Mails: It’s 2016; can we just watch football?

Sarah Winterburn

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I just want to watch the sodding football!
It’s the international break so let’s discuss something that has always frustrated me; Watching live football.

It’s 2016, and I live about five miles away from Anfield. If I can’t watch Liverpool play and it’s not on the ‘proper’ telly, I have a few choices.

a) Listen to it on SHOUTsport/R5L.
b) Read text updates – probably the most miserable way of following live sport.
c) Avoid the score altogether and hope it’s shown near the start of MoTD.
d) Watch on a less-than-legal stream and spend 90 minutes watching pixelated blobs chasing a smaller pixelated blob with delayed Russian diatribe over the top.
e) Go to the pub and hope they are showing a less-than-legal stream.
f) Actually go to the match (virtually impossible and the least cost effective option)
g) Watch middle-aged men report the scores as they watch the game
h) Move to America/Spain/Ukraine/Countless other countries that seem to show every game live on the TV with proper coverage.

Again, it is 2016 and I can’t watch the biggest teams in the world play live football unless I move house or break the law – how ridiculous is that? The media blackout of live football on a Saturday afternoon is probably one of the most antiquated ideas in sport. Would it be so hard to televise all the games like America do?

Surely there has to be a solution to this, why not make non-televised games pay-per-view via Sky/BT at £5 a go? Or move PL games from 3pm if the sacred media black-out can’t be broken?

I’m sure someone can give me a very good reason why these models do not work financially or commercially, I’m just trying desperately to write a mail that doesn’t mention Wayne Rooney. Oops.
Paul M (First World Problems) LFC


Losing interest in football fast…
I read Riaola’s comments about a £200m player you 2020 and thought with that I am done. I understand the economics of football; I get it that these figures are only possible because of global TV deals that fans are content to pay.

Except that I am not; after the birth of my first son I cancelled Sky Sports because I no longer had the time to sit down for 90 minutes. With exception of their portion of my TV licence fee the team I follow (LFC), follow not support, get nothing from me. I don’t go to games, buy sponsors’ products or subscribe to the website. Goals are met with slight fist pump and defeats by an “oh well now what was I doing?”.

Increasingly I find it impossible to get upset at the failures of millionaire sportsmen over whom I have no influence when there is a loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires that influence my life and who are far more deserving of my ire.

F365 and The Grauniad provide me with opinion pieces that are more interesting than the game itself.

Maybe one day this will change but for now I can’t see it.
Paul Rhodes


Early days…but is there less nonsense in Premier League?
Sometimes a bit of distance is a good thing and I have been watching much of the first few weeks of footy while on holiday in Canada. That is a country that understands about distance…

Anyway, one of the biggest problems many Canadians I spoke to have with football, as is also the case in the USA, is the diving and rolling around on the floor. Afterall, this is country that invented Ice-Hockey, not really known for feigning injury. With all the talk of refs getting tough on dissent etc I watched games with an eye on this, and while it is early days, it seems to me that the effort over the summer to cut down on dissent and screaming players has had an impact.

It could be even better, of course, but in general terms it appears much better than it was for screaming players, hounding the ref and generally behaving like lemons.

Much gets lost in the hoo-ha of the Premier League with its focus on BOOM and WHAM and KAPOW, and with the Manchester derby coming up this could all go out of the window pretty quick, but I wondered if anyone else had noticed? Or maybe I was just allowing my happy-holiday-vibe to get the better of me.
Andreas Hunter, St Albans


Proper coaching? Luxury. Back in my day…
In response to Angus in Australia: it’s really encouraging to see how far youth coaching has come in the last few years. I don’t have kids yet but if and when I do, their football education is likely to be absolutely light years away from my own experience at school. (I’m taking it as a given that they’ll want to play football).

When I was a kid I was the tallest in my year so I was put at centre-back, and that was my position set in stone forever. We played 11 v 11 on near enough full-size pitches from under 9s onwards; the only tactical instructions I received were to stand at the back, head everything as far as possible and tackle anyone that came near me. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy it. The most fun I had was on summer football courses, because everyone got to practise some skills and the weather wasn’t cold enough to freeze my pre-pubescent knackers off. They also gave us each a VHS tape containing footage of elite players of the day – all I can remember of it is that John Barnes presented the segment on dribbling, and that even then I realised Peter Beardsley had a weird face. Without those summer courses, I probably wouldn’t have carried on playing the game.

As it is I still play in a semi-competitive seven-a-side team, and judging from the groups of kids who train on the other pitches around us, things have got a lot better than they used to be. Give it 10 years and England might have developed a group of players who are skilful, tactically flexible and mentally robust. And even then, Big Sam will probably overlook them all for a 44-year-old Kevin Nolan.
BR, NCFC (In real danger of jumping the ‘four Yorkshiremen’ shark)


What’s England’s philosophy? Should it be 4-4-2?
Angus raised a great point that we should know, and Allardyce should be able to articulate, what England’s football philosophy is. I had a dig around the interwebs and game up with ‘The FA DNA’ which attempts to explain exactly that. Now, the thing is not exactly riveting a riveting read as there’s an awful lot of stating the bleedin’ obvious, but apparently there is such a thing.

Howver there’s nothing at all about specific player/position responsibilities that I could see apart from the goalkeeper getting a couple of shout-outs as to what he should be doing (such as effective distribution, being the 11th outfield player, all that stuff that Joe Hart does so well). Looking at Angus’s link, it looks like the Aussie FA have more of a handle on developing a consistent “responsibilities” roadmap that their England counterpart.

On the subject of 4-4-2, it’s not an inherently bad idea as long as the players are intelligent enough to react quickly in transition when the opposition are on the counter. If the midfield is in danger of being overrun, one of your center-backs steps up to take the deepest threat and the remaining three adjust accordingly. You just need some smart folks out there (whether those exist in England is another matter!) Conte essentially went to a 4-4-2 when Chelsea played West Ham on opening day and Chelsea were stymied at 1-1. He brought Batshuayi on at 85 minutes to play alongside Costa. He pushed Kante up into a four-man midfield and four minutes later Batshuayi was knocking down the ball for Costa to score the winner.

It might not be the most tactically-sophisticated formation but it can serve a purpose.
Steve (allegedly the Major League Soccer season is ‘hotting up’ – it’s not, it never does), Los Angeles


Why are Canada so sh*t?
I know the mailbox won’t be flooded with CONCACAF World Cup qualifying related content, but just wanted to chime in about the second to last phase ending yesterday. Canada were eliminated once again at this phase. Beaten out by mighty Honduras (Mexico cruised the group). This has been a regular occurrence and is beyond frustrating.

I’m not naive, not expecting Canada to ever win the World Cup, however they haven’t had a sniff since 1986. I cannot fathom how a country of 35 million plus cannot cobble together 23 decent players at any given time. Inept tactics, poor substitutions, and the ‘best’ players didn’t even feature. A few MLS teams doesn’t really solve anything, it helps but that barely scratches the surface. Canada won’t ever be a soccer first nation – fair enough, but it’s the same old story every qualifying campaign. But hey, there’s always Qatar 2022!
Nick C, Burlington, Ontario


Bizarre bookings please…
Japan won 2-0 away to Thailand last night thanks to goals from Genki Haraguchi and Takuma Asano. The match was fairly uneventful: it took Thailand 70 minutes to take their first shot, which the Japanese keeper saved with his face. Japan created loads of chances again and should probably have scored more.

The most interesting moment was about half an hour in when defender Masato Morishige trapped the ball and signalled to the referee that he thought it was going flat. The referee blew his whistle, ran to Morishige, picked the ball up, squeezed it, bounced it, squeezed it and bounced it again It had rained heavily earlier and the pitch was in terrible condition, so I can understand why Morishige thought it was flat. The referee disagreed and booked him.

I’m not sure exactly what the yellow was for: timewasting? Dissent? Telling the ref how to do his job? If the latter is enforced as a booking then referees will need more stationery to note every offence.

It was certainly one of the more unusual yellow cards I’ve seen In the spirit of desperately trying to think of discussion topics to help us survive the rest of the international break, has anyone seen any other bizarre bookings recently (or not recently)?
James T, Kanazawa, Japan


Apologies to Matt
Picking up on Jeremy Aves’ lingo mail from yesterday, has Matt Stead just Garth Crooksed the s**t out of the weekly awards?

Best PL player awarded to the only Englishman who scored a goal, mainly for his celebration and not for how well he played? Check.
Best FL player award given to a player from a team he supports? Check.

Okay, that’s actually all I’ve got, but my excuse is that I like the phrase and only repeated use will make it stick. Sorry Matt.
Terry Hall, Switzerland


Icon? Not for me
I see the usually brilliant ‘Portrait of an Icon’ column which has previously always been spot on at lauding the world’s best ever players and club legends has been changed to the ‘Pretty good and won a few things but never world class outside Championship Manager and failed to reach their alleged potential due to having attitude problems’ column.

Next week I look forward to reading about Patrick Kluivert being described as an icon for his early success but eventually lackluster career.

Try a little harder from now on Mr. Storey!
William, Leicester
From Arsenal to Forest…
Nottingham Forest gave Arsenal us our first set of shirts – it’s why we wear red.

I’m not sure Traore, Bendtner and Lansbury is a fair trade.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


I too have eaten where footballers dine…
Further to Mediawatch and the amazing exposé on Wing’s in the Mail, I work in Wilmslow and once saw erstwhile England footballer David Platt coming out of Waitrose. Having found out it was a favourite haunt of footballers I immediately ventured in to try their wares.

I was greeted by an array of delicious goods ranging from egg sandwiches that were tasty triangles of ecstasy through to Quavers, which turned out to be a journey into cheese heaven as the divine crispiness melted on my tongue.

The manager of Waitrose wasn’t interested in publicity and asked me to leave when I attempted to get a selfie with him but even so I feel like now I, like Mike Keegan, have been able to experience just a small taste of how these footballers live.

After that I reckon I could definitely work at The Daily Mail, providing I can get rid of this last remaining tiny shred of human decency of course.
Neil ‘I’ve got my very own cylinder of joy’ Armitage


Wind beneath my Wing’s
I bet Rooney always has the omelette and chips at Wings. None of that fancy foreign stuff. Being the tactical master that Guardiola is, I bet he orders the fish dish that requires 24 hours’ notice so he rings in the day before. That’s why he’s paid the big bucks.
Simon Fitzwilliams (email title has no relevance to the content, just wanted to insert another Wings song pun), Cambridge