Back in the day (which means more than 5 years ago) I rubbed shoulders with the likes of Sven Goran Ericsson, Steve McLaren and Stuart Pearce as a manager of our national teams. Whilst they got luxury travel, five star hotels and a pool of the “golden generation” to choose their teams from, my experience was slightly different.
In 2005 I was appointed player/manager of the England Fans Senior team, the high point in my otherwise low level playing career in the various leagues up and down North Kent and Middlesex. England Fans are the official supporters group controlled (and I use that word correctly) by the FA. Unless you were a member, obtaining tickets for major tournaments and away games was very very difficult. That all changed in 2008 when we failed to qualify for Euro2008 and hundreds of members simply had enough of the way they were treated by the FA and didn’t rejoin.
I held the role for 3 years, overseeing spectacular defeats in Croatia, Belarus and Estonia, and only missing one away game which coincided with our first win (in Israel). It was a bit of a pain to be truthful carrying shin pads to such exotic locations, and even harder to explain to the security on the turnstiles why you would have a pair of size nines and some vaseline in your bag.
But the highlight of my time is still the trip to Macedonia where I think our importance and status was someone lost in translation. We were given a police escort through the streets of Skopje to a top league game where a crowd of a few hundred (higher than average for the top level in Macedonia) and TV cameras awaited our arrival.
For the first time, footage of the game has been released. It’s not pretty, especially when a 40 year old 22 stone opposition player runs rings around your defence but makes a perfect stocking filler for Christmas.
Manchester United vs. Real Sociedad – Champions League – Venue: my couch by Luge Pravda
Anyone who knows me well enough will know I am able to watch more live football on the weekend than I was ever able to back in the UK (thanks to no Saturday 3pm embargo; and now new US rights owner, NBC, showing every one of those 3pm game on what Americans like to call TV ‘real estate’). One casualty though has often been the Champions League ties, being as they are in midweek and in slap bang in an Eastern seaboard afternoon. Of course, for many ties there was a purely coincidental increase in ‘business meetings’ in my calendar at around 3pm Eastern Standard time, 8pm back at home: meetings between myself, a pint or two and a TV screen at the local soccer showing bar in Lower Manhattan. The best kind of business meetings if you ask me. However, as I am currently on a sabbatical I have no such worries about work inconveniently getting in the way of an afternoon European tie. At least not for the time being. Perhaps in the knowledge I would be watching the match in full, Stuart asked me if I would like to write a review of the match and who was I to turn down another slice of The Ball is Round.
First things first, I liked the look of the team the team: Jones getting a chance at center back; a chance for Kagawa, and to a lesser extent Hernandez to show what they are capable of (Chicharito could well score a hat trick but he ain’t going to usurp RVP when the latter is fit, let’s face it); and Giggs in midfield. Moyes must have expected less of an emphasis on protecting the back four – and for periods of the match this was the case – but Fellaini, who has looked off the pace and prone to wayward passes in recent weeks, must have been a tad disappointed. On the subject of Kagawa, there appears to be a ‘movement’, a body of fans railing against the club, or more accurately Moyes, for his exclusion. To those people I say this: do you see him every day in training? Moyes clearly sees something; or maybe he is simply not fully fit. And you know what Klopp, you can keep your opinion on you ex player to yourself too. Thanks.
United flew out of the traps: the first move of the match results in a goal: a wonderful snaky wriggly run from my favorite player – Rooney (despite everything that has happened or not depending on who you believe) – before the pinball confusion in the box results in an own goal from Martinez. And while I am on the subject, can we all refrain from referring to Rooney as ‘rejuvenated’ now please? I think it is fair to say that Moyes’ greatest achievement to date (sorry Community Shield apologists) is the form of the Utd number 10. Headband or no headband. But rejuvenated? Come on he never became a bad player, he just seemed disinterested at the fag-end of Sir Alex’s reign.
The atmosphere in the early minutes seemed a world away from that which descended over Old Trafford for the Southampton draw. This has something to do with the ‘singing section’ so I am told on Twitter. I would be keen to know exactly what constitutes this section and how it differs from the rest of the ground, because I genuinely don’t know. And, perhaps as a result, Sociedad seemed genuinely shaken. This bodes well for a good performance from the home team I say to myself. Continue reading
How much is too much to watch a football game? I know people who have paid hundreds of pounds to watch Cup Finals and World Cup matches, but would you pay four times the average ticket price just to watch a friendly? This was certainly the question being asked on the South Coast a few weeks ago when AFC Bournemouth shocked the footballing world by announcing they had secured a friendly against the mighty Real Madrid. Shock soon turned to disbelief when it was announced tickets would cost £60 for General Admission. £60 to watch a friendly??? Even Chelsea wouldn’t have the cheek to charge this!
But it seems the Cherries had done their Economics homework in terms of supply and demand as this week the final tickets went on sale and were snapped up within hours. Every one of the 10,783 tickets had been sold. Instead of running out against Woking next weekend, Eddie Howe’s first XI will be lining up against Ronaldo and Kaka at Dean Court whilst the Directors will be counting their £600-odd thousand pounds of takings. Who has egg on their face now?
But first up they had a small matter of a visit from West Ham. I’m sure if tickets for this game were £60 each then it too would have been a sell out, but a £10 price tag obviously put your discerning Hammers fan off who only buy high price tag items now such as Andy Carroll and the Olympic Stadium. But I wasn’t complaining. After all I was getting a chance to take the Fuller family to the English sea-side as well as see the game.
Football fever has gripped Bournemouth ever since they won promotion back in April. In one short season they would be going from taking a few dozen to Hartlepool United and Tranmere Rovers, to welcoming the likes of FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic, Reading and Leeds United. And of course there would be the return of Bournemouth’s favourite loveable East End rogue, ‘Appy ‘Arry as he brings his QPR team down the A27, stopping off no doubt for tea and biscuits at one of his Sandbanks residences. Continue reading
As I am in Paris today, a topical article about the City’s most famous temporary resident at the moment. Roy Larking takes a look at the boys-own career of one of England’s finest ever modern day players.
David Beckham. Not many names in the world of football evoke more mixed emotions, whether it’s love or hate, than the new main man of the moment in France’s Ligue 1. Beckham first signed with Manchester United as a 17 year old, where he played from 1993 to 2003 and registered 61 goals in 265 appearances.
After wearing out his welcome with the Manchester club, Beckham’s next move would spark controversy. With word spreading that Becks would be sold to Barcelona in 2003, Beckham shocked the football world when he signed a four year contract for €35 million with then reigning Spanish Champions Real Madrid. Beckham scored 13 goals in 116 appearances with the team in Madrid before he was on the move again.
Perhaps the most daring decision of his career, Beckham skipped out of Europe all together when he took his talents to North America. As the most recognized face in football, Beckham signed a 5-year base contract worth $32.5 million and joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Major Soccer League. During his stay in the MLS (98 Apps and 16 Gls) Beckham spent part of his Galaxy career on loan to Milan – a move that did not sit well with many fans in Los Angeles.
Beckham’s career has gone full circle now as he returned to Europe and signed on with the Paris St-Germain club where he played six matches in 2013. Always full of surprises, Beckham announced he would donate his entire salary during his time in Paris to a local children’s charity. While it’s a generous gesture, as the David Beckham Info-Graphic shows, the Beckham family won’t be starving anytime soon.
The win against Brazil on Wednesday night had the country falling back into the Olympic spirit but was everyone happy? Our resident Daggers Diary team headed up to Wembley to test the mood of the nation.
Last July, I gave up my membership of England fans. After six years, and having attended a decent number of games in that time, I figured that I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to Brazil for the world cup, and so I gave it all up.
So of course my exile lasted all of one game, before I gave in and attended the qualifying game against San Marino last October. While it was great going again, the one thing I didn’t relish was the queue to get back to wembley park station after the game. That has always been the one part of the experience that I wish could be changed. Sadly, it still seems to be the same even though the stadium is so much better than its historic predecessor.
I suppose the one thing I miss is the opportunity to go to away games, which were always good fun. But in the end, finances won, and I am a home England fan only. So obviously, I am back tonight, in the cold for the start of the 150th anniversary celebrations for the oldest football association in the world.
The visit of Brazil always brings memories of the great teams of the past, notably the 1958 world champions and the 1970 side which is still regarded by many as the finest national team ever. It also brings the obligatory shots of the Copacabana beach, as well as various carnival images and the cameraman trying to find the most attractive female Brazil fans in the crowd.
There have been a couple of other stories surrounding the game. The first is the approaching 100th England appearance of Ashley Cole. Probably not the most universally popular player ever to play for England, Cole has been good enough to become only the seventh player to get to the landmark century of caps. The performances have been highly consistent and (if you can get past the tabloid headlines about various bits of his personal and professional life), it certainly marks him out as one of the finest left back in our long history. It’s also arguable that a lack of decent competition has helped, but even so, you don’t get to 100 caps by only being average. Continue reading