Then Saturday Comes… the half decent football blog

Sticking up for Don Fabio and sticking it to the haterz through the medium of Kipling
June 23, 2010, 7:13 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog

 If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too.

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating.

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss.
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch.

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!


England flop but fans in Blighty still enjoy the night
June 19, 2010, 12:19 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog

The misfiring millionaire footballers representing England could not match the passion shown by loyal fans that cheered them on all over the country yesterday.

Thousands flocked to Peterborough city centre to watch England’s lacklustre 0-0 draw in the crucial World Cup game with Algeria.

Passionate supporters crammed outside  The Sports Lounge, on King Street, where a capacity 700 fans gallantly cheered the misfiring squad on while watching on a big screen TV.

The bar’s booming soundsystem blared football anthems such as “Three Lions” and “World In Motion” across the city centre while fans clad in replica shirts and flags of St George descended on Peterborough bars.

However, the carnival atmosphere that preceded the crucial match became replaced with a nervous mood when the Three Lions put in a second limp performance at a tournament many optimists have tipped them to win.

Mayor of Peterborough councillor Keith Sharp joked: “The team need to start playing better though or there might be a riot in the town centre.

“But seriously, anything that brings people together has got to be good and I just hope the team start putting in a performance half as good as their fans.”

England can still qualify for the next round if they beat Slovenia on Tuesday, but even then they may have to settle for second place in what many pundits saw as one of the weakest groups.

Shrugging off the disappointment from the match Tom Roberts, from Fletton, said the atmosphere generated by the legions of England fans outside The Sports Lounge was brilliant.

He said: “The outdoor screen helps create a big match atmosphere and it is just great to have a chance to have these events.”

The revenue from the fans watching the game in city bars will come as a welcome sight to landlords vying for additional business during the recession.

The game was also being shown in Charters in Town Bridge on three outdoor screens.

Manager Hugh Sherwood said: “We have put on a ‘beers from around the world promotion’. We haven’t been able to find a beer from every country and don’t have an Algerian one – but I don’t think we would have sold many.”

Urban regeneration company Opportunity Peterborough chairman John Bridge said that the public gatherings would help the city’s economy.

Mr Bridge said: “It is great news for pubs going through a difficult time. The key thing is we need them to start winning – the longer that we stay in the competition the more nights like these the city will have.”

Rob Green makes the second biggest Anglo-American spill of the summer
June 13, 2010, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog | Tags:

Calm down everyone.

Yes England’s first round result was not what most of the readers here wanted, or predicted. The game seemed to sum up every English international campaign in living memory: strong start, overexpectations before an outrageous clanger exposes the true problems blighting the team.

But we didn’t lose and we played OK. We could have won the game comfortably if we reneged on the national hobby of conceding metnal goals.

However, there is no way to sugar-coat it: a 1-1 draw with America is starting with a limp. If the next game goes badly the whole campaign will already be crippled.

Going into the Algeria match this is the team I hope Capello will play.

Johnson – Terry – Upson – Cole
Lennon – Barry – Lampard – Gerrard
Heskey – Rooney

From first choice to bottom of the pile - poor old Robbie Green.

Rob Green will rightly receive the majority of the criticism. I hope he doesn’t start against Algeria, and not just for the mistake. I’ve always thought David James deserves that. How mental though that our keepers come from teams that finished bottom, 17th and 10th.

Although Green’s performance was otherwise good, that is not a mistake one would expect to come from a World Cup winner.  Similarly, although Heskey’s performance was outstanding, his inability to finish the one-on-one is not what you would expect from a World Cup winner.

This all sums up what is generally the case: England are probably just not good enough to really challenge the top teams.

But that doesn’t mean we have no chance. Football is a mental game and, with a bit of luck, momentum can come to any team’s fortunes around. Conceivably a dozen teams could win this tournament.

From now on, England should have a proper holding midfielder when Gareth Barry returns. Although Barry himself is not amazing, his role is vital. Although Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are both better footballers, playing the two of them in the middle clearly does not work.

There is an argument that if he was closing down on the American midfield they would have been unable to pepper Rob Green with so many long-range efforts in the first half.

The Gerrard-Lampard midfield partnership was the same as it was way back in 2004 and 2006. Although both played well individually (Gerrard, especially), as a combination it just doesn’t work.

It may seem harsh to push Gerrard back onto the wing when Barry returns, but that is what I hope to see happen. Lampard is too valuable to drop and, although it is a dis-service to remove Gerrard from his best position, it does make sense for the overall benefit of the team.

Also, if things need changing you can always put Joe Cole on for Lampard, and push Stevie G into the middle.

Anything but Shaun Wright-Phillips, please.

Fabio has a jigsaw puzzle to solve

With Ledley King likely out for the next game (surprise, surprise!) another headache is in central defence. As seems to be the case with England, we may have to drop the more talented player (Jamie Carragher) for the more functional one (Matt Upson).

Although Carragher has excellent decision making ability, so too does John Terry. More worryingly, Carragher is also as flat-footed these days as JT. The two looked creaky against the Yanks and if Jozi Altidore can skin past them it doesn’t bear thinking what a more talented forward would do.

For that reason, I’d partner the brick-wall of Terry with the more athletic Upson.

As is the recurring and frankly boring argument regarding Emile Heskey, I think the most important thing is to play the best players to fit your tactics, rather than creating tactics to focus around the best players. Again, it’s the reason why the likes of Kleberson and Stephan Guivarc’h were regulars in World Cup winning teams.

The major difference though is that Kleberson could rely on Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, and Guivarc’h had Zinedine Zidane.

Let’s just hope that our one genuinely incredible player – Wayne Rooney – turns up for the next game. That way we have a better chance of maximising our extremely talented ones – Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard.

England World Cup preparations hit snags
June 9, 2010, 7:09 am
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog | Tags:


I’m fresh off the boat from a scouting trip to the good old US of A ahead of the big World Cup kick off which is alarmingly just a few days away.

In my 10 days away England’s meticulous preparation for the tournament seems to have hit more roadblocks than a remake of a Dirty Harry chase scene set in Baghdad. This has thrown previous dreams of glory to more a realistic feeling of “this is going to go wrong in the quarters again, isn’t it?”.

Crufts got merked

The most obvious set-back may actually be a blessing. Skipper Rio Ferdinand has been forced to drop out of the squad with a knee injury, but some may suggest this was divine providence. The once-collossal defender has endured a stop-start season with a dodgy back.

The injury means he has to spend hours after each match in an ice bath, but more alarmingly makes him turn so slowly it looks like he is playing with an ice pick down the back of his pants.

Although those doubts remained, they do with his potential replacements also. His departure from the squad means that Ledley King or Jamie Carragher are likely to swagger into the starting 11, despite literally contributing nothing to the qualification. Michael Dawson is this year’s Micah Richards: decent season, no class, will make mistakes.

In addition to Rio’s injury, the biggest force to drum England out of the World Cup is once again the media.

I didn’t watch the game against the South African all stars but I understand that Wayne Rooney had a flare-up. A bit of petulance most probably, but the press have already gathered the torchwood for a potential lynching.

Rooney escaped blame for the 2006 World Cup exit because his petulance was forgotten once Christiano Ronaldo winked at his bench, suggesting he had masterminded the whole thing. However, should he again be sent off he will definitely be the folk devil in the press. All the press has been about ‘will Wayne keep his head’ – do you think Argentina do the same thing with Lionel Messi (who, let’s not forget, has been known to be sent off for head butting in his time.

This negative press surrounds Rooney despite the fact he has a not too awful disciplinary record for England (1 red, 8 yellows in 60 games), and to my knowledge has not done anything remotely head-mental since 2006.

The final stumbling point is a boringly repetitive one.

Don’t worry Emile, I feel the same way too.

Yet again, every football cretin has once again crawled out of the woodwork to lament Emile Heskey for apparently missing a couple of chances against some pub team. Despite the fact that without Heskey we lost to Croatia twice in the last qualification, but with him we won 9-2 on aggregate this time round, idiots still think the only quality of a footballer is their goals. Assists and team-play are insignificant to such idiots, so it’s not really worth discussing.

We’ve been through this so many times it’s redundant, but here it is once again.

If you drop Heskey you get Rooney playing with his back to goal. If I need to remind you, Rooney with back to goal resulted in no Euro 2008. Rooney running at defences with Emile holding the ball up meant we qualified for the World Cup with seven successive wins.

Still, it looks likely Fabio will succumb to the calls and play 4-5-1 for the first game. Testament to this is his apparent desire to recall Paul Scholes from four years in the wilderness. After all, a draw isn’t a bad result against America, sadly.

The eleven men that run out against America on Saturday resemble a skeleton of the settled starting XI that thrashed its way to qualification.

In addition to the sad demise of Lord David Beckham, Ledley King (RIP Rio Ferdinand), Aaron Lennon (RIP Theo Walcott) and Joe Cole (RIP Gareth Barry) are all likely to start.

Chances are I’ll make the bench, too.