UEFA 2020 Euro Championship – Day 4

Group D: England (0) 1 – 0 (0) Croatia

Goal-scorer: Sterling (57′)

Wembley Stadium, London

When the England team was announced there were more than a few people scratching their heads as to the side Gareth Southgate selected. However, he was totally justified in his selection as England came through without too many nerves to take a 1-0 win through Raheem Sterling who continued his impressive scoring record for the Three Lions. England started brightly with Phil Foden curling an effort onto the post early on, with Sterling also dangerous and Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips impressive in midfield. The Croats settled into the first-half as Modric saw more of the ball, but it was all square at the break. The Three Lions got their breakthrough on fifty-seven minutes as Phillips drove at the Croatian defence and slipped a ball into the box, where Sterling fired in as ‘keeper Livakovic advanced. Chances were at a premium for both sides in the Wembley sunshine, with Harry Kane just not getting onto a cross and a Mason Mount free-kick which just went over bar, the best England had in search of a second goal. A good start for England, with Scotland next up, with Croatia facing the Czech Republic on the same day up at Hampden.


Group C: Austria (1) 3 – 1 (1) North Macedonia

Goal-scorers: Austria – Lainer (18’), Gregoritsch (78′), Arnautovic (89′) North Macedonia – Pandev (28′)

Arena Na?ionala, Bucharest

Gave this one a miss after the exertions of watching England. My only observation was on watching the highlights was who put together that shirt and short combination for the Austrians???!!! Black shirts, with light blue shorts and socks…wow. Result wise, no surprise that the Austrians took the three points.


Group C: Netherlands (0) 3 – 2 (0) Ukraine

Goal-scorers: Netherlands – Wijnaldum (52′), Weghorst (58′), Dumfries (85′). Ukraine – Yarmolenko (75′), Yaremchuk (79′)

Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam

Will Group C come to be remembered as ‘GoG’, the ‘Group of Goals’ as following on from the earlier game in Bucharest and the four goals served up by Austria and North Macedonia, we were treated to another five in this see-saw encounter. Despite a scoreless first-half there were genuine chances for the Dutch in the opening forty-five minutes. Within thirteen minutes of the restart though the Netherlands were two-up through Wijnaldum and Weghorst and seemingly cruising. Then as the game entered the last fifteen minutes Ukraine hit back with two goals inside four minutes. First, Yarmolenko curled one in from distance (goal of the tournament so far) and then Yaremchuk had a free header as the Dutch switched off at the back. The game though had one last twist, as with five minutes remaining Dumfries jumped highest to head home, although Ukraine ‘keeper Bushchan will look back on it and know he should have done better.


Group D continues today with Scotland hosting the Czech Republic at Hampden Park. It’s a game I had a ticket before the capacity was reduced but lost out in the ballot. Gutted. In addition Group E gets underway with Poland against Slovakia at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg and Spain hosting Sweden at La Cartuja in Seville.

Scotland qualified after coming through the Play-Offs, winning ties against Israel and Serbia on penalties, to make it to the Euros for the first time since 1996. The Czech Republic were runners-up to England in the qualifiers and inflicted the Three Lions only defeat in that campaign. The Czechs won only once on the road in the qualifiers in Montenegro, losing against England, Kosovo and Bulgaria, so Scotland with home advantage may fancy their chances to get three points on the board.

Poland were group winners in their qualifiers, losing just the once away to Slovenia and conceded just five goals in their ten group games. Slovakia made it through the Play-Offs, beating both Irish teams. The Republic were seen off on penalties in Bratislava, and then ousted Northern Ireland in Belfast 2-1 AET. Poland will be favourites with the dangerous Robert Lewandowski looking to get amongst the goals early in the tournament.

The last of Monday’s games sees Spain host Sweden in a repeat of the qualifiers. Spain topped the group with 26 points, five ahead of Sweden. The margin created by Spain’s 3-0 win over the Swedes in Madrid and a 1-1 draw in the return game in Solna. Home advantage could be crucial here which might be enough to see the Spanish get off to a winning start.

Euro Ramblings – England light up with Phillips by Jade Craddock

With perfect symmetry, it just so happened that England were fated to meet in the opening match of Euro 2020 the very opposition who had booked their exit at the last major international competition – Croatia – an opposition who had gone on to be runners-up in the World Cup three years previous. Not an easy start to a tournament, but then there never is. And with England’s campaign kicked off, here’s some observations on that first outing.

  1. Eriksen impact: Firstly, having witnessed the horrific events in the Denmark v Finland game the previous day, I imagine twenty-four hours on, the football world’s thoughts were very much on Christian Eriksen and his recovery. The immediate and continued reaction showed once more the incredible and special unity possible in football. Regardless of nationality, club allegiance, interest, at moments like this, football unites in worry, hope and mostly support and it’s a poignant and powerful thing. Naturally, whilst the Danish and Finnish players were obviously those most closely affected, every team has players who will have crossed paths to varying degrees with Eriksen – past teammates, like Harry Kane and Jan Vertonghen, current teammates like Romelu Lukaku and Ivan Perisic, and myriad opposition players – and even for those who haven’t, I can’t imagine there was any player, fan or human being not affected. And even as the tournament continues, for the players involved what happened will surely play on their minds. Fortunately, a rapid and experienced medical response and the noble reaction of teammates, opposition and officials had a huge impact, but it also perhaps served as a reminder of the importance of first aid and emergency support at all levels of the game. Christian Eriksen will remain at the forefront of the thoughts and best wishes of everyone and although there is still a tournament being played, Eriksen’s recovery is the greatest victory that there can be.
  2. Home advantage?: As part of its 60th anniversary celebrations, UEFA opted to move away from its traditional approach of a single or two countries hosting the event to a fully pan-European tournament, which is a nice idea in principle, but in reality isn’t perhaps the most sensible, not least in these COVID times, but there we have it. Sadly, I’m not party to UEFA’s machinations so am unsure as to why it was 11 cities that were chosen, but each of the qualifying host nations are granted the opportunity to play at least two groups matches at home, whilst six nations, including Italy, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Germany and, crucially, England will play all three group games at home venues. Contrast this to Belgium who are flitting between St Petersburg and Copenhagen and Wales who find themselves manoeuvred between Azerbaijan and Rome, and you have to feel that there is a home advantage for England. More so than any other tournament, when teams would be based in a country and travel would be limited within that nation, or nations, travel and moving camps has to be more of a factor than ever. The group stages and knockout rounds will see the competition similarly spread across various destinations, but notably with the semi-finals and finals scheduled for Wembley, there is a real incentive and motivation for England to thrive. However, given that home nations have only won the Euros three times, perhaps we should give one of the other nations the title of home nation.
  3. Kalvin Phillips: There was much talk going into the tournament around attacking players – Should Sancho be included? Would Grealish be fit? How on earth can we fit in all of these attacking options? – and then when the squad announcement was made attention turned to Harry Maguire and the four right-backs, whilst one man went largely under the radar – Kalvin Phillips. After an excellent couple of seasons with Leeds, Phillips got a much-deserved first England call-up in August last year and hasn’t looked back. Indeed, perhaps most notably, there was never any question of him making Gareth Southgate’s final 26 – his name never came up for discussion. But as the tournament neared and a lot of focus turned to Jordan Henderson’s fitness and possible return, the question of midfield partnerships suddenly arose. Phillips found himself named alongside Rice, but with Jordan Henderson continuing to build towards his return, the spotlight was on, and Phillips didn’t disappoint, putting in a superb performance, both breaking up play and pushing forward, crucially for England’s goal. He took his chance with both hands and surely deserves his spot against Scotland. Tyrone Mings who was similarly under the microscope in what has been deemed a problem area for England with the injury to Harry Maguire put in a solid performance, whilst Foden was, as ever, a shining light. Had Euro 2020 not been delayed, Phillips and Foden, neither of whom made their debuts until August 2020, and Mings, who was still breaking through, may not have featured. What a difference twelve months makes!
  4. Hey, Jude: Can you remember what you were doing at 17? Learning to drive, perhaps; maybe taking exams, or even something a little less virtuous. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t have been representing your country in the Euros. In fact, only one person in history can claim that achievement in the men’s Euros – Jude Bellingham. When he was brought on as a sub against Croatia, at the age of 17 years and 349 days, Bellingham broke the previous record held by Jetro Willems of the Netherlands, who was 18 years and 71 days when he featured in Euro 2012. Bellingham is also some 23 years younger than the oldest ever player at the Euros – Gabor Kiraly of Hungary, who was 40 years and 86 days – and 22 years younger than the oldest ever outfield player – Germany’s Lothar Matthaus, who was 39 years and 91 days. The teenager joins an illustrious group of players who hold the honour of being the youngest players for their nations at the Euros, including Ivan Rakitic (Croatia), Tomas Rosicky (Czech Republic), Michael Laudrup (Denmark), Lukas Podolski (Germany) and Paolo Mancini (Italy) to name a few. In terms of the youngest goalscorer at the Euros, Johan Vonlanthen of Switzerland currently holds that title, aged 18 years and 141 days, so Bellingham could feasibly take that one too. Oh, and one other record of note, the youngest player to feature in a Euros final was Renato Sanches of Portugal, aged 18 years and 327 days. Jude Bellingham only turns 18 twelve days before the final, just saying…
  5. Tough test: England’s 1-0 victory over Croatia ensured England’s best ever start to a Euros; indeed, they had never won their first game at the tournament before. Whilst there were a lot of positives to take from the match, there is, naturally, room for improvement. It is difficult to be at your best in the first game, nor, quite honestly, would you want to be, hoping to build into the competition, so a victory and three points was the most important thing, and against a Croatia side who have been known to cause the odd England upset, it was a solid enough start, but the next game against Scotland may be an even bigger challenge. It is, after all, the oldest rivalry in football, dating back to 1872, and has seen some 113 matches, of which England hold a slight advantage, including in recent years, although the most recent result was a 2-2 draw. Whilst England’s biggest victory was 9-3 in 1961 and Scotland’s 7-2 in 1878, which would make for entertaining affairs, I suspect it will be a much-closer and harder-fought contest when the two sides meet on Friday. England will be looking to build momentum, whilst Scotland will be wanting to make the most of their first major tournament in 23 years. With the likes of Andy Robertson, Scott McTominay and John McGinn, Scotland will be familiar but formidable opponents and surely buoyed by a match against England. The Three Lions will face a tough test and will certainly need to raise their game to keep their 100% start in the tournament.

UEFA 2020 Euro Championship – Day 3

Group A: Wales (0) 1 – 1 (0) Switzerland

Goal-scorers: Wales – Moore (74’), Switzerland – Embolo (49’)

Olympic Stadium, Baku

I had this down as a draw, but until Wales levelled through Cardiff City’s Kieffer Moore with sixteen minutes remaining, it looked like the Swiss would take all three points. Although the game was level 0-0 at half-time, the Welsh had been outplayed and had ‘keeper Danny Ward to thank for keeping the game scoreless. The Swiss will have also felt hard done by as in the closing minutes of the opening forty-five minutes they had what looked like a good penalty shout turned down when Embolo was held back by his shirt.

Into the second-half and just like the opening game in Rome, a goal came quickly after the break. Ward was again at his best to deny Embolo’s strike, but from the resulting corner the tall Borussia Monchengladbach striker outmuscled his marker to head home. From that point the Welsh looked under the cosh and Embolo continued to look dangerous forcing Ward into another save from another corner later in the half. Then with Wales looking out on their feet in the Baku sunshine, up popped the bandaged Moore with a cracking header. Suddenly Wales looked brighter although ultimately they had to survive a rocky last few minutes.

Dinamo Zagreb forward Mario Gavranovic came on for the Swiss with six minutes remaining and proved to be a handful. With his first touch he hooked home from close range, only for VAR to come to Wales’ rescue. The Swiss though weren’t done and in those closing minutes of normal time and the five extra minutes they put the Welsh backline under pressure and looked the more likely winner. Wales though saw it through for a point that they were perhaps fortunate to take in the end.

Massive credit to the 500 Welsh fans who made the trips and themselves heard throughout the match. Wales stay in Baku for their game on Wednesday with Turkey, whilst the Swiss made the trip to Rome to face Italy.


Group B: Denmark (0) 0 – 1 (0) Finland

Goal-scorer: Pohjanpalo (59′)

Parken Stadium, Copenhagen

This is a game that will be remembered for the collapse of Danish and Inter Milan player Christian Eriksen shortly before the end of the first-half. Incredibly, the game resumed at the players request at 19:30 (UK time) and it was a strange watch knowing what had happened. Who knows what was going through the players minds as they played out the last five minutes of the first-half and the second forty-five. Were the Danish players affected more than their opponents? We will never know. But you could argue that the two major moments of the game could have been down to the individuals involved not being fully focused. First, just before the hour mark Finland scored through a Joel Pohjanpalo header, an effort than nine times out of ten Kasper Schmeichel would save, but which on this occasion he fumbled over the line. Then with sixteen minutes left, Demark were awarded a fortunate penalty, but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s spot-kick lacked power and was easily saved. For Finland it was an historic first win at the Euros but will always be remembered for the traumatic events surrounding Christian Eriksen’s collapse.


Group B: Russia (0) 0 – 3 (2) Belgium

Goal-scorers: Lukaku (10′, 88′), Meunier (34′)

Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg

Having watched the end of the delayed Denmark/Finland game, I missed the start of this fixture and in the end didn’t watch it at all. Therefore caught up with just the BBC highlights. Basically, Belgium were too strong for Russia who contributed to the first two goals through poor defensive play. The opener after ten minutes saw a ball into the box be missed by Andrey Semenov allowing Romelu Lukaku time to turn and fire home. The game was effectively over on thirty-four minutes when Russian ‘keeper Anton Shunin failed to hold a cross-ball into the box and substitute Thomas Meunier slotted home. The icing on the cake came with two minutes left, when Lukaku out muscled his marker on a through ball and slotted home. Belgium in cruise control and looking dangerous.


 The weekend ends with another three games, starting with England and their Group D opener with Croatia at Wembley and then two games from Group C, with Austria taking on North Macedonia at the Arena Na?ionala in Bucharest and Netherlands hosting Ukraine in Amsterdam at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

For whatever reason I just don’t have a good vibe for the Three Lions in this tournament, whether that be concerns over the defence and the associated injuries, or just that England won’t be able to back up the decent run in the last World Cup. Croatia who ended that dream back in 2018 lay in wait once again. These two have been regular opponents in recent years with England’s win in the Nations League in 2018 and World Cup Qualifiers in 2007 and 2008, balanced against the 2018 World Cup Semi-Final defeat and the two losses in the Euros Qualifiers in 2006 and 2007 (the later the infamous, ‘Wally with the brolly’ 3-2 defeat at Wembley). I’ll love to say I can see a comfortable win, but I’d take a point.

Austria and North Macedonia met in the qualifiers for Euro 2020 with the Austrians winning both games. The first in Skopje, saw North Macedonia team take the lead, but Austria struck back to win 4-1. In the return game in Vienna, Austria won 2-1 which saw them secure the runners-up spot and automatic qualification. North Macedonia finished third on head-to head results over Slovenia and had to come through the Play-Offs with wins over Kosovo and Georgia to secure their first ever appearance at the European Finals. Coming into this game, Austria lost 1-0 to England at Wembley and drew 0-0 with Slovakia. North Macedonia drew 1-1 with Slovenia and finished with a 4-0 win over Kazakhstan. The head says that Austria will prevail as North Macedonia adjust to the European stage at a higher level.

Today’s final offering will see the Dutch take on Ukraine. There have been a couple of friendlies between these teams in recent time, with a 1-1 draw in 2010 and a 2008 win for the Netherlands. The Dutch qualified comfortably behind neighbours Germany, whilst Ukraine topped their group, going unbeaten and beating current European holders Portugal 2-1 along the way. The Dutch warmed up for these Finals with a 2-2 draw with Scotland and a 3-0 win over Georgia, whist Ukraine had two victories over Northern Ireland (1-0) and Cyprus (4-0). This will be an intriguing game and could be settled by just a single goal either way.

Euro ramblings – England expects by Jade Craddock

It seems that every man and his dog has been picking their England XI for the Croatia game, so why not jump on that proverbial bandwagon and add my own tuppence to the mix. I’m sure Gareth Southgate and his team will have been waiting on tenterhooks for my selection, although I suspect if our line-ups don’t quite match up, it’s probably because I just missed the cut-off point for getting the teamsheet in.

Formation: 4-2-3-1

As if choosing the actual players isn’t hard enough, there’s the whole matter of first selecting a formation. Do you go for a back three or back four? A diamond in midfield or a Christmas tree? I must admit with our top-heavy attacking talents, I even wondered about an upside down Christmas tree of 1-2-3-4 – otherwise known as inverting the pyramid – but sadly it’s still little used outside of Barcelona. With the emphasis on attacking play, however, I have opted for 4-2-3-1, giving solidity at the back and allowing freedom up top.

Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson

Whilst Jordan Pickford may be the more experienced and obvious option, there is something about Dean Henderson’s confidence and mental strength that appeals, and, most importantly, he’s a great goalkeeper. It is one of the hardest and most scrutinised positions in football, with one error potentially changing the fortunes of a team, but if anyone can back himself and step up it is Dean Henderson.

Right-back: Kyle Walker

Who knew that the position of right-back would be such a talking point? In the past, we’ve tended to have a very clear first-choice option and a half-decent back-up, but this year we’ve practically got a five-a-side team and each of them could rightly warrant the spot. I’ve gone with Kyle Walker for the balance he gives in both attack and defence and his pace to get back when needed.

Centre-back: John Stones

With Harry Maguire likely to miss out on the Croatia game, John Stones seems the natural first-choice. I’m still not entirely convinced about him, especially without a steady presence next to him, but he’s had something of a resurgence this season for Man City and is easily the most experienced of the available options.

Centre-back: Ben White

Despite being a last-minute addition to the squad, Ben White finds his way into my starting XI. Just 23 and with 2 caps to his name, he may seem a bit of a surprise inclusion, but he has consistently impressed over the last couple of seasons and is a calm and comfortable presence at the back.

Left-back: Ben Chilwell

Unlike right-back, the choice of left-back effectively comes down to a two-horse race between Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw (although Kieran Trippier and Bukayo Saka can do more than a job there too) and Chilwell gets the nod from me, not least because of his attacking strength and forward-thinking.

Centre-midfield: Declan Rice

Declan Rice is an absolute shoo-in for me. It’s hard to believe he’s still only 22, having come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of seasons in the midfield berth. Hard-working, reliable and developing into a top-class midfielder, Rice makes for an easy and secure choice.

Centre-midfield: Jude Bellingham

The young stars chosen for England squads of the past have a bit of a chequered history, but as the old adage goes if they’re good enough, they’re old enough. And in the brief glimpses of 17-year-old Jude Bellingham in an England shirt, it seems he’s very much good enough. For me, it’s a question of why not give him a shot?

Attacking-midfield: Phil Foden

I’m not sure how Phil Foden could possibly be left out these days. On the back of an impressive season for Manchester City, in which he scooped the PFA Young Player of the Year, Foden has emerged as one of England’s brightest and most exciting lights and is able to unpick defences and create opportunities.

Attacking midfield: Mason Mount

Another player who has continued to step up, Mason Mount was pivotal in Chelsea’s pursuit of the Champions League this season and the young midfielder keeps on improving. He provides the perfect balance for the other attacking players around him and can contribute vitally to the attack.

Attacking midfield: Jack Grealish

Despite a wealth of attacking talents, Jack Grealish would be the first name on my teamsheet. Direct, positive and forward-thinking whenever he gets the ball, Grealish makes things happen. He’s a nightmare for the opposition, as evidenced by the multitude of fouls against him, but a dream for England. Although, if I was Grealish, I’d invest in much bigger shin pads!

Striker: Harry Kane

Whilst a lot of English strikers have really stepped up this season, including England members Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ollie Watkins, as well as those like Patrick Bamford and Danny Ings who missed out, Harry Kane remains the focal point and rightly so, having come off the back of a season in which he topped both the goalscoring and assists charts. If Kane is fully firing, England can cause problems.

So, there you have it, and while it’s not as easy as it seems to pick a starting XI having the likes of Rashford, Sterling and Sancho as back-ups who can step in fresh in the second-half is a major advantage of this squad. And if it all starts to go pear-shaped, we can always trial the upside down Christmas tree – oh, sorry, I meant inverting the pyramid.

Euro ramblings – Opening Night by Jade Craddock

And so it begins. After a wait of over a year, Euro 2020 (yes, we’re sticking with that) finally kicked off last night in Rome as Italy took on Turkey in Group A, and for once, it didn’t disappoint. It had everything from Nessun Dorma to dodgy offsides to super-size subs benches. But as I sum up some random observations from the opening fixture, there’s only one place to start, remote-controlled cars, naturally…

  1. Remote-controlled cars: I can’t say I’ve often watched the ref walk onto the pitch with the match ball and thought, do you know what this is missing – a bit of pizzazz, a bit of razzmatazz, a toy car. But clearly, UEFA didn’t feel the same. With so much else to do, they thought, let’s lighten the ref’s load and not make him carry the ball and whilst we’re at it let’s inject some showbiz into proceedings. Sadly, the whole thing felt more Toys’R’Us than glamorous as a miniature car whizzed almost to the centre circle, where the ref had to pick up the ball (surely, they could have found a way for the car to eject the ball for at least some wonderment) and then place it on the pitch before the car promptly whizzed back off. I can’t help feeling as if something had gone amiss, perhaps the spectacular jet-pack entrance they had planned went belly up in rehearsal and with just a couple of hours until kick-off and no plan B, the work experience lad was hastily sent out to the nearest Rome toy store, which was just about to drop the shutters for the day but not before offering up the choice of the final three items in store: roller skates, stilts or a remote-controlled car. My vote would have been the stilts, but the groundstaff at the Stadio Olimpico would have most likely kiboshed that, so the car was duly chosen. Luckily, the driver was a pro and injected as much entertainment as is possible with what was essentially an oversized toy, and I guess we just have to be grateful that it wasn’t a rogue driver at the helm who attempted to take out the opposition’s number 9 – although that may have added more excitement to proceedings. It remains to be seen whether this was a one-off as part of opening ceremony spectacular, but if not, perhaps we can look forward to a cannon shooting the ball to the ref in the Wales v Switzerland game, the ball parachuting in for Denmark v Finland or being dropped from above from a hot-air balloon for Belgium v Russia – the possibilities are endless, though I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of that toy car – UEFA and the sponsors have got to get their money’s worth after all.
  2. First goal of the tournament: With the ball safely delivered by the remote-controlled car, thank goodness – you can’t trust those pesky refs to do the job – it was on to the business at hand with the opening game of the tournament and the age-old battle to score the opening goal. At half-time, viewers may have been forgiven for wondering if after a year of waiting this was going to be the proverbial damp squib, but alas after 53 minutes, deadlock was broken, and one man wrote himself into history, joining luminaries such as Rummenigge, Platini, Shearer and Lewandowski in scoring the tournament’s opening goal. Sadly, Turkey’s Merih Demiral didn’t only just score the first goal of Euro 2020, his unfortunate own goal granted him the dubious honour of being the only player to ever score an own goal as the opening goal in a European Championship. If nothing else, he’s secured his place in quizbook history, but I suspect, apart from a few fervent fans who can name every Euro opening scorer from Milan Galic in 1960 to Olivier Giroud in 2016, Merih Demiral’s contribution will soon be forgotten, if not already, thanks to the later efforts of Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, and perhaps even a remote-controlled car.
  3. Italy on the offensive: Historically, we’ve come to laud Italy on all things defensive, but whilst their opening showing secured the typical clean sheet, their three-goal triumph secured the Azzurri the largest margin of victory in an opening match in Euros history. Indeed, whilst other opening matches have been higher scoring, with France’s 4-5 defeat to Yugoslavia in 1960 taking top billing, opening matches have tended to be tight affairs, not least 1968 when after a 0-0 draw with the Soviet Union, Italy won on a coin toss – as they also did in the semi-finals against the same opposition. Who needs remote-controlled cars when you can have a coin toss deciding matches? Whoever decided heads or tails in that 1968 Italy team surely deserves some kind of honour, especially as Italy went on to win the whole tournament – without the aid of a coin toss in the final, although it did take a replay to separate the Azzurri from their Yugoslavian contenders. Anyway, I digress, and back to 2021 (or Euro 2020, as it is), and Italy’s 3-0 victory over a young Turkish side made some sit up and take note. It has to be said that Turkey weren’t really at the races and lacked any real energy or pace, but Italy’s display was dominant against the opposition. Could they repeat their only other Euro victory in 1968? Somebody find the man who called Italy’s 1968 coin tosses, he may just come in handy if it comes to choosing ends in a penalty shootout.
  4. No Buffon, no problem?: It’s the year 2000, Billie Piper is top of the charts, Maximus Decimus Meridius had been unleased on the big screen and Erling Haaland has just been born, and it is the last Euros before Gianluigi Buffon takes the helm. Having featured throughout the qualifying campaign, Buffon broke his hand prior to the tournament and missed out on Euro 2000. By 2004, however, Buffon was well and truly installed as Italy’s number one and there he would stay, having assumed the captain’s armband for Euro 2004, until Euro 2016 – an incredible five consecutive tournaments. The prospect of Buffon retiring was unthinkable and yet he confirmed that Euro 2016 was to be his last. Who on earth could ever replace this literal giant of Italian footballer – a player who has not only won innumerable Serie A, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italianas but also twelve Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year awards and the Golden Glove in the 2006 World Cup when his team were victorious? Buffon’s are amongst the biggest gloves to fill. Step up Gianluigi Donnarumma – a man, nay a boy, who made his debut for AC Milan, one of the biggest clubs in world football, at the age of 16. Indeed, Donnarumma took the honour of being the youngest ever goalkeeper to feature for Italy from Buffon himself at the mere age of 17 years and 189 days. Still just 22, Euro 2021 is Donnarumma’s first major international competition and whilst there was little to judge from in his opening match, he’s certainly one to watch
  5. Pundit wars: And talking of ones to watch, after his successful stint on BBC for the 2018 World Cup, Cesc Fabregas returned as part of the punditry team for the Euros opener and proved himself to be as valuable an asset off the pitch as on it. One of the most intelligent players of the modern era, he brings that football intelligence to his analysis. Well-spoken, perceptive and often spot on, he adds to a strong line-up of BBC Euro 2020 pundits that includes the likes of Micah Richards, Karen Carney and Eric Abidal. And whilst Cesc is certainly a high-class addition, the coup of the season may just be ITV’s potential pairing of Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira. What better way to add some entertainment to a 0-0 draw than Keane and Vieira sharing a studio?

UEFA 2020 Euro Championship – Day 2

Group A: Turkey (0) 0 – 3 (0) Italy

Goal-scorers: Demiral (53’og), Immobile (66′), Insigne (79′)

Olympic Stadium, Rome

Well before even a ball had been kicked, I found myself irritated by a couple of things. First, the fact that the Italians wore all white rather than their home colours. Italy could have worn blue with Turkey in all red. A pointless UEFA directive. Secondly, the match ball was delivered on a sponsored electric car for kick-off. In the parlance of Line of Duty, what in the mother of God won’t UEFA try and commercialise. I know events have to make money but is this gimmickry really necessary.

Thankfully the action on the pitch reminded us all that there was a football tournament to be played. The Azzuri were on the front foot from the off under the watchful eye of their coach Roberto Mancini, resplendent in an outfit that paid homage to American TV news anchor-men of the 1980s. Despite all their dominance, the nearest Italy got to scoring in the opening forty-five minutes was a towering header from veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini which brought a fine save from Ugurcan Cakir. As the half wound down the Italians resorted to long range efforts which were high and wide, and an unsuccessful handball appeal, and you wondered whether they were becoming frustrated at the Turks getting everyone behind the ball.

What the home side needed was an early goal and it duly arrived eight minutes after the restart. Domenico Berardi out wide fired in a cross, which struck Demiral, and the breakthrough was made. From then on in there was only one winner and it was no surprise when Immobile scored from close range after Cakir had parried Spinazzola’s shot on sixty-six minutes. The Azzuri then made a little bit of history with eleven minutes remaining, when after ‘keeper Cakir gave away the ball and Italy played in Insigne, who curled in first-time to make it 3-0, making it the first time the Italians had scored three goals in the Euro Finals.

One game down, fifty to go and a more than decent start to the competition.

Day 2 and its three games today – armchair football heaven – starting with the other Group A teams, Wales and Switzerland who face each other in Baku at the Olympic Stadium. Group B then gets underway with Denmark hosting Finland in Copenhagen at the Parken Stadium with Saturday’s action completed with Russia welcoming Belgium to the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg.

Wales and the Swiss met in the Euro2012 Qualifiers in a group that also contained England, Montenegro and Bulgaria. Switzerland beat Wales 4-1 in Basel in October 2010, with the Red Dragons gaining revenge with a 2-0 win in Swansea a year later with a penalty from Aaron Ramsey and a goal from Gareth Bale. Neither side progressed to the Finals, with England and Montenegro finishing first and second respectively. The Welsh qualified for Euro2020 after finishing as runners-up to Croatia, pipping Slovakia by a single point. Switzerland finished top of their group by a point from Denmark, with their only loss again the Danes, who whilst going unbeaten, drew four of their eight fixtures, costing them top spot. Wales were spectacular in Euro2016 reaching the Semi-Finals, but they come into this tournament on the back of a 3-0 defeat to France and a 0-0 with Albania. The Swiss meanwhile picked up two wins, beating the USA 2-1 and a 7-1 demolition of Liechtenstein. This could be a cagey one and both sides maybe happy with a point from the game.

Denmark and Finland have faced each other in the Euros but only in the Qualifiers for the 1988 Tournament in West Germany. The two were joined by Czechoslovakia and Wales in Group 6 with the Danes winning through, a point ahead of Czechoslovakia. Finland finished bottom, losing both games to the Danish 1-0. Denmark of course famously and against all odds won the title in 1992, after Yugoslavia were banned from taking part. In their last two friendlies they drew 1-1 with Germany and overcame Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-0 in Brondby. Finland qualified for these Finals after a second-place finish to Italy, edging out Greece, winning six and losing four in their ten games. The Finns lost both their friendlies prior to the Euros, 2-0 in Sweden and a 1-0 home defeat to Estonia in Helsinki. The Danes to take this one for me with Finland the whipping boys of Group B.

The day’s action concludes with Russia and much-fancied Belgium meeting. These two were in the same group in the qualifiers, with Belgium finishing top after winning all ten games, including a 3-1 home win over Russia and an emphatic 4-1 win in St Petersburg. The Belgians final warm-up game saw them beat Croatia with a first-half goal from Romelu Lukaku, whilst Russia ended with a 1-0 victory over Bulgaria. The head says Belgium will win this, although you’d expect Russia to make it hard for them and so I don’t expect a repeat of the big wins the Belgians gained in qualification.

UEFA 2020 Euro Championship – Day 1

Italy and Turkey get the delayed Euro 2020 tournament underway at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome tonight. The Italians topped their Group in qualifying with a 100% record having beaten Finland, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia and Liechtenstein both home and away. The Azzuri scored 37 goals and conceded just 4 as they romped home twelve points clear of second-placed Finland. Turkey came through as runners-up in their qualifying campaign, finishing just two points behind France, in a Group that also contained Iceland, Albania, Andorra and Moldova. The Crescent Stars beat France in the Group stages but lost out on top-stop after only picking up a point in their two meetings with Iceland.

Coming into this game, Italy swept past the Czech Republic 4-0 in their final warm-up game in Bologna which saw an eighth consecutive win without conceding a goal. Immobile and Barella gave Italy a 2-0 halftime lead, with Insigne and Berardi completing the scoring. Turkey also ended their preparations with a victory, beating Moldova 2-0 in a game played at the Benteler Arena in Paderborn, Germany, with both goals coming in the second-half through Burak Yilmaz and Cengiz Under.

These sides have met in European Finals, when back in 2000, they were drawn together in Group B. At the GelreDome, home to Vitesse Arnhem, the game came to life in the second-half when Antonio Conte put the Italians ahead seven minutes after the break. Okan Buruk levelled for Turkey on sixty-minutes, only to see a Filippo Inzaghi penalty eight minutes later restore the lead for Italy as the game finished 2-1 to The Azzuri.

For what it’s worth, I’ll go for an Italian win tonight, possibly 1-0 or 2-0. Given the Italians have won the World Cup on four occasions, it is perhaps a surprise that the have only won one European title, that being back in 1968. If Italy display the kind of fluency in front of goal and meanness at the back as in the qualifiers, they could be a real threat.

UEFA 2020 Euro Championship – Prologue

(c) UEFA

Well, we’ve got there. A year later than scheduled but the 16th edition of the UEFA European Championships will start on 11 June in Rome with Italy hosting Turkey. It will be unlike any other version of the tournament held to date, not only because as a celebration of 60 years since the first Finals in 1960, it will be spread across various countries, but that due to COVID there will be restrictions on the numbers attending each game.

Indeed, I’ve already got the hump with the competition because despite initially having a ticket for the Scotland v Czech Republic at Hampden Park, I lost out in the ballot when the reduced capacity was imposed. So instead of taking in the ‘live’ matchday experience, I’ll be watching that game and the tournament as a whole at home, with the occasional visit to a pub to see the action.

So let’s remind ourselves of a few things. Portugal are the current holders having won the trophy in 2016 beating hosts France 1-0 thanks to an Eder goal in extra-time. This tournament will feature 24 with six groups of four, with the top two progressing, alongside the four third placed teams with the best records, to give us the last sixteen teams. The format is then straight knock-out leading to the Final. The six Groups are as follows:

Group A: Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, Wales

Group B: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Russia

Group C: Austria, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Ukraine

Group D: Croatia, Czech Republic, England, Scotland

Group E: Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden

Group F: France, Germany, Hungary, Portugal

What I will say is that I’m not fan of the competition being this size. It seems crazy to have a full round of Groups games which only eliminates eight teams. For me, the tournament should be 16 teams (i.e. four Groups of four, as was the format in 2012), with winners and runners-up through with the eight teams into a knockout situation. With 24 teams in the Finals, that is 44% of the total UEFA Membership (currently 55), which to me dilutes the quality of the competition.

However, as we know with all UEFA tournaments this is about more games, more TV coverage, more profit and more opportunity for the ‘big countries’ to ensure progress to the knockout phase. Surely not in the overall interest of the game, but then when has that mattered to the authorities in charge of football.

Gut feeling going into the tournament…winners to be one of France, Germany, Italy or Portugal. I fear England will have a shocker and not make it out of the Group. Just look at The Three Lions record over the years at the Euros – less that inspiring, and allied to real concerns about the defence, it adds up to a bad feeling. Still, that all awaits us as the first ball is kicked tomorrow.

Que sera sera…Whatever will be, will be…


Euro2020 Special – Top Ten Three Lions Autobiographies (Part 2)

Having looked at my top ten autobiographies of former England players that I’d like to read, it’s now time to turn my attention to the those and in and around the current squad.

With the squad announcement made and England now with their sights firmly set on Sunday 13 June and their first group-stage clash with Croatia, expectations are beginning to rise once more. There is a particular pressure and expectancy that comes with playing for The Three Lions and this latest generation are no different, but there is still time for them to cement their place in history this summer. Whether that’s the case or not remains to be seen, but in advance of that first fixture, I take a look at the ten players, both in the current squad and those who missed out, whose autobiographies would most pique my interest.

  1. Dele Alli

It’s been a tough couple of years for Dele Alli, both for club and country, initially frozen out at Tottenham by Mourinho and subsequently missing out on selection by Southgate. But still only 25, it’s not that long ago that Alli was twice voted PFA Young Player of the Year, in 2015/16, 2016/17 consecutively. All the more impressive because he was running out in League One for Milton Keynes until 2015. Whilst his talent has been apparent in his time at Tottenham, his attitude has come into question from some quarters, but there is something intriguing about Alli and his off-the-pitch persona comes across as high-spirited and entertaining. The next couple of years look crucial to determining how Alli and his career will be remembered, but either way, it’s a journey that will be worth watching.

  1. Patrick Bamford

Featuring for nine different clubs in seven years, it seemed that Patrick Bamford was to become the latest career ‘journeymen’, just missing out on the big time. But then came his move to Leeds United, culminating last season in his first real chance in the Premier League and an impressive 17 goals to boot. Bamford may seem an anomaly on this list given that he’s never represented England at senior level, despite a handful of appearances for the U18s, U19s and U21s, but arguably his form this season warranted his first Three Lions call-up. Bamford himself qualifies to play for the Republic of Ireland and perhaps that may end up being his path into the international set-up, but one thing Bamford’s career has proved is that he can bide his time, keep producing and eventually he’ll prove his doubters wrong.

  1. Conor Coady

Less than twelve months ago, few outside of Wolverhampton would have even given Conor Coady a passing glance, let alone selected him for England, but those at Molineux knew it was only a matter of time before the man who was practically made to be a leader got his chance and grabbed it with both hands – as he has done throughout his career. Having captained England at both U17 and U20 level and coming through the academy at Liverpool, Coady’s career look set to take off, before he was released from the Merseyside team and found himself in the Championship, first at Huddersfield before moving on to Wolves, where his shift from midfield to defence and his taking of the captain’s armband has been integral to his meteoric rise in recent years. A solid presence on the pitch, Coady has proved himself hugely likeable and engaging off it.

  1. Jesse Lingard

The omission of Jesse Lingard was one of the big talking points of Gareth Southgate’s squad announcement and he can surely feel hard done by to miss out (should he not get a second call-up given the injury to Trent Alexander-Arnold?) following his late-season form at West Ham. But now 28, Lingard has already packed a lot into his career, including over 200 appearances at Manchester United, loan spells at Leicester, Birmingham, Brighton and Derby, as well as his memorable cameo for The Hammers, and he featured in the 2018 World Cup. Noted for his celebrations and lively energy on and off the pitch, Lingard is one of the game’s personalities, and having come through the Manchester United Academy, serving under Sir Alex Ferguson, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, amongst others, his football schooling is right up there.

  1. Mason Mount

My one concession to youth on this list is Mason Mount. Despite being just 22, he’s already shoehorned a lot in, not least winning that most enigmatic of titles, the Champions League, this season – and, what’s more, he’s done it for his boyhood club. He already had pedigree in Chelsea youth, having scooped the U18 Premier League and 2 FA Youth Cups, as well as being named Chelsea Player of the Year in 2017 and the Golden Player at the U19 Euros the same year. A loan spell under Chelsea legend Frank Lampard was arguably the making of Mount, but his return to Stamford Bridge saw him make his mark for both club and country. There is still a long way for Mount to go, but this will be one story worth following.

  1. Tyrone Mings

Despite spending eight years at Southampton’s Academy, Tyrone Mings was released in his teens, moving on to non-league football. After considering his future in the games, Mings spent a year in the Southern League Premier Division with Chippenham Town before he was snapped up by Championship side Ipswich. Three seasons later saw him make the final step up to the Premier League with Bournemouth, before a transfer to Villa saw him come of age and earn his England call-up. With his first international competition just around the corner, Mings’ story from non-league to world stage will be completed.

  1. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made the move form Southampton to Arsenal just aged 17, there was huge excitement around the lively winger, which was stoked further when he became the youngest English goalscorer in the Champions League. Although his career was more stop-start at the Emirates than it was hoped, with injuries playing their part, he remained an exciting prospect and was duly rewarded with a place in the England senior set-up for Euro 2012. Having won three FA Cup titles and three Community Shields at Arsenal, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s move to Liverpool saw him add the Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup to his trophy haul, yet his time for both club and country has been impinged by injuries. Off the pitch, he comes across as vibrant and engaging, but now 27, his legacy will be determined with what happens next in his career on the pitch.

  1. Raheem Sterling

It seems hard to believe that Raheem Sterling is only 26, he seems to have been playing for decades, but that may be because he’s been on the scene regularly since he was 17. Having spent his career at two of the biggest clubs in England in Liverpool and Manchester City, Sterling has already amassed a number of team and individual honours, as well as over 60 England caps. Yet despite all of his success on the pitch, Sterling grabbed the world’s attention in recent years in speaking out on racism and the media and leading the fight against discrimination and inequality. There have, as with most players, been setbacks and controversies along the way, but Sterling has emerged as a figurehead both on and off the pitch.

  1. Kieran Trippier

Kieran Trippier may not be one of the biggest or most well-known names in English football but he is one of very few Englishmen to have played in Spain’s top league, and one of even fewer to have won it, following his Atletico Madrid team’s triumph this season. Prior to his move to Spain, Trippier had come through the ranks at Manchester City but failed to make his mark, settling in the Championship with Burnley before securing promotion. This was followed by a four-year spell at Tottenham that saw Trippier first appear on the England senior team radar and an impressive outing in the 2018 World Cup. His journey from Manchester City outcast to the Championship, promotion to the Premier League and a La Liga winner has autobiography material written all over it.

  1. Kyle Walker

True fact: I once walked past Kyle Walker in a car park in Birmingham. He was on loan at Aston Villa, far from a household name and nobody batted an eyelid. Fast-forward ten years and the very same Kyle Walker has just won his third Premier League title, fourth EFL Cup and appeared in his first Champions League final. Spells at Sheffield United, Northampton Town, QPR and the afore-mentioned Villa were simply precursors to him breaking through at Tottenham, winning the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2012. His career at England kicked on as he featured in both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, but his switch to the Etihad in 2017 really catapulted Walker to the next level. With a senior career already spanning twelve years, Walker has been most places, done most things and got most trophies.


Jade Craddock


Euro2020 Special – Top Ten Three Lions Autobiographies (Part 1)

With the Euros just around the corner, we’ve got 51 matches across 30 undiluted days to look forward to, and an opportunity for England to bring home the trophy (or not, as the case may be). And there’s plenty in the way of England football autobiographies to keep you going if you really want to get into the spirit. From old classics brought out by Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard, to newer releases from Stuart Pearce and Andrew Cole, and the 74 books from David Beckham (but who’s counting), there are already some great autobiographies from the Three Lions out there, but there’s always room for more. So here’s my top ten autobiographies of former England players that I’d like to read:

  1. Paul Ince

I had to double and triple-check that the player nicknamed ‘The Guvnor’, the midfielder with two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, a League Cup, three Charity Shields, a European Cup Winners’ Cup and a European Super Cup to his name, and that’s just whilst at Manchester United – as well as over 50 England caps – has never written an autobiography, but he hasn’t. An alumni of West Ham, Inter Milan, Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Wolves, and a key cog in both Euro96 and the 1998 World Cup, before a managerial career spanning Swindon Town, Macclesfield Town, Milton Keyes Dons, Blackburn Rovers, Notts County and Blackpool, Paul Ince has had a remarkable football life and surely has some stories to tell, not least as ‘Gazza’s minder’ on England duty.

  1. David James

There are probably few England goalkeepers more iconic than David James, whether that’s doing his stuff between the sticks or trying his hand up front for Manchester City. It’s said that goalkeepers are a different breed and there’s no doubt there’s something mercurial about James. As well as being part of Liverpool’s Spice Boys generation and an FA Cup winner at Portsmouth, James served as first-choice keeper in Euro2004 and the 2010 World Cup. His playing career spanned some 10 clubs, including outings in both Iceland and India, and he sits fourth on the list of all-time Premier League appearances, is second only to Petr Cech for clean sheets and tops the charts for penalty saves. Away from the pitch, he is an accomplished artist and competed on Strictly Come Dancing, but it’s his on-the-pitch life, in some memorable teams with some memorable players and managers that James’ story really lies.

  1. Jermain Defoe

If it was up to me, Jermain Defoe’s 57 England caps running up to 2017 would be double that number, but alas (maybe thankfully), I’m not the England manager. There is no doubting though Defoe’s goalscoring instinct, continuing to get his name on the scoresheet north of the border as his Rangers side secured the 2020/21 league title. Starting with West Ham, his move to Tottenham probably did him no favours with the claret side of London, but it was with the Lilywhites where he really made his mark across two spells and a loan. Wherever he has played, including for the national team, Defoe has found the net, and yet he’s probably suffered from the tag of super sub – indeed, he’s the Premier League’s top scorer as a sub. However, he’s also the eighth-highest goalscorer in Premier League history and still isn’t too shabby at 38. When he eventually hangs up his boots, there will be one incredible journey to look back on.

  1. Danny Rose

There are a multitude of voices and stories in football, though often, it seems, we only get to hear a few of these. In recent years, however, Danny Rose has stood out above the parapet to offer a snapshot of himself and his experience in football, and it hasn’t always been glowing. As his 14-year association with Tottenham recently came to an end, having been one of the latest to fall out of favour with Jose Mourinho, his future currently remains uncertain, but at his height he was one of the best left-backs in the country. Rose’s off-the-pitch struggles have made headlines, but his speaking out on depression was not only a significant move for him but for football, and one that merits a lot of respect and support. Rose deserves the right to share his story as much or as little as he wishes, but I’m sure there will be many, both within football and beyond, for whom Rose’s story will be pertinent.

  1. Micah Richards

Is there any more entertaining a pundit than Micah Richards? Whether he’s being completely fanatical about Manchester City, telling Phil Foden he loves him live on TV or cementing his bromance with a reluctant Roy Keane, Micah Richards was made for the gig. On the pitch, he was part of the transformation that saw Manchester City enter the footballing elite following that historic first title in over forty years, alongside the likes of Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Mario Balotelli. His decade at City was followed by less auspicious spells at Fiorentina and Aston Villa, whilst only 13 England caps surely doesn’t do the defender justice. He did feature in the 2012 Olympic football team, but whilst it’s his career at the Etihad that he’ll be remembered for, his TV career may yet surpass even that. Who knows, perhaps even a book with Roy Keane could be on the cards – now that would be worth a read.

  1. Joe Hart

Charles Joseph John Hart, aka Joe Hart, was another former City player who was instrumental to Manchester City’s changing fortunes, where he won two Premier League titles, two League Cups and an FA Cup. Another member of the goalkeepers’ union, Hart was first-choice for England in Euro 2012 and 2016 and the 2014 World Cup, notching up some 75 caps. Domestically, he was the first of only two players (the other being Petr Cech) to win four Golden Glove awards and although he featured only in cup games in 2020/21 for latest club Tottenham, at 34 he remains very much part of the top-flight set-up. Goalkeepers’ careers are invariably full of more ups and downs, and Joe Hart has had his fair share of both.

  1. Joleon Lescott

When Joleon Lescott won promotion to the Premier League with boyhood club Wolves, he must have thought his career was just about to begin, but knee surgery saw him miss the whole 2003/04 season, in which Wolves were instantly relegated. However, when Lescott signed for Everton in 2006, he finally got his opportunity, and even bigger and better times were to come at Manchester City. After winning four trophies at the Etihad, spells at West Brom, Villa, AEK Athens and Sunderland followed, but Lescott had had his moment in the sun, a moment which saw him receive some 26 England caps. Perhaps not a big name in either Man City or England history, but Lescott’s rise to the top is surely the archetypal boy done good story.

  1. Jack Wilshere

When Jack Wilshere burst onto the scene at Arsenal as a mere 16-year-old gracing the first team, he looked to have one of the brightest futures in both domestic and international football ahead of him, epitomised by being awarded the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2011. Sadly, Wilshere’s career has never reached its promised heights, having been blighted by injury from the outset. Yet in between times, Wilshere managed almost 200 appearances for Arsenal, including two FA Cup triumphs, a Community Shield, and two – yes, two – BBC Goal of the Season awards, as well as some 34 caps for England. Wilshere’s talent dazzled brightly in glimpses, but his story, more than most others’, encapsulates the devastation of injury and the resilience and determination to return again and again. If there is anyone qualified to explain that road to recovery and the tragedy of injury setback, it’s surely Jack Wilshere.

  1. Theo Walcott

England’s youngest ever senior player and youngest hat-trick scorer, Theo Walcott was the quintessential young gun when he came to the world’s attention in an England shirt at the age of 17. It was a meteoric rise for a young man whose career had started at Southampton, before he was catapulted into Arsenal and England. And although he reached nearly 400 appearances for Arsenal, a further 85 for Everton and continues to ply his trade at boyhood club Southampton, like his Arsenal and England team-mate, Jack Wilshere, Walcott’s career has been stop-start due to injury and he too, perhaps never reached his full potential. However, there are few who have had such high expectations placed on their shoulders at such a young age and on such a significant stage and Walcott’s journey has always had that auspicious start looming over it.

  1. Jermaine Jenas

Younger fans may be forgiven for thinking Jermaine Jenas is simply a TV presenter, his recent One Show promotion has certainly made him into a household name, but slightly older supporters will remember Jenas as an athletic midfielder who plied his trade at Nottingham Forest, Newcastle United, Tottenham, Villa and QPR, as well as representing his country over 20 times. Another young starter, Jenas was named PFA Young Player of the Year in 2003, but he, too, was blighted with injuries. Nonetheless, his time at Newcastle saw him play under inspirational leader Bobby Robson and Geordie legend Alan Shearer, whilst his move to Tottenham saw him win the only trophy of his career – the League Cup. Internationally, Jenas remained largely on the fringes, making the squad but not featuring in the 2006 World Cup and his experiences in and around football are a familiar case of so near but yet so far.


Jade Craddock