OH SCOTLAND (ptXXXVII of an ongoing series)
Nobody likes the international break, do they, we’ve established that. But this current one hasn’t been so bad, has it? Narrow your eyes, squint real hard, suspend disbelief, have some more of your magic whisky, and you could almost convince yourself that we’re still roaming the magic lands of the much more entertaining Premier League, a place of pure imagination where Daniel James keeps curling them in from distance, Teemu Pukki scores futile goals in lost causes, and Watford sack their manager every 18 minutes. Also Scotland keep losing heavily at home, which is nothing to do with our bread-and-butter reverie, but it is another repetitive thing that happens quite a lot in life.
Oh Scotland. Their latest Hampden humiliation, a 4-0 skelping at the hands of a team told what to do by Bobby M, comes four days after they crumbled like an own-brand version of a caramel wafer against Russia. But while The Fiver is open-minded enough to explore alternatives to beloved confectionary staples, Steve Clarke insists he’s “not going to experiment”, news which may cause mild concern among a long-suffering support who, at this rate, can’t be far off reassessing Berti Vogts in a more favourable light.
“I have to make us better defensively, more resilient,” announced Clarke. But it wasn’t all pipe dreams. “The group is over in terms of qualification, and what we have do now is target third position.” Third position! Say what you like about 1978, but at least Ally MacLeod was reaching for the stars. Having said that, it’s probably best to be a tad more realistic right now, given the Scots are currently trailing both Kazakhstan and Cyprus after six games of Group I, with only San Marino propping them up. A strong finish would at least generate some much-needed confidence going into the Nations League play-offs, so the theory goes. And so hopes of grabbing one of those 128 qualification spots available for Euro 2020 aren’t quite dashed, at least not yet. Incidentally, the extra pennies for the Tunnock’s original is money well spent.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’ll tell you one thing about the man – he doesn’t get to me one bit. I’m possibly the only one that stood up to him, more than once. I think that’s what bothers him most maybe. I really don’t know why people pay attention. Because, yes, he was a good player – an unbelievable player – known as a hard man on the pitch. But there’s a difference between being a hard man on the pitch and being a tough guy. Just because someone has a sharp tongue or a stare, doesn’t make them a tough guy. My brother-in-law was a marine commando, went to war, he’s a tough guy. They’re the people you say are tough guys, not Roy. So that’s why I was never scared as a player” – Jon Walters offers up a choice response to Roy Keane flapping his gums last week.
“Jordan Glossop on terrible pitches (yesterday’s Fiver letters) reminds me of some of my own fond memories from youth leagues in New York City. One pitch required you to step carefully as the pitch had been laid over chicken wire – now laid bare by years of neglect. Another ground had uncut grass as tall as we were all around it, and if balls played out of touch weren’t hard enough to find in the first place, the search was made even more difficult by the used needles we had to take care to avoid. Still, these memories do trigger a genuine sense of nostalgia – kids these days will never know what they are missing” – Matt Richman.
“We would have given our right arm, and frequently gave the ligaments of our right (and left) legs, to have played on a pitch with mere oak trees and manhole covers, while we battled it out on the frozen wastelands of Dunsink Lane (think poor man’s Hackney Marshes) in the Leinster Senior League in the 1980s. Unfortunately, before the wastelands were frozen, they had been galloped on by rather large horses leaving 12-inch deep hoof prints all over the hallowed turf, which subsequently froze rock hard in November, December and January, leaving us to play Russian roulette with the randomly positioned death trap holes and the clogger fullbacks of the LSL. Happy days” – Dexter O’Riordan.
“To offset the seemingly endless tedium of international weeks, I’ve been catching up on Danny Baker’s BBC London Afternoon Retreat shows from 2005 that someone now seems to be uploading as podcasts for some reason. They are clearly great but are quite a disorientating listen. Max Rushden is the newsreader, the first story on the news is about the government ‘nearly’ losing a vote and in the sports news, Arsenal are going well in Big Cup. A different world …” – Noble Francis.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Iranian fan Sahar Khodayari has died a week after setting herself on fire outside a courtroom, after learning she may face six months in prison for trying to enter a stadium.
England boss Gareth Southgate has offered support to Declan Rice after the midfielder and his family received online threats following his switch in allegiance. “I’ve had people saying they’re going to come to my house,” said Rice. “There’s a few bits I could go into but I don’t need to go into it, threats to my family, threats to me. It was tough, there has been some abuse.”
French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet doesn’t want referees to interrupt matches in case of homophobic chants, despite new rules introduced by the FFF this season that permit such interruptions. “I would not stop the games – totally against this,” he belched. “We will make sure there are no more [homophobic banners and chants]. But stopping a game? No.”
And Danny Cowley is eyeing up the Premier League after parlaying his impressive managerial ascent alongside brother Nicky into jobs at Huddersfield. “It’s been a fairytale,” he tooted. “There’s no hiding place from that. We started in the Essex Senior League. You have to believe in football miracles and they have happened here once before in recent history.”
STILL WANT MORE?
Suzanne Wrack looks at the lessons to be learned from hosting WSL games in big grounds.
Nick Ames on the promise and the passion of the Kosovo team facing England.
Talking of which, Andy Hunter mulls over England and the balance between blooding young players and securing results. The match takes place at St Mary’s, which is just as well because watching England at Wembley is rubbish, reckons Sachin Nakrani.
Louise Taylor wonders whether football is too self-important to care about the climate crisis.
The standout young players in League One and League Two so far.
Is MLS full of attacking talent, wonders Graham Ruthven, or are is the defending just bobbins?
Not football, but read.
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