A blog by Patrick Crozier

Football

November 20, 2004

Everton better off without Rooney
Patrick Crozier

Yup, the Fink Tanker has done the sums and there can now be no doubt.

June 28, 2004

Musings on Euro 2004
Patrick Crozier

Is international football becoming a young man's game (so to speak)?

Look who the stars have been: Rooney, Ronaldo, that bloke from Switzerland who swiped Rooney's youngest scorer record. Look who's underperformed: Beckham, Figo, Owen. OK, maybe at 24 Owen is not that old but, still, he was better at 18.

I hate England fans

Well, not myself, of course, (that would be self-loathing) but are there any other bunch of fans who so routinely chant: "if it wasn't for the English you'd be Krauts." or boo other people's national anthems? I cringe at things like this. And if we are such a bunch of bores how come we are so economically successful?

What is to be done?

I think if I were an England player I would play for the opposition, or refuse to play at all. But I'm not in that position. Support someone else? I have thought of founding the English Germany Supporters Association - just to make the point. Though that would be hard - especially if the two teams just so happened to meet. And, anyway, isn't that tarring a lot of people with the same brush? For every moronic England fan there's the perfectly decent, respecter of other cultures, good egg who just happens to be rather quiet about it all.

How to experience penalty shoot outs.

First of all, accept that this has nothing to do with football.

Turn off the TV

Get your coat

Go for a walk

Listen in. That night (on a quiet residential street) I heard: "Fucking hell Beckham". I heard one or two cheers and then silence. No one was coming out on to the street to celebrate. This didn't look good. But I did hear some loud cheering from one household - the one with the Portuguese flag in the window. And then cars started to drive by. No great cheering there either. By then I knew we'd lost.

Don't blame the ref

On the train the other night a perfectly ordinary ie sober chap started up a conversation with me about the game. "Bloody ref" or something.

I don't know how many people were watching the Denmark-Czechland game. Urs Meier (the referee for England) was the fourth official. And every time he did anything (which for a fourth official isn't much) he got booed. Work that one out.

Frankly, if you can't accept that referees make mistakes (and I have no great opinion here) then you have no business playing, participating in or even watching the sport.

And anyway, I think Portugal also had a pretty good shout for a goal. When Ashley Cole (I think) kicked the ball off the line... well, let's put it this way: I don't think it was any longer on the line.

Looking on the bright side

We are the only team to have made it to the quarter finals of both Euro 2004 and the most recent World Cup.

And the boys did get back into the game. Lampard's goal was one of the greatest ever. They were knackered. In Rooney, they had lost their best player. They had been defending non-stop for 110 minutes. They had seen their game plan (of defending a 1-0 lead) crumble as the Portuguese reversed the deficit. And yet, they still created the chance and Lampard had the presence of mind to coolly control the ball prior to putting it in the back of the net. It is a fantastic testament to the sheer grit of that team.

They managed to put away four out of five penalties.

Looking on the gloomy side

That was our best chance. Beckham, Owen, Gerrard, Rooney, Campbell, Neville, Cole. Great players. Some of whom are starting to age. And we had Eriksson who has worked wonders. If not this year then never. Or, maybe, I'm just getting old.

The England mystery

Some of the less emotional observers are spinning this line:

England lost because they were tired.

They were tired because they spent the whole time defending

They spent the whole time defending because they couldn't keep hold of the ball.

Ergo (though no-one ever says this) if they learn to hold the ball they'll start to win things.

(Incidentally, I do have some sympathy with the players. During the Portugal game, whenever and England player did get the ball, I did find myself asking what I would have done with it. The answer was almost invariably hoof it up the pitch - there was no other alternative.)

Question: can they hold the ball? They don't seem to be able to. This has been the exact same problem again and again for England - especially in recent years. But that's just when wearing an England shirt. Can they hold the ball when playing for their clubs? I don't know. If the answer's "no" there then we've got no chance. In which case...

Why worry?

If England can't win under any circumstances isn't this a rather good thing? Instead of sending teams to international tournaments weighed down with a nation's expectations, instead we can send teams whose only ambition is to enjoy themselves. And perhaps, we would then stand a better chance. Jack Charlton used to tell his Irish team to go out there and enjoy themselves. And look at the results he achieved. Maybe, this could be a sneaky way of actually winning something a la Denmark in 1992. Or perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself there.

June 18, 2004

Is the European Championship the world's greatest sporting tournament?
Patrick Crozier

Now, if that doesn't raise a few hackles then I don't know what will. But I think there is a case.

The Olympics is absurd. Drug-riven, bloated, boring and possessing far too many idiotic events. Is a gold in the women's modern pentathlon really equivalent to a gold in the men's 100m?

The World Cup is also well on its way to absurdity. There are too many teams. That means it takes too long and also, that the draw gets buggered up. In 2002 the most important game ended up taking place at the quarter final stage. The only good tournaments take place in Europe. Anywhere else and it's simply too hot.

By contrast the European Championship is short, compact, of a higher quality and produces better sporting drama.

But are there, perhaps, a few tournaments that I have been neglecting? I think we can rule out the Rugby World Cup immediately. Countries in which rugby is the No.1 sport: 1. New Zealand; 2. Er, that's it. The list where it is the No.2 sport is probably just as short.

I think North American readers will accept that the sheer parochialness of the World Series, Stanley Cup and SuperBowl rules them out of contention.

But what about the Cricket World Cup? International. A big deal in some really important countries. Maybe, just maybe…

England 3 Switzerland 0
Patrick Crozier

"Good result, poor performance". I've heard that a few times over the last day or so.

But…

Has anyone considered the possibility that England actually played really rather well?

Look at the facts:

a) we won
b) Switzerland didn't really look like scoring

"But what about possession? Look how we kept on giving the ball away." The assumption being that possession makes prizes. But is this true?

After all, who needs possession? Possession is nothing without penetration. And England are brilliant at penetration. In Gerrard and Beckham they have two of the best passers of the ball anywhere and in Owen and Rooney they have two players who can run the legs of almost any defence.

When they played Greece, Portugal had bags of possession. But to what effect?

I would even go so far as to suggest that giving the opposition the ball is a plus point for England. France had lots of the ball against us. What happened? For most of the game they achieved nothing and we came as close as you can to going two up. Ditto Switzerland. Ditto Germany (as far as I can remember).

I think Eriksson has worked this out. He has realised that as an international manager he can't work on players' skills and there's not much he can do about their teamwork either. All he can do is take what he is given, keep the guys fit and give them some self-belief. And encourage them to play the game they know. If that happens to be the long-ball game then so be it.

The France result may well be a blessing in disguise. I think it plays brilliantly into Eriksson's hands. Everyone has now seen England beaten. And everyone knows that beaten teams don't win tournaments, er, except Germany in 1974, Argentina in 1978, Holland in 1988 and Denmark in 1992.

And anyway if England weren't convincing who were? France? They could have lost both games. Italy? Oh my God. Holland? Sheesh. The only two teams who have looked good so far are Germany and Greece - neither of which are going to win the tournament (please).

June 08, 2004

England's Dream Team
Patrick Crozier

On Saturday night Channel 4 announced the results of its nationwide poll to find out the all-time top England eleven, or Dream Team, as they put it. This is it:

dreamteam.gif

Ramsey managing.

First observation: only one player from before 1966. I suppose that's the influence of TV. If you weren't on TV, or that TV wasn't much cop (as it wasn't before colour and other advances) you don't count. The fact that Finney made it all is amazing. Ballot stuffing, anyone?

Gazza. NOOOOO. Sure, he had his moments but precious few after 1991. Bryan Robson would have been a far better choice.

Psycho at left back? Another one of those people's choices. The alternatives were Ashley Cole (too young) and Kenny Sansom. Remember him? Precisely. You don't. Why not? Because no one ever got past him. He should have been there.

Shearer. I tend to rate my strikers on the basis of magic moments. The problem is that Shearer didn't supply enough of them. Not like "when Lineker scored" or Owen against Argentina, Germany and Brazil.

Ramsey? The real problem was that we weren't offered either Sven or Taylor. Why not one has to ask? Sven has already been ridiculously successful. If he manages to get us into the second round in Euro 2004 he should be knighted. The absence of Taylor, the man who despite wrestling with an almost complete lack of talent masterminded England's most successful Euro campaign, is simply bizarre. Without those two we were left with Robson (who managed to lose all three games at Euro 88) and someone else whose name I have forgotten.

February 13, 2004

Do we need the offside law?
Patrick Crozier

In (at least) one edition of the The Fast Show a football-enthusiast at a dinner party is invited to explain the offside rule. Within a few seconds he has descended into gibbering incoherence mumbling words and phrases like: "interfering", "defenders" and "played back".

Not only is the offside rule fiendishly complicated (it has only recently become even more so) but it is also fiendishly difficult to enforce. Referees and linesmen are constantly getting it wrong; with all the usual consequences to the blood pressure of all concerned.

Which makes me wonder. Why don't we just scrap the rule altogether? "Because it's there to stop goal-hanging." To which my reply might be what do you mean by goal hanging, is goal hanging really the thing that is meant to be being stopped, how bad is goal hanging and is goal hanging really worse than the situation we have at present?

Let's just imagine for a moment that the offside rule was scrapped. OK, first up Thierry Henry charges upfield. But then Brown, Silvestre and the Nevilles just retreat to cover the threat. The only real difference is that the midfield is opened up making it a more open and attacking game.

That's one possibility. In reality I have no idea what would happen but surely it's worth a try. Which begs the question: how would you try it out? I really can't imagine the Premier League trialling it out for a year - it would take ages for teams to work out how to "play" the new rule creating enormous uncertainty and it would be difficult for teams used to no offside to play in Europe and other competitions where, presumably, the rule would still be enforced.

February 09, 2004

This is an interesting table
Patrick Crozier

Here. It's a league table of First (ie Second) Division clubs ranked by average attendance. Readers will on the one hand be disappointed to see that the mighty Watford are somewhat underperforming but on the other hand pleasantly surprised to see that we actually get more people coming to our matches than Coventry.

February 02, 2004

Croziervision quote of the day
Patrick Crozier
MacLeod, at a press conference, saw a mongrel dog approach: "I think he is the only friend I have got left," he said, stretching out a hand. The dog bit him.

Things go from bad to worse in the Argentinve. From the obituary of former Scotland manager, Ally McLeod.

January 03, 2004

Are you ready for the pain?
Patrick Crozier

When David Carr, of Samizdata fame, sent me an e-mail (text-in-full quoted above) this afternoon he must have felt confident. The title of said e-mail was "Watford v. Chlesea" a reference to the encounter today between debt ridden, relegation-threatened, Division One Watford Football Club (of which I am a fully unpaid up fairweather supporter) and billionaire-bankrolled, all-star, Euro-rolling Chelsea Football Club (of which he is a fully paid up, soul sold, my-life-is-the-result, season ticket holder).

In light of these facts I am sure David will forgive me a brief period of gloating:

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahahahaha

Hahahahaha

Ha

November 24, 2003

Arsenal's disciplinary record
Patrick Crozier

I had often wondered whether oft-repeated remarks like: "Arsenal have had X number [where X is a big number] of red cards since Arsene Wenger took over." were a statement of truth or just a sign of sour grapes but the truth comes to us via the Times. In terms of games per red card, Arsenal do indeed have a bad record, one far, far worse than any other side in the Premiership.

October 19, 2003

3 points for a win
Patrick Crozier

Readers of a certain age will remember the bad old days when a game of football offered the winners only a miserly 2 points. How much better it must be now that it 3 points for a win? How many more games now see a result where once they would have only seen a dreary old draw? How many more goals scored in front of an audience of millions since the changeover in 1981-2?

How many indeed? Here's a table:

English top division
SeasonGamesDraws%GoalsGoals/Game
1980-146211825.512282.7
1981-246212126.211732.5
2001-238010126.610012.6
 
  Uh oh, that isn't right.
 
June 20, 2003

The Beckham move
Patrick Crozier

So David Beckham has finally packed his bags and left Manchester United for Real Madrid. For many of us, this has long seemed inevitable. David Beckham is a talented player and while there must be many compensations in plying his trade in the undemanding backwater of Old Trafford it could never be long before he would yearn to be playing at the highest level.

While Man United fans will quite legitimately mourn his loss they can hold their heads up high reminding themselves that it was their team that provided the stepping stone for Beckham as he prepared for the crowning glory of his career.

I remember what it was like when John Barnes left Watford for Liverpool.

May 24, 2003

Glasgow giants deserve more than playing in two-team league
Patrick Crozier

Paul Hayward in the Telegraph. Isn't it interesting that as British political institutions are splitting apart it's footballing institutions are coming closer together. Now, why would that be?

April 08, 2003

Real Madrid v Manchester United
Patrick Crozier

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Minister of Information of the Republic of Iraq has taken time out of his busy schedule to issue the following communiqué:

Manchester United Football Club, the people of Iraq salute you as brothers. We are all aware that as you take the field tonight things may not, at first glance, look all that good:

For instance, people say that you face overwhelming odds.

People say your attack is non-existent and your defence suicidal.

People say that you are led by by a megalomaniac who will not tolerate failure and who rules by fear, violence and the threat of violence.

People say your strategy is out of date and your tactics naive.

People say that you enemy is smarter and better-equipped.

People say that your enemy will be able to strike deep into the heart of your territory at will and without warning.

People say that your only hope is to abandon all the traditional rules of engagement.

People say your days are numbered.

They said the same about us.

But look who's laughing now as our glorious forces prepare to sweep the enemy from Southern Iraq, Northern Iraq, Baghdad Airport, the building across the road.

So, I say to you, Red Devils, take heart from our example. Truly, your struggle is our struggle.

August 18, 2002

Keane in big trub
Patrick Crozier

Not satisfied with making an arse of himself in print (see The Captain), World Cup refusenik, Roy Keane has now made an arse of himself on live radio. According to James Haney: "Popular radio host Eamon Dunphy managed to get soccer star Roy Keane to say things on the air that could land him in jail."

Keane's next book ought to be called "How to lose friends and alienate people".