As we edge ever so slightly to the half way marker for 2015, the year so far makes for interesting reading in terms of sport. We have had World Championships in Darts and Snooker, the end to yet another exhilarating football league season, we have had the agony and ecstasy across the board, in all sports.
The public perception of our British and English talent has changed drastically. For example, in just the last couple of months England have gone from the worst team in cricket with no hope, no chance of winning anything to the best thing since sliced bread and back even since gone back and forth so many times….so many times that I now think we are the best in the world again? Probably just me though.
I would go as far as to say that 2015 has already been one of the best years for British sport. I say this as we currently have some of the best talent across so many of the mainstream sports. In those that we aren’t currently at the top of (e.g. football, cricket, rugby) we are in transition ahead of major tournaments but the foundations are there for an exciting prospect going into said tournaments. Let’s take a look at football. Now in mainstream media England are the worst team in the world because we don’t play attractive football, we can’t compete with Germany and Argentina blah blah blah, bullocks! England are in a good position ahead of the Euro’s next summer. Why can I sit here and say that with such confidence you ask, well quite frankly I am a big believer that to be successful you don’t have to play the best football all the time, even most of the time, what is important, especially in a major tournament is the results. You can win the worst game you’ve ever played 1-0 and the media and public view of the match is that you are awful and you don’t deserve to be in the competition but quite frankly, f*** that, if England win every game of the Euro 2016 1-0 and play the worst brand of football who cares, we would have won the tournament. You think Greece look back at Euro 2004 and go “We won it, but god damn it we played some horrible football, we don’t deserve to have won it.” No, of course not. They are sat there chucking plates, dining out on the fact they have won more major titles in the last decade than the likes of England, France and Portugal. So we should all wake up and embrace that England will never play the best football but as long as we can grind out wins, like the win in Slovenia a fortnight ago then that is what is important going into a tournament year. England really are in good shape.
But its not just about England right now in the spotlight for the Euro’s as for the first time for a while more than just England (and sometimes Ireland) are going to qualify for a major tournament, Wales appear to be on the brink of qualifying for their first major tournament since the 50s and Northern Ireland may just be able to hold it together enough to make it too. Plus either Scotland or Ireland can force their way through should Poland or Germany make a mistake. Which is madness considering it was only 7 years ago when all of the home nations failed to qualify for the 2008 Euro’s. Things are looking up for the home nations, big time!
In terms of rugby, the home nations are still as strong as they have ever been, even Scotland are competitive and can force the big teams to work hard for anything when they play the Highlanders. England and Wales will be going into the tournament in the same group at 4th and 6th in the world respectively and will be going head to head with the team between them at 5th in Australia, making Pool A the most competitive. Both teams stand an amazing chance to qualify and take on the likes of New Zealand and South Africa in their quest for world domination. Ireland give you what you expect, and that’s hardwork and physicality. They won’t be without their chance for the trophy but all in all the home nations will be going into the tournament in September in buoyant and confident mood. This year’s World Cup is exciting. An exciting prospect, made even more special that it is being held in England too. Naturally the country will rally around the home side, hopefully spurring them onto victory.
It is only two weeks away now, but England are shaping up quite nicely for The Ashes in cricket. I love watching England play cricket, especially in the longer format of the game, even more so during the Ashes. I can and will sit there for 5 days and watch a test match all day. Everyday. But it has been refreshing to see England’s recent resurgence in the shorter formats, last night’s T20 game finally showcasing the bowling prowess the new look England possess. The future of English cricket is still looking so bright. The likes of Jimmy Anderson and Ian Bell are slowly ticking towards the end of their time with the national team but for right now, these plays have been rested ahead of the 5 test series with the Aussies. Jimmy Anderson for example is still a big time player in the test scene, he is England’s all time highest wicket taker and quite frankly is a big time baller. He and Stuart Broad almost epitomise the desire, skill and quality it takes to win the big games. The latter Broad is to the Ashes what Ian Poulter is to the Ryder Cup. Broad can play horrendous for 10 months of a calendar year but you can guarantee the two months he plays exceptional cricket in is Ashes time. He is the single player who you can almost expect a match winning spell from. We have seen it time and time again from the man. The whole Broad not walking episode from the last home series only adds fuel to the fire.
The only concerns I have, like many with the England test team is the lack of a front line spinner and the need to nail in an opener with Alistair Cook. The spinner is needed, even though I have an unhealthy obsession with Moeen Ali, god damn it I love that man. But Moeen and Joe Root are both not main spinners. They will work as decent part timers to come on and break the game up, support the front line spinner. Since Graeme Swann retired we have lacked a top quality spinner. In terms of the opener, I have a criticism to throw at the selectors and that is give a player time. Like we see in football with new managers, they aren’t given any real sustainable time at the crease in order to make the position their own. Carberry, Robson and now Lyth have all tried, I hope Lyth can make it his as its about time someone is given amble opportunity. This can be related all the way back to Nick Compton who was dropped after a few failures. This lead to a vicious cycle of throwing openers in expecting them to do something and after minimal luck you are at the back of the line and the next man is in. A habit that needs to be stopped in order for the team to achieve consistency and maintain any hope of being successful. Rant over, next sport. Darts.
Did anyone see the World Cup of Darts? Unreal tournament. And that’s just on paper. You look at the teams and darts fans are pretty much frothing from the mouth, Van Gerwen and Barney representing Holland, Adrian Lewis and Phil “The Power” Taylor for England, The World Champion Gary Anderson and Peter Wright for Scotland, the Huybrechts brothers for Belgium. Frightening. Pick a winner. And don’t get me started on the Belgium vs Australia quarter final. Bloody nora. That was passion. That was frustration. That was entertainment. If you didn’t see it, Paul Nicholson vs Kim Huybrechts was passionate enough, try the decider. The score tied at 1-1 in a first to two encounter. About half way through the match Nicholson winds up Kim and the second half turns into such a carry on. The ending came with a bull from Ronny Huybrechts and suddenly Belgium were knee sliding, fist pumping and going mental. This wound up the Aussies and it looked for a moment that Nicholson was going to go for Kim. For the neutrals, hilarious. Anyway, the final was England vs Scotland. And even though England ran out victors it showed just how dominant the two home countries are. Four of the top five in the world were playing in that final and played some amazing darts, highlighting just how much British players are ruling the world darts scene.
Snooker is like darts really. It highlights how good England and English players are. Yet another new name has gone onto the World Snooker Championship trophy after the seasoned veteran Stuart Bingham took the crown back in May. And even though England failed in the snooker World Cup, I would be very excited in regards to England and British snooker. With the Goldfields Open taking place in Australia in the next few weeks the road for the next major ranking titles begin.
Even British individuals in other sports are still at the pinnacle of their profession. Andy Murray picked up another title last week when he took home the Queens title. With Wimbledon starting next week the third seed will be itching to get his hands on the top prize of tennis (read Kelsey’s Wimbledon preview here). Lewis Hamilton is still king of the F1 circuit and looks set to secure yet another World Championship and despite not winning the US Open last week Rory McIlroy’s comeback on the Sunday was impressive, so with the UK Open coming up he wouldn’t be too disheartened and should still be a major player in the immediate golfing future. Even in the world of boxing Britain boasts copious amounts of talent. In the likes of Anthony Joshua we have some real, top quality showmen coming through. He reminds me of Drederick Tatum from The Simpsons. So good he could stand there having a conversation at ringside during fights. It is frightening how good this guy is looking. As I have said before, it takes me longer to bend over than it does for Anthony Joshua to win a fight. Unreal prospect for British sport.
Less popular sports like Horse Racing are even boasted some serious British talent. Just look at last weeks antics at Royal Ascot, where it was the Ryan Moore show. The man from Brighton broke the modern day records for most winners during the meeting, having a strike rate after the second day of winning half of the races. He along with the likes of Sam Twiston-Davies and the man who is the most exciting prospect in the sport, Welshman Sean Bowen. For those of you who don’t know anything about Sean Bowen, he is only just turned 17, he has rode winners at Cheltenham, rode in the Grand National and is seriously considered as “the real deal.” He is impressive. Really impressive. One to watch not just for the future but for the right now.
No matter where you look Britain is at the centre of most major sports. We have promising teams in the three most popular team sports as well as producing some of the best individuals that sport currently has. And with the summer calendar being filled to the brim with opportunity for these teams and players to showcase their talent worldwide I shall sit here, with the football, the cricket, the rugby, hell even the golf on cheering our boys and girls on. Except for Wimbledon, as I think Roger is the guy to prove the doubters wrong. But the rest of the sporting world need to be ready as the British are coming.