I want to love you again — really, I do. I know we’ve been through a lot lately: I don’t think either of us expected the trip to Brazil to work out… but we had to try. There were times when it felt like you’d betrayed me… that you just didn’t care any more — or at least not as much as I did. Things were going wrong but it felt like I was the only one that wanted things to get better.
Even before Brazil we knew it wasn’t right. People told me I was stupid to stand by you. It would have been so easy then to go off with someone else – that would almost have made more sense. I could have had a Spanish lothario — but it turns out they were just an exciting flash in the pan. There were those German guys – I used to think they were boring (but they were so reliable! You always knew where you were with the Germans) – but then they got exciting and they were still reliable.
But these decisions aren’t made just with the head, they’re made with the heart.
So I thought we should give it another shot. Clean slate. The past is forgotten. We cannot change history but we can shape our future and all that – if we work together.
Monday night was terrific. That trip to Switzerland… wow. There, I’ve said it. I was wary of expecting too much too soon (you’ve hurt me so many times in the past).
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t perfect. There are still things we need to work on. But at last it felt like your Hart was really in it. (Your Hart was great in fact.)
I know, at times, you think that Sterling isn’t enough – but silver can shine brighter than gold… if you let it. On Monday you put that Sterling silver front and centre and proud. That made you nervous, I get that — no-one likes to be proved wrong but you took a chance — we can make that work.
It felt new and exciting again. You got a little over-excited at times and Delph‘d in when at times you shouldn’t have but you never Leighton how nervous you were and I loved you even more for that. There were flashes of the past when you seemed like you had Stones in your pockets but when you threw yourself in the way of that ball that almost made me weep – it felt like we’d crested a Cahill.
That’s what I really wanted. You to be true to yourself – true to us. Yes, people can have their heads turned by ‘prettier’ packages – but don’t try and be like them. I love you for you. We know what we’re good at, let’s be the best at that. We’re crazy and impulsive. Fast, committed, brave. We’re not possessive – that’s not us.
In the past you seemed paralysed by indecision. Not going anywhere for fear of going the wrong way. Should you get me a Christmas Tree or a flying wing-back? Did I want one striker or two? Or three? In the end you ended up giving me a mish-mash of all of them… half-heartedly and that didn’t make either of us happy, did it?
On Monday you chose a diamond. I wouldn’t care if it was a lump of Cole (although I’m glad you got rid of that if I’m honest) but at last it felt like you were being yourself. Not trying to please everyone all of the time but taking your square pegs and saying: “You know what? I like square holes!” it was so refreshing.
Whereas before it felt like things were on the Wayne — even that seemed re-energised and exciting. And the finish… Wel-beck… what can I say? It was brilliant. It made me feel so optimistic for the future that you never gave up – you just kept on running and trying. All night!
Like I said, it wasn’t perfect – far from it. But let’s be honest – we never will be. All I want is that we try. Together. Last night it felt like you’d come back to me… or at least taken that first step back. I’m waiting here with open arms.
England two times Ashes winning captain, Andrew Strauss, has retired from cricket.
Whilst it wasn’t utterly surprising to see him go (the writing was on the wall once England named their three captains for T20; ODIs and Tests) the speed of his departure and that he’s leaving first-class cricket entirely comes as quite a shock.
|— Some great ideas here on gifts for cricket fans —|
More importantly for England, despite Strauss’s protests about his own form, it leaves a gaping hole at the top of the England batting order. Not only does Alastair Cook now have to open the batting and captain the side but he has to get used to a new opening partner, potentially an extremely inexperienced one.
There are various options open to Andy Flower and the England selectors: Michael Carberry and Joe Root are the next ‘cabs off the rank’ as it were; whereas Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell have the ability to open the batting and both have played that role in other formats.
However, a top six of Cook; Mr. X; Trott; Bell; and James Taylor (who seems to have made the transition rather well for a youngster); plus Johnny Bairstow and/or Ravi Bopara does not fill ThoughtSport with confidence ahead of a tour to India — followed by the small matter of the ever so slightly pressure-cooker environment of The Ashes.
It lacks one vital ingredient for a sub-continent tour and Ashes: experience. How the ECB must be wishing they could fit Kevin Pietersen with a universal mute button. Despite their numerous attempts they have yet to achieve this.
Pietersen at four would add crucial nous to the top order. Yes he’s a liability (both with bat or mobile phone in hand) but he’s an experienced one. Bopara’s had more ‘second chances’ than hot dinners; and whilst Taylor and Bairstow are full of youthful vigour and
promise, even the best players can find touring India a tough mental challenge.
The noise, the pitches and the opposition are unlike any other. Factor in the weather, the food and did we mention it’s darned hot out there? The Ashes is something else too. It attracts interest far beyond the usual reach of cricket in England (and Wales). The brings a unique pressure of its own — just ask Bopara.
Strauss was not only a decent batsman but an excellent captain: solid, reliable, stoic. He was the very picture of the Kipling poem, treating “those two imposters” just the same. Whilst most of the media focus appears to be on how badly England will miss him off the pitch (he played a very, very large role in steadying the England ship after Pietersen ‘resigned’ from the captaincy) they will very much miss him on the pitch too.
Regular readers of Thoughtsport will know we’re not fans of goal line technology. We realise this places us in rather the minority. Here’s a mere snippet of those arguing for, just from a quick blog search:
Sepp says ‘enough is enough’ – Sporting Interests
Robbie Fowler: FIFA must end this goal-line farce – Paddy Power Betting Blog
England 1 – 0 Ukraine. Co-hosts sent home as demands for goal line technology get another boost – Full-Time Whistle
We won’t go over our old arguments that football is a great leveler. Tall or short, heavy or light with the right application, skill and determination you can be a footballer. If you play down the park on a Sunday you could (in theory) play with Lionel Messi, Pele or whoever the heck you want because you’d be playing the same game.
Same rules; same pitch dimensions; same ball — it’d be the same. Introduce goal-line technology and suddenly the pros are playing a different game.
No, we won’t go over that again (you can read our old blog if you want to).
Last night’s England game against Ukraine, which reignited the goal line technology debate, didn’t alter ThoughtSport’s position one bit.
Watch the ‘goal’ yourself on the BBC website: The ‘goal’ that wasn’t: Ukraine denied equaliser
All the media talk this morning has been about Sepp Blatter, Fifa, Uefa, HawkEye, assistant-assistant refs (what do they do anyway?) — there’s even the age old “these things even themselves out in the end” with much smirking about Frank Lampard’s goal that never was against Germany in the last World Cup.
They are all missing the point.
Watch the ‘goal’ again — notice anything? Probably not as the Beeb are glossing over the same key point too. Even their tabloid-esque headline (beneath you BBC) ‘The ‘goal’ that wasn’t: Ukraine denied equaliser’ tells you they’ve made up their mind already. Why let a few facts get in the way of a good story; especially one which means they can beat the goal line technology drum again.
It wasn’t a goal. Or at least it shouldn’t have been. Artem Milevskiy, the first Ukraine player to touch the ball in the BBC clip, was offside.
You remember offside? The rule that says you must at least be level with the last defender when the pass is made? Yes, there are ‘interfering with play’ rules and caveats, but this fella, Milevskiy, receives the pass directly so no ‘interfering’ rules need interfere.
Why is it that one official’s mistake (the assistant referee who should have spotted the offside) is irrelevant when another’s (the extra assistant who didn’t spot that the ball had crossed the line) is deemed all important? So important we need to exhort Fifa to sort this mess out?
There’s the rub with goal line technology. It’s too black and white. The question the technology is asked is: Did the ball cross the line? There are only two answers: Yes or no. The system Fifa are supposedly trialling will alert the referee, via an audible beep in an earpiece, that the ball crossed the line.
Technology would not tell him if the player handled it over the line; it would not tell him if the player was offside when he ‘scored’; it would not tell him if he had in fact fouled the defender/goalkeeper to reach the ball and ‘score’ — all of those things would be down to human judgement.
Dear old human judgement. It’s what makes football the game we love. Will the winger try to go one way or the other? Will he have a shot himself or try and pass? Will he lunge in now or try and force him wide? Decisions that are made thousands of times in every game which make every game different.
Mistakes (interspersed with brilliance) are what makes football great — whether they’re mistakes by players or officials.
If those who advocate goal line technology think it will solve all such problems they need to think again. What will the media broo-haha be if England concede a goal which is ‘allowed’ by goal-line technology but is punched over the line Maradonna style?
Think the sequence of events that would lead to that is all together unlikely? Perhaps you should read our old blog post after all… if you’re Irish you probably won’t need to.
Poor old Roy Hodgson. The team have barely touched down in Poland (even though most of their matches are in Ukraine) for Euro2012 and already the brickbats are flying.
His latest crime is overlooking Rio Ferdinand — again. Not content with having done it once he’s done it again following the injury to Gary Cahill.
A quick note on Cahill: it’s a real shame for him and desperately unlucky. Yes, the crude shove by Dries Mertens in the friendly against Belgium was unnecessary but even in a competitive game would have drawn a yellow card, at most. However, from the minute he crashed into the rather robust Joe Hart it didn’t look good. When his jaw swelled to Desperate Dan proportions it was clear he would not be playing much part in the European Championships.
Lots of people (notably ‘the media’) expected Hodgson to go calling for Rio, asking for forgiveness and for the experienced Manchester United defender to step into the breach.
However, Roy, good as his word, went to his reserve/stand-by list and called up Liverpool’s Martin Kelly. Thoughsport feels a fair bit of sympathy for the young Reds defender too. Called up to a big tournament he’s already been written off as he doesn’t have 81 caps (he has one); hasn’t won the Premier League (though three of Hodgson’s defenders have) and isn’t called “Rio”.
Much has been made of Kelly’s utility. Ostensibly he’s now back-up right-back to team-mate Glen Johnson and, supposedly, offers cover across the defence too. Sorry Roy but if that’s the reason you’ve called him up it’s balderdash. Even Liverpool fans would struggle to call Kelly’s a centre-half. Yes, he has played at left-back too — in desperate times at Liverpool — and it’d have to be similar for England to deploy him there.
Realistically Kelly won’t play at all (so where’s the harm in taking a 23-year-old to gain tournament experience?) and it’d take injuries to three of John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka and Phil Jones for Kelly to get a look-in there.
Yet Thoughtsport are still uncomfortable with his inclusion. (Incidentally, we’re also fans of the growing school of thought that says England’s first choice centre-back pairing should be Lescott and Jagielka.)
Why? Because it’s starting with a compromise. Call us traditionalists but we say “Use the best tool for the job.” If you had a hammer and a screwdriver, you wouldn’t use a Swiss Army knife to bang in a nail and screw up some shelves would you?
Tournament squads are made-up of 23 players. Basic maths tells you that’s two players for everyone position plus one spare. Most teams opt for a third goalie to make up the 23. So why take a player who isn’t even first choice right-back for his club side?
Similarly with Phil Jones — yes, his adaptability is great. If we had to pick a 15-man squad there’d be some sound arguments for taking him. But we don’t. It’s a 23-man squad. We can take two right-backs — full-time, professional, do nothing else but be a right-back right-backs… we don’t need to take utility players!
Mind your nose
We risk over using the “Where is Micah Richards?” drum – especially as we know the answer. Word is both he and Michael Carrick (more on him later) refused to be on the stand-by list. Again, we risk exposing ourselves as the staunch traditionalists we are but… if your country needs you, even if it’s a “we might…” you stand by your bed, ready for the call.
It’s the David Beckham school of thought. ‘Becks’ had his weaknesses but lack of patriotism was never something that could be leveled at him. He’s always stuck to the line (we paraphrase) “I’ll never retire — it’s not for me to decide if/when my country doesn’t need me.”
Richards and Carrick would do well to take a leaf out of Beckham’s book. With Lampard and Barry on the injured list Carrick would, surely, have been a shoe-in for the squad. One would hope too that Richards would have been ahead of Kelly on the stand-by list too.
Still, both chose not to be on said list for whatever reasons they saw fit. We can almost understand it from Carrick. He’ll be nigh-on 31 by the time the tournament ends. We’re family men at Thoughtsport and could possibly, maybe, just about see that, for Carrick, dragging yourself out to Poland/Ukraine to sit on several substitute benches, away from your family and kids for 2-3 weeks may not sound that appealing.
But Richards? He’s 23. It may be a little early for international-career-suicide moves like his fit of pique. Yes, it’s disappointing not to be first choice but we’ve seen 4-year-olds ‘lose’ with more grace than the Richards/Carrick “I’m taking my ball home then…” hissy fit.
If I were either man’s nose I’d be watchful around shaving time… they might be out to cut you off.
Rumour has it Roberto Martinez is in Miami, talking to Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group about the managerial vacancy at Anfield.
This is the latest rumour surrounding the current Wigan Athletic boss after he rejected Aston Villa’s advances last season which hasn’t deterred them sufficiently to stop them chasing him again this year. Bookmakers are also taking bets on him getting the top job at Chelsea.
Martinez has done OK at Wigan but no better than that. Thoughtsport wonders: have we missed something? It’s not often we find ourselves in agreement with (Big) Sam Allardyce but is it largely because Martinez has a “foreign sounding name” — better yet (gasp) he actually is foreign?
Let’s look at the facts:
We’ve said before, statistics only tell half a story. But those stats don’t look, to us, like those of a manager set for a job at a top four club.
Yes, he has managed well on the comparatively meagre budget at Wigan, a club “punching above their weight” to even be in the Premier League, leave alone remaining it.
But compare them to one of Martinez’s predecessors at Wigan, Paul Jewell (44% win percentage) even the much maligned Steve Bruce managed a better ratio (34% win percentage) in his meaningful spell there (it was 37% in his eight-game whistle-stop tour in 2001).
So what is it about Martinez? Surely the wise heads at FSG, Stamford Bridge and Villa Park haven’t just had their heads turned by Wigan’s blockbuster end to the season? Seven wins in nine matches is decent by any standards, even top four clubs. But those few months alone account for 5% of Martinez’s meagre return at the DW Stadium.
Lest we forget that Martinez wasn’t some ‘parachute saviour’ flown in to rescue Wigan’s floundering season. He got them into the mess from which they escaped. He presided over the nine-game losing streak in September/October which saw them lose to (amongst others) Wolves, Bolton (at home) and Crystal Palace.
Could it be his transfer policy? Maybe he’s unearthed brilliant players, bought on a budget but playing like superstars.
This year he signed: Ali Al-Habsi, David Jones, Nouha Dicko, Albert Crusat, Shaun Maloney and Jean Beausejour. With all due respect to them would any of them get into a top four side? Would they even make the squad?
To give him his due he did sign the highly rated Victor Moses (for £2.5m), himself now courted by some ‘bigger’ teams. But he also spent £2m on Jason Scotland (just 14 league appearances and 1 goal) before he was shipped on to Ipswich a year later for (allegedly) less than half that amount.
Somewhere like Anfield ‘wasting’ £1m on a player is small potatoes. At Wigan (record transfer fee: paid £6m) it’s a little more serious.
Basically it’s unlikely to be his acumen in the transfer market that has tipped things his way.
Perhaps it’s the football his sides play then? Swansea City’s free-flowing, ‘total football’ style is said to have stemmed from Martinez’s time in charge there. A little unfair on Brendan Rodgers’ stewardship perhaps but let’s give Martinez the benefit of the doubt.
Much was also made of his inventive switch to a 3-4-3 formation (5-4-1 in another guise if you ask Thoughtsport) and it’s effect on Wigan’s late season revival. Again, bear in mind that this was more than likely borne out of desperation. Wigan were, in many people’s eyes, already relegated. They had nothing to lose. Yes, Martinez’s gamble paid off (and in some style) but does a good two month spell make him a top manager?
Martinez had the same players he used in his 3-4-3 (and the 7-wins-in-9) spell as he did in their 4-4-2 (9-defeats-in-9).
We may get this wrong (we often do!). A big club will take a punt on Martinez and it may come off. Wigan chairman Dave Whelan is sticking to his guns (and we’ve a lot of respect at Thoughtsport for Whelan). He doesn’t think Villa are a ‘bigger’ team than Wigan — on current form and Martinez’s rejection of them last year, you’d say he has a point.
But we’d argue that before he merits a job at a top four club or even a side (like Liverpool) with aspirations to be a top four club — he has a little bit more to prove yet.
Once we got over the shock, surprise and dismay that Roy either disagrees with our advice, or perhaps (gasp!) he doesn’t even read it… we going to say ‘fair play’ to Roy. At least he’s made a call.
Ferdinand’s fitness may not be up to tournament football and it’s one way of resolving the Terry v Ferdinands argument — if not the one we’d have favoured.
Let’s analyse, Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad against our picks. Where we’ve differed we’ve highlighted the players in red:
Roy’s Goalies: Joe Hart; Rob Green; John Ruddy.
TS’s goalies: Joe Hart; Ben Foster; Paul Robinson.
Roy’s defenders: Leighton Baines; Gary Cahill; Ashley Cole; Glenn Johnson; Phil Jones; Joleon Lescott; John Terry.
TS’s defenders: Rio Ferdinand; Phil Jagielka; Joleon Lescott; Gary Cahill; Micah Richards; Kyle Walker; Ashley Cole; Glenn Johnson.
Roy’s midfielders: Gareth Barry; Stewart Downing; Steven Gerrard; Frank Lampard; James Milner; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Scott Parker, Theo Walcott; Ashley Young.
TS’s midfielders: Steven Gerrard; Gareth Barry; Scott Parker; Frank Lampard; Michael Carrick; Ashley Young; Theo Walcott; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Roy’s forwards: Wayne Rooney; Andy Carroll; Jermain Defoe; Danny Welbeck.
TS’s forwards: Wayne Rooney; Daniel Sturridge; Danny Welbeck; Andy Carroll.
Roy’s standby list: Jack Butland; Adam Johnson; Daniel Sturridge; Phil Jagielka; Jordan Henderson.
So there you have it. Rio Ferdinand’s England career is, apparently, over.
Looking at it in order, there are (as you might expect) pros and cons — but also some glaring inconsistencies. Stewart Downing is, seemingly, in the squad on the basis that he’s left-footed. Surely his (terrible) form for Liverpool cannot be the reason? Yet the left-footed Daniel Sturridge is left out in favour of Jermain Defoe — the same Defoe who started just two of the last 12 Tottenham matches — and was an unused sub in four of them.
From the back: Our predictions were woeful. We only got Joe Hart’s name right. To be fair we wrote it before Ben Foster rejected Hodgson’s plea to end his international ‘retirement’. Let’s face it, we’re hardly awash with quality between the sticks anymore. If Joe Hart gets injured/suspended we’re in a heap of trouble.
In that scenario we’d still have preferred the experienced, Premier League (just about) goalie, Paul Robinson to come in — rather than Championship West Ham stopper Rob Green. Fair enough, John Ruddy can gain experience coming along for the ride we won’t quibble on that one.
At the back Hodgson has made the headline grabbing call — dropping Ferdinand and picking Terry. That comes as no great shock. Of more concern is the right-back situation. Again, we picked our 23-man squad before Kyle Walker was ruled out with a toe injury.
However, Hodgson’s squad leaves him with Phil Jones as a back-up right-back? The squad seems to be crying out for Micah Richards — the blockbuster Manchester City full-back… the same City side that just won the Premier League title.
Yes, Jones has the advantage of age on his side — giving a 20-year-old with a bright future some tournament experience makes sense. But aged 23 Richards is hardly at pensionable age.
The midfield picks of Downing and Milner are just perplexing. Downing, as any stat-fan will tell you, has scored 0 goals and has 0 assists for Liverpool this season — a staggering statistic for a winger.
Milner has started just one of City’s last 12 games. His last noted goal or assist was back in January! Yes his utility is useful in that he can play in a number of positions but then, so could Paul Warhurst. It didn’t make him an international player.
Amidst all this Michael Carrick who has, arguably, had one of his best ever seasons for Manchester United (and has also played in nigh-on all of United’s big matches this season) is left out?
The much hyped Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is in. Thoughtsport quite likes that. He’s got a big future ahead of him. Comparisons with Theo Walcott’s call-up by Sven Goran Ericsson will be made but it’s hardly the same. Walcott hadn’t even played for Arsenal when his call came — Oxlade-Chamberlain has played, scored and impressed for the Gunners already.
Up front, we can’t argue much with Rooney, Carroll and Welbeck — especially as we picked them too. But the selection of Jermain Defoe has left us scratching our heads again.
Let’s look at those stats again. He’s started two of Spurs’ last 12 games. A Spurs side pushing for a Champions League place. Stats often don’t tell the whole story but for a ‘fox-in-the-box’ type striker of Defoe’s ilk they can be more telling than for other players. He’s in the side to score goals not much else.
Defoe has scored 6 goals in his last 20 matches. That’s not bad, right? Not great, but ok. However, two of those were against League One side Stevenage in the FA Cup replay. Yes, a replay after Spurs, featuring Defoe (in one of his rare 90-minute outings), failed to score in the first match.
He was kept quiet on that February afternoon at Broadhall Way by Messrs Darius Charles and Jon Ashton. Two years ago both were playing non-league football. Fancy his chances against the likes of AC Milan’s Phillipe Mexés? No, nor us.
Don’t get us wrong. Thoughtsport love England and we’d love for us to do really well at the Euros. We’re just not convinced that we will — not that this, seemingly haphazard, squad is best equipped to do so.
Money has ruined football. This is a truism held dear by many football fans — particularly those fans of teams with no money. You can bet your last dollar that there aren’t many Manchester City fans complaining about money… and even those that are will be outnumbered ten-to-one by their Arab-cash-loving neighbours.
Glasgow Rangers fans are a good example of the two extremes. Not so long ago you wouldn’t have heard many Rangers fans grumbling about how the fact their club was so stratospherically wealthier than most of their SPL rivals that it unbalanced things. Nowadays, with administration (if they’re lucky) and liquidation the buzzwords at Ibrox, money is the root of all evil.
If you’ve got it, money is great. So Thoughtsport wanted to look at how you get it.
Short of woo-ing an oil baron (Russian or Arab, we don’t mind which) you have to make your own money and the quickest way (as many troubled clubs administrators will tell you) is selling the players.
Fire sales of players aren’t the way to win trophies though, you need a conveyor belt of fresh talent. Not only that, it has to be a consistent conveyor belt. A one-off star is all well and good but one swallow does not make a summer — nor even a class of swallows (citation: West Ham).
Ensure you’ve got talent
Therefore, the real money is made in scouting. Yes, you need coaches too, to make your profitable prodigy even better but spotting the talent is where it’s at. The rising star of Graham Carr at Newcastle is a case in point.
Him aside, how many scouts could you name? And John Baden Powell doesn’t count. Two? Three? None? They’re not the stars. The players, even the managers — yes. The scouts, no.
Carr’s case isn’t hindered by the fact his son is the famous comic, Alan. However, ‘finding’ the likes of Cheik Tiote and Demba Ba haven’t done his notoriety any harm.
Ok, Carr didn’t unearth these players from footballing backwaters — Tiote cost £3.5m from FC Twente; Ba was a free transfer from West Ham — but both have already been linked with eight-figure transfers to ‘bigger’ teams.
However, even Carr’s success is moderately recent. For the masterclass in scouting and talent production Thoughtsport goes back even further.
Athletico Madrid (or Atletico if you’re that way inclined). They’ve been scouting for goals for decades. Reading back through a list of their past forwards it’s almost a who’s-who of European star strikers.
Buy > Sell > Profit > Reinvest…
Notably Fernando Torres started there but alongside him in the Athletico alumni of recent years is: Sergio Aguero; Diego Forlan; Juninho; Luis Garcia; Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink and Christian Vieri.
Again, they didn’t ‘discover’ all these talents, some of them cost the club a pretty penny when they signed but, importantly, they also brought in a lot of cash when they left.
Players like Torres (sold for £26.5m to Liverpool) and Aguero (£38m to Manchester City) are the dream ticket — brought through the youth ranks (or spotted very young) before being sold on. But the ‘smaller’ Madrid team made a tidy profit on the likes of Vieri too.
He signed from Juventus for around £1m in 1998. After a whistle-stop ten-month spell at the Vincente Calderon he was off back to Italy, going to Lazio for an estimated £19m. Not a bad profit for ten month’s work.
Hasselbaink’s move from Leeds to Madrid cost Athletico £12m in August of 1999. By June the next year he went back to UK, to Chelsea, for £15m.
It hasn’t always been rosy, even for Athletico. No doubt they’ll have watched on, slightly miffed, as their £26.5m player, Torres, moved on from Liverpool for £50m. Likewise, shortly after stinging Lazio for £19m for Vieri the Italian moved to Inter for a then European record transfer of £32m.
But you cannot say they’re not learning and progressing. So what was the spark? Well, some years ago a young Spanish striker left the Vincente Calderon, after their youth team set-up was disbanded as a cost-cutting measure. The name of that striker? Mr. Real Madrid: Gonzalez Raul — or just Raul to most of us.
That was in 1992. The following season Real’s ‘noisy neighbours’ finished 12th in La Liga. This season they look set for the top six and have already lifted the Uefa Cup (or Europa League… if you must).
Firing them to that trophy? Radamel Falcao, a €40m signing from Porto… already valued at €50m by the big fish sniffing around for the next striker off the production line.
John Terry shouldn’t go to the European Championships with England. There, we’ve said it.
A lot has already been written about whether the Chelsea captain should be representing his country anyway with a charge of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand hanging over him.
But it’s not for this reason that Thoughtsport think Terry should be left kicking his heels when Roy Hodgson takes his squad to Poland and Ukraine. No.
We contest that Terry has lost it. He’s just not the player he once was and, at 31, England should be looking elsewhere.
The case for the defence
Terry’s decline has been slow, steady but he’s definitelydeclining. Chelsea have been leaking goals lately. This season they’ve conceded 41 goals in the Premier League (with two games yet to come). In his, and Chelsea’s, pomp they were a much tighter ship.
As the graphic below shows, Chelsea have been getting progressively ‘leakier’. Now that may not be entirely Terry’s fault — selling Ricardo Carvalho; the doomed tactics of Andre Villas Boas; the rocky start made by David Luiz; the dip in form of Petr Cech etc. are all factors. However, Terry himself is also a factor — a large one.
Speaking of ‘large’, Terry has always relied on one key asset of his game. The line between good players and top players is usually excelling in one (or more) aspects of the game (think: Michael Owen, exceptional pace; Paul Gascoigne, exceptional dribbling).
Terry’s exceptional talent was his size and strength — which made him good in the air and solid in the tackle, ideal for a centre-half. He was never the quickest, but he had enough pace to get himself out of trouble if needed. Paired with a ‘playmaking’ centre half, like Rio Ferdinand, Terry was the perfect foil. The grit to Ferdinand’s craft.
“He’s behind you!”
Recent events have shown some gaping (and growing) flaws in Terry’s game.
Take the two matches against Liverpool. The first, the FA Cup Final. The second the Premier League clash. Both were big games for Chelsea, one for a trophy the other for a coveted Champions League place.
Admittedly Chelsea won one and lost one, picking up a trophy along the way. Not bad.
If you watched the game(s) you may already know what’s coming. Terry’s errors. In reverse chronological order:
Toss in the torrid time Terry and co. had from, an admittedly resurgent Carroll, for half an hour at Wembley and it’s not looking good for ‘JT’.
Being nutmegged by Luis Suarez is no shame, better players than Terry will suffer that fate. It was the tangle Terry got himself in chasing Carroll, not the most nimble of players at the best of times, that have sealed his fate in Thoughtsport’s eyes.
If Carroll can do that to Terry, what will the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery do at the Euros? It almost doesn’t bear thinking about.
Thoughtsport don’t like doing down players without positive alternatives. Any hack can say”So and so is crap.” it takes a little more invention to say who should replace them.
Whilst England toiled over and dragged out the decision of whom should replace Fabio Capello, we were advocates of the school of thought that said: “Write of the Euros, we won’t win it. Let Stuart Pearce take a few kids and give them some experience — it worked wonders for Germany.”
With Roy Hodgson in charge that won’t be the case. It is extremely likely Terry will be on the plane to eastern Europe. However, we’d advocate another route. Take four centre-backs (plenty for a tournament). On form the top four Englishmen would be:
Throw in Micah Richards who can play right back or centre back and Chris Smalling (as a nod to his future/potential) and England don’t need Terry as much as some might think.
No room for extra baggage
That’s the footballing reason we think Terry should be omitted from Euro 2012. Sprinkle in the pending court case; the captaincy debacle; the simmering tension with Rio Ferdinand; the needless red-card against Barcelona and countless other off-field distractions Terry brings and the argument becomes rather compelling.
Bear in mind as well as Ibrahimovic et al, all England’s opponents will have been watching Terry’s toils (both on and off the field). As that red card against Barcelona showed the one time England skipper is liable to ‘lose it’ in key matches. Terry will be targetted in the same way Wayne Rooney is. Opponents will know he’s a walking red card waiting to happen, especially with the more fussy big tournament refereeing.
Drop Terry. Will it happen? We doubt it. For argument’s sake we’ll name our 23-man squad now:
Goalkeepers x 3
Joe Hart; Ben Foster; Paul Robinson
Defenders x 8
Rio Ferdinand; Phil Jagielka; Joleon Lescott; Gary Cahill; Micah Richards; Kyle Walker; Ashley Cole; Glenn Johnson.
Midfielders x 8
Steven Gerrard; Gareth Barry; Scott Parker; Frank Lampard; Michael Carrick; Ashley Young; Theo Walcott; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Wayne Rooney; Daniel Sturridge; Danny Welbeck; Andy Carroll.
Swap Richards for Terry and we suspect this may not be far off what ‘Woy’ picks.