Sven’s men got me singin’ the blues
November 30, 2010

My final week out here in Rwanda is turning out to be another quite slow affair. Moto excursions, to monitor the REAP English training for teachers, have been put on hold due to issues regarding the funding of travel expenses so I’m stuck in Nyakarambi, mainly working from home, with the odd stroll up the hill to the District Office for a bit of exercise!

I’ve actually just returned from a session discussing my VSO reference with the District Education Officer, Telesphore, having eventually pinned him down for half an hour and amazingly without any distractions from his mobile.        

The mobile phone culture out here is crazy. Incoming calls take precedence over anything and everything so if you’re in the middle of a conversation with somebody and their phone goes you’re just left standing there, mid sentence with your mouth gaping open, while they wander off and take the call. If you’re lucky they might return – that’s if they remember! It’s very frustrating and to us seems very rude, but not so to them.

Anyway all of my final reports have now been completed and submitted so I’m not quite sure how I’ll be occupying my work time for the rest of the week. My leisure time, however, is pretty much spoken for.

Tomorrow evening I’ve been invited over to Kibungo for a farewell pasta dish with Cathy and Louise and on Thursday I’m hosting a brochettes and beer evening at KMC as a  ‘thank you and goodbye’ to those I’ve got to know most closely over the last three months.  

My day hardly got off to the brightest start, having logged on first thing to find Sven’s Leicester team had stuck one over Forest in last night’s local derby at the Walkers Stadium. Apparently, according to Billy, we just didn’t compete and if it hadn’t been for a fine goalkeeping performance from Lee Camp the score might have been embarrassing.

I have to admit I thought it was a nice touch when Sven, who of course has both England and Notts County on his cv, remarked in his post match interview that perhaps he had made a few Magpies fans happy!    

Forest considered it too soon for either of their new loan signings, Aaron Ramsey and Marcus Tudgay, to start the game but I guess they’ll be taking a bow at home against Bristol City on Saturday. I wonder what the chances are of picking up the score in Addis Ababa airport!

  

Strangers in the Night!
June 19, 2010

On Friday, ‘ol blue eyes’ and ‘Strangers in the Night’ came to mind! England played like a scratch pub team, who had met up for the first time five minutes before the kick-off, as pass after pass went astray. Then there was the episode of the phantom intruder who waltzed into the England dressing room intent on giving our bereft team the benefit of his opinion.

Given that the anonymous interloper had made such short work of the FIFA security my curiosity was roused. Was it an undercover visit from Franz ‘the Kaiser’ Beckenbauer, popping in to reaffirm his earlier claim that, “What I saw from the English had very little to do with football.”  After last night’s sorry performance I think a few more might be with him on that one now!   

It was a huge disappointment for ‘birthday boy’ Fabio, not the sort of celebratory performance he had in mind, I’m sure. He seemed genuinely at a loss that the England players we see playing like world beaters, week in  week out, for their clubs and strutting their stuff on the training ground didn’t turn up for such a big game.

To be honest the rest of us could have tipped him the wink:  “Everyone seems to know the score, they’ve seen it all before, they just know, they’re so sure that England’s  gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away” etc.  (Badiel & Skinner) 

Of course, no team sets out to play badly, get booed off the pitch and castigated in the national press. They’re not the first team to disappoint at this year’s tournament but what made last night so unpalatable was the apparent lack of pride and passion. Too many players seemed weighed down by the occasion, the ball was like a hot potato and nobody appeared to want to take responsibility. This was Algeria after all, a 3rd world nation in football terms!

The honeymoon period with the media is clearly over for Fabio but I don’t go along with the criticism currently being levelled at him.  It’s little use turning on the coach and questioning his methods at this late stage. Let’s be honest, under Sven Goran-Ericksson, we qualified with some style for the 2006 World Cup but once at the finals the players under performed and we stuttered and spluttered our way to a quarter-final exit. We were told it was down to Sven not showing enough passion on the touch-line, being too loyal to certain favoured players, allowing an overly free and easy attitude in the training camp, and of course he never had a plan B when things weren’t going well.    

This time around, Fabio Capello undoubtedly shows passion from the dug out. He’s not been afraid to leave out players with big reputations, has a more austere and remote persona with the team, clearly runs a tight ship and has experimented with different formations, but seems to prefer 4-4-2 . Once again the team have under performed (so far at least) and now it’s being suggested that this is  because Capello’s style  inhibits the team and they are afraid of expressing themselves for fear of making mistakes.  

The media can’t play it both ways. We have seen two distinctly different approaches from two very different coaches but, both in 2006 and currently in 2010, our ‘top players’ have frozen on the big stage. Is it a mental attitude born of an unrealistic national expectation after years of  under achievement, or do we merely over-estimate their abilities? Are our England stars as good as we think or do they just look good at club level where they are in teams along side genuine world-class players who have the technique and creativity to provide them with the extra time and space they don’t get when playing with the national side?

Fabio isn’t one to panic or to pander to calls from the media.  I think he’ll get the team up for the do or die game against Slovenia and we will squeeze through. We might even, depending on the opposition, briefly flatter to deceive by winning our quarter-final and fleetingly raise national hopes once more before the inevitable anti-climax in the semis, probably going out on penalties; “Everyone seems to know the score ” etc!  I guess that would be judged a relative success.  

However it turns out there’s one sure thing, ‘ol blue eyes’ will spring to mind again with visions of Capello singing, “I did it my way!”