It doesn`t seem as if the World Cup in Japan and South Korea was long ago, and already if you look on BBC ceefax, you will see under football, Euro 2004 qualifying tables. All European nations are already preparing for the next European Championships. We are not however at all bothered about all of them! Just the nations slightly closer to home than Spain, Italy and Portugal. I am of course talking about England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The now former Chief Executive of the English FA (Football Association), Adam Crozier, explained to the now former England manager, Kevin Keegan, Well Kev, you tried, but we might as well forget about the World Cup 2002, lets concentrate on Euro 2004 and the World Cup in four years time. Everyone was outraged, I mean come on have some confidence. We were only bottom of our qualifying table and seemingly 60 points behind everyone else. Oh, and a manager who is known for never finishing a contract and quitting when the going gets tough. Some accepted Crozier`s words, but not me! I knew Keegan was not right for the job, but no one would listen.
England vs Germany was on the way. A massive match between the two as there is a long-term rivalry between the Germans and us. The pressure was on Keegan to win the match. And what happened? The same thing that always happens when Keegan is under pressure, he cracked, he lost it. England lost the match and (yip, you`ve guessed it) Keegan quit his England job.
Now the pressure was on Crozier to get the right man to lift the team, and he did get the right man. Many names had been mentioned, but Crozier got Sven Goran Ericsson, which at the time caused an uproar. People did not want a non-English England manager. But Sven managed England into the World Cup 2002 proper, a considerable achievement. You could tell that Sven was working wonders with his squad. We had earlier got beat against Germany. We would face them again in Germany. We stuffed them 5-1. Sven and his players had passed the hardest test for ages with flying colours.
Crozier either got it wrong or was trying to tell Keegan, listen mate, you tried, you failed, stand down when he said forget about the World Cup 2002.
Sven`s excellent managing even got us through the group called The Group of Death. This had us all set up, for a clash of the big guns. Everyone said whoever won that quarterfinal, would go on to win the tournament. I don`t blame them, England vs Brazil would be a great game. It started well too, for us. Owen scored to make it 1-0 to England, but just before half time, the Brazilians struck back, 1-1. After halftime, step up one of the three Brazilian R`s, Ronaldinho. He had a free kick just inside our half. He shot, and Seaman was left just flapping his arms hopelessly. He also left everyone in England gob-smacked and saying to each other and the TV in the local What happened there? How did that go in?
Brazil went on to win the game even though they had a man sent off. They also won the World Cup, again.
Well anyway, I was talking about the European Championships before I got side tracked. They have started well for Wales. Wales have really started to play some good football since Mark Hughes, former Manchester United and Chelsea striker, took over as manager. It`s not all just the manager though, they have some very good players too. They are the kind of players who play for nations that hardly ever qualify for a major national tournament, so the players cannot show off on the big stage. These players include Manchester United`s Ryan Giggs and Newcastle`s duo of Craig Bellamy and Welsh captain Gary Speed.
England are second with a game in hand in our group. They are quite easy opponents in my view so you never know! You know, I think England could actually win Euro 2004. But then again people have been saying things like that since 1966.
Above text published Sat 11th January 2003.