St George’s flag is still flying – what a difference a red shirt makes!
June 23, 2010

St George’s flag can remain flying over the House of Commons for a little while longer. What a difference a win makes. Yes we were on the edge of our seats, because one goal wasn’t enough, but everything that had been missing from the first two games, was there and we started to look a half decent side.

There was pride in this performance, endeavour and considerable skill, particularly after Jermaine Defoe’s goal had settled early nerves. Every player contributed and it was a real team effort.

Fabio Capello was vindicated. He did not bow to player power (or the media) and stuck with the 4-4-2 formation, with Gerrard playing on the left side of midfield and Joe Cole remaining on the bench.  Defoe, the goal scorer, came in for Heskey but that would have happened anyway. James Milner returned on the right, after missing the Algeria game. His workrate, and the quality of his crossing were outstanding.

Despite the alleged discontent within the training camp, things seem to have been sorted out, the players responded to the coach and everyone  pulled together. That’s why they won’t be flying home early, economy class, like the French (ha ha!)

In fairness John Terry, who led the failed coup against Fabio, was a rock at the back, as were attacking fullbacks Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson. Steven Gerrard put in another disciplined captain’s performance. Matthew Upson, who looked shaky to start with, grew into the game and made a wonderful last-ditch tackle at the death.

Rooney is still below par and desperately seeking a goal. He shot twice when he could have played in Milner and when he did have a one on one with the keeper couldn’t get his shot away cleanly.  A goal can’t be far away now and when it comes it will make such a difference to him and the rest of the team.      

Defoe got the goal and his movement up front was a constant threat. His presence, at the exclusion of Heskey, encourages the team to play to feet, rather than opting for the long high ball which was our downfall against Algeria.     

It’s never easy, watching England, but this performance was much better on the eye and they dominated for long periods. A second goal, that never came, would have sealed it and made the last 10 minutes rather more bearable. But we are in the last 16, the first two games can be forgotten, we can draw confidence from this performance and we are still very much in this tournament, well at least until Sunday!      

Ghana, Germany, or Serbia are all possible last 16 opponents. Funnily enough, of the three, I really quite fancy us against the Germans. I trust Fabio will have those disparaging comments from ‘the Kaiser’ pinned up on the dressing room wall – team talk done!

Oh yes, and another thing, what a difference a shirt makes. Stick with the red – there’s a quite a good precedent!

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Time to stand up and be counted!
June 23, 2010

90 minutes to kick off!

If you don’t know or understand what all the fuss is about now would be good time to head for Tesco, you should have the place pretty much to yourself.

The country is about to grind to a halt. For 90 minutes the revival of the national economy will take second place to the revival of the national football team. Even DC announced, in PM’s Questions, that he is hoping to catch the second half.

Will the flag of St George will still be flying over the House of Commons at 5.00pm – we’ll see! Ridiculously, if we put in a half decent performance today and win, the trials and tribulations of earlier this week will no doubt be replaced by a cautious optimism that we could still lift the trophy. Crazier thing have happened – just look at the English cricket team!

Yesterday they saw off the Aussies in yet another assured one day performance, Eoin Morgan leading the way with a fine century. There was a time, not long ago, when we could not buy a victory in the short form of cricket and the likely outcome of any  match against the Aussies was a ‘no brainer’.

In the space of twelve months, the English cricket team has wrested back the Ashes, lifted the World T20 trophy, after hammering the Aussies in the final, and are currently 1-0 up in the one day (50 over game) series. 

I’m looking forward to seeing more of the same, tomorrow, when I visit Cardiff for the second day-night match. I don’t want to put my foot in it and spoil our chances but are the Aussies, for so long seemingly invincible, fast becoming our whipping boys?  Even Johnno’s rugby team sneaked a win down under at the weekend. Come to think of it, it’s a pity we aren’t playing the Aussies this afternoon instead of Slovenia!      

‘Nothing builds confidence like success‘, ‘success breeds success’ and ‘winning becomes a habit’ are well-worn sporting clichés because they tend to be true. It is being amply demonstrated by the England cricket team right now.

To quote another cliché, ‘you don’t become a bad player/team overnight’. England are ranked 8th in the world by FIFA. They are playing a Slovenian team ranked 27th. Nothing but a stirring display full of pride, passion, and no little skill, resulting in a victory for England, will do this afternoon. It’s what the nation needs, deserves and expects.  And while I’m in cliché mode: ‘there are no more excuses’, ‘the time has come to stand up and be counted’ and ‘don’t leave the tournament wondering what if………..’       

30 minutes to kick off!!!

It’s time to play ‘3 Lions’, grab a beer, dust down the vuvuzela and steady the nerves.

COME ON ENGLAND!  It’s Coming Home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, football’s coming home………..