So here we go, the World Cup finals are around ten months way and already the nation has gone into overdrive. Or at least the media would have us believe.
ITV’s coverage of football is in marked contrast to, say Sky’s. It’s mogadon TV from Steve Rider’s Daily Mail reading, grey, golf club secretary blazer and slacks image right through to The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony” intro (good song but there is a time and place for it). Rider’s talk is from the platitudes and clichés by numbers presentation book. After Wednesday’s game he suggested that England’s qualification, and I paraphrase, would “have the nation buzzing for the next ten months”. Yeh right, I can hear it now or is it just tinnitus? I think the first discussion I had about Wednesday’s game was in pub at around 7pm the day after. As for the “nation” buzzing about it I suspect we have more pressing needs in these hard times such as oh…. living our lives.
In short I suspect the national “buzz” will only be heard considerably nearer to the finals rather than straight after we’ve qualified. However this has not stopped the papers asking the eternal question “Can England win the World Cup?” and quoting assorted managers and other football related glitterati or in fact anyone who is famous and has a pulse who says “yes, we can win it”. I’ve got news for all of you. We qualified and are in the tournament so yes, we can win it. But do you want to bet on it? Moreover do you really think that you telling me we can win it is going to convince and comfort me just because you are famous? Pixie Lott, or whoever, says we can win it so it must be true and everything is going to be alright!
Thankfully today it’s back to the welcome reality of league business. The internationals have been nothing but a distraction. After the Bolton game, which seems an age ago, all I wanted was for us to get on the pitch ASAP and go for another three points, however we’ve had to wait fourteen days before we contemplate our next opponents, Burnley.
When I think of Burnley I think of three things. The Milk Cup semi finals in 1983 which, after a three nil win at Anfield, saw us lose 1-0 at Turf Moor. Then there is Djimi Traore’s madcap decisive own goal in the 2005 FA Cup. Then I think of our ex IT Administrator who was a Burnley fan. Every time I’d forgotten my password he used to reset it as “I Love the Mancs” followed by the requisite numbers and punctuation marks!
Burnley has already beaten the Mancs and Everton this season so shouldn’t be taken lightly. Patronising I know not to mention stating the bleeding obvious particularly in the light of last season’s home games against the newly promoted clubs. Remember we “welcomed” Stoke and Hull to the Premiership by “allowing” them to draw with us? Add to this the mayhem caused by the international break and I guess we have the making of a potential banana skin?
Team stuff? Well there never seems to be an international week that goes by without one of our players having a problem. This time it’s Javier Mascherano who picked up a knock for Argentina in their defeat to Paraguay. On the plus side Fabio Aurelio is now up for a recall but I reality I can’t see Rafa throwing him into the mix straight away especially as we need the win and therefore can’t afford to gamble on his match fitness or general rustiness? No doubt Rafa will be looking at the mistakes made so far this season and trying to smooth them out but how much time has he had to do this with so many of his players away? Interestingly in an interview on the official website Rafa seemed change tack regarding our problems defending from set pieces. Having brushed this off after the Bolton game by suggesting that the stats don’t support the notion that there is a problem, he said
“Yes, we have been analysing this. It’s something we have to improve on”
Whatever the case the timing effects my thoughts on this game. It is sandwiched between the international break and the start of The start of the Champions League campaign. So, to a certain extent, it’s a case of “walk out, play game get points and move on”. Given these circumstances the issue of how we do it and what the performance is like is secondary, let’s just get it over with. Prediction, 1-0.