Monday, November 26, 2007


Toyota have confirmed that Timo Glock, current GP2 champion will drive for them next season. He replaces Ralf Schumacher as the team's resident German pilot. There is no doubting Glock's ability to race an F1 car with his BMW testing experience and previous race experience with Jordan. What is a concern is whether Toyota will finally stabilise themselves and start aiming their sights at the opposition rather than themselves and build a car suitable for Glock.

The test at Jerez between the 4th and 6th of December will hopefully give encouraging signs of Toyota's move up the performance ladder but in the meantime here is a quick profile of GP2's latest graduate:

Glock is a charming, humorous 25-year-old German from near Frankfurt. Away from the madding crowd of a race weekend he likes to meet up with his friends at home for drinks at the Nacht café. Glock and his friends also visit the local kart track. This is part of his need to practice as well as have fun, as he cannot totally distance his life from racing. There is the fitness work that is crucial to a modern race driver’s competitive ability, the workouts and bike riding. In this sense motor sport is like football in that twenty to thirty years ago fitness was less highly managed than today.

The German likes Nicolas Cage films and finds Tim Allen amusing-when he has time to watch them that is. He also mentioned he liked John Travolta’s films before going on to say one of his favourite films was Wild Hogs, starring both Allen and Travolta. How much that has to do with the motorbikes he didn’t say although there were a few chuckles as he tried to recall the title, which was released as Born to be Wild in Germany. The episode was one of several where the atmosphere of bonhomie around Glock was generated. Another occurred as he tried to explain his favourite drink. At this point his relationship with his teammate also came across as that of relaxed partners. Timo asked Andreas Zuber how best to describe his choice in English. A brief consideration before the answer came; “Apple juice with soda.” Like most of the drivers in the GP2 paddock Timo Glock is a big fan of pasta, which he might partner with white wine in the evening.

Apart from his friends, his family and his manager of seven years are important to him and he likes to play tennis as well as go karting. His favourite tennis players to watch are Roger Federer because he is clever and Rafael Nadal because he is impressive and aggressive. Timo is a keen sports fan that watches football with his favourite team being a local choice, Frankfurt. He enjoys basketball, supporting the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA who have a German player in their midst, Dirk Nowitzki. Timo also follows his own branch of sport, particularly NASCAR. His childhood racing heroes were Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher; he says, “Both were special, successful and bloody quick. Both made it to F1 the hard way without money, Michael especially.”

An impish grin and an answer that will resonate with school leavers around the world followed when giving his favourite childhood memory, “When I left school.” His favourite music depends, at home whatever is on the radio, MTV, “hip-hop to house” but again Timo could not help but refer to his career. Before a race he listens to some rock, like AC/DC. Talking of races, he thinks race one of Magny-Cours 2007 was one of his strangest while Hockenheim is special to him due to the good races he has there. He still remembers the GP2 race last year when he overtook Jose Maria Lopez on the last lap to win. If Hockenheim is one of his charmed tracks, the German may not miss Magny-Cours after his 2007 weekend. Certainly he doesn’t rate the hotels placing the Première Classe as the worst hotel in the world he has visited. Again, a pause, a chuckle and a half musing, half concerned “Can I say?” There was less hesitation on the best: - the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Foreigners: What have they ever done for us?

Apart from raise the level of the ability of the players we have (more on that later), raise the profile of the Premiership by enticing some of the world's best talent to the League-like Ronaldo and Tevez, as well as overhauling training methods and practices, for example Arsene Wenger's crackdown on the beer and burger mentality at Arsenal. I'd consider all of these improvements.

So let us re-examine the foreign quota will win us the Euros/World Cup argument. First off it will not. Secondly it cannot. Thirdly, do not.


Foreign players have been a blessing to this country. Their professionalism on the whole(like all groups there are some exceptions) has helped raise the level of fitness and dedication to training in the League. I cannot speak in depth for all clubs but Arsenal are one noted example and Chelsea would be another. England's current captian, albeit injured is John Terry. He is a fantastic defender and would undoubtedly have become a fine footballer regardless. However it is a well received and acknowledged wisdom around Stamford Bridge and by Terry himself that polish to his diamond toughness was supplied by his one on one after training sessions with the Italian maestro Gianfranco Zola. Zola helped him practise defending against wing wizards and twinkle toes across the land and the world. His positional awareness and almost inch perfect tackling were perfected with foreign help.

Another case study is that of Michael Duberry, a good footballer and fantastic compared to the man on the street certainly, but he is my salutory warning to those who would jump on the foreign quota band wagon. Mr Duberry left Chelsea after claims the influx of foreigners drove him out. He rocked up at Leeds where he played 54 times and four sub appearances in six years, his presence mostly confined to the bench. This was the Leeds of Alan Smith, Lee Bowyer, Jonathan Woodgate and a certain Rio Ferdinand. The simple fact is that when compared to the quality of the players coming in, Duberry did not make the grade.

However, Terry was rising through the youth team at the same time Duberry had his fit of pique and ended up taking over from Marcel Desailly (A foreigner) and partnering William Gallas followed by Ricardo Carvalho in defence (both foreigners). Rio Ferdinand partners a foreigner at Man United. Neither have been dropped to make way for another foreigner. Steven Gerrard, despite some bizarre apparent attempts to drop him by his manager, has preven himself indispensable to Liverpool....although Rafa's inept attempt to prove Liverpool can live without Gerrard may have prompted the Liverpool midfielder's comments this week. Joe Cole, Micah Richards, dare I say Frank Lampard, Shaun Wright-Philips, Michael Owen all present playing football. The next generation is appearing, Walcott of Arsenal, Sinclair from Chelsea, Rooney is still only 23, enough for three World Cups! He is one of the pivotal figures at Manchester United in a team with several foreign superstars. The link is clear, if English players are as good or better than the foreigners available they play, if not they don't.


Surely therefore a quota would make the England team worse by simply increasing the number of good players whilst reducing the ability of good young players to become GREAT players. Test them out at international level and the shortcomings would be even more painful than now. Besides young English players are in demand and potential superstars bought for money over the odds compared to their European counterparts, for example Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale. Both double figure million pound deals. Cesc Fabregas' transfer fee was under ten million pounds. There may be a case to answer for a quota on transfer fees but it does not support the anti foreigner junta.


The central premise of this preposterous argument is in any case a non sequitur. On the basis that the more foreigners we have in the League the worse our national side becomes there is one stark and painful question in answer to that assumption. Why do we only have one World Cup? From 1966? Won at home. Foreigners did not really start arriving for another twenty odd years. Plenty of time for another international trophy you would think. And then thirty years after our one big international tournament victory, as players such as Zola, Vialli, Bergkamp et al begin to arrive in force England have a splendid Euro 96 at home where our enemy, penalties(and the Germans) foil us again. So here's an idea, England should enter only those international tournaments at home? We obviously don't travel well, no? Perhaps instead of booting out the foreign players we should skim them for travel tips?

No, the argument stinks. It stinks of the same attitude that caused us to get knocked out in our first World Cup foray in 1950 1-0 to the USA. The same attitude that got us thumped home and away by Ferenc Puskas magnificent Magyars; We are England and if you lot would only let us get on with it we'd cream the lot of you. Tosh! Drivel!

On that basis Spain would have won a major international tournament by now, with only 38% of its players being foreign to Spain compared to 59% foreign players in the Premiership. On that basis Italy, the current World Champions are a shoe in for the Euro Championships with only 30% foreign players in their league. No, wait, they haven't even definitely qualified yet, c'est le difference avec les Bleus (34% of French league players are foreign).


It's an excuse. If we want to do anything with the foreign players it is but learn. Adapt to our individual national footballing characteristics certainly but add preparation, dedication and from our national manager to sometimes make a brave call in the heat of the moment to the mix. To drop the ageing superstar or to call up a promising but untested youngster. A manager who looks beyond the big clubs, especially the top four, for his players.

We have the players at our disposal today. Any national squad which includes the likes of Ferdinand, Terry, both Coles, Lampard, Hargreaves, Richards, Wright-Philips, Rooney and that is for starters cannot argue we have had the team affected by foreigners. What we lack is the old British spirit, to go down fighting and a manager willing to make the big calls. Look back at Ince in World Cup 98 qualification, bleeding for the cause. Gazza's tears at missing the World Cup final in 1990 but playing on in one of his best games for his country. Sir Alf Ramsey to Hurst after yet another hat trick; Hurst"see you next game" Ramsey "Perhaps". Ramsey knew no player was sacrosanct.

Finally take yet another lesson from those 'blasted' foreigners. The Greeks. Euro 2004. Unfancied, untipped. They only went and won the bloody thing. How? They played as a team, not as players. So if Gerrard and anyone else wants to open their mouths and whinge about foreign players, let's see if this foreign quota will work. Let's take those less fancied England players like Sidwell, Duberry, Andy Johnson, Green, Woodgate, King, Glen Johnson, Richardson, Defoe, Parker, and build a whole new squad out of the so called players we seem to be lacking for strength in depth . Throw in some Championship players for good measure. After all some of them will become top four club players if they are not already, to fill the gaps left by the quota so we better blood them sooner rather than later. Bring to the boil by letting them know this is their chance to shine as a team, put their illustrious England compatriots to shame and see how we get on. After all if the anti-foreigners are right, which they are not, how can we do any worse?

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    Under rigorous examination I suppose I am a considerate, intelligent, humorous type of person