Yesterday was a little bit of a special day. You see I’m a big sports fan and yesterday afternoon I found myself watching the F1 GP qualifying sessions and between times catching up with England’s progress in the Test match v the W Indies. And then I checked into Sky’s Soccer Saturday and gorged on Jeff Stelling and the footie all afternoon. For the last 3 months we haven’t been able to do any of that of course and it felt decadent and good at the same time. Ah welcome back top level sport that we are pretty darn good at. Do you ever wonder what it must be like doing that if you’re say Scottish or Welsh? Ha! Cheap joke sorry. And not that funny. And a bit offensive. Sorry again. Well slightly amusing.
Well I see that the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is having talks today with football administrators and medical experts over the possibility of allowing top class English football to return next month behind closed doors and at neutral venues. Now nobody would be happier than me to see football’s return – so long as it is safe for all concerned. Indeed yesterday the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, was gushing about how the Premier League’s return could ‘lift the spirits of the nation’. Wow it only seems a few days since Matt Hancock publicly pilloried top flight footballers for their wealthy lifestyles and shaming them into making a bigger contribution towards the cost of the NHS (that is in addition to the heavy tax they pay on their massive earnings) which many were already doing privately. It makes you laugh doesn’t it. The Government targets easy scapegoats but with 30,000 covid-19 deaths already on their watch (the largest in any country bar the USA which does have 4 times our population) they are suddenly in need of those overpaid footballers to take the attention and the pressure off them. And people accuse me of being cynical. Pah
Well I thought it might be time for a change in subject matter and whilst I don’t want to alienate my many (ahem) female readers, I thought it was about time to talk sport.
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.
Well it’s been a great WC for a change hasn’t it? Alright England ran out of steam and composure in the end but their performance generally was as good as I’d wished for and predicted several weeks ago and my forecast of Harry Kane winning the Golden Boot looks likely to happen (unless Mbappe has a field day in the final, which he might). So as I’m clearly clairvoyant I thought I’d try a few more cheeky predictions:
– Messi to retire from international football properly this time
– Phil Jones never to play for England (and hopefully Man U) ever again
– Diego Maradona to shake the hand of God before the next WC qualifiers begin
– Gareth Southgate to be tempted by a serious offer of a job by Crystal Palace within the next 6 months but declines
– his assistant Steve Holland tempted by serious job offers from one of Southampton, Derby, Cardiff and Huddersfield within next 6 months and accepts only to leave a year later
– ManU to buy one player from each of today’s WC finalists France and Croatia but Jose Mourinho fails to get the best from them
– Paul Pogba to leave ManU
– Real Madrid to make a big name signing (ok not a stretch) but it’s not Neymar nor Mbappe then tempt THFC with a Bale/Modric double swap deal for Harry Kane/Delle Ali. Daniel Levy tempted but demands £60m too. RM Pres Perez chokes on his frittata
– Giroud to move on from Chelsea to …..who cares?
– Roberto Martinez to be sacked as Belgium manager and be replaced by Sam Allardyce (that last bit is just for fun)
– Alan Shearer to be named (and I’d never thought I’d find myself saying this) best pundit at the WC
– Russia to be judged as best WC hosts (and I’d never think I’d be saying that either)
There you go. Feel free to suggest your own
Well yesterday was a great day really. I headed in to London to see my old friend J who runs a very funky graphics design agency. We had a great meeting on how I might be able to help build awareness for him and his creative work now that I’ve sharpened up his online presence. All very exciting. En route to meeting up with him near Waterloo, I drove in to north London and parked up my car very close to where we used to live on Muswell Hill Rd. It was lovely to walk through Highgate Woods again on the way to Highgate underground station. Now you may not know it but because of the hilly terrain, the station was built in a deep cutting excavated beneath Highgate Hill. During the war, the deep-level platforms at Highgate were used by many as a shelter from the bombing of London by the Luftwaffe, and, later, V-1 and V-2 missiles. The entrance is a long way down. You can in fact get an up escalator to the surface from the booking hall but there’s only one way down via a steepish path. I’m not sure these pictures do it justice….
Interesting news coming out from the Engand training camp today. England captain Harry Kane admitted that the team do not really miss any of the training routines organised by previous England manager, Sam Allardyce. ‘Let’s face it he was a bit of a dinosaur’ said Kane and ‘the heading practice in particular wasn’t much liked, especially by the squad’s shorter players….’
Just a short update on my last posting. I see that whilst the FiFA members (or at least the Eurpoean contingent) recently vetoed the idea to expand the 2022 World Cup tournament to 48 teams, it has already been agreed to an expansion to 48 teams for the 2026 event, to be hosted across 3 countries – the USA, Canada and Mexico. That will mean an extra week will be required to cater for the increase in the number of matches from 64 to 80. It will also mean huge amounts of travelling for fans and teams alike. And how can you compare playing matches in the heat and atmosphere of Mexico City with the more temperate conditions in Edmonton, Canada? It’s ridiculous. And speaking of things ridiculous, that nitwit Blatter has been given a platform to pontificate in Russia and this morning he’s being quoted as saying that England should be awarded the 2030 World Cup (or at least he thinks it should be spread over the 4 countries of the UK and Ireland, if not the whole of the Commonwealth). A few thoughts:
a) the last thing we need is this twat backing our cause
b) what is this fascination with spreading tournaments far and wide? We have plenty of great stadia within England to host the events and guesss what – they aren’t venues that would normally host baseball, American football or rugby games and would need no adaptation (I’m sure they’ll have sorted out the London Stadium by then!). Travel links are good (I’m sure they’ll have sorted out the rail timetable fiasco by then!), we are highly effective at policing and stewarding and there’s tons of hotel accommodation and places to eat, drink and visit. Jeez we hosted the Olympic Games in and around London and they were outstanding.
c) the 2026 hosting arrangements would mean that since England (generally acknowledged as the nation which set the rules of Association Football and its spiritual home) hosted the WC event in 1966, Mexico will have hosted it no less than 3 times and Amercia twice. Before we get the sniff of hosting it again. I don’t care what you say, both those countries have no greater right to host it than England.
d) I’d like to think that my grandson will be at his footballing peak at around 2030 and should we get awarded it, then I can visualise him receiving that World Cup trophy from King William as the winning captain, following in the footsteps of my hero Sir Bobby Moore. That would be a wonderful book-end to my life-long love affair with the game. If only I could be around to see it eh…