All new articles are now appearing in the new blog entitled 2012-13 and there will be no further updates here although all the older content from previous posts is still right here and has not been deleted.
Near the start of this year not only was David Beckham odds on to be playing for Team GB in this summers Olympics but after the resignation of Fabio Capello as England boss, Harry Redknapp was the odds on man to take his place and lead England in Euro 2012. Who would have thought that not only would Harry not get given the job but as the event took place Harry would be out of a job completely having been sacked by Spurs!
I try to imagine myself in Daniel Levy's shoes and figure out what is going through his head that has led this year to pan out the way it has so far. Coming into the new year, Spurs are sitting third in the Premier League table and are looking like a good bet for a Champions League spot. There are some that are even suggesting that Spurs can still keep up with the Manchester clubs above them and cause a massive upset by going all the way and winning the whole thing.
Having had some success in the Champions League the previous season, Spurs are probably hugely disappointed at not qualifying for it for a second successive year. The Europa Cup is treated with disdain and Spurs are eliminated fairly early on without any real fight or desire to go on to achieve what we have seen clubs as Atletico Madrid do (again) and of course the Athletic Bilbao results also showed what can be achieved. Instead Spurs concentrate on ensuring a Champions League spot for next season but there is also something else lurking in the background. That is the court case involving Harry where he has been charged with tax evasion. He is finally acquitted but the national press that this story has received may well have been considered to be very bad publicity and potentially embarrassing to the Spurs owner as it also possibly brings into doubt some of their own decision making and policies.
Ironically, within 24 hours of Redknapp's case ending the England job becomes available and Harry's name is being touted about everywhere. Spurs league form finally takes a dip for the worse and from looking like finishing in at least in a firm third they are now clinging on for fourth as local rivals Arsenal rub salt into the wound by getting ahead of them. Spurs are then dispatched out of the FA Cup as they are thrashed at Wembley and although Spurs do finally finish in fourth, Chelsea's Champions League success means that fourth this season is suddenly not good enough for what they required.
Spurs are also monitoring the success of many younger managers this season especially Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers. Aston Villa and Liverpool snap up their services whilst Spurs still have a 65 year old in charge asking for a longer contract yet being open at the same time to the suggestion that should the England job be offered to him that he would take it in a heartbeat.
When you put all of the above together does it help at all to understand Levy's mindset or do we all still think he must be a bit crazy as Harry is still one of the best managers around? Perhaps we will never know the half of what was going on behind closed doors and the real reasons why Spurs let Harry go but what I will say is their timing was out regarding their decision making. With Lambert and Rogers both having made their moves, if Spurs do appoint a younger man then whom? One of the front runners is apparently Andrea Villas-Boas – if you are a Spurs fan you surely would not be too happy about that - would you?
If I had been Levy I would have gone all out for Roberto Di Matteo. I understand Di Matteo wanting to stay with Chelsea especially after everything that he achieved there. But to win the FA Cup and then of course the almighty Champions League and still then have to wait for a deal was just crazy. Roman Abramovich should have been begging Di Matteo to sign and offer him whatever he wanted seeing as he finally got the Russian his ultimate prize. Instead he has to wait for a few more weeks before being offered a two year deal.
Admittedly, when Di Matteo took over the reigns the pressure was off and he did not have much to lose and everything to gain. Chelsea were not expected to win anything when he took over in March and perhaps not even qualify for the Champions League. Because of this perhaps it gave Di Matteo a bit of a free pass but there is no doubting that he brought the squad back together and at times they looked like the Chelsea of recent years and back to their best. But now he has the contract and if things do not go to plan, how quickly is Abramovich going to act? Isn't it obvious that the Russian owner had another plan up his sleeve that went wrong or is on hold for now? If Di Matteo had been brave enough once winning the Champions League and walked away a couple of days later with no contract on the table his point would have been better served. The Spurs job was not available at that point but he should have known that in the position of a current winning Champions League manager top job offers would have been coming in very quickly. I am also curious as to who actually signed Eden Hazard and Marko Marin as at the time of their signings Chelsea were still in limbo. Let us also not forget Jose Bosingwa – a £16.3 million signing from Porto just four years ago whose contract has not been renewed and he has been released on a free. Whatever you think of the player, do not forget how he replaced Gary Cahill in the recent Champions League semi-final in Barcelona playing an important role in getting Chelsea through to the final in which he also played the full match.
Not to leave Arsenal out of all of this London club talk – how much longer are we going to hear that the Gunners are a club in transition? Fans were moaning about this two or three years ago and still it is going on. The 2005 FA Cup Final – won on penalties by Arsenal over Manchester United is still the Gunners last significant trophy. The Arsenal starting eleven that day included players such as Bergkamp, Pires, Vierra and Fabregas. The costings of a new stadium cannot be used as an excuse indefinitely and if you are an Arsenal fan how much longer do you want be telling your mates that although you are not winning anything any more, you are satisfied with finishing third or fourth each year, having a little run in Europe maybe as far as the quarter-finals if you are really lucky but the most important thing is that your team are in a sound financial position.
I am not saying to Arsene Wenger that he should go out and break the bank again to bring success back to the club but I am sure many Arsenal fans look back to the golden era of Wengers early days when he was able to bring in not only big names but players that would become big names through playing with the club such as Anelka and later on van Persie.
For quite a few seasons running the English top four were quite stable. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool would take the four European top spots without too many problems. Everton might have caused the odd glitch but for the best part nobody else really challenged. Now with Manchester City overtaking all of them and Spurs also very much in the running combined with what we have seen from Newcastle and potentially at one or two other clubs – there is no more certainty. Matters could get even worse if English clubs failed in Europe as the fourth spot would in the end be lost too. Fortunately with Chelsea's success at least for the time being England are nowhere near dipping out of the top three that have four teams each – for now. It is just a shame that whenever any of these players put on an England shirt that they forget who they play for each week at club level
Whilst Euro 2012 has been going on the rest of the footballing world has not come to a complete standstill. Therefore it is time to catch up on a few of the other stories that have been circulating in these past few weeks.
David Beckham has been left out of the GB Olympic Football team. There appears to be nobody sitting on the fence with this one – you either believe his non-inclusion is a terrible decision or a very good and brave one by Stuart Pearce especially since Beckham has played an important part in bringing the Olympics to London in the first place.
The criteria for selecting an Olympic squad means that all the players must be under 23 barring three exceptions. It was clear from day one that Beckham would have loved to have been one of them and perhaps would have even of thought that this would have been a marvellous way to bring his career to an end on one of the biggest world stages of them all. I think what bugs me more is the final three that were chosen and on what grounds that warranted more than Beckham's inclusion.
Craig Bellamy has been a bit of a handful for most of his career and has a bit of a reputation for being somewhat of a loose cannon. On refusing to be on England's stand-by list for the Euro's Micah Richards gets this as a reward instead! Finally Ryan Giggs – I am not too interested in his activities away from football but for anybody to now depict him as a saint is wrong. To select him on the grounds that he has always been a quality player but because Wales have failed to qualify for any major finals for many a year now has deprived Giggs of showing the world his talents is nearer to the mark but I still have a problem with that.
I suppose you could compare his scenario to that of George Best a few years earlier and we will never know how Best would have done in a World Cup or even a Euro's finals. But if Best was ever missing from the Northern Ireland team it was usually because of mainly self-inflicted reasons. With Giggs, his reluctance to play for Wales in friendly matches must have been a constant bug bare for the Welsh fans and various coaches and team mates through the years as well. I admit freely to not being a fan of international friendlies but do believe such games should be played behind closed doors or at least the players should be getting together regularly enough so that the coach can get his team playing as a unit and understand what is required from each and every one of them.
Giggs international record of 64 appearances is really a bit of a joke as it should be far higher than this. I do not care how good you are, how can you expect just to turn up whenever it suits you and expect to get into the side? Not only that, it means that another player that has played in Gigg's place has to be dropped and that player probably understands the role better than Giggs because he has been there for the get togethers and friendly matches. Giggs has come in but has probably lost a chunk of his effectiveness because of how much time that he has missed. Dare I say that if Giggs had been committed to international duty then perhaps Wales might have even qualified for a major tournament finals.
So now Giggs is drawing to the end of his long, distinguished career at Manchester United, both he and Alex Ferguson combined declare him available for – lets face it a tournament that does not mean much to most of us. How many of us know who won the gold medal four years ago? How many of us can vividly remember watching many football matches in the Olympics before?
I maintain that the Olympics have got it wrong by including football as one of its events. Any sport that has its own major international championship in its own right such as the World Cup should not be in the Olympics. A true Olympian is one that trains specifically for the Olympics and not because it is an add on sport. Team events such Ice Hockey (in the Winter Olympics), Field Hockey and Basketball all fit the Olympic criteria because these team events treat the Olympics as their sports World Cup. Football along with rugby and cricket as just some examples definitely do not as there all have their own events within their sports. Other sports such as golf and tennis should also not be allowed because they too also have their own top events and an athlete – lets say a tennis player would consider winning Wimbledon far more important than winning a gold medal and quite rightly so and rightly why none of these should be Olympic events.
If football were to be included in future Olympic games then I would consider different forms of the sport to be admissible. These include 5-a-side indoor football or beach soccer as two examples. Also the fact that the Olympics infringes onto the regular football season creates another possible problem. Top club managers reluctantly at times release their players for international duty because they understand that call. But for a player to asked to be released to play in an Olympic event would displease many within the game. With 5-a-side and beach soccer it is even possible to select players that specialise in these fields and may not even play the 11-a-side game professionally. It therefore once again makes an international version of their particular event unique and the ultimate in their profession and then the Olympics beckons this time for all the right reasons.
Finally, I must also mention that the GB team is to only consist of either English or Welsh players. Is this just a case of no Scottish or Irish players available, out there or good enough in Stuart Pearce's eyes or is there a dark and dangerous force lurking quietly in the background? Whichever way the split had gone though there would have been question marks as to which players were in and which were left out – but I never thought it was going to be as clear-cut as this from day one.
With just the final of Euro 2012 to come another season finally comes to an end. So it is time to look at other news and I will be adding a blog regarding other news stories that have happened following this one. But I have to start with a story that broke this morning regarding future plans for the Euro's under the current UEFA governor Michel Platini.
He is quoted as saying "The Euros in 2020 could be held all over Europe, It could be either one country and 12 stadiums, or one stadium in 12 or 13 cities."
Of course the headline picked up on the fact of the multiple hosting option which could see the finals reverting back to a similar style that was used throughout the 60's and 70's. In my letter to Mr Blatter article (the previous post) I commented on what it was like in England in 1996 when the Euro's were held here and how fantastic it was to see people from all over Europe congregating for a major sporting event, mixing together and generally having a great time with all the colour and fun that came along with it. By going back to the old system that would mostly be lost because that feel of a carnival atmosphere lasting several weeks would be no more and fans are not going to travel in their thousands for a one-off match and then another somewhere else just a few days later.
Within just a few minutes of the article appearing there were already quite a few comments that had been made of which many raised significant points that I could have not phrased better myself. Therefore - below are a selection of these comments and I am sure that if I check back in a while there will have been a whole load more added to these.
"Unbelievable in terms of logistics and teams. Where would the teams be based? How about the planning of teams? It's not so much about fans because in this day and age there are immigrants from EU countries all over the EU so the immigrants in such countries can easily go and support their native countries"
"This means there will be no automatic qualified countries but the shine will be taken away, trust me. No fan will fly across Europe for a single match and back to catch another one."
"england v denmark in istanbul
russia v swiss in dublin
england v russia in paris
denmark v swiss in madrid
england v swiss in athens
russia v denmark in lisbon
qf england v spain in rome
sf england v germany in moscow
not on is it?"
"A better than average footballer, a worse than average administrator and a complete nut case. Platini like Blatter is in it only for what he can get out of it financially obviously 12 countries pay more than one could.
The qualifiers are spread accross the continent one home one away is it really a sensible proposition to do the same with the finals? What next the world cup in 140 countries?"
"Well, it'll be the 3rd time France have hosted the tournament in 2016, so I guess Mr Platini doesn't want to look too suspect when 4 years later the Final just happens to be played out in Paris. FIFA & UEFA are incredibly concerned about diplomacy, fiscal interests & maintaining a certain level of control while neglecting to understand anything about football in terms of the game, players & fans."
"Genius on the pitch, complete idiot off it. This is all about TV rights and money. How can it be easier for the fans to have to travel to multiple countries than it is to base yourself in one city with relatively short journeys from there?
If it ain't broke, don't try and fix it. He has already messed up 2016 by expanding it to 24 teams. This would be an absolute disaster."
"What a wretched idea. This will make it impossible for the ordinary supporter to even consider attending a full tournament. And it looks suspiciously like part of the "country called Europe" agenda. One of the great aspects of the Euros is that the character of each tournament varies depending on where it is held. This proposal would destroy that character."
"Why not just have the finals somewhere neutral, say Argentina, or Mars. It makes as much sense as this stupid suggestion. Why not invite some non European countries to join in, to widen its televsion appeal, and perhaps call it a World Cup ? Alternatively, do away with the knock out stages, and run it as a league, with home and away matches"
"Yet another example of Football is being taken away from the fans and ransomed off to the highest commercial bidder...
I'm amazed that El Presidente Platini can dismiss Goal-line technology and the franchising opportunities that it can create for UEFA et al - yet offer up a scheme of Tournament staging that can only logistically appeal to Global Corporations"
I have not put this in the Euro 2012 blog because it is more of an open statement that admittedly as come from watching this summers finals in both Ukraine and Poland. It is just that watching the games, blogging with the pretty girls pictures and just feeling the vibe on the streets around most games that it made me realise just how much we are missing an event like this in this country in not having an event of this nature. The Olympics are different to this completely - hosting the finals of a major football event is unique. I am tempted to write to FIFA and if I did I would write something such as the following
Dear Mr. Blatter - I fully appreciate your goal of trying to spread the game that we all love around the world by allowing countries such as Russia and Qatar to host forthcoming World Cups whatever the reasons of these choices might have been. I also understand that in my country, we tend to have had a pretty bad rap when it comes to how other countries perceive us. Whether it is that we are viewed as - having our noses in the air and looking down at others from dizzy heights or that we are looked upon as a land of thuggish, beer gurgling louts - there is a fact that still remains -
I was not old enough to remember the World Cup when it was played the one and only time back in 1966 and now we know that it is unlikely to be held here again for at least another fourteen years at the earliest - by the time we are awarded it again a whole generation of football loving fans will have missed the opportunity of being part of such an event in whatever shape or form.
In 1996 we staged the European Championship Finals and I was fortunate to be in attendance at one of the games. I loved the fact that there were so many fans on English soil for all different countries mingling together and just enjoying the party atmosphere - I have seen video of this from this years tournament (below) that reminded me so much of what it was like here sixteen years ago. For the best part Euro 1996 went by without any signifcant problems or at least no more than anywhere else and of course we have so many stadiums that are more than fully equipped to host a World Cup tomorrow if required without having to build new stadia at high costs from scratch to finance it.
France have recently been announced as the next host of Euro 16 and congratulations to them for this. However, it kind of backs up how I am feeling because they have also hosted Euro 84 and the World Cup in 1998. Germany have hosted two World Cups in 1974 and 2006 plus Euro 88. Italy had the World Cup in 1990 and also Euro 80. I give you these facts as a direct comparison to England who since the World Cup in 1966 - longer ago than any of the above, all we have had here is Euro 96. It is sad to say the "Home of Football" is continually overlooked as other countries seemingly get to host events again and again whilst other countries that are chosen are struggling to prepare for tournaments due to poor infrastructure and finance.
I am sure that I speak on behalf of literally thousands of other similarly opionated people when I say that it will be a crying shame if our generation never get to see the World Cup played on our own soil. I say this not as somebody who is English or an English fan but somebody that just loves the game and would love to see it here again before I am too old to enjoy and appreciate it. Incidentally, the game that I went to see in Euro 96 was Italy versus the Czech Republic at Anfield. I arrived only shortly before the game and even managed to park my car right outside the ground. I spoke to the police before I did so to make sure it was ok where the car was parked and I believe that it was at that point I really realised how friendly (including the police) everybody was in and around the ground. The atmosphere inside and outside of Anfield was absolutely fantastic and there was not a hint of trouble of any kind and spectators from many different countries were all there enjoying the game and the atmosphere together.
I appreciate that FIFA have much to deal with and that there are many other countries that simarly would love to host future finals. Putting allegations to one side and how our press act and how generally our media can be perceived, there are many good journalists here too and many, many good people that work within the game right here. We have one of the most popular leagues in the world filled with successful teams and have multi-cultural teams and coaches working and playing on these shores with a population that is of course also multi-cultural and originates from all areas of the globe.
The Olympics are coming to London next month but that has nothing to do with a World Cup as the two events are literally miles apart - I would demand that we gave up the Olympics tomorrow if it guaranteed we had the World Cup instead and again I am sure that I am not alone."
We may be right in the middle of Euro 2012 at this moment but this morning came a firm reminder from home that the new season is just two months away with the announcement of all the dates for the fixtures for next season.
At this moment in time all the games are shown as kicking off on Saturday at the traditional 3pm but we all know that things will change quickly as Sky and ESPN get to work on which ties they want live on the box. Based on these opening games it is a bit tricky but I will predict the four that will probably be shown live as Everton v Man Utd, Man City v Southampton, Newcastle v Spurs and possibly Wigan v Chelsea if there are four and not three.
Man City at home to Man Utd is scheduled for December 8th with the return at Old Trafford on 6th April. Liverpool's first two home games of the season are notably against Man City and Arsenal.
I always tend to look at the last games of the season too and wonder where the drama will happen next year. Will Man City's game at home to Norwich need, have or be as dramatic as this years last game?
There are also at least four games that could possibly have some impact on relegation that do stand out looking at this little list with West Ham v Reading and Wigan v Aston Villa being amongst them.
The Championship starts on the same weekend next season which is nice and makes a change back to how it used to be. Owen Coyle's Bolton visit his old club Burnley and the other two relegated clubs also face tough away days to begin with Wolves at Leeds and Blackburn at Ipswich.
Newly promoted Charlton start at Birmingham with Sheffield Weds. at Derby and Huddersfield at the new reds of Cardiff. Coincidence that all six division newcomers start away from home? All the fixtures for all of the top four divisions can be found at the BBC web site by following this link. I believe Conference ties will follow in the next few days.
Two years ago Liverpool appointed Roy Hodgson as their new manager. At the time Hodgson had been very successful at Fulham and had taken them all the way to the Europa Cup Final. Hodgson would go on to having one of the most shortest reigns as manager at the club and was shown the door after only half a season in charge and replaced by Kenny Dalglish.
In recent days I have heard pundits and fans criticise Hodgson for his signings in that short period and the name that keeps coming up as the prime example is that of Paul Konchesky. So are we to believe that Hodgson is being damned for one signing that did not work out and are we also saying that all other managers never make poor signings?
Sir Alex Ferguson - now closing in on 25 years as manager at Manchester United has signed players such as Eric Djemba-Djemba and Juan-Sebastian Veron and I bet that are not many United fans out there that would admit to either of these two players doing any better than Konchesky did at Anfield. Let us not forget either one certain Italian goalkeeper by the name of Massimo Taibi who signed for United in 1999 for £4.5 million. He was signed to replace Peter Schmeichel and to compete for the first time shirt with Mark Bosnich (another flop) and Raimond van der Gouw. Just four appearances in and following a distastrous performance at home to Southampton where he became dubbed as "The Blind Venetian" and a 0-5 defeat for United at Chelsea Taibi was sent packing back to Italy on loan and would never play at Old Trafford again.
So Hodgson was sacked and replaced by "King Kenny" who had been out of mainstream management for over ten years since a disappointing spell as manager at Celtic. Dalglish then proceded to spend John Henry's treasures chest on players such as Luis Suarez who has made an impact in more ways than one but also on Andy Carroll (only now seemingly just beginning to find any form), Charlie Adam who perhaps looks out of his depth and Jordan Henderson for a crazy £20 million from Sunderland. To cap it off he signed Stewart Downing from Aston Villa for an undisclosed fee who in 36 appearances for Liverpool this season scored no goal and supplied zero assists. Dalglish spent more money in the first three months back as manager than he did in his entire career there the first time around.
What Dalglish achieved in the past as both a player and manager at Anfield was superb and he had continued success at Blackburn Rovers. But we have heard before when certain managers names get touted about these days we hear "He has been out of the game too long - the game has moved on". Not helped by a seemingly negative attitude towards the press Dalglish has never been really portrayed as Mr Happy. Perhaps Liverpool fans would have preferred to have remembered him for what he had done previously with the club in the 70's and 80's rather than now - it is really tough when a former hero comes back and then things for whatever reason just do not work out.
Some will say that they did - Liverpool did win the League Cup and reach the FA Cup final - but it was once again the league position that was getting ever worse with this season getting surpassed by an improving Everton not helping matters at all either. It has now been an astonishing 22 years since Liverpool were last crowned champions of England and they have never yet won the Premier League. They did win the UEFA Cup in 2001 in an amazing game against Alaves and of course winning the Champions League in 2005 in such dramatic circumstances too against AC Milan proves that despite such a dip in domestic league form, they were still a great enough club to lift themselves for the very special occasions and lift the top European trophy.
There is no argument from me - Liverpool are and will always be a massive club and it is still far more likely that one day they will bounce back to challenging for the Premier League title again rather than go the way of lets say Leeds United. Even in that possibly worse case scenario their fans will continue to sing "You'll never walk alone" forever and will still pack the stadium. But I don't see that happening at all, its more of a question of when is this stagnating period ever going to come to an end?
So King Kenny is now gone and instead of simply targeting one particular man to replace him confusion has once again reigned supreme! Apparently Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers turned down the opportunity to be interviewed initially when he became aware that he was just one on a long list of potential candidates. Then it is all over the news that Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has been interviewed and has agreed terms - then we hear nothing. Then all of a sudden, Martinez is out of the frame, other names are being mentioned again such as Andreas Villas Boas and even Rafa Benitez - and then in a wink of any eye suddenly Rodgers has been interviewed, accepted and appointed.
Rodgers is still a young manager and although he has done magnificently well at Swansea, lets not forget that he was swiftly shown the door previously at Reading. He comes across as a real likeable manager and maybe that is one of the reasons why he fitted the bill. When Roy Hodgson was appointed I thought it was an excellent choice by Liverpool and how badly did that turn out. I hope for both Liverpool and Rodgers that we are not about to see a repeat performance.
Will Liverpool fans give him a fair chance? He is following King Kenny lets not forget and one "bad" signing or decision that the fans (or current players) do not like could easily find Rodgers facing an uphill struggle as early as Hodgson did. How patient are the owners going to be? How much of a re-building program do they see at the club or is Rodgers remit to work with what is currently there with just minor adjustments but just make it work better? The style of football that he got Swansea playing was also a massive reason no doubt that got him noticed and eventually got him the job. Was he always the number one choice though as with such a long list of candidates it really got messy.
With the League Cup success on its own, the club are back in Europe next season playing in the Europa League on Thursday evenings but surely their goal is to get back into the Champions League and be a major challenger for the Premier League. But right now they find themselves behind the two Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea just to start with so they are going to have to finish higher than at least two of those of clubs just to get back in the elite competition.
It must be really difficult for long time Liverpool fans especially to take in what has happened in these past few years. I guess it wasn't too bad finishing second, third or even fourth because it meant they were still right up there and qualifying too for the Champions League. Nowadays and without the aid of cup competitions, they cannot even get into the Europa League via their league positions. Having Liverpool right back at the top end of the table challenging the very best can only be a good thing not just for Liverpool but for the Premier League as they represent the possibility of a new twist now coming into play if they can come anywhere close to achieving this goal. The more competitive that it is at the top is going to make the league even more entertaining and even more great games and battles.
Much of this article to keen Liverpool fans will be read as "You are not telling us anything that we don't already know" - but this article is written as a reminder to all of those fans as to what could be coming back to them should they get it right. Stop confusing everybody with managerial decisions, stick with your man - make it happen, you have made your decision now - make it work!
A couple of weeks ago, Sky ran a short documentary with a reporter going undercover in both the Ukraine and Poland to expose some of the racism and hooligan threat that visiting fans to Euro 2012 could expect to receive this June.
Now the BBC have followed suit with this weeks Panorama showing more footage of fighting fans - some of which were supporting the same club team. The programme also showed lack of segregation (if any) between fans; stewards, marshals and even police reluctant to help in any shape or form. Also shown was a government minister who completely denied that there were any problems going on inside Ukraine football stadiums!
Whatever your personal plans are this summer I would not be planning a trip to the Euro's regardless. I have heard rumours of hotel prices going through the roof and even to just pitch a tent is very expensive as the profiteers take over once again.
But who would want to go anyway when it does not take that much to realise the general feelings of the people in most countries in Eastern Europe. I know people from Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, Serbia and Croatia who are all now living in the UK but maintain the same strong and deep racial feelings towards ethnic nationalities. So is it a surprise to me when I see the same thing being highlighted in this documentary? It is one thing to just under your breath show your true colours and many people will just be full of talk and nothing more. But when we see gangs of these Eastern Europeans seemingly not afraid to show this, go virtually unopposed in and around stadiums actually carrying out these acts of violence and collectively doing Nazi salutes, then it is plain to see that there is a lot to worry about over these next coming weeks.
English fans are likely to be targeted purely for being English. What the English are perceived as by many is having a reputation for violence themselves which if recent past history has gone to show is usually brought on by too much drink and too much sun. English fans might well be predominantly white but the race hate slogans seen by both Polish and Ukraine fans is for white power but coming from just one country.
Looking further ahead and the World Cup in 2018 is in Russia. I think that we might start to hear a lot about many Russian people's views and outlooks pretty soon too. If these Euro's turn out to be a disaster as far as off the field events are concerned could there even be a case for Russia to be fully examined by FIFA before allowing another tournament in the same part of the world to go ahead? Only time will tell on that one but lets see what actually happens first next month before looking further down the line to six years time.
Much of the recordings on the Panorama programme were shocking to say the least but what bothered me just as much was not only the denial of the authorities that it is actually happening but the complete lack of assistance from stewards and the police who just seemed to sit back and watch. That could even be deemed to be a show of support for these people carrying out these deeds or at the very least one which shows they do not really care or can be bothered. I don't know if the stadiums will be segregated in the Euros but if they are not it just adding to the problems that are right in their face and it is all a recipe for potential disaster.
ALL OTHER ARTICLES RELATING TO EURO 2012 WILL APPEAR IN THE NEW BLOG - EUR0 2012 - WHICH IS ALSO NOW LISTED IN THE DROP DOWN BLOG LIST AT THE TOP OF ALL PAGES ON THIS SITE
Look to the left of this writing - recognise it? It is the Union Flag - many used the term Union Jack but that phrase is only supposed to be used when it as aboard ships. Also note the red diagonals on the bottom half of the flag. The red diagonal in the bottom left quarter is nearer to the centre and on the right it is closer to the right edge than to the centre. If your flag is the opposite you have it the wrong way up.
So, I have been watching the Olympic Torch Relay and they have now gone from England into Wales. In the first week from Cornwall to the Welsh border, English people were all waving this flag - also recognised as the British flag and NOT the English flag - the red cross of St.George as seen these days being waved by English football fans.
On crossing the border what do we now see? Nearly as many Welsh flags as British ones! What is going on here? Since when were these Olympics not British but Welsh? It does not matter whether you are Welsh, Scottish, Irish or English - we all have our own flags and when competing as those individual parts of Great Britain in events such as football and rugby etc then by all means those flags should be used. But these are the Olympic Games and for this we all represent one team and that is Great Britain for which the flag above is the British flag and no other!
The BBC have just announced that they have secured the same TV package that they have now for another four years which means more of Hansen, Lawrenson, Shearer and Lineker moans and sarcasm.
The reason why I mention this is because of course the season has just finished so no more Match of the Day until August. So, I thought that I would make up for it with a good old rant of the day to take its place seeing as right now it is Saturday evening when the programme would normally be on . It is possible that this rant is going to be affected by the weather because in the UK right now we are having a very warm snap. No time to even adjust – it has just gone from three months of rain and cold (and winter was before that) to just hot and humid.
So seeing as I started on the subject of Saturday night TV that is where the initial part of this rant is going to take me. In the UK there are two major free to watch TV channels and they are the BBC and ITV. There are others such Channels 4 and 5 and others if you have a digi-box but these are the big two. On the BBC all night long we had the Eurovision Song Contest (more on that in a bit) and on ITV the live friendly game between Norway and England. After the game was the news and after that was guess what? Highlights of the same bloody match!
I understand the need to show the England matches live but lets get this into perspective – it was a “friendly” - who cares! Yes, it was new England manager Roy Hodgson's first game in charge – so what? Then we see the team and some of the players included in the line-up are not even in the squad for Euro 2012 – what is that all about? There is another England friendly or “warm up game” next Saturday before the team fly out to Poland – and play their games in Ukraine (doh!) which I have written about before. Next Saturday England are playing Belgium. So is there any reason for the selection of Norway and Belgium? The so-called experts will say most definitely as England's group includes Sweden (Scandinavian connection) and France which of course borders Belgium. So are they trying to tell us that by playing Norway we will learn something about playing Sweden and by playing Belgium it will us when we play France?
Friendlies as they are right now should just be banned – period. I can understand the need for warm up matches to get the squad functioning together but why not play them behind closed doors on the training fields? We, as the viewing public gain nothing by watching them at all. A team that lets say has six friendlies and wins them all 5-0 could still very easily go into a tournament and lose every game – England at times have been past masters at this. I also do not want to hear this crap about players needing to play in front of crowds to get used to it – we are talking about the cream of England's players here that are used to playing in front of big crowds at stadiums such as Old Trafford, Anfield and in fact every other stadium in both the Premier League and probably most of the Championship than were present in the game at Norway.
Is this rant happening because of events at Wembley this afternoon because the team that I follow lost in the play-off final to Huddersfield? Read my previous article on this page and you will see that I actually predicted what would happen. The Blades had no real goal threat and were beaten by the better side. The fact that it went to penalties was the nearest we have come to winning one of these damn play-offs and we are still to score a goal (apart from the ones scored in the shoot-out). For Huddersfield to miss their first three penalties then surely whoever the opposition are they are going to take advantage of this and win – not our boys! What is even more concerning is the fact that the five elected kickers for both teams contained players that took the worst spot kicks amongst every other player in both teams. When it went to sudden death, both teams – now using the other players that I guess did not want to be selected originally stepped up and delivered with perfect precision. For it to go to the two keepers to decide the fate of promotion really hurts. Neither keeper could have ever guessed that they would be taking a spot-kick themselves. Of course they scored and we missed and for once I am not blaming a player for blazing a ball over the cross-bar – he was our goalkeeper, for him it is most natural thing to do when striking the ball hard is to see it elevate quickly. It was a shockingly bad game and yes the heat did play a factor for sure but to decide a play-off on penalties is as bad as deciding the Champions League Final on them if not worse. Next season we will welcome Crawley Town to Bramall Lane where as Huddersfield will entertain the likes of Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Blackburn and Wolves to name a few.
It is rather ironic that “God” should mention penalty kicks in these past few days shortly after Chelsea's triumph last weekend. I wonder if also knows that their ladies team lost in their FA Cup Final today to Birmingham on penalties as well. I am of course talking about none other than Sepp Blatter who suddenly asked for help in trying to think of other ways in ending the game other than this cruel way. I have already read some crazy and not too serious ideas elsewhere but the answer is so simple, it has been talked about before but never implemented – I do not know why.
I am not talking about American style shoot-outs where the players have ten seconds to score and start by dribbling the ball from the half-way line. I am not talking about corner counts, possession percentages or even silver or golden goals.
The only way to do this and make it so the game finishes with the players playing the game and one where is a decisive result at the end of extra time is to make the players take penalties at the end of 90 minutes should the scores be level. Call it what you will – a half a goal if you like but it then means that entering extra time the two teams can never be level again and once the 120 minutes is up we have a winner. Just to make it more clear if you are not getting this concept just yet and I will use today's game as an example. At 90 minutes Huddersfield and Sheffield United are level at 0-0. The full time whistle blows and immediately the penalty shoot-out takes place. Huddersfield win the shoot-out and therefore now technically half a goal up going into extra time. If the Blades were then to score in extra time they would then be half a goal up but the two sides could never again be level and when the final whistle goes the game is finished as a normal match and not without a penalty shoot-out. It would also change the pattern of the game. United would go into extra time now knowing that they must score to win the match. If Huddersfield score they have to score twice.
Is this so plainly simple and obvious? Why does it feel that I am the only one seeing this? I am sure if you asked most football fans if they preferred this outcome they would say yes. It would certainly make extra time a lot more exciting as you could no longer have a position where a team is playing for penalties and one team is always going to be on the back foot with the other desperate to score.
Coming back to our TV schedule tonight – if you have the pleasure of NOT living anywhere in Europe then you may well have escaped the most corrupt annual show that has been on TV here since I can remember. Unless one day they decide to change it from Eurovision to “Worldvision” you are the lucky ones.
For those of you reading this you have not got a clue what I am talking about let me give you a brief fill in and what we suffer that makes me embarrassed to be classified as a “European” these days.
In essence, this is a TV show which is a song contest. It is all supposed to be about the song, not who is singing and how pretty she is or which country she is representing. With 25 nations competing in the final (we even have semi-finals now because we have so many countries now with all the break-ups of the former Soviet republics and Baltic States) so we have to suffer for the first three hours song after song being sung by each of the countries in the final.
In general, I do not even watch this part of the show although I did catch a glimpse of what looked like five very elderly ladies dressed up deliberately as old spinsters that were representing Russia of all countries – it was quite unbelievable. The last hour of the show is the bit that needs to be watched and even though it remains cringe-worthy in more ways than one. After the last song has been performed there is a period in the show where the audience are entertained and all of Europe is now voting for their favourite “song”. The golden rule here is that for example if I rang up to vote living in the UK I can vote for whoever I like but because I am in the UK I am not allowed to vote for my own country. This rule in its simplest state sounds fair enough but let me just think this through – how many Polish, Italians, Serbs, Croatians – even Russians these days now live in the UK? None of them are going to ring up to find out that unfortunately they cannot vote for the UK – it does not bother them at all. They want to vote for their country – a country that they are not actually living in so this rule is a waste of time!
(Left - The full Results of Euro Vision 2012 - you going to need this blow this up by clicking it)
Remember I said this contest is supposed to be about the song – not the performer and definitely not which country they are from. It is therefore amazing to watch the votes coming in from lets say Norway and each year they give the highest marks to Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Its even worse now with all the nations that were once behind the Iron Curtain. Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia, Belarus and the Ukraine have got a nice little you scratch our back and we will scratch yours going on. Do you think that Turkey are going to give Greece anything – hell no! Do you think Cyprus are going to Greece top marks – hell yes! Even Portugal and Spain look after one another but the weirdest one I think because of what happened just twenty years ago is what happens between the Baltic nations. All the machine guns and war zones are certainly now a thing of the past and Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia always give one another the top marks. Romania look after Moldova and vice versa and there are many more pockets like this all over Eastern Europe in particular.
So where does this leave nations such as the UK? You guessed it – right at the bottom of the heap lucky to score any points off of anybody. Ireland sometimes give us a few (and vice versa) but that is about it. This contest would be much better if nobody knew which country was being represented by which song and then and only then would people genuinely vote for the song that they liked (although it still does not completely solve the problem of the good looking man or woman singing it). Do you think the UK ever get even one miserly point from France? No chance!
This so called competition is just a political vote that outlines which countries actually like one another and in most cases just voting for their neighbours. If England and Scotland were in this I cannot see it working the same way between these two though! I cannot understand why the UK bother entering it – to make matters worse the four countries that invest the most money into it include the UK which allows them a free pass into each years final – stop blowing our cash please as we already know the rest of Europe do not like us.
If it do go on to being World Vision then the USA might even find it even more difficult to pick up as many votes as we do! Can you imagine if Euro 2012 was played out in this way or any other major sporting event? On the basis of what this years Eurovision has told me is that Sweden are going to be the most popular team playing in this tournament. The girl that won representing Sweden did not even do anything new – in fact she reminded me of Kate Bush from about 35 years ago!
It is worrying though in all seriousness what the Eurovision voting does reveal about the UK. We are for sure one of the most disliked nations in the whole continent. People from all over Europe though will still watch our Premier League and actually buy our music when they do not have to actually vote on it. A recent series of documentaries on British TV are also showing the very dark side of both Poland and the Ukraine and the fact that hooliganism and racism is still rife there. Because of this countries reputation of one side having a stiff upper lip and on the other being filled with gangs of lager drinking thugs that go on the rampage after a bit too much sun and a bit too much to drink then our case is not helped and we are targeted. Although there are still some problems here, the days are long gone when grounds were filled with hatred and working class young men looking to relieve some energy with violence on a Saturday afternoon. Football has done its bit in working hard in these past few years in trying to provide fans with a safe environment to go and watch a game again and make it more a family affair. The amount of women and children in English grounds these days is higher than it has been for many years.
This was firstly achieved by out-pricing the bulk of hooligan element. I for one believe that is has gone way too far the other way now as the cost to go to a game is just silly money in general. I can remember years ago watching baseball or American football and thinking how safe and family orientated their stadiums appeared to be. The only problem was that the Americans had a problem in general on their streets with crime galore ranging from shootings, assaults and robberies to name just a few seemingly happening everywhere. In the UK, it was the other way around for the best part with our problems being contained in and around the stadiums but the streets were a reasonably safe place to walk – now Britain is much more like America than ever.
And so I could go with this rant and I know for sure that there are many things that I have mentioned that many people would vehemently disagree with in what I have written here. Am I going to stick to what I have said with conviction? My answer is no, not really which might surprise you and that it is why it is just a rant. Some of the things that I have mentioned I would probably stick to and fight for but with others I am prepared to listen to other views even if they are 100% opposed to my viewpoint. A decent argument could easily make me agree with you if you can make a relevant point – so there you go – I am open to suggestion.