...what happened to the fourth Champions League place the last time an English team won the thing. Plus, who would want to pay £60 to watch the current England team?
A Sunderland fan in the mailbox is surprised by Jack Colback's call up to the England squad. Plus, thoughts on Welbeck and Liverpool's Champions League draw...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org...
Are Liverpool Really Strengthening?
Liverpool have been praised quite a lot for their early mobilisation into the transfer market but I for one feel quite underwhelmed. For the last five years we have been dreaming of the high-calibre players that we could sign if we had the glamour of Champions League football back, but we have not yet even been realistically linked with any player in the 'world-class' bracket.
What we have got in is an ageing striker destined for the bench in Lambert and an unproven gamble on a youngster in Can. I see Lambert and Can as useful squad players but we need real quality to sustain Brendan's revival of the club, with rivals also strengthening. Moreno and Lallana have also been touted for sizeable fees but what I am asking is where are the genuine superstars? Why is it that despite Champions League qualification and a probable title challenge next season, we are not even in the market for players of the ilk of a Fabregas?
Uzzi (Already dreading the Can wordplay) , South Africa
Musings On The Ox
What a shame for Alex Oxlade Chamberlain to suffer an injury like that at this late stage. He upstaged the current media golden boys of Sterling and Barkley against Ecuador, and I hope he can recover in time to play at least some of the WC. If not, the like for like equivalent would appear to be the woefully out of form Tom Cleverly. However, surely Roy could be a bit sly and use the injury to bring in some cover for Glen Johnson?
I think we all saw how poorly Milner played there on Wednesday, and Smalling is clearly not the answer until he proves he can actually play football and hasn't just walked in off the street. I actually quite like Jones, but if Jagielka and Johnson pick up bans or injuries he can't cover both. We are quite well stocked for players who can perform in the role The Ox would have done at the WC. Lallana, Sterling, Barkley, Welbeck and Wilshere can all cover the various positions that he would have been deployed in, so why not take Flanagan or Stones instead?
They've been training with the squad, so have completed all the climate training, where as Tom is going to turn up in South America and faint like he's been propositioned by Mr Darcy in an Austen novel. I just can't see how Roy can trust Smalling to perform well in either the CB or RB positions at the moment, and this may present him with an opportunity to prevent poor old Chris appearing on a Robbie Savage's World Cup Howlers DVD next Christmas. Poor lad, no one deserves that...
Jae, Tunbridge Wells
Wilshere Getting A Reputation...
A grand deal has been argued about with regards to England, the formations, set-ups, player partnerships etc. and it has been done far more eloquently and succinctly than I could manage so I will leave the Peru and Ecuador analysis mails to others, I just wanted to make a brief point about young Jack Wilshere.
Watching him play and doing his best to make sure, on absolutely every occasion, to lose possession as quickly as possible I had to restrain myself from being too aggressive in my criticism. He hasn't played much football, isn't match fit, had lots of niggly muscle/tissue injuries, was playing beside the infinitely worse Lampard etc. I think it's fair to say Henderson is much further ahead in the pecking order at this point, and Wilshere is going to have to play himself back in to the starting squad, but that's not the point I wanted to raise.
He is currently in a very dangerous situation whereby he attempts to feign injury every time he's touched on the pitch. He is building a very negative reputation for being exactly like Busquets, Dani Alves and Pepe of years past, where they would audition for the Texas Chain Saw Massacre every time someone brushed past them.
And that reputation sticks, for a long time, even amongst people who don't watch you play on a regular basis. Sergio Busquets for example has grown up massively over the past few years, does not go down anywhere near as easily as he used to, has developed in to one of the best holding midfielders in the world and is no longer infuriating to watch, but the vast majority of football fans would still describe him in a drunk Ray Winstone fashion.
Yes it's understandable for an injury-prone player to go down more often than his team-mates, but it is literally every single time he comes in to contact with the opposition, and he needs to mature, quickly.
Ben (It has to be Gerrard and Henderson surely?) Gleeson, Cardiff
When Geography Meets Football
Just been doing some geography and believe I have a wondrous stat for the World Cup...
The trophy has only ever been lifted by a country that shares a border with France or Uruguay. (England qualify in this pointless stat via The Channel Tunnel).
Jim-Jos (Spain to walk it - wherever they are in the World Cup betting) Spain
Scholes To Be New Keane
I don't know about anyone else but I'm loving Scholes' transformation from the quiet ginger genius into a an acerbic arse, laying in to all his ex-colleagues. He's like Roy Keane without the unnecessary anger.
Brilliant! Can we get him as the replacement, maybe with Nicky Butt? ITV coverage may become almost watchable.
Enjoying United Paranoia
Nothing like seeing a bunch of paranoid United fans confirming to the world that they are now the new Liverpool fans. Made my Friday.
Neil P (you can stick your Rooney/Welbeck/Smalling/Jones up your arse)
...Paul, Paul, Paul, Paul, Paul.
Oh Pauly, Pauly, Pauly, Pauly.
I feel your pain.
'An Arsenal fan calling Utd a mid-table team. P***y arsey comments reserved for every Utd player in the squad.'
You'll come to realise soon enough that they're not singling them out cos they're Utd players ('everyone hates us, we're so successful' ha).
They're singling them out as they are the clear weak links in the team. A half-fit Rooney and the defensive rocks of Smalling and Jones? Come on, brother.
The country doesn't blame Utd for the national team's failings but if you need to feel that way to cling onto any sort of relevance right now, then go right ahead.
Kris, LFC, Manchester
To the p***y arsey Man U fans in yesterday's mailbox. Yes, England fans are getting on the back of your players, but that has far more to do with them being absolute bobbins than the fact they're Man U players. Smalling is woeful, has been all season and is not in the squad on merit. Jones is a player of big potential, but is currently a utility player at club level and his lack of playing time at centre-half definitely shows. Welbeck works hard, has pace, yada yada. Nothing against the guy, but we have more accomplished players in his position. If Man U were coming off the back of a great season and these players had really contributed you might have an argument. But you've not and they haven't.
As for Rooney, I don't think people doubt the talent he has, but you can't blame anyone for having doubts about his World Cup credentials based on past performances at that level.
J, LUFC (fwiw Rooney would be in my starting XI)
Modern Life Is Rubbish
This whole David Villa really grinds my gears.
A man still at the peak of his powers, who has just helped his team win La Liga and get to the Champions League Final, about to go to the World Cup to defend the medal he won last time out, a man who has won every honour in the game, has decided to cash out and join NYCFC, a team that doesn't exist yet.
And not only that, he has been whored out to Melbourne City FC, a team that finished bottom of Australia's A League (a league that features Michael Bridges, Emile Heskey and Liam Miller as 'stars') last season for a 10-game guest stint.
Is it just me or is this really depressing?
Surely he could have had his pick of teams in top leagues around Europe.
He could have had two-three more years at the very top. I am sure that teams in the Premier League would have been interested, none more so than his current employers' primary plaything.
I know David Beckham did something similar at a similar age, but it's the Melbourne thing that really bugs me. Just seems such a waste.
Enjoy your retirement Snr Villa.
A Panini World Cup Squad
Having been pestered by my daughter to purchase Panini World Cup stickers for the first time since my childhood I recall how there's always a few players mistakenly included in the album. Whether by untimely injury, surprise omission or loss of form (Andros Townsend anyone!), Panini never get it 100% right when anticipating the World Cup squads. Anyway, here's my 23-man World Cup squad consisting of players who can gain consolation for not making it to Brazil through having their mugshots in the official licensed sticker album:
GOALKEEPER - Moises Munoz (MEX)
DEFENDERS - Marcel Schmelzer (GER), Ashley Cole (ENG), Eric Abidal (FRA), Luis Perea (COL), Alvaro Arbeloa (ESP), Kyle Walker (ENG), Aleksandr Anyokov (RUS)
MIDFIELD - Niko Kranjkar (CRO), Romaric (CIV), Riccardo Montolivo (ITA), Rafeal Van Der Vaart (NED), Michael Carrick (ENG), Samir Nasri (FRA), Jesus Navas (ESP), Emanuale Giacherini (ITA)
FORWARDS - Alavro Negredo (ESP), Robinho (BRA), Falcao (COL), Alberto Gilardino (ITA), Landon Donovan (USA), Christian Benteke (BEL), Guiseppe Rossi (ITA)
There's many World Cup finalists that would 'come unstuck' playing an 11 from that lot I tell ya!
Rob da (I remember when it was 10p a packet) Shrimpa, Essex
World Cup Memories
These World Cup memories emails have been great. When I was about seven or eight, my Grandma for some reason presented me and my brother with a complete Esso 1970 coin collection, as referenced by James (1 job on Teesside) Dundalk. His is probably worth more than mine, as it wasn't handled repeatedly by young children. I can only hope my parents have still got it - they moved house a year ago and had a massive clear-out, and I've not seen it since.
Like just about every correspondent, my first World Cup was when I was about six - Italy 90 was three months before my sixth birthday. I suppose it's down to timing, but also when you've started school, become aware of football and have a group of friends all growing into it together. I remember my dad bought me a World Cup preview book, which I must have read about a million times. My dad isn't a big football fan, but he is fairly well-travelled (in Eastern Europe mainly), so what he lacked in knowledge about players he made up for in telling me about the places these players were from, what they were like.
I just liked watching football, but watching with him meant I got to watch teams few others were interested in. The only real fall-out of this was that I was the only kid at school whose favourite player was Dragan Stojkovic - partly because his name is similar to a mythical creature, and partly because he was actually quite good. This was before he scored that volley for Nagoya Grampus Eight of course.
I'm worried that having a Yugoslavian as my first favourite player makes me a football hipster long before football hipsters became a thing.
Ed Quoth the Raven (I probably lose my proto-football hipster status by saying John Salako was my next favourite player, after my first Palace game), CPFC the Glaziers, Notts
...In reply to Matthew Britton's mailbox regarding his painful memories of USA '94.
I had a strangely similar experience. I too chose Germany as my team and even bought the green away shirt. And I too cried as they were beaten by the baldy Letchkov's goal. I can remember heading out of the room in tears after the game finished only to meet my dad in the hallway who said to me 'What the hell's wrong with you?'
A question on so many levels.
For some reason my parents decided the '94 World Cup final was the appropriate moment to tell me they were getting a divorce! I was seven at the time so I wasn't overly familiar with the concept but I did begin to suspect something was up when my dad - a fiendishly tight man and the kind of dad who hated losing to his kids - accepted my £20 bet that Brazil would win (£20 being the largest sum of money I could think of at that age) just as Baggio was stepping up. To this day I still don't know if my dad was psychic and trying to do me a favour or if he was just trying to change the subject before I asked him what a divorce was.
Sorry for the downer guys but I've never played football with anyone famous and being English and 27 I don't have many positive World Cup memories to share.
Simon (it was for the best) CFC