Thursday, 15 December 2011

Grab Yourself An Early Christmas Present

My deepest and severest apologies for my lack of posting recently. I have decided to make it up to my sharing my latest article for This article concerns betting on both teams to score this very weekend. So have a read, have a flutter and bring some festive cheer into your life this Saturday afternoon. For many more great betting articles and tips visit

The festive period can often be integral in the seasons of many teams. Some are worried about losing touch with the leading pack, some fear getting dragged into a relegation dogfight. How do they fight these worries? By scoring goals and plenty of them.   Here we’ve looked at the games where we think both teams will score this weekend.

Betfred is the home of Goals Galore and you should use this free bet offer to get a free first attempt at a Goals Galore coupon. Get your free bet here.

Blackburn vs West Brom

An early six-pointer? I don’t see why not. West Brom may argue they are five points clear of Blackburn but Rovers will be looking for the win here. They smashed Swansea 4-2 in their last home match and were unlucky not to get anything at the Stadium of Light last week. Steve Kean will be acutely aware that these are the kind of games he needs to win to save his job, so expect them to attack. Blackburn have also scored and conceded in their last four matches.

Who else has scored and conceded in their last four? West Brom of course. They suffered a somewhat embarrassing defeat to Wigan last week and will want to bounce back with a win against Rovers. The Baggies won’t wish to be involved in a season-long relegation battle and by winning this game they can help ensure that doesn’t happen. Don’t expect either team to settle for a draw but expect goals.  

West Ham vs Barnsley

West Ham sit second in The Championship but they got hammered 3-0 last time out away at Reading. They have banged in an impressive 18 at Upton Park but have conceded a less than amazing 12 in 10 home games. Even Doncaster who sit second bottom have a better home defensive record than this. Piquionne, Cole and Nolan can bang them in but there’s certainly no guarantee the Hammers’ defence is going to keep them out.

Now that X-Factor is over the country will be looking elsewhere for their entertainment and Barnsley are providing it in abundance. The Tykes have scored and conceded in their last four with a huge turnover of 21 goals in these matches. They’ve been in decent form barring their recent 5-3 defeat against Ipswich and will be hoping to continue their push for the playoffs here. Keep an eye out for ex-Bolton man Ricardo Vaz Te, he’s been scoring for fun in the last few weeks.

Carlisle vs Wycombe

Carlisle enter this one in indifferent form, in their last six they have won two, drawn two and you guessed it – lost two as well.  They have scored 14 at home but conceded 16 which is surprising for a team just outside the playoffs. In fact none of the teams in the relegation zone have conceded more than this. Having said that the Cumbrians won last week and as Wycombe are dangerously close to the bottom of the table, Carlisle will look to attack here.

Wycombe sitting 23rd in the league may seem like an odd choice for goals here but their scoring record away from home is very good for a team in their position. They have bagged 12 in 10 away outings, a figure which playoff dwellers Sheffield United and Brentford cannot beat. They also managed to bang three in at MK Dons in their last away match and were unfortunate not to get a point. The problem for the Chairboys though is that they also concede too many from home. Having said that, this isn’t a problem for the punter putting both teams on to score in this one.

Port Vale vs Aldershot

Port Vale are one of those reliable teams when it comes to this kind of bet. At home this season they have played 10, scored 18 and conceded 17. Need I say more? They’ll also be worried about losing touch with those above them and will look to attack the lower placed Aldershot. The problem for Vale is that when they attack they concede almost as much as they score, which is quite a lot. Should be a sure thing here.

Aldershot’s away form is exactly the same as their home, four wins, one draw and five defeats. They are also very reliable for this kind of bet, 14 goals scored and 15 conceded away from the Recreation Ground. Their excellent League Cup run earlier in the season shows they have no fear away from home, defeating West Ham at Upton Park proves this. I think they’ll fancy themselves here against Port Vale’s shaky defence.

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Monday, 28 November 2011

Gary Speed - The Ultimate Pro

Gary Speed, 8th November 1969 – 27th November 2011.

The world of football is still reeling in shock from the death of Wales manager Gary Speed. In fact the world further afield from football is still very much in disbelief that Gary has passed. Many tributes and obituaries have already been flying through the media, both from writers more experienced than yours truly and from people who actually knew Gary – unlike myself.

Like any football fan in this country though, I too have been very much affected by Gary Speed’s death. Feelings of astonishment, surprise and most certainly sadness have gripped followers of the beautiful game. Many will want answers as to how and why is the tragedy has occurred. This however is not the time for these questions. Now is a time to reflect on what a great man and fantastic professional that Gary was and to commiserate how much of a loss to football his death is.

Gary Speed came through the youth ranks at Leeds United and signed a professional contract at the beginning of the 88/89 season. He went on to become a prominent player for Leeds and won the last ever ‘Old Division One’ Championship starring in midfield alongside the likes of Gary McAllister and Gordon Strachan.

After four seasons at Leeds he moved onto Everton where he became captain after his first season. After two years on Merseyside Gary then moved further north to Newcastle United. Joining aged 28, Speed was arguably at his peak while at the Magpies and made two FA Cup finals and featured in the Champions League for them. He formed a close bond with legendary manager Sir Bobby Robson who was sad to see him go in 2004.

Speed moved onto Bolton where he played for three and half years and he also became the first man to reach 500 Premier League appearances during his time. He is still third in the all-time Premier League appearance list, sitting behind fellow countryman Ryan Giggs and David James. Gary also cut his coaching teeth whilst at the Reebok, something he built on at his next club Sheffield United.

Speed grabbed a few goals in his time with the Blades but early in the 2008/09 season he suffered an injury which ne never really recovered from. After eventually retiring over a year later Gary Speed then became a coach at Sheffield United, working under manager Kevin Blackwell. Following Blackwell’s sacking early last season Speed emerged as his natural successor and signed a three year contract giving him his first management role.

His first management spell wasn’t exactly groundbreaking but it gave Speed vital experience when he decided to part company with the Blades just four months later to become manager of his national side, Wales.

Speed made his playing debut in 1990 for Wales and went onto make 85 appearances for his homeland, a record for an outfield player. He scored seven goals for Wales and captain his country in many of his appearances, inspiring younger colleagues such as Ryan Giggs, Robbie Savage and Craig Bellamy.

Not long after becoming manager of Wales they slumped to an all-time low of 117th in the Fifa rankings. Wales followed this with wins against Montenegro, Switzerland, Bulgaria and a 4-1 friendly win against Norway this Month. On the back of these wins Wales have now raced back into the top 50 of Fifa’s world rankings. With extremely talented younger players such as Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey in their team there was huge optimism for the Welsh ahead of qualifying for the next World Cup. This optimism was of course largely down to having Gary Speed at the helm and this, sadly, will no longer be the case.

Gary Speed was one of the few lasting members of a generation that has died out in football now. One of the phrases we will constantly hear this week is ‘model professional’ and so we should. This is exactly what Gary Speed was. He played for the love of football. He didn’t play for excessive money or for an inflated social status.

Speed wasn’t a dirty player, he wasn’t a devious player. He didn’t need to use tricks to beat his opponents, he used his ability. He was never on the front pages of a newspaper, he stuck to the back. He kept his private life private and his professional life professional.

Aside from the football pitch, Gary was usually a regular in the TV studio as well. He was often brought in for his punditry views, as recently as Saturday’s 'Football Focus'. In these appearances he showed himself to be insightful, level-headed and very witty. Something that has been repeated aplenty in the immense amounts of tributes paid to him since yesterday’s tragedy.

Glowing messages for Speed have come from all quarters since his death, managers, celebrities, politicians and players who are only just making their way in the game. I recall several years ago when Craig Bellamy was speaking about the influence Gary Speed had on his career when he was a youngster during his time at Newcastle. It would appear this relationship continued into Speed’s managerial role with Wales and this was personified yesterday when it was decided Bellamy wouldnt’t appear against Manchester City upon hearing of Speed's death.

Even the much maligned Fifa have shown their respects by lowering both their own flag and Wales’ at their headquarters in Zurich. Whilst a respectful gesture, it pales in comparison to the Swansea fans breaking into applause whilst Shay Given wept for the loss of his former teammate.

The words that have been spoken about Speed since his death have shown what a great human being he was. One word however has been mentioned and it will no doubt become much more prominent in the weeks to come – “why”? He had a great career, a lovely family and a very promising future in a job that he adored. The intensity of grief towards this event has obviously been multiplied by the fact that it was such a shock. This would have been devastating whoever it had happened to but no one would ever have thought Gary Speed would have taken his own life. Especially as we think back to him laughing and joking on Football Focus as he usually did, just hours before.

As I have said though, now is not the right time to pick apart the bones of why this man decided to end his own life. If that is indeed what happened, as we shall find out from tomorrow’s inquest.

Now is the time to cherish the great man who graced the best sport in the world. A man who was revered and respected by so many. One of the old guard.  Gary Speed, the ultimate professional. A man who showed all up and coming players what being a footballer was all about, playing the game. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten.  

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Throwing The Book At John Terry. 'If' He Is Guilty.

(At the time of writing this) England will line up against Spain and Sweden over the next week with no poppies adorning their shirts. Fifa have ruled that allowing such symbols being worn on a shirt would set a dangerous precedent, opening the door for “similar initiatives from all over the world” therefore damaging the neutrality of football. Fifa rules outlaw shirts carrying political, religious or commercial messages. Yeah because Umbro, Nike and Adidas aren’t commercial at all are they? Yet they will be on the majority of shirts wore over the next week.

Basically Fifa fear that wearing poppies will offend other countries, perhaps they have our German friends in mind? Of course, wearing poppies is not offensive in the slightest. It is merely a tribute to the soldiers that fought and died for our country. The fact that the England team won’t be wearing them is just another reminder of the ludicrous behaviour that Fifa seems intent on displaying on a regular basis.

What about though, offending our own citizens? Regardless of whether England shirts have a small red flower on them, will our players be lead out by a racist? Will a country as diverse as ours be represented by someone who is abusive to his own countrymen because of their race? John Terry is expected to be wearing the captain’s armband on Saturday and/or Tuesday. Whether he is guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand however is pending investigation.

Let me just state that I think it was the right decision for John Terry to be included in the England squad for the imminent matches. In football as well as in the country as a whole we have the right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. To punish Terry before a thorough and accurate investigation would have been unfair and would have shown the FA buckling under pressure from the media. Even QPR chairman Tony Fernandes has agreed with this, see

I am not going to spend hours picking apart whether Terry should have made the England squad. I want to look at if we have a racism problem in football in general and what kind of consequences any guilty parties should face.

Is racism more prevalent in football now than it was 15 years ago? 25 years ago? Well no. Not as far as I can see anyway. The days of John Barnes having to use his dribbling skills to evade banana skins as well as defenders have thankfully now gone. 

Campaigns such as ‘Say No to Racism’ and ‘Stand Up, Speak Up’ have helped to isolate and somewhat diminish the problem. It still exists though, in this country and throughout Europe. We have seen over the years as some of our players have been abused when playing in Europe by fans, as recently as England’s game in Bulgaria in September.   

Fortunately it would appear that racist incidents amongst fans in the UK are fairly rare. What has not been so rare though, particularly this season, is incidents amongst players. The John Terry incident, Luis Suarez clashing with Patrice Evra. It is allegedly happening at all of levels of the game, see Blyth Spartans’ Richard Offiong accusing a Colwyn Bay player of a racist slur (

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan came out after the Terry and Suarez incidents claiming that players who had recently complained of racist abuse “should get on with it”. Whelan claimed that abuse of this sort can work both ways in the stressful environment of top-level football, with white players facing racist comments as well. Whelan almost went as far to say that when players complain of racist abuse they are “a little out of order”.  Dave is clearly not one for mincing his words.

So on this theory John Terry and others should go completely unpunished if accused of making racist taunts. And players shouldn’t mention it if they are targeted by fellow professionals or even a team of professionals because they are black. Or any colour for that matter. I don’t think so Dave. Probably best to focus on getting your team out of their eight match losing streak.

One of the big problems surrounding racist abuse amongst players is that it can be very hard to prove. Any comments made can often be in close proximity between players. Unless an official is close to what is being said or is directly caught on camera then accusations are largely hearsay.

The difference with the John Terry situation is that he was caught on camera. The racist abuse that he was alleged of was captured by Sky’s cameras and as anyone who has seen it will agree – it doesn’t look good for JT. That wasn’t meant to rhyme.

If it is proved without doubt that Terry did say what it certainly looks like he did then punishment will surely follow.  What level of punishment are we talking here though? A slap on the wrist or more?

After the incident against QPR, Chelsea travelled to Genk in the Champions League. There, their fans were heard to be chanting “Anton Ferdinand, you know what you are”. Whether this was in support of their captain, an attack on Ferdinand or anything in between is not the point. They were criticised and chastised for it. QPR manager Neil Warnock stated afterwards that he felt the perpetrators should be jailed for two years.    

Imprisoned for two years? Not like Neil Warnock to exaggerate things. Having said that quite a lot of people will agree with good old Neil. So then why not imprison John Terry for two years? It is the same principle. If anything, in his position of power he should get more time. The fans would not have chanted such things if he hadn’t started the whole thing. If he did indeed start it.

OK, well Terry shouldn’t be locked up for two years. Or even banned from football for two years. His punishment though should be proportionate to the kind of consequences fans face for such actions. Match-going fans can face extortionate bans if caught for racist abuse at a ground. Some fans have even been banned for life from attending the ground of the teams that they support.  So why should John Terry only get a fraction of the kind of retribution that a fan would face for doing the same thing? If anything as Terry abused Anton Ferdinand more directly his actions were worse than his fans. Again, IF he did actually do it.

By introducing much greater bans and punishments the FA would go substantially further to eliminating the problem of racism in football. Longer bans would also create significantly more equality on the matter.  Why on earth should supporters be treated much worse than professionals when they are carrying out the same offences.

The fact is even if the consequences for being racist in football are increased, the problem will still remain. At least for now anyway. Much like in society as a whole there will always be people who are prejudiced. The FA cannot change the views of every footballer that plays in this country.  However if they come down hard on players who are racist on the pitch then this would help to discourage people expressing their views in the public domain.

The FA would certainly be largely unsympathetic on fans and they must do the same with John Terry. IF (for the last time) he is actually guilty of the racist actions he is accused of.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Goals Goals Goals....

As you may or may not know I have now started writing for football betting website 'That's A Goal' ( Here is my latest article for them, looking at tips for games in which both teams will score this weekend. Have a browse and have a flutter:

Goal Rush, Goals Galore or Goals Goals Goals. Call it what you want, but you need both teams to be hitting the back of the net. Here’s our tip for both teams to score this weekend. 

Preston vs Bournemouth

Preston were tipped for a goal last weekend which they provided. They played out a 3-3 draw with Oldham midweek and they are looking good for goals on Saturday as well. They have four wins at home, sitting just outside the playoffs with a game in hand on those above them. More importantly (and more impressively) they have scored 16 at home whilst conceding a massive 15. They’ve conceded more home goals than any team in the league, shipping 11 in their last four at Deepdale.

Bournemouth are currently sitting in top position. Top position in the relegation zone that is. Their form this season has been rather indifferent but they are better on their travels than they are at home.  They have 10 goals scored and 12 conceded away from Dean Court. As well as this both teams have scored in each of their last four matches. 10 goals away from home is definitely a good record for their league position and they’ll be looking to worsen Preston’s already awful home defensive record.

Carlisle vs Oldham

Carlisle are one place above Preston but their home form is somewhat indifferent. They’ve won three and lost three whilst scoring 10 and conceding 13. This is a decent amount scored but it is nearly an average of two goals conceded every home match. On Tuesday they played out a 3-2 win against Sheffield Wednesday and Saturday’s outing could be a similar goal fest.

Oldham are much like their opponents, indifferent form plus plenty of goals scored and conceded. They’re hovering in mid-table currently but are only four points off the playoffs, they’ll be looking for the win here at Brunton Park. 11 goals scored and 15 conceded on their travels, including a 3-3 draw away at Preston on Tuesday. These two will attack each other and we should get goals from both as a result.

Morecambe vs Gillingham

Morecambe are defensively tight away from home, the same cannot be said for their at the Globe Arena though. They are pushing for automatic promotion but this has mainly been aided by their away performances. They’ve lost more than they have won at home but haven’t been shy of hitting the back of net, they’ve scored 15 and conceded 10. Morecambe have come in for goals galore in each of their last four games and this one should be no different.

Gillingham have been hugely unpredictable this season. No team has a better home defensive record than the Gills. However compare this with the fact that only one team has conceded more than them away from home.  They’re no pushovers on their travels though, they’ve actually scored a fantastic 16 goals in eight games away from Priestfield. Gills defender Matt Lawrence has come out this week and admitted their league position is not good enough so they’ll be looking to improve on that on Saturday.

Torquay vs Hereford

Torquay’s matches are always prime candidates for goals. 18 scored and 16 conceded with wins, draws and losses. Their results are quite unpredictable but the propensity and likelihood of goals is not. In their last three matches they have scored or conceded at least four goals. They are currently lying in mid-table but after a 4-0 win against AFC Wimbledon during the week and manager Martin Ling is urging them to go on a winning run.

Hereford are languishing dangerously close to the relegation zone but they will be a buoyed by an away win at Northampton on Tuesday. They have scored an average of over one goal every away game and will fancy themselves against Torquay’s extremely shaky defensive record. Their win against the Cobblers was actually their third on the trot so they will be going into this one with confidence. That in turn will hopefully lead to a hatful of goals.

Dunfermline vs Dundee United

Dunfermline comfortably won Division One north of the border last season but they have struggled in the SPL so far. They have scored a decent seven in six games but conceded a whopping 15.  They have no wins at home yet but Dundee United are only one place and one point above them. They’ll see this as an early relegation six-pointer but also a fantastic chance to register their first home victory. They scored plenty of goals last season and they’ll be trying to recreate that form come Saturday afternoon.

Dundee United haven’t had the greatest of starts either but they have scored plenty of goals away from home. With nine scored and 14 conceded in just five games they are certainly a decent tip for both teams scoring when they are on their travels. Their last four away league games have come in on this type of bet and much like Dunfermline they will see this as an early six-pointer. Neither of these teams will want to be left behind near the relegation zone and will both be looking for the win here.

A £5 bet with William Hill returns £60.42.

Friday, 21 October 2011

A City Divided: United vs ‘Citeh’

For the last three seasons the Manchester derby has been billed as the biggest of its kind in years. This one though, actually is. We’re eight games into this season’s Premier League and both teams sit unbeaten in the top two positions. Manchester City are genuine title contenders now, there is no doubting that. This is a little too early for a title decider but this match is the first meeting of the two powerhouses that are favourite to lift the Premier League trophy next May. So yeah, it’s pretty big.

Manchester United started the season in formidable form, dispatching the likes of Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea in free scoring entertaining style. They made successful summer signings and were offering a very fluid and youthful approach.

In the last few weeks though United haven’t looked quite as unbeatable. Draws against Stoke and Liverpool sandwiched an unconvincing win against Norwich. Their Champions League results have been more concerning with the Red Devils needing two penalties against Romanian minnows Oțelul Galați just to make it one win in three games.

Defensive injuries are not an issue for United anymore but a lack of creativity has been. They were quite negative at Anfield last weekend but do not expect to see that on Sunday. United can be a starkly different force at home than they are away. 16 goals in just four home games will testify to that. The red side of Manchester will attack their rivals at Old Trafford, whoever they may indeed be.

Then there is the question of their talisman – Wayne Rooney. Somewhat of a wounded animal at the moment. ‘Wazza’ started the season with a much improved hairline and absolutely bags of goals. However due to an overgenerous father and overaggressive ‘tackle’ in Montenegro all eyes will be on Rooney for the next few weeks. It says something about his state of mind that he only made the bench against Liverpool. He did score two goals in Romania albeit penalties and much good that United produce goes through Rooney. This is a huge game and it will be interesting to see if Rooney can provide the quality and enigmatic leadership that we know he can.

What about the ‘noisy neighbours’? Well they are neighbours and they are kind of noisy but City have grown beyond this nickname given to them by SAF. They have now joined United in the Champions League and like their rivals they haven’t had the greatest of starts in Europe. They are though, unlike United, rookies at Europe's top table. 

The same cannot be said for the league though. City top the Premier League having failed to win only one of their first eight games. They haven’t exactly been grinding results out too much but they haven’t needed to. The blue side have scored at least two goals in each of their games as well showing they are dangerous all over the pitch, be it home or away.    

The behaviour of Carlos Tevez has allowed other players to shine and likes of Aguero, Dzeko and Silva have been blindingly dazzling. He allowed them to shine, get it? City have basically been unstoppable particularly when going forward. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? It is going to be fantastic to find out.

The outcome of this match will give a key indicator to how primed City are for a real title push this season. Lots of talk from both teams has gone on but talk is cheap. Seems silly claiming something related to United or City is cheap. The talk will not matter on Sunday though when we are hopefully treated to a footballing feast.

Sir Alex Ferguson stated today that he welcomes the City challenge. He has seen many teams and managers come to town and he has always seen off their challenge to United’s dominance. Dalglish, Wenger, Houllier, Mourinho, Benitez, Ancelotti etc etc. They all threatened Ferguson and United’s control of the Premier League and were successful at times but this success was temporary and not sustained. As Ferguson acts in the twilight of his career then surely Mancini and Manchester City will provide his last main threat. It should be thrilling to see who can come out on top tomorrow and in the battle for dominance in Manchester and England.

52 goals in 16 games from these two suggests that there should at least be one thing tomorrow. Goals! Too often though matches of these types are overhyped and they do not live up to their billing. So this writer for now will put the proverbial sock in it. But who are kidding, it will be fantastic. Feel free to blame me if it isn't.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Search For England’s Next Victim (Manager)

Apologies for my lack of posting recently, I have been sunning myself in a country far better at football than ours – España. Now I am back and much like Spain we are all qualified and signed up for Euro 2012. Considering we didn’t make Euro 2008 we should definitely be thankful for this, even if it came in unspectacular fashion.

We know Fabio Capello is leaving after next summer’s tournament. He’s said it and the FA have said it. I don’t think anyone is dying for him to stay either. In fact, if it wasn't going to cost the FA the earth then they may even have got rid of him before next year’s Euros.

Along with Sir Alex and perhaps one or two others, Fabio Capello came to England as one of Europe’s greatest managers. Foreign yes but no English manager could have come close to his managerial achievements. He leant a solid amount of English in a very short amount of time and promised to usher in a new period of English football. A period of discipline where players would be picked on form and not reputation. Players would have to fight for their places, everyone of them.

A stellar qualification campaign followed and all was good. Then there was the shambles that was the 2010 World Cup. Player selections, tactics on and off the pitch. It was an embarrassment and things haven’t exactly improved since then.

Too often were players picked because of their name. Frank Lampard has poorly performed for England for an age but was only recently dropped. Too often was Capello inconsistent in disciplining his players. To strip John Terry of the captaincy to give back to him a year later just sends out the completely wrong message. Too often has Capello been stubborn in team selection. Ignoring pleas of fans and pundits alike he has stuck with an ageing team often playing his better players out of position.

Also, has nobody actually noticed that Capello’s English has never really improved? He learnt a commendable amount to start with and then doesn’t really appear to have learnt anymore since. The man is being paid nearly £6 million a year to manage a team about 8 times a year. He should be completely fluent now surely? This may not seem like a huge issue but it affects his communication with his team and just smacks of a lack of commitment.

It is no surprise that the masses will not be sad to see Capello leave our shores after Euro 2012. Who though will replace him? Who is the next man to take up the seemingly mammoth task of turning our national team into something we can be proud of?

The consensus is that our next man should be English. He should understand the English way of life, the expectations on the national team. Step forward Harry Redknapp.

Harry never represented the national team as a player. His reputation as a manager though is second to no Englishman. Having built his reputation with long spells at Bournemouth and then West Ham, Harry then transformed Portsmouth from Championship dwellers into Premiership mainstays and FA Cup winners. This then lead him to current club Tottenham where he took them to the Champions League proper, something that hadn’t been managed by a team outside the traditional ‘Big Four’ for just under a decade. On top of this he has spoken in glowing terms about the England job itself, the man actually wants the job.

Redknapp likes to his teams to play attacking football and he has a good record of blooding in young, talented players. It appears he also doesn’t mind speaking his mind, something I think would be refreshing and beneficial for an England manager. The fact remains though that he hasn’t really ever challenged for the league title or faced the kind of pressure that the England job carries. Spurs’ showings in the Champions League last season suggests though that pressure is something Harry could enjoy.

Whether he could command the players respect, a point where Capello has somewhat failed, would remain to be seen. As far as home-grown managers go though, Harry is the best option.

What if the manager was not English but British? David Moyes would be an option but a Scotsman in charge of England probably isn’t going to happen. What then about Martin O’Neill? O’Neill interviewed for the post five years ago when the FA overlooked him for er...Steve McClaren. Is it possible for us to get a new FA as well?

O’Neill has done a quality job wherever he has gone and if he had of been better financially backed at Villa then perhaps they too would of reached the Champions League. He is known for his motivational skills and getting the best out of his players. I think we could all agree that a lack of motivation has too long been a problem for England’s big stars. O’Neill is no yes man either and would not be daunted by punishing players who do not obey his rules.

If O’Neill is appointed next year he will have been out of management for two years. He will be a gamble and the FA aren’t exactly the most daring of people. I think though it is a challenge that he would relish.

Something that the FA hasn't quite grasped is that managing a national team is starkly different to managing a club team. Tactics, team selection, man-management, it’s all different. So why not go for someone with international experience, someone who knows how it works.

Roy Hodgson would be the main English choice on this front. Whilst a fine manager I think the FA will look for a bigger name. His spell at Liverpool doesn’t help his cause. Guus Hiddink certainly fits this bill. Speaks good English and bags of international experience. It seems pretty apparent though that we will not see another foreigner managing the Three Lions for a while.

Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson blogged a few weeks ago putting forth another candidate, see Not an Englishman but someone who knows the English game throughout and has been very successful in the Premier League. A certain Arsene Wenger.

Wenger has always shown more of a liking for bringing in younger players than gambling in the transfer market. This is what managing the national team is all about. He also likes to play very attractive football, the likes of which we see from our Spanish friends.

The Frenchman though will not be taking up this role. He has shown he is not one who reacts well to criticism so why would he put himself in a position where criticism will be one of his only friends? Wenger will also be astutely aware that the current England crop will not have the talents and technique that is required to play his kind of football. The job would be a losing battle for Arsene and he will be all too aware of this.

Is the manager to blame? Should we not be finding a new squad? The amount of money and status that some players have at their clubs suggests that the international scene means little to them. It is just not as important. It has been argued that some players see a major tournament as a free holiday and that they care little about their country’s fortunes. But surely the likes of Spain and Germany have similar players who have massive statuses at their own clubs YET still love performing for their country. It will be up to the new manager to change this viewpoint of some of the players or actually change the players themselves.

Whoever gets the nod from the FA has an arduous task to say the least. They will need to be thick-skinned but also flexible and willing to listen to others around them. They need to motivate and turn our national team into a hard-working one, a side we can actually be proud of from time to time. It’s an extremely tough prospect there is just no denying it. At least the new man though won’t be intimidated by the triumphs (or lack of) made by their successors. Unless Fabio surprises us all next summer. I won't hold my breath though.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

City Learning The Fine Art Of Winning Ugly

Manchester City trudged off the field at Eastlands on Saturday perhaps feeling a tad underwhelmed. After some rather spectacular, free-flowing performances their 2-0 win against Everton didn’t quite match up. They did however get the three points and in these kind of games that can be all that matters.

Everton came to Eastlands with the express intention of not being turned over. Not being thrashed, doing their upmost not to concede. They adopted these tactics to an extreme so that it began to look like they didn’t even want to score themselves. A claim which David Moyes angrily refuted after the game. The evidence in the previous 90 minutes though was somewhat hard to deny.

The Toffees created a solid wall which City strived and eventually succeeded in breaking down. It was not easy though. Everton harried, pestered and jockied for the duration. City though proved they have what it takes to win on an occasion like this. They remained patient yet persistent. Their 2-0 victory will not live in the memory but it does mark a transition. A transition that could be vital in the title race.

The goals scored by City were elegant to watch, albeit via a deflection. David Silva was at his imperious best but this was more a performance of substance than style.

For years Manchester rivals United have been winning ‘ugly’. The red side have given lessons sitting in 4th gear, working hard and grinding out the result. City in previous years have not done this. Despite having powerful utilities such as De Jong, City have too often being found wanting when faced with a physical, resilient force in previous seasons. When things weren’t quite going the Citizens way they did not have the mental steel to create the right result. That now appears to be changing.

There are going to be many occasions now where City are going to face these kind of matches. Their start to the season shows that they are well and truly title contenders. That means that teams will be happy to come to Eastlands and leave with a draw, a 0-0. It’ll be the test of City to break these teams down. If they can pick up the narrow victories in these games you have to think they will be in the final shake-up come May.

The old adage stands true, winning matches when you’re not on top form is the mark of the champions. Over the last 6 years the likes of United and Chelsea have done this whereas Arsenal generally have not. The difference? 7 Premier League trophies between United/Chelsea and absolutely none for the Gunners.  This early start for Manchester City is undoubtedly promising but let’s not forget we have a long way to go this season.

Some may have seen the title of this post and immediately thought of Carlos Tevez. Whilst being no oil painting the Argentine was not intended to be the subject matter of this prose. There is not even much face-time for Carlos at Eastlands recently. If you had said a year ago that City don’t need Tevez you’d of probably been sniggered at. The fact that it seems that they now don’t need him shows how far they’ve come. The signing of Aguero and the resurgence of Dzeko has reduced the Argentinean ‘s influence greatly. Whilst Tevez’s talent remains, City’s reliance on him does not. I think if they get the right deal in January for him then he shall leave. City are no longer a one-man-team and they can now afford to let that one man go.

As I have said it is still very early days in the Premier League race. What I have also said (in previous posts) is do not underestimate the detrimental effect playing in the Champions League can have on Manchester City. City have only dropped league points this season after a fairly unspectatcular Champions League match. As the games start to come thick and fast it will be a real challenge for them to maintain their title push. Especially considering few of the players have solid experience in fighting for both the big trophies week in, week out.

For now though City can be rather satisfied with their early start. Whether it was tearing apart Tottenham or grinding it out against Everton, the rewards are the same. Have they got what it takes to grab the big reward in May 2012? Perhaps they do.  

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Arsene Wenger - Time to change policy or time to change job?

Played 5, won 1, drawn 1 and lost 3. Scored 6 and conceded 14. Sitting 17th in the table. Yes, we are only in September but these stats make quite awful reading for Arsenal followers.

Arsene Wenger arrived at Highbury in 1996 as rather an unknown. He came from Nagoya Grampus Eight looking much like ‘The Demon Headmaster’.  Those who do not remember the school principle that terrorised young audiences in the late 90’s can inspect the image below. In fact, ‘The Demon Headmaster’ first hit our screens 1996 as well. Coincidence? I think not.

All jokes aside, not many would have predicted the successes that Wenger would bring to North London. The Gunners have won the Premier League thrice since 1996 and the first two of these successes included an FA Cup double. Arsene’s finest moment though came in 2004 when his ‘Invincibles’ went the entire season without losing a league match. Something Sir Alex amongst others cannot match.

In terms of trophies won Arsene Wenger is Arsenal’s most successful manager. So why now are some pundits and fans asking (perhaps demanding) for the Frenchman to move on? The reasons I am afraid are plentiful.

Since the Gunners amazing triumph in 2004 things have somewhat gone downhill. Apart from an FA Cup the following year Arsenal have won exactly ZERO trophies. Is this really the product of a team that went an entire league season unbeaten? Yes they have come close, there has been a Champions League final as well as two League Cup finals. Arsenal fans though have become used to getting more than just “close” to trophies.

For the years since their last trophy Mr. Wenger has invested heavily in youngsters that have come and gone. Seasons have come and gone as well without adding to the trophy cabinet. By having a young team the manager and fans alike have been able to comfort themselves in their failure. The philosophy that it will all come good “next season”. It’s been six barren years now and it hasn’t come good on the trophy front. Patience has well and truly wore thin.

This blog has attacked Mr. Wenger’s transfer policy on numerous occasions. Whether it is his or the board’s fear of spending money that dictates this policy I do not know. Whoever it is to blame though may regret their decisions come the end of the season.

Arsenal lost arguably their best two players in Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri this summer. They did rather well out of it as well financially, garnering over £50 million from the pair. Why though did they leave it so late in the transfer window to let them go? Especially as it would appear they didn’t exactly have concrete replacements lined up. Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun were brought in on deadline day and I am afraid they don’t quite fill the shoes of the players that have departed from the Emirates. Why not give yourself the whole summer to find replacements for players that you know are going to leave?

Why also, do they refuse to spend big amounts of money? A want for bringing through youth talent rather than spending tens of millions of pounds is an admirable stance by Wenger. Unfortunately it is also an outdated one. After Andrei Arshavin, Arsenal’s 2nd most expensive signing is....(drum roll) Sylvain Wiltord. Wasn’t worth the drum roll was it? The Frenchman signed for £13 million over 11 years ago.  Unfortunately the world of football that we now live in means that money has to be spent to be successful. Manchester United have long had a formula of spending whilst blooding in young starlets and this has obviously been successful. After 6 years without a trophy perhaps Alan Hansen was right after all, just not about the right manager  -“you’ll never win anything with kids.”

Opposition teams do not fear Arsenal anymore. Since Patrick Vieira left in 2005 Arsenal have had no player of any steel. No midfield general to command his troops. Arsenal have always played fantastic football but at the same time it has always been felt that they can be physically dominated. Or at least it has been felt that since 2005. It is somewhat baffling to see how much good a tough midfielder could do for Arsenal and yet they let the likes of Scott Parker go to White Hart Lane for £5 million. Mr. Wenger needs to accept the best teams have both silk and steel at their disposal.

The disarray in which Arsenal stood after such a chaotic transfer window has obviously affected their start to the season. The Gunners have had a high turnover of first team players with much of it going on once the season had started. Players will obviously settle in and performances will improve. Will it be enough to make the top 4? I am not so sure. I think too many times this season their defence will be opened up. Tottenham and Liverpool are both going for that 4th spot and neither have the distraction of the Champions League.

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has come out today and reassured all concerned that Mr. Wenger will not be sacked.  “He didn't suddenly become a bad manager” says Gazidis. Of course not. Perhaps a bit stuck in his ways though, a tad misguided? I think so.

Is it not more of a worry that Wenger will leave on his own accord? If it comes to December/ January time and Arsenal are sitting in 8th having criticism thrown from all quarters? The Gunners have never finished outside the top 4 in the 15 years since Wenger joined. If they are failing to achieve that this season is Wenger going to go down with his ship? Perhaps his pride is too strong.

Wenger's team building policies in recent years have been flawed that is a fact. He has 3 options available really: stick, twist or leave the table. I am not sure whether he knows which one to take right now. 

In reality there can be no denying Arsene Wenger’s previous triumphs. This season however I think is his biggest test. He needs to secure his defence and he needs to secure his team’s self-belief. A big 8 months is ahead for the Frenchman and things needs to improve drastically for him and his team. I think he will definitely need to strengthen further in the transfer window in January as well. Whether or not he does this though will be up to him. The time to spend money is now and if he does not do not be surprised to see Arsenal outside the top 4 come next May.

And who knows, Mr. Wenger may not be there come next May either.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Brits Abroad: The Champions League Beckons

Andy Townsend and Gareth Southgate have dusted off their average-looking suits and punditry shoes. The summer is over and the world’s biggest club competition is back, the Uefa Champions League.  It won’t be long until we are serenaded with Tony Britten’s adaptation of George Frideric Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ performed by the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Confused? As was I until a quick Wikipedia check 5 minutes ago. I am of course referring to the Champions League anthem played at the start of all Champs League matches. Check out if you are still confuzzled.

The 1990’s were generally a barren period for English clubs in the European Cup / Champions League. After the Heysel Stadium disaster of 1985 where 39 fans were killed, English clubs were banned from European club football for 5 years. Whether this was fair or not, English clubs definitely suffered because of the ban. They could no longer attract the better players in Europe and many of their own went abroad for European competition, Mark Hughes and Gary Lineker for example. After a long spell of not being able to compete against Europe’s elite teams initially struggled after being introduced back to the European Cup. In fact in the first 14 years after the ban was lifted an English team reached the Champions League final ONCE, Man United’s unbelievable win in 1999.

Even United’s win was somewhat of a false dawn. It was then a further 6 years until we saw a team from Blighty in the final again, Liverpool with again another outrageous victory in 2005. Since then English teams have flourished with one of our clubs making the final every year apart from 2010. That is a fantastic record and one I hope we can continue. After an interesting transfer window I look ahead to what our 4 teams can do this year. Here goes, in alphabetical order:


After a quite traumatic transfer window, Arsenal currently sit 11th with 4 points from 4 games and a goal difference of -7. No, -7 is not a typing error. More than ever in his 15 year reign, Arsene Wenger is being questioned and this is a huge season for the Frenchman and his team. Arsenal lost Fabregas and Nasri in the transfer window and they needed to make several signings even before these two massive departures. After a deadline day spree can Arsenal be challenging for the big trophy at the end of the season?

Well Per Mertersacker is fairly proven and even if he performs poorly he is still big enough to at least scare some of Europe’s top strikers. The jury is out on left-back Andre Santos but he does have 22 Brazil caps to his name so does come with some pedigree. His influence however (good or bad) is unlikely to be season defining. Mikel Arteta? Cesc’s replacement? A decent player, no doubt about it. But minimal Champs League experience and no senior international caps? Hardly going make the Arsenal fans forget about Fabregas in a hurry. Nor is Yossi Benayoun I am afraid. Again he is certainly a player of quality but the ease in which Liverpool and then Chelsea let him move onto rival teams surely shows he’s not the most dangerous of players. Unfortunately BenTeta does not match up to NasRegas.

Arsene Wenger has a proven record of reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League. Since 2003/04 when the tournament was expanded to have a last 16 phase, Arsenal have featured every year since in the latter stages. They have also been unfortunate to have come up against Barcelona for the last 2 years. With a not-so-easy but not-so-tough group of Marseille, Olympiakos and Borussia Dortmund I would expect Arsenal to once again be reaching the last 16 this season. However I wouldn’t look too much beyond that. If the draw doesn’t go right for them then I would think Arsenal will struggle. They are also in real danger of not finishing in the top 4 in the Premier League this year so the Champions League could be an unwanted distraction at times. I think the league will have to be their main focus this season, if they miss out on qualifiying for Europe’s major tournament then we could see a few more players and perhaps a manager saying “Au Revoir” next summer.


‘Chelski’ are a team in transition. They have a young, dynamic manager but unfortunately quite an ageing squad. Drogba, Lampard, Terry, Malouda, Anelka and A. Cole are all in their 30’s now. It will be a strain for these players to be at the top of their game in both the league and in Europe every week. ‘AVB’ has brought in younger players but you cannot transform a squad overnight. I think the signing of Juan Mata is very shrewd though, he’s a talented player and will add a creative spark that Chelsea have lacked in recent years.

Chelsea are a powerful team and I think they have rather an average group to face, compiled of Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen and Genk. Valencia are the main danger and they have been forced in recent years to sell off their main talents, Villa, Silva, Mata etc. Despite having ex-Blue Michael Ballack to bring back to the Bridge, Leverkusen also pose a modest threat. So I would expect Chelsea to top this group with relative ease. Like Arsenal though, I am not sure how they will cope against a European giant in the knockout stages.

Chelsea were found lacking last season against Man United in the quarters last year. I don’t think they have made the kind of signings to suggest this wouldn’t happen again. They could also do with locating the form of the striker formally known as Fernando Torres, who may have labelled his team mates old and slow recently (investigation pending). The Champs League is an obsession for Mr. Abramovich and in AVB he may have a manager who could deliver it  - but not this season. Roman will have to be patient and allow AVB to build his team. One thing I think we may have learned from Roman though is that patience is not one of his finer qualities.

Manchester City:

Well there is always a ‘group of death’ and this year Manchester City are supposedly in it. They are however one of the main reasons it is the group of death along with Bayern Munich. City always spend big in the summer but this year they have spent very well. Samir Nasri has undoubted quality but Sergio Aguero has been worryingly good since his arrival. With a resurgent Dzeko and the likes of Silva, Tevez and Yaya Toure in support, City are an obvious threat for any team in Europe.

This is a big step-up from the Europa League however. City have a large, talented squad but unlike the Champs League’s little brother, they will not be able to get away with fielding a second-string in Europe anymore. In fact, it didn’t work for them last year when they crashed out against Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League’s last 16. They do have players with European experience. However as a team they have never been challenging for the league and the European Cup at the same time. They are a title threat now and will be expected by their fans to push for both trophies, playing their biggest stars in both competitions.

Manchester City are always surprising and I definitely expect them to qualify if not win their group. They may reach the last 8, perhaps the last 4 but the final is a stretch too far, at least for the moment. Roberto Mancini has done well at Eastlands and let’s not forget this is a man who transformed Inter into what is now Italy’s dominant team. He won 3 Scudettos in a row but was sacked, why you all ask? He did naff all in the Champions League. So this is as big a test for Mancini as it is for his players. Due to challenging on both domestic and European fronts I don’t think City will be in the final Champions League shake-up, it’s a little too soon. As I say though, they are always surprising and I am sure they will be entertaining whatever happens.

Manchester United:

United did their transfer business earlier in the summer and will of course be looking to make it 4 finals in 5 seasons next May. The signings of Ashley Young and Phil Jones have been somewhat inspired so far, David De Gea less so. He is still just 20 years old though so he will be afforded time. Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley have both impressed since their return from loan and all in all United have looked somewhat formidable so far. 

The Red Devils have immense Champions League pedigree and a hardly fear-inspiring group of Benfica, Basel and er...Otelul Galati? Romania’s finest apparently. So it would be somewhat ludicrous for them not to reach the latter stages. United have played more and won more games than any other team in the Champions League so do not be surprised to see them in the last 4 at least. This though, or perhaps earlier, is where they may enter trouble.

United’s season was tainted last year by the absolute demolition they suffered from Barcelona. Since then Barca have welcomed home Cesc Fabregas into midfield. Who did United replace Paul Scholes with? Well apart from Cleverley’s return, no one. Despite Fergie apparently learning from his team’s dismantling and the fluid manner with which they have so far played, the gap between United and Barca remains. United’s early form suggests it is going to have be a colossal effort from their rivals to stop Nemanja Vidic lifting the league trophy in 2012. And I fully expect them to be in contention for this Champions League, only though if Barcelona can be disposed of by someone else. The lack of midfield signings and the psychological hold that Barca have on United implies that United will not be the ones to knock Guardiola’s men out this season. Barca were unbelievable and at times unplayable last year. If anyone else is to win the Champions League this time then you would have to think that they will have to slay the Catalan dragon along the way.

These are my humble forecasts for the impending Uefa Champions League 2011/12. As we have learnt too often in football, predictions can stand for nothing once the first whistle is blown. Or in this case when Tony Britten’s adaptation of George Frideric Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ performed by the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is played.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Delicate Ingredients Needed For The Perfect Tournament

England expect to all but secure Euro 2012 qualification this evening by brushing Wales aside with the ease in which they took apart the Bulgarians last week. The planning for Ukraine and Poland will probably begin next month as Capello’s men board their plane out of Montenegro – assuming they have been successful. So, England in a major tournament. Always cause for excitement yes? Well that’s what I used to think. South Africa 2010 however, has a lot to answer for.

From both an English and a neutral point-of-view, the last World Cup was for the most part a disappointment. Actually from an English perspective, we had an absolute shitter. Apologies for the language but if you’re failing to score past Algeria then profanities are required.

So I have compiled a collection of ingredients. A group of dynamics that I feel are required for Euro 2012 or any future tournament to be successful in the eyes of the fans. I can remember about nine major tournaments but I feel I have seen enough archival footage to know what is required to get the pulses racing – both for England supporters and for the neutral.

The Song:

What have been England’s best results since Sir Alf’s men lifted the World Cup in ’66? Italia ’90 and Euro ’96 when they reached the semi-finals. The common denominator in these near misses? A great tournament song. ‘World In Motion’ and ‘Three Lions’ are still belted out by the England faithful down the pub and rightfully so, they are fantastic tunes. And 2010? The FA banned an official song so that the team could be “fully focused on the football.” They didn’t seem too “focused” when Thomas Müller banged in Germany’s fourth in Bloemfontein.

A good tournament song excites the fans. It unites England’s followers when they sing it together in the pub or the stands. Remember the effect ‘Three Lions’ had in 1996. It should be fun! Think John Barnes spitting rhymes with New Order. Even watching Ant’n’Dec running around in 2002 dressed as SGE and Tord Grip was more than entertaining. Although unlikely I pray The FA would bring back a tournament song for next summer – one that involves the players. It’s an easy-to-follow formula, you need a good English group performing a song written by a comedian. Perhaps with a player rapping at some point. I foresee Arctic Monkeys performing a Noel Fielding-penned hit whilst Andy Carroll freestyles lyrics in the background. Perhaps I’ll start a petition.

The standout player:

Ronaldo ’02. Zidane ’98. Baggio ’94. Maradona ’86. Cruyff ’74. See what I mean? Not all of these were awarded the FIFA Golden Ball for being voted the tournament's best player. They didn’t need to be. These players aren’t loved for their efficiency or resilience. They’re loved because they excite, because they are artists. They make the beautiful game beautiful. When September comes and kids return to school these are the players they pretend to be, I myself was a Baggio/Romario. All of these players mentioned could carry their teams at times and they all made the final. When you look back and think of tournaments you remember the best matches and the players that you made you say “WOW”.

Whilst Spain as a collective were something to be marvelled at, 2010 never really had this kind of player. Nor did Euro 2008 or World Cup 2006.  Can Euro 2012 produce a standout superstar? I sure hope so. It’d be nice to tell the grandkids that I once saw Joe Bloggs round 8 players and chip the keeper with his ear in the final of the Euro Championships. Worryingly though I can’t think of the player that will do this next summer. C. Ronaldo and Ribery would have to be frontrunners. May have to start waiting for Messi in 2014.

Nothing to complain about:

As a nation we like a good moan, we’re quite talented at finding things to complain about.  We don’t need to be handed gift-wrapped grievances to wax lyrical about. Enter SA 2010 with its dodgy ball and the vuvuzela. Vuvuzela being Afrikaans for ‘Pain-In-The-Arse’. Whilst this last statement isn’t strictly true, players and fans alike agreed that the dreaded horns had a significantly detrimental effect on the atmosphere at last year’s tournament. Whether there was a goal scored, a sending off or actually nothing going on at all, the same annoying monotone drone reigned supreme.

What was wrong with the ball? It was perfectly spherical and immensely technologically advanced. So why could most people not play with it then?! Players struggled to pass/shoot with it and ‘keepers didn’t know what the hell was going on. Why fix something that isn’t broken? You get the best players in the world together for a few weeks every 2 years. Just give them something that is kinda round and bounces. Don’t ruin it. I hope it’s just football doing the talking in 2012.

The underdog and the upset:

Seeing a footballing giant crumble at the hands of relative minnows is always somewhat enjoyable. Reigning champions France being humbled by ‘The ‘Wardrobe’ Papa Diop in Seoul, Italy falling to hosts South Korea later in the same tournament. We enjoy seeing the underdogs progress, particularly if they are from Africa for some reason. Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana have all had the neutral support over the years as they reached the last 8.

Whilst we appreciate an Italy or a France going out in the first round there is a fine line to be considered though. The draw of a major tournament is to see the best teams competing against each other – not to see a group of underdogs fighting for the trophy. At Euro 2004 Spain, Italy and Germany all exited in the group stage, in 2002 the same fate fell for France, Portugal and Argentina. The 2004 tournament was won by Greece and in 2002 South Korea and Turkey made the semis. Whilst people appreciated Greece’s achievement it wasn’t exactly enjoyable to watch. We want to see great football and like it or not that generally comes from the best teams. So whilst a successful tournament run from an underdog would of course be welcomed next year, let’s see the best players and teams flourish.

The moment of English glory:

I think we should have a reality check. England first played in a major tournament 61 years ago. In that time we have reached one final so we need to grab hold of whatever bit of fantastic elation that is sent our way. Can you think of one of these moments in 2010? I sure as hell can’t. Remember Rooney tearing Croatia apart in ’04? Beating Argentina and Germany at the start of the millennium? Michael Owen announcing his talent in unbelievable fashion at France ‘98? In my lifetime these are the moments that I cherish of the national team. The moments that endear the Three Lions to myself. As England fans we are usually optimistic, at least at the start of a tournament. The bitter truth is though we haven’t come close to a trophy in a long time now. When these moments of glory happen we need to embrace them, they makes us feel like our country can beat the best the world has to offer.

I don’t expect England to be lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy in July 2012. To be brutally and depressingly honest I don’t expect England to even be in contention. When (hopefully if) we go out I will, like all others, be somewhat drunk and somewhat inconsolable. When I reflect though I would be happy enough just to know that England were knocked out gracefully. Perhaps after Wayne Rooney scored a hat-trick against Ze Germans in the previous round. I did say I was optimistic.

That’s my super-tournament recipe. It is not an exhaustive list and I would welcome any suggestions. If Poland and Ukraine could follow my recipe we may have some spectacle next year. If Euro 2012 does not meet expectations though, we can still be exceptionally happy. Knowing there will be no vuvuzelas in attendance will always keep me happy.