John Motson’s recent death has been met with an indelible sadness for so many Football fans as we say goodbye the man who’s words painted a thousand pictures.
Know affectionately as Motty, he propelled himself into folklore in 1972 as Ronnie Radford’s long range rocket sent Hereford United through in what is still regarded as one of the greatest shocks in FA cup history, whilst Motson himself was on a one year trial with the BBC at that juncture and feared he would never make the grade.
However, with Hereford slaying the giant, and an always hugely enthusiastic John Motson providing the narrative he found his popularity grow extensively almost overnight as the man from Salford found his way into the hearts of the Great British public.
The word legend is often banded around in modern society, yet where he is concerned it almost seems to hand him a disservice, as his timeless voice transcended through generations of Football fans.
He provided insight and fascinating analysis from the gantry over a mind bending 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships, and 29 FA Cup finals.
His attention to detail for every instance and outcome of every match he covered never waned, as in an age before information was instantly accessible on the internet it was him who was always there primed and ready for every scenario as we watched the drama unfold for England across numerous major championships.
For every glorious moment it was Motty who somehow always found the right words and tempo in that iconic voice of his that would somehow heighten even the most euphoric moments.
He was there for the iconic run into the semi finals of Italia 90, Paul Gascoigne’s marvelous strike against Scotland in Euro 96, and the 5-1 trouncing of Germany in 2001 where Michael Owen would plunder a hat trick in a famous victory.
On the contrary, he was always able to find the right words in the face of crushing disappointment, which we have had more than our fair share of over the years.
The domestic game also benefitted enormously from John’s unique talents, as Match of the Day became a national institution, with him providing the lead role each and every Saturday on commentary which was essential viewing for any football fanatic.
Whilst the likes of Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard would have his epic equalizer against West Ham in the FA Cup final victory in 2006 accompanied by the perfect score in the form of his dulcet tones.
The list of iconic moments is truly endless, as it was always John who was there to hold your hand through both the good times and the bad.
He was as passionate as they come, and without his presence in the commentary box over the years I genuinely believe that the game of Football wouldn’t have trickled its way into the fabric of society so deeply in this country.
Ultimately Football is simply a game, yet it is built on a tapestry of connections that we as fans have with each other and the theatre that plays out on our screens on a weekly basis.
Alas with John Motson leading proceedings on the microphone we had the undeniable master when it came to providing the vocal soundtrack that brought the game and its artistry to life.
In my opinion he is a once in a lifetime character who’s passion and love for the game of Football always shone through at every match he attended.
For myself and many others John was an inspirational figure who proved that despite being the man who wore glasses and a sheepskin coat, it was possible to carve out a magnificent career in the game that he adored.
Motty may or may not have ever truly understood the gravity of his importance to our game in this country, yet it shouldn’t be underestimated, as the spoken word is so vitally important not only in sport but also in life as it shapes our opinions and emotions in the world around us.
He will be sorely missed by so many fans and spectators of the game as his passionate commentary has embedded itself into so many classic sporting moments that surely wouldn’t resonate as deeply if he hadn’t had been behind the microphone, and I sincerely believe those cherished memories will continue to hold weight in our minds despite his passing.
In closing his death is a truly sad day for Football as we and the game have to say goodbye to a truly iconic man who refreshingly earned the upmost respect of the Footballing fraternity without ever kicking a ball.
John Motson was simply the voice of a generation and I hand over the final statement to Gary Lineker whose poignant words on Match of the Day perfectly summed up the feeling in and around his death.
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As the dust begins to settle on England’s Lionesses thrilling and historic victory over Germany in the final of Euro 2022, I feel that it is high time that we reflect on the enormity of their achievements both on and off the pitch. As with each stride to ending 56 years of hurt without a major trophy for this country, they have turned public perception of women’s football on its head.
The women’s game has spent many years as an afterthought which held neither the allure, skill, and excitement of the men’s game, which has long had a stranglehold as the world’s number one sport.
However, with such an exciting and highly skilled women’s European Championship now etched in the record books it is maybe time for the ladies to finally force their way alongside their male counterparts at the head of the table.
It cannot be ignored how the Lionesses captured this country’s imagination, as despite a nervy start to their campaign with a 1-0 victory over Austria, they eventually swept aside every single obstacle placed in their pathway, as no matter the quandary presented to them, these girls alongside their manager Sarina Wiegman found the solution time and time again.
The knockout stages saw this team as one of the lowest ranked left in the competition, yet it mattered not, as despite heading for defeat against a talented Spanish team it was Ella Toone who snatched a late equaliser sending the match into extra time.
Georgia Stanway would then take the mantle and drill home a spectacular winner in the 96th minute, a stirring fightback from the brink which embodied their sense of self belief to overcome adversity, handing England an eventual 2-1 victory.
The accompanying passion that exuded from stands at the Brighton community stadium, along with the skill set and standard of play between both teams made it a truly thrilling advertisement for the women’s game.
Sweden, a team ranked 2nd in the world, awaited in the next round and were expected to use their vast experience to outmaneuver an England side that was somewhat lacking in experience.
What unfolded was totally on the contrary, as despite a slow start, England slowly began to tighten their stranglehold on proceedings with a 1-0 lead at half time. Lucy Bronze added a second at the beginning of the second half and in the 68th minute came a stroke of pure genius from substitute Alessia Russo.
With her back to goal and seemingly on a road to nowhere, she conjured up an audacious backheel from out of nothing, which found its way through the Swedish goalkeepers legs and into the back of the net, it was a moment that belonged on the world stage of Elite football regardless of gender, as England eventually ran out 4-0 victors.
As if by fate we would face yet another meeting with old foes Germany in a Wembley showpiece final, 56 years on from the last time England have lifted a major trophy in Football, whilst the German team have won this championship an astonishing eight times.
With history against them the lionesses would fight against convention once again, yet this time it would be on the pitch against a fearsome foe.
With an atmosphere at fever pitch we witnessed a fiery and passionate final in front of a record 87,000 crowd, and in the 62nd minute it truly sprung into life as Ella Toone’s beautiful lob gave England a 1-0 lead. Yet as ever we were pegged back to 1-1 by German Striker Lina Magull’s cool near post finish with only 10 minutes left on the clock. It would be extra time once more, and as ever these women simply would not lie down in the face of adversity, as they pushed for a late winner.
In the 110th minute euphoria finally arrived in the shape of Chloe Kelly’s right boot as she emerged victorious in a fraught goalmouth scramble, poking home the winner, sending Wembley into pandemonium as the entirety of the England bench spilled onto the pitch to join her in a celebration that has since become iconic, as she tore off her shirt and waved it around her head in scenes in pure elation and joy.
When the celebrations began in earnest at the final whistle it was a monumental moment as the ladies had finally delivered where the men have agonisingly came up short on so many occasions.
For that alone they must receive huge plaudits as the enormity and pressure of big time sporting events has been known to eat up both teams and individuals alike, so to demonstrate such mental fortitude in the pressure cooker of a major final deserves special acclaim.
It can only serve to inspire a new generation of young girls and boys to follow their dreams and look to carve out a path into our national sport which sadly has been inaccessible for far too long for young girls.
In comparison boys have always been provided with every facet possible to enjoy and participate in the sport, which is unjust as this competition has served as a reminder of the talent that we possess in the female game in this country. Thus, we need to continue to nurture it as such by providing young girls the tools to play the game itself.
In my mind this tournament has served as a wake up call to anyone who believes that women’s sport as a whole is somehow inferior, as there is so many inspirational female figure’s across the world of sport and beyond, with it high time that Football holds itself accountable and regards these achievements in as much high esteem as its male counterpart.
The World Cup in 2023 is next on the agenda for this group of fearless and courageous players, who have emerged from this summers exhilarating European Championships as household names in their own right. Which is deservedly so, as attendance and television viewing figures reached an all time high for the women’s game and it would be a real pity if this momentum and enthusiasm ends here.
How these women have battled their way into this country’s hearts, minds, and affections must now draw a line in the sand, as this momentous victory has resonated with so many people across the country regardless of gender.
Alas, I believe that it is our duty as a nation to put any prejudice and any false impressions in the past and to embrace this new found appetite for women’s Football that these heroic Lionesses have rightly earned.
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Born in Madeira and made in Manchester, this anomaly in the world of sport continues to thrive week in and week out in elite level Football, despite his naysayers suggesting to the contrary as soon as the return to his spiritual home of Manchester United was announced.
With only weeks before the beginning of a brand new season in the Premier League, a competition viewed as probably the harshest and most challenging in Europe, it seemed as if his arrival was already deemed a failure in earnest.
Famous pundits and rival fans alike questioned the appetite and staying power of an ageing performer, who according to many wouldn’t be the same player who left the theatre of dreams twelve years previous and went on to become the most iconic performer in world football, with a career that spanned three of the most prestigious clubs and competitions in the game.
In that regard I would certainly agree with these supposed experts as it is Ronaldo himself who saw that in order to stay relevant and as devastatingly effective on the pitch as he has always been, he had to take it upon himself to evolve. This transformation took him from a right sided winger that relied heavily on devastating pace into a deadly and feared central striker.
In this current guise he surely has no equal in the current landscape of the game, even at the grand old age of 36. He certainly doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon either, as one record after another seemingly falls to this monster of a footballer on almost a weekly basis.
In comparison, the signing of Romelu Lukaku by Chelsea was heralded as a master stroke by manager Thomas Tuchel, and a relative snip at £98 million by the Football media who heaped praise on the powerful Belgian as a man who was the final piece of the Chelsea puzzle. An out and out goal scorer which the club were lacking despite being the current European Champions.
In contrast the signing of Ronaldo for £26 million was instantly labelled a nostalgia act that would be unable to withstand the physicality and robustness of the Premier League. His subsequent arrival would be to the detriment of the talent pool of young players coming through at the theatre of dreams, despite Cristiano actually outscoring the younger Lukaku in Serie A that season with 29 goals whilst playing for Juventus.
To suggest this notion was both disrespectful and foolish to a man that is a shining example to any sports person in any field, as he has simply dedicated his entire being into becoming the greatest player ever. Thus, if you were to look at a record of his astonishing achievements I find it extremely difficult to look any further than this Portuguese marvel for that accolade as his list of individual accomplishments is quite frankly ridiculous.
The most notable would however be that he is now the greatest international goal scorer ever to play the game with 115 goals for Portugal, a five time Ballon D’or winner, and the Champions League’s greatest marksman of all time with 139 goals.
Alongside those towering accolades he has also lead his country and club sides to barnstorming success throughout his remarkable career winning multiple championship’s with Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, and his home nation Portugal.
His mere presence can surely only bring out the best in any team mates that play alongside him, as his attitude and dedication as an athlete must surely make him a shining light to any fellow professionals who wish to capitalize on every ounce of talent that they possess. This man has poured countless hours into training and hard work to go alongside his god given talents and now we can all see the fruits of his labors.
Alas, his subsequent homecoming to Old Trafford lifted the club and its supporters across the planet into a state of euphoria as the Michael Jordan of Football finally embarked on his pilgrimage home.
The return to these shores has seen Cristiano silence the doubters and critics as he has done so time and again whilst under the microscope of the British media, as he continues to drag Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s stuttering Manchester United from the stale waters of mediocrity with his match winning exploits on a weekly basis.
He has given his heart and soul like no other at the club with his recent performances, yet he was derided as the man who would cause the club problems with his momentous return. Yet in my opinion it is surely down to the manager and the rest of the playing staff to provide him with the support he is crying out for on the pitch as it seems he is dragging the team along by the scruff of the neck by himself far too often.
It is an undoubted privilege as a Manchester United fan to have this once in a lifetime specimen back at the football club and I would suggest that many other fans feel the same regardless of their club allegiance.
It seems to me that football is currently being over run by clickbait and social media content that simply doesn’t reflect the views of true football supporters. Where snapshot clips from on the pitch or throwaway comments from pundits are hyped and promoted to an extent where they are seen as gospel on these platforms.
In contrast, I believe we must look to evaluate every players contributions across the entirety of 90 minutes based on what that performer brings to the table in every aspect of the game.
We are all entitled to voice our own opinions on the game and the players who participate in it, yet I prefer to form my own in accordance with the facts that are there for all to see, as Ronaldo has been simply outstanding upon his return with nine goals in eleven appearances. Whilst his never say die attitude must surely inspire and bring out the best in his team mates.
Admittedly he is no longer the dynamite heeled winger of yester-year, yet he still has outstanding ability in all facets of his game, powerful in the air, tricky, a ruthless finisher, and a turn of pace that defies his 36 years.
Thus, I would suggest that we sit back and enjoy this premiere athlete whilst we are still able to, as this seismic level of greatness cannot continue forever, yet with Cristiano Ronaldo you would certainly not put it past him.
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Taking place a year later than originally planned, Euro 2020 arrived at precisely the right time for a society that was clambering for an uplifting moral boost.
This showpiece event duly delivered by the bucket load, as we were spoiled with outrageous goals, tension filled drama, and one classic encounter after the other as Euro’s fever spread across the continent.
There is nothing quite like major tournament football that unites and brings people together as one, so here we take a look back at this competition’s finest moments.
10. Andrea Bocelli sings Nessun Dorma.
With a world so desperate to indulge itself in something that would evoke emotion and raise its spirits, these championships held in multiple cities across Europe would host the opening ceremony in the eternal city of Rome, where Italy would play Turkey in the tournament’s first match.
Andrea Bocelli rounded off the colorful ceremony by belting out the anthemic Nessun Dorma in a moment that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
For a world that had been locked down for so long it was almost as if this performance reignited our ability to think, feel, and express our passion for the things we love.
It was a perfect pre-cursor to the drama that would unfold over the next four weeks, as his spine tingling rendition lit a fire under the belly of each and every participating country. The excitement had begun in earnest as we all welcomed the theatre of major tournament football back into our lives once more.
Click on the numbers down below to continue the countdown.
With his recent departure from Tottenham Hotspur still fresh in the memory it would seem that once again Jose Mourinho has failed to seize the opportunity to revitalise a career that has evidently begun to stagnate after such a glorious and successful journey through the game.
Recruited by Roman Abramovich in 2004 to become Chelsea manager, his swagger and confidence was a breath of fresh air to English football as he famously declared himself the special one at his very first press conference.
No stone was left unturned in the psychological aspect of the game as he famously built a siege mentality around his players. Although his attitude somewhat bordered on arrogance it couldn’t be denied that his methods translated to monumental success on the pitch as he built a powerful team in his own image as the likes of Dider Drogba, John Terry, and Claude Makelele all ran through brick walls for their beloved manager en route to trophy laden success for the London side.
His tactics and innovative approach to every aspect of the sport drew comparisons to the late great Brian Clough, as Mourinho cast aside 4-4-2 and introduced a new fangled 4-3-3 system that pushed two wingers further forward in support of the lone frontman. This would go on to be replicated by many other teams and became the new standard in the game, due it’s difficulty to negate and Jose’s bulldozer like success with it.
Every press conference and interview made for box office viewing as his entertaining and sometimes cutting remarks were always available in abundance as he shared his philosophy on the game. Never afraid to voice his opinion and go against the grain, Jose became a hugely popular figure for many football fans in England as we admired his profound ability to back up many of his beliefs and prophecies of victory on the pitch.
When his eventual departure from Chelsea came in 2008 it was deemed a great loss to the Premier League, as we would no longer be privy to Jose’s fascinating soundbites and magnetic personality on a weekly basis.
Serie A and Inter Milan would be his next port of call and the subsequent three years at the club were once again a resounding triumph, as Mourinho once again flexed his managerial muscle, leading them to a magnificent treble in 2010. The club duly became the first Italian club in history to land the Scudetto, the Italian Cup and the European Cup all in one season.
Real Madrid would inevitably come calling as his unparalleled success as a manager in a variety of countries showed Jose to be a man who could adapt to new cultures and football methodology at the drop of a hat. His move to the Bernabeu was finalised soon after his European Cup victory, with Los Blancos paying a hefty financial compensation package for his services.
It is here in the Spanish capital that the very first cracks in the Mourinho foundations began to appear despite another era of success in La Liga, as he delivered every domestic trophy in his three years at the club.
However, Real Madrid is an institution that is geared towards European silverware, and domestic honours alone are not enough to satisfy the demanding fan base of one the worlds most successful teams.
The rapport he developed and nurtured with all of his players at past clubs was always crucial to his success, as his tough love and sometimes blunt criticism always seemed to be embraced by his players as he led them to glory. Yet in Madrid it seemingly had the adverse effect, as it served to create a divide and a fractured working relationship with the clubs galactico’s. Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, and Iker Casillas all having well publicized fall outs with the manager.
This internal power struggle between the manager and his players would see Jose eventually sacked, and as a return to London with Chelsea beckoned it would seem that a pre-cursor to the future had already been set at Real Madrid. As it seemed that Jose could no longer cultivate or motivate his players, who had previous bowed down to his managerial excellence, and now they seemed unwilling to follow his lead.
In my opinion Football in 2021 has shifted in a new direction, as society itself is now crying out for inclusion and positivity across the board as we have all endured a torrid time in this tiresome global pandemic. So to criticize and ostracize any player can only surely only breed negativity in not only the person himself but in the training camp as a whole, as the games primary ethos is built on teamwork. For me personally, I would suggest that to encourage and nurture yields the greater response from us as human beings in all walks of life.
It is where the great Alex Ferguson would often excel as he always knew when the time was right for an arm round the shoulder rather a than a rocket up the backside. He certainly recognized that in order to be a success it is a fundamental that any manager in any walk of life is able to communicate and build a rapport with his or her team, as one size no longer fits all in our modern world.
Thus, I feel that here is where Jose has been unable to halt the slide of his managerial failings as he has been unable to rectify and learn from his mistakes. His confrontational methods have been shown to be on a very rocky path after his experiences in Spain.
His return to Chelsea again resulted in a league title, as he built a new powerful team with the marquee signings of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa firing them to success. It wouldn’t last very long however as Mourinho’s failure to develop relationship’s based on mutual respect would rise to the fore all over again, with both Eden Hazard and Diego Costa falling foul of the manager. It was an all too familiar tale for Mourinho and he would part ways with the club in late 2015.
Jose would subsequently become Manchester United manager in 2016 and he delivered silverware in the form of a Europa and League Cup triumph. However, the hierarchy and support base of the club had been accustomed to dining out on gourmet football for decades via Alex Ferguson. He was a manager that genuinely seemed to care for his players and he had an emotional affinity to the club that Jose could never grasp in his short period at the club.
His cold and negative concepts alienated fans who wanted a return to its attacking principles that the clubs foundations had been built on through its rich history. He stubbornly refused to embrace that vision, and continued to place faith in the tactics that had brought him success nearly a decade earlier.
Public defamation of characters such as Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba were yet again on the menu as he created division within the club. Personally, I do feel that player power is a serious problem in the game that needs eradicating and the likes of Paul Pogba do not need their egos stroked any more than is already evident across social media. But to publicly humiliate your players is a sure fire way to create a palpable discord between both parties and is an almost certain recipe for disaster.
Manchester United would eventually see enough of this unsavoury approach and dismiss him in 2019, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replacing him in an effort to mirror a more measured and cultured approach.
Tottenham Hotspur would represent the last chance saloon for Jose in my opinion and with his recent sacking I would suggest that it is now final orders for him in the Premier League.
His surly and antagonistic approach never endeared him to the Spurs fanbase, as his attitude towards his players and negative tactics drew outrage once again. Both club record signing Tanguy Ndombele and fan favourite Delle Ali would be publicly lambasted in interviews by Jose, as it became apparent that the same tired old path was being tread once more which would lead to only one perceivable outcome.
Sure enough he was sacked by the club after just eighteen months, and he departed for the first time in his career without clutching silverware. Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur look to return to a far more serene work place environment with the appointment of the very likeable Nuno Espirito Santo.
As the world continues to change and evolve around us I feel that it is Jose’s stubborn refusal to accept the changing face of modern Football that has led to fans of the sport to question his standing in the game. His achievements leave me in no doubt that he is one of the greatest managers in the history of the sport, yet old father time waits for no one and it is his failure to evolve that has led to his recent shortcomings as his personal views and tactical approach are viewed as grossly outdated by many.
He is now penciled in to take the reigns at AS Roma as he makes his long awaited return to Serie A after a ten year hiatus, and it will be fascinating and compelling viewing to see if his own tried and trusted methods continue to amass clout a decade down the line in Italy.
Jose will always polarize opinion wherever he goes and if he revitalizes his approach at his new club we may well indeed see the return of the special one. However, it is a yarn we have been spun by the man himself many times before, as he always professes to have learnt from his previous misdemeanors, despite the mask soon slipping as soon as adversity looms on the horizon.
So in order for Jose Mourinho to maintain possession of the moniker he famously bestowed upon himself way back in 2004, it is about time that he realised the error of his own ways, and must surely reinvent his own footballing mantra.
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It seems that it was only yesterday that a fresh faced sixteen year old footballer named Wayne Rooney burst on to the scene with an outrageous winner against an Arsenal team in the midst of a 30 game unbeaten run.
Everton Football Club had unearthed a rare and precocious talent who at this early stage of his career would make the headlines for all the right reasons.
Thrust into the limelight from this precise moment, his career trajectory has seen him hit many dizzying heights and also monumental lows, as the legacy of Wayne Rooney can and will be debated long into the future.
His England career began in earnest with a friendly against Australia in 2003 as a second half substitute at the tender age of seventeen.
The following summer at Euro 2004, Rooney would leave his indelible mark on not just us as England fans, but the entire footballing landscape, as his rip roaring performances as a fearless eighteen year old catapulted his name alongside the likes of a young Pele and Maradona. It was certainly a warranted comparison as his performances were simply sensational.
England would eventually falter at the quarter final stage after the man himself broke his metatarsal in the opening ten minutes of the tie against Portugal.
Regardless of the harrowing timing of his injury, he left that summers tournament with four goals to his name and a reputation that was enhanced immeasurably. Unfortunately this would be the absolute peak of his international career with England.
Manchester United came knocking instantly and paid £28 million pounds for his services on his return. A record fee for a teenage footballer at this moment in time, his manager Alex Ferguson and the club were handsomely rewarded by their investment, as he duly delivered a glittering and trophy laden career at the theatre of dreams.
Paired with a young Cristiano Ronaldo, these two young stallions led Manchester United on a path of glory that garnered three Premier League titles in succession and the most treasured prize in the game, the European Cup in 2008.
At this juncture at appeared as if you could not split the two, in regards to who was the superior talent, as both Wayne and Cristiano were crucial cogs in the Manchester United machine.
Ronaldo eventually moved onto pastures new with Real Madrid as his standing in the sport rocketed into a new stratosphere, going on to amass a ludicrous 760 goals in his career and is still fighting fit at 36 years young for Juventus in Serie A.
Whilst Rooney had somewhat been left behind by the Portuguese marvel, his own remarkable scoring accomplishments for both club and country still command the upmost respect from any follower of the game. Scoring 253 goals for Manchester United and 53 goals for his country, eclipsing the the legendary Bobby Charlton on each occasion.
You could almost create a scrapbook of some of Rooney’s most exquisite strikes, as his eye for the spectacular created so many moments to treasure as football fans, and his overhead kick against Manchester City was duly voted as goal of the century by supporters across the country.
Despite his vastly impressive accolades, I sincerely believe with the right application and focus off the pitch Rooney could’ve tapped into his vast well of talent that much more, and taken his place at the table alongside the duo of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the conversation of who is the greatest of all time.
His early performances led us to believe that this was a genius in the making, and in patches of his career he delivered on that promise. However, when his off the field misdemeanors began to surface in the media his talents would often take a backseat to the controversy circling around him.
Allegations surrounding his private life have always followed Rooney throughout his time in the game, with infidelity, court cases, and contractual disputes all rearing their ugly heads at various points in his career, and these distractions can only serve to hinder the stroke of a footballing artist.
A five time Premier League winner, a three time League Cup holder, and the owner of both a FA Cup and Champions League winners medal, it seems unjust to criticize Rooney’s credentials. But much like Paul Gascoigne before him I feel that these issues did eventually put the brakes on a man who was destined for so much more in the game, despite admittedly already achieving so much.
Thus, I believe if Rooney had harnessed all of his god given talent and whole heartedly committed himself to the game like his old running buddy Cristiano Ronaldo, he could have led England to great success in both European Championships and World Cup tournaments.
Once dubbed the white Pele by adoring England supporters, it is suffice to say that looking back across his international career it is sadly littered with crushing disappointments. These should not attributed to him alone, but it is difficult to comprehend why after such a swashbuckling start to life in an England shirt that he only found the net in a World Cup on just one occasion in his career, a 2-1 defeat against Uruguay in Brazil 2014.
It is often discussed that his will to be a team player worked against him, as he was regularly willing to play out of position in order to make the team tick. This point is certainly valid but also his ill discipline would also cost England dearly in major tournaments, as red cards and a lack of anger management would often see Rooney sitting out games of the upmost importance.
The World Cup in 2006 instantly springs to mind with his red card in the quarter finals against Portugal and could be chalked up to inexperience, yet at our next major tournament in Euro 2012 we were shorn of our number one marksman once again, missing the first two group games due to a red card in the final match of qualifying against Montenegro.
To pin England’s failure on just one man is unjust, and is something I do not wish to do, as I feel that far too much weight was hung around Rooney’s neck in an era where quality English players coming through the ranks at club level were almost an oddity.
In stark contrast we currently we have an abundance of riches with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish, and Marcus Rashford all showing the hallmarks of top international stalwarts for England.
Rooney often shouldered the burden of a nation and it would certainly have been a tough ask to deal with the immense pressure that was bestowed on him as our talisman and captain. However, I do feel that with greater application he could have accomplished truly monumental greatness and it is almost with regret that he has retired at the age of 36 having never fully fulfilled his astronomical potential.
Ultimately Wayne Rooney’s name will be etched into the record books as a Manchester United and England great due to his outstanding honors and goal records for both, yet the man himself continues to divide opinion in regards to his impact on the game during his playing years.
Management is now the next step for the Croxteth born, once wonderkid, and it is scarcely believable that he has reached retirement, proof that time does indeed fly.
I tip my hat to the man himself for a stellar career in football and wish him the very best in his new role at Derby County, and as a Manchester United fan I cherish some of the fantastic memories he provided us with at his rampaging best.
However, I will never be able to shirk the underlying feeling that there was always just a little more left in the tank.
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Long heralded as a midfield superstar of the future, England’s latest international break may well have earmarked the long awaited breakthrough of one of the finest footballers to grace the engine room since a certain Paul Gascoigne.
Touted for greatness by many on the terraces and the press room, it is only now that Jack Grealish has been blessed with the trust of a manager in Gareth Southgate who has certainly not been swayed by the ever expanding media clamor to include the Birmingham born trickster into his starting eleven, that is until now.
Captain of his home town club Aston villa, his form in the previous season where Villa narrowly escaped relegation was suitably excellent, yet Southgate remained unconvinced, leaving him out of England squads on a regular basis.
Since the season has got underway both the club and himself have begun the season in fine fettle, with the villans currently nestled in 6th place. Whilst Grealish himself has been the chief architect of much of Aston Villa’s impressive form, registering four goals and five assists from the first seven games of the season, including a monumental 7-2 victory over the current champions Liverpool.
For Southgate to ignore his early season contributions would have been foolhardy, and he duly rewarded him with three starts in the last three fixtures against Belgium, Iceland, and the Republic of Ireland. The latter being the country that he had controversially shunned in order to represent England.
In return, Southgate was repaid by the bucket load with three performances that oozed composure, style and charisma. A player not afraid to take the game to the opposition , a constant menace, a creator, a goalscorer, and the most fouled man in the Premier League.
It can certainly be a valid argument that the England managers tough love may well have provoked an internal resilience and toughness in Grealish, who much like Gascoigne himself has been no stranger to off the pitch shenanigans making the front pages rather than the back. As during the first national lockdown in April he was caught breaking restrictions and became a figure of derision rather than the new found genius he is being touted as right here and now.
What will always be evident with the general public however is that regardless of your off the field indiscretions, as long as you give your heart and soul to the England badge, you can and will be forgiven for your sins. Therefore it is easy to see why the comparisons to the much loved Gazza are banded across our national newspapers and various social media channels.
Gazza himself courted much controversy throughout his career off the pitch, yet every time he stepped over the white line his ability on the field and emotion filled displays captured the imagination of us the fans like no other in recent memory. He shone on the grandest stages and made watching England a joy to behold, as he wove his magic across the pitch and every player who was fortunate enough to share a pitch with him lay testament to the fact he is a once in a lifetime talent.
Yet could we the emergence of a new maverick who can pick up the mantle from the Geordie artist and flourish in time for England’s assault on the re-arranged European Championships in 2021?
I believe that he certainly houses the talent to be a key cog in the England machine for many years to come but it remains to be seen if the mental resiliency to be able to perform at an elite level is in his make up. Certainly he shows a maturity on the pitch and is captain of the club he professes to love and recently signed a contract extension that will now fend off the many suitors that may well have distracted him from his on the field duties. In kind he has has finally got his just rewards with his recent maiden England start and after the last week it is certainly in his hands according to Southgate if he is to stay there, after impressing the previously stubborn and dubious England manager.
It is my hope that with the extra onus and responsibility placed on his twenty five year old shoulders, Grealish can raise his performances to a new level and if he does it consistently and shines at a major tournament I would then suggest it would be time to favorably draw comparisons between the two. However, I believe that Jack is his own man and must focus on the attributes that have won him so many glowing plaudits from fans and fellow players alike.
Unfortunately in English football we have seen many false dawns on this matter, as after one or two good performances we have seemingly found the new Gazza on numerous occasions, and like many others before him I hope that Jack doesn’t fall by the wayside.
The roll call of failed pretenders to the Geordie wizard’s throne make for unpleasant reading, with some cursed by injury and others succumbing to the the trappings and temptations that are now on offer off the pitch for the modern professional.
Jack Wilshere instantly springs into the forefront of this thought process, as at the tender age of 18 it seemed he was destined for the very top in the sport as his performances in an Arsenal shirt saw a meteoric rise in the pecking order for club and country, as it seemed as though we had that world class operator in our ranks once again.
His appalling injury record soon shattered any hope for him as a worthy successor, with persistent failure to rediscover his best form after a a seemingly endless catalogue of injuries, he now finds himself languishing in limbo without a club at 28 years of age.
Elsewhere we have seen the likes of David Bentley, Ravel Morrison, and Ross Barkley all flatter to deceive. Whilst most recently, and by far the most disappointing is the vanishing act of Dele Alli’s form for club and country in recent months.
Arriving from Mk Dons for a meagre £5 million pounds, here is another player who burst onto the scene with a hunger and youthful exuberance that made him such an explosive player to watch as his superb goals and assists ratio for Spurs propelled him into the starting line up for England.
For a time it seemed this gifted youngster had possessed something special as so many of his goals were dazzling and spectacular in nature, whilst his creativity in the centre of the park allowed him to establish a formidable connection with his club team mate and England captain Harry Kane.
However we have recently seen much of that early promise evaporate, as he has found himself dropped from England squads and can sadly now be found warming the bench at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, as it seems fame and fortune may well have blunted his appetite and enthusiasm to be a cornerstone of England’s potential future success.
For Grealish to prosper in his new found status it is absolutely crucial that he avoids these pitfalls if he is to deliver on the vast promise that is clearly there for all to see.
Too many times we have seen the embers of a new dawn extinguished by hyperbole and poor professional application by players in order for us to get carried away once again. Yet it is my hope that Grealish can buck this trend and continue to light up both the Premier League and the international stage with his mature and sophisticated performances.
Whatever the future holds in store for both player and country, Jack must look to carve out his own niche as a performer and if that draws comparisons with Gazza along the way then so be it.
It is now evident that he must knuckle down and focus on the future if he desires to be a success and with his new found fame the pressure on him to perform will be amplified. It will ultimately be the ability to handle this pressure which will determine his fate as a future great of the game, alas his destiny is entirely in his own talented hands and feet.
I would strongly suggest that without a shadow of a doubt Jack has all the qualities required to thrive as his own man, and I hope he utilises every facet of his make up in order to excel in the game, which will hopefully lead to Success for English Football.
Furthermore, I am also certain that there will never be another footballer quite like the marvel that was Paul John Gascoigne.
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There has been various articles at this magazine where I have recollected some of the finer moments and memories that football has granted us throughout the years.
But today its time for a change of tact, to answer the question that has eaten away at my passion for the sport for a number of years now.
Has football lost its way?
For me It seems that the chasm between modern footballers and spectators of the game is ever expanding. For a pastime that was once billed as a game for the people it really is a crying shame that Premier League Football with its vast financial wealth and clout seem to have marginalised what makes our game so very special, us the fans.
The roar, the hustle and bustle of the matchday crowd is an event that you can always recollect fondly on your first time at an arena. Passion, emotion, and tension streams from the stands and vastly enhances the theatre that plays out in front of us, and now with the pandemic era of football in full swing this is more evident than ever before.
Players that share these traits now seem to be part of a by-gone era, as the celebrity Instagram culture seems to have penetrated into not only the realms of our everyday lives but also into many facets of modern Football, casting a shadow on our beloved national game that we have nurtured and cared for so much.
Watching the game growing up as a Manchester United fan I was transfixed by the blood and guts style of play not only by United, but also any opponent that would face off against them. Titanic battles between heated rivals such as Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea would leave me salivating for the next game on the horizon, as my own enthusiasm for victory would be mirrored by the warriors that would be stepping out onto the pitch every weekend.
Every match contested with gusto and thunder would keep us glued to our tv screens, teetering on the edge of our arm chairs or bar stools, as every win or loss for either team always seemed to matter so much more.
The battle would often begin in earnest as the teams lined up beside each other in the tunnel, a look of steely of determination in the eyes, fired up for the task ahead, waiting to leave every ounce of blood sweat and tears out on the pitch.
This has now been replaced by obligatory hugs, handshakes, and friendly chatter that seem to quell my own and the players thirst for battle before the match has even got underway. Whilst in defeat the same players are often seen smiling and swapping shirts afterwards whilst the fans trudge home disconsolate and broken hearted.
This attitude of the games new generation seems to have watered down such a vital dimension of the game and in my view it is what made football like no other sport and so rewarding for its fanbase, for victory achieved by grit and strength of character always tasted so much sweeter.
This tribal culture and sense of belonging to the badge has recently been derided and disregarded too many times by a new breed of football player.
Far too often extortionate amounts of money change hands for players in terms of transfers and wages, whilst within a few days the new kid on the block confesses his love for his new employers and how he has dreamed of playing there since he was a child.
It’s a yarn that has now been spun far too many times and myself and many others see straight through the façade, yearning for the days past where player loyalty and love for his team truly meant something. As it seems players no longer look towards championships and trophies, instead it seems that the pay packet is what drives any young talent coming through from grass root level.
I’m baffled by the obsession with social media and the constant flaunting of wealth by so many. This will only serve to widen the gap between spectators and footballers even more so, as it is that connection that we as supporters thrive on with our chosen team, and without it the game will eventually become meaningless.
I could never comprehend that my love for the sport would ever begin to dwindle, but here we are where it seems that it no longer holds such an important role in my life. Gone are the days of teams, managers and players fighting tooth and nail for medals and championship honours. Now replaced by young wealthy men that seem to be more concerned about their FIFA rating on Playstation, or the latest expensive car that they can lay there hands on, all without ever actually achieving anything in the game whatsoever.
I blame the shift in society for this new wave of unmotivated footballers as they have been raised in a culture where fame and notoriety can be won without a shred of actual talent. We seem to aimlessly compete with each other across social media platforms attempting to justify our own existence in the world, and that for me has seeped into mainstream sport as previously mentioned.
Fashion and clothing lines are even released by truly mediocre players that serve to line their already bulging pockets, which can only turn off the paying public who are being fleeced for money by multiple subscriptions services to even watch a match on tv.
I truly hope that one day we can close this gap and get back to what made us fall in love with the game to begin with.
Performance’s that echo our spirit and enthusiasm for the game need to follow from the players as too often a lack of commitment suggests that selfies and sponsorship deals matter more in the long term.
This article may be seen as a slight on our game as it currently stands, but it is something that I feel very strongly about, as there is too many Mesut Ozil’s in the game and not enough Cristiano Ronaldo’s.
Cristiano embodies some of the criticisms housed in this article, but it cannot be denied his fantastic ability and outright desire to be the best on the pitch and for that he deserves all of the trappings of his own monumental success.
I believe that greed and wealth from clubs and players alike is slowly detaching people from the sport and where it will all lead eventually can only be speculated on, as it has seemingly turned into nothing more than a millionaires playground for many.
Throw the introduction of VAR into an already volatile mix, it has now become a recipe for disaster.
Further contempt from avid followers of the game has arisen, with many up in arms with its affect on the sport. Since its inception it has been an unmitigated failure in my eyes as it has now turned many matches into atmosphere vacuums as we can no longer even celebrate the high point of any game, the goals.
Inconsistent decision making and flawed logic when making these refereeing calls is having a highly detrimental effect on the sport, as it is forcing us the fans to hold back our emotional investment in the game. This being the magical ingredient that the game must continue to encourage in order to withhold its mass appeal.
I hope that one day football can return to its former glories as it is such a marvellous spectacle when all positive facets of the game are on full display.
But this can only happen if clubs and their staff begin to understand that football is built on the foundation of its supporters.
Whilst continuing to raise ticket prices, replica shirt sales and subscription services to line rank average playing staffs pockets is no longer viable in the current climate.
Football will eventually find itself at a crossroads in my opinion and I sincerely hope that it will realise the errors of its own ways and we can embrace it once more as something to love and cherish all over again.
I would suggest Scrapping VAR and introducing a salary cap would be a mammoth step in the right direction.
Feel free to discuss any of my viewpoints down below.
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For further reading click on any of the articles down below or use the menu button at the head of this page.
Exhilaration, inspiration, drama, and at times pure heartbreak.
This a minor snippet of the vast range of emotions that the wonderful game of football manages to coerce from us over the course of 90 minutes.
This countdown is here to provide us with a reminder of the most enthralling moments that have taken us to the heights of ecstasy and the agony of despair.
Since its birth in England over one hundred years ago, we have boar witness to history making events that have impacted not only the sport itself but also society, due to the games long held ability to unify countries and community’s as one. Its vast popularity placing football at the forefront of the sporting fraternity for many decades.
Battles for supremacy on the pitch, fight backs from the jaws of certain defeat, exquisite goals, and outright controversy all find themselves in this compilation.
Read on as we delve into the archives and re-live some of the extraordinary events that have shaped and defined the history of the beautiful game.
10. Brazil 1-7 Germany.
World Cup 2014 host’s Brazil welcomed their German counterparts into their own backyard in a semi-final clash that was billed as a clash of the titans, with both teams owners of a rich history in football’s premiere international competition.
Shorn of their talisman Neymar after a fractured vertebrae in the quarter finals, much was still expected from the five time World Champions. What transpired was a comprehensive mauling that left a nations dreams crushed underneath the ruthless German hammer, as a completely lopsided contest played out in front of a partizan Brazilian home crowd that had come to expect so much from their national side.
Trailing 5-0 within the first 30 minutes of the match, the Brazilian players were all at sea as wave after wave of German attackers waltzed through a shambolic defence to plunder the Brazilian net time and time again.
Germany added two more in a second half that reinforced the sheer dominance that was on display, a team that would ultimately be crowned as winners of the entire tournament.
A late consolation from Chelsea midfielder Oscar would do little to console a crowd that had just witnessed the biggest annihilation in World Cup semi-final history, whilst the players themselves openly wept on the pitch. It was a performance later described as a national humiliation.
A result that seemed unfathomable beforehand left football fans around the world in utter disbelief, and for Brazil themselves it will never be forgotten for all the wrong reasons.
Click on the page numbers down below to continue the countdown.
Ever since that famous summer in 1966 Football fans have craved for a return to the mountain top for our national team and along the way we have experienced a plethora of emotions. With the glorious highs also came the crushing lows for a population that places so much of its faith, energy, and hope into its national side.
For long sustained periods we have seen our team fall way below the lofty expectations we have placed upon it, much has been made of various teams that never realized their vast potential, moulded from managers that have came from both these shores and overseas.
England’s failures and short comings have been alarmingly apparent across all major competitions for many years, which has manifested itself under a lack of managerial nous and player motivation.
However, I firmly believe that under the right head coach and set up England can flourish once more into a team that can make us proud again. With Gareth Southgate at the helm I feel that next summers European Championship is a stark possibility to land silverware for the first time since 1966.
The English FA’s reluctance to appoint flair managers and reach for a safe pair of hands can be traced back to the dismissal of Sir Alf Ramsey, after England’s failure at the 1970 World Cup, eliminated by old foes West Germany in the quarter finals.
Brian Clough was the hottest most charismatic manager in the game at the time. He enjoyed a trophy laden period of dominance with Derby County and Nottingham Forest, capturing back to back European Cups with an unfancied, unfashionable team.
He was inexplicably never handed the reigns and England failed to qualify for the subsequent European Championship’s and World Cup tournaments in an age where ‘old big ead’ ruled the managerial roost.
England finally awoke from their slumber and returned to the grand stage with qualification secured under manager Ron Greenwood for the 1982 World Cup held in Spain.
England disappointingly exited at the group stage as our national game had fallen by the wayside and has done so on many other occasions with the wrong hierarchy put into place.
However if the appointment is a shrewd one it has been shown that results will often follow closely behind.
Bobby Robson’s subsequent arrival in the Autumn of 1982 heralded an upturn in England’s fortunes as they reached the quarter finals of Mexico 86 and the semi-finals in Italia 90 under his 8 year stewardship. The infamous ‘hand of god’ by Diego Maradona had dumped England out in Mexico in a travesty of justice that left Robson and a nation on its knees. This somewhat steeled Robson’s resolve and he led England into the next World Cup In 1990 with an unyielding desire to put things right after such a undeserving loss 4 years previous.
What followed was a march to the semi-finals led by the the mercurial Paul Gascoigne, who would ultimately miss the final if England had made it by getting booked during the match against West Germany. In familiar scenes England were cast aside by the dreaded penalty shoot out, yet they returned home heroes after such an enthralling and emotional journey in Italy.
Failure to qualify for USA 94 followed under Graham Taylor who had endured a simialirly disastrous Euro 92 campaign. Terry Venables would soon step into the breach and yet again it showed that under a charismatic manager is where a team can fullfill its underlying potential.
A fearless band of brothers went into battle at those home European championships in 1996, Paul Gascoigne once again a stand out performer, supplying the ammunition for Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham, the much loved SAS partnership. Whilst the likes of Tony Adams, Stuart Pearce, and goalkeeper David Seaman defiantly held the rearguard of the team together.
Yet another captivating ride to the semi-final’s ensued, with failure on penalties costing the team once again to the heartbreak of a nation. Yet we took solace from the promise that this team were exuding, surely major tournament success was on the horizon.
It never materialised however, much to the chagrin of supporters and the media alike as a vast array of managers such as Sven Goran Eriksson failed to capitalise on the precocious talent being nurtured in the English game. Placing players out of position and selecting by reputation rather than current form.
The Swede himself being the number one perpetrator as he bought into the facet of the celebrity culture surrounding the team during his reign from 2000 until 2006. He often placed round pegs in square holes in order to simply cram the biggest superstars into a formation that would simply house them all, rather than a system that would bring the best out of the squad.
Quarter final failure at every tournament under him would be the pinnacle of his achievements, leaving us the fans disappointed and baffled by his team selection and such inadequate tactical flexibility.
With the nation crying out for progress the FA took the uninspiring choice to name Sven’s assistant Steve McLaren as his predecessor, yet another vanilla appointment that was destined to fail as we shamefully failed to qualify for Euro 2008 as McLaren left his position as a laughing stock.
Fabio Capello was next on the chopping block as the distinguished Italian was handed the top job in our game. Again England failed miserably under his leadership in two major tournaments as his regimented approach and reliance on the old guard frustrated both the media and the fans as we seemed to slipping behind every nation in the sport.
Enter Roy Hodgson whose appointment was greeted with little fanfare in 2012, leading us into another disastrous World Cup campaign in 2014. Once again we floundered at the group stage, as little Costa Rica advanced at our expense in Brazil.
After a lacklustre Euro 2012 and a dire showing at the aforementioned World Cup in 2014, Roy was deemed to be fortunate to have a final foray at glory, with a shot at the European Championships in 2016 in France.
What unfolded next was unfathomable as England sunk to unprecedented new depths with a 2-1 defeat to minnows Iceland in the last 16. The nation was left in a state of shock as a performance completely void of heart, desire, and quality was played out in front of our eyes in scenes that had to be seen to be believed. Hodgson resigned shortly after in yet another catastrophic failure for English Football.
The next appointment by the Football Association would be crucial, as our image as the home of football had been trashed and left in the gutter by under performing players and inadequate management.
Gareth Southgate would be the man handed the responsibility going forward, promoted from within the system after successfully managing the under 21’s. It was viewed somewhat a puzzling choice at the time however as he was perceived by many as yet another bland appointment, myself included.
What has followed however has invigorated our passion for the game and restored the notion of pride in pulling on an England shirt.
Southgate’s willing to discard the status quo from the playing staff seemed like the shot in the arm that an ambling squad desperately needed for a very long time. Players would have to earn the right for an England cap under his leadership, as fresh talent were promoted to the senior team in a move that seemed to be nigh on impossible to navigate in previous era’s.
Gone was the predictable starting line up and style of play that had stunted England’s growth for so many years, replaced by a bold new system that placed faith in youth over experience as England reached the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since for 28 years in 2018.
Southgate’s desire and likeable demeanour seemed to bridge the gap between his players and a disenchanted fanbase that had suffered for so long under numerous failures and disappointment.
The penalty hoodoo that had hovered over England for 22 years was also cast aside as Eric Dier guided home the winning penalty against Colombia in the last 16. Our mentality had metamorphisised on the big stage and under Southgate’s tutelage I believe he can build on the rock solid foundations that he has built.
England’s lack of big game experience would eventually lead to their downfall against Croatia losing 2-1 after extra time. Yet throughout the tournament we were thrilled by a youthful exuberance that would signify the giant strides this team had made in such a short space of time.
England’s journey in Russia made it an unforgettable, uplifting Summer, as joyful scenes up and down the country filled news bulletins and our media feeds, proof that football promotes unity and happiness, a vital piece of our social fabric.
Southgate has continued to deliver on that early promise as he has lead us to 3rd place in the inaugrial League Of Nations finals in 2019, ousting Germany and Croatia in a tough series of fixtures.
Following on from that achievement we now eagerly await the rescheduled European Championships in 2021 as he takes his charges into battle against the best that Europe has to offer.
The tournament itself is set to take place across various European destinations as the competition celebrates its 60 year anniversary, with Wembley the venue for the semi-finals, final, and the vast majority of England’s fixtures. Alas it seems a golden opportunity for Southgate and the team to take the next step in its development and capture that first major trophy in 55 years.
The talent in the team is second to none with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane all considered to be world class talents. Whilst in midfield and defence we boast an array of talent that we haven’t had in a number of years, with the likes of Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire blossoming into seasoned professionals.
Alongside the backing of a fiery and passionate fanbase I predict that England can take advantage of the home playing field and push themselves into the latter stages of the finals and possibly even win it. Although we have fallen into this trap many times before I feel that this England outfit is made of a different irk under Southgate. We finally have a man who is not afraid to pull the trigger on big decisions and knows the heart breaking price of failure and the thrill of success after playing under Terry Venables in our last home Championships in Euro 96.
We as fans can accept failure, but what we will not tolerate is a shortfall of effort, and in Southgate we have a man who has managed to galvanise a winning mentality from his playing staff. It is safe to say we have finally emerged from the wilderness after too many years of frustration and disappointment that had resulted in contempt for the modern footballer.
I believe that we are very much back in love with our national team, thanks to Southgate’s profound ability to get the best from his players and his core beliefs in team spirit and harmony, as over the years it has been common knowledge that club loyalties had created division amongst the squad.
Those past practices are now consigned to the scrapheap and it is vitally important now more than ever, that we as a nation come together and tackle adversity as one.
With that attitude and mindset there is nothing we can’t overcome or achieve.
Under the guidance of Gareth Southgate I believe that our football team can mirror those sentiments and press on to glory next summer!