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As a football spectacle, there is no doubt that the Qatar World Cup threw up its fair share of shocks and at the end provided one of the most dramatic finals ever.

Kylian Mbappe is unlikely to score a hat trick again and end up on the losing side. It was the first hat trick in a World Cup final since Sir Geoff Hurst in 1966. However, now and forever this final will be all about the little magician that is Lionel Messi. He is one of the all-time greats and after a glittering career populated by all the top club trophies this is the icing on the cake that will get Messi mentioned in the same breath as Pele and Maradona.

The welcome the Argentina players will receive back in Buenos Aires will be something special and who would have thought this would have been the outcome after one of the biggest shocks in the competition’s history when they lost their opening game to Saudi Arabia.

Watching the mass ranks of the Argentinian fans celebrate their success I couldn’t help but think what might have been with England. I hope the England players were thinking that way also. I know fans are divided on the manager, but I really believe we are not that far away from winning our first major trophy since 1966 and I was delighted to see Gareth Southgate commit to another two years and to lead us to Euro 2024. The women’s team have shown the way with their Euro 2022 success and they may well add the World Cup to that next summer.

In any World Cup year, players and fans alike would now be looking forward to a holiday and a break from football but instead domestic football will now re-start and be in full swing by Boxing Day when attendances are generally higher than usual. It will be interesting to see how those players who took part in the World Cup fare in the second half of the season.  There were 6 Premier League players in the Argentina squad (Lisandro Martinez and Alejandro Garnacho at Manchester United, Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez at Aston Villa, Cristian Romero at Tottenham, and Alexis Mac Allister at Brighton) and I would imagine it will take them some time for them to come down from the high they are on.

I really hope that in the coming months that the latest idea from FIFA of a new Club World Cup is despatched to the waste paper bin. Endless international competition puts both a physical and mental strain on the top players and it is time that they featured in FIFA’s thinking rather than them constantly focusing only on building their wealth.

That is for the future but for now let’s be grateful we witnessed the ultimate triumph of one of the greatest players ever to set foot on a football pitch!

Charlton have had four managers since 2021 and are about to embark on appointing manager number five. With such instability at the club, it is almost impossible to build solid foundations and is demoralising for the players who find themselves rated by some managers and not by others.

George Dobson is currently regarded by most Charlton fans as the best player in the team but under Nigel Adkins could not hold down a starting berth. Albie Morgan was a favourite of Ben Garner but not of the managers who went before him, and so it goes on. Formation-wise, we have seen different tactical systems deployed by the various managers and consequently the team has no identity or consistency in terms of playing style. 

I have written many times about the importance of the culture you build at a football club on and off the pitch and I found it interesting to hear the latest managerial casualty, Ben Garner, say that the culture of the club is flawed and that you can keep changing the manager, but until you

change the culture nothing material will change. He made no secret of the fact that he felt unsupported in terms of player recruitment, and it is never good when that is aired in public for all concerned as it only ever has one outcome – the sack! Just look at Scott Parker at Bournemouth, let alone Garner.

Many fans have openly said that they believe this is the worst team they have watched in their time supporting the club and sadly many are now voting with their feet. In my time in football, there have been low times too but I have been fortunate to oversee four promotions and two championship successes, so I think I have an understanding of what structures and strategies work and what don’t. If you look back at the state of the club on and off the pitch in 2011, there were some serious challenges, but they were met head on. Chris Powell was appointed manager and the club and the playing squad was reconstructed, resulting in the team winning League One with a record 101 points and then finishing ninth in the Championship. That experience alone should have encouraged the owner to seek to share that experience as it is the same league, if only by a few meetings, an invite to the boardroom, or an exchange of emails. But I quickly realised and was told by third parties that the owner felt that seeking advice was not necessary as ‘football is easy’.

That is his prerogative as the owner but then he went on to publicly criticise the way the club was run in the Premier League years and made comparisons with the mismanagement at Derby County, which is grossly unfair and completely out of context with a club building a Premier League squad and rebuilding its stadium at the same time. Trust me, that was some challenge, and a lot of people worked very hard with long hours and total commitment. The financial support of the board at that time and particularly Richard Murray, Bob Whitehand, Derek Chappell, David Sumners and the late Sir Maurice Hatter deserves better. I am not sure what making that criticism publicly achieved. Having accessibility to people around you with firm opinions should not be viewed as a challenge to your authority but rather a basis for good decision making.

The next few weeks will be crucial for the club as they are edging closer to the relegation places and cannot afford to keep losing matches to teams around them in the table. I understand the frustration fans are feeling as I share their pain, but what the team needs for the forthcoming three home fixtures is the support of the fans. My instincts tell me we are moving ever closer to a period of vocal protests but above all it is important we all do what we can to be part of a solution and not part of a problem.

I may be in a minority, but I like the current format of the World Cup. Splitting the 32 clubs who qualified for the finals into 8 groups of 4 works well and there have been some surprises at the tournament with Belgium, Germany and Uruguay failing to qualify whereas Morocco, Japan and Australia unexpectedly gatecrashed the party.


Clearly FIFA disagrees with that and in pursuit of ever higher revenues, they have decided to expand the number of teams participating in the 2026 World Cup to 48. The much-maligned governing body is proposing that the 48 qualifiers will play in 16 groups of three with the top two from each group progressing to a round of 32. That would mean 16 additional games from the current format, but the 16 teams knocked out at the first stage will play just twice.

Added to this FIFA are understood to be considering having a result in every game of the group stages so there would be a penalty shoot-out in drawn games to decide the winner. This is being driven by the fact that the USA audience like to see an outright winner in all sport.

I really hope that FIFA reconsider their position and stick to the current formula. Unlike this year, the World Cup is generally played at the end of long hard domestic seasons and extending the number of matches and thereby the length of the tournament means the top players will get little rest time or holiday breaks which adds not only to the physical pressure on them but also the mental pressure.  

Unlike in Qatar, there will be no new stadiums built for the 2026 World Cup and all the matches will be played in existing stadiums in Canada, Mexico and the USA with the final to be held in New York. 8 of the stadiums to be used currentlyhave artificial pitches and they will need to be dug up and replaced by traditional grass pitches.

Back to the present and it was great to see England qualify for the quarter-final stage on Sunday evening. Gareth Southgate has taken a lot of stick in the media, firstly over the selection of players like Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford, more latterly Jordan Henderson and then over the style of play, but he continues to rise above it and stick to his beliefs. England ran out easy winners against Senegal in the end and are as good as any team left in the competition. France has some great players, but so do England and the winner of this match could well be the tournament winners.

Let’s hope it’s coming home!

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