John Terry: A Career

If you’re reading this expecting some kind of eulogy, then I’m afraid you need to look elsewhere. In purely footballing terms, Terry will be remembered as one of the better central defenders who played for England, but I’d put him on a par with Dave Watson (13 fewer caps and two fewer goals when England were really terrible) rather than Bobby Moore.

However, Terry will not be remembered in purely footballing terms. Just after the 911 terrorist attacks, Terry – along with four other Chelsea players – was fined for harrassing American tourists whilst he was drunk. Just under a year later was charged with assault and affray outside a nightclub and was given a temporary ban from appearing for England by the FA but was cleared after a court case.

Since then, he’s been fined for parking his Bentley in a disabled bay, allegedly had an affair with Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend (at which point Capello took the England captaincy away from him) and was in court once again this summer following the ‘incident’ with Anton Ferdinand at Loftus Road last October.

So if anyone’s made his position ‘untenable’ it’s hardly been the FA has it? My personal opinion is that Terry is the embodiment of pretty much everything that’s wrong with the elite group of contemporary English footballers: arrogant, overpaid, having no moral compass, seemingly incapable of expressing genuine regret or remorse for any of their actions and – following his laughable display at the end of last season’s Champion’s League final – a bit of an all round dick.

I’ve no doubt he’ll be lauded elsewhere, but I’m actually quite glad he’s decided to retire from the England team. In a couple of decades time he’ll be one of those balding, overweight has beens that Sky Sports dust off to tell us about their ‘glory days’: at first you won’t recognise him…but then it’ll slowly dawn on you…is that John Terry?

Shock, Horror: England’s Victory Underplayed By Media

Norway’s Brede Hangeland thinks England are running on empty after a long season. Gary Lineker had a moan about the tactics on twitter. But an Ashley Young goal nine minutes into the game gave England a 1-0 win over Norway in Oslo on Saturday night. Lost in all the comments about how the second half was dull was the fact that Norway haven’t lost at home since June 2010 and have beaten both France and Portugal in Oslo since then. Isn’t winning while not playing particularly well something that we’ve always respected other countries for?

The other issue is that the outbreak of pessimism seems to be hiding another agenda: if England over perform this summer then all the pundits can slap each other on the back and spout nonsense about how they secretly felt that ‘the lads’ would do well all along. I’m sure a few people are convinced that England can repeat the unexpected triumph of the Danes in 1992, but the last time I looked there weren’t any civil wars in Europe we could exploit.

From my point of view, it was hardly an ideal start for Roy Hodgson. I was visiting my sister in law in a ‘nearby country’ and although we watched the first half live, we couldn’t watch the second half until we’d watched the Eurovision Song Contest, which featured a musical recreation of the England team from the mid 1970s by Englebert Humperdinck: on paper it probably seemed as if it was a good idea, but it was off key, not as good as many European rivals and ultimately a bit embarrassing. By the time we watched the recording of the second half of the game I’d had three pints of cider and knew what the final score was.

Moving on and the details of the final squad were handed in earlier today with two alterations from the original list. Jack Butland replaces John Ruddy who is getting married broke his finger and Phil Jagielka replaces Gareth Barry who picked up a groin injury in Oslo on Saturday night. While he was playing football, I hasten to add – I know he’s a Man Citteh player but I don’t think he’s visited any strip clubs recently.

Incidentally, Jagielka’s biography on Wikipedia is as interesting as it is confusing: his father was born in Zagreb, but later on it says that he has Polish and Scottish ancestry. In a parallel universe he’d be playing for the Republic of Ireland.

Last week we received a copy of the Foreign Office guidelines for travel to the Ukraine and without putting too finer point on it, the message was basically don’t travel if you’re black, Asian or obviously gay. I haven’t seen last night’s ‘Panorama’ about the racism in Poland and the Ukraine, but having some experience of watching football in Eastern Europe I can see how the issue could easily be sensationalised.  However, to claim that ‘Nazi symbols…can be seen at any any game in England’ as Ukrainian foreign minister Oleh Voloshyn has is a load of ****ocks and sounds like a statement from a man who clearly has been rattled.

On a lighter note, I also have some experience of watching football in the middle of a group of Polish fans – at a beach football tournament in Spain a few years ago. About ten minutes before Poland’s games were due to kick off, a group of about fifty or more Poles appeared from nowhere: decked out in replica shirts, waving flags and singing songs they kept going throughout the entire game before disappearing immediately afterwards – although some of them must have been on holiday, I think others must’ve been working in bars and hotels. That leads me on to a story about ordering drinks in Spanish only to find out that the barman was Bulgarian…but that’s got nothing to do with football.

I’ll be back on Friday with a preview of the game against the Belgians. Enjoy the weather while you can, in a couple of weeks many of us will be parked in front of the telly all day.

Hail Blatter!

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

Lewis Carroll, ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ from ‘ Through The Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There’

In the run up to Blatter’s coronation we’ve had all kinds of lurid tales including some concerning our unsuccessful World Cup bid: principally the suggestion that the FA Cup could be re-named after Dr. Nicolas Leoz (the president of CONMEBOL) and the attempt by the execrable Jack Warner to exploit the Haitian earthquake by demanding discounts for broadcasting rights that were not his to offer. The representative from Argentina (who I am not even going to bother to name) apparently suggested the Falkland Islands should be returned to Argentina.

From a purely British point of view, there are a number of people who emerge from this mess with any sort of credibility. It’s easy to be wise after the event, but it looks like Lord Triesman was right all along, despite having undermined his position by falling head over heels into a honey trap set up by an odious rag that we continue to boycott. The FA and Scottish FA will be the only football associations to abstain from voting this afternoon and Prince William has also backed the decision to do so.

However, what happens today is ultimately of no concern to Blatter and his henchmen who – rather like some of the other notorious European dictators throughout history – won’t tolerate any dissent and are more than happy to hang their own supporters out to dry.

As a keen amateur historian, some of the statements coming from both sides (and this means you, Geoff Thompson) are beginning to sound like the dialogue that went on between Hitler and Chamberlain over Czechoslovakia in 1938: appeasing those b*stards didn’t work then and appeasing this bunch of crooks won’t work now.

It’s time to pick up the ball and leave. Football should be coming home.

For good.

‘Panorama’ Did Us All A Favour

by on November 30, 2010
in Muckraking, World Cup 2018

‘Logic has to be suspended, normal standards of honesty and integrity have to be suspended. We have to go on our knees to accept FIFA diktats, crawl on our bellies to beg them to give us the World Cup.’

If you’ve not watched last night’s ‘Panorama’ then I strongly suggest that you do before reading this post. Here’s the link.

So…it’s not often that I agree with David Mellor, but it’s his quote at the top of the post and he’s absolutely right. As much as I would love the World Cup to be held in England, when it’s clear that there’s an endemic problem with corruption within FIFA then to be perfectly honest we’re better off staying as far away from them as possible.

In fact, I’d go further than that. We’ve always had issues with FIFA – the FA withdrew for political reasons after the First World War and didn’t return to the fold until after the Second – but it was only when Joao Havelange took over from Sir Stanley Rous in 1974 that the almost medieval culture of simony, patronage and nepotism began to prevail in Zurich.

Almost 40 years later, Sepp Blatter and his henchmen are running FIFA like a third world dictatorship and being  allowed to get away with it by both the football world and the Swiss authorities. There’s absolutely no point in the FA submitting any further bids to stage any tournament until the likes of Blatter, Ricardo Teixeira (Havelange’s ex-son in law) and Jack Warner have been removed from FIFA.

In summing up, as far as I’m concerned last night’s ‘Panorama’ destroyed any remaining credibility that FIFA had rather than any faint hopes that England might host the 2018 World Cup. In any case, there’s bound to be some decent teams that don’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup…so why don’t we organise an alternative one?

Feel free to disagree.  After all, 11 Lions is only a blog, not the international sporting equivalent of Zimbabwe.

2010: Annus Mediocris

After the World Cup we had, it’s not too difficult to feel at least a twinge of sympathy with our near neighbours, although on the other hand it’s also quite difficult to suppress any giggling.

In some respects the French campaign in South Africa was so wonderfully dysfunctional that it’s hard to imagine any other team self destructing with such panache; at least Italy nearly made it to the second round although at least they have some previous when it comes to underperfoming in Africa.

The sanctions the French FA imposed on their squad in the aftermath of both the performance on the pitch and the histrionics off it look like a classic case of shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted.

Tonight’s friendly can be seen from two contradictory angles. On the optimistic side, it’s an opportunity for both sides to field players with minimal international experience who wouldn’t normally make a contribution in the hope that a couple of them will make a breakthrough. From a negative point of view, the game will feature ‘experimental’  (ie under strength) sides and concludes a year that arguably could and should have been more successful for both sides. That’s certainly the way French manager Laurent Blanc seems to see it (some knowledge of French required).

The problem we’ve got – again – is goals. Montenegro’s clean sheet was the first time that we’ve failed to score at home since February 2007, when a goal from Andres Iniesta was enough for a Spanish win at Old Trafford. Fab’s hands have been tied with the usual crop of withdrawals and injuries, which is why the (ahem) ‘troubled but talented’ Andy Carroll of Newcastle will probably start up front; presumably he got the nod before Cardiff City’s Jay Bothroyd because Cardiff aren’t in the Premiership…yet.

The only other confirmed starters are Sunderland’s Jordan Henderson and Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs – when there’s some kind of news about what the team actually is, we’ll have it here.

With just under two weeks to go before the announcement of the host nation for the 2018 World Cup, it’s fair to say that – for whatever reason – our chances of winning the bid are slightly worse than they were at the beginning of the year.

The incident concerning Lord Triesman was regrettable even if there may have been something to it; the perception of the Sunday Times enquiry into vote buying may have damaged the bid even though it seems public perception refuses to blame the journalists, who were right to investigate what was happening.

So the decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia will be made by a discredited body that won’t even have enough time to investigate itself before announcing where the next two competitions will be held.

Don’t hold your breath and be prepared for more disappointment. However, if by some miracle we actually win the bid, then mine’s several pints of Bombardier.

Update: starting line up against France:

Foster, Jagielka, Ferdinand, Lescott, Gibbs, Walcott, Henderson, Barry, Milner, Gerrard, Carroll.

Didn’t Ferdinand Lescott-Gibbs discover the Zambezi?

Daily Mail Boycott Campaign Starts Now

The plan this morning was to congratulate Chelsea on winning the double (while expressing some concern about Frank Lampard’s missed penalty), possibly mentioning that England’s game against the USA could be one of the best games of the first round and having a quick round up of any friendy results.

Usual Sunday morning routine: kitchen, put the kettle on, switch the radio on…and the lead story on Five Live is this.

Let’s make this clear immediately: after having spent so much time and effort on the 2018 bid, to have the chairman of the FA apparently scupper it less than a month before the 2010 tournament starts is a disaster that the bid may not recover from.

Lord Triesman needs to go now. But some of the things that he allegedly said have the ring of truth to them (although having had a quick look at a list of recipients of the Legion d’Honneur no-one fits that particular profile) and there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that there will be attempts to bribe referees this summer. However, seeming to imply both the Spanish and the Russians will be complicit in this to a woman who was obviously employed by the Daily Mail as some kind of honey trap is a serious lapse of judgement on his part and will probably cost England the 2018 World Cup.

However…a serious lapse of judgement has also been committed by the Daily Mail (the only mainstream newspaper to support Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts before World War II). The online article is peppered with snidey little comments about Lord Triesman’s politics (he’s an ex-Labour minister and at one point was a member of the Communist party): the comments at the bottom of the article are worth reading and contributing to.

Lord Triesman may have cost us the World Cup in 2010…but the contribution of the Daily Mail will have helped a lot.

Update: Lord Triesman stepped down from both his FA and Euro 2018 posts on Sunday.

Another rumour…

by on April 24, 2010
in Muckraking

About to watch Man U v Spurs (not featuring either Wayne Rooney or Rio Ferdinand but with a chance for Michael Dawson to make a really strong claim to be called up for the World Cup) and doing a bit of pre-match crawling around the internet when I came across this.

I’m not going to jump to any conclusions but let’s see what – if anything – the Sunday papers make of it. Interestingly enough, I’m going to watch Derby County this afternoon.