Monday, June 04, 2007

Wales 0-0 Czech Republic

This was a memorable event, if not such a memorable game. Giggs' last game surprised me with the emotions it dredged up, from the crowd, from the man himself , and from me. I was a little choked as he walked off, but I can't put my finger on the exact reasons behind that. It was a combination of things. It was a sad conclusion to a famous international career - Giggs is probably the first player whose career I have witnessed from debut to retirement, apart from Gavin Maguire maybe. His departure was a stark reminder of our own mortality, and as I approach 40, these things tend to hit home. My mid-life crisis was further deepened by the reflection on Welsh failure that Giggs' career highlights. I have decided to stop thinking about it.

But Saturday will be remembered by me for very different, but equally earth-shattering reasons. I actually saw signs of life in Commins Coch. For years I have been driving up and down the A470, and this is the very first time that I saw a citizen of that hamlet. I once saw someone walking through, but this time, there was a man digging his garden. He looked a little like that "Oh I doon't believe it" bloke, but I don't think it was him.

I will never ever sit in the Family Stand again. I had bought a season ticket for my son and I, but I now dread each game. The seats are the worst in the ground - and yesterday we were hammered by the most blinding and uncomfortable sun that I can remember at a football match. But the worst problem is the horns. How long do we have to suffer? People can't smoke at football matches any more, but they can blast air horns all afternoon. They must be banned.
I might start an online petition, but I probably won't.

It's very easy to criticise Wales and Toshack at the moment. The tactics are negative, there is little excitement, and we rely on one or two playmakers to create something off their own back. Bellamy is isolated, we have wingbacks who get forward but have nobody to cross to. A few of our players are worse than mediocre, and everyone can see this.

But rarely do I hear anybody offering a solution. That's understandable because there just isn't one. With the group of players available, Toshack's tactics are unavoidable. We are easy to play against, and rarely cause teams problems. But more importantly, we have been easy to score against in the past, and that needed to be sorted out before we can look at more positive aspects.

Last week I listened to Kevin Ratcliffe taking Collins and Gabbidon apart. That wasn't just based on their lazy and rusty performances against New Zealand, but he was suggesting that they weren't the best defensive option for Wales' future. In fact, he was almost insisting it. So Kevin, tell me, even if James Collins hadn't made you look silly yesterdy, what is your suggestion? Would you leave Collins and Gabbidon on the bench for Steve Evans? Maybe pull Delaney across to centre half? I'd love to hear your answers, because like the rest of the pundits I hear criticism but no solutions.

And I've had it with Robbie Savage. I don't mind a silly rant now and again. It entertains me. But don't try to undermine our National team on the morning of a big game. That is simply disgraceful. You had my sympathies before, I understood that you had special needs, but this has crossed the line from stupidity to nastiness. You gone from wanker to bastard in my estimation.

The lack of a target man really does limit our attacking options, and it frustrates me no end. I can only offer one suggestion. Eifion Williams.

Have you stopped laughing? I know he's just been released by Hartlepool, but at 0-0 with 10 minutes to go, I would feel more enthusiastic about our chances of getting a goal if we had a centre forward on the pitch who knows where he should stand, and has a good record of kicking and heading a football in between the posts. Even Tosh's tactic if playing Collins up there would have been preferable to the lack of presence that defined our attacks in yesterday's game. But to use Tosh's well worn metaphor, we would have pulled the sheet up over our head, but our feet would have gone cold, and I dare say we would have lost the game.

So where do we go from here? Ryan Giggs' claim that the future is bright just doesn't wash, and we all know it. The future is better perhaps, because I don't think it could get any worse. That was a fine performance by a limited team, but for how long will 30,000 people pay to watch that level of fotball? The next campaign must see a return to £10 tickets or a visit to a Wales home game will be even more dispiriting than it currently is.

I made yesterday's trip by car in a return trip that took the best part of 8 hours. The new air service from Anglesey to Cardiff has been launched but there are no weekend flights. Whilst I'm sure that there are very good logistical reasons for this, I wonder if there is any hope of arranging special flights for sporting internationals down in Cardiff? I have booked a flight for Wales rugby international v Japan on a Thursday night which means I can leave home at 5pm, but which requires an overnight stay, and some means of reaching Rhoose Airport by 6.30am. I'm sure that there is demand for a flight which fits around both sports internationals, and a specially arranged flight returning at 10pm would have lots of takers I'm sure. Is this an opportunity for another online petition?


Jet Set Matt said...

Couldn't agree more about the horns, every trip to Cardiff is blighted by those things.

Don't get the train down either, playing sardines on the way down and back, 2 carriages is deemed appropriate by Arriva.

Gary said...

There's no flight aty the weekend because the air base isn't open at the weekend - it's a training base - so there's no air traffic control

Livzy said...

Giggs would undoubtedly have had well over 120 caps had he played any friendlies before his first (was it 2005?)and thats nearly 15 years into his professional career.

however all I can say is that Giggs is one of the greatest sproting talents to come out of Wales in my generation.

his ability, professionalism, clean living, dedication, attitude and achievements must surely inspire every left footed Welsh player from Eric's under 7's all the way through to yer Gareth Bales.

I know for a certain fact that Giggs has exactly that effect on my oown son. Born in england he may be but the sight of Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs flying down the wing gets him out of bed that little bit earlier and training that little bit harder and dreaming of glory that little bit more.

Livzy said...

and by the way - i htink you are lying about Commins Cosh - I've been through it four times in the last seven days and seen not a soul! (at 8.00, 18.00, 14.00 and 21.00)

rob said...

a good write up Eric, cheer up with your approach to 40, i am less than 18mnths off 50, i decided to miss the Czech rep home game to take part in sport myself - i took part in my 6th marathon since i passed 40 - running helps me cope with the ups and downs of being a Wales and Wrexham fan. Eifion Williams -hmmm maybe he'll get a call upafter he's hit 12 goals by November for Wrexham . optimism rules! great blog Eric -have a look at my running blog