The Lead

It’s been vogue for some time in football to hate England and everything English, from the national team to biased English pundits to anything resembling long-ball, route one soccer. Put it down to a reasonable global grudge held since the end of the colonial era in the 1960s or that every single cool English person dislikes their country (but loves their town) or the fact Richard Littlejohn exists, but the easiest way to make friends in a crowded soccer bar is to say how much you hate England. Others will cheer and England fans will simply shrug and say, “I can’t blame you.” Even FIFA is finally considering dumping the home nations’ automatic place in the ExCo.

But mysteriously, elite foreign players and managers keep insisting on working there. One could cynically mention the prospect of piles of money, but the relative differences in salary alone cannot account for the news we’re seeing this morning.

Fabio Capello for example, who perhaps more than most should know the toxic, tabloid-fueled undignified mayhem that is the English game, wants back in via the Premier League. Pep Guardiola linked by sources in Catalunia to the England job, to “overhaul things both on and off the pitch.” Even rumours of Jose Mourinhos’ return to Chelsea only died yesterday when he indicated he had unfinished business at Real Madrid.

Why the love affair? In my own view, it’s largely down to both the romantic vision of England as the hallowed birth place of the Association Rules, and the equally romantic notion that English football can be saved from itself. Whatever the reason, it gives the lie to the hip stance that England no longer matters. It will always be at the incrutable centre of the game, risible, exciting, and impervious to change despite repeated attempts by those who should know better to try and rescue it from provincialism, cheap commercial gain, and populist stubbornness.

Canada

Ben Knight on the CSA elections. This is more important to Canadian soccer than the fact TFC are balls, so I would read it.

Marco Di Vaio rumours swirl yet again around the Montreal Impact.

England

Chelsea players want Roberto Di Matteo to stay on as manager.

Should Chelsea win the European Cup, John Terry may be allowed to lift it after all.

There’s still handshake stuff involving Anton Ferdinand and John Terry.

Charlie Adam out the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Team GB to get things started against Brazil, in Middlesbrough.

Alex McLeish gets full backing from Aston Villa’s American owner.

Italy

Hey Inter, Cesare Prandelli has a contract with Italy.

Boriello comes off the bench to propel Juventus that much closer to the Scudetto.

Meanwhile Stramaccioni is confident Inter can still make the Champions League spot.

Bits and bobs

Well, this was bound to happen after Ramos’ penalty miss against Bayern last night.

Horncastle on Mancini’s backing at Man City.

Ally McCoist “disgusted” by threats to the Scottish Football Association.

Players union asks for pardon in wake of accumulated yellow card suspensions for the final.

High court “does not trust” Hicks and Gillett in their court case against LFC.