Soapbox: looking at the Euros

Salut! Sunderland, during Euro 2008, has been a bit like the Circular, the No 5 United bus that used to – still? – slog all over Shildon on a roundabout route towards Bishop: you wait for ages for one, then two come at the same time. With the football focus switching to internationals, it has been quiet here. Then the fixtures list for next season appears and we’re both competing for space. Here, Pete Sixsmith runs the rule over the fare from Austria and Switzerland.
Some things, he finds, never change. We’re linked yet again with Jan Koller. David Pleat still has problem with basic general knowledge. I could add that the other thing that remains unchanged is Pete’s struggles to spell Kenwyne: two Ns all last season, one N but two Ys today (spotted in time). In any event, the varied splendour s of Sixer’s Soapbox are back. Read on….

Well, the fixtures are out and now we can begin the great guessing game of when we might play the actual game.

Will it be Saturday lunchtime or teatime? Might it be Sunday early or late? And what about that real novelty, a 3pm, kick off on a Saturday afternoon against any one of the self styled Big 4?

As we read. the executives of Sky and Setanta are squabbling over who does get the rights to Hull v Bolton or Wigan v Stoke – or, more to the point, who doesn’t.

The last few weeks have been very quiet, hence no Randall/Sixsmith activity on the site. Like Setanta we have been recycling stuff from last season and trying to convince the readers(s) that they are classics that need to be read again. I know that Colin has been soaking up the Mediterranean atmosphere at his home on the Cote d’Azur while I have been dodging creditors and attempting to pay for next season by marking GCSE History papers. There’s 260+ of them sat in my spare room, looking at me and demanding to be graded.

Usually I throw them down the stairs and the ones that go the farthest (the heaviest ones) get the best marks. In the past, we got to know where the papers came from so you can imagine that any Newcastle schools that were allocated to me had a 100 per cent failure rate, schools from Jarrow were 50 per cent pass and 50 per cent fail while any Sunderland centre had every student passing with a Grade A*. Only joking, Examination Board!!!!

Some of the answers are interesting. One Liverpool based student a few years ago had no knowledge of History but wrote a really good piece on why Everton should sack Walter Smith. If he could have linked it to why Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement led to the outbreak of World War Two he would have passed with flying colours.

So, to get my sporting fix I have watched a bit of cricket at the Riverside and seen the much derided Gateshead Thunder storm to the top of Rugby League’s National Two with a blistering set of performances. I even travelled to Rochdale to watch them during half term, and had a wonderful drinking session in the Flying Horse next to the Flemish-style Town Hall. And there’s Euro 2008.

What a thoroughly enjoyable tournament, despite the absence of any Sunderland players. I have not seen a bad game yet (France played Romania while I was travelling back from a meeting in Manchester), and the quality of some of the play has been breathtaking. The fact that England are also missing has added to my enjoyment and has allowed me to focus on the football being played rather than on the possibilities of a full scale riot in Innsbruck.

In the past there has always been at least one player involved in some squad or other. Eight years ago we Red and Whites ground our teeth in frustration as our favourite clown, Kevin Keegan, kept Kevin Phillips on the bench in Belgium while recent World Cups have featured the likes of Reyna, Kilbane and Sorenson.

This time the best we can come up with is Jurgen Macho who continues to defy conventional wisdom by being the only goalkeeper in the tournament who is incapable of catching a ball – although after last night, Peter Cech may well join him.

In vain I looked for David Bellion in the French squad and it seems that even Switzerland’s paucity of decent players does not stretch to playing Bernt Haas, so I was reduced to identifying past transfer targets and attaching my loyalties to them.

Cabanas (who actually had a trial with us) came on for Switzerland, while we seem to be linked with the Czech Republic’s Jan Koller every time we need a big forward. He looked slow and rather ponderous – so not an ideal replacement for Kenwyne Jones. On second thoughts he could become a crowd hero by stamping all over David James on Nov 8.

The Dutch have been phenomenal so far and I like the look of the midfield enforcer de Jong. He is the kind of player we need to be looking at if we are to progress next year.

Lean, hungry and a fierce tackler, he may well want to swap the delights of Hamburg’s Reepherbahn for the more sedate pleasures of Seaburn Promenade. There are lots of good players on view and I’m sure that Ian Atkins and his scouting staff will have identified some probables and possibles. Just as long as it isn’t a Greek striker or French defender.

Finally, David Pleat’s commentaries for ITV have been a source of never ending pleasure for this former History teacher. David refuses to accept the relatively recent territorial changes in Europe and persistently refers to the Czech Republic as Czechoslovakia.

Does this mean that if Turkey play Spain he will be describing the Kingdom of Castille versus the Ottoman Empire, while any Russia v Italy encounter would surely be Muscovy versus a “mere geographical expression”? Keep it up David, but don’t EVER go to the African Cup of Nations.

3 thoughts on “Soapbox: looking at the Euros”

  1. A super tournament only ruined by the irritating and nausiating commentries from the likes of Tyldsley and Motson.Quite frankly we Scots don’t care how Engerland would have done had they qualified ( which they didn’t I may remind them) or how many goals from countries there were created in their beloved Premiership.
    Makes my blood boil.Give me a wet fish and I would gladly smack their faces with it for the forseeable future and never get bored.

  2. Hi there not trying to spam this blog, just to say that I have just started a website that details listings of live football matches on tv in the UK.
    I have access to fixtures before they are announced to the general public.
    Its at
    If your interested

  3. >>Does this mean that when Turkey play Spain he will be describing the Kingdom of Castille versus the Ottoman Empire, while Russia v Italy would surely be Muscovy versus a “mere geographical expression”?<<
    Brilliant, Pete, love it. I too have been hugely impressed by most games at Euro 2008. It’s a simple philosophy, but how good football can look when players pass the ball along the ground and move into space? The brilliant team is like a living, breathing organism – I could write a thesis on Holland, if I was fortunate enough to experience them at first hand.
    As for potential transfer nuggets, I’m not sure about De Jong to be honest. The one unknown midfielder who’s really caught my eye has been Gokhan Inler of Switzerland. Tall, athletic, a fairly solid tackler and an excellent passer. He’s 23 and with Udinese (according to that bastion of knowledge, wikipedia), so not sure if he’d be available.
    Anyway, too much waffle from me.

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