Xabi edges nearer a move, Espanyol and Mr Robson

So it looks like it’s a question of “when” rather then “if” Xabi Alonso will go to Real Madrid.

Now that a written, official transfer request has been handed in surely there is no going back now? Rafa must now face up to reality, strike a deal with Real and start looking for a replacement? It appears there is still work to do on the former, Real have offered £24m, we want £30m. Either way rumours have all started to appear in the papers concerning Xabi’s replacement from Alberto Aquilani to Lee Cattermole! Thankfully things appear to have died down on the Mascherano front with Barcelona reportedly exploring other options. However, like Alonso one feels this is only “for the time being” and that we could be discussing the same subject next summer?

Anyway to Espanyol and their nice new stadium and what I believe was the opening night. It’s got a roof which given the fact that this is Spain is like the Dubai authorities investing in snow ploughs!

This was a clear step up from the pre season games so far. The side was strong only San Jose and Insua were not regular first teamers. First chance of note was from Gerrard who, having stubbed his toe earlier in the game, connected well to thunder a drive against the bar. However, a minute later we were behind. Luis Garcia (no, not that one) firing home, after a great first touch, with two Espanyol players offside but presumably not active? Gerrard hit more wood, this time the post, from a free kick. Espanyol then had what looked like a decent goal disallowed for offside.

In the second half Rafa made more changes and perhaps this contributed to Sahar making it two firing through Reina’s legs with Degan committing the schoolboy error of stopping and, incorrectly, appealing for offside. The third was also a poor goal. Sahar tapping in after we had carelessly giving the ball away and then failing to clear it in the penalty area when there was plenty of opportunity to do so.

A wake up call although again we rang the changes. The game was much more competitive and rather physical for a pre season game. Although we had some good spells Rafa and the team can’t be happy with manner of the defeat and the way we tired in the second half. Still I guess it’s better to have these sort of games pre season rather than when the real action starts and anyway it would have been rude to beat Espanyol in the first game at their new home!

Finally I was sad to hear of the news of Bobby Robson’s death. Looking at the tributes, be they in the press or on the TV, the common theme that emerges when remembering Robson is “gentleman”. Sadly, during his time as England manager, this wasn’t reciprocated by the papers who have taken so much time over the last few days to laud him. Back in the late eighties, and in the run up to Italia 90, they slaughtered him, has it really changed over the years, ask Robson’s predecessors?

Of course, before he left the national team, Robson had the last laugh getting within touching distance of the World Cup final and then going to build on his Ipswich success at club level by proving himself time and again with successful spells in Holland (PSV), Portugal (Sporting Lisbon and Porto), Spain (Barca) and back here with Newcastle. However, for many it was the 1990 World Cup for which he’ll be remembered. I don’t think Italia was great from a footballing point of view but of course it was captivating because of the atmosphere and the England’s progress which arguably helped change the face of football in this country.

Having lived in the shadow of 1966 and the resultant failures along the line I wondered if I would ever see an England team in the World Cup final. I remember walking out of my flat onto the deserted streets, between the end of the semi final game against Germany and the start of the penalty shoot out, for a fag and some fresh air and thinking I’m going to remember the next ten minutes for the rest of my life regardless of want happens. Robson said not a day went by when he didn’t think about that game and for many in this country it is still remembered and mentioned almost as much as the 1966 final. Will England ever get as close again if they do will the team be managed by an Englishman and one with the infectious love for the game that, despite the unwarranted treatment he received, was always apparent in Bobby Robson? My condolences to his family.

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