Well I have a confession. Up until very recently I’ve never really enjoyed watching women’s football. It just lacks the intensity of the men’s game to my liking – be it the physicality, skill level, pace, passion etc. However I’ve been watching the current World Cup matches on tv and I’ve really, really enjoyed it. Particularly the England matches of course. Last night the Lionesses reached the semi-finals by beating a very good Norway side 3-0 and it was a super game to watch. Maybe I’m missing the men’s game a bit but there’s no denying it was for a a compelling match. In fact all the England matches have been and I’m clearly not alone in thinking that. The last two games have seen tv audiences of 6.1m for the win against Scotland and then 6.9m for the Cameroon match – both record numbers. I haven’t seen the figures for last night’s match yet but I’m sure they’ll have smashed those figures again.
One of the things that has pleased me a lot is seeing what a good job the coach Phil Neville seems be making of management. His gobby brother Gary was always regarded as being the more likely of the former Man United pair to make it into top line management but he failed miserably as assistant in the England job (we went out of the World Cup losing to the mighty Iceland) and at Valencia where he was unceremoniously sacked after just 16 games after collecting a mighty haul of 14 points. My aunty Betty could have done better.
Anyway apart from unfortunate genes the other reason why I never imagined Phil would have strong management skills in him is that he is a dufus to be honest. He once agreed to a journalist coming to his home to do an interview and when the journo politely said ‘coffee please’ in response to Phil asking if she would like a drink, he had to sneak into the kitchen and call his wife, who was out shopping, to ask how you made coffee. He’d never made a cup of tea nor coffee in his life before. Nor did he know how to use any kitchen appliance. It’s absolutely true. And it makes you wonder how the FA gets round to deciding that people like him would be the most appropriate choice to lead an England team. Mind you the last guy was a bully, racist and misogynist so at least it’s a step in the right direction, and quite possibly an inspired choice.
Never mind. I’ve actually warmed to old Phil a lot. He’s had himself an Albert Steptoe kind of haircut but it sort of suits him and a smile is never from his face. And he seems to be instilling a sense of fun and real comradeship within the team. Plus he’s very quick to defend his players such as when he expressed real concern for the safety and well-being after the very physical against against Cameroon. And in his interview following last night’s victory he praised everyone, and with a bit of nice self-deprecation about his own skills as a full-back, said that England right back Lucy Bronze was probably now the best player in the world. Wow. Praise indeed. Mind you if she can score goals like the third last night she could well be. If you haven’t seen it enjoy the goal and the other highlights from last night’s match. That World Cup couldn’t be coming home courtesy of the Lionesses could it…?