The Groundsman’s Shed

Everyone’s a little Oranje with Envy by groundsman
June 9, 2008, 5:30 pm
Filed under: BBC, ESPN, Euro2008, football, France, Holland, Italy, Manchester United, Romania, Spain, World Cup 2006

A cracker of a performance from the Holland team tonight in their match against Italy.   I was being forced to do some actual work during the match, but even I could recognize the level of play was a welcome change from the uninspired dirge that was the France-Romania match earlier today.  

Over on BBC, I’m guessing the dour men in black (the punditry team) were contractually obligated to compare France to an even more disappointing version of England- though um, I’m sure everyone at home was thinking, “At least they made it that far. ”

So we’re through group C now- have your picks for the winner changed?  I’m still supporting Spain throughout the tournament, but like everyone else- I figured World Cup winner and runner up, Italy and France, would at least make a strong showing.    

Next Up: Spain v. Russia and Sweden v. Greece.  I’m betting on a nice win for the 2004 Euro champs, and a scrappy and speedy match between Spain and Russia. 

Grounds Clippings:

-I’m not going to write about the drama surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo, how much money he’ll make, how furious his current employers must be, and the tactics used to woo him, because I don’t care.  I really don’t.  However, you might- so here’s the latest on that kerfuffle.

Tommy Smyth on ESPN’s soccer coverage makes me come out in a rash.  He panders to only the ignorant consumers of the game, is openly biased, and is possibly worse than any of the guys on Sportscenter when it comes to pessimistic, half assed attempts to encourage Americans to  like about the game.  He has an accent, and understands the offside rule, so he’s set with this gig for life- and I guess he doesn’t feel like he needs to try anymore.  I’m so glad I’m not the only one who feels this way.

-For those of you who like a little aural coverage of the tournament and a chance to experience some of the international flavour of the tourney- The Guardian is in the midst of their Football Daily podcasts for Euro2008.  It’s brilliant, and there’s even a bit of video (was anyone else shocked about Barry Glendenning?) thrown in for good measure. 

-On a very similar note: I hate BBC’s 606 show, but I think Danny Baker can be hilarious.  Thus, I encourage everyone to listen to the Euro2008 606’s.  The Beeb may have brought back Steve McClaren, but they made a good call with this decision.

-I keep telling people to go and check out The Offside for their Euro2008 coverage.  It’s varied, it’s funny, and it’s frequently updated.  Why aren’t you listening to me? Go!

-Notice the updates slowing down on this site?  I’m just one pretty lady, working to move this blog over to, where I can have polls, and downloads, and all kinds of bells and whistles.  Also, it is warm and sunny out, and having a kickaround at the park with my neighbors is slightly more appealing than designing a new website right now.  Don’t worry, those feelings will fade soon.  Keep an eye on! I’ll let you know when to officially update the bookmarks.

[Photo courtesy Hispaniola]


“What the hell is Capello doing?” (also titled “Captain Becks is Back”) by groundsman

I knew this would happen.  I said it, you thought about it, and now it has happened.  England manager Fabio Capello is handing the captain’s armband back to David Beckham for Sunday’s match against Trinidad and Tobago.  Now before everyone comes over all outraged about this being a terrible sign or a step back in the wrong direction, we need to take a look at Wednesday’s match against the USA:

I was at that match, and while I did enjoy my time there and the majority of England supporters were incredibly friendly and polite,  the live competition itself was only slightly more interesting than watching on television because of the pathetic abuse shouted at the few hundred USA fans from some younger England supporters.  Seriously, a chant like “your mother is your sister” or “when have you won a world cup?” can and was easily deflected with,

“You think we really hate ya, but you couldn’t beat Croatia- huzzaaaah, England.”

or “Come on Macedonia!” 

Even a simple, “Whatcha doin’ on your summer off?” was enough to make some of the England fans near us go quiet, look upset and then just call the whole lot “gay”.  I was however very proud of the USA fans for refusing to take part in the Mexican wave, because a) it’s stupid b) if the ball is in play, your eyes should be on the field c)neither team had much to cheer about as they both played like shit.

Which brings me back to the original topic: why is Beckham captain again?  The answer: Why the hell not?  It has become painfully obvious that the England team still need his crosses, as they really are the exact same team from 2 years ago.  Yes, Beckham was never particularly mobile, but as his teammates still lack the ability to pass to one another whilst running with the ball at the same time,  that’s not really an issue.  Also, the team was the “Golden Generation” with Beckham and the management of Sven Goran-Eriksson, so why not make Goldenballs lead out the team again?  They’ve already gone back to the old English 4-4-2, and Peter Crouch is getting playing time- the only difference between now and World Cup 2006 is that everyone agrees that Owen Hargreaves is a really good player.

The Bottom Line: Capello is probably just doing this to show that Beckham will be a part of his upcoming World Cup campaign.  Also- he’s demonstrating that he’s willing to do just about anything to make the other players work a bit harder during meaningless friendlies.

Read more from The Guardian here.

Comment: The MLS Season Begins, and for once- I care. by groundsman
March 28, 2008, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Comment, football, Me, MLS, soccer, USA, World Cup 2006


I’m not going to lie– I last regularly watched the MLS in 2006, before and after the World Cup in Germany, when myself and many other American soccer fans were thirsting for more sport to watch.   ESPN/ABC were giddy with successful ratings from the international competition and began showing many of the domestic matches on the main channels.  Unfortunately, it became obvious to many fans of sport in general that there were light years of difference between the respective levels of play.  At the time I was simply an Arsenal supporter who would feverishly watch any and all Premier League action, sprinkled with a bit of Serie A coverage, and followed as much world football news as I could online.  I had no place in my mind and heart for the MLS with their creepily corporate team names, and bad camera work during the matches.  I felt sympathy for these professional athletes playing on gridiron fields with the yard markings still clearly visible, some who were college educated lads on less than $30,000 a year, but I just couldn’t put up with the sloppy play (all attack, no defense whatsoever) and the ill informed or non-existant punditry provided by the television sports networks.

Something has changed.

Not only are there more “name players” in Major League Soccer, but it feels as if from top to bottom, there’s more energy surrounding the league, and expectations are higher.  I don’t know if it’s The Becks Effect or not, but for the past couple of seasons, when I’ve told people I am a soccer fan they don’t look surprised or amused anymore– they usually nod excitedly and ask who’s my team and where I’m going to watch the match.  Not only is soccer in the U.S. (or at least where I live) seemingly more accepted- casual sport fans seem more educated about the sport.

As for the level of play within the league, I’m told it’s gotten significantly stronger.  I saw much evidence of that whilst watching the championship game last season (despite my shameful MLS prejudice, I make it a habit of watching the final matches). 

I’m admitting all of this to the ether because I have promised myself and my MLS-supporting friends that I will watch faithfully this season, since it may not be entirely fair for me to feel warmth for League One teams in England while ignoring players in my own country.  Atlanta does not have an MLS team, (though when the women’s league was in it’s heyday, we had a quite good squad) so I have been struggling to find a team to support (especially since I can’t travel to the matches and many of them aren’t on television), but I will attach myself to some squad- and like the Gunners of Arse, they will have a devoted and overly optimistic fan in myself. 

Any suggestions for an excellent squad for me to watch closely and consider granting my devotion would be rather helpful!  For now- remember Saturday is the big double header to open the season on Fox Soccer Channel!

[Photo: ebatty]

Review: “Love and Blood: At the World Cup with The Footballers, Fans, and Freaks” by groundsman
February 23, 2008, 3:11 am
Filed under: Book Review, books, football, Reviews, USA, World Cup 2006

Read an edited version of my review at ESPN’s Soccernet site.

Rating: 1.5 stars 

An optimist sees Jamie Trecker’s first novel, Love and Blood: At the World Cup with the Footballers, Fans, and Freaks as more value for money because it is essentially four different books in one.  The casual reader may find this characteristic confusing at best and frustrating at worst, so this review serves to separate the jumbled and intertwining themes while pointing the reader toward the entertaining and informative sections of this novel.   

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