Archive | April, 2008

Leeds United 1973-4

Posted on 29 April 2008 by JamesHamilton

I’m still silent, but this isn’t: a fantastic multiparter on Leeds at their Revie height. Thanks due to Leeds4EvEr1992 for posting. I think Part Two might be the same as Part One, but patience will be rewarded:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIjviFERF3Y&hl=en]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCqs3IWYQv8&hl=en]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxZ69hd2EBc&hl=en]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GVqNR0wzfc&hl=en]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kT4kMqccxYc&hl=en]

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Theo Walcott, Germany and Argentina

Posted on 09 April 2008 by JamesHamilton

Arsenal lost at the moment Adebayor turned to celebrate with the crowd, not with the young genius whose lifelong memory of a run created his afterthought of a vital goal. Sven was right to take him to the World Cup, and, but for the fake Sheikh, might have played him.

Enough of such things. Really, do take the time to watch this “fan video” of Germany v Argentina from 2006. It’s far and away the best piece of work of its kind I’ve seen. Let’s face it: they’re normally crap. But this is magnificent – a warm, witty visual essay about the life that still goes on through an often overcommercialised tournament.

Cheer yourself up – here it is:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO3X0wZOYuo&hl=en]

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Cardiff City Parade The English Cup: 1927

Posted on 03 April 2008 by JamesHamilton

Wales enthusiasts might enjoy this clip of Cardiff City taking the open-top bus route through Rhyader.

Link via this BBC website page

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Ronaldo's Goalscoring Achievement 2007-8

Posted on 02 April 2008 by JamesHamilton

He hasn’t finished yet, but as things stand, midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 26 goals in 28 League appearances. Add in his 3 FA Cup goals and 7 Champions League strikes, and we can see that in 40 appearances (38 starts) he has managed 36 goals.

It means that if he scores a goal a game from here until the end of the Premiership season, he’ll join Alan Shearer and Andrew Cole as joint Premiership goalscoring record holder. And that’s good. But what’s more interesting about Ronaldo is not how he compares as a remarkable goalscoring midfielder up against modern out-and-out strikers, but how he compares against William “Dixie” Dean.

Because this is where the jaw really begins to drop. Dean, of course, scored more goals in his career than any other top flight English player. Arthur Rowley scored more, but at a slower rate, and for much of the time in lower divisions. Dean played one full season outside Division One.

What’s more, and again of course, Dean scored 60 goals in one 42-game season, but I’d argue that, great as that achievement is, it has more than a little to do with the 1925 change in the offside rule which brought several season’s glorious goalscoring chaos to the Football League.

It’s comparing Ronaldo’s season with Dixie’s other seasons that’s interesting.

Remember that Ronaldo has scored 26 in 28, or, if you prefer, 36 from 40, from midfield. (Only 4 of them penalties). Here’s Dean:

1925-26: 32 goals from 38 games.

1926-27: 21 goals from 27 games.

1927-28: 60 goals from 39 games.

1928-29: 26 goals from 29 games.

1929-30: 23 goals from 25 games.

1931-32: 45 goals from 38 games.

1932-33: 24 goals from 39 games.

1934-35: 26 goals from 38 games.

Injuries aside, Dean kept it up for year upon year. And he started  younger  – Dean was born in 1907, and was Theo Walcott’s age in the first season that I’ve featured here. Ronaldo is 23, two years older than Dean when Dean met Babe Ruth.

But Dean wasn’t playing against five man defences every week, let alone five man defences with midfielders sitting deep to shield them.

I think Dean would have sympathised with Ronaldo. Dean was a target for rough play too, but at a time when this was seen as normal. (And there’s just a bit too much artificial disgust at Ronaldo’s diving: when Alan Shearer bent the rules or deceived refs, commentators used to say that he’d “used his experience.” Then there’s the young Stan Matthews’ shock on his debut at the stamping, kicking, surreptitious punching and gouging that went on in First Division games in the ’30s and no doubt still does..)

Ronaldo is not just scoring at George Best rates, in George Best’s best season. He’s not just scoring at Alan Shearer rates; he’s in Dixie Dean territory. Not quite Jimmy Greaves yet, but he’s quite clearly improving as a player and that can’t be ruled out. Because – this hasn’t been one of those “surprise” seasons, where a new player sweeps all before him Marcus Stewart style. And Stewart “only” managed 19 anyway. Ronaldo has been around for a few seasons now, and other teams know all about him.

It’s remarkable. We’re all here to see it at first hand, rather than having to rely upon the memories of old men and the exigencies of nitrate film. I expect the famous backheel of a week ago will be the moment that encapsulates it in years to come, but for me, that Dixie Dean-style header against Roma last night is the one that raises my echoes.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AhELYmN9tI&hl=en]

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Beckham and the Century-Makers

Posted on 01 April 2008 by JamesHamilton

Although I’m not the only one pleased to see Beckham make it to his century of England caps, most commentators aren’t. In particular, it’s said over and over again that Beckham isn’t worth the honour when put up against his “colleagues” Shilton, Moore, Charlton and Wright.

That’s my instinctive reaction too. At least it is at first. Moore and Charlton were both World Cup winners, and but for illness might have been twice over. Shilton has Ray Clemence to thank for not passing 150 caps or more in his twenty years as an international. And Billy Wright.. has long been swallowed by the football nostalgia movement.

But add to that the suggestion that Beckham is long past his best, and should make way for a younger man, and add to that the suggestion that Beckham hasn’t been good enough for England for some time, and I part company.

I’m going to address these things in reverse order, beginning with the idea that Beckham is a long time past his best England performances.

The problem Beckham faces in this respect is that his best performance for England was the extraordinary, phenomenal one that it was. There is no doubt, in any sane minds, that Beckham v Greece in 2001 was the outstanding England performance of modern times.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKDvtnEhLP0&hl=en]Where’s the fabled John Terry performance? I can think of Sol Campbell ones, and Terry Butcher ones, but none for England from the slit-eyed man with scrub hair. Or the Gerrard one? Do we have to go back to “5-1″ for that? Or the Lampard one? I can think of recent Michael Owen performances, but he’s another man the oafs want to defenestrate. Lampard’s relatively minor annus mirabilis was four years ago.

If Beckham isn’t good enough, who’s better? Which colleagues’ performances have left his so far behind?

What of the other century men? I’ll take them in turn.

Peter Shilton

He, and Gordon Banks before him, stand out not only in English goalkeeping history but world goalkeeping history. But even Homer etc., and Shilton was keeping in both of the matches against Poland in 1973-4 that saw England fail to qualify for the West Germany World Cup. It does feel harsh to suggest, 34 years later, that he might have done better at Wembley once Norman Hunter had missed his tackle, because Shilton was part of a quiet golden age in England’s defence between 1982 and 1990. There is no ball-between-the-legs-against Scotland, no famous flaps, just endless hard work and a reliability that was always taken for granted. Why Liverpool never came for him will always be a mystery to me.

Shilton was worth his caps, and retired from internationals at exactly the right time. Which brings us on to…

Billy Wright

Wright hails from an era that was strange in its giving out of caps. He wasn’t the best defender of his day. He played in both of the gigantic 1953-4 humiliations against the Hungarians, and his most remembered passage of play came in the first of the two, when Puskas sent him flying in the wrong direction. On the other hand, he skippered the best ever England international team, that serendipitous 46-48 group which also boasted Raich Carter, Stan Matthews, Stan Mortenson, Tommy Lawton, Tom Finney and Wilf Mannion. Later, he skippered the 55-58 side of Edwards, Byrne and Taylor that, but for Munich, would surely have starred in the World Cup in Sweden.

But what of himself? It’s almost as though he were captain in the cricketing sense, a fixture purely on those grounds, kept going by avoiding injury and delaying retirement. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s noticeable that of our centenarians, Wright is the only one who has never been considered one of the greats of the game, whereas he’s the one of the group who played alongside great players the most.

But he married a singer. No, Beckham’s done more, and been through more, for his hundred than Billy Wright.

What about…

Bobby Charlton

Bobby Charlton, of course, scored 49 goals for England, a record that sits waiting for Michael Owen’s next blue streak. Beckham’s only managed 17, the last one coming two years ago in the World Cup. But Charlton’s international goals come in a lump at the beginning of his international career. As a goalscorer, he thrived alongside Jimmy Greaves, not Geoff Hurst or Martin Peters. Charlton’s last 17 international goals took him six years to compile. Nevertheless, it was during this period, comparatively late in the day that Charlton truly came to be accepted as an international. Philip Larkin said of John Betjeman that his greatest achievement was to become Betjeman. Much the same could be said of Charlton, who did it during the 1966 World Cup. After his goals against Mexico and Portugal, all criticism of his inconsistency and selfishness on the pitch, so common before, fell away and were soon forgotten. So complete was his rehab that defeat to West Germany in 1970 is put down in part to his being taken off. Apparently, he’d kept Beckenbauer out of the game (Der Kaiser had in fact scored before Charlton left the field).

Did Charlton hang on too long? Three goals in his last nineteen internationals is comparable to Beckham’s three in his last 25. Charlton was 32 when he was retired by Sir Alf Ramsey, 35 when he eventually retired altogether, something he later felt he’d done too early (he was almost certainly right about this). No, in other words. There’d have been more, had he only realized it. Beckham knows there’s something valuable left in him, and won’t make Charlton’s mistake.

On the other hand…

Bobby Moore

Moore was Ramsey’s skipper as Beckham was Ericksson’s. He was England’s outstanding player in their outstanding performance, the 1-0 defeat to Brazil in 1970 at which international football peaked. He made England’s third goal in the 1966 Final with that last, long, sweeping pass for Hurst to run onto.

But he was only just into the nineties in terms of caps when the real rot set in for England. Moore skippered England against West Germany and Netzer in April 1972, and then there was this the following year – it’s at about 2:40 :-

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_1q8Ff1-PA&hl=en]

Moore was dropped after that, only for Norman Hunter to repeat the error in the return match at Wembley. There’d be three more internationals, then an Indian summer at Fulham ending with a Wembley Cup Final. Life could have been fairer to Moore. He’d had to recover from cancer in his early career, which must have chopped years off his best playing days. Had any of the myriad chances gone in at Wembley, he’d have had an appropriate send-off at a World Cup Finals, as Charlton had had. (But for the string of injuries that raddled England in 2005-6, perhaps Beckham would have had his). But nevertheless, there is not the sense of unfinished business about Moore that there is with Beckham. Four months ago, this:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMGgBYMmnYA&hl=en]

But there’s one piece of history that David Beckham can never claim. Because he wasn’t the first Englishman to score at the new Wembley. That was this man – and on that note..

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkRUl67pGJ8&hl=en]

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