England Football Online
Contact Us Page Last Updated 18 July 2004
part two

Forum 2004 part one


This page is for reader comments regarding the England team or international football.  Send your remarks to England Football Online and we'll try to put them up soon after we get them. Please tell us your name, city or town and country.  Younger readers are welcome to contribute.


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Scott Mundy, aged 11, and Jarvis Brook, Crowborough, East Sussex, England, 5 July 2004, on David James: 

I have just found this great website and would like to add my comments.  I am angry at David James for not saving any shots from Portugal when it was the penalty shoot-out and my and think you should someone else in goal as good as David Seaman.

Seamus McCann, Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, 5 July 2004, on "simulation":

I would just like to echo Matt Thomas' comments on simulation (or diving or cheating as we used to call it in the good old days).  Serial offenders are Deco, Van Nistlerooy, Beckham and Del Piero to name a few of many.  In some referees defence, I did like the practice of simply waving play on after a dive instead of stopping play for a yellow card.  This favoured counter attacking teams particularly.   

Maybe referees could be given training in how the body reacts to situations of contact or injury.  Like Matt I was unfortunate enough to be badly injured playing an amateur game a number of years ago.  I went for a 50-50 ball with an opponent and ended up flying through the air.  On the way back to earth I collided with a team mate and as we both hit the ground I managed to break my wrist, arm and dislocate my elbow at the one go.  The referee stopped the game immediately and on viewing my mangled limb immediately made arrangements for an ambulance to be called.  A few days later he visited me in hospital and I thanked him for his quick action.  He replied "I knew there was something seriously wrong as you didn't move a muscle after you hit the ground." 

Also when a person falls the natural reaction of the body is to put your arms out to try to break the fall.  Therefore when a player fall to the ground chest first and makes no attempt to put out his arms, it's usually a good sign that he knows he's about to fall. 

Is it time to consider the introduction of a sin-bin in football.  Say, 15 mins in the bin for diving?

The other item on the football authorities hit list should be the pulling, dragging and shirt pulling that occurs in the box at free kicks and corners.  It's hard to say what should be done other than to start awarding eight penalties per game.  Then we might see a reduction in this practice.

PY:  We think the penalty box idea, an import from ice hockey, deserves at least serious examination.  While we are fairly conservative when it comes to changing the Laws, we think the governing bodies should take a look at a more refined gradation of discipline to reflect the relative seriousness of the spectrum of offences.  Sending a man off--with its automatic suspension from at least the next match and perhaps more--seems to us unnecessarily harsh in some circumstances.  It ends up benefiting the offending player's team's next opponent, which is in competition with the team against whom the offence was committed, and thus it penalises the team against whom the offence was committed.  It also often ruins the match for the spectators.  But the referee only has the verbal warning, the yellow card and the red card in his disciplinary arsenal.   Discipline might well be more strictly and uniformly applied by referees  were they to have more refined disciplinary tools at their disposal.  Of course the fans would then have even more to yell about; the more discretion given the referee, the more the quarrels with his exercise of that discretion.  

Matt Thomas, Colchester, Essex, England. 4 July 2004 on �simulation�:

Is it just me that feels that the referees appear completely oblivious to the majority of diving? There was a recent announcement from a referee spokesperson advising that they felt 'simulation' (where the hell did that name come from??!!) had been very well dealt with. Excuse me for using my eyes but it just appears to have got worse.

The fact is that players are just falling over at the slightest nudge or tap and then waving an imaginary yellow/red card (a particularly hateful action). It has not improved and the only way I see it doing so is to look at video evidence after games. I would just love to see some real action against these cheats.

This is not sour grapes- Although Messrs Ronaldo and Deco are kings of this black art, I even hate my own teams players diving. Several years ago, at Ipswich, we bought Boncho Guenchev. During his first few games he had a tendency to dive so we made it clear that it wasn't appreciated. He pretty much stopped thereafter.

Maybe when a player dives the referee should have the ability to pull out a pump-action shotgun, blast the players arms off, and then there would be a reason for him to roll over 10 times in apparent pain! Speaking as a player that has had his leg broken in 3 places you do not roll over like a fool if you are in real pain you lay still hoping the pethadine is on the way!!

Maybe referee's could allow a foul, if there was one, but still book the victim of the foul if he makes a ludicrous meal of it? Regardless, it is Sooooooooooo frustrating to see and then watch the player get away with it. 

Rant over.....   

PY:  We agree with you wholeheartedly, Matt; it is a subject that needs more rants.  We addressed cheating in its many forms as the most pressing on-the-pitch problem confronting the game (and yet another example of cultural conflict in the game) in a comment piece we wrote three years ago after Raul's handball goal for Real Madrid against Leeds United in Champions League play.  The obstacle to video review of cheating is the absurd scope which UEFA, and perhaps FIFA, give to the rule which accords finality to referee decisions.  If the cheating has successfully deceived a watching referee--which is, of course, its entire object--the situation is viewed as one in which the referee made a factual determination that the cheating player committed no offence, and that decision is not subject to review under the rule of finality.  The reality, of course, is that deception prevented the referee from reaching a factual determination.  If you look at our piece, be sure to read the addendum as well as our original effort.

Seamus McCann, Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, 2 July 2004, on his tournament team:

1.    Van Der Sar (Hol)
2.    Seitardis (Gre)
3.    Jankulovski (Cze)
5.    Campbell (Eng)
6.    Carvalho (Por) 
7.    Zagorakis (Gre)
4.    Maniche (Por)
8.    Nedved (Cze)
11.  Ronaldo (Por) 
9.    Van Nistlerooy (Hol)
10.  Baros (Cze) 

Subs:  Buffon (Ita), Stam (Hol), Poborsky (Cze), Rooney (Eng), Schweinsteiger (Ger).

David, Montpellier, France, 1 July 2004, on the tabloid press: 

There was the beginning of a controversy in France concerning the images of Trez spitting in the direction of Santini published by the Sun. Let's face it: we Frenchies hate this newspaper. It shows no respect of anything, and has a certain tendency to racism, encouraging somehow hooliganism in such a great football country as England. We may not be objective, since we don't particularly like being called froggies, or systematically attacked anyway.  But there is something really shocking concerning what happened to  ref Meiers. The Sun even published his phone number! The man got insulted on his own phone! This is outrageous, stupid and dangerous. Some in France said journalists like the ones of the Sun shouldn't be allowed in the stadium. My question is: isn't there the least controversy about this newspaper in England?

Thanks for the answer about the winter break in premier league, and sorry for saying Zidane was the best player of the tournament. He proved me wrong against Greece.

PY:  Zidane is entitled to a less than the best performance for what he's given football for many years.  Most English football fans regard the Sun's more outrageous stunts with contempt.  Don't hold every English fan responsible for everything that happens in England.  That said, the Sun does boast  the largest readership in the U.K.  We even look at its online version ourselves because it carries the best match photographs.  But we would like to see it get its come-uppance for things like the boycott of Swiss products it urged as well as its disgraceful treatment of Mr. Meier.  We liked the comment of one reader in the London Times, who wrote:  "Sir, I shall be boycotting all Swiss products, except cheese and chocolate, of course.  So that�s no cuckoo clocks in this house."

Nigel Sloan, Grimsby, Canada, 30 June 2004, on the disallowed goal and the tabloid press:

I understand why the referee disallowed "Solly's" perfectly good goal.  It boils down to Continental  and English standards.  The law makers make the rules but the rules have to be interpreted.  The Swiss referee interpreted the incident along European lines.  I'm sure had the same thing happened in England the goal would have stood. 

Goalkeepers enjoy far too much protection today.  While I don't advocate a return to the shoulder charge I certainly feel that some contact with the goalie should be  permitted for example challenging while in the air.  Goalies are big boys with even bigger gloves they can stand the odd knock.

Finally, I'd like to say that the tabloid press's treatment of the Swiss referee is unacceptable.  Naming his family and giving out his telephone number and email address is, sadly, characteristically childish and pathetic of the tabloids.  Football is still only a game. 

PY:  The problem for England is that it is always the Continental European (and Latin American) interpretation of the Laws that they will face in qualifying for the big tournaments, as well as in the tournaments themselves, and so they might as well get used to it.  Here's an excerpt from former English Premiership referee David Elleray's perceptive piece in the London Times, Saturday, 26 June 2004:

When I first saw the incident, I could understand why Meier had disallowed the goal, but instinctively I felt that it was a harsh decision. Goalkeepers are the most protected species of footballer. In this country, they are cosseted but not to the extent that they are abroad, where they are
effectively "untouchable". I am sure that Campbell's goal would have stood in most English matches but, on the Continent, the chances of it being disallowed were high.

Meier gave an honest "continental" decision but replays clearly show that he was wrong. The ball comes back off the crossbar high in the air and is almost directly above Terry. Terry jumps vertically but Ricardo jumps diagonally towards the ball - in effect, entering Terry's space. The resulting contact is caused by Ricardo jumping into Terry and not the other way around.

Terry's arm seems to be across Ricardo preventing him from jumping but, again, closer examination shows that this is not Terry's fault. Ricardo jumps fractionally after Terry and jumps from underneath Terry into the gap between his arm and body, causing Terry's arm to appear to be blocking him.

So, did Meier cost England the game? Well, there were other crucial moments after that decision and, if David Beckham or Darius Vassell had scored, Meier's decision would have been forgotten. The issue of the state of the penalty spot is something of a red herring because it was the same for both sides, which is why penalties are always taken at one end.

England may claim that they were "cheated" but Meier was faced with an impossible decision. Had he allowed the goal, the uproar now sweeping England would have swept Portugal. Meier would have been excoriated by the Portuguese public and press for allowing a goal that, by their domestic standards, was a clear foul on the goalkeeper.

Meier did not cheat but, in terms of the English game, he was wrong. But so, too, was Dick Jol, the Dutch referee, when he gave the dubious free kick at Old Trafford that allowed Beckham to score and send England to the World Cup finals in Japan.

Seamus McCann, Seamus McCann, Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, 30 June 2004, on video review of controversial decisions:

Following Sol Campbell's disallowed "goal" against Portugal we have heard calls from many quarters for video replays to be brought into football as an aid to referees' decision making.  The use of video evidence is commonplace in rugby union, rugby league, cricket and some other sports.  Indeed football authorities do use video evidence in matters of indiscipline not spotted by the referee or linesmen e.g. Francesco Totti's spitting incident.  Personally I would be very much against this move for the following reasons: 

1) If referees got 100% of decisions right 100% of the time, where would journalists, professional pundits, or even worse, this forum be??  It is one of the great traditions of the football fan that he/she reserves the inalienable right to argue endlessly over a couple of pints/cup of coffee/glass of wine about "outrageous/spot on" decisions made by referees.  How many people's day at work has been immeasurable enhanced by debates at tea breaks about balls crossing lines, offsides (passive or active), fouls etc.  How many entertaining radio phone in shows begin with the line "Alan, I've just come back from Mansfield and the ref had a shocker..."  Arguing about refereeing decisions is part of the bedrock of the football fans lives and a move away from this is the first step on the slippery slope to the World Cup final being decided by the means of a computer game. 

2)  Those who advocate video evidence imply that the "video ref" will get it right 100% of the time.  I can recall at least two incidents from international rugby in recent years where quite clearly the video ref got it wrong.  Being Irish I remember quite well Brian O'Driscoll (the Beckham of Irish rugby) being credited with a try against France three years ago when it appeared that the video ref was the only person to see the pictures who thought that O'Driscoll hadn't dropped the ball before scoring a try. 

3)  How do you decide when to use video evidence and when to not.  Only for deciding when the ball has crossed the line or not for a goal??  Or offside, or for was it a penalty, or did the keeper move, or was the midfielder fouled in the lead up to a goal, or did the ball go wide before it was crossed?  Once you start using video evidence it won't be long before matches are taking four hours to complete and we're using video evidence to see whether a coach went out of the technical area or not. 

4)  I believe the rules of football do not lend themselves to decisions by video evidence.  Again in rugby union if the ball touches the line or the post it's a try and if your foot touches the sideline or the "corner" flag you're out of play.  In football the whole of the ball must cross the whole of the line, even for a throw in.  This is a subjective call made more difficult by the fact that the ball is round.  A certain amount of contact is allowed in football.  Can you use video evidence to determine whether or not there was enough contact to merit the player falling in the penalty box?  It seems to me TV evidence only leads to extreme confusion in the interpretation of the new offside directive. 

Lastly how would the game have been different had video evidence been used in the 1966 World Cup final?  For one thing the term "Russian linesman" would have been lost to two generations of football commentators.  For me the game has been enhanced by the phrase "They thinks it's all over...it is now!" 

Matt Thomas, Colchester, Essex, England. 27 June 2004. responding to our comments on his last message on David James:

Further to your response, I would just like to pick up on a couple of points... okay.... all of them!

''We were addressing only Eriksson's judgment on James, not his judgments in general.''

- Sorry I'm just irritated all round that we haven't learnt from previous mistakes so I thought I would cover Sven as well.

''Given your criticisms of Eriksson, we think it rather makes our point that what you single out to spend your time and energy on  is David James.''

- Only because it was the original subject, although I do touch on a few elemental errors- a couple of which the pro-commentators have mentioned also- that Eriksson appeared to have made.

As far as criticising the team, well, I'm not sure anyone could criticise their effort just the way it was focussed.

We are a team that has a limited 'keeper situation, are missing one of our key defenders, has not got a natural left sided midfielder and a culture for blaming anyone that we can to explain failure.

Fact is that, yes, we were a bit unlucky (ref blew for a push, which never happened- although Terry might have been keeping the keeper down with his arm- so we might have had a goal correctly (but arguably) disallowed for the wrong reason), but on the night we played the wrong way (IMHO, anyway).

Bring on 2006. I still prefer Sven to the tactical inadequacies of Keegan- despite the fact that most of us might like Sven to have half the charisma of Kev.

PY:  Yes, whatever criticisms we may have of Eriksson, let us remember the shambles Keegan left the team in.

Matt Thomas, Colchester, Essex, England. 27 June 2004. on David James: 

David James does have great agility and, as with the games against Croatia and Portugal, essentially kept us in the game with outstanding saves. This should not disguise the fact that he is still not an international quality 'keeper. 

Despite your point that he should not be held accountable for the Zidane freekick, well, he set up a wall to defend the left hand-side of the goal and then failed to cover the right hand-side himself- a very basic error in any goalkeeping manual. 

As far as the Henry foul goes, he wasn't helped in the slightest by Gerrard's error but nor was he helped by his own thoughtless charging out to miss the ball. 

James made at least 2 handling errors in each Euro 2004 game. The fact that he wasn't punished with a goal for any of them means that he was just incredibly lucky.  

The problem, as you touched on, is who else we have to replace him.  There is Robinson and Kirkland on the way up, but one has been prone to mistakes himself this season and the other is prone to injuries. Walker is in the same error ridden league as James. And that's about it (unless Richard Wright gets his confidence back as well as a regular Premiership slot). 

My choice at the moment would be Robinson. He is only 24 and potentially a great 'keeper. Time will obviously tell but he couldn't make any more handling errors than James and is just as mobile and powerful. 

In comment to ''Sven-Göran Eriksson, who takes goalkeeping advice from Ray Clemence, although we suppose you question their judgment, too.''

- Yep, I do. To many long balls up to our 'big' strikers Rooney, Owen and Vassell, when the full backs were available. Playing too deep and also too defensively when we were ahead in each match. 

As you say, we armchair critics shouldn't take ourselves too seriously, and it's easy to criticise when you will never have to do the job, but when there are so many that share the goalkeeping opinion it's got to make you wonder...... 

(Only just found the website and it's quality, thanks.)

PY:  One thing at a time, Matt.  We were addressing only Eriksson's judgment on James, not his judgments in general.  While we have confidence in our ability to argue for or against almost anything, we're not prepared to take on defending Eriksson in general.  Given your criticisms of Eriksson, we think it rather makes our point that what you single out to spend your time and energy on  is David James.  We would be happy were England to find a great keeper, but we do not think he has surfaced yet.  It's strange that in all the messages this forum received lamenting England's elimination, there is barely a word critical of the way England played as a team against Portugal.  No, far easier (and much less challenging to the intellect) to find someone to pin the blame on, whether it is one of the players for a missed penalty kick or the referee for a bad call or the groundkeeper for a dodgy penalty spot.  Finding, pursuing and skewering a scapegoat--now that  is truly the national sport, and one at which the English are second to none.

Nigel Sloan, Grimsby, Canada, 25 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks): 

Yet another brilliant and crucial game ruined by sub standard refereeing. The Portuguese must count themselves very lucky.  It was all over when "Solly" nodded in the winner.  Why the referee disallowed the goal we'll probably never know.   

Now before anyone bangs on that it's sour grapes I hasten to add that England isn't the only team in history to be robbed.  The last World Cup saw many a dodgy decision putting one team a head of another.  For example Korea Republic benefited immeasurably  from third rate refereeing.  The Germans might  argue that the 1966 "Wembleytor" (Wembley goal) would be another instance.  I could go on. 

We all know that chance has a lot to do with footie.  That's one of its essential elements but I think it's fair to say that the quality of refereeing has diminished over the years to a point where it's having an inordinately negative effect on the game. 

Oh well on to Germany on to 2006.

Lara and Kim, location not given,25 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks):

Hi I'm Lara - Portugal vs England was a set up the ref was bribed or he was a home supporter, it was in a idiot could see there was no mistakes it was a clean goal.  I wanted someone to kick him and pretend it was an accident. I don't care that we didn't get through every English person knows we won that game and should have gone through. Bi Bi.

P.s David James needs to learn to save a goal.

Hi I'm Kim -  I think that we should of won that game as that ref was totally gay and should've let that goal in!!! Sol was the most passionate player there and Michael Owen so they both deserved a goal, but o no the Portuguese had to win as they were the hosts. - well screw the hosts, we won that game totally!!!!

David, Montpellier, France, 25 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks):

I first of all wanted to congratulate the England team. I found them really impressive through all their matches. I even think their players had a certain class out on the field (except for Rooney, who's really good but always seems to be hesitating between kicking the ball and other players' butt). But their strength resided in the physical pressure they were able to put on their adversaries.  And Thursday night, they just looked exhausted. So did many teams like France, Italy and Spain. 

But the specifity of England is the absence of a break in winter. It has to have an impact on the health of english players. In the French squad, Vieira, Pires and even Henry are on their knees. Isn't there the least discussion about instauring such a break? 

Favorite team for the title: Czech Republic. Most beautiful Goal: Baros against Holland.

Best player so far: Zidane (he carried France on his shoulders until now).

I also wanted to know what English fans think of the goal that was refused to their team against Portugal.  Wenger said that kind of attack on the goalkeeper is not sanctioned in England. Is that true?

PY:  After some waffling, it has been decided a short winter break will be instituted in the Premiership--in time for World Cup 2006.  At first we did not think any foul had been committed, but that was because the video replays we saw during and immediately after the match did not show any contact between John Terry and Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo.  What we first saw was Terry merely leaping in place, and a player is not required to yield his ground to allow a goalkeeper to reach the ball.  But the following day we saw a video clip, taken from a different angle, plainly showing Terry draping his arm across the shoulder and back of the goalkeeper as they both leaped just before Campbell headed the ball into the net.  By then, of course, all England had seen the first clip over and over again and had concluded the referee had made a horrible error.  Almost any contact with the goalkeeper inside the six-yard box is deemed a foul these days, and the referee was within his discretion in disallowing the goal.  We do not know whether all Premiership referees would have whistled a foul and disallowed the goal in these circumstances, but it would have been within their discretion to do so and some referees have said they would have done so.  Of course referees regard themselves as a brotherhood and often come to the support of fellow referees who are under fire.  We remember the days in English football when goals were allowed even though they were scored through shouldering the goalkeeper into the net as he held the ball.  That may explain the reluctance of some English observers to accept the full protection given goalkeepers today.  The English have been generally much slower than most others to accept the crackdown on physical contact in all areas of the game.   Those who have blasted the referee for his decision would be better advised to go after those in charge of making and interpreting the Laws of the Game.  Their quarrel is with them.  It did seem to us that the referee consistently exercised his discretion in favour of Portugal and against England throughout the match, but even in our biased eyes he did not exceed his discretion, and we certainly would not blame the refereeing for England's elimination.

David Fagundes, 25 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks): 

Like the site.  I was reading your section on penalty shootouts today and saw that you claim that goalkeepers cannot participate in the shootout:  "In a penalty kick shootout, each player on the pitch at the end of play, with the exception of the goalkeeper, participates in attempting to put the ball past the opposing goalkeeper from the penalty spot."  This seems at odds with yesterday's result, where Ricardo kicked the winning penalty.  Was Portugal in violation of the rules?

PY:  No.  Regrettably, in a rush to get it done, we relied on our memory when we wrote our essay on penalty kick shootouts, and a couple of errors crept in as a result.  That will not happen again.  Our statement was wrong; goalkeepers do take the kicks, although coaches usually put them well down in the order of those taking kicks.  Ricardo is one of those goalkeepers who is quite good at taking penalty kicks.  We have now completely revised the essay on penalty kick shootouts.  Thanks for the heads-up on our goof.

Bev Akehurst, location not given, 25 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks): 

I think it is unfair that Urs Meier was the ref of the match England v Portugal because he is Swiss and as England beat the Swiss team he didn't want us to go through and win the competition. for example, Sol Campbell's goal should of been allowed because the linesman said it was a goal but  Urs Meier said it was a foul, where was the foul?

Winkins Lam, Hong Kong, 24 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks): 

I am an England fans since the World Cup 1986. We are out of Euro 2004! To be honest, I think we destroyed ourselves this time. If we can try attacking a little bit more and pushing some little more pressure on Portugal, we will win without going into the extra time. Yes, injury of Rooney hurts. But, you just can't defend from 3rd minute. 

Well, we did a good job. (at least much better than WC2002 and Euro2000) But, we have to wait another two long years before we get another chance. 

Very sad indeed.

Jill Barker, location not given, 24 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks):

Angry and disappointed but left wondering how a clear goal is disallowed.  Marley and Barker say remember when we were cheated by " the hand of God well is it the same again? Or is there now a financial incentive?

Angel, location not given, 24 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks): 

we was ripped off by the goal kipper there should be a rematch with out a ref that is from the country there playing against or if its not from the same place then does no support that country England should have a fair trial rematch end of PS i am an England fan and that as pi**ed me off

Melissa, Leicestershire, England, 24 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks): 

I would just like to say on behalf of the majority of England fans what a disgrace it is that a 1) Swiss and 2) grocer was allowed to referee the game. I have never seen such a shambles. Was it payback from the referee in disallowing that goal in the 90th since Switzerland never went through, especially since the linesman gave the goal

Roll on World Cup 2006! Hopefully David Beckham will be playing back at his roots and will have stopped putting commercials before football. Concentrate on the day job Dave!!!

Mandi Hughes, location not given, 24 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks): 

Can you tell us if Sven is going to complain to the footie authorities that be about the terrible decision of the ref to disallow the goal.

It was amazing that the ref made little effort to show where his bias lay and even the linesmen were cheering when Portugal scored...did we stand a hope in the face of such opposition?

The boys played well though, good going guys

PY:  Even if there were grounds for complaint about the disallowed goal--and there are not--filing a formal complaint would be useless as well as unbecoming.  We would think Eriksson has enough sense not to file one.

Sanna, Finland, 24 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks): 

That game was what it was. The whole time my heart was in my throat. After all this I can't say much... 

But I can say one thing for sure: Despite all this you are the best team.  Someone could say something else about that(at this moment) but this is my opinion as a fan, whose heart belongs to England. 

At the end I can just thank to the whole team. You are truly the brightest stars!

PY;  This whole past weekend, Sanna, we were wishing the game was what it wasn't or wasn't what it was.  But it always turned out it was what it was.

Paul, location not given, 24 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks): 

the ref should be shot, its about time they look at video evidence in important games like these, for any team, no wonder you get hooligans. anyway still proud of them. they did what they could except pay the ref more than portugal.

PY:  Taking up a collection for next time, Paul?

Matt, location not given, 24 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks):

so what ref lets pen's on sand???? the Swiss!  what ref disallows a perfect goal???? the Swiss!!  so many free kicks from wrong decisions, why was he there?


PY;  But they will go further than England--in fact to the semifinals, and there's only one place further to go.  Those foreign refs are a bummer, alright, always robbing England.  We'd do better with English refs, we're sure.  England have taken part in 11 World Cup final tournaments and by our count--we've been around for all of them--were hard done by through one thing or another in all of them save one.  The exception was 1966, when the Germans and the Argentines complained they wuz robbed.  They wuz wrong, of course, unlike us.  At last we've now put in a good enough performance  in the European Championship to allow us to claim we wuz robbed there, too.  A definite sign of progress.

Geoff Fowler, location not given, 24 June 2004, on Portugal 2 England 2 (6-5 on penalty kicks):

This shadow of a past player should not have been on the pitch.  Thanks Dave your commitment helped us lose the match.

Over the bar.

Seamus McCann, Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, 25 June 2004, For England’s Sake, Eriksson Has to Go: 

For those (and some have appeared in this forum) who take delight in England's misfortunes this has been a good 12 hours.  First of all England exited Euro 2004 after a defeat on penalties.  Secondly, we awoke this morning to hear that Sven-Göran Eriksson had decided to stay on as England manager.  I have long admired Richard Williams of The Guardian as an astute and entertaining writer on football matters.  This morning Richard has produced a lucid article on the reasons that Eriksson should stay with England.  For once I disagree.  In fact I'd go as far to say that under Sven,  England will win neither the World Cup nor the European Championships.  Eriksson is a serial qualifier.  I have no doubts that England will qualify for the next World Cup.  They could very well go through qualification unbeaten.  I am even more sure that they will fall at the knock-out stages.  England lost last night because of Sven Goran Eriksson.  Unfortunately for England they have a dubious refereeing decision and a penalty spot that was like quicksand to blame the defeat on.  I say unfortunately because these issues may deflect fans and even pundits from looking at the real problem.  England does not produce players to defend a one goal lead.  That is OK for Italy who have been doing it for 50 years and who are brought up to play that way.  The English game is built on passion, fitness, commitment, giving 100%, getting up and down the pitch and outscoring their opponents.  We saw glimpses of the best of England in the first half against Croatia.  That is the way they should have played against France and Portugal.  But I'm convinced that Eriksson went for 0-0 against France with the hope that England might sneak a goal.  When England went 1-0 up against Portugal, the natural "English" thing to do was to go for a second goal.  2-0 at half time and England were most likely home in a boat.  What they actually did was to string two lines of four between the goal line and an imaginary line 25 yards out.  There then was a space of 50 yards up to Owen and Vassell.  This space was usually occupied by three scarlet shirts.  When the ball did reach the forwards they had to hold it up and wait.  This aspect of the game suits neither forward.  Owen is at his most dangerous when facing the opponent's goal not England's.  So England's tactics were all over the place. 

Next there were Eriksson's substitutions.  The least effective player on the pitch by a country mile was David Beckham.  He has had a poor tournament.  When we peel through the layers of hype we see at last very little substance.  Was England not crying out for a Joe Cole or even a Kieron Dyer to run at a tiring Portuguese defence and at least temporarily lift the siege on the England goal?  Instead we get Owen Hargreaves and please God...Phil Neville, players more comfortable with the 8-0-2 formation.  Eriksson was afraid to sub Beckham.  He was afraid that if he subbed Beckham and England lost, the press would blame him.  Compare with Scolari who finally lost patience with a waning Luis Figo and even dared to replace him with Helder "Two Goals A Season" Postiga. 

On the face of it Eriksson has a good statistical record.  Since he took over England has lost only three competitive matches.  However this is the same record as Rudi Voller erstwhile coach of Germany.  In the knock out phases of tournaments Eriksson's record is P3 W1 L2.  When a draw is taken out of the equation Eriksson struggles.  An international manager with tactics that do not suit his team added a fear factor does not make for a cup winner.  In a few years England fans may look back and realise that Urs Meier did them a favour last night.  For England to have gone through would have been to paper over the cracks.  Cracks that would have reappeared later with more devastating consequences.

PY:  We note, from the time of our receipt of it, that Seamus wrote this before pieces similarly critical of Eriksson appeared in the English media.

Ian Forrester, Ealing, London, England, 24June 2004, with still more on David James:

I don't think there is any evidence to suggest that James has received so much criticism because he's black. Ash Cole and Sol are black and they haven't received criticism, even though their positions were traditionally occupied by whites before they won their places in the team. The reason James gets so much criticism is that, unfortunately, he is the worst keeper England have had for a long time, a great shot stopper but prone to make handling errors when under pressure. The sad thing is, like Heskey, I think he has the ability but lacks the self-belief to perform consistently on the big stage. Unfortunately consistency is the most important attribute for a goalkeeper and it is for his inconsistencies that he is criticised. Clearly he is not helped by the fact that he plays in goal and when he makes mistakes they very often lead to our conceding goals. Another factor, I think, is that, traditionally, England has been a nation that produces very fine goalkeepers. Guys like Banks and Shilton are tough acts to follow.

PY:  Ashley Cole has received some blistering barracking, particularly when Wayne Bridge was in contention for his place, but even as recently as just before the Euro 2004 tournament.  A good case could be made that the decline in English goalkeeping is as much due to the decline in English defending--defending in the Premiership is regarded as a joke abroad--as it is to the decline in goalkeepers.  The comparisons should be with who else is available, not past greats, and there are very few English goalkeepers in top flight football.  Most of James' critics are much more familiar with the talents of David Seaman and Nigel Martyn than those of Banks and even Shilton.  James has been consistent enough to preserve his place in the England team, and he is No. 1 in the opinion of the only man that counts, Sven-Göran Eriksson, who takes goalkeeping advice from Ray Clemence, although we suppose you question their judgment, too.  If your comments in this message and others were an accurate measure of James' abilities, it is truly astonishing he ever got a minute in the England goal, what with his poor wall assembly, his misjudgement in placing himself for free kicks, his misjudgement in taking down onrushing players, and now his handling errors under pressure and his lack of self-belief.  The goalkeeper is indeed the player most readily subjected  to criticism and yet his performance is also the most difficult to judge and hence to criticise fairly.  Engaging in armchair criticism is one of the great pleasures of following the game, but armchair critics ought not to take themselves too seriously.  We prefer Eriksson's judgment over yours, at least on this.

Ian Forrester, Ealing, London, England, 23 June 2004, with more on David James:

I'm sorry that you took my comments about David James as an unnecessary criticism; they were certainly not intended as such. I merely wished to lodge my disagreement with your comment that James was in no way responsible for conceding France's two goals. I was sorry to see that you interpreted my comments as those of another whinging England fan "taking a swipe" at one of our players. I'd like you to know that I have been vehement in my defence of all of the England players to anyone who will listen and there is nobody in the world who wishes England success more than me. That said, it is crucial that England acknowledge their mistakes in order to learn from them and prevent their repetition in the future; pretending our performance was perfect and living in fear of uttering a critical word will get us nowhere. Finally, is there a reason my comment was removed from the site? 

PY:  Your comment is still there, below the comments added more recently, and it has been there since it was originally posted.  Only David James is entitled to a persecution complex in this forum.  As we said earlier, we do not censor readers� comments. 

Don't be sorry about the way we took your comment; we're not.  It must be gratifying to believe one�s criticisms are helping England’s goalkeeper learn from his mistakes, particularly since the advice of goalkeeping great Ray Clemence is also readily available right on the England bench, where he sits as the team�s goalkeeping coach.  James religiously reviews videotapes of his performances, and since he�s a pretty bright fellow and a pretty experienced goalkeeper as well, we doubt he misses much.. In any event, most of the criticisms of James have nothing constructive about them, and there is nothing to learn from them.  . They come from the braying mob.  The reader whose comment started our exchange--�Robinson, not, I repeat not, Calamity, in goal��wanted James dropped, hardly an effort to help him learn and improve his game.  What is even more irksome is that other players make egregious mistakes that put James in an exceedingly difficult position, yet it is James who bears the brunt of the criticism.�for  failing to stop a wonderfully placed free kick taken from the edge of the penalty area by a player several times voted world or European player of the year and known for his dead ball abilities, and for taking down, when he was in on goal alone after a horrible back pass, a  player who was almost universally hailed as the English Premiership�s player of the year and whose ball talents have dazzled us all season long. 

It seems to us James has been judged much more harshly than other England goalkeepers.  He has become a whipping boy, a scapegoat for the England team�s defensive failings, and it�s become fashionable to barrack him.  We don�t know whether it is because he is a black man playing in a position traditionally held by a white player.  But there is definitely a nasty, negative, cynical, dismissive and aggressive tone to most of the criticism directed at him, and a great deal of it is entirely unfair in its substance.   We understand the value of fair criticism, but the kind we�ve seen on this forum is either mere insult or scapegoating, which  we regard as worthless, or, at best, second-guessing  (�Monday morning quarterbacking,� to borrow a phrase from the Americans) that draws its only strength from the certainty of after-the fact judgment and is blissfully devoid of any awareness of the difficulties and uncertainties a goalkeeper faces, particularly behind defending that has been, at times, woeful.  

Take your criticism of James for moving just before Zidane took his free kick.  Goalkeepers have to make instantaneous judgments based on their observations and experience since they do not know where the ball is going   How do you know what James saw that caused him to move at the last second?  The answer is you do not know.    But that doesn�t stop you  finding him at fault.  Armed with your after-the-fact knowledge that the kick went in and  where it went in, you simply presume James moved because he did not know where to place himself to have the best chance of preventing a goal, in short, that he made a misjudgement.  We wonder whether most armchair critics have ever played the game  and we question whether they are capable of putting themselves in the goalkeeper�s  shoes and examining the imponderables he faced as the penalty kick was about to be taken.  We  are convinced they base their criticism entirely on the after-the-fact certainties of instant replay, the benefits of which are not, of course, available to the goalkeeper when he must decide what he is going to do.

Deborah, location not given, 24 June 2004, on Portugal vs. England:

We are all watching tonight, Good Luck, Boys. 

PY:  ... and all the rest of us.

Seamus McCann, Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland., 24 June 2004, on butchery of the English language and everything else: 

Following a few days in which Joe Royle referred to Wayne Rooney as a "packet bockleship"  (though I did like his reference to the Croatian goalkeeper's "chocolate wrists") and John Motson posed the question of Rooney "Is there anything he can do?", I am intrigued by the frequent reference to England not having conceded a goal in "open play".  Two points here: 1) A goal from a penalty, free kick or a corner has exactly the same value as one that comes back off the post, hits the keeper on the head and goes in, or one that follows a Maradona-like mazy dribble.  If England continue to concede goals from closed (I presume) play their chances of winning the competition will be diminished.  2)  When does play cease to be closed and become open again?  I would have said we were in open play once Ashley Cole sliced the ball goalwards against Croatia.

Predictions for the semis:
England vs. Netherlands
France vs Czech Republic 

Goal of the Tournament so far: Jon Dahl Tomasson for Denmark vs Sweden

Biggest Joke of the Tournament so far: Referees declaring that there has been little simulation (or cheating as we used to call it) in the games played.

Worst Refereeing Decision: Kim Milton Nielsen's decision to award Holland a penalty against Latvia.

Vanja, Croatia, 22 June 2004, on fan rivalries and the home countries:

I'm reading different posts about how much England and Scotland's football fans hate each other and I think that those guys are just simple morons that are not interested in the game. We have a similar situation in Croatia, between the fans of Dinamo (Zagreb) and Hajduk (Split) who only want to fight each other. They almost got into a fight before the match with France, instead of uniting and cheering for our team. Morons, to hell with them!!!

Anyway, enough about those idiots, I have a question which I think you could answer. How come there are four teams from the UK which play in international championships, instead of one? I understand that UK comprises of GB and NI, and that England, Scotland and Wales make GB, but it is a bit strange that one country (and I guess UK is one country, with a parliament, government and the queen, correct me if I'm wrong), is represented by four teams. Is it a political thing, or did it start that way in the "early days of football" when you were the only ones who played it and you guys didn't want to change it. If you could explain that, I'd be much obliged. Was there a time in history when there was only one team, and then it split, or was it always four of them? I'm not saying that you're not "good enough" to have four teams, I'm just curious as to how it came to be.

P.S.  Congratulations on kicking our butts in Portugal the other day.

PY:  You have me tiptoeing through a minefield here, Vanja.  I would not draw an analogy between club fans and the fans of the England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland national sides, although the level of the rivalry has often passed the bounds of the acceptable with respect to both sets of fans.  One would expect the English fans of English club sides to come together in support of the England national side.  While fans of one of the four national sides of the �home countries� supporting the team of another during an international tournament is not unheard of, it is not expected and it is certainly not the norm.

The U.K. is a political state (union, if you wish) consisting of four nations, none of which is entirely sovereign; and to this day there is debate about national identity.  Most people in the U.K. think of themselves as English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish before they think of themselves as citizens of the U.K.  The English and the Scottish started international football, the four �home countries� of the U.K. fielded four separate national sides from the beginning, and it has always been that way.   International competition between the home countries began more than 30 years before FIFA was founded.  A condition of the home nations joining FIFA was its recognition of the special status of the four home nations as founders of the modern game, a recognition which  remains in place today.  Not only are the four home countries permitted to field their own international teams, but the International Football Association Board, the body in charge of the Laws of the Game since two decades before FIFA�s founding, is made of up representatives from the football associations of the four home countries plus representatives from FIFA.  No other football association is represented on the board other than indirectly through FIFA.

A united British or U.K. football team (of sorts) has been fielded only in the Olympic Games�although not for the past few decades in part because of fear of endangering the home countries' special status in the football world�and on special occasions, such as the Great Britain vs. Rest of Europe match in May, 1947, which marked the home countries� readmission to FIFA.   Most English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish fans would regard loss of their own national sides as unthinkable.  Surely Croatians can appreciate this; my understanding is that most Croatians were delighted to see the re-emergence of a Croatian national side for the first time since the 1940s on the breakup of the former Yugoslav Republic in the early 1990s.  

Nigel Sloan, Grimsby, Canada, 22 June 2004, on anti-English comments:

Seamus McCanns's ramble is insightful and quite witty.  I don't agree with his comments concerning antipathy towards England though.  There's nothing wrong with friendly banter or the sharp witted put down.  Indeed his comment on Calamity James is bang on. But the fact  the English media go crazy over Rooney shouldn't bother anyone.  It's only football.  Who wouldn't celebrate such a fine young player?  The Irish would if he was Irish. And there'd be nothing wrong in that.  

What is wrong and unconscionable is the out and out racist abuse posted not just on  this site but many other national team sites.  This isn't banter, this is bigotry.  One can't explain away the ugly manifestation of hatred under the guise of football rivalry.  I know Seamus isn't seeking to justify abuse and hatred. However, abusing the English and their football because one hates them doesn't seem something that's too difficult to understand.

Seamus McCann, Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, 22 June 2004, on virtually everything: 

Just a few rambling thoughts so far. 

For those England fans who fail to understand the antipathy of Scots, Welsh and Irish fans towards the England team, can I ask the question, do you not savour victories over Germany just that little bit more than those over, say, Switzerland?  However it is certainly not the England players who are responsible for anti-English sentiment and maybe not even the fans.  But the media...now that's a different matter.  I expect an over the top reaction from the tabloids but this time the BBC has completely lost it, e.g., the twisting of Eriksson's comments over Wayne Rooney into "Rooney being the new Pele" (when Eriksson didn't say anything close to that).  And this morning Radio Five Live treated us to "the defeat to France being a good thing."  Eight days ago it was a national disaster.  However back to the football.   

Can England win this tournament?  Yes...but so can about five other teams.  There is no outstanding team at the moment.  France got 7 points out of 9 without playing particularly well.  Germany are the same old stumbling, stuttering Germany that emerged after Euro 96 and don't seem good enough.  I think Holland are on their way out.  Spain paid the price for not having the "cojones" to drop a horribly out of sorts Raul.  Czech Rep. certainly look good going forward but is their defence good enough to win it?  Italy have played about 30 minutes of good football out of 180 and Vieri couldn't hit a barn door with a banjo.  Sweden look a good if not spectacular side.  Portugal?  I'm not sure they have the cutting edge in the forwards to win it.  

England?  They're certainly doing well without playing champagne football.  Four things would worry me if I were an England fan.  1) The loss of Rooney through injury or even a red card.  It seems to me he's ten seconds away from either a brilliant goal or being sent off.  2)  A thin squad quality-wise.  Beckham and Owen continue to play poorly.  There is a sound case for dropping both but who do you bring in?  3)  I had David James down for about three ricks in the tournament and so far he's made one.  We still have to wait for the flapping of the simple cross to the feet of a forward and the harmless shot bouncing off his chest.  OK, that one was a bit tongue in cheek.  4) The age old problem of giving the ball away when not under pressure.  This was the downfall against France and after a great season for Liverpool, Steven Gerrard is one of the biggest culprits. Oh I nearly forgot, Gary Neville has played unfeasibly well and surely is due a stinker.  OK, that one was tongue in cheek too!! 

Star of the Tournament so far:  Wayne Rooney.  Honourable mention for Ricardo Carvalho.  Plank of the Tournament so far:  So many to choose from.  Honourable mentions for Totti, Owen, Silvestre, Cocu, Mornar and Raul, but I'm going for David Trezeguet.  If France continue to start him they won't win it.

Stacie Billingham, Newcastle, England, 22 June 2004, on Jenas and Dyer:

I thought the England team was going to let us down, what with Jermaine Jenas and Kieron Dyer not playing, but I am glad to say they have proved me wrong.  A football team isn�t made of just two men.  Nice one, lads, just keep up the gud work and score more goals.  I know we can go on and win.  And as soon as Jermaine Jenas and Kieron Dyer get fit put them in.

PY:  Dyer did get a bit of playing time, but Jenas is not on the Euro squad and will have to wait until next time.

Nigel Sloan, Grimsby, Canada, 21 June 2004, on anti-English comments:

How sad it is that others should take so much time  and effort to put the English down.  Anti-English remarks can be put down to two things: first, bigotry and second, a pathetic desire to be noticed (i.e., Scottish, Welsh & Irish fans).  Mind you, the same can be said about English morons that boo other national anthems and cause disturbances in or around matches.   

Sadly the beautiful game attracts a multi-national cretinous element with a need for self-expression far beyond the scope of its natural gifts.   

Let's support our boys.  Let's ignore the abuse.  Let's have the last laugh.

PY:  Right you are, Nigel.  These remarks reveal much more about their makers than their targets.

Ian Kilcoyne Brasil, 20 June 2004, on fan criticism of England players:

I have watched all of England’s games for many years and I can only say that when they play well, it does not matter because most of the fans have never played football and do not know how hard it is to try to get the ball away from a skilful player, they do not know what it is like to run around in 36 degrees of heat,  I myself am English and live in Brasil and after working for a little while in the sun I am knackered and I am pretty fit.  Also the mentality of the British fan is to run the team down even if they win so how can they possibly win.  Here in Brasil when the players are not playing good their fans still defend them by saying so what, he had a bad game, Beckham and Owen have not been performing to their best but try to take the positive and hope they will improve and look for solutions rather than insulting them. Good luck, England, I hope that you win not only tomorrow but the whole tournament, and to Beckham and Owen, have belief because you are as good as anyone out there.

Ian Forrester, Ealing, London, England, 18 June 2004, on David James and insults to the English:

Having just read the editor's comment about neither of the French goals being David James's fault (in response to Ashy from Wigan), I felt compelled to post a remark. While several England players were at fault in the events leading to the goals (Emile Donkey and Stevie clearly the main offenders), the mistakes made by James in the build up to both goals must not be overlooked. James set up a poor wall to defend Zidane's free kick and then, just as Zidane was about to strike the ball, took a step to the left, thereby destroying any chance he had of being able to see the flight of the ball. This is quite an important error from a man charged with keeping said ball out of our goal. Had James had faith in his wall and stayed where he was he would have been able to react to the shot, which, while hit with venom, was a good two feet inside the post. This may have made the difference between our losing or not. Regarding the second goal, James clearly made beeline to Henry, not the ball, careering into him, conceding a penalty and causing us to lose a game that should have been wrapped up. 

A personal message to Keith Forsyth. Nice one mate. If you are going to insult the English on an England supporters' website at least have the common decency to write a coherent sentence. Idiot.

PY:  We're responsible for posting Keith Forsyth's comment.  We don't censor reader comments, which is also why we allow readers to take swipes at England's goalkeeper on an England supporters' website while he's still playing for England during an important tournament.

David Catalano, age 9, London, England, 18 June 2004, on England 3 Switzerland 0:

Dear England, 

Great game against the Swiss!!  I told you you could do it!  All we need to do now is get a win and hope France tie (or lose!!).  My family is moving back to America in a week, but I will still be supporting England and I'll still be your greatest fan!

PY:  Actually all England need to do to advance as second-place team in the group is draw with Croatia, but we see you're still hoping England win the group, David.  Well, why not?  Tell your parents it's bad timing on the move; they should have put it off until after Euro 2004.  Moving, holidays, weddings, births, deaths, school exams and the other events of normal life must be scheduled so they do not  interfere with important football matches and tournaments.  If you don't teach your parents this now, they may never learn.  Anyway, the matches are available live by satellite or cable television at home or in selected pubs in the U.S.A.  Good luck!

Jon, Canterbury, England, 17 June 2004, on England vs. Switzerland:

Come on, guys.  You did great against France. Yes, a very disappointing end to the match (well, really gutted actually) but you showed that you have the capability to beat them and it was by far the best match of Euro 2004 so far, two teams putting everything into winning. Everyone knew this would be England's hardest match. Time to puff out those chests and get a result against Switzerland later today and then Croatia. We all know you can still do it. Just have to show Zidane, Bartez and co in the final!   We'll be watching with pride. 

Anonymous, location not given, 16 June 2004, on France 2 England 1:

Reports of heavy flooding across Northern Ireland.... 

It's thought that the major flooding throughout Ulster has been caused by Northern Ireland football fans (The Green & White Army) pissing themselves laughing at England :-)

Robert Starck, Tarbes, France, 16 June 2004, on England and Euro 2004:

GOOD LUCK  for european cup 04 ;-)

Lesley, Glasgow, Scotland, 16 June 2004, on France 2 England 1:

Although I very much enjoy living in Scotland, it very much disheartens me, as a half English half Scottish girl, to watch the football up here.  I had the mispleasure of standing in a pub listening to 200 Scots cheering on France.  I can't for one second understand this - and no matter how much the odd Scot tries to explain it to me - it makes no sense other than bigotry. 

I will watch the remainder games south of the border for sanity's sake.

Although I have to say, I wish the commentators would stop talking about 1966.  It is boring to everyone's ears now. 

Paul Wilson, Copenhagen, Danmark, 16 June 2004, on France 2 England 1:

I think the performance of the England squad was okay during the French match, but it highlights how disgusting it is to pay people vast sums of money to not make easy mistakes and miss penalties and to give them away.  I am also thinking the petty fouling, general attempts at cheating shirt pulling, etc, totally unprofessional and should be stamped out harshly by the referees.  To be honest, there are millions of people who would pay to play for their country and would entertain us equally as well .... and if we are going to lose, then let's do it with style, with class, with honour, with dignity ... bring back some fun into sport.  The great sporting heroes in the past would be turning in their graves and it is not setting the high standards to inspire and motivate young children.

Robert Starck, Tarbes, France, 15 June 2004, on France 2 England 1: 

I kiss your football. it's Great !!!!!

Les plus grands joueurs n'ont pas besoin de nationalit� ni d'avis politique !!!!  Seul leur football compte.  Si Mon post vous a paru "special", mettez le sur le compte d'une victoire ind�cise et d'un match � rebondissement !!!! 

Nous savons tout les deux que de grands joueurs peuvent faire la diff�rence � eux seuls.

Matteo, Italy, 15 June 2004, on France 2 England 1: 

I hope England team will win European Championship but Beckham must never play again.

Didier, Marseille, France, 15 June 2004, on France 2 England 1: 

I�m dishappy because English people have whistle French national anthem; it s not fair play and good spirit.  Eriksson does some shit, he wanted to play with offense player and after England played defense!!?? I don 't the tactical  and why he replaces Scholes!!

Now we know Zidane pownz Beckham but it isn't a news.  It was the same in the next euro when journalist said "Zidane vs Figo" for France-Portugal.  Zidane powned Figo. 

English player want to break the game with many fault and they paid for it; if  they had a better spirit maybe they are win.... 

Good luck from Euro,  I hope France will replay versus  England and Italy, too :-)

P.S.:  I�m sorry for my bad English!!!

Olivier, Rennes, Brittany, France, 15 June 2004, on France 2 England 1:

This is some artwork I made in order to celebrate France's victory over our longtime enemy "England".  Please understand that it is just to take the piss ... ok?  No offence. 

Best regards and good luck anyway.  (I'm sure we can play England again during this Euro 2004.)

PY:  We note, in case it's not apparent, that the champagne bottles are pasted in on the photograph of the two young supporters posted above right.

Keith Forsyth, location not given, 14 June 2004, on France 2 England 1: 

hey well done, your shit team lost again and you got humped at the rugby but oh you won the cricked wipee doo serves you english right your so full of shit once again well done ha ha

PY:  We suppose there's always one, even among England Football Online's readers.  Watch it, or we�ll put England’s Greatest Fan after you to teach you to write a proper English sentence and see how fast you run away.

David Catalano, age 9, London, England, 14 June 2004, on France 2 England 1:

Dear England Squad,

Don't worry about losing to France.  You'll most likely win against Switzerland and Croatia.  So I still believe you can win this competition.  You're still a strong team.

PY:  That's the spirit, David.

Ashy, Wigan, England, 14 June 2004 on England's Euro 2004 lineup:

Defoe and Rooney up front
Gerrard, Owen, Beckham and Bridge midfield
Neville, King, Campbell and  Cole defense
Robinson, not, I repeat not, Calamity in goal.

PY:  We understand your dissatisfaction with Michael Owen, but media and fans have conferred sainthood on him.  In any event, UEFA would have to grant permission to add Jermaine Defoe to the squad at this point, and it would not be forthcoming.  Paul Scholes' fitness is in doubt, and so you may get your wish for a change on the left side of the midfield, although it may not be Wayne Bridge who steps in.  David James is unlikely to be replaced short of injury; he was in no way responsible for France's two goals.  

Anonymous, location not given (guessing France!), 14 June 2004 on France 2 England 1:

Quel match!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sir, votre football est un des meilleurs europeen.

Nous vous respectons, vous et vos joueurs!.

Mais on vous l'a mis bien profond celle la.  NON????

Zizou est pr�sent � n'importe quel moment D'un match et david doit le savoir.

Donnez moi l'adresse de votre gardien pour que je ne m'en prenne qu'� lui. on lui enverra des fleurs de FRANCE.

PS: On a TOUS vu votre publicit� d'avant match sur la rencontre FRANCE-Angleterre.   ON rigolait d�j�.

Car + la t�te est lourde, plus dur est le descente. 


PY:  Merci, mais je parle francais comme un homme de Manchester parceque je suis de Manchester.

Karl-Heinz Eich, Germany, 14 June 2004 on France 2 England 1:

Hello England, 

We were happy with Greece on Saturday and now we're sad with your national team, on the one hand.

On the other hand, we want to congratulate you to a wonderful football-evening, which surely was recognized far over Europe. This is now written history. Your fans are on the right way to become real champions.

I know, what I'm talking about, I still remember sittin' in Galway in a pub, watching the Cup-Final Manu vs. FC Bayern.  It was just unbelievable for me first, a kind of deep shock.  Honest, I'm no FC.B.-Fan (my heart beats for the VfB Stuttgart since 1977).

To make it short: with your team and the new spirit of your fans you should find a good way of success in the further European championship.  I personally think and even hope a little bit with you, it could be long enough now (since 1966), you might take your title and -if possible- you won't beat our team again 1:5 please.  Keep your coach and take your way now! 

PY:  Thanks for the kind words, Karl-Heinz.  No promises on Germany, though.

Adam Goodall, location not given, 14 June 2004, on France 2 England 1:

Absolutely shocking!

I am stood in a pub the whole pub  is rocking with cheers of 'come on england, come on england'  this isn't at the start of the match but being one nil up after 90 minutes.  Then, well we all know what happened.  First of all I have to praise the defense, with all talk about Ledley King; he played excellent and I can't remember Henry causing us real threat.  However, the midfield were terrible.  We all know that attack is the best form of defense;  however, someone should tell Heskey that, that does'nt mean to actually try to be a defender!!  Who trips someone like that on the edge of the box when you outnumber the attacker!  Also Steven Gerrard and his cocky little back pass, well he got what he deserved.  Will I go to pub again to watch England?...............yes of course.  But we can't go through the agony of watching something like that again.  Pull your socks up, England!  Concentration till the last! 

PY:  At least the team has won admirers across Europe, if the two messages above are any indication.  We're tempted to declare a moral victory!  But you're right; that's no consolation for the loss of concentration and discipline that led to France's victory.

Fiona, Colne, Lancashire, England, 13 June 2004, on France 2 England 1:

I'm pissed off - England don't deserve to win anything after tonight - they should have won - you can't throw matches away like this.  There are no excuses.  That match should have been won.  Sven should do some serious kicking of England backsides.  Should have won, at least drawn - what was Gerrard playing at?  Rule is kick it out of play.  Please, someone educate him before it's too late.

PY:  Uhmmm, it is too late-- for the France match, anyway.  Fiona, rest assured you are not alone.  We're still a bit stunned ourselves, but it surely shouldn't have been unexpected.  We all know great teams find a way to win and that you can't give away the midfield for almost an entire half and not expect to pay for it eventually through defensive mistakes, which are bound to come sooner or later under that kind of sustained pressure.   Giving away possession, surrendering the midfield entirely, defending so deep in their own half -- all part of the fatal flaw that has plagued the team against top opposition for more than a decade now.  As the French say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  

Chris Hutchison, Bristol, U.K., 13 June 2004 on France 2 England 1:

Message for Sven (please forward with the other 30.000.000 or so similar opinions):

There's a few minutes to go, we're (against all the odds) one-nil in the lead and Sven brings on Mr Heskey to, as my wife said, make sure we lose. Anyone who has an ounce of awareness knows that it was this decision that lost us the game. you cannot afford to do what he did at primary school, let alone at international level. is he really worth all the crap stuff just for the occasional bit of half decent footie. I don't care how nice a bloke he is and who he must know to even be playing footie, quite frankly, what I care about is how consistently rubbish he is at playing international football. Please do us all a favour and get rid of him for everas far as Engerland are concerned, he just isn't up to the job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PY:  Surely the entire team must bear some responsibility for the failure to preserve the lead.  It goes beyond mistakes by Emile Heskey and Steven Gerrard.  It's the same old story.   We lost leads against Portugal and Romania at European Championship 2000 and against Sweden and Brazil at World Cup 2002.  Now add France to the collection.  The fact is England still have not learnt how to play possession football, the surest way to preserve a lead.

Marcos Soria Grohne, Hamburg, Germany,, 13 June 2004, written minutes before the France vs. England Euro 2004 match ended:

Congratulations for a wonderful game against France!!!!! 

I'm half Spanish and half German (two great football nations), but after this great game my heart beats for the English team!  What a brave squad!!!!   I hope the "three lions" will get the cup!! 

PY:  You spoke too soon, my friend.  As the great American philosopher Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over until it's over."

Marcos responds:

Bad luckIt was like Bayern against ManU!!!  But I'm sure England will get six points in the next two games!!! 

You have a new big supporter from Hamburg, Germany!!  Keep your head high!!!  Adelante England, don't give up!!!!!!  Sometimes life can be strange,and the looser will be the champ at the end!!!  

England can be proud of this team!!! 

Ivana Tackovic, Sisak, Croatia, 4 June 2004 on Croatia and England: 

Hello! I hope that England and Croatia will go further in the Euro 2004. But if Croatia will be stopped, then I'll support England! Good luck!

PY:  Thanks for the support, Ivana.  We're posting your message very late, after the group's first round of matches, and at this point, it is probably in England's interests to see Croatia lose to France since that will further England's chances of advancing as second-place team in the group.  But it still would be nice to see France taken down a peg.  We would be entirely happy to see Croatia advance as long as it is not at the expense of England.

Lee Ross, Droitwich, near Worcester England, 28 April 2004: 

What has happened to our strikers in this country?  Going back 10-15 years ago, we had STARS like Gary Lineker, Peter Beardsley, Ian Wright, Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham �all players who would walk into our team now. 

Who have we got now?

Emile Heskey � Awful, simply awful. Has all the attributes, but does nothing with them. Could really scare defences, but seldom can be bothered.

Michael Owen � Not a patch of his former self, but then again, what has he ever done? Scored a great goal against Argentina �and???  A quick striker who can't finish.  Will never be mentioned in the same breath as a legend like Shearer or Lineker (or Ian Rush, to digress).

Alan Smith � A tryer. He will run, and kick his way around for 90 minutes but that�s it. Doesn�t know where he should be playing, as he continues to be used in midfield for club and country.

James Beattie � A talented Premier league striker who would score goals at international level if we got balls into the box. Sadly, other than Mr. Beckham, we can't cross our legs.

Kevin Phillips � When he is on form, he is on form �. But when he's not ....  Needs a big man along side of him a la Niall Quinn. Would have worked wonders with Alan Shearer.

Darius Vassell � Pacey like Owen, but this boy makes things happen.  He seems to have an extra edge when playing for England as though he is trying that little bit harder� why doesn�t Owen???

Wayne Rooney � Another hothead like Smith, Rooney scares people with his strength, pace and aggression.  Mr. Heskey please take note. Good job he came along when he did, but are we putting too much pressure on such an inexperienced player? 

Sadly, when you look at our first opponents in Euro 2004 � France compare their strikers to ours.  

Henry � Enough said!!!

Trezeguet � Also, enough said.

Saha � The new king of Old Trafford.

Cisse � Superb young striker, possibly soon to be replacing Heskey at Liverpool.

Plus MANY, MANY more �. 

Why kid ourselves, we aren�t good enough, and until we start getting qualified coaches to coach junior teams rather than helpful Dads, we never will be. Grass Roots is the problem � it needs to be sorted now.

Sherezade Suhail, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2 March 2004:

I thoroughly enjoyed going through your website. I was surprised to see your comments about the new away strip up already (although I think you take a hard stance on Umbro!). The bit about the world cup thing is totally correct, and even I feel that one star has a more negative effect than having no stars at all.

The reason I think you're harsh on Umbro is because from my vantage point, the brand seems to be on the way down. It was unfortunate Man United decided to switch to Nike, since Umbro always 'personalised' United shirts whereas Nike take their blueprint, change the colours, and roll it off the conveyor belt. There was a green and yellow strip c. 1994 which was reflective of the old newton heath colours, and though Umbro obviously pulled it out to make money of off it, it was at least nice to see them put a bit of thought into it. Nowadays both locally and internationally, everyone wears the same shirts, only in a different colour. That is why England will have one of the most distinct strips in Portugal this summer.

All in all, names and numbers have become an integral part of modern sport, and your site has done a wonderful job of charting its rise to prominence.

Personally, as a traditionalist, I would rather have teams going out numbered 1-11 than having all sorts of numbers on the pitch at the same time. I think that if a player was good enough, you'd automatically associate him with a given number rather than have it flashed at you a million times.

Plus, if your favourite player got transferred, at least your shirt would still be of some use! I had a mate once who got a blue/white United strip for Christmas with Ince on the back. So distraught was he when we sold the guvnor that he went out and bought the same shirt over!

The bit about sponsors is an interesting debate too. Although I don't really have a problem with it when it blends in with the strip, sometimes the advertising just looks plain ugly (Rangers this year, and Celtic a while ago when they had the Umbro logo across the front). I think eventually the national teams will end up with sponsors too, since they're losing enough money as it is, and a lot of originality too. Lets hope that someone, somewhere, for the sake of tradition, keeps the shirts plain. Look what Barcelona did and how classy that looks (although, with the nike symbol on it, you can argue it's worth just as much since it stands out in the absence of anything else).

That is about it. Just a few random thoughts that came across my mind going through your site!

PY:  Yours is the second comment we've had questioning our criticism of Umbro.  (The first, along with my response, is reproduced below.)  You are right that Umbro's strip is far better than what Nike is turning out.  But the fact that other strip manufacturers are worse than Umbro does not, in my view, exempt Umbro from criticism.   However, I've added a sentence at the end of my comments on the new away strip:  "We recognise, however, that Umbro's strip is preferable to the assembly-line uniforms Nike is producing for many of the world's other national sides."

Paul Robinson, Kanata, Ontario, Canada, 24 February 2004:  

My 23 for England’s Euro 2004 squad would be: 

Goalkeepers:  James, Robinson, Martyn 
Defenders:  G. Neville, Campbell, Terry, A. Cole, Bridge, Southgate, King 
Midfielders:  Beckham, Scholes, Gerrard, Butt, J. Cole, Lampard, Hargreaves, Dyer
Forwards:  Owen, Rooney, Vassell, Smith

PY:  You're the only reader who has faithfully posted squad preferences for all the major tournaments since our website began way back in 1999.  There have been only three of them, but we expect to be around for many more.  Thanks, Paul.  My understanding is that UEFA has not yet officially upped the squad limit to 23 players, rather than 22, as FIFA did for World Cup 2002, but I expect that is just a formality and that it will be done very soon.

Craig Garratt, location not given, U.K., 18 February 2004:

Why do you feel so strongly that England shouldn't include the star symbolic of winning the World Cup?  Only seven nations have ever won this prestigious trophy so why not display it?

Also you moan about the Umbro logo appearing on the kit but if you look at any kit in the world the designers' logo appears on the top, the shorts and on most occasions the socks, too so why have a dig at Umbro for doing it with the England kit?

PY:  When does honest criticism become moaning? Answer: when one disagrees with it. Let me address your moaning about my criticisms.

I criticise the logos because I refuse to accept that commercial motives must be allowed to prevail in every aspect of our game.

I criticise the Umbro logo on the England kit because we're an England website and because Umbro happens to manufacture the England strip. If we were a Brazil site, I would criticise the placing of commercial Nike logos on Brazil's national strip.

My view is that the placement of commercial emblems on football uniforms was disgraceful at its inception 25 years ago and remains inappropriate now, particularly in the case of the national side's uniform. It wasn't done 30 years ago and it shouldn't be done today. The latest innovation--placing multiple manufacturer logos on every item in the strip and making the logo on the shirt even more prominent than before--permits cheap commercialism to mar our national side's uniform.  North America is the home of commercialism, and yet sport teams there have not allowed commercial logos to mar their uniforms.

I criticise the gold star because it is a cheap fad. Just because other teams do certain things doesn't mean we have to copy them. What's wrong with the three-lions emblem as the sole adornment on an England shirt, as it was for more than a century? No football fan needs a gold star on the shirt to remind him or her we won the World Cup once. What does the gold star have to do with today's team? The answer is: nothing. 

The Brazilian federation started the practice because it wanted to make the gold stars a constant reminder to the rest of the world that Brazil had won more World Cups than anyone else. Why we should cater to this Brazilian (and later Italian and German) triumphalism by putting up a single star on our shirt--a measure of our comparative inferiority--is mystifying. We should ignore the stars, as we always have. The three lions emblem is sufficient symbol of the grand tradition of our team. We shouldn't feel the need to boast about our accomplishments just because others feel the need to do so.

Having said that, I recognise that while many fans agree with me, others have different views. For all I know, my website colleagues disagree with me.  Since I wrote that last sentence, one of my colleagues, Chris Goodwin, has told me he has nothing against commercial logos on club shirts, but he hastens to point out that that's what he grew up with and that he thus never knew anything else.  There's the difference, I think--age and what we grew up with. 

Jim Bartley, North Wales, 18 February 2004 (writing immediately after England's 1-1 draw in Portugal):

Yet again the most over rated English "striker" for many years has done nothing. Why Sven perseveres with Michael Owen is beyond me. When are people going to realise that he is a waste of time.