Bombs And Bullets Won’t Break Our Spirit – Stan Speaks…

As a fan and sports broadcaster it’s very difficult to write about football at all at the moment.

England v France
Our national distraction seems insignificant when parents, children and families are mourning in Paris and Beirut after several days of pure barbarity.

Antoine Griezmann and Lassana Diarra though perhaps epitomise the spirit of a sport that has endured much tragedy from world wars taking young men, stadium tragedies taking innocent lives or the latest attempt by extremists to kill and maim at the Stade De France.

It’s called the Corinthian spirit. A spirit of strength through adversity, a want, a need, a passion to have unarmed combat on a weekly basis for us all to enjoy as the world’s ills unfold on us all.

To see the French decide to play the game, entertain us all, to stick two fingers up to hatred and division, so that we all, black, white, Jew, Christian and Muslim can enjoy a little light relief

…in an increasingly tense world whilst still mourning, makes me proud to be an ex footballer. The true spirit of sportsmen comes shining through.

I’ll miss the game tomorrow, my first at Wembley for an England international for a number of years, but I know intimately how the Wembley crowd will respond to our visitors on and off the field.

We’ll respond with dignity, with a warm English welcome, a hearty rendition of both anthems. Then as we must, get on with life, get on with the game, letting everyone know that bombs and bullets can only dampen, not break the spirit of good people.

Republic of Ireland
This is the night, this is the time, not just for a nation to qualify from our greater Island chain but to give a much needed boost to grassroots football in Ireland.

The Welsh and Northern Irish will I’m sure be feeling the benefits of qualification and it’s not all about the money coming through the tills or the shiny new kit sponsorships. It’s young boys and girls across the island of Ireland, Wales and England having belief again that they aren’t second class long ball citizens incapable of playing the beautiful game.

As they play in the parks and streets in Dublin, Cardiff and Belfast next June, they can dream real dreams of being the next Keane or Bale, underpinning the success of the national teams with a real explosion in kids football, women’s football, participation from mothers and fathers to be the taxi driver, the kit man or the trainer.

For too long when I travel these islands, we look with awe at other nations whilst putting ourselves down, dampening our own collective and individual ambitions, which in turn leads to kids not even trying.

These are the islands of Best, Giles, Moore and O’Neill, great players from the same streets as the kids today.

So it’s not just a tournament qualification for the Irish tonight, it’s laying down a firm legacy for the future of Irish football. Come on you Boys in Green!

England Caps
My two proudest football possessions are two 19th century caps, with beautiful velvet and silver rope adorned with the the 3 lions and inscribed with Japan, Brazil and Moldova.

It took me precisely 68 goals in 80 games over 3 seasons to get into an England squad and here are the list of names of peers, all in my position, trying to get into the same squads as I.

Le Tissier

Quite a list! Today of course, it’s very different, 2 or 3 good games in an over exposed Premier League and you’re the second coming, the answer to England’s poor technique, poor tournament play, poor anything and everything, but it does raise a genuine question. When and how do you know when a player is ready for international football?

There is no science to this, even going back to Italia ’90, Toto Schillaci, a 3rd division poacher, taken to Juventus, ended up tearing teams apart with his goals and movement, and even in England’s not too distant history, players like Michael Ricketts, Steve Bull and Darius Vassell all got on the England scoresheet, so how do we tell and who do we pick?

For me there’s only one way, whether it’s a much touted prodigy like a Barkley, or a slow burner from non league like Vardy, we must give them at least 6 games, in the position they want to play in and let them sink or swim; something England have never done well. It’s time to change.