January 1, 2000
The beginnings of the Premier League and Football League Championship seasons were brought to a sudden halt last week to accommodate the latest round of European Championship Qualifiers. I can understand Premier League games being called because of the many players committed to their respective national campaigns, but all of the Championship programme? I have to say that I am not so sure about that. I do understand though that players at that level can be called by lesser nations, in football terms, so exceptions could be made but surely not a blanket freezing of the entire fixture list.
Whilst the League programme in the top two tiers appear to be a bit more relaxed early doors, the third and fourth tier clubs seem to me to be a bit overloaded what with Carling Cup games and Johnstone’s Paint games providing for a two game a week start to the season alongside, of course, the odd midweek League game being thrown in. Don’t get me wrong I could watch Rovers every night of the week but I can’t help think that it is wrong to expect players at clubs with relatively small squads to turn out with even minor knocks that could become more serious without proper treatment and rest as the season goes on. I also think it is wrong to expect fans to fork out for two games a week. every week,plus the associated travel costs n these somewhat austere times
Rant over I suggest that most of us will want to see England do well in the Euro Zone, and I am no exception to that. Alongside the other home nations, I have a soft spot for Wales I admit, and there will be those in our cosmopolitan society who will be shouting for the many national sides in the competition. Good luck to all.
After six to eight matches the Euro big guns are firing and on target. As well as England, following the good win in Bulgaria, Germany are walking away with Group A, likewise Italy in Group C, the Netherlands in Group E and Spain in Group I; no surprises there then. Russia, France and Portugal also top their respective Groups.
For reactions to the current state of play I thought I’d start at the official website EUFA.com. The site was quick to pick up on the German 100% record which saw an impressive eight wins out of eight. Under the heading ‘Race on to Join Germany at Finals’ the site concludes that the other above mentioned nations are pretty much home and dry, particularly Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. The site reminds us that there are two more rounds of matches in October and the nine section winners, plus the runners up with the best record against the sides placed first, third, fourth and fifth in their pool qualify directly, with the other second placed teams entering the play offs. I think I understand that, just but please don’t ask rne come up with a comprehensive list of finalists when all is done.
EUFA.com also highlighted the big win in the comp thus far; Netherlands 11 San Marino 0. In registering their seventh successive victory in the section, the Oranje eclipsed their 9-0 scorelines against Finland and Norway from 1912 and 1972 respectively. In addition to Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar both scored twice, with John Heitinga, Dirk Kuyt and substitute Georginio Wijnaldum also on target.
The site reported that England strengthened their bid for automatic qualification with the comfortable Group G win in Bulgaria. Wayne Rooney struck twice before the break to further boost England’s position whilst Montenegro lost 2-1 in Wales and Fabio Capello’s side are now three points clear with just two games left. Very well done to Wales; all over bar the shouting then but it’s alright in qualifying Wayne, what about when it comes to the finals. No more repeats of South Africa please. BBC Sport web reported England manager Fabio Capello was pleased with his side’s overall performance in Bulgaria but says he still wants to see his players close down the opposition quicker. Capello insists Frank Lampard is still a key member of his England squad despite the Chelsea midfielder being dropped from the side that beat Bulgaria, i am sure that is right but for me it is pleasing to see the next generation of England players featuring strongly in recent lineups.
FourFourTwo on their website says that it was refreshing, to some extent, to be reminded that the Italian doesn’t pick players solely on reputation. It was even a cause for optimism that England appeared to be evolving after a decade or more of rigid, uninspiring football, to briefly hold the belief that there’s more on offer than Frank Lampard, and that something more potent may be about to emerge. A few strong words there then and they go on:
“Some of the best managers in the game – Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Capello (albeit not for England) – repeatedly show that there is no room for sentiment in the ruthless pursuit of success.”
Like it or not, perhaps there is a lesson there for all of us,directors, managers, players and fans alike.