We have three more Mailboxes until the fun begins and they come in like droves. Make them good. It’s your duty. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Now’s the time to dream, Raheem
Enjoyed the piece on Sterling. I never really got the hatred (bar Liverpool fans) for Sterling and his move to Man City. Was it the best way to go about it? No, but hardly worse than what a lot of players have done. Fabian Delph seemed to get off a lot lighter for his (IMO far worse) U Turn. Perhaps that was because he has been injured most of the year
I hope the pressure of not being expected to be the bright young star to carry the team on his own now we have Kane, Alli, Rashford etc and being allowed to be himself on the pitch and not some wing-back, or pragmatic wide midfielder will let the real Sterling show his worth and prove to be something like the player people were hoping he could be when he burst onto the scene. Here’s hoping he shines this summer and Pep will instill some more confidence in him going forward
Simon (wonder if I will have to claim my Welshness come Thursday) Bristol
Year of the underdog
First time emailer, long time reader but it has come to my knowledge that there seems to be a current 12-year cycle of the underdog winner:
2028 – Latvia
2016 – ?
2004 – Greece
1992 – Denmark
This year I’ll be placing large bets on Austria/Iceland/Croatia/Poland. Hoping the trend continues!
Ben (MUFC) – English in Sydney (flying home if we are in the semis)
Why 24 teams is just fine, thanks
I’d like to respond to Tomas Kirrane’s mail highlighting his preference for the maintenance of a 16-team Euros.
First, he mentioned that it would be great for fans of the countries rarely qualify to experience the “buzz of international tournaments.” I feel that this is understating the point. My opinion is that expanding football’s popularity on a European level is a fundamental part of UEFA’s remit. Arguably the most effective way to do this is to allow more people experience the excitement of having their national team play in a major tournament. Obviously,there is a point where the tournament could become too big, but the recent expansion has made the European championships a very realistic goal for many countries for whom it had previously been out of reach. This can only be a good thing.
Second, Tomas suggests that there is a significant risk that one-sided victories will increase at this summer’s championships. I can see where he is coming from, but surely that argument can only be made after the championships have ended? Also, the teams that have qualified for the championships are of a reasonably high standard. In most cases, the one-sided victories that have worried Tomas are generally inflicted on the minnows of the qualifying groups, not those who finished third.
…Having 24 teams means:
1) A few more feel good stories like a team from a country with a population of less than 500k making it to the tournament
2) We get to see more cases of great players who come from countries not blessed with that much talent playing the tournament (see Hamsik)
3) Other countries in the UK can get behind their team instead of waiting for England to be eliminated
4) More football
There will be great stories at this tournament and there will be greater chances of surprises. Sarah mentioned the trashing of Ireland last time out but prior to that Greece (another small team) won the trophy when there were 16 teams.
Think about this the field has expanded and three of the last six teams to win the trophy aren’t here That suggests there is enough quality to go round.
If you’re still sceptical then just keep your tv off until the quarters. As for me, I’m ordering the bbq and beer and I’m going to enjoy it.
Remember how much Leicester wanted Vardy
Lot of chat about Jamie Vardy on here so I thought it worth pointing out that contrary to what some people seem to think, Leicester didn’t take a chance on the little scallywag out of the goodness of their hearts. They outbid a lot of other clubs that were vying for the striker that season as he scored 31 goals in 36 games for Fleetwood. Leicester at that time were one of the clubs in the Championship that could afford bigger wages and fees, paying £1million for a player from non-league and (prior to Vardy signing) having Sven-Goran Eriksson as manager wasn’t the norm.
Palace, Blackpool, Southampton, West Ham, Celtic and Rangers had all made reported bids of around £700k during his season at Fleetwood but he decided to join Leicester. He joined a team that was one of the favourites for the Championship due to their transfer activity, having signed players from Premier League teams and some of the bigger name players of the Championship at the time. Players like Jermaine Beckford, Schemeichel, Konchesky, Sean St Ledger, Wes Morgan, David Nugent, Neil Danns. I know a lot of these don’t look like amazing signings with the benefit of hindsight but at the time for a team in the Championship this was pretty big business over a couple of seasons.
The David vs The Goliath(s) story here started at the beginning of last season, before that Leicester were one of the Championship’s big boys (in 2012/13 they had a reported net debt of £111.3m, second only to Bolton). Jamie Vardy was the hottest prospect from the non-league that everyone was after, although he had just been promoted to the football league. What they have achieved together has been outstanding but let’s not try and re-write history.
‘The Arsenal system’ is no longer a thing
To Paul Merson and those who think Vardy won’t fit into the Arsenal “system”, I have this to say – you’re stuck in the past, and you haven’t been paying attention.
Wenger tried this last season to change things up and adopt a quick transition, quick counter style, using Theo as the frontman. In the first half of the season, arsenal had quite a few good games where they stayed back, stayed compact, and looked to hit through quick breaks.
The best example of this was the home win against Man United and you could see why it would work – Theo’s pace stretches defences, giving Sanchez and Ozil room to work in. Another thing that worked well was bringing on giroud as a sub and changing the plan of attack (more crosses, more quick interplay),making it difficult for defenders to deal with the transition. Of course then Walcott, half the players and the system broke down, and we then produced the shambles that was the second half of the season.
Vardy, who is far better than Walcott both in his movement and finishing, would be the perfect fit for such a system. One legitimate concern here would be that teams would sit back against arsenal far more than Leicester. While this may generally be true, there are two points to take into consideration:
Firstly, there are a lot more sides in the league who aren’t going to hold back against the “bigger” clubs – city, Chelsea, Man U, Liverpool, Spurs, Everton, Leicester, west ham, palace, Stoke, Southampton etc will all fancy their chances against arsenal and they aren’t going to adopt the underdog strategy of giving up possession and trying to defend. That’s nearly half the games.
Secondly, you don’t need a lot of quick counters to use that as your primary mode of scoring. If your players are good enough (and vardy, Sanchez, Ozil and Cazorla certainly are) you only need one or two to get ahead. Since you will have the majority of possession and therefore will give fewer goal scoring opportunities to the opposition, that may be enough for a win. Ask Mourinho if you don’t believe me.
Lastly, let’s not forget that Giroud is still there, and it’s not like an alternative system isn’t available (that thing called a plan B) if needed.
Uday (Wondering how to come to grips with whole racism thing if Vardy does join) New Delhi, AFC
A lovely mail about supporting Ghana and split allegiances
I was originally writing in to respond to the footballing moment you could re-live (England v Ghana friendly at Wembley since you asked – I’ve never experienced euphoria like I did when Ghana equalized!) and I got to thinking…
I’m born to Ghanaian parents who moved to London in the 80’s subsequently I was born in East London. Growing up, Ghanaian international football was only a thing of fondly told tales by my dad and uncles – most notably Abedi Pele setting the world alight and being the best African player ever (I’m sure Cameroonians may have their own opinion on that…anyway I digress) however I had never witnessed a game until later in my late childhood. My first taste of Ghanaian talent was Tony Yeboah scoring THOSE goals for Leeds and a feeling of immense pride at having a fellow countryman being appreciated for his goal scoring ability.
The African Cup of Nations was (to me) a poor tournament broadcast on Eurosport (the Channel 5 of sports channels) with poor pitches, shocking oversized non branded kits topped off with dreary commentary (couldn’t be bothered to google his name but he’s been there for donkeys!) therefore as much as I wanted to watch Ghana play I was often put off by the poor quality and lack of recognizable names.
As foreign (see: African) players started making names for themselves on European shores I found my interest in our national team peaking again…Stephen Appiah, Michael Essien, and later…John Mensah, Sulley Muntari, Asamoah Gyan…and so we head to our maiden World Cup in 2006 going out to Brazil – the Ghana of South America.
I won’t mention the year I genuinely thought we’d win the thing until a certain L**s S****z literally shat all over us with his unashamed cheating – still haven’t forgiven him nor do I acknowledge any of his current achievements. 2014 – meh, perhaps end of an era but showed how far we’ve come in that we expected to come through a group containing Portugal and Germany!
Now to the actual point of my mail – other than a short, one year stint living in Ghana age 9, I’ve been born and bred in England. However my allegiance is strongly linked to Ghana so much so that I refer to England teams as “you” rather than “we”. I had always been asked by relatives who I’d support if both countries faced each other in a World Cup and before the sentence is finished I’d say Ghana.
This has sparked (perhaps a wider) debate in the office but I was wondering if anybody else has no particular affinity towards their country of birth but to that of their parents? If you’re of mixed heritage, who do you support? Answers on a postcard please.
Ronnie (MUFC & Barnet…that’s a story for another day)
Oh hey there Mr Lucky
My wife has been seeking employment for several months and on Tuesday she finally received a job offer. Yesterday I won £100 on a scratch card. My newspaper today informs me that the England band may not be allowed to play their four-tune repertoire at the Euros..how long can my lucky streak last?
Denis Cohen, Cambridgeshire
Love for Irwin
Great piece on Denis Irwin. While I won’t try to do the man justice by adding to that glowing tribute, I will pay respect in the best way I can; Denis Irwin was always among the first three players I tried to get for my Fantasy Football team in the 90s. This was nothing like the FF of today but there were still points awarded for goals and clean sheets and Denis absolutely cleaned up.
Fantasy Football by post! Simpler times.
Zweigen Kanazawa were mentioned on the NHK national news this morning. Not for their efforts in clawing themselves off the bottom of the league – they are now second-bottom on goal difference – or because of unprecedented interest (two mails) from a British football website, but because last night they were away to Roasso Kumamoto, who were making their return to Kumamoto after a series of powerful earthquakes hit the area in April. The earthquakes meant the team had to postpone games or play home matches on the road.
Zweigen’s poor form and Kumamoto’s joy at finally being at home again saw the latter race into a 5-0 lead by half time, and eventually win 5-2.
Roasso will be looking to their real home crowd to further inspire the team to pull away from the relegation zone, while Zweigen’s main hope of staying up – if they can’t lift themselves out of the bottom two – will be that the top two in J3 League won’t have the required licences for J2 and therefore can’t be promoted.
James T, Kanazawa, Japan