Sunday, June 09, 2002

Willi Railo, although not on the trip, has proved invaluable. Apparently he spoke to some of our key players by phone after the Sweden game and helped them focus on what was required. They, being cultural architects, passed this on to the others. One of Svens great strengths is his calmness, and in watering down our nationalistic tendencies and ensuring the players concentrated on the game, not our history, he won the game. It is no coincidence that in this new calm era we have beaten both our bete noirs, in competition, not friendlys. Since 1966 we have only ever been knocked out of the world cup by Germany or Argentina; it may yet happen again.
Good article on Beckham here.
Hugh Mcillvenny who cannot write a bad word, has written intelligently on the calmness that our players showed, being particularly impressed with the midfield. Being a Scot he always seems to be grudging in his praise for England, but praise it is. Mind you in his head it is probably a triumph for Sweden and Norway.
Svens mind games certainly seemed to work on Michael Owen, with whom I had been very dissapointed against Sweden, even advocating his dropping. Shows what I know.
Apparently, Trevor Sinclair is not as focussed as the others. It seems that he wandered absent mindedly onto the Argentine bus after the game. Bet he was popular. I had grave misgivings about Sinclair and thought he was very lucky to be on the plane to Dubai, then he played very poorly in whatever friendly it was. Given his personal circumstances I was not surprised he asked to go home. It showed a rare honesty I thought. It was almost Keeganesque, it was as though he had tried it at the next level and realised he had been found wanting.
Then he came back almost by return flight. I still had misgivings because he seemed so miserable about it. Then he came on and played on the left in another friendly (forget who against) and looked far more comfortable. I said then on the Singing the Blues message board that by happy coincidence we may have found the answer to our left side conundrum, ironically with a right footed player. By another (un)happy coincidence he improved the team on Friday. He still appears a bit dull though.
World cups always throw these odd occurences up. In 1966 Greaves was injured which let in the relatively unknown Hurst. There are many other less exalted examples. We have had 2 already, the aforementioned Sinclair, and Scholes and Butt forming a midfield axis. Happens for Man U I know, but I am certain Sven didn't plan it that way.
Another big up for Sven; it appears that when Sinclair returned he told Sven he wanted a chance on the left. Sven didn't throw a wobbly or say I manage and you play where I put you, he gave him his chance.

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