Wayne Rooney is a one off: let’s enjoy him for that

TFN’s Hugo Greenhalgh thinks Wayne Rooney should be revered rather than ridiculed…

There was something reassuring about Manchester United’s comfortable 3-0 victory over Tottenham last Sunday. The ease at which United blitzed past Spurs was reminiscent of a Sir Alex Ferguson performance; the kind of game Fergie used to prepare for by telling the dressing room, “Lads, it’s Tottenham”, as Roy Keane revealed in his autobiography.

What will have been particularly pleasing for United fans was the display of Wayne Rooney. The England captain put in one of his best performances of the season, capping it off with a goal at the end of the first half. Picking up Nabil Bentaleb’s stray pass, Rooney danced past the remaining Spurs defenders and stuck it past Hugo Lloris with a nonchalance that recalled a player in his pomp.

The celebration that followed was a wonderful touch of self-awareness. There were shades of Robbie Fowler and Paul Gascoigne as Rooney showed the ability to laugh at himself – as well as the morning papers. It also served as a massive release for a player who has endured a significant amount of criticism over his career. Continue reading

This Blessed Plot (or: Meanwhile, in England)

TFN’s resident academic John Guillem dissects Roy Hodgson’s England. Set your brows to high! 

The accelerated qualities of the contemporary mediascape make international football something of an oddity. The cliché runs that international football, in spite of the best efforts of FIFA to reduce it to the same robotic fare as club football, remains something of a bastion for the core values of the game: passion, unpredictability, honour; a certain sense of pride connecting to the sport’s working class roots.

FIFA are obviously reprehensible types of the most reptilian of bents, but in spite of the unsavoury commerciality of the World Cup and other tournaments1 some of the above rings true, if only incidentally. The relative lack of cohesion and preparation compared to club football lends the scrappier proceedings a romantic aura, whilst the lower quantity of games (particularly when you factor in the fact that there are many fans who only show an interest in tournament, playoff and crunch qualifying games) means that upsets appear to possess greater magnitude and resonance than a domestic cup upset. Continue reading

England Expects…

England arrive Rio

Making his TFN debut, Alastair Nasmyth explores the paradox of expectations ahead of the 2014 World Cup…

As we approach the World Cup (sorry Sepp, The FIFA World Cup™) the world’s media is unwittingly (or perhaps not) doing its part as FIFA’s marketing mercenaries, ratcheting up the anticipation.

Articles such as: “Best World Cup Goals Ever” by Emile Heskey (to clarify it would be him picking them not a collection of his own), “How to win a penalty shootout” by Terry Venables, “My favorite World Cup socks” by Calvin Klein and “How to get the perfect Pitch” by Alan Titchmarsh clog up server space and squat in newspaper columns.

If we lived in a sane world this level of build up would only be seen for one off events like the Second Coming and I’m talking son of god, deity-type events not disappointing second albums or Robbie Fowler. The only thing that comes close to the disproportionate media hysteria is the hysteria over how disproportionate the media is being only adding fuel to the fire by giving the publicity publicity. Continue reading

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gunning for World Cup place


After an impressive individual display in Munich, Nathan Carr considers Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s role in the England team ahead of the World Cup…

Arsenal left the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night empty-handed after fighting back from a goal down to clinch a draw. But it wasn’t enough as the aggregate score of 3-1 sent Bayern through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

As the Arsenal players trudged off the pitch at the final whistle, one individual could hold his head high: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He was outstanding on the night, acting as the only real attacking threat for Arsenal throughout.

The midfielder has only recently returned from a lengthy period of time out on the side-lines which makes his performance even more impressive. With Roy Hodgson carefully monitoring players in varying competitions right up until he announces England’s World Cup squad, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s exploits against Bayern will certainly do him no harm at all. That game may well have just cemented his place in England’s squad to travel to Brazil. Continue reading

Roy Hodgson and five other crazy coaching methods

Steven Gerrard, left, believes Roy Hodgson's hiring of Dr Steve Peters will be invaluable to England

TFN regular Piers Barber takes a look at some of the more unusual managerial strategies of recent years…

Roy Hodgson raised a few eyebrows last week with his confirmation that Dr Steve Peters had been recruited to work with the England team during their preparations for this summer’s World Cup.

The idea that the recruitment of a psychiatrist will be sufficient to heal England’s mental block over penalties at major tournaments may be a bit of a stretch, to say the least. Yet the madness levels of Hodgson’s latest addition to his coaching staff pale into insignificance compared to some of the other weird and wonderful strategies that his managerial counterparts have employed over the years. Here are some of the best. Continue reading

Editor’s Column: Hodgson Approaching his Defining Summer


James Dutton looks back at England’s World Cup qualifying campaign and how Roy Hodgson will approach the tournament next summer…

After a painstaking 13-month journey through dire stalemates, comprehensive beatings of European minnows and the overriding sense of ‘perpetual crisis’ England have reached the World Cup finals. A World Cup in Brazil without England would have been unthinkable, for Hodgson now this is his self-annointed ‘Utopia'; this has been the driving-force of his nomadic 38-year career, just reward for sheer persistence. What relief to have narrowly sidestepped the screaming vortex that has humiliated his predecessors, among them Graham Taylor, Kevin Keegan and Steve McClaren.

Should two positive results and emphatic performances in the space of a week excuse what came before? Should the previous recriminations be forgotten now that England have handsomely defeated two international sides that they would be disappointed not to beat? After all, England traditionally struggle against the so-called ‘mid-table’ international stratum.

As early as November last year Hodgson had already set his sights on the play-offs, despite a group that was so eminently winnable from the outset. Thus only from the lowering of expectations (a classic Hodgson manoeuvre and one that David Moyes is replicating at Manchester United this season) has this arduous qualifying campaign been quantified as a success. Continue reading

I’m An England Football Fan, And That’s Why I Drink


Chris Francis is in a bad place. England are on…

International breaks make me sad.

Gone is the daily dose of football, replaced by wasted days of inconsequential fodder.

I flick around the Sky Sports channels and try to watch tennis. Sometimes there is some rugby on. Perhaps darts. Sky Sports News is showing the same interviews on repeat. There is a hole in my life that such international breaks create.

Where there were fields of plenty, we now have a fallow crop. Two weeks should not feel this long when I am in the prime of my life.

The emptiness of an international match day has been filled with faux excitement at the prospect of seeing Shaun Wright-Phillips represent me. For years, I watched Paul Scholes play on the left wing. I saw Dennis Wise wearing the shirt I wanted to wear. Darius Vassell played up front. John Terry was my captain.

This is a real life horror story. Your club team are your friends, England are your family. You don’t get to choose your family. Continue reading