Jim White

  • England hope can only lead to hurt

    If not with
    polish then at least with professionalism, England advance in the World Cup,
    thus confounding those of us who saw in their wretched, spineless, spirit-free
    performance against Algeria nothing but the prospect of a French-style early
    retreat from the competition.

    Unlike in
    their previous foray, against Slovenia they played as if they had actually met
    each other before the game. According to Fabio Capello, the introductions were
    made at the bar of the team hotel the day before, over a round of drinks. We
    can now add this to the FA coaching manual: if you want to progress in a World

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  • Set your alarm for March

    You have to wonder if the British teams in the Champions League did that old trick with the heated balls.

    Talk about an easy ride. While Barcelona play Inter and Real Madrid face Milan, Arsenal have got AZ Alkmaar. We know that the group stages of the competition are little more than a holding operation before the real thing begins in the spring, but even so, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea might as well have been handed a bye.

    Not, of course, that they did not find cause for complaint. Sir Alex was worried about travel fatigue for his United players. The thought of being

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  • Sorry Theo, you had it coming

    Poor Theo Walcott. The nicest guy left in
    English football now Gianfranco Zola is spending more time with his lawyers
    finds himself making far less of a stir in being left out of an England squad
    than he did when he was picked.

    Back in 2006, the then 17 year old's
    inclusion by Sven Goran Eriksson sent eyebrows scurrying skyward. No more so
    than in the squad itself, where his selection ahead of Jermaine Defoe came as
    final proof to several senior players that they were in the hands of a manager
    who had lost the plot.

    Four years on, and Walcott's dropping is
    not being greeted with the same

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  • Cult of Jose reaches its peak

    It has been billed by one newspaper in Barcelona as "God versus the Son of God". Louis van Gaal against Jose Mourinho, the master against the pupil who now bestrides the game.

    It is, the paper reckoned, the most intriguing possible tactical confrontation, the match-up of the decade, all eyes will be on the touchline duel. And there you were thinking the Champions League final was about the players.

    Tomorrow in the Santiago Bernabeu, when Van Gaal's Bayern confront Mourinho's Inter, we will reach the very apex of the cult of the manager. This is a football match defined almost entirely by the

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  • Fabregas move a no-brainer

    The question facing Cesc Fabregas is very similar to the one with which Mrs Merton once confronted Debbie McGhee: "So Cesc, what first attracted you to the idea of playing alongside Messi, Xavi and Iniesta?"

    The Arsenal captain is off to Barcelona. And frankly, who can blame him? A man who enjoys playing good football playing every week alongside the best footballers in the world: it isn't even close to being an argument that he might resist the lure. Everything about the deal makes inevitable good sense. Barca need a long-term creative replacement for the ageing Xavi and the increasingly

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  • So what next?

    Now it is over, now the trophy is safely ensconced in Madrid, now that newspaper columnists are telling us that victory at the European Championships will lead to a new, united Spain (you can be sure the Basques are dancing in the streets at that idea) what can we learn from the three week fiesta in the Alps? Which players have left a mark permanently in our collective consciousness? Who will be soon forgotten? And which teams showed everyone else the way to do it?

    1. The league whose reputation was least advanced was, without question, hugely self-important Premier League. Only Michael

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  • Alert Amnesty International

    I am today launching a new initiative. It will involve public protest, lobbying, perhaps a march on the House of Commons and a delegation to the United Nations. In order to further its aims, maybe someone will have to chain themselves to the railings outside Number 10 Downing Street just to highlight the scandalously overlooked cause. It is a cause I hope you will see fit to join me in battling.

    I am, of course, talking about the issue of slavery in football. Highlighted by the case of one poor soul currently suffering in the damp north of England. We'll call him C, so as not to compromise

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  • Cole has World Cup X-Factor

    First off, an apology. In my last blog I eulogised about Bobby Robson's Italia 90 England team and its lack of a holding midfield player. However, I forgot to mention that Robson played for much of that tournament with a sweeper. A rather substantial omission that, given that a third centre-back was able to do much of the ball winning duties of defensive midfielder. Ouch. Sorry.

    However, despite my selective use of history to back up my case, one point still stands: Fabio Capello should pick from strength, not weakness. If he doesn't have a defensive midfielder good enough to command their

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  • England were never serious challengers

    There are 1-1 draws and 1-1 draws. Judging by the way Daniele De Rossi celebrated scoring Italy's equaliser against Paraguay last night, the Italians reckoned their 1-1 slightly more valuable than England's against the USA.

    Meanwhile, while England is shrouded in gloom, the whole of South Africa is still in a state of elation about the Bafana Bafana's opening 1-1 draw with Mexico.

    Sure, the Germans, the Argentines and the Dutch have all got three points in the bag. But what the Italians have learned from long experience is that a slow start is not a problem in a World Cup.

    What is a problem

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  • Madness on the south coast

    Rafael Benitez will keep his job at Liverpool. It has been made clear that despite his failure to steer the club through the group stage of the Champions League, there is absolutely no thought of his departure at Anfield. Indeed it would be an act of folly to fire him given the circumstances in which he finds himself, with his most potent playing assets compromised by injury and his ability to work the transfer market compromised by an unsteady flow of funds.

    Mind, it is not common sense that is keeping Benitez in his office. It is not the realisation that he is the best man for the job, or

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