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Thursday, 15 July 2010

The Numbers Don't Add Up

Victory for Spain’s tiki taka and the breath of fresh air wafted across South Africa by Germany suggest nothing less than the pyrrhic victory of 4231 over 442. Idiots like Alan Shearer and Lee Dixon may have to be gently Linekered towards this natural assumption, but much of the media has seized upon it too. “442 is archaic,” they scream. And I must say, I’m inclined to agree on the evidence of this World Cup. England were trounced by the Germans, fair enough. 4231 offered 442 out and gave it a good hiding. But to consider why is to also strengthen the claim that 442 is not dead. It is merely wounded; regrouping.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Makelele No More

Two. Now better than one.

Claude Makelele is furious. ‘Zut alors!’, he bellows, as he thunders round the bowels of Clairefontaine crunching into tackles with janitors, tea ladies, hat stands and telephone tables. ‘Mark van Bommel AND Nigel de Jong?’, he growls at a postcard from Thierry Henry. ‘Schweinsteiger AND Khedira?’, he snarls at Raymond Domenech’s copy of Russell Grant’s latest book. ‘Melo AND Silva? Xabi Alonso AND Sergio Biscuits?’, he rages, kicking three of the French national squad’s under-16 players down some stairs and over a fence.

But why is the greatest holding midfielder of his generation so apoplectic?

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Final Countdown; The Best of Europe

Looking forward to Sunday lads?

You would never have known from its understated first few days that the World Cup in South Africa would be entering its final period with records totally scotched. Since the competition’s inception in 1930, the host nation has always advanced from the group stages. No longer. Every time the tournament has taken place outside Europe, European teams have failed to win it. Not anymore.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Seek and Lilleshall Find (part 2 of 2)

Continued from our piece yesterday so scroll down to read in order...
So if ever there were a time for centralisation, it is now. Trevor Brooking understands this and as the FA collectively back-slapped after hiring Capello, a lone voice could scarcely be heard above the din. Brooking asserted: "We must not let the debate on coaching and player development drop. We must invest and transform what we do." The coaches (in the main) understand this too. The problem is that the FA has ceded power to the Premier League, whose chairmen’s eyes glint with ever-growing dollar signs, presiding over clubs that specialise in self-interest. Until this overarching desire for Premier League clubs to make as much money as humanly possible in the short term is subordinated by the English game dire need for high-quality youngsters in the long term, the inevitable result is going to be a poor England team – with the odd high spot only arising due to home advantage (1966, 1996) or a rare confluence of good players and good fortune (1990).

Monday, 5 July 2010

Seek and Lilleshall Find (part 1 of 2)

Promises, promises. Given the alarming state of English football following the Euro 2008 qualifiers, its return to square one in South Africa 2010 makes the FA’s promised ‘root and branch’ investigation look more like ‘foot in mouth’. Or ‘head up arse’. Since Euro 2000, in fact, reform has perennially been just around the corner.

The timing of England’s ignominious World Cup exit marks near enough the mid-point of former chief executive Brian Barwick and then-FA chairman Geoff Thompson’s much-vaunted strategic review and consequent five-year plan. At a news conference to announce Fabio Capello’s appointment in December 2007, Barwick stated: “A direct part of [the strategic review] will be to work out how we take the England situation forward in a positive way.”