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Jon's March 08 Blog
Shaun Edwards' reputation seems to grow by the week naturally as with anything covered by the media hyperbole comes without analysis and reasons. I have no idea beyond his being Wasps defensive coach and clearly being highly respected by his peers if he covers more and whether he has the personality to go on and be a head coach.
However I do know that what is seen as good about someone can turn into a source of ridicule. Thus hardly an article goes by without a 2nd half resurrection by Wales or a turn around as Wasps showed this week being attributed in part or whole to an episode of shouting by Edwards. Although when Paul Ackford said this today in the Telegraph he neglected to mention why shouting failed at half time last week... It is classic they want to ascribe every turn around to something, without knowing if it happened, or frankly caring.
Anyway if I was Edwards I would actively down play this and maybe get others to on my behalf. The fact that people assume he is a ranter and raver is not helpful long term. What will they say if Wasps/Wales put back to back to back bad'uns in? That they are too familiar with shouting and it is time for a new voice? It clearly is not Edwards' strength and he would be well advised to nail the continued mythologising of what must be at best an incidental tool of his management at worst a weak part of his own psyche.
It would be interesting to know if Edwards truly has the personality and decision making to be a no 1. He clearly is an extremely good no 2 to have the likes of McGeechan and Gatland as his references. One hopes he does go on to be a great head coach given he has been a great player and personality for a long time in UK Sport.
For me there is a misconception in British sport that half time shouting and words achieve anything at least compared to good management and having proper ethos, strategy, coaching and tactics. Honestly think how many wasted shouts are used by some of the Premier League ranters every week and how few 2nd half come backs happen. Indeed yesterday I would surmise Arsenal managed to come back without much shouting.
In a week when our velodrome cyclists showed the value of mental preparation, equipment perfection and a professional winning approach many writers still glory in the affect of shouting as a means to achievement.
One only has to hear old Man United players talk about S'Alex Ferguson to know that his hair dryer was probably the weakest and least cared about part of his management. Indeed if anything it seems shouters are exorcising their own powerlessness not helping the team.
Wow in the season where Arsenal have suffered most from poor non tackles for the ball two of their own in Eboue and Diaby have got away with not threatening careers but only just. I would agree with Alex McLeish the crime is the same (albeit Eboue whose tackle would certainly have seemed the least for the ball, shall we say, only got a booking).
Eboue's reckless and seemingly intentional assault on John Terry led to 3 broken bones and would surely have kept anyone else out longer than 6 or 7 weeks. He followed that up by being sent off for a hip high assault on Evra in a cup game that was already lost.
Eduardo has been accused (or so it seems) by some of having his weight on the leg that Martin Taylor mistook for a ball. Well Diaby can thank his lucky stars that the Bolton player he flipped over did not have his weight there.
As to Arsenal they finally won but again they conceded the lead to a lesser team and really only got back into it as the other team got tight. Indeed the two times they led in those games they lost the lead to Birmingham (on a Cliche brain cramp) and had no match for Chelsea late on physically.
i.e. notwithstanding the comeback aspect I would still be rotating more than just Adebayor and trusting my squad. Plus their most realistic chance is surely Europe and for me Hleb and Fabregas need some freshening. The comeback against Bolton merely illustrates what happens when you let a class team with better technique and fitness pin you down in your own half.
We saw last year with Chelsea how worn down a team can get and yet keep dragging out results with players like Lampard and Drogba. However they had nothing left by the Champions League semi finals. I see this fate for Arsenal.
Finally after this Diaby assault I bet Wenger is glad he retracted his call for Mad Martie to be run out of the game.
Ok Wayne Rooney has 10 league goals now and I guess that makes him something like an 11.5% shots to goals. However he basically scored 2 cream on top goals having missed his first open goal. Also whilst Villa are no gimme like last year he seems to pick on certain teams vulnerable to him - 5 in 3 games v Villa this season (inc Cup). So he has 4 goals of the 10 v Villa although to be fair the first 2 were the first two in the away game. He got the 1st and 4th v Newcastle. The opener in a 4-0 over Sunderland. 1st v Reading in a 2-0. He broke a 1-1 tie in a 4-1 v Boro. 4th against Wigan.
So whilst he has some opening goals and other significant goals he has not scored in a game United did not win by less than 2 goals. OK that is partly because United run it up. Put another way only Villa are in the top half and he has the sign on them - and they are a poor 8th.
I suspect Rooney will improve in the premier league as United face tiring teams and the sheer volume of great chances he gets takes hold. Today if he had held his run he would have had 6+ 1 on 1s with a keeper. His 2 out of 3 today of actual chances was unusual.
My point is that maybe his automatic England slot is challengable.
Bloggers curse I wrote the below at half time and Rooney has managed 2 of 3 open goals since but all it shows is that he just does not score enough when the game is on the line despite the number of cheap goals and chances he gets playing for Man United. So all my charges stand even if he now scores at just under 10 shots a goal!!! He has 2 as I type.
I don't have the time or energy left to write up United Villa properly but I just watched Wayne Rooney right through one on one fail to score. Now he was offside but as usual the kid has a huge smile on his face. You see Ronaldo miss a half chance and he looks like someone just shot his dog.
Rooney must be aware that whilst his goals and assists totals are superficially good they represent a poor return from a Man United forward. That is before one considers the sheer number of shots and good chances he gets. Now I am not a fan of one dimensional fair weather players like Defoe and Owen but they would get substantially more goals. Indeed despite being injured Frank Lampard has 10 goals and so does Defoe who barely played for Spurs.
Rooney has 8 goals with an accuracy according to the Telegraph of 9.6% (10 shots a goal) and frankly for a player deployed as a pure centre forward who does not offer searing pace and height that is lousy. Ronaldo despite taking long shots is 17.1% Tevez 12.4 despite being a poor striker. Lampard 16.9%, Anelka 14.5% Ballack 13.3% Drogba 15.7% Andrew Johnson 15%.
BTW there is no reason to suppose Rooney was any better last year and this is a blip. indeed I would bet a higher percentage of Rooney's chances are one on ones and his total is ludicrous given that. Defoe 12 goals at 25% which is probably unsustainable and flattering but you are an England manager do you want 4 shots 1 goal or 10+? Even if 10+ is the better player (but nowhere near perfect or even good).
This is why I see the national team having to consider even the likes of Ashton (9.9%) and Agbonlahor (11.7%) of this world. As we don't have a natural front man and I am sure no one sane wants to revisit 442 hit it long. Or playing vertically challenged or pace deprived again. If Rooney cannot offer goals over others more physically useful why pick him?
The other caveat is the racism one when a certain dyed hair clown mocked Andrew Cole for a goal every 4 or 5 chances. That is actually a pretty good rate of conversion! 20 to 25% in these terms....
Fabio Capello this week hit the traditional square peg round holes of England manager - 442 2nd half long ball fest and trying to get England to retain the ball and play 451 with Rooney playing lone striker and John Terry anything but playing a deep line. Now Fabio Capello has run into the other iceberg of England managers this week - the Mickey Owen media campaign. Whilst David Beckham may be gone at the game he says the right things and means them. Owen says exactly what suits him and him alone in my humble opinion.
So the most considered speaker of his time claims that a crack like "that's a question you would have to ask the manager" what I was meant to be doing... should not be taken literally as saying he had been given no instructions Mickey understood. Coming from Wayne Rooney who seems to play the same way wherever deployed you might say OK.
To think this was a mere slip of the tongue by Owen would be to suggest someone of considerably less control and intelligence than I view of Owen. Maybe he is unlucky and never starts any of these things. Maybe the image of him having proved Keegan right by starting him off the bench staring his manager out after he scored in a friendly we drew against a much better French side has over influenced me. Then again ask Rafa which player has caused him most press anguish and he never even had the dubious privilege of managing him.
For me he should accept his lack of pace, skill on the ball and limited passing make him purely a late game specialist then maybe he and England can move on with a good late game option when the game is 1 down or tied. Him and Beckham on an England bench with some pace to mix it up would be great to break down deep lying teams holding on too tight.
Owen is like most people who perform well at a young age someone journalists and fans develop a deep affection for. He has undermined Keegan (for England) and Houllier. Not to mention had media campaigns in his name launched at Rafa who did not even manage him... Despite Rafa not seemingly interested in any striker under 6ft 1" he was continually pressured and questioned about getting Owen.
His whining when Madrid deployed him off the bench, his best position for me, led to him going to Newcastle - a purgatory that may be all he can expect as big clubs are not interested - Chelsea may have to scrape the Anelka barrel in January but the Owen one is too deep even for their reverse alchemists at turning money into shite. Indeed it does seem that he could stay fit used sparingly at Madrid but preferred to be an injury prone irregular starter at a 3rd rate club owned and run by spivs.
OK 2 games in I have enough respect for Capello not to break out the childish names like Crap-ello but I did find last night interesting more than truly entertaining. I suppose I am mildly disappointed that the fixation with big name players and not including pace and effective height is still be trailed.
The first half although he picked a 451 he made the key mistake, IMO, of selecting no height and pace. One could see England retain the ball for more than 3 passes and not hoofing it forward, which was nice. Nonetheless such a system surely requires pace to accelerate into attack.
Once again Gerrard looked like the problem he is when he is not so on his game it does not matter where he plays. He is not a 451 player nor a 442 player in the systems I have seen him in. He was given the Lampard role (ala Chelsea) and just is not quite technically good enough to play in congestion. Lampard is the better cog player and even he comes with an expiring guarantee and seems to have lost some of his little pace. For me it is a choice partly because whilst they can be accommodated they maybe don't warrant any more tries with more than one of them.
Again Ashley Cole how many times does he have to show he is no more a decoy given his awful technical ability? There is no use the wingers coming inside to pass to Cole.... The winger should get forward.
As McClaren discovered one reason to have Beckham there is that he 100% wants to be there. The problem is that he has no pace and when we went 442 he did not waste any time breaking out the attempts at miracle balls and disregarding any midfield play.
I did not understand why Capello broke out the 442 with Owen as we've been down that road so many times it is surely not necessary to know it does not work. 442 England do not have the ability to overcome their lack of technical skills. Even 442 England insist on their worst players, full backs, getting forward.
I'd also like to see Capello do some scouting. I know it is hard but we know: John Terry has not got the pace and is a shadow of what he was: Glen Johnson is a liability in tight international games and why was he given a chance: Downing may have a left foot but he has little pace and his crossing is toilet, oh and he thinks nothing of passing 40 yards back to the centre halves: Ashley Cole as above.
Whilst I'd have to have the Owen boys in my squad should they start and does Fab really need to see them in a game? Mickey is what he is and a useful poacher off the bench when other similar options are Defoe. Hargreaves is a useful stopper but surely someone you try when everyone else does not work - he does not move off the ball and his passing is limited.
The saddest sight was the normally cocky Bentley who had rampaged onto the last game playing like a chicken. I don't know if this was a result of having Beckham cast a giant shadow this time or because of 442. Nonetheless someone who plays for a good team but does not have the burden of Champions League is for me ideal. He will play regularly and be fresher at the end of the season. OK irony, Bentley withdrew from the U21 championship citing tiredness 2 years ago but a) he was young b) thug academy was no place I'd allow a promising footballer to pick up bad habits and the phone number of a tough agent.
France may be runners up in the last world cup but frankly they featured a cast of Chelsea bits and cast offs as senior pros. They are bad enough Anelka gets a game and whilst Sky said he had searing pace he does not - except when compared to Terry and James. Malouda could not make the Chelsea first team after a massacre at present and looks another poor buy or reverse alchemy by Chelsea. Gallas was laughably disregarded for Ashley but was always more of a foil to a pomp John Terry.
Capello has lots of games and whilst it may seem easy to ditch big names you want to try things yourself. After all a clean slate is a clean slate. England's biggest need is a functioning back 4 with more skill and pace in it. Genuine wide players with some pace - Beckham's a great bench option and he seems a team man so not a problem.
I am sure this low key game at least updated Capello to the problems Sven and Steve never solved or understood as problems. He, I am confident, will progress from here.
At the risk of being a case Rooney and his acolytes might win in court one has to wonder at what Wayne Rooney is trying to achieve after his latest panning in court when it was determined he libeled David Moyes.
The reason, because Man United spent 20 to 27 million pounds on a transfer with Rooney a year away from freedom of contract. Rooney has sought to say he had to leave Everton and could not suck it for a year to get a share of what went as transfer fee.
Indeed Rooney has suggested he would have gone to Newcastle meaning United HAD to bid if they wanted him. Newcastle were the only other bidders although there are enough conspiracy theories about agents and sons and Freddie Shepherd to muddy that picture - since they spent nearly the same and more in wages for Owen let's pretend it was a real bid. Short of Moyes torturing him every day with lit cigars I can see no way that any agent would allow a player of Rooney's talent to go to Newcastle except because his team was playing there. The point being this transfer and fee size makes no sense from a sane business perspective for anyone BUT Everton and the agents (and whoever they pay off).
No doubt Everton and Rooney's agents have no complaints. Arguably Rooney passed up what 10 million to leave early? Man United paid 10-17 million over that so they lose out. So why could he not spend a year at Everton? After all he only got 11 goals and 2 assists for United that first year (Cahill topped that for Everton) and was clearly not ready.
The impression left is that Rooney was badly advised or worse is a rube or maybe Moyes is completely unliveable with - something that his record since taking over from Walter Smith Player Trader Inc suggests is absolute nonsense. Indeed the levels of commitment and organisation at Everton suggest quite the opposite.
Previously his agent was found to be a liar in a case against Rooney's original agents. Rooney of course stood by him. Quite why the liar was not prosecuted probably says much for propriety of Manchester Police and CPS who were famous for harassing gay people when I lived there.
Now all reports suggest that Wayne Rooney is a wonderful fella and probably not short of a bob or two. However why he should try to settle scores and reinvent history with unsubstantiated accusations against Moyes? Is he trying to justify his costing himself money and better to have a go at someone in his past than anyone currently there? We'll never know.
Having said all that United surely did not have to spend anywhere near what they did? Indeed let him go to Newcastle for 20 million and pay 25 a few years later - much as they did with Rio Ferdinand. The whole affair made little sense before heinous lies about David Moyes were used to justify seemingly odd behaviour.
All one can say with confidence is his publishers were morons for not realising the background and pulling this garbage from the book sooner.
Peter Moores sounding every inch the expensively educated officer class person he is - just sprayed a lot of positives about one of the most miserable wins in a test series imaginable. It is likely that New Zealand are heading to 8th in the world (of 9 if you count Bangladesh) and England beat them probably by a couple of sessions at best.
Yet despite the poverty of performance, and this may be a new low, the twin obsessions that are holding the team back seem to the captain and coach's way forward: Finding an all wicket XI in a squad without an outstanding bowler yet alone more than one consistent performer on all surfaces [Sidebottom]: utter complacency that a narrow win over a poor team is somehow a step forward whereas losing slightly unluckily to India was surely a better result.
Had England contrived to lose narrowly would Moores be allowed to get away with such nonsense. It would not say they are much worse than they were yet of course in the ethos less world of UK sports the win is all and no one will question this so called glorious fightback. The fact is the mentality from Vaughan downwards is negative and selection is reactionary, partial and reactive.
Honestly Harmison has been a drain on the team almost since the 1st test against Australia in 2005. Yet Moores lists him as someone pushing people for a place - I guess he did not say how hard. Are we that poor a team with no ambition to be better than a place for weak little men who take wickets at 40 a piece to ply their very lucrative trade?
The self serving Vaughan says it is very English to say that we struggled to beat a poor team. Well he should be Ricky Ponting if Australia played that badly (they never do). Look at the kicking he gets when they win only narrowly and show a little arrogance. Quite frankly the world Vaughan lives in appears one if his own creation.
It looks like despite the one day games outside the world cup being as meaningful as a 2nd XI games and having lead to the near total corruption of the game, or maybe cynically because they have... India want to play only 2 tests v England and a bunch of ODI games that not even the captains will remember the result of a year later.
I guess it is pure revenue. The problem is that genuine cricket fans prefer test cricket. ODIs attract a great day out crowd much as the Derby and Cheltenham do for racing yet by becoming a pure entertainment and not a sport you hollow out your fan base. The real fans stay away. Even the Derby has a rock concert to attract people to watching horses run...
Indeed 50 over cricket is not even going to be anyone's choice soon. I find it un-watchable as you have to watch it all and mostly it is flat building to a conclusion that you can miss in a phone call or making dinner. Whereas twenty20 built into a 3 hour slot is ideal for a one day game. Like a good baseball game 2.5 to 3 hours is perfect.
twenty20 is of course the ultimate evening out after work. Here it is 1730 to 2030 and ideal for a mid week drink - the cricket is of course incidental.
This is not to be old and fuddy duddy merely to say that test cricket is what attracts the backbone of a sport. Yes even in England ODIs are half the revenue. However test cricket is the game of choice to the cricket fan. Maybe sports can leave their committed fans behind but it will be interesting to see what happens when maybe people have less discretionary money what happens.
2 days later Javiar Mascherano is proving he must either be the thickest footballer in history or so self indulgent and self important no one will tell him the truth as he cannot handle it. He still has no idea what he was sent off for... Which is funny as me, Rafa, Shabby, 50,000 fans live and millions world wide saw it coming before he even got it.
This is the player who along with Carlos Tevez allowed themselves to be sold off not to other clubs but spivs. Their actions and the actions of the men who speak for them dragged the good name of West Ham and football through the sewer. You'd think after that Kia's former property, we hope, would keep his mouth shut like a good little boy.
The Telegraph published a time line of his insults and continual barracking of Bennett. It makes distasteful reading and one wonders how Bennett waited so long. Indeed after he gets booked early he tells Bennett to go forth and multiply several times. Then continues the battle even wondering why after Torres offers a "rabbit rabbit" finger gesture he was booked - Javiar must have felt such disrespect deserved a red card or something!
Anyway back to the wickle boy, Mascherano still does not see what he got a 2nd yellow. I believe that the FA now must check Mascherano's brain to see if it is damaged and whether he should be allowed to continue playing football... Only joking although many a true word spoken in jest. Certainly one must wonder at his mental health. One hopes he does not take his delusional self importance into any other walk of life.
Well finally against a weakened weak attack Strauss has a few runs on the board. He can pat himself on the back that he will get 3 more tests against New Zealand who will be even weaker when they come to England in May. His technique and ability against even moderate bowling is untested. He was brought back with no evidence of improvement and indeed his stated comments made the risible self important points that he had been unlucky with decisions and got good balls over a period of over a year. No acceptance he had not been good enough and was the rabbit to good bowling that he clearly was.
Bopara was sacrificed to Sri Lanka and Shah a real batsman not given a chance so good old popular middle class white boy Straussy could get 6 tests against the dreck.
Vaughan's leadership on the field when we bowled showed the craven weakness and negativity, not to mention outright stupidity, we are increasingly coming to love and expect.
After Anderson bowled like a drain he just bowls Broad and Sidebottom for a whole session unchanged and starts them in the time after tea. This is a match on a flat'un at the end of a long winter for Sidebottom with another innings to come.
To compound it all England play the most matches and Vaughan is a believer in best XI whatever the wicket - a concept that is almost laughable with only 4 bowlers and such conditions dependent bowlers like Panesar, Anderson, Hoggard (to a lesser extent) and Harmison.
So Vaughan for the sake of what at worst 30 or 40 runs is prepared to risk injury to his 2 remaining bowlers who are any use. He did not have to bowl Anderson either he could have got Panesar to bowl negatively and Collingwood has rather shown up the other bowlers not called Sidebottom all series. Also against this New Zealand attack was the thought of 20 or 30 runs really such a fear factor?
On Anderson, quel surprise the guy averages 40 a piece, blows the decisive test against India and gets a central contract somehow - not to mention he replaces Harm-less-son who with a similar lack of success at over 40 a piece got a central contract. Nonetheless the management of Vaughan and co was risible. They left him [Anderson] alone with no chat or encouragement to stew in his juices. This kind of public school twitery that pervades the England hierarchy also has to end. It is not Anderson's fault he was selected when his record clearly shows overall he is not good enough.
England need an attack of positivity and the self styled great leader is clearly no longer the one to provide it - at least under a coach like Moores.
I won't go on about it too long but the boys club that prefers good eggs like Strauss and Bopara over Owais Shah nearly had a complete catastrophe last night in New Zealand. On a wicket designed for centuries a host of English clowns found new and inventive ways to get out.
This is a rudderless England team led by value structure less one liners mouthed by a captain and coach who have no clue. Their tactic of not motivating opponents by pretending they are good when they are not has back fired.
This team is playing by numbers and it is time for Tom Moody or his ilk as coach and KP as captain.
C'Ashley Cole was bizarrely bought by Chelsea as he was more marketable than William Gallas. Well now he is generally accepted as a de-generate low life who would cheat on his wife and whines about the difference between 55 and 60 grand a week. Gallas has attracted ridicule for his emotions as Arsenal lost the title and one of his team mates may be facing the end of his career. Last night C'Ash made Gallas look like someone who was not self indulgent in the slightest. Sadly in and around the perverted game that is premiership football no doubt Gallas attracts more ridicule than 'Mad' Martie Taylor and C'Ashley (or should that now be G'Ashley?)
C'Ashley was no doubt being ridiculed by Kenyon for not completing his mastery of Chelsea's Art of Reverse Alchemy by becoming reviled on the pitch as well. Well last night he tried the leg breaker and then in probably the most eye opening moments he and his team mates lambasted the referee with a display of self importance that warranted a red card in its own right. Mad Martie Taylor may continue to lie to himself with Uncle Loon-Alex on his shoulder saying he is right. However he was distraught at his tackle. Cole behaved like someone being stopped speeding in a parked car. Like what could Riley possibly book him for - he and I can agree it was never a booking...
The FA will no doubt hang on the referee dealt with it at the time. However this was a clear and serious error and hence the same as the case of 'Gentle' Ben Thatcher and his attempt to all but kill Pedro Mendes. If they are cracking down on leg breakers like Mad Martie their failure to extend Martie's ban and to not slap the same ban on C'Ashley makes no sense. The crime is the same - tackling with seemingly the ball as a 'nice to have' in the tackle process.
Peter Kenyon is no doubt misty eyed at how Capt Fantastic highest paid player in the Premiership John Terry is now part of a defence that conceded the lead 3 times and 4 goals in one game. Honestly they conceded the lead more Weds night than half a Mourinho season a few years ago. Reverse Alchemy a Chelsea specialty. No doubt Abramovich is penning a new book "How I spent half a billion and ended up with 24 petulant spoiled brats". Indeed but for Cuuds it might have been worse. Cudicini is of course like Cech the exception - decent men and players in a sea of scumbags worried someone might earn thruppence a week more than them.
In the end the FA don't make sense - ditto Chelsea. They make it up as they go along and put a plaster over the last sore without tackling the disease. They hide behind pedantery one time and use mealy mouthed words to skip round the letter and intent of the law the next. Nihilists? Or is a belief in lining your own pockets something more psychotic?
There is news that the manager to do nothing but act as a buffer for Brian Ashton from reality, sorry, the press and RFU apparently could be Martin Johnson. As Ashton does not want someone who is too involved in the rugby side can they not find some (like a 100 thousand) rugby obsessed middle managers who come without the celebrity profile?
Indeed with arguably England's 2 leading post Carling players above Ashton one wonders quite whether the RFU are choosing the best people? (Rob Andrew also). Odds on a great fly half and pitch leader being great managers in suits? I guess after Carling's 57 old farts crack the old farts find it easier to leave it all in the hands of the well known... Rather than the good?
It also seems the vibe is that the fumbling Ashton will be kept on. So in much the same way that Bobby Robson once ran a confused ship that played well at the right time, some of the time, it is not as far against the odds that fumbling slow evolution management will work as I would like.
By that I mean you almost end up with this kind of management not wanting your team to win as it gets packed full of players not there on merit - who like Vickery use that position to abuse anyone who points out that a player clearly better than him is better than him - or the thanking people from the bottom of his posterior when his team has been rightly criticised for execrable performances prior.
Also teams managed in this way tend to play minimalist turgid rugby or football as with the deficiencies of players and coaches the team decide the tactics and come together around a negative siege mentality. As happened under Ashton and Bobby Robson 1990 (and 1986). Indeed often these managers benefit from injuries making them change a team which shows them up more than a billion words from me.
It beggars belief but Shaharyar Khan and Inzaman ul Haq are protesting the decision to reinstate Darrell Hair as an international board umpire. They seem to be the only people on the planet unable to comprehend that the ICC whitewash was just that and that in practice Hair has never been found guilty of anything save not showing undue respect to self important people like Inzamam ul Haq.
Indeed so delusional are the PCB they have asked their forfeit of the Oval test, in an act of childish toy throwing not worthy of a child, be set aside. The result stands as despite some officiousness Hair was not the reason that the test was abandoned. The reason was that in a girly fit of pouting and tears Inzamam ul Haq and his team refused to play.
Darrell Hair is a fine umpire who calls it how he sees it. Seriously is anyone arguing Pakistan don't tamper with the ball? Is anyone outside a few grand standing TV journalists trying to keep in with the lucrative Asian TV market and not be controversial seriously suggesting they don't and did not? Try convincing the England team who played that day.
As we have seen with Ahktar and Asif the Pakistan Cricket Board are more than happy to endorse and support unrepentant obviously guilty drug cheats. It is very sad that to appease an organisation whose view of the truth is what it wants to believe the ICC have soiled the career of umpire Hair. Ditto kicking umpire Bucknor for 2 errors in 30 decisions to appease a serial code of conduct breaker like the vile Harbhajan Singh and a BCCI who bizarrely supported a player with the likeability of piles (haemorrhoids). A player who took nearly a month to come up with a laughable defense that resulted in another pathetic snow job.
We won't know if Hair is truly elevated until he stands in matches involving sub continent teams. However after the craven inaction over Inzamam, Singh, Asif and Ahktar maybe the ICC now realise that appeasement and self indulgence of such scum leads to un-bridled arrogance and contempt for the game and its rules. If they want a guide look at Andrew Flintoff where the ECB appeasement led to him becoming better known as a pitiable drunk rather than a cricketer.
Sir Clive Woodward in one his throw away moments suggested that rather than drink when you win and having meetings when you lose you should do it the other way round. Why did you win being as important and maybe more so than why you lost. If you do not want to rise and fall and change the team on random chance (results) then that is what you should do - treat winning and losing as 2 sides of the same coin.
In the same way the Jonny Wilkinson has probably been better in the 6 Nations than the world cup but in the world cup England won 4 straight games when he returned. He was excused the loss to Wales as the whole team reeked and maybe at the time the view was that England threw it away - plus it was the first game and Wales looked awful as well then! Lose to Scotland with all the same Jonny moments some of us have come to see as far removed from what is required and he is dropped. Was that Ashton thinking his deep standing short kicks and negative play was something new? Or had Ashton been suffering with an un-reported Aneurysm for a few months?
A long winded way of saying the challenge starts now for the Welsh. Whilst this was their 2nd grand slam of the last 4 seasons they would do well to look at the win as a starting point. Last time it led to an orgy of self congratulation, player stupidity [power] and a downward spiral. Indeed Wales have at times de-based themselves to the levels of the other Celtic nations last year - last year celebrating like drunken fools after beating a miserable England side despite losing the other 4 games.
This low expectation led into a miserable world cup where Wales folded at the first inkling of expectation - see the Fiji game where every time you would have strongly favoured them in the game they completely choked.
I was impressed that they routinely dismissed France with the expectation and build up. However unlike last time they must take this forward. They must not fall into players seeing themselves as bigger than a cog in the team. They must raise their horizons from the 6 nations. They must set new goals such as repeating as 6 nation champions, winning consistently against the Southern Hemisphere and being in with a realistic shot at a high world cup performance next time.
It is not easy. I remember visiting Swansea in the dire 80s and seeing how a bunch of Welsh prospects all had jobs with the local car dealership and could relatively be kings in the valleys, amateur days, even whilst their performance was so poor all they could celebrate was beating England. This was in the years before the World Cup came along.
Also one would expect England to harness their power one day - to me a Magners League match looks like a Premiership match at half speed. So Wales will have to advance as even if Ashton stays he will gradually surely get better now he has crossed the Jonny Rubicon.
In New Zealand, another strong small country, the culture would not tolerate such standing still and losing. Indeed the country probably has red flushes at only having won the one world cup 20 odd years ago. Here it is up to coaches and players to challenge themselves given the media creation of instant cults based on short term achievement and maintained years after the myth is true (see Flintoff).
Graham Henry and Mike Ruddock can tell Gatland all he will ever want to hear about how quickly Welsh complacency sets in.
Wow what a difference a fly half who can punt the ball half the field, stand flat and pass made to England. Jonny as he said was no better or worse against Scotland than in prior games it was just without set piece domination he can no longer give his team field position.
However as we have done in football with centre forwards from Lineker through Shearer to Owen let's not make the team a slave to a single person - even a mesmeric talent like Danny Cipriani.
All our major sports seemed hamstrung by tinkering managers without strategy and a devotion to certain players for brief, if glorious, parts of their career. Capello was a first step in breaking this and the myth that England need Jonny is now dead. Time for the myths of Vaughan, Ashton, Flintoff, Owen, Rooney and Gerrard to be bust.
Cricket coverage is still dominated by the ludicrous daily reports on Flintoff and his ankle - ignoring serious questions about if he can play in the team anymore with his inadequate batting and the fact that he may no longer carry a full load as a bowler - or any evidence he can get near what he was as batter or bowler.
Rugby is a 15 man game. Unlike Jonny Cipriani will not be a major defensive cog who puts his body on line. He will be the principal scorer most likely but that is a must for any fly half. We must hope that commentators and journalists with no feel for sport have learned their lesson.
A better performance from England although here is the rub no doubt a wicket Harmison and Hoggard would not have performed badly on. Indeed does anyone think bringing Jimmy Anderson in is a great move or just a deck chair shuffling on the Titanic? Anderson would probably have been even worse on the wicket in the first test. He is a true shit or bust player and with a 4 man attack that is not good. Will they just pick Anderson say if we found a hard bouncy wicket that would make Harm-less-son look good? My point in the absence of world class bowling England should pick for conditions and whilst that would make Harm-less-son a 2 tests a year man so be it. Without a shift in either talent or strategy England will drop to 5th or 6th test nation.
Indeed not to be too negative but Broad played his 2nd test and still got warned almost straight away for running down the wicket. This reduced him to little more than Harmlessson. It also condemned Moores and the management once again as people who blunder along without a particularly analytical or even medium term approach.
Indeed New Zealand should be beaten but even easier than now. Look at Collingwood's bowling figures before praising anyone else too highly.
One thing that is missed by commentators is this that in the 90s players for a losing England team averaged 35-40 and we were generally a poor team. Now the view is we have decent batting as all six average 40+ well the bar has moved with some bad opponents and a dearth of bowling. You need players who can average 45+ and can bat out for draws on flat wickets. England's problem has been playing out draws on wickets and conditions its bowlers are ineffective on.
The director of Cheltenham race course is getting his traditional dick sucking from the toothless people at Channel 4 racing about the abandonment of the 2nd day of the festival. Of course he has them by the testi as of course it would make financial sense for the festival, but not the rest of racing and Cheltenham's program, to be on the BBC.
The good news is unlike Foot and Mouth Edward Gillespie has decided he can run more races on less days (what another person in English sport who makes it up as he goes along, surely not?). Had he run more races on 1 or 2 days then he could have saved the lost festival. Instead his decision was made based on greed and he like all the greedy eventually had to settle for half of nothing rather than half of something. Given how culpable he was over losing the whole festival rather than just the Irish contingent (his choice) you'd think he'd show humility on issues of opinion. That he would argue rationally and not make ad hominem attacks on people who disagree.
Instead he is the classic nasty suit who once things have gone his way likes to mock people. Today he said those who wanted a 3 day festival should be happy today as an example of his humour... Showing no score is ever settled when weak egos are criticised.
In the end the reason that racing has been abandoned is of course a natural result of their greed. The problem is they have a massive corporate tented village so big now that it cannot be secured and is a liability in windy weather - it is not a typoon or hurricane or even unsafe to race.
Quite how sad that tented village is with people traveling all the way there to sit and watch races on telly in uncomfortable chairs with bad expensive beer - OK many are not paying! Regular punters can decide to drink or get a pitch and watch races outside. As a stay away pub/home watcher now I will not miss the 7 hours or so of standing in the same spot that people will experience Thursday and Friday.
The greed driven additional 4th day has seen such classics added to the program as a Mare's race, a 4 yo handicap for the bookies and a novice handicap chase for the bookies. I am sure bookmakers send Christmas Cards to wor Eddie.
Also added to replace the Cathcart (which was a poorly supported race) is a supposedly 2m 5f mid distance championship race where arguably the 5 best horses over the distance will not run in! Racing Demon (OK he runs but better right handed), Tamarinbleu, Denman, Kauto Star, Monet's Garden - cases can be made for Exotic Dancer as well. It will be contested by Mossbank, the Listener who Denman ruptured in the Lexus. Not to mention Our Vic a horse dodgier than a race course curry.
Sport needs another greedy corporate suit who mocks people for contrary opinions like Cheltenham needs a 5th day. No doubt Edward will see that as a good idea and an endorsement of himself.
OK Ashton drops Jonny Wilkinson who funnily enough is playing as well/badly as he did in the world cup - indeed his boot is actually more lethal and he did make 1 break! Which all adds to the fool mystique of Ashton. How is he judging Wilkinson? On team results?
I would of course not play Wilkinson although it is classic jester manager position to throw the kid in for the last game. What I cannot figure is why Wilkinson is on the bench? Surely once you drop an injury prone 28 year old icon you don't have him stand on the shoulders of the person selected? Jonny is a monster celebrity and surely if his game offers anything it is not coming off the bench to re-invigorate a team. His tactical kicking is so poor that he would hardly be brought on to block things up!
In the end I really do not believe Ashton can evaluate players. He has no logic or structure to his thinking and selection. Personally as said elsewhere I would not allow him near any of the talented young players and send him away with his experienced players he is loyal to for the summer tour.
Alex McLeish was out again today with yet more additions to the lexicon of obfuscation used to defend brutal footballers like Mad Martie Taylor and Berkshire's Hunt.
First up Loon-Alex stepped up complaining that Sepp Blatter should comment on football. As chairman of FIFA he obviously has never seen a game in his life and should restrained from comment! Ummmhh sorry Alex not going to happen.
He had seen worse challenges than Taylor's in the last few weeks. Well that hardly makes a case for Taylor's being OK. He did not name any challenge specifically just like the wild eyed conspiracy theorist suggesting that dark forces are at work. The fact is too many players make too many desperate challenges that do not need to be made and are frankly reckless. Personally I would like Alex McLeish to get a video out and show how Taylor was playing any ball at any time. It is quite clear Taylor decided he was beaten and would deliberately foul but even without my view no way this is a clean tackle.
Next up he complains Taylor is being persecuted due to consequence. Well in a way he is right whether you take my view of the tackle or just see it as a yellow. However with acts of reckless abandon this is generally the way we have to go. Like a drunk driver if you are over 3 times the limit you may be considered to have reckless disregard for others' safety. However if you are caught driving then you will get probably a fine and driving ban. Caught wrapped around a tree like Tony Adams 3 months. Maybe even unluckily involved in a fatal accident 5 years. Your degree of guilt and recklessness is generally not considered.
The saddest part is when Alex McLeish claims it is this kind of tackle that makes the English game which is 100% wrong. The English game is fast flowing and end to end at its best. Deliberate and continual fouls on the best players are not what people want to see. Fouling is not what makes any game special and indeed the problem with say Italian football is the constant stop start from the continual use of fouling by defenders!
Only in England can Martin Taylor be made a victim of his own recklessness. No one sane is putting him in the sewer class of Roy Keane who set out to injure someone deliberately. It does not mean he is: a victim: unlucky: persecuted: not that type of player: a good pro. He is the kind of player who needs to change their tackling technique and yes there are a lot of them but that should not excuse him.
Ok let's get this straight long term I am not sure Avram Grant will get Chelsea anywhere. Indeed I wonder if any young player wanting to go forward will want to join Chelsea when all they can get off them is money. However until Chelsea have a strategy what good would sacking the manager do? Would any big name be happy to come in and settle in with highly paid coach Ten Cate and break bread with youth supremo Frank Arnesan? No way. Would they not want lots more expensive players of their own?
In the UK the management structure is the manager and no one else. Therefore the teams that sack managers a lot go nowhere medium and long term. Abroad what we call a manager is effectively the coach. Most major clubs have a sporting director and recruitment is divorced from management.
The problem is Chelsea seem to have the worst of all worlds where: the youth squad is bloated but has no outlet when the manager has so little security he is adding depth with poor value/pointless/short term signings like Anelka, Ben Haim, Malouda and Sidwell: The manager feels he has to compete on 4 fronts despite an ageing squad which was worn out by a similar ridiculous campaign last year: Trying to win cups that don't save the managers job even when he wins two of them: the chairman acts as a kind of sporting director and buys ageing has beens like Sheva and links the club with the ludicrous Ronaldinho!
So until Chelsea have a plan rather than trying to be everything but ending up as nothing what good would sacking Grant do other than add to the sporting equivalent of heating your house by burning bundles of £50 notes.
It is funny that most English sportsmen seem to have to enter every arena modestly trying to be under dogs or not provide notice board fodder for the opposition. That the pressure of expectation can seemingly wilt people. That underdog triumph is somehow glorious rather than instantly forgotten by nuetrals? seriously do Americans remember Lennox Lewis or "Has Been" Rahman or Oliver McCall?
My point why arrogance, expectation and desire should be embraced is this: can you imagine a boxer entering the ring entertaining any doubts? Nope, boxers always say they will win. Do they lose anything when they lose because they were confident and arrogant before hand? No. Who cares once the game is over it is about winning and all the prior stuff is chip wrapping. Do boxers on the rise say one bout at a time and take it easy not to upset opponents? Or do they say I am going to win the world title next week? Does Calzaghe or Haye ever entertain a negative thought when they enter the ring?
English teams almost seem to go into ego protection mode and thus seem to rise and fall on confidence and chance - they don't make big predictions and don't try to live up to them. You only have to contrast English ODI captain Collingwood's measured comments with Pietersen, who grew up in another culture, who keeps saying this team could win everything and consider which one should be captain and which one will lead a team who win and lose but never make great leaps forward. What is missed regardless of what the opposition say boasting and arrogance is really challenging yourself. Indeed you will beat more opponents without landing a blow that way than motivate people to play better - indeed in Poker you use arrogance and barbs to motivate people to play you not the cards...
Consider this did Glenn McGrath lose anything by predicting Australia would win 5-0 in 2005? He retired generally considered one of the greatest seam bowlers ever. Flintoff a shoulda coulda been famous for being a nice drunk despite his ability to string 30 or 40 standard nuetral cliches together.
Arguably McGrath's confidence and that of his team mates nearly over came a superior England team with everything going their way should have won nicely in 2005. In the end England won by 3 wickets and 2 runs and may even have blown the last test but for rain and bad light forcing Australia to play and lose wickets in bad light. What happened next was England continued being modest and setting their targets low. We deified the winning players and made them un-droppable regardless of behaviour. Glenn McGrath said 5-0 again and it was. So England are now rubbish and the ageing Australians are still young and winning everything bar the odd ODI series.
My point is avoiding press complaints about arrogance and weak minded opposition who claim extra motivation means you never challenge yourself. For a drunk the first step forward is to admit you are a drunk. In sport the first step forward is to demand more of yourself than drinking at the under dog fountain.
New Zealand's overwhelming win over England on a pure draw pitch surely says it is time to change our sporting culture. The media and poor weak managers have shaped a world where it is more important to lose with Vaughan, Wilkinson, Owen, Rooney, Flintoff and no doubt other favourites. They won't like a logical approach as people they tell us are great and undroppable get dropped.
Initially the luddite fans will of course complain when their favourites are left out and a team ethos rules out serial clowns like Flintoff but in a few years when we start winning they'll come round.
I think English sport in general needs to start doing things rationally - see us lose at rugby with Jonny as well! This has to start with selection and management. Even Duncan Fletcher was not really a first principals guy but now we have people who parrot his one liners and words without even believing them.
England need to go to a squad system as they have no outstanding players at present (Pietersen maybe needs a rest but at present). They play loads of cricket and have people who can only perform properly under certain conditions - yet we pick a best XI!
Why pick Harm-less-son on at least 60% (80% or anywhere bar Old Trafford) of wicket which are slow? Panesar is not as good on a slow wicket either. Hoggard can be painfully nonpenetrative on some grounds. Anderson abroad! Anderson also can be a total liability (like Harmy) going at 5 an over and effectively costing England the series against India in the 2nd test.
Vaughan set his sights low and you can see why...
What was the logic in the following:-
Playing Harmison and Panesar on a slow wicket - giving yourself few fielders and 2 rabbits with the bat?
Central contracts to 40+ averaging bowlers Harmison and Anderson.
Dropping Strauss and bringing him back on no cricket and bringing him in at a new position!
The selectors, captain and coach have no ethos, strategy and just make up things ad hoc whilst using single words/sentences for values.
I used to love boxing. I still do enjoy it although can do without jingoistic things like the "Battle Of Britain" - the only surprise was we did not get the Great Escape music (is that not funny that we are nationalistic about a movie where most of the Brits meet an unfortunate end and the Yanks get clean away!)
Other than the anachronistic selling of Haye Maccarinelli what was also annoying was the tedious and repetitive pre fight announcements. OK we were spared Michael Buffer's childish "Let's get ready to rumble"... However they always say 12 rounds of Boxing for the WB? title. It really tickles me what and we thought it was 12 rounds of crochet?
In another amusement in the same vein as Chip Carey and Steve Stone in a Cub broadcast asking if the UK had the imperial yard as a measure! Jimmy Lennon jnr referred to Haye as 14st 2 pounds - 198 US pounds! I know the US gallon is not an imperial measure but the pound is!
The shame is at present with Haye, Calzaghe and Hatton we currently have 3 undisputed champions and plenty of minor title holders and contenders. They just cannot seem to break with the cliched boxing speak.
Haye at least is lucid and charming and not the impaired pug fighter talker that Amir Khan has already turned into. Good luck to Haye as a heavyweight but I see anyone knocked out by Carl Thompson entering his palooka phase struggling at heavyweight if he gets tagged. If he can take the punches given the current poverty of the scene he might have a chance but it is a big if.
Congratulations to Haye and Maccarinelli for not pissing about and just getting it on. Boxing needs more like that. It is bizarre that Calzaghe and Hopkins will get it on with 80 years between them...
Seriously is it good for the FA cup that Man U and Chelsea are out? The two clubs with arguably the biggest latent support in the UK? Seriously what will the viewing figures be without the biggest draws, Mido's shorts don't count big though they are.
Last year I called Shane Williams "Shame" Williams as his mindless running and contempt for possession cost Wales in game after game. I'd like to think his improvement and becoming the most exciting back in Europe, in a positive sense, shows the value of coaches who know what they want and how to help people get there.
Scotland clearly out thought Brian Ashton. All you need to do to beat England is match them up to a point in the scrum, win your lineout, hold on to the ball and kick your goals. This is England's game plan so if you match them up front your stand off is unlikely to be as poor as Wilkinson nor your forwards so self obsessed to try the push over at a ruck 15 straight times whilst going backwards. Scotland is almost a copy of England without quite the forward power to embarrass better teams.
Ashton can thank his stars the Lievremont played so many kids (although at least he will have found something out about his team). That Wales took a half to get going to give the team a fig leaf from the first game. Oh and that Italy managed to let Jonny's one break become a try...
I would love someone to explain what Ashton is aiming at? The criticisms are the same whether it was the winning games against Italy, France, Australia, Tonga and Samoa or the losses to Wales, South Africa(x2), and Scotland. Palsied poor rugby aiming to win through possesion, penalties and perspiration. The fact that the games are close and exciting and most points come from Wilkinson should not disguise that this whole team and game plan is neither entertaining nor giving England the best chance to win. Our media prefers to ride the results which is why the debate is so staid and each game a referendum on certain players.
This back line is not going to get a try or the ball it seems whilst no 10 and his mini me at no 12 are there. Besides even if England had somehow cranked the forwards over and won and also held up better against Wales is winning the 6 nations this way worth anything? Is it achieving anything for a team whose focus should be on becoming the no 1 in the world?
You realise the hold celebrity has on people when at half time Inverdale is praising Jonny for his tackling - what would Chris Rock say of people who get praised for what they are supposed to do... How else other than Jonny's boot are England intending to score with the wingers wide - where only a Jonny cross kick can find them! All glory to Jonathan no criticism! Or so it seems.
The IRB just granted test status to a match between a Lions side not yet on tour and the Argentineans not playing in France, 3rd team, without a warm up game... Those 20 points even more worthless than running it up on the USA! However that decision has made Jonathan the greatest point scorer of all time... Maybe Ashton tipped them this might be his last game and they wanted a good send off for him but that is too much to hope. This celebrity nonsense seems to have infected even governing bodies it seems.
The problem with English sport is that floating coaches like Ashton get away with it as each game is made a referendum on Wilkinson or Owen or Flintoff and their lack of any plan or obvious coaching is missed - or not something short term journos consider.
The saddest part is that England would not have to be much better in a couple of games to be going for the Grand Slam. My point is not England lost but they are dire. That only decent teams who pick pussies in the front row need fear them.
Surely this team is given one more chance before Andrew gets in a coach to build a team. Ashton should not be allowed to select Tait, Simpson-Daniel, Cipriani or anyone else with talent for the last game. They should be protected from this abomination of expediency over trying to achieve anything. This lickspittle hierarchy of ageing players from a world cup 5 years ago.
Hand on heart does anyone know what Ashton is trying to achieve? Does he have a strategy? Or like his disciplinary procedure does he just make it up and looks at what appeared to work last?
Not sure we learned a lot about Spurs against PSV other than they probably are not yet as good as some have them. Indeed they have 4 more points than Newcastle and just conceded 4 to Birmingham City! The fact that a result the week before was used as an excuse and Ramos rested the fragile Woody and King says more about the possibility the improvement is from cynical targeting. It surely tells us nothing about how they will react to a season long chase for a Champions League place. Indeed is Ramos not conditioning the players to think there are weeks off?
Yes they beat Chelsea but it was a Chelsea with unfit players and a front 3 that could not crack an egg (Drogba unfit and maybe uncaring and Phillips and Anelka the lightest weight wing forwards one can recall). Yet for all the possession those 3 gifted a wave of Wayne Bridge's hand and a double kiss was the only way they scored.
Spurs still have the enigma of Berbatov unfortunately too good to drop, too prima donna, old and lazy to sell, for a meaningful sum of money at any rate. Robbie Keane may be one of the best players in the league but he's not exactly the guy who gets the big goal in even the medium game. Then playing 442 with Lennon and Malbranque out wide is hardly the solid team likely to make a run at anything bar a cup.
We have all been impressed by Ramos turning around the unfit and the clueless like Huddlestone and Jenas. However can anyone say that with a lot of money spent Spurs have advanced much since the outbreak of hysteria that prevented them finishing 4th 2 years ago? Food poisoning was unproven, dis-proven even!
There is a tendency for people to call long term things good before their time. Personally I am convinced Juande Ramos is the real thing but the evidence is not in yet.
We will not be able to judge Ramos until he starts bringing his own players in - one assumes at 5 million bills a year he has more say than the hapless Martin Jol. He also has taken 5 minutes to spot the obvious weakness that Jol had not - the damn goal keeper is shite. Time will tell.
Ok technically Cipriani is breaching some curfew or at a nightclub late. If you are a stupid enough coach to make curfews I guess you have to ban the kid. The fact it stamps you with the clown logo is neither here nor there.
Consider the indulgence given to a fool like Flintoff and you see how English sport is parroting and mouthing so many cliches that it has no real idea of what is leadership and management - lurching from indulgent to fascistic without any real obvious reason. It is like a bad manager confronted with ISO 9000 or Prince2 they will follow the rules whilst the project goes to hell in a hand basket.
Ashton can at least select who he wanted to anyway now he has this Rizla thin excuse. Well done Brian. This decision leaves you where exactly? Excluding you best young player and with a fragile Jonny one bad tackle from the injured list!
If one were truly cynical and felt English under achievement was planned, rather than the result of sad little men like Ashton, Moores and McClaren, then one would see a pattern. The team will probably finish the 6 nations with 3 maybe 4 wins and claim some sort of advance. Then all the senior players like Wilkinson will bleat about too many games and have the summer tour off. A young side will lose heavily to the southern hemisphere this summer again. The coach can then continue to select that past it coterie of ageing players who should be jettisoned and say well the kids failed.
Think that is cynical? It seems to happen every year since Woodward left.
England captain Michael Vaughan continued his assault on sense with more self serving nonsense about how England needed to find their best XI and stick with it. Now the notion that a steady team is a good idea certainly has some merit in Football and Rugby. It is just not achievable in the modern world. Indeed manager's have become more and more valuable as the real skills are now recruitment, rotation and keeping fringe players happy.
I have argued forever it seems that Harmlesson should not be played on a slow wicket and we should count to 10 and think about Monty Panesar on those as well. Superficially as I type England are not doing that badly against New Zealand (326/6) but this is not a New Zealand side that would scare Bangladesh at the moment (before one considers their bowling! or lack thereof). We are increasingly reduced to bowling Collie's dreck to show how poor selection is.
Indeed what has consistency of selection done for Harmison? When everytime he nears or is technically dropped he comes back with better form? What has the automatic place guaranteed done for any of the Ashes heroes? Indeed added to it all is that by having Harmison and Panesar England have a lot of mules in the field.
We should pick our team on form yes but also rest requirements and stop waiting for injury to determine change. This is the flaw in Vaughan's analysis that England play too many matches to thrash a best XI. Also Pietersen aside how many England players fall into world class that they should be picked as a first choice regardless of venue, pitch and opponent? Even KP probably could do with a few months freshner at present.
Indeed there does seem to be arguments that Vaughan's field placing further undermine Panesar anyway. Vaughan seems to want credit for clever catching positions that get people out regardless of how many runs they cost.
Arguably Vaughan is spouting Fletcher's comments, one liners and cliches without any understanding what they mean. This nonsense about first XI when England have 16 players who are much of a muchness and many would be better on this pitch than Harm-less-son, Hoggard and Panesar - and could field better too. Excepted that Tremlett the most direct replacement for Harmison is injured.
After United lost in Milan last year we called it a sign of English mental weakness. Last month when Arsenal drew 0-0 at home this blog called it a good result as, set pieces aside, Arsenal were too big, too powerful and too physically strong. Sure the English club once again looked like doing everything but score but Milan were rarely at the races.
We also said 0-0 was a good home result as one goal and you have them in the deep and very sticky. Chelsea will not be safe until they are 2 in front tomorrow so the psychology of that could be hard for them. Milan mind were just overwhelmed by pace and power and frankly as we said 2 weeks ago those are not easy advantages to over come home or away.
Without knowing I would bet the average Arsenal player covered significantly more ground than his opponents. Milan never had time or space on the ball. Very few players look good when given no space and many stars can become liabilities.
Bear in mind Arsenal are a light squad coming up and over achieving at home. Milan have cynically played for this tournament once again not contesting their domestic title (Inter winning that easily and Liverpool buried them under a similar burden of pace and power they were reduced to cheating which they were upset was punished).
The point is that only the game over load has worn the EPL's best teams out in this tournament. Ordinary team's that finished 5th, 4th (an attack of mass hysteria at Spurs from 5th) and 4th from in the EPL who shaped their season have made the final. The sheer intensity of Premier league and its buying power has reduced many of the continental teams to ageing squads with the odd star and a lot of filler. That intensity also means that at present teams like United and Chelsea have often reached late March on vapour but it does not appear so this year. This year Chelsea has everyone suddenly rested and fit and 18 players who could be worth playing. Man U has extra players (It took 7 defensive injuries to finally break their back 4 last year, a lot of bad luck).
If an English team does not win it this year it will surely be because of the top 6 inches of their bodies not the hard muscled other 5 foot 6 inches or so.
In that other pathetic twist on the British mentality Vaughan says England are under pressure to beat New Zealand. Wow way to go make yourself an under dog against what the 6th or 7th best nation out of what 8 real test nations? Or is that 7?
I just wish that Vaughan and co would raise their sights to trying to: find the best players: pick the best players for a pitch: trying to become no 1: ending the cosy boys club that seems to value type of bloke over the best player.
Birmingham chairman David Gold joined Alex MacLeish in trying to make Mad Martie Taylor the victim of his assault on Eduardo da Silva. In much the same way as rubbish about how 'Berkshire Based' Hunt was not playing Cech's head and was receiving baseless threats so Taylor was making an ordinary tackle and is receiving threats. They are the victims... These poor little souls adopting the Harbhajan defense of hiding behind their pay masters - at least people say they are not that kind of person unlike Harbhajan.
Well factually they are a) not the victims b) cowards themselves. We were told if Hunt was playing Cech's head he would have used his foot when of course that is what he would have used to try and play the ball - he never got asked what he was playing with his knee? As it could not have been the ball so the only other thing there was Cech's head - Hunt can thank Alan Shearer for that piece of interference in the logical thought process of the nation. Of course Hunt was aided in his getting away with it by the lunatic performance from a Jose Mourinho, in need of a strait jacket and the sack, who attacked the ambulance men and women - seriously did anyone want him as England manager once they heard Capello wanted the job?
Mad Martie we are told was until last week not that sort of player. He will no doubt with all the ex-pros spouting illogical nonsense and his management behind him not have to explain even if Eduardo had the ball there how he was going to play it with a lunge over the ball that could only end up where it did - that the ball being 4 feet away is even more of a kick to his manager's suggestion.
For balance I should say that "It's a Man's game" Alex Mac reckons he will have to make tackles like that again or be regarded, no doubt, as a sissy. Maybe Alex can explain how you play the ball coming in half way up someone's shin? I cannot work it out myself. Before we consider that the ball was not even there for him to go over.
Avram Grant's shocker last week where he selected the unfit with the lightweight as his front 3 and as a result Spurs had 60% of the ball for most of the game which put him in the firing line. As did his toy throwing at a press conference where tears were not far from his eyes. However maybe John Terry revitalised by time off and looking fresher and more annoyingly chirpy than ever really does lead this team! Chelsea scored 4 on a team that had conceded less than one a game prior (one of only 7 who had done that).
I find it hard to believe the gibbering fool [Grant] who wasted breath slagging the press on Friday had any say in this. As said elsewhere I don't rate Chelsea anywhere near the teams of the first 2 years of Mourinho but however they now have a big squad of very fit star players. In many respects they may now be less dependent on any individual and cannot be counted out of any race. Indeed now their fans should be annoyed they have a moderate manager with so much still winnable. They keep getting very favourable draws in the cups as well.
In one of those silly things they talk about in sport momentum shifting (if it was momentum it would not shift!) Curbishley finished the match with people thinking a Curbs team comfortable mid table = late season swoon... By some accounts the hard demanding Curbs pushes people and one wonders if that can be effective with a bunch of career mid table players? The next few games will be interesting.
Keegan at least finally got something out of Newcastle that did not resemble a criminal performance. I suspect that eventually one or two of their goal scorers will catch fire and clear the decks. They after all have only 4 less points than Spurs! Who can wonder how deep they would be if Jol had stayed on. Indeed with no Keane, Dawson, King and Woodgate they got creamed by Birmingham City - no doubt Spurs fans would argue you have to be a good team to struggle against the strangely tough to beat, for top teams, Birmingham.
Looks like baring an official admitting error Lampard will get 3 matches for stuff that would not crack an egg. As last week the equally guilty party involved will get nothing. Indeed Mascherano as the instigator of facial tapping last week arguably deserved more. Honestly in terms of player reactions the current regs are a wind up cheat's charter.
Violent conduct should not be an automatic 3 match ban. This of course stems from weedy minded TV pundits crying "consistency" so let's make 3 for everyone like cutting off hands for stealing a sweet or a diamond haul worth 10 million dollars. Frankly I think the ban for mostly face tapping or nothing should be the sending off is enough punishment.
Whereas Claude Makelele unusually makes a over the top tackle (albeit 8 inches lower than Mad Martie Taylor who until last week was not that kind of player) and will get away with 0 games ban. It is funny last week I was going to say that Makalele got to be the best holding player in the world without making the kind of tackles Alex "Mad Axe Man" McLeish says Martin Taylor will have to make again and again if he expects ever to play for Birmingham City again. OK I am para phrasing what the excellent manager in most other respects said.
Jon's Feb 2008 Archive featuring
Capello Starts Slowly Defoe Wales Prove Jon Wrong
Giant Blow to Pats Brian Ashton Puts His Money On Jonny
Premier League Abroad UK Athletics Clowns
Chelsea Run By Fool Mad Martie Taylor
Ramos Hanson Over Rated
Jon's Jan 2008 Archive featuring
Spurs Money to Burn As Well, Benitez Busted Flush?
Keegan Lunacy, Newcastle Infantile, Chelsea Cash Burning
Rafa Surely When Not If, Big Sam Cut Down to Size
Harbhajan No Backers, Harbhajan unlucky, Harbhjan Probably a ???
Berbatov 25 Million Laugh, Capello Front Men
Jon's Dec 2007 Archive featuring
Barton Fink Sam Sack Chelsea Grant Prior Ashton Harmison Eboue Scum
English Cricket Follies Mitchell Report Mourinho Balked
FA Fools Mourinho Flawed Sky Rubbish CPS Laughable
No More Ashes Heroes
Jon's Nov 2007 Archive featuring
England's Poor Record in Big Games Manager Babylon Rafa Harmlessson
England Gone McClown's Last Foolery New Manager Hunt
Moores Flintoff Liverpool Chelsea Calzaghe
Book Attacks Catt Fletch Dallaglio FIFA Greed
Jon's Oct 2007 Archive featuring
Terracing Davydenko Spurs More Chelsea Rugby McClown's Losers
England RWC 3-0 3-0 3-0 3-0 Rafa Owen Celebrity Analysis
All Blacks Paul Robinson Walter Smith Terry Jol
Grant Chelsea Better England Better ODI Better
Fletcher Whistle Blowing Good
Jon's Aug 2007 Archive featuring
Mascherano ODI Ohuruogo Sotherton Jol Amir Chelsea Rooney
Bad Umpire Bad Coaches Bad Bad Keeper Terry Bad Contract
India Test England English Cricket Crony Clique Davydenko Bates United
Jon's Jul 2007 Archive featuring
Vaughan Tactics Tour Managers Open Choke
KP Jose 1st Test Scheduling
Trescothick Bates Tevez Arsenal Players
Torres Chelsea Money for Nothing Wimbledon West Ham Tresco