Thurs 10 Oct
Unexpected bonus from Wed night. Got up this morning to find Harry Kane had scored a hat trick for England under 21s against Moldova. That’s drawn the sting a bit from the West Ham defeat.
Fri 11 Oct
England vs. Montenegro. England lively for the first 20 mins but don’t really trouble Montenegro, a country with a total population about the size of Oxford. In fact Montenegro have it in the back of our net first, although offside. England try to play a fast passing game but first touch generally poor. Lampard passes the ball 15 yards at half way line direct to opposition striker. Andros Townsend a surprise pick in an attacking line up and he does just that running past defenders down the right for fun. No goals at half time though.
Second half England get an early break through thanks to another run and cross from Townsend. He then tops off his man of the match performance with a goal from 25 yards with his weaker foot. Final score 4-1. Everybody acknowledges the job is only half done. We still have to beat Poland in our last qualifier next Tuesday. At least this victory has guaranteed us a play-off place. Meanwhile teams like Holland are scoring 8 goals against minnows in their group and Belgium and Germany also romping to qualification.
Apparently Sol Campbell has come out and complained about the fact that there are no black people on the FA Commission. Surely it’s early days yet. Of course there should be and I am sure there will be. We need intelligent Englishmen with constructive opinions. There are plenty to choose from. How about Garth Crooks, John Barnes, Chris Powell and Ledley King for starters? It should be a natural decision to offer some of these guys a place, not because they are black but because of their qualities and what they have brought to the national team, regardless of colour or race. Leaving colour aside, Dyke also needs to be careful not to offer official sanction or credence to the rent-a-gob players and ex-players who are prone to shouting their mouths off on Twitter or whenever a microphone appears in front of them to no constructive purpose. One thug in particular springs to mind.
Tues 15 October
I’ve been trying not to think about today ever since England beat Moldova on Friday. Trying to kid myself I’m not worried, not wanting to contemplate the play-offs. Not truly believing because of history and the final Capello shambles. Such respect for Roy Hodgson and the way he has conducted himself under growing pressure. You can tell how much he cares. Then again, so did Graham Taylor and Steve McLaren. If this one result goes wrong it wilI haunt him for the rest of his life, despite his considerable achievements. I really think he had done the most anyone could expect with the quad he took over after the dismal failings in South Africa. You just know it’s not going to be a comfortable victory. Expecting a night of nail biting tension in front of the TV. – And it is but not quite as bad as normal.
First things first though. What on earth were the authorities doing permitting the Polish fans to set of those dozens of flares at the start of the game? They come over all gung-ho making threats to arrest Tottenham fans for chanting Yids but they are happy to stand idly by and watch the new Wembley stadium be nearly set alight, let alone risk injury to players and fans alike. The game should have been suspended whilst arrests were made and that section of the crowd ejected. They were clearly unprepared and under resourced, more concerned about the reaction of the majority of Polish fans than dealing with the incident appropriately. The FA should protest retrospectively about the lack of action and FIFA should take censure and sanction the Polish FA. The press stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest on Monday about the 18,000 tickets that had been released to polish fans. The excuse for doing so was that at least they were all corralled in one place. That argument doesn’t hold up. It was clear from the noise made from the start that there were a lot more than 18,000 Poles and they weren’t confined to one section of the ground. The many Poles living here had probably been buying up tickets ever since they had gone on sale, indistinguishable from English purchasers. Did the FA really ask everyone who applied for a ticket which club they were supporting? I doubt it. How would they know if they got a true answer anyway? Since there were no serious incidents I am sure it will be all brushed under the carpet – but seriously what kind of security arrangements allow fans to walk in carrying concealed incendiary devices into an 85,000 crowd the day after across town the police only just thwarted terrorist attempts to carry out an African style gun massacre? I bet there were at least 40,000 Poles spread all round the stadium. Did you hear the roar when they thought they had scored? There is no way that was a roar of only 18,000 people. They also certainly made a good job of booing our national anthem and whistling at our players when we were in possession. The England players looked a bit stunned until they got used to it. They must have felt like they were playing away.
Whilst the game was of the nail-biting variety for England fans, when I say it was not as bad as usual, I mean that it was not one of those performances where we lacked imagination and slogged away without the wherewithal to break down a packed defence. We went for it and to be fair, so did Poland. It was an exciting first half. They could have had two but we dominated, got stronger and stronger and should have had four. Sturridge and in particular Welbeck were just a shade off their recent form. At least we got a goal at the perfect time, just before half time. Andros Townsend picked up where he left off in the last game, whacking the bar with one beautiful long distance curler. Wayne Rooney had the best game I can remember in an England shirt. Leyton Baines for me was the man of the match.
Poland continued to give it a go in the second half and we gave up far too much possession. Then in the 87th minute James Milner hooks a ball through to Steven Gerrard as he runs into what used to be called the inside right position. He cuts in between two defenders, refuses to go down early and plunders a goal by knocking it wide of Czesny who hitherto had pulled off save after classy save. 2-0. I felt a huge rush of relief as clearly did Roy Hodgson. He said in the post-match interview he thought it had added 10 years to his life. From the look of his face compared to before the game, I can believe it.
I am so pleased England will be in Brazil next year. Please God; let us have some good luck this time. No metatarsals, dislocated shoulders, disciplinary issues or sex, drug and betting scandals. Let’s face it; it can’t possibly be worse than South Africa.
As for Spurs, time to pick up the baton. Away to Aston Villa, 4pm Sunday, live on Sky with England’s new hero. His head must be spinning.