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Monthly Archives: September 2011

On the surface, Robbie Savage and Joey Barton are two footballers cut from the same cloth. Both are/were immensely physical players, tearing around the pitch like men possessed and picking up their fair share of bookings along the way. But something else now links these two: Twitter.

Savage and Barton aren’t the  only footballers to have joined the social networking site. It’s become very popular with sportsmen around the world as a way of communicating with fans without pesky journalists twisting their words and mining for quotes. Where these two differ from many others, and to a greater extent, is in how much Twitter has helped to change peoples opinions towards them both.

For example, were it not for Twitter then the lingering impression of Joey Barton would have been one of a violent thug. Instead, Twitter has allowed us to see him as a rather intelligent person, fond of quoting philosophers, who has quite a strong social conscience (see his campaigning for the release of documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster) and regrets his problems in the past, both on and off the pitch. Similarly, Robbie Savage has developed from one of the most loathed men in football to a top BBC pundit and has even got his skates on to enter this years Strictly Come Dancing.

I wouldn’t dare say that these two have gone from pariah to paragon in the eyes of all the public. That would clearly be nonsense. You only have to look at some of their re-tweeted messages that are full of abuse to see that they’re still divisive members of the footballing community. But I think it’s fair to say that they’ve changed a lot of peoples preconceptions of them. They’ve certainly changed mine and I can’t be the only one to have developed a far more favourable view because of their Tweets.

I guess it goes to show that Twitter can not only be an instrument for social change, but also a handy PR tool.

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Again the international merry-go-round spins and yet again England look promising in one match, only to come down to Earth with a bump the next game. England’s game against Bulgaria resulted in an emphatic 3-0 win and hopes were raised that the team had turned a corner. With a good mix of youth and experience, Rooney on fire and even some hunger from those wearing the Three Lions to go out and get the win, it looked like England finally had a formula that, even if it couldn’t win Euro 2012, could certainly make up for the terrible performance in South Africa last year.

Fast forward to tonight and yet again it’s same old England. An abject display, no fire (except from Rooney as usual and the fantastic Ashley Young), sloppy passing, frustration, dismal service to the front line and players too past it to even be in the squad. Yes England won, but it was hardly inspiring stuff.

Capello’s starting XI was not altogether awful, apart from a couple of exceptions. I can understand Capello not starting Scott Parker. He’s one yellow card away from suspension and will be crucial against Montenegro. Bringing Milner in to replace Walcott was a clever change. Should Garth Bale have pulled a San Siro and started playing like a Welsh Leo Messi then Milner could assist in defense where he has proven capable.

However, where I have problems with Capello’s team is his reliance on old heads. Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry should be nowhere near that starting XI unless Jack Wilshere, Steven Gerrard, Tom Huddlestone, Scott Parker, Tom Cleverley, Jordan Henderson or even young Phil Jones had all been somehow incapacitated. At some point the younger players like Cleverley, Jones, Henderson and Huddlestone need to be blooded on the international stage and players like Lampard and Barry who have nothing to offer any more are standing in the way of that.

England should take a look at their opposition from tonight and what they’re doing to give themselves the best chance of performing on the international stage. Gary Speed has identified Welsh qualification for the World Cup as his main goal and is using the European Championship’s qualifying campaign to give his young squad the time to bond and get much needed experience. Yes they have been beaten often and yes they won’t qualify. But with all fairness to Wales, England’s young players are of a better quality so qualifying would not have been an issue.

Chances are we wouldn’t do well in Poland and Ukraine, although youth didn’t stop Germany being superb in the World Cup last year. Regardless, with that tournament experience would be a better chance of succeeding in Brazil, yet for some reason these young players are still playing second fiddle to an over the hill generation. Yes you need experienced heads in a squad, but they shouldn’t be standing in the way of those who will be there in three years time. The older players like Lampard, Barry, even Rio Ferdinand, should retire before they scupper any chance of success.