We have some excellent news at the Offside Rule to brighten up your summer and whet the appetite for the upcoming football season. We have a brilliant new feature where we dig deep in to the world of sports journalism and get a flavour of what it’s like being a football reporter on the road.
Lynsey Hooper, who makes up one third of our podcast trio, will bring you her opinions and views of life on the road.
Over to Lynsey…
What better place to begin a new football column than at a European Championship? Now if you can cast your mind back as far as the first weekend of the 2016 tournament and England’s impending game against Russia, Kait Borsay and I made the trip to Marseille to sample life as fans in the South of France.
I’m sure those of you who weren’t out there had seen and heard the news reports about violence breaking out on the streets. Being there, I can say Marseille was a scary place to be at times. It was also so depressing to see what was happening away from the football dominating the headlines.
We were based in the main port area, an area that I’m very fond of, and it’s where most of the news pictures came from. I’ve included a few of our own here…
On the Friday night of France’s opening game, what started out as a calm, civilised dinner outside ended with us being locked inside a restaurant as violence spread outside. Looking out, it was difficult to take it all in; particularly the image of a crying child being consoled by her father sitting at a window table.
The child was no older than four, unable to understand what was going on, and was so very scared. As her father tried calming her down, I couldn’t help but think that this memory would be imprinted on that young child’s mind for the rest of her life. I wish the perpetrators who were looking to get their kicks from causing trouble had taken half a second to look in our direction, at that child’s face, to see the damage they were doing.
For the entire weekend, Marseille really wasn’t a family-friendly place. Russian ultras were making themselves easily identifiable in T-shirts, displaying a pack mentality of ‘us versus them’. This isn’t what football is about; it’s the ugly side of football I don’t want to see again.
Away from the trouble, however, Marseille was such a beautiful city. Kait and I still managed to have a fantastic time – one we will speak about for many years to come. The violence didn’t win in the end, the football did.
A stark contrast to our trip to Marseille was a second round visit to Paris, where we oh-so-foolishly had imagined England, having hopefully topped their group, would be ready to take centre stage in the French capital.
Instead, we got Wales vs. Northern Ireland. No under currents here, apart from a certain Wigan striker supposedly being on fire! After days of hearing about Will Grigg and his flammability, I have now reached the point where I don’t want to hear the song again – despite the Northern Irish fans being brilliant. Hundreds of renditions in a finite period can do that to someone…
The atmospheres in the two cities were polar opposites, so we really did get to see the best and the worst of the football family. And continuing with that metaphor, I’d conclude that the football fraternity is similar to a large annual family get together; you love most of your relatives, but there’s always one or two who let the side down.
On to the football itself, and I have to say the quality hasn’t been great. The Hungary vs. Portugal game gave us our first goal fest, and Italy vs. Spain showed us the first truly high standard of football. There have been a few star performers along the way, but the low point has undoubtedly been England.
I’ll confess I’m not a Roy Hodgson fan – I never thought he was right for the England job. He went in to the tournament not knowing his formation, failed to have a plan B (his plan A was pretty ropey too), and left in-form players in Danny Drinkwater and Andros Townsend at home.
Last weekend, I was on Fighting Talk on BBC Five Live. On the podcast, I was asked to give a football manager at the Euros a part-time job, and I decided to pick one for Roy:
A sweet sorter and packer for Revels or Rowntree’s Randoms.
He’d be great at throwing an assortment of sweets together. He’d definitely keep your favourite sweet that you’ve been eating for a decade, and then he’d throw a few flavours together you really wouldn’t expect, and just when you think you’ve got the perfect packet of sweets, he’d make six changes and leave your taste palette feeling all confused.
The host nation and finalists France were not too proud to pick form players. N’Golo Kante and Dimitri Payet forced their way into that team and both excelled. Why would Roy ignore the players who were English champions? It was criminal leaving Jamie Vardy on the bench.
So the big question now: who will replace Roy? Names like Glenn Hoddle surely can’t be considered following a decade out of management. Someone who can relate to these young men is what’s needed; Slaven Bilić is the sort of manager I would want the FA to go for, but I’m sure West Ham fans won’t thank me for that!
On to brighter things….
Next month, I will be focussing on a highly anticipated Premier League season. Jose vs. Pep and a certain newly-acquired Swede are expected to take centre stage.
Follow Lynsey at @LynseyHooper