2 August ~ “I’ll be pleasantly surprised if we make the play-offs,” said Wigan fan Ian Aspinall ahead of the 2015-16 League One season, after pointing to their high turnover of players, untried manager and the League’s youngest chairman. Ian must have been amazed, then, when his team were promoted as champions come May, top scorers in the league thanks in large part to the form of Will Grigg. It won’t as come as much of a shock to the other League One contributors, however, who had Wigan down as runners-up.
1 August ~ “Automatic promotion,” asserted Burnley fan Kevin Clarke ahead of the 2015-16 Championship season. “It goes against everything I believe in as a Burnley fan to predict this, but there really is no reason why not.” It took them a couple of games to get going but in the end Kevin’s confidence was well placed and his team sealed an immediate return to the Premier League, going up as champions by four points.
14 July ~ On Tuesday, Joachim Löw finally confirmed that he has every intention to honour his contract as Germany head coach, running until the 2018 World Cup. Not everybody is celebrating. In spite of guiding Germany to five semi-finals in a row (six, if you insist on counting 2006 in which Löw served as an assistant to Jürgen Klinsmann), with one World Cup trophy thrown in, Löw continues to polarise opinions: is he the tactical magician responsible for those triumphs, or an addicted tinkerer whose butt continues to be saved by the extraordinarily gifted bunch of players we currently are producing?
8 July ~ The car horns were sounding in Lille way past 1am, more than a couple of hours after the final whistle of France’s semi-final against Germany. Social media showed scenes of celebration across the country after Les Bleus’ 2-0 win sealed their place in the Euro 2016 final.
6 July ~ Portugal are already champions of sorts: they seem to be the most reviled team of Euro 2016, for whatever reason – and there are a number to choose from, including Cristiano Ronaldo’s narcissism, Pepe’s borderline psychopathy and the perceived injustice of the team’s dogged progress, which has come despite the generally poor quality of their play.
4 July ~ On Thursday June 9, I doubted I had the stamina for another televised summer finals. By Thursday June 23, in the break after the group games, I doubted I could endure two whole days without live European Championship football.
2 July ~ As Germany face Italy tonight, coach Jogi Löw is refusing to entertain the notion that there is anything like an “Italian curse” hanging over his team. That has been a common refrain over the last decade, and while it is true that Germany have yet to beat Italy at the finals of a major tournament, it is the events of 2006 that really anchored the idea in Germany’s collective psyche.
1 July ~ “His Euro is over, that’s fate for you,” Marc Wilmots told the press on Thursday night, reporting on Jan Vertonghen’s injury. Belgian media had speculated all afternoon about Vertonghen’s ankle, badly sprained in training earlier in the day, causing ligament damage.
30 June ~ It's the end of an era. After Spain's early exit of Euro 2016, Spanish fans and media agreed that La Roja's dominance of international football is over. The so called "tranquil transition” led by manager Vicente del Bosque after the shocking flop at the 2014 World Cup hasn't been successful. Now, broader changes are required.
29 June ~ The England squad that travelled to the 1962 World Cup in Chile had to endure a flight with two separate changes to Lima where they played a warm-up game against Peru before moving on to Santiago, then Rancagua where they would play their group games and then bus to their base at the Braden Copper Company staff house in Coya, some 2,500 feet up in the Andes. The journey of over 7,500 miles would have taken them more than twenty four hours. Hardly an ideal preparation for the tournament.