Euro 2020 Draw Reaction: Wales

Well, as I’ve given my unsolicted reaction to Swansea’s FA draw ( https://couchpotatoscorner.sport.blog/2019/12/02/fa-cup-third-round-draw-reaction-swansea-city/ ), I might as well say a few words about Wales’ draw in the 2020 European Championship.

For those of you that are unaware, we have been drawn in Group A alongside Italy, Switzerland and Turkey.

Overall, I’m pretty damn pleased with that draw. Had you asked me beforehand who I wanted, I would have replied “Italy, Switzerland and Austria.” Turkey were the only “disappointment” for me, but it’s still a very winnable game if we turn up like we did the last three games of qualifying.

It’s a fair greater draw than the alternative, which would have been Belgium, Russia and Denmark. Yeah, we have beaten Belgium the last three times we’ve played them, and we pasted Russia in 2016 as well, but that was Pre-Robbie Martinez Belgium. A Red Devils side fused with Jack Bastard blood is an altogether different prospect.

When you also consider that Denmark have beaten us twice in very recent memory, I really did not fancy that group. I reckon we’d, at a push, have finished third, but not good enough to make it to the knock out stages.

As it stands, I think second place is well within our grasp.

I couldn’t tell you last time we played Turkey. Off the top of my head, I recall losing 6-3 out there in the France 98 Qualifiers, but I can’t think of a time after that. I’d say we’re pretty well matched.

Switzerland, I’ve maintained for years, are not as good as Wales. I’ve never understood how they regularly qualify for the majors and we don’t. What do they have that we don’t? If memory serves, we’ve defeated them the last two times we’ve met. Sure, past form counts for nothing, so I’m taking nothing for granted, but I fancy our chances.

As for Italy…they’ve won all their games in qualifying so we are expected to lose this game. With any luck, it’ll be a dead rubber as we’ll have won our opening two games. I’m not afraid of them, it’s just a healthy respect. Like I have a healthy respect for not pissing onto electric fences. We’ve beaten them before, and might just do it again as a one off.

All in all, I think we’ve an excellent chance of qualification. I’m trying not to get ahead of myself though. I’m going to be working on the mentality of 2016: I’m just happy to be here.

I remember Gareth Bale giving us the lead against Slovakia and thinking “it doesn’t get any better than this.” I was wrong and I hope by taking it one goal at a time, I’ll be wrong again.

The likelihood of us making the semis again? I’m going to rule it out here and now. Not going to happen. No way. Nuh uh. (Please God let me be wrong)

As for the rest of the draw, being an armchair Germany fan, their group makes my Spidey Senses tingle.

I am praying for Scotland to join us as they will be in the same group as England.

European Championships. England and Scotland at Wembley. Semis and final at Wembley… It takes me back to Euro 1996, which was the first time I put the telly on and saw a game of football and realised that my rugby loving parents were wrong, I did like this game.

I can’t fucking wait.

FA Cup Third Round Draw, Reaction (Swansea City)

So! Hot off the press, my beloved Swansea City have been drawn away to Queens Park Rangers in the third round of the FA Cup.

My reaction? Meh.

I said a number of years ago that being a Premier League team ruined the FA Cup for me. Gone were the days where any one of 20 teams could cause my testicles to shrink to the size of raisens. Nowadays it’s “oh, we’re playing Manchester United…again…” [yawn]

A friend’s dad nearly choked on his own spit when I said “I’m bored of being a Premier League team now. The novelty has worn off.” Two years in the Championship and it still hasn’t.

These days, about five teams could get me excited in the FA Cup and they are: Shrewsbury Town (because it’s a 45 minute drive away), Wrexham (Welsh derby, five minute drive), Telford United (55 minute drive, can park on uncle’s driveway), Norwich City (girlfriend from there. We’ve lost both times we’ve played them since we’ve been together) and Cardiff (because it’s Cardiff).

Aside from that, my nipples ain’t get perky. I’m sorry.

The draw itself isn’t a bad one. They smashed us in the league last year. We beat them on their own turf this season already, but that was before Steve won Manager of the Month and it all went to shit. It’s winnable.

Maybe we’ll get a good run again, maybe even make the Quarter Final for the third year in a row.

But I’m unlikely to get excited before round five.

Unless we draw Shrewsbury of course.

Usain Bolt On New Saints' Radar?

Could the world’s fastest man be headed for the Cymru Premier League?

Olympic champion, Usain Bolt has made no secret of his desire to become a professional footballer.

Star athletes dreaming of a post retirement career change is nothing new, but rumours have it that Bolt could actually make the grade – his admirers include legendary Sir Alex Ferguson.

He even went so far as to have trials with A League side, Central Coast Mariners and Bundesliga giants, Borussia Dortmund. Despite some favourable feedback, no contract could be agreed with either club and in January of this year, Bolt appeared to have given up on his dream.

But Welsh champions, The New Saints, could prove to be the answer to Bolt’s prayers.

The January transfer window opens in less than a month’s time and Bolt and the Saints could well be a perfect match.

The Oswestry side have won the Cymru Premier League (recently rebranded from the Welsh Premier League) a record eight years in succession and are the league’s only full time club. Although they currently sit two points behind leaders, Connah’s Quay Nomads, few would seriously bet against them retaining the title. Even if they missed out on top spot, finishing outside the top three would be frankly unthinkable. So, the Saints can offer Bolt pretty much guaranteed European football next term. In short, a stage.

Although they aren’t a heavy hitter like the Dortmunds or the Manchester Uniteds that Bolt may have had his heart set on, they represent a pragmatic solution to his dilemma. Full time football, a real shot at glory, and a platform to show the world what he can do.

Were Bolt to sign, say, an eighteen month contract with The New Saints, that would give him the chance to set the league alight, realisitically get at least six European matches under his belt, and a clutch of medals to boot, before securing a transfer to a higher level.

The move would be great for TNS as well. Their owner, Mike Harris, is no stranger to innovation in pushing his club, and the league, forwards. Just the name, Usain Bolt, would draw supporters to their games if only to witness the novelty of an Olympic record breaker gracing the Welsh top flight. Bums on seats equals money in the bank. And if Bolt is as good as it’s rumoured he is, he could prove an invaluable asset on the pitch as well as off.

In short, Usain Bolt and TNS could be a match made in heaven.

The views expressed in this post are entirely my own.

Cavalry FC – The People's Champions

The first ever season of the Canadian Premier League (CPL) drew to a close a few weeks back and, while I feel it had been a resounding success, one thing let it down. And that is the identity of the inaugural Champions.

Ok. So before I go too deeply into this, I need to give you a bit of background on my connection to the CPL.

As I’ve alluded to in my introduction to this blog (https://couchpotatoscorner.sport.blog/2019/12/01/example-post/), I am something of a Torontophile. It began with the Maple Leafs in the NHL before progressing to Toronto FC in the MLS. I fell in love with the MLS in 2011 when watching the MLS Review Show made 3am bottle feeding more tolerable. Earlier on this year, I stumbled across the news that Canada was launching their very own Premier League. Being the lover of the underdog that I am, I had to get in on that action.

Doing my research on the available teams, I quickly settled on York 9 FC as they’re pretty much Toronto. I state this up front because my disappointment with the identity of the champions has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they are the Nine Stripes’ local rivals, Forge FC (from Hamilton, Ontario, just down the 105. Apparently).

No. My objection is the manner in which they “gained” the crown.

For those of you that will be unaware of the structure of the CPL, it consists of seven full time professional clubs. The clubs play each other, roughly four times a season.

Now, where it differs from European Leagues is that it has two seasons in one twelve month period. One known as the Spring Season (running from April to July) and the Fall Season (from July to October). This is the same as the Mexican and Argentine top flights.

What happens is that, at the end of the Fall Season, the two champions of each “season” then face off in a battle for surpremacy to be crowned the League Champion.

Where Canada differs from, say, Mexico or Argentina, is that in those leagues, if the same team wins both seasons, there’s no need for a grand final, because we know who the best is.

Not so in the Canadian Premier League, where in such an event, the team that is ranked second when you add the full year’s table’s together gets to play them in the final.

This is what occurred in the CPL this year. Calgary’s Cavalry FC where the outstanding team, pretty much from week one. They won eight out of the ten Spring Season match ups, before taking the Fall Season by a single point. They were first overall by six points and even took out an MLS side in the Canadian Championship (sort of their equivlent to the FA Cup, but a little more complicated than that).

Make no mistake, Calavry were THE best team in the Canadian Premier League. But, instead of being recognised as such, they were made to play a Playoff against Forge FC over two legs. A Playoff that they ultimately lost and now the history books will show Forge FC as the best team in the CPL 2019, and that’s just not true.

Now, I’m not wanting to take much away from Forge. I hate to admit it given my partisan loyalties, but they were the second best team in the league. My boys Y9 were third best and we were miles behind Forge.

You could argue that they were only one point off securing the Fall title and their rightful spot in the final. One result different across the season, and they could well have qualified as Fall Champions. But they didn’t. They finished second across the board and you don’t get anything for finishing second. Except the entire championship it appears.

I get the organisers wanted a big showpiece event to round off their first season and get a party atmosphere. I sympathise. But sporting integrity has given way to marketing. I guess that’s just the world we live in. Money talks.

But it’s fne. The trophy sucks anyway!

Who needs that when you’ve got the best dressed manager in the league.

Cavalry FC, like the Rock (Rockies…hmmm), you are The People’s Champion.

Who Am I?

Hi! And welcome to my new blog, the Couch Potato’s Corner.

My name is Liam Pritchard, I am in my 30s, from the UK and I am the world’s most unenthusiastic sports enthusiast.

The list of my half arsed passions is endless, but my first love is football (or soccer, as our North American friends know it) closely followed by ice hockey and international Rugby Union. I have a passive (which, by my standards, is saying something) interest in basket ball and have recently begun educating myself on American Football.

My passions sub-list extends to an eye-watering number of teams across the globe that I actively seek out the results for. It would take a little too long in this post to list them all but here’s a taster:

Football.

Swansea City (EFL Championship). My home team and number one guys.

Dumbarton (Scottish League One). My old local team, whom I used to regularly pay £3.50 to watch in Scottish Division Three back when I first fell in love with the beautiful game.

Borussia Monchengladbach (German Bundesliga). Another former local team I used to regularly watch. I personally believe the Bundesliga is the best league in the world.

Toronto FC (MLS). I kinda have a “thing” for Toronto, which will be explained in a later post. The city will feature heavily on this blog.

York 9 (Canadian Premier League). I’ll go into more depth of this in a very near future post.

The Welsh Premier League. Or Cymru Premier as it’s known now. I used to regularly watch TNS when I moved to Wales in 2004, as they were one mile from my front door in Llansantffraid. During this time I got to see them win the league, the League Cup, the FAW Cup and the FAW Premier Cup. Not to mention taking on the European Champions, Liverpool, in the Champions League. I spent a number of years as their mascot before becoming General Manager of Technogroup Welshpool but the less said about THAT the better.

Wrexham Ladies. I love women’s football, ever since the 2011 World Cup showed me how damn good it is. I used to run an unofficial website for the Welsh Premer League, before the FAW came along and did their own thing. Wrexham are my local team, although they aren’t in the top flight any more.

Ice Hockey.

Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL). Toronto. Duh.

Toronto Marlies (AHL). See above.

Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL). Now, hockey afficinados may well assume that my affection for this team stems from their previous affiliation to the Maple Leafs, but that was just a coincidence. Actually, we have family friends in Florida, it’s a place that I love and I remembered seeing the logo a lot when we visited in 1997, a time when I was first starting to discover the sport.

Cardiff Devils (EIHL). Ok, I’m from Swansea so it should disgust me to profess to like anything from Cardiff. But there isn’t another team in South Wales so this is the best I can get. Sue me.

Telford Tigers (EPL). Local team, a lot of my family live near the town. The first ice hockey team I’ve ever watched.

Deeside Dragons (whatever league they’re in). Ok, so they absolutely hate Telford Tigers, but they’re my new local team, they’re another Welsh team. It would be rude not to love them too.

Dusseldorf (Deutsche Eishockey Liga). They’re the closest thing hockey has to Monchengladbach.

American Football

Chicago Bears (NFL). When I was five I got a Chicago Bears uniform for Christmas for reasons I don’t understand. But hey. There we go.

Florida Gators (college football). There’s a photo of me as a baby wearing a Gators babygrow. I’m just learning the sport this year and they’ve made it a lot of fun.

Toronto Argonauts (CFL). Ok, so technically Canadian Football and American Football are different sports due to pitch size and number of downs, but I don’t do technical well.

Rugby Union.

Wales.

Whoever England are playing.

Llanelli Scarlets.

Special mentions:

Toronto Wolfpack (Rugby League). Toronto Arrows (Major League Rugby). Llanidloes Town Ladies (former Welsh Premier Women’s League badasses. I pray they one day return).

Anyway, that’s enough boring lists! What is this blog all about?

Well, like most people who engage in sports from the seat of their pants (not you, Michel Vorm, though I swear blind you have the most decorated arse in world football), I fancy myself as a bit of a journalist. In truth, I’m just full of half baked, ignorant opinions that lack coherance or substance.

This blog is really not for anyone other than myself, and anyone else who happens to be interested in the subject matter.

It’s mainly a vehicle for me to improve my knowledge about particular sports that I love as I believe the best way to learn about something is to try writing about it.

Most of what you read on here will be utter horse shit. But please feel free to call me out. I love to learn and I love a good barney over unimportant things.

Enjoy! If you can.

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