Hello and welcome to our first Euros Agent Match Report, a really engaging piece on England's triumphant campaign start yesterday.
Our thanks go to one of the big names from our industry - Bob Scarff, former agent and currently managing director of leading industry supplier Callwell - for this fascinating view on how the game unfolded, the 1-0 scoreline against Croatia, and his take on one of the big controversies surrounding the England team right now.
Please keep watching for reports here on EAT following each England and Scotland game...meaning there will be another Agent Match Report tomorrow, following up on today's game between Scotland and the Czech Republic.
Over to you Bob...
Yesterday afternoon was the seventeenth time that I have sat down to watch England play the opening match of a major tournament.
To save you working out how old that makes me; there have been the eight occasions in my lifetime when England didn’t reach the point of playing an opening match either because we didn’t qualify or because we didn’t even bother to enter (younger readers should note that the Euros only really became a “thing” for England at around the time of Italia ’90) so my very first taste of things to come was as an eleven year old watching the World Cup in Mexico in 1970 (a 1-0 victory over Romania since you ask).
Following the disappointment that turned out to be Mexico ’70, England didn’t play in a single major tournament for a decade so in truth my first real memory is of a 1-1 draw against Belgium in the European Nations Cup (as it was then called) in 1980.
Anyway, why is this relevant? Because on these sixteen previous occasions I have seen England lose or draw eleven times, and as BBC One viewers will know not a single one of the five victories came in a European Championship.
So yesterday afternoon made a very pleasant change.
Much of the pre-match talk was about the back four and indeed would it be a three. Gareth’s only surprise seemed to be picking Trippier at left back, but pundits forget that he has played there for England many times – indeed including the 2018 World Cup semi-final against Croatia.
They needn’t have worried. Gareth knew what he had asked Declan Rice to do and because he then did it so well, the choice of Trippier all made sense. Man of the Match was a toss up between Phillips and Sterling, but for me Rice just quietly got on with a job that was so essential to the forward threat that we presented to Croatia.
Also in the back four, the tall lad with the hair wearing number 15 had a promising game in place of Maguire. If the rumours are true and he gets a move to a top flight team next season then his future looks promising.
On the topic of promising futures, how good was it to see Jude Bellingham come on at the age of seventeen and mess up the final part of Luka Modric’s day? I first saw him in a Birmingham City shirt ten years ago and it was clear even then that he had a great future ahead of him.
All in all, a very satisfying start in which no England player had a bad game.
The last time that we won an opening game 1-0 was the 2006 World Cup. That ended with us being eliminated at the quarter final stage by Portugal on penalties. So now we know what’s ahead of us…
For now, let’s just look forward to Friday evening. For England, the second game in the Group stage, but for our opponents it’s the World Cup Final
PS - did you boo? did you applaud? did you look away?
I’d say two things:
1. Boo your team at full-time. Even boo at half-time. But there are no circumstances under which it is ever a good idea to boo your own team before kick-off.
2. Before attending any match next season all football fans should be made to read “Why We Kneel How We Rise” by West Indies cricketing legend Michael Holding after it is published later this month. That way at least we’d all know that everyone around us had made an informed decision.
Thanks so much for that Bob - please check in with EAT tomorrow for our first Agent Match Report looking at Scotland's campaign...