Monday 23 June ~
On the rare occasion that the increasingly irritating John Motson actually impresses with a stat, who could resent him his moment in the sun? Such was the case as Spain lined up against Italy in last night’s Euro 2008 quarter-final and we were alerted to the fact that they had been eliminated from international tournaments in a penalty shoot-out on 22 June on three (THREE!) previous occasions (World Cup 86, Euro 96 and World Cup 2002, since you asked). Who would have doubted that would become four as Italy took Calcio to a whole new level, seemingly playing for penalties from minute one?
Catenaccio, the art of dour football, is one of those things that are automatically appreciated in this country because they have a foreign name and the British aren’t very good at them, like cappuccinos or the lambada. In this case it should have been appreciated for creating perhaps the second dullest game of the tournament (France v Romania will take some beating) and leading to Italy’s deserved elimination when they had the players if not the belief to play Spain at their own game. Ruining John Motson’s stat along the way, of course.
It wasn’t just Spain that were being heralded by the papers this morning for breaking new ground but new Blackburn manager Paul Ince, the first black British manager in the Premier League. Ince, who was also the first black player to captain England, has achieved great success in League Two with Macclesfield and MK Dons and there is little doubt that his CV is more impressive than that of Steve McClaren. However, Sam Allardyce really should have a think about his interview technique, how guiding Bolton into Europe is not considered worthy of comparison to a Johnston’s Paint victory is anyone’s guess.
Ince’s appointment was heralded by Richard Bevan, chief executive of the League Managers' Association, as “wonderful news”, a reference that presumably overlooks the fact that Ince is the latest manager to be appointed to a Premier League post without the UEFA Pro Licence, a supposed prerequisite for managing in the top tier. Whatever your views on the need for UEFA badges, it does seem rather strange that managers can forego them simply on the strength of a quick phone around to a few other clubs to give the appointment the thumbs up. While the appointment of Ince is a step forward for black managers, it is another sign that having friends in the right places can go a long way to securing a Premier League job.