That Was The Week That Was

I am pleased to announce that this week’s column will contain no mention of the Manchester United gaffer. However, it does contain very witty, thought out paragraph headings. Or maybe it doesn’t.

Admit it, you enjoyed (one half) of the international break, didn’t you? The unusual test played in an empty stadium in Croatia offered a hypothetical look into the future of what football would be like without fans. It also reminded the FA of their responsibilities to prevent alienating supporters even further with daft ideas like rebranding the Johnstone’s Paint trophy to the farce it is today.

The tackle

Many players have gone on to represent their country without ever leaving their mark on the international scene. Step up, Eric Dier. Now, whatever your opinion on Dier, he has become the hero England deserve. Fair enough, he WILL make one or two unforced errors every week. But for now, he will go down in history as the man who took out Sergio Ramos with a beautiful, crunching tackle during England’s shock 3-2 win in Spain.

His name will be sung around the campfires on the mountains of the Peak District for many generations. In what has only hampered Sam Allardyce’s chances of finding another managerial job, Big Sam has come out with this cracker “The praise about Busquets must be stopped…He’s no better or worse than Eric Dier.” No, Sam. Just no.

For a one-off occasion, Gareth Southgate set up his side to emulate Leicester City’s rapid, incisive counter-attacking Premier League winning side. Coupled with the pace of Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford out wide, Spain played into England’s hands by having Jonny (Yes, he really he is Spanish) and Marcos Alonso constantly Spain’s centre-halves exposed. As it happens, the English wingers notched up three goals between them.

Ireland cannot score

Last Saturday, the Republic of Ireland held a Denmark side containing no Christian Eriksen to a dull goalless draw. On Tuesday, they had the fortune of Wales coming to Croke Park without Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. The latter wasn’t injured or suspended. His wife selfishly decided to give birth to twins on the night of the game. Only joking, Rambo.

Ireland is in a period of uselessness, much like the Scottish. Declan Rice has already played for the Irish, but he saw the demolition by the Welsh in Cardiff last month and smartly opted out before he was forever attached to Ireland. The ROI set their stall out early on, refusing to give the Welsh a moment’s notice on the ball. Surprise, surprise, James McLean was at the heart of it all. Once they faded, Wales passed the ball without any purpose until the half-time whistle did us all a favour and spared us any more pain.

In the second half, it was all one-way traffic. And Harry Wilson came to the party. He followed up his stupendous free-kick at Old Trafford by scoring another beauty here. From that moment on, he was unplayable. Now I for one will be bitterly disappointed if Ramsey’s wife never named her twin’s Harry and Wilson.

So what does this mean for the ROI? Well, it means that they are likely to find themselves relegated by the time they face Denmark next month. Relegated to where? Who knows. It could be League C, it could be the Unibond League. All I know is, I am still getting to grips with the Nations League.

Northern Ireland also cannot score

For Northern Ireland, their results would be better if they had somebody clinical to take advantage of the chances they create. Already without attackers Connor Washington, Jamie Ward and fireman Will Grigg, Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty made Michael O’Neill’s job a tad more difficult when he rang the boss to declare himself unfit just before the squad met up in Austria.

Failure to follow protocol led to the Irish FA invoking the five-day rule and blocking Lafferty from playing against Hamilton. Expect the Gers to play hardball and tell Lafferty to retire from international football. A bit

Bosnia was always going to be difficult for a nation like Northern Ireland. A double from former Manchester City man Edin Dzeko, linked to Cardiff City this week (I kid you not), enforced a third Nations League defeat in a row.

Scotland can only improve

It has been a long time since Scotland tasted success. And based on their recent results, the future does not look too promising. Straight off the back of their humiliating defeat in Israel, they suffered a 3-1 defeat by an under-strength Portugal at Hampden Park. Apparently, when the new FIFA world rankings are announced, they will find themselves below the island Bear Grylls leaves celebrities stranded on.

A word on Gibraltar.  Who prior to my column last week, had never won a competitive game before. That’s all changed. They had to wait for 22 games for a win and then two came in the space of four days.

Although I haven’t got a scooby how it all works yet, I blooming love the Nations League.

In other news, former Champions League winner Jermaine Pennant was seen on the Jeremy Kyle show yesterday morning. Levels.

Have a great weekend everyone.