As a long suffering Newcastle fan I have always thought of myself as pretty apathetic towards the national team, “Two Seahorses above Three Lions any day” and all that. I know the reasons behind my apathy towards England and I know they are relevant. That team does not represent me or my city, most of the players within the team are odious specimens of humanity, the organisation they represent (the FA) are reprehensible for their incompetence in safeguarding the game that we all love, at a grass roots level as well as on the national stage (there’s still an awful pong hanging round Wembley following the 2018 ‘bidding’ procedures). The last time I properly supported the national team was Euro ’96, after that we had the so-called ‘Golden Generation’, which didn’t even win a bronze, let alone a bloody gold! And as for them being ‘great lads’, let’s be honest – Beckham, Owen, Lampard, Gerrard, Cole and Terry… You’d not let your lass out of your sight if you were at a party with that lot of reprobates, would you?
However, along comes a tournament and away I go again. It helped that Lampard, Cole and Terry weren’t playing – it’s amazing how much more likeable the team becomes without that trio of snakes involved.
For the Montenegro game I got an early out of work (it was a 4pm k/o over here – Brazilian time, people, keep up!), jumped on a bus and met up with my Geordie mate, Hodders, and his English ex-colleagues. It was nice to have a few beers, watching England with a group of fellow Englishmen. Of course, England’s performance and the brilliant 4-1 scoreline helped the merriment along. That merriment appeared to manifest itself in an over exuberance in the beer-intake stakes. Having slagged the local buses off a couple of blogs ago, I was somehow able to make a bed of one on Friday night… it’s amazing what a bevvy’ll do for you. I woke up in the bus terminal and had to find a bus heading back to take me home – if you’re ever in Rio, please try not to do that, it’s not the cleverest thing to be doing here!
Then we had the Poland game on the Tuesday. In a happy coincidence the Tuesday was ‘Teacher’s Day’ here in Brazil which meant myself and all my fellow teachers had a day off, which was nice. It also meant I could watch the game in the comfort and safety of my own home, happily circumnavigating any possible ‘falling-asleep-on-a-crowded-bus’ accidents. And I have to say, I was really happy. I gave a few understated ‘geet ins’ and a little Stevey Taylor fist-pump on the final whistle. After the horrors of the Golden generation, seeing a team with no real world class players (Rooney and possibly Gerrard excluded) working together as a team gave me a small amount of satisfaction. Maybe Woy’s Boys will do us proud in 2014 after all. As long as we can all recognise that England are a Quarter Final team at best, maybe we’ll be able to ignore the ridiculous hyperbole that surrounds the team and their chances in the press and just enjoy, what will be, a great tournament.
And then, after a very satisfactory sleep, I woke on Wednesday and had a flick (or a click) through the online reports and it was then that I really started getting excited. Reading over and over again that England were going to Brazil helped it finally dawn on me that the World Cup is getting closer, it’s going to be in Brazil, AND I’M HERE!!! It’s going to be a Hell of a party and I’m going to be here, right at the heart of it, in the best city to be in to see the whole event. This has suddenly become very real, very close and very, very exciting!
Of course I’ll be ‘Jonny-On-The-Spot’ for your favourite fanzine, reporting back all the crack in the run-up to the main event and during the tournament itself. You may have seen reports on the BBC site about the expected rise in costs throughout the tournament and the cynical part of me expects a fair amount of profiteering to be carried out… Watch this space.
Just to keep you up to date with where we are – of the 12 stadiums to host matches, 6 are still not completed and 4 of those are (not-surprisingly) well behind schedule. I’ll be talking about this and the new stadiums in general in coming blogs.
Down to business, then. Anyone want to tell me where yesterday’s performance came from? I’m sure I wasn’t alone in not expecting anything like the display that the lads gave us. I thought they were outstanding.
My fears had deepened when the news of Colo came through, I was sure Suarez and Sturridge were going to run rings around Mike ‘The Plummer’ Williamson and either Yanga or Mbiwa (whichever one turned). As it was, the back 4 looked as solid as we’ve seen for many a month. Santon was back to his attacking best and looked like the player we thought we’d had when he arrived.
I remember listening to Taylor and Besty’s Podcast in which they discussed Santon’s apparent brief to reign in the attacking side to his game and try to concentrate on his defensive responsibilities (which he has been doing without much success, it must be said), but yesterday he looked fantastic marauding up the left flank again. I think having Remy in front of him on the wing is helping him out, too. The bloke is something else so it would be magnificent if he could build up a partnership with our young Italian LB.
Playing HBA front and centre turned out to be a master-stroke. I’ve been getting frustrated with Pards of late but he showed a fair old amount of nous and some calculated risk-taking in that call and got it absolutely spot on. Kudos where it’s due.
It was a sight for sore eyes seeing our midfield due boss the centre of the park. Remember when Cabaye and Tiote were being spoken of as amongst the best midfield duo in the league? They were back to their best yesterday, with a special mention to captain Cheick ‘The Tank’ Tiote. He’s been getting some justified stick for a while now, I’ve been calling for Anita to take his place since the start of the season, but yesterday he was tackling, blocking, harrying and playing the easy pass just like back in the day. I think he gave the ball away just twice (both ending in heart-in-the-mouth moments, admittedly), but I loved seeing him dominate England’s Stevie-G.
Cabaye’s strike was an absolute beauty, but the heart signal to the stands, mate? Really? Fuck off with shite and just concentrate on playing like we all know you can and you’ll get all the forgiveness you need (although maybe not of the editor…)
Anyone else over the moon for Academy graduate, Paul Dummet? I dig owt like that. Maybe they are practicing set pieces at Darsley Park after all (no giggling at the back!)
10 men against the early league leaders for the best part of 50 mins and we did more than alright. With 11 men we’d have won that game, but many ghosts have been laid to rest thanks to the performance, if not the result.
And can we please make sure that everyone in the squad understands that Suarez is a horrible, dirty cheating little shit and if you touch him, however slight the contact, he WILL go down. There’re quite a few horrible bastards who play in the PL but this bloke out twats the worst of them. If it wasn’t for him being their bloody hero I’d actually be quite happy to see Liverpool win the league just for a change of scenery but I just cannot bring myself to not want to hit the diving, racist, biting Uruguayan with a housebrick. Repeatedly.
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THRU BLACK & WHITE EYES – Something Like That – 20/Oct/13