The Brave & Broken Hearted!

Wednesday 10th June 1998

What were you doing on the day above? I know exactly what I was doing. My little brother had just turned 4 a few days prior. After the birthday cake had been devoured & balloons deflated (or burst) it was time to look forward to the World Cup.

This would be my first, the first one I could recollect game by game. The first I would know exactly what was happening. I knew the players, the teams & the stadiums. Attracted by the kits, boots & balls. All now retro novelties worth a small fortune! I was obsessed by it all, caught up – all starry eyed & full of hope!

USA 94, was a vague memory – diluted by misty waters at the back of my head. I was 6 years old at the time – the stand out being Brazil winning on penalties as Italy’s Roberto Baggio launched his penalty towards the clear blue sky.

Euro 96 I will always remember, more so for Gazza’s genius against who else – Scotland! Then came Super Ally’s wonder strike with the outside of the boot into the top corner v Switzerland! Two stick out moments for me in that tournament.

So back to Wednesday 10th June, I was eagerly anticipating the first game of the World Cup. So much so that I think I may have bolted out the class room in excitement before the bell finally rang. In my mind I was like the Flash, leaving a wake of paper in a whirlwind as I took towards the door. Racing out the gates I dodged a few parents, dogs, cars & walls. A lung bursting run across the road, I knew the hill was coming but I took it in my stride. Head down I darted across the park, no time to hang about today lads – the game is on!

Past the shops I burst through the front door like a mad man, bag dumped at my arse, jacket in a heap – I reached for my football top & trackies. I was ready, in the melee of dancing through people I forgot about my mate, he wasn’t blessed with the pace & dancing feet that I had. He was a bit of a juggernaut so I imagine he left a few people on their bum on the way down the road. Finally – peering in anticipation he appeared.

All red faced & wide eyed he gave me the shout, again I wasn’t hanging about – I met him at the bottom of the stairs. We had approximately two minutes to make a decision on where we would watch the game. His house or mine, no pubs back then – we were 10 years of age.

Usually we would be seen strutting about on the field, kitted out for the kick about ahead but that could come later. We were about to watch the Mighty Scotland v the Boys from Brazil. We quickly decided on his, I grabbed some munchies & juice – there was no time to waste. I perched my derriere on the couch talking to his mum as I waited on him getting changed. The opening ceremony had just started, both of us shouting on him as he wrestled with his jumper. It’s bloody gorgeous outside and he’s wearing a jumper – still red faced from his 200 yard dash home from school.

For the next hour and a half we sat in silence – only cheering when John Collin’s, vintage predators and all stroked that ball into the bottom corner. We got beat 2-1, Tom Boyd scored an OG. I was fuming! 10 years old & fuming that Boyd scored that OG. For weeks I couldn’t understand why we came home early – a draw with Norway & defeat to Morocco. Heartbroken & fuming! It’s no secret I took it to heart.

The rest of my mates decided that they would support other teams, France, Holland & of course Brazil. I took to supporting the individuals – Ronaldo, Zidane, Del Piero, Denilson, De Boer, Veron, Ortega. I could go on forever.

I think it might have been round about this time I gave up the ghost with International Football, 10 years old & I had lost the romance that Scotland had to offer. Now more than ever I would support my club, Rangers.

For years I have stuck by my guns & shut out International football. It was too slow for me, no entertainment what so ever. Don’t get me wrong as I said above, I kept an eye on the Individuals & the Beautiful Argentina. The colours of the kit, the class they possessed as individuals & the man-like GOD that is Riquelme.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that I switched on Sky Sports last Sunday & actually watched Scotland. Fearful when we conceded – I’m not going to lie about that but we done better second half & walked away from a potential banana skin with a 5-1 victory. Good start – well done lads.

The best things about the night was the return & performance from Robert Snodgrass. I was delighted for him. What a bloody tough time of it he’s had these last few season’s with injury. Great hunger, desire & let’s not forget he’s a talented lad. The boy from the East End of Glasgow was the shinning light, he gave me a bit of hope – he persuaded me not to reach for the remote to change the channel. Before his injury I enjoyed watching him and in some way missed him when he wasn’t playing. A real character.

We don’t have a World Class player to grab our nation or a game by the scruff of the neck & carry us through qualifications & tournaments, but we don’t need one. Some of our neighbours can vouch for that. I truly believe that if we were to keep Snoddy fit we are in with a fighting chance. Of course he can’t do it all by himself & if we get the right mix in the squad then we might just do it.

As I said I’m delighted he’s back in the game. Robert Snodgrass you beautiful hairy bastard!

So here’s to you big fella for giving this 28 year old a bit of hope. I’m not saying I’m going to jump on the bandwagon when things are going well & then take a nose dive straight off again when it hits the fan but you know what? I’m going to get behind the team & support them but lads – just don’t break my heart again!

 

 

 

 

 

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Mr Analysis to Mr Manager

You’ve got to admit that we have had it good in the last few years when it comes to the punditry on Monday Night Football. Spoiled by the analytical guru that is Gary Neville. Who would have though the ex Manchester United full back would be captivating when talking about the beautiful game?! The show just won’t be the same without him, I have no issues with Ed Chamberlain or Jamie Carragher but lets be honest they are no Gary Neville.

I’m a fan of Neville’s, I wouldn’t be writing this post otherwise. Why? Because he talks sense, there isn’t many people who do when it comes to football. They just want to get on their soapbox for a few hours. He speaks his mind which doesn’t happen that often in football, people can often seem frightened to do so. His views, opinions and philosophies are always backed up with stats and facts..you can’t argue with them.

In a way you could say he has been revolutionary for the coaches of the world. I can’t imagine too many people or coaches who dislike him, it would be hard to disagree with him that’s for sure. Speaking of coaching – it is that he is going to Valencia for, I don’t think I would tire of watching his sessions.

There is no doubt it will be a massive loss for Sky they are going to find it very hard to find someone who can provide the in depth analysis of games, players and situations the way he did. I’m not sure of the ins and outs of the deal but surely he can’t be leaving his post at England? I don’t imagine them even entertaining his departure.

It’s funny when you read some of the comments on social media, it’s a little hystercial to say the least. Here he is in his first job as a head coach/manager and people are touting him for the throne at Old Trafford. Lets settle down a little and see how he does in Spain.

I’ve also seen comments about him having an impossible task..really??

That couldn’t be further from the truth, we are only 13 games into their league campaign. Yes they aren’t sitting pretty in the top four but in reality they are 9 points off Celta Vigo. That’s not impossible! Time is on his side, its just a matter of getting his team to play to the standard they can.

Of course Champions League Football is a must for next season and he has been tasked with that. Yes, he has a job on his hands and fair play to him leaving the comfort of a studio to go and get his hands dirty. I believe he will get them back on the right track..one that leads to European Football.

So far they have 19 points and a goal difference of 7. Shutting the back door would be a good start – 10 goals in 13 games isn’t great. Opening the front door would also be a delight, goals have been hard to come by. You’d imagine both issues will be his top priorities. He will also look to get them back to playing some exciting football but lets not forget they are a youthful squad who aren’t doing too bad.

They way things are put out there you would be forgiven for thinking they are in the relegation zone.

He more than anyone will know that in La Liga anyone can beat anyone and that includes Barcelona & Real Madrid. I’m looking forward to his new venture and hope he does well even if that does mean giving Monday Night Football a miss.

Craig

 

 

 

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So Let Me Tell You Something…A Diamond in the Rough

This will be the fourth and final part of my mini series, So Let Me Tell You Something. I’ve enjoyed writing the short posts, maybe we can come back for a second series? You never know!

The planning and prep is going well for the podcast, exciting guests from all walks of life have signed up for the first few episodes. After that we can decide if it continues, it will be free, no cost attached. We are looking at the first being available in 10-14 days time and let me tell you I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Speaking of which I became embroiled in a chat with a soon to be guest about some of the up and coming talent in World Football. There were a few others involved as we spoke over hot cups of tea and soft sponge cake. Can’t beat a bit of sponge cake, milk and two please. There was one name in particular who came up on many occasions, none of us could see a reason why not to speak about him.

I don’t like to tag anyone with “the next…” I tend to let them be their own player. Not that my opinion will count but I don’t like the idea of a player who is the next Ronaldo and so on. That’s just silly. It doesn’t seem right, its pressure on the player, unwanted pressure that isn’t needed. We need to stop comparing and start appreciating players for what they bring to the game. We are searching for something that isn’t there. You’ll be disappointed in what you do find, trust me. I’ll put it to the old firm fans, have you ever seen the new Henrik Larsson or Brian Laudrup? I’m confident I know the answer to that one.

Anyway, the player we spoke about is current England International Ross Barkley. He’s a player who has all the tools to make it to the top, hawk eye vision, feet riddled in magic, a goal scorer (one of spectacular efforts) not to mention the physique and athleticism to top it off. For the tools he possesses I’d love to seem him use his creativity and imagination to provide more assists on a consistent basis. On top of that a few more goals to his game wouldn’t do him or Everton any harm.

With that being said, I would have to say Barkley is a Diamond in the rough, a diamond that needs to be caressed, he needs to be loved. He needs to be taken care of and I think Martinez may be the right man. First of all he needs time to mould into the player that everyone has hopes for, there is no point in rushing his development, that will only hinder the him. Secondly – he has to play, there is no point in having a player of that ability and have them warming the bench, if fit get him in the team. Players of that nature have to play, in time they can become match winners. Just don’t pin all of your hopes on him yet though, he is still very young.

His size and stature allow him to power past players when on the move, he isn’t all hustle and bustle though. He has an elegance about his play, two footed – he can provide touches of magic, dancing his way through opponents, threading killer passes in behind the tightest of defenses. He plays with no fear – he has no issue with committing defenders and skipping past them. We haven’t seen a player like that in some time, we have plenty of players who can pass side to side, continually recycling the ball but where are the ones who want to excite us, the ones who can make you sit on the edge of your seat, the ones who can spark your team into life with a touch of magic. I’m pretty sure you will find one at Goodison.

I said that Roberto Martinez may be key in Barkley’s development and I meant it. He needs a manager who is going to take care of him, put an arm round him as well as nurture and appreciate his talent. He needs someone who will keep him level headed. Money and interest providing a big problem – money in football these days is sickening, sure it’s great if you can get it and all the credit to you if you do. It is bad news though if you want to keep away the vultures of world football who want what you have, most times they are impatient and want it now. It would be hard for anyone not to get carried away never mind Ross Barkley.

At International level he has been one of England’s shinning lights, why? Because he is willing to do what I’ve said above, he’s exciting. Football is all about show business these days, in a way it always has been. I’ve had the chance to see some fantastic footballers and hope that continues. Ross Barkley is next in line, hes the one who I can see keeping us entertained for years to come.

Can we unearth some more diamonds please? Yes coaches, I’m looking at you.

My one gripe would be that who ever his manager is in the future at International level they are brave enough to stick him in that number 10 position and allow him to roam free. Surround him with right players who will compliment his style of play, allow him to be creative, he is intelligent enough, his game intelligence will improve as he plays but as far as I’m concerned he is the man you begin to build your squad around for future campaigns. Don’t burn him out, don’t waste him, just allow him to play Football. Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s not often we get to see a player like this so lets appreciate him, before we churn out another 100 over priced “average” players.

Hopefully next time you will be hearing my mumbling tones along with some pretty cool people.

CJ

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World Cup Fever – Win or Go Home!

I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m not mad on international football. At times I can find it pretty lackluster and boring.

Although this years tournament has filled a void, I wouldn’t say I’m a full on believer just yet.

I’ve never lasted a whole tournament when it comes to the Euros or the World Cup on TV. I don’t really buy into all the hype surrounding it as international games are just not my cup of tea.

Don’t get me wrong since I was a kid I’ve loved watching great players play, club or country but I find that now these players flourish more with their clubs than they do on a national level. Their team mates at club level know their strengths and play to them.

Sometimes you find yourself wanting more from the players you love and more often than not they disappoint.

This campaign has been nothing short of exciting and it’s been great to watch but again I very rarely find myself tuned in for 90 minutes. The stand out for me has been the atmosphere inside the stadiums, don’t get me wrong there has been some great games with some outstanding goals but the fans have done it for me, they don’t half know how to bring the noise!

Due to it being played in their own back yard surely Brazil must be favourites but they haven’t inspired or excited just yet. This team doesn’t have a patch on the teams of 98′ or 02′ do they?

The poster boy of Brazil, Neymar has carried this team. I’ve never been his biggest fan as I think he often flatters to deceive, I don’t buy into the hype surrounding him either. I’m sure he’s bothered. Although I do admire how he has coped with the nations hopes on his shoulders for such a young kid.

What about the sudden demise of so many big teams, failing to get through the group stages. Spain, England, Italy and Portugal, all big hitters on the international scene yet all have fallen at the first hurdle. Each for different reasons of course.

Spain – an ageing squad some might say? Time for fresh legs and fresh ideas?

Italy – pretty much the same as above, in the transition of bringing through younger, fresher blood, such as Ballotelli, Verratti etc.

Portugal – too many individuals and they rely on Ronaldo too much.

England – transitional period which will take time but quite simply haven’t been good enough.

On a positive note it has been refreshing to see the likes of Costa Rica do so well in the group of death as well as Columbia and Chile. They have all brought edge of your seat football to the party and it has been great to watch. A breath of fresh air!

Some big players have missed out for one reason or another, a player who I’ve always enjoyed watching missed out due to a bad injury, an injury I’m all to familiar with. Falcao, quite possibly the best number 9 in Europe over the last few seasons.

Even though Columbia have been fantastic without him my mind still wonders what if? Surely he’s missed? and you would hope Columbia would still play their all out attacking game with him leading the way. Hats off to his team mates, they have been great throughout this tournament and if they continue to play the way they have been then their fans and neutrals all round can only dream of them lifting the cup on July 13.

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