Axis: Bold As
The Spirit of Brasil '82
Yeah, Nice One!
Apologies to any viewers of this blog. Sorry to be lame but I have not found the time to make decent quality posts. However this blog is not dead. Steve McClaren's reign as the England manager and Englands qualification chances might be, but this blog will continue.

My current feeling could be summed up, in the great football punditry tradition of cliches, as: if you haven't got anything nice to say don't bother saying anything.

Peace Out.

Manager Or Mouse? - Part 1
Steve McClaren has officially become the England manager. I really need to comment but it's too late and I'm too enraged to assemble a coherent post that is not full of profanity and abuse. Hopefully I will get a full comment out later on today.

"It's very exciting, I can't wait to actually get started. It will be a great challenge and a great adventure. It's going to be totally different, I'm going to do it my way. It's going to be different from Sven, I'm looking forward to the big challenge." - Steve McClaren

Yeah man, you're the shit. What a fucking statement! What a fucking inspiration!

[CENSORED from this point on, but I thought my childish observation that "if he loses the tuft off the front of his 'ead it will reveal he has the same bonce as Sven" was still worth a mention.]

Brasil: A Change In Direction
I wanted to make a comment on Dunga's appointment as the manager of Brasil: I love it. It's smokin' how this great footballing nation have put their golden treasures in the hands of a managerial novice. I'll enjoy seeing how this one plays out.

Tim Vickery has an article looking further into Dunga's appointment here.

Quotes:

"A few days before his appointment Dunga confessed that he 'would have similarities with Big Phil, since we both place a high value on playing collectively, and on forming a united and motivated group'.

From his point of view, Parreira's team in the World Cup 'lacked a bit of collective spirit. When the group is solid, individual talent tips the balance. But when there is no collectiveness, then individualism goes down the drain together with the group'."

F.A. Inundated With Frustration
The F.A. have finally replied to my letter asking for Steve McClaren to issue a "Statement of Intent". Unfortunately they do not seem to be respecting my position as The England Manager's Advisor as the letter they sent back was rather patronising and impersonal. (Whilst not a biggie, it should also be noted that they have failed to honour their charter which states they should reply to correspondence within 5 days. They have taken 16.)



My Letter To The F.A.

09 July 2006, 09:15
Dear Sir's,

I am an Englishman and a passionate fan of England. It is in this
spirit, on this day of the World Cup final, that I write to you on
behalf of my fellow countrymen.

Unsuprisingly I am thoroughly devastated, angered and disillusioned with
the under-performance of Sven and our "golden generation" of
players throughout the last three major tournaments.

I humbly request that Steve McClaren issues a statement of intent
explaining how he plans to transform England into a team who perform to,
and surpass, their potential.

I humbly request this statement of intent is issued as soon as possible
and will demonstrate that he is a strong leader who is capable of
making, and maintaining, the hard decisions necessary to transform the
team.

I'm sure you are aware that, amongst England fans, their is little faith
that Steve McClaren will offer up anything but more of the same. Issuing
this statement will be the first small step to restoring some faith in
the team we love and start the change of direction that is sorely
needed.

I appreciate that you are probably inundated by communications from
fans. However, I would be grateful if you can actually reply to me
directly regarding this matter.

Thank you for your time.

Yours Sincerely

Steve


PS. I know every fan is an armchair manager and that you must get bored
to death with suggestions of how the team should play. Therefore I will
not bore you with my belief that England should play with a consistent
"first eleven" in all matches, friendlies and competitive, for
the full duration of each and every match regardless of what club
managers request. Also, that we should be playing attacking football
that seeks to win matches; not this weak defensive style that seeks,
merely, not to lose.



The F.A.'s Reply

Jul 25 2006, 01:34 PM
Thank you for contacting The Football Association.

Following England's exit at the World Cup, we are inundated with letters
and e-mails from the public expressing their disappointment, frustration
and suggestions on how to improve things for the next tournament. It's
understandable; every English fan is disappointed and had hoped that the
person lifting the trophy at the end of the tournament would be David
Beckham.

England now have to focus on how to move things forward for the 2008
European Championships in Austria and Switzerland. Those involved with
the team will analyse the positive and negatives and look to take
forward an extremely talented group of players.

What is important is that English fans get behind Steve McClaren and the
team and build on the fantastic support that followed England at home
and in Germany. It all starts with a home qualifier against Andorra on 2
September.

The FA's Customer Relations Unit was set up in order to collate
supporter feedback and forward this to the key decision makers within
the organisation. With this in mind, please rest assured that your views
have been noted.

Unfinished Business?
I regard Eric Cantona as "The Last Great Football Hero". This is a purely personal choice of course (I don't support Man Utd). I have been tipping him as the successor to Fergie for years!

Here are some quotes from a recent interview with him:

"I always have a feeling of unfinished business not only in my career but in everything."

"Football is so big and intense that if you live with this kind of memory it can seem like your life is finished and you are dead, but I don't want to be dead. I have many more ambitions in my life and therefore have to fight against all the things that are in my memory."

"He [Fergie] is the best I have ever worked with and he has many years left at United. But if I come back [to Old Trafford] it would be as number one."

"If I do come back I want to create a team that plays like no other team has ever played before; I would be very proud of that. I always want to be unique and I would want my team to be unique as well. Your team should be a reflection of yourself and your football ambitions. It should be like a mirror image of all the strategies and observations you have of everything to do with the game. I'm a futurist with lots of ambitions and I want to create something new for the future. You can be inspired by the past, but you shouldn't live in the past and you shouldn't live with the present. Sometimes I'm wrong and I am just a dreamer but this kind of idea will help to keep me alive."

"Nevertheless, he [Rooney] has all the qualities to become one of the best and maybe even the best player in the world."

"To be one of the best players in the world you have to take the game seriously, very seriously. You have to make sacrifices because talent is only a small percentage [of success]. A bit of luck is important but after that it's about mental strength."

"I believe United will win more Championships than Chelsea in the next ten years, I'm sure of that."

"But now I only watch football for fun. I like to watch teams like United, Barcelona and Brazil who play the kind of football I like to see. I don't want to waste my time watching bad games I don't enjoy."

"English football is the best and most exciting league in the world and of course I love watching United. I also enjoy the Spanish and the German leagues but in England the atmosphere is special. It's just my opinion but I think it is also the opinion of millions of other people."

The full interview can be read here.

An Excess Of English Moralism?
"From the other side of the Atlantic the English obsession with pouring scorn on the practice of diving looks like an excess of moralism."

A new article by Tim Vickery where he gives his view that "Different cultures see the game through different perspectives. Football is a universal language which is spoken with many accents." is available here.

Quotes from the article:

"Each of them was ordered to kiss the country's flag, and they were told to go out and avenge the deaths that Brazil suffered in Italy during the Second World War."

"In the 1970 semi-final Pele threw an elbow which laid out a Uruguayan defender - even his strike partner Tostao said that he should have been sent off."

"After the game, England goalkeeper Paul Robinson sent his gloves over to the Paraguayan dressing room as a present for his opposing number, a gesture which left Villar deeply touched."

The England Manager's Advisor: #3
England Team Sheet

Paul Robinson
 
Jamie Carragher Rio Ferdinand John Terry Ashley Cole
 
Aaron Lennon Steven Gerrard (c) Owen Hargreaves Joe Cole
 
Darren Bent Wayne Rooney


Subs: David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Gary Neville, Jermain Defoe, Kevin Nolan, David James (GK)


Here is the new First Eleven. This is the team I wish to see challenge for Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.

The greatest bone of contention and most difficult decision is the dropping of Lampard. This is not merely down to his atrocious form during the 2006 World Cup. It's just that I do not believe it is possible to play Lampard and Gerrard in the same team effectively. He will make a great "super sub" though and if Gerrard is injured Lampard will immediately take his position without a second thought.

The back four will operate much as they do already, except they will maintain a position further up the pitch and will not allow themselves to get boxed-in no matter what the circumstance. The two fullback's will be encouraged to operate as semi-wing backs seeking to attack past the half way line.

In the midfield Owen Hargreaves will act as a holding player in the style of Roy Keane when he played for Manchester United. Joe Cole and Aaron Lennon will play as old school attacking wingers. Steven Gerrard will be himself.

The only question mark hanging over this team is Darren Bent as the out and out striker. This is because, really, he is unproven at international level. If any change is made to this team rapidly it will be that of Jermain Defoe replacing Darren Bent. Rooney will play as the supporting striker.

Robinson in goal is perhaps the weakest link? On the positive side I feel he still has a lot of potential to develop. On the negative side, he hasn't exactly got too much competition!

The England Manager's Advisor: #2
The England Captaincy

My feeling is inline with popular opinion regarding who should be the next England Captain. That is, it can only possibly be one of two men: Steven Gerrard or John Terry.

This is, by far, the hardest decision I have faced in my role as The England Manager's Advisor. Both of them captain their club sides, Liverpool and Chelsea, and both are worthy Captain's of England. Whilst having different qualities I can find nothing to separate them. They are literally neck and neck. It's a coin toss.

I predicted Steven Gerrard to be the future England Captain before he even received his first cap. John Terry did not have this instant impact, he was definitely more of a grower.

My head says Terry but my heart says Gerrard.

From his position at the center of the defence Terry has that extra breathing space to analyse the game. Therefore he will be more able to give specific information to every player on the pitch and organize with measure. He will be in a position to start and direct the English attack in a very solid fashion. His work rate and morale boosting qualities are not in question. He would make a great classic English centerback captain in the mould of Terry Butcher and Tony Adams.

Gerrard is boss of the midfield. He will be at the heart of every attack. Creativity, flair and passion with complete solidity is his game. He is capable of lifting the team to another level when our backs are against the wall. His role as a player is inherently more frenzied. He will not have the time to analyse the game as much and will have to go with his gut instincts more times than not. The question I have is: can he rise to the challenge of the creative midfield General à la Sócrates?

Neither players contribution to the England cause can be questioned, nor can their personal attitudes or fighting spirit.

So, after deep consideration I have come to my final decision. The man I have chosen will come to represent and embody what the New Era of England is all about. I lean towards the romantic side of things, and it is with this inclination that I am proud to announce: the new England Captain is Steven Gerrard.

The England Manager's Advisor: #1
Welcome to the first installment of the column where I "advise" the England Manager (currently Steve McClaren) on how to do his job.

So, let the reconstruction begin...

A "First Eleven" will be chosen. The First Eleven will consistently play the full ninety minutes of every match, friendly and competitive. Country will come before club. The First Eleven will remain relatively unchanged; barring injuries, suspensions, serious drops in form, etc. Players will be chosen with the aim of producing the best possible team. This means that, arguably, better players could find themselves on the bench. As was demonstrated in Germany: picking the best eleven players does not, necessarily, result in the best possible team. The team must be greater than the sum of it's parts. Any players who cannot commit to this regime can voice their protest and leave now.

We will be playing in an attacking 4-4-2 formation that sets out to impose our game on the opposition. We'll live by the maxim "attack is the best form of defence". When on the ball the players first thought will be "how do I maintain this attack" or "how do I turn this situation into attack". The style of attack will be, high tempo, based on free flowing passing coupled with watertight possession. Absolutely no desperate long balls or "hit and hope" passes that "give the strikers something to chase". A high level of basic ball skills is necessary in order to fulfil your role in the attack. The team must learn to think, feel and move as one. Any players who cannot commit to this regime can voice their protest and leave now.

The Captain's role will be more meaningful than it ever has been before. He will no longer be just a figurehead but a fully active General on the pitch. The game will flow from the Captain and his directions. He will communicate to the other players telling them what adjustments to their game are necessary. The players will follow his instructions to the letter. It goes without saying that the Captain will also be Chief of Morale. Any players who cannot commit to this regime can voice their protest and leave now.

To play on this team you will possess powerful fighting spirit and extreme humbleness. You must fully understand that you do not have a God given right to win any match whether the opposition is Andorra or Argentina. Playing for England is the greatest honour you can recieve as a professional English footballer. You must understand that if you are wearing three lions on your chest you must play beyond your potential and you must play with pride. No one has a God given right to wear the three lions. Any players who cannot commit to this regime can voice their protest and leave now.

These are the ground rules for the "New Era of England". In the next advisories I will announce the new First Eleven and the new Captain; as well as beginning to elaborate on individual roles and tactics.

England's New Era
It's now time for England to move into a new era. This must be done with an attitude full of fighting spirit tempered by extreme humbleness. Before the deconstruction/reconstruction of England can begin, critical analysis of the recent outing in Germany and the Sven Eriksson era is necessary.

The 2006 World Cup is over and England came away with very few positives. Joe Cole's goal against Sweden and Steven Gerrard's goal against Trinidad & Tobago were, but, fleeting moments of individual brilliance. Owen Hargreaves gave a great performance throughout and, is the player who, can come away from this with the most pride. Aaron Lennon looked exciting but was hardly used. Besides these exceptions, England, as a team and individually, were weak, embarrassing and unmemorable.

They looked scared and clueless and they played scared and clueless. All those involved: the F.A., players and coaching staff, must carry the can to greater or lesser degree's. Clearly, the lion's share of the blame must be taken by Sven Eriksson. It was like the story of The Emperor's New Clothes. Only stupid people can't see them. Well it took five years but now the whole country has finally seen Sven standing there naked.

The "Sven Years" are so full of flaws, that need to be addressed, I have decided to deal with them in future articles. In fact, I will even give my services to the F.A. and the current incumbent of "one of the most prestigious jobs in football", i.e. the England manager; I intend to start a new column titled "The England Manager's Advisor" where I can tell him, I mean advise him, what to do.

The best thing that England can take from this is to see the World Cup for what is was: A massive kick up the arse!

Intent
"I try to find different ways of expressing myself. Without that I will die. I am searching for abstract ways of expressing reality, abstract forms that will enlighten my own mystery." - Eric Cantona

After England got banged out of the 2006 World Cup I read comments by, and had discussions with, football fans from all over the world via various blogs. I found this to be an enjoyable, interesting and, in some cases, enlightening experience. So, I thought it may be good to have a go at doing my own blog "Et Voila"!

The core remit of this blog will be to follow, comment and offer opinion on England's EURO 2008 campaign which kicks off on 2nd September 2006 with a Group E qualifier, against Andorra, at Old Trafford. However, it's unlikely that the blog will stay limited to just this; I'm likely to write about all areas of the football world and, even, beyond. Although the vibe here will probably be more "world football" as opposed to English club football.

I haven't looked into how you go about promoting your blog yet. So congratulations to anyone who has, somehow, found their way here. I will check out this side of things over the next few months.

"The future's uncertain and the end is always near." - The Doors