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Kings of Anglia Issue 10 Magazine Offer

Bacon's Bites: Gareth's team no 'one-off'. And there are no alligators in Bridlington... Right?

PUBLISHED: 19:15 28 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:25 29 March 2019

England head coach Gareth Southgate.

England head coach Gareth Southgate.

PA Wire/PA Images

In this week's column, Mike Bacon takes a look England's latest impressive performances and the return of cricket

Gareth Southgate (centre) looks on as Kyle Walker (left) and Michael Keane are in action during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying, Group A match at the Podgorica City Stadium, in Montenegro. Photo: PAGareth Southgate (centre) looks on as Kyle Walker (left) and Michael Keane are in action during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying, Group A match at the Podgorica City Stadium, in Montenegro. Photo: PA

Well, we’ve had the answer.

Was England’s performance in the World Cup in the summer just a ‘one-off’? Or is Gareth Southgate’s team for real?

The answer looks very much the latter, this England team is for real.

And although I’m not going to sit here and predict World Cup and European Championship victories ahead for Southgate’s side in the coming decade, at least we can all start to look forward to watching England play again.

Somehow Southgate has instilled a carefree mantra to the team.

Forget all the tactics, the formations, the shapes. What I notice about England these days is that players are playing with no fear – and that is so refreshing.

England's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring his side's fifth goal of the game in Montenegro. Photo: PAEngland's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring his side's fifth goal of the game in Montenegro. Photo: PA

I suppose Raheem Sterling is the best example and while Southgate can’t claim all the credit for that – most has to go to Pep Guardiola – there is little doubt the diminutive winger is in the best form of his career.

It should make coaches at all levels of the sport think. And not just football coaches.

While, naturally, winning is important, you have to look at your individual players and ask yourself what they are capable of.

In training players do outrageous things, flicks, kicks and generally outrageous stuff.

But they may not be so confident to do it on the pitch, fearing making a mistake, and that is something that needs to change.

Of course I don’t expect to watch Harry Maquire do ‘keepy-uppys’ in the penalty area with attackers breathing down his neck, but it’s great to see players like him come out with the ball, a la Bobby Moore or Alan Hansen. Encourage the flair.

Talking of Hansen, it seems Scotland are going through the mill right now.

That 0-3 loss to Kazakhstan was a terrible result.

But I felt a bit sorry for the Scots that they were booed off in San Marino having beaten the minnows 2-0. What were their fans expecting... 7-0?, 10-0?, 28-0?

I think it was Sir Bobby Robson who once said there are no easy international games anymore and that was back in the 1980s.

As with so many things with Sir Bobby, he wasn’t wrong.

So, while Scotland’s defeat in Kazakhstan was a stinker, to win in San Marino should be taken as that – a win, three points, banana skin avoided.

Essex's Sir Alastair Cook in action at Fenner's, Cambridge this week. Cricket is back. Photo: PAEssex's Sir Alastair Cook in action at Fenner's, Cambridge this week. Cricket is back. Photo: PA

To round up a Euro qualifying week, what about former Town boss Mick McCarthy, back as the Republic of Ireland manager?

Well, he started life in his ‘new/old job’ with a couple of 1-0 victories.... I reckon Mick would have taken that all day long before kick-off.

And why not?

The cricket season has started just in case you haven’t noticed.

I don’t pretend to be a big cricket fan.

I like the Test matches, but not having satellite TV I rarely get to watch one these days.

The T20 looks fun but, from where I’m standing anyhow, appears more akin to baseball than cricket. And for someone who has been to baseball in America, the English version (aka T20), isn’t on the same scale.

Until cricket returns more regularly to our TV screens, and not via pay TV, the sport will tread water, Test matches especially.

I’m sure we all remember the wonderful Ashes series of 2005 which was screened live on Channel 4.

What a series it was.

England won the five-match series 2-1, but that doesn’t tell half the story.

England's captain Michael Vaughan holds the Ashes in front of the crowds in Trafalgar Square, in 2005. England regained the Ashes after drawing the final Test match and winning the series 2-1. What a series that was. Photo: PAEngland's captain Michael Vaughan holds the Ashes in front of the crowds in Trafalgar Square, in 2005. England regained the Ashes after drawing the final Test match and winning the series 2-1. What a series that was. Photo: PA

KP, Flintoff, Michael Vaughan, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, the list of stars is endless, the plots and sub-plots on a different level, the tension you could cut with a knife. Sell-out crowds, an England team paraded on an open-top bus around London after their victory.

Halcyon days.

Incredibly that series actually marked the end of live terrestrial coverage of the sport in this country.

A good way to bow out to the free-to-air Test coverage I suppose.

Certainly, it will be a long, long time before cricket in this country sees anything like it again. Or gets that exposure.

England cricketers Kevin Pietersen (left) and Marcus Trescothick celebrate during the Ashes victory parade in London in 2005. When are we likely to see scenes like this again because of a cricket Test series? Photo: PAEngland cricketers Kevin Pietersen (left) and Marcus Trescothick celebrate during the Ashes victory parade in London in 2005. When are we likely to see scenes like this again because of a cricket Test series? Photo: PA

Did you see the video of a huge alligator waddling across a green in Savannah, Georgia that stopped a game of golf?

Blimey, rather those golfers than me play that course.

One of the golfers playing had the bravery (or stupidity) to video the giant thing as it made its way across the green and into a lake opposite.

Thank goodness there are no alligators in Bridlington – the destination once more of our ‘golf tour’ later in the year... Are there?

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