Six years ago I was in Jutland in Northern Denmark for the UEFA u21s tournament and the big name Young Three Lions were terrible and bowed out in the opening round. The tournament is held ever two years and EPL coaches have withdrawn players claiming they were tired after sitting on the bench all season for their clubs.
This year has been much, much better for the younger teams, largely due to the down to earth national team manager Gareth Southgate and his support and attitude. He has been in Poland watched the English team. I was at the UEFA u17s tournament in Croatia. That team was superb, with skill and team work. They were seconds from winning the title in the final until it went to penalties and they lost.
The Under 20s won the FIFA u20 World Cup in South Korea and the younger squad won the annual Toulon Tournament in the South of France. It has been a fantastic summer..so far. The semi-final against an unknown opponent will take place on Tuesday. Only the three group winners plus the best 2nd place finisher will be in the semi-finals.Two other teams, plus England and Spain will be decided this Friday evening.
The attendances have been very good in Poland. Terrific support from the home fans of course. Ticket prices were only 5.8 Euros on the side lines and 3.50 Euros behind the goals( in Polish zlotys). 3,000 Swedish fans were at the 0-0 tie with England in the southern city of Kielce while even more fans showed up from nearby Slovakia and the Czech Republic. the semi-finals will be played in Tychy and Krakow with the final in Krakow.
In contrast, attendances at the eight team FIFA Confederation Cup in 4 cities of Russia; St Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan and Sochi have shown half empty stadiums, and with the home team looking to get eliminated early things can only get worse.
A very interesting and not before time move by the FA www.thefa.com concerning the gambling problem. They have a £4 a year deal with the Ladbrokes Coral company which will now be torn up after only one season. Joey Barton has been bamnned for 18 months for making over 1,500 bets and accused the authorities of double standards. The EPL and FL clubs have lots of sponsorship deals, on jerseys, on stadium naming rights and allowing gambling sites in their stadiums. I would like to see this come to an end early as well. FA Chairman Greg Clarke instigated a review into such sponsorship agreements.
On a SWEETER note, the troubles at Leyton Orient seem to be getting better. After three years under a disasterous ownership by an Italian called Francesco Becchetti, the almost never present owner, has sold out. The club has been relegated from the Football League after 112 years, so there is a lot of work ahead. The new owner is a lifelong fan and chairman of Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins, Nigel Travis and he heads the new consortium.
This Thursday I attended the 2nd football WALK OF FAME ceremony inside and outside the National Football Musuem www.nationalfootballmuseum.com. Denis Law, Jimmy Greaves, Paulo Cesare Maldina, Eusebio and Alfredo Di Stefano were honoured. I HAD THE PLEASURE OF WATCHING ALL FIVE OF THEM PLAY LIVE !! A month ago we had the terrible slaughter across the road at the Manchester Arena. I arrived at Manchester Victoria station underneath the Arena, which is still closed, as are the stairs from the entrance to the Arena down which the survivors fled. The museum was closed for a week afterwards as the roads were cordened off. The NFM is open daily and is FREE to enter with a special PELE exhibition as a highlight. It was also great to meet up once again with THE MASTER OF MOVEMENT, my old pal Paul Trevillion The Tottenham Cowboy, and designer of the drawings and much more, and a true legend with the pencil.
Next door in Cathedral Gardens, in the heart of Manchester, they are preparing for a weekend Italian Food Festival.
I would also like to congratulate George Quraishi the founder and editor of HOWLER, the awesome magazine about soccer publshed in USA. firstname.lastname@example.org. Published four times annually, it is a treasure trove of outstanding photographs and articles. A REALLY GOOD READ. easy to subscribe to.