Mails: Giving Sterling some overdue credit

Date published: Friday 3rd June 2016 2:44

Keep your thoughts coming to And have a read of the excellent Mailbox Guest Daniel Young on AFC Wimbledon.


Sterling effort
Let us just summarise Raheem Sterling so far

– Best England player at the last world cup, age 19
– two great years, followed by a supposedly poor season at man city where despite an injury he scored or assisted 15-16 goals, or one every 165 minutes (martial has one every 175 minutes to put that in context)
– Best city player pre-injury in Champions league, matchwinner (and two motm awards) in 3-4 games.
– Out of England’s 5 goals in recent friendlies, he alone was instrumental in assisting four! Also made 2-3 excellent chances that were missed by sturridge or rashford.

Yesterday was the main threat despite playing just 30 minutes (a defense splitting ball to the full back, something Rooney failed despite multiple attempts, and a lovely cruyff turn on top of a great cross for the goal )

Any other player or team, and he would be rightly considering the main man, the key to the team’s success.

Unfortunately, he happens to be someone who jilted one of the big “history” clubs for little man city, so he is reviled, the commentators on TV could barely mention his name through gritted teeth, and apparently there are questions if he should even be in the squad.

Frankly, it’s disgusting and makes me reconsider if one should even bother supporting England.

Kind regards,
City fan


More England ramblings
My long missives seldom get published but I thought I’d have a go anyways.

Firstly, anyone who asked why Jack Wilshere was taken should now have their answer, two moments in the second half showed it. The first where Wilshere did a 180 with the ball and took 2 of Portugal’s midfield out the move straight away, he’s the only midfielder we’ve got who can do that and we need it. The second when he pinged a cross field ball to the right wing and it actually went to a player rather than a ball boy. Face it, he’s the best we’ve got and he is currently fit.

Secondly, I think that was the most useful warm up game Roy could have asked for, as it was an experiment which utterly failed. I’ve been a big fan of Roy in the past, but if he tries this again in France he’s a fool. He’s had the chance to cock up the tactics in a game which doesn’t matter, and he has a chance to learn from it.

England actually have something we’ve not had for as long as I can remember, more than 1 good player for each attacking position. We could play 4-2-3-1 with Vardy, Kane or Sturridge at 9, Alli or Rooney at 10, then for the wings take 2 from Sterling, Lallana, Vardy, Sturridge, Milner, Rashford and Rooney (if he has to play). The defensive midfield 2 remain the same all the time, Dier and Wilshere. Wilshere can roam forward more when teams sit back on us, but with our central defenders I think we need Dier in front no matter what.

We can tailor a side to an opposition, a high press with Kane, Alli, Lallana and Vardy on the left for example would be a nightmare for slow defenders. We can use Vardy up front for counter attack, Sterling if we need width, Lallana if the defence is sitting deep, Milner if we are defending a lead. Plus we have the wild card of Rashford as well. We can actually play the tournament as a proper squad and not 11 bestest players + others.

Reading this mornings mailbox it’s clear that a lot of people see the problems. We may not be football managers with 30 years experience, but it’s so glaringly obvious that we don’t need to be (see Arsenal fans vs Wenger). My hope is that Roy knows this too, that he saw Plan A against Germany, thought “That’s sorted” and has been mucking around with Plan B ever since. Otherwise I expect I’ll spend yet another tournament screaming at the telly and crying into my beer.
Dan, Camberley.


1. If Sturridge is fit he should start

2. Dele Alli looks every bit a 19 year old in an England kit (next Gerrard)

3. Why is Gary Neville still on the England bench? I thought he was found out?

4. Maybe, just maybe, Jamie Vardy is actually pants.

5. Lallana can only play 60 minutes, which is perfect for England

6. Lar LFC from this mornings mailbox: steady

7. This drawn out Rooney farewell is worse then Gerrards

8. If Kane could please stop pretending he is Ronaldo and go back to scoring goals that would be great.

9. It appears as if Sterling is actually quite good…who knew? (spoiler: this guy)

10. England finally beat Portugal and that’s pretty cool
Brian (Lar LFC seriously get your head checked) LFC


There are lots of calls for England to either play a direct, counter-attacking system that worked very well for Leicester or a high-pressing, intense system that Tottenham used to good effect. Obviously these calls include using Drinkwater, Vardy, Alli, Dier and the like in the positions that they excelled in all season long.

The logic here being that the Premier League is the best league in the world so playing a system used by the team that came 1st or 3rd would be a good idea. Not bad logic but…

Surely other people remember when England looked pretty awful in 2010 and 2012 and everyone said that Premier League style football doesn’t work on the international stage because you generally play better opposition and need a possession based game to excel (probably why Premier League teams haven’t done too well in the Champions League recently either)

What’s with the collective amnesia? There’s no point replicating Premier League tactics when England don’t play in the Premier League. Hopefully we have 11 players intelligent enough to adapt to a new system at short notice to excel in the Euros.


I will be sitting down at home to watch England on June 11th more in hope than expectation. To be honest, I don’t even really mind if we lose as long as we play well and give a decent account of ourselves which we have failed to do for years now. The golden generation let us down badly in major tournaments and I’m glad they’re gone now. So, this is what I’d like to see.

1. Positive football, pass it forward when you can and have a shot when you think it warrants it. Not too many square and back passes like in the past, please.

2. Pass it quickly and with urgency. We’ve made the mistake in the past of trying to be too calm (e.g. Rio Ferdinand) and have ended up being far too slow in the build-up making for boring football.

3. Don’t hit the first man all the time with corners like Gerrard used to do. It drives me nuts. Under no circumstances let James Milner take corners.

4. We’ve made the mistake in the past of playing too many long balls, especially when under pressure. All that does is give the ball back to the opposition. Long balls can work on the break, but don’t do it all the time.

5. Defenders need to keep their positioning at all times. This is a truism, even in International football. But we always seem to forget it.

6. Keep it simple, stupid. Please don’t try any fancy dummies (I’m looking at you, Wayne Rooney) or intricate short corner routines. They never come off and just make us at home more angry and frustrated.
Thomas Ewens


Leave Hodge alone
I’m certainly not his biggest fan, but I think Hodgson is being unfairly criticised at the moment. A lot of people have been asking for Kane and Vardy playing together. Last night shows that it doesn’t really work, neither of them suit the others game. Ok, they had Rooney in there as well and were forced wide, but still, I don’t think Vardy and Kane should start. I’m glad that we have found that this set up doesn’t work prior to the tournament.

Our best chance of winning the group is to start Vardy on the bench. If Roy wants to play Rooney, play him in midfield next to Dier. His creativity may well be needed against teams likely to sit back. Then have Alli in front of them with Sterling and Lallana in the wide areas. Kane up front. This would mean that no one is played out of position to accommodate the captain (apart from the captain himself).

As defences tire, we should then look at bringing Vardy on for Kane for the last 30 minutes and use his pace. Please don’t play Vardy on the wing, Please.
Toby (Champions) Mitchell


England international manager in a pre-tournament friendly tries a different formation in attempt to develop a Plan B …. gets criticised for changing a formation which has had one good result (in a friendly) against Germany.

England international manager continues with the same formation throughout pre-tournament friendlies, loses on penalties in the quarter-finals and gets criticised for not using the friendlies to develop a plan B.

Compare this with, Northern Ireland international manager tries a few different formations in pre-tournament friendlies, fans don’t care and love him, Northern Ireland international manager tries a few different players in different positions to their club teams, fans don’t care and love him.

Get behind your country and your team,and ffs enjoy yourselves.

Most of you are too young to remember your one lucky summer of 1966.
Crazylong, GAWA, still British Champions


Coutinho = the Brazilian Barkley
After reading today’s gossip and the nonsense about Coutinho to PSG I started thinking about how similar is he to Ross Barkley. They are both:

– Almost at the same age
– Occasionally great
– Scoring from distance with curling efforts
– Constantly linked with clubs well beyond their level
– Competing with Theo Walcott for the role in the next “Invisible Man”

Anyone with me?


Koeman, feel the noise
Even as an Everton fan I have to say I feel for Nervous Wreck Harry from this morning’s Mailbox. Don’t get me wrong, I think Koeman would be great for Everton and in any other circumstances I would love to see what he could do with this squad and the newfound resources at his disposal. I understand why our board want him as he’s provided a successful model for what Everton should aim for at a club with limited resources.

But I have a real soft spot for Southampton. My first and only time watching Everton live (I’m from overseas) was at St. Mary’s. The game itself was a dull 0-0 draw but the atmosphere was one of the best I’ve experienced in any sport. I’m also so mighty impressed with what the club and Koeman have done there in the last few years, given all the players that have left, that I’d basically just feel really bad about poaching him.

I know there’s not much room for being sentimental in modern football and you need a level of ruthlessness to be successful, but with managers like de Boer and Pellegrini clubless and available, to throw lots of money at a nice man to take him away from a nice club just seems like a dick move.
Will (we’ll see if I feel the same way if he comes to Goodison and dominates) Wymant, EFC


Coin tossers
With all the media and replays currently airing around Euro 96, it struck me that the difference between a ‘good tournament’ and a ‘bad tournament’ in very small, a coin toss in fact.

In 1996, after a poor game against Spain, had we been eliminated on penalties, Euro 96 would have been remembered a poor tournament in which England stumbled into the quarter finals before exiting to an underwhelming Spain side (The Netherlands game a one off amongst a poor performances against sub-prime teams). The winning of the lottery of the penalties followed by one heroic performance, turning underachievers and drinking villains into heroes.

1990 is very similar, had we been eliminated by Cameroon, the tournament would have been remembered as a poor one where England bumbled along before being put out of their misery. Again, a heroic performance against Germany changing the nations perception of the tournament and Bobby’s legacy was made.

Now flip that…. Had England won on the coin toss of penalties against Portugal in 2006, England would have been semi-finalists (emulating the achievement of the class of 90), one battling performance would have turned the golden generation flops into heroes. Had England won the coin toss on penalties against Italy in 2012 (emulating the class of 96) and gone on to produce a fighting performance in the semis, the tournament would have been very different.

My point… The success or failure of International teams over the years has been essentially down to the flip of a coin, however that coin toss has dictated the legacies of many a manager and player…. Had Frank scored that penalty in 2006, maybe we would now have a Sir Sven
Paul Bigshoe


Euro 2016 Group of Death
Looking at the 6 groups of the Euro 2016, I realized that France have been given the easiest group, having to play Albania, Romania and Switzerland. On the other end of the spectrum, Group E has thrown a spanner in the works. We have Belgium, Italy, Republic of Ireland and Sweden all staking their claim to progression into the knockout stages. For my money, this is the hardest group of them all and it’s really the group of death. Any one of Belgium, Italy, Republic of Ireland and Sweden could emerge from the group. Anyone have any thoughts on this?
Keg Baridi ( Thinking of something clever to put here, finding none) Nairobi, Kenya


Benzema, France and racism
So Karim Benzema came out two days ago in Marca and claimed his non-selection, along with Hatem Ben Arfa’a was due to Deschamps giving in to racist pressures. These baseless accusations were made on the back of Eric Cantona ramblings about Deschamps being a Mormon, and not selecting either due to their ethnicity. For those of you not aware, the French Federation decided that Benzema would not be able to play for the french team as long as he was under investigation for blackmail. He is accused of blackmailing his teammate Valbuena regarding the latter’s sex tape. This is a pretty serious affair and could incur jail time for Benzema, a man not known to be a role model considering his previous encounters with the law.

Now of course the timing, 10 days prior to the European Championships clearly shows that Benzema does not care much for a team he claims he adores. But I guess what angers me, is that while racism is very much prevalent in France and in football grounds, claiming to be a victim of racism when it clearly is not true, when you have no facts or proof to support your accusation is dangerous. It will trivialize racists acts, it will give ammunition to the extreme right who have already latched onto his comments, and it will continue to further to social fracture present in France, instead of trying to eradicate it. If he wanted to further the discussion of racism in sports, he could have done so, and not hidden behind newspapers quotes like the coward he is.

It needs to be noted that many people have come out against Benzema, including the head of the non-profit organization “SOS Racisme” who stated that he (Benzema) never seemed interested in racism, and that he came out seeming selfish and narcissistic after his comments. Then there is Deschamps. This is a man who has always stood up for Benzema. He supported him when he went on a 10 game goalless run before the World Cup. He supported him throughout this judiciary process until the decision from the french federation. And why shouldn’t he? He is the manager and wants his best players. Benzema is one of the best center fowards in the game, and brings a wealth of experience. A man who to our knowledge has done nothing wrong but will have his name be associated with racism. But when you make comments like this, they are consequences. The problem is that footballers live in a different world. His lawyer refers to him as a kid, this man is a millionaire and 29. He is an adult. I have never seen benzema show any accountability or remorse for anything he has ever done. His latest comments follow the same route.

So instead of having a whole country stand behind a mulitcultural team that represent France, we are having a debate as whether or not a man is racist or not. This team came from so far after 2010 when the whole country hated them, and Benzema singlehandedly brought them back 6 years.
Guillaume (You feel for Ben Arfa though, but he is behind Coman, Martial, Griezmann and Payet, that is as tough a competition as you will have on the wings) Ottawa


A simple message
My heart sank upon hearing the news yesterday that another Turkish-German with a difficult-to-pronounce name has joined the Premier League.

So just to clear things up, Ilkay’s surname is pronounced Goon-doh-an as the G is silent. And Emre’s surname is still pronounced Jan, not Chan (he’s not Chinese) as most commentators seem to believe.

It would be much easier if they used their Christian names as they do in Turkey….
Jamie Bedwell, Antalya (via Cheltenhamshire)


Burned by the phoenix’s flame?
Happy Friday all; long-time listener, first time caller.

Let me clarify first of all that I have great sympathy with the plight and subsequent rise of AFC Wimbledon – as a Spurs fan, we nearly had a similar instance on our hands when Daniel Levy briefly attempted to move us to Stratford, and the possibility of Stadium:MK being our temporary home whilst our new stadium is being built did not sit well with me and many others (it’s even a little “problematic” that Dele Alli used to play for the “Dons”). However, whilst their rise to prominence has been magnificent, it’s not without its ramifications.

Growing up in Surrey as a Spur in exile, I had few opportunities in the local area to see football, other than Kingstonian – an attractive prospect in the very late 90s in the glory years of Geoff Chapple, including a spell in the Conference, back-to-back FA Trophy wins and a run to the fourth round of the FA Cup. However, relegation and poor ownership led the club to the brink of financial ruin, and whilst the K’s recovered, AFC Wimbledon came in as the new tenants of Kingsmeadow. Their initial leasing and then ownership of the ground has undoubtedly relieved Kingstonian’s financial situation following the disastrous tenure of the Khoslas, but at a potential cost to the future of the club.

For a young adult or family in the Kingston area who find themselves with a free Saturday afternoon on their hands, the prospect of a Football League team, especially with the “fairytale” narrative attached (Bitter Spurs fan? Moi?) would be far more attractive than an Isthmian League Premier Division outfit, for only a few pounds more. Whilst it may not seem like much, at that level the difference matters – with Chelsea, Fulham, QPR and Brentford not too far away, K’s need to ensnare any fan they can, even if only on a casual basis. Over the course of AFC Wimbledon’s 14-year stay at Kingsmeadow, many in the area who may well have come to watch Kingstonian have instead, understandably, had their heads turned by the more prominent Wombles.

Whilst a few AFC Wimbledon fans I know are uncomfortable with the fact they are still without a permanent home after 25 years (if you include Wimbledon FC’s stay at Selhurst Park), and as the article points out, the owners dearly wish to move into the Greyhound Stadium on Plough Lane (subject to Sadiq Khan’s approval following BoJo’s about-turn), their purported plans for Kingsmeadow make disturbing reading for Kingstonian fans. Kingston-upon-Thames, as with much of South-West London, is a Chelsea “stronghold” (with a branch of the club shop on Kingston’s High Street), and AFC Wimbledon’s plans to sell Kingsmeadow to Chelsea as a ground for their youth and ladies’ teams would snuff out practically any chance of attracting casual support, and may yet force the club to find pastures new if Chelsea do not wish to continue the groundshare arrangement.

Both clubs have been helped and hindered by the circumstances, but Kingstonian now find themselves at the mercy of AFC Wimbledon’s decision once they are able to move on. Their emergence from the ashes all the way from the depths of the Combined Counties League to the third level of English league football has been wonderful to see, but like Jean Grey from X-Men’s dark alter-ego Phoenix, AFC Wimbledon may yet leave destruction in its wake.
Ollie (KT Spur)


Thank you
Just a short mail to say how much I loved both the Wimbledon and the Euro 96 articles.

Two very different articles but both compelling reading. The Wimbledon one almost made well up in the office. That would have been quite embarrassing for a stone-hearted old cynic like me.

Keep up the great work!
Adonis Stevenson, AFC

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