So, England v USA, and I missed the first couple of minutes as I was watching a young guy from Hull, Paul Jubb, with a real story to tell, play a tie-break at his first Wimbledon.
Duly accomplished and tuned into the footie, the US were off to their usual fast start and I was pleased to see Jill Scott dump US captain Alex Morgan onto her backside within the first five minutes – ‘you can take the girl out of Sunderland, but you can’t take Sunderland out of the girl’.
Little Neville, still in tie and waistcoat, had talked about the team wanting to be in this half of the draw, about preparing for this game ‘for months’, about wanting it to be fun and play with a smile on the faces. Well no-one was smiling after ten minutes when the defence switched off and USA went ahead.
The difference between the US and England was plain to see.
Yes, the US have a much larger, better established network for women’s football. Their team have lodged a legal claim to get pay parity with the men because they’re more popular, more well known and bring in more viewers and revenue than their male counterparts.
But above all that, they’re winners and know that that’s all that counts.
If their coach had burbled on all tournament about wanting it to be fun she would now be coaching at a refugee centre on the Mexican border; they were there for one reason only and the truth is that England weren’t.
We don’t expect to win, we expect to ‘give it our all’, ‘leave it all out on the pitch’ and a myriad of other platitudes we come out with when we once again fulfill our role as plucky underdogs.
Neville insists that his style of play is ‘non-negotiable’, in which case, at least ensure that the team is coached to a standard that allows that style to be played.
We cannot play out from the back against a team the presses high, we were overrun in midfield, the passing was often woeful and the defence at times played like they’d never seen each other before.
Yes, there were high points – Ellen White with her Biggles celebrations is a joy, Lucy Bronze really is a world class player and Keira Walsh can hit a mean pass, but it’s the overall ethic that continues to let us down in these events.
It’s never been good enough to be the feisty amateur willing to ‘give it a go’ that seems to be ingrained in our nations psyche – not if our expectations are that we want to win.
I don’t know, maybe we’re happy with the ‘oh, what if… never mind’ mornings we’ve had following every tournament since 1966, but I for one am really tired of it. The team showed over the tournament that we have the individuals as talented as anyone else, it’s not fair on them, nor on some of us, that they’re not performing as well as they could.
And as for Paul Jubb, he lost his first match at Wimbledon, but he’ll be back as a winner - he’s being coached in the USA.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
The tournament has made stars out of the players who will inspire a new generation of youngsters, raised the profile of the women’s game in this country to an unprecedented level, and ensured that Team GB qualify for the Olympics next summer.
So that means this time next year we’ll have the Olympics and the Euros – game on, best stock up on the choc ices…
Every now and then, I imagine situations that I’d like to see, unlikely to happen, but that would be enormous fun anyway. Like David Moyes in pantomime at the Sunderland Empire – in drag. Like Jack Rodwell as a competitor in a reality TV show centred on cage fighting. Like Roy Keane as a TV pundit for the Women’s World Cup.
It seems to me that there’s elements within football that have been walking on eggshells for fear of saying the wrong thing whilst the World Cup’s been on, and I would’ve loved to see Keane, for instance, take on the USA’s 13-0 demolition of Thailand.
I think it would’ve been priceless television, right up there with that baby elephant on Blue Peter (one for the older generation there).
It’s also going to be fascinating to see where he ends up as manager. Just for a while there he was a good fit at our club and I wish the bloke nothing but the best.
Elsewhere and the holidays seem to be coming to an end and things are picking up in the lead-up to next season. Rafa issued a statement, possibly from the plane heading to China saying that he wanted to stay at Newcastle. Apparently he wants a ‘project’. Well if it doesn’t work out for him over there he can come and do my bathroom.
Newcastle of course are now in the hunt for a new manager, Danny Murphy thinks ‘they could do worse than go down the Phil Neville route’.
Why – have they named a road after him already?
‘Frankie Goes to Colliers Wood’ – well not quite, about 8 miles back up the road in Stamford Bridge, but the title sounded better (just). Frank Lampard looks to be the cure for the summertime blues at Chelsea, which is a case of being appointed for who he is rather than what he’s done, and as long as it doesn’t mean his Uncle Harry turning up on the scene then good luck to the bloke.
Man Utd seem to have kicked off the transfer merry-go-round, signing Wan Bissaka and attempting to woo Harry Maguire, but they still have to shift their under-achieving high earners and that may depend on Gareth Bale moving out of Real Madrid where Zinedine Zidane can no longer cope with his hair style.
Trouble is, neither can anyone else. Nor his salary, or his preference for golf over football, or his semi-permanent berth in the treatment room.
Looks like a straight swap for Sanchez, then.