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Roker Ramble: The American Dream

Over the hill, over the top and over there - football in the US could be in for a surprise.

Mexico v United States - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

America and football – it’s just not quite gelling, is it?

And it’s ‘soccer’ because some numpty decided ‘American Football’ was what it was, when it clearly isn’t at all. It’s actually closer to rugby played backwards – or forwards if you get my meaning, but anyway, they blew their chance to have the beautiful game christened appropriately and must now live with the consequences.

And that’s not the only problem, they're not really that good - it's early days I know, but as it is, they’ve never really been taken seriously as a major league football nation. Their home grown players lack the competition to develop and the MLS tends to only attract foreign players at the end of their careers.

However, all that could be about to change. Zlatan wants to conquer America. He was asked about finishing his career in the States recently, and said:

It’s a huge option for me. For the football and everything else. I can see myself conquering the US as I have with Europe.

Let’s be honest, do we feel conquered by Zlatan here in the UK?

He started off brightly enough, as you would in any new job, but recently he’s hardly aspired to the living legend status that we were led to expect. Maybe the US is the place for him after all.

And I have to admit you can imagine America taking to him with open arms. A ticker-tape parade down Broadway, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the glitz, the glamour - Zlatan could well be the catalyst that kick-starts a new era of the game in the States... right up to the point when Donald Trump finds out his father is a Muslim.

Their international side are not going to kick start anything, that's for sure. Having lost their opening two World Cup qualifiers to Mexico and Costa Rica, their now former manager Jürgen Klinsmann remained “1000% sure” his side would qualify for the 2018 World Cup - that may well happen still but it won't be with him at the helm as he was sacked at the start of the week, if not for the recent results then for his proficiency at maths. He seems likely to be replaced by ‘Bruce Arena’ who despite sounding like a stadium is actually a coach.

Steven Gerard didn’t really make it in the States in the same way that he didn’t really sign for Chelsea when he had the chance, or didn’t really win the league when he had the chance and now he’s not going to be MK Dons new manager in the same way that Lionel Messi is not going to sign for St Mirren.

Instead, he’s taking his coaching badges and considering a wealth of options before taking up a position at Anfield, where he’ll at least avoid Frank Lampard, who’s also back from the States and taking his coaching badges before considering, one expects, a different wealth of options and then joining either West Ham or Chelsea.

So who’s been a naughty boy then?

I don’t know - you take a group of rich young men, put them up in a five star hotel, give them the Saturday night off and what happens? Well, would you believe it, they try and enjoy themselves, and we can’t have that now, can we?

It’s not as if the hotel, ‘The Grove’ in Watford, doesn’t have something to offer. To say it’s in Watford is slightly misleading - it’s actually set in 300 acres of Hertfordshire countryside, enough not to be able to see Watford on a clear day one imagines. It has a championship golf course, award winning spa, three restaurants, it’s own urban beach with beach volleyball...

... guided tours of the Harry Potter Studios, clay shooting, falconry, archery and... duck herding. Seriously – duck herding. I mean, how can you go out on a Saturday night when duck herding is on the table? Sure, the bright lights of London are just down the road, you've just beaten Scotland at Wembley, you're all pumped, the testosterone is kicking in, all of your mates are there - but it's duck-herding - why wouldn't you?

It's just me, isn't it?

But why should we care? When did we become so sanctimonious that we pursue our sports stars relentlessly to find out the slightest indiscretion and then plaster it all over the media? It’s hypocrisy of the highest order, and I would’ve had a lot more respect for Gareth Southgate if he’d issued a statement just telling everyone to mind their own business. He wouldn't have got the England job of course, but he would have thanked us in a few years time.

It was Wayne Rooney that I felt sorry for. He obviously feels particularly hounded, and in that he’s not wrong. When the rest of the team headed out for the bright lights, and red lights, he stayed in the hotel, determined not to attract attention. But next day, there he was, all across the red-tops with stories of drink and inebriation, which we can now, on his behalf, totally dismiss. He wasn’t drunk, he was just knackered from chasing all those ducks on his own.

In reply to the furore over the England players ‘behaviour’ - which the FA admit didn’t break any rules - a new code of conduct is going to be issued, allegedly banning the players from socialising whilst on duty and moving the accommodation up to St Georges Park in Burton on Trent.

Expect a spate of niggling injuries going forward around international time.