By the time you read this, I shall be on a remote Scottish island which takes over two hours to get to by ferry. And no, I’m not building a wicker man, though I am hoping to encounter a naked Britt Ekland. I met her, you know. She was tiny, appeared to be made out of shortcrust pastry and she had an equally tiny dog in a handbag. It was called Tequila – the dog, not the bag.
I am, at least in theory, getting some digital detox time for a few days, walking on the Isle of Colonsay. I thought I should have a break to gird my loins for a summer of tournament football. Oh yes. You thought England’s defeat to France was the last game on the season? Think again, bubba. We have two European Championships to play. Yes. Two. And another international…err… thingy, Clive.
First up is the male U21s in Poland. England have been drawn in a tough group with holders Sweden, hosts Poland and Slovakia. In this tournament they are trialling using a fourth substitute, which is almost too exciting. Almost as exciting as seeing Aidy Boothroyd as, perhaps incredibly, an international manager. I remember seeing him when he was manager of Watford and he spent the whole game shouting variants of “get rid” at his defenders when the ball came near them and “energy” at everyone after 75 minutes. Let’s hope he brings that sort of sophistication to the U21 team.
This tournament will last two weeks. Sky have the rights to show it but are opting for the ‘commentary-only’ option for non-England games, which seems a bit cheapo. What do you mean, you didn’t know it was on? It started on Friday and England drew 0-0 with Sweden. Jordan Pickford saved a penalty. Aside from that, England were not especially impressive but better to start slow and improve as the tournament goes on, even if all the other sides look better than us. The whole thing is already six games in and England are playing Slovakia at 5pm tonight (Monday).
Running in parallel with this is the men’s Confederation Cup starting in Russia on June 17th. This brings together all the winners of the various regional tournaments along with the home nation Russia and the current World Cup champion. So it features Russia, Germany, Australia, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal and Cameroon. This will take us to early July and is being broadcast on ITV. Whether they’ll have anyone there or will just put Clive in a broom cupboard with a dodgy internet connection, who knows, but I for one will be glued to it. Their press release says:
‘Joining presenters Mark Pougatch and Jacqui Oatley in ITV Sport’s London studio are Lee Dixon, Glenn Hoddle, Matthew Upson, Mark Schwarzer and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Other key members of the ITV team include commentators Clive Tyldesley, Sam Matterface, Joe Speight and Jon Champion, as well as co-commentators Andy Townsend, Danny Higginbotham and Iain Dowie.’
All of which, with one obvious and glaring exception, sounds like absolute quality broadcasting waiting to happen. Higginbotham is always good value, Dowie a man like no other with the most hyperactive eyes in broadcasting. And we can spend a romantic summer with Townsend and his substantial thighs, and who doesn’t want that? Hopefully he’ll be in a tactics truck somewhere in and around the Urals, Clive.
But our summer football groove doesn’t stop there. Oh no. In mid-July, the women’s Euros start in the Netherlands with England in a group with Scotland, Spain and Portugal, ending with the final on August 6. England are currently ranked third in the world and have a great chance of going deep into the tournament.
This is especially exciting because it is being broadcast by Channel 4! No news yet on who will be presenting this and who will provide punditry but it’s going to be interesting to see what sort of fist C4 make of football after so long out of the fray. They’re showing all the England and Scotland matches, as well as all other major games.
And just when the women’s Euros end, the Championship season kicks off, so we will have successfully traversed the gaping void of the domestic football-free summer and can once again ride the tiger into a 2017-2018 season which will end with the men’s World Cup in Russia. That’s a rolling 13 months or so of constant football. Sweet. Now excuse me while I go roamin’ in the gloamin’.