Saturday, June 19, 2010

Three Lions

The kids started their soccer season a couple of weeks ago. Its the third year for my oldest and the second year for the boy and they've both been looking forward to it for a while. My daughter was a little ambivalent about it last summer but she wanted to play again this year and she has been practicing in the backyard and in both her first practice and her first game she was right into it. She's full of confidence, this one, and she's quick and she's got a sense of what to do, of getting to the right place, of timing, she's an athlete in other words and while she's more of an individual sports girl she has a couple of buddies on her team and so I think that she's going to have a good season.

The league that they play in issued the uniforms last week, they're World Cup kits and her team wears the white jerseys of England, right down to the crest with the three lions on it.

The boy played last year and while he was playing against kids a year or so older than him he did quite well. He had that single minded determined personality that a lot of athletes do - like Taylor Hall for example - he would see the ball, he would chase the ball, he would get the ball and run with it. He is absolutely the opposite of his father as a child. As a boy when it came to sports I was small and passive. I worked pretty hard and I was a smart little player, I could read the play and I was a good playmaker but I never had the personality to go after it, as it were.

Little kids playing soccer is basically a pack of them chasing the ball, elbowing and trampling each other as they pursue the object of their desire like a pack of wolves after a stricken whitetail deer. Its about as ugly too, the only thing missing is the splayed entrails on the pitch. And then you have your wandering stragglers who are checking out the clouds, roaming over to the sidelines to chat with their folks and stopping and sitting down and picking the clover as the game rages about them.

And the boy was also outfitted with an England uni.

In his first game against 'Germany' he and his teammates ran wild. It was a slaughter. There are a half dozen kids on his club who are aggressive and fast, who want the ball, who need the ball and so they spent most of the game charging through the hapless 'Germans' in a way that the real English team could only dream of in their wildest and wettest of fantasies.

As for the boy well, he was a bit of a revelation because, well if I may boast a little, he gets it. When one of his teammates took the ball the wrong way he was calling out directions. When the other team threatened it was he who rushed back first and moved the ball out of danger. He came off for a quick break and grumped that 'nobody here passes the ball'.

He's got midfielder written all over him, a guy who can control the game at both ends of the field. He's not going to score the most goals, he's not going to be the sexiest player but he's going to be the guy who makes that engine hum.

The real Three Lions could use a guy like that, eh?

We're right into the World Cup over here. So far its looking like a lot of the old favourites may be fading away but I've seen this story before and until the round of sixteen begins and a handful of the old powers of the game are gone then I won't hold my breath. Still with the cheating French not even bothering to show up (seriously, they should have just allowed the Irish to come, at least they would have shown some try) and the English reaching a new low and the Italians looking absolutely underwhelming this may be an interesting tournament. Only the Argentines have looked really good so far. I'm hoping that we might see some newer blood do well - the Dutch, the Danes, the Ivory Coast or the Mexicans, the Slovaks or my favourite underdog, the Slovenes:

Slovenia greatest country in the world.
All other countries are run by little girls.
Slovenia number one exporter of potassium.
Other countries have inferior potassium.

Sorry Kazakhstan.

The Frigging English though. Aren't they something? They are like us with hockey except they haven't won a damn thing since 1966. Haven't even been close. They're like the Leafs! ;) Seriously though this one is the worst of all. They cruised through the qualifying and for once they looked good but when you have guys like Rooney saying before Algeria that they could win at less than their best well then you know the problem right there. As Sather once said about Jimmy Carson, if I recall correctly, you can have all of the talent in the world but it doesn't mean a damn thing if you haven't got the ticker.


So what does this all have to do with the Oilers? Well the silly season has started in earnest and so far we have seen Halak moved to the Blues and Hamhuis and Arnott shipped out by the Predators. Also Patrick Thoresen has been waived through the league by the Flyers as he returns for his second goround in the league. Go Patrick Thoresen!

As what passes for debate (Seguin sucks! Hall sucks!) these days rages around us we wait for Tambellini to make his moves. Bob McKenzie tweets that the Oilers will be busy and I think that they will be. Its interesting to see the moves that have already happened and it has become clear that good players can be had. They can be had for very little. Indeed they could have had Patrick Thoresen for nothing.

Because it always comes back to the same thing or at least it does with me. You need good players. You have to accumulate good players. The Oilers had a lot of good players in 2006. Then they got rid of nearly all of them and didn't replace them.

Here are the Chicago Blackhawks, this is the roster that won the Cup plus a couple of their spares and Kim Jonsson:

Toews, Hossa, Kopecky, Ladd, Sharp, Kane, Bolland, Versteeg, Byfuglien, Brouwer, Madden, Eager, Fraser, Burish, Keith, Seabrook, Campbell, Hjalmarsson, Sopel, Boynton, Jonsson, Hendry, Niemi, Huet

How many Oilers could make that club? Here are the Oilers right now:

Horcoff, Penner, Hemsky, Gagner, Brule, Cogliano, Moreau, O'Sullivan, Nilsson, Stortini, Pouliot, Jacques, Jones, Potulny, Stone, Whitney, Gilbert, Souray, Smid, Chorney, Peckham, Khabibulin, Dubnyk, JDD

That is one heaping pile of stink.
If you were Stan Bowman and you could pick over that roster how many guys would you take to replace the guys on your club? Very few I would say. Very very few. The Oilers don't have a long way to go. They have forever to go right now.

So please Tambo, no overpriced players, no players who are famous for being famous, no sizzle without the steak. Bring in those guys who can play the toughs, guys who can score, guys who do the little things, guys who are hard on the puck, guys who can play.

Guys who can play.

Like the boy. ;)


Gord said...

Unlike the other deals where salaries were traded, Thoresen was free.

He left the NHL because he wanted a one way contract. He wasn't asking for a million dollars - just did not want AHL money.

Looking at our present roster, Thoresen is easily better than half a dozen of our present forwards. Why not give him one way money?

He is definitely better than O'Sullivan - would cost a third of the money...

hunter1909 said...

This is far from the worst England world cup performance.

England go to major tournaments the same way every time, with the pundits all paid off by the bookies proclaiming England can win whatever's on offer. Then, once filled with impossible expectations they're invariably exposed to other countries who all relish playing the country who invented soccer.

Combine this with a bunch of overrated swelled heads(think Ottawa Senators a few years back in the playoffs), and you have a recipe for disaster. And I'm not even going to start on the succession of poor coaches over the years.

This time the team, the players have finally run out of excuses. Win their next game and they're through into the last 16. A final 4 in their dreams, probable kickout in the last 8.

The final laugh comes from the English fans, who in the end are well used to seeing one disgraceful performance after another. They end up singing such ditties as the inimitable "We're shit and we know it".

And they always have 1966.

Anonymous said...

Time for me to hit the kitchen again.... I just watched Italy choke to New Zealand and have to admit (painfully admit), New Zealand showed more heart and love for the game, than the 'reigning champs'. At least my Hawks don't dive that much!

I'd rather be cooking up an Italian feast than watch that display of the Italian Dumps!

It's a porketta night. Happy Father's day Patrick!

I'm sure your soccer players have the Father's Day soccer chants just humming for you!


slipper said...

Soccer is definitely a drinking man's game. After getting up early to watch two teams play to a zero-zero draw, I couldn't shirk the feeling that I had just wasted my morning watching 22 men jog for an hour and a half.

I understand why there were some people here in Alberta who were lobbying to have the serving time changed to earlier in the morning, solely for the purpose of drinking while watch the World Cup.

Black Dog said...

Gord - yep my feelings exactly

hunter - this club had a nice run in qualifying but any team that has Heskey up front has some issues. He's awful. I think they may be hard pressed to even get out of the group stage based on that last performance.

Slipper - yeah you get some good games like Brazil/Ivory Coast but my God there are some awful ones. The diving makes me craziest though. The fucking Italians (sorry Joan) are the worst of all.

Deano said...

Haven't popped by in a while. As always, good 'slice of life' stuff Pat. I am reminded of an old 'Family Circus' cartoon (remember that one?) where Billy, in a baseball uniform explains to his grandma, 'I almost caught the ball today, but it got to me before I could get my hands out of my pockets.'

I am not much of a soccer fan, but I think the story at the World Cup this year will be how few European powers get past the group round.

hunter1909 said...

I don't love the Italians but they understand the dramatics inherent in a game like no other team.

England's problem has always been the same - they play like a bunch of schoolkids - when they're on they're really very good, then other times they flat out blow.

My money says they win their next game, then go on to be booted out in the last 8.

And Heskey is their Horcoff - feet of stone.

The tournament's really starting to pick up finally.

Black Dog said...

Deano - we'll see, I never count the trad powers out until they are done. They seem to always squeak through and then get going.

The real story this tournament so far has been the strog play of Mexico and the South American clubs, not just the usual suspects Brazil and Argentina but Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay all have a great shot at moving on. If the Americans do as well then that would be seven teams from this side of the Atlantic. Pretty amazing.

Africa, Asia and Australia/New Zealand have been disatrous though, in some cases to be expected, in others, not.

hunter1909 said...

South Aftrica looked like Brazil today against France for much of that game, astonishing.

Black Dog said...

Fuck France, what a bunch of losers.

Not an ounce of pride. Good for South Africa though. Salvaged some pride.

Darren said...

Salvaged some pride? I thought South Africa had a terrific tournament. They were supposed to get their asses handed to them, and they drew with Mexico, got thumped by Uruguay by the score, but the game was closer than the score read, and beat a traditional Power, France.

Well played to them. Better to go out betting France than taking it in the ass from a beating from Argentina.

Black Dog said...

Darren - they did better than expected but still the first host not to make it through the group stage, not a surprise I know but still disappointing

Having said that the result today is a great one for them.

Darren said...

If they over-achieved on everyone's expectations can it really be termed a disappointment?
I suppose it's disappointing that the home nation is out in the group stages, but South Africa did themselves proud in this World Cup.

Black Dog said...

Yep I can see that.

Deano said...

Watched The Score's daily wind-up last night and the quote was 'good-riddance to France.'

..everybody loves to hate 'em.

Black Dog said...

Deano - Absolutely. The cynical way in which they won qualification and then the way they completely quit - there's nothing to like at all. I love folks who say people should get over that Henry handball. Imagine your team being in a huge game and getting knocked off thanks to such an absolutely clear foul.

And then to come to SOuth Africa and play the way they did. I love the fact that they are going home in disgrace. Love it.

Anonymous said...

OIler_Kiwi99 here: -

As a New Zealander, I have been bursting with pride at the way the All Whites have performed and even had a tear in my eye when the final whistle went against the cheating Italians. A country with 25 yes 25 professional players versus over 3500 that Italy have.

Some football players are real pussies and should play/watch some ice hockey!

In a little under 15 and a 1/2 hours I will be glued to my PC at work hoping the dream can continue a few more days. What they have achieved will go down in New Zealand's sporting history.

This is the equivalent of Japan winning a game with Canada or Russia at the Olympic Ice Hockey tournament.

Anyway take care and enjoy the rest of the WC and hope whoever the Oilers pick Friday have a positive a impact as possible for the franchise for many years to come.

Black Dog said...

Oilerkiwi - agreed, go New Zealand! We watched the game against Italy, it was a wonderful result!