We might still be in the throes of the international week, but Weekend Brakes ploughs on regardless...
Republic of Ireland. Hear us out. In the early days of Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign, the Italian had the right idea. The Irish restricted themselves to near-misses, hard-working performances against bigger nations and, ultimately, failure to qualify for major tournaments. Indeed, the unfortunate play-off defeat against France was marvellously Irish. The underdogs matching more talented opposition before bitter late pain.
But in qualifying for Euro 2012 Ireland were in danger of losing that underdog tag. Clearly longing for a return to the days when nothing was expected, Trapattoni’s men put in three hapless performances in the summer and they’ve continued in a similar vein in qualifying.
Friday’s 6-1 home drubbing at the hands of Germany was another important step for the Irish, a regression towards the norm. Managing a descent takes just as much effort as leading a rise. A couple more shaky showings and Trap’s work will be done – the status quo will be restored. And that’s what football’s all about, right?
Jimmy Bullard. Once the darling of English football, the curly-locked housewives’ choice, winning hearts and minds with that one-jellied-eel-short-of-a-jar smile, a series of barnstorming midfield performances and a taste for the bizarre. He channelled the spirit of Gazza, and like Paul Gascoigne, the salad days didn’t last forever.
Bullard went on to test the public perception by spending his post-Fulham years as a financial millstone around his clubs’ necks. The East Ender who Soccer AM appointed as antidote to cash-hungry 21st century pariahs, a footballer who just wanted to play the game, spent much of his time at Hull out of the action. His subsequent days at Ipswich were wasted too, with indiscipline arriving to further sour his reputation.
But after calling time on his career this week after a short spell at MK Dons, football has been kind to Bullard’s memory. Doing the rounds on the internet and the papers, he’s been busy reminding fans of the good days – leading the Cottagers’ survival charge, earning a call-up to the England squad, starring for Wigan, and on YouTube attracting more hits than Lance Armstrong in a Tour de France training camp.
Will the midfielder’s retirement affect MK? Probably not…
Howes. We might have glossed over these stories were it not for Eddie and Rene’s shared surname, but it’s an international week so we’re short of mind games, complaints about injury time and overblown reactions to Luis Suarez. Eddie was a surprise managerial mover on Friday, leaving Championship Burnley to return to League One strugglers Bournemouth.
Not much has gone right for the Cherries this term with Paul Groves struggling to engender any progress despite hefty financial backing and the off-field situation attracting just as much attention as usual. But Howe’s arrival may be just the ticket. The popular 34-year-old has cited family reasons as a significant factor in his transfer, and his own misfortune may just be the Cherries’ gain.
Meanwhile, Rene Howe, whose fine scoring form we flagged up in this week’s Stake and Quips, went on to notch for the sixth match in succession for Torquay as the Gulls edged past Accrington. If you see any publications with Howe About That headlines today, write it off as another sign of the declining newspaper industry.
Can Eddie have an immediate impact at Dean Court?
Wales. The media may be to blame as much as anyone but just when Wales enjoyed a flicker – and that was all – of positivity, there they were talking up a charge for World Cup qualification. Gareth Bale struck twice late on to earn Chris Coleman’s men a first qualifying victory, leading the Tottenham man to pronounce: “It’s a kickstart to our campaign. Hopefully it can inspire us for the matches ahead.”
In truth, there isn’t anything there to suggest the winger is confident of an appearance in Brazil. But eyeing the World Cup after defeating Scotland is akin to receiving a Facebook Like for a photo of you slathered in hair gel, pouting into the bathroom mirror and going on to enter Miss World.
It is a time for small steps and in a group containing Serbia and Belgium, who have both already seen off the Welsh, as well as Croatia, a fourth-placed finish would be no disgrace. For Scotland, the most productive steps may be Craig Levein’s towards the exit.
Still, if you want to dream:
Under-pressure managers. For some bosses, the international break brings peace, a chance to work on the handicap, spend some quality time with the missus when there’s a two-for-one deal on at the nearest Harvester. But there are usually a clutch left sweating over their future as chairmen earmark the break from league action as a convenient time to pull the trigger.
Mark ‘two votes of confidence’ Hughes, Lee Clark and Nigel Adkins are among those being smilier than usual when the directors are around, although if Adkins was much smilier he’d probably be sectioned. For these unfortunate few, Sky Sports News will never be switched on, fearful of a Sky source revealing some new morsel of information. That said, the channel is probably still prefacing the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand with ‘Sky sources tell us’.
No movement yet but with the odour of Harry Redknapp wafting through boardrooms like expensive, demanding air freshener, no-one can feel safe.
Edgar Davids. Luckily for Barnet, history suggests that in League Two, desperate acquisitions of inexperienced but high-profile foreign coaching staff tends to work wonders. Take Lubos Kubik at Torquay in 2006. Ah, actually. How about Claude Le Roy and Herve Renard at Cambridge United in 2004? Oh, on second thoughts. At least there’s always Ramon Diaz at Oxford in 2004. That too? Sorry Bees, the future looks hazy.
The bespectacled Dutchman was appointed as joint manager last week, joining Mark Robson in the dugout at Underhill. Robson, in his first managerial position, hadn’t masterminded a victory in his 11 league attempts and the arrival of Davids didn’t have any immediate impact. In fact, the Londoners were condemned to a 4-1 hammering on home turf by Plymouth.
You’ll remember what happened to Torquay, Cambridge and Oxford under those imports? All three swiftly found themselves in non-league and it will take something dramatic to see Barnet avoid such a fate after eight campaigns back in the Football League.
A randomly-selected sentence from Dave Bassett’s autobiography Setting the Score: “We took a taxi from Watford station to my home in nearby Northwood and I dare not repeat the welcome I got from Christine when she opened the front door to be confronted by her semi-naked husband pleading for money for the cab fare.”
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