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The Importance of Sport (NEW CONCEPTS)
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Mick Harper
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England 0 Italy 0

There was a revealing interview with Jack Grealish before the match. He was asked about Southgate's comments that he was lacking in 'overall strategy'. Yes, Grealish agreed, it was a weakness in his game. Had the manager talked to him about it? No, said Jack, he had not. We cut to the game.

England are trying, not very successfully, to play it out from the back. Once, in the first half, an obviously frustrated Grealish comes all the way back to the edge of his own area to get hold of the ball. The commentator expresses both surprise and concern. Grealish does not repeat the exercise for the rest of the game.

Au contraire, my little one, you should be doing it every time. Let me try to explain. When you're playing it out from the back, both sides are set, there is no opportunity for surprises, there is no need for hurry. Nobody has a set position, only a set function -- to get from somewhere near your own penalty area to somewhere near their penalty area while retaining possession of the ball. Okay, lads, got it? Okay, Gareth, are you listening? Your Uncle Mick is going to tell you how to go about it.
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Mick Harper
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Defenders are not employed for their ability to pass the ball around though they can do it after a fashion. Strikers are not temperamentally suited to pass the ball around though they can do it after a fashion. Midfielders do little else. They should be bringing it out from the back. Not hanging around up front waiting for knockdowns, not hanging around in midfield playing linkman between defenders and attackers, not hanging around on the flanks where there's more room. But hanging around on the edge of their own penalty area where there's plenty of room, playing linkman with one another.

Once they've reached, say, the halfway line, everyone can go off and do their other duties to their heart's content but you won't reach the halfway line half the time if you let goalies, defenders and defensive-minded midfield minders play it out from the back. That means you, Grealish. Yes, you, the bloke that can shimmy past some hulking striker trying to impress the manager he's putting himself about 'pressing'. You, Grealish, who can receive the ball facing one way and in one flowing movement dispatch it forward to your oppo who'll do the same thing fifteen yards ahead.

And in a twinkling the press is beaten and you won't be playing out nil-nillers at home.
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Mick Harper
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England 0 Hungary 4

Take no notice of the result. This is not 3-6 Wembley '53 or 7-1 Budapest '54. This is Molyneux '22. We played them off the park. We played quite well as a matter of fact. It only requires a few minor adjustments for Qatar. Are you listening, Southgit?

1. As soon as Foden and Grealish are in the side together and from the off, the chronic lack of goals from such exemplary knocking it about will be addressed. This may require sacrificing genuine wing backs (and not playing the world's greatest, Cholmondeley Arbuthnot Alexander-Arnold).

2. Something has to be done about Kane. He is just not suited to playing point for a knocking-it-around team. He thrives on the counter-attacking pitch-stretching game of Spurs but even then needs Aung San Suu Kyi alongside to be effective. On the other hand he's still our best (unless Vardy becomes available, she's very good value in the box) so it will have to be a case of re-training and re-positioning.

3. Something will have to be done at the back. St Gareth's triumphant early policy of going with youngsters may have to be repeated and the present tried-and-tested failures dispensed with. Also, though Ramsdale is the better keeper, Pickford is the luckier, so go back to him.

That is all.
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Mick Harper
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My prediction about the Second Test was correct in every particular except I hadn't counted on the unseasonal five days of blazing sunshine . I had factored in one day of rain, a couple of hours of bad light and time-wasting.

We congratulate our New Zealand coach except we'll be replacing him with a South African for the next series. We also congratulate our captain except he's done himself a mischief and won't be available sine die. We can't go back to Root so, judging from remarks in the commentary box, it is to be Moheen Ali. Captaining the side from the commentary box is unusual but test cricket is in crisis, you'll get no complaint from me. That's unusual too.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Mount remains a problem, he is basically another Frank Lampard, everybody knows he is good, because of his footballing intelligence, but he relies on his team dominating their opponents so he can run in late, and get his tally of midfield goals and assists. Southgate teams simply don't play like this.

Mount is arguably a player that Southgate doesn't know how to use, although this arguably applies to a more general lack of strategy, when they need to attack.
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Mick Harper
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You've definitely cracked it. He can surf the waves with Chelsea but guzunda in the wine dark sea of international football. Compare to Grealish who is superfluous at Man City but absolutely essential to greyly efficient England.

I've come to the conclusion that it's not Southgate knowing how to use players -- they can work this out for themselves on the pitch -- it's knowing who to put on the pitch. Talking of which, I'm appointing you AEL assistant manager (cones). No, wait, that makes me Southgate...
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Wile E. Coyote


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Mick Harper wrote:
Talking of which, I'm appointing you AEL assistant manager (cones).


It's a great honour to be selected for one's country, and bend the knee. People might laugh, but it's sesnsitive work to array a line of cones through which both Grealish and Maguire can both dribble. You really need an Equality Impact Assessmnet to be fair to Maguire, not to mention a Health and Safety Assessment for when Harry falls over and damages his metatarsal. Then there's Pickford, do you want him trying? A little knowledge and a new skillset is highly dangerous, I well remember Picko's first attempted slide tackle on Van Dijk. Ugly, but that is what you get when you allow your goalie to practise a "Stuart Pearce" in training. I could go on but won't. We both know that I am the right Peter Tayor for your Brian Clough. You can get a reference from John Major, my cone hotline was perhaps his greatest triumph.

Regards...
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Mick Harper
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You've been sacked for brown-nosing. We operate the fuhrerprinzip round here in case you've forgotten.
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Mick Harper
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Cricket News

Legal: ball hits pad and bat, umpire can't tell which came first. England LBW appeal turned down (correct). England lose a review (incorrect, it was Umpire's Choice.)

Statistical (1) Straight drives striking batting partner on the full and ballooning up to mid on: not worth spending a lot of time preparing for during either nets or fielding practice.

Statistical (2): Overtons.

Strategic: should Root be brought on to bowl when the opposition is 115-5, the ball in seaming around and you've got a front line spinner? Go on, then, we don't want him sulking.
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Mick Harper
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I had not hitherto known very much about Ben Foakes and was dubious about his selection when Bairstow is in the side and Buttler isn't, but was reassured -- not to say startled -- at hearing from a BBC2 commentator that "He is the best in the world" and referred to later as the "great Ben Foakes" by another. Standards must have slipped since Alan Knott's day because our man decided it was his job to dive across first slip to drop a snick destined for the midriff of second slip! We will soon be able to dispense with gulley at this rate.

Talking of gulleys let us review Captain Stokes' innings. It is 44-4 chasing a total of three hundred and odd, and the ball is doing a bit but, like all Duke balls, can be safely leathered to all parts of the field in about half an hour's time. Our hero decides to give it the charge anyway. Not once as a surprise tactic to knock the bowler off his length, not twice to show he meant it, not thrice to get the bowler taken off, not four times out of sheer bravado, not five times out of sheer twattiness but n times until he's out and England are 66-5.

Talking of Duke balls we found out
(a) why every test team in England suffers constant top order collapses
(b) why they are constantly followed by world record seventh innings stands et al
(c) why the ball has to be changed several times during this process and
(d) why test match cricket in England has become a complete lottery..

It is because the bloke who does the stitching (all Duke ball are hand-stitched) has retired and the new bloke stitches them a bit looser. I know I'm only a spectator but might I make a suggestion? Tell him to stitch them a bit tighter.
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Mick Harper
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Yer What?
Manchester City close on £42m Phillips

He's England's second best defensive midfielder (after Declan Rice), how come he's available for such peanuts?

following the £51.5m arrival of Erling Haaland.

This is the best striker in the world. There was talk of him costing £200 million. What's happened? Has he had a leg amputated?

One player seemingly on his way out of City is Gabriel Jesus after a verbal agreement was reached with Arsenal that will see the Brazil forward move there for £45m.

We've all watched him for the last five years not earning a place on the pitch and proving it every time he does get on. Can Arsenal really afford this kind of money for a squad player given fifteen minutes when we're three up against Twatty Town in the Third Round of the Cup? Me, I'd probably have spent it on that Haaland bloke. Or even Kelvin Philips. Or even Trevor Philips. Or maybe getting a new management team, though a better one is available for free just hoiking people off the street.
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Ishmael


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I've been riding a motorbike around Tanzania and have been away from the boards more than usual. However; I've had some thoughts while riding (and indeed have made some observations I intend to share soon).

But I had something actually relevant to this particular message thread.

The Importance of Sport.

I'll begin with a question....

Can someone tell me the differences between British Criket and Indian Criket?
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Grant



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The average person playing British cricket is 45, but the average Indian cricketer is six.
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Grant



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Apparently Harland had a 50 million release clause in his contract. But it’s not that great a deal as City also have to pay his agent and his father another 34 million
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Mick Harper
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Even I, with my limited resources, would shell out eighty four million for Haarland. Even if I have to let his father play in our five-a-side as well. Old Alfie was good enough in his day. Any club that allows release clauses needs their heads examining, it being a one-way street. Of course agents insist on them which means UEFA should ban them as being 'in restraint of trade'.

Banning transfer fees themselves, as the second biggest commercial sport, the US NFL, does might be the way ahead. Oddly though, it has become a minor fashion mong NFL players to dispense with agents which has led to all sorts of complications for NFL teams.

What the third biggest, the Indian IPL, does (I'm making these superlatives up by the way) I'm not sure. I'll have to ask Ishmael, he's our cricket expert. Or 'Umbaba White Hunter' as they call him when the sound of his motorbike is heard approaching. "Lock up your daughters and get out the linseed oil."
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