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The Importance of Sport (NEW CONCEPTS)
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Mick Harper
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"Great job there by Raekwon McMillan, the sixth-year man out of Ohio State. The Buckeye came flying in."

A New England Patriot tackled a Minnesota Viking behind the line of scrimmage. Now imagine a British commentator describing, say, Tyrone Mings making a last ditch tackle and including, matter of factly, how long Tyrone has been a professional footballer, which university he went to and what the nickname of his university football team was. And he would need to know the details of approximately forty Aston Villans. They beat us at all aspects of TV sport.
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Mick Harper
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So everyone has played one and it is time for the brains trust to sit in session. The class acts have been England, France, Spain and Brazil (in reverse order?) but of course it is always the case that early stars splutter and slow starters come good. The possibilities of upsets has clearly increased. Largely, one would think, because everyone has developed the capacity to be tight at the back and to play it around a bit.

The difference is, as it always is, in the quality of strikers. This affects all the minors all the time as well as -- at this particular world cup --Argentina, Germany, Portugal, Belgium and (maybe) England.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Mick Harper wrote:

A New England Patriot tackled a Minnesota Viking behind the line of scrimmage. Now imagine a British commentator describing, say, Tyrone Mings making a tackle and including, matter of factly, how long Tyrone has been a professional footballer, which university he went to and what the nickname of his university football team was. And he would need to know the details of approximately forty Aston Villans. They beat us at all aspects of TV sport.


Sadly, thanks to the advent of VAR and multiple longer stoppages, this padding will become common place.

"Great tackle by Mings saved a certain goal"

Three minutes later......

"It's a VAR review on the tackle by Mings"

"Err....Yes, and what a great story .Tyrone doesn't come from County Tyrone, he is English!"

"Umm...His dad didn't produce Ming vases either, he played non league football so he is definitely out of England, according to my notes. No Chinese or Irish blood at all. What a great story!"

"Cripes, this is a bit of a wait....where was I? He was rejected by Eastliegh FC and was working as a mortgage advisor, anything could have happened, he could have joined a London Gang and started working County Lines, but... what is this? He decided to supplement his income as a part time barman. Incredible fortitude from the former Millfield school graduate, so err...English"

"Thank heavens......Results from VAR are in....and he is off, it's a penalty. On reflection it was a hot headed challenge from Mings, he will never establish himself as a regular English international with a rush of blood like that one. "

"Jesus, how much overtime are we going to have? I need a wee"
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Mick Harper
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Yes, yes, very droll but one difference is that American football has a VAR-equivalent after every play. Meaning that commentators have to become mini-raconteurs rather than fillers-of-longueurs. We can, with some justice, point out that cricket commentators are the former whereas our Kenneth Wolstenholme's have to either stay relatively mute as we watch the continuous action unfold or become Radio 5-style gabblers to our intense irritation.

But I look forward to any of them coping with South Korea vs China in 2026. Thank God no Polynesians are ever involved. Nor the click languages of southern Africa statelets. Come to think of it, it is a shame the Welsh adopted the policy of shoving an S onto John Thomas Evan Davis. "Llanfwrman puts it through to Gwyllm ap Gwyllm ap Gwyllm." We'd need Robbie Savage to make any sense of it.
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Mick Harper
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Wales vs Iran

How very agricultural. I won't give the goals as they were scored after the allotted extra time. Which at nine minutes was already generous enough.
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Mick Harper
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Here's an idea. All the squads are awash with heirs and spares who never get to see much action. This is a world cup, let's not forget, so after ninety minutes the Second XI's should rise from their benches, replace the stars, and play out whatever the ref deems to be time added on. Practically a match in itself. This will not only please their mums, it will cut out all the soppy timewasting substitutions.

As a bonus it will greatly assist the Good Guys (the Big Guys) who have benches that make one salivate, as opposed to the Costa Rica-alikes who have nobodies understudying the nobodies. Not that they have mums, they are mostly from orphanages and will be left behind in Qatar. Not many people know that. They don't know that.
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Grant



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A couple of years ago Gareth Southgate finally started to understand that he could use substitutes. But no-one in his back-room team has informed him that he now has five
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Mick Harper
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England vs USA

How very agricultural. I won't give the goals as there wouldn't be any if they were still playing. Though if they were it would have killed off sah-ker as a spectator sport forever. It falls to me to explain where the Good Guys (the Big Guys) went wrong.

"Stones and Maguire were passing to one another far too much." Ian Wright, half time

Let me tell you why, Wrighty. When a 4-3-3 team is playing it out from the back and two of the four are playing as auxiliary wingbacks, when only one of the midfield three is 'playing back' because you're playing a minnow, and the front three have been told they are the front three and to stay there and the other team are playing 4-3-3 and their front three are all pressing, it follows that the only pass available is between one's central back pairing because they are the only unmarked people around. There is also the goalie but he will likely have to hoof it up the park now he's looking at a three v three situation so you won't be playing it out from the back.

What do you think England should do about this, Wrighty, you didn't say.
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Mick Harper
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My six-year-old said, "Daddy, daddy, why aren't the English team funnelling back in sufficient numbers so they always comfortably outnumber the opposition in their third of the pitch. Since they've only got three opposition players pressing (and they're only forwards anyway, Daddy) they'll easily arrive in the middle third of the pitch in good order, the ball at the feet of midfielders, with every prospect of launching a punishing attack on those dirty Americans in their third of the pitch." "I don't know, son, I'm only an applied epistemologist, we'll have to ask a pundit."

"England are passing much too slowly." Roy Keane at halftime.

"That can't be right, daddy. When you're in your own third, you can't go in for quick-passing because, no matter how good you are you will occasionally give away possession doing that, and it will be in a dangerous part of the pitch. You'll be one-down before you've even got going. England were mostly in their own third." "Don't mention that to Keano, son, remember what happened to that Swedish bloke."
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Mick Harper
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"Goal-less, I'm afraid. We've had word from the England camp that England must get more players higher up the pitch." BBC man at halftime.

No, me old matey, they should have fewer players higher up the pitch. In fact, when you're playing it out from the back against a pressing team, you must never have more than a single player up the park (in case you get into trouble and have to hoof it). Everyone else should be engaged in ferrying the ball (laboriously but safely) from your third of the pitch to the middle third of the pitch. All players should forget what their ostensible role is while this essential task is performed first. After that, you can have as many people high up the pitch as you want.

"The England players look 'leggy' to me." Lee Dixon at halftime.

Let me tell you why, Lee, since you don't seem to have worked it out for yourself.
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Mick Harper
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This is a world cup being played in the middle of the football season. Consequently all the players at this world cup will be in one of the following situations:

1. They are big stars playing for big (but not the biggest) clubs and hence have been playing once or twice a week for several months.
2. They are big stars playing for the biggest clubs who can afford a rotation policy so their big stars don't have to play once or twice every week.
3. They are big stars playing for big clubs but a bit out of favour so haven't been playing once or twice a week for the last few months.
4. They are medium stars playing for big clubs and hence 'squad players' and haven't been playing once or twice a week for the last few months.

Got that, Gareth? Now set your selection policy, your substitution policy and your training regime policy accordingly.

"Why isn't Foden playing? He's the best player in the squad." Gary Neville at halftime.

I don't know, Gary, I'm only an applied epistemologist. "I do, daddy. Southgate is a right... you know, that word mummy calls you."
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Wile E. Coyote


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Grant wrote:
A couple of years ago Gareth Southgate finally started to understand that he could use substitutes. But no-one in his back-room team has informed him that he now has five


"The England players look 'leggy' to me." Lee Dixon at halftime.


Still, as the same eleven ambled lethargically out, Lee was back on board.

No need to panic yet


Five consecutive corners to USA, and it was time to look to bench. It was 32 year old Jordan Henderson warming up. A brilliant tactical switch.

I think Gareth needs senior player to help out the young ones

By the end Lee had decided that they needed to hang on and try to get a point.

The England manager has a favourite group of players, at best two (!) fomations, always subs at 60 and 70 minutes, even when they are being played off the park. It's as if the manager is petrified of making changes, which he thinks will be interpreted as panic or maybe annoy his favourites. So we are now totally predictable, that is to any opposition manager whio has actually done his homework. This just passes Lee by. Maybe it's the old pro defender network?
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Mick Harper
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Looking on the bright side, our six goals against Iran presumably means topping the group and avoiding Holland when we beat Wales. (We have already qualified unless we lose 4-0 to them.) The Welsh don't press -- or do anything else -- and with legginess forcing Southgate to pick our best players even he will see the resulting sparkling performance means he has no alternative but to commit suicide in a bizarre accident involving an upturned dhow.

Thereupon the players invoke 'the playground rule' whereby the best player is put in charge and Foden sends for Pep (who drops him, but that's another story). You read it here first.
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Mick Harper
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Last night, on the O2 bill, we were introduced to the latest boxing sensation, Tommy Fletcher. Sensational for a number of reasons

* He is six foot seven, unusual for any boxer, unprecedented for a cruiserweight
* He is very handsome, the first British cruiserweight to be so since John Conteh
* All three of his fights so far have ended in a knockout
* Last night's being delivered with an uppercut, not normally a knockout punch
* His opponent was out before he hit the ground, that doesn't happen very often.

The only possible barrier to his future success is the nickname he has chosen for himself. The Norfolk Nightmare fosters, I fear, a somewhat backwoods image.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Mick Harper wrote:
Thereupon the players invoke 'the playground rule'

If you had alternate picks for rival teams between Southgate and Foden, I don't think you would get Foden trying for anybody other than Kane, Rice,Trippier or Shaw (idiotically we only have 1 left back in a 26 man squad so Shaw now has to be first playground pick). Still, even if Foden gives the fab four to Southgate because the Waistcoat (ha) will waste his picks on Mount, Maguire, Stones, Sterling etc, I would still take Team Foden to win.
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