Random thoughts on European football

1. If Kevin Keegan is the Geordie Messiah, who’s the Geordie John the Baptist? Jim Smith?

2. If Ireland’s ambition is to reach the finals of major tournaments again, why have they hired Giovanni Trapattoni who, for all his vast experience and trophy winning ways, has failed to achieve that very goal at his last three clubs: Red Bull Salzburg, VFB Stuttgart and Benfica?

3. The Trapattoni appointment begs one question: wouldn’t it be helpful if all coaches had a ‘best by’ date stamped somewhere on their personage? That way Newcastle United would have been spared Kenny Dalglish, QPR would have avoided John Gregory and Parma, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid would have shunned Arrigo Sacchi. I don’t know why or how but if you look at the careers of many coaches there is a moment, usually only noticeable in hindsight, after which, although seem outwardly the same as ever, their career peters out into a succession of might have beens and near misses. F. Scott Fitzgerald would call it Dick Diver syndrome.

4. As a Nuneaton Borough fan, I will watch any kind of football anywhere at anytime. But even I find it hard to sit through a whole 90 minutes of the live Eredivisie match on Setanta Sports on Sundays. Some games are so dull I look forward to the ad break.

5. Not every Dutch footballer can change the world but, in the last decade, no Oranjeman has had the impact of Cruyff, Gullit, Rijkaard or Van Basten. And the Dutch record in the last few major tournaments is almost as bad as England’s: 2000: out on penalties in semi-final on home soil2002: did not qualify2004: losing semi-finalists2006: out in round of 16.Is this the worst generation of Dutch footballers since the 1960s?

6. When will the FA realise that charging managers who criticise referees’ blindingly obvious errors with “bringing the game into disrepute” is, er, bringing the game into disrepute?

7. Is Ray Wilkins on a nice little earner when, pontificating on UEFA Champions League games on SkySports, he looks solemnly at the camera and intones: “The Italians do know how to defend”? Surely, someone – merry japester Richard Keys perchance? – pays him each time he manages to slip this ‘wisdomc’ into his commentary.

8. Joe McGinniss, author of the sublime The Miracle Of Castel Di Sangro once tried to do this but here goes: an entire Swedish team made up of Anderssons. In goal, Bengt Andersson (IFK Gothenburg 1998-). Protecting Benny are Patrik Andersson (now at Malmo), his dad Roy (Swedish player of the year in 1977), Bjorn Andersson (at Bayern in the 1970s) and Cristofer Andersson (Lillestrom). The defensive screener in midfield is Christoffer Andersson (now back at Helsingborgs). Alongside him are Petter Andersson (Hammarby), Anders Andersson (formerly at Blackburn) and Anders’ Malmo team-mate Daniel Andersson. Up front, Gunnar Andersson (Marseille, 1950-1958) is paired with Kennet Andersson. Like the current Swedish national team, this team – call it The Magnificent Anderssons – would play 4-4-2.

9. If you ever think your team's league is tight, check out the tightest ever league table – with two points separating the runner-up from the team that came second from bottom.

10. I’ve always had a soft spot for SSC Venezia because they are crap, have twice given away the core of a decent side (to Torino in the 1940s and Palermo in 2002) and used to play in a strange green brown and orange shirt that made them look like a load of mints. My son had a Venezia Maurizio Ganz T-shirt once. Their fans also devised one of the most effective anti-racist tactics in football. Angered by some racist booing, they reduced the whole business to absurdity by booing every time a white player got the ball. They’re now down on their luck, in Serie C1/A, so to give them moral support I’d encourage you to go to Google Maps and contemplate the beauty that is their ground, as seen from above.

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