Jim White

  • Expect Milner, not Sterling, to start against Italy

    At least the pitch is looking nice and green. The groundsman at Manaus, faced with a playing surface that looked as if someone had assaulted it with a blow torch, got out his paint brush and applied a thick coating of green emulsion. Let’s just hope Roy Hodgson has packed some paint stripper, as his players are going to end up with green feet come the end of the game.

    But then, as Wayne Rooney said, it is not as if Italy will be playing on a different pitch. Both teams will be facing the same conditions. Both teams will be in temperatures more akin to a bread oven, running around in a sauna,

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  • Flying under the radar could help England in Brazil

    Along the beachfront in Fortaleza, life is going on much as it would even without a World Cup.

    Which means, this being Brazil, football is everywhere.

    Stroll along the promenade walks in the early evening and down on the beach there are floodlit pitches on the sand, on which dozens of boys play all night. Up on the prom there are floodlit concrete futebol de salao pitches on which bare-foot young lads do improbable tricks with the ball.

    Next to them are floodlit foot volleyball pitches, on which overweight middle aged men flick and head and chest the ball, wheezing between the points. Little

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  • Sven-Goran Eriksson does not reckon England have a hope in this World Cup.

    Which probably qualifies as the very definition of stating the bleedin' obvious. Besides, Sven should know about England not having a hope. After all, he managed to squander far more significant resources than Roy Hodgson has at his disposal.

    The Swede was in charge of England at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, when he presided over the reverse alchemy of turning the golden generation into straw men. Hodgson may not have a hope, but at least no-one in a month’s time will be lingering over the might have beens and the

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  • Argentina or Brazil? No thanks, my money’s on Spain

    World Cup

    At a function looking ahead to the World Cup staged at the Argentina embassy in London one evening last week, Ossie Ardiles proposed an interesting theory about Lionel Messi.

    A player who Ardiles believes is better than Diego Maradona, Messi has yet to enjoy a good World Cup. If he is to stake a legitimate claim to be one of the best in history, he needs to demonstrate his skills in the most elevated of circumstances. Garrincha, Pele, Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Zinedine Zidane and Maradona himself all had at least one glorious World Cup on their CV.

    Messi has so far been, if not quite a

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  • Asset stripping at Saints shows ruthless nature of modern game

    It has not been a good week for followers of Southampton. There they were, the summer after one of the best seasons in their supporting lives, a time when they should be thinking ahead to progress and prospects new, when news comes through that their club is being picked off systematically by the big boys once again.

    Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain: the locals have got used to watching talent grow up on the south coast and then move on before they have achieved their best. But this week has been grim even by the standards of evisceration they are used to.

    First Mauricio

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  • Why Malcolm Glazer’s passing isn’t being universally mourned

    In many ways Malcolm Glazer could be remembered as a respectable owner of Manchester United. He presided over a period of sustained success on the pitch, he encouraged a huge advance in commercial revenues and – unlike many a Premier League chairman - he made no attempt to interfere with the playing side of things, deferring all that to the presiding genius of the club, Sir Alex Ferguson.

    There was, however, one significant aspect about Glazer’s ownership that will forever mitigate against him being considered anything other than a disaster for United, its fans and for English football in

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  • Former hate-figure Simeone would be perfect for English game

    There is not a club in the Premier League that would not relish the idea of having him in charge.

    And no wonder. In three years at the Vincente Calderon stadium, Diego Simone has developed the kind of reputation that makes billionaires open their wallets in excitement.

    Last Saturday, the 44-year-old Argentine coach accomplished something that made the world take note. His Atletico Madrid won the Liga title after drawing their final game at the home of Barcelona, the one club capable of stopping them.

    It was an extraordinary achievement, not least because their most effective player – Diego

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  • Why the Premier League saved Richard Scudamore

    People seem surprised that Richard Scudamore is still in his job as chief executive of the Premier League this morning. There has been a huge swirl of harrumphing about his sexist emails. Social media has been outraged. Newspaper columnists have thundered. Phone-ins have run hot. The Prime Minister has weighed in. And yet he has stayed in place. Which many of us regard as odd.

    Normally the sort of storm of indignation he sparked is enough to see off someone in public life who has made a verbal howler. Glenn Hoddle was finished as England manager the moment Tony Blair went on Richard and

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  • Why Roy Hodgson will disappoint you in England’s first game

    If you want a measure of how little room Roy Hodgson has to manoeuvre it came in the reaction to his choice of World Cup squad. Basically, there wasn’t any.

    In the past, the announcement of the 23 has precipitated endless head-scratching, chin-stroking debate about who should be in and who shouldn’t. Though it might be stretching linguistics a little far to describe Paul Gascoigne’s room-smashing reaction to the decision not to include him in 1998 as debate.

    This time, after a season in which only 25 per cent of Premier League starting line-ups qualified for England, Hodgson’s choice was

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  • The best (and worst) XI of a topsy-turvy season

    On Merseyside, they are dreaming of Sam Allardyce.

    It does not make for a comfortable night’s sleep. But the only way Liverpool can now win the Premier League title is in the unlikely event of Big Sam’s West Ham doing them an enormous favour and winning at the Etihad.

    Which, we can all comfortably predict, isn’t going to happen.

    The title is City’s. Which means, when Vincent Kompany lifts the trophy, they deserve it, they are the best team in the land.

    Never mind that they have been at the top of the table for 100 fewer days than Arsenal were, they are there when it counts, at the end. They

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