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Month: May 2006

A Quick One, Before You Go Away

If you haven’t seen this, then I suggest that you devour all of it. Very quickly. I have said for a considerable amount of time that the BBC don’t make enough use of their massive sports archive, and I’m delighted to see that, for this World Cup, they have, to an extent proved me wrong. It’s all here and, particularly delightfully from my point of view, they’ve uploaded the original review programmes from just after the tournaments, rather than cobbling together right now. This is, so far as I can see, a fundamentally good thing, as we get to see the tournament from the perspective of the time. Desmond Lynam, for example, reminds us at the start of the 1990 review that the 1990 tournament was, relatively speaking, a poor one. Too many teams played too defensively, meaning that, although this competition has been given a rosy glow with the benefit of hindsight, we see the truth behind a tournament that was less exciting than previous ones. Likewise, I had forgotten just how poor England were in the group stages in 1986, and the extent to which some atrocious refereeing marred the 1994 tournament. Most nostalgic for me, though, was the sound of the World Cup – at least up until 1982. Back in the old days, digital sound technology wasn’t quite what it is now. Matches shown on...

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England 3 Hungary 1

I’m probably in a minority in so far as that I really enjoy these friendly matches. No pressure, no stress, just an exhibition involving some of the best footballers in Europe. If they contrive get their back-sides spanked by, say, Denmark or Australia, we can put it down to a bad day at the office and get on with it. Tonight’s match was an intriguing one. I don’t really know anything about Hungary (as they are now – >everyone knows about the Puskas team of the 1950s that – quite literally – dumped Billy Wright on his arse at Wembley in 1953), and places for the Paraguay match are up for grabs. It all made for an interesting evening. So… as ever, a mixed bag. The first forty minutes was poor. Not for the first time, Ericsson played it too cautious for the first forty minutes. Hungary sat back relatively well, and the “experimental” formation wasn’t equipped to pressurise them into making mistakes. Of course, as soon as they did start pressing, things started to happen. Beckham was magnificent – his best England performance for a long time – and Owen started to get into decent goal-scoring positions. Pity Lampard missed the penalty, but there we go. The second half performance was considerably improved. The midfield got forward to support Owen, and the goals started flowing. I was particularly...

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Paradise Found?

The state of the England football supporter is an unusual one, and not a pleasant one. Disliked by more or less everyone, and with ludicrously over-optimistic hopes fuelled by a media that thrives on peaks and troughs (and nothing in-between), it can be a fairly unhappy existence. No genuine England supporter was surprised by Wayne Rooney’s ropey metatarsal bone. If anything, it was a blessed relief that it happened soon enough for him to have anything like a cat in hell’s chance of making the finals. Four years ago it was Beckham. In 1986 and 1990 it was was Bryan Robson. It happens. And with England, it usually happens to the wrong person at the wrong time. What England do supremely well is drama. You don’t need me to recite the litany of travesties that they have somehow got themselves involved in, but I will say this much: when have England ever meekly surrendered in a competition, with no fight, or no drama? Even in 2002, Ronaldinho contrived to get himself sent off. You’d be surprised how many people forget that. But it happened. The upshot of this constant disappointment is unstinting pessimism. There’s an advert on the television (for Mars, I think) which shows just how little advertising men know about football. The advert consists of a tubby man in the standard garb (St George’s t-shirt, possibly face...

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And finally, after six weeks, we’re back. Between them, Bulldog and BT have contrived to make for six weeks’ worth of internet-free living. I’d love to say that I spent this time expanding my mind, broadening my horizons and wallowing in culture but it would be, as I daresay you’ve already guessed, an utter lie. What I have been doing for the last 6 weeks is watching a hell of a lot of TV (I’ve developed a particular affection for Jeremy Kyle’s habit of shouting at people and then just letting them wander off on his show), watching a hell of a lot of DVDs (was it wrong of me to buy a DVD of the 1970 FA Cup Final only because I saw for sale for £2), and drinking/smoking/otherwise consuming far too much. Do I feel good on it? Well, I’ve just had a look in the mirror and I don’t feel that much older. Probably the most exciting thing to happen over the last few weeks was the acquisition of our new geek toys last Friday. It’s not every day you can walk into PC World with £800 to spend (unless you’re Bill Gates), so we were delighted to go there last week and come out with a shiny new laptop, a new wireless router, a 160 gigabyte USB hard-drive, and a couple of other bits and...

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