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Icons Legend of the Week: Joe Hart

by Al 7. September 2012 05:09

Few players’ rise to the top of the English game has been as graciously welcomed as that of Manchester City keeper Joe Hart. For decades, England have been plagued by their lack of an assured presence between the sticks, the regularity of crosses flapped at and shots spilled in high profile international matches as much a trope of the national game as brass bands, bulldog spirit and penalty shoot-out misery.

But Hart’s emergence has brought about a fresh optimism. Not since Peter Shilton has England had such a commanding, agile shot stopper at their disposal, and with his performances growing in spectacle and assurance each week for the Premier League champions, there’s a genuine sense that Hart may be the man to return England to the world-beaters they once were.

At club level, he has proven himself to be up there with the very best. When Manchester City claimed their first title in 44 years in the dying seconds of last season, it was Sergio Aguero who scored the goal but Joe Hart the cameras panned to. The irony was rife – for all the billions of pounds spent turning Roberto Mancini’s squad into one of the best in Europe, the man who had driven them to a much sought after Premier League trophy was bought for just £600,000.

Hart made 20 clean sheets in 2011/12 (a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact his defence are considered the weak link in Mancini’s team) to put the Blues on their way to glory, pulling off stunning save after stunning save to deny opponents. But it was more than his performances that made him the face of Manchester City’s most glorious campaign. In a glitzy, star-studded squad during a season marred by Carlos Tevez’s petulance and the outlandishness of one Mario Balotelli, Hart was its likeable counterpoint: consistent, dedicated, professional. To the Eastlands crowd, that title-clinching goal belonged to him as much as it did Aguero.

That the 25-year-old, who started his career for Shrewsbury Town while still studying for his GCSEs, was recently chosen to appear on the cover of the latest in EA’s popular run of football games, FIFA 13, is further proof of his currency – usually the honour is bestowed to goalscorers and forward-drifting midfield maestros. Maybe it helps that Hart is not without his own attacking acumen – in addition to his astonishing athleticism and agility in goal, he’s regularly seen chasing the game in the opposition’s box, running up for corners and causing havoc.

A determined performer and a born leader, he is as well rounded a keeper as the world has seen. “Iker Casillas is regarded by many as being the best in Europe, if not the world,” says Hart’s England predecessor David James, “bur Joe Hart kicks a better ball than him, fills his area better than him and can produce any save that Casillas makes. Everything about him is superb.”

A more surprising admirer, though just as full of praise, is Sir Alex Ferguson. The Manchester United manager isn’t famed for dishing out compliments to opposition players, let alone those from his fiercest rivals, but admitted last year that missing the opportunity to sign Hart was one of the biggest regrets of his career. “I could have bought Joe Hart for £100,000 so we all make mistakes," said Ferguson.  "If you look at the England goalkeeper situation for the last 20 years, I would think he's easily the best."

At this summer’s Euro 2012 he left that beyond any doubt, arriving at his first international tournament in the number 1 jersey with the confidence of a World Cup veteran.

His organisational presence was felt as England looked a transformed side, their discipline in wins against Ukraine and Sweden a world apart from the shambolic performances in South Africa two years previous, engineered on the pitch by the City keeper. Roy Hodgson’s team of course eventually went out on penalties to an impressive Italy team, but that Hart and co. were able to keep the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Antonio Di Natale at bay for 120 minutes was an achievement in itself.

So talismanic was Hart during those matches that people have begun to whisper. Steven Gerrard, the current England captain, is 32 now and his inclusion in the 2014 World Cup is not guaranteed. Might the Manchester City man take the captain’s armband? Time will tell. In the meantime, if the Sky Blues wish to retain their Premier League crown, they’ll be relying on Hart to produce the same incredible feats in goal that brought frustration to strikers and crowds to their feet last season.

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Forward Friday: El Niño, Fernando Torres

by Al 28. October 2011 08:49

Chelsea's Fernando Torres is finally putting his nightmare start at Stamford Bridge behind him. The £50m man only managed one goal in 18 appearances for the Blues last term, but a new season has heralded a new start, and with four goals and three assists in nine games so far, Torres returns from suspension against Arsenal this Saturday with restored confidence and a point to prove.

Torres has looked an altogether different animal this season, prompting manager André Villas-Boas and teammates alike to hail his improved performances and renewed hunger in front of goal. Chelsea boast a formidable glut of striking talent, but if the former Liverpool man can recapture his Anfield form, he will be confident of keeping the likes of Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Daniel Sturridge out of the team.

The Spaniard took the Premier League by storm after his £21m transfer from Atlético Madrid to Rafa Benitez's Liverpool in 2007. Torres emerged as one of Europe's brightest young talents in the Spanish capital, and after making his debut at the age of 17, 'El Niño' became Atlético's youngest ever club captain two years later. By the time he departed the Vicente Calderón, Torres had hit an impressive 82 goals in 214 appearances.

It was at Anfield, however, that he truly blossomed. Allying pace and strength with deadly finishing and intelligent movement, Torres surpassed Ruud van Nistelrooy's record for the highest scoring debut season from a foreign import in the Premier League, with 24 goals. He quickly became a Kop favourite and was named in the PFA Team of the Year in successive seasons. 

It was only after Rafa Benitez's departure from Liverpool in the summer of 2010 that Torres began to consider his future. The side struggled under the stewardship of Roy Hodgson, and when Chelsea came in for him in the 2011 January transfer window, a disillusioned Torres was able to complete an acrimonious transfer away from the club. At £50m, Torres set a new British transfer record and became the fourth most expensive player in history.

After a difficult start at Chelsea, Torres now looks set to become the focal point of the Blues' attack. The signings of fellow Spaniards Juan Mata - with whom Torres has already combined to devastating effect - and former Barcelona youngster Oriel Romeu have helped him settle in London, and his improved morale has sparked a string of encouraging performances.

At international level, Torres has scored 27 goals in 89 appearances for Spain, and has featured in every major tournament since Euro 2004. Among his career highlights is his man of the match performance and winning goal in Spain's 1-0 victory in the Euro 2008 final. Torres is, of course, a World Cup winner too, but his involvement for Spain in South Africa was hindered by a lack of fitness after an injury-disrupted 2009/10 season with Liverpool.

Things are looking up for a resurgent Torres though, and when Chelsea welcome London rivals Arsenal to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, he will be the man charged with breaking the Gunners down. Suddenly, he's looking like someone Chelsea can rely on.

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Icons Legend of the Week #13: Glenn Hoddle

by Al 4. October 2011 07:59

With grace and skill in abundance, Glenn Hoddle was a wonderfully gifted playmaker and, in many ways, an atypical English midfielder. Icons Legend of the Week #13 was an inspiration to a generation of players for whom technique was more important than the ability to run all day.

Voted Tottenham Hotspur's greatest player of all time, Hoddle was a sublime passer and a beautiful player to watch. After 12 glowing years, close to 500 appearances and 88 league goals for Spurs he moved for a spell at French side Monaco, before becoming player-manager at Swindon Town and later Chelsea. He hung up his boots in 1995 and went on to become England manager in 1996.

Hoddle joined Spurs as a schoolboy apprentice in April 1974 following a recommendation from another Spurs legend, Martin Chivers. He made his first team debut as a 17-year-old, coming off the bench against Norwich City in August 1875, but it wasn't until February 1976 that he made his first start in the First Division. He announced his arrival in sensational style, beating Stoke and England goalkeeper Peter Shilton with an outstanding long-range effort.

The 1979/80 season heralded Hoddle's emergence as a truly top-class player. With 19 goals in 41 league games he was deservedly named PFA Young Player of the Year. His breathtaking skill, vision and eye for the spectacular were at odds with the traditional British philosophy of tireless running and gutsy determination, but in Hoddle Spurs had unearthed a gem. Equally adept with both feet, as a youngster, Hoddle was used in the centre of midfield and on the wing. He went on to make the central birth his own.

Hoddle was the midfield fulcrum and creative hub of Spurs' great side of the 1980s. In 1981 he starred in Spurs sixth FA Cup win, scoring in the Final and in the Final replay against Manchester City. The following year Spurs retained the FA Cup with victory over Queens Park Rangers and secured 4th place, their highest league finish since 1971. Two years later, Hoddle was the driving force behind Spurs' 1984 UEFA Cup triumph, despite missing the final due to injury. He put in a particularly memorable performance in their 6-2 Second Round aggregate win against a Feyenoord side featuring Dutch legend Johan Cruyff. Cruyff was so impressed by Hoddle's showing that he went into the Spurs dressing room at White Hart Lane to offer him his shirt after the match.

By this time Hoddle was already an established England international, and before his move to Monaco in 1987 he had already won 44 caps and featured prominently in the World Cups and European Championships of the 1980s. In total he won 53 caps and scored eight goals during an international career that lasted until 1988.

Then Monaco manager Arsene Wenger was the man who took Hoddle across the channel to France. Ironically, the two would come up against each other in the North London derby as managers of Spurs and Arsenal some years later. Hoddle scored 27 goals in 69 Ligue 1 games for Monaco. He inspired them to a title-win in his first season and was voted the Best Foreign Player in French Football. His exploits with Monaco helped to significantly improve the standing of English players in foreign countries.

Hoddle has found himself at the centre of stormy controversies on occasion, and as a manager he never enjoyed the greatest success. But putting all that aside, his on-pitch achievements at Tottenham and Monaco demand not to be forgotten. Hoddle was the most technically gifted English player of his generation, and his exciting and attractive style made him a rare breed. At a time when Fabio Capello's England are being left behind by a supremely technical Spain side, they could use a few more players like Glenn Hoddle. 

Forward Friday: Sir Geoff Hurst

by Al 9. September 2011 06:53

Author of the most celebrated moment in English football history, Sir Geoff Hurst is a national icon.

As all English football fans will be aware, Hurst's defining moment came in extra-time of the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany. Leading 3-2 thanks to Hurst's famous 'ghost goal', England were on the cusp of making history, and when he broke free of the German defence to blast home his third and England's fourth with the last kick of the game, victory was sealed. The moment was immortalized by Kenneth Wolstenholme's legendary BBC television commentary:

"And here comes Hurst. He's got… Some people are on the pitch! They think it's all over! It is now, it's four!"

With that goal, Hurst secured the only hat-trick ever scored in a World Cup final. This from a man who was originally named in Alf Ramsey's squad as back-up to Jimmy Greaves and Roger Hunt. Indeed, Hurst's international debut only came five months before England hosted the World Cup, and while he was already an established favourite at West Ham United, he was a relative unknown at international level.

The Lancashire-born striker began his club career at West Ham in 1959. He started out as a midfielder but was soon converted by manager Ron Greenwood. In the four seasons that preceded the 1966 World Cup, Hurst scored 67 goals in 145 First Division appearances for the Hammers. He also picked up an FA Cup winners medal in 1964 and won the European Cup Winners' Cup against 1860 Munich the following year.

Hurst's club form guaranteed him a place in Alf Ramsey's World Cup squad of 22 but, as expected, it was Greaves and Hunt who started in the group games against Mexico, Uruguay and France. Hurst's lucky break came when, during the England's 2-0 victory over France, Greaves required stitches on a badly gashed leg. Hurst was called up in his place for the quarter-final against Argentina, and he made himself a hero when his near post header in the 78th minute secured a 1-0 victory for the hosts.

Together with Bobby Moore and Martin Peters, Hurst completed a trio of West Ham players in the England line-up, and with Greaves still sidelined, the team maintained its East London spine for the semi-final against Eusebio's Portugal. Again, Hurst played a crucial role, providing the assist for the second of West Ham teammate Moore's brace as England triumphed 2-1.

As the final approached, news of Greaves' return to fitness broke to the media, who started calling for the prolific Spurs frontman to be reinstated at Hurst's expense. Ramsey's decision to stand by Hurst in the face of growing pressure was a bold one, but one that would be emphatically vindicated.

It was West Germany who started brightest in the final, with Helmut Haller giving them the lead after 12 minutes. Hurst equalised six minutes later after heading home a smartly-taken free-kick from Bobby Moore, and after Mark Peters gave England the lead with less than 15 minutes to play, only a last minute leveler from Wolfgang Weber prevented an England victory in normal time.

Hurst's second strike is another unforgettable moment in World Cup history, as his shot in the first half of extra-time crashed off the underside of the bar and was controversially adjudged to have crossed the line. Goal-line technology has since been applied to conclude that the ball had, in fact, not fully crossed the line, but that is a minor detail to England fans. Ramsey's side were on course for victory, and as the final second's ticked away and the elated home crowd began to trickle onto the pitch in celebration, Hurst broke away for his legendary hat-trick goal.

In an international career that continued until 1972, Hurst scored 24 goals in 49 appearances. For West Ham he scored 252 goals in 499 before seeing out his playing days at Stoke City, West Brom and Seattle Sounders in the US. He was knighted and awarded an MBE for his services to football. But he will forever be associated with that magical day in 1966.  

Icons Legend of the Week #7: Ossie Ardiles

by Al 23. August 2011 08:48

Some wonderful foreign talents have graced English football over the years, but few can claim to have had more influence than Osvaldo 'Ossie' Ardiles, our Icons Legend of the Week #7.

Ardiles arrived at Tottenham Hotspur just weeks after playing a starring role in Argentina's 1978 World Cup triumph. His signing represented a significant coup for Spurs, who had just won promotion back to Division One under Keith Burkinshaw. The arrival of Ardiles, together with fellow World Cup-winner Ricky Villa, ushered in a glorious era for the North London club.

Ardiles' skill and determination made him a cult hero at White Hart Lane. No-nonsense and all-action, Ardiles was not one for the histrionics stereotypically associated with many foreign imports. Despite his slight build, Ardiles possessed great strength and determination. He became the driving force in the Spurs midfield, forming a formidable partnership in the middle of the park with Glenn Hoddle.

Between 1978 and 1988, Ardiles made well over 200 appearances for Spurs in Division One, scoring 16 goals. His first piece of silverware came in his third season, when Spurs beat Manchester City 3-2 in the 1981 FA Cup final replay having previously drawn 1-1. His countryman Villa stole the show with a phenomenal solo goal, but Ardiles had already established himself as a lynchpin in Burkinshaw's side. Off the pitch, Ardiles status as a cult hero was further enhanced when Spurs released "Ossie's Dream" in collaboration with Chas & Dave during that year's FA Cup campaign. 

Spurs retained the FA Cup in 1982, although Ardiles missed the final against QPR. On 3rd April, the day after the outbreak of the Falkland's War, Ardiles helped his side to a 2-0 semi-final victory over Leicester City at Villa Park. Three days later, however, he left for Argentina, having already agreed to return early for their World Cup preparations. As the conflict raged in the Falkland's, his career in England was thrown into jeopardy. He was eventually able to return in December, but in the wake of the trouble, Ardiles was immediately loaned to Paris Saint-Germain in France.

Ardiles returned to England at the end of 1982/83 season, and featured as Spurs won the UEFA Cup in 1984 with victory of Belgian side Anderlecht. He eventually left Spurs in 1987 and in 1989 he began a career as a manager that would take him all over the world, including a season back at Spurs in 1993/94.

Ardiles won 63 caps for Argentina, scoring eight goals. At White Hart Lane he remains a legend, and he has been inducted into the Spurs Hall of Fame. One of the first foreign players to make a successful impact in England, Ossie set high standards for those who would follow. 

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We have a great range of Ossie Ardiles products for sale at excellent prices, including a singed 1984 UEFA Cup Final shirt and signed photos with Ricky Villa. View the full range here.

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Backing the England 2018 World Cup Bid - Icons announced as Official Supplier

by Dan 12. August 2010 05:24
Here at icons we love the World Cup, we love England and we loved the experience of Euro96. We can hardly imagine how exciting it would be for England to host the World Cup. As such we had to get involved in any way we can to support the England 2018 World Cup bid.

We're extermely proud to annouce that Icons is now an official supplier to the campaign.

We've giving our fantastic products to the bid team to use in their competitions and promotions. They're currently giving away one of our legendary Pele shirts on Facebook in their bid to get as many bid supporters as possible by the time the FIFA inspection committee arrives in late August.

To get involved become a Facebook friend of the bid, or go to the official 2018 bid website and show your support, or follow the bid's progress on Twitter.

To all our Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian, Dutch, Russian, Australia, Japanese, South Korean, American and Qatari friends - good luck, may the best nation win! See you all in 2018.

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Impressions of World Cup 2010

by Steve 5. July 2010 12:30

7 days, 5 cities, 4 games, 1 dire England performance, 16 goals and almost 15,000 miles travelled.  A truly incredible week.

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa is one that we’ll never forget, and it’s still got three mouth-watering games to go.

If anyone ever gets the chance to experience the atmosphere of a World Cup, they simply have to take it.  Like most football fans, the World Cup month once every four years is the greatest month of those four years – put simply it’s the most exciting event that EVER happens.

Watching the action on the TV as I have for the last 20 years only builds up the excitement for actually arriving at a World Cup.  It’s an overused cliché but flying out to the World Cup genuinely recaptures the feeling of the night before Christmas as a child.  And that was before walking out of arrivals at the airport and straight onto a pitch, complete with stand.

At every World Cup there are cynics who will find things to complain about, this year it was the ball, the vuvuzela’s and the low scoring early games.  But no-one can deny that as the tournament has progressed it’s contained some of the most exhilarating football and memorable games you could ever wish to see.

We’ve seen Maradona’s fiery and ultimately combustible attacking Argentineans, boasting the phenomenal Lionel Messi, the all-star Spain team of Torres, Fabregas, Alonso and Casillas, exciting performances from other Icons Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal and Kaka for Brazil, and of course, the sensational Germany team that at present has already plundered 13 goals.

There’s been scandal with the French team, the reigning Champions Italy being humbled by New Zealand.  There’s been the heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat of Ghana, the team who effectively became Team Africa as the rest of the continent fell.  England also turned up for 20 minutes or so.

Putting the football aside, it really is everything off the pitch that makes being at the World Cup such a memorable experience.  When else would you be able to watch a game of football with thousands of crazily dressed fans from all corners of the world? I don’t think I’ll ever see North Koreans and Portuguese partying together again.

I think there are three unexpected aspects of being at the World Cup which really stuck me.  Firstly, the fact that the USA is now truly a football nation.  US fans bought more tickets to games than any other, bar the hosts, and from being amongst the fans during their last 16 defeat to Ghana, it clearly meant just as much to them as to any other supporters.

Secondly, England and Germany.  After years of embarrassing and at times shameful displays of “support”, fans at the game drank together, sat together, waved flags together and cried together – although the German tears were slightly happier.

The third thing that I’ll never forget was just how much hosting the World Cup meant to ordinary South Africans.  FIFA have been criticised for many things, but their brave decision to host The Greatest Show On Earth in Africa could do more to help South Africa and the continent as a whole than an endless parade of Liveaid concerts and broken trade promises.

While every South African we spoke to was not only obsessed with football and the World Cup being held in South Africa, the most striking thing was their pride in being treated as a genuine country on the World stage.  For the last 3 weeks, the eyes of the World have been on South Africa, and they haven’t disappointed.

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Icons at the World Cup: England v Slovenia

by Dan 25. June 2010 11:40

The World Cup fate of plucky underdogs England came down to a 90 minute showdown against the mighty Slovenians. We travelled in hope more than expectation, and boy did we travel.

England weren’t underestimating their opponents in Port Elizabeth but we were wildly under-estimating the journey to get there. After 764k of pedal to the metal driving, dodging the death-wish baboons and death-defying truckers we arrived in Port Elizabeth with 4 hours to go.

We caught up on the English papers who as usual were full of soap opera nonsense, gossip and innuendo and overblown celebrities mouthing off, unfortunately this was merely the build up to the match. It seemed the whole of English football had come down to this one game.

The locals told us the Port Elizabeth stadium was known as the Sunflower and we approached on the Park and Ride bus the arena did look amazing, drenched in sunshine and surrounded by colourful fans.

In a break with convention the stadium had women only turnstiles while the best and worst of English manhood crammed to get through the rest of the gates singing a mixture of defiant songs like ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and the new tournament classic ‘We’re shit and we know we are’.

Once inside we realised we were three rows behind the Slovenian dug out and texted the office with our co-ordinates. Apparently a minute later the camera panned across the bench and Tom saw Steve in his red England shirt and a man with an enormous red and white comedy afro obscuring me. Disappointingly we were surrounded by empty seats which given the distances we’d covered to be here wasn’t that surprising.

The game kicked off and we started brightly. I’m sure you all watched all tense 90 minutes of it but here are some insights you only get from being inside the stadium. Visa’s adverts feature a fan from each country. England’s fan is a thick skinhead with a red Mohican.

It appeared Stuart Pearce was wearing his lucky shorts from Italia 90 but had put on a bit of weight since. And he was wearing shin-pads. Did he think he should be playing?

Fabio Capello is much shorter than you think and jumps up and down screaming like a martinet. Watch this (and apologies for Fabio’s language in advance).

Most of the England fans were polite, well-behaved and full of good humour. The £1,500 price tag to get there meant it seemed more like Twickenham than Wembley. The downside was the attendance was 36,000, which meant there were 12,000 empty seats.

We did win of course and when the whistle went we were top of the group and all our hopes and dreams were about to be fulfilled. Then the USA scored and we were given the rock-face route to glory rather than the cable car.

At least we’ll be up for the Germany game, but we’ll have to completely change our travel plans as they had previously been worked out on the ludicrous assumption that England would top the group. Everyone was wanting to know where Bloemfontein was and whether anyone knew any Americans they could swap tickets with.

We had sung our hearts out and supported out boys in full. Back on the Park and Ride bus the English fans were quiet and subdued but we did experience the weird sensation of being berated by Slovenians for not joining in their English victory songs. We knew we were probably playing Germany, then Argentina, then Spain, then Brazil. We need a miracle but then so did Slovakia. Who knows what will happen next?

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Icons at the World Cup: The biggest noise at this World Cup

by Dan 21. June 2010 05:43
The vuvuzela is probably the biggest talking point of the World Cup so far. Love it or loathe it, it's certainly making itself heard. However, outside our hotel is quite literally the biggest, and loudest, vuvuzela in the world.

It's about 40 feet high and 200 feet long, perched on a bizarre discontinued flyover and brought to us by our corporate sponsor friends at Hyundai. Every time a goal is scored it goes off and it sounds like a containter ship announcing it's docking into your hotel room. As we type that means 53 times. And you thought the noise on TV was annoying. Still Hyundai have got a blog entry mention out of it so I suppose they're happy. We're hoping there are no more goals in the whole tournament and every knock out game is settled on penalties.

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Icons at the World Cup: England v Algeria

by Dan 19. June 2010 08:55
Like the England team, the Icons boys travelled in hope, rather than expectation.

Arriving on a glorious Cape Town morning we stepped out of our taxi outside the hotel and literally bumped into Cafu coming out of the revolving doors. Perhaps everyone else in the hotel was a World Cup winner? Almost true. We discovered we were in the main hotel of the Brazilian travelling support so basically they were all winners. They had booked for a month, of course, fully expecting to be involved right to the end. We are due to fly back after the quarter-final.

Icons' view from their hotel window

We picked up our tickets, got giddily excited and watched the World Cup come alive on TV.

We all enjoyed the Germans miss penalties and lose to the Serbs before heading out for a beer by the marina and watched the US Slovenia game. We met Raphael and Gill, a half Greek, half South African man and his half Portuguese, half South African girlfriend, who, having lived in London for ten years, were both supporting England for the night. Nice to have such choices as to who you can follow.

Next to us at the bar, a man dressed in chain mail and a crown and brandishing an inflatable sword, was asked in a terribly posh voice: “Excuse me my man, what King actually are you?” “Richard the First,” came the reply. “Thought so, thought so,” said London mayor Boris Johnson as he turned back to his group. It was shaping up to be a surreal day. Here’s the photo of us all to prove it.

Icons meet Boris Johnson, and the King

Boris, parping away on his big red vuvuzela, and the rest of the English supporters were in good spirits on the way to the stadium. Everyone was friendly, enjoying the atmosphere as the sun set and Table Mountain descended into darkness.

A very cosmopolitan crowd with a wide mix of nations were all serenaded to the tune of “We’re England til we die”. The stadium looked iconic on the outside and breathtaking on the inside. I’d say 80% were English supporters, the rest neutrals with a few vocal Algerians dotted around. A refreshing amount of women, children and non-white people in white added to the carnival atmosphere, as did the amount of flags draped on every bit of the stadium. Shame the vuvuzelas drowned out the singing.

(Interesting point for those back home watching on TV, I’d say 1 in 200 had a vuvuzela, so you only need 3000 of them to create the beehive backing music to this World Cup)

We were sat close to the corner flag, 4 rows away from Andy ‘Andrew’ Cole and 8 rows from the Heskey family. We all hoped he had a good game.

And then the game started and the magnificent day went downhill.

I won’t dwell on the game, you all saw it and can make your own minds up. I thought it was extremely harsh to boo them off at half time, it didn’t help and we played reasonably well in the first 45 and the Algerians looked neat and tidy.

In the second half we just didn’t have another gear. We appeared to not be able to cross the ball, and looked by the number of short free-kicks, to not be able to take a set piece. Close to the action it was painfully obvious that we pass and stand, rather than pass and move. Everyone watched the man in possession do something and then reacted, rather than moving to receive the ball.

England’s tactics – pass and stand, pass and stand

Rooney’s body-language and subsequently his language were terrible. It was as if they all knew they were going to be hammered and their shoulders slumped at their powerlessness to control events, and the football.

At the end the boos rained down and they/we trudged off. We worked out that the last time England played well in a World Cup was the first 30 minutes against Denmark in 2002. We stank out the last tournament, and we’re stinking out this one. Oh dear.

Tom ‘glass half full’ Rollett pointed out that we were still unbeaten and that we started Italia 90 with two draws. I pointed out that in 1990 we had just seen the emergence of Gazza as a world-class genius and we only went on to beat Egypt, Belgium and Cameroon by one goal – and that was the greatest team of our lifetime.

Afterwards the Algerians celebrated winning 0-0, but to be fair the English fans did chat, “we’re shit and we know we are” back at them. Boris’ verdict: “Not very good, was it?” Fair point.

Algerians celebrated winning 0-0

So all in all one of the greatest days of my life was not entirely ruined by the football. If only we were like Gill and Raphael and we could easily switch allegiances. Unfortunately we’re stuck with this; we’re England till we die.

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Welcome to the icons blog, we'll be regularly posting here about what's going on with our star signings and what new products have arrived

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