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Wednesday 1 April 2009

Get The Flags Out?

Hi folks

Apologies as I never got around to posting out last week's missive. What's more with the International Break, there's very little Arsenal content in this weekend's despatch and with the tragic news of all those deaths at the game in the Ivory Coast, it all seems rather trivial by comparison.

Meanwhile having mentioned the barmy flag ban at the stadium when I wrote the followng on Sunday, by coincidence the very next day the club announced that they've rescinded it. Although with Van Persie, Bendtner and Diaby all picking up injuries on International duty, you'll have to forgive me if I don't feel too inclined to celebrate!

I suppose it's the time of the season when the stresses and strains will inevitably begin to take their toll, but it's ironic that we start losing players just as the squad was looking like it was about to return to full strength. Still I guess it could be worse and they could've received their knocks playing absolutely meaningless International friendlies, seemingly scheduled merely to finance the National Stadium!

Mind you, so long as we've eleven fit players to put out against Man City on Saturday, as it will be a welcome relief to get back to some proper footie business

Peace & Love


With the turgid diet of ropey reality TV shows offered by the weekend TV schedules on a Saturday night, there was relatively little competition for my attention on Saturday night. Otherwise, it might’ve proved a stiffer test of my loyalties, to remain tuned to the coverage of Boys in Green’s encounter with Bulgaria at Croke Park for 89 fairly insipid minutes, following the initial excitement of a rare Richard Dunne goal within 40 seconds of the kick-off.

Personally I believe it’s criminal that coverage of England’s matches isn’t restricted to ‘free to air’ channels, rather than depriving those who can’t afford the expense of subscribing to both Sky and Setanta. I know there was none of the same tension in the more appetizing friendly taking place at Wembley prior to the game in Dublin and that Slovakia patently failed to turn up (being so firmly focused on Wednesday’s high-stakes clash with the Czechs), but it pains me to admit that in contrast to Ireland’s agricultural efforts, the flamboyant football of Gerrard, Rooney & co was TV viewing to be enjoyed rather than endured. Considering it feels like such a chore, if there’s any cost involved in watching the Boys in Green on the box, in truth it should be the FAI paying the punters!

Obviously Trappatoni’s only task is to qualify for the World Cup finals and should he achieve this feat, no one will give a hoot how he manages it. What’s more, no matter what the result in Bari on Wednesday night, I won’t be at all surprised if “Il Trap” inspires his team to cover themselves in glory, by giving a good account of themselves against the current World Champions. Nevertheless, even at their most negative, there was something about the Boys in Green back in the glory days of Jack Charlton that made Ireland matches far more compelling viewing.

Perhaps the modern day squad are merely victims of the same malaise that afflicts professional football as a whole, whereby no matter how much players might attest to the pride of donning their national shirt, the sort of selfless mentality that once saw players putting their bodies on the line, in a ‘sh*t or bust’ pursuit of a heroic momentary result, has given way to a more selfish responsibility towards the long-term preservation of the tool of their trade.

Whatever the cause, in the past there was entertainment aplenty, witnessing the work-rate, commitment and spirit of an Ireland side, which made them worth the price of admission, even when grinding out a result. Whereas when I consider the current crop, in the absence of Duff and aside from Keane and perhaps McGeady, I’m not sure I’d be prepared to stump up my hard earned wedge to watch the remainder of this lacklustre bunch.

I have to admit that I flicked over a few times to see the Scots being trounced by the Dutch, with me having some partisan interest in Van Persie’s performance. As far as I’m concerned these International breaks are an annoying interlude to the real business of club football, with the timing of this particular one more irritating than most (especially when the likes of Togo risk playing Adebayor for 90 minutes, when we’ve been waiting his return from injury these past few weeks).

However, in spite of Northern Ireland’s wonderful result at Windsor Park, if there’s one thing that’s struck me from watching Wales, Ireland and Scotland this past weekend, it’s been the utter dearth of genuine World Class talent. What happened to the abundant mine of talent that once churned out such lustrous diamonds as Brady, Daglish, Giggs and Best and which in the past could almost be guaranteed to produce at least one gem in every generation, around which a national team could be built and who ameliorated the daily drudgery of football fans in their millions, enabling them to invest some feint hope of fulfilling their most far-fetched footballing fantasy.

It’s a global curse that kids nowadays are glued to the telly, exercising only their thumbs playing the latest “shoot ‘em up” computer game, instead of kicking a ball up against a wall from an early age. Yet countries with comparative populations still manage to nurture a sufficient number of semi-precious stones to provide their national sides with a soupcon of star quality. Obviously the days of the Green Gunners and the Scots Scousers are long gone. The opportunities are fewer and further apart, in an increasingly competitive environment, where the incredibly cosmopolitan make-up of the Academies at many top-flight clubs serve to demonstrate quite how far and wide their scouting networks are forced to cast their nets.

Who knows, hopefully in a few years time we’ll be flying the Welsh Dragon in honour of Aaron Ramsey dominating the Arsenal midfield (assuming we’re not still denied, by a ludicrous ban on national flags at our gaff!). Myself I’d love to witness a return of the Tri-colour and there’s been no better club for an Irish lad to make the grade than the Gunners, during a decade of Liam Brady’s ardent patronage. Although after witnessing such Great Green Hopes as Graham Barrett and Anthony Stokes reveal themselves to be mere goldfish, forced to splash around in a smaller pond after their Arsenal careers had floundered, you begin to wonder if we’re ever again going to enjoy the emerald glow of a real dawn to compensate for these false ones?

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Jack McCarthy said...

Ireland do have a world class talent... Stephen Ireland, but just like Roy Keane before him, he's from Cork and that trumps the fact that he's Irish. And since his little squabble with the FAI he now refuses to play with his countrymen... and the guy drives a land rover with pink details :)