Posts Tagged ‘FACup’

Am awful month, Qatargate, a timely reminder.

January 30th, 2013 No comments

January 2013 was an horrendous month for Stoke City.  The FA Cup exit is disappointing but from the moment Manchester City were drawn we knew it was going to be a tall order to reach the 5th round.  Collecting only one league point is a real let down… especially after the exuberance of December.  The dismal 2-2 draw at home Wigan was a real low for our season.  Whilst respecting all sides in this league it’s fair to say that when you go 2-0 up, at home to a side in the bottom three, it’s reasonable to expect to win the game.  Not only were we pegged back to 2-2 we showed little desire to get back on top and win the game and seemed to settle for a draw.  Wigan were so much more comfortable on the ball and must be frustrated not to have finished the job and  actually pulled off an unlikely away win.  Our 0-0 draw at Tottenham on December 22nd was a masterclass in defensive play.  Every opponent’s run was covered and we defended collectively, cutting down angles and ensuring Spurs had nowhere to go.  Another understated admirable aspect was that when defending in our own penalty box we rarely went for the tackle, so not risking an opposition penalty.  That level of application focus and endeavour was Stoke City at their best.  Tony Pulis must be wondering what’s changed.  In his post match comments Pulis stated a need to get back to basics.  That is understandable but intending to play out 0-0 draws would be as unnecessary and inexcusable as ever.  The next home game is against Reading and nothing less than a win will do.

Confirmation finally arrived last week.  After months of speculation Michel Platini  announced 13 different cities would host the  2020 European Championship.  UEFA’s claim it will be a ‘Euro for Europe’ is an honorable attempt at altruism, but it does seem it’s a situation they would have preferred to avoid…. a claim graphically illustrated by the fact Platini insisted the competition would return to it’s traditional format in 2024!  The monumental error was to expand the competition to 24 teams.  As well as diluting the quality of football on offer it makes staging the tournament much more complicated and a lot more expensive.  The problems finding bidders to host for the 2020 competition suggested  UEFA’s number crunchers were oblivious to the current precarious state of the global economy.

Paris based magazine France Football is carrying a 16 page article titled “Qatargate”. As the title suggests, the article is focused on Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.   The decision to award hosting rights to Qatar is perhaps the most controversial moment in FIFA’s history.  It’s hard to find anybody who doesn’t feel the bid was riddled with corruption.  Anything that sheds light on these murky waters is to be welcomed.   If the allegations are proven to be factual the onus will be on FIFA to  take 2022 off Qatar and ensure those who abused their rights are removed from the game and prosecuted.

Eventually Lance Armstrong was outed.   Tenacious investigative journalism and the public’s clamour for truth and justice saw Armstrong exposed as the cheat he’s been.  It’d be easy to see the Armstrong case in isolation but the clamour for truth over football’s administrators is just as strong.  Resilient journalism and public pressure can yet shake the complaceny of those who hide away in Swiss ivory towers.  It may be a long drawn out struggle but the Lance Armstrong story proves it can be done.

The most infuriating aspect of Eden Hazard kicking out at the ballboy was that it detracted attention from Swansea’s brilliant achievement.  Deservedly beating Chelsea over two legs was a special moment.  Unfortunately, they didn’t get the credit they richly deserve because the media were fixated on one moment of stupidity.  Michael Laudrup has done a remarkable job so far at Swansea.  He’s managed to continue the club’s impressive progress while mainatining the philosophy of predecessor Brendan Rogers.    As for Rogers, Liverpool’s FA Cup defeat at Oldham confirms his first season managing Liverpool will prove to be trophyless.  His team is making progress and we are beginning to see the his vision reach fruition.  For all that there is an unavoidable irony when his previous club Swansea have reached a Wembley final and Liverpool, in time honoured tradition, are concentrating on the league!

Cape Verde is a great story to emerge from the African Nations Cup in South Africa.  Their dramatic 2-1 victory over Angola secured them second place in the group  and a place in the quarter finals.  With a population of just 500,000 this is a huge moment for  the West African nation.  The feat is all the more impressive on learning that Cape Verde doesn’t actually have any grass football pitches!  Their delight was understandable.  To demonstrate their elation the players stormed the post match press conference, watch and smile!

In the modern game we can be forgiven for feeling overawed by talk of agents, TV deals business and self interest.  Stories like Swansea Oldham and Cape Verde are a timely reminder  why we live this football life.



Solid but toothless, taking a stand, storm in a teacup

January 10th, 2013 No comments

Stoke City’s draw against Crystal Palace wasn’t a classic.  It was satisfying to secure a clean sheet but the point has to be made, failing to sustain meaningful pressure on the Palace defence was disappointing.  However, the priority from a fiddly tie was to be in the hat for the fourth round draw and in that respect it was mission accomplished.  The replay certainly isn’t a foregone conclusion.  There is a lot to do if we are to get the  fourth round tie against Manchester City.

Despite being a lover of football traditions, it’d be foolish to deny that the FA Cup has lost much of it’s polish in recent years.  Seeing games played out on front of half full stadiums and managers clearly regarding the whole competition as a nuisance isn’t an inspiring spectacle.  The FA holding this years final yet again on a weekend of a full Premier League programme hardly suggests that it’s a priority for anyone.  But if we were to totally disregard the FA Cup it would be an arrogant mistake.   Some may consider it to be a hindrance but it’s a hindrance worth winning.

When Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng led his teammates off the pitch last week it was a huge moment.  For several years the issue of how to deal with the issue of bigotry in football has been debated.  The vast majority of supporters are repelled by racism and believe it has no place in football… or anywhere else in society for that matter.  The clamour for authorities to take strong decisive action has only been matched by the administrators  stubborn refusal to do so.  It’s the lack of affirmative action which led to Boateng snapping, deciding enough is enough, and that in 2013 nobody should have to tolerate racial abuse in the workplace.  The stand had to be taken as ruling bodies clearly have no intention of addressing the subject.  Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the incident is that it occurred at all.  Traditionally players have been expected to do what they are told and keep quiet.  Even now there is a handful of people who believe footballers shouldn’t respond at all to the abuse and that is a small price to pay for earning an astronomical wage… despite the fact the vast majority of players don’t earn a huge wage and some things transcend the relevance of money.  For all that, the response to Milan’s walk off has, in general, been supportive from both the general public and those in the game… with one notable exception.  Sepp Blatter stating his belief that Boateng was ‘running away’ from racism is yet another indication that he is fails to understand the issue and why it needs to be addressed.  FIFA have shied away too long, seemingly afraid to assert effective governance.  As a result Blatter has demonstrated his isolation from a crucial subject in the game and as such has proven again that he is unfit to govern.

On an issue considerably less important, another administrator stoked some fires recently.  Michel Platini declared “If we look at the Champions League draw, it’s clear that Juventus are already through to the quarter finals”.  While Juventus are clearly favourites heading into the tie It’d be foolish to consider Celtic an easy passage to the quarter finals.  Especially now Neil Lennon has extra armour to motivate his team!

Much has been made of Roberto Mancini’s training ground altercation with Mario Balotelli.  Was it really worthy of so many column inches?  Probably not. Disagreements like this have always occurred at football clubs and always will.  Many years ago I used to watch Stoke City training and similar incidents were commonplace.  The main difference is that now anyone who witnesses something can post details on a social media website and within minutes the story has travelled across the world.  With the saturation coverage of modern football press are often present and looking for the story.  The attention received by their spat says much more about modern media practices than it does about the individuals involved.


The ultimate mercy dash, a well earned point and the pinnacle

May 4th, 2011 No comments

The draw at Blackpool was another well earned away point.  For all their spirit and energy it isn’t hard to see why Blackpool’s situation is so bleak.   Pressing and pegging us back during the first half was positive for them but precious  little was created .  In fact, at half time Jonesy’s miss led to Stoke rueing a missed opportunity.  That miss hasn’t received the media coverage you might expect.  It’s a good job for Jonesy’s own sake we (probably) have enough points to see us safe.  The second half saw us on the front foot a bit more.  We generally had the better of the game and Whelan had two excellent long distance efforts.  Despite the more enterprising second half the draw was still the fair result.  It’d be good for football if Blackpool can stay up…. but I still wish we’d beaten them!  Such are the passions of football. 

There can be little doubt that Lionel Messi is the best player in the world right now.  The shimmy and run to seal Barcelona’s win against Real Madrid was incredible.  Of course, the style of the goal led to comparisons with Diego Maradona.  One factor which prevents Messi from being considered an all time great is his disappointing showing in last years World Cup.  Despite what some of UEFA’s  sponsors and marketing executives would like us to believe, the World Cup remains the pinnacle of world football.  Back in the 1960’s Australia had a runner named Ron Clarke.  Clarke was a masterful runner who broke many world records.  The blemish on his record is that his best Olympic performance was a mere bronze in 1964.  In short he was an expert in racing against the clock but struggled to beat other runners.  Clarke can’t really be considered an all time great because he didn’t perform at his best at the highest level.  Similarly, if Messiis to be  placed in the same bracket as Zidane,  Pele and Maradona he needs to confirm his status by displaying his genius in Brazil in 2014.  Some fireworks in this years Copa America would also be welcome!

The ongoing media spat between Jose Mourinho and Barcelona continues to weave it’s undignified trail into the worlds media.  What should have been one of the seasons real showpieces last week was undermined by childish bickering.  It’s increasingly difficult to imagine the special one working at the Bernebau next season. When, by a stroke of luck, the Catalan Globetrotters finally lost a league game Real Madrid lost too, rendering Real Sociedad’s historic victory   a tiny blot on the magnificence of Barcelona’s season.  Jose will however leave reputation intact.  Real Madrid are known for being difficult employers.  Mourinho’s failings will be overlooked as soon as he starts to seek a new employer.  Overlooked as they may be, we’ll just have to imagine a feasible explanation for the overly negative approach in that first leg.

As dominant as Barcelona have been Porto are the most dominant domestic side in Europe.  Wrapping up the title with five league games remaining they stay on course to end the season unbeaten.  A brilliant achievement that can’t be matched elsewhere in Europe…. even by the Catalan megagiants. 

My ultimate football mercy dash commences on Thursday May 5th.   May 14th is the occasion many of the most optimistic Stokies never actually believed would happen.   As a kid FA Cup Final day was one of the most eagerly awaited dates of the Joe year.  The night before the game I was usually too excited to sleep.  The lush green turf underneath those regal twin towers looked like paradise.  When my red and white mind seized control of my red and white heart I was rudely woken by the realisation that even when we have had great teams we failed to reach English football’s grandest showpiece.  This in itself brings into sharper focus what is happening.  No previous  player has ever played in an FA Cup final while representing Stoke City.  Gordon Banks, Stan,  Alan Hudson, Freddie Steele,  none of them adorned our sacred stripes in this game.  When I board the plane for the UK, it won’t isn’t just to see a football match, nor is it self indulgent laddish wackiness.  This is a piece of history we can be proud to be associated with…. a pilgrimage. We doff our collective cap to shared heritage.  Thousands of football fans never get the chance to see their team in an a cup final.  Others  experience it so regularly they have been de-sensitised and a day at Wembley Stadium is like getting on a bus or buying a bottle of milk .  On May 14th we’ll know how special it is to be involved.  And, despite being novices to this level of grandeur, we have every right to be there.  Let’s make history together.

Making the difference, surly egos, and a big Sunday with beautiful football

March 8th, 2011 No comments

As with most runs of poor results at a football club, Stoke City’s current situation isn’t anything that a win or two wouldn’t put right.  But there are times when you look at our form and wonder where a win could possibly come from.  We aren’t quite at crisis point yet, but if this continues we soon will be.  Despite a bright start at West Ham on Saturday, we conceded a goal as soft an any you are likely to see, then fell apart immediately.   Confidence visibly drained from our players, one moment we were carrying the game forward the next we were merely fulfilling a fixture and waiting for the final whistle…. and when you give up that early in a game that’s a lot of time to play out.      Any lingering hopes we had of salvaging something from the game departed a few minutes later when we politely allowed them to double their lead.  In the second half we were a bit more positive, looked a bit more willing and tried to drag ourselves back into the match but we all knew it was a hopeless task.  Because of a slightly brighter second half some of us might feel slightly aggrieved, but we got what we deserved from the game.  As a result we slide ever closer to the relegation zone, seemingly bereft of any variation to our  moribund play.  Since January we have de-generated from a pragmatic team to an out and out long ball side and modern defences  deal with that threat with the minimum of fuss.  The positive qualities of recent years have faded away, the spirit and drive which underpinned our rise have fizzled out to leave us  exposed.

Our seasons ambitions from now are straight forward.  From whispers of Europe in the build up to Christmas, at the start of March it’s actually about scraping the points together to assure safety.  In the close season we have the chance to draw breath and regroup but major surgery is required.  Amongst other things, the entire philosophy of the team has to change. By this time next year we need to have different styles of players at the club. This can be partly achieved by offloading some of the squad who are clearly not going to play a role in the first team, many of which are merely clogging up the wage bill.  We must start to build a  balanced squad, too many of our players are the same.  Of course you do need grafters and grinders and tactical discipline, but without an element of craft and technical skill those positive qualities prove fruitless.  Any team needs balance.  On Sunday there was a  perfect example of how crucial it is to have  variation in a team ……Liverpool v Man Utd, Liverpool on top but Man Utd were holding firm. They were unlocked by some brilliant skill by Suarez. A quality player ‘making the difference’.  Defenders hate nothing more that players running straight at them…especially in the box. We drastically lack that difference  making factor.  Acquiring that vital factor can be achieved, but ruthlessness is required… and getting the right balance could prove an expensive exercise.   But first things first, we need to ensure safety. 

Fortune favours the brave.  The Juventus v Milan game was 0-0 at half time.  Realising that, despite their illustrious heritage, Juventus simply aren’t very good,  Allegri withdrew Kevin-Prince Boateng and threw on Robinho to really go for it and get the points.  The change worked.  Gattuso’s winning goal was a scuffed shot the keeper should have saved but when alls said and done, Milan won an away game and edged three points closer to their 18th Scudetto.   The game could have fizzled out into a 0-0 draw but some ambitious alterations have put Milan in a very strong position.  They are the kind of victories that titles are built on.  One point becomes three, and it must be a big psychological advantage to know that Inter’s second half obliteration  of Genoa meant no dent was made in their lead in Serie A.  Fortune favours the brave.

Louis van Gaal will be leaving Bayern Munich at the end of the season.  He’s a notoriously difficult man to get on with, I can’t help wondering if the powers that be have just taken this slump as an opportunity  to oust him.  Bayern chairman Karl Heinz Rummenigge isn’t known for peace and love either, the meetings must have been a fest of surly egos!  As it stands Bayern have a great chance of reaching the European Cup quarter final, would they feel foolish lifting the trophy after squeezing the gaffer out?   Where will Van Gaal turn up next season?  

I watched The Damned United again.  A splendid film.  It encapsulates the earthy unglamorous working mans club essence of 1970’s football clubs perfectly.  Like many dramatisations, if you remember that it’s not the entire absolute truth a pleasant time is had.  I was however struck by the dragging out of the tiresome cliche at the end that ‘Brian Clough is the best manager England never had’.  That gets stated almost as fact yet nobody can know for sure whether  he’d have been successful or not.  My own view is that he wouldn’t have proved any more or less successful than Ron Greenwood who was appointed instead.  It also stands out that while Bobby Robson became a national treasure, the man who actually did it… Sir Alf Ramsey, is so often overlooked.  We know that he was the manager on July 30th 1966 but he is rarely discussed with affection.  It’s a sad fact that the most successful England manager there’s ever been (ever will be?) seems to be way down the order when the England team is discussed.  The notion of the best manager England never had gets more attention than the best manager England ever had… and Alf’s achievements deserves better than that. 

Sunday will be a big one.  A big day with two big games.   In the afternoon at 4pm it’s the A-League Grand Final between Brisbane Roar and Central Coast. It’s LIVE on SKY in the UK KO at 6am!!  If Brisbane play anything like they have done this season it’ll be well worth getting out of bed for.  37,000 tickets had been sold by Monday lunchtime.  It will be good to get the whole city turn orange for a week.  It’s pleasing to see that football is making headlines here for a change, and if any team is worthy of headlines it’s the current Brisbane team.  Finishing the job on Sunday will lead to long loud celebrations.  Come on Brisbane!!

Then at midnight on Sunday, the post match celebrations (optimistic eh?) will be brought to a halt as there’s our FA Cup quarter final against West Ham to agonise over.  Reflecting on recent form it’s hard to really imagine Stoke being able to win this game.  But we can cling to the adage that the form book goes out of the window for cup games (football cliche 781) and remember that surely  we have to play well again at some point!  It’s feasible that victory in the FA cup will actually  lead to an upturn of form in the league.   Winning is just a great habit to have and there is a lot at stake.  Last year  at this stage we knew that we had little chance of knocking Chelsea out but this is one entirely feasible.   We might not get this chance for another 39 years.  COME ON STOKE!!

Cup fever, a charming loser and a whinger

February 22nd, 2011 No comments

The match against Brighton wasn’t televised live here in Australia.  It was however shown on a delay at 7.45 on Sunday morning.  The early morning stroll to a friends house in the blazing sun was well worth it.   It wasn’t sweat seeping from my red and white pores….  I’d merely succumbed to a bout of cup fever!   The symptoms  persisted when we eased through to the quarter final.  Despite opposing  defender Tommy Elphicks’s romantic flourish in the build up, contained their threat in comfort.  It was comprehensive and professional showing from Stoke, exactly the kind of showing you’d expect when a Premier League team faces league one opposition.  Three first half headers saw us through with the minimum of fuss, from the moment John Carew gave us the lead we never looked like being cup shock victims.  Brighton keeper Brezovan was overpowered and bruised by our aerial strength and in the second half we were afforded the luxury of being able to play the game out with a rare and pleasing lack of anxiety. 

So for the second year running we have reached the quarter finals of the FA Cup.  And the point has to be made the draw has been considerably kinder to us than it was at this stage last year.   But nothing is certain.  West Ham will be as relieved as we are with the draw.  We still have lot to deal with to reach our first FA Cup semi since 1972.  Memories of Stoke in the FA Cup still evokes more pain than happiness but I can’t help humming Abide With Me!   Even the most hardened cynics (ie me!) have to dream. 

Everton injected the much needed shock factor back into the competition by knocking Chelsea out.  Infuriatingly and predictably,  the media focused on Chelsea’s ongoing stuttering form as opposed to congratulating Everton on such a great result.  While there is little doubt the competition has lost some of it’s gloss, knocking the holders out on their own patch is a commendable achievement.  After going behind some sides would have folded and been satisfied with a near miss but Everton showed admirable resilience by digging in and equalising as they did.  Baines free kick was a beauty too, a beauty for which he hasn’t received the credit he’s really due.  It’d be pleasing if this result puts and end to the plethora of rumours surrounding David  Moyes position as manager.  He deserves much better than that.  Orient have made themselves a fortune by earning a replay at Arsenal.  True to form Wenger came out whinging about fixture congestion but that doesn’t distract from the joyous scenes of Orient’s celebrations.  Those moments are the reason we live this footballing life, Wenger sulking over his multi millionaires having to get their shirts dirty one more time can’t erase marvellous memories like that.

The first knockout games in the European Cup were tremendous.  Top class players at the top of their game.  Each tie so far is finely poised to have second legs full of excitement and drama and perhaps an upset or two.  It demonstrates why the competition is in desperate need of a revamp, the quality of the knockout matches shows how meaningless and tedious so many of the group games are. 

In one of the aforementioned dramatic ties,it was the European Cup defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk that was instrumental in Claudio Ranieri’s departure from Roma.  It’s entirely feasible that Ranieri jumped before he was pushed.  Last season saw Roma challenging for the title, that progression hasn’t been followed up and the manager paid the ultimate price.  Charm and self deprecating wit may make for a media darling but doesn’t necessarily equate to being a manager able to sustain success.  It’s hard to predict where Claudio will turn up next but  it’s unlikely to be Chelsea.  The Italian media is currently swamped with rumours of Carlo Ancelotti heading for the Stadio Olimpico, but a swap isn’t on the cards!  Elsewhere in Serie A, Allegri at Milan has a Pulis / Fuller situation, he insists on playing Pato as sub when he’s clearly the most dangerous striker they have.  Against Chievo Milan struggled and huffed and puffed but Pato was supersub and saved the day with a late winner.  It’ll be interesting to see if Pato satrts in their crucial six pointer top of the table battle cliche fest this coming weekend!

The Old Firm match on Sunday wasn’t actually a match at all.   Celtic’s dominance was absolute.  Bartley’s early booking left him wary of tackling which meant a significant portion of the midfield was conceded.  Celtic used this advantage with great intelligence, able to keep the ball in relative comfort.  They used it enough to effectively have the game won by half time.  Rangers started the second half with a surge but it subsided quickly.  The third goal just gave the scoreline a more realistic complexion and 3-0 up Rangers can feel grateful their defeat wasn’t more emphatic.  This result puts Celtic well and truly in charge of the title race, Rangers games in hand are nullified.  That’s not to say it’s over but Rangers will have to show more of an appetite than they did in this tepid surrender.

Marvellous travelling support, marvellous Brisbane Roar, negligent media

February 16th, 2011 No comments

Our finest performers on Saturday were the travelling Stokies, chanting long and loud and supporting the team throughout what proved to be a seriously frustrating afternoon.  We did enough to get a draw but it’s difficult to feel too aggrieved about the late goal we conceded.  We looked unlikely to concede a goal but would get more sympathy for suffering the late killer if we’d made more effort to actually win the match.  We defended well throughout and were on top for long spells but never looked remotely as if we could score.  Neither did Birmingham but if you don’t seize the initiative and get on top you are susceptible to a sucker punch… and so it proved.  While every team you face in this league will cause you problems, the over cautious approach to away games remains a bugbear for many supporters.  The fact is that against a modest Birmingham team we seemed reluctant to commit men forward and appeared content to sit on 0-0.  Clean sheets are crucial but with a touch more ambition we would have comfortably won a match that was there for the taking.  The last three away league games have resulted in depressing defeats and no goals scored, nothing too devastating in that but for the fact that we haven’t looked at all likely to do so.  The approach to our away games is an issue that needs to be addressed quickly.  Failure to do so could result in us being dragged down into the malaise of the relegation struggle.  And our magnificent travelling fans deserve  better than that.  Much better.

Upwards and onwards to the FA Cup.  With all respect to everyone, we can understandably expect to beat Brighton, even with our temperamental FA Cup record.  However, while it’s understandable that some players may be saved for battles ahead it could prove a costly error to take this game too lightly.  There’s a lot at stake.  An FA Cup quarter final isn’t to be dismissed and with the luck of the draw (the luck we didn’t get last year) we could enjoy some very special occasions.  No trying to be clever, lets just win.  It’ll be televised here on a delay on Sunday morning.   Hopefully morning coffee will taste as luxurious as vintage champagne.

Brisbane Roar completed the greatest league season in the history of Australian football by demolishing Gold Coast united 4-0.  Yet another thrilling performance oozing style and panache.  As the regular season concludes this coming weekend, a finals series starts involving all clubs in the top five clubs, the winner of the competition being determined by the winner of a grand final on Saturday March 12th.  Brisbane enter the challenge in very good health indeed.  Hopefully they will remember their lines and win a season they have completely dominated.  Unfortunately the local media aren’t so embracing of the teams achievements.  Coverage in the local newspaper remains limited and the TV companies seem reluctant to offer any extensive attention.  All the more frustrating when the Rugby League and Aussie Rules seasons are yet to begin.  Football can’t, and doesn’t ever expect to match those two in terms in terms of popularity but surely an achievement as comprehensive as winning a national league merits some publicity.

Ronaldo has announced his retirement from the game.   In recent years he has become a figure of fun for his ongoing weight issues but that mustn’t be allowed to cloud over the fact that he was a great player.  A special combination of grace skill and electric pace.  His career was full and varied, we may never know the entire truth about his convulsion in Paris but there is little doubt that Brazil struggled to impose themselves on that night’s  game without him.  The controversy over his appearance in the 1998 World Cup Final was finally put to rest four years later when he cemented his name amongst the games greats by starring in Brazil’s successful World Cup campaign.  His fitness issues came to the fore again in 2006 when looking slow and unfit he still managed to become the highest scorer in World cup Finals history with 15.  On retirement he said “The head wants to go on but the body can’t take any more. I think of an action but I can’t do it the way I want to. It’s time to go.”  An appropriately dignified exit for one of the greatest players of the modern era.

Unsurprisingly Wayne Rooney’s winner against Man City was one of the biggest stories of the football week.  It was a special moment which had all the hallmarks of great goals including opportunism agility and accuracy.  But would it have received the vast outpouring of attention had it been scored by a team that wasn’t Manchester United?  Was Rooney’s winner that much better than than this goal by Melbourne Heart’s Alex Terra?

The friendly against Denmark produced some overdue reasons for optimism, feint optimism though it may be!  Wilshere showed signs that he could finally be that crucial precious English rarity…. a midfielder who can dictate play and help to keep possession.  He should at least be substitute against Wales.  The time is right to start playing youngsters and phasing out the old guard.  We desperately need new players and fresh faces in the team and as Morrissey asked How Soon is Now?