In the absence of any Fulham action this weekend, I thought I’d draw your attention to a few things that have caught my eye this week:
1. Chris Smalling was on the bench today for England’s U21 game in Macedonia. Judging by the way the England boys defended for the Macedonia goal, Stuart Pearce could have done worse than stuck our boy on the pitch. England were behind for a long time in this game – but eventually won through a late penalty won by substitute Jack Wilshere and converted by Lee Cattermole.
2. While we are on the subject of England, the women’s side are into their first major semi-final under Hope Powell after beating the hosts Finland in the quarter final of the European Championships last night. There’s a good sprinkling of ex-Fulham talent in the squad and, of course, the superb Kelly Smith up front as well. Women’s football has often got a bad press in the past but the technical skills are excellent and there’s no diving to speak of.
3. That brings me neatly onto my next point. Diving. The issue that dominated the previous week has refused to go away. Wayne Rooney rather fell into the trap set by some crafty journalists this afternoon by insisting, at an England press conference, that he has never intentionally dived. The boys at Off The Post reckon Rooney’s got a selective memory. And they haven’t even included the worst piece of playacting which, for my money, came when United ended Arsenal’s unbeaten run with a theatrical tumble over a Sol Campbell challenge.
4. The story that brought a smile to every Fulham fan’s face yesterday was the news that Chelsea will be banned from signing any players during the next two transfer windows for breaking transfer rules in their pursuit of Gael Kakuta, the promising French youngster, who was then a minor playing for Lens. Chelsea will most certainly appeal but FIFA should be commended for (eventually) cracking down on the widespread prevalence of poaching in the game, which has been the basis of Chelsea’s youth recruitment policy under Frank Arnesen.
5. The big game of this weekend won’t be anywhere in Europe. Tomorrow morning’s clash between Argentina and Brazil is absolutely massive. Whilst Dunga still has some critics for the way in which his sides play, the knives will be out for Diego Maradona should his team fail tomorrow. If they are beaten by their arch rivals, the prospect of a fiery qualification play-off with Mexico will draw ever closer. It’s certainly worth staying up for.