Brian GlanvillePersonally I am sorry that West Ham United are to leave Upton Park, as indeed are so many of their fans. But I refuse to join the somewhat hysterical chorus which sees the Olympic Stadium as a sort of shrine.

The ill assorted triumvirate of Ken Livingston, who ravaged London’s finances, Seb Coe, a greater runner than he was ever an administrator and Tess “Nothing Like A Dame” Jowell, who wanted to cover the country with casinos, and thought that relaxing the drinking hours would promote a continental café society, left a minatory heritage.

An additional reason for regretting West Ham’s change of venue is that it poses such a threat to the future of Leyton Orient. Hammers may be said to have received a £15 million bargain but as that ever-diligent columnist Martin Samuel has pointed out, what were the valid alternatives, other than to let yet another sporting white elephant rot?

The misguided trio stubbornly and disastrously set their faces against any kind of football participation and built accordingly. We should also remember that when they returned in triumph from their successful bid for the games, the cost had suddenly gone up exponentially.

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The Magnificent Hulk indeed. The big striker, now somewhat ironically playing in Russia itself – at Zenith St Petersburg whose fans have long been shockingly hostile to the idea of fielding black players – transformed the Brazilian attack in the friendly against Russia at Stamford Bridge.

For so big a man he is remarkably quick and agile and it seemed strange that Big Phil Scolari should take so long to put him on the field, though you could understand his keeping on the previously lone striker, the disappointed Fred; who tapped in the very late equaliser which Hulk had done so much to create.

Hulk would have been wasted as a one-man band. It would of course be absurd to judge Brazil on current form; the team is still in the making. They can surely hope to get much more in attack from Neymar who shone in Switzerland in the drawn friendly versus Italy but, largely on the left, was disappointing at Stamford Bridge.

As for the Russians, whose goal was so well worked and followed a succession of desperate saves on the line against Brazil, Capello seems to have improved their defence, but till late in the game they went off the boil after a bright start which should have brought them a goal. They have still to beat Brazil, though it was a close run thing.

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How sad that Michael Owen, after so bright and brilliant a beginning, should have played on for years, his essential speed afflicted by so many injuries, the series of hamstring pulls forcing him as we know to seek frequent treatment in Germany which would never work for long.

It was a little ironic to see one of the most fulsome tributes to his career paid by Glenn Hoddle. Before the 1998 World Cup in which the teenaged Owen would excel, Hoddle as England manager announced that Owen was not a natural goal scorer and that, by implication, his demeanour needed to improve.

Yet Owen was surely the white hen who never laid a stray. And after Hoddle omitted him from the World Cup opening game against Tunisia, he had to wait 73 minutes (one paced Teddy Sheringham preferred) before getting on and scoring splendidly against Romania.

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In Podgorica, England’s bluff was embarrasingly called. That well-taken goal by Wayne Rooney, after he had so skilfully hit an upright, seemed to have demoralised Montenegro. But the arrival at half-time of the poweful Dejan Damjanovic, who plays his club football in Japan, galvanised the hosts who soon shook off their inferiority feelings. With neither of England’s two best centre-backs available – John Terry, badly mishandled by the FA, in perpetuity, Rio Ferdinand for reasons best known to himself – the English defence crumbled. No Wilshere meant no playmake. Danny Welbeck should surely have played in the striking role rather than as an ersatz left winger. James Milner is no Walcott. I’d much have preferred a formation with Rooney in the hold behind Welbeck and Ashley Young as a genuine left winger.

Still, one way or another, ar least England shakily survived.

By Brian Glanville

  • Hugo Greenhalgh

    Excellent column as always Brian. One minor inaccuracy – Damjanovic plays for FC Seoul in South Korea.