Tag Archive: England

The Republic of Ireland held England to an impressive draw at Wembley in a game which bore more positives for them than their hosts. West Bromwich Albion striker Shane Long nodded the visitors into the lead early on, but Frank Lampard levelled soon afterwards, and neither team was able to break the deadlock in the second half.

This was the sides’ first meeting since 1995 – that clash, at Landsdowne Road, had been abandoned after English fans began to riot. Ireland had last played the Three Lions at Wembley in 1991, and this fixture marked the renewal of an old rivalry; although a friendly by name, they game was always likely to be hotly contested with national pride at stake more than ever.

Roy Hodgson rewarded Ashley Cole recently reaching the 100-cap mark by bestowing upon him the England captaincy – a somewhat controversial decision given the Chelsea defender’s rocky relationship with the Football Association. Ireland were skippered by a much more obvious choice: Robbie Keane, by some distance the country’s leading marksman.

It was Keane who produced the game’s first shot, on 3 minutes, but his effort flew comfortably wide of Joe Hart’s goal. England responded well, dictating possession and the pace of the game, and Wayne Rooney fired a warning to the Irish with a weighted chip that dropped wide of David Forde’s far post.

Shane Long rises highest to nod Ireland into an early lead

However, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock soon afterwards with a goal from nothing. Everton full-back Seamus Coleman was given time and space on Ireland’s right, and he duly made the most of it: his brilliant cross was met equally well by Shane Long, who glanced a header over Joe Hart and into the far corner.

Predictably, the Green army in the stands were ecstatic, and their joy was demonstrated as play resumed, a plume of green smoke seeping across the Wembley pitch as the Irish continued to celebrate. Their team looked to have the upper hand – the early goal had once more brought English pessimism to the fore – but the lead was to be short-lived.

10 minutes after Long had found the net, Daniel Sturridge received the ball wide on England’s left. With little to aim for in the area, the Liverpool attacker delayed his cross. He finally whipped the ball over after spotting Frank Lampard’s late run, and the veteran midfielder was on hand to poke beyond Forde after Sean St Ledger failed to clear. It was a goal arguably deserved on the balance of play.

Sturridge’s assist would prove to be his last notable action: the striker’s first international start was cut short on 32 minutes when he damaged his ankle in a challenge with Glenn Whelan,  and had to be replaced by Jermaine Defoe. Theo Walcott did the most to provide further excitement, his searing pace allowing him to glide beyond Stephen Kelly on 38 minutes, but the Arsenal winger’s low centre was well cleared by St Ledger.

The first half ended in mild controversy when Keane had a penalty appeal turned down – England somehow managed to clear the ball backwards from an Ireland corner, and Rooney appeared to haul Keane to the floor as the visiting captain attempted to scramble home.

He’d been forced to make a change earlier in the game, but at half-time Roy Hodgson opted to further tinker with his line-up, introducing West Brom custodian Ben Foster for Joe Hart and Phil Jones for Glen Johnson at right-back. England started the second period brightly, and Rooney’s excellent chip found Walcott in space on the right; his first-time centre almost reached captain Cole for what would have been his first international goal, but Ireland defenders converged to intervene.

It would prove to be Cole’s final chance to score as captain, as he was replaced on 54 minutes by Everton’s Leighton Baines, the armband passed to Cole’s clubmate Lampard. England continued to threaten, and a quick counter-attack ten minutes later saw Defoe release Walcott in space, but Millwall stopper Forde made a good save from the winger’s low drive.

A momentary lull in proceedings followed, with Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni ringing the changes – Keane, Aidan McGeady and Whelan were sacrificed for Simon Cox, James McClean and Jeff Hendrick. The substitutions helped swing momentum back in the visitors’ favour, and Foster’s blushes were spared with ten minutes to play when he fumbled a deflected cross under pressure from Long, the referee calling a foul before Jon Walters could prod home.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain spurned two good chances for England

England responded by creating the clearest chance of the second half: Rooney feigned to shoot before cleverly sliding a ball into Oxlade-Chamberlain’s path, but the Arsenal youngster shot into the turf and against Forde’s legs. Two minutes later they sliced Ireland open again, Lampard picking out Walcott in space, but once more Forde blocked well to preserve parity.

Further substitutions disrupted the game as it drew to a close, and a draw was the fair result on the balance of play. Clearly, however, it went down better with the visitors – Shane Long’s elated celebrations at full time served to prove that. England looked assured in possession but were worryingly wasteful in front of goal, while Trapattoni will take pleasure from his side’s fine defending.

England: Hart (Foster 46); Johnson (Jones 46), Cahill, Jagielka, Cole (Baines 54); Walcott, Lampard, Carrick, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Milner 87); Rooney, Sturridge (Defoe 33).

Ireland: Forde; Coleman, O’Shea, St Ledger, Kelly; Walters (Sammon 82), McCarthy, Whelan (Hendrick 74), McGeady (McClean 68); Long, Keane (Cox 66).

Player Ratings – England:

Hart: 6 – Little to do and not at fault for Ireland’s goal.

Johnson: 6 – Offered an occasional threat on the overlap; solid enough defensively. (Jones 6 – eager to attack but no end product)

Cahill: 6  – Rarely beaten, but occasionally caught in possession or out of position.

Jagielka: 6 – Sometimes struggled with the troublesome Long, but generally sound defensively.

Cole: 7 – Determined to impress as captain. Fierce in the tackle and almost found the net. (Baines 6 – looked good in possession, but rarely able to get in behind Ireland)

Walcott: 7 – Threatened with pace, especially in first half, but failed to take chances. Promising at times.

Lampard: 7 – Scored the all-important equalizer and used possession well; dictated pace of game.

Carrick: 6 – Efficient if unexceptional. Some good defensive work.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6 – Poor defensively but used pace to scare Ireland on occasion. Should have scored. (Milner 5 – not given enough time to make an impact)

Rooney: 6 – Some clever link-up play from “in the hole”, but never looked like scoring.

Sturridge: 6 – Set up England’s goal but game cut short by injury. (Defoe 5 – quiet; didn’t look like scoring)

Player Ratings – Ireland: 

Forde: 8 – Some excellent saves, and could do little to about the goal. Unlucky not be Man of the Match.

Coleman: 8 – Skillful going forward and brilliant cross for Ireland’s goal. Decent defensively; given Man of the Match.

O’Shea: 6 – Sometimes wasteful in possession but defended well.

St Ledger: 6 – Could have prevented goal, but otherwise solid enough.

Kelly: 6 – Played out-of-position at left-back, but did a reasonable job on Walcott.

Walters: 5 – Worked hard, but little end product. (Sammon 4  – little time to impress, but contributed nothing of note)

McCarthy: 6 – Tidy in possession but failed to threaten England’s goal.

Whelan: 5 – Put in a shift in midfield, work was mainly spoiling rather than creating. (Hendrick 5 – little impact)

McGeady: 7 – Looked tricky, tested Johnson down Ireland’s left with mazy dribbling but dragged shots wide. (McClean 5 – failed to test Jones)

Long: 8 – Superb header to open the scoring, and was a thorn in England’s side in first half. Faded towards the end.

Keane: 6 – Quiet but some intelligent link-up play. (Cox 5 – tried hard but little of note going forward)


Ivorian midfielder Jean-Jacques Gosso has expressed his delight at being linked with Premier League club Everton in recent days. Gosso, currently playing for Turkish side Orduspor, has yet to play in England and has spent most of his career outside of Europe.

Beginning his senior career in his homeland in 2002 with Stella Club d’Adjamé, Gosso moved to Morrocan club Wydad Casablanca the following year. Interest from several Israeli sides followed, with Maccabi Tel Aviv and FC Ashdod both inviting the midfielder to discuss terms with them. He signed for the latter club in 2008, ironically making his league debut against Maccabi.

A successful trial in June 2008 at French side Moncaco, then of Ligue 1, Gosso spent three years in France, leaving after Les Rouge et Blanc’s relegation to the second tier in 2011. Turkish outfit Orduspor have boasted the Ivorian international’s talents since, the 29-year-old playing 24 of the club’s 34 Super Lig fixtures last season.

Gosso’s international experience makes up for his lack of European football

After hearing of Everton’s interest, Gosso admitted: “I am very interested if there is an option for me in England. My dream has always been to play in the Premier League and prove myself against midfielders and strikers at the top level”. Gosso described Everton, who finished seventh in the Premier League in 2011-12, as “a fantastic team…one of the biggest club in England.”

Predominantly a holding midfielder, but having also represented Ivory Coast at right-back, Gosso provides vital versatility that could aid Everton’s small transfer budget by allowing Blues boss David Moyes to provide cover for two positions in his squad in one fell swoop.

Gosso also believes his playing style would suit the Everton sides that Moyes has built: “I know David Moyes likes players who put a shift in, so if he is interested in me – like I am hearing – that means I must be doing something right.”

Although the Liverpool Echo have reported that Everton have yet to make a formal approach for Gosso, a move would suit both player and club. The Ivorian would provide cover for, or replace, first-choice defensive midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who has been linked with a move away from Goodison Park, while he could also act as back-up to long-serving right-backs Phil Neville and Tony Hibbert.

Image: http://www.mtnfootball.com

England will face off against Italy in today’s Euro 2012 quarter-final – and the outcome could decide both how the Three Lions’ performance in the tournament will be remembered, and how long Roy Hodgson will be in the national team hotseat.

Following a solid showing in the group stage, where England qualified along with France after narrow victories over Sweden and Ukraine and a draw with Les Blues, English optimism has been gradually building ahead of the knockout stage.

Hodgson’s men had entered the tournament unfancied and without the heavy burden of a country’s expectation – something that has plagued previous England teams, especially the so-called “Golden Generation” of Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard and co. The fact that the former Liverpool, Finland and Inter Milan boss was only appointed on 1 May, just over a month before England’s first game at the Euros, meant that the English press and public prepared for failure in Poland and Ukraine.

A 1-1 draw with group favourites France, which saw a defence-minded display from the Three Lions, was in line with this realism. This was an England team that knew its limitations, that knew when to play for a draw and when to commit men forward. The only real worry that emerged from England’s opener was the side’s inability to defend a lead: Joleon Lescott’s header on the half-hour mark was almost immediately cancelled by Samir Nasri’s powerful drive nine minutes later.

The turning point in Hodgson’s reign? Danny Welbeck bags the winner against Sweden

If England fans had thought that match lacked excitement and drama, they were to be pleasantly surprised by the team’s second group game, against Erik Hamren’s Sweden. Perhaps ironically given the recent and increasing clamour for English football to adapt to modern ways and adopt the aesthetically pleasing football of the Spanish team, England’s opener against Sweden, as versus France, came from the typically English route of a long cross from the wing met by a bullet header from close range.

This time, it was Liverpool targetman Andy Carroll who found the net, with Steven Gerrard once more providing the assist for his clubmate. Unlike against France, England held their early lead until half-time, only to capitulate and allow 34-year-old Swedish defender Olof Mellberg to net twice in the space of ten minutes, albeit with a slice of fortune for his first goal.

At that moment, any English pessimism appeared to be justified. Suddenly, the draw against France was not such a good result after all.  No wonder expectation was low: this England team was trailing to an average Sweden side ranked only one place above Ireland.

Less than twenty minutes later, self-professed pundits were hailing the tactical genius of a man they had just slated for giving such an apparently awful half-time team-talk. Substitute Theo Walcott equalized for England before outpacing the Swedish defence to set up Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck for one of the most impressively-improvised finishes of all-time (if he really did mean it).

A solid, if uninspiring, 1-0 win over hosts Ukraine in England’s third game was enough to see Hodgson’s men top Group D following France’s shock loss to the Swedes. Wayne Rooney’s goal three minutes after half-time proved to be the decisive moment in a tight affair – as in their clash with Sweden, in Ukraine England were facing a side that needed to win to avoid elimination at the first hurdle.

Expect calls for Hodgson to be rewarded with a knighthood should England reach the semi-final

Whether a slender victory against the Yellows – in which Ukraine even had a goal wrongly disallowed – could be considered a “good result” is debatable: Oleg Blokhin’s men are, according to FIFA, a worse team than the likes of Panama, Armenia and Gabon. In the pressure-cooker situations of a major tournament, however, many England fans were simply relieved to see their side progress.

Tonight’s clash with Italy, themselves the survivors of a group containing Spain and Croatia, will go a long way to deciding whether Hodgson is still in charge come the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Should England lose, don’t be surprised to see a “don’t say we didn’t tell you so” smugness in media coverage, and an apparent necessity for change, while a victory will merit calls for Hodgson to be knighted as his men are hailed as national heroes.

England may well have learned the consequences of piling too much pressure onto their players the hard way, but once more supporters have allowed themselves to become too expectant; how England are now considered favourites against Italy – a side that drew with Spain – but were thought of as underdogs against France – who last night lost 2-0 to the reigning champions – shows that we have not fully learned our lesson.

Images: Welbeck goal vs Sweden – www.therepublikofmancunia.com; Hodgson – www.thesun.co.uk

The promotion of Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker to the prestigious position of England captain for the friendly against Holland provoked some debate amongst football fans.

Although some supported stand-in manager Stuart Pearce’s decision, many were angered to see that the captaincy had not been given to more illustrious, experienced players such as Steven Gerrard. Some questioned Pearce’s thinking behind the move – Parker only has 11 caps to his name, and in 2010-11 suffered the indignity of relegation from the top flight with West Ham United. Surely England, traditionally one of the world’s top international sides, were sending out a message of weakness by handing the captaincy to an apparently inferior player?

Actually, no. The move could prove to be a masterstroke for a number of reasons. While some use West Ham’s relegation, and Parker’s responsibility in their plight as their star player, as something to hold against him, it could actually improve his captaincy credentials.

How many of England’s recent captains (Beckham, Terry, Gerrard) have experienced the gritty, arguably more mentally demanding relegation battles that Parker has been through?

Parker also captained the Hammers in 2010-11, with team-mate Carlton Cole citing Parker’s “inspirational” team-talk as the main reason for United’s incredible comeback from 3-0 down at half-time to draw 3-3 with West Bromwich Albion in February 2011.

The fact that Parker has spent a lot of his career playing for less fashionable clubs such as Charlton, Norwich and West Ham (as opposed to the Man Utds and Arsenals) may also help to endear him to England fans, as will his never-say-die, in-their-faces approach to tackling and harrying the opposition.

When, against Holland, his England team-mates hesitated to risk committing to tackles early on in fear of being humiliated, Parker lead by example, throwing himself into two consecutive slide-tackles that generated a warm round of applause from the otherwise flat Wembley crowd.

Parker has also managed to remain free from scandal, more than can be said for some of England’s previous skippers. He appears quiet and dignified, but has the leadership skills to inspire those around him without needing to bawl abuse at them.

Some have written off Parker’s chances of retaining the role on the basis that, at the age of 31, he “cannot be expected to be a regular for much longer”.

However, his age could also work as an advantage. Parker’s experience at club level is vastly more than most of his team-mates in the Holland game and his international experience dates back to 2003 with the senior team, 1996 with the various youth sides.

Surely it makes more sense to hand Parker the armband than burden the young, inexperienced Welbeck, Smalling, Jones, Johnson, Richards or Gary Cahill with the responsibility of having to lead a team out when most of them are battling to impress on a personal level in the early stages of their respective international careers.

Why England as a country places so much emphasis on the identity of a captain is debatable. Other countries often give the armband to the most talented, famous or experienced player in the side, which is corroborated by Beckham’s receivership of the role in the early part of the 20th century. However, times have changed and Parker is a role model who’s faults, although present, do not include attitude.

Against Holland, Parker was twice crudely fouled by Dutch destroyer Nigel de Jong and twice got to his feet without complaint, refusing to be drawn into the silly handbags that ruin many matches. That is why Parker makes a good role model for aspiring footballers and why he should be given another chance at leading his country.

Rohan Ricketts’ career may have taken a path away from the spotlight since the winger left Tottenham Hotspur in 2005 – but it has certainly been interesting. In the space of four years, Ricketts has played for six clubs in a staggering five countries.

Born in Clapham, south London, in 1982, Ricketts joined capital-based Arsenal in 1999, making his debut in a League Cup tie against Manchester United  in November 2001. This would be his only appearance for the club and a year later Ricketts became just the fourth footballer to leave the Gunners for Spurs, their fierce city rivals.

Although Ricketts enjoyed more playing time at Tottenham, making 30 league appearances in three years at White Hart Lane, he again failed to hold down a regular starting place, which is understandable for a young player at a big club. Loan spells at Coventry and Wolves followed, and in 2005 Spurs allowed Ricketts to move to the Molineux on a permanent basis.

The deal initially appeared to be a success, with Rickets playing regularly early on in his Wolves career, but once more he found himself out of favour and being shipped out on loan, this time to Queens Park Rangers. Released by Wolves in May 2007, Ricketts joined Championship side Barnsley, but a recurring theme was emerging. An unhappy spell yielded just 10 appearances before the winger was again released in April 2008.

Ricketts' career has seen him play in the Premiership as well as the German fourth division and in Moldova

Deciding his future lay abroad, Ricketts immediately signed for Toronto FC of the Major League Soccer in the US. Again, the spell began brightly – Ricketts scored four times in 27 games in his first season. However, the arrival of Dwayne DeRosario pushed Ricketts down the pecking order and his fate was sealed in June 2009 when Toronto released him to free up wages to allow for the signing of Ali Gerba. Toronto may well have been ruing their loss – Gerba would play just 11 times for the Reds, scoring one goal.

Ricketts could easily have called time on his world tour then, and he almost did. A return to the UK looked likely but at the last minute Aberdeen pulled out of a deal to sign him, citing budget constraints. Having been denied the chance to play in the SPL, Ricketts did what any sensible footballer would do – sign for catchily-named Hungarian side Diósgyőri Vasgyárak Testgyakorló Köre (or DTVK for short).

It was a move no-one, including Ricketts himself, would have predicted a few months before, and unsurprisingly the player seemed unable to settle in his new surroundings. Just one outing for DTVK’s first team was supplemented with a handful of reserve appearances before Ricketts wrote the next chapter in an interesting life story by joining Moldovan giants Dacia Chişinău in August 2010.

Predictably, his stay was again short – Ricketts played just four games in a three month spell. He announced his departure from the club on Talksport, expressing anger at Dacia’s reluctance to pay wages. Ricketts then travelled to Germany to take part in trials and in January 2011 joined SV Wilhelmshaven of the Regionalliga Nord, the German fourth division. A period of relative calm followed, but four months and 12 games later Ricketts announced a return to England was on the cards.

Trials at Southend and Stevenage showed the effects of Ricketts’ travels had impacted the standard of his footballing ability. He admitted his time at Stevenage was a “shock to his body” after spells at lower-league clubs and lower-rated leagues. However, with no concrete offers provided at either club, Ricketts set off for Irish champions Shamrock Rovers. The decision looked to be justified by the carrot of Europa League football which allowed him to play against former club Spurs in the group stage. However, Ricketts didn’t have time to reflect on his return to one of football’s biggest competitions – in January 2012 he was released by Shamrock and once more found himself without a club.

The midfielder is glad to be back in England with League One's Exeter City

A unique path back to English football was completed on 22nd March when Ricketts signed for League One strugglers Exeter City. A lot has changed since his last spell in England – when he left Barnsley in April 2008, Exeter were busy finishing fourth in the Conference. The Grecians even briefly threatened to grab promotion to the Championship but now they face a relegation dogfight in their attempts to avoid a return to League Two.

Ricketts was clearly pleased to be back in his home country, saying: “I’m just grateful for the opportunity because I’ve been playing away from England for four years so I’m relishing the chance to get back in.”

His career has been eventful and varied and Ricketts should have plenty to write and talk about should he choose to continue a burgeoning media career after retirement. Saving Exeter from relegation, however, is his primary aim, and he knows it won’t be easy: “I’ve won FA Youth Cups back-to-back, I’ve won a league in Ireland, I’ve been involved in FA Cup ties, but for me this would be major because it’s all against us in terms of points”.

No matter who you support, you have to hope he manages it.