Will Lennon emerge the hero in a white shirt?
Chris LakeyA star will be born, a controversy will erupt, a hero will emerge and a hero will fall.It's the World Cup - it wouldn't be complete without an issue or two.Chris Lakey
A star will be born, a controversy will erupt, a hero will emerge and a hero will fall.
It's the World Cup - it wouldn't be complete without an issue or two.
England fans will be hoping they have a hidden star amongst the bandages and the splints: Wayne Rooney stands out as the obvious candidate, but after that the cupboard is a little bare. Once you've pencilled in John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Rooney it's hard to identify any other definite starters, and you tend to look outside the usual suspects for your surprise - Aaron Lennon, perhaps? To me, Lennon is in a position where he can raise his stock considerably. He's lightning quick but, unlike Theo Walcott, he has some semblance of an end product, which should suit Rooney and Crouch/Heskey.
You can't see a Geoff Hurst or a Martin Peters - an inexperienced player who is going to burst on to the scene with stunning results. Lennon isn't inexperienced, he's got 17 caps to his name. I'm thinking more of Michael Dawson or Stephen Warnock, although the only way they're going to get a start is if a senior player is injured, and we don't want to tempt fate.
Perhaps England are just destined not to be the team that provides the tournament's new mega-star.
The Italians had Salvatore Schillaci at Italia 90. Never heard of him before the tournament and, funnily enough, hardly heard of him afterwards, but during it he couldn't stop scoring - his six goals earned him the Golden Boot, although to be fair it was a fairly average tournament. Cameroonian Roger Milla emerged at the age of 38, scoring four goals and dancing his way to stardom, although somehow the 'emergence' of a footballing pensioner doesn't have the same allure.
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Everyone is expecting Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to hog the glory, perhaps Wesley Sneijder, Kaka, or Torres, maybe even a defender - Maicon of Brazil perhaps. But I'd love it to be someone the world has never heard of.
For every star, there will be a player who will be pictured all over the world holding his head in his hands because of a gaffe of astronomic proportions - as previously posed by Roberto Baggio after he missed the deciding penalty against Brazil in the 1994 Cup final shootout. Alternatively, go for half the Englishmen who have taken penalties in major competitions - Pearce, Waddle, Southgate, Ince, Batty, Beckham, Vassell, Gerrard and Carragher.
It's Ying and Yang - you just can't have a moment of glory without a moment of unexpurgated agony.
And the controversy: will there be a disappearing bracelet moment? Will someone be head-butted in the unmentionables? A Hand of God or a failed drug test (Haiti defender Ernst Jean-Joseph did in 1974 and before he was flown home, he was beaten up by his own officials). Will some muppet feign serious head injury when in fact he's only tripped over a discarded piece of biltong?
Will the World Cup trophy be mislaid and discovered down the wrong end of a vuvuzela (if you don't know what one of those is now, you'll soon find out).
Which country will be cattle-prodded by a military dictatorship which threatens all sorts of recriminations for failure - Argentina on home soil in 1978 comes to mind, with the Dutch threatening not to appear, games played to the hosts' maximum advantage; just scores of political incidents that made it so unsavoury.
The hope, of course, is that Rooney doesn't lose his head and ruin England's chances - shame he's the only one for whom a red card brings such pressure; it probably shows the weaknesses in the England team.
The one guarantee is simply that it won't be just about 64 games of football.
The World Cup is making its first ever visit to Africa, and not before time. When Fifa chose joint hosts for the first time in 2002, Japan and South Korea - and their teams - made it a tournament to remember. It sort of made up for the ridiculous decision to grant hosting rights to the United States in 1996.
Hopefully this will be one we won't forget, for all the right reasons.
t HALF A MILLION QUID IS A PRICE WORTH PAYING
So just what can you get for half a million quid nowadays?
Access to Prince Andrew through the back door? Perhaps Rafael Nadal's new custom-designed watch grabs you. Or Katie Price reappearing on I'm A Celebrity.
None appeal anywhere near as much as the presence of Paul Lambert and his trusty lieutenants Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa at Carrow Road.
Half a million quid is how much it cost to acquire them from Colchester last August, according to a Football Disciplinary Commission which announced at long, long last its findings into the Essex club's complaint about the manner of that particular footballing transfer.
Because the clubs couldn't agree on compensation and because Colchester chairman Robbie Cowling wanted to see City punished for breaking football rules, the FDC fined City �75,000 and ordered them to recompense the Us to the tune of �425,000. On top of that there is another �125,000 fine, which will be suspended for two years and only activated if City transgress again. You get the feeling they won't, although if half a million is what it takes to get someone to do what Lambert did, then it's mighty tempting.
Let's forget the Nazi jibes, Cowling's reluctance to keep a lid on things until the FDC's decision was made public, his demand that points be deducted (someone please explain to me how that was ever going to happen) and the accusation from one corner that City were 'managing' their news (heaven forbid) to hide the bad bits from their supporters.
Assuming this is the end of the battle, then who has won?
Clearly it's cost City money they can ill afford to lose, but they always knew they wouldn't get Lambert and Co for free and it was the immediate aftermath of the findings being released that covered up any disappointment, with Lambert, Culverhouse and Karsa all agreeing new, improved contracts (that was the Alistair Campbell news management, in case you missed it).
City now have some sort of continuity among those who have engineered the instant return to the second tier of English football. Lambert has been busy signing players - presumably he doesn't believe in summer holidays - with chief executive David McNally, another who has signed a new deal, doing the extra behind-the-scenes work. There are more players to come, coaching staff to appoint and a football club to run. The last thing City needed was upheaval. The team on the field last season was as good as the team off it - it must stay that way.