With all the news of crisis in the financial institutions of the Eurozone, Pete Sixsmith’s anticipation of football’s equivalent matches his enthusiasm for the Jubilee. It’s not even as if he could appreciate the long bank holiday now he is no longer required to clock in for work everyday. Durham County Cricket Club’s dismal start to the season with rain scuppering their chances of a first Championship victory and not even Cleater Moor Celtic v AFC Wulfonians to look forward to this weekend brings an air of gloom to the nether regions of Shildon.
The Jubilee weekend has been and gone and was successfully avoided at Sixsmith Towers . No time for bowing and scraping here, although I was amused by the attempts of the heir to the throne in attempting to finish his parents off, by making them stand on a boat for 4 hours in the damp and then have Cliff Richard and Co. make a racket outside the front door.
Now, as the rain tips down in County Durham and the bearded man up the street completes a large wooden boat, which seems to have two cats, two dogs and two guinea pigs living in it, we can turn our attention to Euro 2012.
Or we could if there was a great deal of interest and for me, there isn’t a great deal. Maybe I am becoming disillusioned with big football, but I can’t summon up any enthusiasm for this tournament and I usually prefer the Euros to the World Cup.
However, this is the last time it has 16 teams competing in the finals. From 2016, there will be 24 nations charging around France in 6 groups, allowing smaller nations who rarely qualify for tournaments (I’m thinking Scotland , Austria , The Faroe Islands), to attempt to make an impact by grabbing a point in the group stages.
This time round, we have 13 of the world’s top 18 teams involved and there are some clashes that almost fill me with enthusiasm. Tomorrow we have Holland v Denmark. There is a potential cracker after that between Germany and Portugal, but group games can be cagey affairs, so I don’t see a lot of goals.
My main interest will be in watching how our 4 players perform and seeing whether any of them are truly up to international class.
Sunday is the day of the Republic’s first game. John O’Shea is expected to start, while Kieran Westwood’s appearances depend on Shay Given’s fitness. Expect to see Westwood play at least once.
Then there is James McClean. The young Derry man has created a bit of a debate about where his allegiances should lie. I have enjoyed the debate on Salut with regard to this and I can see both points of view. Plenty of Derry men have played for Northern Ireland (Martin O’Neill and Johnnie Crossan spring to mind), but he has the option of playing for the Republic and he has taken it. Football and loyalty are words that hardly go together now – about as much as Prince Charles and common sense.
Trappatoni is talking about playing him on the right and McGeady on the left. That could be a sight that we see at the Stadium next season as the rumour mill is throwing up the former Celtic players name in connection with us. We shall see.
Seb Larsson should be playing for Sweden against Ukraine on Monday. After trying to supply one moody centre forward in Nicklas Bendtner, he now has to work with the most unpredictable one of them all in Zlatan Ibrahamovic (good Swedish name, that one). Larsson is a good player and I hope he does well. He was an important part of our team last year and was probably Bruce’s most important signing.
As for England, to quote Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind, “Quite frankly, I don’t give a damn.” They will probably scrape through the group stages, will go out to the first decent side they meet and Hodgson will be slated by the majority of the papers for not being “Good Ol’ ‘Arry” When it is all over on the 23rd or 24thJune, he will be wishing he were back in the relative security of the manager’s seat at The Hawthorns.
There were some disquieting reports from Krakow of the black players in the Dutch team being abused at their open training session. England have a similar one today and if the reaction is repeated it will create a very difficult situation – not least for John Terry.
Maybe by this afternoon I will have garnered up some enthusiasm for the tournament, but I am a bit down about all football at the moment. Then we can start to see what kind of team we may have for 2012-13, the 50th anniversary of my going to Sunderland on a regular basis. Expect nostalgia by the bucketful as the season rolls on.