Well the England fellahs managed to do it yesterday against Samoa (is it really pronounced saar-moa? everywhere bar in Lancashire!). I missed the match – travelling up north to visit C’s mum with my lovely daughters. They let me listen to final scores, bless them, but for most of the journey it was Motown or chat. I caught the score and a summary and have been reading all about it all this morning. Seems like a much better performance, still flawed and slightly unbalanced especially in midfield, but a decent victory against tough opponents. Tonga will be equally challenging but at least England are getting better. It’s a bit of a bugger to wait until the actual RWC pool matches to start looking for the optimum combination mind. Still one game to go before the going gets seriously tough to find the right mix and level of confidence. Can they do it and surprise us all by getting to the semis where anything could happen? It’s a big ask.
It was a very big ask to expect the England women’s team to take on and beat the seemingly unstoppable USA team and they didn’t. But I saw most of this match and England played excellently for 30 minute, probably the better side and deserved to go in level at half time. Then the USA scored 3 goals in quick succession and despite a brave late push, England found themselves out of a Football World Cup at the QF stage. Sounds terribly familiar.
‘Tiger’ Tim (surely the least appropriate moniker in sport?) went out on a winning shot in the Davis Cup. Nice for the history books and the inevitable autobiography. A very good player but nowhere near one of the greats. Kind of hard for blokes to warm to him I always thought – he was just too neat and tidy, reserved and mannered. Very English maybe. But no passion. If he’d sworn loudly at Goranisevic that day and threatened to punch him it might have secured him the title he craved. The problem was Goran just wanted it more passionately. He was fighting for the Croat nation; Tim was doing it for Henman Hill. That’s us and sport I guess.
Now for the big one this afternoon. Man U v Chelsea. Ranieri and Mourinho both faced Sir Alex in their first matches as Chelsea managers. Now it’s Avram Grant’s turn. Except he’s not the manager apparently just the head coach, with no contract. I think we all know the reason why. If the guy is still in charge by Xmas I’ll be amazed. I think he’ll still be around – probably reinstated as Director of Football, whatever that means, as he’s one of Roman’s mates. But Hiddink (another RA mucker) will be in by then I reckon with England, dare I say it, and Croatia as almost certain qualifiers of Euro 2008. It’ll be nice to watch Kenyon squirm his way through that press conference as well, ‘It was always in our plans for Avram to be a short-term appointment’. Not quite what you said on Friday Peter but never mind, we’ve learned to take your statements with as much credibility as Alistair Campbell’s.
So what about a forecast for today’s match? Well Ranieri achieved a draw, Mourinho a streaky win, so it’s time for Chelsea to get a hammering. 3-0 to the Reds feels about right. Of course it could go horribly wrong – with Drogba scoring off his arse and dedicating his ‘strike’ through torrents of tears to his mentor the incomparable Jose. Please baby Jesus don’t let me have to suffer that.
ps I’ve realised there’s a lot more sport taking place today beyond my specific interest. Scotland are taking on the All Blacks with, apparently, a second string side for the Scots, with Hadden having half an eye on next week’s v Italy. Seems pragmatic but hardly fair on the Murrayfield faithful. Should be a close one …up until the 3rd minute. Also another interesting managerial match-up takes place with Little Sammy Lee facing Martin Jol, as Bolton take on Spurs, in a shoot-out for the next managerial casualty in the Premiership. How Jol can look his Chairman in the eye, having now witnessed him desperately trying to entice gorgeous Jose to the Lane last week, I just don’t know. It must be tempting to poke him one, but then he’d forego his pay-off, which is what it’s only about these days.