Brian GlanvilleBy the time you read this, perhaps we shall have been given some clue as to why Gary Speed so tragically and horrifically killed himself. As things stand, the sheer horror of his death has been made still more appalling by the mystery of it.

On the surface, as we know, Gary Speed was riding gloriously high. As manager of the Wales team, he had transformed them in surprisingly little time from a struggling side into one which was playing fine football and competing with its supposed betters.

England should certainly never have beaten the Welsh at Wembley where little Robert Earnshaw so astonishingly missed what would have been the late well-deserved equaliser from a few yards out. Never mind. The Welsh in exuberant form then managed to beat at home first the Swiss and then Norway.

So we must I suppose assume that what moved Speed to his despairing action was something in his private rather than in his public life. Not that ever knowing what it might have been would bring him back to life. His loss was traumatising.

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In European football as in economic power, Germany at present are plainly the dominant team in Europe. Their 3-0 win against highly rated Holland, even if Robin Van Persie, so vital to Arsenal with his profusion of goals, surely put them well ahead of the pack.

Spain? They were at more or less the same time struggling to get a 2-2 draw in San Jose against the modest Costa Ricans, who led them 2-0 till well into the second half.

Their 1-0 defeat by England at Wembley, however much against the run of the play, now perhaps comes in a clearer perspective. Spain are not invincible and at this moment don’t seem the equals of a German team in which the veteran centre forward Miroslav Klose, present in the last two World Cups, continues to get goals; and on this occasion to make a couple.

The dazzling little Ozil got one of them, and continues to look one of the best of his dazzling ebullient kind in the game. Gomez is another goalscorer, a young one, and the right winger Mario Gotze, only 19-years-old, has given plenty of  pace and drive to both his club Borussia Dortmund and the national side.

Watching Dortmund play Arsenal at The Emirates I was greatly disappointed when he had to drop out injured after some twenty minutes. Would Arsenal have won had he lasted the whole game? It did seem doubtful.

Arsene Wenger after his team’s uneasy display at home to Fulham, who have never beaten them at Highbury or The Emirates, offered the excuse that his team was tired after its exertion three days earlier against the Germans. Really?

My mind goes back to the days when our top teams played no fewer than three matches in quick succession at Christmas and Easter. But when they at last get Jack Wilshere back to “invent the game” from central midfield, they will surely be a far harder proposition. Even if, having seen the appalling blunder when he gave away a goal at Norwich.

I still feel that Per Mertesacker, so slow and so ponderous on the turn, well past his once impressive best, following a spate of injuries, and constitutes a potential hazard in the Gunners’ defence. After the Dortmund game, Wenger told us that the centre backs troubles at Norwich stemmed from the weariness which followed his match against Spain.

Speaking of Arsenal centre halves, Alf Fields has very recently died well into his 90s. How well I remember his six (almost) fine displays for the Gunners when, at the start of season 1947/8, they won all those half a dozen matches. Also in the last of them, his keeper George Swindin came thundering out of goal and smashed up Fields’ knee. So he had to drop out, to be replaced by big Leslie Compton, then the Middlesex wicket keeper, and generously released by his county.

Fields in time became an expert youth coach, greatly respected at Highbury. In Italy in the last war he won the British Empire Medal. Modest, friendly, charming, he brought through a number of excellent youth players. I remember seeing him once at Fulham, lining up in the wall when Ronnie Rooke, later to score so many goals for Arsenal, unleashed a ferocious left footed free kick. Alf simply bowed and headed it away.

On another occasion at Fulham, playing for a largely youth side, he found himself coaching players from both sides! A hero of a bygone era but never forgotten at Arsenal.

  • Simon

    good spot Shane. although he got 3 v the Saudi’s, 5 in all at wc 2002, the others being 1 v rep ireland, and 1 v cameroon. at that point he was on 13 goals in 15 caps ( v cameroon). after that he had a fairly barren run..eg by his 50th cap, he was only on 20 goals i.e only added 7 more in 35 caps. but got back on track just before 2006 WC and been pretty consistent since then.

  • Shane

    Klose was actually present in the last 3 world cups Brian. I seem to remember him netting 5 against inept Saudi Arabia in 2002.
    Great column as always.

  • Simon

    Ozil is 5ft 11. hardly “little” ?

    xavi 5 ft 7
    iniesta 5ft 7
    d .silva 5 ft 7
    messi 5ft 6 and a half
    navas 5ft 7
    fabregas 5 ft 9
    pedro 5 ft 7