This is an excellent Mailbox. Let’s keep this going all week. Mail us at email@example.com
What a bloody awful tournament
Well thank goodness that’s over. France 2016 was easily the worst tournament of all time and I think we are watching the slow death of international Football.
It is like the early rounds of the FA cup these days. There are one or minor two upsets which the media use to make it seem worthwhile but generally it is just poor teams desperately defending against bigger nations. No fun for anyone. Let’s cut to the chase and have two groups of four and go straight to the semis
Enjoying watching Iceland fans doing coordinated clapping is not a justification for the 30-odd other boring games we had to sit through.
At least the FA seem to have realised this and are willing to give Big Sam a go at killing it off once and for all.
…Sh*t tournament ended with a sh*t final won by a sh*t team.
I can only remember 2010 as having served up sh*tter football.
Don’t care if I sound miserable.
Loved every minute, actually
Well that was a fun month. There are always going to be critics out there, complaining about the extended format, the quality (or lack of), the French bias etc. but at the end of the day I got to watch competitive football almost every day for a month and I loved every minute of it. I was hoping France would win last night as I don’t like a number of the Portuguese players, but they did what they had to do and fair play to them.
From an Irish perspective this was a massive tournament. In our third ever European Championships we made it out of the group stage for the first time (albeit in third). A poor 45 minutes against Belgium aside, the players did their very best and gave it their all. We should have beaten Sweden, got a famous victory against Italy and gave the French an almighty scare. The players did the nation proud. But the best thing about Euro 2016 is the lasting impact it can hopefully have on the future of Irish football. Euro 2012 was the nadir of Irish football. Exiting at the group stage after three heavy defeats, the country distanced itself from the football team for a few years. Crowds were down, fans were pessimistic and sick of the negative tactics.
Euro 2016 has hopefully begun the process of bringing the crowds back. Big nights against Scotland, Poland and of course Germany. Big performances in the tournament itself. And the emergence of young Irish leaders (Brady, Coleman, Hendrick). We need a solid World Cup qualifying campaign to build on this and the positivity could finally be back in Irish football.
Seán, COYBIG, Dublin
Teams of the tournament this way…
Well done Ronnie, for the years of amazing service to United, I was shouting for your team. Paddy, hard luck lad, and by the logic I just used…you could have got my shout for sure.
CR7: 1 – Messi: 0?
Well moving on, team of the tourney? Well that’s rather dependent on your personal choice of formation, so here is mine.
LB: Alaba (back in defence, but yes based on this tourney’s drive and verve)
Bale, because if we have free-kicks we want to score them, no matter how hilarious I might need the keeping to be, and Nani as an alternative because he really put himself about, and earned his good fortune in between some really decent attacking endeavour from him.
Giroud, because he was the only number 9 at the tournament whom made an all-round contribution for me, and he looked great all tourney long. (Sorry Mario if your mates had finished a few of the chances you created…).
Held it up, flicked it on, but not before he slowed it down so that every Antoine gallop into space looked like it was done at the speed of Walcott in full flight.
That’s called playing to your strengths and to the clear benefit of your teams new golden boy. He isn’t a sprinter by the way chaps, so there we go, we can all get over that topic now.
Renato makes my list because, well he was rather good, although I do feel that being in a team of midfielders who seemingly refused to play anything attacking or attractive for any period of time, he was likely to look decent if he could take it forward without losing it.
Ramsey, because I do not believe that Wales would have lost to Portugal had Ramsey been in the midfield.
Never mind Bale leading the team…Aaron was immense in the middle and kept it ticking to ensure Gareth would be able to enjoy a chance to run in behind opposition.
Alaba is just a player I rate so highly, so back to LB for me.
The defence pretty much picked itself for me, but no doubt the entire list will draw a few looks of bewilderment, as these exercises in choice tend to do.
Let’s have yours now chaps??
Manc in SA (Xhaka played well, Kante was also solid enough and a couple of the Iceland team would make my extended squad…but Pogba was not 100 Million pounds worth of quality that’s for sure!)
Kimmich Chiellini Pepe Taylor
Shout-outs: Modric, Iniesta, Sanches, Ozil, Boateng, Chester, Williams and Harry Kane.
Feel free to pick apart every choice and suggest I’m an idiot for missing x out.
Lunacy if Man United pay £100m for Pogba
I’m glad that others watched the final last night and came to the same conclusion as me; Pogba is not a £100m player (if there really is such a thing). I will concede that a few of the players who had been in brilliant form, or that were highly thought of by their peers and pundits alike, had a disappointing tournament; Zlatan, Muller and Ronaldo, for example. And France were largely quite disappointing as a team last night, so it’s no surprise that Pogba failed to stand out.
But that, in my opinion, is why he definitely isn’t a player worthy of becoming the world’s most expensive. A truly ‘world class’ player is the stand-out performer in 90% of the games in which he plays; if you aren’t achieving these levels then you can’t really claim to be or be considered in the top 1%. He has to be the orchestrator, the game changer, the very heartbeat of a team; the difference between success and failure in almost every game. It might sound like a high standard, but that is the bracket he is being put in – either by desire or circumstance.
Paul Pogba is not that. Last night, Pogba was overshadowed by Blaise Matuidi, Renato Sanches, William Carvalho and – most worringly – Moussa Sissokho, and that was only the players in a similar position. Yes, he’s been successful in Italy, but as part of a Juventus team that is reasonably expected to walk the league every season. Yes, he was good at times for France, but not when it mattered most; he was rarely the difference-maker in any of France’s big games. Yes, he’s still relatively young and could conceivably get better, but at the prices being quoted, (as yet unrealised) potential is simply not enough; you need to have an immediate and measurable impact from the most expensive player ever to even consider making that deal.
It’s not necessarily his fault that his fee is being placed so high – that would be the work of both his club and his agent; one doesn’t want to sell, the other wants to line his own pockets. But it’s lunacy that United would consider paying that kind of money – if reports are to be believed, up to £170m worth of a deal (£85m up front with up to £20m in performance-related addons, plus a suggested £65m contract). I have already made my preference clear on who I’d rather have: Toni Kroos, Andre Gomes or Blaise Matuidi would all be far, far more sensible and reasonable investments, given their ability and respective transfer fees.
It would just be typical of Ed Woodward to go and make this deal happen though. Since he took over, he has been absolutely desperate to make a stellar signing. He’s tried for Bale, Ronaldo and Neymar and failed each time; now, ironically, the one I think would be the least beneficial looks like being the one that will come off. Well, it’s not actually that ironic actually; it’s just plain predictable.
All that being said, I’ll be more than happy to eat my words if he does sign and turns out to be amazing; I’m just not convinced that he can possibly live up to the expectation his transfer fee would justify.
A victory for Ronaldo? Really
United fans basking in the reflected glory of a player who no longer plays for them, and even if he did was on international duty, while having a pop at a player who couldn’t even compete in this competition even if he wanted to on account of him being Argentinian.
And on top of all of that Ronaldo not only didn’t score the winner but wasn’t even on the field!
Well done Portugal and all that but trying to claim that victory was down to Ronaldo is like claiming Chelsea’s Champions League win was down to John Terry.
Why are people trying to rob Eder of his moment in the sun? He should be the one being lauded NOT Ronaldo.
And one final point – when you cut through all the guff, that was one of the worst finals I have ever seen as was most of the competition. At least England were entertaining – entertainingly crap but entertaining nonetheless.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
On the word’s greatest narcissist
Having read this morning’s mailbox I was bemused to see a lack of shared loathing of Ronaldo, so was compelled to write in.
Ronaldo gets injured. It looks like a genuinely a bad one. He gets treatment, walks off the pitch and then decides to play on. Fine, nothing to see here. After another five minutes where he is clearly mobile enough to run into the penalty area and challenge for a header, he signals to the bench to be substituted and commences approximately 110 mins of obscene narcissism.
After showing how mobile he is just seconds before, he decides he needs to sit in the middle of the pitch and requires a stretcher to aid him from it. A nice couple of minutes being center of attention with the World’s cameras pointed at him. For the rest of normal time there was clearly not many opportunities for him to preen himself in front of the lenses, but as soon as the 90min whistle was blown and the cameras focused on the huddled teams, he grabbed the opportunity to make himself seen again. Moving between each and every player and giving them a morale-boosting word in their ears – the same ears that he has screamed into all tournament when they have not passed to him or had the audacity to make a mistake. During extra time, the man that required four people to carry him from the field replaced Fernando Santos as manager and jumped and shouted his way around the technical area (I don’t recall any player, ever, doing something similar). If you can read lips then you’ll know he was shouting “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!” (in Portuguese, obviously).
When the goal went in I turned to my wife and said “as soon as the whistle goes then the TV goes off” (which she was quite happy about anyway). I could not bear to see him make himself the center of attention once again. Lo and behold the one image I saw on the news this morning was the Portugal team celebrating, trophy in front of the group and in front of the trophy was Ronaldo, arms and legs spread on the turf like he was trying to make a snow angel, quite literally making himself the biggest part of the photos that would shoot around the globe.
Awesome footballer. Massive p***k
Stuart (enjoyed the tournament otherwise), Egham
…Can we please stop this fawning over the drama queen that is Ronaldo.
He was an embarrassment last night during the game. What sort of leader leaves the pitch the way he did, his tears was like he was telling his team mates that now I’m injured you lot have no chance. The pained expression, the endless tears, the covering his face, the need for a stretcher when he could have hobbled off. I saw less emotional heartache in The Notebook.
Did Roy Keane cry like baby when he was booked during the Champions League semi-final? Another example (I’m sure there are loads) was Gerrard breaking a bone in his foot against Manchester Utd, as he was hobbling off he was punching his fist into his other open hand indicating to the other players to go on and win the match without him.
Once Ronaldo could sense that the team might have a chance of winning he joins the manager on the touchline and starts thinking he’s Sir Alex Ferguson. Give me a break. I also noticed he put the captain’s armband back on just in case we didn’t realise it was the captain that lifted the trophy.
What a melodramatic idiot.
Jimmy (That feels better) Spain
…Congratulations to Portugal on snatching the European Championship. I honestly think that is one of the worst finals I have ever seen. But that is not why I am contacting you. No. There is something more prevalent that kept me awake last night and has been eating away at me for some time. This may be a ridiculous statement to make, but one I am willing to stand over. Last night just confirmed it to me.
Cristiano Ronaldo is a detriment to the future of football.
Before you go off on one, here me out. Firstly I am the first to acknowledge that he has imperious footballing ability. The man is a colossus of skill, speed and stamina and would be an addition to any team. However….. his attitude to football is not, and should not be a role model for younger players. He is a poison to the idea of the ‘team’. On the pitch he represents himself. He is out there to achieve his own goals, the team comes second. It is this that worries me. Picture a young 7 year old boy watching that final last night, this is what he saw;
– They see Ronaldo get injured and it’s immediately all about him, the tears and the ‘is he staying on, is he going off’ drama that then unfolds. You’re supposed to be a team player, go off if you’re injured and support your team mates from the side-line, and do it quickly!
– The marching up and down the side line was farcical. He is not a coach. Sit down. Again the tears come and it’s made into the ‘Ronaldo V France’ show.
– The final whistle. What does he do. He turns and celebrates and falls to the floor. “I’ve won the cup,” he thinks. There’s no running to his team mates to join in the celebration that “We’ve won the cup”.
I foresee a generation of players in the not too distant future, childishly prancing around when a pass is not perfectly placed to them, when they don’t get a free-kick or more worryingly going out on to the pitch to play a team sport with one thing on their mind, “What can I do for myself here?”
Ciarán, Dundalk FC
Did we have to give Pepe a medal?
Really happy that Portugal won and equally happy for Ronaldo. One of the true greats.
That said did Pepe also have to win? Can’t we retrospectively take the medal off him for being a c##k (that’s not cook just to clarify, I am unaware of his culinary abilities).
Iceland, Wales and Portugal. And Ireland got out of our group. Very good tournament overall.
Steve Limerick, Ireland
Emperor Fat Sam has no clothes
So, I read that Fat Sam is to be interviewed for the England job?
The only people who should be delighted by this development are Sunderland fans.
Johnny Nic wrote an excellent debunking of the Allardyce myth in these pages recently but word doesn’t appear to have spread.
Has there ever been a more categoric condemnation of a manager’s capabilities than West Ham’s 2015/16 season? Fat Sam spent all of the season before insulting WHU fans, telling them they were ‘deluded’ if they thought they should get better quality football from their club. Bilic comes in – amidst the predictable backdrop of “be careful what you wish for” baying of the old “pros” – with no Prem management experience and not only delivers a galactically improved brand of football (Dimitri Payet anyone?) but has them banging on the Champions League door in his first season.
Meanwhile, the self-important Allardyce drags Sunderland fans through an horrendous season saved from catastrophe only by a couple of results at the end. This does not a great manager make.
Johnny Nic enumerates (didn’t take long) Sam’s actual achievements in management (I urge you to go find the article) which are well short of negligible.
I’m a Spurs fan (and don’t care to watch England any more) so I have no skin in this game but feel the need to (rather appropriately) point out the elephant in the room…
Big Pete (THFC)
On English footballers not being the brightest
An interesting read from Mr Nicholson. I think most among us don’t need to learn that Harry Kane isn’t the subtlest shade on the palette and that English footballers tend towards embracing the vapid, are almost always ill-educated and, compared to their continental brethren, wholly embarrassing on and off the pitch. Imagine indeed if every team at Euro ’16 engaged in a friendly trivia contest – you ‘know’ that Wayne Rooney’s not gonna be rubbing his hands with glee in anticipation of the History Round.
I grew up with footballers who loved Phil Collins, painting the garden fence and generally lambasting the likes of Greame Le Saux who, being French-blooded, once had the temerity to open a broadsheet newspaper on the team bus and decided that he would be better off with a copy of the Sun and saving the editorials for the breakfast table. I read that certain Manchester United players, hearing that Brian McClair was a mathematician, shunned him to a point the Fergie had to unleash a few pointers about intelligence being an asset, and that Iain Dowie’s Master of Engineering credence led certain Southampton players to ask if he could fix their cars. He probably could, but…
Anyway, to a point of sorts – it has always seemed to me that here in England there hasn’t been a traditional requirement to complete an education even when football comes a calling for those talented few. This is not and has not been the case on the continent, where education has always been finished to 18 at least. I think this has changed but I’m uncertain.
That said, as a University cricketer and rugby player, it was occasionally bewildering to observe the soccer-playing undergraduates behaving, en masse, like boorish, recalcitrant pills, as opposed to the regular sort of student d*cks the rest of us blokes were.
Jay Tea, Wallingford
…I read Johnny Nic’s article on the prevalence of stupidity in English football and it reminded me of an ex-pro I knew a few years back.
I met him whilst going through Royal Navy Officer training, and (as an avid FM fan) recognised his name on the class lists in the first couple of weeks. When I signed up to the Unit football team I realised where I knew him from. He had spent a couple of seasons in and around the first team of a League One club.
Anyway, over a few beers post-match once (he was phenomenal compared to the rest of us, if you’re interested) we got to talking about why he was here. Injury? Dropped as the club rose through the leagues? No, he had simply become bored of being sneered at for doing something other than play FIFA in his spare time. He’d become bored of being literally the only player in his dressing room who had even a passing interest in anything outside football.
I have no idea if he would have made a career in professional football or not, but having seen the dedication and work ethic the guy possesses (he’s now a fast jet pilot…) it seems sad that someone like that would have been driven out of football because of cultural anti-intellectualism.
…Excellent article by John Nicholson this morning, and it’s a drum I’ve been banging for quite some time. England’s players are indeed too thick to win. The irony being that you don’t have to be a genius to see it. All you have to do is listen to someone like Juan Mata talk and it’s plain to see.
For me, this is the major problem with English footballers. Sadly, the problem is so deeply entrenched in English (footballing) culture that it will take a generation or more to work our way clear of it at best. Remember that for 50-75 years, England and Scotland were the best two teams in world football. The home nations were so good that they didn’t see their European counterparts a worthy challenge for 30 years. They didn’t enter the pre-war World Cups because they thought the challenge beneath them. The English game in particular was built upon physical prowess.
There was a brief hiatus following the lessons dealt by Hungary in the fifties. The result? A World Cup win in 1966 with a tactically innovative manager who introduced us to his ‘Wingless Wonders.’ To say that this only happened because we played on home turf is a misnomer. This was a great team that stacks up with many of the best teams in terms of results. So good in fact, that it entered the 1970 tournament as one of the favourites.
However, that was a different time, and tactics were still relatively young. Then Total Football happened and changed the face of the game. We were left behind internationally, yet perhaps the cracks were papered over by huge success in Europe. Liverpool, Forest, Villa and Everton all forming great teams. However, hiding behind this is the fact that these teams were put together by keen tactical minds. Paisley and Clough are arguably the two greatest English coaches to have lived.
However, we’ve never really been able to shake off this ‘they don’t like it up ’em’ mentality. Hard work will get you everywhere, and every team must be built around a Roy of the Rovers type character. Give him the ball and everything will be fine. Rooney, Gerrard, Gascoigne, Hoddle. The England team should have been built around all of them at one time or another. Meanwhile, we laud the ultimately successful, but technically and tactically shocking performance of Beckham against Greece. He ran around a lot, tried very hard, and scored at the end, you see. Meanwhile, we decry the languid genius, who understands that you don’t have to sprint everywhere to find space and make the difference. Berbatov, Le Tissier, Ozil, they have all been treated with suspicion.
The structure isn’t there to effect a change. Coaching is expensive, both in terms of time and money, to break into. Meaning that it’s effectively geared towards being a place where former pros can go after they finish playing. A closed shop with no fresh thinking. And so the cycle continues. It’s a relatively poorly paid career, unless you get to the very top. Where is the incentive for anyone with a modicum of intellect to get involved? It relies on a combination of altruism and masochism that is only seen in a relative few.
Perhaps most worrying of all, recent events have shown that we’re moving to a society where intellectualism carries a lower value then ever. It’s okay to say we produce stupid players that are too thick to win. We do; that much is obvious. But the desire to change has to come from within, and you can’t teach people who don’t want to learn. I expect the cycle to continue.
…After reading John Nicholson’s piece this morning, this is an opinion that I have held for a long time, particularly after some first-hand experience.
Some years ago I met a player from the Arsenal youth/reserves through a friend. I won’t use any names in this piece, but he was American and a thoroughly pleasant chap, always good company, seemed to be relatively well-read and wholly enjoyable company. I had an American girlfriend at the time, and we had a little Thanksgiving do at my mum’s place for her, my friend and our mutual Arsenal buddy. He arrived with flowers for my mum, he was engaging in conversation and we had a lovely evening with minimal bantz beyond a little ribbing about my own club allegiance (I’m a Spurs fan).
On a few other occasions I met some other of that particular group from Arsenal, all of them non-English, and they were always polite, courteous to the public who recognised them when we were out (one or two had made a few first-team appearances), knowledgable about more than just football and gave the impression that they were fortunate to have this job and gracious about it.
On another occasion, whilst out in a bar with a (attractive) female friend of mine, she was receiving some attention from a chap. Having no interest in football, I had to explain to her who he was – an English Arsenal player. Throughout the evening he and his entourage of hangers-on were loud, obnoxious and clearly loving the top bantz to be had by mocking anyone who wasn’t rich and leering at every woman in there. Whilst talking to my friend (completely blanking me and another mate – obviously males weren’t deemed worthy of such attention) he even came out with something along the lines of “do you know who I am?”.
From then I have thought that there is something in the English footballers’ mentality that sets them apart negatively to foreign players. Once a talent is acknowledged at youth level, they are surrounded by agents, coaches and shallow hangers-on constantly telling them how great they are. They know that they are likely to earn vast sums of money without having to trudge through the education system like all us other plebs. I am no expert, so would be interested to find out what arrangements and opportunities for academic study are provided by Premier League clubs for their youth systems? My understanding that academic schooling is very important in the Spanish youth football system, for example.
These a broad generalisations, and I appreciate that individual English players are probably well educated, and some foreign players are idiots.
Just another quick point – back in May I wrote in suggesting that Tottenham should look at Gotze, for which I was lightly mocked. Now reports over the weekend suggest that exactly this scenario has indeed emerged. No need for a full page written apology or anything…
Chris (I did also suggest Rashford, so we’ll call it a draw) Tanner
JWP: A Not-thick footballer
I enjoyed your ‘England: Too thick to win’ piece. The extent to which it’s true, I couldn’t comment but I can imagine this to have some truth. The player I find interesting is James Ward-Prowse. The son of two solicitors and a holder of A* grades in his GCSEs he is switched on and from a cultured background. He is also teetotal, creating a recipe for ‘not fitting in’ with the ‘lads’. However, he seems to thrive in the dressing room and is England U21 captain. The other players at Southampton clearly like him with really positive quotes from players such as Rickie Lambert in the past. He still seems to be at the centre of the ‘banter’, usually by teasing Matt Targett and (in the past) Luke Shaw for being a bit thick.
He reminds me of Frank Lampard at the same age. Physically he has some limitations (mainly pace and athleticism) but he has a real drive to improve and the capacity to take on board and implement advice. Much like Frank it seems that his intelligence is the key to reaching the next level of being a top quality premier league performer.
Any other English bright lads with bright futures out there?
Jon Tucker, Southampton
Stop dissing England players
I’ve heard in several media outlets (and now F365) that Pardew was ‘ridiculous’ to say that four or five English players would get in France’s Euro 2016 team. What’s so ridiculous about saying Kane (25 Prem goals) and Vardy (24 Prem goals) are better than Giroud (16 Prem goals). What’s so ridiculous about saying Joe Hart (119 Prem clean sheets) is better that Hugo Lloris (44 Prem clean sheets)? What’s so ridiculous about saying Kyle Walker is better than an aging Evra (who before departing for Juventus struggled to get in United’s first 11)? What’s so ridiculous about saying Nathanial Clyne is better than Sagna? What’s so ridiculous about saying Smalling is better than Koscielny, or Cahill is better than Umtiti or Alli better than Payet?
You might think that, for example, Lloris is better than Hart but it’s hardly ridiculous to think Hart could get in the team ahead of Lloris. The backlash to Pardew’s comments is indicative of the negativity surrounding England and a major contributing factor to our abject performances at major tournaments. I’d like it to stop please. Thanks.