Le Football Revient a la Maison


Le CONTRAT de BILLY


Well, if nothing else, the World Cup, aided and abetted by the excellent summer weather, was a welcome distraction to the close season which did not drag on as it normally does. 

It did not seem any length of time before pre-season was upon us. In fact two of England's matches clashed with two of Pools' pre-season fixtures. Though I wait for it to be confirmed, rumour had it that FIFA and the BBC got in touch with Pools and requested that they bring forward the kick-off time of their friendly with Billingham to 12pm as the original kick off time of 3pm would clash with the England Colombia game and they feared that viewing figures could be drastically affected.

The next England fixture to clash with Pools was the third place play-off match with Belgium. On the same day Pools hosted Sunderland at the Vic and a crowd just short of 4,000 turned up, which I thought spoke volumes for the club v country debate. I bet Gary Lineker would be horrified that this number of people, along with thousands of others throughout the country, much preferred watching their own teams play in pre-season friendly matches rather than roar on the national side to a third place losers' spot, or is it the runners-ups' runners-up place?

I don't doubt for one moment that if England had indeed reached the World Cup final that Pools crowd against Sunderland could have been sub-3,000. As England plodded their way through the tournament there actually did seem to be the remotest of possiblities of their actually reaching the final. With that in mind 'Back Home' we had planned to have our mates round for a bit of scran and the customary drinkees and chuckles. The final, however clashed with our monthly ramble, or in my case amble, with the walking club that myself and the housekeeper belong to.

I was so disheartened at England's second-half performance against Croatia - a golden opportunity lost of a World Cup final appearance and the possibility of winning it, that on the day of the final itself, I instead donned my hiking boots and opted to join our walking group for a delightful hike around the Yorkshire Dales (The Shawl) culminating in my sitting outside a pub in Leyburn enjoying good company, as well as a couple of pints of Symonds Cider to quench the thirst.

We discussed all sorts of things and football never once featured in our conversation. The first mention of Football or indeed the Wimbledon (or should that be the MK Dons men's tennis final?), came on the return coach back home after 5 o'clock when someone mentioned in passing that France had beaten Croatia, four-two. My immediate response was to ask if any of the French players had bagged themselves a hat-trick. The answer after much checking came back as a 'No.' I was delighted when I heard this as it meant that Geoff Hurst's record of being the only player ever to score a hat trick in a World Cup final still stands. So at least in one area England still can proudly hold her head up.

DUCKING AND DIVING

The highlight of the World cup for me was when Alan Shearer was having a right old rant, Jeff Stelling style, about the ungentlemanly tactics of Johnny foreigner footballers, rolling around at the slightest touch, conning the referees, trying to get their opponents booked or even sent off, play acting and the worst sin of all according to Shearer was that of diving. He really got wound up about it. The camera panned back and there sat beside him,  trying to suppress the biggest smile ever, was none other than Jurgen the German Klinsmann, the only footballer in the world who has given Tom Daley a run for his money at diving.

RAHEEM IS COMING HOME

Around a year back I wrote a damning piece in Monkey Business about Raheem Sterling. I would like to put on record that I would like to retract what I had written as it wasn't nearly damning enough. How he got picked, let alone played in every game for England in the World Cup is beyond me. Ah, I hear you say, but he scored twenty plus goals in the Premiership for the league champions Manchester City. One of the newspapers did the stats on the number of chances that fell to him over the season for City and it is lamentable. Let's just say if Denis Behan had played for City last season he would have got forty goals.

I like looking at stats. They can make interesting reading - that is, if they are recorded correctly. In the game against Croatia, Jordan Pickford kicked the ball out 47 times and only 20 of these reached a team mate, which meant that 27 of these kicks fell Croatia's way, giving them possession. The irony of this was that most of Pickford's kicks were not the result of numerous goal kicks resulting from Croatian attacks, but because his team mates kept passing the ball back to him. Nicky Featherstone please note.

Getting back to Raheem Sterling, some commentators said that although he did not get past any defenders he kept them occupied with his work rate. In other words he ran round like a daft puppy achieving very little but tiring himself and the fans out. As for his decision making, he lacks instinct and, (a bit like our 'previously' very own Lewis Alessandra), he would pass instead of shoot and shoot instead of pass, or just get caught dithering on the ball not quite knowing what to do with it.
"Let's just say if Denis Behan had played for City last season he would have got forty goals"

Off the pitch he is not that much better. Prior to departing to Russia he was the only player in the England squad to be granted an extended break so he could visit his family in Jamaica, only to abuse this favour by turning up at the England squad two days late, citing personal reasons. Then, in the next breath, he said that he had missed his flight.

Then we have the laugh-a-minute tale of his tattoo of an A16 assault rifle on his right leg at a time when gun crime is out of control. Tragically Sterling's father was shot dead by a rival gang when Raheem was a young child, but he defended the tattoo stating that it is in memory of his late father. How strange. If my Father had died in a gun shooting the last thing I would have inked on to my leg would be a gun. He later changed his story somewhat telling the press that the gun was on his right leg as this was his shooting leg. After his performance in the World Cup for England with one shot on target in 6 games I think he should have the sights on his right leg recalibrated and bring some ammunition along as well. In his defence I felt Gareth Waistcoat should have played Sterling out wide and out of harm's way in order to allow Harry Kane to play in his normal position instead of deep behind Sterling. Raheem in my opinion you are the weakest link. You're fired.

FOOTBALL SHORTS

My mate said that after the finals he got 5/1 on Sterling missing the plane back to England. Talking of daft bets, I wonder what odds the bookies would give for Joey Barton getting the sack from Fleetwood before the end of the season and Raheem Sterling becoming a regular bench warmer after the January transfer deadline. Interesting fact/stat: prior to Brazil's final match against Belgium, Neymar had previously spent the grand total of just over fourteen and a half minutes rolling around on the ground.

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