Is Greg Dyke the new top banana at the FA going to stand up as he surely, morally and logically should, for England and our football; or is he deciding to sit on the fence? Thereby emerging not as a fine force for good but as an old blowhard. I ask because his very relevant statement about wretched little Qatar and the 2022 World Cup seems to equivocate.
On the one hand he has belatedly told us that it would be impossible to stage a tournament in the crippling summer heat of Qatar. To which he has equivocally added that the tournament should have to be staged there in winter; or not played there at all.
Well, which does he mean? Is he going to give the alarmed Premier League his full support or not? FIFA and UEFA in their disgraceful support for a Qatar winter World Cup might almost be termed anti-football associations.
Sepp Blatter is beyond all redemption though he seems immovable as the FIFA president, Michel Platini of whom so much might have been expected in his presidency of UEFA seems, in the vernacular, to have gone native.
That the tournament should ever have been awarded to Qatar, rich in minerals but pitifully poor in football status, still raises clouds of suspicion. If ever a full enquiry was needed it should surely be right here. As things stand, Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the Premier League, has spoken out boldly and justifiably against the idea of a winter tournament, which he states would not only upset the calendar of his league year for a year but actually three!
There does seem to be, despite other reports, a good prospect of his gaining European support, since Frederic Thiriez, president of the European Professional Leagues, has signed a letter to Blatter stating that while FIFA may choose a World Cup venue it may not alter its dates without the consent of the leagues themselves.
FIFA meanwhile, seem hell-bent on the winter option and at their so-called Exco summit in Zurich in October, are expected to confirm the monstrosity of a winter tournament. Strongly opposed to it are also FOX television network which have bought the American TV rights on a summer basis, and wouldn’t want a winter tournament which would clash with their coverage of American gridiron football.
One of the puzzles raised by the devastating Humboldt University of Berlin report on West German doping is just what happened over the 1966 World Cup finalists and the three German players found to have taken the banned substance ephedrine. None of them was named or punished at the time; there are possibilities, though it is a known offence, that the players took the drug inadvertently to combat the congestion of colds. What surprises me however, is that no word was spoken at the time or subsequently by my old friend the formidable Dr. Alan Bass, who was in overall charge of World Cup 66 doping surveillance.
Finding him in Canada, where he years ago left his English role at Paddington hospital, having previously been the Arsenal team doctor (astonishingly) first ever doctor travelling with the England team to become a university professor has, alas been fruitless.
He recently retired and his old office doesn’t answer; nor do the Canadian FA, with whom he was a consultant, know where he might be.
Before the 1966 tournament began he told me, he received a call from Gigi Peronace, the ebullient little soccer agent then working officially for the Italian World Cup team. Gigi wanted him to test a urine specimen he was sending. This Alan did and as he told me, the needle went wild. He told Gigi that on no account was he to allow the use of whatever had been contained in the specimen.
As we know Italy were subsequently defeated humiliatingly by North Korea which may or may not have anything to do with the potential doping.
It should also perhaps be mentioned that whatever the West German team did or didn’t take before the final, it didn’t seem to do them much good. At the end of normal time it was the Germans, sprawled wearily on the turf, who seemed exhausted rather than the English “Look at them!” Alf Ramsey told his own players and indeed in terms of stamina, England in extra time looked stronger than the Germans.
Stones that the builder rejected, as the bible says. Far more common in Italy than in England where second chances, or even as in the case of Ricky Lambert, third, fourth or fifth, are so seldom given.
At the age of 31 Roy Hodgson called up Lambert among the strikers for England squad against Scotland. Lambert was modestly astonished, though his scoring record for Southampton has been outstanding.
Liverpool turned him down, he worked in a beetroot factory, played for Blackpool, Macclesfield, Stockport, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers where he ultimately made his goalscoring mark. It was Alan Pardew, at Southampton, whose transfer outlay was questioned at the time of his signing, who persuaded him to shed weight, step up and score. Whether or not he has international quality, he has splendidly survived.
And so it came to pass that Ricky Lambert made an astonishing debut for England against Scotland at Wembley. A splendid headed goal, a shot against a post, another low shot saved by the Scottish keeper, Allan McGregor. There was some consolation in this memorable performance for Roy Hodgson, who put a brave face on his team’s deficiencies.
Wembley long ago was termed The Goalkeeper’s Graveyard and so it was agains when the unpredictable Joe Hart abysmally let in that first Scottish goal by James Morrison. The other Scottish goal was hardly more reassuring for Roy, Kenny Miller embarssingly jinked away from Gary Cahill to beat Hart. Where is Cahill’s Chelsea team-mate, not to mention Rio Ferdinand, now that England so badly need them?
Forced substitutions, as manager Gordon Strachan complained, broke up the Scottish rhythm. I was especially disappointed to see James Forrest leaving the pitch after an excellent and confident display on Scotland’s right flank.
Wayne Rooney was inevitably not match fit though he did have a good goal disallowed. Jack Wilshere, limited to half a game, still looks the best, brightest and perhaps only England playmaker of quality.
A little surprising to hear Hodgson, though he praised his qualities, declare that in the earlier phases of the game Wilshere played too close to the two other England midfielders Steven Gerrard and Tom Cleverley, whose jewelled through ball gave the lively Theo Walcott his goal.
It was a patchy, unconvincing and sporadic display by England, making qualification for Brazil (where, to give him his due, Hart excelled earlier this summer) increasingly uncertain. But with Wilshere up and running again, Lambert such a surprising new force, hope more or less remains.