Thursday, 08/07/2021 19:04

Sorry Gareth, I was very wrong

TEAM WORK: England players celebrate Harry Kane’s winner against Denmark in the semi-final. AFP/VNA Photo

Paul Kennedy

I’d like to think England manager Gareth Southgate is an avid reader of Việt Nam News in general, and this column in particular, but I doubt it.

I’d also like to think after seeing what I’ve written over the past few weeks about my ‘couldn’t-care-less’ attitude to all things international football, he used my words as inspiration to gee up his players.

“Let’s put that Paul Kennedy idiot in his place lads,” Gareth probably never said to the team before England took on Denmark in the semi-finals of the Euros yesterday.

But whatever Gareth did say pre-match, and indeed before every game England has played in the Euros, it not only did the trick, but sure did put me in my place and, dare I say it, changed my way of thinking.

I’d like to first of all get one thing straight. If I was back home in my father’s house in Liverpool, some 9,311.41 km from my current residence (yes, I Google mapped it) then maybe I’d feel a little bit more excited.

As it is, to watch the majority of England games here in Hà Nội (pubs are closed after 9pm remember) I’m stuck at home. And as much as I respect the coverage of Vietnamese channels, I can’t understand a word of it (Oh, is it just me or do VTV commentators get excited over the smallest things?)

Then there’s the time difference. To watch, for example, the England v Denmark game, I’d have had to wake up at 2am, watch the match, half time, plus extra time, which would have taken me to around 4.30am, just a couple of hours before I start work the following day.

So all in all, things are pretty much stacked against me when it comes to following England during the Euros. If I was back home, then sure, 8pm kick-off, pub with the lads, I’ve no doubt my interest levels would rise a good few notches.

But it has to be said, even though my viewing of games has been limited to a highlights reel on YouTube after I already know the score, England have been brilliant.

Southgate has quietly gotten on with the job in hand. There’s been very little, if any, drama, and this particular England squad seems far more likeable, as there are no prima donnas in the team, compared to tournaments gone by.

Look at the midfield from the past. Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes and David Beckham. Four of the best midfielders the game has ever produced.

In comparison, Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Declan Rice look more like three lads delivering a tumble dryer to your house or spinning you faster on a fairground ride than international superstars, but they have been nothing short of superb.

Harry Kane, despite a slow start, has started banging in the goals and even though many were unsure about Everton keeper Jordan Pickford, he has only let in one goal in the entire tournament.

So next comes Italy, in what is England’s first ever major final in 55 years. A tough game for sure, but one England are capable of winning, especially as the game is being played at Wembley.

Sadly it’s at daft o’clock here in Việt Nam, but on this occasion, I think I’ve no choice but to tune in. Now where can I buy an England shirt from?

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