Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Dutch Courage

Ah well, a preview for a match that kicks off in an hour and a half's time. But never mind. I've commented on here before the extent to which my enthusiasm for the England football team is waning, but really tonight is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Dutch football is in no great state of crisis, so there will at least be a crowd in Amsterdam, and it promises to be an entertaining match, but is there really any point to it? I mean, we're three months into the new season, and things are starting to warm up. What was a largely disappointing World Cup is starting to recede into our collective memory. In all honesty, a week of international friendlies is the last thing anybody needs at the moment. It feels strange to be nodding in sage agreement with the leaders of G14, but there we go. What exactly do England expect to learn from tonight's exhibition match? Didn't we learn everything that we needed to know from the recent debacles against Macedonia and Croatia?

On top of anything else, England are missing half of their first team anyway - players that have pulled out in that not particularly mysterious way that footballers do when friendly matches are shoehorned into the schedule in the middle of a week with Premiership matches either side of them. He will get a chance to look at a few players that he hasn't already seen, but couldn't he do that at Bisham Abbey, without flying them out to Amsterdam so that they can further run the risk of injuring themselves and incurring the wrath of the increasingly powerful larger clubs.

So, we have half an England team playing a Dutch team that almost certainly can't be bothered. So, why are we even here? Well... FIFA take the tradition of sanctity of international friendlies very seriously. They consider them to be important. Quite asides from this, G14 wish to flex their muscles, and FIFA have to be seen to be standing their ground over the issue of time being set aside for friendly matches. Having said that, though, would, say, the court case between Royal Charleroi and FIFA that is still rumbling through the courts be influenced negatively for FIFA if a star player got injured playing in a meaningless match this evening?

It's an important question. Newcastle kicked off when Michael Owen was injured in a freak accident playing in the World Cup finals. What would be the reaction of Manchester United if, say, Wayne Rooney was laid out for the rest of the season after picking up a serious injury tonight? The fact that England are likely to take a pasting tonight is irrelevant: the clubs have got the bit between their teeth in the battle to seize control of the world game, and if the likes of me, who hates the G14 with a passion that borders on the sociopathic, starts to look at their viewpoint with any sympathy (not much, but some), then there is a serious issue that needs to be looked at.


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