Tuesday 29 June 2010

Feminists are down with Snoop..Sort of

In the Guardian yesterday, they had a little pullout all about Glastonbury. There was a feature by someone called Julie Bindel writing about her love of the Rap superstar Snoop Dogg who she went to see at Glastonbury this weekend.

It was entitled Top Dogg, you can read it here.

Apparently this Julie Bindel is a feminist who loves Snoop, despite his sexist lyrics. I thought I've got to read this.
I hadn't realised that Snoop was playing at Glastonbury but it seems he went down quite well.

Bindel claims that there are many feminists who love Snoop's music which sounds a huge contradiction when you listen to many of his lyrics.

When hearing Snoops records for the first time she writes:

'I hated the fact that so many were peppered with the "n" word, as well as the obligatory "bitch", "ho" and "mutherfucker" - but I chose to ignore the lyrics'

She's hit on a point here, as I can honestly admit I would never refer to women in those terms or use the "n" word, but having listened to Hip Hop for over 20 years, I've just become desensitised to it all and completely ignore it.

If a track has a good beat, bassline, and I like the flow of the rapper, then I can overlook the misogynistic and sexist lyrics. People can criticise me for this, but I think you have to listen to Hip Hop in that way.

Snoop has managed to have quite a long and successful career for a rapper, but he's managed to do that by playing on and parodying his gangster rap persona.

For me The original gangster rap era ended around 1995. Anything after that is really just a parody. The trouble is nobody ever acknowledges this, and calls almost all hip hop 'gangster rap' despite the wide variety of styles out there.

Classic gangster rap would be the likes NWA, Ice Cube, Ice T, Dr Dre's The Chronic album, and Snoop's first album Doggystyle. Classic gangster rap was always an odd mix of militant nihilistic black politics, tales of true crime, street life, and sex and violence.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, you'd never really heard stuff like that before, it felt 'real' as they say in hip hop. You could believe that the rappers lived the lives they ware talking about.

This isn't the case now. Once gangster rap started to sell records in its millions, that 'realness' soon disappeared, it became sanitised, the record companies were simply just selling a lifestyle and image to both white and black kids. It was all just a parody.

What I like about Snoop, is that I think he understands this. He's not a real gangster, he just representing a persona, telling stories that might be sexist and violent, but it's all just a fantasy.

Bindel spoke to other women who loved Snoop's music but thought he hated women. I don't think he hates women at all and neither do I, even though I'll happily listen to his lyrics.

On a sort of rational level it doesn't really make sense. One of the best examples of how I feel about Hip Hop comes from the American comedian Chris Rock.

Have a look at this clip of him talking about Rap music, in so many ways it sums up everything I feel about Hip Hop

Love Hip Hop tired of defending it!

Monday 28 June 2010

Germany 4 England 1

Not even the most pessimistic and cynical England fan could have predicted yesterday's result. It was total humiliation for England, with a performance that I never thought I'd see from an England team in a World Cup.

England got exactly what they deserved, and there's no point in pretending that Frank Lampard's goal that never was would have made a difference. It would only have papered over the cracks.

In some ways going out of a World Cup in such fashion is far easier to take then going out on penalties.

With yesterday's game you can't argue about being unlucky, or a refereeing decision making all the difference. England simply weren't good enough against a Germany team that I would describe as half decent but nothing exceptional.

This result exposed English football in a way not seen before. Behind all the Premier League hype, the celebrity culture, the over-inflated egos we found the 'Emperor's New clothing' reality of the English game.

There was really nothing there, no golden generation of players, no serious international football team, just England's embarrassment and humiliation.

This is a watershed moment for English football, we're at a crossroads. We can carry on doing what we always do, or we can look at making some real radical changes to way we coach and run English football.
The match itself

Returning back to the game, I've never seen such a shambolic England performance particularly against one the big footballing nations, it was embarrassing to watch. It many ways England played worse than they had against Algeria in the second group match.

Before Matthew Upson scored we could quite easily have been 4-0 down and apart from a ten minute spell either side of half time, we were second best in every department.

Should Capello stay or go?

In my opinion Capello should go. I don't believe England's performance is all down to him, but the fact he's on 6 million a year and has overseen the worst England performance in World Cup history tells me he has to go.

Capello is one of the game's most successful managers who's had almost no significant failure in his managerial career, yet managing England has put a big failure mark on his CV.

It seems some of the demands of managing an international side have been beyond him. Firstly having a limited number of players to choose from. England just don't have a big enough pool of talent to draw from.

Secondly, when it came to managing England during the qualifying campaign, Capello was only with the players for a couple of days at a time. In the tournament he and the players were together for over a month, it seems that close proximity perhaps didn't create the ideal atmosphere for the players.

The FA, The Premier League and English coaching

Capello could only work with the players available and the real issue is that we simply don't produce players good enough to compete at the highest level.

The Premier League is a real problem. I compare it to Wimbledon in the sense that it's a great competition, the envy of the world, huge amount of glamour and prestige, but when it comes to producing English talent it's totally irrelevant.

The Premier League is run in the interest of the clubs and not for the benefit of the national team. At the moment I don't really see this changing. English players who are brilliant at club level seem to be surrounded by foreign players who allow them to be the players that they are.

When they come to play for England it completely different and they don't seem to be able to adapt. Prime examples are Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard.

The FA really need to look at grass roots football and coaching in this country. We hardly have any good English coaches coming through who have the chance to manage in the Premier League.

Again yesteday's result highlighted the lack of technique and tactical awarness of England players, I'm so sick of seeing this, it's been spoken about for the last 25 years!

Football on the surface seems a simple and straightforward game, but at the highest level it's quite complex and we need to develop players who have both the technical and tactical nous to compete with the very best.

In this country we fail to produce players who fulfil the player maker role. For Germany yesterday they had Mesut Ozil playing just behind the front two, we don't produce that type of player. We never produce players like a Messi, Xavi, or a Pirlo who dictate how we play.

Another crucial position where we're lacking is the 'holding midfielder' role. Gareth Barry supposedly played this position, but if he'd played it correctly he would never have been out of position to for the third goal, where he lost possession on the edge of Germany's box, before they broke away to score their third goal.

The holding midfielder role is crucial in modern day football, we have to start producing this type of player.

The Future

This should really be the end of the international careers for a number of players. There's no need to keep many of them in the squad. The worrying thing is there's not really much coming through to replace many of them.

I'm thinking about those players in the mid 20s. You've got Rooney and James Milner, but there's not much else.

England may as well start drafting young players in their late teens early 20s, the likes of Joe Hart should be drafted as Goalkeeper and we should stick with him

It's going to take me a long time to ever really get excited about England again. I felt disillusioned in 2006, I never thought I'd look back and think 2006 was a decent campaign.

2010 has been a humiliating disaster, if anything good can come out of this, is that we must never let this happen again.

Read the thoughts of the BBC’s football pundits here

Saturday 26 June 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day 16 thoughts

Glad I'm not Italian

Despite how poor Italy had been in their first two games of this World Cup, I still expected them to beat Slovakia. I predicted 2-1 to Italy, but instead it was one of the games of the tournament with Slovakia winning 3-2.

From what I saw of the game and reading reports it wasn't until the last 20 minutes that they really started to play.

This is so typical of Italian football. They're so conservative and withdrawn in their approach. They may have been unlucky with the goal that was disallowed for offside. That would have made it 2-2, but over the course of three games they didn't do enough, in a group which on paper was one of the least demanding for a seeded nation like Italy.

Italy seem to be having problems in finding the next generation of players to come through, and it's really significant the Italian national team don't have a single player in the squad from from Inter Milan.

Inter did the treble last season winning the both the League and Champions League. They did so with a squad almost entirely made up of overseas players!

In the long run this can't be good for Italian football.

Japan and South Korea

It's been slightly overlooked at just how well these two Asian countries have done so far. Both have made it to the Second round with South Korea narrowly losing out to Uruguay.

It's an important breakthrough as the only time either of them had made it out of the groups stages was when they held the World Cup jointly in 2002.

I was really impressed by Japan when they beat Denmark, I thought they'd be a little lightweight up front, but they posed a threat and played good football.

Even though South Korea are now out, Japan face Paraguay and they must have a decent shout of making it to the quarter finals.


Just when it was looking like history might repeat itself with Spain underachieving, they managed to beat a very useful Chile side last night and top Group H.

This is good for the tournament, they would have faced Brazil in the second round had they finished second, and that would have been too big a match for this stage of the competition. Brazil v Spain could quite easily be the final.

They do however have a tough game against Portugal which I'm looking forward to. It won't be easy for Spain, but I think they should have enough to come through.

Uruguay, USA or Ghana in the Semis

With England failing to claim top spot in Group C and France barely turning up as a footballing team, this side of the draw has really opened up. Uruguay beat South Korea today to make it to the quarter finals for the first time since 1970. They'll then face the winners of USA v Ghana.

This is a great opportunity for these countries, and I'm going to predict Uruguay to make it. I think the USA will win tonight against Ghana, who I just don't see scoring enough goals, and Uruguay will beat the USA as a result of their defence and Luis Suarez up front.

Disappointed with the African Nations

With this being the first World Cup staged on African soil, there's been a general consensus that it would be good to see the African nations do well and for one of them to progress quite far in the tournament.

As I type this, Ghana have made it to the second round but overall I've been disappointed with how African nations have done, and how they're generally progressing in world football.

South Africa

The hosts have acquitted themselves well and it was always asking a lot for them to qualify from the group stage. Had they not been hosting the tournament they would have got nowhere near the finals.

Nigeria and Cameroon

I think these two are the biggest disappointments in African football. Back in the 1990's Nigeria and Cameroon will trailblazers.

Cameroon could and maybe should have beaten England in Italia 90 to make it to the Semi finals. Nigeria lost narrowly in the second round to the Italians in USA 94 before winning the Olympic title in 1996. For me they've never really progressed from those promising starts.

Since these two first emerged other countries have started making an impression on the footballing world with Ghana and Ivory Coast now appearing in their second successive World Cup.

Back in the early 90s it was lazily said that African players and teams were 'tactically or defensively naive'. This soon became a tired cliche which you can't say now, as most top African players all play in Europe's best leagues winning titles with the biggest clubs.

What's happening is that Africa is producing the players but individual countries aren't bringing the players together to form successful teams.

The players being produced

Leading on from this, too many similar types of players are being produced. Watching Cameroon and Ghana all their players look identical to each other, all big and physically strong. It seems everyone wants to produce a 'Michael Essien' type midfield player.

I think Essien is a superb player but where is the African Messi or Iniesta? The skillful creative midfielder? And what about the strikers? Outside of Drogba and Samuel Eto I don't see many great African centre forwards.

To be a successful footballing nation you can't have players who are all the same. A lot of it comes down to coaching, an issue that was featured on the BBC this week in a short film report shown following the end of one match they were covering.

The report looked at the lack of African coaches coaching African teams and the barriers African coaches face in having the chance to coach their national sides.

Too many African countries look to bring in average or mediocre White European coaches in the belief that somehow they are technically superior. They need to give their own coaches a chance as I think it helps to create a homegrown footballing culture and identity which in the long run will be better for national success.

I look at Ivory Coast who individually have a very strong team, but didn't really make a great impression under Sven Goran Eriksson who impossed the same cautious negative approach on them as he did with England.

At the moment African football seems more about producing good indvidual players for the European club market without much thought for the success of their national teams.

Look at Japan and South Korea

I don't think it's a coincidence that Japan and South Korea are now using their own native managers after years of using foreign coaches. Both are having their best World Cups outside their own countries this time round.

I'm about to go and watch Ghana v USA* now, so perhaps Ghana may prove me wrong and make it to the Quarter finals.

It would be great to think that in the next World Cup there would be at least one African nation being managed by an African coach. This is something African countries need to start doing if they want to achieve international success.

*Second round - Ghana 2 USA 1 AET

Well done Ghana, you've become only the third African nation to make it to the Quarter finals of a World Cup.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Work till you drop!

It looks like we're all going to be working a lot longer than we thought, before we can claim for a state pension.

The government announced radical plans today to raise the retirement age from 65 to 66 for men by 2016. There's also a very real chance it could go up further to 70 at some future date.

I have to admit the thought of doing a full time job at the age of 70 really doesn't appeal to me and I never thought I'd ever have to work at that age.

None of the proposals surprise me, as we all need to be more honest and have this debate about pensions. We need to look at how the state can realistically afford to provide for so many older people.

I was reading some stats in today's Evening Standard which said 25% of boys born today will live to be 100 years old!

We already have over 10 million people over the age of 65 and this number will keep on growing.

When the retirement age of 65 was introduced in the 1920's those people that reached that age on average didn't live many years beyond it.

Nowadays 65 doesn't even seem to be old anymore, and for many people they could still have another 15 - 20 years ahead of them. When you take those sort of facts into consideration you have to ask how can we afford it?
The pension problem is one that's a serious issue for many Western European countries. They all have growing older populations but with decreasing work forces. You can't escape the fact that someone has to pay for all these things.

What needs to happen is that people need to have a new mindset when it comes to pensions and this needs to start from a very early age. Ideally as soon as people leave school or university.

In France today there were demonstrations in Paris against the French government’s proposals to increase their retirement age from 60 to 62.

For them being able to retire at 60 is like a human right, and challenges their way of life.

Although I respect the French for the way they have this very firm idea of what being French is all about, I can’t help but feel that they need to get real and accept that some of the old expectations no longer exist.

I've already got to the stage, where I except that when I reach retirement age, I can't realistically rely on the state to provide for me, and I have to start making provisions now. It probably means I will have to work beyond the age of 65.

The argument against rising the retirement age is that many poorer people will suffer as they will need to work longer just to survive.

For me it doesn’t matter what background you’re from or how much money you earn, you’ve got to start making some sort of provisions for yourself. There surely must be a limit to what the state can realistically spend on state pensions.

One group of people I do have sympathy for is young people. They could have huge problems in the next 20 – 30 years. For example, all those people who go to university and leave with thousands of pounds worth of debt from student loans. This will have to be paid back during their working lives.

There may not be the jobs out there for younger people, especially with older people continuing to remain in work, because they can’t afford to retire.

On top of that, there’s the pressure of buying property and getting on the property ladder, which is beyond so many people on average salaries.

Before you can buy a house you need to save for a deposit and on top of that financial experts will tell you that you need to build up a pot of savings for a rainy day and for your future retirement.

It's going to be impossible for so many people, both from working and middle class backgrounds to seriously save enough money for retirement whilst dealing with the financial demands of day-to-day life.

I’m quite glad this news story has come up as it is something we all need to think long and hard about.

We all need to start thinking differently about what the state can provide and what we as individuals need to do to provide for ourselves.

The old certainties of old age and retirement have gone, and they won’t be coming back.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

World Cup thoughts - Day 13

England 1 Slovenia 0

We did it!

We beat Slovenia to make it to the next round - What a relief!

I took the day off from work to make sure that I could watch this game, and I know I made the right decision, although I have to say it was emotionally draining to watch.

In saying that England deserved to win, and should have won by more than one goal as we had a number of chances.

This was what I would call a 'proper' performance from England! You have to accept that England will never pass and move the ball in the way that the Spanish or Argentinians will, but we played to our own strengths.

We played at a high tempo, direct, quick, and accurate passing game. I enjoyed watching it as it made a great contrast to the way that teams such as Spain play the game.

It's amazing to think that I feel so relieved just to get out of the group stage! Reaching the second round now seems like an achievement in itself, but this is where the competition really gets going.

Because of Landon Donovan's last gasp winner for the USA against Algeria, we've now ended up finishing second in the group, which means a familiar old foe in the next round.
Germany in the next round

So it's Germany in round two. There's no doubting that England face what on paper appears to be a harder route to the final, but I don't think this is a bad thing.

If we played Ghana in the second round there would be this huge expectation for England to beat them.

By playing Germany there won't be the same level of expectancy and I think it could work in England's favour. Playing Germany will automatically raise England's game.

Germany look a decent side but there's nothing for England to fear, so I'm looking forward to a really good game and England have a very realistic chance of beating them.

Day 12

South Africa 2 France 1

Great result for South Africa, at one stage it was looking like they might pull off the miracle and make it to the second round, but unfortunately it wasn't to be.

As for the French - total humiliation! I said last week, there's something absolutely rotten at the heart of the French squad. Many of the problems begin with the manager Raymond Domenech.

You also have to look at the French football federation. There were problems in the last World Cup between Domenech and the players. From all accounts it was senior players like Zindane and Lillian Thuram who seemed to inspire and take control of things and drag France into the World Cup final.

For some reason the French decided to stick with Domenech throughout the Euro 2008 campaign and the World Cup qualifiers.

They've only got themselves to blame for this debacle. In future, if any country wants a text book guide on how not to run a World Cup campaign, they need only to look at this French team of 2010.

Uruguay 1 Mexico 0

I've been impressed with Uruguay, I think I may adopt them as my second favourite team now. They played good football and Diego Forlan has been at the heart of everything.

They could, and there's still a very long way to go, be potential quarter final opponents for England, should England get to that stage!

Argentina 2 Greece 0

I was really looking forward to this game, and had £3 on Argentina to win 3-0 at 10/1. The game turned out to be dreadful, but that wasn't Argentina's fault, they tried to play football, it was all the fault of the Greeks

There was grudging respect for Greece when they won Euro 2004, but their football is still 'anti football'. It's horrible to watch.

They were trying to play for a draw which could have taken them into the next round, but what football fan would seriously want to see Greece progress?

I watched the game thinking, they're like a monster from a horror movie that can't quite be killed off, like a vampire!

They needed a stake through the heart, which finally came in the form of two goals late on in the second half.

Great to see the veteran Martin Palermo come off the bench and score the second. This is great story. First World Cup at the age of 36!

Hadn't played international football for 10 years, until Maradona recalled him, and he scored a crucial last gasp winner against Peru in the qualifiers to help Argentina get to these finals!

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Will there be a British winner at Wimbledon...Yawn?

Yes it's that time of year again, when Wimbledon starts and tennis becomes our national sport for all of two weeks!

Almost as predictable as England's struggles in the World Cup, the same tired old question is asked about British tennis; Will we have a British winner?

The answer is of course no! We can instead look forward to the usual debate as we agonise over why we're so rubbish at producing any decent tennis players in this country.

I wrote a blog on this subject last year, which you can read here.

I don't see much point in writing a completly new blog because what I wrote last year still applies, and can be written every year as nothing ever changes in British tennis.

Andy Murray has an outside chance of winning Wimbledon this year, but it's unlikely. You really have to look at either Federer or Nadal again.

Once Murray eventually gets knocked out, tennis will quickly be forgetton until next year, and then we can ask the same old question all over again.

It's ridiculous.

Saturday 19 June 2010

England 0 Algeria 0

Was this the worst performance by an England side in a World Cup?

It's certainly the worst performance I've ever seen from England in World Cup finals.

It wasn't just a case of England playing badly, but I was actually shocked at how awful both individually and collectively the team played. I couldn't help but think,

Who are these people?

The likes of Lampard, Gerrard, and Rooney, were totally unrecognisable from the players you see week in week out in the Premier League.

England players need a sports psychologist in the camp, and I say that half joking - half seriously. The players looked totally inhibited as if the pressure is so great and unbearable they just can't perform.
One of the most frustrating things was watching players fail to take responsibility, playing unnecessary passes in or around the box instead of taking a shot and making the goalkeeper work.

At the end of the game Wayne Rooney then had the cheek to criticise England fans for booing the team at the final whistle.

Nobody can question the support of England fans. Look at the numbers who have made the trip to South Africa. For many of them this is a once in a lifetime experience and when you think about the cost it's a huge sacrifice.

When you've made that kind of sacrifice and commitment you've got every right to make your feelings known.

A press statement released by the Football Association has now been issued in which he makes an apology. Obviously the PR machine has been at work here, with someone suggesting an apology needs to be issued to get the country back onside.

Earlier in the week Germany's football legend Franz Beckenbauer criticised England's performance against the USA, claiming England were returning to the bad old days of kick and rush. I even said in an earlier blog his comments were over the top. I take it all back.

Last night's performance was worse than kick and rush, nobody could control or pass the ball, and I had no idea what our game plan was or what type of football we were trying to play.

Reading on the BBC's website former England player Chris Waddle said:

'..we've got to question our technique. The foreign influence in the Premier League makes it more exciting but when you just take the best of England out, it shows up.'

I've been hearing about the lack of technique from England players since I first got into football back in the late 1980's. We've had an entire generation to sort this out but we're still having the same discussions we were having 25 years ago.

Since taking over as England manager Fabio Capello has been trusted and respected in his management. Partly because of his club record and also the success of England's qualifying campaign. But now serious question marks are being asked about his management of the team.

I know everyone is saying this, but why hasn't Joe Cole been given a chance? Is Capello flexible enough to really change things in the next game?

Back in Italia 90, England had to beat Eygpt in their final group game to make the next round. Bobby Robson decided to employ Mark Wright as a sweeper, a tactical change that at the time appeared quite radical, but it was dramatic change in formation that worked and we went through. Can Capello do something similar?

Can England make the second round?

Well yes, if we beat Slovenia, but can anyone say this will happen with 100% certainty? The biggest positive I can think of, is that there's no way England can possibly play any worse than last night.

Next week's game against Slovenia is absolutely massive! For me it's a real crossroads moment! If England go out, it could seriously take me years to regain the level of interest and emotional support for the team I have had for 20 years.

Next Wednesday at 3:00 is D Day for England.

World Cup - Day eight thoughts

Glad I'm not French

This was what I thought when I watched Thursday night's game between France and Mexico which Mexico deservedly won 2-0.

The French have some very good players, but collectively as a team are terrible. On paper their squad is realistically good enough to reach the Semi Finals, but it's unlikely they'll even get out of the group stage.

There's clearly something that's very rotten at the heart of the French national team, and it's been this way for the last three of four years.

France were poor in the 2008 European Championships, and were lucky to qualify for this World Cup.

I've been reading loads of stories about problems within the squad, particularly the players relationship with Domenech the coach. Florent Malouda apparently had an argument with Domenech before the game against Uruguay about playing in a more defensive role and William Gallas is upset having been overlooked for the captaincy.

It looks obvious that the players don't want to play for their manager. I'm sure all of this will come out after the tournamanet and laurent Blanc takes over.

When it comes to infighting and disharmony the French have taken over from the Dutch, who are notorious for this sort of thing.

I don't think France are going to make it. They've got to beat South Africa next week, and even that might not be good enough and to be honest the way they've played nobody will miss them.

* Nicolas Anelka was sent home from the French squad on Saturday 18 June 10, having refused to apologise to the French manager following an argument between the two at half time in the game against Mexico.

Germany 0 Serbia 1

I didn't see this result coming!

This group's wide open now which has implications for England, as we're likely to play one of the teams in this group in the second round.

I watched some of the second half on my lunch break of this match. Even with 10 men Germany could have got something out of this game, but they're not as good as everyone immediately thought following their win against Australia.

Germany might not top the group now, and supposing England to top theirs (still an assumption) we could meet Germany in the second round.

I've thought about this and although ideally you wouldn't want to face Germany in the second round, would it really be such a bad thing?

Just for the fact it's Germany I'm sure England would raise their game in way they would struggle to against the likes of Serbia or Ghana.

I don't know what to make of the Germans, I can't tell how good they are, but I wouldn't be overawed at the prospect of England playing them.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Anyone realise that Big Brother is on?

No I didn't think so.

The final series started last week. I haven't watched any of it, or heard anyone talk about it. Just shows how completely irrelevant the programme has become, particularly when you have more real life drama and stories playing out in the World Cup.

It's had its time and there's no reason for it to carry on anymore.

It's funny to think that it started off as quite an interesting idea of a social experiment of seeing how different people react and interact in house with complete strangers.

The thing is, after a few series this idea soon went out of fashion. After a really dull series back in 2003, the producers decided to make things more exciting by putting in more extreme characters.

The sorts people looking for a quick 15 minute shot of fame. This worked well up to a point, but after a couple of years of this there was nothing new to see. The same old characters doing the same old things.

For the first time since it started, I really can't be bothered with it.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day Six Thoughts, Poor games and the Vuvuzela debate!

A few thoughts on the World Cup so far.

Why have the games been so poor?

Although I'm enjoying the World Cup, the games haven't been that great really. I'm currently watching South Africa v Uruguay which has been ok, but overall the games have been dull.

There's been too much caution, with teams preferring not to lose their first match, rather then going for the win.

I'm beginning to think the standard of international football just isn't that great anymore. It's not where you're going to find football played at the highest level.

No team's looked exceptional. I've not thought 'Oh my god this team is amazing' Germany looked good but that was against a poor Australia side and Spain who are meant to be one of the favourites lost today against Switzerland!

Still hope for England then!

The best football sides in the world are arguably the top club sides in Europe. You see some of the best football with the best players in the latter stages of Champions League rather then at international level.

I'd back the likes of Barcelona or Man Utd to win the World Cup more than most of the countries competing in South Africa.

Secondly, you've got the old cliche of there being no easy games in World football. It's true! Even Brazil last night found it difficult to break down a resolute North Korean defence.

The lesser footballing nations might not have the players with the talent and skill of the major countries, but anyone can be well organised.

Teams are getting good at having two banks of four when they don't have the ball, making it difficult for any team to break them down.

I'm not writing this World Cup off yet, but now that we've completed the first round of group matches things should hopefully liven up a bit. We shall see.

The Great Vuvuzela Debate! For or Against?

Ok, so they might sound like a swarm of giant killer bees are about to attack, but I think I like the Vuvuzela sound more than I dislike it.

It gives this World Cup a unique identity. You’ll always remember this World Cup for the Vuvuzela!

I’ve just read that the BBC are looking at possibly broadcasting alternative ‘vuvuzela free’ matches. I’m wondering how that's going to work?

Here in Europe we’re not used to the Vuvuzela sound. I’m sure there have been African football fans who in the past have become sick of hearing that brass band that accompanies all England matches in previous World Cups.

I have to admit at times when a goal is scored you can't really hear the roar of the crowd, but then part of me thinks this is South Africa's World Cup, let them show the World how they follow and support football.

We're less than a week into the World Cup so may be my thoughts will change, but for now lets keep the Vuvuzela sound alive.

What's Beckenbauer on about?

I don't know what Franz Beckenbauer was on about in his criticisms about England's style of play in the game against the USA last Saturday.

Obviously it wasn't a great match, but to say that what he saw of England had very little to do with football was over the top. Did he not see the Slovenia v Algeria game?

He went on to say:

"It looked to me as if the English have gone backwards into the bad old days of kick and rush."

As unconvincing as England were, they were hardly the equivalent of the Wimbledon or Watford sides of the 80s that I remember watching!

Beckenbauer should make his assessments based on England's performances over the last 8 or 9 months rather than one game in a tournament where hardly anyone has put in a decent first game performance.

England's problem against the USA were that they had enough chances to have won, but then ran out of ideas, and when you put on the likes of Peter Crouch it becomes too easy to lump the ball up to him.

The only thing Beckenbauer did say that I agreed with, is that in England we have too many foreign players in the Premier League which is detrimental to the national team and has affected Capello's selection policy.

I'm sure if England meet Germany or any other of the major nations, England would probably play really well, as we seem to do better when we're the underdog.

Maradona watch

When it comes to looking for an entertaining side show in this World Cup, I'm looking straight at Maradona!

I've already got my bet on for Argentina to win the World Cup, and don't be surprised if they do it and Maradona sticks two fingers up to his critics.

He's been having a go at Pele and Michel Platini in a press conference today in response to comments they've made about him.

Maradona and Pele have always enjoyed a strained relationship so his comments aren't really a surprise. As for his thoughts on Platini and the French, isn't he just expressing what everyone thinks?

The thing with Maradona is that for him, people are either 100% with him or 100% against him; there's nothing in between.

Despite all the criticisms being made about him and his coaching ability, you don't really hear many complaints from the players in the Argentine squad.

Maradona's probably loving it all really, as he can create that 'them and us' mentality in the squad, which always seems to prove successful for teams in so many different sports.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Great Brazilian World Cup Moments

Brazil kick off their World Cup campaign tonight with their first game against North Korea. If you want a great World Cup, then you want to see a great Brazilian team.

Brazilian teams over the past 20 years, particularly this one under the management of Dunga seem to be distancing themselves further and further from the so called 'beautiful game' of their predecessors.

But Brazil will always have an aura and mystic about them. Even before I liked football, I knew liked Brazil!

Here's a selection of some of my favourite Brazilian World Cup goals.

I know it's predictable to include this match, but this really is a World Cup classic. I had to include it for the goal by Socrates, check out the turn by Zico in the build up!
Josimar: Mexico 86 Brazil v Northern Ireland

Another classic from Mexico 86. I actually met the Northern Ireland keeper from that game, Pat Jennings a few years ago. I was in corporate hospitality at Tottenham.

He kindly signed my match programme. I didn't really want to bring this goal up he conceded. He could have done better, but it was still a great strike!

Nelinho: Argentina 78 Brazil v Italy

Love the swerve on this one!

Jairzinho: Mexico 1970 England v Brazil

I love the cross by Tostao, the touch by Pele and the finish by Jairzinho.

Carlos Alberto: Mexico 1970 Brazil v Italy

Yes, I know it's predictable, but if you don't love the fourth and final goal, you're not into football!

Monday 14 June 2010

World Cup Memories - Mexico 86

Throughout this World Cup I'm going to blog about some of my favourite World Cup memories. I thought I'd begin with my first ever World Cup.

Mexico 86 is where it all starts for me. Before this World Cup I wasn’t really into football,

Mexico 86 also set the template for all England World Cup campaigns, which goes a little something like this.
  • Delete as applicable - disastrous/unconvincing/uninspiring/ start to the tournament.
  • Star player is injured or gets injured at the start of the tournament.
  • Moral boosting victory that raises the country’s hopes.
  • The inevitable and at times heroic failure of being knocked out, usually on penalties!
I remember being at school and there were some kids going on about this thing called the World Cup. I’d never heard of it.

I quickly realised that England were in it, and actually won it 20 years earlier. Amazing to think there was once a time in my life where I didn’t know England had won the World Cup in 1966!

First game for England was against Portugal. I sat at home in the living room watching the match. It was pretty boring from what I remember, and it looked as if it was heading for a dull 0-0 draw, until Portugal actually went and scored mid way through the second half!

Final score: England 0 Portugal 1

Ok, hardly a great start, but not a disaster. Our next game was against Morocco. Surely we’d pick 3 points here and get our show on the road?

This was another dreadful performance. One that I and most people only remember for two reasons.

Our captain, inspiration, and star player was Bryan Robson, captain Marvel as he was known for both England and a very underachieving Manchester Utd team.

The game was 0-0 with England struggling to break down the Moroccan defence. Robson ended up having to go off injured after dislocating his shoulder. It seemed things were going from bad to worse.

Although Bryan Robson was a great England player from that era, when it comes to my earliest World Cups memories, he always seemed to be constantly crocked with some injury!

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse they did.

After Robson went off, Ray Wilkins was given the captain’s armband. I’d never even heard of Ray Wilkins, probably because he was playing in the glamorous world of Italian football at the time with AC Milan. He managed to end up getting sent off after he slightly petulantly threw the ball at the referee!

So now our star player and captain had gone off injured and the replacement captain and one of our most experienced players had been sent off. Even as a 10 year old new to football, I thought ‘for gods sake’ Little did I know I’d have another 20 years of this ahead of me!

Final score: England 0 Morocco 0

So lets recap, two games, 1 point, and no goals scored. We simply had to beat Poland in our final group game to qualify for the next round.

This game is arguably the most important game in my football following life. A big statement to make, but true. The Poland game was on at about 10:15 English time, and I watched it be myself in my bedroom. We played really well and England won 3-0 with Gary Lineker scoring a hat-trick before half time!

When Lineker scored his first goal, I remember jumping up and cheering. I thought to myself ‘Oh my god, I’m like a proper football fan’ before running into my Mom’s bedroom to tell her that we’d finally scored!

That Gary Lineker goal, and England’s win basically turned me into a football fan. Before that, I’d never really followed football. I never thought I'd get into it.

Football in the 80’s was popular but it certainly wasn’t fashionable in the way it is now. The problems of violence and hooliganism blighted the game; it wasn’t a sport that I really wanted to associate myself with.

Now that England we were up and running we could hopefully look forward to a good World Cup campaign.

Second Round

We played Paraguay in the second round. I didn’t watch this game, I think I was out playing that evening, Gary Lineker scored two goals and someone else other than Lineker got on the score sheet with Peter Beardsley grabbing one.

Final score: England 3 Paraguay 0

Quarter Final

England v Argentina

I heard quite a bit about Maradona, he was meant to be the best player in the world. He scored a great little goal against Italy in the group matches, but so far Argentina had been solid if unspectacular. They got through to the quarter finals by beating a quite nasty and thuggish Uruguay team.

I remember the build up to the game, which had added significance as it was only four years after the end of the Falklands War.

The day before the game I read the pundits predictions on the back page of the Birmingham Evening Mail, everyone seemed to predict and England win, either 2-0 or 2-1. I felt fairly confident we could beat them.

The game itself was quite uneventful to begin with, nothing much happened in the first half, but Argentina may have shaded it in terms of possession, but as we all know it all changed in the second half.

The second half was uneventful until this happened.

I watched it thinking the refs going to disallow it now, you kept waiting for everyone to realise it was a handball, but still the referee did nothing, until it quickly dawned on you that he was going to allow it.

The referee was from Tunisia, I remember thinking:

‘what’s the World Cup doing allowing officials from places like Tunisia to referee such an important match.’

Having only been into football for 3 weeks, I obviously had superior footballing knowledge being English!

Ok we were 1-0 down to a goal that clearly wasn’t a goal. There was still plenty of time for us to get back into the match.

But then this happened.

I have to say that even though it’s against England, I love this goal. I will never ever get tired of seeing it. It’s the best individual goal in a World Cup!

From that day I’ve never forgotten the commentary from the BBC’s Barry Davis.

‘He’s got Valdano to his left, he’s got Burrachaga to his left, he doesn’t need any of them. You have to say that’s magnificent!

Yes Barry it was magnificent!

I couldn’t find that commentary on YouTube, but instead I have the Argentinean version by a certain Victor Hugo Morales, which is pretty good. In my limited Spanish he cries.



Those two goals tell you everything about Diego Maradona the cheekiness and brilliance of the man.

It looked like we were going out as a result of cheating and one of the greatest goals of all time, but we almost got a result out of this game.

John Barnes came on as a second half substitute and completely changed the game. He terrorised the Argentinean defence on the left wing and put in a cross in which Gary Lineker scored to bring us back into the match.

He put in a second cross from the left wing, which looked like Lineker was clearly going to grab an equaliser, but the Argentinean defender amazingly managed to get his head to the ball before Lineker could head it in himself.

Final Score England 1 Argentina 2

So we were out of the World Cup, but we could hold our heads up high. After a poor start, we played quite well and were slightly unlucky to go out in the way that we did.

So there you have it, my first World Cup. In some ways still my favourite, a real roller coaster ride with England, but some great memories.

I’m going to come back to Mexico 86 before this World Cup finishes, there are still some great moments I need to share with you all.

Sunday 13 June 2010

England 1 USA 1

A brooding annoyance!

That's the feeling I had after 10 minutes of the second half of England's first World Cup match against the USA last night.

I wasn't screaming or shouting at the telly. (that didn't happen for another 10 minutes) I was quietly seething, thinking to myself 'Here we go again, same old sh*t'

As I said to my friends, the only things that are certain in life are death, taxes, and unsatisfactory opening game performances by England in World Cups.

It all started so well, not that I saw it, as I was one of those millions of ITV HD viewers who missed Steven Gerrard's opening goal.
People seem to love bashing the BBC, but this was so typical of ITV. No wonder when it comes to events of national importance the BBC always wins hands down.

Despite Robert Green's horrendous error, England still had enough chances to have won. After 24 hours in which to reflect on the game a 1-1 draw isn't a disaster, but there was still something depressingly familiar about England's performance.

Emile Heskey was man of the match for me. How many people would have said that a week a go?

He only did one thing wrong and that was not scoring when he was one on one with Tim Howard. After him I thought Steven Gerrard had a good game.

I was a little disappointed with Wayne Rooney. For the first 50 minutes he was in Heskey's shadow, he didn't really impose himself on the game. You look at people like Rooney and think this is your moment. This is where you're meant to really prove yourself.

Worrying to see Ledley King go off, we won't need him for Algeria, but once you get to the knock out stages you want him to be fit.

I'm also hoping Joe Cole can have an impact at some stage. I'm sorry to say that when he came on I didn't really see the point of Shaun Wright Phillips.

Everyone made a big thing about Theo Walcott being left out of the squad, with Wright Phillips seeming to be the main beneficiary. But to be honest they're both as bad as each other. Erratic, with little or no end product.

I felt England lost their way following America's goal. They lost confidence and let the game drift for periods in the second half.

Regardless of how bad the error was from Green, it still had too much of a negative affect on the team.

We'll still qualify for the next round, but there was nothing in Saturday's performance to suggest that England are going to do anything out of the ordinary this time.

Anyway, the game's over now. There's nothing we can do except wait till this Friday. I'm not reading anything in the Press about England until then. All the comment and analysis doesn't mean anything.

I'm going to enjoy the World Cup, and not let England dominate my day to day thoughts.

Till next Friday

Saturday 12 June 2010

My New Blog Design!

For those of you who are regulars to my blog. (I'm hoping there's a few of you) You'll notice that things are looking a little different. That's because I've had my blog redesigned!

Not only do I have a new template to show off, I also have my own domain name, which means I have my own unique website address. If you want to read my blog you can find me at:


Although I've learned a few things in website design, I have to give credit to a chap by the name of Barney Thom, who's kindly helped design this new template for me.

A blog or website represents who you are in the online world. It's important to have a blog that has some personality and helps to represent you as a person and a brand. This is really why I've decided to make the changes to my blog.

There's a saying in the world of digital media which says 'Content is King' it's a bit of a cliche, but it's very true. Even though content is important, you can't forget style and presentation, and I'm hoping the new design will give people a better experience of my blog.

I hope you like it.

Friday 11 June 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day One

The World Cup has started! At last, the wait is finally over.

Once you grow up, there are few things in life that generate that child like excitement you remember having as a kid! The start of a World Cup is one of those occasions that remind me of that feeling!

The fact that it's in South Africa and Africa's first World Cup has given this tournament a different feel. There's a greater sense of symbolism about the event, it's not just another World Cup!

There's been so much talk and debate about whether South Africa could and should stage this competition. Of course it can't possibly change immediately many of the problems the country faces. But it shouldn't be underestimated the symbolic importance of staging this event.

It's another major milestone for South Africa in its journey, which started with the release of Nelson Mandela 20 years ago!

See Images from the opening day here.

South Africa get the party started with their first goal against Mexico.

This is a great goal! And I love the celebration! They're like an African boy band. When it comes to choreographed goal celebrations nobody does it better than African nations!
It's a shame South Africa could only draw 1-1 with Mexico. It would have been great for them to start off with a victory.

Earlier this evening I was watching BBC news which lead with the World Cup as its main story.

What really struck me was the hope, euphoria and enthusiasm for the competition that the people have. You wouldn't find this in a European World Cup.

It made me think back to when I was growing up in the 80s, there never seemed to be any positive news out of South Africa. Everything focused on the battles against Apartheid and the oppression of the majority black population.

It doesn't feel that long ago and it's amazing to think that we've arrived at the point that we have.

This tournament should hopefully see some great football, but also be a showcase for the very best that Africa has to offer, in terms of its people and culture.

It's also a chance for the new South Africa to show that out of all the old and current problems, there's a young and vibrant nation ready to announce itself to the world.

Thursday 10 June 2010

The World Cup wait is over!

The World Cup is almost here, I’m so excited! I’ve become increasingly bored over the last few days with all the various footballing ‘non stories’ I just want it to start now.

For the next month, my blog is going to be heavily World Cup orientated. I’m going to try and blog everyday.

There’s so much to write and to discuss, but as a start I’m going to begin by giving my thoughts on the main contenders, and how I think things may pan out.
The Favourites: Spain, Brazil, and Argentina

In terms of players available, I can’t think of any other teams that can match these three. One of them will win the World Cup.

As we all know Spain our favourites, but this is an unusual position for them to be in.

As an England fan I always used to comfort myself with the thought that even though we’re major underachievers, there was always Spain who could match us in failing to live up to their potential.

The problem is, this isn’t the case anymore not after they won Euro 2008. They have few obvious weaknesses and they can adapt their style of play from the pretty pretty Barcelona style to a more pragmatic and direct game.

I’m sure they’ll make the Semis, but it will be interesting to see how they cope with the title of favourites and the pressure that brings.

Winning Euro 2008 was a major psychological hurdle for them to overcome, but the World Cup is a different matter, so there’s no guarantee that they’ll win, plus after the group stage they have quite a challenging route to the final.

As for Brazil, the football romantics always want Brazil to play like they did in 1970 and 1982, but that’s not what Brazil are all about these days. Yes they have hugely talented players, and can afford to leave out the likes of Ronaldinho, but they’re very functional and pragmatic.

I read an interesting piece on Brazil on the BBC website the other week, which said that their Manager Dunga is suspicious of the romantic view that Brazil should always play in the ‘beautiful game’ type of way.

He sees this as some sort of European conspiracy to stop Brazil winning! I thought this was a really interesting point. I expect Brazil to make the final. There may be flashes of brilliance, but they’ll be more efficient and pragmatic which will obviously leave the romantics disappointed.

Finally we have Argentina. Are they are car crash waiting to happen under Maradona’s leadership?

The progress of Argentina is one of the things I’m looking forward to the most. Player for player there as good as anyone, although the midfield may be a problem.

They’ve still got Veron in midfield at the age of 35. Has he still got the legs? But up front they’re pretty impressive and of course they have Lionel Messi.

Despite Maradona, I think Argentina could do really well and actually win the World Cup. They should comfortably make it to the Quarter finals, the problem they might have is if they come up against a team with a seriously experienced manager, like a Fabio Capello. Will Maradona have the tactical nous to outwit a real top notch manager?

I’m not sure, but I love Maradona, and I know that he and Argentina are going to provide some great entertainment, even if they don’t get to the final and win.

The dark horses: England and Holland

Yes I’m going to include England here, as I’m going to try and be a little optimistic.

I don’t expect either these two to win, but if I was going to go for surprise finalists then it would be these two.

The Time has arrived for England

After 24 years of watching failure, disappointment and underachievement from England. I’m approaching things a little differently this time.

I healthy dose of scepticism, a touch of cynicism and little bit optimism is what’s going to get me through this World Cup with England.

After the 2006 World Cup where the England barely got out of 2nd and lost on penalties to Portugal I decided to adopt what I call my ‘French approach’ to following England. I’ll explain.

In France, the French like their football, and I emphasize the word ‘like’ here.

They're not fanatical or obsessive about the game in the way that we are or other countries like Spain and Italy.

The French only start to get behind their team when they get to a semi final or final of a major tournament.

Before this stage they have a general indifference towards their team's prospects. After 2006 I decided this would be my approach to England. I’ve waited four years to put it into practice.

England do have a chance of winning the World Cup, but there'll be no more blind optimism from me. I won’t realistically believe we can win unless we make the Semi Finals.

Beating the likes of Algeria and Slovenia in the group stages is nothing to celebrate;

So how do I think England will do?

Well I’ve thought about this, and I’ve decided to detach myself from an emotional English point of view and imagine I was a foreigner looking at England's chances.

For this purpose I’ve decided to be an American (one that knows something about football obviously).

Firstly, England have one of the most successful and respected managers in World football. Fabio Cappello’s record speaks for itself. I’d expect England to be well organised and competitive.

They've got Wayne Rooney, who is one of the top strikers in World football. He’s currently free from injury and this could be the tournament where he makes a real impact.

England have a wealth of experience. Despite the loss of Rio Ferdinand many of the players have already played in one or two World Cups as well as European Championships. On top of that many have the experience of Champions League football behind them. Taking all this into consideration, there should be nothing in the tournament that should intimidate or frighten anyone.

There are of course weaknesses with England. The first 11 is quite strong and experienced, but there’s a lack of depth in the squad. After Rooney, I’m not sure who’s going to score the goals against really top opposition, and in defence, with Ferdinand out, there are questions marks over the back ups.

As for the goalkeepers, this is another area of concern. David James has the experience and will probably start but you never know if the inevitable clanger will occur. Robert Green is solid if unspectacular, and although Joe Hart has had the best season and is the most talented, he’s untried at this level.

England will probably need a bit of luck somewhere along the way, and to be fair we rarely get humiliated in World Cups. You never know what to expect from England. My optimism says we can reach the Semi Finals, but if we go out in the second round to someone like Serbia it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.

England will meet a team from Group D in the second round which includes Germany Serbia, Ghana, and Australia.

If we assume England and Germany both top their groups, we're probably looking at Ghana or Serbia.Australia are the weakest team on paper, but I’d hate to see an England/Australia game. It would be like a ‘derby’ and the Aussies would raise their game and probably win.

What England do have is Fabio Capello and I have a great deal of confidence in him as a manager. I think his organisation and preparation could be a real advantage for England.


Holland on the other hand have slipped under the radar a little bit. They had an impressive qualifying campaign and are in a reasonable group. You know with the Dutch that technically they’ll be excellent and I expect to see some great football from them.

I’m wondering though whether they can sustain their form over six or seven games? Will they be able to grind a result out when not playing particularly well in a tight game? There are question marks, but they should make the Quarter finals

Europe’s Big Guns – Germany, France, and Italy

It’s funny how the three most successful European nations are hardly attracting any interest at the moment. The whole aura surrounding these teams is so low key at the moment.

Starting with Germany, I look at their squad and barely recognise anyone. They don’t seem to have the superstars that they used to have back in the late 1980’s and throughout the 90s.

But Germany are still Germany and it doesn’t matter who plays for them, they have the tradition and culture and progressing through knock out tournaments.

They won’t set the world alight, but should they get to the Quarter finals I can imagine them making life difficult for one of the favourites and may be pulling off a shock result!

I look at Italy and I think ‘where has all the glamour gone?’ Again some of their players I don’t really know, and others I think

‘I can’t believe these lot are still playing...Cannavaro, Gattuso, Camaronesi etc’

I’m not expecting anything great from Italy to be honest. They might struggle to score goals and I just don’t see anything exciting about them.

Italy are always the same in any World Cup. I always feel they’re just as likely to go out in the group stage as win the thing.

They’re like the Germans. They have the tradition and culture and progressing through tournaments, so they may well get to the Quarters and give one of the favourites a tough time.

France – Are they disarray? Having watched their fortunate play off victory against Ireland, I decided I wasn’t going to support France in any game in the World Cup.

They’ve been unconvincing for months, and I just can’t see them doing anything. If it all goes to form they could meet England in the Quarter finals, but I think England would beat them, but we’re assuming France will get there.

You think of France and immediately think they’re going to be strong, but I feel they’re prime candidates for an early plane home.

Other thoughts on the rest

Looking outside of the favourites, I’m really hoping Ivory Coast do well. I’m going to adopt them as my second team. This is obviously such a big World Cup for Africa and it would be great if an African country could make a real impact. If anyone can it has to by Ivory Coast.

Other teams that could surprise people include Uruguay and Cameroon. From a traditionalist point of view you want to see Uruguay in the World Cup. After all, this is a country that has won the World Cup twice in it’s history.

Their problem is that the victories in 1930 and 1950 were before the television age so their achievements are largely unknown to many people.

Cameroon may get out of their group which also includes Holland and Denmark. Their game against Denmark is the crucial one and if they win that they could go through.

I’ve been hearing that Chile are meant to be a bit useful so keep your eyes out for them, but one country that I think may struggle is Portugal.

They’re in the ‘group of death’ with Brazil, Ivory Coast, and North Korea. They had a poor qualifying campaign, but generally people think Portugal are this major footballing nation. They’re not!

This is only their 5th World Cup and take away 1966 and 2006 they’ve never done anything. Of course they have Ronaldo, but I can see them failing to get out of the group.

Right, I’m going to leave it there for now. There’s going to be so much to talk about, but if anyone wants to tell me their thoughts and predictions then leave a comment!