Posted: 6/3/2012


     Well, Roy's boys jet off to their base in Krakow, Poland today and train prior to their opening match in Donetsk, 850 miles south-east of their base camp, a week on Monday against France at EURO 2012.

     They survived The Phony War, two 1-0 victories away and at home to Norway and Belgium which don't give much for Three Lions fans to get excited about.  This is the first big tournament in my living memory when the country is not expecting the team to lift the trophy. The F.A. was offered 8,000 tickets for each of the 3 matches in Donetsk and Kiev and could only get rid of 3,000.

    Ukraine is remote and over priced, and while Kiev and Lviv have much to offer, Donetsk is not exactly a welcoming tourist mecca. and the new  plus  have some interesting and affordable new routes, but you can't exactly go for the day from UK as you can to each of the four Polish venues.However, the England WAGS, (wives and girlfriends) have charted a jet to take them in and out for the day for England group matches). The recent BBC Panorama programme 'Stadiums of Hate' probable put off any fans deciding on last minute trips. However, those you do make the trip can expect to pick up tickets outside the stadiums for a bargain.

   Gary Cahill of Chelsea, who was pushed into goalie Joe Hart is the latest player to withdraw with a double jaw fracture, following Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard who also say at home.  Ferdinand is ignored as Liverpool's Martin Kelly is brought into the squad. They are tough at the back but unexciting up front and will do well to survive the group. However, opponents France, Ukraine and Sweden have rather dodgy defences that can be breached.

     France are undefeated in 31 matches and after a miserable time in South Africa, look more oprganized under Laurent Blanc. They won 4-0 at the splendid new MM Arena in Le Mans against Estonia last night. Ukraine lost in the small Lobanosky stadium(home of Dyamo Kiev, to Turkey, while Sweden won 3-2 over Serbia at the new Solna Stadium in Stockhom.

     Last week I walked past the Eggers Hotel across from the Central Station in Gothenburg where England were housed at the 1958 World Cup. Four years later they chose the remote Rancagua in Chile at the headquarters of the Braden Copper mining outfit. In 1966 I dropped by the Hadden Hall Hotel, not far from Wembley, with no security, on the morning of the 1966 World Cup Final, to leave a poster to be signed by the players. Four years later as defending champions in 1970 they chose the Hilton in the centre of Guadalajara where they were kept awake by England fans by the pool, and car horns from Mexican and Brazilian fans driving by. I spent the time in the Camino Real on the outskirts with the FIFA referees and the players families.

     They didn't make it in 1974 and 1978. I am not sure where they stayed in Spain in 1982 and Mexico in 1986. In 1990 they reached the semis and I watched them lose out to West Germany on pks in Turin.  They stayed home in 1994, and were so-so in 1998. In 2006 they were followed by the WAGS in Baden-Baden, Germany and in 2010 at a boring base in the wilderness near Rustenburg, going stir crazy and dumped out by Germany in the second round.

    No Great Expectations this time, and with the nation just recovering from a four day Diamond Jubilee holiday and looking forward to next month's Summer Olympics Games, we can expect little and hope for much more. COME ON ENGLAND !!