No-one likes to see a once great player suffering through the decline of his own body. John Nicholson believes some difficult decisions lie ahead for Steven Gerrard...
A typical Mourinho away performance that seemed to indicate the title was Chelsea's, until narrative came back to haunt them. Daniel Storey enjoyed it immensely...
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We Got a Few Of These
Terry Hall, Switzerland.
Jack Rodwell England Captain in 2016?
Are you on drugs?
Not Wanting England To Win
Without wanting to be accused of treason and marched to the front door of a grieving family by Ian Wright, I think a convincing victory for England today could be the worst thing that could happen, and that's not just for the headline 'Costa Eureka!' that will adorn the papers tomorrow.
Of course, it makes sense to always have half an eye on the next major tournament, and the expansion to 24 teams in the European Championships means that England should really never fail to qualify for it ever again, but much like any game of football, you should be picking your best players to get the job done. Tonight is a meaningless game for England and I can understand the experimentation, but should they win 3-0, that does not mean this is England's best team.
The cry for this massively inexperienced team to carry on into the qualifiers for Euro 2016 will be deafening and I only hope Roy Hodgson has the sense about him to realise that actually, the team he picked for the first two games is, more or less, his best team, even if it wasn't utilised in the best manner. There are question marks of course, and as with any tournament, you would expect a couple of players to be phased out. Wholesale change though is not needed. Wholesale change has already happened in many respects when you look at this squad compared to that of even two years ago. Half the squad has changed already - that's major surgery!
Many people seem to be pinning their hopes on the likes of Luke Shaw, who is a very good player but is still very young, and John Stones, who has a handful of impressive games for Everton under his belt. These guys may turn out to be wonderful players, but if they don't break into the England team until they're 22/23, that isn't the end of the world. Seriously, when will we learn? Leighton Baines, despite being 29, is still a relative newcomer to the international scene and deserves a chance to bed in. The same is true of the likes of Lallana, Henderson, Wilshere and even Jagielka and Cahill. Because of the longevity of the previous generation, we have a raft of players in their mid to late twenties with very little international experience.
Any good team has the right mix of youth and experience. To throw the likes of Gerrard, Rooney (and dare I say it, Ashley Cole) on the scrap heap too early would be cutting off our nose to spite our face. Italy with Pirlo and Mexico with Marquez have both put extra players in certain areas on their team to allow their older players to continue to flourish, which is something Hodgson has neglected to do. Isn't something along those lines worthy of experimentation as much as filling the team full of kids who have thus far shown no signs of surpassing the people they are being lined up to replace? I think, as a nation, we are sorely mistaken if we think we have players of the quality of Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney coming through our ranks. If it forces us to focus on the collective rather than the individual then it's for the better, but forgive me if I remain sceptical on that one.
England had The Group Of Death
Ever since the WC draw, Group G with Germany/Portugal/USA/Ghana has been dubbed the "group of death". At the time, I couldn't argue. As of December 6, 2013, Ze Germans were ranked 2nd, Portugal 5th, USA 14th and Ghana 24th. 45 total? That's ridiculous!
Come the start of the World Cup, however, Despite Germany still being 2nd, Portugal up to 4th and USA up to 13th, Ghana had dropped to 37th. That's a combined total of 56.
Uruguay at 7th, Italy at 9th, England at 10th and Costa Rica at 28th gives us a total of 54, the lowest combined ranking of any group. We were 6/7/13/31 for 57 at the time of the draw.
I still hold onto some hope that we can beat Costa Rica today and save some face after playing the REAL Group of Death at this year's WC.
Send Them All To School
With a country of 60 million people, amongst the highest paid players in the world, a smorgasbord of talent, why do we always fail dismally at international competition. To answer this, you must find the unique characteristic of the English footballer. And this is found at the heart, no the arse of this septic isle. The chav. The ignoramus who lionized Jade Goody (God rest her soul), the country that invented binge drinking, the nation with the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe, the 'fan' who whilst not inventing football hooliganism, gave it that English touch; the English footballer is royalty amongst them all.
This squad is dumb and getting dumber. Ask yourself how many players speak a foreign language ('Professor' Lampard's latin doesn't count). Most squads are bi-lingual and more. Why has no player in the Premiership come out as Gay, why do none of the squad play abroad? Why does an intelligent guy like Graeme Le Saux get hounded for reading the Guardian? The questions just pile up and the answer is always the same. Because the English footballer is dumb. Effectively taken from school at a young age, he is afraid of what's outside his comfort zone where his job on the pitch is drilled into him until thought is no longer required. And he has every right to be afraid because once he's playing for a different team and the opposition mixes it up a bit, changes their formation, plays with intelligence to maximize their qualities and expose deficiencies in the opposition, England players are left flat footed, literally and metaphorically - witness Gerrards utter lack of awareness of the gap on the left midfield and Rooney continuing to play where he does at Man U. Mercy!
Glen Hoddle alluded to it with his plea for 'flexibility'. Lineaker alluded to it with his reference to Gerrards lack of 'football nous'. Chris Waddle shouts it from the rooftops but there aint no debate because the football-media are (wait for it) ex-footballers or journos too damned scared to rock the boat through fear of losing their stipend. The English footballer is dumb. He is uneducated. He cannot therefore react dynamically to change. And it aint gonna change until society changes.
I sound like a snob. So what. Have you ever wondered why the English Rugby team is good (the pundit and ex hooker fercrisskes Brian Moore is a qualified solicitor - how many....no don't bother), the English cricket team was until recently the best. They're thinking people. The English footballer is not and that Ladies and Gentlemen is why.
Having A Rio Carnival
So the inevitable has finally happened. Rio is joining the triffic lads down at Loftus Road. According to the papers he has taken a pay cut to join us and is on about 1/3 of his previous salary....so about £65,000 a week.
Im trying to stay positive, and say the only reason he will be more motivated than the overpaid tripe we bought last time (Bosingwa, im looking at you) is that 'Arry gave him in his chance therefore he wouldn't want to let him down.
And then i realise we've given £65,000 a week to a 35 year old - our four centre backs are C.Hill, R Dunne, R Ferdinand, N Onuoha -and if you take Onuhoa out and put these three in a foot race, you'd have to clear your weekend diary to see the winner finish.
But not to worry - he's triffic.
Worried About Inflated Fees
I'm sure you will have seen a lot of this in the comments section recently but I am finding it hard to get my head around some of the transfer fees being touted this summer.
I'm a Manchester United season ticket holder and whilst I'm delighted that we are looking to rebuild (any also with Van Gaal's promise at the World Cup) I cannot but be a little worried. £34m for a left back with only two years Premier League experience and no CL football reeks of a huge risk, and whilst I believe Herrera is a good player is he worth one and a half Ruud Van Nistelrooys?
I used to remember getting extremely excited when a player was costing more than £20m, but now it seems it has to be the norm for anyone half decent. I understand inflation and the fact that Chelski and the oil money next door have somewhat driven up the costs, but with FFP in place I am slightly bemused - is anyone else?
Annoyingly, and I despise the man, the only player who seems to actually be worth the amounts being quoted in the press is that Uruguayan chap who tends to bite people.
Three's A Crowd
Following on from Hulmy's observation about Dani Alves sporting three different haircuts in three different games, I was wondering has any other team worn three different jerseys in three different group games before like Spain did in this World Cup?
They wore all white against The Netherlands, all red against Chile and all black against Australia. Thoroughly interesting I'm sure you'll agree.
(This esteemed MC is sad enough to point out that France in 1978 is your answer)
Oh, You Guys
Excellent Mediawatch today guys.
Really, really good.