World Cup: See you in 2026.
Yes, we'll be renewing our passports and checking the rate of marks to pounds provided England don't botch another qualifying competition.
Qualifying is something England are not awfully good at, as I think you may see on Wednesday night against Italy.
Three flops in the last six tournaments - 1974, '78 and most recently '94 in the USA - explain the panic and dismay at FA headquarters on learning that those fiendish Huns had stolen another march by securing UEFA approval as the next host nation after France '98 and Japan combined with Korea in 2002.
Suddenly the corridors of Lancaster Gate were filled with dreadful visions of unbestowed knighthoods. Distress signals were flashed to John Major.
It was then I knew England were done for.
Not only did the Prime Minister believe England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland entered as one, but I recalled the last time he picked up a sporting gun. Mr Major missed the target then by 12,000 miles.
"Manchester for the Olympics," he cried. They went to Sydney.
Because the FA is run by fellows with the souls of bookkeepers, they think World Cups should be rewarded in rotation.
But it's never explained how this works in the case of Brazil, present holders and four-time winners but not hosts since 1950.
Neither is it mentioned that only part of Germany staged and won the '74 World Cup. The 2006 competition would be their first as a united country, with 10 grounds seating average crowds of 58,000 and all but one bigger than Old Trafford.
Germany is ringed by many of Europe's strongest teams. The Dutch, Belgiums, French, Swiss, Danes, Austrians, Czechs and Poles can drive there straight over the frontier - and, unlike here, without the perils of keeping left.
If Major or Tony Blair are serious about England's bid, they should copy the Germans by abolishing the policing costs that bleed millions from our game.
German clubs pay only for stewards. Will our politicians introduce the same law? Not a chance!
Meanwhile the talks in London seem largely face-saving for our FA.
Yes, they can seek UEFA's blessing to replace Germany as Europe's sole bidder. If that approval is denied then our FA can go it alone and apply direct to FIFA.
"Liechtenstein could put forward a bid," said Gerhard Aigner of UEFA, not intending to be acidic.
What England have now is a promise to hear their case in April. No more than that. No indication that anybody on the Continent might vote for them.
The Welsh, Scots and Irish say: "We will." But I don't know why they should bother after the high-handed way England scrapped the old Home Internationals.
The German FA's reputation for straight-shooting efficiency should mop up the votes elsewhere.
It's not a country where ticket supremos are changed in mid- championship, as here last year. Or a country where people are turned away without tickets they paid for. Or a country, as Ken Bates keeps saying, where we still don't know if Euro 96 made pounds 1million or lost pounds 10million.
Before football comes home again - after France, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Brazil/Argentina and possibly Australia - we may have ironed out our flaws.
Twenty-odd years should be long enough!
Grobbelaar, Roy Kinnear
Apart from a prosecuting barrister thinking Roy Kinnear manages Wimbledon, laughter was missing from my day in Court No 3 at Winchester.
Eleven wigs (12 if you include Mr Justice Tuckey) bobbed up and down in the chamber where Rose West was convicted of mass murder.
Hans Segers flashed a smile at me from the dock. Bruce Grobbelaar, even closer at not much more than dartboard range, did likewise.
John Fashanu shook hands at lunch; the first time I had seen him or fellow defendant Heng Suan Lim, hidden as they were by stacked boxes of bank statements and long, minutely detailed copies of ordinary and mobile phone bills.
One contained the prosecution evidence about logging six calls by Grobbelaar in a single car journey from Norwich to the London Hilton. And I wondered how many mobile users, with calls they would prefer to keep quiet, might be wondering about changing to carrier pigeons.
Rothmans Football Yearbook was produced during the testimony of former Wimbledon and present Orient striker Roger Joseph. Were they asking him to swear on it? No, just checking his first-team games for the Dons between 1992-95.
But while Rothmans was in play, so to speak, it would have taken no time to thumb through and find Fashanu (two England caps and retired with 133 League goals). Also Segers, brought to England from PSV by Brian Clough almost 13 years and 330 League games ago.
Grobbelaar? His entry would show 500 League matches, six League championships with Liverpool and the 1984 European Cup, won on penalties against Roma in Rome by the greatest performance of his life.
When this case ends, and however it ends, Grobbelaar seems entitled to a special entry in the Anorak Almanac as the first player on trial for match-fixing to retain his place in a League team.
After his day in the dock followed by consultation with counsel, I saw Grobbelaar preparing to train alone for a place in Plymouth's team yesterday at Luton.
"Five-mile runs in the dark," he said. "That's all I can do and not every day, either."
Lim, the Malaysian accountant who admits losing pounds 175,000 in London casinos, is the chief defendant through figuring in every charge.
Fashanu is the richest. In just over four years he earned pounds 1.8million from football and pounds 350,000 from TV.
But the star of the show remains Brucie and his little pigtail. For supporting evidence I call upon the Crown Court's loudspeakers which summon attendance at the trial with these words: "All concerned in the case of Grobbelaar and others."
This has been resounding through the building for 27 days now, and it looks like you can still hear it until just before the end of this month.
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|Publication:||Sunday Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Feb 9, 1997|
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