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Spolier alert

The Greeks were fit but their spoiler tactics sucked. Also, Ray Houghton and Wayne Rooney exercise poor judgement off the pitch words.

Tony Cascarino, 21 Jul 2004

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I’m sorry to be a party pooper but personally I was disappointed that Greece won the European Championships, and horrified that people are suggesting Ireland adopt the same spoiler tactics for the World Cup qualifiers.

I’d prefer us to get beat than play every game with 10 men behind the ball and rely on set pieces to nick a goal. If you want an example of what happens to a sport when it’s all about playing safe and frustrating the opposition, just look at Formula One. I used to be a big Grand Prix fan, but now I don’t bother because you know exactly how things are going to unfold beforehand.

However, you do have to compliment the Greeks for the way they kept the ball from back to front and their fitness levels, which made a mockery of England’s huffing and puffing after 40 minutes. As I said a fortnight ago, David Beckham looked like a 34-year-old journeyman pro coming to the end of his career rather than a tip-top athlete in peak condition.

He wasn’t the only culprit – the papers printed a picture of Frank Lampard on the beach last week and he wouldn’t have won a Christiano Ronaldo body double competition! The reason you didn’t have Frank and Paul Scholes ripping their shirts off when they scored, apart from them not having the tans, is that they were both 3 or 4lbs overweight.

Ultimately, the buck’s got to stop with Sven who should have spotted that they weren’t 100% and put them to work with the fitness coaches.

There was nothing sluggish about the Greek lads who’ve hopefully given Beckham, Scholes, Del Piero, Vieri, Ziddane, Figo et al plenty to chew over on their summer holidays. I think we’re reaching a stage where the big clubs will say to their players, “You can do your three big sponsorship deals with Brylcreem, Vodaphone and Nivea For Men and that’s it!” At the moment some of them have got 10 or 20 things on the go, which is too much.

Hopefully he’ll prove me wrong, but David Beckham is so immersed in off the field activities that I don’t think he’ll ever fully regain the spark he had.

I haven’t been in Ireland since it happened, but I’m told a lot of people were upset by the sketch Ray Houghton did with Skinner and Baddiel. I was watching it at home and have to say I felt a bit uncomfortable when I saw him standing in line with a bloke dressed up as a paramilitary.

I’ve spoken to Ray since and can tell you that he had no intention of upsetting anybody in Ireland. That said, he realises it was a mistake and regrets the offence it’s caused.

What it shouldn’t do is detract from what Ray Houghton achieved as an Ireland player. The lads who weren’t born there have always been in a slightly funny position, but no one was more proud of wearing the green shirt than he was.

Another faux pas was Wayne Rooney selling his story to The Sun, a paper that’s hated in Liverpool because of its Hillsborough coverage. What on earth were the people who were supposed to be looking after his interests thinking of? Before lining up a new club, he ought to get himself some new advisors.

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