I’m backing England

Here kicks off sport review NZ’s Germany 06 coverage. I’m going to be providing some New Zealand perspective on the world’s biggest sporting event. Mostly from the couch. After some (pretty minor) soul searching, I will hereby be backing England in this World Cup. Here’s why.

I started off supporting England when I began taking a proper interest in Spurs in 1993 or thereabouts. It went hand in hand for me – I knew the players, the All Whites were pretty crap, so why not? It just felt right. I got a copy of the Italia ’90 semi final on VHS and watched it a lot.

It really kicked off with Euro 96 – Terry Venables had the coaching job, and put Teddy Sheringham, Darren Anderton and Nick Barmby in the team. Gazza was back, Wembley was bathed in sunshine, they had grey shirts, I had a Sky decoder – what could possibly go wrong?

“You look like you’re going to vomit” said my then-girlfriend when Southgate missed his penalty. Some welcome.

Then came France ’98. By now I was living in London, and had seen England lose to Chile at the old Wembley stadium with my brother and a couple of mates, a game notable only for the England debut of M. Owen. I warmed up with the rest of the boys from the office at a Southwalk pub, laughing at Scotland losing to Brazil. “This is brilliant” I thought – World Cup football in the same timezone! And booze!

England had three pool games to negociate, but no-one seemed too worried, all eyes were on the Argentina match. I watched from the floor of a Wapping pub in front of a big screen. It’s safe to say that by kick off, I’d had a few, my office went to a wine bar for someone’s birthday, so we could all get pissed beforehand, they were bloody considerate those guys. I remember Owen’s goal alright, and I remember leaping to my feet to celebrate (pre-Judas) Sol Campbell’s goal, only to be ruled out by Alan ‘bloody’ Shearer’s thoughtless elbow on an Argie defender. I remember using some very bad language on my stagger to the tube station afterward, and can only apologise to anyone Argentinean who may have heard it.

Then God Hoddle shot his mouth off and England got Keegan. I loved his Newcastle side like everyone else, but always thought he was a bit of a Muppet. By Euro 2000 I was living in Dublin and took my life in my hands cheering Shearer’s goal vs Germany in a Leopardstown pub – that didn’t go down to well with the locals (“It’s OK, we’re Kiwis” “Ye’re feckin eeejits”). England were a bit shit, of course, and this was the beginning of the end, Keegan was apparently great at ‘geeing the lads up’, but was utterly, cruelly clueless tactically.

I packed it in when they lost to Germany at Wembley’s last match in the worst performance and Keegan resigned immediately afterwards. “I don’t need this shit” I thought. “I’ve got enough bloody teams to worry about without these guys”. I watched Beckham beat Greece on his own impassively. I laughed at Seaman’s ponytail and Sven’s inability to keep it in his trousers. I tried backing Italy (The Sopranos) and Brazil (Ronaldo) in Japan/Sth Korea 02, but didn’t get tooooo worked up. Everyone loves Brazil deep down anyway. I watched Rooney go off injured and England going out of Euro 04 and felt a twinge of… something.

Now I’m back, chastened. The time is right, England can play some nice football. There’s loads of Spurs players in the team and squad. They’ve got a great chance of winning it, and they’ll have me yelling for them. I only hope they’ve been practicing penalties.


What’s that Skip? Wendell’s stuck under the table?

It seems like the whole country is suffering from a collective post – Lions hangover. You go to the pub – there’s no-one there. You go to watch the sports news – what’s the point? You can reach out and touch the listlessness with your hand. But hang on… there’s a Tri Nations to play, and while everyone’s trying hard to feign indifference, underneath it all, we can’t wait to see if that magic in Wellington (and Christchurch to a lesser extent) can be recreated against the old enemies.

We were too busy arguing about the flat back line last year to care, and it was one of the more mediocre tournaments in a competition that has more same-ness to it every year (can’t wait for that extra round). After a year together, we’ll get to see what this potentially ‘special’ All Black side is made of.

And it’s great to see the Wallabies responding to the threat of a resugent South Africa and ominous New Zealand by getting on the piss…

Lions tour – in cartoon form!

I sat down one day and made a ‘cartoon’ about Clive Woodward and what a goose he is. Then I sent it to Bart, who put it on his site. I was stoked, so I did a couple more. You can see them here, here and here on thesilverfern.co.nz, or click on the pics for my Flickr site below – there’s a few photos from the rugby there, too.


Book Review – Hadlee Hits Out by Richard Hadlee (1983)

  I’ll confess, I’m a huge Sir Richard Hadlee fan. As a cricket mad young boy I pored over this book, and borrowed it from the library many, many times until my grandparents gave me my own copy.

“Hadlee Hits Out” covers a historic period in NZ’s cricketing history, from the underarm delivery (this chapter still makes the blood boil), Hadlee’s time with Notts in England, through the World Cup of 1983, to the first test win in England at Headingly. There’s a huge amount of detail on the games, but the fascinating parts come when Hadlee muses on a wide range of issues, from touring South Africa, to Geoff Howarth’s form with the bat, through to his tussles with NZCC.

The opening chapter has Hadlee’s thoughts on his team mates in that legendary mid eighties team. He obviously handed each one a questionnaire asking their favorite food, TV show, memorable moment, etc. “Charlie’s (Ewan Chatfield) special interests include gardening. The last book he read was the Yates Garden Guide. He likes playing squash”. Despite valiant efforts at amusing anecdotes, his humor free reputation is confirmed – on Trevor Franklin’s nickname “Herman” – “A few years ago on the telly there was a programme called Herman Munster, and he looks very similar to the actor who played that part”.

He has strong views on his NZ Cricket boss Martin Snedden – “He likes all sports and is a bit of an intellectual. The last book he read was The Parsifal Mosaic by Robert Ludlam… He always has a comment to add that has very little to do with the subject being talked about”.

Hadlee has no need for a ghost writer to help with his forthright views, and comes across as a man totally focused on cricket and measuring up to his own exalted standards. This may explain his aloof reputation, but the fact remains that Hadlee remains the greatest cricket player New Zealand has produced by some distance.

You can’t argue with his record as a fast bowler and all-rounder at time when the Zimbabwes and Bangladeshes weren’t playing test cricket. The team that was built around him put New Zealand cricket on the map, and as we saw when it broke up, rebuilding takes a long time.

Hadlee was a marvelous player and we were lucky to have him. Reading this book won’t give you many deep and fascinating insights into his thoughts as he ripped through batsmen, but it will bring back some fond memories.