It’s been a chaotic week for England, with the Under-21s defeating Serbia twice to reach UEFA Euro 2013 and the senior side picking up four points from two FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifiers. Both endured trying circumstances. In Serbia, Stuart Pearce’s team found itself at the centre of a racism storm, while Roy Hodgson’s first team had their match in Poland delayed by 20 hours. Here’s some of the other news of the week.
As part of a new Football Association code of conduct, whose exact contents are to remain confidential, England players will be subject to a Twitter exclusion zone for 24 hours before international matches. In addition, the role of England captain has been given more importance – presumably, that’s FA code for “if we ever want to make a captain stand down again, this document allows us to effing well do so – and the players have been instructed to acknowledge the England fans after every game. It means so much when they do it to avoid a fine, doesn’t it?
Nevertheless, the players are winning a few brownie points this week for chucking some most welcome coins into a fund that aims to reimburse the additional ticket costs incurred by supporters who were able to remain in Poland for the rearranged qualifier on Wednesday. The Polish FA is refunding the tickets of those who weren’t so lucky.
It’s not England news anymore, strictly speaking, but the John Terry row rumbles on. He elected this week not to appeal against his fine and four-match ban, which will begin this weekend. The Chelsea captain – and he is both still employed by Chelsea and, as far as we know, still the captain – also issued an apology, seemingly to everybody except for Anton Ferdinand.
Many people have argued in recent months that Terry’s case, and the handling of allegations against Liverpool forward Luis Suarez, have damaged the reputation of English football. FA Chairman David Bernstein voiced that opinion this week, but he won’t be the FA Chairman for much longer. The role has an upper age limit of 70, and despite the FA Board asking him to continue, the FA Council (presumably made up of the kind of young and hungry go-getters for which the FA is famed) has voted against changing the rule on an individual basis.
Midfielder Jack Wilshere is continuing his return from injury and has played for Arsenal’s Under-21s in addition to getting back to training. The 20-year-old was infamously withdrawn from the England Under-21s squad for the last European Championships because he “deserved a break”. With Euro 2013 looming, though, Pearce is apparently ready to bring him back on board and take him to Israel next summer. It’ll be good for him, says the U-21 boss.
Finally, a word for Hodgson. The new England manager’s honeymoon period is well and truly over, and the criticism has begun to flow with abandon – much of it justified but some of it downright confusing. But there’s no denying that Hodgson is a realist, and he knows the score when it comes to qualification for the World Cup in 2014. Group H, as he told the media this week, is likely to become a real dog fight.
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