Wednesday, April 1, 2009
England U21s 0 France U21s 2
I’m looking forward to a boys’ weekend in London. We’re off to watch AFC Wimbledon versus Team Bath. They’ve been runaway leaders of the Blue Square Conference South, for most of the season. They’re now doing a Devon Loch; Hampton and Richmond are on their shoulder.
We’re staying at the ‘Lord Mayor’ of London’s’ gaffe. He’s kindly blagged some tickets for the Barclays Premier League clash at Craven Cottage between Fulham and Liverpool. It’s another Super Saturday for The Architect, White Van Man and The Groundhopper.
It’s Sunday morning. Mrs P is off to Bagthorpe in north Notts to watch troubled teenager Sticky junior in YEL action. ‘The Skipper’ has had a sleepover in Chilwell. I’ve earmarked a trip into deepest, darkest Leicestershire.
I wave goodbye to Mrs P and hit the laborious Fosse Way. It’s a road that I’m to become familiar with in the next year or so, as I entice young footballers to come and learn their trade at the Notts County centre of excellence.
I pass the Everards Brewery; it’s way too early for a hair of the dog, besides I’m on duty. I drive onto the A6, past Oadby and head towards Market Harborough. I’m watching two of Leicestershire’s premier junior teams.
I pass through Kibworth, but I’m hopelessly lost, despite the best efforts of the Tom Tom. I notice two coppers tossing it off on a fundraising speed trap exercise. I pull over and jog up to their vehicle. I ask them if they know where the ground is; they haven’t got a blooming clue.
I phone the manager of the team; I’m a stone’s throw away from the ground. What do they say: ask a policeman for directions if you get lost?
The game is entertaining, but no-one catches Sticky’s eye. I feel unfulfilled. But I will return to this county again, again and again. There is untapped talent that the Foxes have missed.
JK bought twenty tickets for the England v France clash ages ago. I’ve paid a bargain £10 for the three of us. Nottingham Forest’s City Ground will host the game; we can be there in fifteen minutes.
Despite reaching our normal parking spot at West Bridgford Library, an hour before kick-off, it proves difficult to find a space. We finally settle for a spot at the back of Mrs P’s favourite establishment: Marks & Spencer Simply Food store.
‘Sticky junior’ and ‘The Skipper’ are having a good old moan that they’ve got a long hike to the ground (it’s a fifteen minute walk to the Trent End). We amble away from Central Avenue towards the Cricket ground. The Monkey Tree is buzzing, but the footballers’ wives haunt, Fire n Ice, is as dead as a dodo. The credit crunch has kicked in for the fur coat and no knickers brigade. These days their preferred tipple is the ghastly Lambrini.
We’ve a birds’ eye view from our front row seats in the Upper Trent End. The players are warming up. I’m proud to say, from this distance, that I can’t put a name to any of the faces smashing the ball at Manchester City ‘keeper Joe Hart. One thing I do notice, from directly behind the goal, is how viciously the ball dips and swerves when struck properly.
The French kick the ball into touch straight from kick-off; it’s just about the only time they give away possession in the first half. They have England on the back foot from the word go.
One or two of the kids we have brought with us complain of being bored. They’ve only come to watch England and are too young to appreciate the beauty of this team from across the English Channel.
France are tearing us to shreds, The young centre half from Manchester City hasn’t the speed, technique or intelligence to deal with Liverpool’s David N’Gog; luckily the boy can’t finish.
France’s right winger Gabriel Obertan is dazzling us all with his fast feet and trickery out on the wing. He puts the visitors in front with a low drive to Joe Hart’s right following poor defending.
Ten minutes later Sissoko makes it 2-0 with a cool finish, with once again schoolboy defending from our highly-rated defence.
England are an embarrassment. Is this the best our Academy system can throw up? Nottingham born Tom Huddlestone lumbers around the midfield. He’s overweight and overrated. There’s a little old lady up our road who’s 90 years old. She goes shopping to Somerfield every night. She pulls her shopping trolley past our house every night and covers the ground more gracefully than Huddlestone ever will.
They bang on and on about a boy at Chelsea called Michael Mancienne; he’s been farmed out to Wolves on loan and plays at the heart of defence. Pearce has a look at him as a defensive midfield player tonight. I don’t think he’ll be experimenting with this again.
The Forest DJ is sadly lacking in humour at the break and plays Girls Aloud ‘Sexy! No No No.’ surely the classic single ‘Can’t Speak French’ would have been more apt.
The French continue to play sexy football. All their players have frightening pace. It’s only with the the introduction of Fraizer Campbell and Danny Welbeck that England begin to make any impact. But it’s way too late. France’s best have long gone, and are relaxing in the Radox bath.
Man of the Match: France’s 5,7,8,9 or 10. Take your pick.