So I’m at King Kev’s table in Frankfurt and we’re thrashing out the fixtures for the 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign. Unfortunately so are a great many other people and it’s like a paparazzi reunion, such is the interest in the England versus Germany match, slated for October 07 this year to kick off the group. “Remember ‘66” and “Who won the war?” and “In those days we only needed two digits to know what year it was,” and so on. What all this boils down to is Keegan will behave in a superb professional diplomatic manner and I won’t be able to draw any insightful comments that I might otherwise have prompted. Indeed this is the case and the night is proving disappointingly boring with Keegan’s intuitive gems such as “I think we have found a solution where everyone has got something and nobody has got everything.” And “I’m delighted with the way the fixtures have been worked out. But obviously only the results will justify whether it’s good or not.” And “That is novel, a five-team group is sometimes more difficult to organize than a six-team group.” “Yeah! Right Kev.”
No matter what the coach says, replays of Geoff Hurst’s “Did it, didn’t it cross the line?” will echo once again as if it somehow will have an impact on the outcome almost forty years later. And even though nobody playing for either country was born at the time Sir Bobby Moore (RIP) and the other Sirs were battling for the greatest prize known to soccerman, every one of them will have seen countless times the most controversial “goal” ever “scored” in a World Cup final. To this day, it crossed the line if you are English, and it didn’t if you are not English. Let it go.
So Kev is looking forward to it and of course so is Suite 101. Although it is only the first game in a long campaign, and there are only the same three points you get for any other match in the group, it will assume great relevance long before a ball is kicked.
Kev did touch on his latest pet peeve, the number of “foreigners” playing in the Premiership these days, but again he wasn’t controversial and basically voiced an understandable cause for concern (particularley if you are English) that home-grown talent has too little room to break into top clubs first teams. Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli has already made Premiership history this season by fielding a starting line-up made up of 11 foreign players. Sign of the times. “Anyone who is English and loves football would be concerned,” said the ever-young Kev. “That doesn’t mean to say that I blame Vialli or Wenger or Houllier or even Alex Ferguson who is signing foreign players as well.” By the time desert arrived, England’s chances of securing this summer’s vote to stage World Cup 2006 (Remember ’66 again) had produced the predictable drawn out sentences that effectively say “No comment.” England versus Germany, for the World Cup indeed.