Goodbye, Grotton's Rose. It's been quite a week for arrogant arseholes who pretend to despise football fans as plebs getting forced out of jobs they were shit at, hasn't it? He's so vain, I bet he thinks this blog is about him. But it's not. While we’re all waiting for the takeover to be confirmed and putting the champagne on ice (yesterday was more of a prosecco announcement), I thought I’d talk about the fact that football’s coming home. The Women’s Euros kicked off at Old Trafford on Wednesday, and you should all be quite excited about it.
A lot of patronising misogynistic nonsense is spouted about the women’s game. There is not one article about it posted on Twitter that some tedious arsehole hasn’t responded to with “who cares”. There are lots of things I don’t care about. I don’t feel the need to seek out people who do care about them and tell them. It just seems like an odd use of your time. My favourites are the Latics fans who ‘just can’t get into/enjoy/take interest in women’s football’ because ‘the standard is so poor’. My brothers in Christ, you paid good money to watch Sonhy Sefil and Urko Vera. By the same logic, you can’t expect kids in Oldham to take any interest in their local team when City and United are down the road.
Let me get my grumbles about how the tournament has been organised and promoted out the way. I’m old enough to remember Euro 96. Months of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ in the build-up to the tournament. Flags up on the main roads into Liverpool city centre and Anfield months beforehand. Three Lions getting hammered on the radio. At 15, I was probably a bit too old to have a sticker album, but have one I did, and there were plenty of people older than me with them. You couldn’t avoid the hype, and it was impossible to not get swept up in it. Where was that this time round? Why didn’t they re-record Three Lions? (Or, at a push, Sweet Caroline?) Why did the flags only go up in Manchester a few weeks ago? Why are such small venues being used? The venues being used in the north west, opening ceremony aside, are the Manchester City Academy Stadium (7000 capacity) and Leigh Sports Village (12000 capacity). I appreciate that I might be in a pretty small minority as someone who was eager to book the afternoon off work to watch Italy v Iceland, but it feels like a lack of ambition and a missed opportunity. There are reports that some journalists haven’t been able to get passes for some games due to the small size of the grounds, which I worry is yet another example of the vicious circle of not giving the game coverage, then saying it’s not worth covering it because ‘people aren’t interested’ in something you haven’t given them the chance to find out about.
But enough negativity. It's coming home. The tournament began in front of a crowd of 68,781 at Old Trafford, the highest attendance in the history of the competition. Walking to the ground, the sound of little girls whose parents might not have been born in 1996 singing Three Lions warmed my cold dead heart. England's performance was typical of an opening game: cagey, nervy, nowhere near their best. It was strangely reminiscent, for us old bastards, of the 0-0 v Spain in the opening match of the last major international football tournament we hosted. The difference was that the Lionesses got the job done and ground out a 1-0 win. Austria put them under a lot of pressure in the second half, but the defence was truly diligent.
Germany, Spain and Norway have all put in impressive performances in their opening games in the Ladies' Groups, but I'm still optimistic about England's chances. They're unbeaten under Sarina Wiegman, who took over as England manager in September 2021. When the Netherlands went 1-0 up against them in a pre-tournament friendly, it was the first time they had gone behind under her leadership. They went on to win 5-1. I've always been a big fan of Ellen White, mainly because she's a superb classic striker, but also because she looks like she's had more than one fight outside a Wetherspoons, and won. She's also a thoroughly decent person, who sponsors our Girls and Women's teams and has paid for them to display the logo of the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation on their shirts. What an absolute diamond.
I'm hopeful the Lionesses can go one better than the men did last summer, but we should all enjoy the tournament in itself. The games are all on TV, watch as many as you can. Even if you haven't got tickets for the local games, you can still go to the (ahem) Fan Party in Manchester and soak up the atmosphere, which could be a good afternoon out, especially if you've got kids. Treat yourself to a sticker album. With one thing and another it's shaping up to be a fantastic summer, make the most of it. I wish for your health and happiness and a continuation of watching the Euros with joy once again.
Written by Arlene Finnigan. Image © Oldham Athletic.