Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The best centre back England never had, or wanted - kokomo

He has led one of the best defences in the world for the last three years. In that time, he has won a Champions League, an FA Cup and been to another Champions League final. He has also been instrumental in his team having its best domestic season, and tightest defence, for 16 years. Before that, he was played largely away from his best position, but even then he was an integral part of a team which won the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and two League Cups.

When his current club manager took charge of Liverpool, he soon declared him the equal of his previous prized charge, Roberto Ayala, then considered one of the finest defenders in the world. He has twice been voted into the Champions League team of the year, and two years ago was voted in the top 30 world players of the year, a higher position than any other British defender. Franco Baresi, the greatest defender of modern times, has called him the best defender in Europe, and he has received lavish praise as he led his team to clean sheet after clean sheet across Europe.

He has a solid number of international caps, and was until recently the record holder for Under-21 caps for his country.

This tells the tale of a bright young talent, who fulfilled his potential with a trophy-laden career, gaining all of the plaudits along the way.

And yet, and yet... No-one has really taken any notice of Jamie Carragher as an international footballer. It was not until this week, as he announces his probable departure from the international scene, that anyone has written about him as an England defender.

Three years ago, as Rio Ferdinand was suspended for failing to attend a routine drugs test, England went into Euro 2004 with a first choice central defensive partnership of Sol Campbell and John Terry. A very strong duo. Campbell suffered an injury shortly before the game, and for a week or so all of the speculation was about who would replace him, with it generally seen to be a straight fight between Ledley King and Carragher. On that occasion, King won out, and it was probably the right decision. Carragher had only just started playing centre back again regularly for Liverpool, and his one achilles heel was leading the French attack that night; Thierry Henry.

In the three years since, while those on the continent have been falling over themselves to praise him, not a lot has changed in the public perception of Jamie Carragher in this country. Some say that it was his misfortune to be part of the same generation as the admittedly strong Terry and Rio Ferdinand. That may be true, but since Euro 2004 the following players have also been picked ahead of Jamie Carragher at one time or another: Jonathan Woodgate, Ledley King, a half-fit ageing Sol Campbell, Wes Brown, Phil Neville, and Matthew Upson, all to no great public disbelief. I defy anybody to tell me why they deserved to be picked ahead of Jamie in that time.

If he had been born Italian, he would have contested a World Cup final last summer (I hesitate to say won the World Cup, as he lacks the goalscoring ability of the matrix). If he were German, their defence would have been built around him. The Brazilians would love a player like him. Even the French, very strong in this area, would surely have been glad to see the back of the hapless Mikel Silvestre if Carragher were born in Bordeaux instead of Bootle. A team of Carragher’s would probably not be very good, but there are not many teams who wouldn’t benefit from one Carragher.

Here though, we have damned him with faint praise; ‘A local lad lending a (shrill) scouse voice to Liverpool.’ ‘Prepared to die for the cause.’ ‘Makes the most of his ability.’ He does all these things, but it does not recognise the absolute top drawer quality that he brings to any table. He is obsessed with football, and better than anyone else this allowed him to adapt to Rafa Benitez’s much maligned zonal marking system (much maligned, but also statistically the best defence from set pieces for the last two seasons, incidentally). It was this knowledge of the game that allowed him to remain a key player despite Sami Hyypia, Stephane Henchoz, Markus Babbel, John Arne Riise and Steve Finnan being brought into the club to play the position that Carragher had made his own the season before.

It is also this footballing intelligence that means he reads the game better than any other defender currently playing in the Premiership. Regular interceptions, last ditch tackles to cover other’s mistakes, and never being caught out for his famed lack of pace (save one or two Henry specials, but then who isn’t susceptible to them), suggest a man whose positional sense is second to none. It also enabled him to run a defence, often including Djimi Traore, which was tighter than any other assembled in the country two seasons ago.

The image of Carragher in the popular psyche is of a man who looks a little out of his depth, uncomfortable on the ball, red faced and bent double. That is my picture too. But what I know is that I would not swap him for any other defender in the world at Liverpool, even if some others are more athletic, are more of a danger from set pieces, and look a bit silkier on the ball.

Jamie; don’t cry for you country. The truth is, it never loved you. I do appreciate you though. Not for your workmanlike qualities, though you have them, or for your commitment, though even for an Evertonian that cannot be questioned. I appreciate you for your sheer quality. For your skill, for your brain, and for your ability. It’s just a shame that most of your country didn’t notice your brilliance.


DoctorShoot said...

andrewlloydW eat your heart out...
v enjoyable even for a soccer dunce like me...

HannibalBrooks said...

Interviewer:'We All Dream Of A Team of Carraghers' ... what would that team be like?

JC: 'Lorra nil-nils a think.'

A most welcome tribute to Liverpool's REAL captain.

Here are some more reasons to love Carra;

A recording of his telephone call to a certain presenter on TalkSPORT earlier this week ...

... and ITV's profile of him before the UCL Final ...

file said...

Got to agree with Andrewm on this one!

and kokomo hits the nail on the head in the last para

really well written piece K, and great quotes from the all-knowing and yet somehow all-ignorant British media

and doh! HB beat me to it, for those of you, like me, who can't do YouTube here is a small sample:

"Don't ever call me a bottler on the radio with thousands of people listening."
Jamie Carragher rings in to Talksport Radio to tear a few strips off stunned presenter Adrian Durham, who suggested the Liverpool star did not have the stomach to fight for his England place.

bluedaddy said...

Fine tribute to Carragher kokomo. I like the lad a lot. I like the fact that he rarely lets a mistake bother him, or when a good player gives him the runaround (I seem to recall Zola giving him a going over once or twice). Jamie will be back for more. The list of England players who have been preferred to him made my tea repeat on me - Wes fucking Brown I ask you!

At my recent visit to Anfield his quality was apparent even in a dead rubber (though enjoyable enough match). I dont really see that Rio is any more accomplished than Carragher in bringing the ball out of defence, though neither are Hansens or Carvalhos (I noticed a real similarity between those latter two on youtube the other night - Jesus I have GOT to get a life).

I havent caught up with this story yet, though I keep meaning to. Whatever JC has said or not said, it is a huge indictment of McLaren and his team. I imagine the contrast with Rafa is embarrassing to JC.

Speaking of getting a life, the round bouncy sphere that is so hard to bend to one's will awaits me. Back later.

bluedaddy said...

Just one thing: 'the absolute top drawer quality that he brings to any table'.

To any sideboard surely?

marcela said...

jamie is pure class, truly.

i have heard SOOO many amazing tales of what a top bloke he is, off the pitch, and i just listened to the talksport phone call which is such a brilliant, spontaneous, unstarry thing to do.


lovely guy. if he doesn't want to be messed around by macmediocre and wishes to focus on liverpool good luck to him, says i.

he's always a joy to watch, always giving everything on the pitch, a top flight pro and without an ego to boot. integrity is the word.

lovely tribute, kk. you should get it e-mailed/posted to the man himself. :)

pipita said...

Really nice article Kokomo, enjoyed it a lot. Im sure few of you remember an England v Argentina game which latter won 2-1 in the Junior World Cup of 1997, think it was in Malysia. On one side you had Carragher and Owen, on the other Cambiasso, Aimar, Riquelme and Scaloni. Terrific game and Jamie was probably man of the match and scorer of England's goal. Remember being very impressed by him and having no doubts whatsoever that he would go on to become England's central defender for a long time.......

MotM said...

Very fine piece KK - I was just pondering the team of JCs and you wrote it! I grew up an Evertonian not a mile from Bootle and hear my own voice when JC speaks, so I've always had an interest in him and know how revered he is on the Kop.

But though his record is outstanding, as a player I see him as a better version of a local hero on the Blue side - Dave Watson.

Whether it's a false impression or not, I always felt an Andy Johnson type could get in behind him - but, obviously, few did, else he wouldn't have won so much.

When you list the England players who got in ahead of him, I despair.

mimi said...

You all know I know nothing about this football thing, but I have had a fondness for Jamie for a long time, and not just because my musical past leads me to be a Liverpool supporter. I think the man is class, and if Steve so-called coach/manager what the fack, doesn't want him, then why not walk away? I think he's been treated appallingly and was not surprised this morning to hear his comments. Sack the manager and let Jamie play.

MotM said...

The call is great and I almost jumped for joy when he said that growing up an Evertonian the club was everything and England a very poor second. Too True!

Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

I like Jamie as well, although I don't love him. I guess you have to be a Liverpool supporter for that, he lacks a certain charisma, but he has honesty. And he has guts. Quite, but persistent guts.

Rio is an ex footballer. Ha ha ha.

I remember this press conference after a game. Steve and Jamie being interviewed and I did not understand a single word.

There is a story of Samuel Eto'o phoning in to this "Salsa Rosa" programme, or a gossip programme, late at night, when they were slagging him off.
At least he was not closing the bar like some other Barça players...

I think Jamie is probably what you call an intelligent footballer, it is more his brain and effort that has gotten him where he is rather than pure talent.

Ebren said...

Football is often called the beautiful game. But it's not really.

It's just that we have an image of "good" - and it is elegant, assured, good-looking, and refined.

There is a saying in the USAF - if it looks right it flies right.

And that is how we consume football. Things that look right are the ones we talk about.

Without these we can also appreciate action, movement, power, pace, a heroic challenge, a fearless header - something to draw the eye to the ugly player.

But none of these things is true.

Football is a game played 95 per cent of the time without the ball while at least 75 per cent of the eyes are on that ball - the player with the ball, the space the ball is in even when there are no players near it and it is just travelling through the air or along the ground.

But action off the ball is key to the game.

If Jamie is marking Ronaldihno then Ronny is not passed to. Without having to touch the ball or take on possibly the best dribbler on the planet Jamie has won. And no one will ever know.

The only thing you will ever hear is "Ronaldihno had a quiet game". Because most of the fans and all of the press were watching the game and so the ball - and it never came near Ronaldihno - so the only thing they registered was an absence.

Thew only way you can appreciate a player like this is to specifically watch them for large parts of the game.

And that is when you realise just how good Carragher is, just how good a student of the game he is, how he understands his opponents, their tactics, their preferences, and his role in his own team. How often good players have "quiet" games against him is not a coincidence.

It's because football is not the beautiful game, it is four-dimensional geometry carried out by 22 habit-forming points of interaction.

Geometry can produce beauty - as any tree, flower, or face can show.

But understanding the numbers behind it is hard, few bother to look at the roots that support, feed, and provide for the flowers to bloom.

Watch the game and you see Cristiano Ronaldo dazzel and threaten. Watch him and see him waste the ball again and again.

Watch the game and the only time you see Carragher is when he makes simple challenges, passes, and shows slightly ropey touch. Watch him and you will see that the reason he seems to do so little is because he has done so much when no one is looking.

Plants need flowers, expensive though they often are in terms of resources, because without their moment of glory in the sun the plant will never breed. But without the roots the flowers will never be able to bloom.

Of course, some managers only see the pretty flowers and never understand how they grew that way.

marcela said...

kinell, ebren!

you're not just a pretty face, are you?

the only point i would take issue over, is the 'no-one will ever know'.

some of us have been following players more than the ball for a long time, you know?

i even have a theory that consistently good strikers are those who don't 'keep their eyes on the ball' but always keep their eyes on the goal. but that's a separate matter.

ever since pipita explained to me the concept of 'off the ball movement' several years ago i have become even more interested in what players do when they don't have the ball or aren't even near it.

problem is, tv cameras don't indulge us.

which is why nothing beats watching the game there and then.

brilliant analysis of jamie from lord.

will it go in the book :)?

mimi said...

I knew there was a reason why I love Jamie - beyond the Sefton Park Greenhouses, and Heaven up Here. Beyond architecture and the fact I got my diploma shooting pics of the ravages of Toxteth. Fan-bloody-tastic.

Zephirine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zephirine said...

Thanks to Kokomo's loyal, appreciative analysis, I now understand about Jamie Carragher.

And blimey, Ebren, a couple more comments like that and I might understand what you guys see in football..

HannibalBrooks said...


I went to school with Dave Watson for a few months in 1973, when there was another rather more famous player called Dave Watson around playing for Sunderland and eventually Man City. Although I am four years younger than he is, he always picked me to play for his side in playground football matches. A top bloke and a passionate boyhood Red.

I also used to work in Bootle YMCA where his younger brother, Alec played football most nights, although he wasn't supposed to because he was on Liverpool's books. I played against him every Thursday night and usually did OK against him. He was a lovely lovely bloke and it was such an education to play with him. He never shut up for a second while he played, always encouraging those on his side and helping them. He played in a derby against his brother I recall at Goodison in 1988 ... good pub quiz question eh?

An awful tackle by John Fashanu in the Charity Shield at wembley in 1988 when Alec was just 19 (and Alan Hansen's understudy)effectively ended his top flight career. He ended up moving to Bournmouth in the deal that brought Jamie Redknapp to Liverpool.


That was excellent ... I was just going to say exactly the same thing but noticed that you had got in before me :oP


You can't mention the greenhouse in Sefton Park without mentioning it's saviour, Gorgeous George Melly :)


I used to love watching Chris Eubank box for similar reasons. He never watched his opponents hands or looked into their eyes or anywhere else but at their feet. He watched their feet because he could tell what their hands were going to do well before they did anything with them by watching where they put their feet and where they placed their weight.

DoctorShoot said...

Excellent thread to your post Kokomo... well done...

great comments re off the ball which is where it all happens to set up the magic moments, and being there is everything of course (with binoculars!!)

with apologies to the beatles of course,
here's the standard scousies doing a team of carraghers, dedicated no doubt to a potential draw at least :-)..:

Funny thing is in Australia a 'bottler' is a champion (as in blood's worth bottling as opposed to bloods only worth putting in a flagon or a cask).
The cry: "You little bloody bottler" is usually saved for a beloved journeyman as he runs from the field having pulled off a matchwinning performance on the day...

MotM said...

Very fine stuff here.

HB - Thanks for the Watson stories: it's always good to get your prejudices confirmed!

There's a chance that you have whizzed past an already lumbering teenage MotM before slotting one home back in the day, though I was Seaforth not Bootle.

Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

Also does it happen to someone else that they can't spot the difference betweeen finnan and jamie?

Ebren said...

Apologies to anyone I suggested didn't look at the game off the ball already. In a sense a Caragher thread is probably a bad place to rant on this one.

An elightnened few (hence the 75% figure) do look at movement off the ball.

The classic example is the "he does nothiong all game then pops up and scores" striker. Of course, you watch them all game and they are constantly moving and looking for space (Crespo and Owen are good examples).

With a defender you don't even have the goals to mark out their work. Midfielders can be similar - I would point to Carrick on this one.

Margin tells a story about how when he arrived at Spurs he started off thinking "what's the point of him, he doesn't do anything".

A few games later he was thinking "my dog, I hope no one else realises what he's doing - or we'll lose him". £18m to Man U (a figure that shocked a lot of people) implies at least one person did. Scholes was similar for a long time at Man U - then drew endless aclaim when people worked it out (it helped that he scores goals) - Makelele was on £10,000 a week at Madrid before Chelsea took him. One tenth of what Beckham, Ronaldo, Raul, and Zidane were on.

So sorry if this is old news - but it's something I feel quite strongly about and this was a perfect time to point it out.

byebyebadman said...

I really can't understand the view that no-one appreciates Carragher in this country as whenever this mythical list of world-class English centre-backs is read out Carragher is always mentioned.

Although he plays for our rivals I've got a lot of time for Carragher, both as a player and a person. I've hear enough first-hand stories about him to believe that he's a far nicer person than a lot of people playing the game at the moment. Phoning the radio station is brilliant, I loved listening to that idiot presenter back down when having to defend his statement to the man he accused.

Sadly for Jamie football teams aren't seleceted on who is a nice guy and who isn't. He is better than a lot of centre-halves in this country but not the two that play in the England team. If he wants to focus on Liverpool fine, I don't think I'd want all that extra travelling and time away from my family just to get ten minutes at left back.

As we did with Scholes, I'm sure Liverpool will reap the benefits.

Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

Perhaps it is also a matter of one Kaiser and one Marker. At the moment Terry is seen as better than Jamie, and although Jamie is better than Rio he is a different centre half.
If you look at most partnerships, there is one Kaiser and one Marker.
Which means he is incompetible (sorry the word evaporated from my memory) with Terry.

bluedaddy said...

Good thread.

Yrsa, that is a very relevent comment. As a Chelsea fan I have a lot of time for John Terry, who does play a similar way to JC, and at club level with a kaiser in Ricky Carvalho. JC may have the edge on Terry in terms of positioning, but I think Terry may be more dominant in the air, and carries a greater attacking threat. A combo of JC/Terry for England would be vulnerable to pace (though Ashley Cole can save a few blushes), though the striker would have to be the fearless type! But you have to weep when you see Kokomo's list of players who have been picked ahead of Carragher.

And BBB, that is what I think is meant by unappreciated. At the England level he has been poorly managed by Sven and SCS no question.

byebyebadman said...

I don't see why bluedaddy, has he not always been in the squad?

I quite like the fact that he doesn't have the ego that some other squad members seem to have that requires guaranteed starting places or the mother of all strops will ensue.

Also I can't see what improvement Carragher would make - in the last two World Cups England have kept seven clean sheets in ten matches, I don't think poor defending is what holds them back.

He said himself on the radio interview that he can't see why it's such a big deal if we have all these supposedly brilliant defenders, I think he's a little bit embarrassed by the furore.

Ultimately I think if he was that much better than his peers it wouldn't be an argument and he would be immovable from the team, but he's not.

bluedaddy said...

BBB, JC has been unlucky in that he has so much competition, and was only entrusted with CB position relatively late on in his career. Like Gallas at Chelsea, his versatility has cost him in terms of becoming immoveable. He also missed WC 2002 through injury (though was then still considered a fullback).

But good management at international level would have kept JC on board. There is no more than two years between him and Wes Brown, Upson and Woodgate, and he is younger than Phil Neville. JC is a better defender than all four. And age is less of a concern at CB. Experience and the positioning that comes with it counts for so much more.

BTW I would have preferred Gerrard to be England captain because I think it would have done Terry good to be droppable, and JC was applying that kind of pressure with his Liverpool form under Rafa.

byebyebadman said...

I don't see how you can manage him any differently though - if it's by giving him games just to keep him happy then it's just pandering to someone's ego.

Upson was capped when Carragher was still a full-back and Phil Neville has been used as a jack of all trades by England but never at centre-half. I don't see how they back the argument up. It's subjective whether you think Brown/Woodgate are better but both are excellent players who have been unfortunate with injuries.

The point about partnerships is right - I think Carragher realises he can't partner Terry so the only route into the team is in his position, but as captain he is pretty much bombproof and if fit will play regardless of form. Carragher has recognised this and walked as Terry is only 26(?) and will be there for a while.

You should pick a team and then pick a captain...other than deal with the media, re-terate the manager's instructions and flip the coin what does it mean anyway?

marcela said...

byebye - i think good captains hve a 'leadership' quality on the pitch.

a respect from the other players. an ability to read the game and impart either instructions or mood... ?

good captains are natural leaders, me thinks.

i was thinking about jamie again today as i pondered on our current aregntina squad.

zanetti - returned after being dropped by pekerman for the world cup (he was involved in the qualifiers). he was very magnanimous about it.
age: 33

veron - returned after being dropped by pekerman for quite some time. missed the world cup. he was furious and resentful.
age: 32

riquelme - returned after deciding himself to not be a part of the international squad for some time. played the world cup.

i think jamie could well be back. even if it's after euro08, and after macmediocre... because there will be an after, non?

byebyebadman said...

Marcela - that they do, but successful teams have several. Hannibal called Carragher Liverpool's REAL captain, and I think he's right, but Gerrard does the protocol and is more the public face of the club. Once on the pitch a players natural personality takes over, armband or not. That's what I notice anyway.

The point I was trying to make was that I don't think you should guarantee someone their place because of the captaincy. Any player, irrespective of their leadership qualities, can have a bad run of form.

Carragher could return - and I hope he does, and we bottle (fnar) his attitude and inject it into the rest of the squad - but would he not want assurances about being given a run in the team?

marcela said...

oh, yeah. i agree about jamie 'real' captain.

i thought your point was more general - other than repeat manager's instructions and tossing the coin... i think the task calls for far more.

that was all.

also, BTW ebren, no offense taken if you meant me.

i just thought your post was fantastic - flowing with geometrical gardening analogies and close to how i try to think about the game.

always end up comparing to the weave of a cloth though :(

kokomo and his grandad said...

thanks for a terrific thread for my article - if this one's going in the book, i want the thread with it.

Although i rate carra abive terry and ferdinand, i am well aware that i am biased, and i also think we have th emost dislikeable bunch of people in our defence at the moment, and carra would be an antedote to that.

But yes, you can't complain with our defensive record with those players, but what gets me is the likes of woodgate, who is generally considered ahead of carra in the queue, brown and king.

But more to the point is a general doing down in a lot of fans minds of carra. they respect him for his workrate and commitment, but think he is a bit of a clogger. It is here that i wanted to redress the balance (though i can see that all here did not need convincing).

Carragher is a top class centre half in every way.

Ebren, that was one of thebest observations/comments i have seen about football, and pretty much exactly my view. That should be a thread on its own.

byebyebadman said...

I know, but think those qualities you mention would be natural to the player anyway. If you don't have players like that in your team, you really have nothing...

Sorry if the point didn't come across. Too many hours lost sleep watching this addictive Copa america has turned my brain to mash.

ebren - like your off the ball stuff. I was watching a game at Old trafford a few years ago and halfway through my friend turned and said to me 'Are you just watching Scholesy as well?'. And I was, he's spellbinding at times, even when he's just trotting into position.

Margin said...

First I have to get something out of the way. Sven has badly coloured the International side. He picked his winners a long time ago and better players were then excluded from consideration for the first team. Indeed at times formations were changed when favourites were injured, so as to avoid letting an alternative take their position and play well enough to displace them.

So JC was unlucky to be around at the time he was. Not because he was surrounded by better defenders, but because he was the wrong side of the line when the curtain came down on the principle of competition for places.

rant over.

Margin said...

more important than that rant.

This is a fantastic article and sums JC up perfectly. Ebren has already offered my example of Carrick but there is a better example. One who, like me, extoles the virtues of JC and Michael Carrick on national TV at every opportunity he gets.

Alan Hanson was for some time to many people a reasonably good defender who did a decent job in a world class liverpool side.

To liverpool fans he was rightly deemed a god whose influence throughout the side was beyond comparison.

By the end of his career sheer weight of medals convinced most people of his stature, but for many years he was underappreciated away from Anfield just as JC is today.

The same could be said of Glenn Hoddle at Spurs - a player Johan Cruyff famously said was better than himself - but one who got a mere handful of England caps.

And then, as Ebren said, there is Paul Scholes.

Paul Scholes represented a learning experience in my life. As a non-ManU fan I didn't watch them often. And when I did it was invariably on TV (rather than seeing Glenn Hoddle live at WHL).

As such I often didn't quite know why he was in a side that was clearly far better than he was.

then from time to time when he was out injured, or more often banned. I'd see a game and the Red Devils lacked the flow and cohesion they normally had in abundance.

It was clear he did something I had not seen, and eventually I saw Scholes play at wembley for England and realised that you really can't judge a player by TV because his involvement in everything was so clear. I also later found out he was often proposed for the chop in the ManU youth system and only SAF backed him and overuled the coaches to keep him.

So while the public may be wrong about JC - we should keep in mind most of the public have only seen him play in 2D and thus can't possible know just how good he really is.

offside said...

Great piece, KK, and excellent thread to follow, thanks all.

Thanks also, KK, for bringing up memories of Euro 2004 and those dead ball moments, Beckham vs Barthez, Zidane vs James (twice). Sorry, couldn't resist. By that time, one of the best kaiser/marker partnerships had retired from the game: Blanc/Desailly. Biased, moi?

I like Jamie Carragher. Always good to have a player who never gives up and never lets the team down.

offside said...

And for those of you with a selective memory, here is a short clip, featuring that suicidal backpass by Steven Gerrard on 2:35.

You're welcome.

byebyebadman said...

Poor Gerrard, bet he never makes that mistake again...

With regard to how we watch football (I'm conscious we're getting away from Kokomo's excellent article here, apologies) I've always preferred watching the game from directly behind one of the goals. It's a whole different world from the halfway line camera's you get on TV, you get it all, the best perspective you can have. Also the belief that you can suck the ball in or repel it from your team's goal is why the hardcore of most clubs congregate there in the first place.

Remember reading an intersting quote from Terry Venables when he was England boss where he said that when he watched England matches again he specially requested the BBC/ITV/whoever coverage of the full match from the behind the goal cameras because 'I wanted to see what actually happened out there.'

Can't think live TV matches would ever plump for that option though, some of those advertising hoardings would be awfully difficult to read at the far end...

marcela said...

brilliant venables quote.

brilliant compilation, offy :)

re, behind the goal, i remember watching a lot of matches at picth level in france 98 (england-argentina among them) from both behind the goal and the middle of the pitch.

i have to confess, after a while, if you're behind one goal everything that happens from the half way line towards the other goal becomes a bit weird in perspective...

bluedaddy said...

maybe I can help Marcela.

That wee lad running away from you and the players in dark blue was Michael Owen. He ran towards Ayala, jinks right as if he wasn't not there and then hit the ball right to left across Roa into the top corner.

Cant remember what happened later.

marcela said...

would you believe - that bit i remember.

'it wasn't a metaphor' joyce carol oates would say, 'it was the thing itself'.

worth standing there just to see his run from that perspective. i know everyone else thinks he was running towards the goal, he was actually running towards ME.

priceless moment. you should have been there.

it's whatever nonsense sol was up to at the other end i never got my head round :)

byebyebadman said...

Did the sound (talk between players, clash of legs in tackles, strikes of the ball etc) add anything to the experience? Personally I've never been close enough to hear it that clearly. People I know who have done stewarding often mention it though.

Or maybe you couldn't hear anything that night in St Etienne, even on TV it felt like an incredible atmosphere.

MotM said...

Got to say a few dissenting words about Scholes.

1. He bottled every major finals for England.

2. Disciplinary record - 119 yellow cards and 6 red cards.

3. Because he never bothered to learn to tackle (he tackles like a 10 year old), he has given away countless dangerous free kicks.

Wonder why Man Utd and England consistently under-achieved in international competitions? Scholes is your man.

(Compare with P Beardsley or G Zola and you'll see what I mean).

mimi said...

Hannibal: how about a tribute to George Melly over at the Other Place - Mlle Zeph's Salon? Write as an artist and not just a footie fan. Hey I've been bold enough to venture onto a total football thread, and that doesn't happen much!

MotM said...

Yes Hannibal - Mimi's right. I saw George twice at Ronnie Scott's twenty years or so ago, and he was Fab!

MotM said...

Yes Hannibal - Mimi's right. I saw George twice at Ronnie Scott's twenty years or so ago, and he was Fab!

MotM said...

Sorry - double post!

Zephirine said...

Not just Hannibal - anyone who has something they want to write which is not about sport is welcome on the other site. Mimi calls it the Salon but the correct address is

We get a lot of poetry, but prose pieces welcome too!

Sorry - back to the football...

tentonipete said...

Excellent article. Better than anything I have read in any of the broadsheets. Probably because the same journos who wrote about how Woodgate/Upson/King should have been selected back at the time would look pretty silly now singing Carragher's praises.

MotM said...

tentonipete - could be the reason. Another reason is that Kokomo and lots of other writers here are much better than most of the pros. Have a look around and you'll see.

Tweet it, digg it