WEDNESDAY’S BIG STORIES

THE DREADED VOTE OF CONFIDENCE

Gareth Southgate has received the dreaded vote of confidence from Football Association chair Debbie Hewitt. Anyone who has ever played Football Manager knows this only goes one way from here: the sack.
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This is what Hewitt had to say.
“The bit people don’t see as much is the Gareth at camp and the culture he’s created,” she said.
“Certainly, prior to Gareth being the manager of England, there was not the pride of wearing the England shirt. There were the club rivalries we’d read about. The players not getting on. He’s changed that beyond recognition and I’ve seen that first hand.
“I’d also say that I don’t just work in football, I work in business and I’ve worked with a lot of chief executives and Gareth’s skills — his high IQ and high EQ — would make him a chief exec in any sphere.
“That resilience and accountability (are) the two qualities I admire most. There are no slopey shoulders, he doesn’t huff, he’s resilient and that’s what you want in an England manager.”
Every last word of this statement is spot on, but – Football Manager quips aside – it should not have to be said. Yet, given how toxic the discussion is about Southgate – who, it seems it must be reminded, has led England to a semi-final and a final during his tenure – it needed to be said.
As argued yesterday by Ben Snowball, fans need to remember what a sorry mess the Three Lions were ahead of his appointment. Here, though, is a reminder in list form:
  • 2004: Portugal penalty shootout mess
  • 2006: Scored one penalty in Portugal penalty shootout mess, the sequel
  • 2008: Didn’t even get there mess
  • 2010: Wayne Rooney has pop at fans mess
  • 2012: Joe Hart gets Panenka-ed in another penalty mess
  • 2014: Finished bottom of group mess
  • 2016: Finished behind Wales in group and dumped out by Iceland mess
Granted, the Nations League campaign could be going better. However, two points of perspective are needed here:
  • They are glorified friendlies
  • Look at point one again
So, to conclude, England were a sorry, sorry outfit ahead of his arrival, and no one really should actually care about a few losses in the Nations League. Yet, he is undoubtedly under pressure. Football: a funny old game.

BARCA ON THE MOVE

The renovation of the Camp Nou has been reportedly put at €1.5 billion which, for a club not in the financial mire, would seem punchy, and, well, for a club deep in the financial mire, seems very punchy.
Zak Garner-Purkis of Forbes – back in November 2021 - detailed some of the reasoning behind the price of the eye-watering re-fit. For €1.5 billion, Barcelona will increase their capacity from 99,354 to 105,000 – that will involve demolishing and re-building the third tier – and adding a retractable roof.
Which, again, seems punchy. Anyway, it is going ahead.
Obviously, Barcelona's men's team will be unable to play at their stadium while much of the construction takes place, and, thus, it has been announced by club president Joan Laporta, they will play at Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys in the 2023-24 season.
“Barça will have the privilege to play at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys in the 2023-24 season during the recently approved Espai Barça work,” said Laporta.
“Work begins on the first and second levels this summer, and when major work is done on the third level/roof, we'll play here.
"We're talking about an iconic stadium from the Barcelona Olympics, an international reference point of the City of Barcelona, and while here in the 2023/24 season, we'd like it to be the epicenter of Barça support, support shared with this great city."
A statement on the club's website said that the move will cost about €20 million and added - reassuringly - that "the agreed transfer of use includes not just the pitch and terraces but also other auxiliary spaces such as the press box, changing rooms and indoor parking areas, among others."
Thankfully, Frenkie de Jong and co. will be spared the ignominy of getting changed at the Camp Nou and legging it across town to play in the Champions League.
The Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys – built for, you guessed it, the Olympics – holds 60,713 and is the fifth biggest stadium in Spain. Not too shabby.

IN THE CHANNELS AND NOT ON THE GOLF COURSE

Carlos Tevez has been appointed coach of Rosario Central. The 38-year-old retired from football earlier this month.
He made all the right noises during his presentation at a club who sit 22nd in the top flight of Argentine football.
"I have a great role model as a coach, who was Conte at Juventus. I'm going to try to ensure that my team has at least a little of that,” said Tevez.
"I told the players that they have to show me in every training session that they want to be Central players. I take into account the importance of the Clásico and what is played, more so in this city."

RETRO CORNER

22/06/1986. Estadio Azteca. Mexico City. Diego Maradona.

COMING UP

Fire up those UEFA TV subscriptions as it is Israel U19 against Austria U19 at 16:30 and England U19 v Serbia U19 at 19:00 in the UEFA Under-19 Championship Group Stage.
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