Posted on: Thu 13 Sep 2012

He counted them all out and he counted them all back. Chelsea fan and columnist Giles Smith was holding his breath while their nations took our players away, as well as pondering an Olympic Stadium legacy avoided…


So, let's just run down the list of the damage that was incurred along the way, shall we? Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill and Ryan Bertrand all seem to have emerged unscathed, blessedly. But John Terry suffered an ankle injury and so did Ashley Cole. And Daniel Sturridge reportedly went through a viral stomach bug. Or rather, a viral stomach bug reportedly went through Daniel Sturridge.

So that's three of our players at least who were to some extent depleted as a direct result of reporting for England duty this past week - which, if you do the maths carefully, works out at a one-in-two, or 50 percent depletion rate.

It's a heavy toll for the club and all of us to pay, isn't it? True, Cole's injury seems to be something that he sustained before the England squad got together for these recent two World Cup qualifiers. And, yes, Sturridge had recovered enough by Tuesday to manage a small appearance as a substitute at Wembley against Ukraine. But even so, you can't help feeling that both those players - and certainly Terry - would have been better off, from Chelsea's point of view, staying at home.

If it wasn't clear before, it certainly is now. International matches constitute reckless endangerment of vital resources and ought to be restricted to the beginning of the summer, in a kind of 'international window' between, say, May 15 and June 7, or so. That ring-fenced period could also serve as the diary-space for the World Cup and European Championships, as and when necessary, or anything else that international teams and the people who run them feel they need to get up to.

Of course, the world is a random place and players can never be entirely protected from the possibility of injury. That much was brought home to football lovers with unique force when Dave Beasant, our former goalkeeper, put himself out of action for a spell while reaching, one lunchtime, into a kitchen cupboard for a jar of mayonnaise. (It fell out of the cupboard and landed awkwardly on his foot.) In the end, nowhere is entirely safe, and especially not kitchens.

That said, risk can be increased unnecessarily, and at least Beasant was doing something useful (making a sandwich), whereas Daniel Sturridge was merely getting ready to sit around on a bench at Wembley for 85 minutes. A formally ratified and stringently applied 'international window' would limit the opportunity for damage, enable clubs to know exactly when ankle injuries and stomach bugs were likely to occur, and allow a healing period between the first week of June and the commencement of the next league season the following August, thereby potentially diminishing the impact of any injuries/nasty stomach bugs unfortunately arising.

The way the 'international breaks' system operates now, you not only create an unnecessary patch of inaction in the season, denying the fans the action that sustains them, you also risk leaving key personnel below par, or even out of action, for matches that really matter, such as Queens Park Rangers away on Saturday afternoon.

I say, install the window. It works for transfers, so why not for internationals?

In periods of downtime, of course - and at all other times, really - Munich in May is the gift that keeps on giving. And in the absence of any football to think about, I was grateful to the friend who shared this with me this week.


It's the penalty shoot-out, filmed from the Bayern end, and it's a simply sensational seven minutes of television. What's extraordinary is the way that, even as one watches it with hindsight, re-witnesses those long walks from the centre circle, one feels worried witless all over again - even to the point of turning it off and walking away. Don't succumb to that temptation, though, because it all works out incredibly well in the end.


Something to reflect upon, in the euphoric aftermath of London 2012, when the country has a spring in its step and everyone seems to be feeling pretty good about themselves: just suppose Spurs had, after all, been successful in their bid to take over the Olympic Stadium in Stratford and make it their new home. Where would that have left us all, as a nation, this week in particular?

As you may well recall, our north London neighbours' proposal for the building - unlike competing offers - included the slightly unsentimental plan to knock it all down and start again from the ground up. Indeed, it's widely believed that it was that controversial readiness to use bulldozers in the sensitive, early stages of the project that caused Tottenham's bid to lose traction eventually with the legacy people.

Just imagine, though, that it hadn't - that the committee had smiled on Spurs' concept and agreed to hand them the keys just as soon as the Olympics and Paralympics were out of the way.

With the feelgood factor still surging across the land, Tottenham would even now be getting ready to demolish Stratford - the nation's adopted playground, the theatre of the country's still vivid sporting dreams.

Heaven knows how the club would have spun that one. Arranged a photocall with Gareth Bale at the wheel of the first bulldozer to go in? Positioned a grinning Andre Villas-Boas at the entrance to the site, in a hard-hat, jocularly wielding a crowbar?

So, whatever you think about White Hart Lane and the desirability of playing somewhere else, it looks like Spurs have dodged the mother and father of all PR bullets. And I don't suppose any of us would have wanted it to turn out any differently. Would we?