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Wishing Sterling well
The last few years has brought about an unusual relationship to Raheem Sterling. As a Liverpool fan I loved his emergence into the first team, he was young and quick, part of a team that come ever so close and gave us an academy lad to boast about.
Then came the fallout: he left in less than ideal circumstances. The love rapidly shifted to hate. But even this was strained because I knew he should leave, everyone did. He was played out of position, dropped for the biggest game of the year and had attention from a team with a lot more title-winning potential.
Still, blindly the hatred went on. That is until more recently. The hatred has been slipping for some time and it’s down to two reasons:
Firstly, his play. He’s been in cracking form this last year and that’s something to be enjoyed. Second, and this is obviously linked to the first: the media. Jesus Christ, how some of this stuff is even allowed to be published is an absolute disgrace. But still Sterling went on and showed some great “character” to have the season he just had.
Reading your piece today it’s clear that he must be genuinely nervous of the World Cup fallout and I really hope he does well in Russia.
In saying that, I’m still an Irishman and will route for England to shank it in the group stages as always.
Conor (Didn’t even want to be at the WC anyway)
Please don’t get carried away with Southgate
I know everyone is trying to be positive about England because the WC is about to start and it makes a pleasant change from the toilet tablet media, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves with Southgate.
He hasn’t done anything of any substance yet. Ever. He has managed to cull a lot of dead wood from the England team which should have been done a long long time ago. Quite amusing he is being touted for the ManU job in the mailbox this morning.
For this to be deemed an acceptable tournament England really have to make the quarters where we can go out with dignity to a vastly superior Germany or Brazil. Anything less will be an extremely poor showing on a par with anything served up over the last few tournaments by Capello et al.
My current extremely pessimistic view is that we will shamble through the groups in an unconvincing manner then go out in the last 16 to Columbia or one of the other group H mediocre sides.
…When I read things like Alex’s letter yesterday, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry if this is what the United fanbase has come to. Marcus Rashford plays a very good game and scores a great goal against the powerhouses of Costa Rica. And all of a sudden we should ditch the multiple Champions’ League winning manager in our dugout for – Gareth Southgate.
I think United just isn’t for you Alex.
Manchester United and World Cup goalscorers
Quiz time. Here’s a list of players, all of whom have played for Manchester United at some point since the last World Cup. All except one have something else in common. What is it, and who is the odd man out?
Angel Di Maria
Hint: some non-Manchester United players who would also belong on the list are Fernandinho, Olivier Giroud, Joel Matip, Son Heung-Min, Jan Vertonghen, Giorginio Wijnaldum, and Granit Xhaka.
Second hint: Sead Kolasinac may or may not belong on this list, depending on how you define the terms.
The answer: Everyone on the list except Antonio Valencia scored a goal at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Sead Kolasinac scored an own goal. No point to be made here; it’s just cool.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
Oi, Nigeria aren’t just a kit
I am a frequenter on this site and a three or four time mailer and I have read from people complaining about just how underwhelming the marketing and the build-up hype to the World Cup has been, sentiments that I fully associate myself with. I however think that we all have a role to play in the marketing and hyping and so here I am to me make my contribution.
Has anything been more talked about in the preparation for the Worldcup than the Nigerian kit? The kit and just the whole ‘fashion show’, in my view, has been given more attention in mainstream media and social media than their actual preparations. I need not say that the pomp and colour draws unnecessary attention to a team and that means extra pressure which can weigh down on players.
It is worth mentioning that Nigeria did not win a single of the three matches they played in preparation for the World Cup. They drew with Congo and lost to England and Czech Republic. Of course there’s no real pressure to win such matches but wins at that stage build confidence and morale.
There’s also the other small matter of Iwobi having looked like their best player in the build up to the World Cup. We (Arsenal fans) know what it is like when it is the 75th minute and Iwobi is the best player on the pitch. While they and Argentina have been marked the favorites of their group I’ll make an unpopular prediction here that Nigeria will actually not make it out!
Joram Kioko, Makueni, Kenya
Remembering copper cards
Reading James T’s email about the crisp cards in Japan (is that blue Japan shirt the pick of the bunch this world cup?) reminded me of a masterstroke by Merseyside Police during the run-up to Italia 90. Being of a certain vintage I can remember seeing the main bits of Mexico 86, and that was the first Panini sticker book I ever finished, but Italia 90 was something me and my mates really got excited about.
Now, back then, when the dibble rocked up on your street we tended to get out of their way, what with them not viewing some of the games we liked to play very kindly. No one wanted to speak to a member of Her Majesty’s Constabulary nor been seen speaking to them. So some genius had the idea of sending old bill out on patrol with pockets full of ‘copper cards’. These were just like footie stickers except they were free if you just went up to the constable and asked him nicely for the cards in his pocket. Once you had the full England squad you could take them down to the police station and they gave you a nice little wallet you could put them in. Having been in the police station once or twice, it was much better walking out with with a folder full of copper cards than it was with a thick ear.
The police had a bit of a PR job to do in Liverpool in the late 80s, early 90s and I remember as soon as there was a police car on the street it was mobbed during the world cup as we all tried to get our mitts on John Barnes so we could complete the set and voluntarily walk into the police station for the world cup wallet.
Living in China now I’ve missed a bit of the excitement as this world cup approaches but James’s email and the nostalgia it throws up I’m now off to buy my baby son a blag England shirt and we can get on it!
Ste P. Beijing Red
Our man in Japan
We had a rather unusual announcement from the JFA yesterday. In the second round of the Emperor’s Cup last Wednesday, J1’s bottom team Nagoya Grampus lost on penalties to Nara from JFL, which is the amateur tier below J3, in one of three shocks (the others being J1 Gamba Osaka losing to Kwansei Gakuin University and Zweigen Kanazawa beating a fellow J2 side for the first time in a month).
Unfortunately for Nara, it appears that their 4th penalty taker stopped in his run up to a penalty that he missed, but was allowed to retake it. If he hadn’t, Grampus would’ve gone through. After review – presumably instigated by complaints by Grampus – the JFA announced that the shootout would take place again, and basically criticised the referee and his assistants for not doing their jobs properly.
It seems like a lose-lose situation for Grampus: if they win, it will still have taken them a replayed shootout to get past an amateur team; if they lose, they’ll have suffered the ignominy of essentially losing twice to an amateur team – and all this despite having one of the biggest budgets in Japanese football.
James T, Ishikawa, Japan
Peter nails it again. The biggest thrill for me as an American was learning about all of these “hidden” players such as Hagi, Stoichkov, a young Henrik Larsson, etc. It was a great tournament showing the USA’s love of the game. I also got to see in person Maradona’s last game before the drugs ban.
On thing, because we all have to be pedants, it was Andres Escobar’s own goal. Not Pablo’s. Pablo had lots of influence over that Colombian team, but they didn’t let him on the pitch. If you can, see the ESPN film “The Two Escobars” about Pablo’s influence and Andres’ tragedy.
Eric Breitman (Excited even without the US being there), NYC.
An actual joke!
Re Mark Hamilton’s letter about the ‘Every Player Released’ list: Yes, Newcastle released a lot of players at the end of the season, but don’t worry, only one of them was Good.
Alex Stokoe, Newcastle upon Tyne
So Sam, Newtownabbey prompts a discussion on the relative costs of footballers and dinosaurs – and the first name on the list of “every player released by a premier league club” is Marc Bola.Even for just part of a T-Rex, that’s got to be worth a punt…
James, London, showing his age