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Jack Charlton

So, with the passing of Jack Charlton, another of that select group, English footballers to have won a World Cup, has gone.

Not the most cultured of players, unlike his brother Bobby, Jack was said to have thought when he learned of his England call-up that they’d picked the wrong Charlton. His position at centre-half though, has not historically been the preserve of the cultured. In his club career at Leeds United he had big shoes to fill, taking over from the Gentle Giant, John Charles, after his transfer to Juventus. In all he appeared for Leeds 629 times – a club record unlikely to be surpassed.

As a manager I remember him leading Middlesbrough to promotion to the top flight before spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United but it was as manager of the Republic of Ireland international team that he made his greatest mark, taking them to a World Cup quarter-final in 1990. Four years later they had a famous 1-0 win over Italy (who went on to reach the final) in New York.

John (Jack) Charlton: 8/5/1935 – 10/7/2020. So it goes.

Modern Architecture, St Petersburg

The view from the MS Magellan’s bow in dock at St Petersburg. New building construction with bridge behind:

A Bridge in St Petersburg

The view towards the city. Flats. We were told most Russians live in flats. All sorts of folks in similar flats in the same block. Only the insides would let you know how well off anyone is:-

Flats, St Petersburg

Gazprom Tower:-

Gazprom Tower, St Petersburg

This breaks the height restriction on buidlngs in St Petersburg. They let it go because it was way out of town and, well, Gazprom. Closer view:-

Gazprom Tower, St Petersburg

Krestovsky Stadium, or Zenit Arena, home of Zenit St Petersburg FC. This was a venue for games at the 2018 Football World Cup. Modern bridge in front with cruise terminal building in foreground:-

Bridge and St Petersburg Stadium

This was the nearest thing I saw in St Petersburg to an Art Deco building:-

A Decoish Building, St Petersburg

Peter the Great statue, photographed through coach windows so the statue is difficult to make out; a modern building behind.

Peter the Great Statue, in St Petersburg

St Petersburg (iii)

A touch of the new (and temporary) and the old.

Fifa 2018 World Cup fan park:-

FIFA, World Cup 2018 Fan Zone, St Petersburg

Reverse of fan park + canal and bridge:-

A Canal in St Petersburg + FIFA World Cup Fan Zone

Main road aspect:-

St Petersburg, FIFA World Cup Fan Zone

Contrast that with this typically Russian building right beside the fan park:-

Building Opposite Church on the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg

But just over the road from that:-

Church on the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg

The stunning Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood:-

St Petersburg, Church on the Spilled Blood

The church’s peculiar name arises because it was built as a memorial over the spot where Tsar Alexander II had been assassinated. Unfortunately it was swathed in scaffolding last May.

Church on the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg, from Field of Mars:-

Church on the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg From Field of Mars

Martin Peters

The football player who was “ten years ahead of his time” (at least according to Alf Ramsey) and one of a select few – English footballers to have won a World Cup – has died.

Had Wolfgang Weber not scored for Germany in the last minute of normal time Martin Peters would have been known as the man who won that World Cup as it was he who put England into the lead in the 78th minute.

As it was, Ramsey told his players, “You’ve won it once. Now you’ll have to go out there and win it again,” but it was team mate Geoff Hurst who grabbed the late glory.

All in all Peters had not a bad footballing CV.

Martin Stanford Peters: 8/11/1943 – 21/12/2019. So it goes.

Spartans 0-0 Dumbarton

Scottish League Cup (Betfred Cup) Group H, Ainslie Park, 14/7/18.

And so it begins again. It only seems yesterday that we lost the play-off final yet here we are again, playing competitive football.

Well, I say competitive, but this had all the feel of a pre-season game. Given it’s mid-July and the World Cup hasn’t even finished yet that’s not so surprising.

We never looked in danger of losing a goal, though. But nor did we look much like scoring in the first half. Things improved in the second when we looked to raise the pace a bit and especially when Andy Little and Calum Callagher came on for Iain Russell and Ryan Thomson, both looking much livelier than the pair they replaced.

It was an odd sort of game not helped by the sunshine (football in Scotland isn’t meant to be played in such temperatures) and a clash between our new away strip’s red shorts and those of Spartans meaning we came out wearing the new black home shorts with the new away red shirts. We looked like a Brechin City tribute act.

And so to award the bonus point to separate drawn teams we went to a penalty shoot-out. We won. Only the second time I’ve seen us win one.

Another Sons fan gaily remarked afterwards that the last time we won a shootout (the one I saw) we went on to win the league. Early days, son. Steady on.

Still there were signs the new players were beginning to gel. I liked the fact that former (and new again) Son Ross Forbes kept demanding the ball in midfield. We also seemed to change formation a couple of times throughout the game. That’s a potentially good innovation.

And so my first visit to Ainslie Park passed off relatively quietly.

The World Turned Upside Down?

You may have noticed there’s a rather large and important football competition taking place at the moment. (A swift glance at TV schedules would be enough to tell you that.)

Four years ago I expressed my fear that a period of Germanic hegemony was upon us. Notwithstanding Portugal’s efforts at the last European Championships the young German side which triumphed at last year’s Confederations Cup boded well (or ill, according to view) for that prospect.

It seems that hegemony is not to be. In three performances of stunning inadequacy Germany have been so poor as to finish bottom of their group, only a moment of individual brilliance on the part of Toni Kroos yielding them a solitary win over Sweden.

It’s been a topsy-turvy sort of tournament what with England playing well (so far) and Argentina, like the Germans, struggling badly – but still managing to reach the second round.

I’ve not been overly impressed by anyone – though I thought Colombia looked good against Poland. But that may have been because the Poles were totally ineffective.

Brazil seem unbalanced to me; too much in thrall to their star player, Neymar, who doesn’t look fully fit. Belgium may be dark horses but haven’t played anybody of standing yet.

Judgement must be reserved till the knockout games. Too often before, a good showing in the group has unravelled at the next step.

But… Could this be Uruguay’s year again? They’re the only side yet to concede a goal.

(Cue a Portugal win on Saturday.)

Chile 0-1 Germany

Confederations Cup Final, Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, 2/7/17.

To slightly amend Gary Lineker. Football is a simple game. Twenty-two plus men chase a ball around a pitch for 95 minutes, and the Germans win. Even if it’s their B-team.

Well, they might not have got to the final of the last European Championship but after this tournament who can doubt the strength in depth the German national team now has?

It’s a frightening thought for the other possible contenders for the 2018 World Cup.

Mind you, had it not been for a dreadful mistake at the back by Marcelo Díaz the game might have ended 0-0.

Still, Germany took that golden opportunity and Chile, despite their domination of possession, failed to take any of their chances.

And Germany always looked capable of getting another goal whenever they forayed up the park.

Not bad for a country whose normal first choices had been given the close season off.

For Joachim Löw it’s a good selection headache to have.

Carlos Alberto

Carlos Alberto, former captain of Brazil and scorer of that goal in the 1970 World Cup final, sadly has died.

The goal, which summed up that team – and perhaps Brazilian football as a whole – came after a brilliant sequence of dribbling and passing which culminated in Pele’s pass, apparently rolled to no-one, but perfectly timed for Carlos Alberto to gallop into the frame and thump the ball past Enrico Albertosi. Sublime.

The only drawback of the clip below is that it isn’t accompanied by Kenneth Wolstenholme‘s BBC TV commentary, where about halfway through it he said, “This is sheer delightful football!” more iconic to me than his other well remembered phrase “They think it’s all over.”

A reminder of a simpler, freer, less monetarily compromised time:-

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Carlos Alberto “Capita” Torres: 17/7/1944 – 25/10/2016. So it goes.

‘Tis Fifty Years Since

If you peruse Radio 2’s schedule for today you will find an unusual item at 14.50.

World Cup ’66 Live.

(If you listen to Radio 2 you may also have heard the trailers for this being aired hourly since about the end of April – or does it just seem like that?)

Guys. I know it’s been fifty years and your only major trophy win is not likely to be repeated any time soon. But it’s not as if it hasn’t been mentioned at all in the interim.

Don’t you think it’s maybe time you got over it?

After today might we possibly have a moratorium on the whole business? Please?

What?

Thought not.

Summer Football

Way back in the dim mists of time the world was a simpler place and football did not dominate the calendar. World Cup finals were 16 teams large and the European Championship only had four qualifiers until it expanded to eight teams in 1980.

In Scotland the football season started on the second Saturday in August and finished on the last Saturday in April.

I thought it was pushing it when the season began edging into July to accommodate the Challenge Cup and altered League Cup format.

Today though is the 16th of July. The schools have barely broken up for the summer. Yet the Sons have a first game of the official season at Station Park, Forfar, in yet another alteration to the League Cup. It barely seemed the old season had ended when pre-season games began.

The squad manager Stevie Aitken has collected seems a little thin. The League Cup looks on paper to be not too daunting but I have no idea how we will fare against the three lower division sides in our group. (I expect to be beaten by Dundee.)

The league is a different matter. Already it looks tough. We’ll be relying on another full-time side to be rubbish (as Livingston were last season) to avoid the relegation play-offs and even then we’d have to finish above Ayr United, by no means a given.

How long we can continue to defy gravity I don’t know. This may be the season we don’t.

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