They reckon four million people in the UK tuned in to watch England Ladies take on the Dutch in the semi-finals of the Euro’s last week, and I was one of them. Like many others I’ve found the efforts of the English team uplifting and inspiring – the passion, the honesty, the team ethic, the lack of ego, cheating and posturing, and the emergence of individuals and personalities to look out for and cheer on.
In short, I was really looking forward to the match – and what did they do? They invited the bloody band into the stadium. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Why? Why in all that is good about women’s football do they want to tarnish it with that giftless bunch of tuneless cretins who are forever associated with the failings and drudgery of the men’s game? It totally spoiled the match for me; it became just another in the long line of bad England memories. I had to have a drink, and that’s not a good thing mid-week. (Or is it? -Ed)
However, the mood soon lifted with the opening game of the Championship, and a genuine feeling that this might be OK after all. A couple of quality players through the door, a couple more back from injury and we may just float. The Premier League can go and suck eggs for a season (or two). Yes, I’ll still watch MOTD and all that, but it’s good to widen your horizons every now and again.
The curtain-raiser to the Prem’ – the Charity Shield - was duly unveiled on Sunday. Is it me or is it always sunny for the Charity Shield? Lets hope they have it down my way next year because I’m bloody sick of this weather. And it was one London club playing another London club – in London, so not a great deal of interest truth be told, but at least the choice of charity was a good one.
What was surprising were the comments from the pundits about no-one taking it seriously. They looked to me like they were taking it seriously enough. Pedro – someone should explain to him, there’s no point in playing in a mask if your name is on the back of the shirt. You could see the Arsenal players perplexed at the line up – ‘who is that masked man’? Have they drafted in a surprise player in the window that we don’t know about’? And then he turned round and it was ‘ah – it’s only Pedro doing his Lone Ranger impersonation – which one of you is Tonto’?
Anyway – he got sent off, which for a game no-one was taking seriously got the Chelsea players very upset – although possibly because he was suppose to be Zorro and not The Lone Ranger, and they were trying to explain this when Arsenal went and scored. Which led to the main talking point of the game – the ABBA penalty system.
This is a FIFA initiative, so before you know any details you’re 90% sure it’s going to be a good idea badly executed, a bad idea badly executed, or just a total waste of time and money. The idea is that the current penalty system places too much advantage on the team going first. The ABBA method moves the advantage to the team going second – so where’s the sense in that? What’s the point in changing one system with inadequacies for another system with inadequacies?
What they need is a system that is totally equal – and we have the answer.
Synchronised penalties. Each team takes their penalty at the same time at opposite ends of the pitch. What could be fairer? The referee stands in the centre circle, one linesman covers each goal to make sure the goalkeeper isn’t chewing, or whatever he’s not allowed to do, he blows the whistle once and both players have three seconds to shoot from the spot. Five seconds break to set up the next player, then they shoot. Saves all that hanging around, and ambling up to one end of the pitch, just get it over with. And if it’s all level after five penalties, the sixth player for each team has to don a giant chicken suit.
And, according to the experts neither Arsenal nor Chelsea are going to win the title anyway. Arsenal, because they lack leadership, and the ability to tell Zorro from the Lone Ranger, and Chelsea because they don’t have enough players. The Chelsea squad is under strength apparently, which, given that they have squad numbers to rival the population of Hong Kong seems utter insanity, but according to Gary Cahill:
You just have to hope we don’t have too many injuries.
He said of a Chelsea side deprived of the injured Eden Hazard and with new signing Tiemoué Bakayoko sidelined after knee surgery. Not a promising start then – people were saying that Conte wore a tracksuit instead of his normal suit out of protest at the club’s transfer policy over the summer. I think he wore it because he thought he might have to come on if Tonto got injured.
Nope – everyone agrees that Manchester City will cruise to the title, probably based on the money they’ve spent over the summer rather than the form they showed last year. And it’s a bit surprising to note that straight after their opening game against Brighton on Saturday, they’re going away for a four day training camp in Spain because the squad haven’t had the chance to get together enough over the summer. That bodes well.
This trip is a great opportunity for Pep to work with his full squad in an intensive training camp.
... said Manchester City’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, the man with perhaps the best name in the entire Premier League. Doesn’t that name just ooze… something? A Bond villain? An exotic disease? A pleasant holiday village where middle class Mongolians like to spend illicit weekends away from the capital? “I spent the weekend in Txiki Begiristain. It was……..fabulous.”
The one dissenting voice in the rush to proclaim City as champions elect was Ian Wright, a man I must confess, I associate with having an opinion on most things, but not necessarily one I associate with being correct for much of the time. However, he’s rocking the boat and going with United - but only if they buy Gareth Bale.
Jose is waiting to see if Bale plays in the Real Madrid line-up against United in the European Super Cup game this week, and if not:
If he is not in the club’s plans, that with the arrival of another player would mean he was on his way out, I will try to be waiting for him on the other side and fight with other coaches that would want him on their team.
I would pay good money to see that – I’m not saying that FIFA should think about introducing it as part of a more structured transfer process, but that I would want to see. And I think they should wear chicken suits. And masks.