The international break is almost over but we still want your mails on England, Scotland, Wales, Irelands Northern or Republic, or anything else you want to get off your chest. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org…
There’s something about Harry
The latest round of international fixtures told us the square route of absolutely sod all. Albania and San Marino are no opposition at all and no guide to form in the games that matter.
Indeed it provided the rather unedifying sight of Harry Kane padding his stats at the expense of non-existent defences. He’ll break Rooney’s record next year and you can see how much it motivates him. Unfortunately you can also see that he is still very much capable of trying and scoring *when* motivated.
Tottenham fans would be forgiven for wondering if he might be motivated to earn his considerably large pay packet for themselves anytime soon. To still be moping and sulking for them so long after the City move fell through is nothing short of pathetic.
Nothing he or his idiot brother have done recently has painted him as an admirable or even particularly likeable man. Goodwill is hard earned but very easily spent. There may be less acclaim for his record achievement than he imagines when it comes.
Say what you like about Rooney, and I was no fan, I never questioned his devotion to the cause. I regarded Bobby Charlton as a more worthy holder of the record than Wayne. And both more than Kane.
There’s no one more obviously qualified to be England’s main striker, so he’ll be in situ for a decent while yet.
But scoring 4 goals against the worst international team in the world is about as impressive as Maguire celebrating not being total crap for United for five minutes.
Kane, Maguire, Styles, his royal entitled whining Princeship – since when did Harry become such a dislikeable name?
England Phil their boots
Foden off at half time? Outrageous, we’d have scored at least 11 with him in the side!
So what would Dave IOW’s big plan be if he was England manager? Play his exciting octet of attacking midfielders in dynamic 1-8-1? Or is it to use his 3 weeks a year of training time to drill those players in a dynamic Pep-ball system with Rashford at sweeper-keeper?
Southgate needs to pick a balanced side. He needs to look at England’s dodgy centre backs and decide whether his attacking options are good enough to say “screw it, we’ll score more than the other guy” or to strike the balance some other way… England’s attacking resources just aren’t good enough for that.
Others have pointed out already how Albanian aren’t exactly the San Marino people are making them out to be but suppose England could’ve sent out an 11 featuring the 8 bright young things and battered them (which they couldn’t), what would’ve that achieved? Aren’t they better using those games against lesser teams to drill the team in the formation/tactics they may use in a tournament? And yes, they probably will go three at the back in Qatar and I’m OK with that, considering that those tactics have recently got England to a world cup semi and a European final.
And yes, they were easier draws and yes again, it may not be as straightforward in Qatar and yes, a third time it may come back to bite them in a game against Brazil or France. But the thing is, Brazil and France, though it pains me to say it, are better than England. If England go out and try to overwhelm those teams with England’s lesser attacking talent, they’re more likely to lose than under Southgate’s system that got them to within a penalty shoot-out of winning the European Cup. Southgate is playing the odds as best he can with the resources available. It probably won’t end in England winning the world cup, but any approach he chooses with the resources he has probably won’t end with him winning the world cup. Southgate’s approach has got them the closest to achieving that unlikely outcome in a generation though so, on balance, it may make sense to go with it.
Underlying all this seems to be some belief that England have, man for man, the best squad of players in world football if only Southgate would stop holding them back… that’s Anglo-centric rubbish. They are very good in some areas (not so much in others) but there are plenty of teams who are just as good, and some that are significantly better.
Yes sir, I can boogie
Is it boring being an England fan watching England just now? Totally get that Scotland are in a sweet spot at the moment but it’s great fun. F*ck Boris!
…Incredible stuff from Scotland. I’ve written into the mailbox in previous years bemoaning the quality of the Scottish national team. And rightly so. In our last qualifying campaign, for Euro 2020, we lost 5 matches, one of them a humiliating 3-0 loss to Kazakstan.
But new man, new team. It can’t be underestimated what a fantastic job Steve Clarke has done. It’s been a process, but but by bit, he’s improved this team and turned us into a much more competitive outfit. We’ve gone from losing 5 games in a campaign to losing just 1, and 6 competitive wins in a row is an achievement for any team. We also got our first win against a top 10 team since, I think, 2007. Of course that’s if you don’t count our 0-0 victory over England in the Euros.
It’s not all perfect. The reverse leg against Denmark in this campaign we lost 2-0, but a Man United v Man City 2-0. While the Euros were great fun, we could have done better, especially against the Czechs.
How we, last night we were fantastic, and even if it wasn’t a full strength Denmark, Scotland were genuinely very good. We’re never going to be world beaters, but Clarke is absolutely maximising the talent that we have available. Every player did their job superbly and it’s genuinely the best Scotland performance I’ve seen in years.
Now the playoffs awaits. We’re not going to be favourites but being seeded hugely helps. Against North Macedonia, Austria, Finland or the Czechs we could definitely win at home. Then it becomes more tricky, but not impossible. We could play Italy or Portugal, but alternatively Wales, Sweden or Russia could lie in wait. They’re all beatable, especially if we’re drawn at home for the final (I’m still not sure if that’s possible, can’t find the information anywhere.)
Make no mistake, we’re underdogs but that’s irrelevant really. Qualify or not, a huge amount of pride and passion has returned for the Scottish national team. In the aforementioned Euro qualifying campaign, just 20,000 turned out to watch Scotland play a Belgium team featuring some of the best players in the world. This time around 50,000 were packed into Hamden to watch Scotland play Israel and Denmark. Whatever comes next, Steve Clarke has brought back the belief and it makes it a great time to be a Scotland fan.
Mike, LFC, London
International break alternative
Scratching around for a game at the weekend and refusing to go anywhere near Hillsbro’, I toddled along with 650 other souls to pay £5 to watch Hallam FC in the tenth tier.
It was so refreshing to stand at the side of the pitch clutching a pint and watching a decent footie match without being told to sit down or without the steward coming over to tell me I couldn’t drink alcohol in sight of the pitch. There was a happy, friendly atmosphere, great facilities for that level of the game, and the place was full of young families having an afternoon out. Despite all the standing and boozing, no-one invaded the pitch except for a little kiddie at half-time who was retrieved by his mother to a chorus of boos, and no-one started a mass brawl. It was a great day out and a reminder of what the game should be about.
So next time there’s an international break, go and find your proper local team and give it a try. You might just like it and you’ll be properly helping grass-roots football.
I did have an invite to the egg chasing at Twickers, but nobody will ever convince me that that is a proper sport….
Bladey Mick (anyone but Wednesday)
What’s your number?
After your Trivia-tastic article on attacking players taking defensive numbers yesterday I remembered a mail I meant to send in around the time of Ronaldo’s return to Man Utd, which might get a little traction now we’re midway through an international break. It boiled down to a discussion on why Ronaldo taking the number 7 shirt was genuinely a big deal rather than a side show, how one of the greatest players of all time had worn the number for (almost) 17 years with three European giants, with the same number having a tradition at Man Utd of being worn by several players who transcended the sport. And it got me thinking about which numbers hold a legacy at their clubs, the kind of number that is immediately recognised as a big deal when a new signing takes it, the one supporters know the full history of without hitting up Wikipedia.
The two examples that sprung to mind for me are special to their clubs in very different, the number 9 at Newcastle and 6 at West Ham. In Newcastle’s case it just so happens for a number of decades their best player happened to be the one bearing that shirt, including the top 5 goalscorers in the clubs history. In my lifetime three of the greatest strikers of the Premier League era wore the shirt between early 90s to the mid-00s wearing the shirt, with the number to this day remaining a sign of trust for any incoming striker (even if that has often been misplaced since Shearer’s retirement). To West Ham the number 6 holds an individual rather than collective legacy given the 16 year association it had with Sir Bobby Moore, arguably the most iconic English player of all time. Retiring the number in 2008, 15 years after his death, remains not just one of the classiest moves West Ham have ever made but the only instance to my mind of a club in England retiring one of the major numbers (1-11).
But after those examples I’m not really too sure. So my double pronged question to the mailbox is what is the number at your club and what makes it so special?
Kevin (hoping we get a “Defenders who wore attacking numbers” follow up to yesterday’s article), Nottingham
Combing for random artefacts
Well, the international interlude is, as expected, a bit of a drag. What with one-sided England snooze-fests and the ongoing Man Utd soul-searching still dominating the Mailbox. So far, so predictable.
So it seems the perfect time to try for something a little different and off-the-wall. I want to ask the F365 community a simple question: What is the most random football-related artefact you have ever owned? How did you come about it?
I’ll get it started. Once upon a time, about 30 years ago now, I guess, I had two combs. Nothing unusual about that, except they each came in a separate sleeve. Again, nothing that unusual.
But one of the comb-sleeves featured the words “Loyal Supporter of Wimbledon F.C” with club badge and the other comb-sleeve read “Loyal Supporter of Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C”, complete with Wolves badge.
How they came into my possession, I have no idea. Being a southern, glory-hunting Man Utd fan, I never had any affiliation to either club. My mother’s side of the family had south London roots and my maternal grandfather, apparently played in goal for Wimbledon back when they were an amateur team in the 1950s, so there is at least a connection there, however tenuous. But Wolves? Fucking Wolves? Absolutely nada. Not a clue. Maybe the combs fell off the back of a truck somewhere.
How about other mailboxers? Can you beat that? Did anybody own one of those coat-hangers with David Beckham’s face on it, so as to display their England shirt, as advertised in the pages of Match magazine in the late ’90s? I didn’t. I knew of literally nobody who had one.
Lee, luscious of locks
Unfair on Rodgers
Ryan Liverpool in the Monday morning mailbox spent most of his mail picking apart Brendan Rodgers using all the greatest hits. The one I want to focus on however is one of the more common ones- failing to wrap up 4th place with Leicester twice.
Don’t people who use this criticism not understand that it’s actually a compliment to Brendan? Aside from the madness of their title winning year, Leicester had never been a side that’s been in the mix for European football and they had to sack Ranieri after that when their form dipped afterwards. The fact that not getting Champions League football with Leicester can be seen as a negative actually proves how much he has raised the expectations of a team that was not considered among the elite before he joined. Somehow, Leicester-LEICESTER!- finishing above other traditional top 4 teams like Arsenal and Spurs is considered a disappointment. We now take it for granted that Leicester is playing European football (even though it’s Europa not CL). That’s a credit to Brendan.
People also fail to mention the context of the bad run (last season at least) and just present it as a collapse due to incompetence- if memory serves me right, they had a pretty extensive injury list towards the end of last season. However that’s a mail for another time.
Turiyo Damascene (Actually a Liverpool fan!) Kigali, Rwanda
On the sauce
Ban ketchup or bring it back is the new manager’s prerogative. However it does always seem to get a lot of traction in the media, as demonstrated with Conte’s arrival at Spurs. The question is why so much attention.
Ketchup is unhealthy, filled with corn syrup, it doesn’t help the body. Players are at the training ground, until mid afternoon at the latest. All premier league teams have chefs and canteens cooking healthy food, so shouldn’t the question be, what are the chef’s cooking that needs to have ketchup on, I can’t imagine they are whipping out burgers and fries three times a week.
And I am pretty sure that Conte and other managers aren’t doing inspections of players pantries so they can have their beloved ketchup on their cheese on toast when they are home at 3pm watching Netflix.
Seems it’s more of a fascination of the English press and those foreign managers being mean to the English players and their love of ketchup.
Pretty sure you won’t find it at any training grounds on the continent. No- one complains or writes about it there.
Now pass me the sauce.
Ireland and coach Kenny
Just a quick word on the work of Stephen Kenny in Ireland. After a ropey start, losing at home to Luxembourg, he has blooded new players and built a team with an identity and toughness. Loved by the fans and players alike and pissing off the apologists from the old regime like Brady and PL snobs who would advocate for a novice like Robbie Keane, Kenny is a great advert for the League of Ireland. Proving that by telling players what they are capable of and coaching them to do it rather then telling players that they’re not good enough to pass the ball you can have a team the fans are proud of. Ireland are fun to watch.
Also Jason Knight has a bright future if he can avoid Rooney training ground tackles. Came on last night with instructions that he followed to a T, won the free kick for the first goal and showed intelligence and touch to set up the next 2. The Premier league will be calling before long.
Patrick (Feeling bad for Ole) Tuam
…Ok beating Luxembourg 3-0 shouldn’t be something to boast about but when they beat us 1-0 back in March there was a huge outcry from alot of pundits, mostly based in England, for Stephen Kenny to be axed. To be fair it was a low point.
He has made mistakes in probably playing too many new players at once and dropping some of the more experienced players but he has learnt his lesson and now has a good mix of experience and new blood. Its now no goals conceded in 4 and 15 scored, 1 defeat in 9.
They played some really good football last night and the final two goals were moves which started with goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu (will come to him in a sec) playing it out short from the back. They are good to watch unlike teams under O’Neil, Tarp and McCarthy, and now are getting results. Hopefully will have a good Nations League next Summer and push on from there.
Just want to go back to Bazunu, This lad is the real deal. Every time i see him he impresses. Comfortable on the ball. commands his area, quick and what a shot stopper. Made one save last night which was one of the best i have ever seen. Injuries, loss of forma etc can derail a players progress but City have a real player on their books something that Pompey fans already know.. With him, Kelleher and Travers we are spoilt for choice in goalkeeping department.
Quick one on Portugal, got what they deserved. Santos is a very negative/conservative coach. The way he sets them up was ok for 2016 but they have better players now. They are hard to watch which shouldn’t be the case with the attacking talent they have.
Ken, Cork, Ireland
Imagine for a moment that this country existed. One where heterosexual men were imprisoned for three years for having sex. One that has a legal guardianship system where women have total authority over men – their reproductive rights, who they can marry, access to money etc. One where men are not allowed to drive. One where men cannot go out on their own without a female relative’s say-so. One where men are totally secluded from women socially. One where men have to have written permission from a female guardian if they apply for a job. One where men cannot be primary carers of their children, even if the children’s mother has died. One where passport laws require a man to get the permission of his mother to get one to travel abroad. One where men are shamed if they wear shorts even if it’s 30-40 degrees. Now imagine we gave that country a World Cup.
Jo (looking forward to the ‘it’s their country, their rules as long as it’s only woman and gays being targeted’ and ‘the driving rule has been relaxed this year so that cancels out decades of oppression’ brigades) Kent
Celtic v PSV
Romario and Ronaldo played for PSV. They’re bigger than Celtic.
Dave (bhoy at heart), Dublin
That would be an ecumenical matter
Can I just say that I’ve enjoyed the responses to my response from mailbox readers about Celtic being a bigger club than PSV.
However, Pierre in Bristol is quite right in his assessment on this ecumenical matter – it’s like that whole connection between Sampras and rabbits.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London