Category Archives: England

Eriksson before England

Aged just 35, to say Adam Crozier was a surprise choice to step into the role of Chief Executive at the FA would be understating the case more than a little. The former Saatchi & Saatchi executive was, however, the new broom, the fresh face, the untarnished non-old school tie appointment that the organisation needed. It was 2000, and going into the new millennium, dusty old corridors were well overdue a spring clean. In two years, Crozier shook up the Football Association in a way it hadn’t experienced throughout a history dating back to 1863 – or, for that matter, since.

The organisation’s headquarters were moved from Lancaster Gate to more modern facilities at Soho Square. The average age of staff was reduced from over 55 to just 32, the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium was progressed and the FA Council, nominally its controlling body, was reduced from 91 members, to a much more manageable 12. Without doubt though, the most revolutionary of Crozier’s achievements was to appoint the first foreign manager to head up England’s national team. In January 2001, Swedish manager Sven-Göran Eriksson was invited by Crozier to step into the hottest of managerial hot seats. The Swede accepted and the Walls of Jericho came a-tumbling down. Continue reading →

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1966 and all that. 1970 and all what? How football can affect governance. Well, maybe.

Harold Wilson had wrapped himself around the 1966 World Cup triumph, but was he doomed by the defeat in 1970?

Harold Wilson had wrapped himself around the 1966 World Cup triumph, but was he doomed by the defeat in 1970?

Football and British politics may seem uneasy bedfellows with very little common ground. There’s the importance of having the correct person in the ‘Number 10’ role in both spheres of course, and whenever there’s a bit of on-the-field glory, the temptation for politicians to drape themselves around any popular adulation appears to be overwhelming. Can however football shape or influence the political mood of the nation? It’s said that a rolling stone gathers no moss, but can a rolling ball shape the zeitgeist? Continue reading →

Heroes of the beautiful game – Peter Osgood.

Peter Osgood, king of Stamford Bridge was my boyhood idol.

Peter Osgood, king of Stamford Bridge was my boyhood idol.

A while ago, I was invited to submit a guest article to the ‘grumpyoldfan’ website looking at a Hero of Youth. Here’s what I came up with:

I know this may make me sound like some curmudgeonly old moaner, locked into the past but casting my mind back around five decades or so, there was of course no computer games and kids’ TV lasted for a mere hour before the six o’clock news. Plus, if you had no interest in ‘sticky-back plastic’ or empty washing-up liquid bottles, such things could be of limited interest anyway. There was therefore little else to do other than go outside and play with a ball. Cricket in the summer – well sometimes, but overwhelmingly, football. Continue reading →

When decisions are on the line.

Linesmen, Referees’ Assistants or simply ‘Linos’, the guys running up and down the sidelines of half of the playing area are often considered the least significant characters in the passion play that is a football match. These are the ‘extras’ that make up the lower listings in the dramatis personae.’ They’re the ‘non-speaking’ participants, who have to wave a flag – or perhaps press a buzzer as well these days – to remind the rest of us that they’re there.

Flag at the ready. The linesman is often the least noticed participant in the football drama.

Flag at the ready. The linesman is often the least noticed participant in the football drama.

Continue reading →

Very much not a beautiful day!

 

BBC's flagship highlights programme could be doomed.

BBC’s flagship highlights programme could be doomed.

Football fans come in all shapes and sizes, and certainly many shades of opinion about the game and its environs. Forget even club affiliations for a moment. Some prefer the mile-a-minute thud and blunder of ‘route one’ whilst others may swoon at the intricate geometry of the tiki-taka possession game that bores opponents into conceding goals. Some think standing is the authentic way of watching live football, in all weathers with cold tea and Bovril so hot it would strip paint. Others however want the apparent luxury of sitting in a seat with legroom so restricted it would shame the lowest of low-cost airline cabins.

Such examples demonstrate the broad church of opinion that constitute the football community. In my experience however, there’s probably one thing that unites opinion almost without exception. Put in simple terms, it’s that ITV should not be allowed to anywhere near domestic football action – live or highlights. Having them broadcast England games is bad enough, but news that they are likely to bid for the highlights package from the Premier League next year – BBC’s Match of the Day is the current incumbent – causes concern and trepidation throughout football fandom. Continue reading →

The rise and fall of Roger Johnson

Johnson's career at Wolves hit a downward spiral.

Johnson’s career at Wolves hit a downward spiral.

Football has a particular habit of throwing up matches that can highlight an otherwise forgotten situation, or player. Such a game occurred early afternoon on Saturday when Wolverhampton Wanderers entertained Birmingham City in a SkyBet Championship match. It was of course a Midlands derby, bur for one particular player, the significance wet much further than that.

Forgotten centre-back Roger Johnson has played for both clubs and statistically has almost mirrored records for them. He turned out 76 times for the St Andrews club and 69 times for Wolves, netting twice for each club. That however is where the similarity ends. Wherein Johnson’s time with the Blues saw a highlight of his career to date, ironically wearing gold and black has very much been a case of the blues as his prospects have nosedived to the point where it’s difficult to see where his next first team game will be. Continue reading →

Everton banking on Barkley

Ross Barkley - fundamental to Everton's future

Ross Barkley – fundamental to Everton’s future

It’s often said that lightening doesn’t strike in the same place, twice. Everton fans will however be hoping that particular maxim will be up for revision shortly. If young starlet Ross Barkley continues his impressive progress and follows former Goodison Park favourite Wayne Rooney into the superstar bracket as an outstanding English talent and stalwart of the England team, a review may be in order. They will also be hoping however that Barkley hangs around on Merseyside longer than Rooney did. Continue reading →

Micah Richards: Past imperfect. Present Possible. Future…?

Micah Richards had the promise to be a star player at City for years to come.

Micah Richards had the promise to be a star player at City for years to come.

Amongst the furore of the more high profile Deadline Day deals, with Radamel Falcao joining Manchester United and Danny Welbeck shipping out of Old Trafford to join Arsenal, another move involving an England international player may have slipped under the radar, and escaped notice. Whilst Jim White was giving his masterclass performance juggling telephones, social media and outside broadcast reports, Micah Richards was on the move out of the Premier League to join Fiorentina in Serie A.

Seeing a player with a limited future at his existing club, seek new pastures may not be particularly noteworthy, but when Richards followed fellow England international defender Ashley Cole to Serie A, it spoke of a sad situation where a seemingly exciting English prospect has fallen by the wayside.

Continue reading →

“Have a word!” Why football should reach out a hand to Paul Gascoigne

The eyes have it! Lineker asking sir Bobby Robson to "have a word" as Gascoigne receives the yellow card,

The eyes have it! Lineker asking sir Bobby Robson to “have a word” as Gascoigne receives the yellow card,

You didn’t need to be a lip-reader to understand the mouthed words. It was a typically overenthusiastic tackle, not malicious but, in fairness, it probably warranted a yellow card. Thomas Berthold certainly didn’t help matters, and why would he? Rolling around on the ground was very much de rigueur during Italia ’90 when a foul had been committed. The Brazilian referee with the English surname, Jose Roberto Wright, brandished the card and, knowing he wouldn’t play in the World Cup Final if England got there, Paul Gascoigne began to cry. Skipper Gary Lineker looked to the side-line at manager Sir Bobby Robson, or plain Bobby as he was then, and nodding at his tearful teammate asked his manager to, “have a word.”

Wind the clock forward two dozen years, and that same Paul Gascoigne is probably past tears now, having probably shed a million or so in the intervening years. His life, once so full of promise, has turned into the sort of tragic story that seems destined to end in the most tragic way. I’ve seen various opinions of Gascoigne as a player in his pomp. Some have said he was ordinary and over-rated, and of course everyone is entitled to their opinion. For me however, he had that ability to run at pace with the ball at his feet and beat a player on either side, creating problems for opponents at the heart of their defence. Enough of any debate about his talents however, that isn’t really the issue now. Were he a more ordinary type of player the story would not be any less sad. The fact that he appeared so mercurial, and with what the late Sir Bobby described as a, “daft as a brush” mentality means however that Gascoigne’s dilemma is being played out in the full glare of publicity.

Continue reading →