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I was proud to show my solidarity.

SOME weeks ago I was invited to the England v France friendly international at Wembley by the Free Radio chairman, Geoff Percy, and despite not being a great lover of friendlies, especially international matches, I agreed to go to my first-ever friendly international.

However, I was proud to be there last night to show solidarity with France after last weekend's atrocities in Paris that left so many dead and so many families grieving.

I wrote this week's column before the game but am sure it was an emotional night with England supporters ready to sing along with the French National Anthem out of respect for the dead and to show France the world is with them.

The game, I am sure, showed that sport can and should be a bridge between nations and different cultures and especially political and religious beliefs.

? A week last Monday Blues boss Gary Rowett was my guest on the how refreshing he was. He is articulate and answered all sorts of questions with an honesty and frankness that was impressive to the listeners in general and the Blues fans in particular.

Some Premier League managers would do well to take a leaf out of his book.

At one time all local managers would come in and do a phone-in whereby they could speak to the supporters and answer questions.

I am sure emotional England ready to sing National respect However, they are reluctant to do it these days and for the life of me I cannot understand why. Surely all they can do is answer questions honestly. If any of the questions are inappropriate then the radio presenter would not allow them.

This is a great opportunity to speak direct to the clubs' supporters through the sanitised club media channels.

I have asked various managers of Blues, Villa and West Brom over the last ten years to do a phone-in as have other local stations only to be refused without any explanation other than "the manager doesn't want to do it".

I am of the opinion that they should speak to fans because what have they to hide? it was an night with supporters the French Anthem out of for the dead.

Following Gary's appearance I have again asked both Villa and Baggies if their managers would like to join me to speak direct to their supporters as I am sure other local radio stations have done the same. I am still awaiting a reply.

? As I said earlier I am not a lover of friendly internationals as I don't see what is gained from interrupting the regular football season for so many international breaks. I can see why it happens when we are playing qualifying games for either the World Cup or the Euros but not for friendly internationals.

If we have to play friendly internationals then play them midweek without interrupting the season, although I suppose that with so many foreign players jetting off to different continents it would cause clubs problems with them getting back in time for a weekend game and notwithstanding what condition they would be in after being in the air for many hours.

What use are they? I am constantly told it gives the head coach a chance to play youngsters to see if they have what it takes. However, my point is that the head coach is watching them in a noncompetitive situation! So what can he take out of it? They may look good in a nonpressure game but not so good when it's for real.

Understandably there seems a lack of passion in these games, which is why quite a few players pull out with mysterious injuries.

At least in the old Home international series there was plenty of passion and would be today if the FAs would set up a five-nation series similar to what Rugby Union does. At least then it would be competitive, passionate and good box office and not just meaningless.

In addition there is the risk of serious injury similar to the one sustained by Jordan Amavi, who is out of Villa's fight against relegation for the rest of the season. And that raises another question - should the relevant FA pay the player's wages for as long as they are out of action? I understand that the FA are contracted to play so many friendly internationals under the terms of their TV contract and this, of course, will enable them to pay off the cost of building the new Wembley stadium. If the only real reason we are playing these games is TV revenue then it's a disgrace but not a surprise.

I am sure it was an emotional night with England supporters ready to sing the French National Anthem out of respect for the dead.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Nov 18, 2015
Words:796
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