something marvellous happened and I'd simply like to tell you I'm deeply moved and honoured. It's a challenge, a new one for me, and I accept it," he said, in somehwat mock surprise.

Is there any light at the end of this murky FIFA tunnel?

Well, maybe the corruption investigations will find something to stick.

It appears that the way World Cup venues are chosen will change to encompass votes from ALL the delegates rather than the 24-man executive committee. That should make it more difficult for widespread corruption from potential hosts.

There were words (let's hope, not platitudes) around making FIFA more transparent and to "restart the credibility of FIFA". Blatter said: "Everyone was waiting for solutions - now we will apply them."

I'll not be holding my breath.