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The Importance of Sport (NEW CONCEPTS)
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Wile E. Coyote


In: Arizona
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The problem with these super clever reviews of Cricket (thank you Mr Strauss) is they miss that point that cricket is basically a minority sport played by eccentric strange coves like Wiley, who actually want to bowl a googly. You therefore are inevitably going to get periods when fanatical Johnny Foreigner is actually better than us as our best atheletes, ie poor youngsters, with no hopes of getting into Hedge Funds etc are attracted to other lesser, but much more popular sports that actually pay well, like football.

If you offered test players 100K a week we would within 20 years be world beaters, irrespective of balls or pitches or indeed whether we play the new "Dynamite" "Boom" "Blast" formats.
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Mick Harper
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Italy 1 England 0 (England relegated)

I'm not too concerned actually. Dress rehearsals are meant to be disastrous. Still, 'most said, soonest mended' so here goes, Gareth.

1. Kyle Walker's sell-by date was reached in Russia 2018. I presume he must have something on you but, honestly, your wife will be much more understanding than you might think.
2. Raheem Sterling reached his sell-by date just after moving to Man City. I presume he must have something on you so keep him in the squad by all means. Just don't allow him anywhere near the starting eleven.
3. You have acknowledged England lack creativity. You have (a) Alexander-Arnold, the world's most creative defender and (b) Grealish, the world's most creative attacker in your squad. Please, please, Gareth use one of them even if you cannot bring yourself to use both of them.
4. I love Saka as if he were my own brother but he isn't quite tough enough for the hurly-burly of really top-class international football. And nor is Saka.
5. Bellingham is definitely worth persevering with as the central forward midfielder. This may require the selection of less-than-optimal colleagues around him.
6. Forget playing a Back Three. It requires too much sophistication on the part of (a) English players in (b) ad hoc teams under (c) your management.

I will send the rest of your instructions via your wife with whom I am conducting a steamy affair (well, she thinks so) so yes, she knows.
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Mick Harper
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The American football season is well and truly launched and the Patriots are one and two. With an irremovable but superannuated coach, his two sons as assistant coaches, a defensive maestro in charge of the offence and the play-calling in the hands of all of them by committee, there is little prospect of an improvement in the foreseeable future.

I could do what I normally do and switch my undying loyalties to the present champions (the LA Rams) offering a spurious justification (they are owned by the owners of Arsenal) but, you know what? I'm not gonna. I'm going to show what kind of man I truly am when the chips are down, and give it two more games.
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Wile E. Coyote


In: Arizona
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Wiley struggles with the scoring in this violent colonial form of rugby. Do you get points for knocking over the guy trying to throw the ball? I only ask as these strapping Eagles fellas were getting really excited every time they knocked over the poor chap from the Commanders.
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Mick Harper
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American Football: Case for the Defense

Linebackers (the D-line) are divided into (1) pass-rushers i.e. hindering the the quarterback from throwing the ball forward to receivers or (2) run-stoppers i.e. if the quarterback hands the ball off to a running back (or runs himself). Since nobody knows what he will do, they all have to do both. The only statistic they can boast off as individuals is how often they 'sack the quarterback' i.e. dump him on the floor before he has done either of the above.

A linebacker's salary will often have a clause awarding him bonuses depending how many sacks he gets in a season. Hence the celebration. (There's no money in winning games, dummy.) Twenty (in seventeen games) would probably make him sack-leader of the entire NFL.

I hope this is accurate, I am not to be entirely depended on. They never explain anything because their audience acquired all this knowledge with their mother's milk. That's why it's called 'formula'.
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Mick Harper
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Faroe Islands 2 Turkey 1

If you thought this was the most surprising result to come out of this round of the UEFA Nations, you'd be wrong. It was this one

Turkey 3 Luxembourg 3

You can lose to Luxembourg at home 1-0 by being desperately unlucky but to allow Luxembourg to score three at your patch -- win, draw or lose -- means you are desperately bad. I would advise President Erdogan to institute a Jack Charlton policy and scour the Bundesliga for people with Turkish grannies.
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Mick Harper
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England 3 Germany 3

So, Gareth, you respond by dropping Alexander-Arnold and Grealish from the squad entirely. Two can play at that little game. Do you know what it's like being dropped from a great height? Don't go in any hot air balloons being piloted by mysterious figures wreathed in close-fitting flying helmets and darkened goggles in the near future.

Little does he know that is not the plan at all.
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Mick Harper
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Mind you, they might be well off out of it. Foden is the latest example of a superstar being dragged into anonymity by playing for an ill-managed team. See Manchester United for twenty-four other examples. Let us hope Bellingham does not succumb before Mr (make it Sir for old times's sake) Gareth Southgate succumbs to a Fake Sheikh sting operation. Damn, I wasn't supposed to mention that.

Little does he know...
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Mick Harper
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This Week's Quiz

What have Malcolm Macdonald, Ron Saunders and Roy Hodgson have in common?
They all played for Tonbridge.

Why are they the Tonbridge Angels?
Because they played at the Angel Ground.

Why weren't they called The Halcyon Wealthy when they moved to the Halcyon Wealth Longmead Stadium in 1980?
Good question.
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Grant



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Here’s a question for the real football experts. I realise that it’s mere bar-room talk to criticise Maguire, but in the eyes of Southgate there must be something he brings to the game apart from making regular howlers.
But what is it?
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Mick Harper
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Maguire is the only person in the entire squad who looks like a footballer i.e. a footballer in the Charles Buchan Weeklies that Southgate grew up reading and wanted to be when he grew up.

And to be fair, he plays like it too.
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Mick Harper
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There's two minutes to go, the Cleveland Browns are 24-17 ahead. Their wide receiver knifes through the New York Jets' defence and is hurtling towards the goal line. His team mates start screaming at him, "Go down!" "Git outta bounds!" "Have a heart attack!" But no, the dope sails over the goal line and the Browns are 31-17 ahead. If he hadn't, the Browns could have run out the clock, sitting on their hands, and won 24-17.

But there's a fatal flaw to scoring in American football. It gives the ball back to the opposition and the Jets won 32-31.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Harry is in my opinion really good in the air, so good for set pieces. I would also say positionally good, the problem is that he is slow on the turn and to my eyes runs slower than say a Terry, so anyone with genuine international pace is going to be a problem. He really needs two defensive midfielders in front.

Offensively a real mixed bag, he wants the ball, which I like, but then makes errors in possession, which is not a good combination with wanting the ball. Who is better?
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Mick Harper
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Who is better?

My guess is 'any young English centre back playing in the Premier League'. There's a reason why they come cheap (Maguire himself, I believe, is still the most expensive). It is because they are not important in themselves but they have to plug seamlessly into the defensive system. For instance, you say

Harry is in my opinion really good in the air, so good for set pieces.

Maybe so but how often does he actually head the ball in a set piece? Once in a blue moon. And when that blue moon arrives, what are the chances that a slightly less good header wouldn't have headed it. And if he didn't, what are the chances it will result in a goal?

I would also say positionally good, the problem is that he is slow on the turn and to my eyes runs slower than say a Terry, so anyone with genuine international pace is going to be a problem.

So not so good for, say, international tournaments composed of teams with genuine strikers. Especially when the opposing manager says, "I'm playing I-Yam Pacee up front 'cos England will have Maguire in defence."

He really needs two defensive midfielders in front.

I'm not saying it will not come to that but England are in no position to be starting out committed to a policy of trading in a creative player for a Nobby Styles with teeth.

Offensively a real mixed bag, he wants the ball, which I like, but then makes errors in possession, which is not a good combination with wanting the ball.

This is, I agree, important. The centre backs (or all three backs in a Back Three) must be able to bring the ball out. But it sounds from what you say that Maguire needs two defensive midfielders behind him as well as in front of him. The real nightmare would be to have Maguire and Stones playing in tandem. The horror! The certainty!
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Mick Harper
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It's a three-horse race between Man City, Arsenal and Brighton for the four places.
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